Zack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his fZack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Armada. He's always been afraid this would happen. Zack's father, Xavier, died in a work accident when Zack was an infant, leaving behind some journals that outline a vast government conspiracy to train civilians as soldiers for an upcoming struggle against extraterrestrials. Crazy, right? Zack was afraid he would lose his mind too. And now it appears that he has. Except that the next morning a futuristic ship lands on his school lawn and the men in black step out, calling his name and recruiting him for the battle to save the earth....
I didn't even realize Ernest Cline had published a new book until I saw Sheila over at Book Journey mention it. I knew I had to get my hands on the audio. I loved Cline's first book, Ready Player One, but didn't realize that Wil Wheaton narrated the audio version until after I'd read it in print. I wasn't going to miss out this time.
Wheaton's narration was everything I hoped it would be.
The book.... Well, my hopes were high. Cline knocked it out of the park with his debut novel. Armada was good but not great.
The world building just took way too long for me. I tuned out for long chunks of time during descriptions of the video game and the back story and past missions and unbeatable alien technology. That's not my thing.
Which leads into my other problem. I'm not a modern gamer. I'll at least mostly understand references to video games from the 80s and early 90s, and there's a decent chance that I've played them or at least watched my cousins and sister play them. I'm lost with today's games. I have no desire to join a vast online community of people talking smack to each other and playing war games. Totally not my thing. And I think that's the group this book is primarily going to appeal to.
I did like Zack and the other characters a lot. I was rooting for them all the way. I enjoyed their interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt real. Once I got through all the lead-up to the real story, I was hooked and I finished this audio book in record time.
I'm pretty happy with the resolution. There's definitely room for a sequel and, like Zack, I still have unanswered questions. Armada stands just fine on its own though.
Don't expect a repeat of the Ready Player One experience, but I still recommend it. As I said, I do think gamers will enjoy it more than the rest of us, but it's definitely a good book, especially in audio....more
In a prequel to Cinder, Marissa Meyer explores the life of the Lunar queen everyone loves to hate. Levana. Why does she act the way she does? Why is sIn a prequel to Cinder, Marissa Meyer explores the life of the Lunar queen everyone loves to hate. Levana. Why does she act the way she does? Why is she such a raging bitch? Fairest gives some insight into those questions.
I'm finding this hard to rate. On the one hand, it is well-written and exciting and everything that I expect from this series. On the other hand, it's Levana. Oh my gosh! I despise this character!
I tried hard to find something to like and to see her as more of a victim than a victimizer and that worked for maybe the first part. Then she started being herself and I could not stand her!
The whole family is twisted and insane. Maybe that goes hand-in-hand with their Lunar "Gift." Levana actually looks pretty good compared to her parents and even her older sister Channery. But whether they've inevitably twisted her or whether it's a matter of genetics, she slowly starts manipulating everyone around her to get what she wants.
From the story of how she won her first husband to the story of how she became Queen rather than Queen-Regent, I just got more and more agitated as I listened. Even when people are trying to explain to her why she can't just order them to love her, she just doesn't get it. In fact, she's usually not listening but instead trying to figure out a new way to manipulate them.
A terrible incident from her childhood is alluded to throughout the whole novella. It's pretty obvious what happened from pretty early on. The details are chilling when they're finally revealed. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for me to cut her any slack. I still can't stand her.
So this long rant about my dislike of a fictional character should actually say something about the quality of the writing. I'm obviously drawn right into Marissa Meyer's world. Narrator Rebecca Soler did an excellent job, as always. I got chills every time I heard her say, "Come here, baby sister." *shiver*
This really isn't the place to start with this series, despite the fact that it probably is the the first in the story timeline. If you've enjoyed the other books in the series, go ahead and pick it up. It is worth it to know more of Levana's back story. It feels like a good lead-up to Winter, the next book in the series, as well....more
I walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not goiI walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not going to check out any fiction. I grabbed the book I was there for and then started wandering the fiction stacks. It couldn't hurt to just look, right? OK, so I hadn't read anything by Patricia Briggs in a while. I needed to check out the next in the Mercy Thompson series since it was available. But that was it. Nothing else. I marched toward the checkout desk with blinders on. I would not be deterred.
