Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reading recommendations (because if I made time to read them, you know they’re good)

I don’t always get to read as much as I’d like…

Let me start over – if I read as much as I’d like to, I’d have little time for anything else.  (I’m pretty sure the most important things – eating, drinking, and bathroom necessities I can do with one handed while reading.)  Between school, work, and a limited social life, I don’t get too much time.  But every once in awhile, there comes a glimmer of time – a few days, a glorious week perhaps, in which I can read.

The last two weeks I was able to partake in some blissful reading (YAY!!!!) and I know I’m late to the party on some of these, but here are some of my favorites from the last two weeks.  If you haven’t picked them up yet, you may want to – they’re good for beach reads, train rides, plane rides, or even one-handed necessities of life.  Enjoy!

1. The girl on the train

The girl on the train is a thriller that will take you on a ride (see what I did there, clev-er) 51zHXiTRq3L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_through the events surrounding a woman’s disappearance told through the eyes of three narrators.  Most of the time we follow Rachel, who is struggling to get her life together after a divorce and gets kind of ….well, a bit obsessed with the disappearance of a stranger.

This booooooook! OMG this book!  I feel like I need to do a whole separate post on topics that sprung to my mind while reading this book.  The writer in me would love to go on about the views of different narrators and reliability of narrators (yes, on and on forever about the technique and why it can be so good when it’s done just right).  Another part of me would like to talk to you about starting over after a divorce and emotional issues.  But, alas, these are topics for another day.

The girl on the train is a great thriller and a very fast read.  Check it out before you go to the beach or travel for vacation, you won’t be disappointed.

 

2. Eligible 

Eligible is a modern day Pride and Prejudice that takes place in Cincinnati.  Liz and Jane 41hnYP26jjL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_flew the nest long ago to go to NYC, but find themselves back in Cincinnati due to their dad’s health issues.  Being back in town puts them the middle of aging parent drama, sibling drama, and oh yes, thrusts them into the paths of Bingley and Darcy. <sigh> Oh Darcy…

I love Pride and Prejudice – I love the original and I love many of the many revamps that have come along recently.  This version had a lot of fresh takes on the old themes and a few new twists and turns – including the reality tv and not friends with benefits.

If you enjoy revamping of P&P or romance novels in general, you should pick this one up (I’m talking to you, Andrea). 🙂

 

3.  Marrying Winterborne

I love romance novels, I really, really do.  I used to call them cotton candy for my brain, 51gjzFcgesL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_fluffy, sugary, and just all around good fun.  If you haven’t read any of Kleypas’ other books, I’d strongly recommend It happened one autumn and A devil in winter.  Marrying Winterborne is a book in a later and somewhat related series.  You don’t have to read the Wallflower series first.  But you should check them out if you like Kleypas’ style.

Marrying Winterborne follows Rhys Winterborne, a self-made man who owns a large and successful department store, and Helen – a woman from old money with a few secrets and who is trying to find (and assert) herself.  A lot of romance novels deal with the beginnings of a relationship – the flirtation, sometimes distrust, the infatuation, and eventual love.  This book instead deals with the deepening of a relationship and finding yourself, which was refreshing. I haven’t read the book before this one (Cold-hearted Rake), where these two actually meet (though it focuses on another couple), but it’s on my to be read list for sure.

 

Happy reading! 🙂

Review: Every Day

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Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
and wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
and who will be her lover?
All your life you’ve never seen
woman, taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

I had to download that Fleetwood Mac song after reading Every Day, by David Leviathan.

Every day is a YA book about A, who wakes up every day as a guest in someone else’s body.  They’re always the same age as A is, and a person’s body plays host to A for only a day.  Then they go about their lives with no memory of A kind of borrowing their body for the day.  A has made peace with this way of life, vowing to never deviate from each person’s routine.  That is until A meets Rhiannon, while in the body of her boyfriend.  Then every day, in whatever body A wakes up in, A’s goal is to see Rhiannon.

<Sigh> This book’s premise was really interesting and fairly early on in it, you really feel for A – who is literally all alone in the world, without family or friends.  All of that changes when A meets Rhiannon and feels that bolt of electricity all of us has felt at some point in our lives.  And like a lot of us, A can’t ignore it.  As a writer, I kept trying to figure out how David Leviathan was going to bring the story to an end in a way that would satisfy me.  I’m not giving anything away, but he does a really good job of it.

