Friday, December 31, 2010

For Keeps

For Keeps by Natasha Friend
Viking, 2010
267 pages
YA; Contemporary
3.5/5 stars

Source: Won

Summary: Josie didn't need a father because she had her mother Kate, who dropped out of high school when she became pregnant while Paul, the father, and his family moved to Arizona.  But now his parents are back and he may soon follow, reducing Kate to a bundle of nerves.  But new relationships in both of their lives as well as in that of Josie's best friend Liv may cause them to question their entire lives.

Thoughts: I saw this featured on some blogs as somewhat like Gilmore Girls due to the close mother-daughter relationship.  The story starts with showing us that but their relationship quickly unravels as Kate starts dating a new guy and Josie becomes more interested in finding out information about her paternal family.  Their relationship crumbles so fast that I found it very unbelievable; maybe their relationship wasn't as strong as I thought.

Then the guys they start dating kind of suck: Kate's boyfriend is too clingy, Liv's is too old and emotionally unsupportive of her, and Josie's is represented as okay but I didn't think he was redeemed after his jerk behavior in the middle. But not all of the males are awful.  Liv has two dads who love each other and her very much.  And Josie's grandfather is another warm and loving male. 

The revelations about Kate and Paul were heartbreaking and Josie's reactions angered me but were also somewhat realistic because how else does one respond to news that shakes up her entire worldview.  The novel ends on an optimistic note although as mentioned Josie forgave her boyfriend who I thought should have been kicked to the curb.

Overall: Okay contemporary novel; appreciated for its emphasis on family.

Cover: I would have preferred mother and daughter to daughter and boy plus why is it so blurry?

Cinderella V


Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

 A Cinderella Story
starring Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray
I loved this movie when it first came out and I do still have a soft spot for it just because it is a modern Cinderella story. It's completely ridiculous and not well-acted or anything but it doesn't matter to me.  I also love the soundtrack with Hilary singing "Now You Know."  It's got all the classic elements: dead father, evil stepmother and stepsisters, charming male. Again, not my favorite adaptation but it's Cinderella!

There is also a companion film of sorts called Another Cinderella Story which is creepy because it stars the then 16-year old Selena Gomez and the 26-year old Drew Seeley.  I actually like both of them but the age difference is so gross. There is singing and dancing-I especially like the song"Tell Me Something I Don't Know" sung by Gomez.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway
Razorbill, 2010
281 pages
YA
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: April, May, and June are struggling to fit in at their new school after their parents' divorce.  This is not helped by the realization that they have superpowers.  April can see the future, May can literally disappear, and June can read minds.

Thoughts: I saw this on some Waiting on Wednesday posts but I don't really remember reading any reviews of it which is a shame because I thought it was great.  In fact I'm trying to get my sister to read it because I loved it so much even though we usually prefer very different kinds of books.  We loved Charmed which also has three sisters with powers, although their powers are much cooler (telekinesis and stopping time in addition to foreseeing the future) and their story was much darker.

The story is told through alternating chapters and each sister has a very unique voice so it wasn't confusing or anything.  I personally think June has the best power but I identified most with April, the eldest, somewhat bossy and protective, bookworm academic sister.  May is the stereotypical middle sister who feels overshadowed by her sisters and ignored by her parents; she has the most trouble dealing with the divorce.  June desires to be popular and that puts the story in motion as they try to grapple with their superpowers.

I also liked the romantic interests.  June and May both meet vastly different cute guys who are pretty much perfect for them leading to witty repartee and them moving out of their comfort zones.

I was disappointed with the book flap which teased a disaster that I didn't think was disastrous although it did have elements of suspense.

Overall: Outstanding fantastical story with appealing characters.

Cover: April's visions include flashes of red so I thought the blue and yellow would be explained but they weren't.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Northern Light

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Harcourt, Inc, 2003
380 pages
YA; Historical
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Mattie Gokey wants to be a writer but is refused as her father needs her at home to help raise her younger sisters and to help plant the fields.  When she ends up working at a hotel to earn extra money, she meets Grace Brown who is discovered drowned, the real-life murder that inspired An American Tragedy.

Thoughts: I decided to read this after loving Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, another YA historical novel.  I was intrigued by the fact that it's set against a real-life murder which ended up inspiring A Place in the Sun. I wanted more about the murder and less about Mattie's depressing life.

Indeed this is a very sad book.  Mattie's mother died and she's now struggling to help support her family's farm as the eldest of four daughters.  Mattie wants to be a writer but that seems impossible due to their straitened circumstances.  There are people who support her but they are powerless in the face of her father.  Her hopes are raised several times only to be dashed. 

Besides this indecision, Mattie is tied to her promises.  She promised her mother to help raise her sisters and she promised Grace Brown to burn her letters.  She makes her final decision at the end, after months (and pages) of agonizing.

Overall: Beautifully written but tremendously sad.

Cover: Fits the bleakness of the landscape.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Leviathan

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, 2009
434 pages
4/5 stars
First in series

Source: Library

Summary: Steampunk alternative history of WWI

Thoughts: I've read a lot of good things about this book so I was super excited to get started.  It's told from the view points of two characters: British girl Deryn Sharp who is pretending to be Dylan in order to enlist in the army and Alek, (fictional) son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand who is assassinated almost at the beginning thus sparking WWI.  Alek is fleeing Austria-Hungary to neutral Switzerland to avoid enemies who want him dead.  The story is told so that every two chapters it alternates points of view between the two.  Additionally there are incredibly beautiful pictures, in black and white, that illustrate selected scenes.

There are two twists on the book.  One is a delight for nerdy history majors (ahem-me); Franz Ferdinand's marriage to Sophie was morganatic meaning that although it produced a daughter and two sons, neither named Alek as he is an entirely fictional creation, none of them could inherit creating a succession crisis in Austria-Hungary.  In the book, the pope issues a special decree that would allow Alek to inherit making him very dangerous to those who wanted war.

The other twist is the steampunk aspect.  I have never read a steampunk novel although I have some others on my list so I cannot compare.  In this case Charles Darwin discovered DNA and has used that knowledge to create enormous creations manipulating the biology of animals including the creation of the titular ship Leviathan which is heading toward the Ottoman Empire with a secret from the British Empire.  The Germans and Austrians pushed forward the bounds of technology creating giant machines.  I liked this because it reminded me of Modris Ekstein's Rites of Spring that I read earlier which argued for WWI as a clash between German Kultur and British and French civilization.  Interestingly there really aren't any mentions of the French in this book.

