Friday, December 18, 2009

Break Time!

As is probably clear to anyone who reads this blog, I have been very lax about posting lately! I know I have explained before, but I wanted to give another update.
I will probably be having a baby here in the next week or so, and while I was supremely confident in my ability to sort of keep up with posting, that has clearly not happened. And I doubt I will be able to once I have a little infant to care for either. So I am sort of officially going on hiatus. I will be posting reviews of the ARC's I still have (although I will probably try not to get any more of those), but otherwise I will not be doing reviews for the time being. This means I'll be working extra hard to keep my goodreads profile updated. So you can still check there if you would like to see what I am reading. I may even do reviews there, just briefly. We'll see.
Sadly this means that I may not even do any wrap-up posts in the next week or so. I did have some I wanted to do, but I can't really claim that they will get done. Oh well.
Not sure when I'll be back - family takes priority obviously! Thank you to all of my readers and followers - feel free to add me as a friend on goodreads or follow me there, if you like (but please let me know who you are when you add me as a friend, otherwise I may ignore you!). Happy reading!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

Another lovely reading experience, brought to you by Georgette Heyer. I think that this one is my favorite so far by her. It had all of the components of her other historical romances, but this one managed to pull them all off flawlessly. It is a slightly different story than seems typical for her books, but maybe that's why I liked it so much.
The Duke of Sale, known as Gilly to most people (his full name and titles are amusingly very long), is an orphan, raised by his uncle until he reaches his majority at age 25. We meet him at 24, and see in him a man who has been so sheltered and cared for all of his life, that he practically cannot stand up for himself. He wants to speak for himself, and live his own life, but he knows that those responsible for his extreme disconnection from the world, his uncle and servants, only treat him so because they love him so much. And he does not have the heart to cause strife among his household. However, we see that this "mollycoddling" has begun to be simply too much for him, and he begins to show signs of breaking free. When his cousin finds himself in some trouble, Gilly volunteers to solve the problem. His first step? Tricking his servants and informing absolutely no one, not even his closest friend Gideon (another cousin), of his intentions, he sets out to have himself an adventure, to prove to himself whether he is "a man, or only a duke."
Gilly is a fantastic character, one whose strength the reader can see through all of the sheltering he has grown up with. The other male characters are equally well-drawn; I especially love Gideon, and his attitude towards Gilly, who he insists on calling Adolphus (his true first name). The two main female characters are also likeable, and Heyer does a terrific job of making us love the foundling Belinda, while being just as annoyed with her as the rest of the cast of characters most of the time. The romance in this book is more subtle than in the others, but I found it perhaps even more satisfying. Like I said, this is my favorite of the Heyer books I have read so far, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction and romance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin

This is definitely one of the strangest books that I have read in a while, and I'm not really sure if I liked it. It was a fascinating read, and I kept thinking about the book after I was done. But overall, I think it missed the mark in a few ways.
Fade to Blue is the story of Sophie Blue, who decided to start wearing all black, including her lipstick, on her last birthday, which was also the last time she saw her father. Sophie is pretty sure that she is losing her mind, and the scary dreams and creepy popsicle truck that seems to be following her don't really help things. The book also seems to be the story of Kenny Fade, the school basketball star for whom everything seems to go exactly right. But he may be going crazy too. Their stories begin to intertwine in a way that makes you scratch your head, that makes you go, "Okay, this book is totally not what I thought it was about." The other main characters of the story, Sophie's best friend Lake and her brother O.S., are also not quite what they seem.
As the plot twists and turns, I found myself getting a little bit lost, which I don't think was entirely my fault as a reader. Beaudoin seems to want to take this story somewhere that he can't quite get to. But it really is a fascinating read, nonetheless. Also, I couldn't read about the creepy popsicle truck without picturing the ice cream truck from that old Play Station video game, Twisted Metal. If you know what I'm talking about, you'll know what I mean when I say it's creepy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lie by Fredrica Wagman

This book was totally not what I expected it to be. Honestly, I really had no expectations, it's been in my to-read pile forever and I finally just got to it. But even with no expectations, it completely surprised me. This review may contain spoilers, it is incredibly difficult to talk about without giving away plot. But I think it will be okay, if you plan on reading the book - I don't think anything I discuss will ruin the story in any way.
Ramona Smollens is seventeen when she meets the man she will marry, just one month after meeting him. Their meeting is very strange, and sets the tone for the rest of their relationship. The entire novel takes place inside Ramona's head, with her as a narrator. And what an unreliable narrator she is! The "Lie" of the title is complicated - Ramona's entire life seems to be a lie, as she has lied to herself and others for so long. But really, the Lie for Ramona seems to be that love and sex and marriage can bring happiness and fulfillment to life. Ramona has believed in the promise that she was told by the sirens of the silver screen, Rita Hayworth in particular, that she will be swept off her feet with passion, and sex will come easy to her, and she will be happy. But none of this happens. And so Ramona lies, to her parents, to her husband, to herself. And she lives within the lies that society has told her, and the lies she believes that her husband is telling her. And within her narration, it is sometimes impossible to tell the truth from the fiction.
The writing itself is not what I was used to. Wagman uses a sort of stream of consciousness style, with sentences that seems to go on forever, broken up by elipses and dashes. But it always makes sense, and the style never distracts from the story. It only adds to the sense of madness that we get from Ramona. She is entirely obsessed with Rita Hayworth, and entirely obsessed with the idea of herself as a woman. She grew up in a household that destroyed her soul, and made her seemingly incapable of real feeling. This book was really a fascinating read, and would be a terrific choice for a book club. There is so much here to discuss! I read it in a few hours, it just flies by. If this review has made the book sound interesting at all, I would definitely say go pick it up. You may not like the story, or Ramona, but you won't forget it, and you won't regret picking up this book for a glimpse into the way the Lies of our society can alter a life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

This is the first book that I have read by Malcolm Gladwell, but if his other two books (The Tipping Point and Blink) are anything like this one, the man is a genius when it comes to synthesizing information. Synthesizing is not the exact word that I want, but what I mean is he has an incredible ability to bring together information from all sorts of studies, creating a pattern that he shows to his readers to make his point. His point in Outliers is that our notion of success is flawed. We love to believe in the self-made man, the super successful genius who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, came from nothing or nowhere, and became an icon of success. However, Gladwell shows that this myth is simply not true; for every super successful person, he can show examples of people who are just as talented, and could have been just as successful, but for whom life did not provide the lucky breaks it did for the success stories. (This is not meant to lessen the genius of those successes in any way - it just gives a different perspective on their lives.)
Gladwell's examples range from the Beatles to Bill Gates, from Jewish lawyers in New York to Chinese children and mathematics. In every single chapter there was something that I absolutely had to share with my husband while I was reading - really, I would have just read the whole book to him if I had the chance. The most fascinating information I found was his description of cultural legacies, and how those continue to affect us on all levels.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I was unable to provide a category for it in my labels, but anyone who enjoys reading will enjoy this book. It is fascinating, especially if you are a non-fiction reader. But even fiction readers will find themselves hooked!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Lord John by Georgette Heyer