5 out of 5 stars, but I’ll warn you…in addition to downloading (playing and singing) Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac, this book may also make you think and possibly wreck you a bit (as many books do)…until you find the next great book to get lost in.

The Alchemist

Book Review of “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho

After years of meaning to (and buying a few copies), I’ve finally read The Alchemist.  It’s been said that you often come across things when you’re ready or when you need it most.  At any time in my life, I probably would have enjoyed the story and the words of wisdom found within these pages. But the timing of reading this couldn’t have been better, as I continue to rebuild my life and pursue my dreams. 

Brief summary 

After having the same dream twice, a shepherd boy (who loves to travel), sets out on a journey to realize his “personal legend,” or his life’s goal. 

Review

I love good stories, quotes, and words of wisdom and this book has all of these things. But it’s also a book that reaches the reader on a deeper level, stirring you and reminding you to always listen to your heart and to search out your own personal legend.   Five out of five stars and if you haven’t picked up this book, I strongly recommend you to do so. 🙂

Some of my favorite quotes from the novel

“Tell your heart that the feared suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams…”

“Every search beings with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

“…when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

“…at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

“To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation.”

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

There you have it….it’s never too late or too early to chase your dreams. So, go do it. 😉

A graphic graphic novel review 

First, I should like to give a warning to people who read this blog who don’t like graphic content, knew me as a child, or birthed me (Mom, this clearly means you)…you don’t want to read this review.

Is everyone else still with me? Okay!

Sex Criminals – Volume 1, is a graphic, graphic novel (see what I did there? cleverness!) with excellent dirty jokes and all around fun shenanigans.  One of my favorite bits, which caused me to breakout into giggles, was a scene with post-it notes over the lyrics to my favorite Queen song, due to copyright issues and lawyers. 🙂

Synopsis:

Suzie can make time stop when she has sex.  It’s rather lonely, until she meets Jon, who can do the same thing…

<Mom – seriously, stop reading.>

So what are two people to do when they can freeze time?  Act as modern day Robin Hoods, of course.

<MO-THER: please, stop reading…I don’t want to have awkward conversations about sex and responsibility later.>

Anyway…Suzie is on a mission to save the local library (or at the very least, the books) from being closed by the bank.  Jon, disillusioned and plant-pooping (it’s a long story) bank employee, wants to liberate funds to save the library.

But, more than just Suzie and Jon can freeze time.  And their Robin Hooding activity has  caught the attention of the others.

5 out of 5 stars for this fun and bawdy graphic novel.  I especially enjoyed the recap of past lovers and the awkwardness of teenage years (including those awkward questions we all had).

<Mom – I’ll know when you read this, because I’ll get a lecture after…Unless of course, you read it and then never lecture me.  It’ll be like your own little secret, and I’ll never know. :p  No? hmm, it was worth a try.>

Blankets – Graphic Novel Review

51WRrlfdxaL__SX363_BO1,204,203,200_Review of “Blankets,” by Craig Thompson

Graphic novels are officially growing on me, and more than just dark ones like the Locke & Key series (which you should definitely check out, if you haven’t already).  I recently picked up “Blankets” and was instantly hooked by the story.

“Blankets” – a YA memoir of the author’s teenage and adolescent years covers so many topic that unite everyone – religion (and the confusion involved with figuring it out for ourselves), family relationships (siblings, parent expectations, divorce), and the sweet sting of first love (ah, me).  But it also tells a tale that is completely its author’s own – and the beginning of his journey in figuring out who he is.

Though I finished this graphic novel a few days ago, I’m still chewing on its deeper meaning and the nuggets of wisdom it imparts (including the value of “or”).  But, in my own writing at least, I’m a big believer in the reader taking from it what they may.  At different times in your life, different parts of a story will touch you – sometimes the author means it to and sometimes its by accident.

So, whether it was intended or not – this story made me contemplate love.

<I know, considering my genre of choice, it’s really not all that surprising, is it?>

(Okay, kind of spoiler alert below.  If you don’t want to hear my wax poetic about love, just pick up the book: 5 out of 5 stars! … Otherwise, read on.)

But more than just the feelings gained (or lost) love invokes, I thought about the feeling in general.  In the beginning of relationships, it’s not uncommon for one to ask another: “have you ever been in love?”

