Posts Tagged: book review

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

February 8, 2013 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 3

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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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Audiobook Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

July 24, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 11

Shadow of Night
By Deborah Harkness

Read by Jennifer Ikeda
ISBN: 9780670023486
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 7/10/2012
Pages: 592 (or 20 disks)
Series: All Souls Trilogy, #2
Source: the publisher was kind enough to send me a copy

You know that feeling you have when a book you’ve been looking forward to for months finally comes out and you have it in your hot little hands and… and… it disappoints you?

Yeah? You do?

That’s how I feel about this book.

You see, I read, and adored A Discovery of Witches last year. It had a few problems, least of which was its slight Twilight feeling, but I forgave the problems because of the characters, in particular, Diana and Matthew. I reread A Discovery of Witches by listening to the audio book and delighted in it even more. The reader was fantastic, the characters every bit as fascinating as I remembered; so my excitement for Shadow of Night was doubled. When I got it unsolicited in the mail, I was beside myself.

Then I started listening to Shadow of Night. I read it with Andi and we burned up the internets. Shadow of Night picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off, so yes, this review does contain spoilers for the first book. Diana and Matthew have traveled back in time to 1591, Elizabethan England, in order for Diana to find a witch who can teach her how to use and control her magic and to hide from the Convention who so desperately wants to harm her and use her to gain control of a magical book called Ashmole 782. Diana and Matthew land in the middle of Matthew’s old life as a spy, member of the mysterious School of Night AND avowed witch hater.

Dum, dum, dummmmm….

So, um, yeah, that does sound exciting, yes? And it was…to a certain extent. It was all the useless details on dress, on food, on this famous person and that famous person and yes! Matthew knew that famous person too! This book is so bloated with useless, inconsequencial, and pointless to the plot information that it eventually became an eye-roll bonanza. If I heard one more time about Matthew’s garters, or all the many layers of clothing Diana had to wear, I was going to scream. I’m all for building the scene, but I can picture a few things in my head myself. I’m surprised my eyes didn’t roll out of my head. At one point, I emailed Andi to say it felt like someone just had to show off how much she knows about the time period. Harkness is a professor and researched the history of magic and science in Europe , especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. Andi agreed.

My biggest complaint is that this trip to the past few pointless. I don’t see where they did anything in the past they couldn’t have done in the present. They go back to find Ashmole 782 and, as a result of their visit, the book is damaged as it was when Diana found it in the present, so basically, they caused the damage. They do find a witch to help Diana, which takes eons (!) (it felt like, really, it was half the book) but I figure they could just as easily have found one in the present. The only thing they couldn’t have done is met the School of Night (again for Matthew) and HOLY RUSTED METAL BATMAN, I could have lived with out Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe is another beef, but a purely irritating one to even discuss. Let’s just say I didn’t like him and still don’t understand Matthew’s tolerance of him. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand that I hope. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about alchemy, which honestly, I didn’t really understand at all. And if I hear one more reference to the Goddess Diana, I cannot be help responsible for my actions.

And then, there is the Big Thing that Happens at the End and then is Never Explained. *grumble* I really can’t say anything more about that. Spoilers!

That’s not to say the book didn’t have any merits. It did. I still LIKE Matthew and Diana. I probably don’t quite love them like I did, but I do still like them. I’m still invested enough to read the last book, which Andi and I have already agreed to read together as well. A new character was introduced, Matthew’s vampire nephew Gallowglass, who *really* captured my imagination (purr…), so much so that I would read a book dedicated to his character in a heartbeat. I enjoyed meeting Matthew’s father Philippe. And the witches from Elizabethan London were interested, especially Goody Alsop, if they did seem slightly pointless. Queen Elizabeth herself makes an appearance (of course she does…. eye roll) and she is just as I always imagined her and is a lot of fun. And Diana finally starts stand up for herself to the control freak Matthew.

In the end, this book really could have used some editing to cure the extreme case of MiddleNovelitis (trademark pending) this book had. Just a wee bit of editing really could have made all the difference. Okay, a little more than wee.

As for the reader, Jennifer Ikeda returns from A Discovery of Witches and she does just as great a job in this one as that. She has a nice, measured voice that is really pleasant to listen to. Plus, she has an excellent command of accents! In this book she uses American, English, French, German, Southern American, and Scottish; and that is just the ones I remember! And I can’t be completely sure if it was the fact that I was listening to the book or the fact that I was reading it with Andi, but I’m pretty sure one of the two (or possibly both!) kept me reading to the end. So thank goodness for Jennifer Ikeda and Andi!

