Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter's Bone

Winter's BoneWinter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Not what I was expecting. Really good.

Drugs. Guns. Violence. Ree Dolly lives in poverty in the Ozarks. Her father skips bail, leaving it up to Ree to take care of her mother and two little brothers while trying to track him down before they lose the farm. The Dolly clan lives up to a code, if you cross the line, you pay the consequences. Ree finds herself caught in the middle of family loyalty and doing the right thing for herself and her future.

This book is bleak, but riveting. Ree is a fighter, and she does whatever it takes to help her family survive. Every scene made me feel cold and grateful not to live in poverty in meth country around psychotic kin. A really great read.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye

Find a Stranger, Say GoodbyeFind a Stranger, Say Goodbye by Lois Lowry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lois Lowry, I love you.

Some of my favorite books growing up were written by Lois Lowry. "Anastasia Krupnik," "A Summer to Die" (sob!), The One Hundredth Thing about Caroline." As an adult, it has been nice to re-read some of the ones I loved before and explore newer books as well, like "The Giver." She's really amazing. Ms. Lowry, if you are reading this, I want to meet you and tell you how much "A Summer to Die" impacted me growing up!

"Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye" is a book about young woman searching for her birth parents during the summer between high school and college. Commencement is a time of beginnings, and Natalie feels she needs to discover this unknown piece of her past before starting college and her adult life.
It's classic, tug at the heartstrings Lowry. Natalie ends up learning more about herself during the journey and grows up a bit along the way.

Poignant and touching, Lowry tells a story that will stick with anyone who was adopted, loves their family, or has felt like they don't fit in. So pretty much anyone. She's that talented.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1)

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1)Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe I have never reviewed this book, as it is my favorite series of all time and I recommend it to people constantly. Jim Butcher is an absolute master at world building. Jim, if you are reading this, please know how many hours of enjoyment your books have brought me. You are awesome.

Furies of Calderon is set in the world of Alera, where, as people mature, develop a bond with at least one of the elemental furies of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal and use those talents throughout their lives. We journey with Tavi, who is fifteen and is considered a freak because he hasn't developed any furies. It's a story about how he overcomes this obstacle and learns to live on his wits without furies. But it is also a story about politics, war, and loyalties. Good vs. evil, treachery and deception, all in an epic fantasy setting.

In book 1, Tavi stumbles upon the sneak invasion of the Marat, a savage enemy whose last battles in Alera ended with the death of the Princeps. As chaos breaks out over the Calderon Valley, he has to find a way to survive on his own. Meanwhile, the First Lord is surrounded by betrayal and loyalties to the Realm are called into question, reaching from the far steadholts of Garrison to Alera Imperia.

If you love sword fighting, magical creatures, political intrigue, strong family bonds and a little bit of romance, check out the Codex Alera series. It's fantasy at its best.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Death Without Company (Walt Longmire #2)

Death Without Company (Walt Longmire, #2)Death Without Company by Craig Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sheriff Longmire, I think I have a literary crush on you and Henry Standing Bear.

In book 2, Walt finds himself investigating a death at the Durant Assisted Living facility where former sheriff and current part-time dispatcher Lucian Connelly lives. Lucian knows something's not right about Mari Baroja's death, and calls Walt in to look into it for him. The investigation spans back 50 years, uncovering skeletons in a lot of closets in Absaroka County, Wyoming and giving us more insight into Lucian's past. We also get introduced to new deputy Santiago Saizarbitoria, who I hope is sticking around for the long haul. He adds a much needed balance to Vic Moretti and will be good for Walt, too. We also get to meet Walt's daughter, Cady, and other new characters are introduced to Durant as well. And there is snow. Lots of snow. Way too much snow for me.

Overall, a fun mystery series that makes me glad I don't live in the blizzard climate of Wyoming. Looking forward to starting book 3 soon.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone #12)

L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone, #12)L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Kinsey. You are a glutton for punishment. You let your love of dear sweet Henry Pitts drag you into a pro bono case with no upside at all for you. And you continue to allow your family issues to cloud your judgment.

