4.5 stars. "What the Spell" is the first book in a planned series about teenage witches and is rooted in the story of the Salem Witch Trials, which is4.5 stars. "What the Spell" is the first book in a planned series about teenage witches and is rooted in the story of the Salem Witch Trials, which is definitely not new territory for a book but the author does a really great job of breathing brand new life into a subject that has been tackled before.
One of the standout parts of the book for me was the main character of Brooklyn. She is smart but she doesn't always make the best decisions. I loved, loved, loved her voice in the book. You want so badly for her to do the right thing and when she fails or stumbles, you are still pulling for her because you've already been shown that at her core, she really wants to try to do the right thing and that she's going through all of those things that so many teens go through (want of acceptance, first love, etc.). You know exactly what she's thinking throughout the book and I really think that that it helped to pull me into the book and see things through Brooklyn's eyes.
Being a little bit older than her character, I felt like there were a lot of decisions that Brooklyn made that weren't great especially when it comes to changing her appearance or some of the decisions she makes surrounding the popular group in her high school but having once been a teenager myself, I totally got why she makes the decisions she makes. At one point in my life, I would have made the same decisions. She's not perfect but it made her seem more real.
I loved the sort of tug of war in the book between families like Brooklyn's who are low magic households because of what happened during the Salem Witch Trials and families like Brooklyn's love interest, Asher's who believe that they should fully grab on to their gifts and it may have gotten them into trouble in the end. With the cliffhanger around Asher's family in the end of the book, I can't wait to see where the next book picks up!
Bottom line: A great contemporary YA read with a paranormal twist....more
Tigra, a European girl, is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after she followed him back to L.A. from Europe, a place where Tigra knows no one.Tigra, a European girl, is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after she followed him back to L.A. from Europe, a place where Tigra knows no one. This is definitely a fish out of water kind of story. Tigra is totally confused about what she's supposed to be doing and how she is supposed to get back on her feet again.
Instead of going back to a place where she knows and where she may be able to find happiness, she stays in L.A. and tries to carve out a life for herself by tagging along with another young woman that she knows from her community college classes. It's not a great existence but Tigra doesn't seem to want to do anything to get herself back on track besides go wherever the wind takes her, which makes for a very fragile existence. I wanted to understand more about why she didn't go home or why she was so happy essentially just following her friend around until she found another guy. After all, she is the one that broke up with her boyfriend who she followed from Europe because she thinks that if they begin to fart in front of each other that their entire relationship will go to hell in a hand basket. And then he does and she leaves without having a plan of where to go. I really wanted to connect with Tigra a little bit better.
I loved the conversational tone of this book. Tigra isn't afraid to say what she thinks, no matter who she offends. "NowHOre District" is told from Tigra's first person perspective, which really helps to pull the readers into the book.
Bottom line: a book with good, conversational writing....more
3.5 stars. While I have never read anything by Henry Miller, he is one of the most infamous American authors. Known for such works as the much discuss3.5 stars. While I have never read anything by Henry Miller, he is one of the most infamous American authors. Known for such works as the much discussed and debated "Tropic of Cancer," he is still remembered as one of the most larger than life American authors. The author of the book goes to live with Miller as a young woman and does a lot of work around the house for him. In the midst of doing all of the work, Ms. Thiebaud gains a lot of insight into what makes Miller tick.
The book is divided up into two sections. The first section is more personal to the author. It covers how she came to find herself in Miller's house. It also covers how she got to know him and many of her interactions with the author. It also covers many of her own observations of the author.
The second section is sort of a series of essays told from the point of view of Henry Miller. One thing that Ms. Thiebaud makes clear in the beginning of the book is that one of Miller's favorite pastimes was to talk anyone who would listen's ear off about a vast variety of subjects. It was interesting to see his perspective on so many different people and things.
Bottom line: Even if you are not a Henry Miller fan, this is still a great book for all those who love to read to enjoy....more
I was very excited to read this book. I love books about survival stories and it's even better when they are non-fiction survival stories. "ChristenedI was very excited to read this book. I love books about survival stories and it's even better when they are non-fiction survival stories. "Christened with Crosses" is just the sort of survival story that I like. At a very young age, the main character is forced to make his way across Russia as a young child. There are probably not many people in the world who would have been able to make that same journey and thrive the way that he was able to thrive. It was truly amazing.
The story takes place during the 1940s, which if you know anything about the Soviet Union during that time, you know that it was not the kind of place you would like to be if you were on the wrong side of the government. By being a veritable orphan, the author is just that. He escapes in and out of different orphanages. Orphanages were not places you wanted to be in the Soviet Union. The author vividly describes some of the things that happened to him and those he knew and some of it was definitely hard to read.
Through this book, we get to learn a lot of the stories of different people in the Soviet Union. I think that because the author is Polish, he has an especially interesting story. He is in a country where at first, he really doesn't even know the language of the places where he is staying. Language, we know, is an integral part of being able to get along in the world. The author comes across so many different people from different walks of life. He tells not only his story but many of their stories too. Some are happy stories. Some are sad stories. Everyone has been affected by the new reality of the Soviet Union during the end of WWII.