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Railsea by China Mieville

June 19, 2012 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 9

Railsea
by China Mieville

Published by: Del Rey
May 15, 2012
Pages: 448
Source: NetGalley (thank you Del Rey!)

Me and this book? We almost didn’t happen. I literally tried 4 times to get into this book during the month of May. And I always quit at the same place; chapter 4. I’m not sure what made me pick it up again that fourth time; I generally only give books 3 chances and usually a little more spaced out than that. Being such a moody reader leads me to do such things, but still, 3 times is usually a good indicator of whether a book and I are going to see eye to eye. Still, about 2:00 am, on the train back from Florida, I had just finished Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend and I knew there was no way in this good, great Earth that I was going to read The Stand at 2:00 am, so I opened Railsea one final time. I scanned back to page one (since it was on my Nook) and I gave a great sigh and plunged in again.

Somehow, with the combination of the hour, the rocking of the train (coincidence? I think not!), the extreme tiredness I was feeling, and the fact that I was miserable with a cold; Railsea and I clicked. I know that sounds somewhat strange, but there you go. I’m strange. C’est ma vie. Bienvenue! All I know is I’m glad it happened because I wound up loving Railsea and I may have a new author crush to boot.

So, I don’t know if you heard, but Railsea is like a re-imagining of Moby Dick. However, instead of chasing a bone-white whale, we’re chasing a bone-white mole. Yes, a mole, a “moldywarpe”, but not like the little moles who tear up our yards and cause us to tear our hair out until we’re bald and bleeding. What? You don’t do this? Anyway, THIS mole is huge. I mean, freaking huge. A huge as a house. Maybe even huger. And instead of the ocean, our sea is rails. Train rails. An ocean of trail rails, hence, the Railsea. The train, the moletrain, Medes is chasing this moldywarpe, called many things but mainly Mocker Jack, and Captain Naphi, a woman with a passion for vengeance and just as determined as Captain Ahab.

Also onboard the Medes is a young man named Sham Yes ap Soorap. Sham is young in many ways, not just by age, and he does a lot of growing up during the course of this story. The reader meets Sham on deck, covered in blood, watching as all the hands on the train dismantle a small moldywarpe. Sham, bless his heart, seems lost, confused, on the train he’s traveling. The cousins who raised him helped him get the position of doctor’s assistant, but he’s no more interested in being a doctor than he is a mole hunter. He figures there’s more to life than chasing moles and riding the railsea. A chance encounter with a derailed train, and a chance discovery onboard that derelict train, sends Sham off on the adventure of a lifetime.

There is so much going on in this book. It took me awhile to grasp that it was (and honestly, I’m still not completely sure) dystopian, and it’s a bleak future. The land is covered in trail rails. There are two levels to the sky; the upsky, where weird, otherworldly creatures fly, where the air is so polluted you can’t always see the tops of mountains, and the downsky, a sliver of breathable air between the upsky and the rails. Many people sell what they call salvage, which is essentially the piles and piles of trash left behind by the people of the past. These salvagers often don’t know what the things they sell actually are, they make up names and uses for unfamiliar (but familiar to us!) things. There is no real discernible government, other one brief appearance by some sort of dirty “train cops.” Then there are all the insanely huge insects, flesh-eating rabbits, and other such monsters trolling around under the ground. Families are not the typical “nuclear” family of old. Families are whoever sticks around, either by choice or by necessity. Sham is raised by two male cousins after his parents die. He makes friends with a brother and sister who have three parents; a woman and two men. As complex and completely strange as all this is, Mieville manages to keep the story on track and, strangely, believable. At least for me.

The real star of the book though, in my opinion, is the writing. Holy rusted metal Batman, but Mieville has a way with words. The prose alone was like feast of words. The plot, as twisted as the rails, which I think was completely intentional. The story splits, about halfway, into three or four different subplots, eventually meandering back together and I couldn’t help but exclaim about halfway through that this was JUST LIKE THE RAILSEA! My joy was strange and complete. I love it with authors play with words, plots, ideas and by golly, Mieville plays like a champion wordsmith. And the characters! I quickly fell in love with Sham. And Captain Naphi? What a puzzle. My favorite, besides Sham, has to be his pet day bat, Daybe. I would have never thought I would find a bat adorable, but I do. Many of the characters are not as well-rounded as Sham, but the are still memorable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his books, just to see if he’s always like this. Is he always like this?

