Posts Categorized: eBooks

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

June 26, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 8 ★★★★½

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel LawhonThe Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress
by ariel lawhon
Published by Doubleday
on January 14, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

“I hate being predictable.”

“I believe they call that classy.”

These are not listened in order of importance, obviously. Or are they…. I often find myself pondering titles. I mean, they are your hook, right? That and the cover. So, when you have a title like this, what do you think? Who is important? Who isn’t important? Are they ALL important? Who is the story about? WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First, we have a wife. In this instance, it’s Stella Crater, wife of Justice Joseph Crater, who disappeared in 1930 (that’s right, this is based on real stuffs, yo!), and, obviously, suspect numero uno. Because isn’t it ALWAYS the spouse?? Stella is, by all appearances, exactly what you would picture of a judge’s wife; wearing the correct dress, the proper perfume, attending the best parties, and serving the best champagne. She’s also the silent standby, watching her husband’s shenanigans with a weather eye.

Next we have a maid. Maria Simon is the maid for the Judge and Stella. The judge helped Maria’s husband get a promotion to detective with the NYPD. I imagine any maid for such a couple might know a few deep, dark, secrets, don’t you? Is she in the Judge’s pocket thanks to that promotion? Or, is she the good Catholic girl she appears to be?

Lastly, we have the Mistress. Ritzi has come to New York like a lot of poor Midwest girls did in the 1930s. She’s seeking fame and fortune. She’s on the chorus line, but she wants more. She’s also mixed up with some bad people, worst being Owney “The Killer” Madden. If you think that sounds like a mobster name, you would be right. Ritzi is a sweet, naïve kid and she’s about to be in big, big trouble. Because Ritzi is the last person to see the Judge alive.

So, the Judge has disappeared. This is not a spoiler, it is a fact. Remember? Based on a true story! No one has ever seen him again. Which of these three women know what happened to him? After 39 years of deception, Stella Crater is ready to tell all to the detective who worked the case, the very same detective married to Maria. Stella’s tale is full of lust, greed, and lies. It is full of smoky jazz clubs, ambition, sordid deals, and the smell of illegal whiskey.

Ariel Lawhon did a fantastic job of evoking an era. From the sizzling hot dance floors of Prohibition era New York to the dance halls of Broadway, I felt like I could smell the smoke and taste the whiskey. The mystery of just what happened to the Judge was taut and stayed that way to the end. Her writing is sharp and wickedly fun. All three women were well drawn, different, and mysterious in her own right. And the end. Oh, the end. What fun. That’s all I’ll say. The whole book is fun. I love that the 1920s are a popular setting this year. I’m really enjoying all the books I’ve read set there. I hope I don’t burn out on them for a long while.

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Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

June 20, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 5 ★★★★½

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von ArnimElizabeth and Her German Garden
by Elizabeth von Arnim
Published by Random House
on 1898
Pages: 207
Format: eBook
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
"Elizabeth and Her German Garden," a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, was popular and frequently reprinted during the early years of the 20th century. "Elizabeth and Her German Garden" is a year's diary written by Elizabeth about her experiences learning gardening and interacting with her friends. It includes commentary on the beauty of nature and on society, but is primarily humorous due to Elizabeth's frequent mistakes and her idiosyncratic outlook on life. The story is full of sweet, endearing moments. Elizabeth was an avid reader and has interesting comments on where certain authors are best read; she tells charming stories of her children and has a sometimes sharp sense of humor in regards to the people who will come and disrupt her solitary lifestyle.

I love my garden. I am writing in it now in the late afternoon loveliness, much interrupted by the mosquitoes and the temptation to look at all the glories of the new green leaves washed half and hour again in a cold shower.

This is less a garden than a wilderness.

I’m going to make one of those odd statements that I’m often afraid I’m the only one who gets, but it makes sense to me, so here goes. This book was both exactly what I was expecting, and nothing like I was expecting.

See? Doesn’t really make sense. But it does in my head, so I’m going with it.

You see, first off, I can’t tell if it’s a novel or a diary. If you read the description above from Goodreads, it calls it “a year’s diary written by Elizabeth.” Everything else I’ve looked at (Wikipedia, other reviews, and other websites) call it a novel. The protagonist is named Elizabeth. It is written in diary form. So which Elizabeth is it? The writer or the fictious character? A autobiographical novel? Novelised nonfiction? I’m going with fiction for now, until I see something of a life story about Mrs. Von Arnim.

