Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Mummy Case

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
William Morrow, 1985
308 pages
Mystery; Amelia Peabody
Third in series

Source: Library

Summary: Amelia, her husband Emerson, and their son Ramses arrive in Egypt for another season of excavation and end up entwined in webs of murder, thievery, and religion.

Thoughts: I love the style in which this is written. I love Amelia as a character and her descriptions of everything. She is eminently sensible and yet romantic in her relationship with Emerson and she's very smart as one can see by her solving of mysteries.

I was annoyed by the fact that Ramses' speech was written phonetically so that "the" became "de", etc. I understand that he is young and precocious but that kind of thing always bothers me (whether it be French accent represented, Southern drawl, whatever, I hate it.) I was displeased with the attitude that Emerson displayed toward Christians as if they were the only people who ever killed in the name of religion, because um no they are not.

Overall: 4/5 I don't think this was an outstanding entry in the Amelia Peabody series but it will do.

Cover: The cover is okay; nothing outstanding but the blue for the sky is very pretty.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Best Picture Movie Post

All the King's Men, 1949: Based on the book by Robert Penn Warren, both inspired by the political career of Huey P. Long

I didn't know much about this before watching other than I used to confuse it with All the President's Men (hey, they're similar titles and they both deal with corruption in American politics) and that it was a best picture winner. I was very intrigued seeing Willie Stark at the start as a nice, humble guy who seems to want to make a difference but oddly enough the scenes of his corruption were less interesting to me. I am usually very interested in seeing the lows people can reach but I think I was distracted by the book I was reading (which was really good) and I was also tired.

The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946

I was a little afraid of this movie because it's nearly three hours long and I get antsy even during short films. But my fears were unfounded as this is a fantastic 172 minute film. I did get a bit antsy but that was only because I was reading a good book and I wanted to get back to it. The movie focuses on three veterans returned to their home town and trying to readjust. Frederic March plays a wealthy banker (and IMO alcoholic) who is married to Myrna Loy (lucky him). Dana Andrews plays a former Air Force officer who was originally my favorite but then sucked; in some ways it seemed like he was trying to be as charming as Cary Grant but he failed majorly (he had maybe 5% of Grant's charm, which is still sizable). And then there is Harold Russell, a real-life veteran who lost both of his hands and had hooks in their place. He returns home to a loving fiancee and family and they all have to adjust to his new life.

My favorite scene only peripherally involves those men as it features a guy who makes the bold argument that America should have fought on the side of Japan and Germany. He is obviously a total idiot but it makes me wonder if there were really people who thought that.

King's Men: 3/5 stars
Best Years: 4/5 stars

Has anybody seen either of these? What did you think? Do you recommend the book of All the King's Men or the novella Glory for Me?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Secret of Chimneys (Movie)

The Secret of Chimneys
This aired on Masterpiece Mystery last week and I was excited because I love Agatha Christies and I'm very interested in seeing different adaptations of her work. I was especially excited because I had read this mystery. But then I saw that Miss Marple was in it and I was confused because she was definitely NOT in the book. I guess that was a way to tie it together with the other Christies they're airing and utilize the amazingness of Julia McKenzie.

I don't know if this was because Miss Marple was part of the story or what but they changed a lot including condensing several characters in to one and changing the murderer and motive. Luckily they retained Anthony Cade and his romance which was my favorite part of the book.

I think that I may be posting more about movies, providing they have a literary connection, in the future because I do watch a lot of movies and I have been slowing with my reading.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, 1942
201 pages
Mystery; Miss Marple

Source: Library

Summary: Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna have moved to a small, quiet, and peaceful town in England to ease his convalescence. What they get though is a small town rife with secrets. A mysterious writer is sending nasty anonymous letters to people which culminates in a local lady committing suicide. The next week, a maid is killed. Are they connected? Did that maid know something about the killer? Christie weaves another fine tale.

Thoughts: Despite this being a Miss Marple, she doesn't appear until more than half way through the book, meaning we hardly get to spend any time with her. She is called in as an expert on humans by the vicar's wife. She figures it out and sets up a trap to nab the murderer.

It was interesting to me how the narrator Jerry Burton drops explicit hints to the reader, saying that certain things turn out to be important and how he could have solved the mystery earlier had he paid more attention. I did take notice and I still didn't figure it out; I read Miss Marple's explanation and it still didn't help me very much. But I liked this and I enjoyed the little romance. I know Christie is a mystery writer and she frequently writes the most awful things about women as if they were facts that apply to all women but she writes cute romances. She couldn't sustain an entire book with them but as a garnishing to the mystery, they work well.

Overall: 4/5. Could have been higher if there had been more Miss Marple

Cover: My cover is the same cover but the picture is of a door rather than a town.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1940
220 pages
Mystery; Hercule Poirot

Source: Library

Summary: Arlena Stuart-Marshall is found strangled at a seaside resort. Who did it-her possibly cuckolded husband; smitten Patrick Redfern; the displeased Mrs. Redfern; or someone else? Luckily Hercule Poirot is on the case.

*No spoilers*

Thoughts: Poirot was not annoying in this book! I think it's because she'd been writing him for a while and then the involvement of the English police diluted his presence, which made me very grateful.

I did not figure out the murder and to be honest I think one of the clues the reader would be unable to use because it was based on physical description and there is a lack of it. I wonder if for my next AC I should make up a table and just input all of the information I receive. For example, physical description, likes/dislikes, alibi, possible motive, etc. Yet I still don't think I'd solve it. I did think the murder was committed in a very clever way and I would love to talk about it with you if you've read it/don't care about spoilers. I was afraid this was going to end, like another one of Christies, in a manner which irked me the first time I read it but it's doesn't! I realize that doesn't mean much to you because of course I'm writing around the plot point which references the murder but I was very happy!

