Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm in Author Heaven: Brandon Mull, Markus Zusak, and Carrie Ryan

Ok, ok.  I've been putting this post off (but now I've got three events I can discuss, so aren't you glad I waited?)  There have been so many great Utah events with authors in the last few months that I've had to miss some (which is painful, I assure you).  Here are three I'm glad I didn't miss!

Event 1: Brandon Mull, Launch Party
A World Without Heroes (Beyonders)Seriously, this was unlike any signing or launch party I've been to before.  (Check out my review of Beyonders: A World Without Heroes.) Brandon Mull knows how to throw a party!  Held at a high school auditorium, the place was packed with tweens.  It was so fun to see their excitement over an author that I started to act a little underage.  Apparently they spared no expense - there was food for sale, in addition to books and t-shirts.  Mull's college comedy troop DC performed for us as well.  There was a gorgeous set on stage that just added to the mood.  And they had Shannon Hale to MC the night!  Seriously, it was almost worth the trip and the waiting to hear her entertain us.  I loved the incorporation of other Utah authors into the skits, and I was really pleased that nearly every skit had something to do with books.  In a world where TV and video games seem to rule, we all were entertained almost solely with literary goodness.  I didn't bring my camera, but fortunately there are a few people out there who caught some of the madness on camera.  Check out Emily's and Suey's posts.

One last thing that really made the event for the librarian in me.  As we were pouring into the auditorium, I heard this brief exchange: 

Tween girl 1: "Gees, you'd think he was a rock star or something."
Tween girl 2: "Well, he kind of is."

Yeah for author rock stars!!!

Event 2: Markus Zusak!!

The Book ThiefAnd, speaking of author rock stars, this event was a dream come true for many of us locals!  (I'm looking at Suey and Jenny here...)  I have to admit, I was totally excited and it was worth every moment of waiting (which, actually, I didn't spend a lot of time doing, compared to others).  I managed to be in a very good seat, third row in the middle.  And I brought my camera, even though I usually don't.  Unfortunately, nearly every photo I took captured some extremely awkward facial expression of Mr. Zusak's.  It's amazing a man that good-looking has weird facial expressions, but trust me, I got them all on camera.  Here's an ok one, though:


I also took some video, but I have a crummy camera, and there are others who got some great footage, so I'll just send you to elsewhere.  (Check out Suey's numerous videos - she got the whole thing on camera!) I did want to mention some things I really loved about his speech:

He told this great story about his childhood revenge on his brother, which he used to illustrate some of the ways he writes.  For the story, go to Suey's video (and drool over the Aussie accent).  The two things that stuck out to me about how he writes are the details and the unusual reactions.  You notice details and they are memorable - essentially they make a story by dressing it up realistically.  Unusual reactions or circumstances are also memorable and this is illustrated most obviously in The Book Thief where Death is a sympathetic character who is intrigued by humans and doesn't love his job. Some really interesting ideas about writing and if I ever manage to get my writing happening, I'll have to look back at this info.

What really struck me in his speech, were the beautiful stories he told us about his parents' childhood in Europe during WWII.  So many of those stories ended up in The Book Thief and you could tell how emotionally he was invested in that book.  I think most of us who read it feel that way about the characters too, but his stories made it ten times more moving.  He told this story about his mother seeing a line of emaciated Jews being marched to Dachau and a young man running to give bread to a starving a man, who wept into his feet.  The bread giver was later beaten and the bread taken away from the Jew, but what a vivid image this story makes!  It's such a powerful part of the book and being based on reality made it even more so.  Some of Rudy's story as well was from his parents' lives.  It was just so fascinating and sobering to have those stories brought to life both by Zusak's gorgeous writing and by his family's personal experiences.  Needless to say, it was a privilege to hear him talk about these things.  He also did a reading from The Book Thief which others caught on video. 


I was also really impressed with the amount of time he spent with each person and the personalization of what he wrote.  He signed so many books, but each one was personal and he spoke to each of us.  It made for a very long line (which I was fortunate to not be in for very long) and a very late night, but when are we going to get another chance to see and talk to Markus Zusak?  It was just a fantastic and probably once in a lifetime experience listening to and meeting him.  Do be sure to visit Suey's posts and Holly's post and JenniElyse's post and Eve's Fan Garden's post (with giveaway) and probably many more I've missed for more recaps.

