Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Two Mrs. Abbotts (Miss Buncle #3)

The Two Mrs. Abbotts (Miss Buncle #3)The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We return to the world of Barbara Buncle, now the happily married Mrs. Abbott #1, and Jerry, who married a cousin to Barbara's husband (Mrs. Abbott #2). World War II is going on, Jerry's husband Sam is off fighting, and Barbara and Jerry are up to their usual adventures. Really more about Jerry than Barbara this time around, we get a glimpse of everyday life at home during the war. We finally see more about Archie Chevis-Cobb, Jerry's brother, as he keeps the farm going to support the boys on the front.

I really like these cute books, and I'm sad that I have reached the end. I understand Barbara and Jerry are a brief part of The Four Graces, and I will be hunting down that one next. Fun little series, and worth the read.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, a lot happens in the final book of the trilogy. So many characters, and so many story lines that I feel like I need another read-through to keep it all straight. Matthew and Diana have returned to the present, and are assembling a gang of supporters to help find the missing pages of Ashmole 782, revoke the covenant, and allow all creatures to live in harmony and co-mingle as they would like.

Along the way, there is some sketchy science and little to no secret keeping. What happened to the trepidation and reluctance everyone had in book 1? Everyone just runs around pell-mell in this book, telling roomfuls of humans their secrets. And everyone, and I mean everyone, takes it in stride. Like the government wouldn't have both Matthew and Diana locked in a laboratory somewhere once they started blabbing their secrets all over New England. ESPECIALLY since she is pregnant. With twins.

And speaking of pregnancy, did I miss a wrap up with Sophie and Nathaniel Wilson and their witch / demon baby? So much was happening, it's possible I have forgotten.

Matthew is far less controlling in this book, and Diana is less of a Mary Sue. I like how they evolved over time, and I wanted to punch them far less this time around. Plus, I love how Harkenss wove history into an interesting storyline. Definitely made the history nerd in me a happy gal.

Anyway, I liked the conclusion, and I'm a little sad the series is over. For Gallowglass alone I would keep reading.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Island of the Blue Dolphins #1)Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Part of the "Reviewing Children's Classics Series".

This "based on a true story" children's novel tells the story of Karana, a young girl left stranded on her island home when her tribe is taken by missionaries to Santa Barbara. It is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Native American left alone on San Nicolas Island from 1835-1853.

Similar to the survival stories found in Hatchet and Sarah Bishop, we get a glimpse into the fictionalized life of Karana and how she survived on her own. Her adventure begins at the age of 12, and she learns to defend her home from wild animals, hide from the Aleuts who come to hunt otters, hunt for food, and survive without being taught many skills.

The real star of the show is Rontu. In the interest of not spoiling anyone who hasn't read it, I'll just say that I fell in love with him, and tears were shed in his honor. Rontu, I love you and your yellow eyes. If I were stranded on an island alone (and at times that sounds like a slice of heaven, to be honest), I would want Rontu with me.

I love that it is based on a true story, and I love reading about the minutia of her daily life. Great classic, and one that is often required reading in schools. If you haven't read it and like survival novels for kids, you should enjoy.

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My Brother Sam Is Dead

My Brother Sam Is DeadMy Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*Part of my "Reviewing Children's Classics" series.

I don't remember reading this one growing up, which is strange because of my love of books and all things history. I now see I didn't miss much, although my perspective might have been different if I had read it when I was 11 instead.

Tim is growing up during the turbulent times prior to and during the American Revolution. He adores his obnoxious big brother, Sam, who is attending Yale and appears to be the smuggest, least likable person in the world. If I had to hear the phrase, "scored a telling point" one more time, I might have thrown the book away. Seriously, dude, you are the world's worst. Anyway, Tim has some serious hero worship going on for his big brother, who decides to drop out of Yale, steal his father's rifle (really, Sam? You are a bad person) and join the revolutionaries. Sam's parents are opposed to this, naturally, as no parent wants their 16-year-old son to join the military during war time. Sam does what he wants, and ultimately we get to the title of the book.

Between Sam running off to enlist and the ending where he dies, a lot of sad, depressing things happen. It's Revolutionary times. Besides the war, you have cholera outbreaks, hunger, and decapitations. Plus you have to endure Sam's girlfriend Betsy Read, who is tied with Sam for "most unlikeable character is a children's book". For a young woman who should have been behaving like an adult, she acted like an obnoxious child.