But, oh! What's that? Over on the "Staff Recommends" shelf? It's so pretty! My feet were going that way of their own volition. My hands were reaching for it. Beautiful and creepy. A quick glance at the back. Fairy tale? Sold. I had Beautiful Darkness checked out and in the car before my brain even processed what had just happened.
It truly is a beautiful book. It's large and hardcover so it was very striking on display. The interior artwork is all gorgeous too. I took my time looking over each frame.
The story--? So-so. It was very dark, in a Lord of the Flies way. I was never entirely clear exactly what happened, but I was clear enough. There's a murdered little girl in the woods. All of these fairy-ish creatures fled--her body? her mind?-- when she died. Now they're alone in a harsh world trying to survive.
All of the personalities you would expect to see in this situation show up. The "Queen Bee," demanding that the others cater to her every whim. The caretaker who is doing her best for everyone. The outcasts. The sneaky manipulators. And a whole lot of clueless people who get themselves killed for no good reason.
It was just too episodic for me. Each smaller story lasted just a few frames. There was a larger story arc and I did like that one. I did not expect the ending at all. It was deliciously shivery.
The translation was done very well. I would never have guessed it wasn't originally written in English.
If you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, you'll probably like this twisted little beauty of a book. If you're looking for a Disney-ish fairy tale, keep those feet marching toward the checkout desk. This one's pretty disturbing....more
So, we all learned something about the Lewis & Clark expedition in school, right? They were the first official group to travel all the way to theSo, we all learned something about the Lewis & Clark expedition in school, right? They were the first official group to travel all the way to the Pacific coast and back, with brave Sacagawea leading the way, papoose strapped to her back. That's honestly pretty much all I knew. But there's got to be so much more to it than that. I wanted to know the real story so I grabbed this at the library.
Eh. I did learn a lot but this book is primarily a biography of Meriwether Lewis. I'm not clear how you separate Lewis from Clark when their names are so inextricably intertwined, but there you go. I was disappointed by that. I'm not being fair to the book--the subtitle does clearly state its about Captain Lewis--but I wanted more.
It read like hero worship. The author has retraced some of the routes the group followed many times, has obviously read a lot about Lewis and the rest of the Corps of Discovery and knows his stuff. But there were frequently statements that amounted to (NOT a direct quote; I've returned my copy to library already), "Can you imagine? He's practically an uneducated heathen but he discovered three new species on this day, eleven on this day, and stayed up late to take celestial observations that provided the most accurate maps known up to that time! And then wrote 2000 words about it! Holy smokes!" Am I exaggerating? Yes. But that's how it felt. Also, by focusing on Lewis so exclusively (again, that was the point of the book), it started to read like the rest of the men were just along for the ride. Lewis could have done it all by himself. I still couldn't name very many of the other men. Legendary Sacagawea is barely mentioned. Even when the Captain made some questionable decisions (granted, this did seem to be pretty rare), the author managed to explain them away with some sort of rationale. "Well, if he hadn't chased down those young Blackfeet, they might have run away and brought the rest of the tribe down on the group, and they all might have died!" Maybe, maybe not. But I wanted the facts, not the what ifs.
This book contained quite a bit of speculation for something that's nonfiction. I just wanted the facts in a readable format. Just in case the story of 30 or so men trekking across 7000 miles of uncharted wilderness wasn't dramatic enough, there would suddenly be something along the lines of (again, I'm paraphrasing), "It all worked out this time, but what if it hadn't? What if the trouble-making Sioux had decided to attack and kill the whole group? The expansion of the American West would have been delayed by years and years because Jefferson wouldn't have had time to mount another expedition and his successor thought the whole purchase was folly anyway." And then there was Lewis's moodiness. Maybe this is an accepted theory among historians but it bothered me to read (paraphrasing), "Perhaps Lewis was bipolar. His father suffered from terrible mood swings and Lewis did too. We'll never know. But if he was, the success of the expedition is an even bigger accomplishment!" That just bothered me. I think it was what I perceived as the lack of evidence to back such a claim up. He functioned admirably for a couple of years during this expedition. He got moody. Anyone living in such tight quarters with 30 other men would do the same. He either didn't keep journals for large chunks of time or they're lost to history. That doesn't add up to a bipolar diagnosis to me, but I can't claim to know very much about it. Had I known how Lewis died before reading this (I didn't), I might have bought it, but by the time I found out, it was too late and I was irritated.