My Lord John was Heyer's last novel, and is actually unfinished, with the manuscript ending right in the middle of a sentence. She had planned on writing the life story of Lord John, Duke of Bedford, son of King Henry IV and younger brother to King Henry V, but this book ends right before the death of his father. It covers his life from childhood through to 1413, when he was in his early twenties. Heyer did an enormous amount of research to write this book, and this becomes very obvious throughout the story. In addition to discussing the life of one man, we learn about the entire world during that time period, from details of the lives of the princes, to the struggles on the world stage.
I found this book to be incredibly difficult to read. For fans of Heyer's light romances, which are also excellent historical fiction, this book might be a bit daunting. It is very different from the others I've read by her. What made it most frustrating for me was the fact that I could not for the life of me keep all the names and titles straight, even with the help of the cast of characters at the front of the book and the family tree in the back. The problem comes from Heyer's use of not only the character's given names, but also their titles, which seem to be constantly changing, and even their nicknames, if the characters have them. Most historical fiction authors that I have read try to keep things a little bit more in order for their readers, as though they understand that this can be confusing. Heyer also uses language from the time, and she helpfully includes a glossary, so that her readers will not be further mystified about what is going on. Still, this use of language tended to add to my difficulty with the book.
Overall, the historical detail is incredible, and the reader can learn a tremendous amount about this time period from the book. It would have been good to read the entire thing, no matter how difficult I found it. However, I hesitate to recommend this one, simply because the constant name switching and use of language were for me very distracting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

When I first read about The Year of the Flood, and that it takes place in the same world as Oryx and Crake, I was intrigued. The world of these two books is a future of our world, around fifty years in the future, I think. So much of it is very similar, and what isn't the same as our world is still recognizable. I read Oryx and Crake when it came out a few years ago. I liked it, but it did not become a favorite of mine. It stuck with me, and yet it did not mean very much to me. As a result, I did not remember many details.
As a result, it took me a while to recognize that The Year of the Flood not only takes place in the same world as Oryx and Crake, but it also takes place over pretty much the exact same time period. The Year of the Flood is not a sequel, nor is Oryx and Crake a prequel - they are more like companion novels. I may have to go back and reread Oryx and Crake now, as I feel like I may see it in a different light.
I love Margaret Atwood's writing style. The Handmaid's Tale is my favorite book, and I have read many of her other books over the years. In this book, as in all of her others, Atwood simply drops you right into the story, and begins to describe the world from the point of view of one or more of the characters. In a science fiction-like story such as this one, this makes things a bit disorienting at first. Atwood leaves it up to her readers to piece together the meanings of many words - although the world is very similar to ours, many things exist in it that do not in our time, and so there are new words for many objects and ideas. But Atwood is an excellent writer, allowing the reader to pick up on these things as she goes along.
The Year of the Flood is told from the points of view of two different characters, Toby and Ren, who have both survived the plague that wiped out humanity, known as the Waterless Flood. Interspersed between their chapters are sermons given by the leader of the Gods Gardeners, Adam One. Toby and Ren give us a picture of what their life is in the present tense, as well as telling us about their past. The stories of their pasts move forward until at the end of the book, they meet with the present. I always really enjoy this novel structure, as it is suspenseful in a way, but you also know the ending.
I would have to say that I liked this book a lot better than Oryx and Crake, but it would be really interesting to reread that one now that I've read this one. They are incredibly different books, told by characters who are vastly different from each other, and experience the world in a very different way. Atwood's views of the future are always interesting, and are critical of many aspects of our present societies. I highly recommend this book to everyone, not just fans of her work.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Silent Man by Alex Berenson

John Wells is a CIA agent who has had a rough time the past couple of years. In two previous books by Berenson, The Faithful Spy and The Ghost War, Wells is the hero who must save the world in some way. And The Silent Man is no different. I have not read the other two books, but I can vouch for the fact that this book stands on its own - no need to read the other two first.
The Silent Man is the story of an Iraqi man who becomes a jihadi after his family is killed during the American invasion of Iraq. He connects with various people around the world who help him to acquire nuclear material in the form of bombs from Russia, which he plans on using to make his own bomb. In the beginning of the book, there is no connection between this plot and Wells, but after Wells attempts a mission of revenge against a man who tried to have him and his fiance killed, he becomes very involved. Wells is unable to accomplish the act of vengeance that he seeks against Pierre Kowalski, and in order to save himself, Kowalski offers Wells information about the terrorists. From there it is a tense race against the clock.
I enjoyed this book, and I can see why people are fans of this genre. I must admit that I am not a fan of thrillers of this sort, and even though I read and enjoy them occasionally, I doubt they will ever be my favorite. I mostly find them depressing and rather cynical, especially because I feel like the bad guys are always stereotypical. But I guess they have to be recognizable, so in this day and age, the bad guys are typically Muslim terrorists. Anyways, this is a good example of the genre, and it is definitely a page-turner. The characters have a decent amount of depth, even the bad guys, which makes reading it much more interesting. All of the characters are conflicted in some way, especially John Wells. He has had more time to develop as a character through the series, and he is a very complicated man. Not your typical hero at all. But he does his best, and when that involves saving the world, who can complain?
This is another book that qualifies for the Suspense and Thriller Reading Challenge, which I am surely not going to finish by the end of the year. But whatever. This one qualifies as both a Spy Thriller and a Terrorist Thriller, but I think I will use it for the former. A Spy Thriller is "where the hero is generally a government agent who must take violent action against agents of a rival government or (in recent years) terrorists."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

The Tudor Rose is the story of Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry the Eighth. This telling begins when she is a teenager, and is to be wed to the Dauphin of France. Although this marriage falls through, pening the book this way gives the reader a good glimpse of what the rest of the book is going to focus on. After the King, her father, dies, and her brothers are presumably dead, she is basically the heir to the throne of England. Her uncle Richard takes the throne after imprisoning her two young brothers in the Tower, yet she still has the stronger claim. Therefore she becomes the prize to be won, along with the rightful rule of England.
The first half of the book focuses on the struggle for the throne, which ends with the victory of Henry Tudor, who will become King Henry the Seventh. From there on, the story is of her marriage and her children. It is rich in historical detail, although sometimes the way that detail is conveyed is told rather than shown. That was my main difficulty with really getting into the story - the author tends to have her main characters throw in history for us, but it sounds incredibly forced. And in some cases it is clear that the conversations are probably not in anyway historically accurate, but are there to fill the reader in on some details. Despite this, it is an enjoyable book, and as my mother is already reading and enjoying my copy, I can definitely say that fans of historical fiction will like this one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Arc of Justice: A saga of race, civil rights, and murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

I picked this book up for my woefully unfinished 999 Challenge. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2004, which is why it made it onto my list. (You can look at my whole list here. I think I've only read about 10% of them!) It also finishes off my New Author Challenge, which is exciting. Good thing that one doesn't take nearly as much work.
Arc of Justice is the story of Ossian Sweet and his family, and the murder trial they become involved in when the Sweet family attempts to move into a part of Detroit where they are not welcome. The Sweet family is black, and in 1920's Detroit, this means they cannot live where they choose, especially following the race-related violence of 1924 and 1925. When a mob gathers outside of their new home and begins throwing rocks and getting more and more violent, shots are fired, although by whom it is never fully clear. Dr. Sweet had filled his house with friends to help defend it from the violence he knew was coming. When one man in the mob dies after being shot from the house, the eleven people in the house, including Ossian's wife and two of his brothers, are taken into custody and eventually charged with murder.
This book is not just the story of the Sweet family and the trial, however. It is a story of race relations in the northern urban areas of America in the 1920's. Boyle does a tremendous job bringing all aspects of the story together to educate us on this issue. I am continually amazed by how little I know about the history of race relations in this country. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about our recent past.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