Maybe, it’s mere curiosity or to make sure that if those words are uttered later, you can rest easy that it means something (maybe if the answer is less than a particular number?).  A past partner told me, that he thought he was once, but (as it ended) he now believed he’d never been in love.  When looking back through the years, I realize that I’ve discounted relationships in the past, with the aid of my seemingly wiser adult eye.  I’m sure everyone does.

But, if it doesn’t work out or your person doesn’t return the depth and breadth of the feeling…does that negate it?

I think love is more fluid than that.  Some forms are never meant to last – spectacular but fast shows of light – like fireworks on the fourth of July, lifting your spirit…if only for a little while.  Some are like a safe harbor among a wild sea, always waiting for us, if we’d only allow ourselves to anchor.  Some are transformative – making us who we are or helping us put our pieces back together.  Some are soft and steady glows of light, that promise to burn for as long as we can feed the flame.

Anyway, check out “Blankets” and relive that exciting, unsure, and awkward thrill of your first love.  And then have some wine and smile.  After all, not ending up with your first (second, third, or tenth) love isn’t really a bad thing. ‘Tis better to have loved…

 

The Good Girl – Review

“The Good Girl,” by Mary Kubica
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It happens all of the time, there’s a mega-hit novel and then a ton of novels after are compared to it.  It’s a tale as old as time, and inevitably it’s what makes you pick up a book and, for the writers out there, possibly/hopefully/please – sells books.

“The Good Girl,” like many thrillers out there now (especially ones that feature a twist) was compared to “Gone Girl.”  (Side note:  if you haven’t seen “Gone Girl” yet, then you totally should.  It was very well done.)

In The Good Girl, Mia is the daughter of a well-known judge and is kidnapped because of it.  But the kidnapper middle man, Colin, decides not to turn her over to the truly bad guy and instead brings her to a remote cabin.  Meanwhile her mom, Eve, and the lead detective, Gabe, work against the clock to find her.

Okay…I’m a writer so I don’t usually like to give “bad” reviews but I do give honest reviews.    So, I’ll point out the good and the bad.

THE GOOD

Perspective and bouncing around:  I really liked the bouncing around in this story.  It’s told from three perspectives (until the very last chapter).  We hear the story through Eve’s, Gabe’s, and Colin’s words.  However, as an added and interesting bonus, the story is told both before Mia is found and after (not sequentially).  I really enjoyed this.  It kept the action fast enough and the reader off balance enough (but not too much) for it to be enjoyable.

Pacing:  Because of the action, change in perspectives, and bouncing around – this story was a very quick read.  It was also told (mostly) in very streamlined accounts – not a lot of superfluous detail, which makes the story go faster and is appropriate for the type of story.

THE BAD

The man’s perspective/quasi-romance:  Okay, I’m not a dude (obviously, I hope), but Colin’s perspective was good until…let’s just say until “complex feelings” arrive.  Yeah.  You know what I’m talking about and believe me, I was rolling my eyes too.  Anyway, Colin comes off as a little…7th grade girl in his descriptions and depictions of a supposed love (that right, I’m calling it out, this was not real love).  I was thinking the story could still be salvageable (maybe she would use his feelings/obsession against him to escape?) and was disappointed.

The mastermind:  <Sigh> Now, I have to tell you, I had a pretty good feeling who the mastermind was in the beginning of the story but was hoping I’d be surprised.  Then halfway through, I was certain.  With only a quarter of the book left, I knew it was coming but was hoping there was a way to deliver it that wouldn’t disappoint me too much.  And then…<sigh>…then, just a scant few pages from the end, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.  I think she was going for a kind of “Usual Suspects” surprise end, but it ended up being rather campy (I imagined the mastermind literally steepling their fingers during their confession).

RATING

At the end of the day, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars, not terrible but not really great either.  The first half was better than the second…with me full-out growling (GRRR) for the last quarter of the book.

Review: The Martian (or look Mom, I read more than just smut!)

cover_martian“The Martian,” by Andy Weir

So, I think you know that I don’t usually read science or sci-fi books…closest I’ve come in a while was a romance novel that had a scientist in it…that kind of counts, right? :p  But since I saw the preview for “The Martian” recently, I picked the book up on a lark…

Summary

In “The Martian,” astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars after a freak storm and accident causes his crew to believe him dead and bug out of the red planet way before their mission was scheduled to end.  Mark comes to after his fellow astronauts have left and finds…he has no way to make contact with his crew or NASA back home.  Shite.  So, he must figure out how to survive for four years (until the next crew comes to Mars) on his own on rations that were meant to last far less than that….and battle a host of other problems along the way.