Now to the characters; Deryn and Alek are both about 15 but they seemed younger to me. I much preferred Alek's sections to Deryn's although most of the reviews I've seen disagreed.  Their stories intersect when the Leviathan crashes down near Alek's hideout in Switzerland.  They assist and help get the Leviathan back on track.  My least favorite section occurs shortly after the crash of the ship where I thought Deryn acted out of character and out of step morally-if you've read it, let me know if you agree!

Overall: Enchanting world that made me want more; I will definitely be reading Behemoth at some point.

Cover: I preferred the map inside the front cover of Europe as well as the illustrations inside to this cover but I really don't like the new cover with the face on front.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Body Finder

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
HarperTeen, 2010
327 pages
YA; Paranormal
3.5/5 stars
First in series/trilogy?

Source: Library

Summary: It all started when Violet was eight and she discovered a dead body using her special power-she can sense the echoes of murdered bodies and the imprint on the killer.  Now that she's in high school, a murderer is terrifying her hometown and she may be the only one who can solve the case. Her best friend Jay has no intention of letting her go alone and losing her, raising a new wriggle in their long time friendship.

Thoughts: I was amused to note that almost all of my goodreads friends have either read this or want to read it; I didn't realize how popular it was around the blogosphere but it must have been when it first came out.

I want to divide my review in to two segments: the paranormal and the romantic. The former I liked, the latter I had some problems with.  There are other things I liked and didn't like but I want to just focus on the clash of genres.

The paranormal (and mystery too) aspects of this book were fantastic.  I really enjoyed the idea that Violet could somehow sense when a murdered body was in the vicinity as well as sense the imprint of that murder on the murderer's body. I was also proud of her for using her power even when it was hard for her or when her family/friends worried about her.  Of course she did some stupid things, such as go running with headphones on (not recommended even if a serial killer is not menacing your general area; perfectly fine if you're on a treadmill!) and she continually ignored her parents' desire to keep her safe.  She feels suffocated so she wants to be alone but being a young female alone is exactly the kind of girl the serial killer wants.  Maybe they were overprotective but she's their only child and I found it perfectly understandable.

I also really enjoyed the chapters told from the serial killer's perspective-they were terrifying but it was different.  Additionally, I don't remember ever reading his (not a spoiler-serial killers almost always seem to be male) name.  He's so average and able to blend in that a name is not required.

Then there was the romantic.  Violet all of a sudden has feelings for her best friend Jay; puberty has been very good for him and Violet is not the only girl to notice this.  I loved the scenes of Violet being jealous of the other girls throwing themselves at Jay-hilarious!

But then they got together and it moved in to romance novel territory.  Now I like romances (I've reviewed them on my site) but I thought it was a bit too steamy for YA although still technically clean and it was boring.  Basically all they did was make out once it happened.  I did like the way their romance started though-a real hero moment for Jay.

Overall: I would have preferred less of the romance and more focus on the paranormal which would probably mean a slightly shorter book.

Cover: I think it's a lovely cover-gorgeous blue against the black backdrop.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Candlewick Press, 2009
335 pages
YA; Historical; Mystery
4/5 stars
First in Agency Trilogy

Source: Library

Summary: Mary Quinn was rescued from the noose five years earlier and educated. Now she is about to embark on an unusual career for a lady, that of spy.  She is entering a smuggler's household as his daughter's paid companion in order to gain proof of his misdeeds.  That household is rife with secrets and it turns out so is Mary.

Thoughts: I had read many rave reviews of this so I was pleased to see it at my library and I grabbed it, hoping for a strong historical mystery.  I would not classify either of those aspects as very strong but I did discover some great banter.  Mary and James were so good together and I loved seeing how she could fire back a witty riposte.

The historical aspect was not as strong as I would have liked and I felt the dialogue in particular was not reflective of the time period, being far too modern.  Now that's not to say that I would want this novel written in the style of Dickens (one Dickens is plenty!) but I was disappointed in that.

I was also disappointed in the mystery because there were so many subplots that it ended up feeling supremely overstuffed and I was sometimes distracted from the many focus of the novel. I did not solve the mystery, of course, but I didn't really care because I didn't feel invested in it and because I just liked reading about Mary and James.

One of those subplots is Mary's family history.  Her mother was Irish and her father was Chinese, creating an unusual look in her.  She is able to pass as a white woman with Irish heritage which is good for her or she'd be in for a world of discrimination.  I believe her Chinese ancestry is something that will be explored more in later books.

Overall: Smart bantering and a bit of romance elevate this historical mystery.

Cover: It seems to fit in with Victorian but I don't think it's spectacular.  I love the fonts on the cover though-every single one!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love, Actually

While not the most Christmas of films, I still like to watch this during the holiday season.  My top 3 stories:

1. Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon-I am a complete sucker for Hugh Grant and they're so cute.
2. Keira Knightley love triangle-Keira was the reason I watched this in the first place so her storyline is still pretty high on my list although it makes me sad :(
3. Bill Nighy's quest to have the number one song-I know, I'm surprised this made the top three as well but rewatching it recently I enjoyed this story a lot.

I love Alan Rickman's voice but at the moment I look more to the happy storylines.  I also love seeing Martin Freeman, soon to be Bilbo Baggins, as a character finding love.

Have you seen Love, Actually?  What are your favorite storylines?

Merry Christmas!






Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!  I expect most people won't be around but I'm going to try to pop through some blogs anyway.  I'll be back with a review tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cinderella IV


Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

 Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

A MG version of the Cinderella story that I own but haven't read in a while.  This examines what happens after the end of the fairy tale, between the slipper fitting and the wedding.

There are three important things I remember from this variation:
1. The prince is not charming; instead he is a stupid lout.
2. Ella really hates palace life and the insipidity of it all
3. Ella falls in love with her tutor and runs off for her HEA to be with him and to help others.  Ella has so much spirit and it is very easy to root for her.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mistwood

Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Greenwillow Books, 2010
304 pages
YA; Fantasy
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Prince Rokan rides in to Mistwood to claim the Shifter, an amazingly powerful creature, to bolster his claim to the throne.  But Isabel remembers nothing; she responds to his claim and follows him back to the palace where their enemies await and where she must unravel the past in order to have a future.

