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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume
Publication date: 2011
Pages: 320
Source: Library
For: Recommended by a friend


Summary (from goodreads):
In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.
Things I Liked:
I picked this one up after a friend of mine raved about it - her favorite book! This was kind of a sweet story with some dark elements to make it feel more realistic.  I have to admit at times it was a little unbelievable, but I sure don't know enough about that time and place to really know.  I thought it was interesting and engaging, but kind of lacked a little substance.  There are a few things that you pick up on long before the main character, which can be annoying.  Still, the ending was surprising and a little bittersweet.

Things I Didn't Like:
I wanted something more from it. Not sure what, but I just felt like it never quite achieved what it could have.

Read-alikes:
I can't think of any right now...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe a few

mrg-factor: X
some vague scenes

v-factor: ->

Overall rating: ***

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You Wish by Cary Elwes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date: October 2014
Length: 7 hrs, 1 min
Source: Audiobook from library
For: Fun!


Summary (from goodreads):
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

Things I Liked:
I listened to this on audio, read mostly by Cary Elwes, as suggested by a number of people.  I do recall my mind drifting during quite a bit of the beginning where Elwes tells his story about joining the cast and meeting everyone and all that preproduction stuff.  When it finally got to the stories from the movie, I really enjoyed it.  I loved all the funny, quirky, and hilarious antics they all seemed to get up to.  It sounds almost like an extended family reunion.  It was a lot of fun to hear it in their own voices (some of them) too.

Things I Didn't Like:
Yeah, the beginning was hard for me.  Otherwise, it was super fun to hear about one of my favorite movies.  I watched it again not that long ago and took great pleasure in pointing out things about the scenes that I learned form the book to my husbnad.

Read-alikes:
Can't think of anything...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 2012
Pages: 669
Source: Library
For: More Kate Morton stuff


Summary (from goodreads):
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
Things I Liked:
This book has a complicated plot filled with all kinds of secrets and mysteries and written in the perfect way to keep you guessing all the way to the ending.  This was signature Kate Morton (though, I'm pretty sure I've only read two of her other books).  It was also quite long.  It was engaging and I couldn't stop reading to find out just what in the world happened all those years ago. I was completely thrown for a loop when some of the stuff was revealed, though I did have an inkling about other things.

Things I Didn't Like:
Yeah, it is dark and creepy and at times kinda depressing.  Also, long.  But, I am really impressed at Morton's skills at weaving a complex web of uncertainties all the way to the end.  And I really have no idea how Laurel could even pretend to feel normal after what she saw.

Read-alikes:
Other Morton books will satisfy your "like this book" craving

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !#$
a fair few

mrg-factor: X
some

v-factor: ->->
rather more than I enjoy

Overall rating: ****

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: 2002
Pages: 322
Source: purchased e-book
For: Fun
Series: Little Blue Envelope, Book 1


Summary (from goodreads):
Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it's all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

Things I Liked:
I do rather like the premise of this book - Aunt dies abroad and leaves letters for her niece to follow.  I often wondered how that premise actually could work out, though.  It is kind of a stretch at times and the reasons behind it are a bit vague even by the end.  I did like seeing Ginny sort of wade through a new culture and become acclimated by jumping right in. 

Things I Didn't Like:
Yeah, I guess I missed the point of the book, cause I can't seem to recall there being one.  It could be, however, that I read this one months ago and I just forgot.  Either way, that's not exactly an endorsement, right?

Read-alikes:
Um, can't think of anything...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none
that I recall :)
mrg-factor: none
 
v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: January 2015
Pages: 392
Source: e-book from library
For: Flavia!
Series: Flavia de Luce, Book 7

 
Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for the first 7 books*
Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

Things I Liked:
More Flavia! It was different, what with being in a completely different setting.  It was kind of fun to see her try to figure things out in her school.  I got rather confused a number of times, since I could never tell which student or teacher to rely on.  At least at home she could depend on certain people to be good, but here everyone was a suspect.  It was a boarding school romp for Flavia and such fun for me to read.