A few quotes I noted:

People have wanted to narrate since first we banged rocks together & wondered about fire. There’ll be tellings as long as there are any of us here, until the stars disappear one by one like turned-out lights.

Heaven might not be what everyone thinks it is, but that don’t mean it’s a myth.

Technically, our name, to those who speak science, is Homo sapiens— wise person. But we have been described in many other ways. Homo narrans, juridicus, ludens, diaspora: we are storytelling, legal, game-playing, scattered people, too. True but incomplete. That old phrase has the secret. We are all, have always been, will always be, Homo vorago aperientis: person before whom opens a vast & awesome hole.

“I await your improvements eagerly. & complaining is awesomely helpful. (I hope to add this to my sarcasm vault as soon as possible.)

There was a time when we did not form all words as now we do, in writing on a page. There was a time when the world “&” was written with several distinct & separate letters. It seems madness now. But there it is, & there is nothing we can do about it.

Humanity learnt to ride the rails, & that motion made us what we are, a ferromaritime people. The lines of the railsea go everywhere but from one place to another. It is always switchback, junction, coils around & over our own train-trails.

What word better could there be to symbolise the railsea that connects & separates all lands, than “&” itself? Where else does the railsea take us but to this place & that one & that one, & so on? & what better embodies, in the sweep of the pen, the recurved motion of trains, than “&”?

Okay, enough talking your ear off about this book. I’m afraid I passed tl; dr 600 words ago. I can only hope I managed to convince you to give this modern day adventure story a try.

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A Little Bit About: The Snow Child, The Wise Man's Fear, and Mercury

June 15, 2012 Book Reviews, Books 9

I hate it, but I waited way too long to review these books, PLUS, I’m not feeling the blogging mojo after coming back from vacation. AND I’m still sick. So sick I just typed stick for still sick. Gah. SO, in the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, and giving my befeebled sick brain something to do, I give you MINI REVIEWS!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

I’m not sure why I haven’t reviewed this book yet. It’s fairytale quality, luscious prose, and unique ending were right up my alley. I guess by the time it came to review it, everyone had already said everything I wanted to say! This story of a couple who so desperately want a child that they wish one into being (or do they?) really struck a chord with me, having had a miscarriage (although I was nowhere near as far along) myself.

Also, I adore the cover.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

You guys, I really really hate hate HATE giving this book a mini-review. Yet, it’s just been too long since I read it to give it a proper review! It’s sad, because honestly, I adored this book as much as the first one (The Name of the Wind; my review) and, my biggest fear is that people will not give these books a chance because of their size. I almost didn’t give them a chance because of their size. But trust me when I say that size, here, does not matter. The pages fly by. Kvothe’s story of magic, bravery, a little bit of foolishness, hardheadedness, the meaning of friendship, love, and growing up is impossible to put down and this newest chapter of his story is just as riveting as the first. I seriously cannot wait for the last (sob!) chunkster of the series. There are very few characters I literally have a die-hard crush on and Kvothe is on that very short list (hello Jamie!). Oh my goodness but Rothfuss is a magician with words. With story. With my brain.

Mercury by Hope Larson

You guys, this graphic novel is cuh-reepy. In a good way. See, there are these two girls. One lives in with her family in 1859 Nova Scotia struggling to scrape out a life for themselves in an unforgiving new world. The other lives in Nova Scotia today, struggling to scrape her way back to normalcy after the loss of everything (but her mother) she holds dear in a tragic house fire. As these two stories slowly unfurl, and come together, things take a…rather…terrifying turn. I sincerely hope Larson (ha, see what I did there?) is planning to continue the story, because it ended with one heck of a cliffhanger! The art is stark and gorgeous, the story engaging and new; I highly recommend this one.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

December 16, 2011 Books 7

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

Hi there. So. Here we are again. You wondering what I think of a book. Me, tongue-tied, totally not knowing how to convey just how much I adore a book. Thank you for trusting me to tell you this.

Same story, different book. And oh, what a book.