Thoughts: I actually decided to read this after seeing the gorgeous cover for the companion novel; I know that's a really weird reason but I do judge books by their covers.

I don't know what to think about the book.  It was hard to get close to Isabel because she's not human and she doesn't react in human ways. I was frustrated by the distance at which she kept me but by the end I didn't really care.  Her motivations confused me and her actions in the last chapters were bewildering.  Maybe she lives, maybe she dies, whatever.

The other characters were okay.  The character I was most invested in was killed partway through the book and hardly mourned in my opinion.  But Rokan survives and so does his sister Clarisse to reveal more secrets by the end of the novel.

The magic was different from other fantasies I've read in the difficulty it takes.  While there are several magicians throughout the story, they really have to work at their power.  It costs them a great deal of time and strength. 

I think I might have preferred to read the history of Rokan's father and his usurpation of the throne.  Because he deposed the former king, Rokan wants every guarantee that he is the next king thus prompting his search for the Shifter who serves only the rightful king.  He was a hard sounding character and his ruthlessness might have made a really interesting story.

Overall: I didn't feel connected to the characters and thus I was not invested in this book.

Cover: I was actually a bit freaked out by the cover-it looked more like a horror film with her creepy eye (maybe less creepy with both?)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Princess of Glass

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2010
257 pages
YA; Fairy Tale
4/5 stars

Companion to Princess of the Midnight Ball, (based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses) which I read pre-blog.

Source: Library

Thoughts: I love retold fairy tales, especially Cinderella stories plus I enjoyed the first book so I knew I'd be reading this at some point.  The big twist on this story is that we see the Cinderella story from the outside.  Poppy is a visiting princess and the Cinderella is Ellen, a servant who used to be noble but has been reduced in circumstances.  Her godmother has promised her marriage to a prince.

Now that prince is Prince Christian who was interested in Poppy until the enchantment around Ellen, or rather Lady Ella, draws him in and distracts his attention.  Additionally she draws the ire of most of the women because she entices most of the men.  It's up to Poppy to save them due to her experience with magical enchantments.

Final conflict=lame.  The villain brings almost everyone together in a conflict that is so short; it felt really anticlimactic.  I wanted a bigger battle with higher stakes and I didn't get it.

I also wish that I remembered more of the previous book because I remember it having a strong emphasis on the sister relationship which is referenced in Poppy missing her sisters but obviously can't be represented as well here.

Overall: I was wavering between 3.5 and 4 but then I thought about how much I loved Poppy, an independent funny character and thus I gave it a boost.

Cover: Gorgeous dress and it connects to the first book without being a copy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fall For Anything

Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Press, 2010
230 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Received for review

Summary: "When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Cullen seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?" from goodreads

Thoughts: Courtney Summers writes some of the most wrenching stories.  I read Some Girls Are earlier this year and was twisted by the mean girl plot and the general cruelty.  This is difficult in a different way as Eddie and her mom struggle following her father's suicide.  Neither wants to get dressed, wants to interact with people, wants to live the house.  Eddie is also pissed at her mother's busybody best friend who comes to live with them, to get them through this time.  I can't imagine what it's like to lose a parent, let alone through suicide. 

I was disappointed with Culler-he was too much of a cipher and I wanted him to be completely psycho and to threaten her life or something.  Instead he does prey on her vulnerability but in a quieter way (I hope that makes sense).  I also wanted an answer to why but sorry, there are no cut and dry answers.

One character I was really interested in was Milo, Eddie's best friend who is maybe in love with her?  I didn't feel that I got to know him well enough and their relationship was confusing. Sometimes she was jealous over his relationship with a girlfriend but she wasn't interested in him herself; she just didn't want to share him or let him have any relationships outside of theirs.

Overall: Dark, deceptively simple prose make for a haunting story.

Cover: I didn't understand the photographs at first but then I read that her father was a photographer and she still retains some of his pictures so it makes sense.

The book came out today so if you would like to purchase this book, here are links:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harper & Row, 1964
298 pages
MG; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Recommended by April of Good Books and Good Wine.

Summary: Harriet M Welsch maintains a notebook in which she keeps notes of all the people she observes because she wants to be a spy when she grows up.  But problems erupt when her schoolmates discover the novel and the things she wrote about them.

Thoughts: I had attitude about this book due to the movie which I didn't think looked interesting (I've never seen the film-just trailers) and the fact that Mallory Pike of the BSC once wanted to act like her and I hated Mallory.

The first part of the story is actually more focused on Harriet's nanny Ole Golly and just setting the stage.  I actually preferred the story once Ole Golly leaves but Harriet suffers a bit seeing the person who understands her leave.  Her parents don't understand her writing but Ole Golly told her about spies and encouraged her to write.

The second part of the story revolves around the classmates discovering Harriet's novel where she wrote a lot of mean-spirited observations, such as why a friend doesn't have a dad and how another friend couldn't become a scientist, who was she fooling, etc.  I had little sympathy for Harriet at this part; she couldn't understand why they were hurt and angry and retaliated.  For someone who is so smart, she had a serious lack of understanding here.

Luckily, the book resolves with a hopeful ending.  Harriet learns to think more critically about her writing and receives a new opportunity to practice it.  She also becomes reconciled with her two best friends and the future looks more hopeful.

[I agree with her classmates that a tomato and mayo sandwich sounds awful but Harriet loves them; I do admire her routine of having it every day for about six years though.]

Overall: Okay story; maybe I would identify more if I was a writer?  As it is, I'm only a reader but a voracious one at that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vision in White

Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Berkley Books, 2009
325 pages
Romance; Contemporary
4/5 stars
1st in Quartet

Source: Library

Summary: Mackenzie and her three best friends run a wedding planner business. Mac is the photographer, an interest that stems from her broken childhood.  Both of her parents have been divorced and remarried several times and it created instability there.  Additionally her mother is emotionally manipulative of Mac.  So while Mac is surrounded by happy couples every day, she has not had success in that realm.  Until Carter Maguire runs in to her wall and they begin what could be a casual fling or something more.

Thoughts: When I saw the concept for this quartet, I knew that I would want to read it.  I love the preparations for weddings and I have never actually read any Nora Roberts so I thought this could also serve as an introduction. I really liked it so that was a good decision.