The “novel diary” is a chronicle of the year of the life of the CHARACTER Elizabeth as she spends said year, in the late 1890s, in Germany. Elizabeth is a highly inquisitive character, who saying;

I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.

I love this woman.

Elizabeth is content to putter in her garden, something unheard of for a woman of her station. She buys countless seeds for her garden, writing her pages and pages long diary entries, reading, and plays with her children when the mood strikes her. She calls her husband the Man of Wrath, but he seems to be quite the indulgant character.

The people round about are persuaded that I am, to put it as kindly as possible, exceedingly ecentric, for the news has travelled that I spend the day out of doors with a book, and that no moratl eye has ever yet seen me sew or cook. But why cook when you can get some one to cook for you?

What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them.

I spent equal amounts of time envying Elizabeth, being annoyed by Elizabeth, marvelling at her gorgeous prose, and wishing she would just hurry the hell up. She waxes on and on about her beautiful garden, her life in the house, the Man of Wrath, her Spring babies, that at times you just want to tell her to shut up and get on with it. Her commentary on the beauty of nature is what makes the book. Plus, Elizabeth is something of a precious character, she knows she’s precocious, and she milks it. She’s the type of bumbling female character that inspires you to think her adorable and hilarious when she makes mistakes, but it can also eventually wear on the nerves.

She wore on my nerves.

But then she writes something like this:

From us they get a mark and a half to two marks a day, and as many potatoes as they can eat. The women get less, not because they work less, but because they are women and must not be encouraged.

They are like little children or animals in their utter inability to grasp the idea of a future; and after all, if you work all day in God’s sunshine, when evening comes you are pleasantly tired and ready for rest and not much inclined to find fault with your lot. I have no yet persuaded myself, however, that the women are happy. They have to work as hard as the men and get less for it; they have to produce offspring, quite regardless of times and seasons and the general fitness of things; they have to do this as expediously as possible, so that they may not unduly interrupt the work in hand; nobody helps them, notices them, or cares about them, least of all the husband. It is quite a usual thing to see them working in the fields in the morning, and working again in the afternoon, having in the interval produced a baby. The baby is left to an old woman whose duty it is to look after babies collectively.

You can’t help but love her a bit for this, right? She notices. She writes about it. She talks about it. Listen to this. This is to her husband!

“Poor, poor woman!” I cried, as we rode on, feeling for some occult reason very angry with the Man of Wrath. “And her wretched husband doesn’t care a rap, and will probably beat her to-night if his supper isn’t right. What nonsense it is to talk about the equality of the sexes when the woman have the babies!”

You gotta admire her spunk!

And she feels the restrictions on herself too, and doesn’t hesitate to remark on it:

I wish with all my heart I were a man, for of course the first thing I should do would be to buy a spade and go and garden, and then I should have the delight of doing everything for my flowers with my own hands and need not waste time explaining what I want done to somebody else.

I can only imagine her reaction when her husband says things like:

“I like to hear you talk together about the position of women,” he went on, “and wonder when you will realise that they hold exactly the position they are fitted for. As soon as they are fit to occupy a better, no power on earth will be able to keep them out of it. Meanwhile, let me warn you that, as things are now, only strong-minded women wish to see you the equals of men, and the strong-minded are invariably plain. The pretty ones would rather see men their salves than their equals.”

He goes on, but you get the drift.

All in all, Elizabeth and her German Garden is mostly a delight. While the gardening parts, while lovely ( “Oh, I could dance and sign for joy that the spring is here! What a resurrection of beauty there is in my garden, and of the brightest hope in my heart!”), the comments on society and class are by far the most interesting parts of the book. It’s well worth your time for it has definitely earned its place as a classic.

About Elizabeth von Arnim

2098

Elizabeth, Countess Russell, was a British novelist and, through marriage, a member of the German nobility, known as Mary Annette Gräfin von Arnim.
Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in New Zealand while her family resided in Sydney, Australia, she was raised in England and in 1891 married Count Henning August von Arnim, a Prussian aristocrat, and the great-great-great-grandson of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. By this marriage she became known as Elizabeth Gräfin von Arnim.

