Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay by Gayle Forman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mia is a girl with a choice. After being seriously injured in a car accident she is in a coma, but she is actually still hanging around outside her body. She feels somehow that she has the choice to die or to come back into her injured body. As she reflects on her decision, she looks back at her life with her family, friends and boyfriend.

I don't know exactly how to feel about this. I give the author high marks for writing about an interesting concept and I liked that I couldn't tell what was going to happen until the last page. I loved Mia's family - I enjoyed their banter and love for each other. It was also neat that the setting is in Portland, OR and I have been to the same places that Mia has! My main issue was with Mia sleeping with her boyfriend and him often spending the night and her parents being totally fine with it. I know this happens in real life but I just don't want to think about it.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Open by Andre Agassi

Open: An AutobiographyOpen: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I love this book. I can't believe all the physical and emotional pain that Agassi has gone through to get where he is. I was outraged at the insensitivity of his father and his domineering attitude - forcing little 7-year-old Andre to hit over 2000 tennis balls a day - but in a weird way all the heartache he caused Andre has gotten him where he is now - with a beautiful family and resources to do a lot of good.

The book is filled with anecdotes about his father, his friends, his coaches, his trainers and other tennis players. These are fun to read and offer amusing inside information. One of my favorites is when he finds out that Pete Sampras leaves a valet $1 for a tip - this after Sampras has made tens of millions in his career. "Here's a buck kid, bring the car around."

Agassi hasn't held anything back in this autobiography - painting himself with brutal honesty. The bone-crushing despair of losing, his sometimes bad behavior and the elation after winning. I like seeing him evolve as a person - slowly realizing that in helping others, he gains the most satisfaction in life. This leads to the creation and funding of a successful inner city charter school where college is the ultimate goal. I rejoice over the happiness he has found with fellow tennis legend Stefanie Graff and the joy he takes in his two children.

A book that tennis and non-tennis players will enjoy.

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Review: The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

The Other Side of the IslandThe Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting look at a world where weather (and everything else in life) is strictly controlled. The Earth Mother and her Corporation have "enclosed" the sky, protecting inhabitants from all kinds of scary natural weather. They also control the food, the schools, jobs, what people think about anything, etc. Honor is a ten-year-old girl who dares to question the Corporation and what is on the infamous "other side of the island."

I liked this creative and creepy book and the characters that the author created.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, #3)Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW! That is a HUMDINGER of an ending! Where does Patrick Ness come up with this stuff? This is a wild and troubled ride with bits of cruelty and bits of beauty and humanity thrown in. There is nothing to say and everything to say. Suffice it to say that you won't be sorry you read this one. It gets a little slow in parts and the lengthy battle at the beginning is a bit of a snoozer, but the book is still amazing. The way that the author weaves this story is so impressive and original. I could spend a bunch of time analyzing this book, making comparisons with world leaders, with religion with the struggle between good and evil if I wanted to. It would be a splendid read for a book club. Loved it, shocked by it and changed by the ideas in it. Extremely impressed by this author, I will be looking forward to what he does next.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book switches back and forth between the story of Andi, a privileged and musically talented teenager who is about to get kicked out of her prestigious Brooklyn high school and Alexandrine, a young girl living in the midst of the French Revolution 200 years ago. Andi is grieving the death of her brother two years earlier, living in a fog of sadness. Her father takes her away to Paris for the Christmas holidays in hopes of resurrecting her school career and upcoming graduation.

I had high hopes for this book and I was let down a bit. I know that it is the norm, but I just didn't enjoy Andi's foul mouth and down-in-the-dumps attitude. I know she was devastated by her brother's death and feels responsibility, but it was a drag to read. I guess I am more in the mood for something happy that takes me away. There was also one part of the book that was just too out there for me, and I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. I did like the voice of the character, Alexandrine, she had beautiful prose in telling her part of the French Revolution. I liked reading about the French Revolution and I was impressed with the extensive bibliography in the back of the book.

All in all, I was underwhelmed but there were enough parts that I did like that I gave it three instead of two stars.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist

Courting TroubleCourting Trouble by Deeanne Gist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is really more like a 3.5 star for me. I thought the story was delightful. Reading it was just like settling down with a really yummy bit of candy. I loved the main character, Essie. She has spunk, style, intelligence and kindness to boot. Unfortunately she also likes to ride bikes, fish, hunt and gallivant around unlike a lady in the 1890s is expected to do. Essie's antics have earned her the reputation as the town spinster at the crumbling age of 30 (gasp). She decides to secure herself a husband and makes a list of the pros and cons of the eligible bachelors in town. Things don't go quite as planned and finding a husband turns out to be more difficult than Essie bargained for.

This religious historical fiction had more religion in it than some of the other novels this author has written, but it was still ok for me. The ending was a little different than what I was hoping for, but I can still appreciate where the author was going. This is a great light read with entertaining characters and setting.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

The Persian Pickle ClubThe Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in rural Kansas during the 30s, this story is about a group of women who have formed a quilting group, the Persian Pickle Club. Not only for quilting, these women rely on each other for compassion and friendship during the best and worst of times. A new girl moves to town and joins the Pickles. She is a little different from the typical farm wife; bent on becoming an investigative journalist, Rita threatens to overturn a secret that the group has sworn to keep.

