Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Wishing all of you a lovely and safe holiday!  I'm currently on vacation myself, so no Listless Monday today.  I'll have a new list next Monday!  To tide you over and help celebrate Memorial Day, check out last week's list of 1940s books that include plenty of WWII historical fiction.  

I've also scheduled a review of A Golden Web by Barbara Quick for today as well, so be sure to scroll down and check it out.  

Finally, last day to enter my contest of a copy of Life As We Knew It - check out the post for details!

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

Book Review: A Golden Web by Barbara Quick

A Golden Web by Barbara Quick
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: April 2010
ISBN: 9780061448874
Source: ARC from Traveling ARC Tours

A Golden Web
Alessandra is not like other women.  Growing up with her doting father and despicable stepmother, she hasn't had as much freedom as she'd like.  All that is taken from her when they arrange a marriage for her to an unknown man, thus depriving her of the slim chance she had of studying medicine at Bologna University.  It is unheard of for a woman to study medicine, but with her life mapped out for her, she may as well give it up.  But, she simply can't and finds herself going to great lengths to make this dream come true.

Things I Liked:
Lovely story with a main character filled with plenty of spunk.  I liked the writing as well, filled with little beautiful parts and lovely descriptions.  Alessandra and Nicco were my absolute favorites.  It is always nice to read about strong women from the middle ages and how they overcame difficulties.  I like the journey and the hard work that Alessandra does to get where she wants to be.  Especially, I love her love of the natural world and how her mind wanted to explore and know more about how things work, especially the human body. 

"Her heart beat a little faster, thinking about how there might well be as many wonders beneath the surface of things as there are above, if one could but figure out how to see them." p 31
"Woman was created last of all, after all the animals and after Adam himself.  Why would God have done it thus if He intended woman as a lesser creature?  Would he not then have made her just after the animals and before Adam?" p155
Things I Didn't Like:
The story itself is pretty predictable and neat.  You can see what happens coming a mile away, and there is no great effort on the part of the main characters to get there.  It seemed with all the build-up of a woman doing what she shouldn't, there should have been a bit more fall-out.  There didn't seem to be quite enough historical detail to draw me into the setting either.  I loved the natural world descriptions, but I didn't get a great feel for the time period from that.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

s-factor: !
very few

mrg-factor: X
it has a very sensual feel, but not much is blatantly described

v-factor: ->
it's got some blood and gore from a medical view

Overall rating: ***

What's your favorite thing about historical fiction?

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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date: April 2010
ISBN: 9780399156526
Source: ARC provided by publicist (one of the most beautiful ARCs I've ever gotten, BTW)

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two when her family spends a summer in Walpole, New Hampshire.  Louisa is itching to be back in Boston, pursuing a career in writing, but feels obligated to help the family settle, especially since they are nearly destitute because their father won't work.  When she meets the aggravating and handsome Joseph Singer, her plans start to change a bit.  She faces a difficult choice, but could she possibly give up her most prized possession: her freedom?

Things I Liked:
It was a lovely story, full of bright experiences and a delightful main character.  I loved Louisa's spunk and her defiance of tradition.  Since I positively adore Little Women, I love to read about Louisa and see just how much of her own life is reflected in that book.  I find that especially ironic, since she hated having people ask about her personal life and how much she was like Jo.  Louisa is the star of this book, shining brightly with a barely concealed energy and zest for life that is contagious.  I particularly love that she had flaws too - lots of them.  She had a real temper and that came through quite clearly.  Sometimes her anger made me want to slap her for some of what she says or does.  Of course, I have a temper as well, so this part of her I related to very well.  Here are some lovely parts:

New Englanders spent much of the year shrouding their bodies from winter's frigid gloom, but August, hot and fragrant, drew them into the open.  Out-of-doors became a state of mind as well as a place.  In the meadows, vanilla-scented wildflowers the locals called joe pye weed broke into pink feathering blossoms and were soon papered with monarchs.  p 47 ARC
Anna was a blade of grass, swaying in the wind in concert with all the other blades.  Louisa was a rare bird poking its head above them, a thing with purple feathers and a strangely hooked beak. p 157 ARC
Life was moving on and she approached each day the way she would cope with a rotting front tooth and no dentist nearby.  One learned to smile with her lips closed. p 281 ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
I found I was annoyed by some things (though these are all more personal and not a reflection of the writing or author).  I can see that her father Bronson was an idealist that didn't do much more than dream, but having his daughters and his wife talk such trash about him behind his back seemed a little bit out of character.  Maybe I don't know enough about them, but it was annoying that they kept harping on it over and over.
[spoiler and rant] Also, I was annoyed at  Louisa and Joseph's little one night fling.  Really, is it always necessary to assume people in love can't control themselves, particularly during their period of time?  Also, Louisa mentions several times that marriage and love have nothing to do with each other.  I think her ideals about women's rights and freedom are great, but I got bothered that she had to take it to the point of looking down on those who choose marriage and family, even her own sister.  Just choosing a life of marriage isn't always "conforming to society's demands."  Really, I thought she was broad-minded.  If there were forward-thinking women at the time, there had to have been forward-thinking men. [end spoiler and rant]
For more fiction about Louisa and Bronson Alcott, try March by Geraldine Brooks

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (of course)
Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs is my favorite biography of her
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: X
really one scene

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *** or ****
(I'm pretty conflicted over this rating, I liked the book, but had a completely different opinion of love and marriage than that portrayed in the book.)

Any of you who've read this want to talk about it?

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Blogger Conference via Armchair BEA

Welcome to my attempt at Book Blogger Conference ideas.  Really, at this point I'm wishing I was there to hear other folks ideas on these things.  However, here's what I have to say about writing and content on blogs.

Tips and tricks on writing good book reviews:
The best I can say is to write what you feel.  Almost all book reviews are subjective.  You as a reader had a reaction to the book and the experience of reading it.  You share those reactions and feelings in a review.  It is so difficult to say objectively something about a book, writing, story, because everyone has their own opinions on the matter and we won't all agree on what's "good" or "bad."  Therefore, I say again, tell us what you feel.  

I do reviews both of books I enjoyed and those I didn't.  If I finish a book, I review it here.  This is why I have both a "Things I Liked" and a "Things I Didn't Like" section.  I rarely have a book that doesn't have something in both categories.  I do have to make sure, however, that I'm not specifically looking for things not to like in a book.  I know it's hard work to get it published, so I don't want to be picky and talk about every small detail that bothered me.  Still, I like to be balanced.  Not everyone is going to want to do this.  Which brings me to:

Do what you are comfortable with.  Find what works best with your style and personality.  You don't have to do things the way others do.  You don't need ratings or stars or publication information.  All you really need is the title, author, and your opinion.  You will probably want more in there, but those are the basics.  Don't try to conform to someone else's standard.  Make your own.

How do I balance reviews with other content?
This is an interesting question.  Going along with my last point about doing what you want, this is kind of the same.  If you've read my blog at all, you'll know that it is heavy on the book reviews.  That is just how I want it.  The purpose for my blog is to review books.  The other content, I try to keep to a minimum, generally two non-review posts and four reviews a week.  This is definitely not going to work for every blog.  In fact, lots of the big and popular blogs have plenty of non-review content.  Another reason I decided to do this is that reviews are what I like to read.  I'll be honest, I skip lots of the TV, music, random thoughts posts on other blogs.  I'm more interested in what someone thought of a book than those other things.  I think it's a great idea to do what you want to see on other blogs.  And also balance it according to what you enjoy writing.  

I'm out of ideas what do I do now?
Read a book.
Read a book blog.

That about does it for my thoughts.  Here's hoping I may have helped someone somewhere decide something!

Feel free to leave your ideas and suggestions for these questions as well! (No, really.  I could use them.)

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dystopian Love and A Giveaway!

As I noted yesterday, I'd love to have attended the dystopian panel for BEA.  Dystopian lit is a new favorite of mine.  Except, it isn't entirely new.  Back in high school, I remember reading and loving Fahrenheit 451.  That was my first taste of this sci-fi futuristic dytopian look at society.  That was followed closely by Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I didn't enjoy quite as much, but still found fascinating.  Those books have stuck with me for all these years, but it wasn't until I picked up Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer that I rediscovered my love.