She had met von Arnim during an Italian tour with her father. They married in London but lived in Berlin and eventually moved to the countryside where, in Nassenheide, Pomerania, the von Arnims had their family estate. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son. The children’s tutors at Nassenheide included E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole.

In 1898 she started her literary career by publishing Elizabeth and Her German Garden, a semi-autobiographical novel about a rural idyll published anonymously and, as it turned out to be highly successful, reprinted 21 times within the first year. Von Arnim wrote another 20 books, which were all published “By the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden”.

Count von Arnim died in 1910, and in 1916 Elizabeth married John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell’s elder brother. The marriage ended in disaster, with Elizabeth escaping to the United States and the couple finally agreeing, in 1919, to get a divorce. She also had an affair with H. G. Wells.

She was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield (whose real name was Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp).

Elizabeth von Arnim spent her old age in London, Switzerland, and on the French Riviera. When World War II broke out she permanently took up residence in the United States, where she died in 1941, aged 74

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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

June 6, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10

13326831Remember how I said a few weeks ago that book comparisons make me nervous?

Well, I’m about to make one. And yes, this makes me nervous.

The Testing seems to be the latest dystopian YA “IT” novel, heir-apparent to The Hunger Games. Cia Vale lives with her family in the Five Lakes Colony, one of the few colonies left in what was America after the Seven Stages War. The Seven Stages War left the country is ruins, the land almost completely barren, and the water mostly undrinkable. The few who remain struggle to get the things they need from the ravaged land. Cia’s father and brothers are some of the citizens who work with the land, developing new crops that can flourish and sustain their colony.

Cia, who is graduating from high school, seems to be living her life to go to university, so that she can be like her father. To go to university, however, one must go through a process called Testing. It has been 15 years since anyone from Five Lakes Colony has been picked for testing. She’s hoping this year will be different.

At first, it appears it’s not.

But later, she finds out she has been picked. I’m not going into the politics of what happens with that, as it would be giving away tooooooo much. Let’s just say she gets picked. She goes to Testing.

All of this, before the shift to the Testing, was fascinating to me. I loved the world building, the way the colony worked, the interaction between Cia and her family. It was just too brief. Because this is YA dystopia, and YA dystopia doesn’t take long to GET TO THE POINT.

The point is to get to the Testing. Once there, the book begins to feel suspiciously familiar.

The Testing consists of 4 parts. The first three test basic skills. The fourth. Well. The fourth is where things begin to feel very, very familiar.

Spoiler alert:

It felt like a complete rip off of The Hunger Games. Except with a gun instead of arrows.

Spoiler over.

There is a lot of politics, and of course the environmental message (which actually didn’t bother me), and OF COURSE the romance between the two hometown friends. Which felt very forced and unnecessary to me. Actually, most of it felt forced to me. And derivative. The beginning was so good, I was so into it and all, and then it just went down hill. But, that is too me. I think I’ve read too much YA lately.  But, let me be blunt. If you are looking for another Hunger Games, as much as it makes me nervous to say it, this book is for you. If you’re tired of the formula, but think it sounds good, give it a try! You’ll probably like it (I did LIKE some of it, I’m just disappointed I didn’t LOVE it). If you are really tired of the formula, I’d keep on moving. To me, the book had a lot of potential it just didn’t live up to. I may read the next in the series (because of course, it’s a trilogy). I’m going to wait to read the description before I decide though.

The Testing
By Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (June 4, 2013)
336 pages (hardcover)
Acquired from NetGalley
Rated 3/5

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Splintered by A. G. Howard

June 5, 2013 Books, eBooks 5

9781419704284_p0_v1_s600 Before I get into my thoughts on this book, let me just say, I think it’s very ballsy to put “Welcome to the real Wonderland” on the cover of this book, as if the Wonderland Lewis Carroll created wasn’t the real one. Really ballsy. Especially when you’re taking a classic, beloved by many book, and, well, making it your own.

Lucky for Amulet Books and Ms. Howard, I loved the book. With a few reservations. Number one: That Cover. I mean, really.

Anyhoo.

