Posts Categorized: eBooks

Reading Notes: What is it about a Book with a Book on the Cover?

June 10, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 12 ★★★★★

Reading Notes: What is it about a Book with a Book on the Cover?The Library at Mount Char
by Scott Hawkins
Published by Crown
on June 16, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 388
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
five-stars
"Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy."

Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course--before the time she calls "adoption day," when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.
Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.
Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library--and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price--because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

-----

There are (quite) a few things that make me pick up a book immediately. Things I am helpless against. First, putting a book or books on the cover. It appeals to my bookish nature. Second, compare it to a favorite author. I know I shouldn’t let this work on me, because more often than not, it doesn’t actually work out that way, but I can’t help it. Marketing works, sometimes. Lastly, Let me read it for free for a review. I’m a sucker.

The Library at Mount Char has a burnt book on it’s cover, with comparisons to Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill, and the publisher let me read it for free FOR MY HONEST OPINION. So I’m going to give it to you: I loved it. So there you go.

I don’t know much about Joe Hill. I’ve only read his comics. So, I’m mainly coming at this as a Neil Gaiman/Fantasy fan. And I felt so many shades of American Gods, in the best possible way, and I also felt shades of something new. Something unique. Something undeniably Scott Hawkins. The world he has created here, the characters, the story; all remarkable. He’s created a whole new world, a world where people can become gods, where a Library can hold all the power in the universe, where a person can be brought back to life again and again, and where a person can learn incredible things, like reincarnation, terrible savagery, and startling humanity. And behind it all is the sly, deadpan, quirky voice of a new talent. Surprising at every turn, The Library at Mount Char is not to be missed.

Favorite Bits:

“The librarians I know are into, like, I dunno, tea and cozy mysteries, not breaking and entering.”

“Yeah, well. This is a different kind of library.”

“It’s about the Library,” Carolyn said. “Right now the only thing that matters is who takes control of Father’s Library.”

“Library? Who gives a damn about a library?”

Carolyn rolled her eyes. “Americans.”

“With this particular species of crazy, you stop trying to make things better. You start trying to maximize the bad. You pretend to like it. Eventually you start working to make everything as bad as possible. It’s an avoidance mechanism.” Jennifer looked Carolyn directly in the eyes. “It can’t actually work. That’s why they call it crazy.”

Steve walked over and squatted down. There, almost invisible in the shadows, he found it. “It’s a book?”

She smiled. “Of course it’s a book.”

caprici2

Divider

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

May 28, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 1 ★★★

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance RubinDenton Little's Deathdate
by Lance Rubin
Series: Denton Little #1
Published by Knopf
on April 14th 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars
Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. Though he's not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager's life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

-----

You know, I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I’ve been going through something of a book identity crisis. You see, I used to LOVE young adult books. Then I didn’t love them quite so much any more, but I still read my favorite authors. And then, I wasn’t feeling the pull to read my favorite authors (of YA that is) either. Yet, somehow, inexplicably, this book called to me from the shelf of NetGalley and I was like sure. What the heck. It might be good.

It was good.

But, just good.

In the world Denton Little lives in, everyone knows when they will die. Down to the very day. And everyone celebrates their death day, because, why not? Denton’s death date is, tragically, early. He will die on prom night, in his 17th year. Dude has been busy. So many firsts in his last days! As the book opens, Denton has his first hangover. Upon waking he discovers he’s had his first sex (and totally missed it because booze) which leads to his first love triangle (because dude has a girlfriend and sex was not with her).

Things are dramatic.

Then he discovers the beginnings on a rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? He’s disappointed. Because teenage boy.

If things don’t seem dramatic and crazy enough, things are about to get worse, when a strange man shows up at his funeral. Since you know when you’re going to die, you go to your own funeral. Fun times.

Thoughts:

  • It’s funny. Very witty. Lance Rubin is quite the funny, witty, guy.
  • It is fast paced. I can see kids (boys especially) appreciating the quick action.
  • There’s a mystery. Mysteries are always fun.
  • The characters are fun. I’m saying fun a lot, am I not?
  • The sex isn’t handled lightly. The cheating isn’t either, which I appreciate. The drinking kind of is.
  • The adults are present, which is nice. Adults tend to go missing in YA.

All in all, it’s a fun read. Kids will love it. I finished it, which I think says a lot. I may even make an effort to read the next one. And, if I had a kind old enough for it, I would push it off on them.

Recommended, for those younger than me.

caprici2

Divider

Everybody Needs One

March 11, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10 ★★★★½

Everybody Needs OneStrong Female Protagonist
by brennan lee mulligan, molly ostertag
Series: Volume 1
Published by Top Shelf Productions
on November 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
With superstrength and invulnerability, Alison Green used to be one of the most powerful superheroes around.

Fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego Mega Girl was fun — until an encounter with Menace, her mind-reading arch enemy, showed her evidence of a sinister conspiracy, and suddenly battling giant robots didn't seem so important.

Now Alison is going to college and trying to find ways to help the world while still getting to class on time. It's impossible to escape the past, however, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a hero....

After a phenomenal success on Kickstarter, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag bring their popular webcomic into print, collecting the first four issues, as well as some all-new, full-color pages!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

-----

Everyone needs a Strong Female Protagonist, that is.

I hate to admit it, but I had never heard of this comic until I saw it on NetGalley. It’s a webcomic. It had a very successful Kickstarter campaign. It fell into my lap and y’all. I am so happy about that, because this protagonist is right up my alley.

Alison Green is one of those protagonists you can’t help but identify with. Sure, she has superhuman abilities, but underneath all that strength and super-ness, lies a very uncertain girl with real world problems like money, family, friendship, lack of confidence, and a past she just can’t escape. And then yes, on top of it all, Alison has superpowers. What does she do with that? Is she obligated to save the world? And who really cares anyway?

There is so much to love in this little comic. The writing is great. The art is too. The thing I love most though, is the message. That no matter how smart, how super, how strong you are, you are also human. With human fears, feelings, desires, and just messed up.

Highly recommended.

caprici2

Divider

An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

January 23, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 12 ★★★★★

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.

caprici2

Divider

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.

caprici2

Divider

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

caprici2

Divider

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

caprici2

Divider

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

caprici2

Divider

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.

caprici2

Divider

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

March 25, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 5

7766027

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.”

caprici2

Divider