At first, I really didn't like this book. I don't care for all the small town idiosyncracies and odd names and fussy old ladies, but as the story unfolded, I enjoyed it more. I could understand the characters for who they are and where they are coming from. I'm probably not going to run out to get another book by this author, but it was a pleasant, simple read.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruth, Tommy and Kathy were raised in an isolated boarding school in the countryside. Now, several years later, Kathy questions whether or not her childhood was as ideal as it seemed.

Such a heart-breaking novel. I give this four stars not so much because it is my favorite book ever, but out of admiration for the author. Ishiguro has envisioned a world where some people have been created for a certain purpose and nothing more. The way that he wrote this book is deliberately vague, revealing the plot layer by layer, creating an urgency to read and finish. This is a hard review to write without giving too much away, suffice it to say, the writing is excellent, the tone of the novel is quite grey and bland which fits exactly what it should be and the characters are admirable. I look forward to discovering more about this author's other works.

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Revew: Cutting fo Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the most moving and beautifully written books I have ever read. The tale of Marion; a twin abandoned by his surgeon father at birth and left motherless when his mother passes away in childbirth. Raised by loving adoptive parents in the heart of Ethiopia on a small mission hospital, Marion and his twin Shiva fall in love with medicine. Marion later makes his way to America and becomes a trauma surgeon. His life comes full-circle when he runs into trouble that only his birth father and estranged twin can solve.

I loved the setting of this novel. I love reading books that teach me about another time or another part of the world. The writing is rich and detailed. I love the descriptions of the sky, the people and the food in Ethiopia. There is also quite a bit of surgical jargon and descriptions of surgeries. These are tactfully written, with enough detail to paint a picture for the reader, but not enough to make a squeamish person vomit.

I fell in love with the characters in this book. They are each quite developed and unique. A treasure to read and savor.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael

Romancing Miss BrontëRomancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely enjoyed this novel; a blend of fact and fiction that relates the life of Charlotte Bronte and most specifically focuses on her personal love story.

This quote from the book is a wonderful description of Charlotte Bronte

I don't think I've ever met a being so deserving of success and human affection What she has endured, and yet overcome - her courage and perseverance through the most dreadful personal difficulties - and weathering all of this in utter loneliness, with her few friends always at a distance . . .

I can't believe what Charlotte suffered, the loss of her sisters, brother, mother and still carried on living, writing and caring for a father who was proud, stern and sometimes harsh. I loved reading especially about her sister Emily who had found "bliss" just in the natural world, in the simpleness of kneading bread with a book of German poetry propped onto the table and composed her stories while completing household tasks. She also savored the natural world - each leaf, blossom and insect was a wonder to behold and reverence.

I love this time period, while the Bronte's material comforts were few, they cherished their love for each other, the sparkling conversation and their writing. It's becoming a lost art - to sit around for hours and have discussions that are entertaining and enlightening and not punctuated with a phone ringing or someone receiving (or sending) a text.

The love story between Charlotte and Arthur is beautiful. Charlotte always dreamed of a deep romantic love that would lead to marriage and part of her felt that she was giving up this dream when she married the simple, yet constant and loyal Arthur Nicholls. After they married she grew to love him deeply and find a happiness she had been yearning for her whole life.

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Review: Beautiful People by Wendy Holden

Holden has created a trifecta of very different but fun characters. We have Darcy, the serious British theater actress who has just been offered the chance of a lifetime; to play the lead in a Hollywood movie.  Belle, an actress whose career has has some serious ups and downs the last year. She is shallow, blond, made of plastic parts and a bit slutty.  Then there is Emma, the sweet and capable nanny that has somehow gotten into a situation that really sucks for her.

Kind of trashy, highly entertaining. I really enjoyed it. The story is fairly predictable but fun to read with lovely characters.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Linger by Maggie Steifvater

Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2)Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second installment in the Shiver series definitely didn't disappoint. We have Sam and Grace back with their beautiful relationship. But now there is a new wolf, Cole, mysterious and with an unknown but troubled past. The wolf cure seems to be working for Sam but Grace is starting to show signs of shifting. We also get to know Isabel more in this book.

I really liked the addition of Cole and also getting to know more about Isabel. This book is told from the point of view of Isabel, Grace, Sam and Cole and that adds layers of interest to the story. The plot moves along nicely with enough tension to keep it interesting. After reading the cliffhanger at the end I am ready for the next book right now!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Beach Music by Pat Conroy

Beach MusicBeach Music by Pat Conroy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a tough review, and I'm not going to even try to summarize the plot. It is so big and sprawling and spans the Holocaust to the Low Country to the Appalachians to Italy and back again. The story is beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time. Some of the characters are well developed and some seem more like cardboard cut-outs. I love how the ending tied up the loose strings though I think some of it was unfair.

The writing is amazing. The author has a gift for description that makes me want to live in Waterford as a young boy and fish and crab and catch shrimp and I definitely want to eat everything that Jack cooked. I also am impressed that the author has so much detail to this story, but on the downside, he probably could have left a couple hundred pages out and still told the story - as this was a whopper of a book at over 700 pages.