I loved the Gardeners; Mrs. Gardener talks and talks and talks while Mr. Gardener nods his head and obeys. They were good comic characters to include in a murder mystery which is rather dark by nature.

Overall: 4/5. Another good entry in the Poriot category.

Cover: I love these covers-the bright colors are very attractive to me. I hope they publish all of the Christies like this!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Threads of Silk

Threads of Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
Zondervan, 2008
316 pages
Historical Fiction; Inspirational
3rd in Trilogy

Source: Library

Summary: Rachelle and Fabien continue their romance in the face of Catherine Medici's plots and amidst impending religious civil war. Their families are in danger and they are in deep danger due to their beliefs and positions relative to the throne. With their deep faith, they must try to make it through alive.

Thoughts: This book starts rather thrillingly with suspense as Rachelle and Fabien try to stay ahead of Catherine Medici and her plots.

I guess my biggest problem with the book is that the protagonists sucked while the villains didn't seem that bad. Rachelle is a drip to me and I kept imagining Fabien as speaking English in an exaggerated French accent rather than speaking French which has been translated for my benefit in to English. This makes him seem skeevy. Andelot just seems like a total loser. In contrast Catherine Medici is portrayed in a relentlessly bad light while I find her travails interesting. I mean, she's a foreign queen with a dead husband who was always more devoted to his mistress than to her and children who probably wouldn't look after her and are weak anyway. What would she do if she wasn't Queen Regent? Probably be stuck to wither away in the country or be sent back to Italy, which was no longer home. I'm very sympathetic to her and that weakens the book for me. In fact every time, the main characters talk about how awful she is, I like her more. Maurice is also positioned as a villain but I usually found him rather hapless and more of a stock character than a person with real motives and feelings so he was neutralized. Luckily the Guises are quite villainous; they're probably one of the few sets of characters where I agreed with the author's writing.

I really liked that they included the glossary of terms at the end instead of the beginning like in the other books because I find it easier to access that way. I also found the language even more flowery than in the previous books but it's probably at about the same level as them.

Note: At the end, it says there is a fourth book coming in 2008. As far as I can tell, that never happened which makes the ending of this book very unsatisfactory for those who like closure. Luckily I can share that Catherine Medici lived another 29 years (to 1589) meaning that she had plenty of time for scheming.

Overall: 3.5/5 Overall I'm glad I read this because I've been wanting to read the trilogy for a while but it wasn't fantastic; I'm not sure I would have read all of them if I hadn't checked them out of the library at the same time.

Cover: I love the blue-I think this was my favorite and was the book that first caught my eye.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Job: I have a summer job! I'm not going to talk about it because a. I've read stories about people being fired for talking about their jobs online and b. it has nothing to do with books so it really doesn't fit with my conception of my blog. Unfortunately it is a full time job and it has already cut in to my reading time significantly. I have to work on rearranging how I spend my time in order to maximize how much I read. I am still hoping to post everyday but I recognize that that might not be possible. Please bear with me.

Reading Plans: I have finished most of the library books I had checked out and my goal for the rest of the summer is to only check out Agatha Christies and history books because I have many books on my shelves that I really want to read but are shunted aside in favor of the books which must be returned. A taste of those books: Endless Summer, Shade, Inside Out, The Book Thief and more! So they're fantastic books that I've been dying to read and that I will now be focusing upon. I still have some more library books but then I'm shifting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jane's Fame

Jane's Fame by Claire Harman
Henry Holt and Company, 2009
229 pages
Non-fiction, Jane

Source: Library

Summary: An exploration of Jane Austen's awesomeness around the world and throughout the years.

Thoughts: I had seen this mentioned and I was so excited when my mom saw it and picked it up for me at the library. Austen is my favorite author, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book, I am a proud Janeite, and I tend to think that if you don't like her writing, that is a sign of a serious flaw within you.

The first two chapters look at Austen's writing process and her struggles to be published. In the end she spent far more of her life unpublished and when she was published, she didn't earn as much. The next chapter looks at how her books remained unsold and were remaindered by the publisher. While her effect was seen in other books, she was not necessarily recognized as the source for the new style.

It was interesting to read how her books and her life merged together to form impressions in the public's mind because I find that I conflate the books and the various movies in mine. For example, when I choose my favorite Austen hero, it is mostly due to the movies (For the record, it's Mr. Knightley because of Paul Rudd and Jeremy Northam-so charming! Then Mr. Tilney, Captain Wentworth, Darcy (I know, only fourth!), Edward, Colonel Brandon, and Edmond, because he's a loser).

I also am interested in how Austen's books changed from a large male audience particularly surrounding the Great War to a female audience who studied literature because that was "appropriate" for them and how Austen seems to be denigrated as girly nowadays (not always but sometimes). Additionally it gained in critical attention as well as added details to the scanty record of Austen's life we have. Most of those details were patently false but they made for an interesting story.

My favorite part was the conclusion which examined her timelessness and how it was a deliberate process. Unlike other authors who firmly situated their stories in their time, she deleted much of that in order to be able to get her novels published. She meticulously plotted and attempted to keep her work similar time line wise. So while P&P was originally started in about 1796 and Emma 1815, they all seem to take place maybe around 1802.