Things I Didn't Like:
The ending left me a bit confused - why did she go there in the first place? I'm trying not to spoil it, though I doubt it would ruin the story, but it seemed like everything was negated by the ending.  I'm hoping for more, just so I can read more Flavia.

Read-alikes:
Start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
there's a bit of the macabre

Overall rating: ****

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication date: 2003
Pages: 356
Source: e-book from library
For: Book Group

Summary (from goodreads):
Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty, and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.

Things I Liked:
And, more of the same rather depressing lives of Moriarty characters (shouldn't have read it back-to-back with Big Little Lies).  I really didn't much care for any of the sisters, though I could relate a few times to what they experienced.  I'm not quite sure what to make of the ending, as it isn't really happy, just kind of accepting.  Plenty of twists and drama and of course the terrible husbands that make appearances in all of her books (I am avoiding The Husbands Secret, as I already know that's a terrible husband book).

Things I Didn't Like:
Just not really that enjoyable to read.  Kind of like watching a soap opera, though, if you like those.

Read-alikes:
Her other books seem rather similar

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@$#@
tons

mrg-factor: XX
yep

v-factor: ->->
unfortunately

Overall rating: **

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 512
Source: Library
For: Because I liked What Alice Forgot

Summary (from goodreads):
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Things I Liked:
I have to admit Moriarty can really write interesting stories about everyday people.  But man, her characters' lives really suck.  It seems that only bad things happen to them and everyone around them and pretty much every man everywhere is cheating on his wife.  This one kind of broke my heart with the children and their stories.  Also, that ending was a little bit crazy and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, but I suppose it's telling you about it all along. Not ready to be a school mom yet :)
 
Things I Didn't Like:
It's full of vulgarities and isn't something to read when you're already feeling depressed about life.  I guess her books are just full of really crappy lives to me.

Read-alikes:
Like Moriarty's other books, really

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#$%
lots!

mrg-factor: XX
lots of this too!

v-factor: ->->->
domestic violence

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Review: Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 2015
Pages: 304
Source: e-book ARC from Netgalley
For: Review
Series: Companion to Rump

Summary (from goodreads):
Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky? When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.
Things I Liked:
I've really enjoyed these twisted fairy tale retellings of Shurtliff's.  I'm not a big fan of the Jack and the Beanstalk story, but this made it more interesting and more understandable.  I liked how it showed reasons for the giants raiding and how a giant world was just normal for them and the little people were more like "elves" that we would think of in our world.  I thought it was clever, though the ending seemed a bit convenient.

Things I Didn't Like:
This one dragged just a bit in places for me, but I still was interested enough to keep going.

Read-alikes:
A bit like the League of Princes by Christopher Healy

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee

Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: March 2015
Pages: 304
Source: e-book from library
For: Fun
Series: The Agency, Book 4

Summary (from goodreads):*Spoilers are inevitable for the first three books*
Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
Things I Liked:
I feel like this one wasn't as good to me as the previous three, possibly because I'd forgotten much of what went on in those books.  I liked the dynamic between Mary and James and how she wanted to be independent and to be loved as well.  She was definitely not like many women of her time.  The mystery was pretty good too, though I'm kind of slow at picking up things, so it's quite possible it was easy to guess from the first.  I enjoy the books mostly for Mary.

Things I Didn't Like:
I thought there were some tangents and other things that kind of distracted from the main plot and characters, but still enjoyed it.

Read-alikes:
Start with A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: ->
some intense parts

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My Favorites from 2015

I've got somewhere in the vicinity of 30 reviews from 2015 still pending.  To say I'm behind would be an understatement (a repetitive one). But, since I adore reading everyone else's faves of the year, I figured I'd better share mine too. These are not necessarily published in 2015, just what I happened to pick up and love.

