Saturday, January 31, 2015

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is a miracle that Malala is alive to tell her tale. She shares her story, from growing up in Pakistan, living through the Taliban, and her life now in England.

Talk about a reality check. This book really helped me to realize how much I take for granted in America. I can't imagine living in a world where so many things are dictated to me: how I dress, who I leave the house with, even my education. I found myself shaking my head as I read, unwilling to believe the world I was having described.

Stay in school, kids. Appreciate your precious freedoms. Argue, explore, and live life!

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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1)

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was great. I'm so happy I finally read it.

You will find yourself pulled into Kvothe's story, rooting for him to make better decisions and turn things around. But he's brave, and impetuous, and just the sort of tragic, flawed hero that I love.

Definitely will be reading book 2.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not going to lie, I didn't fall in love with this book. But it saved itself by the end.

What I did like: Chip, for the most part. His character stayed true throughout. The religion class, and the religion teacher. The ending, and the ending final paper. The character growth.

What I didn't like: Alaska. Trying too hard, she never rang true to me. I almost broke something with the ferocity of my eye-rolling. Miles at the beginning, although he grew on my by the end. The potential to really explore the issues presented, but the book skated where it could have gone deeper. But hey, it was his first book, so I gave it the extra star.

And based on this book, my kids will never attend boarding school. Seriously.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in Holidays

A Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in HolidaysA Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in Holidays by David Valdes Greenwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cute little holiday vignettes from his childhood, each one covering a different year.

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LIV, Forever

Liv, ForeverLiv, Forever by Amy Talkington

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Insta-love and paranormal all rolled into a ball at boarding school. I nearly broke something with the strength of my eye rolling, but it was ok overall. The main character is annoying and unrealistic--a Mary Sue of an artist who got into a prestigious boarding school based on her extreme talent in--get this, COLLAGES. Really? She has bad grades but they want the collage maker to come as a scholarship student? Ok, sure. I'll overlook it, but I'm subtracting a star. Spoiler alert: she doesn't get less annoying in death. The two male main characters are stereotypical, but I liked them both by the end.

Ok but definitely not great. Overall 2 stars of "meh".

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Messenger (The Giver Quartet #3)

MessengerMessenger by Lois Lowry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third installment in The Giver Quartet answers some questions and leaves you with others.

This one follows Matty and Seer and their lives in Village. Matty is one of the few who can travel safely through the forest, and delivers messages to the other villages. But things are changing in the Village and Matty, Leader, and Seer have to work together to uncover what is happening before it's too late.

My biggest objection with this installment is the abrupt ending with no true explanations. The trade market line is completely dropped, and we don't know the true reason behind the changes in the Village. I can only hope that my questions remaining from The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger are answered in Son, otherwise I will be very disappointed.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was an expected surprise. I started reading it when I saw it on my Oyster app, knowing nothing about it. I'm glad I did.

Rachel. Poor Rachel. The sole survivor of an unspeakable tragedy, she grows up with her grandmother and aunt and tries to find her place in the world. I can't relate to the issues of race, class, and social justice, but I found it fascinating to see a different side to things. Rachel's voice was strong throughout the book. She doesn't fit in either the "black" world or the "white" world, and is caught somewhere in the middle of it all.
Part coming of age novel, part examination of race and class issues in America, and part mystery of what really happened on the roof that day, it's worth the read.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fever 1793

Fever 1793Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting young adult book about a young woman growing up in the midst of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia 1793.

Mattie is a strong heroine, but not perfect. I like that she was flawed and didn't always do the right thing. I also loved her silly grandfather. It would have been nice to get a better idea of her mother's motivations, but overall the characters were fleshed out well and realistic.

A good introduction to the devastation of the epidemic and how it impacted families. It is a time I hadn't read about before so I will find further reading to learn more.

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Ghost at Work (Bailey Ruth #1)

Ghost at WorkGhost at Work by Carolyn Hart

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The unlikeable main character killed anything I liked about this book. Vain, self-centered, and all-around annoying. It's unfortunate because I thought it was a cute concept.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Miniaturist

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to be honest. I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it. I assumed it was about a dollhouse and that was about all I knew.