Overall: 4/5 An interesting read, recommended for all fans of Austen.

Questions: I am wondering who is your favorite Austen hero and why. I would also love to read about why you have chosen your favorite heroine providing it is not Lizzie as she is mine and I have reasons aplenty for choosing her (she's also my favorite character in literature.)

Cover: Kind of boring but I love the font for the title and I like the stack of books.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Recommendations #3

So I've been reading the Silk House series by Linda Lee Chaikin and I meant to post about the third book in the trilogy but I haven't finished it yet so I'm going to ask for recommendations for books set in the time period. It takes place in about 1559 and deals with King Francis II, Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen of France, and Catherine Medici.

I am interested in books with a sympathetic portrayal of Catherine Medici because I think this one is too harsh but I am more interested in any nonfiction books about the royalty and/or the religious struggles of this time period. I would also like to know about books concerning France in any pre-Revolution period if you thought they were great books and worth reading.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Written on Silk

Written on Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
Zondervan, 2007
347 pages
Historical Fiction; Inspirational
2nd in Trilogy

Source: Library

Summary: Rachelle experiences firsthand the terror against Huguenots and joins with the other members of her family to stop the persecution while seeking romance and standing strong through the grace of God.

Thoughts: I was so confused when I started this. It picks up in a different place and doesn't immediately address any of the questions I had when I finished the first book. It also has a shift in that it is more explicitly religious with many prayers to God in the first sixty pages than in the whole of the first book, in my opinion (I didn't actually count). Chaikin also spends a lot of time stressing the revelations when one actually reads scripture and pressing the corruptions of the Roman Church and how they had disfigured those texts. One problem I had was the emphasis on justification by faith although I think the issue is more faith in salvation solely through Jesus Christ rather than through paying indulgences to corrupt church officials. I consider myself Protestant but I believe faith without works is useless and I did not like that element.

The influence of Spain in persecuting Huguenots is more emphasized in this book and the importance of the colonies is brought out more too. It could have been emphasized more instead of the angst.

I was sad that there was less about the royalty; Catherine Medici is one of the few we follow and even then it is not very much. Because there is less about the royalty, there is more about the other characters such as Andelot and Sebastian who were less prominent in the first book. There also didn't seem to be very much Rachelle although she is ostensibly the main character because it jumps around a lot to follow all of the other characters.

Overall: 3.5/5. Not as good as the first but setting up some interesting threads for the third.

Cover: I love the pink of the fan but I think the style is really ugly even if it's historically accurate.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daughter of Silk

Daughter of Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
Zondervan, 2006
315 pages
Historical Fiction; Inspirational
1st in Trilogy

Source: Library

Summary: Rachelle is a "daughter of silk," part of a famous couturiere family, who has been assigned to dress Princess Marguerite. While ensnared in court life, she flirts with the dashing Marquis Fabien and struggles to maintain her Huguenot faith in the face of court corruption and Catholic fanatics.

Likes: I may be confused but I thought Rachelle was the main character and she hardly makes an appearance in the last pages. I'm not complaining because they were really gripping and were my favorite part.

The history is fascinating to me. The political struggles of Bourbon, Valois, and Guise, and Protestant vs Catholic are super interesting although not the most clearly delineated in this story. I'm not familiar with this time period so I don't know about the accuracy of everything although it's very interesting so that's good. It's also interesting because Chaikin seems to be Protestant and would thus support the Huguenots but has to walk a tightrope between the extremists of the sides.

Dislikes: I didn't understand the appeal of Fabien who is apparently one of the most sought after men at court; I prefer a man whose appeal isn't so blatant.

I'm not a fan of the portrayal of Catherine de Medici. I feel like it fits in to the history of demonizing powerful women who worked the patriarchal system. I would prefer a more sympathetic depiction.

I didn't like that this did not have the year in which it occurs prominently displayed. It must be about 1558/59. I also don't like the sprinkling of French words: either use all French or all English, please! For example, oncles is consistently used throughout the text instead uncles. This is not necessary and it doesn't add anything to my enjoyment or ease of reading.

And why do they all have to have the same names?! Louis this, Louis that; the relationships and roles of the minor characters were confusing.

Overall: 4/5. I'm excited for the rest of the trilogy, reviews of which are coming.

Cover: I like the cover; that is what first attracted me to the series.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wives and Daughters

I have seen Cranford, Cranford 2, and North and South based on Elizabeth Gaskell's works and I'm now glad to say that I've seen Wives and Daughters.

Starring: Justine Waddell as main character Molly; Bill Paterson as her father; Francesca Annis as her stepmother (as Lady Ludlow in Cranford); Keeley Hawes as her stepsister Cynthia (also Fancy Day in Under the Greenwood Tree, which I loved); Tom Hollander as a potential love interest (Mr. Collins and Lord Cutler Beckett); Anthony Howell as the hero; Michael Gambon as their father (DUMBLEDORE!); and Rosamund Pike as Lady Harriet (Jane in 2005 P&P) among other familiar faces.

Now that we've covered the fantastic cast. I'm not sure I can write a short summary but a big theme is obviously relationships between women as the stepmother has difficult ones with her stepdaughter and daughter and like Cranford, this is a world filled with women (I think that's part of Gaskell's appeal-she wrote many different kinds of women instead of say Dickens' boring female creations). Another theme is prejudices, especially anti-French and Catholic as expressed by Michael Gambon's character; it's very obvious and distasteful.