Bottom line: this book is often hard to read because of the hardship but it is worth the read....more
3.5 stars. Oh! This was such a fun book! Sometimes you just want a light, fun read that you don't have to use too much brain power to read. This book3.5 stars. Oh! This was such a fun book! Sometimes you just want a light, fun read that you don't have to use too much brain power to read. This book was definitely brain candy for me. It's a smart romance with a loveable main character that was so much fun to read about. I absolutely loved Bronte. First off, what a cool name! Second, she is definitely someone that I think would be a lot of fun to hang out with. She's bright. She's funny. Oh, and she has an obsession with the British Royals, which if you've read my blog for any amount of time, you may realize that this is another area where we have a ton in common. Bronte is the kind of girl that I'd love to go out for coffee, tea, or a cocktail with in order to dish on our favorite royals.
I think every woman dreams of being swept off her feet by someone who makes you feel like royalty even if they don't come with a title. After dating Mr. Wrong, Bronte is ready to find Mr. Right, which she quickly thinks she finds in Max, who at first, seems to be a super normal guy with a lovely British accent. Bronte's Max comes with a title, unbeknownst to Bronte. I liked the romance in the book but I didn't always like Max. He seems charming at times but he also seemed sort of stuck in the old ways of royalty sometimes as well. He was really sort of a mixed bag for me.
This book is definitely heavy on the romance factor. It also has some pretty spicy scenes that may make gentler readers blush quite a bit so be warned.
Bottom line: this is a fun, modern day Cinderella story that would be a good choice to read when you are looking for a book to just relax with....more
"Through These Veins" asks the question about whether the medicine we rely on for some of the most harmful diseases in the world are the result of a s"Through These Veins" asks the question about whether the medicine we rely on for some of the most harmful diseases in the world are the result of a scientific miracle or a sneaky business decision made by some suit on the basis of charts and a chance for profit. It's a very real question. I think we all want to believe that pharmaceutical companies have their heads in the right places when it comes to what medicines they come out with but those companies are just that, companies. While it would be nice if they were truly altruistic, they still need to make a profit so it's conceivable that if a drug would not turn a tidy profit, they may choose not to manufacture it or wait until the business aspect is better looking before they put it out. This book explores this topic, which was totally fascinating to me. I do wish that the book had touched on this dilemma a little bit more.
This is definitely a good book for those who like a lot of different settings. You get to see Ethiopia and Washington, DC for starters. My fellow armchair travelers will definitely enjoy this aspect. I don't get a chance to read about any African countries all that much so it was nice to read about a place like Ethiopia that was so new and different to me.
I really liked the characters in this book for the most part but Zahara was definitely my favorite. Zahara is the daughter of a medicine man in a remote village in the middle of Ethiopia's coffee highlands. She is incredibly smart and strong. Those characteristics are definitely on display as the book goes on. She goes through a lot throughout the book but she get through all of that showing so much courage.
Bottom line: A good read about miracle medicine....more
"The Emperor's Conspiracy" is the story of Charlotte "Charlie" Raven, who goes from lowly chimney sweep to full-fledged society lady and her difficult"The Emperor's Conspiracy" is the story of Charlotte "Charlie" Raven, who goes from lowly chimney sweep to full-fledged society lady and her difficulty with having her toes in both of the worlds she is so familiar with. On one hand, she still remembers what it was like to be a child forced to work but still loving that world and the people that she knew in it but those very people could get her deeply into trouble. On the other hand, she absolutely relishes her position as a rich and educated woman of high society. She is constantly wondering whether or not she will ever be able to reconcile those two worlds. Through this book, it is clear that she will try her hardest in order to do so.
I really liked the conflicts that Charlotte faced between both the world of the workers and the world of the rich. While many of us will probably never have to choose between such different worlds, I think some of us can understand the struggle that Charlie faces. It can be hard to figure out where you belong and who you should be when you have so many different choices, so many different paths that you can choose. It was interesting to see how Charlie deals with all of that.
This book is filled with great historical detail of a gritty time in England's history. There is even a little dash of romance, which I really enjoyed. On top of that, there is a bit of mystery too! This book takes place in a changing time in England's history. All the gold is disappearing from the country's coffers. Because of Charlie's unique position of knowing both the rich and the poor world is in the perfect position to help figure out what is happening.
Although Charlie is a totally fictional character, Historical Fiction lovers will find so much to love about this book. The author did a great job of bringing the reader into Charlie's world. There is a lot of great detail that I could picture exactly what everything looked like in London at that time.
"The Raven's Heart" is the story of Alison Blackadder, a fictional character who is supposed to be related to the real Blackadder family, who are ance"The Raven's Heart" is the story of Alison Blackadder, a fictional character who is supposed to be related to the real Blackadder family, who are ancestors of the author. Alison is a really good character. The entire book is told from her perspective. From a very early age, she is forced to dress as a boy and then a man in order to save her life from the Hume Family who are not big fans of the Blackadder family. The Hume family has taken the family castle and Alison hopes that she will be able to get her family's castle back through finding favor with Mary, Queen of Scots. Alison is a fascinating character as she is able to intrigue the queen by dressing as both a man and a woman and taking the Queen to taverns several times in disguise so that she may walk among her people. I wonder if Mary actually did that in real life? Anyhow, it was really fascinating to me.