I wasn't sure about Mac at first; she seemed a bit prickly and I didn't immediately like her.  In fact I was more interested in her friend Parker who is heroine of the last book.  But I was able to sympathize with Mac as her issues with her mother block the formation of a healthy romantic relationship with Carter.  Hmmm Carter.

Carter is practically perfect; he's a teacher which means he loves kids and wants to help people.  He looks hot in glasses and tweed-I am only now starting to realize how hot guys can be in glasses.  He's supportive of Mac and he's basically been in love with her since high school.  He's adorably awkward around her because he likes her so much but he doesn't want to rush her in to anything that she's not ready for.  I'm so glad they were able to commit to each other and I'm hoping we'll see their wedding in one of the later books.

Note: I saw some reviews that said Roberts was repeating herself.  But I had never read any Roberts so I cannot comment on this.  If you have read any of her novels or read tons of contemporary, it may seem too familiar.  If you read more historical, it may seem more fresh like it did to me.

Overall: Pleasant start to the Brides Quartet; I'm definitely looking forward to the other stories.

Cover: I understand the theme obviously; Mac is a photographer (hence 'vision') and she loves shoes so maybe that's why it's peeking out from under the skirt?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DNF

I just wanted to track two of the books I tried to read recently but couldn't finish for whatever reason.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
I thought this would be cool to read because I saw that it was considered a more adult Harry Potter and I needed something to read before the movie came out.  But I was just not connecting with it.  The magic was not interesting enough to me and I didn't like any of the characters.


Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
I won this through Goodreads' Firstreads program and I was super excited!  But about fifty pages in, the main character was about to be raped and I just could not handle it.  I will try to return to it another time when I'm in a better frame of mind but at the moment, it was too much for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cinderella III


Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.


Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey
This is a YA story I read two summers ago or so; it's part of the "Once Upon a Time" series from Simon Pulse (who also did those amazing teen romantic comedies I love).  Dokey seems to be the driving force for the series, having penned most of the early stories although other authors have written ones as well.

This is an interesting retelling because of the elements it retains from the Perrault and Brothers Grimm versions.  There is the tree on the grave of her mother as in the Grimm version.  It is set in France and has French names, thus Cendrillon rather than Cinderella.  Her father also is alive which is always intriguing to me but he is the wicked one rather then the stepfamily.  Another addition is that Cendrillon is raised with a mysterious male ward of her father-I've never read another version where Cindy has such a close male companion (I guess kind of in Ever After).  While this is not my favorite retelling, I recommend it to people who love fairy tale retellings and Cinderella.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Before I Fall

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
HarperTeen, 2010
470 pages
YA; Contemporary; Supernatural
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Sam is reliving the last day of her life, seven times.  She has the opportunity to rethink the way she's treated her friends, her former friends, her boyfriend, her family, and her classmates.  Every small change affects her last hours and reveals how much power she has.

Thoughts: As I read this, I was reminded of Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of School by Todd Strasser, which I loved in elementary school.  They have very similar premises in that the main character repeats one day, examines his/her friends and popularity choices, and sibling relationships.  The main differences being that Jake's death didn't precipitate the repetition and it's meant for MG so is shorter and absolutely clean.

At first I didn't like Sam; she's so image obsessed and she and her friends are mean-to each other and to everyone around them.  But as Sam repeats the day, she starts thinking more about other people and seeing how she has influenced people negatively.  She starts being nicer to her parents and her younger sister.  She tries to change the popularity status quo at her school.  The story itself was fairly predictable although the Spoiler explains a part I didn't expect.  At first she goes wild, doing absolutely out-of-character things and pissing everyone off.  Then she blows off school and hangs out with her sister Izzy all day (Loved this) and then she tries to figure out why she has this opportunity to relive the day.


Spoiler: I did not like the end-I didn't want her to die!  I thought the changes she made would save her.  Poor Izzy (her sister) and Kent (her former best friend and new crush after she dumps her loser boyfriend)!

Warning: Language, Drug Use, and Sexual Situations but nothing too graphic.

Overall: Outstanding debut!  I already have Oliver's Delirium queued on netgalley so expect that sometime next year.

Cover: I actually am not a big fan of the cover and found it creepy; that's part of the reason that it took me so long to get around to reading it-because I didn't want to buy a book with some creepy girl staring at me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Mischief of the Mistletoe

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
Dutton, 2010
325 pages
Historical; Romance; Jane
4/5 stars

Source: Won from Lizzy J at Historically Obsessed; also a cute ornament.

Summary: Arabella Dempsey is in financial straits so she applies for a position at a girls' school where she meets 'Turnip' Fitzhugh, older (wealthy) brother of one of the students.  They stumble on a mysterious note and begin investigating espionage but they also start thinking about romance.

Thoughts: Apparently many people have been asking for a Turnip Fitzhugh story; I was not one of them but I have nothing against a Turnip romance.  I was surprised at how much of a hero Turnip turned out to be-he followed the trope of wealthy man overlooks poor spinster and then is amazed at how he did that because she is in fact so wonderful.  I'm a big fan of that trope and Arabella was a witty, lovely heroine who very much deserved her happy ever after.

I thought the spy denouement was a bit shoehorned in; I had almost forgot about it because I was so wrapped up in the romance.  Of course, all of the novels need to connect to the anti-Napoleon espionage but this one was pretty lame.  It could have worked as a straight romance in the vein of Georgette Heyer without the spying.  I also thought the language was odd and too British. I don't know if that makes sense but it seemed different from the other Pink Carnation novels and not what I expected.  I didn't mind it but I found it a bit overwhelming.

I did miss checking in with Eloise and Colin but there was the brief appearance of Jane Austen so that makes up for it.  Plus at the end there is a list of the other characters and their books, which I found very helpful.

Overall: Charming!

Cover: I don't know about the girl on the cover but I like the ivy surrounding the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Since it's my birthday, I wanted to do something a little different instead of my usual book review (although I'll be back tomorrow!) and I wanted to share the list of My Desert Island Books:

1. The Complete Jane Austen-P&P is my favorite book but since I'm kind of greedy, I'd want all of them.
2. The Bible-I'm a Christian and while Austen is first, if I only got one book, I'd want this one (in an English translation)
3. Poison Study by Maria V Snyder-obviously one of my favorite books, this combines several genres (fantasy, mystery, action, romance) in a pleasant brew; there are two sequels which aren't as good but should be read for more Yelena/Valek
4. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Stories, Volume 1
5. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Stories, Volume 2-As they're in separate volumes, they each must take an entry on the list; anyway I can't think of a fifth choice so it doesn't matter too much anyway.