Alyssa Gardner hears things. Not just any things, but voices. The voices of bugs and plants. It’s the family disease. A descendant of Alice Liddell, THE Alice Liddell of Alice in Wonderland fame, all the women of her line have heard voices. Her mother is in an institution. Her grandmother leapt from a window shortly after Alyssa’s mother was born, believing she could fly. Alyssa lives in the shadow of these events and dreads her own future. But when her mother takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that it may not actually be a disease. It may actually be a curse.

Okay, so you probably all know by now that I love it when authors take classic stories and turn them on their ear, at least when the do it well. Howard, in this case, does it pretty well. I loved this premise. And I loved, loved, LOVED the way she took it and made it darker. More sinister. And infinitely more twisted that Carroll ever did. And I loved Alyssa’s journey through Wonderland, undoing all the “mistakes” Alice made originally. The cast of characters was great. Alyssa was great. I love a flawed protagonist in a coming-of-age story. You could say I’m a sucker for them.

My few reservations. Mostly, YET ANOTHER LOVE TRIANGLE. And yet another perfect perfect boy who loves the girl. From Edward Cullen on down, I am sick of the beautiful perfect boys. And of COURSE, to balance him out, the other guy is the dark, mysterious, slightly dangerous type. OF COURSE. And damn it, I still like it. It’s a love/hate relationship; me and these characters. Always has been, always will be.

Bits I liked:

“Tearing down the rest of the world won’t make you happy. Look inside yourself. Because finding who you were meant to be? What you were put into this world to do? That’s what fills the emptiness. It’s the only things that can.”

“Do you really think these are Alice’s tears?” I ask. “That I’m supposed to make them go away somehow?”

“I’m the wrong guy to ask. I just saw a skeleton with antlers and a forest of aphid-noshing flower zombies.” (Me: I don’t know why, but this just struck me as hilarious.)

“No one knows what he or she is capable of until things are at their darkest.”

Splintered
by A. G. Howard
Amulet Books
January 1, 2013
384 Pages
ISBN-13: 9781419704284
Got it from: NetGalley
Rated: 4/5

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

May 3, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 13

EleanorPark
Some of my bookish besties were talking/discussing/raving about this book in an email the other day, right before the readathon, so on a whim, I bought it. I read it during the readathon, with barely stopping to eat, go to the bathroom, and even doing my hosting duties. Yes, it is that good. Thank you Chris and Ana.

Now, onto what it’s about. Besides being about awesomeness.

Gosh. Where do I start? I know! The summary!

”Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Hmm…that doesn’t really say enough. Okay. The book starts on the school bus. Park, half-Korean fan of comics and punk and New Wave, is listening to music, pointedly ignoring the clueless bullies behind him, when on walks Eleanor. The New Girl. Eleanor immediately stands out for her red hair, her odd clothing, her size, and by the fact that she can’t seem to find a seat. Finally, out of impatient kindness, Park lets her sit beside him. Days of silence between the two stretch on until one day, Park notices something. Eleanor is reading the comics in his lap. Slowly, their relationship deepens to conversation, and then feelings. Oh, the feelings.

Eleanor’s home life is heartbreaking. She shares a room with her four siblings. They are forced to tiptoe around their violent step-father. Her mother turns a blind eye to the things happening right under her nose. Park, and the world he represents, becomes Eleanor’s haven. Things are not good for Eleanor, except for her relationship with Park. Told in alternating voices, it is impossible to not fall in love with Eleanor and Park, separately and together. They are, to be cliché (which they hate), quite adorable.

And I don’t want to say much more than that. I went into this book not knowing much more than the summary above and that my readerly friends loved this book. Hopefully you will trust me as much as I trusted them. Rainbow Rowell’s writing is exquisite. I loved every syllable of this novel. She pulled me in, she kept me there, and she made me reluctant to leave. She took what could be misconstrued as a typical young adult romance and made it into so. much. more. And she gave me Eleanor. So tough. So fragile. And Park. So kind. Two teens with so many awkward, typical teenager tropes, and made you fall in love with them. Hopelessly.

Favorite bits:

“I love you,” he said.

She looked up at him, her eyes shiny and black, then looked away. “I know,” she said.

He pulled one of his arms out from under her and traced her outline against the couch. He could spend all day like this, running his hand down her ribs, into her waist, out to her hips and back again…. If he had all day, he would. If she weren’t made of so many other miracles.