I'm sure there are better historical fiction books out there about the American Revolution. The only thing that saved this from one-star territory was the authors' notes at the end. I liked how they explained who and what were historically accurate and where they embellished or created things for the book. For the additional interesting information, I added one star. My recommendation? You can skip this one.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1)

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book based on nothing but a recommendation from a member of a book group I am in. She said, "Hands down, this is my favorite series. Ever." Well, with that kind of recommendation, how could I not? I got about 3/4 of the way through it before I understood why she was raving. It's good. But the beginning is slow, the main characters are, quite frankly, unlikeable, and the plot isn't clear. It's the ending that you need to hang in for. Once I got there, I knew I would be reading book 2. And from what I hear, book 2 is better than book 1.

In the interest of not spoiling too much of the story, I will keep my description brief. Gen is released from prison by the Magus to retrieve an ancient treasure. Gen is a skilled thief, and joins the Magus and his band of merry men on the quest, and with rotting in prison as the alternative, why not? Gen turns out to be as skilled a thief as his reputation states, and begins to earn a small bit of respect from the Magus by the end. Obstacles and treachery are at every turn, and it's a pretty good read if you enjoy YA fantasy worlds.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Graduation Day (The Testing #3)

Graduation Day (The Testing, #3)Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The final installment of The Testing series left me a little let-down. We wrap up the conspiracies, double-crosses, triple-crosses, and rebellions we found in Independent Study, and get a small glimpse of the new future. I can't quite put my finger on why I'm disappointed, though. There was a lot of telling us what Cia was doing, her gathering things for her magical bag of holding, and thinking through her plans. But action? Not a ton until the end.

And Tomas? After the build up in book one about their love, we left it behind in books 2 and 3. He was barely a footnote in either book. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking for heartfelt declarations of love or constant mooning, but Cia struck me a robotic at times. I swear, she took a page out of Katniss's book and took it to a new level. I liked Tomas, and wanted more page time with him.

Overall, I still recommend the series, and I did like the ending. It felt true to character. But I expected a bit more from what could have been a dramatic conclusion. I would love to read a novella 10 years in the future letting us know how the rebuilding is going and what has happened with each character. Joelle, are you listening?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1)

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)Across the Universe by Beth Revis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this book while browsing my local library's site, and it just happened to be available. I went into it knowing nothing about the book at all, and ended up pleasantly surprised.

We open with Amy, a 17-year-old daughter of a scientist and a top military official who are all being cryogenically frozen to be transported to a new planet 300 light years away. Despite her hesitations, she chooses to go with her parents, and they are all placed on Godspeed for launch to the new world. The Earth is dying, and the essential personnel aboard are to help populate and develop life on the new planet.

Elder is next in line to lead the people of Godspeed. Unaware of the cryo people being transported in the bottom levels of the ship, he only becomes aware when someone thaws Amy's pod years before it was time. Amy and Elder are thrown together to find the answers they are both searching for, and being the only two of the same age group, also fall in love.

There was a little left to be desired on the world building aspects, but overall it was an entertaining start to the series. I will be reading book 2.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8)

Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8)Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harry's back, newly (and reluctantly) promoted to his role of warden for Chicago. Lots of fun in this one! Set mainly at a horror convention (Splatter Con! haha), we are re-introduced to Molly, Michael Carpenter's all grown up daughter, and she has a big girl crush on Harry. Harry, my favorite white knight in a leather duster, is having none of it. But you know what he wants to have? Murphy, in a big, big way. Yes, my favorite star-crossed lovers may never happen, but at least Harry is taking baby steps in the right direction. Murphy, open your damn eyes, please. Harry is amazing.

My least favorite character, Charity, plays a big role in this one. I'm not saying I like her, but at long last I understand part of her deep-seeded loathing for Harry. Misplaced, mostly, but understandable. All of my favorites are here: Ebenezer, Mac, Mouse, Thomas, Bob and Michael. Michael, in his typical fashion, is the ultimately the savior. Damn, I love him.

We get unexpected allies in the Summer Court and Mab and her Winter Court cronies make another appearance. It's all fun, and as usual, Harry can't catch a break without help from the people around him. Possibly my favorite book of the series so far.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dead Man's Folly

Dead Man's FollyDead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of my favorite eggheaded Belgian detective! Love the setup for this one. Hercule Poirot's old friend, mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver, is coordinating a murder mystery party at an estate. She suspects she is being manipulated to set up the mystery for a real murder, and calls in her pal Poirot to thwart the killer.