Best sequel:
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Best keep-you-guessing-to-the-end read:
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Best classic retelling:
Longbourn by Jo Baker

Best laugh-your-pants-off read:
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Best love-being-a-girl read:
The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

Best fairy tale retelling:
Rump by Leisl Shurtliff

Best entertaining nonfiction:
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Best nonfiction to inspire you to be better:
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Best can't-put-it-down-must-read-faster book:
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (review to come)

Best as-good-as-the-first-time reread:
 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (my original review)

Best why-did-I-wait-so-long-to-pick-this-up read:
 The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (review to come)

Best end of the series:
Winter by Marissa Meyer (review to come)

Best new fantasy series:
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (review to come)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, January 1, 2016

Books Read in 2016

Here are the books I've read during 2016:

1. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
2. The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
3. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
4. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
5. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
6. Emma by Jane Austen
7. Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
8. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
9.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: May 2015
Pages: 368
Source: e-book ARC from Edelweiss
For: Review

Summary (from goodreads):
Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path.
Things I Liked:
This had a really unique idea and concept and I thought the world building was really awesome.  I loved how mind-bending it got near the end.  The characters weren't amazing, but I think they took a back seat to the story and it's unique intriguing ideas.  It was a complex story and I felt like I never quite grasped it all.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I said, characters were a bit flat and it felt like she took on something really big and didn't quite know what to do with it.  It felt really long in places as well.

Read-alikes:
Nothing comes to mind...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some fighting, no gore really

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 2013
Pages: 272
Source: e-book from library
For: Fun!

Summary (from goodreads):
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.
To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
Things I Liked:
Yes! This is everything a fractured fairy tale should be. I will never look at Rumpelstiltskin another way.  This is the best retelling of that crazy weird story I've ever heard.  I loved Rump and found his struggle with the way things were and his own weaknesses quite good.  It was interesting how he was both good and bad and who the "villains" were and just everything. The trolls! The aunties! Pretty much the whole thing. Red! Need more of her.

Things I Didn't Like:
Um, can't think of anything

Read-alikes:
Reminded me of the League of Princes series by Christopher Healy

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: October 2013
Pages: 352
Source: Library
For: Fun

Summary (from goodreads):
I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Things I Liked:
What a beautiful story! I love how down to earth Malala and her father sound, yet they are making an extraordinary difference in their country.  Her story makes you think you could stand up and make a difference too.  She is inspiring in her tireless efforts to not back down when told to stop going to school.  I'm amazed at her courage and strength, especially for one so young.

Things I Didn't Like:
It wasn't the most well-written book, but I think that is part of what makes you feel like you connect well with her.

Read-alikes:
Nothing I can think of...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none 

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
she kind of lives with violence in her part of the world

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication date: March 2009
Pages: 320
Source: I think I won it in a contest several years ago...
For: Fun

Summary (from goodreads):
Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.
Things I Liked:
I really fell in love with this one from the start.  I find books told from the perspectives of those with Aspergers or similar (Marcelo doesn't identify with that entirely) are very fascinating.  I think this one was exceptional.  It was interesting to see Marcelo do things he didn't want to and to grow in ways he didn't expect.  I loved the dilemmas he faced and often the fact that he would hear something someone said, recogize he didn't quite understand, but get the gist of it anyway.  Kind of like visiting a foreign country where you sort of speak the language.  I loved Marcelo and Jasmine!

Things I Didn't Like:
I got really tired of Wendell and pretty much every other male that had to throw in something about sex every other word.  There was a lot of swearing too, which turned me off, especially when we met Jasmine's dad.  I could definitely have done without that. 

Read-alikes:
Reminded me of Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (but with waaaaay more swearing)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#
plenty, a number of f-bombs

mrg-factor: XXX
nothing on page, just a LOT of crude talk

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Publication date: August 2010
Pages: 336
Source: Library
For: Book Group

Summary (from goodreads):
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour?

To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Things I Liked:
Mary Roach, where have you been all my life? Just kidding, but I really love the way she writes interesting nonfiction. I struggle to want to read NF a lot, but this book made me love it.  I love space, and pretty much would have loved a dry, boring book about all the crazy stuff that zero-g does to humans, but Roach made this book awesome by just basically being funny the whole time.  Seriously, if you have to write about puke and poop on space shuttles, you may as well make it fun.  I could pull quotes from pretty much every page that made me laugh.  She's witty, she's good at what she does.  Interesting stuff.