Event 3: Carrie Ryan
The Dark and Hollow Places (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 3)When I saw a last minute announcement that Carrie Ryan was signing books in SLC on Tuesday, I nearly cried.  I just couldn't possibly make it.  Then, the good news came, that she was also signing Wednesday as well at a Barnes and Noble somewhat closer to home.  So, I went.  There were not many chairs to sit on and I was standing, but I really enjoyed her presentation.  Carrie is personable and funny and very real.  I loved hearing about how she ended up an author (having been a lawyer before) and how she decided to write about zombies (nothing like horror films to inspire).  Especially I liked her thoughts about why writing about zombies brings to the forefront our thoughts about humanity.  Very interesting.  The signing line was not too long, but I managed to be at the almost-end.  She was very sweet about thanking me for waiting and even wrote down my blog address (which makes me nervous for some reason).  Anywho, it was a nice visit and I'm dying to get my hands on her next book (which I was too poor to buy in hardcover and so I must wait for the library to get it...).  Read my reviews of the first two books The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves.

Whew, I'm feeling kind of author-ed out right now!  But, then again, if I hear that someone's coming, I'm sure to get a second wind...

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Winner from Name That Book!

Thanks to the few of you who entered my Name That Book quick giveaway.  Odds were very good for those of you who did!  There were seven entries and only three people got them both right!  Good job to Stephanie O., Janicu, and Maire O. on getting them right.  (Book 1: Red Glove by Holly Black, Book 2: Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan).  The lucky winner of two books of your choice is:

Marie O.

Congrats!  I've sent you an email and I'll be getting the list of books to choose from together soon - so keep an eye out!  Be sure to check out Name That Book again in two weeks - and also check out Stephanie Reads, who has started doing some awesome Name That Book puzzles too!

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

Book Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: March 2010
ISBN: 9780385343459
Source: Library

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel 

Flavia de Luce is at it again.  This time, when a famous puppeteer and his assistant end up in Bishop's Lacey, she befriends the odd pair.  Rupert is a short but charismatic fellow with a limp and Nialla is his beaten down assistant.  When a tragedy strikes, Flavia is compelled to find out who could have wanted the person dead and how that death relates to one five years ago.  What she finds leads her to some strange and complex discoveries that might put her in danger.

Things I Liked:
I still simply adore Flavia.  Her spunky and still quite innocent take on things is so refreshing that I plowed right through this book.  I especially love the ongoing battle she has with her older sisters - her plotting and planning are so entertaining.  The many odd and ridiculous characters Bradley creates just bring the book to life - a menagerie of strange people seem to populate Bishop's Lacey - but they make for lively and interesting characters.  The story is also quite intriguing with lots of clues, but I still had absolutely no idea what the ending would be or who dunnit (which could be from my inexperience with mysteries).  So entertaining and fun.  Favorite parts:

It was after all Cynthia, with her rodent features, who had once caught me teetering tiptoe on the altar of St. Tancred's, using one of Father's straight razors to scrape a sample of blue zafre from a medieval stained-glass window...I was simply dying to analyze the stuff in my laboratory to determine how successful its makers had been in the essential step of freeing it of iron.  Cynthia had seized me, upended me, and spanked me on the spot, making what I thought to be an unfair use of a nearby copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern (Standard Edition). p 31
Eleven-year-olds are supposed to be unreliable.  We're past the age of being poppets: the age where people bend over and poke us in the tum with their fingers and make idiotic noises that sound like "boof-boof" - just the thought of which is enough to make me bring up my Bovril.  And yet we're still not at the age where anyone ever mistakes us for a grown-up.  The fact is, we're invisible - except when we choose not to be. p 112
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," the poet Keats had once written - or so Daffy had told me.  There couldn't be a shred of doubt that Keats had written the line while contemplating a Kipp's apparatus: a device used to extract the gas resulting from a chemical reaction. p 173
Things I Didn't Like:
I was more bothered by Flavia's occasional chemistry explanations this time around.  Sometimes they would be so technical and boring that I'd skip them (and I usually like a bit of science in my stories).  Still, they are never too long and easily skimmed or skipped if desired.  It didn't much detract from my overall enjoyment of the story and of Flavia.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: X
a bit implied

v-factor: ->->
there is, after all, a murder

Overall rating: *****

What do you think of adult books with child protagonists? Why do you think writers use them for adult books and not just write a kids book?