Review

I said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t usually read this kind of book.  Actually, I bought it because I thought my dad might like it..and then proceeded to read it all and have yet to give it to him…sorry, Dad.  And there’s a lot of science, seriously.  But it’s not presented in a high brow way or in a way that makes you feel dumb.  It’s brilliantly presented by our amusing narrator and engineer/rogue botanist – Matt – and his excellent sense of humor.

Honestly, Matt is the best part about this book.  He seriously made me giggle….or seriously giggle.

He’s determined to be up-beat and since his journal is his only main outlet of communication/company, he is determined to keep us entertained as well.  This story has a little bit of everything – a whole lot of drama (can he/will he survive against all of the odds? can he contact NASA?), humor (some of his comments, especially about aqua man talking to whales, were hilarious), ingenuity (the man is smart as hell), and excellent plot.  I loved it – 5 out of 5 stars.  And I plan on seeing the movie, though I’m wondering how they’ll present all of the narration…should be interesting.

Side note – amazingly this is Andy Weir’s first novel, who is apparently a bit of a genius himself.  You go, dude.  Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Locke and Key – Volumes 5 and 6

Locke and Key – the final two books:  Volume 5 “Clockworks” and Volume 6 “Alpha & Omega

Whew, I finally did it.  I finally finished my first graphic novel series.  It would have been sooner, but I couldn’t bring myself to take the graphic novels with me on business trips – I was too afraid that the travel (and shoving them into my carry-on with snacks and all kinds of things) would ruin their artful pages.  I’m glad that I waited, as I still have the complete set, and pretty pristine.  🙂

Clockworks

When last we left the Locke children, darkness had seeped into their family, a darkness in disguise, that no one would ever suspect.  But how did it start?  How were the keys created?

In Clockworks (volume 5), Tyler and Kinsey discover an old clock in the key house that allows them to go back to key dates (ha! get it?) so that we can get the full background on the magic keys.

The first dates give us a glimpse of the very beginning – when the keys were born from the evil black door in the caves beneath the Keyhouse, during the revolutionary war.

There are a great many dates, but naturally after learning about the origin of the keys, the Locke children are curious about the dates that coincide with their dad’s high school years.   And it is here that we learn that their dad was kind of a dick when he was in high school, and by dick, I mean he thinks it would be cool to unleash a demon from the black door as a last hurrah of childhood. Some kids might want to throw a party, but I guess you do you, bro.

…yeah, I mean, in hindsight, the man is kind of responsible for the demise of multiple people including his own.  Not to judge or anything, but so not cool, dude.  So. Not. Cool.


Alpha & Omega

The end is near and a battle looms…many won’t survive it.  And of course, it has to culminate during a high school party, because if a gateway to a hellish other world is opened, it’s going to be opened by teenagers. :p  I kid, I kid.

Alpha and Omega, the final chapter in the Locke and Key series, wraps up nicely – and sadly, I might add – not only for the characters we lose along the way, but for the end of the series as well.  The art and the story were so well crafted, so well done, that it’s officially made me a graphic novel fan…and I’m glad.

I don’t want to give away any of the final bits of the last volume, but I will say this – a lot of characters die.  But there are also a lot of characters that are freed from the wrongs that happened during the series and quite a few characters survive.

I give the last two books, as well as the entire series, 5 out of 5 starts.  Check it out and prepare for an amazing story.

Review – “Talk Sweetly to Me”

Book Review – “Talk Sweetly To Me (The Brothers Sinister, Book 5),” by Courtney Milan

51kuDbppVlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Rose Sweetly is brilliant at math and astronomy, tasked with computing comet trajectories and looking forward to seeing the transit of Venus.  Life is complicated for an intelligent and unconnected woman, but more so for Rose, because she is a black woman living in England in 1882.

Stephen Shaughnessy, amusing rake, columnist for the Women’s Free Press, and a feminist (yay!).  He’s also had to overcome his own struggles (though nothing compared to Rose’s) to ascend to his current position.

Catching Rose’s eye on the street and chatting with her about math aren’t enough for Stephen any more.  He wants to get to know the very shy Rose better.  So, he devises a seemingly brilliant scheme – he hires her (through her boss, that cad!) to teach him mathematics and astronomy under the guise of conducting research for a novel.