Ever since I first read this book, I have thought about, written about, and read most anything dystopian I can get my hands on.  I was more recently blown away by Ella Minnow Pea (which doesn't exactly fit the mold, but was similar enough for me to count it), Incarceron, Birthmarked, The Dead-Tossed Waves, Inside Out, The Ask and the Answer, The Maze Runner, and of course Hunger Games.

My appetite seems insatiable when it comes to this, since I am anticipating more delicious dystopian books like Matched by Ally Condie, Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, and The Passage by Justin Cronin.  I also discovered a delightful new dystopian author blog that fans will want to check out.  All of this is adding up to:

A giveaway of that book that rekindled my fire:
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Life As We Knew It
I just so happen to have recently picked up a second copy (what can I say, it was on sale).  Up for grabs, as part of Armchair BEA is my new paperback copy of Life As We Knew It.  

To enter, leave me a comment telling me your favorite thing about dystopian fiction (and a way for me to contact you). [Edit: US only, sorry.]  This contest will end on Monday, May 31st, winner announced Tuesday.  Good luck!

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

Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Publisher: Anchor
Publication date: October 2001
ISBN: 9780385722438
Source: Library

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
On the island of Nollop, off the coast of North Carolina, lives a young girl named Ella Minnow Pea.  Her linguistically lovely nation prides themselves on their learning and especially on Nevin Nollop, creator of the beautiful pangram "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."   But, when the letters of this sentence begin to fall off of Nollop's revered statue, the council officials believe it is Nollop, communicating from beyond the grave, that those letters should be excised from Nollopian use.  Things become progressively more difficult for Ella to communicate without reprimand and she sets off on a task to save the future of speaking and writing on Nollop.

Things I Liked:
The book is so clever in its conception and its execution.  It made me want to use big words and to be more aware of what I speak and write.  As the letters progressively disappear, the writing becomes more ingenious.  Until it suddenly is ludicrous.  What an interesting view of a government that thinks such ridiculous things about Nollop and how they enforce things on the people.  You almost expect them to start taking things left and right with the power they believe they hold.  The end was pretty surprising as well.  Here is some of the literary goodness (hey, I had a hard time whittling these quotes down):

"However, in the end, our assessments and opinions counted for (and continue to count for) precious little, and we have kept our public speculation to a minimum for fear of government reprisal, so charged with distrust and suspicion have the esteemed island elders (and elderess) become following last year's unfortunate visit by that predatory armada of land speculators from the States, harboring designs for turning our lovely, island Shangri-la into a denatured resort destination for American cruise ships." p 4
"Each member in deliberate provocation of the High Island Council had marched single file into last Tuesday's open session wearing cartoon masks and making loud duck sounds - sounds which any sentient Nollopian knows by now are forbidden - while holding aloft large cardboard containers of a certain recently outlawed brand of American oatmeal." p 48
"There is no such thing as accident or misspeak, only grossly underapplied discoursal perspicacity, with unguarded exposure to distractional digression." p 55-56
"Ours continues to be a free, open society.  There will be no censures or prosecutions for exercising one's free speech rights in service to the laws of this nation, even if those rights entail criticism of the High Council." p 78
"Now, Rory isn't a very religious man - at least I never thought so.  But he became at that moment positively apoplectic - moving to assault the representative with everything available to him in his verbal arsenal, utterly without restraint - letting loose with a veritable, vituperative salvo - nothing printable here." p 122
"Disorder to match the clutter and chaos of our marvelous language.  Words upon words, piled high, toppling over, thoughts popping, correspondence and conversation overflowing." p 206
Things I Didn't Like:
It's definitely not plot-driven.  Not much appears to actually happen to people, except the loss of letters.  But, that's not the purpose of the book and the writing and wit are what make the entire thing so much fun and also so interesting to read.  (It actually made me feel rather stupid writing this review after I read such awesome creative writing.)  I'd love to read this for a book group and get others' opinions on it.

Um, I guess it was a little like other dystopian books, though none of them quite had the linguistic factor 

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

If you've read this book, I'd love to know what you thought!

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paneling is More Than Just Really Ugly Wall Covering

Second day of Armchair BEA, and apparently I really dropped the ball on this one.  Blogger interviews?  Oops.  Well, I've been enjoying reading all of yours and getting to know new bloggers.  