I thought the author did a great job of bringing Mary to life. She is both intriguing and sort of scary at the same time. As the book goes on, she seems to get scarier and scarier with the way that she orders lives to be taken, including that of Alison's lover, Angi, almost simply to spite Alison. On the other hand, Mary seems to be able to put a spell over almost everyone that she meets, especially all of the nobles that are courting her favor. You really do get to see how her personality seemed to shift once she made it to Scotland from France. I am really beginning to enjoy reading about Mary, Queen of Scots.
I really enjoyed the writing in the book. It was nice that the book was written from Alison's point of view so that we have a front row seat to all of the action.
As a side note, I thought it was so interesting that the author chose to create a fictional ancestor to tell a story about. It really is fascinating....more
"Exactly Where They'd Fall" is a story of friendships and misguided intentions. It's also a story just about commitment in general. It follows a group"Exactly Where They'd Fall" is a story of friendships and misguided intentions. It's also a story just about commitment in general. It follows a group of loosely tied friends, Amelia, Jodie, and Drew, as they make their ways in and out of love and trying to deal with each other. The story takes place in the present day when the characters are out of college but still not settled down.
The writing in this book is good and is definitely what kept me reading. but I had a lot of trouble with the characters, Jodie in particular but I will get into that later. The writing really pulled me into the story. You get a front row seat to the action throughout the book. Amos does a great job of showing us the world of the characters.
I wanted to understand more about all of their motivations but some of them just seemed to be sort of left blank or unknown. Jodie is definitely a very negative person. Nothing seems to make her happy. She doesn't seem to really care for anyone even though she has others surrounding her. She's downright annoyed with the lot of them. In fact, if the people around her seem the littlest bit happy, she does not seem to hesitate to try to bring them back down to the sort of bad attitude that she herself seems to be feeling. If she were a cartoon, she would have a cloud drawn over her head for the duration of her book. It would be absolutely fine to have this kind of character if I could know why she is the way that she is. All I needed was a motivation.I really wanted to know why she was so angry. Did something happen to her to make her so upset? Was there some former trauma that made her the way that she is? Why does she do something so ugly to Amelia, who had already been hurt by Jodie's brother when he broke up with her and promptly took up with the woman who would become his wife? Amelia seems like a nice person. Is Jodie just unhappy because she sees that Amelia is finally happy and it's too much for Jodie to bear? I don't know. All of that is left unsaid.
I also think that if the reader was able to understand more about the motivation behind the various characters that it would have lent more gravitas to the drama in the book. As it stands, the drama seems to come from nothing. Mountains out of moleholes, if you will.
Bottom line: Good writing will keep you reading this one....more
To me, translation is absolutely fascinating. You take one idea in one language and turn it into something that someone else with a different languageTo me, translation is absolutely fascinating. You take one idea in one language and turn it into something that someone else with a different language, a different culture, and perhaps a different life experience can fully understand and digest. In a way, it is sort of a real-life magic trick, which is a very cool way to think about it.
"Found in Translation" is really a book about the importance of translation in a place where we don't all share the same language, culture, or experiences. Translation is how we understand each other. The book is full of real life examples and anecdotes of why translation itself as well as the way one translates is so important. Some of the examples are sort of funny and some even made me actually laugh out loud.
This book thoroughly covers why translation is important but it does not really go further than that, which makes the book a little basic but still very enjoyable. I thought the book was fairly well written but I felt like the author could have done a little more to explain some of the foreign language in the book (for example, it's not easy for an English speaker with little knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet to look at a Russian word and really "get" what it is saying. All I can say is that I am happy that I know how to at least sound out words written in Russian).
Bottom line: This a good book for anyone who enjoys the art of language....more
I love William Shakespeare. I love his plays. He's just a really fascinating person in general so I was really excited to read this book. T I loved leI love William Shakespeare. I love his plays. He's just a really fascinating person in general so I was really excited to read this book. T I loved learning about The inspiration behind Blixt's Her Majesty's Will is how William Shakespeare, infamous playwright, ended up coming from Avon to London and becoming the man that we now remember him for being. So how does Blixt imagine Shakespeare made that journey? Well, he was a spy.
Mr. Shakespeare was definitely not a very good spy but a spy all the same. In this book, Will and Kit foil the plans for the Babington Plot to kill the one and only Queen Elizabeth. So even though they sort of initially bumble some of their journey to figure out what is going on, in the end, they truly save the day.
With as off kilter as this basis sounds, it makes for a great story that is often times very funny. Will Shakespeare teams up with Christopher Marlowe, better known as Kit, in this story to become a spy. In real life, it was suspected that Kit really was a spy. One thing that I loved about this book is the mix between fact and fiction. It just worked so well and made for a really intriguing story that definitely seemed plausible.
While Will was a good character, I loved, loved, loved Kit. He is so funny in this book. He's witty and has so many great one liners. A couple of them had me laughing out loud. He makes a good foil for Mr. Shakespeare who is a lot more staid and serious in this book. Kit is such a great, larger than life character.