This is classic Christie at her best--twists and turns, and just when you think you know who the killer is, she throws you another curve ball. All is resolved by the satisfying ending. Give it a read.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”

Weird confession. I like prime numbers. They make sense to me. I'm a tiny bit like Christopher, and I think that's why I love this book so much.

What's it all about? It's an interesting perspective into the mind of a boy who is autistic, intelligent in many ways, but still immature to the ways of the world.

Journey with Christopher as he solves the mystery of his neighbor's dog. Travel with him as he strikes out on his own to discover what happened to Wellington, and why. Like me, you might be surprised by the ending. Christopher doesn't necessarily get the answers he wants, but instead gets a lesson in life.

I really enjoyed the different narrator voice from Christopher. I didn't find it gimmicky like some readers, instead I found it to be a delightful journey. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and GainUnbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love to play armchair therapist. Books about addiction and recovery are a personal favorite of mine. It's fascinating to hear what drives others to the decisions they make, and to try to figure out what caused it all. In Portia de Rossi's case, it seems to be a destructive cocktail of her father dying at an early age, her drive for acceptance through modeling and acting, and hiding the fact that she is a lesbian, with a side dish of her feeling her mother wanted her to be perfect, pretty, and straight. Whether this is actually true or just what she heard internally, we can't really be sure, but she seems to have worked through most of it. I found myself wanting to sit her down and tell her that who she is will be enough, and to just enjoy life.

I first discovered Portia de Rossi on Arrested Development, one of my all-time favorite shows. I was never a fan of Ally McBeal so I had never watched her on it, and had only heard with half an ear about her struggles with her weight in the tabloids. To me, she will always be Lindsey Bluth. It was interesting to read about her descent into the depths of her eating disorder and how she finally came to terms with being who she really is, although hopefully she understands that's a journey that never ends, and she will be in recovery for the rest of her life. A well-written account of the struggles with an eating disorder. WARNING: some of her stories may trigger behaviors if you have struggled with ED in the past, so be careful.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For those of you living in a cave without access to internet or television, The Fault in Our Stars is about 2 teenagers living with and dying of cancer. It's sad. Not sad enough to make me cry, shockingly, because I love to cry at sad books and movies. Out of Africa makes me sob hard enough to throw myself on the couch wailing. But I digress.

If you don't know the story, I refuse to spoil it for you. Just read it. It's pretty good. And I have read the criticisms that Hazel and Augustus don't talk or act like typical teenagers. It's because they aren't. They are dying, they are a little bit hipster, and they have been forced to look their own mortality in the eye and deal with it. I can't imagine what that would feel like at 16, and I would bet neither can you. Their witty banter and interesting conversations are what kept me from the eye rolling, honestly. The part that bugged me most was her father. Please stop crying about everything around your daughter. Man up, dude. She's the one dying. It struck me as incredibly selfish.

TL:DR. Cancer sucks, and this book is sad.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some Enchanted Evening (Lost Princesses #1)

Some Enchanted Evening (Lost Princesses, #1)Some Enchanted Evening by Christina Dodd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book in a trilogy. Fairly enjoyable; I might read the others.

Clarice is a princess without a country. She is exile with her little sister, hiding from those intent on taking her country and removing her grandmother from power. She is the second sister of three, and travels around peddling beauty products to young ladies throughout the UK. Undercover (so to speak), she calls herself a princess but doesn't say where she is from, which seems strange to me, but I will let it go. Classic historical romance hero Robert not only ferrets out who she really is, but also falls madly, deeply in love with her. Nothing new with the storyline from other novels of the type, but I did find it an amusing way to pass the afternoon.

What saved it for me was the last chapter and the epilogue. It took it from "meh" to "maybe I will read the other two." What can I say, I'm a sucker for "happily ever after."

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Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2)

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rarely do you find that book 2 in a trilogy is stronger than book 1, but that's what happens here.

We pick up a few months after Under the Never Sky ends, and finally the author gives me some answers about the Aether storms. I'm not sure if she didn't have an explanation in book 1 or what, but those are the kind of details that I want. The world building was somewhat better in this book, and I liked Perry and Aria more as well. They were better fleshed out characters this time around and there was more action rather than just walking from place to place as they did in book 1.