What's your list? Please share in comments or leave a link to a blog post!

Monday, December 13, 2010

2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge

2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge!
Welcome to the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge! This will be my first attempt at hosting a challenge, so bear with me! In the past few months I have become increasingly interested in cozy mysteries. What is a cozy mystery, you ask? Click HERE for a great definition from www.cozy-mystery.com, which will provide you with lots of great options for this challenge, including an alphabetical listing of cozy mystery authors.

Cozy mysteries usually involve an female amateur sleuth that gets herself into a trouble trying to solve a mystery. These are light, fun reads that appeal to women who liked reading Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew books when they were growing up. They are not as heavy and deep as most mystery/thrillers. They usually come as part of a series with specific themes. You can find just about any kind of cozy mystery from knitters, to bakers, to bookshop owners and tattoo artists.

Sign Up:
~To Sign up for the challenge you must make a post on your blog announcing your participation in the challenge, your level of participation and link back to this sign up page.
~You then must use the URL of that post to sign up through the Mr. Linky provided below.
~Please post the 2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge Button on your side bar so that others can link back to Debbie's Book Bag, if they want to sign up.

Other Details:
~The challenge will run from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.
~There will be three levels of participation to choose from:
Amateur Detective: Read 1-5 Cozy Mystery's
Private-Eye: Read 6-10 Cozy Mystery's
GumShoe: Read 11 or more Cozy Mystery's
~ You do NOT need to list your cozy mysteries ahead of time, you can add them as you go. If you do choose to list them up front, feel free to change them as you need to.
~ You can sign up any time during the year!
~ Books that have been read before January 1st 2011 will not count for this challenge.
~ Cross-overs from other challenges are accepted.
~ At the beginning of each month I will make a post for you link your reviews to.

Prizes:
~Every person who signs up for the challenge and links at least 5 cozy mystery reviews within the challenge period will be entered to win a prize at the end of the challenge.
~The prize will be a complete cozy mystery series from your favorite cozy author!
I will be shooting for the Amateur Detective level with the possibility of increasing. I am glad that we don't have to list our books yet because I don't know what I'll read yet.

2011 Debut YA Authors Challenge

Hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren
2011 Debut Author Challenge participant information:
  • The objective of the DAC is to read at least twelve novels from Young Adult or Middle Grade Authors. While twelve is the minimum there is no maximum limit! I encourage readers who can read more than twelve to do so!
  • Anyone can join. You don't have to be a blogger, and you don't have to live in the United States. 
  • You do not have to have an blog written in English to participate. 
  • Deadline to join is November 20, 2011. The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. 
Qualifying books:
  • Books must be a Young Adult or Middle Grade novel.
  • DO NOTE: Just because a book has a teen character or is about a teen, does not mean that it is necessarily a Young Adult novel. 
  • This must be the authors debut with a release date in 2011
  • If an author has a previous novel published under adult fiction/nonfiction or children's fiction/nonfiction, they can still qualify for the challenge if they are releasing their YA or MG debut.
Tentative List with notes about if I already have it:
1. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
2. XVI by Julia Karr
3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
4. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (Netgalley)
5. Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison (Netgalley)
6. Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley
7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (ARC)
8. Entwined by Heather Dixon
9. What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez (Netgalley)
10. The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder (Netgalley)
11. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky (Netgalley)
12. Populazzi by Elise Allen (Netgalley)

I have quite a few on Netgalley so as soon as it's 2011, I'm going to start reading them! Super excited to get started!

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010
258 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Bronwen has never felt like she fits in with her family: her blonde mom, her perfect brother, and the stepfather who can't replace her deceased father.  But when she meets Jared, she meets someone who listens to her and when he proposes on her eighteenth birthday, she jumps at the chance to be part of a Real Family.  As the day approaches though, she starts to question if marriage is what she really wants...

Thoughts: This book really hit me hard.  I definitely had some issues with weird ideas about relationships, namely that it would be super easy and romantic to get married in high school/college, mostly thanks to Boy Meets World (seriously-I wanted to find my Cory), so I thought the idea of someone getting married right after graduating high school sounded really intriguing as a plot for a YA novel.

But what I really liked was the emphasis on family.  Bronwen doesn't feel loved and accepted by her family but she does by Jared and his family.  The most heartbreaking scene occurs between her, her mother, and her stepfather toward the end.  I kind of already suspected what happened but it made me cry and so thankful for my parents who really pretty much do accept me, anti-social nerd bookworm that I am.

At first it seems like Bronwen has everything together but as they near the wedding day, their differences (he just graduated college while she just graduated high school, placing them at very different stages of life) magnified and I just wanted her to think about what was best for her.  The ending hints at healing for her family and for their shattered relationship as while as between her and Jared but nothing definitive is said.

Overall: Just what I needed!

Cover: Cute-combination of books and wedding but it was the concept that really drew me to the book.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Violet Eyes

Violet Eyes by Debbie Vigiue
Simon Pulse, 2010
195 pages
Fairy Tale; YA
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A retelling of "The Princess and the Pea."

Thoughts: I've really enjoyed reading the "Once Upon a Time" series and Princess and the Pea is a story I really like so I was excited to grab this when I saw it at my library.

First it's very fairy tale in that Violet and Richard meet after a storm and basically fall in love at first sight.  Pretty much the only stories where I'm okay with that are fairy tales because there's so much magic there already.

Now the original Princess and the Pea had a single test but this competition has multiple tests with about twenty princesses and a final grand twist.  That helps extend the story; I really enjoyed seeing the weird tests that the king and queen imagined up to help them choose the best bride and future queen.  I also liked that they seemed concerned about their son instead of just looking to make the best alliance although that was also certainly a concern.

The ending was odd as it goes in to a battle and Violet must use her keen wits to outsmart some baddies-it wasn't suspenseful and I didn't feel that it added much.

I wish more had happened relating to her violet eyes, like she was recognizable because of that fact or had something special about her because of them.