Bottom line: A fun read about Will Shakespeare's lost years!...more
"Under the Volcano" is a classic novel by Malcolm Lowry. Originally released in the 1940s, it has now been re-released so that other readers may disco"Under the Volcano" is a classic novel by Malcolm Lowry. Originally released in the 1940s, it has now been re-released so that other readers may discover it. I love when books are re-released to new audiences. I had never heard of this book before!
I was initially intrigued by this book because of the setting. It takes place in 1938 in Mexico. Mexico is a country that I have spent quite a bit of time in so it is near and dear to my heart. As I suspected I would, I loved the setting in this book. This book was apparently based on an interior city of Mexico near Mexico City called Cuernavaca, which I studied abroad in actually. The town in the story is a fictional place though so it's a little bit different. The descriptions were really, really good. You get a good sense of what the town was like. You get to see the Zocalo, a central square in so many Mexican towns, through the eyes of the characters. You see the greenery. You feel the heat and the lovely breezes.
The actual story also initially attracted me. But the execution was very difficult for me to get through. This is not to say that the writing isn't good. It is but this book mostly seems to be written in stream of consciousness, which is most definitely not my favorite. On top of it just being stream of consciousness, the main character is an alcoholic and is therefore seemingly drunk at the time, which made the story even more difficult for me to follow it all. I found it really hard to focus on the action within this book. The writing is a little heavy handed at some points or at least I found it to be; however, I know that the descriptions and literary devices Lowry uses may be attractive to some readers. It just was not for me.
3.5 stars. Oh, President Lincoln is going to be a very popular subject for the near future, I can see. Between several books coming out about him rece3.5 stars. Oh, President Lincoln is going to be a very popular subject for the near future, I can see. Between several books coming out about him recently and the Lincoln movie being in theaters now (I saw it this past weekend and it was very good), I think we're in for a very Lincoln filled 2013. No complaints here!
The death of Lincoln is still an event that captivates many minds both here in the United States as well as the rest of the world. The whole story takes place in the time period just after Lincoln's murder. The nation, having only recently signing a peace agreement between the North and the South after the Civil War, is absolutely shattered. Temple McFadden, a detective, finds two diaries that may hold the secrets to whether or not Lincoln's murder was something much larger, a conspiracy of sorts.
While I am not usually a mystery fan, I did enjoy this book, especially for the historical fiction part of it. This story is not necessarily new. While Temple is a fictional character, some believe that there really was just more than John Wilkes Booth involved in the killing of Lincoln even indirectly. Mary Surratt and Samuel Mudd are two names that come up a lot in these conspiracy theories. This book was definitely an interesting take on these theories. I loved the inclusion of a coded diary.
I also really liked the setting. I love books set in Washington. It's so cool to me to be able to look at a fictional view of my city. It was interesting how much of Temple's Washington was still familiar to me. I loved seeing 1860s Washington. You can tell that the author did a lot of research on what the city was like back then. The setting really made the book feel more real to me.
Some parts of the book were repetitive, especially when it came to the coded messages in the diaries. I wish that the book would have gone more in depth about coded messages in general rather than repeating what the messages said.
Bottom line: A good historical mystery with a great setting! ...more
3.5 stars. Oh man, do I love stories about family secrets. They are just so much fun to read! The Devoted definitely was no exception. Spanning severa3.5 stars. Oh man, do I love stories about family secrets. They are just so much fun to read! The Devoted definitely was no exception. Spanning several decades, this story is really about love and loss. There is both a more present day story as well as two historical stories. The stories of Ryan's (the main characters parents) are told through love letters, which I thought was a really interesting tactic as this is the only way that we really get to know his parents. The other historical story is about Alessandra, the wife of the man who saves Ryan from the car accident. Alessandra grew up in wartime Italy and seems to be holding back on a lot of stories from her life there, even from her husband, who her daughter believes she never truly loved.
Alessandra's story makes up a lot of the sort of intrigue in this book. Her story is the most interesting to me. This is where the action is! The whole story was pretty well written but this storyline was especially well written and enjoyable to me. It's a lot of twists and turns and entanglements and I really enjoyed it.It's also Alessandra's part of the story where the historical detail really shined through. Historical Fiction lovers who like really good descriptions will enjoy this part of the story a lot.
One thing I didn't care for was the love affair between Ryan and Shannon. Shannon is the daughter of Mike and Alessandra. Ryan goes to meet Mike many years after Mike saved him from a car accident. Mike is dying. I didn't care for the love between them because they seem to fall way too quickly for each other, which I found sort of strange. However, their love affair definitely moved the plot forward in some places so I guess it was there for a reason.
Also, the book skips in time and changes narrators and there wasn't anything at the beginning of the chapter to make that clear, which kind of confused things for me.
Bottom line: Pretty good Historical Fiction full of family secrets....more
Like a lot of people in L.A., Jayne wants to become an actress. We all know this isn't easy and so she is forced to take on another job. She becomes aLike a lot of people in L.A., Jayne wants to become an actress. We all know this isn't easy and so she is forced to take on another job. She becomes a chauffeur. One day, she's charged with becoming one of the chaffeurs for the Saudi royal family when they come to visit. This is a memoir about a single event in the author's life. It is fascinating from the aspect that the Saudi royal family is huge and secretive and therefore not a lot of people do not know a whole lot about the family.