“You know?” he repeated. She smiled, so he kissed her. “You’re not the Han Solo in this relationship, you know.”

“I’m totally the Han Solo,” she whispered. It was good to hear her. It was good to remember it was Eleanor under all this new flesh.

“Well, I’m not the Princess Leia,” he said.

“Don’t get so hung up on gender roles,” Eleanor said.”

“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

“What do you want to show me?”

“Nothing, really. I just want to be alone with you for a minute.”

He pulled her to the back of the driveway, where they were almost completely hidden by a line of trees and the RV and the garage.

“Seriously?” she said. “That was so lame.”

“I know,” he said, turning to her. “Next time, I’ll just say, ‘Eleanor, follow me down this dark alley, I want to kiss you.'”

She didn’t roll her eyes. She took a breath, then closed her mouth. He was learning how to catch her off guard.

She pushed her hands deeper in her pockets, so he put his hands on her elbows. “Next time,” he said, “I’ll just say, ‘Eleanor, duck behind these bushes with me, I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t kiss you.'”

She didn’t move, so he thought it was probably okay to touch her face. Her skin was as soft as it looked, white and smooth as freckled porcelain.

“I’ll just say, ‘Eleanor, follow me down this rabbit hole…'”

He laid his thumb on her lips to see if she’d pull away. She didn’t. He leaned closer. He wanted to close his eyes, but he didn’t trust her not to leave him standing there.”

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2/26/2013
ISBN: 9781250012579
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I got it from Barnes & Noble with my own monies.

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I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

March 25, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 5

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I Hunt Killers
By Barry Lyga
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published 4/3/2012
Pages: 359
ebook
Gift from a friend (Thanks Andi!)

I have so many thoughts on this book that, even a couple months after I read it and cogitated on it, I still don’t quite know what to say. It is a conundrum.

Firstly, let me tell you what the book is about, if you haven’t heard of it already.

Since I can’t seem to think of a way to describe it without giving too much away, here is the description from the book:

It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field.
Except for the body.

Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, “Take Your Son to Work Day” was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminals’ point of view.

And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo’s Nod. Again.

In an effort to prove murder doesn’t run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

From acclaimed author Barry Lyga comes a riveting thriller about a teenager trying to control his own destiny in the face of overwhelming odds.

Goodness me, but I am unforgivably conflicted over this book. Or was. I had a hard time coming to terms with my feelings about this story. I admit to having that tendency (one I’m working on, believe me) of seeing someone as just plain evil, these people who just love to kill people, and not seeing them as having a mental illness. This is unforgiveable of me, and like I said, something I’m working on. The dichotomy of Jazz and his father actually perfectly mirrors this. Jazz’s father just seems to glorify in his evilness -he loves it – while Jazz struggles with the mental illness of this compulsion to kill. Billy Dent loves his “profession.” Jazz wants to do everything he can NOT to end up like Dear Old Dad. And, while not many people have to fight a compulsion to kill exactly, they do have other compulsions to fight; lying, cheating, stealing, eating, greediness, laziness, etc., etc. So I can see where readers could identify with Jazz – if they can get over the distaste of a character who daydreams about knives, blood, and what it would be like to marry the two. I was able to get over that distaste simply because Jazz is such a great character. Brilliant, charming, and more than a little troubled; Jazz is the ultimate conflicted, unreliable character. We all have a capacity for violence, for temptation, for desire, for love, for hate, and we all have the capacity to fight it…or not. It’s our choices that make us what we are. Jazz is constantly fighting his compulsion, he chooses to be good, he chooses to fight by catching killers. There is something amazingly enthralling about that. I felt… all the feelings… for Jazz, mainly because he never quite believes he IS good. I can’t wait to read the next book to see how he’s doing.

Barry Lyga did some intricate plotting with this novel. All the little details like the reason Jazz dates Connie, his best friend Howie with his blood disorder, Jazz’s crazy grandmother,

Favorite bits:

Jazz hadn’t given her many details of exactly what life in the Dent house had been like, but he’d told her enough that she knew it wasn’t hearts and flowers. Well, except for the occasional heart cut from a chest. And the kind of flowers you send to funerals.