Instead of interviewing myself (which really sounds horrifying), I'm taking a page out of Marg at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader's book and mentioning some of the panels/events I would love to attend.

BEA Young Adults Editor’s Buzz
Blurb: Insightful and passionate, this intimate editorial exchange will provide you with an editor’s perspective on some of the Fall’s new YA discoveries and potential breakouts.

YA Authors of YA Editor's Buzz

See above - hearing the authors of said buzzing speak.  Excellent!

You're Reading That?

Blurb: How can booksellers and librarians supply the interests of their teenage customers yet stay connected with that crucial 18-35 year old demographic — the ones who still read and buy YA titles in great numbers? The recent success of Little Brown’s Twilight Series highlights the need for industry professionals to be proactive in supplying fresh and fascinating titles for this burgeoning market.

Dystopian Fiction
Hello, Ally Condie - local author with fabulous (well, I haven't read it, but I expect fabulous) new dystopian book coming out?  Why wasn't she on my author list yesterday?

Librarian's 2nd Annual Book Shout and Share!

Blurb: Two days, thousands of books, eight librarians!  Collection development librarians share their top picks (and best buys) direct from the floor of Book Expo America 2010.

And speaking of authors I forgot to put on my list to meet yesterday, why oh why didn't I include Maria Snyder?  I have serious love for her books.  All of them.  Sigh.

Anything you'd like to attend?

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

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 2001
ISBN: 9780060838720
Source: Library (for book group)

Bel Canto

This is a story about hostages taken by a terrorist group in an unnamed South American country.  Among the party are a famous soprano opera singer and a Japanese business man, whose birthday they were celebrating, a translator, a young priest, a French diplomat, and many other foreign dignitaries.  The ensuing standoff shows what kinds of unlikely friendships and alliances can arise between terrorist and hostage.

Things I Liked:
The writing in this novel is really superb.  I love how the phrases flow and how they are beautiful without seeming to notice it or having to try.  The story seems to glide along effortlessly and things just happen now and then, while we watch from a distance.  It was a very different reading experience for me.  The story is hard to want to read, because you know that the ending is inevitable, but you want things to turn out differently.  It was very interesting to watch how people changed.  They are thrown into this situation and the people adapt differently, but I think they are all very changed in the end.  It is a slow, methodical, and definitely psychological story - more about what people think than what they do.  Here's some loveliness in small doses:

"It was during that performance of Rigoletto that opera imprinted itself on Katsumi Hosokawa, a message written on the pink undersides of his eyelids that he read to himself while he slept. Many years later, when everything was business, when he worked harder than anyone in a country whose values are structured on hard work, he believed that life, true life, was something that was stored in music." p15 (I read the large print edition, so page numbers may be different)
"Their eyes clouded over for so many reasons it would be impossible to list them all.  They cried for the beauty of the music, certainly, but also for the failure of their plans.  All of the love and longing a body can contain was spun into not more than two and a half minutes of song and when she came to the highest notes it seemed that all they had lost came together and made a weight that was almost impossible to bear." p266-267
"It was impossible to say that her singing had improved, but there as something in her interpretation of the lines that had shifted almost imperceptibly.  She sang as if she was saving the life of every person in the room." p348
"Every now and then she wouldn't bring out the book at all.  She would say she was tired.  She would say that so much beauty hurt her.  I remember feeling almost frantic, such a dependency I had come to feel for those paintings.  But it was the rest from it, the waiting, that made us love the book so madly.  I could have had one life, but instead I had another because of this book my grandmother protected." p 378
Things I Didn't Like:
I had a really hard time liking anyone in the story.  I think we are supposed to feel for the characters, but the way it is written, I felt very detached from anyone.  The only one I remotely liked was Gen.  While the writing, as I mentioned, was great, the style turned me off.  We wandered from one character to the next without much transition.  Often, I had to look at the start of the paragraph to figure out who she was talking about now.  Honestly, I wasn't that thrilled by the story.  It took a long time developing and the end was abrupt, quick, and depressing.  Expected it to be that way, but still.  I think discussing it, hearing the reasons some people liked it, and learning more about the background story made it more enjoyable for me, so yeah for book groups!