To Serve Them All My Days by RF Delderfield

Towards the end of World War I, David Powlett-Jones is discharged after being in the hospital, injured and shell-shocked, for months. He is sent to Bamfylde, a private school in Devon, to teach history to boys who are less than ten years his junior. He has no experience as a teacher, and does not even have a degree, but the doctor felt that this would be the best remedy for the soul-sickness that David suffers from after spending three years in the trenches. And soon David comes to realize that Bamfylde was just what he needed.
The story of David Powlett-Jones and Bamfylde covers the time between the two World Wars, and follows David through the ups and downs of his life, as well as the ups and downs of Bamfylde, and England as a whole. Delderfield is a wonderful storyteller, and I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed God is an Englishman. The only difficulty I had with reading this book was that I am not British. So much of the politics of that time period that Delderfield includes, but chooses not to explain, went over my head. Obviously he is writing this for a British audience who would know that names he is speaking of. There are a few other things that come up like this, that as an American I had to work harder to understand. But that does not lessen the book's interest for me. It is just a comment on one of the difficulties of reading it. Apparently there is a BBC miniseries based on the book, which now I'll have to check out. Delderfield's stories, although they seem to be about simple subjects, are definitely engrossing, and a wonderful experience to read.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Here is another of the books I read this summer that I thought I would comment on. It's pretty easy to say why I chose it for my list - I have heard about this book for years, but it came out just a little bit after I was in junior high, so I never read it in school, as I think many students do now. It also won a Newbery Medal.
The Giver is the story of Jonas, who lives in a Community where there is no strife, no real pain or fear, no war. Society has become very strictly controlled in order to eliminate these things. Lowry does a decent job of showing how the powers-that-be do this, through her descriptions of life through eleven-year-old Jonas's eyes. Sometimes she does have to tell the reader explicitly, or in some cases, when she doesn't explain something well, it can be confusing - I was pretty confused about the whole color issue, until that became really clear. I found the world that Lowry has created to be totally fascinating, and it brings up a lot of issues of giving up control over our lives in order to gain safety. I can see why it is popular at schools - it would give a lot to talk about.
While I found the world to be interesting, and I loved reading about Jonas's transition from an Eleven to a Twelve, the way the book ended really did nothing for me. This book had a lot of potential, but I felt like it went somewhere that did not take the issue to its fullest. I would still recommend it, just because the issues it brings up are interesting, and if you have a tween or teen to read it with, it would be an excellent discussion starter. However, because of the weak ending, I can't say that it is the best of this genre I have ever read.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd

This was one of those books I read over the summer for my Tween Materials class. I picked it up because it was a Newbery Medal winner (2008) and also because it was non-fiction. For the final project for the class I had to read and review 50 books and other materials for tweens, half of which had to be fiction. The majority of my books were fiction, so I needed a few non-fiction titles to break it up.
As I obviously am not reviewing every book that I read this summer here, I chose to review this one for a specific reason. That reason is the honesty of the portrayal of medieval life, made accesible to kids. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is written in an interesting format - it is a series of plays (mostly monologues, but a few for two people) written for students at a Middle School. Each of these plays is a portrait of an individual in this medieval village, all of which are first-person accounts by narrators that can be assumed to be the same age as the students reading the book. I expected something fun and light-hearted, and what I got was a very good lesson in what medieval life might really have been like. Not really fun and light-hearted at all, but difficult in many ways, even for the young people of the time. In addition to the plays, Schlitz also includes background information to help young readers learn more about the time period. This is truly an excellent book to include in any lesson about medieval history, or to give to any young person who wants to learn more about this time period.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg

The story of Annie Cohen is a tragedy, a story of mental illness and physical disability, of family abandonment and secrets. Steve Luxenberg first discovered Annie's story when his mother mentioned having a sister to a doctor in her old age. Steve and his siblings grew up being told that their mother was an only child, so the casual mention of a sister, even one that was put in an institution at the age of two, was rather shocking. It wasn't until after his mother's death that Luxenberg discovered Annie's true identity - she had grown up with his mother, had not been institutionalized until the age of 21, when his mother was 23. But in the family history according to Beth Luxenberg, she did not exist.
Annie's Ghosts is Luxenberg's attempts to piece together Annie's history. He includes not only family details, but also details about the history of services to people with mental illness and mental and physical disabilities. Not only is Luxenberg trying to discover the truth about an aunt that he never knew, he is also searching to find the answer to why his mother would have kept such an enormous fact about her family a secret. He is not even sure that his father knew about Annie, or which of his mom's friends knew. Steve has to reconcile this part of his mother with the woman he knew and loved, and he begins to reconsider some family memories he himself holds.
This is a fascinating story of a single family's history, and all of the little details that tie into that history. Luxenberg reconnects with cousins he never knew, and discovers more about the tiny Eastern European village that his grandparents came from than his family had ever told him. Reading this book forces the reader to compare their own family to the Luxenbergs. Are there secrets that we know nothing about hiding in our history?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

God Is an Englishman by RF Delderfield

I was not sure what to expect of this book, but when I received it and saw how large it was, I was certainly surprised. I was further surprised by how engrossing a book it actually was. Giving a plot outline really doesn't convey how good of a book this is, but I'll go ahead and try anyway.
God Is an Englishman tells the story of Adam Swann and his rise to prominence in London in the 1860's. His story begins when he makes the decision to end his career as a soldier and begin his life as a businessman, at the age of thirty-one. His chosen field of commerce is transportation, where he decides to fill the gap that the great trains of that era cannot. At the same time that he is establishing his business, he meets Henrietta, and from their first meeting he is captivated by her. Although she is much younger than him, she is a strong-willed woman, and circumstances conspire to create a situation in which he marries her after only knowing her for a few months. Thus begins the story of not only their life together, but the story of the newly formed Swann-on-Wheels transportation company.
The historical detail in this book is truly fascinating. Even when Delderfield is going through details that should be tedious - train schedules, shipping and transportation issues - he makes it interesting. Adam Swann is a fantastic character, one that you love to root for. And I loved following his marriage and family life, as he and Henrietta grow to know and truly love each other throughout the years. This is the first book in a trilogy, one I am going to have to follow through the rest of the series.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary

Samantha Lewis is in Venice, taking a tour by herself that was supposed to have been her honeymoon. When she is approached by a handsome stranger who pretends to be meeting her at a cafe, she decides to play along. His name is Kiernan Fitzgerald, and he is definitely more than he seems. Sam is instantly drawn to him, but she feels crazy for getting so attached after just an hour or two. When he reappears in her hotel room later that night, injured and needing her help, she is immediately drawn into his troubles.
Kiernan is looking for the Jewels of the Madonna. His sister was also searching for the Jewels, until she was kidnapped. Now the only way for Kiernan to save her is to find them himself and turn them over to the kidnappers. He doesn't want to get anyone else involved, but he can't seem to stay away from Sam. They are drawn to each other in a way neither can explain, and so they stop trying to fight it, and start trying to save Kiernan's sister, before it's too late.
Besides being a story told in the present time, The Treasures of Venice is also told in flashbacks to fifteenth century Venice, where the reader learns the story behind the Jewels that Kiernan seeks. The lovers in that story have some striking similarities to Kiernan and Sam - coincidence? As Sam and Kiernan get closer to the Jewels, and to each other, they both begin to wonder if they have some sort of deeper connection that goes beyond the present time. This element of past lives adds another dimension to the story and the mystery, making for a more interesting read. I liked the parallels between the two stories. This is an exciting, romantic adventure book that any readers of romance will enjoy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Highland Rebel Judith James

The fiery Catherine Drummond is the Highland rebel of the title - a willful woman who was raised by her father to lead her clan, but now that her father's gone, her worth is still measured by what kind of marriage she can make. Captured in battle, she knows her fate will not be pleasant, until she is rescued by Jamie Sinclair, a man who has no loyalties except to himself. For some reason, unknown to both of them, Jamie decides to save her by marrying her on the spot. His ploy works, until she escapes. Now he must find his inconvenient wife, while trying to keep himself from getting killed by her family. And Catherine must decide if being married in name to an Englishman is really a very bad thing, especially when he's not around to actually be her husband.
This was a very entertaining read, and the historical details are truly excellent. The story definitely feels set in its time, and James even goes so far to add some interesting author's notes at the end of the book. For the historical fiction aspect, this book is a great read. The romance is also good, although Cat and Jamie do a tremendous amount of jumping around in their feelings for each other. And they simply can't seem to figure out how to communicate without ruining their relationship, in whatever stage it's in. However, the romance is very satisfying, nonetheless, just a bit frustrating to read through. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good amount of historical detail in their romance.