Overall: A really cute and short story.

Cover: I just realized that those are mattresses behind Violet which makes me feel a bit dumb but is fitting.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Out With a Bang Readathon



Hello fellow bookworms! The year 2010 is coming to a close, and many of us probably still have several books on our 2010 to-be-read piles that we just haven't gotten to yet -- especially Debut Author Challenge books! That's why Heather at Book-Savvy and I wanted to host the Out with a Bang Readathon!

The Readathon will run from December 29 - 31 and participants will be reading as many books as they can during that time! This Readathon is mainly to finish off the fabulous debuts for the Debut Author Challenge, but participants don't have to focus on that category if they have non-debut books that they would like to finish before 2010 ends.

And, if you need an extra incentive to participate, we'll also be giving away tons of swag and books during the Readathon (and a lot of it will be signed!)

Several awesome authors have been kind enough to donate items! I will do a special thank you post once we have all the details so that I don't miss anyone!

Thanks SO much to the authors and bloggers who are making this event possible!

It's not too late to donate or to sign up to host a challenge. If you're interested, just email me!

I will be using this time to (hopefully) read some ebooks on my new Nook (that is if I get it for Christmas) as well as some of the books I receive for Christmas or even some of the books I've been meaning to read but haven't gotten around to yet.  It's totally fluid.

Brilliant

Brilliant by Rachel Vail
HarperTeen, 2010
249 pages
YA; Contemporary
2/5 stars
3rd in Trilogy

See review of Gorgeous from early days of the blog.

Source: Library

Summary: The conclusion to the Avery sisters trilogy, focusing on eldest sister Quinn and her learning to let go and accept their new life.

Thoughts: I enjoyed the first two books of this series so I was thrilled to pick this up, especially because I love the cover.  I want those shoes even though I don't think I own a dress to go with them.

The first problem was that I couldn't really remember either of the first two books but I figured that was okay because they can be read as stand-alone books. The next problem was that I found Quinn to be so immature despite being the eldest of the daughters.  She's so invested in being "perfect" and "brilliant" that when she realizes that doing that is impossible, she breaks down and annoyed me to no end.

Second was her crush on Oliver, her piano teacher who was apparently nineteen despite having taken a year off before his junior of college.  I think that was made as well as her being a junior despite being almost 17 (about a month) so that it was less creepy.  Instead I found it inaccurate and unlikely-most of my classmates were definitely 16 for the majority of their junior year of high school and twenty for their junior year of college.  Their age difference, while not that big if they were 24 and 26, is a big deal for people who are still trying to find themselves.

 I really wanted more information about what her mother did at her job that caused them to lose so much but I didn't feel like there was much time spent on that because I had to read Quinn be whiny and annoying.  I also didn't like the descriptions of the sisters because I'm sure that I loved them when I read their respective books.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I bothered finishing the book because it was not good.  The first two were but this was a crappy conclusion.

Overall: Disappointed.

Cover: I love this cover; the shoes are gorgeous and the colors work so well together.  In fact all of the covers are absolutely beautiful.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Holiday Tag

I was tagged by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read. If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged and fill it out! (Leave a link below if you want me to comment.)

1. When do you usually know and feel that it's finally the holidays?
After Thanksgiving-that's when my family breaks out the Christmas songs.  This year though we didn't so I've had to listen to carols all alone in my dorm room :-(

2. What do you want for Christmas this year?
An e-reader-I've been leaning toward the Nook but I don't really care.

3. Do you go all out with decorations?
No-I usually complain somewhat not because I don't love decorating for Christmas but because I hate thinking ahead to January and taking everything down.

4. What are you doing Christmas eve?
We (we being my parents, my sister, and me) usually like to watch movies, White Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.  We also get to open a few presents including pajamas-my mom always picks out really cute ones.

5. What are you doing Christmas day?
My sister and I love to get up early and start unwrapping presents.  When we're done, my dad will make breakfast and we watch the Christmas parade. For the past few years, we've gone to a movie as it's usually pretty empty.  I'm also planning to watch/DVR Ben-Hur on TCM because I've only seen the chariot race.

5. It's Christmas time. What are you reading?
At the moment, it's finals season for me so I'm turning toward comfort reads and more YA.  No dystopian or thrillers.

6. Favorite movie to watch during the holidays?
Love Actually, which I watched twice last Sunday; White Christmas; It's A Wonderful Life; Muppet Christmas Carol.

7. Favorite Christmas song?
I have a couple: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love; Baby, It's Cold Outside by Dean Martin; and O Come All Ye Faithful from Broadway Carols for a Cure, Volume 8-it has to be that version because it's so much more upbeat than the traditional versions.

8. Favorite holiday drink?
I don't have a favorite holiday drink-I'm pretty boring (skim) milk or water.  I'd drink hot chocolate if I didn't live in California with temperatures around the 70s/80s (yes, you read that right!)

9. How is your Christmas shopping going?

Meh-let's not talk about that right now.

10. If you could spend Christmas day anywhere else, where would you spend it?
Maybe I'd go to the East Coast to see my grandparents. But I'm pretty happy at home with my immediate family.

11. Any holiday traditions?
At the moment I can't think of any; they're probably so familiar to me that they just seem like something everyone does rather than a special family holiday tradition.

12. Favorite thing about the Holidays?

Jesus-as He is the reason for the season (I know that's kind of a stupid rhyme but I like it.)

Book Hop/Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop 

"What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs? Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?"
I like reading reviews but usually of books that I've read already; I feel more equipped to contribute to the conversation that way.  I usually skip author guest posts unless a giveaway is attached-sorry!  And of course I like giveaways, because we all love free books, but I think my favorite part of book blogs is the meme "Waiting on Wednesday" because it adds so many books to my wish-list.  Of course I also get titles just from the reviews that people do so I also like when people review older books so I don't end up with five (or ten) reviews of the same book on the same day-then I usually don't read any.





"Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about?"


Well, I mostly follow American YA blogs but I think Jude Morgan who is British and writes adult literary novels is supremely under-noticed.  My personal favorite is Indiscretion, which is the best Jane Austen-esque novel I've ever read but I've also read and enjoyed An Accomplished Woman, Symphony, and Charlotte and Emily/A Taste of Sorrow (US/UK title).  I also own Passion but I haven't read it yet.  Additionally there is The King's Touch and A Little Folly.  If you like Jane Austen, I think you would like Morgan.  