One reason that I am not rating this book higher is that is has a TON of swearing and rough language and some difficult scenes. I am not usually too worried about the language but this really had an overabundance that would make it hard for me to recommend and it is not always just swearing, the book is pretty vulgar and crude too.

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Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I can't really give this a star rating because I didn't technically finish ALL the pages. I was intrigued by this book but just couldn't finish it. Though I did skip to the end so I could see what was going to happen. I liked the premise and I liked how it ended but some of the writing was so tedious. I just couldn't take any more of Hannah's voice and complaining. I think she could have made her point sooner than she did. A bit of a disappointment for me.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

The Power of OneThe Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set in South Africa during World War II and on the cusp of apartheid, this is a gorgeous novel of Peekay, an English rooinek who overcomes huge obstacles and learns to rely only on himself. Following his life from the time he is five-years-old to 18-years-old we watch Peekay grow from a humiliated and persecuted schoolboy to an amazing young man who has been shaped and nurtured by really interesting characters and situations along the way.

I love some of these quotes from the book:

"Ahead of me lay the dreaded Mevrou, the Judge and the jury, and the beginning of the power of one - how I learned that in each of us there burns a flame of independence that must never be allowed to go out . That as long as it exists within us we cannot be destroyed."

"The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. . . 'First with the head and then with the heart,' was more than simply mixing rains with guts. It meant thinking well beyond the powers of normal concentration and then daring your courage to follow your thoughts."

I love the characters in this book. While Peekay's father is nonexistent and his mother is a bit of a let-down, his life is filled with people who love him and help him help himself to reach his potential. Granpa Chook, a scraggly chicken, his beloved black nanny, Doc, Hoppie, Morrie, Geel Piet and Rasputin are all so real and well developed.

This book is not for the faint of heart; there is brutality and prejudice and some horrific situations. But the descriptions of South Africa are amazing and the book rolls along at an easy pace. Definitely one of my top favorite books of all time and one I intend to reread and I DON'T reread.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of BeautifulNorth of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was touched by this thought-provoking story of Terra, a girl born with a port-wine stain that stretches over most of her cheek. She has spent her life under the thumb of a harsh, critical father who takes every chance to belittle her and the other members of her family. As a senior in high school, she wants nothing more than to escape her little town and her horrible father, a cartographer who has fallen from grace.

Terra has been through every treatment imaginable to remove her port-wine stain, unsuccessful in every attempt, she now resorts to several layers of makeup to mask the stain. She has been ashamed of her face and definitely doesn't feel close to beautiful. Then she meets Jacob, a boy who forces her to look at the world through different eyes and realize that beauty isn't in flawless perfection, but in everything around her, especially the flaws.

I really enjoyed this book. I love this quote:

"real everlasting beauty . . . lives not on our faces, but in our attitude and our actions. It lives in what we do for ourselves and others."

Also this one:

"Let the glossy spreads have their heart-stopping, head-turning kind of beauty. Give me the heart-filling beauty instead . . . Flawed, we're truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful."

In a world where we are measured by our looks, our bodies, and our material possessions, I found this book fascinating and inspiring. That we can be beautiful by who we are and what we do and the feelings that we leave with people is a fantastic idea and gives me hope that I can become a better person by who I am rather than what I look like.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch

The 13th HourThe 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Completely broken and devastated, Nick Quinn is stuck in a police interrogation room, accused of murdering his beloved wife. The unthinkable happens when he is given the chance to go back in time, hour by hour, to prevent her murder.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I stayed up late last night and woke up early this morning to finish it because I really wanted to find out what was going to happen. I enjoyed the the creative angle on time travel and I have to say I did like the ending for the most part.

That said, there were several things that were predictable about half-way through and the writing style wasn't anything amazing. Nick and Julia were a little too perfect and had a little too perfect of a life (well besides her murder that was the catalyst for the whole book), I wouldn't have minded a little more meat behind their flawless bodies, jobs, home, cars, and life plan. I did think that Detective Dance is pretty sinister, and easy to despise but it would have been interesting to have some background on why he is so evil and greedy; something horrible that happened to him in childhood or a grain of goodness that in a twisted way fueled his hate or something.

Not chomping at the bit to read more of this author but it was an entertaining few hours I spent with his story.

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Review: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs, #5)An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. The plot was different and unpredictable and kept me guessing until the end. More like a 4.5 for me.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2)Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really loving Maisie Dobbs and her unique techniques for solving mysteries. All ready for the next one!

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Review: The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

The Patron Saint of LiarsThe Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rose, a mysterious young woman comes to St. Elizabeth's, a home for unwed mothers. She is pregnant, but not unwed. As her time comes nearer, she doesn't know if she wants to give up her baby. She ends up staying much longer than she ever planned.

Wow, this book was kind of like driving through a bunch of rolling hills, not much happens, just a lot of introspection. It was ok. I liked how the book was told from three different people's perspectives. The book was sad and I'm not really that excited about anything I read.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jokes on me! After my critical review of Among the Mad, I read this first book in the Maisie Dobbs series and loved it. I liked seeing Maisie as a young adult and see what she went through and why she is the way she is now.

I liked the way that this book switched back between present day when Maisie is setting up her business and the past when she was a young girl first starting to work for Lady Compton, then going to school and being trained by Maurice Blanche.

Definitely excited to read the rest of these novels . . . in order!

