Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: The Air He Breathes

The Air He Breathes The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. Cherry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I rarely read New Adult, and I rarely read contemporary romance. Not my genres.

I have been going back and forth on my review and rating for a few days, and I think I'm landing on 3 solid stars. I really wanted to give it 4 stars. I liked how the relationship slowly unfolded, and I like the realistic grief each of them seemed to feel. I haven't been through this, thank goodness, but it seemed like how a person should react. But you lost me with the twist ending. If this had been a story about grief and two people coming together while they are falling apart, that would have been enough. In fact, it might have been a 4-star read for me, cheesy feathers and all. But the parts with Tanner ruined the 4th star for me. We could have kept a simply lovely tear-jerker without that added layer, so I'm back to 3 stars and a handful of tissues because I got something in my eye at the end of the book. I think it was a white feather. Stop judging me!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. I love Poirot. I love trains. I love books where I think I have figured out the mystery and I am wrong, wrong again, and then wrong a third time. This book is great.

First of all, we have the esteemed Hercule Poirot, so you know it will be good.  Second, the entire mystery is set on a train, adding to the intrigue.  Train travel is awesome.  And third, like all of Agatha Christie's novels, you can't guess the culprit, but once she lays it out in the end, you can't help but nod your head in agreement.  She really was the master of mystery.  I love her.  4 1/2 stars and a wink for Poirot, because he is awesome.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Peril and the Prince

The Peril and the Prince The Peril and the Prince by Barbara Cartland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dame Barbara veers off of her typical path and adds some spy intrigue to her game. You go, girl!

Now, since it's my old friend Barbara you still get the heroine with the stilted, ridiculous speech and fluttering eyelids. The woman can't write any other way. And the love interest is bossy and overbearing, but makes our heroine's virgin heart go pitter-pat regardless. We get the exotic settings of castles and trains in Hungary and Russia, and some undercover spy work that will never be confused with James Bond, but is still fun.

Barbara cranked them out and I keep reading them. I have no one to blame but myself. 2 1/2 stars.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love it, but I just liked it. Maybe it was the audio, but I think it would be three stars either way.

I'm sure you know the basic story, because duh, it's a classic. Victor Frankenstein cobbles together a creature from body parts, and brings it to life with what I assume was electricity (the book was a bit vague here, so use your imagination). The monster just wants to be loved and accepted, like everyone. But he isn't, and he is fueled by anger and seeks revenge on Victor. The story winds from Geneva to the Arctic Circle, and runs the gamut of emotions. I personally think Victor brought all of this on himself, and made so many ridiculous missteps that he reaped what he sowed.

A classic everyone should read at some point. Three stars.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review: The Amish Midwife

The Amish Midwife The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Billed as Amish fiction, it's really just more of a backdrop for an adoption drama. It was still good, but not what I was expecting.

Lexie was adopted by Mennonite parents in Oregon, but she has broken from the church and works as a modern midwife in a hospital. She lost her mother at a young age and when her father dies, she finds a mysterious carved box containing clues to her birth mother's identity. This leads her to Pennsylvania, where she assists as a midwife to the Amish. Confused yet? Don't be. The real drama is about Lexie, discovering who she is and who she thinks she should be, and some needless plot twisting.

Lexie is annoying and shallow. She dates a doctor and makes several comments about his apparent wealth. She's childish and pretty unlikeable. Enough that I was tempted to take away a star, because I have to like my main character to enjoy a book. However, the complications and side plots kept me interested, and in the end I gave it a solid three stars.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: Plain Truth

Plain Truth Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Jodi Picoult's novels. They always deal with motherhood and family, and always have an interesting setting or topic. This one explores the Amish, family, and relationships. Plus a bit of mystery, which is never a bad thing in my book.

Katie Fisher has a baby in her barn. She is 18, Amish, and unmarried. And she denies both having been pregnant and delivering the baby. Enter Elle Hathaway, high-powered defense attorney. Elle is led into the case by her aunt, former Amish and Katie's aunt. Making her Katie's cousin, but I guess conflict of interest doesn't play in for defense attorneys. The court orders Elle to live with Katie before and during the trial. Everyone learns each other's secrets, and by the end you will be shocked to discover you knew the answers all along.

The ending, which I saw coming because I had read this a million years ago when it was first released, upset me far more than it did on my first read through. It's funny how your view of a book changes with your life's circumstances. But I still enjoyed it and I still rate it 4 stars.

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Review: Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell #1)

Wolf Hall Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. Thus went the wives of Henry VIII. Join me on a journey of Court intrigue with Thomas Cromwell as he works his way to chief minister to the King. Twisted relationships, archaic gender roles, and general historical treachery is headed your way. Hang on to your hats, because it's going to be a long, wild ride.