Cinderella II


Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Ever After
I love the framing story of two men (I think they're the Brothers Grimm) who meet a woman who claims her ancestor was a real Cinderella story and then proceeds to prove it to them.

I love the twists on the Cinderella story, such as the way she gets to the ball at the end and how she rescues herself (go Drew Barrymore!)  The villains are great-Anjelica Huston is a great evil stepmother; she's a huge social climber who can't wait to marry off her daughter to the prince.  The other secondary characters are also great like the guardsman who falls for the nice stepsister and the servants who love Drew Barrymore's character.  I also like the inclusion of da Vinci even if it's incredibly historically inaccurate.

This is a great version of Cinderella and I highly recommend that you see it, if you haven't!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
Feiwel and Friends, 2009
245 pages
YA; Contemporary
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Jessie loves math, sewing skirts, and her older brother.  Her friends Bizza and Char have recently transformed in to punks and one is even going after her longtime crush.  Navigating the labels of punk, cool, and nerd, Jessie struggles to figure herself out.

Thoughts: I thought the title and cover were really cute so when I saw this in a bookstore, I made a mental note to look it up and I finally remembered when I was at the library and looking for some quick reads.

I really liked Jessie and her older brother Barrett who both change a lot over the course of the story; the latter from punk to dating the homecoming queen and the former finds her place and gets real friends.  I really like that she ended up a nerd because I consider myself a nerd.  I mean, think about it.  Cool people have to think about their clothes, their hair, and go to parties and hang out with people all the time.  Nerds get to sit around and read; guess which I feel more like?  Plus Jessie loves to sew skirts and listens to audiobooks-how did she not realize she was a nerd?!

I loved the "nerds" in the story!  Dottie seemed totally awesome; she was comfortable in her own skin and it made me think a bit of Luna Lovegood.  Henry is a cute love interest although the message of being yourself is somewhat undermined by Jessie's pushing him to reform his fashion sense.

I thought it was a weird mix of YA and MG; there were swear words, gonorrhea, and references to sexual experiences which would make this more YA but younger kids would definitely benefit from Jessie's quest to discover herself and the character herself didn't seem to be dealing with much adult drama.

Overall: Cute story but not great.

Cover: I thought the cover was cute but once I read it, I understood it better.  It relates to her journey in to Dungeons and Dragons.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Suitor for Jenny

A Suitor for Jenny by Margaret Brownley
Thomas Nelson, 2010
309 pages
Inspirational; Historical; Romance
4/5 stars

Source: Won from Goodreads

Summary: Jenny is bringing her two sisters Mary Lou and Brenda to Rocky Creek in order to get them married to some eligible bachelors. While she has a system for picking out the right man to take care of them, her sisters have other ideas.  Marshal Rhett Armstrong is supposed to make sure she doesn't make a nuisance of herself but instead finds her intriguing.  Can God bring these two broken people together?

Thoughts: Her sisters kind of bugged me; I knew that they wouldn't listen to their older sister but they acted without a care for their reputations and futures.  I wish they had acted with a bit more dignity and appropriateness.

I really liked Rhett.  He was a good man.  I also liked Jenny and it was easy to root from them to get together despite their individual guilt complexes.

She got over her issues very quickly-I kept expecting to find out what she did (well I was pretty sure I knew what she had done but to have it clarified) and then it came out right at the end with very little explanation.  Rhett also struggled with guilt issues that he overcomes very quickly.  I'm not sure why either plotline was included when they were going to be dealt with so perfunctorily.

I was hoping that we'd see Sarah and Justin from the first book and we did receive a glimpse in to their life, which seems very happy! They are very much in love and have built a good life together.

Overall: Cute story but not as good as the first!

Cover; Her face looks really weird, I'm not sure if it's the angle but it doesn't look like it belongs in that hat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Low Red Moon

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin
Bloomsbury, 2010
244 pages
YA; Paranormal
3.5/5

Source: Bought

Summary: Avery's parents were brutally murdered and all that she can remember is a flash of silver.  Soon after she meets new boy Ben with whom she has an immediate connection but when his secret is revealed, she starts to wonder if he can be trusted or if he murdered her parents.

Thoughts: I didn't realize this until the end but I guess it's sort of Little Red Riding Hood; there is red, a girl and her grandmother, wolves, forest, and a woodcutter.  I'm also not a big paranormal fan but I thought I'd give this a try.

It was okay; Avery and Ben weren't very interesting.  It's the stereotypical paranormal romance where they fall in love almost instantly, are meant to be together by some weird magical connection, and together they can save the forest.  This may be the start of a series because it seems like there is more to be explored regarding Avery's relationship to the forest.

The aspects I did like were family.  Avery was really close to her parents and misses them terribly.  Her father and grandmother were estranged so it's difficult to rebuild a relationship with her grandmother but Avery seems on the path to do so.

One interesting thing is that "moon" appears in red throughout the book.  And the bottom of each page has a bit of a landscape picture all in red.  It is weird when the word "moonlight" is used since it's then half red and half normal but I liked seeing it.

Overall: Blah story. I'm not sure if I would have liked it more or less if I read more paranormal romance.

Cover: Lovely, eye-catching with the red.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Duff

The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Poppy, 2010
277 pages
YA; Contemporary; Romance
4/5 stars
Contemps Challenge

Source: Won

Summary: Although one of Bianca and Wesley's first interactions is him calling her "the Duff," she is soon kissing him and she can't seem to stop as her family life crumbles.

Thoughts: First, I think that I just wrote a spectacularly concise summary! Anyway, review!

I really liked Bianca; she is snarky and cynical and funny.  Then her home life starts crumbling and she seeks solace in the arms of a really hot boy. Speaking of home, her parents could have had a bit more depth but I liked that they weren't completely sucky and that she cared about them. Her friends were also pretty good characters as they revealed more depth and renegotiated their friendship.

As to the boy: Wesley=hot. Their scenes together=hot. Wesley=opening up and sharing his feelings and listening to Bianca=hot.  All good.

Now the ending did come together too fast, in like eight pages, but I didn't really mind.

Warning: Language and sexual situations that might make some readers uncomfortable.

Overall: Wonderful-excited to see what Keplinger comes up with next!