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Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a crumbling old estate in the 1950s, this book about a precocious young girl who solves a murder mystery that come to her home is best summarized by this quote from the book:

"I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life."

I completely enjoyed Flavia de Luce. She is a brilliant chemist, she is the slightly neglected third daughter of a slightly distant and quirky family, she is sassy and witty and I laughed out loud several times while reading this book.

I also really liked the setting of the book. I loved that Flavia had a whole well-outfitted chemistry lab from a previous relative. Life was simple during these times and young girls could go all over town on their bike digging up information and getting out of scrapes with a quick and sometimes sharp tongue.

The plot moves a little slow at times and is quite tangled but I had fun on the journey as Flavia and her excellent mind sorted it out.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs, #6) Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars I really think the description on the dust jacket of this book was the best part of it. Maisie is so persnickety in this one! And I have a problem with her giving advice about life to people in her life about their children when she hasn't had children of her own yet. So, she is a bit of a know-it-all and sometimes it grated on my nerves. The plot of this one was a bit dull and depressing; too much talk of the downtrodden former soldiers who are barely scraping by with no dignity or hope yet. That said, I read the whole thing and have also realized that this is a series that is probably best read in order, not just randomly as I have been doing. So maybe I am the know-it-all who is reviewing this book without having all the backstory to make an informed critique! View all my reviews >>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1) Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Aislinn, along with her mother and grandmother has always been able to see the faeries that inhabit the mortal world and invisible to most. She has been warned not to let them know she sees them and to avoid them at all costs. Aislinn has also witnessed the faeries' cruelty and deception on several occasions so when Keenen, the Summer King of faeries, starts to vie for her attention, she does everything in her power to avoid him. Especially when he claims that she is his next Summer Queen and must join him for eternity.

I have been reluctant to read any of the multitude of faery novels that seem to be cropping up but I tried this one and liked the plot line quite a bit. The author did a good job of creating a dark, bleak and sinister setting for the book where the faeries are definitely not the little winged things flitting about with glitter that you sometimes think of when you think of a faery.

There were elements of the book that were annoying to me. The constant mention of "tats" and tat shops. The teen sex and drug use bugged me, though I know it happens. I just didn't get an uplifting feeling from this book and didn't feel really happy when reading it. I know that all reading isn't going to be "really happy" but if I feel like I at least learned something or felt inspired, it's ok and I just didn't get that from this book. It was too dark and cruel for me.

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Review: The Secret History of the PInk Carnation by Lauren Willig

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1) The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Eloise is a grad student researching an elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation, in league with such others as the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. She finds a gold-mine of information in a relative of the Pink Carnation and finds out whether the Pink Carnation lives up to her expectations or exceeds them.

I had high hopes for this novel and they fell a little short. The book switches back and forth between present-day with Eloise and the past with the Pink Carnation. The characters in the Pink Carnation's time were fairly well developed and interesting and I liked reading their stories. However, I thought I would find out much more about Eloise's life and I didn't. The book jacket gave more information about Eloise than I felt I learned in the whole book.

Also, the heroines in this book were terribly whiny and that got old. The plot also moved pretty slow at parts and there were some love scenes I could have done without. All in all, it was entertaining but didn't live up to the expectations I had for the book.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules House Rules by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacob is eighteen-years-old, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and on trial for murder. His extreme obsession with forensic science may have gone too far this time when he is somehow entangled with the murder of his social skills tutor, Jess.

Typical Picoult. The trial; the family struggling just to make ends meet who has to figure out how to pay for a lawyer; the neglected sibling who has problems of his own that no one seems to notice, etc. As usual, the author has done excellent research and I enjoyed learning more about Asperger's Syndrome. She also had the story told from different points of view of the characters and I really like seeing the story like that. However, my major problem with this one is that I had the ending figured out about 1/3 of the way through. Usually in her novels you think that you have the ending figured out but she comes up with a really neat twist at the end. She didn't in this one and it was a real disappointment for me.

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Review: Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

Lady of Quality Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun Georgette Heyer read. Annis Wychwood is an independent, wealthy nearly spinster of twenty-eight years old. She is on her way to Bath when she meets a young orphan and heiress who is running away from home and an arranged marriage to her best friend. Annis takes Lucilla under her wing and helps her learn how to navigate society before her real coming out in London. Along the way, Annis meets Lucilla's uncle, Mr. Carleton, who is the rudest man in London. But somehow she still remains intrigued by him.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. I liked the plot, I liked the characters and I love reading stories in this time period. The funny thing was, the language in this book was totally different than the language in one of her other books, Cotillion. This book was a bit predictable, but I still loved reading how the story unfolded. I'll definitely keep making my way through the multitude of novels that Heyer has written.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Cotillion Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To borrow a phrase from the book, this read is "all the crack" for me. Really reading this was like learning a new language and I loved every page of it. I think we should bring back phrases like "excessively handsome of you," or "behaving shabby" or "it's just not the thing."

Kitty Charing is an orphan whose guardian declares that he will bestow his fortune on whoever takes her hand in marriage, provided it is one of his several grand-nephews. Kitty enters into a sham engagement with her cousin Freddy to facilitate a lengthy visit to London and escape from her odious Uncle's house. Her month-long trip stretches to longer as she makes new friends and learns the ways of the ton.