Another theme is love, naturally. Molly falls in love with Roger but he is dazzled by the beautiful Cynthia. Gaskell died before finishing this book but Andrew Davies constructed a lovely ending that I found satisfying.

One pet peeve I had with this specific version I watched was that it didn't have subtitles. This is especially important to me when a film's words are important and/or there are accents; this miniseries has both. It is four episodes long, each about seventy-five minutes.

I watched this with my mom and we're both planning to read the book as soon as we can get our hands on it. It's another fantastic Elizabeth Gaskell/BBC collaboration!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Just Jane

Just Jane by Nancy Moser
Bethany House Publishers, 2007
352 pages
Historical fiction; Inspirational

Source: Library

Summary: An imagining of Jane Austen's life following her from her early writings to her death.

Likes: I LOVED Cassandra and the relationships Jane had with other females in her life. Cassandra is an awesome sister and a friend to future generations as portrayed here because she encouraged Jane to write, write, write throughout their lives. Unfortunately Cassandra also burned what were probably some very enlightening letters written by Jane but book>letters so I can forgive her for that.

I like the connections between her life and her fiction (I always like seeing that when I read about an author).

Dislikes: Repetition of the phrase "Just Jane," it was cute at first but then it kept repeating and I felt like the author was hammering it into my head.

While inspirational and having some references to God, there are not as many as I would have liked, thus you could probably share this with a non-Christian friend who is interested in Austen. However, recommend at your own discretion because it's not written at all like Austen and in the Bath sections, Austen seems whiny and is very unsympathetic.

Lastly I was confused about the relationships-it seems like British people during the Regency all had the same names especially within families ("Remember, like, a few years ago, every other boy was named Jason, and the girls were all named Brittany?" -Hercules).

Overall: 3/5. I know this is the second in a series looking at the lives of famous women (the first being Mozart's Sister and the third being Washington's Lady) so if you liked Moser's style in those books, you'll probably like it this one. I was unimpressed and am unlikely to seek out more of her work.

Cover: I like the colors and it's a fine cover but it's not spectacular.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Originally Ten Little Indians
194 pages

Source: Library

Summary: Ten people are lured to an island and then killed according to a macabre nursery rhyme posted in each of their rooms.

Thoughts: One of the best-known of Christie's many mysteries, I have also found this to be one of my favorites although with some qualms namely the killer's sense of justice. One character certainly deserved to die based on a callous disregard for the lives killed through a car accident while others I was less convinced. But it is brilliantly written; as I've done with many Christies, I question if the reader could have actually solved this. Also SPOILER the killer does not die or receive any punishment for killing these people. I think it's a bit like Dexter in that: latent psychopath kills other killers which is troubling to my morality END SPOILER. One difficulty at the start was sorting out all of the characters as they are introduced one right after the other. But then they start dying and that makes it a bit easier to sort them out.

But it is a very quick read and enjoyable. I liked trying to puzzle out how they were committed and how they would be committed although I knew I wouldn't be able to figure out who did it. I flew through it even with my mom's persistent interruptions.

Overall: 5/5 Despite my perceived flaws, obviously a standout and definitely recommended!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quick Study

Quick Study by Maggie Barbieri
St. Martin's Minotaur, 2008
324 pages
Mystery; 3rd in Series

Source: Library

Summary: A young man has gone missing and his family asks Alison to look in to it knowing her connections to the police via boyfriend Bobby Crawford. Unfortunately he has been found dead and it's up to Alison and Crawford to solve the mystery behind his death.

Thoughts: I read this right after finishing the second book and I found it even choppier. I don't know why but it seemed to jump around a lot and left me rather unsatisfied.

The mystery as a whole was also unsatisfying. While I cared about the dead man, the denouement was complicated and while the motive was legitimate (hint: it's either sex or money), it rang false.

And also I don't want to be mean but Alison's constant mentions of her French-Canadian heritage really annoyed me. "I'm French and Pointe should be pronounced Pwant. I like hockey. I know about cheese. Blah blah blah." This is just something that rankled me although other people may have found it endearing.

Overall: 3/5. I feel like the fourth book is a lot better; definitely don't start with this book if you're interested in the series.

Cover: It's an okay cover; the outfit is rather similar to that of the second book, which I like.

Review of Extracurricular Activities and Final Exam and link to upcoming Third Degree.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri
St. Martin's Minotaur, 2007
294 pages
Mystery; 2nd in Series

Source: Library

Summary: Wow-Alison's life is complicated! Her best friend is getting married to her married-but estranged from his wife-kind of boyfriend's cop partner; she's under stress at work; her other best friend is trying to set her up with his brother; and her philandering ex-husband is found dead in her kitchen. Again she is dragged in to solving a mystery!

Thoughts: I read the fourth book in this series a while back so I was pleased to be able to pick this up (review of the third book tomorrow). I also have to say a. I am so jealous of how tall she is, even as I recognize potential pitfalls; and b. they drink a lot in this book-it seems like every chapter has her imbibing at least one drink and frequently more.

I don't remember this in the fourth book but this is told in alternating perspectives; first person for Alison and then third person following Crawford. It also explains how she gets Trixie who is a faithful dog in the fourth book but was not originally Alison's. It's pretty interesting to see certain plot points which will lead in to the fourth and then fifth book.

I was a little confused about the mystery itself (I actually somewhat figured out the culprit-I speculated it could be the person but I didn't definitively say it was). The mystery didn't seem to be as important as Alison trying to figure out her relationship with Crawford and since I know it works out, I didn't really care. Furthermore I didn't really care about the murdered people although I did want justice for them.