Friday, August 28, 2009

To Tempt the Wolf by Terry Spear

Tessa Anderson has always been drawn to wolves, as has her brother Michael, though neither of them can explain why. But when Michael is convicted of a murder he did not commit, Tessa is left alone in their cabin in the woods, and discovers that she is being stalked. When she finds a gorgeous naked man on her beach, her life just gets more complicated. The man is Hunter - he knows that he is a werewolf, and he remembers his first name, but other than that things are a little bit foggy for him. He commits to helping Tessa, both with her stalker, and with her brother's false conviction. But the more he becomes a part of Tessa's life, the more complicated things get.
I enjoyed the werewolf lore that Spear has created for her books. I know that this is not the only one, although I haven't read the others. Her werewolves live in packs, oftentimes related by family, but not always, and the alpha male (Hunter, for example) rules absolutely, along with his mate, if he has one. As with other werewolf romances the werewolves mate for life, which I always find a nice change from many other romances. It was actually kind of amusing how many werewolves kept popping up in this book - not just the main good guys and bad guys, but also nurses at the hospital, cops, judges, you name it. They're everywhere. The romance was good, and overall the book was a good read. The murder mystery was a bit weak, but as that was not the main focus of the story, it didn't necessarily have to be watertight. To Tempt the Wolf was a good introduction to Spear's world of werewolf romance - I'd be interested to see how it works in her other books.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jabberwocky reimagined and illustrated by Christopher Myers

This is a first for this blog in more ways than one! The first picture book and the first book of poetry. I expect I'll be reviewing more picture books as I begin to gather them to read to the baby, so this definitely won't be the last one. And I have lots of poetry on my to-read list, I just never get around to reading it - so this probably will not be the last review of poetry either.
Christopher Myers' version of the Jabberwocky poem by Lewis Carroll keeps the text the same - it is the illustrations that reimagine what the poem is about. In this tale, the Jabberwocky is a giant, fourteen-fingered, basketball-playing "beast". Our hero is a boy, who decides to play this giant in a game of one-on-one. He wins triumphantly, and the neighborhood celebrates with him.
Jabberwocky is a difficult poem to read, without any sort of context to imagine, because it is full of gibberish words. Myers' version makes it comprehensible to kids who might otherwise get lost in the language. They can envision what the words mean for themselves, and maybe imagine other battles in their lives that this triumphant poem can apply to. This is a fantastic retelling of this classic poem.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

**In giving my reviews and synopses of these three books, I do give away some spoilers, mainly regarding the second book. So if you are planning on reading the books, don't read my synopsis of the final book, Abhorsen, as that is where the spoilers are.**
The Abhorsen Trilogy begins with Sabriel. In this book we are introduced to the world Nix has created, where the Old Kingdom and Charter Magic are separated from the rest of Ancelstierre by The Wall. Only those who live close to The Wall even believe the tales of magic and the Old Kingdom, but they have good reason for knowing the truth. It has been decades since things were right in the Old Kingdom - the Dead are restless, and it is the Abhorsen's job to make sure they stay dead. Sabriel's father is the Abhorsen, and while she has been living at a school in Ancelstierre, he has begun to train her to follow him. When her father goes missing, she travels beyond the Wall by herself to discover what happened to him. There she meets Mogget - a being in cat form who is a servant to the Abhorsens, and Touchstone - a young man, also trained in Charter Magic, who she frees from imprisonment. Together they must stop the Dead trying to take over the Old Kingdom, and restore it to its former life.
Lirael is the second book of the trilogy, skipping 15 years or so into the future to follow the story of Lirael, a Daughter of the Clayr. Lirael is 14 when the story begins, but she has yet to receive the sight that is the birthright of all the Clayr. She has long felt alone, since her mother's death before her tenth birthday, and as is common among the Clayr, she has no knowledge of who her father is. In order to keep her mind off her anguish at not yet receiving the sight, she begins work in the Clayr's library, as a Third Assistant Librarian. It is in the library that she begins to teach herself the use of Charter Magic, and although she still does not gain the sight, she gains a companion, the Disreputable Dog, and discovers a destiny that will send her into the world, away from the life she has known with the Clayr. In the course of her journey, she discovers not only her true calling, but she becomes involved in a new plot against the Abhorsen Sabriel and the Old Kingdom. In Lirael, we also meet Prince Sameth, the son of Sabriel and Touchstone, who has gotten himself involved in the plot as well. His older sister Ellimere is the heir to the throne, making him the Abhorsen's heir. He too must discover his true calling, and find his destiny alongside Lirael.
Abhorsen is the third book in the trilogy, and it begins right where Lirael left off. We discover at the end of Lirael that Lirael herself is the true Abhorsen-In-Waiting, as she is Sabriel's unknown little sister. Prince Sameth has a calling from the Wallbuilders, something that has not been seen in memory. Together they continue their quest to stop the Necromancer Hedge from raising the Destroyer, and to save Sam's friend Nick, who has been unknowingly swept into Hedge's power. They are helped along the way by Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, and interesting pair, but they will both be crucial to success in the end.
I really loved this series - I recommend it to every fantasy lover that I know, or that needs recommendations at the library. It was published as young adult fantasy, but it is definitely good enough for adult reading. The world that Nix has created is so different from that of most fantasies, and the characters are rich and complex, causing the reader to really become a part of the story while reading. I actually liked the character of Lirael better than Sabriel, alhtough it is difficult to say why. So far there is only a short story following the final book in the trilogy, but I would love to continue reading about the Abhorsen's world. If you haven't read these yet, you should. I hear the audiobook version is excellent as well, with Tim Curry narrating.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dark Highland Fire by Kendra Leigh Castle

The first catch-up post is here! Hooray!
You may recall from my previous posts that I have really enjoyed the two other books I read by Castle - Call of the Highland Moon and Wild Highland Magic. This book comes in between those two, in terms of storyline, although it is perfectly acceptable to read them out of order (I did - I began with the most recent one!).
Dark Highland Fire tells the story of Gabriel MacInnes and his mate Rowan an Morgaine. Reading this one clarified a lot for me, especially about the various races that are present in the realm of Coracin. It was also interesting to read some of the backstory involving Lucien Andrakkar, who appears very prominently in the third book.
Gabriel is second in line to his brother Gideon (whose story we read in Call of the Highland Moon), which means that he has never really felt a whole lot of purpose in his life. He keeps himself entertained by running his pub and having meaningless flings. When Rowan is literally dumped into his arms, by her brother Bastian, his whole life changes. He makes it his duty to guard her, but she herself is the heir to tremendous magical power, and does not feel that she needs protecting. However, Mordred Andrakkar is threatening both the realms of Earth and Coracin with his madness, which involves both the MacInnes werewolves and the Dyadd Morgaine. Gabriel and Rowan must learn to put up with each other in order to save both their families.
As I have mentioned about these books before, I love the romance in them. The world-building is good as well, making it a great read for both fantasy and romance. Castle's characters are three-dimensional, with foibles that make you love them while you grit your teeth at some of their choices. They certainly aren't perfect. The books are also very funny, and this one is no exception. Definitely check this series out if you haven't yet.
Oh yeah, and this is my final book for the Love Bites Reading Challenge. I finished reading the book before the challenge was over, even if I didn't get anything posted about it until now. So I feel like that's one challenge that I completed on time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blog Updates