Karou is seventeen, living by herself in the city of Prague. She goes to school, she’s an artist, and she collects teeth. Yes. Teeth. Not for herself, but for her foster “father” Brimstone. What Brimstone does with the teeth she doesn’t know and really doesn’t seem to care. She does it for the wishes. Small things, these wishes, powerful enough to color her hair to blue, turn the beautiful-yet-horrible girl in her class into a wooly eyebrowed thing,

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t go down easily. I’ve read quite a bit of YA in the past few years and, like most genres that become super popular, formulas begin to pop up. There is the beautiful, unattainable yet totally attainable guy. Self-conscious, unbecoming-feeling, but totally capable girl (with the exception of Bella) who is actually quite beautiful, smart, etc. She just. doesn’t. know. it. She needs HIM to tell her. There is always some sort of paranormal element. And (all together now) it’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. And Daughter of Smoke & Bone, when starting out? Feels a LOT like this.

*sigh*

But then. Oh, then. It comes down to character for me. In particular, Karou. I just love this quirky, blue-haired, artist of a girl. This orphaned girl raised by monsters, who moves seamlessly between worlds. Who knows how to defend herself against, well, almost anything. Who would burn a wish on something as vindictive as turning a beautiful but horrible girls eyebrows into wooly worms (oh come on, you know you’d do it if you could) yet supports her best friend in the wild endeavor of a street performance as a puppet ballerina.

I know I’m making this sound strange, it is strange, but in Laini Taylor’s hands, it doesn’t feel at all strange. It feels right. It feels beautiful. Her writing. It’s like…reading velvet. That sounds corny. Very corny. Here. I mean, listen, lines like this?

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.

And this?

Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.

Um…melt?

More? Okay. I have lots.

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.

See? See what I mean? I. Love. Her. Writing. I’m so glad I have Lips Touch, Three Times. I will be reading it very, very soon. Last one, I swear:

Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book — a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos — and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.

Okay, I lied. Last one. I can’t help it, I wrote down so many!

She had a sadness that was so deep, but it still could turn to light in a second,and when I saw her smile I wondered what it would be like to make her smile. I thought…I thought it would be like the discovery of smiling.

It comes down to this. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is different. It’s unique. It’s worth your time. Come meet Karou. Come meet her maker, Laini Taylor. I promise, you will not regret it.

icon
iconDaughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor
ISBN-13: 9780316134026
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: 9/27/2011
Pages: 432

Source? Barnes and Noble dudes. That cover grabbed me as I walked by the display.

They did it better:

Bookalicious  | The Book Bind | Bewitched Bookworms | A Novel Source

 

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A Must Read – Shine by Lauren Myracle

April 26, 2011 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 16

Shine is one of those books. One of those books I loved so much, so utterly to pieces, that I don’t quite know where to begin in telling you all about it. I feel like I know this book so intimately, so personally, so completely and totally… yet I am tongue-tied.

I will soldier on, because Lauren Myracle told me to. And because you have to read this book.

Our main character is Cat and I have known a few Cats and I expect you have too. Pretty and, at one time, popular, something bad has happened to her and Cat slowly disappeared. She doesn’t talk to anyone, her old friends, her family, even her best friend Patrick. She has almost completely cut herself off from everyone she knows to protect herself. Cat is in pain. She has no one to go to.

And then Patrick gets hurt. Nearly killed.

In a hate crime.

Because he is gay.

While Patrick lies in a coma, Cat seethes. She quickly recognizes that the area police are not going to do much of anything to find Patrick’s attacker. They want the problem to just disappear. Cat will not allow that. She decides to investigate the attack herself. Her search will lead her to question friends, family and all she holds dear, in more ways that one. She will “look straight into the ugliness and find out who hurt him.” Will she find the attacker? Will she bring Patrick justice?

And more importantly, will she begin to heal herself?

I invite you to find out.

Shine is set in North Carolina, in my own “backyard” it felt like. I’m a Tarheel, born and bred (and I little ticked off that Firefox wants to spell check Tarheel!) and wow, did Myracle get it right. She knows North Carolina like I know North Carolina. It’s not often I get to read a book set in my home state, in my part of the state, and took my own personal reading experience to another level. I felt so at home in this book. I’ve read books set in the more metropolitan areas of NC and, well, those are rare compared to the parts of NC Myracle is writing about here. Like all states, NC has been hit hard by poverty. Mill towns, tobacco towns, they are all closing down. People are moving away to the cities or just staying there, hoping something will come along. Drugs are rampant. So is violence. Intolerance is just a matter of course. Homophobia is (I’m shaking my head, it’s so bad. And sad. And I don’t know how to describe it except to say that).