Overall: 3.5/5

Cover: I love her heels! And this outfit is basically described in the book so points to the artist for accuracy!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Dial Books, 2008
364 pages

Source: Library

Summary: Lucy discovers that she is another family member doomed to be cursed: she will become pregnant at seventeen, give birth, and descend into madness as her daughter grows up to repeat the cycle unless they can perform three seemingly impossible tasks. But Lucy has something earlier generations didn't have: a loving foster family, notes from her birth mother, and Zach. Inspired by the ballad "Scarborough Fair."

Thoughts: I've been wanting to read this for a while so I was very excited to pick it up at my library. I was not familiar with the ballad but I had seen some reviews around and they seemed largely positive. I'm glad I picked it up because I flew through it.

I really loved the characters; I felt for Lucy as she was struggling to make sense of everything. I loved her foster parents Soledad and Les who were so loving to her and supportive. I liked her (basically only) friend Sarah. And I liked Zach...

In fact I think Zach is a big part of my happiness with this book; he sounds super hot and is basically just a fantastic guy as evidenced by this quote: "...who had just told her she was competent to take care of herself, but who was still there to hold her up anyway" (116). He knows that she is strong and can take care of herself but he still wants to be there along the way to help her if she stumbles and to love her when she needs it and to watch her be awesome.

The tasks set to Lucy were quite difficult-I'm still not entirely sure how she completed the first one but it doesn't really matter because in the end "True love conquers all!" (Does anyone else sing this like they do in Sleeping Beauty?)

The villain, the man who had placed the curse on Lucy's family, is suitably creepy and I felt dread when he showed up because obviously nothing good was going to happen but I also felt drawn to him like the characters in the book do because he had that magnetism.

Warning: There is a brief rape scene, which is obviously horrifying.

Overall: 4.5/5. I'm not sure this deserves this high of a rating but it was so much better than some of the other stuff I've read this week that this is more of a immediate reaction; later on I may feel it is more deserving of a 4.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Real Real

The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
HarperTeen, 2009
309 pages
YA; Contemporary

Source: Library

Summary: Jesse receives the opportunity to be part of a reality show at her high school. While it won't feature her best friend, it will feature her crush Drew and push her in to the popular crowd. It will also dramatically change her life and have her questioning what's real and what's the real real.

Thoughts: I guess my big problem was with the main character Jesse. I liked her at the beginning but then she just went downhill. She sucked. I almost liked her at the end when she stood up for herself but she just sucked a lot.

The plot didn't fully connect either I thought. There were jumps and maybe I wasn't reading carefully but I didn't really care. This was almost a did not finish but I managed to propel myself through it.

Overall: 3.5/5. It's alright; not outstanding for its subgenre.

Cover: I like this cover more than another I've seen with just a mouth. It's very catching.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Challenge Completed!

I finished the Bronte Challenge hosted by Laura's Reviews. Here is my original post.

The challenge was to read/watch/listen to 3-6 works by or about the Brontes. I read and reviewed:

1. Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
3. Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan

I still want to read Anne Bronte's works and see more film adaptations but I am pleased with these three readings. Jude Morgan's book has been on my list for a while as he is an automatic read author for me and I really enjoyed its perspective, thus making it my favorite.

Charlotte and Emily

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan
Also known as "The Taste of Sorrow" in the UK
St. Martin's Press, 2009
373 pages
Historical fiction

Source: Library

Summary: A literary treatment of the lives of the Brontes with special focus on Charlotte as the longest lived.

Thoughts: This is the Bronte book I most wanted to read when I signed up for the Bronte challenge so I'm glad it finally came to the states and that my library owns it. I am not a fan of the title (there are THREE author sisters! and there was a lot of sorrow in their lives making the original title appropriate) but the title doesn't really matter.

Focusing on the plot I was so angry about treatment of Branwell versus the girls by their father; of course the boy is supposed to succeed while the girls are practically useless!! It just made me really angry how Branwell was petted and beloved while the girls were disposable. It was also devastating how Mr. Bronte outlived his wife, his sister-in-law, and all of his children.

I was most interested in the chapters which overlapped the period of Sheila Kohler's Becoming Jane Eyre (which I reviewed here) and it used the same technique of shifting perspectives in order to better understand their point of view.

Overall: 4/5. Fantastic from Morgan as always but not my favorite subject matter.

Cover: I like the covers and the font of the title.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Recommendations #2

Yesterday I posted a review of A Curse Dark as Gold, a retelling of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. I mentioned that I generally love those kinds of stories and while I have read a lot, I have not read them all. So I am asking you, knowledgeable book public, for your favorite fairy tale retellings. My favorite is those which reinterpret Cinderella but I am open to all. Also is anyone familiar with the Grimm story of "The Three Spinners"? I've always liked that story but it doesn't seem to be very well known.

Some of the ones I've read are:
-Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series including my favorite Cinderella retelling Phoenix and Ashes
-Robin McKinley's Spindle's End and Deerskin
-Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted
-Margaret Peterson Haddix's Just Ella
-Robin Palmer's Cindy Ella
-Jessica Day George's Princess at the Midnight Ball
-Once Upon a Time series spearheaded by Cameron Dokey
-Vivian Vande Velde's The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

What are your favorite stories involving fairy tales? Please leave recommendations in the comments!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Curse Dark as Gold

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008
395 pages
YA; Fairy Tale Adaptations

Source: Library

Summary: A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Charlotte Miller, along with her younger sister, is the last of the Millers and she is desperate to protect the mill which is the lifeblood of their small town. She figures out one way out of debt by taking gold thread from the mysterious Jack Spinner. She falls in love and marries but later makes an awful bargain with Jack Spinner, her son or her mill? Does Charlotte have the courage to save all she loves?