Things I Didn't Like:
She has a serious potty mouth and everything has something to do with sex.  And sometimes, I was a tad bored, but I still loved it.

Read-alikes:
Stiff by Mary Roach

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#
quite a few, several f-bombs

mrg-factor: XXX
plenty of talk about sex, a bit of it crude

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: May 2015
Pages: 448
Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss
For: Review

Summary (from goodreads):
When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Things I Liked:
I wanted to love this so much more.  I was not as thrilled as I was with her last book.  It took me so much longer to get into it and to care about the characters - and I'm still not sure about Rachelle.   I loved the Red Riding Hood themes and how small bits of that story made its way into here.  I thought the ending was intriguing and good, if a bit strange in its execution.  Loved the Zisa and Tyr story too.  A bit of Hansel and Gretel, I thought.  Anyway, good but I was kind of expecting to adore it like I did Cruel Beauty.
 
Things I Didn't Like:
I was a bit too confused about Bloodbound and Forestborn and all that.  It was a bit too vague for me to really get what they were, etc. I thought the setting was good, but I wasn't as enthralled as I was with the setting from Cruel Beauty.  I suppose it's terrible to compare the two, but I can't seem to help it. It was still a very good book.

Read-alikes:
Read Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge instead :)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
a few

mrg-factor: XX
some, mostly not described

v-factor: ->->->
rather a lot of monsters in this book

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: May 2014
Pages: 240
Source: e-book from library
For: Fun

Summary (from goodreads):
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
Things I Liked:
It is very readable, I pretty much pounded through this fast.  I was sucked into the story and completely compelled to read and find out just what happened to make Cady so changed.  I loved hearing about the summers with her cousins - it reminds me of my own family.  But I also loved seeing the depths and watching them start to grow up and see the world a little more realistically (if obviously not completely).  An interesting and intriguing look at a privileged family.

Things I Didn't Like:
I was annoyed that the Liars title never really seemed to make any sense. Also, I found that I was not too surprised at the ending, despite having been told and expecting some serious gasping and stuff at the end. I don't know. I guess I just found it sad. So much wasted in these youth!

Read-alikes:
Hm, can't think of anything

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#$
not tons in number, but like 10 f-bombs

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: ->
a bit of intense action

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: November 2010
Pages: 576
Source: Library
For: Book Group

Summary (from goodreads):
A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Things I Liked:
Yes! I loved this deep and twisty and complicated story about family and secrets and what really happened and all that history stuff.  This was very well plotted and written and I couldn't put it down.  I first thought I had things figured out and then I changed my mind (three or four times).  Really, it kept me guessing right down to the final chapters.  I really enjoyed it.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, the ending, despite being quite surprising was a little bit too much.  Stretched a bit too far?  It felt very different from the rest of the book, in that it was a bit unbelievable, if quite a good fit for the story.  Still, I enjoyed it very much and need to get myself more Kate Morton right away!

Read-alikes:
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
a few

mrg-factor: none
on page, anyway

v-factor: ->
some kind of implied

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Review: Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: February 2015
Pages: 336
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Princess Academy, Book 3

Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers for the first two books are quite likely*
After a year at the king’s palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen’s interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.
Things I Liked:
Shannon Hale, how I love thee.  This is such a wonderful book!  Sometimes I worry that I will not enjoy every Hale book I read, but she continues to astound me.  I adore the sisters - I really love where she takes this book.  Shannon doesn't hesitate to put her characters in really tricky situations, ones that you think can only have certain conseqauesnces, but she makes them think hard and find solutions that aren't easy or immediate.  An interesting and unique setting as well.  Just plain good writing and good storytelling.  Plus, I love the power given to girls and women, even subtly.

Things I Didn't Like:
Hm, not sure I can think of anything. Would have liked more Peder?

Read-alikes:
Most things Shannon Hale

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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