A bit predictable, but it's ok because you really want what you think is going to happen to come to pass. With fantastic characters, hilarious dialogue, plenty of rakes, heroes and scandals, this is a really lovely read. I'll look forward to reading more of Heyer's work. Luckily she wrote more than 50 novels!
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A group of dignitaries and VIPS from around the world come together at a party where renown opera singer, Roxane Coss, will be performing. In the midst of the party the lights go out and the house is taken over by terrorists. The hostage situation drags for several months and the line between hostages and terrorists become blurred as they form bonds and come to know each other as fellow human beings.

Ann Patchett has created a really remarkable situation and complex characters. The terrorist group includes several soldiers who are still basically children and I like how the author shows their vulnerability. She describes their worn boots held together with tape and how they are still so young but holding guns and knives. One of my favorite characters is Gen, a translator for a Japanese CEO. Because the hostages are from all over the world, Gen becomes an integral part of communications in the group. It is interesting to see how humanity stretches over different languages, races and social classes as you get to know the stories behind the faces.

I appreciate how the author has created this story where individual relationships are created, talents are discovered and things happen that would never happen outside of this situation. This said, the book was a bit slow for me and the plot seemed to drag a bit at times.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel by Katherine Center

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sweet book about a mother of three who has been following her husband around as he chases his dreams and somewhere in the shuffle lost sight of who she is. With three boys under three years old, Lanie and her family move from Houston to Massachusetts so husband Peter can get one step closer to becoming a professional musician. The book opens on the day that Lanie decides to change her life.

Along Lanie's path to rediscovery are several characters that I enjoyed. The childless, "mean witch" who lives in the apartment downstairs and turns out not to be such a witch and becomes a great friend. The gorgeous ex-cheerleader who is just as thin as when Lanie knew her in high school who turns out to have her own problems that aren't apparent from her outward appearance. I also liked Peter, the slightly rumpled, shy-guy cute husband who has an endearing innocence and kindness about him.

Honestly the only characters I didn't really like are the children. They were just annoying to me. Even the parts where they were supposed to be sweet were annoying to me. And I did feel that the author hit every cliche available when it comes to anecdotes about kids and messes, pooping, walking in during sex, etc. Maybe this is because I have three children of my own and don't really want to read about them in my escape from reality time.

The message of this book is predictably that everyone is indeed beautiful, that the flaws we all have are markers on the trail of life. I like it when Lanie decides that she is happy being mom-sized, not teenage girl size, not even pre-baby size, because she is not that person anymore. The book inspired me to be more gentle with myself and others and realize that our imperfections are what make us interesting and real.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Well I gave this the old 50 page rule (actually I made it to 72) and I am going to put it down. The book is incredibly creative, funny and clever. But I just can't follow, my head is spinning as I try to figure out if Oskar is writing a real letter, or he is reading one, or if he is talking, or someone else is talking. I feel sheepish because this has gotten such high ratings but I guess my brain is just too tired for this one. Just need some more fluff.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human." When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong.

This book takes a very interesting perspecitve on extraterrestrial life and exploration. It's all connected to God and how these aliens are proof that God exists. It give you a lot to think about. About God, relationships with God, how we deal with horrific events and why those events happen. The book doesn't really answer these questions, just gives you a whole lot to chew on.

The writing is fantastic. The author has created some really complex characters and story lines and she switches between the present where Emilio is trying to recover spiritually and physically, and the past when he was on Rakhat with friends and also before that when they were still in Arecibo planning the mission. The story unfolds in a very unique way and gives a stark contrast between the Emilio before and during the trip and the broken Emilio who returns. She also has great little bits of foreshadowing that keep the story moving.

I give the author big points for the two species she has created for the book. These aren't the standard big-headed and big-eyed aliens we usually expect. The Runa are large, affectionate, slightly "slow on the uptake" herbivores who are bred for work. The Jana 'ata are smaller carnivores with sinister claws and teeth. They are very intelligent, calculating and can be cruel. A Jana 'ata of high status makes the music that originally drives the earthlings to Rakhat.

Parts of the book aren't easy to read, but there isn't as much graphic detail as I was expecting from what I heard about the book before reading it. This book gets four stars not so much because it is one of my favorites but for the creative and thought-provoking plot and the good writing. View all my reviews >>

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly Beastly by Alex Flinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of the classic story Beauty and the Beast. This version was told from the Beast's point of view and the story takes place in present day New York City.

I liked this author's take on why the prince was turned into the Beast in the first place. It will appeal to anyone who is frustrated when a teacher adjusts grades for the all-star football player or allows a little more leeway in a school's honor code just to make sure the team wins the state championship. The author does a good job of showing the Beast's metamorphosis from spoiled, cruel brat to someone who can see that the value of others actually lies on the inside not the surface.

It will be fun to explore some of the other books this author has written. This is great for an easy, romantic read that and I loved it from beginning to end.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another sweet, snugly book by Sarah Addison Allen. Privileged Josey Cirrini has never really lived life. At twenty-seven years old she is still stuck at home serving her unhappy, demanding mother, trying to make up for wrongs Josey committed in childhood. Her only happiness comes when she is in her secret closet consuming sweets. When Della Lee, a rough but beautiful local waitress shows up to live in her closet, Josey's life is forever changed.