Thoughts: I love retellings of fairy tales so I thought I would check this out. I especially enjoyed the author's note at the end mentioning how Rumpelstiltskin's name has become so well-known and powerful while the heroine is anonymous. That was the starting point for this version. Admittedly Rumpelstiltskin is not my favorite fairy tale but I mostly enjoyed this version.

Charlotte is a very determined main character; in some ways she reminded me of Jena in Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. They both are bent on saving their homes and are working in their father's male-dominated business despite being female. I definitely admire her. I also really liked the supporting characters especially Charlotte's husband and Jack Spinner (the Rumpelstiltskin character) who receives a back story.

I also found the story somewhat scary. Now I may be a wimp or it may be genuinely terrifying that the mill seems to have a mind of its own. Additionally there is all sorts of magic flying around. But this terror I felt made the book even more gripping despite its length (Am I correct in stating that 400 pages is rather long for a YA novel?)

My biggest problem was Charlotte and her inability to trust her husband. She kept secrets from him, lied to him, and seemed to be trying to drive him away. *NOT SURE IF THIS IS A SPOILER BUT BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY* And when she does tell him about the curse and how she needs to fix it, he is totally supportive making her seem completely crazy for not confiding in him earlier. What is wrong with her?! *END SPOILER* .

Overall: 4/5. Good; I would definitely recommend it to people who like fairy tale retellings and I want to read more of Bunce.

Cover: I'm not sure about the girl's outfit but I love the font and I like her hands tangled up in gold thread.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Glee Finale

Finale Thoughts! Spoilers, naturally; best read as if you were watching the show although it is not as detailed as it could be.
  • I liked seeing Puck and Quinn's hookup although I still like Puckleberry and Finn/Quinn.
  • I'm really not sure about having the kids over to his apartment; a little inappropriate even though it's the whole group.
  • Looking forward to seeing Uncle Jesse as Carl the dentist!
  • I love Journey especially "Anyway You Want It" and I love how that links back to the pilot.
  • FOUR judges?! It should be an odd number, three or five.
  • I still don't like Fichel so not a fan of his "I love you"
  • I did not like that they did the same entrance for "Faithfully" as they did for "Don't Rain..." Entering from the audience=LAME!
  • RED PIANO!!!!!!!! Awesome!
  • Sixties dress covers Quinn's pregnancy well
  • Kurt during Any Way Mash-up-so adorable. Well basically so adorable all the time (Have I mentioned that Kurt is my favorite character? Love Chris Colfer!)
  • Quinn's mom came?! I love that although took her long enough!
  • Not a fan of Vocal Adrenaline's female's outfits although they get a white piano and a spotlight on Jonathan Groff so that's good! (I love you, Jonathan Groff!)
  • I love the judges' meeting (just like at Sectionals); ONJ is mean (and funny!)
  • I'm resigned that New Directions didn't win because as a West Coaster I had already seen that online.
  • A little creepy with Shelby showing up at the hospital but good luck to her.
  • I like fiery Emma although how is Will in love with Emma? They haven't even talked in the last few episodes!
  • Everyone in Glee Club gets to talk, even Matt and Mike!
  • If Will is Finn's example of a man, he is screwed. Remember how Will threatened and physically intimidated his wife? (I do!) But Will is pretty good to the kids so if Finn is more committed to that...personally I think he should try to be more Burt.
  • Sue voted for ND!!!!!! I guess she is not immune to the power of Journey.
  • How can Sue keep blackmailing Figgins?! It's overused.
  • Will has a ukelele and the ability to play it?! Um, okay.
Wants for 2nd season (with recognition that I disagree with much of fandom on some of these)
  • Sue needs a new conflict; trying to destroy Glee club is stale although Jane Lynch's performance is fab of course.
  • More Kurt cos that's never a bad thing
  • More Quinn and hopefully more friendship between Quinn and Mercedes and Quinn and Kurt; I would also like her to go back to Cheerios and dominate the school again but in a nice way!
  • Rachel's dads?
  • Hopefully cute guys playing Kurt's boyfriend and the Christian character (can't remember if he is actually supposed to be male or female?)
  • More Terri-I actually like her
  • Less Will-he annoys me
  • More cohesive narrative across the whole season-the back nine was somewhat of a mess. For example, are Finn and his mom still living with Kurt and Burt?

1. Faithfully-Finn and Rachel
2. Any Way You Want It/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'-New Directions
3. Don't Stop Believin'-Rachel, Finn, Puck, Santana, and New Directions
4. Bohemian Rhapsody-Vocal Adrenaline
5. To Sir With Love-New Directions
6. Over the Rainbow-Will and Puck

I think I'll go in to Glee withdrawal this summer! Luckily I have all the songs and I'll get the DVD soon enough. I'm very interested to see what they have planned for next season. What do you think?

Also liked Pretty Little Liars although I still kind of get the girls confused (I only know Aria). I also thought the guys were REALLY hot; can't pick a fave but Ian, Wren (or Ren as my captions said?) and the police detective (Wilden?) were most pleasing. I'm thinking about posting on this show over the summer but I'm not sure. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Darklight by Lesley Livingston
HarperTeen, 2010
310 pages
YA; Fantasy; Faerie

Source: Library


Summary: Kelley is living in NY and continuing to act while her love Sonny tracks down the remainder of the Wild Hunt in the Otherworld. New secrets emerge and new magic is uncovered.