Jazz spent a chunk of the day fantasizing about ways to kill his grandmother, plotting them and planning them in the most excruciating, gruesome detail his imagination would allow. It turned out his imagination allowed quite a bit. He spent the rest of the day convincing himself–over and over–not to do it.

“This is why I forgive, but I don’t forget. When you forget someone, the forgiveness doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones,

March 18, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 3

9781616201425_p0_v1_s260x420Vasilly hosted her 2nd African American Read-In last month. This year’s pick was Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. I am tardy, as usual, in getting my thoughts up, but I loved this book so much, I didn’t want to forget until it was WAY TOO LATE. SO.

Silver Sparrow tells the story of Dana Lynn Yarboro and Buddy Chaurisse Witherspoon, sisters who don’t know each other. This is not a spoiler. The first line of the book is ““My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” Dana knows about Chaurisse, but Chaurisse has no idea. HER mother is the one legally wed to their father and he is desperate to keep Chaurisse’s mother from finding out.

Here are the discussion questions from Vasilly, and my answers.

1. There is so much talk these days about fatherhood—contrasting the deadbeat dad with the Bill Cosby-type father. How do you evaluate James Witherspoon, who is both?

It is probably somewhat heartless of me, but I have little sympathy for James. While he does struggle to be a good dad to both girls, he really only succeeded in giving both less than they deserved. And he also gave Laverne and Gwendolyn less than they deserved.

2. Is Laverne’s life better or worse for having married James? What about Gwen? Does James love Laverne or Gwen? Does he love either one of them?

Laverne. I got the impression she had a lot of potential, if her teacher in school is to be believed. However, I’m not sure she would have been so successful without James. Without his determinatiin to better himself, Raleigh, and her, I doubt she would have had her own business. However, in the love department, I was ne er convinced she loved James, just didn’t believe she could live without him.

As for Gwen, I think she would have been fine without him. She practically was anyway. Gwen is completely Laverne’s opposite. Strong, educated, beautiful…she doesn’t really need him. In fact, despite little evidence of how she fared after he picked Laverne, I’m sure she WAS fine.

I think, for a man like James, he enjoyed Laverne’s dependance on him and also having a woman like Gwen actually interested in him. I’m unsure that he actually loved either one.

3. Why do you think Raleigh is so loyal to James?

He loved him. He was his brother. Despite not agreeing with some of the things James did, itdidn’t change Raleigh’s blind affectionof him. He would not be Raleigh without James.

4. Should Gwen have married Raleigh when she had the chance?

I want to say yes, for Raleigh’s sake, but it would have never worked. I think if she had married Raleigh, it would have been just to get back at James, which is a poor reason to marry anyone. And it would have been so unfair to Raleigh (my favorite character.)

5. Where you surprised to read about Gwen confronting Laverne?

No. I figured it would come to that. I didn’t like the way she did it though.

6. Did you have a favorite character? Did you have a least favorite? Which characters would you like to know more about?

Raleigh. Throughout both sides of the story, he was a constant. They both saw him the same way. And he was definitely the most kind-hearted.

7. Were you surprised at the ending? Was it ever possible for this story to have a happy ending?

There was no way it was going to end well. And no, I wasn’t surprised. James consistently picked Laverne and Chaurisse over Dana and Gwen.

8. Overall, what did you think of the book?

I loved it! It was so well written and I continue to be impressed with how Jones made both sides of women equal parts…villanous and loveable.

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Pantomime by Laura Lam

February 22, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 4

15797050Pantomime
By Laura Lam
Osprey Publishing, February 2013
400 Pages
4/5
Got it from NetGalley! And that’s ALL I got!

As soon as I saw the title, and cover (I have serious feelings for this cover), for this book, I knew I had to read it. While looking around on NetGalley one day, it popped up and I immediately requested it. I was so tickled when I got the notice I was approved and immediately dug in.

And then, I couldn’t put it down.

This book has many of my necessary requirements for a great story. Mystery. Magic. Subterfuge. Feisty young girls looking to prove themselves. Feisty young people looking to prove themselves. And then, dang it, a blatant To Be Continued… at the end.

*sigh*

Iphigenia “Gene” Laurus is the daughter of a noble family from Ellada. Gene is something of a Tom Girl. No, make that a complete TOM GIRL. She hates crinolines. She hates corsets. She loves running and playing and climbing trees and just generally being one of The Boys. And Gene has a secret, one that she can never tell anyone, for it would be the downfall of her family.