I enjoyed the history and the different perspective into Thomas Cromwell. The writing was strong, however I had to subtract a star because this book was not made for audio. I kept finding myself pausing to think, "Which Thomas is this? Cromwell, Wolsey, More? Or possibly Howard or Boleyn? Are we talking about King Henry or Henry Percy?" And don't get me started on Mary and Anne. I realize it's history and yes, everyone was named Thomas, Henry, Anne and Mary, but it made the audio experience especially hard to keep straight.

It was interesting to look at the decisions made because of the deeply entrenched patriarchal society. Would Henry have remained with Catherine in a different time? Was his fickleness driven by his need to retain a legitimate male heir, religion, or mere vanity? Would Henry have been a different ruler in a different time? The world will never know, but it's fun to speculate. Read this, then watch the excellent Wolf Hall on PBS. I enjoyed them both.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: In the Frame

In the Frame In the Frame by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More everyman adventures, this time in Australia. We barely touch on horse racing for this one. As is typical with Francis, sometimes you get a little racing, and sometimes you get a lot. Always with the everyman hero and some very light romance.

Artist Charles Todd visits his cousin Donald, only to discover Donald's wife has been killed in a burglary. Driven to help his cousin and with no real help from the police, the clues lead him to Australia. Charles, with the help of his old college friend and his wife, are on the hunt. Danger abounds! And Charles cracks the case to the immense appreciation of the police on two continents. Hooray! Classic Francis. 3 1/2 stars.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Review: The Heir (The Selection #4)

The Heir The Heir by Kiera Cass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Back to the world of the Selection. Flash-forward 20 years, with America and Maxon still going strong.

I thought it was an interesting twist on the traditional 'boy chooses girl' version of The Bachelor. Now we get The Bachelorette! Unfortunately, Eadlyn was a brat, and started the book as fairly unlikeable. But she was somewhat redeemed by the end, which is a cliffhanger, by the way, so be prepared for a book 5.

Not super great, but I'm going to give it 3 stars because I didn't hate Eadlyn by the end.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Slay-Ride

Slay-Ride Slay-Ride by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Classic Dick Francis. This time we travel to Norway. I'm cold just reading this book.

We get a great Francis "everyman" in David Cleveland. Jockey Club investigator and all-around smart, nice guy. He gets in danger (as you would expect), barely escapes with his life (naturally) and saves the day.

Plus, this book is as old as I am, and it is still a fun read. One of my favorite authors of all time.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading University 2016: January

January Topic:  Examining the Life of Henry VIII

Books: Wolf Hall
Series: Wolf HallThe Tudors

My first topic for the year will be a study of Henry VIII, his wives, and life at the Tudor Court.  I'm starting with the reading of Wolf Hall by Hilary Martel.  I am watching the series Wolf Hall as well and plan to rewatch The Tudors as a comparison.  I'm sure this will spark other research, and I will wrap January up with a bow and move on to a new topic for February.  Will you join me?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cataloging Christie: A Life List

Cataloging Christie: A Life List

You know how certain authors just speak to you?  You just can't get enough of their work and you have to devour everything they've written?  Agatha Christie is one of those authors for me.  I love her variety, how prolific she was, and the interesting step back in time she allows me.  Plus, I'm a huge mystery fan.  She was simply amazing.  She wrote 66 mysteries, 6 romances (under Mary Westmacott), 150 short stories, and 19 plays.  That's quite a life list!

For 2016, I have selected the following stories.  I may read additional ones, but these are the ones by month.
January: Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot #10)
February: Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1)
March: The Thirteen Problems (Miss Marple #2)
April: Why Didn't They Ask Evans (Stand-alone)
May: Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot #3)
June: The Man in the Brown Suit (Colonel Race #1)
July: 4:50 From Paddington (Miss Marple #8)
August: The Big Four (Hercule Poirot #5)
September: They Came to Baghdad (Stand-alone)
October: The Body in the Library (Miss Marple #3)
November: The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6)
December: Crooked House (Stand-alone)

For her complete list in publication order, visit Agatha Christie's official site HERE.

My Christie Archives

Classic Challenge

What classics will you read in 2016?

Every year I try to read at least one classic per month*.  Most of them are classics for a reason--they have stood the test of time and continue to be loved and discussed, debated and analyzed.  A few have left me fulfilled, some have left me teary-eyed, and some have changed my world view.  The wonderful thing about classics is you could read every day for a year and barely make a dent in the top classics of all time.  