I love the quirky settings that this author creates. This is another small town where unusual things can happen and the people all seem to know each other or think they know each other. Josey has been viewed a certain way all her life as the daughter of Marco Cirrini a "great man" who revitalized the city of Bald Slope. In this book she gets the courage to find out who she really is, get out from under her mother's thumb and maybe even find love.

Again, this isn't earth-shaking literature but just a comfortable book with great characters and a nice ending. An escape book that I loved every minute of.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

I just can't do it anymore. I've slogged through 120 of the 160 pages of this book and just can't get through the tedium. I give great credit to H.G Wells for the futuristic plot that was groundbreaking at the time of original publication. It was interesting to see how slowly the news of the Martian landing filtered through to all the people. Nowadays this kind of information would be instantaneous. I also think I would have been able to relate a little more to the story if I was more familiar with the London area, Wells makes numerous references to the different areas and villages and I just couldn't relate. A DNF for me, though I am glad I at least tried it to see what it was like.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Girl Who Chased the Moon The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just can't help it, I have to give this book five stars because I loved it so much! There is not a whole lot to discuss and it is a bit more of a "fluff" book, but reading it was such a joy.

The story takes place in the quaint little barbecue town of Mullaby, North Carolina. There are two main characters and stories - Julia, a woman who grew up in Mullaby and left it as a teen, has recently moved back to take over her father's restaurant and come to terms with her past-life as a troubled teen who never quite fit in. Then there is Emily, a teen who has come to Mullaby for the first time to live with a grandfather she has never known. Her mother has recently died and Emily has to get comfortable with a place her mother never talked about and reconcile the altruistic mother she knew with the town's view of her mother as a cruel, spoiled girl who caused a tragedy. These two stories intertwine as the characters help each other overcome their difficulties.

Mullaby is a strange town where lights flit around in the forest at night, scents of cake are actually visible and there is even a gentle giant. The story is somewhat predictable but the characters are well-developed and enjoyable to read about.

Definitely looking forward to reading the author's other books.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee Little Bee by Chris Cleave

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't know how to summarize this book other than just repeating some of the cover synopsis -

We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it ... we will just say this: This is the story of two women whose lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice ... two years later they meet again-the story starts there.

I don't know exactly how to feel about this book. Was it thought provoking? Yes. Tearjerker? Yes. Make me so grateful for what I have and ashamed of anything I have ever complained about? Absolutely. I loved the character of Little Bee. She is sensible and wise beyond her years, but she has also lived through horrors that no one should ever have to. Her life has gone through the wringer through no fault of her own.

Sarah, the other woman has lived a safe, secure life and takes it all for granted. Though I suppose that is the point of the book; to see the contrast. I didn't think she was very developed and the dialogue with other people seems so stilted and disjointed. I just didn't like her.

I am giving the book 4 stars because it made me think hard about life and the things I should be more grateful for and also to think about other people who live in these terrible situations and what I can do for them. But the writing is a little hard to follow. He switches narrators often and he goes back in time and sometimes it takes a minute to figure out what is going on.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anna Frith, a housemaid in a village stricken with the plague in 1666, emerges as an unlikely heroine with the ability to adapt and continue to move forward despite unthinkable calamities and death. Her village decides to try to quarantine the plague to the village boundaries and what follows is a year of great sadness, death and misery, but also a change and strengthening in Anna.

I am really impressed with Anna. She is a humble housemaid, her husband and two children die; she grew up with an abusive and horrible father and lives to see many horrors. Where she is at the beginning of the book and where she ends up by the end is quite fantastic. This quote from the book really describes her spirit; "You Anna, have recalled to me what my duties are. . . for you grieve and yet you live, and are useful and bring life to others."

This book is GRAPHIC - not in a sexual way so much, but just in the description of human suffering and death and decay and oozing sores and other yucky bodily fluids. The baseness of illness and bodily functions are described quite vividly here. There are scenes that discuss the plague sores bursting that unfortunately I will always remember. But to me, this makes a great book - being able to describe things so that you can really believe them. And make you thankful for the modern cleanliness and hand sanitzer.

An interesting read based on true events in the village of Eyam, England during the plague. This is really more like 4.5 stars for me.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

The Year of Fog The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the story of Abby, who looks away for a moment and loses her fiancé's daughter. To the sea? To a kidnapper? The rest of the book unfolds as Abby tries to make sense of the loss and struggles forward with an intense drive to find Emma if at all possible.

I don't know exactly how I feel about this book. On the one hand, I felt it was agonizingly sloooow, when I just wanted to know what the heck happened to Emma. On the other hand, maybe this is true to life, because if I lost one of my children, I imagine it would be difficult every day to live with the unknown, the guilt and the remorse and days would go by maddeningly slow as I tried to keep moving forward.

As much as it seemed slow in some spots, the book still held my attention and I wanted to finish and find out what was going to happen. I had to restrain myself from looking at the back few pages to see what was going to happen.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

The Book of Fires The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book about Agnes Trussel, a girl living in Sussex in the 1700s. She lives with her family on a farm where hard work and sometimes going hungry is the norm. After a man forces himself upon her and she realizes that she is pregnant, she steals some coins from a neighbor and runs away to London. Miserable and alone, she stumbles upon Blacklocks Pyrotechny where she is taken in and becomes an apprentice to the fireworks master, Mr. Blacklock. As Agnes grows bigger and fears that her pregnancy will be her undoing, she has to figure out what her next steps will be to keep her position in a field she finds she has an apptitude for.