Micah Grey is a runaway living on the streets. He can’t seem to catch a break in regard to finding food, living quarters, or a job. When he sees aerialists perform at R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, Micah finally sees what he wants to do. He fights to join the circus and soon, is a rising star. Yet Micah has to be very careful, for he has a secret that could ruin it all for him.

I can’t tell you how much I wanted this to be an awesome book for me. We have a great cover, a great premise, a TOM GIRL, a self-made acrobat, and a circus. And mysteries and secrets and subterfuge. It sounds awesome, right? Yet, somehow, there is something keeping me from the butt-crazy love affair I was hoping for. After, well, weeks, eh, maybe months (when did I read this book???) after finishing, and taking the time to puzzle it out, my main problem comes down to the main characters; Gene and Micah. I had a hard time with them. I shouldn’t have any trouble identifying with Gene (to a certain extent, which I will not divulge here. I believe it’s intended to be a bit of surprise and I don’t want to ruin it inadvertently) being that she is a Tom Girl (I was a Tom Girl) who is not comfortable in her skin, let alone the awful constricting corsets and dresses she’s forced to wear (Dude, do I hate a dress? Yes.). Throughout the book, despite this characters’ honesty with the reader (again, not going completely into this…let’s just say she has a HUGE secret), it felt like Gene was holding back. Or maybe I was holding back, who knows. I just felt like I never got to really KNOW Gene like I was supposed to do. I never connected to her. Or Micah for that matter, although I feel like I know Micah better. OMG this is so confusing and if you have read the book, I expect you know what I mean.

And then, there is of course, that part of me that feels like this disconnection was part of the intent. On some level, I feel like this is the case. Obviously, I need to think on this some more. 

So, despite that problem, never connecting with the characters and all, I did enjoy the book enough to be curious about the next one in the series. The life of the circus was fascinating, and the love story (there is always a love story, yeah?) was actually well done. I liked Micah’s crush the most of all the characters. I enjoyed the fantasy and steampunk elements. And Lam did an amazing job building the world of the circus. As I said, I had trouble putting this book down. And I really admire what Lam was trying to do with Gene and Micah. I’m hoping this was first novel jitters and that the sophomore novel will she she’s worked out the kinks. There is tons of potential here.

Favorite bits:

“I’ll prove it to you, sir,” I said, and broke away from the clown and dashed toward the ladder to the tightrope. The circus folk jeered and catcalled. Their cries spurred me on. I clambered onto the small wooden platform and my head spun as I looked down, though I had climbed much higher than this in the past. I looked up at the trapeze and began to judge the distance.

People trickled in. Grubby little children grinned and pointed at the rings in the center of the stage. Courting and married pairs strolled, the men with their cravats and the ladies in the bonnets and bustles. Hawkers wasted no time and circled and weaved through the rows, calling out their wares.

The aerialist stepped onto the tightrope. The rope bend slightly under her weight and I held my breath, frightened she would fall.

But her feet were steady as she made her slow, steady crossing in midair. She looked so dainty and delicate as she walked, pointing her toes when she lifted a foot, holding the parasol aloft, as though she could bend her legs, propel herself upwards, and fly away. The light filtered through the lace, shadows dappling her skin. When she finally made it across, I let out the breath I had been holding and clapped as loudly as I could.

They also read it: Bookshelves of DoomBook Briefs, Dark Faerie Tales, and more…. 

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Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis

February 12, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 3

Title: Not Exactly a Love Story
Author: Audrey Couloumbis
Published: December 11, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0375867835
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Got it from NetGalley!

1977. A Not-Very-Good-Year for Vinnie Gold. The parents the thought perfectly happy surprise him by divorcing. Then his mom decides dating his GYM TEACHER is perfectly okay. Then it’s just fine to go and marry the guy, then force Vinnie to leave his beloved Queens for Long Island.

Things are definitely NOT perfectly okay.

Then, Vinnie meets the girl next door.