Computers can be so frustrating sometimes . . . I just typed this post, and then blogger lost it when I went to publish it, because my computer's connection was being iffy. Ugh . . .
So anyway, I wanted to make my readers aware that soon I will get back to posting reviews more regularly. And I might even be able to do some challenge wrap-up posts, and even talk about another award I received from a fellow blogger. I decided that in order to catch up I will not be reviewing every single book I read this summer (I read stacks and stacks of tween books for a class), but I'll be posting about the ones that I feel like talking about. At some point I may go back to posting about every book that I read, but we'll see when that happens. I will still be posting about every ARC I read, which is another area I am behind on.
So, this catching up will probably begin tomorrow. I'm excited to get back to it. I will only be working for two more weeks, so I should have more time to read as well. Yay!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks is the story of the four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. Rosalind is the oldest, and at twelve, she has spent the past few years taking care of her younger sisters. Skye and Jane are eleven and ten, respectively, while little Batty is only four. Their mother died soon after Batty's birth, leaving them with their loving botanist father. The book takes place the summer that the Penderwick family, including their dog Hound, take a vacation at Arundel, the estate of the snobby Mrs. Tifton, where they will stay in her back cottage. They are told to stay out of Mrs. Tifton's way, but the girls can't seem to help getting into trouble. Along they way they meet Cagney, Arundel's 18-year-old gardener, his two rabbits, Carla and Yaz, and Mrs. Tifton's son Jeffrey. The girl's have many experiences in their few weeks at Arundel, including facing down a bull, chasing bunnies, developing crushes (Rosalind is just old enough to get her heart stuck on Cagney for a time), and helping Jeffrey stand up to his mother. This is a vacation they will never forget.
The Penderwicks
won the National Book Award for Young People in 2005. It is definitely one of the best tween books I have read, in that it is one that it not only a good story, but deals with issues that tweens deal with without being heavy-handed. It never feels sappy or unrealistic. And although everything turns out happily in the end, it does not feel forced or fake, simply the natural ending of the summer. There has since been another Penderwicks book published – The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (2008) – so it may be developing into a series. These are excellent books to recommend to any tween who enjoys reading contemporary fiction, and although the story seems simplistic, the writing is sophisticated enough to be appreciated by older kids.

I read this book for my 999 Challenge, as it won the National Book Award for Young People in 2005. My whole list can be found here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a fantasy of Chinese folklore blended together to tell the story of Minli, a fearless girl who sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon, and change her family's fortune. Minli and her parents live in a village at the foot of Fruitless Mountain, at the edge of the Jade River. The land is difficult to work, and all of the villagers must struggle to grow their rice. The village is colorless, and Minli's main joy comes from listening to her father tell fantastic stories. It is these stories that convince her to find the Old Man in the Moon, to see if he can help her family. On her journey, Minli meets many fascinating people and creatures, and learns even more stories. A dragon becomes her closest friend, and teaches her about friendship, and the true meaning of being fortunate.
This was a very enjoyable book, full of magic and love. With all of the stories, it would be a terrific choice to read aloud, but it would also be loved by older children and tweens, to read on their own.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman

Strawberry Hill is a sweet story of friendship and family that takes place during the Depression. Allie is a ten-year-old Jewish girl who moves with her family to a house at the very beginning of the book. She is unsure that the move is a good idea, but when her father tells her they will be living on Strawberry Hill, and that she will have her very own room, she gets excited. Things are not what she expected when they arrive, however. She discovers that just because the street is named Strawberry Hill, that doesn't necessarily mean there are any strawberries anywhere. And she is confused by her feelings towards her new friends, the two neighbor girls who do not speak to each other, although each wants to be her friend. Allie must learn that appearances are not the most important part of a person, and that it is what is inside that makes you a good friend.
I enjoyed this story, although sometimes Allie's actions towards her friends, especially Mimi, were frustrating at times. I am sure that a tween would identify more with her choices, and understand her better than I do. Although the story takes place during the Depression, there is not much information about it, mostly because it is not something that affects Allie's life directly, most of the time. She struggles with acceptance and Antisemitism more than with her family's economic situation. This book would be enjoyed by tween girls, especially those who like historical fiction, or it would be a good introduction to the genre.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez

One of the main characters in Confetti Girl are inanimate objects - cascarones, confetti filled eggs that you crack on your friends' heads, spilling confetti everywhere. Lopez even includes a recipe for cascarones in the very beginning of the book. The real main character of the story, Lina, is best friends with Vanessa, whose mother is obsessed with making the confetti eggs. Lina is a very entertaining character, a girl who is crazy about her socks, and organizes them very carefully, she is also a science lover and a volleyball player, though she knows that she's not very good. Her father is a widower, an English teacher who seems to be only interested in his books, or in Lina's English grade at school. As Lina and her father struggle with dealing with her mother's recent death, they also help Vanessa and her mother come to terms with Vanessa's father leaving. In the midst of all of this, Lina and Vanessa are discovering the boys at their school, and understanding the changes that happen to their friendship as a result.
This is a good story about friendship and family struggle, although it is definitely a book that will really only be enjoyed by tweens. It is not one that older teens or adults will find anything in, but for less sophisticated readers, it is a great story of family, friendship, and Latino culture.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

I love Jacqueline Carey. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. This book begins a new series by her, separate from her beloved Terre D'Ange books. It is a very different story from those books, but I enjoyed it, and I am really looking forward to a sequel.
Loup Garron is born in the forgotten town of Santa Olivia, where she is raised by her single mother. She has been named by her father, who had to flee while her mother was pregnant with her - he was an enigma, a man who had been genetically engineered, told he could not have children. Loup's mother and her older half-brother Tommy teach her how to be "careful" - she is not like other children. Loup has no fear, which makes her do things that seem strange to others. She also is incredibly fast and strong. She learns how to hide these things, because if the soldiers stationed at the base discovered who she was, she would disappear. Santa Olivia is not on any map, not anymore. The people who live there have been forgotten by the rest of America, and they are allowed no contact with the outside world. But as a teenager, Loup can no longer keep quiet who she is, although she still manages to hide it from the soldiers. She begins to plan a way to help the people of Santa Olivia.
Loup's character is fascinating, Carey does a great job of making her seem very human, but slightly different at the same time. I loved the actions that Loup and her orphan family, the Santitos, plan and execute. They're like a little team of superheroes, even though Loup is the only one with any supernatural powers. Besides Loup's actions against the soldiers, boxing is the other main focus of the book. I am not a fan of boxing, however, Carey kept this part of the book interesting enough to keep my focus. Overall, this was a fantastic book, and had a few surprises that I was not expecting. I am genuinely looking forward to the next story about Loup, as she learns more about who she is.
Oh, and this is my final book for the Pub 2009 Challenge. Maybe one day I'll get a wrap-up post up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