This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren Myracle but I know it won’t be my last. Her writing is tight, honest; she doesn’t pull punches with her characters. She’s not afraid to push them. And she has a great way with dialogue. Just hearing these characters “talk” I would have known they were from the South. She’s great with the little details (something I always appreciate), she paints a picture of a dying mountain town on the bring of combustion when something happens to one of their own, a something that many want to ignore. And she’s dealing with issues that are so important. Issues that people are ignoring just as hard as the people in this book and we need to stop ignoring them. People should NOT be hurt or persecuted or made to feel inferior for who. they. love. The characters are so wonderfully written. I dare you not to adore Cat by the end of the book. Months later, I still find myself thinking about this book and to me, that is some of the highest praise I can bestow.

What they thought:

Overall, this is a must-read book- it’s raw, realistic, and just deserves to be read by everyone. I am extremely proud of Lauren for writing this book because it needs to be told, especially in these times. –  Book Chic Club

Cat’s investigation takes her on a healing journey as she faces her fears and the skeletons in her closet. Cat is a likeable character that has some personal obstacles to overcome. Her story is empowering, and she is someone I think many readers may be able to relate to. – The Reading Date

All in all,  Shine packs a hard punch.  It was an intense, emotional, tear inducing journey – but one that I am so glad I took.  It realistically captures and explores issues like sexuality, rape, prejudice, violence and addiction.  It was dark, it was raw, it was captivating.  Read it! – All about {n}

Incidentally, isn’t that a GREAT cover? Beautiful, just beautiful.

Product Details

Shine by Lauren Myracle

  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Format: Hardcover , 376pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9780810984172
  • Source: Netgalley

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The Classics Circuit: The Lost Generation

April 1, 2011 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 4

I have often said that The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, while is probably a little dishonest of me. I usually only say that about books I’ve read many times. Definitely more than once. That’s right; at 33 years of age, I have only read The Great Gatsby one time and claimed it as a favorite book. Definitely in the top ten. Now, I wasn’t trying to be pretentious. I just really loved that book when I read it… when I was a teenager… in high school…

Give me a moment. I just realized that I read this book for the first time almost 20 years ago.

Okay.

Anyway. When The Classics Circuit announced The Lost Generation Tour, I immediately knew what I wanted to read. Save the Last Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald. What? you say? Yes! I did not intend to read F. Scott’s work, but that of his wife Zelda. Poor Zelda. Alas however, I could not find my copy (still haven’t, come to that. Hmmmm…) and then I remembered that Jill (Fizzy Thoughts) (softdrink) (whomever she is today) (love ya Jill!) reviewing The Great Gatsby not to long ago and she had listened to an audiobook production of it. Read by the actor Tim Robbins. Score! And lucky me, the library had it. I promptly downloaded it and plugged in.

It was interesting revisiting this classic of my (gulp) childhood. I was surprised by how much I remembered of the story. I remembered it very well, down to Dr. Engelberg’s eyes! I was not surprised by how much better I understood it. I’m not trying to knock my halfway decent public education or my poor, harried, miserable English teachers, but I think there is something to be said for reading classics as you get older. You know, life experience and all that. What surprised me as well, was how well I identified with Gatsby this time around. The first time I read it, Gatsby seemed this elusive figure, off to the side, never really engaging with anyone, including me. This time, I know what it feels like to be the outsider wanting in, to have fought for acceptance, to have worked to realize dreams, to want something so much I’d be willing to do anything to get it. Gatsby lives in the past though, he’s fighting for dreams that have died. I felt sorry for Gatsby this time. Gatsby is the naive one, in my opinion, in thinking that Daisy would come away with him. Is he really “better than the whole damn bunch of them” as Nick says? He does seem the most honest.

Another surprise is how much I didn’t care for Nick Carroway. Our storyteller is a hypocrite. He tries to come off as the honest one, the good one, the one better than all this richness, intrigue, lying, and such, when by the end, he’s just as bad as the rest of them. He sees what’s going on and he does nothing to help. Except talk about it. He judges everyone, but himself. Well, at least until Jordan calls him out on it. At least once he sees she’s right, he decides to get away from all that and go out “West” and make a fresh start. But does he? The fact that Nick is telling us this story after it is all over shows that he is still obsessing over it, still living in the past. I wonder if he became another Gatsby like figure, in trying to recapture the past.