Petronella is a young bride, starting her life with her new husband, his sister, and their servants in Amsterdam. Her husband gives her a dollhouse--a replica of their home--and tells her to fill it. She contracts a miniaturist to makes pieces for the cabinet, and unasked-for pieces soon arrive, showing a glimpse into their private lives that no one else should know. Who is the miniaturist? How do they know the intimate details of the Brandt home? Petronella works to understand the miniaturist while adapting to an entirely new life with her family.

I found myself intrigued with the story, the mystery around the miniatures, and the lifestyle and culture in Amsterdam in the late 1600s. The ending left some things unsaid, and I would have liked to have known more about Nella's fate, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

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Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories.

Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire StoriesWait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories by Craig Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A collection of short stories written around the Christmas holidays. Always fun to visit Absaroka County with Walt, Henry, and the gang. But mainly I visit for Walt and Henry.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is lovely. Simply lovely.

We follow Snow Flower and Lily, pledged in a lifelong laotong friendship from the early days of their foot binding. Through growing up, betrothal, marriage, children, love, war, and loss they share their lives and their secrets, until misunderstanding and pride tear them apart. It's a novel about friendship, but it's also so much more. It's a reflection from an old woman on her life and the decisions she has made along the way. Did I mention it is beautifully written? Because it is. And sad, and happy, and moving. Just like life.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A NovelThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore books about books! Once a bookseller, always a bookseller.

I'm not even sure what to say about this book because I don't want to give away too much of the plot. A.J. Fikry is a widowed bookstore owner on Alice Island, living a lonely existence above his shop and drinking too much in the evenings, until something happens in his shop that changes his life. Peppered with literary references, smart dialogue, and interesting characters, the community of Alice Island, Massachusetts comes alive (and yes, it's a real place, and yes, I would like to visit it, but only in the summer).

I will admit, I got a little teary-eyed at the end. Don't tell anyone, but I'm sometimes sappy about love, life, and books. And this novel has all three.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Valkyrie Rising (Valkyrie #1)

Valkyrie Rising (Valkyrie #1)Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Elsa, Warrior Princess, finds herself in Norway. Who doesn't love a Norse mythology book? Apparently me.

You are looking at an average teen drama. Romance, eye-rolling dialogue, angst and self-doubt. Elsa is spending the summer with her kick-ass grandmother in Norway. Conveniently, her crush is tagging along by way of her big brother. Can you feel the tension? I know I could. When she arrives she begins to discover the power within her. Elsa is a Valkyrie, and a pretty powerful one, just like her grandmother. When the town is in trouble, she and her grandmother team up to save the world. Lots of potential here to tell an interesting story but it got lost in the teen angst. A pity, because I saw glimpses of a good story along the way. But Ellie's character was too whiny and meek for me, and her transformation fell flat. Loki and her grandmother were interesting, but the rest just missed the mark.

In the end, it was just ok. 2 stars.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Room Full of Bones (Ruth Galloway #4)

A Room Full of BonesA Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Definitely my least favorite book of the series so far.

This time around, Ruth finds herself called to a museum for the opening of a medieval bishop's coffin, and stumbles onto murder. But the archaeology and forensics this time around are barely a part of the plot. We spend nearly half of the book with motherhood and relationship dramas and get very little time with the actual crimes occurring. Since we barely get into the crime part of the part, I found myself not caring about the outcome either way.
Ruth is continues her path of self-sabotage and ignores a true chance at happiness while forever pining away for Nelson. Ruth, you can do much, much better. I want to love this series, I really do, but I'm not sure I will continue on past book 5. Last chance, Ruth.

P.S. Why drop a bombshell about the bishop's bones and barely dig into it? Why put that in there at all? Seemed like it was for shock value and then dropped. Not necessary, and also not realistic to "diagnose" at a glance.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway #3)

The House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway, #3)The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know why I keep reading these books. They make me so mad. I guess my love of archaeology, mysteries, and Cathbad outweigh my frustrations with Ruth and Nelson, who I equally want to box upside the head, but for different reasons.