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan
Publisher: Henry Hold
Publication date: October 2010
ISBN: 9780805089844
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

Under the Green Hill

When Rowan, Meg, Silly, and James are all sent from their home in America to visit a distant relative, they do not expect to have any adventures.  Phyllida, their great-aunt, lives in an isolated but enormous house that happens to be surrounded by fairies.  Rowan is immediately drawn into the fairy war, swearing to fight for the queen of the Seelie court, and Meg must fight with everything she can to keep him alive.  Will she be able to protect him, and at what cost?

Things I Liked:
This book had a really rich and detailed atmosphere.  I loved how I was drawn into the mythology and the setting immediately - just as quickly as Rowan is sucked into the fairy war.  The changeable and unearthly personalities of the fairies was really well done - most fairy stories talk about how they are so amoral, but this one really felt that way.  Meg was a character that you love and that you might get annoyed with at the same time.  I really enjoyed the writing too, which was quite lovely and detailed.  A rich and beautiful book.  Here are some favorite parts:

She was a dairymaid and sometime hog-tender, pretty enough, no doubt, though certainly no more exceptional than any other cheerful, hardworking farm girl.  But under the glow of so many admiring eyes, she became spectacular.  Each worshipful gaze served (more than any charm she herself possessed) to heighten her beauty, so that the more people looked at her expecting to see beauty, the more beautiful she became.  It was the children's first encounter with that thing called a glamour, and even then, Meg saw through it more readily than the rest.  p 54
Dickie could tell it was extraordinary just from the smell.  An odor of knowledge permeated the air, ghosts of arcane secrets wafted about by the breeze the children made when they opened the door.  Here were books more rare than any first editions.  Many were bound in calfskin, and not a few had solid metal covers, so that they seemed more like treasure chests than proper books.  Some were locked, and some placed so inconveniently high on the shelves it was obvious they were not meant to be disturbed very often. p 119
Somehow, this evidence that the beast was learned comforted Dickie.  A snake that could speak English was a terror, but a snake that spoke Latin must be civilized.  p 160
Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit that the story is very slow.  Occasionally, I would lost interest because not much seemed to be happening.  Describing fairies and other magical creatures is only fun for so long.  I'm wondering if it will have much kid appeal too, since it seems a very mature story in places and though the characters are young, they are dealing with more adult situations and rather grim details.  Still, it was an enjoyable read and probably a very advanced reader would adore it.

Reminded me of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Also a bit like the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

s-factor: !
perhaps one or two

mrg-factor: none
some implied stuff, but very vague

v-factor: ->
there is a war :)

Overall rating: ****

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Name That Book, Episode 11

Name that Book is a biweekly game where you get to guess a book title from the photo clues.

I've decided this week, since I'm packing up and really need to give away some books, that I'll offer one winner (chosen randomly from those who get the books right) a chance to choose two books from my pile (list has yet to be created). Be sure NOT to put your guesses in the comments, but leave them in the form below. I'll pick a winner sometime Wednesday.  Good luck!

Book 1:

Book 2:

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication date: October 2010
ISBN: 9781416961444
Source: Library

Forge (Seeds of America) 

Curzon and Isabelle have escaped from the British prison ship Curzon was being held on.  But, when they part ways not the best of friends, Curzon finds he really misses having Isabelle around.  When he is drawn back into the war, fighting with some new friends, he little expects to enjoy it.  But, he comes to love his time with those new soldiering friends, despite the horrible privations and hunger they experience that winter at Valley Forge.  All of that gets taken from him, however, when an enemy from his past shows up to ruin all he's earned.  Can Curzon find another way to escape and will he ever find Isabelle?

Things I Liked:
I fell in love with the characters again.  I loved getting to know Curzon more throughout the book, though I missed Isabelle.  I came to love Eben a lot as well - especially when he is so loyal to Curzon.  I couldn't put the book down, because I kept wanting to know more about what happened both in the Revolutionary War and in terms of Curzon and his friends.  I ended up learning a lot (again) about African Americans during this time period and being reminded again of the injustices they've suffered for so many centuries. I particularly loved the chapter heading excerpts from other peoples' diaries of the time.  An awesome well-researched and emotional historical fiction.  Some favorite parts:

We looked like what we were: an army of farmers and poor craftsmen.  Some rebels were white-haired grandsires.  We had boys younger than me with no hint of whiskers or manhood upon them.  Our fellows of middle years came from New England, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania; fisherman, farmers, cobblers, preachers, schoolteachers, woodsmen, and every other job under the sun. p 50
When the meat had green bits on it, we'd roast it in the fire first, to deaden the taste, then put it in the pot.  Some fellows called it "carrion meat" and said it was only good enough for vultures.  If a vulture tried to take my piece, I'd have roasted him, too. p 109
It allways appeard a most iniquitous scheme to me - fight ourselfs for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.  You know my mind upon this subject. -Abigail Adams p 160
Things I Didn't Like:
It seemed a bit heavy at times, hard to bear.  It is a difficult subject matter and I think Anderson does manage to inject humor into it, but I felt pretty depressed sometimes too.  I probably should have reread Chains before reading this one, since I seem to have forgotten much of what happened in that.  While it does recap some of the major points, I could have used more information to help me remember.

Read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson first

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Parts 1 and 2 by M.T. Anderson
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

s-factor: !
a few 

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
there are cruelties of slavery as well as casualties of war

Overall rating: ****

Anyone else just awed by how successful Laurie Halse Anderson is both at historical fiction for middle grade and at YA contemporary and issue books? Amazing.

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

Five Lucky Winners of Beyonders

Thanks everyone for entering the contest and I hope you all get a chance to read Beyonders, even if the random.org gods did not smile upon you for this contest.  Here are the lucky five who won a copy of Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

Natalie R.
Kate H. 

Congrats!  I'm planning to have a few more contests before I move in May - hopefully so I have a few less books to pack and haul around.  Thanks for reading!  And special thanks to Simon and Schuster for allowing me to give away copies of Beyonders.

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review: The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication date:
ISBN: 9780547550244
Source: Library

The Education of Bet 

Bet is dissatisfied with her life.  Taken in by kindly older gentleman when her mother died, she is brought up not quite a servant, but not one of the family.  She longs to go to school, like her almost brother Will.  Will, on the other hand, would do anything to get out of school, and has succeeded in being sent down from four other schools already.  When his uncle prepares to send him to another, Will and Bet form a plan so she can attend school and he can join the military.  Will she be able to keep her identity hidden despite bullies, sports, and even love?

Things I Liked:
I'm always interested in historical fiction about women who seek education.  I really enjoyed how realistically this one portrayed the difficulties involved!  Sometimes, I find the stories for these escapades to be too simple and the difficulties sort of glossed over.  Baratz-Logsted carefully considered all the things that would be so hard to conceal, including the monthly bleedings and the problem of a roommate.  Bet was a fun character, sweet and determined to get what she wants.  I thought this was a fairly unique look at getting what you want and determining if that is what you really want.

Things I Didn't Like:
Despite all those good things, I found myself a bit bored.  I'm not sure if this was just my general reading blahs at the time or what, but my mind wandered a lot.  I had a hard time being excited coming back to it.  I think that it was a good and well-written book, but just not unique enough to stand out.  

A Golden Web by Barbara Quick

Also check out all the ladies in disguise at this Listless Monday list

s-factor: !
a few here and there

mrg-factor: XX
nothing terribly strong, but some incidents

v-factor: ->
a bit of bullying

Overall rating: ***

I hate reading a book when I'm in the reading blahs and not liking it! I wish I had time to read some books again and see if I like them better at a different time.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Actually NEED It 9

I Actually NEED It is an extremely irregular feature where I express my desire, or rather need, for certain books that haven't come out or aren't available at my library yet.  To learn about the reason behind the name, check out my inaugural I Actually NEED It post.

It's been a really long time, so here's the rather long list: 

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
An interesting combination of intriguing and slightly freaky premise.  But, it is in one of my fave genres, dystopian, so I'm definitely giving it a shot.  Coming May 2011.

Uncommon Criminals (A Heist Society Novel) 
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter 
More fun like The Heist Society?  I say bring it on!  I love Ally Carter's fun, lighthearted style and her books are always such a delight to read.  Can't wait for more from Kat. Coming June 2011.

The Girl Is Murder
The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
I haven't heard much about this one, though I've seen it here and there.  Honestly?  I adore the noir-ish cover and it totally reminds me of a Hitchcock movie, so I'm interested in seeing if it reads that way too.  Coming July 2011.

The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles)
The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
I really enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox when I read it quite a while ago.  It had a lot of interesting ethical dilemmas and thoughts on the future.  Plus I loved The Miles Between, Pearson's other unrelated novel.  Looking forward to more from her!  Coming August 2011.

