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 from the book to my husband.

Can't think of anything...

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.

Other Morton books will satisfy your "like this book" craving

s-factor: !#$
a fair few

mrg-factor: X

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?

Um, can't think of anything...

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.

Start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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.

Her other books seem rather similar

s-factor: !@$#@

mrg-factor: XX

v-factor: ->->

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.

Like Moriarty's other books, really

s-factor: !@#$%

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.

A bit like the League of Princes by Christopher Healy

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.

Start with A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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. Dearest by Alethea Kontis
8. Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit
9. Illuminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff
10. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
11. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
12. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
13. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
14. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
15. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
16. The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Sterling
17. Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
18. The Martian by Andy Weir
19. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
20. Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
21. Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
22. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
23. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
24. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
25. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
26. Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
27. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
28. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
29. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
30. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
31. Peaceful Parent, Happy Child by Laura Markham
32. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
33. Kepler's Dream by Juliet Bell
34. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Suzanne
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
36. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
37. Quiet by Susan Cain
38. Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
39. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
40. Still Alice by Lisa Genovo
41. One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
42. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon
43. Gemina by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff
44. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
45. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
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