I thought this book was interesting from the perspective of culture and cultural relations. The United States relations with Saudi Arabia have been fraught with both periods of friendship and complications. I enjoyed reading about the Saudi people. At times, I kind of felt like the narrator was almost looking down on the Saudis. I think that's an easy trap to fall into when dealing with a culture that you are not familiar with, which the author definitely was not familiar with the culture before this job. Sometimes you have to make an effort to understand instead of trying to overstand. This just rubbed me the wrong way in this book.
I enjoyed reading about some of the things that the author had to do in order to make sure that the Saudi royal family was kept happy and content. One of the things that was most apparent was that aside from spending loads and loads of money, a lot of the members of the royal family seemed just like people that you may come across in your life. There were bossy teenagers and teenagers that just wanted to fit in. There were absent parents and caring parents. When you look it it that way, we are all way closer to each other than you think.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Some parts were not my cup of tea but other parts were definitely a little funny. ...more
Okay, have you ever started reading a book slower and slower as the ending gets closer just so you can put off getting to the ending quickly because tOkay, have you ever started reading a book slower and slower as the ending gets closer just so you can put off getting to the ending quickly because the book is that good? This is exactly what happened to me with Spirit of Lost Angels. This book is a fantastic tale of history, a little mystery, and great characters that I know is going to stay with me long after I shut the book. There is also a small pinch of magic in a bone angel pendent that the main characters, Victoire, receives from her mother who is a healer in her own right. Oh, and this book is filled with fantastic writing. This book hit all of the marks for me! Oh, this book just was so fantastic (excuse me if I use fantastic a whole bunch in this review).
First off, Victoire is such a fantastic character. You will be rooting for her from the very beginning. Her life is anything but easy from the very beginning. She is incredibly resilient though. With every new plot twist (and there are tons and tons and I loved every single one), she gets knocked down but finds some way to fix things and make them better. I loved following Victoire through Revolutionary France.
The historical detail is fantastic (there I go again) in this book. You can tell that the author took a lot of care and time in making Victoire's world both in the French countryside and in the city of Paris come to life. I also really liked the appearance of a couple famous historical figures in the book. I don't want to give anything away but one was a famous American who I'd probably love to talk buildings and books with and the other is a very prolific female philosopher of sorts. They were nice inclusions. Part of the reason I wanted to savor this book so much was because of the scenery and the settings in this book.
This book is a really good example of how amazing indie books can be! Maybe you all realize that I do not give a lot of books five stars but this one is definitely deserving, you can be rest assured. Do yourself a favor and get this book!
I was pleased to learn that this book is the first in a series all about Victoire's descendents.
Bottom line: If you are looking for a book that will engage you from many different angles, this is your book!...more
3.5 stars. I was really excited for this book! Donoghue's "Room" was one of my favorite reads last year so when I heard that Donoghue's Astray was com3.5 stars. I was really excited for this book! Donoghue's "Room" was one of my favorite reads last year so when I heard that Donoghue's Astray was coming out, I knew that I had to read this book. Now short stories are not usually my favorite but because of the writing in "Room," I gave this book a shot. I was definitely pleased and I know that in the future, Emma Donoghue will continue to be on my must read. Now to go back and read her backlist...
This book is all about journeys of all different kinds. The stories take place across all different times and different places. What I found really interesting is that after each story, there is a small sort of "afterword" about where Donoghue found the inspiration to write each different story. I often find myself wondering where authors come up with their stories so I loved each of these "afterwords." Perhaps even more interesting is that most of the stories are rooted in non-fiction stories.
The writing that drew me in to "Room" was still present in "Astray" but this is a very different book. I liked some of the stories better than others. All of the stories are very different from each other and there are not really any connections between them other than the theme of journeys. I wish there had been more ties between the different stories. One of the most interesting to me was about a woman who is forced to give up her daughter due to really terrible life circumstances. Her daughter goes to the orphanage and then on one of the orphan trains that were so popular long ago. The mother keeps up a correspondence with the people who ran the orphanage to try to get news about her daughter throughout her life to no avail. It was very sad!
3.5 stars. Sometimes you come across a book that makes you say, hey, I really wish that I could write like this. Murano gives Valentina, the main char3.5 stars. Sometimes you come across a book that makes you say, hey, I really wish that I could write like this. Murano gives Valentina, the main character in this book a great voice. It really feels like Valentina is a person that you might really come across in real life. Better yet, she feels like a person that you would want to meet and get to know in real life!
The entire book is based on Valentina, a Venezuelan immigrant, telling her American step-daughter, Emily about her life and the series of events, some stranger than others. The writing style and the short little chapter kept me engaged the whole time. I really wanted to see how Valentina ended up with this life and these children that she never really expected. The tone is very conversational, which also made me really like Valentina even more.
The book's story is not told sequentially, which makes it really hard to follow at some points. It took a bit of re-reading for me to figure out where I was in the story. I wished that the story had been a little more chronological. That being said, since I was enjoying the story that much, I didn't mind the flipping back and forth but wanted to mention it for anyone that does take issue with that sort of thing.
There is also a sort of cliffhanger at the end of the book, which makes me wonder: will there be a sequel? It also left me wondering what happened.
