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 >>