This time around, Kinsey is pressed into service by Henry to help one of their neighbors, and both of them have no idea what she is actually walking into. Kinsey, impulsive to the last, ends up hopping a plane to Texas where she goes undercover (naturally) and stumbles into a series of life-threatening situations. And she gets home in time to play bridesmaid for Rosie and William.

It's fun to take a walk back to the 80s with Kinsey. This time, I found myself chuckling at the lack of airport security. She basically walks into the airport with no luggage, no tickets, and stalks someone right onto the plane without arousing any suspicion. That would never happen in this day and age. But the plane ticket was roughly what one would pay now, so the more things change, the more they stay the same. And I still maintain that Kinsey would be the world's best PI with today's technology. Give that girl a smart phone and she could solve any crime, any time. Another good installment in the alphabet series. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastard #1)

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imagine a group of con men--disguises, fake identities, the works--with a particular set of skills honed over years of discipline, training and research. Now imagine them in a medieval setting. Sound good so far? Part Ocean's 11, part Oliver Twist, Locke Lamora and his band of merry men run complex cons in a fantasy land.

The writing is clever and the worldbuilding is strong. You journey with the gang in both past and present tense, learning about how they came together and the capers they are pulling now. You will get attached to the characters and want them to win. They are likable, to be sure, and who doesn't love an underdog? But the best laid plans don't always work out, and they run into obstacles along the way. You will find yourself pulling for Locke and cursing his enemies. And when you get to the end, you will want to continue your journey. Good news! You can in the next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies. Perfect for fantasy fans who are looking for their next smart, plot-driven world.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of biggest pet peeves is selfish people. This book is filled with them.

Florentino Ariza falls madly in love with Fermina Daza when they are both young. Her father intervenes, and Fermina marries a wealthy doctor--a practical decision, but she comes to love Juvenal Urbino over the years and they have a solid marriage for the majority of their time together. As marriages go, it is filled with the ups and downs expected in a long-term relationship: loss, grief, betrayal, love, happiness, change, contentment. Through their fifty years of marriage, Florentino Ariza is biding his time through hundreds of love affairs, waiting patiently for Fermina's husband to die so they can be together once again. Yes, you read that correctly. He spends his entire life marking time for the girl he briefly loved in his youth. He is unlikeable and selfish. Terrible consequences happen to others as a result of his affairs, and he seems either not to notice, or not to mind. Either way, I hate him. He wasn't someone I was pulling for or wanted to see triumph in the end.

The saving grace of this book is the absolutely gorgeous writing style. Even though I hated the characters, I loved the writing and could picture the setting. It's a gorgeous book, to be sure, I just didn't feel the romance others rave about.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Missing: A Memoir

Missing: A MemoirMissing: A Memoir by Lindsay Harrison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Since this is a memoir, I will try to be honest in my judgments, yet spare the snark for the most part. After all, it's about a real-life family living through a real-life drama; one to which thankfully I can't relate.

Missing is one young woman's story about the 40 days her mom was missing, and the aftermath of finding her body. But it is more than that. It's the story of one dysfunctional family, a messed-up mother / daughter relationship, and of growing up and recovering from an unspeakable tragedy.

Lindsay Harrison is immature, but honest. She doesn't try to make herself out to be the hero, or the one holding the family together. She lays it out there, flaws and all, and it makes her unlikeable. There were times when her bad decisions, immaturity, and rudeness made me want to shake some sense into her. I can't imagine what the family went through during this time. Unfortunately we only get Lindsay's thoughts, and reading about the perspective of her brothers and her father would have made the story more complete. Instead we are stuck inside the head of a pot smoking 20-year-old who seems to need counseling from the years of living with her manipulative, selfish, potentially mentally ill mother. Her POV just didn't do it for me.