Patsy is everything you expect of a girl-next-door type. She’s beautiful, popular, smart, and completely oblivious to Vinnie’s existence. Vinnie is completely smitten. And his method of actually, well, talking to her is unusual. To say the least. By a complete stroke of luck, Vinnie gets Patsy’s number. And he calls her. At midnight. Without telling her his name. At first she thinks he’s a complete jerk. Well, he IS a complete jerk, but instantly regrets it and goes about setting things right. It takes time. And patience. And watching the girl of his dreams go out with the biggest jock/loser in the school. What Vinnie does to finally get Patsy to “see” him will take everything he’s got and will lead him to finally become the kind of guy who, well, maybe gets the girl.

I would imagine telling a story from the point of view of a guy, when you’re NOT a guy, can be kind of difaficult. Couloumbis didn’t have any problems. Vinnie felt completely believable to me. His feelings of inadequacy, coupled with his desire to overcome these feelings, were admirable, especially in a YA book. I liked the way Couloumbis handled the divorce and remarriage. Just the right amount of awkwardness and pain. Patsy, despite appearances, isn’t exactly “the girl next door.” Couloumbis spent a lot of time giving her nuance and personality. And Couloumbis’s writing was fresh and witty. My ONLY real problem was the whole calling at midnight plot felt slightly stalkerish. Okay, more than slightly. Despite that, I enjoyed this easy read quite a lot. This Cyrano retelling was fun.

Favorite bit:

I couldn’t seem to recover from one blow before another followed. No one tells you how things really are. Everything coming in waves, one rolling in after the other, and in case you’re thinking that doesn’t sound so bad, keep this in mind: that’s how huge rocks, boulders, become sand on the beach.

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

February 8, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 3

6936382

Anna and the French Kiss
By Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 12/2/2010
Pages: 384
Acquired from the library

Y’all, Anna and the French Kiss is about as charming a book as they come and I fell head over heels for it. I couldn’t help it! It was out of my control! Completely!

Lemme ‘splain.

Anna’s father is a Nicholas Sparks wanna be and thinks his daughter (as daughter of such an author should, obvs) needs more CULTURE. As such, he has decided she needs to go to boarding school. In Paris. For senior year. Away from her best friend, her awesome job, and her crush-who-may-be-something-more-and-possibly-soon. Also, she doesn’t know French. So yeah, very UGH for Anna.

Anna is less than thrilled, but as is the case in such situations, she can’t do anything about it. She’s off to gay Pah-ree! Whether she wants to or not.

Once there, Anna meets Meredith, Josh, and Rashmi, and *dreamy sign* Etienne St. Clair, possessor of great hair, adorable Britishy-Frenchy accent, and…a girlfriend. Anna’s life is full of stereotypical teenager/high school type angst, but somehow, it didn’t annoy me like it usually does. The witty banter, the delights of France (Which are on full display! I wanted an éclair or a crepe every time I put the book down.), the lovely language, and the characters more than make up for the predictablicality. (Yes, I just made that word up, isn’t it great?) (I’m thinking this is an ellipses kind of day) ( which are the best kinds of days) (okay, I think I’m done). I couldn’t help but adore all the characters, especially Anna and St. Clair. Anna is so smart and sassy, my favorite kind of girl character, and St. Clair so witty and sweet. Meredith, Josh, and Rashmi could have been a little more fleshed out, but even as periphery characters, they were fun.

Anna and the French Kiss is a wonderful, feel good book, that you put down with a smile on your face. Great fun and a great diversion. I admit it, I hugged this one when I finished. Incidentally, I think this would be a great beach read.

Favorite bits:

“I wish friends held hands more often, like the children I see on the streets sometimes. I’m not sure why we have to grow up and get embarrassed about it.”

“I love you as certain dark things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul.”

“Boys turns girls into such idiots.”

“I mean, really. Who sends their kid to boarding school? It’s so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn’t have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons.”

“Girl scouts didn’t teach me what to do with emotionally unstable drunk boys.”

I moan with pleasure.
“Did you just have a foodgasm?” he asks, wiping ricotta from his lips.
“Where have you been all my life?” I ask the beautiful panini.

The only French word I know is oui, which means “yes,” and only recently did I learn it’s spelled o-u-i and not w-e-e.

They talked about it too: Write Meg!, Bart’s Bookshelf, Steph Su Reads, Proud Book Nerd, Galleysmith, and many, many more.

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