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel
I have a soft spot in my heart for Frankenstein, one of my favorite classic books.  But, I also have a huge love for Kenneth Oppel, whose steampunk series Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber were just fantastic.  Already optioned for the movie too, I hear.  Coming August 2011.

Goliath (Leviathan) 
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
This series is so awesome!  I love the steampunk-y plot and the excellent characters.  I especially adore the gorgeous illustrations that fit so well with the story.  Looking forward to this part of the series.  Coming September 2011.

Crossed by Ally Condie
You all know I'm a fan, both of Ally as a person and of the first in this series, Matched.  While I'm torn on the cover of this one, it feels a little awkward, I look forward to the progression of covers in the series.  Plus, I'm dying to know what happens to the Cassia next!  Coming November 2011.

What are you anxiously awaiting?

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Halt's Peril by John Flanagan

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
Halt's Peril by John Flanagan
Publisher: Philomel
Publication date: October 2010
ISBN: 9780399252075
Source: Library

Ranger's Apprentice, Book 9: Halt's Peril 

When Halt, Will, and Horace continue to follow Tennyson and his phony religious followers as they near Araluen, they little expect the trouble they encounter.  The remaining two Genovesan assassins are not to be taken lightly.  Will they have the skill to defeat them in a show down, or is it the end of the line for Halt?

Things I Liked:
The series is always action-packed and this book is no exception.  Though, I think this one has a bit less on the action front, because of its main plot line.  I was a bit impressed with the way we finally get to see some weaknesses and mistakes from the rangers, who in the other books seem almost invincible.  It felt a bit predictable, which is kind of expected, considering the title and the excerpt on the back of the book, but still manages to hold a few surprises. 

Things I Didn't Like:
I definitely need longer breaks between the books.  I find them very similar in story and feel to each other.  I am quite sure that tweens and some teens, particularly boys, must love this series, but I find them a bit predictable and sometimes ridiculous.  Still, I'll be interested in reading more of the series, but not for several months.  

Read all the Ranger's Apprentice books

They are a bit like a younger Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
there's always a bit of action going on

Overall rating: ***

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

Listless Monday, Ordinary 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!

Waiting for NormalAnything But TypicalMiles from Ordinary: A Novel

Sorry about skipping this last week!  It's been crazy.  Anywho, this week I've got a little list here of books that are average, ordinary, and definitely typical.  Except I couldn't help throwing in some extraordinary ones :)

Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
Acting Normal by Julia Hoban
Anything but Normal: A Novel by Melody Carlson
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Define Normal by Julie Anne Peters
Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy by William Boniface 
Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway
The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
Miles from Ordinary: A Novel by Carol Lynch Williams
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Rourke Dowell
The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Any additions?

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: Mira
Publication date: September 2010
ISBN: 9780778328476
Source: Library

Spy Glass (Glass, Book 3)

Warning: some spoilers for Storm Glass and Sea Glass!
Opal is still reeling from giving up her magic.  She tries to tell herself that she's ok without it, but her life will never be the same.  As she attempts to deal with this loss, she finds herself running away from family and loved ones as she seeks some purpose in her life.  When she gets drawn into a scheme to control a small community, she must do everything she can to fight against evil magic again.  Will she ever know what she should do with her life before she loses it?

Things I Liked:
The story was exciting and took lots of twists and turns throughout that sometimes caught me by surprise.  I love the fantasy world Snyder has created so completely here and the way characters from different places interact.  I really love her supporting characters that bring some humor and light to the story.  A fun and fast-paced fantasy that brings this series to a satisfying conclusion.

Things I Didn't Like:
I admit to not liking Opal again.  She bothers me in this book, as in Storm Glass.  I found her indecisive behavior and desire to rush into danger without thought tiresome and selfish at times.  I especially did not like her romantic choices, though I have to give Snyder props for not going the conventional route.  Opal has experienced a lot of weird romantic feelings in this series, and I thought this was the weirdest.  I also think there was once again too much story going on and too many plot lines trying to tie together.  The books could be so much shorter if some extraneous trips and incidents were removed.  Not as good as I was expecting, but still pretty entertaining.

Start with Storm Glass and Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Also read the Study series by Snyder

s-factor: none
that I can remember

mrg-factor: XX
there are a few not-too-descriptive incidents

v-factor: ->->
some action, not graphic

Overall rating: ***

I'm beginning to wonder if I have problems in general with last books in a series! Maybe it's just the idea of the series ending that makes me sad. Are you that way?

