If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)
Ruby and Easter Quillby are suddenly orphans. Their mom has died of an overdose and their dad gave up his parental rights years ago. They're doing pre...moreRuby and Easter Quillby are suddenly orphans. Their mom has died of an overdose and their dad gave up his parental rights years ago. They're doing pretty well in a foster home though, happy as long as they have each other. But one day their dad, Wade, shows up. He wants his daughters back. The girls' caretaker explains that he'll have to go through the legal system if he really wants them. Wade doesn't understand why he'd have to do that when he's their father, so he just takes them one night. Unfortunately, he's also taken quite a bit of money he happened to "find." As the little family is fleeing from the police for the kidnapping, they're also running from a hit man with a personal grudge, set on getting back the money and hoping to hurt Wade in the process.
Talk about shades of gray! The whole book just drifts around in this nebulous area that left me unsure as to what the right thing to do and the best thing to do really were. I don't think they were ever the same thing. Why should these girls be left in a system that rarely seems to turn out well for anyone when they have a father who wants them back? But can he be trusted not to walk away again? I just couldn't make up my mind about anything. This would be an excellent choice for a book group.
The little family broke my heart in so many ways. I loved Easter's wise, worldly voice but I hated that she was so jaded and only 12 years old. She adored her younger sister Ruby and took excellent care of her. She doesn't know the best thing for them either. She's terrified of being separated from her sister but she can't bring herself to trust the dad she barely knows. Ruby is still pretty innocent but that brings its own heartbreak. She's wide open to being hurt and Easter wants to protect her from that. Sometimes Wade was the saddest character of all. He knows he's messed up in the past but he's trying so hard to make it right. He doesn't see how he's making things worse with this kidnapping and theft. He finds himself in situations he's not even remotely equipped to handle and he knows it but he tries to step up for his daughters. One scene in particular when he stands up for Easter in the only way he knows how just made my chest ache.
The girls also have a court-appointed guardian ad litem who is afraid that the kidnapping is going to become secondary to the theft. There are an awful lot of people looking for that money but he's the only one looking for them. He's an ex-cop who has a big mistake to atone for and he sees this as his chance. I was so glad he was out there, a sort of guardian angel for the Quillby sisters. He struggles with the right thing to do as well. He's a divorced dad who doesn't see his daughter as often as he would like so he can relate a bit to what Wade's going through.
I hated the sections that were told from the hit man's point of view. I was never entirely clear what caused him to hate Wade so much. One incident between them in the past is briefly described but I was still pretty clueless. It's possible that I read it too fast or that it's explained better in the finished book (I had an advanced copy).
This isn't a comfortable book by any means, but it's well-written with characters I was surprised to love so much in so few pages. I highly recommend it.
Thanks to the publisher for allowing me to download a copy for review.(less)
Author Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write...moreAuthor Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write a collection of contemplative essays that are collected here.
What beautiful language! I was in deep like from the beginning and in love by the closing sentences of the first chapter.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. What you are reading was supposed to be a book about birds but it is about this, too."
Aren't you just ready to sink into Sethi's writing and follow wherever she leads?
This slim book is imbued with layers of meaning. There are the surface stories about the birds and the landscape of Sweden and then there are the ways in which Sethi ties those things back into human experience. In the first chapter the migratory cuckoo becomes a metaphor for the wanderlust and yearning for other lives we all feel sometimes. In another the isolation we each occasionally feel is linked to the poor "vagrant" birds who get blown so far away from their native lands that they will never make it back. And so it goes throughout the whole book.
The fjälls of Sweden are so beautifully described that I'm ready to catch a plane and visit. Not being a fan of cold weather, Sweden isn't high on my list of places to visit, so this is really saying something.
I loved that there is an index at the back listing some of the birds that Sethi mentions in the book. When I'm reading I really don't stop to look up things I want to know. I always think I'll do it later but, of course, when later comes I've forgotten the names of what I want to research. I'll be hitting Google in a few minutes to look at these birds for myself.
And that brings me to the one thing that could really make this book better. I think it is just begging to be illustrated with watercolors or charcoal sketches that match the author's evocative yet spare style. I would buy that edition in a heartbeat. There's nothing wrong with it as is but I want the deluxe illustrated edition.
Bird-watchers should enjoy this but those with a scientific leaning or even a tendency toward the philosophical will enjoy it as well.
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review.(less)
Elisa is a Bearer of the Godstone. Born to the royal family, a bright light engulfed her on her Name Day and left her with a Godstone in her navel. Be...moreElisa is a Bearer of the Godstone. Born to the royal family, a bright light engulfed her on her Name Day and left her with a Godstone in her navel. Bearers are marked to carry out a special act of service and they're only born about every hundred years. Unfortunately, they don't tend to live long enough to complete their service.