I have to begin this post by saying that I absolutely loved this book. So this is going to be a rather gushy review, because I really just adored it. Even the cover is perfect. The only thing I really didn't like about it is the title, because I found it off-putting. To me it sounds frivolous, like a cheesy teen romance, but that is nothing like what it is. You'll see.
Anna and Frankie are best friends, and have been forever. They were always joined by Frankie's older brother Matt, an inseparable threesome, until Matt's tragic death the year before. Now it's summer again, and Frankie's family are trying to pull the pieces back together, deciding that the annual family trip to Zanzibar Bay will be the best thing for them. But instead of Matt, this year they will bring Anna. They will be there for 20 days, and Frankie decides that she and Anna will meet 20 boys, and just see what happens. Anna goes along with this, as she has gone along with every wild thing that Frankie has done over the past year. Because she has a secret, one that she is afraid will destroy her friendship.
Anna accidentally fell in love with Matt when she was 10 and he was 12. Last year, on Anna's fifteenth birthday, Matt kissed her for the first time. This began a sweet, and secret, love affair between the two of them. Matt wanted to be the one to tell Frankie, but he wasn't sure how to. He was leaving for college at the end of the summer, and he wanted to make sure he didn't leave on a bad note. He decided that their trip to Zanzibar would be the best time to tell her, and he made Anna promise she wouldn't tell first. But he died the day before they were to leave.
The love story between Anna and Matt is so sweet, and the way that Anna deals with her feelings for Matt, and the new feelings she has for Sam, a boy she meets in Zanzibar, is very well told. All of the things she goes through feel authentic. This really is an excellent book, for teens, but also for adults who enjoy authentic, heartfelt stories. I loved the characters, and the way they grow during these 20 days will change them forever, but for the better.
This book qualifies for many challenges, I'll just list them here: RYOB 2009, The New Author Challenge, The Pub 2009 Challenge, and the A-Z Reading Challenge.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

Another very enjoyable read from Georgette Heyer. I found this one just as amusing and sweet as Frederica. And as with the other Heyer books I have read, it was fascinating to read all of the details of fashion that she goes into.
The story of The Corinthian is perhaps more absurd than in the other books I have read by Heyer, but she manages to pull it off. It begins with Sir Richard Wyndham being accosted by his sister and mother, as they attempt to bully him into marrying. He feels he has no choice, but the woman to whom he is supposed to propose is connected to a family whose sons are nothing but trouble, and would drain Richard's fortunes if he let them. The woman herself understands the situation, and has no ideals about falling in love with him. Sir Richard goes out that night and gets completely drunk, and we get the impression that he had hopes of one day falling in love himself.
His life changes that night however, when he is walking home drunk in the early hours of the morning. He comes across a young woman escaping from her home by means of a rope ladder out the second story window. Due to his drunkeness, he makes some interesting choices, and ends up helping her continue her escape by escorting her - she disguised as a boy, and he as her tutor. The girl is seventeen-year-old Penelope Creed, and she is escaping her own unwanted marriage. She is completely naive, and totally unaware of the compromising position she has put both herself and Sir Richard in. Their situation only gets more absurd, with the addition of thieves, murderers, and young lovers too silly or scared to elope. But the romance that develops between the two main characters is lovely, and I never got tired about reading about Penelope.
Besides the delightful two main characters, there are several supporting characters that are also amusing and fun to read about. One surprising character is that of Cedric Brandon. When we first meet him, at the home of Sir Richard's intended bride, who is his older sister, he seems annoying and foppish. And maybe he is, but he is also thoroughly entertaining, and he in no way expects Richard to saddle himself with the Brandon family's difficulties. Besides the characters, the way that Heyer describes the fashions of the time is also fascinating. She seems to mock much of it, especially the men's fashion, adding another layer of humor. All in all this was a very enjoyable read.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

This is the second book I have read by Heyer, and I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than The Convenient Marriage. I'm glad I gave Heyer another try. This novel was written much later, in 1965, and takes place in the Regency Era.
Frederica is a young lady who has been taking care of her family ever since her mother died when she was young. She has four younger siblings that she looks after, and now that her younger sister is coming of age, she wants her to be able to experience coming-out in London. In order to help her accomplish this, she contacts a distant relation who she has never met, Lord Alverstoke, and asks for his help. Alverstoke is a confirmed bachelor who is bored by his life, and ends up taking on the challenge mainly to irritate his sister. He succeeds in both launching the Merrivilles into society and causing strife in his family, all of which amuses him. But he had not counted on actually beginning to care for Frederica or her younger brothers, and he must reevaluate much of his life as a result.
I just loved most of the main characters in this book, which was the main problem for me with The Convenient Marriage. Even though the Earl of Rule and Lord Alverstoke share many characteristics, Heyer made me actually like Alverstoke. And Frederica and her two younger brothers, Jessamy and Felix, are just fantastic characters. The social humor is very similar to The Convenient Marriage, and as in that book, the romance does not get resolved until the very final pages of the book. But it was well worth the wait, and a treat of a book in general.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

I have seen Georgette Heyer's books so often, I decided to take advantage when I got a chance to review a handful. This was the first one I read by her. It was written in 1934, and takes place during the Georgian Era.
The Convenient Marriage is the story of Horatia Winwood (known as Horry), and her marriage to the Earl of Rule. She marries the Earl after he has proposes to her sister, because she knows that her sister is in love with someone else. But Horry also knows that it is necessary for someone to marry him, as that is the only way to keep her family out of debt. The Earl goes along with this change, because he merely proposed due to the fact that he has come to believe that he needs to settle down. And although she is young, and not very pretty, and has a stutter, Horatia enchants him. They agree to "stay out of each other's way" but Horry seems determined to be outrageous. She gets into a few "scrapes" and tries to keep these a secret from the Earl, but he is determined to win her over and show that he loves her, and she can keep nothing from him.
I found this story rather entertaining, and a fairly quick read. The details that Heyer gives of the time period are very interesting, and show that she knows quite a bit about it. I did not like it as much as I had thought I might, however. Horatia simply annoyed me, and while she started out fine, she seemed to get worse as the book went on. I think I was supposed to find her amusing, but she really just began to wear on me. I liked the Earl of Rule better, but not by much. I think that may have been my main problem with the book - I simply was not really fond of any of the characters. It was funny, and the romance sort of sweet, but I honestly did not really care what happened to the characters as the story went on. I have enjoyed the other Heyer books I have read since then more.
This is my final read for the Romance Reading Challenge. Funny how I managed to finish this one way early - I guess it's a good idea to sign up for year long challenges! I will have a wrap-up post up one of these days. It also qualifies for the New Author Challenge and RYOB 2009.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Apologies, Awards, and Announcements!

First of all, I would like to apologize to everyone who reads this blog, since I haven't posted in ages. As I have mentioned in past posts, I am still reading, I am just tremendously behind on posts. But I have a good reason, which I will come to in the announcements!
Second, I have received another award! This one is from Gwendolyn, at A Sea of Books. It is the True Fairy Tale Award.
The award is for the hopes that one day all your dreams will come true!!
Because we all are still Cinderella's at heart!