I had never heard of Murano before I got the opportunity to read this book. Now I really want to go back and read her other books because I loved the writing in this book so much!...more
"At Drake's Command" is a fascinating Historical Fiction novel about the infamous sea captain Francis Drake. I had never read a fictional book about D"At Drake's Command" is a fascinating Historical Fiction novel about the infamous sea captain Francis Drake. I had never read a fictional book about Drake so I was very interested to see Hill's take on Francis Drake. I think the captain and his life as well as his various expeditions are fascinating. Told from the perspective of Peregrine James, a young cook that begs to become part of Drake's command after being accused of a crime that he did not commit, this book is a fascinating look at the larger than life man that Drake was.
This book takes place during a fascinating time in history. So many different countries were fighting to get their foot in the door in the "new world." The country that had the most and best shipping routes would win. Some of the countries were absolutely ruthless when it came to trying to secure their place. In this book, we get to see many of the different people that Drake and his men encounter. Some of them, like the Moors in Africa, are quite different. It was really interesting to see the different interactions between the various groups. Obviously with so much competition going on during that time period, a lot of the encounters are wrought with extreme tension and scheming. You get a good taste of what it must have been like to be under someone like Drake.
I loved that this book was told from the perspective of Peregrine James (he was a fictional character in case you were wondering). By seeing the story through someone who had a lot of face to face time with Drake himself, you get a good sense of what the man must have been like. I also just liked James' character. He is young but he seems to be very self-assured most of the time.
There is a lot of good historical detail in this book. You can feel the sea breezes, taste James' meals, and feel the roughness of London at the time. This book has a very abrupt ending but there is promise of a sequel!
Bottom line: A good historical read about a fascinating man!...more
Old Hollywood has always seemed like such a fascinating place to me. Just the name Hollywood evokes glamor. I love reading about it and was very excitOld Hollywood has always seemed like such a fascinating place to me. Just the name Hollywood evokes glamor. I love reading about it and was very excited to read The Entertainer based on the fact that it was about Hollywood alone. The Entertainer is both a personal history and a general history of Old Hollywood.
Margaret Talbot tells both the story of her father and Hollywood in this book. Through recollection of her father's many stories and her own meticulous research, she captures the transition between silent movies and the "talkies," as movies with sound were often referred to as when they first came out. Margaret Talbot's father, Lyle, was a screen actor who made this transition. The story follows Lyle from his sort of sad childhood growing up until his death as an old man. Most of the book focuses on Lyle's time in Hollywood. Even though I did not recognize Lyle by name, through reading the book I realized that I had seen some of the movies that he had been in.
This book is both a fascinating biography and a good history book. So many of the things that happened in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s changed the movie business and laid the ground work for many of the things that we see today in movies. I think that people who both like biographies and history will like this book. While sometimes Talbot could give descriptions that were a little bit too long, overall the writing style in this book was good. I liked that Talbot included her father's story rather than just making this a general history of Old Hollywood. Getting to see everything that was going on through Lyle's eyes was really fascinating.
Bottom line: History and biography lovers will enjoy this book! ...more
Castles on the Sand was sort of a mixed bag for me. I was definitely a little bit conflicted about what to rate this book. First off, it took me awhilCastles on the Sand was sort of a mixed bag for me. I was definitely a little bit conflicted about what to rate this book. First off, it took me awhile to get into the book as I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters until the second half. Once the book hit its stride, it was much, much easier for me to get into.
This book deals with a lot of different topics and some of them are very important. All of the topics are of concern for many teenagers. Topics of appearance, family, relationships, and friends are all present here. I think the most important topic in this is the topic of mental illness. Tippetts did a really good job of painting a sympathetic picture of Alex and his mom. I think this can be a really difficult topic to tackle, especially in YA fiction. Tippetts makes you really feel for these characters and what they are going through and how they are trying to survive as a family. I really thought this was one of the best parts of the book!
There were a lot of plot holes that I wish had been filled in. First off, why does John only find where his mom and Madison are now? Madison is already a teenager meaning that there was a lot of time to pass before John just happened upon them while doing his missionary work. Also, I understand that John really cares about Madison because she is his sister but found it bordering on creepy about how quickly he warms back up to her and starts calling her beautiful all. the. time. Also, why is Madison's mom still so mad if it had been so many years? This was never really explained but she's sort of a sour grape throughout the entire book.
There is a religious (specifically Mormon) tilt to this book so depending on your feelings, that may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Bottom line: Overall, I enjoyed the writing but this story was definitely not my favorite.
3.5. Admittedly, I had two reasons for buying this book. First, I love books about entertaining and cooking. I especially like them when they're reall3.5. Admittedly, I had two reasons for buying this book. First, I love books about entertaining and cooking. I especially like them when they're really pretty books filled with pictures for some visual inspiration. Second, being that I am fascinated by all things British and especially royal things, I was interested to see what the Duchess of Cambridge's sister, Pippa Middleton, would write about. Before this book, I did not know much about Middleton besides the fact that she dresses really well and seems to like to have a good time.
I also really like learning about different customs and traditions around the world. Being that this book was from a British point of view, there were several things that were new to me. One of them was Burns Night, a Scottish holiday celebrating the life and work of Scottish poet Robert Burns (Middleton went to university in Scotland, which is where she learned to celebrate this one).