For reference, I am working my way through "Must Read Classics", a listopia on Goodreads.  There are so many places to start if you are wondering what to read, or where to start.  Like I always say, just read.  It doesn't matter what you read--it will all shape and change you.  

My 2016 classics list.  All are tagged as classics on Goodreads.  Some overlap with my 2016 Bucket List, because I am efficient.  And all are ones I have on my "to be read" list.  What's on your list this year?

My 2016 Classic Challenge
January: Frankenstein
March: Tess of the D'Urbervilles
May: Jane Eyre
June: Rebecca
July: The Handmaid's Tale
August: North and South
September: The Three Musketeers
October: Memoirs of a Geisha
November: Emma
December: Gone with the Wind

*This doesn't include my Agatha Christie list, as she is one of my all-time favorite authors and I am working my way through reviewing all of her books.  To keep up on my Christie Capers, click HERE.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Track of the Cat (Anna Pigeon #1)

Track of the Cat Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? I love the desert, I've lived here for years, but Anna sure runs across a lot of snakes in this book. Thankfully, my life doesn't echo hers.

Anna Pigeon is a widowed park ranger. She's kinda awesome. She's independent, and sassy, and reminds of Kinsey Millhone, another favorite character. I like women who kick ass and have sharp edges and a small marshmallow center. Anyway, in this first book Anna is working at Guadalupe National Park. A mystery unfolds, a mysterious death by mountain lion (or was it), and Anna's the only one suspicious enough to stubbornly pursue justice. She puts herself in danger and, in the end, gets her man. As you would expect.

I love this series because I have been fortunate enough to live and work in the National Park System and look forward to hearing her insights about the politics of the NPS (yucky, but sadly true) as well as her character living in amazing places. Can't wait to get to book 3, where I used to live and work. On to the next!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book hit all the right notes with me. Historical setting, family drama, romance, war, mystery. Totally my jam. Of course I loved it.

Laurel is an actress (a fairly famous one, btw). Her aging mother is dying and she is coming home to support her family. Laurel is also carrying a secret, one only she and her mother know. When Laurel was 16 she saw her mother stab and kill a stranger in the yard. Somehow they kept this from her siblings. And now that her mother is dying Laurel is bent on discovering the truth. We go on a journey of alternating timelines, past in WWII and present 2011. The mystery slowly unfolds, and it's a good one. I thought I had figured it out several times, then something else would happen to mess up my guess. And while I was mostly right about it, I was wrong in several ways.

Very satisfying story. I completely recommend it.

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Review: The Troop

The TroopThe Troop by Nick Cutter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was scary and gross. Definitely a good one to recommend to horror fans.

Basically you take a scout troop and strand them on an island alone with their Scoutmaster to earn some survival badges. An infected man comes and hilarity ensues. (Not really, I was crying in my pillow I was so scared. And grossed out.) Did I mention not to eat while reading this book? Go ahead, do it. See what happens.

The characters aren't very likable but I think that adds to the horror. 3 1/2 stars.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review: The Magicians (The Magicians #1)

The Magicians The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brakebills. It's like Hogwarts, but for college students. And less fun.

Quentin, who grew up obsessed with the magical land of Fillory (*Narnia*), is suddenly whisked into Brakebills College to develop his unknown skills in magic. Quentin is a magician--not the greatest wizard who ever lived, but he seems to do a fair job once he's had some training. But he's insufferable and I hate him. He is the poster child for poor decisions. Every time I thought I couldn't hate him more, he does another bone-headed thing. Seriously, dude. You are the worst.

But the story is ok enough for me to give it 3 stars. Mostly for Alice, but also because I stuck with it through the end. And because I'm a masochist and I already bought it, I will read book 2.

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2016 Bucket List

You know those books that you have on your TBR list forever?  You have every intention of reading them, but somehow they keep getting pushed down your pile?  It's time to shorten your stack. Your task is a simple one. Choose 12 books--just one book per month--and make a commitment to read the list. You'll be glad you did.

My 2016 Bucket List includes some I first added when I joined Goodreads back in 2009. Some are classics I've always meant to read but haven't. Some are books others have highly recommended but I just haven't gotten around to reading. And some just caught my eye, and it's time to read them. And they almost all are historical fiction, because that is one of my favorite genres. Your list will look different, and I can't wait to see it.

Here's my list for 2016. Will you join me?

January: The Secret Keeper
February: Cold Mountain
March: Outlander
April: The Clan of the Cave Bear
May: Wool Omnibus
June: Rebecca
July: The Handmaid's Tale
August: The White Queen
September: The Three Musketeers
October: Memoirs of a Geisha
November: The Cider House Rules
December: Gone With the Wind