How lovely - and Cinderella always was my favorite.
And, speaking of dreams coming true, I am now ready to make my announcement! I mentioned a few months back that my husband and I were planning a family, and we didn't have to wait long. I have just completed my first trimester, and I am right around 13 weeks pregnant!! I got to see my little baby on the ultrasound this week, and at some point I'll get the picture scanned and posted. I have created a blog specifically for updates on the pregnancy, so if you would like to check that out, you are welcome to! It is The Baby West.
Thank you for reading, and I will be continuing to post, although it's tough to say how reliable I will be. I have given up on challenges, although I will still track them. So I apologize to all of those lovely challenge hosts that I am ditching! I did complete two more for June, although I haven't caught up enough to post them yet, so I will try to get to that.
So anyway, that's what's going on over here in my life! Thanks again for reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Royal Blood by Rona Sharon

I am really behind on my reviews right now - I just don't seem to have time to post! So I'm focusing on ARCs for the next couple of reviews, just to make sure I get those done. I may create another sidebar post for books I've read but haven't yet reviewed, like I did last summer. It seems that I slow down the pace of reviewing in the summer, even though I'm not reading any less.
Royal Blood is the story of Michael Devereaux, a young man who is the heir presumptive of the Earl of Tyrone, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The story takes place at the court of Henry VIII, where Michael hopes to make a name for himself, and make his benefactor proud. There he meets Princess Renee, sister to the Queen of France, and daughter of the previous King. She is at the court on a mission of her own, one that is slowly revealed to the reader over time. There is romantic tension between these two main characters, but neither can let their guard down, not while assassins and even vampires are roaming the court. As they each attempt to reach their own goals, they also test each other, never knowing who they can trust.
It took me a while to get into this book, though I can't really say why. There was a lot of story set-up, and I found myself not caring much about the main characters. However, it did pick up around the middle, when the first vampire attack happens, and from there the story was more compelling. I was surprised by the continued revelations - either I was not paying very close attention, or some of the twists really did come out of the blue (I suspect the former). There was a tremendous amount of historical detail, almost too much, as I sometimes did not even know what it was the author was describing to me. Overall, this book would be enjoyable for readers of historical fiction or historical romance, who like a thriller twist.
This book covers a whole bunch of my challenges, so I'll just briefly mention them. For obvious reasons it qualifies for RYOB 2009, the New Author Challenge, and the Pub 2009 Challenge. It also qualifies for the Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge, as it is a Romantic Thriller. And as a romance, I also read it for my fourth book in the Romance Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Call of the Highland Moon by Kendra Leigh Castle

This book is the first in the series about the MacInnes werewolves, of which I read the most recent book first, Wild Highland Magic. They can be read as stand-alone books, but I could tell that there was definitely a history to these books that I would really enjoy reading, so I picked up the first two.
Call of the Highland Moon is the story of Gideon MacInnes, the next Alpha of his Pack. He has always been the reliable one, but for once he decides to give that up, and he takes off to America (his Pack home is in the Scottish highlands, naturally). There he realizes that he has been followed, by enemies he suspects were sent by his traitorous cousin. After a fierce battle he is left terribly wounded, and shows up on the doorstep of a romance bookstore in a tiny little town in New England. That bookstore is owned by Carly Silver, who takes him in, convincing herself that he is someone's overgrown pet. In the morning she wakes up with this "pet" in her bed, but in his sleep he has turned back into a large naked man. This makes for some very uncomfortable explanations. But Carly and Gideon are drawn to each other, and now Gideon must figure out not only how to protect his Pack from his cousin's treachery, but also how to protect the woman he loves.
I think that my favorite thing about these books is the love stories. The Pack werewolves mate for life, and they know instinctively when they have met that mate, no matter how bad the timing. And of course, the timing is never good. But knowing that the couple is meant to be together adds a level of romance that I love. Castle creates terrific, three-dimensional characters that you would love to have as friends. And the fact that Carly owns a bookstore that caters specifically to romance lovers cracks me up. These books are very funny, with pop-culture references that are just perfect. Really, I love these books, and for paranormal romance lovers, I would recommend them whole-heartedly.
This is the second book that I have read for the Love Bites Reading Challenge, which is all about paranormal romances. It also qualifies for the Romance Reading Challenge.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hominids by Robert J Sawyer

Hominids won the Hugo Award in 2003, which led me to pick it up to bring me a smidgen closer to completing my 999 Challenge. (My book list for the challenge is here.) I think that I have liked this one the best of the Hugo Award winners that I have read so far. I even wanted to continue reading the series that this book begins, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, neither of the two copies of the second book in my library system are available. But I suppose it will stay on my reading list, and maybe one day I'll finish the series.
Hominids is an excellent example of speculative science fiction. What if parallel worlds exist? What if there was some way to bridge the gap between worlds? What might we find? In Hominids, it is not the human race on the world as we know it that manages to bridge this gap. We are simply the recipients. It is a Neanderthal named Ponter Bodditt, a quantum physicist in his own world, who comes to our dimension. In his world Neanderthals were the surviving species, while Homo Sapiens died out. While in our world, Ponter must figure out how to communicate and survive (he is helped tremendously by an advanced piece of A-I technology that learns languages and can communicate for him), while the people he meets have to figure out what this means for our world. And back in Ponter's world, his best friend and business partner must fight off unexpected accusations of murder, stemming from Ponter's disappearence.
This really was an incredibly fascinating, enjoyable read. I loved reading about the Neanderthal's world, as created by Sawyer. He does an excellent job of giving the reader a glimpse of that world through the trial against Ponter's partner, Adikor. And reexamining the human race through the eyes of someone close to us, but not the same, brings up some really interesting questions. The story itself is fast-moving and very satisfying, all leading me to want to continue the series! Ah well, I'll just have to keep this one in mind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by MT Anderson

**Once again I must apologize - I have had an internet issue on my computer for the past few days - I have many books to review, now I just need to get the reviews up!!
Well that title certainly is a mouthful. I do enjoy the fact that Anderson is not afraid to give his book a long title, if that's the title it deserves. And Octavian certainly has an astonishing life. In this book, the story is mostly told through "testimony" that is written in first-person by Octavian himself. But there is a great middle section where the story is told in letters, and we see what happens to Octavian during that time period through someone else's eyes. Octavian was raised, along with his very young mother, by a group of scientist/philosophers who refer to themselves as the Novanglian College of Lucidity. All of the men there are known by numbers, rather than their names, whereas Octavian, and his mother, Cassiopeia, are not. It takes Octavian (and the reader) some time to realize that he and his mother are actually parts of some of the experiments that the men of the college are studying. He also eventually learns that they are slaves, and are owned by 03-01, or Mr. Gitney, the man who runs the place.
This book takes place right before the Revolutionary War, in Boston. War actually breaks out during the course of the book, and Octavian learns that freedom means different things depending on who you are talking to and where you come from.
This was a fascinating, very quick read, and I am looking forward to reading the second book. Anderson's descriptions, and his storytelling, both through Octavian and through the letters, are intriguing, and even more so often because he is one of those authors that leaves a lot for the reader to fill in for themselves. It's more immersive than I would have thought, and I wonder how it will end for Octavian.
I picked up this book because it was a winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I am reading award winners for my 999 Challenge - you can see my whole list here. This book was also reviewed by Dewey, qualifying it for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. She pointed out that the language sometimes did not seem like something a teen would be interested in reading, and I think I would agree, at least for younger teens. But I think many older teens would find it interesting, and a challenge, something different than most other books out there. While we're at it, this book also qualifies for the New Author Challenge (I will definitely be reading more MT Anderson after this) and the A-Z Reading Challenge ("A" author).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lemonade Award - my first award ever!

So sweet! This is the first award I have received - thanks so much Tutu!
I started this blog in order to keep track of my reading, and that's still the main purpose, but it has been so much fun getting connected with the book blogger community. I love all the comments I receive.
So, here are the rules for this award:
If you are nominated....
here are the rules for passing on the award to your favorite blogs:

1. Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
3. Link to your nominees within your post. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
4. Link to the person who gave you your award.