The women and Tom Buchanan. The innocents in white. So deceptive. Rich, careless, privileged. Careless seems the perfect word to describe the lot of them. They don’t care. About anyone, not even each other really. The only thing they seem to care about is perception. No, I take that back, because obviously Tom doesn’t care about perception that much. Everyone knows he cheats, regularly, on Daisy. And what is it about Daisy anyway? What makes her so special to Gatsby, Tom and even Nick? Sure, Daisy is beautiful, mysterious, a sassy flirt, and has her “full of money” voice, but what is the draw? I don’t see it, myself. She’s rich, spoiled…just as flawed as the rest of them and none of them are innocent.

How much of my perceptions this time were shaped by Tim Robbins? A lot, I’m sure. Tim Robbins gave a pretty great performance. Each character, no, each sex, had different voices and he performs the heck out of the book. My only problem with him is he doesn’t know how to control his volume. This is one of the few audiobooks I’ve listened to where I was constantly adjusting the volume. His women are loud! And his men tend to mumble. Yet I enjoyed it so much I didn’t care. All in all he made this a fun listen. The final section includes letters between Fitzgerald and his agent (and others) about the publication of the book. These are read by the wonderful Robert Sean Leonard and are very interesting.

Please see other stops on the Lost Generation Tour by visiting The Classics Circuit.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Read by Tim Robbins
Published by HarperCollins Audio
Duration: 5 hours, 54 minutes
ISBN: 9780060824587
Acquired from the library

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The Magician's Elephant

November 17, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 12

magicianselephantThe Magician’s Elephant
Written by: Kate DiCamillo
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)

When I saw that Kate DiCamillo had a new children’s book coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on it.  I absolutely adored The Tale of Despereaux and I was getting that same vibe from The Magician’s Elephant, just from looking at that delightful cover.   I bought it about a week before the readathon, but I couldn’t wait.  I read it the next day.  And, as I figured I would, I loved it.

When ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene is sent to the market for fish and bread, he spends it at the fortuneteller’s tent instead.  He is seeking his long-lost sister, and he is told

“You must follow the elephant.  She will lead you there.”

Understandably, he is confused and heartbroken, because he doesn’t know what that means and thinks his search is over before it really began.  But that very night, at the Bliffenendorf Opera House, a magician’s spell goes haywire and, instead of conjuring what he meant to conjure, he conjures an elephant.  The elephant falls through the ceiling and lands on the lap of a very distraught Madam Bettine LaVaughn.

The landing of the elephant in Madam Bettine LaVaughn’s lap sets off a magical novel about hope and loss, love and heartbreak, home and loneliness, and the desire to find out the truth for oneself instead of believing what others want you to believe.  The gorgeous illustrations by Yoko Tanaka make this dreamlike tale come alive.  It is yet another timeless fable from the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, one that begs to be read aloud to your children, or just to entertain yourself.  Young and old can appreciate this tale of love, hope, and longing, written by that magician herself.

Author also wrote:

Because of Winn Dixie | The Tale of Despereaux | The Tiger Rising | The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane | Great Joy | Mercy Watson Collection | Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken

Also Reviewed by:

Stainless Steel Droppings | Maw Books | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On | and more…

I am a Book Depository Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

I bought this book for myself.

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In a Perfect World

October 29, 2009 Books 18

In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World

In a Perfect World
Written by Laura Kasischke
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
Language: English

It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of end-of-the-world/dystopian type novels this year.  I’m not sure why, other than I love the freaking heck out of them!  I guess there is something appealing about reading about people living in the face of the end or difficult circumstances or things of that ilk.  It’s just fun, people!  Crazy!

Kasischke’s book, In A Perfect World, in another in a proud line of such end of the world tales.  Jiselle is finally the bride, after being the bridesmaid six times.  She has married pilot Mark Dorn – handsome pilot, widower, and father of three.  Jiselle gets to quit her job as a flight attendant and leave behind all the irritation and grumbling from the job.   Ever since the outbreak of the Phoenix flu, passengers have become even harder to handle (and put up with) than ever.  She moves into Mark’s beautiful log cabin and begins to help him raise his three precious children.

Marriage, and instant motherhood, are not all they are cracked up to be.  Jiselle finds she is frequently alone with Mark out on flights and she’s lonely.  She thinks the children hate her.  And the Phoenix flu, once thought of as a passing threat, will change everything about the life Jiselle thought she had into something more life altering – and threatening – than she ever dreamed.