This book is just ok. Not great. Not particularly captivating. Something was missing from making it "un-put-downable" for me, but it was still finishing from my "to be read" shelf. Two 1/2 stars.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire #1)

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire, #1)The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I might have found a new favorite mystery series! So glad I read this.

Close your eyes and picture with me, if you will. Small town in Wyoming. Trucks. Pancake breakfasts. Rifles and shotguns. Mountains. Snow. Log cabins. Politics. And a lot of interesting characters. Welcome to Absaroka County, Wyoming.

Walt Longmire is the sheriff of Absaroka County, and he's been sheriff for 24 years. The book kicks off with Longmire investigating the death of Cody Pritchard, who was found dead in an apparent hunting accident. Pritchard was convicted a few years back in the gang rape of a local Cheyenne girl who, born with fetal alcohol syndrome, had diminished capacity. Many in the community felt the sentence was too light and justice wasn't served. Walt's investigation leads him throughout the local communities and the Cheyenne reservation, uncovering skeletons and a lot of old wounds for everyone.

Craig Johnson does a great job of painting colorful characters and realistic relationships. The friendship between Walt and Henry Standing Bear was one of my favorite parts of the book. He has a unique team assisting him at the sheriff's department, from sassy Ruby, his dispatcher / den mother, to Vic Moretti, his foul-mouthed deputy and hand-picked replacement when he retires. But beyond the characters, who I dearly love, Johnson crafted a good mystery with lots of twists and turns. I had no idea how it would end, but when he got us there I could see how the clues fit together.

If you are looking for a good mystery series with great characters, give this one a try. I can't wait to start the second book.

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Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some of you adore this book. Some of you recommend it as your "favorite book of all time!" Some of you may want to stop reading now.

On the surface, there is nothing objectionable about Pride and Prejudice. It's a classic; one that makes most school reading lists. I didn't necessarily love Austen's writing style. The characters aren't particularly well-drawn and I didn't get emotionally attached to anyone. The plot is slow with not a lot of consequence happening over the course of the book. Neither main character is particularly likable. I do not understand the love people have of Elizabeth or Darcy. In my opinion, they are welcome to each other.

I went in expecting a love story, and I came away with a book about rich people's problems and bad manners. I found myself slogging through to finish it. I can only assume the million movies are better than the book, because I feel like I'm the only one who doesn't get the punchline to a joke and I'm looking around the room confused about what I missed. Only read it if you feel you must cross it off your life list and discuss with others.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014


NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, where to start? I'm of two minds about this book. As I progressed through it, I thought, "Yes, I get it. This book is good. I'm enjoying the fantasy world of London Below. Three solid stars." But now, I find myself thinking about the book at odd moments, and I think I will have to upgrade my rating to 4 stars. It's sticking with me. The world building in Neverwhere is top notch.

Average Joe Richard Mayhew, through an act of kindness to a young lady in peril, ends up in London Below, a magical, scary place where the "other" people of London--some different, some with powers, some on the outskirts of regular society--live their lives unknown and unseen by those in London Above. Richard finds himself on a quest of sorts as he trudges the road back to his old life. You may find Richard annoying and weak, like I did. He kept me from rating this book 5 stars, to be sure. But as you explore more of the story, you may find yourself pulled into the various characters who inhabit London Below. You may find yourself attached to them by the end, flaws and all.

Did I mention how much I loved the characters of London Below? My personal favorite was the Marquis de Carabas. He was multi-faceted, complicated, and clever. I. Loved. Him. While I was lukewarm on the Lady Door at the beginning, I found myself fascinated by her background and cheering her on by the end. And Hunter? Suffice to say, she surprised me and I understood her journey more than I expected.

Enjoy the world of the floating markets. Enjoy the rat people. Enjoy Croup and Vandemar, the duo you love to hate. Absorb yourself in this amazing world, and simply enjoy.

*Disclaimer: I listened to the "Author's Preferred Text" edition on audio, read by Neil Gaiman himself. I have no idea what was added or subtracted to this edition, but I am glad I listened to him read his own words in his own voice. It added something to it for me.

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