I really enjoyed this book. The language is so beautiful and descriptive; I don't think I will ever forget the details of slaughtering a pig on the farm and collecting the blood to make sausage. The smells and sounds are vivid throughout. I liked Agnes and felt for her predicament in a time where the rape of a woman was probably her fault anyway and no one has mercy for a girl with an illegitimate child. Life was rough then. If you didn't have money, or a job, you really didn't have many options. I also liked Mr. Blacklock and I liked how he took mercy on Agnes.

The ending was different than I was hoping for, but still great. I will look forward to reading more of Jane Borodale's works in the future.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Review: The Uptairs Room by Johanna Reiss

The Upstairs Room The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
Read for the 2010 Challenge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoughtful look back at her experiences during World War II, Johanna Reiss tells the story of Sini and Annie, Jewish sisters in Holland who spend nearly three years in hiding to avoid capture by the Nazis.

This is a sweet, if you can call something about this subject sweet, innocent story told through ten-year-old Annie's eyes. At first she doesn't understand the war and why people start to treat her differently just because she is Jewish. She talks about the stars that they have to start wearing on their clothes and the tree where notices are posted that "tells them they can't work anymore" and other demands that grow in seriousness.

When they are first taken in to hiding, Annie doesn't really understand it and hates the boredom and stiffness of a life lived in an upstairs room, but she bears it with patience and optimism. She finally gets the chance to read the "real newspapers, not just the ones that tell lies" and reads of the concentration camps and what is really happening and then in this realization she promises to never complain about having to stay away from the windows and hide again.

I was touched by the kindness of the family who takes in the sisters and others that help them even though they could be executed for it. It speaks to the human spirit that I find to be generally good and has the courage to act. This is a special read that shows the terror of the war in a meaningful way. I really liked the story told through Annie's eyes.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review: Last Kiss by Jon Ripslinger

Last Kiss Last Kiss by Jon Ripslinger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A classic Romeo and Juliet type tale where the unsuitable farm boy is in love with the higher class beautiful rich girl whose father doesn't approve. Then when Lisa is found dead, the finger is pointed at Billy who was the last one with her.

This book was pretty good. The plot was fairly predictable but has some unexpected twists at the end that keeps it somewhat new.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Revew: Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Fever Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This sequel to Suite Scarlett really disappointed me. The stuff that I liked in the first book - the quirky brother, the bratty little sister, the novelty of living in a hotel just got annoying in this one. It felt like so much filler to try to get to the end of the book and then I was left with a major cliffhanger that ticked me off. That said, I will read the next book to see what the heck is going to happen, but this wasn't my favorite.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Thaw by Fiona Robyn

Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.


These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It's a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we're being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they're stuck to the outside of her hands. They're a colour that's difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I'm giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don't think I'm alone in wondering whether it's all worth it. I've seen the look in people's eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I've heard the weary grief in my dad's voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I'm Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I'm sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I've had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I've still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad's snoring was.

I've always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I'll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; 'It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for', before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It'll all be here. I'm using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I'm striping the paper. I'm near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I'm allowed to make my decision. That's it for today. It's begun.

Continue reading tomorrow here...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

To Say Nothing of the Dog To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Ned Henry is a time traveler saddled with the task of finding the bishop's bird stump in time for the consecration of the reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral. He is sent to Victorian England for a much needed rest which turns into another task and not so much the needed relaxation. During his quest and bumblings along the way he may even meet his true love.

This was a really different book from any that I have read. Not for the lover of spoon-fed reads, this book requires work. At first I didn't want to like it because I had to work hard. But later I could appreciate it for what it is - a quirky time-travel book full of hilarious characters and events. My favorite part of the book is all the laugh out loud moments where Ned is ridiculing the Victorian era. He took every cliche from this time period and exploited the heck out of it. Routinely ladies give little "screamlets" with their mouth in a perfect "O." Every word that Ned has only seen in print is uttered out loud - "pshaw, stuff and nonsense, drat" and other such words. I liked a scene where Baine the butler has literally been given 50 commands in 10 seconds, and Ned wonders why the butler "hasn't turned to pet drowning" because of the stress of the job.

I also enjoyed Ned, a slightly fumbling character with the best intentions. My favorite part with him was when he caught the first glimpse of himself in a window in the Victorian era and stopped cold saying, "Wow, I do look great!"

I can't give this book a wholehearted 4 stars because the plot was sometimes extremely tedious to wade through. Also it took a crazy amount of time - think 100 pages - to figure out what the heck was going on. It is more like a 3.5 for me for the unique plot, laughable situations and characters.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

The Cinderella Pact The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nola Devlin, editor at Sass! magazine, is passed over for a promotion because she is overweight. She creates a super-sexy, chic, British alter ego named Belinda Apple who becomes famous and well-read. At the same time Nola enters into the "Cinderella Pact" with her two overweight friends - the pact is that they will once and for all lose the weight for good. Along the way Nola meets someone who may be her Prince Charming, or maybe not.