Perry is now Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria is recovering from the shock of her mother's death. They reunite and continue to search for the Still Blue--their only hope for safety in their deteriorating world. Perry makes mistakes, as any young leader would. Aria makes a mature decision to work with Soren for the greater good. And Perry and Aria get a taste for the obstacles they will need to overcome to make their relationship work. Also, more Roar, Reef, Marron and Cinder. All good things.

Looking forward to reading the conclusion in book 3.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone #10)

J is for Judgment (Kinsey Millhone, #10)J is for Judgment by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More Kinsey goodness in book 10. This one takes an interesting turn because it is less about what happened and more about how and why. Kinsey is hired by her old firm, California Fidelity, to investigate a case involving insurance fraud. We find out early on that Wendall Jaffe faked his death and is relaxing in sunny Mexico. And in an odd twist of fate, she finds out that she has a family she didn't know about an hour away. In typical Kinsey fashion, she in angry at her "forever alone" state being disrupted. We barely touch on what she will do, so I'm sure we will revisit this issue in later mysteries.

This mystery was well-plotted, and what I thought would happen actually didn't. Grafton surprised me at the ending, yet vaguely dissatisfied that no justice was served. Or at least what I feel would be justice in this case.

Oh, and I loved the whole balcony scene in Mexico. Funny stuff.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Sex with Kings

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and RevengeSex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, decadent history! I love to eat you up with a spoon.

Sex with Kings is a fast-paced tour through the various mistresses of kings throughout history. Some were well known to me, like Barbara Palmer and Diane de Poitiers, and others were new to me. The life of a mistress was a terrible career choice. I can't pretend to understand why women in those days would make this decision (or oftentimes, their family would make the decision for them). However, it was a fascinating introduction to different women throughout history.

Consider it a primer on women who you might want to read about further in other books, as there isn't a lot about each one. The perspective I want to know more about is from the one of the queen herself. I guess tolerating it was part of the job, which is why I am glad to be a mere peasant with a happy, normal marriage.

Full of intrigue, bad decisions, revenge and death, it is an interesting look back at the mistresses of the royal courts. History lovers will enjoy. A solid three stars.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bit of a slow start for me, but I ended up liking it before I finished.

Aria has spent her entire life in the safety of the domes. Exiled and cast into the outside world, she fights to survive. Perry is an Outsider, and has lived his entire life with his tribe outside the domes. They work together on their quests to get their lives back and discover who they really are along the way. (end of my generic book blurb)

Here's what was missing for me. Rossi creates a dystopian world and drops you into it with no real backstory, no true world building, and no explanations. I almost gave up on the book a few times because of it. I kept thinking she would explain by the end, but she didn't. I'm not expecting a perfectly drawn world ala JK Rowling, but I do want to understand what happened to create the dystopia. What triggered the changes in the world? What is Aether? How did the outsiders evolve and adapt? So much potential to create a cool backstory and it's brushed aside.

Aria is a bit of a Mary Sue, and Perry is frankly not very likable, but for some odd reason I liked the story enough to read the next book. Hopefully the explanations I am searching for are found there.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man, did this book make me wear heavy boots. I'm probably going to be wearing them for a few days after finishing this.

Oskar lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. Much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, he is a young boy trying to solve a mystery that really holds deeper meaning to understanding his entire life. But, this isn’t just Oskar’s journey through grief; this is also about Oskar’s grandmother, grandfather, and his mother, too.

Is it uniquely written and a little gimmicky? Yes, but it worked for the narrative. Unique like Oskar, like his grandfather, like his grandmother, the different parts of the book fit together to tell the story of a family who have experienced and endured grief, joy, and all of the other parts of life that make it special.

I hesitate to say more, and urge you to experience this story for yourself.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between UsThe Distance Between Us by Kasie West
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Do you remember the movie Pretty in Pink? Rich boy falls for the poor girl. She makes assumptions, his friends don't approve, single parent trying to make a better life for the daughter. Yeah, that's pretty much this book.

While I liked Xander (Alex, Alexander, whichever you prefer), I felt Caymen was trying too hard to be aloof and shitty to everyone. She was pretty unlikeable. Repeatedly telling us about her "dry humor" was way too on the nose. If the author has to justify and explain all of her comments, it isn't working for the character. I get that it was setting it up for a callback later in the book, but it didn't land for me.

And the ending? Seriously, it just ended. All the mysterious build up about her mom, her dad, and the shop, and it ends there? No. Just no. I could have given it three stars if the author had written a proper ending. I thought I was missing chapters in the ebook, it was so sudden.

Overall, underwhelming. 2 1/2 stars.

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