The photographs in the book are gorgeous, like I expected that they would be. This is just a very, very pretty book. I definitely found a lot of inspiration between these pages.
I will definitely be trying some of the recipes out of this book (but perhaps not the Burns Night haggis). The Indian New Years curry recipes look amazing to me.
Some of the tips in the book are pretty simplistic and at times, I wish that they had been a little more creative or a little more off the beaten path. The pretty pictures cannot make up for that. Nonetheless, overall, I was pleased with what I got out of the book and will be using it in the future.
I was very excited to read this book based on the fact that it is based off of one of my favorite musicals, Phantom of the Opera. In a way, this bookI was very excited to read this book based on the fact that it is based off of one of my favorite musicals, Phantom of the Opera. In a way, this book is sort of a retelling of both the book and the musical in a high school setting. What makes it different from a straight retelling is that the characters in the book are actually putting on a high school version of the musical so there are really two retellings going on at the same time, which I loved.
Fear not if you are not familiar with the story of Phantom (but you should be; both the book and musical are amazing). You will be able to pick up on the story rather quickly by reading this book. I love retellings of stories that I'm familiar with. It makes old stories new again. DeLuca does a fantastic job of weaving detail from the musical and the book into both the love triangle story of Becca, Justyn, and Tom as well as the real life Phantom who seems to be haunting the school.
I have a couple criticisms. First off, there are a lot of "quotes" from the musical that are not quotes at all. As the Phantom only came out as a musical in the 1980s, I am assuming that all of the rights to the lyrics still belong to Mr. Andrew Lloyd Webber and therefore could not be used in the book. I get that but being someone that has a huge chunk of the lyrics from Phantom memorized, it did bother me a little bit. I almost wish that they had been left out. However, this is something that you are never going to notice unless you really, really like the musical like I do. Second, the big twist got a little strange and violent for me. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux is a pretty violent book in some places (so is the musical for that matter). Some of the ending may not be for those that are easily turned off by violence or for younger YA readers.
There is a huge twist in this book, which I totally did not see coming (you can't get it out of me; my lips are sealed). I love when a book can surprise me and this twist shocked me. Make sure you cut out a good chunk of time to read about the last third of the book in one fell swoop. You are going to need it as you will not be able to put the book down until you finish the entire book.
Bottom line: A good retelling of a beloved love story! ...more
When I was younger, I loved books like Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary (a diary of a girl growing up in Sarajevo during the BosniaWhen I was younger, I loved books like Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary (a diary of a girl growing up in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War). The first is very well known and the second is not as well known. What they have in common is that they are both important books showcasing the way that people lived during really difficult times in our shared history. Home Front Girl is a book in that same tradition.
Joan is a young girl growing up around Chicago during World War II. The book covers from before the United States entered the war until near the end of the war. Joan is wise beyond her years and makes a lot of really interesting observations throughout the book. Her diary is a fairly thorough documentation of both what normal, everyday life was for an American teenager before the war. It also documents all of the changes that the country went through once the war began.
This book will appeal to both those who are history buffs as well as those who usual read more Historical Fiction than actual history. The diary is compulsively readable and would definitely be a good crossover for readers who really don't usually pick up non-fiction.
This book is an interesting experiment. Using all of those sound bites that all of us love to hate. You know the things that you hear on the news or rThis book is an interesting experiment. Using all of those sound bites that all of us love to hate. You know the things that you hear on the news or read in the newspaper that are catchy and will be repeated over and over again until they don't really mean anything. Cahn takes these phrases that all of us are so familiar with and forms them into a political story about a brutal election.
I appreciated this book from the experimental perspective. I love when people aren't afraid to try something new. However, because this book is made up of sound bites, things that are sort of meaningless, there is not a lot of depth here but I think that's really the point.
This is a good short read about just how little meaning all of those things we hear in the news mean.
Okay, let me first say that this book was so much fun! Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area and being majorly afflicted with political fever, at soOkay, let me first say that this book was so much fun! Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area and being majorly afflicted with political fever, at some point in my life, I wondered what it would be like to work on the Hill. I went a totally opposite way after college so I really enjoyed living vicariously through Allison, the main character, in this book. All I can say now is that Allison definitely does not make the Hill as glamorous as I had dreamed that it would be.
Allison is a girl after my own heart. She's smart and all she wants to do is to do a good job. After all, the Hill is her dream. Unfortunately there is a cast of characters who almost seem hellbent on destroying her career or at least making her life miserable. Even if you don't have political aspirations, I think that anyone who has worked in an office setting will enjoy this book. There is the cast of characters that you may find in your own office. They are so dysfunctional that you find yourself wondering how they got the job in the first place. People like that are very funny to read about even if they are not funny to actually have to work with.
I love the writing in this book. Told from the first person perspective, it feels like Allison is a friend telling you exactly what's going on in her world. While the writing and some of the things that happen in the book are indeed funny, the writing is also very smart. I would say that this book is the kind of book you want to read when you need something lighter but you don't want just fluff. This book is definitely more of the brain candy variety.
I was also very excited to see that there might be a hint of a sequel to this book at the end. Will there be? I really hope so!