This mystery was set in the more recent past than the first two books, but followed much of the same formula. A murder in the past, Ruth called in to assist with the bone identification (forensic archaeology has to be one of the coolest jobs), Nelson running around being a big bore while Ruth drowns in self doubt and loathing. Then Ruth is in danger, naturally, and the crime is solved.

None of the characters, save Cathbad and Irish Ted, are particularly likable, and the rampant infidelity at every turn is grinding on my last nerve. Seriously, people, grow up and think about how your actions impact others. All of you. Now. I'm giving you one last chance in book 4.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief #3)

The King of AttoliaThe King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eugenides is an oddly likable character. You know he's a scoundrel, but you still want to love him. He's a bit like Han Solo to me, one of my very first crushes.

Eugenides, the infamous Thief of Eddis, is now the King of Attolia. He married the Queen, who he loves in some unexplainable way that still has me scratching my head from book 2 in the series. The Attolians do not respect him, or their union, and do their best to thwart him at every step--including those who should be protecting him, his King's Guard.

Lots of good political intrigue in this one. These books go much deeper than you would think from the cover. Another enjoyable installment in the series.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Winter Sea (Slains #1)

The Winter Sea (Slains, #1)The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book! My mom and sister both read it and recommended it to me. Gorgeous writing, gorgeous setting, and a unique plot winding historical fiction and the present into one beautiful package, with some romance thrown in to make the past come alive.

Carrie is a writer (I just love books about books, don't you?) and she finds herself drawn to the ruins of a castle in Scotland. She decides her book should be set there, and as she writes she finds her story becoming reality. Is she dealing with ancestral memories guiding her story? And will she be able to handle the truth she is uncovering?

Smartly plotted, I really enjoyed exploring a part of history not often written about in historical novels. I will definitely read the next book in the series.

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13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope #1)

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun, if unrealistic, adventure. Non-existent parents and teens running around the globe. What's not to like? Ginny's aunt sends her on a globetrotting quest across Europe. A coming of age book that will make people like my daughter want to run off and have adventures. Hell, it makes me want to run away to Europe too.

It's a cute book--I didn't hate it. If I find the next one cheap or free I will read it too.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Danger

The DangerThe Danger by Dick Francis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dick Francis stays true to form in The Danger.

Andrew Douglas is a kidnap and ransom expert. He's called to Italy to assist with a missing young jockey and quickly finds himself embroiled in a web of interconnected cases which take him back to the UK and ending in the US.

This one is what you expect from a Francis novel: crime, romance, and horse racing. A solid read.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Fugitives from Northwoods

Fugitives from NorthwoodsFugitives from Northwoods by Chris Bostic

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My mom always told me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Unfortunately, I have to review this book, so I will attempt to be nice.

At first glance, it seemed like I would like this book. Dystopian, outdoor survival setting, underdogs fighting the power mixed with a little bit of romance. That's usually my jam. Unfortunately, the purple prose, stilted dialogue, and complete Mary Sue of a main character left me cold. (What do you call a guy Mary Sue? Mary Stu?) The story seemed like a bit of fantasy fulfillment by the author. Penn, the hero of our story, is the smartest and strongest of the group, the de facto leader who seems to have 2 of the 3 girls falling for him. He knows the area and has an answer for everything. And I. Can't. Stand. Him.

I was fully prepared to give this book 2 stars until the ridiculous, patriotic ending. Give me a break, Penn.

The end. Do not read this book.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet #2)

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet, #2)Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lois Lowry does it again.

This is the second book in The Giver Quartet, but has nothing to do with The Giver other than being about a different dystopian community as far as I can see. That's ok, though, because it's a good book on its own. Kira is a likable heroine. Born crippled, she has learned to be strong in life. Her mother dies and she is left on her own. Luckily, she has a talent for embroidery, and is taken in by the Council to repair and finish the Ruin Song robe. Along the way she makes new friends, deepens old ones, and finds out more about who she really is.

The ending is a bit of a non-ending, and you will want to continue reading Messenger next. At least I did.

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