Elisa doesn't really fit into her own home. Her sister is the one being groomed to rule. Elisa just likes to study her books and, honestly, eat her sorrows. When she finds herself suddenly married off to a neighboring king, she has no idea what to expect. She sets off to be Queen of a country she's never seen. A mutual enemy is threatening their borders, her new husband doesn't seem to know what to do, and since he's decided to keep their marriage a secret, she has no idea what she's supposed to do here either.
I really liked this. Elisa was by no means a perfect heroine. She struggles with her weight and with her own emotional insecurities. But she's an intelligent woman and she's always willing to try her best. She might not be the most charismatic princess but she has an honesty about her that tends to resonate with people once they stop judging her by her weight. I knew there would have to be more to her than what she appeared to be at first glance but the amount of her growth was astonishing. I was incredibly proud of her as she came into her own.
Her story took many twists and turns that kept surprising me. Just when I thought she would settle into one place/story, everything would suddenly change and I would read along anxiously to see how she would handle this new challenge. Through insecurity, heartbreak, physical trials, and mental challenges, Elisa consistently rose to the occasion and kept me interested in her story.
This book wrapped up pretty nicely but there's plenty of room for sequels. I'm starting to really hate gaping cliffhangers, so that was a huge plus for me! I'll keep reading Elisa's story.(less)
Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived t...moreHomicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived to tell the tale, but he was left with a form of synesthesia--he sees people's words as colored shapes. He's learned to use this ability as a primitive lie detector. He's called in when a former cop is found murdered.
My attention wandered a bit a lot while I was reading this, but I can't say it was necessarily the book's fault; I've got a lot going on at the moment. Even so, I wasn't particularly surprised when I found out whodunnit. I even managed to figure it out a little before it was laid out plainly.
I found Robbie to be irritating. His marriage is falling apart but he just goes on and on about how special his wife is. I saw her as a spoiled brat who had a lot of growing up to do. Then I started to see him as just being a step away from a stalker. He got a little pathetic. That's not how I want to see my heroes. And the whole synesthesia thing was kind of...redundant? Came off as a crutch? Something like that. It was just an easy way for Robbie to know if someone was lying without having to do a lot of footwork to actually prove it.
I did enjoy narrator David Colacci's performance, but otherwise, this audiobook was forgettable for me. I enjoyed Cold Pursuit by this author much more.(less)
Molly Ayer has messed up one too many times. She's caught up in the foster system and her latest mistake has left her with a choice of either fifty ho...moreMolly Ayer has messed up one too many times. She's caught up in the foster system and her latest mistake has left her with a choice of either fifty hours of community service or going to juvie. Her boyfriend searches around and finds out that his mom's employer, 91-year-old widow Vivian Daly, needs help cleaning out her attic. Everyone agrees that this can be counted as community service so Molly heads over to the old woman's house. She initially sees it as a chore but she's pleasantly surprised when she realizes how much she and Mrs. Daly have in common.
In New York in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Niamh Power is left an orphan when her recently-immigrated family is killed in an apartment fire. She lives in an orphanage for a few months but then the Children's Aid Society sends her out to the Midwest on an "orphan train." Chaperones would take scores of kids around to different venues and basically give them to whomever wanted them. No one knew which would be worse--not to be chosen at all or to go to a bad family. Either way, the entire process was humiliating and nerve-wracking.
This was such a good book. I hadn't ever heard of the orphan trains, but they were a reality in American history from about 1850 to 1930. Apparently over 200,000 children were relocated in this way. Can you imagine? With all the red tape today? Just show up at the train station and pick yourself out a healthy-looking boy to help Pa out around the farm. Of course you'll promise to send him to school but who's going to check up on that? Nobody. And who's going to make sure that you're feeding him enough? Again, nobody. And if Pa occasionally gets a little too rough with the discipline, well, it's not like he's family or anything. Maybe it was better than slowly starving to death on the streets of New York, but it was a deeply, deeply flawed process. Holy cow.
In a dual narrative like this, I think every reader will enjoy one story more than the other and that was true for me here. I couldn't wait to get back to Niamh's story. There was nothing wrong with Molly's present-day story but the draw for me was the history. I related a little more to Niamh too. She's a good girl who tries her best to blend in and do as she's told while Molly, outwardly at least, is more of a rebel. I'm always going to understand the Niamh personality more than the Molly personality, at least in general and up to a point.
I hope this is okay to share...