Definitely fluffy and predictable, but really sweet and a great escape. Not going to win a Pulitzer but will definitely take you away into fantasy land for a few hours.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Read for the 2010 Challenge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was really odd for me. It's hard for me to describe the plot because much of the time I was trying to figure out what the plot is. I did end up liking it quite a bit but it was a journey to get there.

Towner/Sophya has been running from her past in Salem, MA for years and when a family emergency calls her back, she has to confront her old ghosts and decide how to go forward.

The book is filled with strong women characters that I liked. The present-day Salem Witch stuff is interesting - basically the present day witches are able to make a living on the myths of the witches in the 1600s. I enjoyed reading the book and the setting - the coast and islands near Salem, MA. At the beginning of each chapter there is a snippet about lace reading written by Towner's Aunt Eva. Lace reading is essentially another form of fortune-telling; analyzing particular pieces of lace and seeing what images are in them. The art is fairly complicated and I liked reading about it.

As I said before, the book was a bit confusing to read. The main narrator, Towner/Sophya jumps around a lot from time period to time period and sometimes gaps in the stories aren't filled in until much later. But the end of the book redeemed it for me, there is a major twist that made me look at the book a whole different way and it was very satisfying. The plot is definitely unique and not predictable. A creepy read.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 1) Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
#5 of 25 for the 2010 YA Challenge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Bridget Jones for the younger set, Georgia records the momentous events of her life--and they are all momentous--in her diary, which serves as a truly hilarious account of what it means to be a modern girl on the cusp of womanhood. No matter that her particular story takes place in England, the account of her experiences rings true across the ocean (and besides, "Georgia's Glossary" swiftly eradicates any language barriers).

Just the title of this book has been making me giggle for months now. The author did a nice job of capturing the essence of being a teenage girl - drama abounds, there are worries over clothes, and boys and makeup. I also enjoyed the British slang and used the glossary a few times to make sure I knew what she meant. A cute read.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Just Between You and Me: A Novel of Losing Fear and Finding God Just Between You and Me: A Novel of Losing Fear and Finding God by Jenny B. Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Successful cinematographer Maggie Montgomery has to learn to face her fears when she is called back to her dreaded hometown for a family crisis.

I'm still a little torn about Christian fiction and this one was a bit cheesy for me. Prayer and testimony are such personal, sacred things that reading a fictional account of it makes me squirm a little.

Just Between You and Me is a predictable, been-done-before plot that I still enjoyed reading.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Hate List Hate List by Jennifer Brown
#4 of 25 for 2010 YA Challenge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Valerie Leftman struggles to re-enter school and society after her boyfriend, Nick, opens fire at school, injuring and killing several students and teachers. Nick is just trying to blow away people that are on the Hate List that he and Valerie created. Problem is, Valerie didn't realize that Nick ever meant to truly do anything about it, just thought it was a list used to vent frustation. Now she has to figure out how to interact with people who believe that she was just as guilty as Nick though she never fired a shot. Along the way, she finds that she has allies she never realized as she makes her way back to normalcy and figuring out who she really is.

This plot has been done before and even reminded me of Speak and Just Listen with the main character who has been through severe trauma that other people don't understand and struggles to find the words to describe what they are feeling and figuring out how to live again. But I still liked it. I liked the characters. I liked Val's relationship with her little brother who likes to gel his hair too much and enjoys the ladies. Dr. Heiler is someone I would want in my circle if I needed help and Bea is eccentric and filled with wisdom and love that carries Val through the tough times.

I like how the author dealt with the hypocrisy of Garvin High. The cheerleaders and jocks who would punch Nick when nobody was looking or push him or humiliate him are supposedly the "'perfect kids' who nobody would believe were just as bad as the 'bad kids.'" Then after the shooting, newspaper reporter, Angela Dash writes of the charity and kindness present at Garvin after the shooting but when Val arrives at the new school year, things are just as ugly as they ever were. The book feels so real - this is what high school is.

I liked seeing Valerie's journey back to life. It was believable and the ending was different from what I would have expected but seemed just right. Really this is more like 4.5 stars for me.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, #2) The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
#3 of 25 for the 2010 YA Reading Challenge

Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode..."The Ask and the Answer" is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. (from the description on Goodreads)

Wow, this is some bizarre stuff. You really get the feel of ground-level, do anything to survive base existence. I admired the unbreakable connection between Viola and Todd - neither of them really have anyone else and that has forged a bond that they will die to protect.

It's hard to figure out how to review this book - it truly is chaos walking all the time and jumps from one disaster to another to more torture, to more evil, to more humanity in the face of death that it is hard to pin down any concrete thoughts. I felt rage, I felt frustration, I felt anger, I felt desperation, I felt pure degradation, I felt shock and a whole lot of others while reading this novel.

I feel that it moved more slowly than the first, it is really long, over 500 pages, and it seems like it could have been about 200 pages shorter. However, this gets a four and nearly five because of the crazy genius of Patrick Ness who can toy with emotions like no other. I don't know exactly how I feel about the ending, a little like, "after all that, seriously?" but suffice it to say, #3 will be worth waiting for.

If you want to read a truly brilliant review of TAATA, check out this one on Bart's Bookshelf

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