Cover: I don't know about the gum; I get that something else needed to be on the cover but I don't like it.  It's not like Bianca had a gum-chewing habit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Woman in White

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Oxford University Press, 1975
Originally published 1860
584 pages
Classic; FITG; Melodrama; Mystery
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A drawing master named Walter meets a mysterious woman in white; then he goes to a new assignment and falls in love with one of his pupils who looks like that woman. Told in epistolary form from multiple participants in the story, this is an early example of detective fiction and a superb instance of melodrama.

Thoughts: I remember a bunch of bloggers reading this last year and loving it so I put it on my list and I got around to reading it this year. Originally I was going to read it for Halloween and, well, that didn't happen. Instead I stopped about halfway through because I was overwhelmed with the villainy of the men in the book especially combined with some other things I was reading.  Then I picked it up and plowed through it.

I started out really enjoying it, finding it more character-driven than descriptive of scenery like Collins' contemporary Dickens.

Count Fosco scared me but I really enjoyed his admiration for Marian and how that affected his actions throughout the whole novel, in a really creepy way.  At least he got his reward.

Problems (Makes most sense if you've read the book already): The main plot-the fact that Laura married Sir Percival just because she promised her dad X number of years ago and despite the fact that she didn't know or like him pissed me off!  The attitude that Countess Fosco should be submissive to her husband and was better off married rather than having opinions of her own.  The way Laura is cosseted and treated like a child.  The fact that Sir Percival's worst crime would be considered forgery rather than his treatment of his wife!

Overall: Started out strong but not a favorite.

Cover: I think this picture is actually from the musical but I really like it although the woman looks more like a ghost than a woman dressed in white.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

British Books Challenge 2011

Hosted by Becky at The Bookette.

I originally said I wasn't going to sign up for any challenges (excepting the E-Book Challenge because I have so many netgalley books and an e-reader is my number one wish for Christmas) but it's so hard so I'm signing up for another one!
So what is the British Books Challenge?
The BBC is a reading challenge where bloggers sign up to read books by British writers throughout 2011.


The books can be in print or out. Old or new titles. They can be from any genre and for any age. My blog is obviously focused on YA and children's literature but you are welcome to read adult novels if you wish.

There are two entry categories for the challenge:

Home Grown
This is for British bloggers who have access to many British books via their public libraries, fit-to-bursting bookshelves at home etc. The target is to read 12 novels. Thanks to The Story Siren for creating a formula with the Debut Author Challenge that really works - one British book a month should be easy peasy!

International Friend
For any wonderful bloggers living overseas who wish to support British writers.
You can choose to between:
Winston Churchill - Read 6 books by British authors in 2011
The Royal Family - Read 12 books by British authors in 2011

There will also be the chance to earn yourselves a Crown if you manage to read 50 books by British writers in the year.
As an American, I will be an "International Friend" and I'm going for the Royal Family although I would love to win a crown so I will try for 50 if I can.  Sidenote: who's excited for the wedding? I have already blocked out my calendar for that day and will be in front of the TV the whole time (no matter how early it starts since I'm on the West Coast and thus 8 hours behind.) 
 
Anyway I'm really excited for the challenge!
 
Preliminary List:
1. At least one book by Charles Dickens
2. At least 12 Agatha Christies (This overlaps with my personal challenge to read all of them)
3. Possession by AS Byatt
4. Passion by Jude Morgan
5. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
7. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
8. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carre
9. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
10. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
 

Inside the Third Reich

Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer
The MacMillan Company, 1970
Translated by Richard and Clara Winston
526 pages
Memoirs; History
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: The memoirs of Hitler's chief architect, later Reich Armaments Minister, and the last Foreign Minister of the Reich.

Thoughts: I read this for class (we actually only had about 100 pages assigned but I ended up reading the whole thing so that I could count it as read).  It moves fairly quickly and yet it does take a while to get through.

There are many interesting passages that talk about life as an important Nazi, that give insights in to Nazi decisions, that reflect Speer's shaping of history, but then there are the passages about architecture.  If you have no interest in architecture, I highly recommend skimming!

It shows some of the reasons for becoming a Nazi: Hitler's charisma especially when he gave speeches (this is baffling to me but apparently that's how it happened; I just can't imagine him as charismatic. He's short, he doesn't smile, he has that ugly mustache, and he seems very petulant) and self-interest.  Speer's career as architect really launched in his late twenties under the Nazis.  The depression did not really allow for him to do anything and anyway he would have been too young and not established; but the Nazis gave him a chance.

The most important part is probably his description of the Reich and how it was run.  First Hitler as a leader is indecisive and his refusal to listen to people who know what they're talking about in favor of those he's known longest frustrates Speer.  At some points, I empathized too much with Speer so that I was thinking "this boss sucks; if he'd only listen to Speer, he might be able to win." Then I would catch myself and remember that Hitler is the boss and if he was more effective, who knows how many more people would have died?  I'm not sure if the Nazis could have won or if the Allies definitely would have prevailed but it's not exactly something I want to contemplate.

He also places the blame on the leaders, including himself, and away from the German people; thus the atrocities of the Third Reich do not fall on the Germans but on a small section. 

That includes knowledge of the Holocaust: he claims that the Nazi leaders were so isolated in their sectors that he did not really know although he could have found out.  He closed his mind.  Of course, the knowledge of the Holocaust was definitely available to the German people: in Hamburg, shipments of Jewish property arrived consistently even throughout the war.  Where were the people going if they didn't need ANY of their possessions? [That was discussed in Frank Bajohr's Aryanization' in Hamburg]

Overall: Very illuminating for people interested in WWII history. Recommended.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Hop/Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop 

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"
I'm trying to think of one-I usually don't read the most hyped books right away.  I know that I did not like the first book in the Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn but I loved the first two Lady Emily books by Tasha Alexander.  Most bloggers I've seen prefer Lady Julia (and Brisbane) but I found them much less enjoyable.  It made me feel like I was missing something for not agreeing with those bloggers but I wasn't worried about my reviews or how people would take them.






"What do you do besides reading/reviewing as a hobby?"
Well reading really is my main hobby because outside of schoolwork that's about all I have time for.  But I also play viola in an orchestra, I love puzzles (jigsaw, crosswords, and sudoku being my favorites), and I love watching TV and movies.
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