I read this with my book club. One of my friends couldn't wait to talk about her reactions to the book. She's been through the foster system herself and she was blown away by how spot-on the whole book was. From the insecurity to learning to work the system in your own favor, she said every word was accurate. I've never been through anything like this (Thank heaven for a loving, supportive family) but I would guess that the rest of us liked it because it rang true. I'm going to get into the dangerous world of stereotypes here and say that most readers are an empathetic bunch so we're going to notice if something just doesn't feel right, whether it's a situation we've ever personally experienced or not. This one felt right.
The book was not without its flaws but they are easily overlooked. There's at least one huge coincidence that left me rolling my eyes. Events occurred that I just knew were setting up a future conflict that never happened. The ending was a little too tidy and it was definitely abrupt. Our whole book club agreed on that.
Read this for a look at a little-known piece of American history, to feel a little more thankful for your family if you're fortunate like me, or to feel a little less alone if you've been through situations like this. It was a fast read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.(less)
Life's too short to keep going with this. It's not horrible but there's just been one too many mentions of cleavage and policewomen using it to get wh...moreLife's too short to keep going with this. It's not horrible but there's just been one too many mentions of cleavage and policewomen using it to get what they want for my taste. Moving on.(less)
Seraphina is working at the royal court when a prince is murdered. Even though her country has been at peace with the dragons for decades, many people...moreSeraphina is working at the royal court when a prince is murdered. Even though her country has been at peace with the dragons for decades, many people believe a dragon killed the prince. Tensions start rising in the city just as the dragon ruler is due for a state visit to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty. Seraphina starts investigating what happened to the prince and following up on rumors of a rogue dragon in the countryside. But can she hide her own secrets while ferreting out someone else's?
I honestly hadn't heard of this until my husband decided to buy it for me for my birthday last year. He's a brave man; choosing books that I haven't asked for can go terribly wrong but he picked a winner!
I really liked Seraphina. She's trying so hard to do the right thing for everyone and the secrets that she's keeping are some big ones. She feels bad for lying all the time but she doesn't see any way around it. In her shoes, I wouldn't either. She's a smart girl though and she's much braver than she gives herself credit for. She might not decide to be brave on her own behalf but she's a lion when it comes to looking out for the underdog. I love that about her.
Of course there's a love interest. I'll keep his name to myself. But I loved him too. He's also brave and curious and trying to do the right thing. He has some major twists and turns to deal with and I found his reactions to be pitch perfect. Not immediately accepting but not close-minded either. I like him a lot.
I did not see the ending coming at all! I'm so happy nowadays when I can say that! There's enough closure at the end to satisfy most readers but there's definitely room for a sequel. I've gotten sick of cliffhangers recently (mostly thanks to movies) so that was a relief as well. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next in the series.
A group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
We...moreA group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
We read this for my book club because one of our members remembered loving it when she read it in an English class and had been wanting to re-read it. Even she said it was not at all what she remembered and it must have been made better by an awesome English teacher. Let's hear it for awesome English teachers!
Left to struggle through on my own devices, however, I found nothing redeeming in any of these characters. Which was probably the point, but still. I like to read about characters that I actually like. The best one was the narrator, so that was a plus, but he couldn't keep his friends in line and I don't think he wanted to. They were all so very cynical and had seen everything and done everything that they got a little boring.
I told one of my friends who hadn't quite finished by the time our meeting rolled around, "Let me save you some time. They go out, get drunk, Brett sleeps with someone who is not her fiance, the Jew (as he was mostly known) got mad that she wasn't sleeping with him and hit somebody, they all drank some more, and started over the next day."
And that's what I took away from this book. Life is short and boring, you drink and argue, then you die.
I did like Hemingway's style. He's very short and to the point and without seeming to waste a lot of time on description, he manages to put you firmly in a scene. I would occasionally get confused as to who was speaking because he didn't like to use too many "I said"s or "Brett said"s. Otherwise, stylistically, we got along just fine.
I knew this was a classic, so I started trying to find some sort of symbolism. I decided that the poor impotent narrator should be the steer in his herd and then I tried to relate what was happening with the bulls to what was going on with the people, but nothing ever clicked. I must not be in a place in my life for Hemingway to speak to me.
I got confused about time a little too. It would sound like weeks had passed when really it had been days. People would be intensely in love and talking marriage and decide it would never work and sound like they'd had a whole long time together when they'd just met for the first time five or six days before, as far as I could tell.
This book was not for me, but obviously it appeals to someone. It might appeal more to men (Hemingway being one of those very masculine writers) or to urbane people with a cynical mindset, I don't know.(less)