Now, I had a difficult time choosing, as I read a couple dozen book blogs regularly. And I may not leave comments, but if I have nominated you, I do read your blog, and enjoy it! A few blogs that I wanted to nominate are not on this list, as I saw that they already had this one. So here are my nominees (in no particular order):
And there we are! Thanks again for the award Tutu, I appreciate it!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth, and it follows a year or so of her life when she was in her twenties. Worth trained as a midwife with a convent of nuns who served London's poor East End in the 1950's. This book chronicles her time with the nuns.
The stories that Worth tells alternate between uplifting, heartbreaking, charming, and hilarious, and her descriptions of the characters that she meets and interacts with are fascinating. As I am currently planning a family, and thinking quite a lot about pregnancy, I found this book even more compelling. Worth gives some interesting history about midwifery and obstetrics, and I found it illuminating that, at least for East End women, the midwife was the only medical attendant they expected to have at the birth. Going to the hospital meant bad, bad news, and a doctor's presence meant only slightly less danger. Yet the nuns provided excellent prenatal care, and obviously excellent service, so no woman wanted anything else. In addition to the stories of the births she attended, Worth tells us stories about the various people she meets in her day-to-day work. From the disturbed, elderly Mrs. Jenkins, to the family of Len and Conchita Warren, this book is full of fascinating people.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I don't think it was just because of the connection I currently feel to all pregnant women and stories of birth. Worth is a great story-teller, although at times the chapters did not flow very well from one to another. And the end of the book came on me rather abruptly. But I guess when you are telling stories about real life, that is what happens. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stories about real people, and is not afraid of the descriptions of birth that of course come along with a book like this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hunter's Death by Michelle West

Hunter's Death is the sequel to Hunter's Oath, and concludes the story. In Hunter's Death, the two main characters from the first book, Hunter Lord Gilliam and his huntbrother Stephen, travel to the city of Averalaan, where they must accomplish their task and still be able to return home in time for the Sacred Hunt. But what they are supposed to accomplish there is something they are unsure of, and they know that it is likely that they will not make it back in time for the Hunt, which is something that no Hunter Lord would ever dream of doing. But they have been convinced by the seer Evayne, who they met in the first book, that this is something they must do, for the fate not only of their kingdom, but of the world.
This book is more difficult to describe than the first one. Many new characters are added, and they become just as critical to the story as Stephen and Gilliam. The story basically expands to encompass the larger world surrounding the kingdom of the Breodani, and even involves the gods to a greater degree than the first book did. I really liked the new characters that were added, and learning their stories made this book very interesting to read. Adding a Hunter Lord into the city of Averalaan, and the Kings' Court, was also very entertaining. This series, although only two books, really felt like epic fantasy to me, and it had a satisfying conclusion. I will have to add Michelle West to my list of authors to read in the future.
I picked up this series for the Reading My Name Challenge. For this one, we read authors that share our name - first or last. I went with last name, as that was easier to find. I only needed to read two books for this one, so it worked out perfectly, in terms of reading both by the same author, from a series. I'll do a wrap-up post about this one as soon as I get caught-up on reviews.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lords of Corruption by Kyle Mills

Josh Hagarty has done everything he knows how to do to try and get out of his crappy life in Kentucky. But now that he has his MBA, his criminal past is still keeping him from getting a job, meaning his hopes of getting himself and his teenage sister out of their trailer home are for nothing. Then a charity called NewAfrica offers him a job. It seems too good to be true - not only do they offer to pay off his college debt, but they also promise to help him pay for his sister's upcoming college tuition as well. And he will be helping people, in Africa. Maybe this is the new beginning he needs.
But of course it is too good to be true. When Josh arrives at his first work location, it appears that no one knows what to do with him, and he has no tools or outside help to make the situation work. And his contacts back in America just keep reassuring him that things will be fine. As the tribal violence in the area gets worse, Josh realizes that his African contacts may not be interested in helping this venture at all. And soon he becomes aware that his predecessor in this position did not quit - he was brutally murdered. As Josh discovers more about NewAfrica that they don't want him to know, he must protect himself and the people he loves in order to get the truth out, before he becomes another casualty.
This was a fast-paced page-turner, for sure, although it's not really my kind of book. I do have to say that I had a hard time putting it down anyway. It really draws you in, the action is pretty much nonstop. As is the violence, but that is to be expected from such a book. The two main problems I had with the book were the characters and the setting. I honestly really did not like or care about any of the characters. At one point in the story, when it seemed like the entire cast might end up dead, I wasn't really that worried. I just did not care. But I kept reading. The other thing that really bothered me about the book was the picture it paints of Africa. There is not one redeeming factor shown about Africa here - it is all just tribal warfare, petty violence, environmental degradation, and lots of "the Africans need to help themselves". It was just depressing, and while it may be an accurate picture of some areas of the country, I felt that it was very one-sided. Overall, while this book wasn't really my type, it would be enjoyed by anyone who likes fast-paced political dramas and action thrillers.
This is the second book that I have read for the Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge. This book falls within the genre of a Conspiracy thriller - "In which the hero/heroine confronts a large, powerful group of enemies whose true extent only he/she recognizes". This book also qualifies for the New Author Challenge, The Pub 2009 Challenge, and RYOB 2009.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

**An apology for not blogging for so long - I've been sick, and it's difficult to sit at the computer when you don't feel well! At least I managed to finished several books, so I have something to blog about!**
The Ten Year Nap follows several months in the lives of a handful of women. What these women have in common is the fact that they are mothers. For the few that are central to the story, they are mothers that quit their jobs when they had children, and have not gone back to work even though it has been ten years. They each contemplate going back to work, for various reasons, but so far they never have. For Amy, the reasons are not fully formed - she's thought about it, but deep down she's afraid that she won't be able to keep up with the changes that have happened in the legal field since she left. Her mother is a strong feminist who worked as a novelist while raising her children, and she is constantly pushing Amy to go back to work. For the other central characters, life is just as complicated, and offers no easy answers about whether or not you can be a good mother and have a career.
This was a very interesting read, and meaningful to me, as I plan on quitting my job once I am pregnant - and I do not plan on going back once my child is born. Most women have an opinion on this subject, but that sometimes changes once they have children of their own. For the women of this book, many of them thought they would go back to work, and then just never did. There are some characters that act as foils for these women - mothers who work, whose children go to school with theirs. They work because they love their jobs, their career is important to them. But what kind of mothers are they? Are Amy and Jill better mothers because they do not work? The book does not answer this question, leaving it up to the reader to ponder.
One of the things that I really liked about the way this book was written is the way it went from character to character, telling us details about these women's lives. Then there would be a chapter about the mother of the woman of the preceding chapter, giving us a glimpse into her world. It made the characterization very deep and interesting. This book is an excellent look at the modern family woman, and was a very intriguing read.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Warriors: The Rise of Scourge by Dan Jolley, Bettina M Kurkoski, created by Erin Hunter

I have been taking a break from reading the new Warriors series by Erin Hunter, and have been instead checking out the graphic novels. These are not written by Erin Hunter, but they are authorized by her, and she writes an introduction to each one to explain why she felt this particular story needed to be told. This is the second Warriors graphic novel that I've read, but I haven't reviewed the first one yet because it is part of a series.
The Rise of Scourge tells the story of how a kitten named Tiny became the leader of Bloodclan, known as Scourge. Scourge comes into the Warriors timeline towards the end of the first series, when Tigerstar attempts to take control of all four clans. But Scourge has other plans. He very violently kills Tigerstar, before being taken down himself eventually. This graphic novel tells how he became this seemingly evil, violent cat. It's not a pretty story. And as Hunter says in her introduction, she is not making excuses for him, just trying to tell his story.
I am sometimes surprised by how violent these books can be. I always say that I would have loved these if they'd been out when I was a kid, but really I think they probably would have been too violent for me. Especially this graphic novel version. Not that it really shows any blood, of course, but it is still a bit disturbing. Kurkoski's art is great though. She does a perfect job of capturing the way the cats move and look, while the other graphic novel I've read in this series (not illustrated by her) looked pretty much terrible. So it was at least nice to read something that wasn't hideous, and actually looked really good. This book would really only be enjoyed by those kids who are already involved in the Warriors series, but it may pick up some new fans as well.