The style and even the writing reminded me of Little Bee by Chris Cleave

s-factor: !@#
not so much in number as in strength

mrg-factor: XXX
again, not very many, but quite descriptive

v-factor: ->->
not often, but pretty violent

Overall rating: ***

I know there are a lot of people who adored this book.  Feel free to tell me why.


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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sign Me Up!

When I saw this lovely idea show up in the blogging world, I was very excited!  I mean, I already whined about reasons I'm not going to BEA, so here was a chance to experience some of the fun right from my own armchair.  Hooray!  

I've noted some of the book signings I've been to before.  When I went through my books last night to see how many I had signed, I was surprised at the number!  I never thought of myself as a big collector of signed books, but apparently I'm off to a pretty good start.  Nearly all of my books are from local authors, who I love and adore.  A few were from visitors to the great state (I've never gone to one outside of Utah).  One was purchased already signed (not one of the fortunate to meet Stephenie Meyer in person).  But, they all bear the mark of the author inside.  Each one scribbling their name to express pride in their work and appreciation of those who read it.  I love a signed book for the meaning and the memories.  

Here's a break down of my signed books, (there were pictures, but right now I'm having technical difficulties) photos included (though, they don't necessarily correlate with the breakdown):

Most by one author: Shannon Hale (6)

Most recent: Mette Ivie Harrison (The Princess and the Bear)

Most famous: Either Stephenie Meyer or Kathryn Stockett (take your pick)

Most prized: hm...can't say that I am able to choose!

Number signed, but didn't meet author: 4

Number signed, but not read: 2

Number Non-Utah authors: 5

Number of complete series signed: 0 (close with Fablehaven and Books of Bayern!)

Total number: ~25

I may also have mentioned before that I'm not really articulate when I do get my books signed.  Usually a well-placed "Thank you," is all I can get out.  The few times I have spoken, it was usually to say something that sounded better in my head than out of it.  (This is actually pretty true of when I meet new people in general.)  I got a real kick out of Suey's post about approaches to signings a few weeks ago.  

In any case, as I was trying to decide what authors I'd really love to meet, I realized I'd have to make categories.  (What can I say? I'm a librarian.  I categorize.)

At BEA: 
Kate DiCamillo, Richard Peck

Not at BEA: 
Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, Jean Ferris, Juliet Marillier, Karen Cushman

Not Likely (Ever):
J.K. Rowling, Patrick Ness, anyone British

A Bit Too Late:
Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis

Really, the longer I think about it, the more authors I would be adding to the list!  So, I think I'll just cut myself off now.

Who are you dying to meet - living, dead, possible, impossible?

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Listless Monday, the War Years Edition

Listless Monday was inspired by both Amanda at A Bookshelf Monstrosity's feature Books by Theme and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

 (My mother in the 1940s)

This is my last week for the decade lists (for now).  My family is having a reunion this summer with a 1940s theme (my parents were born then) and being the family librarian, I am compiling a list of books for people to read.  So, here's at least the start of the list:

Published in the 1940s:

The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey 
Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Stuart Little by E.B. White
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Nonfiction about the 1940s

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Night by Elie Wiesel
Three Against Hitler by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman

Historical Fiction about the 1940s:

Ashes by Kathryn Lasky
Atonement by Ian McEwan 
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
The Devil's Arithmatic by Jane Yolen 
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
Tamar by Mal Peet 
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Any favorites from this decade?

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: February 2009
ISBN: 9781416589648
Source: Library

Little Bee: A Novel

Well, the blurb for this book says, "We don't want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book."  It then goes on to give you a few basics of the story, "This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again - the story starts there ... Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds."  So, I'm sticking with what they say and not really telling you anything about it (mostly because I had a beast of a time trying to figure out what to say)!