Thoughts: I'm so pleased that I wrote a mini-review of Wondrous Strange because while I knew that I read it, I didn't remember much about it. This blog helped me get psyched up about this although I still don't really remember much about Wondrous Strange. Some parts of it came rushing back though as I read because Livingston did a good job of linking back to the first.

Again I really liked the supporting characters especially Puck, Tyff, Mabh, and Titania. The only problem is that sometimes they were more interesting than Kelley and there wasn't enough of a focus on them. While I apparently thought Sonny was kind of hot in Wondrous Strange, I did not get that feeling in this. I preferred Fenn even if he is pretty vicious.

I am frustrated by the lack of answers although I realize this is the middle of a trilogy and I hope they are answered in the final. I especially want to know about Auberon's illness and how Kelley and Sonny will be reunited. There was also a lot of jumping around in plot

Overall: 4/5, not as good as the first but looking forward to the third, which will hopefully answer my questions!

Cover: I like Wondrous Strange's cover better but this is still very striking and it fits.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Big Burn

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
283 pages
History; TR

Source: The library

Summary: A fire approximately the size of Connecticut broke out in Washington, Idaho, and Montana in 1910. As the rangers on the scene struggled to end this conflagration, Egan narrates how President Roosevelt had fought to create protected national lands in the face of robber barons.

Thoughts: I don't know if I've ever shared this but the 1858 of my name comes from Theodore Roosevelt's birth yeah I'm a little obsessed and I love to read about him although I am not as wide read as I'd like. I had no interest in this until I saw that it included him no matter how peripherally. I have also read Egan's previous book The Worst Hard Times about the Dust Bowl and largely liked it.

TR is not a big part of this book *sadface* but his domestic policy helped frame the conversation about conservation as being natural resources for the good and future of all Americans (because we're a democracy) instead of being there for a very few to make a profit with. And his presence permeates the book along with his alliance with noted conservationist Gifford Pinchot.

This book also inspired anger toward the anti-conservationists. What jerks they were! Although poor Taft. He just wanted to eat, sleep, and be a judge; being president was not his ambition but he of course he suffered int he shadow of the dynamic and AWESOME Roosevelt. It's also interesting to see how FDR continued many of his cousin's policies despite them being in different parties (remember there's been a big shift in the parties largely due to FDR's policies).

I feel like the subtitle might be a little hyperbolic; it says "the fire that saved America." It did lead to more funding for the Forest Service and turned public opinion more in line with TR but did it SAVE America? I don't think so.

It's also a pretty easy read with relatively short chapters, which is my preference, and I would recommend it to people with an interest in American history and even to those who aren't big fans of non-fiction.

Overall: 4/5. Enjoyable and recommended!

Cover: Kind of boring except that the jagged circle is actually a cut out-I bet it would be cool to own but it doesn't really work as a library book.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

There Are No Words

There Are No Words by Mary Calhoun Brown
Lucky Press, LLC, 2010
113 pages

Source: Won from Maggie at Bibliophilia. Thank you!

Summary: Jaxon is a mute, literate, autistic girl who lives with her grandparents. One night she travels back in time and meets Sarah, Dewey, and Oliver Pack, her grandfather's best friend who died in a 1918 train accident. She ends up realizing that she traveled back in time in order to save Oliver-can she do it?

Thoughts: I really liked the concept and I found it very charming that Jaxon got to go back in time and affect it. It was pretty predictable but I found it engaging and I read it fairly quickly. I also appreciated the inclusion of additional resources for parents and educators although I'm not either.

I was a little confused about the time period. Her grandparents were 12 during WWI yet by the end Jaxon is using a computer. I'm not sure they'd have access to a computer in sixties or seventies when I assume this book starts. I also caught several typos which always disappoints me.

Overall: 4/5. Different from what I am used to seeing and enjoyable.

Cover: It reminds me of "This Property Is Condemned" which is not a good movie unless you are a huge Natalie Wood or Robert Redford fan but I still mostly liked it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Wish by Alexandra Bullen
Point, 2010
323 pages
YA; Contemporary; Fantastical elements

Source: The library

Summary: Olivia has just moved to San Francisco with her parents but without her twin sister Violet who died the previous summer. She receives a magical dress and wishes for her sister to return. While Violet is visible only to Olivia, her effect is visible throughout Olivia's life.

Thoughts: I think I'm decidedly on the fence for this book; I read it fairly quickly and I felt like I was enjoying it but I just finished it and I have basically nothing to say. Olivia is not an exciting character as she depended on her sister Violet for vibrancy. Her crush, Soren, has a stupid name and wasn't interesting. The concept was okay but I prefer either full realism or full fantasy instead of this mix.

I like the names Olivia and Violet for twins-I like that it has the same "o-l-i" in different orders.

Overall: 3.5/5.

Cover: I love the cover and I think the stars are beautiful and relevant to the story.

Pedantic Thought: The back cover asks "If you could have everything, what would you wish for?" I thought that sentences were not supposed to end with prepositions at. (That's a 30 Rock reference); I just feel like a book should follow those rules of grammar.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Greenwillow Books, 2010
365 pages
YA, Contemporary

Source: The library

Summary: Laurel is desperately missing her mother, who recently died. She is now attending Avondale, her mother's former school in the hopes of remaining close to her. While there her interest in flowers increases as she learns about the language of flowers and seems to develop surprising powers.