I am sooooo close to finishing this one. I would have finished last night, but we HAD TO carve pumpkins – daughter’s emphasis.  I feel that I can give my opinion on the novel at this point though.  As a parent whose children have had the DREADED swine flu, I can say that this is one freaky read.  The basic abandonment of America by the global community was unsurprising and saddening.  The descent of Jiselle’s own life is depressing when used with this pandemic as a counter point.  This novel is more than a dystopian look at a potential future for our world; Jiselle’s struggle for her identity when faced with the new life she has chosen is also sobering.  It is a power look at the choices women face when entering an already established family especially in those situations when the children dislike the new interference to their lives.  The family dynamic is the main focus of this story and, even though I feel like the Phoenix flu angle takes away from that main focus at times, it still makes for a compelling and interesting story.   If you like a story that focuses on the difficulties of the dysfunctional family dynamic and learning about yourself in new and challenging endeavors with perhaps a little bit of apocalyptic, end of the world as we know it type stuffs, I recommend you grab a copy of In A Perfect World.

From what I hear and what I’ll know in a few chapters, there is a somewhat ambiguous ending, which are either hit or miss with me, but wanted to forewarn you.  If you don’t like those type of endings, you may want to think twice.  I know some readers love them and some hate them.  I can go either way and will probably update this review with a note once I finish it.

Thanks to the publisher for supplying my copy of this book, to TLC Blog Tours for their general AWESOMENESS and you, for reading!  To see other reviews of In A Perfect World, check out these other sites:

Monday, October 12th – Starting Fresh
Wednesday, October 14th – BookNAround
Thursday, October 15th – Book Club Classics!
Monday, October 19th – A Reader’s Respite
Friday, October 23rd – The Book Nest
Monday, October 26th – Galleysmith
Monday, November 2nd – Word Lily
Tuesday, November 3rd – Books on the Brain
Thursday, November 5th – Write Meg

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Killer Bunny Hill

September 1, 2009 Book Reviews, Books 2

killerbunny

TITLE: Killer Bunny Hill
AUTHOR: Denise Robbins
PUBLISHER: L&L Dreamspell, July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60318-130-3
PAGE COUNT: 258 pp
GENRE; SUB-GENRE: Romantic suspense
BOOK FORMAT SENT FOR REVIEW: Trade Paperback

A killer is on her bunny trail. Shot while snowboarding, Samantha Spenser lands on a stranger’s doorstep without her memory, but with a shooter on her tail. Even after the stranger saves her from the gunman and offers her refuge, Sam begins to fear for her life when Max, holding a gun to her head, demands to know the location of his abducted brother. Is the man with the whiskey-colored eyes her savior who will protect her, or the shooter who wants her dead? If Samantha trusts the sexy man to unravel the mystery of her amnesia, will he discover she is an innocent bystander or a deceitful criminal?

The last thing he wants or needs is the complication of a gorgeous snow bunny half dead from bullet wounds on his doorstep. Frustrated by the lack of clues and even more discouraged by the lack of help from his agency and his brother’s, special agent Maximilian Stone sets out in search for his kidnapped brother. First, he must solve the mystery of Samantha, the intriguing woman sleeping in his bed. Is there a connection between Snow Bunny and his missing FBI brother? Or was she brought in by a darker enemy to destroy Max before he can find them?

I have to admit, this is not my usual genre.  I’ve read a few though and enjoyed them.  So when Denise Robbins asked if I’d like to read her book, I thought, sure, why not?  And I’m really rather glad I did.  For Denise has written a funny, witty, fast-paced book full of secrets, romance, intrigue and quite a few thrilling moments that was definitely fun to read. There were a few moments where the writing faltered just a tiny bit, but no more than you would expect from a first novel.  No, here the real show is the characters.  Samantha Spenser, or Sam, and Max are, without a doubt, HOT.  There is a little bit of sex in this book, but don’t let it put you off.  The real fun is the romance between the two characters.  Watching how it all unfolds makes for great reading.  I recommend this if you like a little romance with your suspense, or suspense with your romance.  It’s great fun.

Thanks to Denise, for sending me a copy of her book.

You can read an excerpt of Killer Bunny Hill here.

Denise has her own website at: http://www.deniserobbins.com/index.html

And her blog is at: http://deniserobbins.blogspot.com/

Also by Denise Robbins

It Happens in Threes | Connect the Dots (2010)

Also reviewed by

Cafe of Dreams

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