Tis the season for all things political, including books. In "What This Country Needs," John Kimberling sets up an idea for a new political party. I tTis the season for all things political, including books. In "What This Country Needs," John Kimberling sets up an idea for a new political party. I think this book has a lot of important points that it would do society well to discuss further. I did not agree with everything but there really were a lot of good ideas in this book. Some of them are more viable than others. I will try to focus on the mechanics of the book for the most part in this review but some politicism will probably sneak through. Living in the DC area and being around politics all the time, it is hard for me not to get a little bit excited about politics!
The book is sectioned off by some overarching themes to include foreign policy, social programs, and law issues. Overall the layout was fairly clear cut. There were several sections that crossed over and so sometimes Kimberling's arguments seemed sort of circular and repetitive. I think the book would have been a little bit better if it had more streamlined and linear.
This book will really appeal to people who have a interest in the in's and out's of politics. It will also be of interest to those who feel like they do not have a really good choice when it comes to choosing a political candidate
A personal note: While I personally feel that it would be refreshing to have more than two viable major parties in this country, there are a couple things preventing us from doing this. First, a major hurdle in the electoral college. I fully believe that until the electoral college is no more, we will not see a viable third party candidate. Currently, third party candidates have a much easier time getting elected to other positions but not the presidency and I think it's due to the electoral college. I found myself wishing that Kimberling would address a little bit more about how to get a 3rd party elected.
3.5 stars. "The Bracelet" is a fairly easy read about a very tough subject: human trafficking. Abby, a nurse, is running away from a failed relationsh3.5 stars. "The Bracelet" is a fairly easy read about a very tough subject: human trafficking. Abby, a nurse, is running away from a failed relationship in the United States. She ends up in Pakistan, one of the most dangerous places in the world, as a UN worker. When she is there, she meets a journalist, Nick, who is chasing a story about human trafficking. Meanwhile, Abby, through her own work and her own relationships in Pakistan, becomes more aware of the issue with human trafficking. She also comes across the man who may be running the largest human trafficking ring in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Human trafficking is both a fascinating and important subject and I really liked that the author chose to tackle it. It is a difficult subject so it could be very difficult to write about. People who are interested in learning about this subject will find this book interesting even though it is a fictional book.
I never really warmed up to either Abby or Nick or their relationship. Abby is running away from a relationship but falls for Nick and gets involved right away. She didn't seem to be making very good decisions. I wasn't able to find a lot of common ground with her.
Also, I mentioned that this is a light read and I suppose I wished that the storyline itself had a little more gravitas when it came to dealing like such a heavy subject like human trafficking. The feeling throughout the book and the subject matter just seemed a little mismatched to a degree. Overall though, this book did pique my interest to learn more about this grave issue.
Before I got a chance to read "The Secret Keeper," I had heard a lot of good things about Kate Morton's writing. Needless to say, I had high hopes forBefore I got a chance to read "The Secret Keeper," I had heard a lot of good things about Kate Morton's writing. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this book and those hopes were definitely fulfilled for me! It's a story about family secrets and mysteries. Spanning the years from the World Wars to present day, this book is a great one for those who like their Historical Fiction with a more than a little bit of mystery.
From this book, I can definitely see why so many people are such big fans of Morton's writing. She knows how to pull you into a story. She gives you just enough information to make you have questions so that you want to read on right away! I was happy that I had a couple long periods of time to spend getting lost in this book.
There is some great historical detail in the book but it sort of plays a secondary role to the the great characters in the book. I really liked Laurel, Dorothy's daughter who pieces everything together. I also really liked Dorothy. She is sort of naive but has a good heart. I also really liked Vivian. She's a character that is so much fun to read about because she's so nasty. Same with Anna!
I really liked the historical story. So many times in families where there is some sort of dysfunction, there seems to be a lot of grudges held where there was some sort of misunderstanding. There was definitely this sort of story present in this book. I really want to say more about the specific storyline but there are very few things that I can say that would not give something away that would be much more fun for you to read for yourself.
All of the twists and turns and things that you never saw coming are one of the most pleasurable parts of the book!
Bottom line: This is a great, well rounded book! Morton is worth reading! ...more
I have always really liked Ben Stein. I love his dry sense of humor. I find it very funny. Many people are familiar with Ben Stein the professor fromI have always really liked Ben Stein. I love his dry sense of humor. I find it very funny. Many people are familiar with Ben Stein the professor from "Ferris Bueller" or the Ben Stein from the "Clear Eyes" eyedrop commercials but Ben Stein in real life is actually a pretty smart guy (but maybe we knew that from Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money"). In all seriousness, he is a smart guy. He was a speech writer for President Nixon back in the day and has a litany of other credits to his name. It's sort of an interesting jump from politics to comedy!
In this fairly slim book, his sense of humor is on display. This book is all about exactly what you should not do in order to be financially successful through your investments. The investments that Ben Stein focuses on are mostly stock market investments. This is a satire. Do not take Ben Stein's bad advice. The book is fairly straight forward and may be of interest both to those who already have a lot of investments and those who have not really dipped their toes into the magical world of the stock market.
With the holidays coming up, I could see this being a great gift book with wide appeal. This isn't really an investment primer but it is a good read nonetheless.
Bottom line: This book makes investment both fun and funny!...more