Thoughts: I had earlier seen reviews of this around so I picked it up at the library. My favorite aspect of the book was the information about the language of flowers. I knew a little bit about it such as different color roses meaning different things but not very much. The book includes a list of many flowers and their meanings.

Unfortunately I did have a lot of problems with this book. Sometimes Laurel acted so dumb, which really irked me. I had to remind myself that Laurel was only fourteen, which I kept forgetting as I am used to MC's who are old enough to drive. The relationship Laurel develops with her crush was cute although I didn't find him particularly interesting. I wonder if the book is aimed at a younger audience because it explained several things that I already knew such as the plot of A Midsummer's Night Dream and the myth of Persephone but maybe younger readers wouldn't. The book is divided in to five parts and the first three are quite slow. I did however really enjoy the last part and the epilogue. Lastly Laurel has sort of magic powers relating to flowers but nobody seems willing to tell her about them although there are two people who are fully capable of doing so-I have no idea why they were so reticent although it obviously would have changed the story.

Overall: 3/5. I originally rated the book higher but as I wrote this review, it fell. I really liked the ending but it took just too long to get there.

Cover: I really like the pinks used and I love the font of the title.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Glee 1x21: Funk
  • WOW-I did not like this episode; it was messy with the plot and the songs were not my taste (I prefer traditional Broadway)
  • Quinn moving in with Mercedes should mean that she'll get some bacon soon! (I love bacon and I always want people's bacon needs fulfilled)
  • Really?! Sue would think she liked Will?!
  • I do not like "funk" music. I do like Journey so high hopes for the finale and really high hopes for some more Broadway music in the new season
1. Another One Bites the Dust-Vocal Adrenaline-Loved that we started the show with a song.
2. Tell Me Something Good-Will
3. Loser-Puck, Finn, Terri, and Howard-has grown on me but I'm not in love
4. It's a Man's Man's Man's World-Quinn-really creepy
5. Good Vibrations-Puck, Finn, and Mercedes; the fact that this is not the Beach Boys song is an automatic fail from me
6. Give Up the Funk-New Directions

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Albatross by Josie Bloss
Flux, 2010
229 pages
YA; Contemporary; Relationship Abuse

Source: The library

Summary: Tess has just moved to a new town with her mother, leaving behind her abusive dad. She feels lost and alone at school until she meets Micah, the brilliant and gorgeous guy who soon comes to consumer her thoughts.

*Spoilers ahead*

Thoughts: I had seen several positive reviews of this throughout the blogosphere so when I noticed it at my library, I snatched it up and read it fairly quickly. It is not my usual type of book as it deals with relationship abuse; Tess's dad and Micah emotionally manipulate Tess and physical abuse seemed a definite possibility (actually Micah does bite Tess on the arm). This was actually a pretty hard book for me to read; I felt literally pained reading about her interactions with both of those males and I kept waiting for her to break free (she does!)

When I first saw the relationship of Micah and Daisy, explained by him, I saw them as sort of a Heathcliff and Cathy, definitely one of the most messed-up relationships in literature. But Micah was abusing her similarly to how he treated Tess and she was also able to break free of him. Yay!

My biggest problems were the quickness at which Tess became obsessed with Micah and the relative lack of information about all of the other people in her life. I thought her feelings about Micah could have been elaborated on more before she became so involved with him. I found him rather pretentious and, having read the summary, I could tell he was bad news. I guess I understand that the reader can't know too much about the friends as Tess pulls back away from them whenever they try to warn her about Micah but at the end, they still are ill-defined to me. The book also avoids putting her in a new relationship despite the presence of a new and very nice boy as Tess is mature enough to realize that she is not quite ready for another romantic entanglement and does have issues to work on before being able to be with someone.

*End spoilers*

Note: Albatross comes from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Coleridge, not the Monty Python sketch like my dad suggested when he saw me reading this.

Overall: 4/5. It was well-written but it is not really my type of book. I would still recommend it and I'm trying to get my sister, who usually prefers more serious books than me, to read it.

Cover: I'm not really a fan of real-life people on covers (I prefer cartoons) but I think the colors are good.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May Stats

I didn't have the best reading month until the end when I saw that I hadn't read very many books and pushed myself to read more. Overall the books I chose were somewhat meh. I enjoyed most of them and I really liked a few but there is nothing that stands out for me and that I plan to reread because it meant so much to me. This was also the month I reached 100 books which means I'm well on track for 200 books this year.

Books Read This Month: 19
Favorite Book: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Worst Book: Nothing really stands out; maybe Fingersmith since it's a DNF
DNF: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Longest Book: The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton
Shortest Book: There Are No Words by Mary Calhoun Brown
Most Read Genre: YA, 8

Total Pages Read: 36,844
Total Books Read: 115

Challenges Update: I didn't do anything for my challenges although I'm planning to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë to finish that challenge and Thud by Terry Pratchett to further that challenge.

Plans for June: Continue work on my challenges; Read some of the books I've won; Continue reading my Netgalley books; Read the lovely stack of YA books I've been lucky enough to check out of my library; I'm not the biggest soccer fan but I think I may end up posting (or at least tweeting) a bit about the World Cup-I'm rooting for the US (natch) and then Germany-if they get knocked out early, I'm not sure who I'll support; I got a job (yay!) but I think it will interfere with my reading time (sad)

Reviewing: I also have decided that I will take the opportunity of the first of the month to update my reviews on goodreads and amazon as well as catalog my reviews on my review page.
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