Things I Liked:
Well, this is most definitely a powerful story.  IT will take your heart and twist it and poke it and make sure it is still beating before beating it.  It will make you stop and think and then think some more.  I like the developing of relationships between Little Bee and Sarah.  I loved Charlie (aka Batman).  I thought he was the heart of the story, which was interesting, since it was basically about Little Bee.  The story itself was fairly interesting too - I definitely learned more about immigration in England than I ever knew before!  Here are some thoughtful quotes from the book:

"I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly.  That is what the scar makers want us to think.  But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.  We must see all scars as beauty...Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, I survived." p 23
"Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it." p82
Things I Didn't Like:
You know, I just wasn't invested in the characters.  I thought it was very tragic and also quite powerful what happens, but the format really annoyed me.  The writing itself was quite lovely - beautiful turns of phrase and some great descriptions, but the way it was organized drove me insane.  It felt very stream-of-consciousness and I really don't like that in general.  I also felt pretty detached from the horrific events that happened in their lives.  I really did cry for Little Bee and her sister, but that only happened about once in the book.  Also, the fact that it says the story is "humorous" is really not true.  I laughed a few times with Charlie, but really that doesn't make the book funny.  At all.  Definitely an up and down book for me.

I'd say it was a bit like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, but not as powerful

s-factor: !@#

mrg-factor: XXX
lots of this too

v-factor: ->->->
a few scenes that were quite disturbing

Overall rating: ***

What did you think of the publicity tactic of not telling you anything about the story?

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: April 2009
ISBN: 9780061450556
Source: Library
The Awakening (Darkest Powers)

This book picks up right where The Summoning left off.  Chloe is being held in an experimental institution, awaiting further tests or tortures, she's not certain.  With Derek and Simon still on the run, her captors are making every effort to bring them in.  When Chloe finds out a secret about her and her supernatural friends, she is desperate to escape.  When she does, they end up on the run again.  But, she's beginning to fear her own powers of necromancy might be out of control.  Can they find help in understanding and controlling their powers before they are terminated?

Things I Liked:
After being impressed with the first in the series, despite its seemingly everyday paranormal plot, I was hoping this book wouldn't disappoint.  But, I found it just ok.  I continued to like some of the character interactions, particularly Chloe and Derek.  I even started to like Tori a bit more, though not much.  There was action and adventure and a lot of running and raising of the dead.  I also liked (again) some of the insightful thoughts Chloe has regarding violence and death in real life versus what we see in movies.  An entertaining read, but not as good as the first for me.

Things I Didn't Like:
In general, however, the book felt flat.  There wasn't much of a plot, except run away and then run away again.  I didn't feel like they were going anywhere in particular.  It definitely felt like a middle book in a trilogy.  I guess the spark from the first book, whatever it was, was missing in this one.  I'm sure I'll read the third book, to know what happens, and I'm hoping it will be an improvement.

Read The Summoning first 

Reminded me of The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

s-factor: !
not a lot, surprisingly

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some action and dead body raising

Overall rating: ***

What are some great middle-of-a-trilogy books?

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Loot From the Library

Library loot has multiple meanings this week:

Checked out from the library:
The Mark by Jen Nadol
The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan (yeah!)
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (for book club)
Gone by Michael Grant

Purchased at the Provo Children's Book Festival (which was filled with awesome):
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm 
(didn't get it signed - came at the wrong time for her)
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson 
(unfortunately didn't meet him - the hubby was in his line while I waited for Shannon Hale to sign my River Secrets book - he did, however, thank me for being an evil librarian)

Friends of the Library book sale (cause I can't resist):
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott (loved this when I was a kid)
Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce (so I haven't read Trickster's Choice yet, but here's some incentive)
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth
Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton

Random purchases and gifts:
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull 
Spells by Aprilynne Pike (from goodreads bookswap)

Random further note about the festival - I attended a discussion by Sara Zarr and Ann Dee Ellis about blogging.  I fell in love with their blogs, so go check them out!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: March 2010
ISBN: 9781596435698
Source: ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours


Gaia has grown up outside the walls of the enclave - with a scar on her face from a childhood accident, she would not have been advanced.  As a midwife apprentice to her mother, she has seen babies advanced or given to the enclave every month since she was a child.  But, when her parents are taken by the people they've been serving forever, Gaia begins to doubt her loyalty to the enclave.  She sets off on a dangerous mission inside the walls.  But, she is about to learn a lot more about what it's like inside the walls than she expected.