But while her boss is fooled, Rose is not.  And being who she is – brilliant and beautiful – she has a lovely way of telling Stephen that she’s on to him.  She slaps his hand by having him calculate the chances they’d be alone, that she’d be stupid, that he’d be charming, that her father wouldn’t find out, and that she’d bit hit in the head with something heavy (to forget herself).

“Tell me Mr. Shaughnessy, what is the probability of all of those things occurring in conjunction?”

“Ah…” He had to use the paper to keep track.  “That would be…a chance of one in…a hundred billion?”

“Ooh.”  She winced.  “That’s a very small number.  I’m exceeding sorry for you, Mr. Shaughnessy.”

“It is.”  He looked at the figure.  “What, precisely, was I calculating/”

She looked up at him.  For one moment, he thought she was going to be shy again – that she would move away and shake her head rather than answer.  But even though her voice was low, she still said the words.

“That,” she told him, “is that chance that you’ll be able to seduce me.”  –“Talk Sweetly to Me,” Courtney Milan

And you thought you’d never use advanced math in the real world. 🙂

Anyway, I love this whole series – for the strong and smart heroines and the deviously smart and sexy heroes.  And of course, for the feminism.  Check it out, to find out if Stephen can beat the odds and win a place in Rose’s heart – spoiler alert: yes, of course. :p

I’ll leave you with one last, sweet quote for road from “Talk Sweetly to Me” –

“He swept his thumb along the side of her hand. ‘Sweetheart, if you don’t trust me yet, there’s no assurance I can give you that will put your mind at ease.  All I can do is keep on not hurting you, and keep on, until you know in your bones that I never will.”

Awww.  Sweet.  Five out of five stars for “Talk Sweetly to Me.”

Slaughterhouse five – Review

Banned Book Review – “Slaughterhouse five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death”

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Earlier this year, I decided to participate in the Banned Books Challenge to broaden my horizons and read so many of the books that I’ve always meant to read.

I started the year with “The Things They Carried,” a collection of short stories which take place during the Vietnam War.  I decided to stay with that theme of war novels and I moved on to “Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut.

“Slaughterhouse five” follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, a chaplain’s assistant, during World War II.  Billy is captured shortly after the Battle of the Bulge and travels to Dresden while a prisoner of war.  He, like Vonnegut himself, is in Dresden during the city’s firebombing in WWII.

According to Wikipedia, “Slaughterhouse five” was banned (attempted to) due to it’s “irreverent tone and purportedly obscene content.”   As with “The Things They Carried,” and I’d imagine any book that deals with war, it is going to discuss things that leave some people uncomfortable.  Terrible things happen during wars, and people should be honest about it (and with themselves).  War is hell.

Bu4066372865251_s6u7rgBp_lt the book covers more than just the war – it talks about Billy’s life before and after war, as well as his interactions with the Tralfamadorians.  The Tralfamadorians experience time different than the traditional linear form that we do, they instead leap through time, experiencing events years apart and often at random.  A oddity, which they impart to Billy, causing him to become unstuck in time – leaping back and forth from his regular life, to the war, his time as a prisoner of war, to his time in captivity with the Tralfamadorians, and other events.

The confusion and off-kilter feeling with time skipping and Vonnegut’s style (not traditional chapters) worked well for a retelling of a war story.  I’ve never been to war, but I’d imagine that most survivors of war have moments of time when they suddenly think about a memory from their time in the war… especially when trying to reacclimate to their old lives and heal from the traumatic experience of going to war.

There is also a refrain that is repeated many times during the book and anyone who has read the book can easily tell you what it is – “so it goes.”  It is often repeated after discussing a character’s death or unfortunate event.  This is part of where the pro-banning the book people got their “irreverent tone” nonsense from.  And to their objections to the book, I’ve no doubt Vonnegut had three words for them: “so it goes.”

It was an interesting and deep story, peppered throughout with some bits that were humorous.  My favorite funny scene was when a writer was at a party of eye doctors and talks with a young woman –

“Did that really happen?” said Maggie White.  She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.  Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. She hadn’t had even one yet.  She used birth control.

“Of course it happened,” Trout told her.  “If I wrote something that hadn’t really happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail. That’s fraud.”

Five out of five stars for “Slaughterhouse Five,” I’d put it on the list of books that you should read at some point in your life…as it’s probably one of the best novels of our time.

And make sure you check out the banned books challenge for 2015, because books should never be banned.

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