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix AND Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Double Feature is an occasional feature where I discuss/review two books, often comparing and contrasting characters or elements that were similar or different.  I try my best to not include spoilers, or to give a spoiler warning before them, but because these reviews are more in-depth than regular reviews, it is possible there might be some plot points given away.  Read at your own risk.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: June 2003
ISBN: 9780439358071
Source: Library (audiobook)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: July 2005
ISBN: 9780439785969
Source: Library (audiobook)

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

I'm pretty sure these don't need summaries, so I'm not giving them ones :)

Things I Liked about HP5:
This is one where things begin to be very dark.  The Order plays a huge part in the book and the kids are so frustrated at not being invited into it, despite all they have accomplished.  It is also a pretty complex book with a lot of different things going on at once (Rowling is a master of the multiple plot lines).  I also remember when I first read it and I just hated what happened at the end - it was so sad.  There didn't seem to be much closure for Sirius' death (I really hope that didn't spoil someone).  I honestly thought he wasn't really dead.  What is that veil thing anyway?

Things I Didn't Like about HP5:
I really didn't like Harry.  Oh, the whining and the getting angry and the yelling were so annoying.  Listening to it on audio brought forward just how often he was mad and using that grumpy voice.  He has a real anger management issue in this one.  I think he does better at managing it in the next book, but he was annoying.  Also, the whole problem between Harry and Dumbledore seemed like a contrivance to help out the plot.  And it was really stupid on Dumbledore's part.

Things I Liked about HP6:
Being the penultimate book in the series, I think this must have been one of the hardest to write.  I remember learning tons of stuff about Horcruxes but still not really getting it.  I loved Harry's relationship with Dumbledore and how they seemed to finally work out their issues.  There is so much backstory that we finally learn too, but not enough.  Rowling saves most of the meat of it for the last book, of course.  Definitely the one that was the hardest after I read it to wait for the next book.  I love the character Slughorn, who is at once slimy and kind of a jerk and also not a bad guy, per se.  And, of course, I totally never saw the Half-Blood Prince coming.  A great surprise.  (Which, again, Rowling is a master of surprises.)

Things I Didn't Like about HP6: 
Don't remember much I didn't like about it, except for the big death scene.  It was pretty horrifying.  And I don't know how she managed to set it up so it was still possible to wonder about Snape being good or bad.  Really, her storytelling abilities are fantastic.

Not like it, but some similar stuff:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

s-factor: !@
some, not tons

mrg-factor: X
enough snogging already :)

v-factor: ->->->
lots of action and fighting and scary stuff

Overall rating: *****

Sometimes I wish I could read these books again for the first time and experience all the surprises and excitement of learning what will happen next.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication date: November 2005
ISBN: 9780307456625
Source: Library (book club)

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Movie Tie-in Edition)

Precious Ramotse is determined to open a detective agency with the money her father left her.  Once the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is open and running, she finds herself caught up with the lives and struggles of her people - men masquerading as fathers, wayward husbands, and especially one missing child.

Things I Liked:
We read this for one of my book groups, and the ladies fell in love with Precious and also Mr. Matekoni.  It was different reading for all of us, but we loved it.  What I thought was so interesting, was Precious' ideas about Africa - how much she loved her country and wanted some things to change, but some things to stay the same.  I feel that way about my hometown and country as well.  The mysteries were in episodes rather than the usual one main mystery plot.  They were also a lot gentler in nature than most mystery books I've read: no seriously violent crimes and dead bodies.  Maybe that's a reflection of her community.  It was a fun book with a lovable main character and some interesting stories to keep you reading.

Things I Didn't Like:
We all thought it was a bit slow.  In the beginning, it was a little hard to get into.  There was lots of information about Precious' father and her cousin who raised her.  We talked about why the information was included and decided it was probably to help us get a full picture of why Precious is the way she is.  Also, when she was solving mysteries it was interesting, but in between, many of us got a bit bored.  A unique and fun mystery series that I'd like to read more of.

She talks about Agatha Christie mysteries a lot

Reminded me of Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

s-factor: !
very few

mrg-factor: X
nothing too descriptive

v-factor: ->
some domestic violence, mainly

Overall rating: ***

Have you read this series? What do you think?

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