Things I Liked:
This was an excellent, fast-paced, surprising adventure.  I love the dystopian world O'Brien has created here with terrifying familiarity.  Gaia was an character that I grew to love as she began to understand more about what she does and why she does it.  The plot unraveled with nearly perfect pace - I only once felt like it got sidetracked.  Despite some of the things I saw coming, there were still surprises that hit me.  An excellent debut and addition to dystopian literature.

"Despite the crude simplicity of the Wharfton homes and the endless work, life outside the wall had a raw decency for a moment.  At least no one actually starved.  Her parents' arrest and continued absence were making her question things she'd taken for granted and see the impoverished community outside the wall with new eyes.  Perhaps the three advanced babies from their sector were simply payment for the water, mycoprotien, and electricity the Enclave gave them all.  Perhaps the exchange, stripped of its veneer of privilege and promise, was that simple.  And was it worth it?" p 35 of ARC
"Where the route circumvented large boulders, the packed path was cool under her bare feet, but most of the way lay in bright sunlight, and she felt like everything prickled - the bit of grit between her toes, the grasshopper's flecking at her hem, the itch of heat behind her ears." p52 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
I thought one particular chapter felt kind of out of place and didn't really add much to the story.  Also, I think it would have been more interesting if Sgt. Bartlett had more story about him - I'm assuming there will be more in sequels. 

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

s-factor: none
(at least not that I can remember)

mrg-factor: X
mostly from birth scenes

v-factor: ->->
some disturbing things and brief violence

Overall rating: ****

Have you noticed an increase in great dystopian literature or am I just now paying attention?  Do you have older favorites?


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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari

Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 2009
ISBN: 9780385737159
Source: Library

Born to Fly

Bird McGill is pretty sure she was born to fly.  Her father used to take her up in his airplane, and even let her man the controls, until their world changes when the Japanese unexpectedly bomb Pearl Harbor.  Now her father is gone to fight in the war and Bird is left with no one who understands her desire to fly.  But, she soon finds herself caught up in a conspiracy right at home and a new kid who just might be as different as she is.  

Things I Liked:
This was an exciting book that gives us a glimpse of the prejudices that Japanese Americans faced during World War II.  I loved Bird and her view of the world.  She isn't perfect and I think that is why I like her so much.  She has prejudices towards Kenji when she first meets him, but learns to like and trust him anyway.  The action was fast-paced (when it picked up) and the ending was fairly surprising.  A fun book that will introduce kids to some of the less well-known things that happened in the US during WWII.  For laughs:

"Just cause I was a girl in 1941, don't think I was some sissy.  Shoot, I saw stuff that would've made that bully Farley Peck pee right through his pants." p 1
"Hey, Farley.  Look what the dog dragged in."
"It's cat," I said.  "Look what the cat dragged in."  I should have kept my mouth shut but I couldn't help correcting such dim-witted tormentors.  Even bullies should have standards.  p 27
Things I Didn't Like:
The plot quickly became very far-fetched.  I could believe and follow it to a certain point, but then it was just too much for an eleven-year-old girl.  I stopped believing in it at one point and then it lost its reality for me.  Also, the red herring he pulled out near the end wasn't resolved to my satisfaction.  I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I had a hard time when the person we thought it was turned out not to be it.  Despite these things, I still enjoyed it a lot.  

Reminded me of Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

The adventures felt a bit like A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some mild violence and scary stuff

Overall rating: ****

Why is it something so far-fetched can still be so enjoyable?
 Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Listless Monday, Depression Era Edition

Listless Monday was inspired by both Amanda at A Bookshelf Monstrosity's feature Books by Theme and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

(photo of my grandmother in the 1930s)

Continuing on with the decade theme, I've got the 1930s this week, dominated almost entirely by the Great Depression which affected nearly everyone. Interesting to me that it was a war that pulled us out of depression.

Books Published in the 1930s:

Agatha Christie mysteries (lots!)
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Georgette Heyer books (several)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
How Green was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
P.G Wodehouse books
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Nonfiction about the 1930s:

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (suggested by Andie)
Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Historical Fiction about the 1930s:

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan 
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Spanish Fly by will Ferguson (suggested by Court)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

What's your favorite from or about this decade?

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