I've dwelt too long on what I didn't like. Meriwether Lewis was truly an amazing man; a tireless, curious explorer; and a gifted leader. I did learn a lot about him and even the whole expedition. I just wanted so much more than what I found in these pages. If you're looking for a Lewis biography, by all means, grab this. If you want to know more about the Corps of Discovery in general, I'd recommend that you look elsewhere....more
Tin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided thTin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided that he's a free man. There's a search but it quickly comes to a dead end in Bangkok. His daughter Julia decides several years later to go looking for him in Burma, his native country, after finding a love letter he had written to a woman named Mi Mi. She quickly stumbles onto a man named U Ba who is able to tell her father's story from his start as an abandoned peasant boy to the time he left Burma.
Eh. I enjoyed this. And then I got to the end. It felt way too Nicholas Sparks-y to me. Nothing against him, that's just not my kind of book. At all.
The book and translation are beautifully written and the audio version is fabulous. Cassandra Campbell is an excellent narrator. Burma is not a country that I've read much about but it was fascinating. The descriptions of Tin Win finding his way through the world as child, relying mostly on his sensitive hearing, were amazing. The story of his first love was heart-wrenching.
But then I don't understand what happens. We are told how he ends up in America but I can't say that I truly get it. I can't lay out my questions without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say--why? I think it was a cultural thing. But it felt like a contrivance to set the story on the teary Nicholas Sparks path.
So I obviously don't think this is for everyone but if you like reading love stories with your box of tissues nearby, pick this one up....more
Jean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He putJean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He puts together gigantic puzzles in his spartan apartment and sells books on his book barge, The Literary Apothecary. He knows exactly the right book to sell to the lovelorn when they enter his shop, but he doesn't know how to fix his own life.
When Catherine, fresh out of a devastating marriage, moves in across the hall, they both sense that they could have a real, lasting relationship, a relationship that neither of them is ready for. In an act of desperation, Jean casts his barge off into the Seine, bestselling author Max in tow, and heads off into the sunset, or at least the south of France, to seek peace and healing.
I truly wanted to like this more than I did. I read a couple of reviews, thought it sounded like the perfect book for me, and went to request it on Netgalley. It was good, not great, and in the month or so since I finished it, I've largely forgotten it.
My biggest problem was the title. I estimate that 2/3 of the book takes place outside of Paris. So now it's The Little France Bookshop. That's misleading but still, no real complaints here. I haven't been to France but it's high on my wishlist. And while quite a bit of the story does take place in the bookshop or around books, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Instead of a love story to books, or a love story revolving around books, I felt like it was more of a love story with a few books thrown in. That's not quite fair because there were a lot of titles and author's names tossed about but they almost felt like afterthoughts. To me, anyway.
Still, the settings did come to life for me. I'm ready to take a cruise on the waterways of France in the summertime. Especially on a floating bookstore. I want to gaze at the stars, dance the tango, smell the flowers, eat the food and drink the wine.
I liked the three men who ultimately end up aboard The Literary Apothecary and the way their lives contrast to each other. Young author Max hasn't experience all-consuming love yet and he's frankly afraid of the idea. Jean had his and can't let her go. Jack-of-all-trades Cuneo joins them later on---and I can't finish this thought because that will get into spoilers.
I personally don't read too many straight-up romantic-type books, so this turned out not to be a great fit for me. Those who enjoy romance more than I do will love this one. But even for me, it was worth the read, if only for the gorgeous setting.
Simon Pare did an excellent job with the translation. If I hadn't known it was translated, I don't think I ever would have guessed. The language was gorgeous.
Thanks to the publisher for allowing me access to a review copy through Netgalley....more
In a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a biIn a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a bit of time on Earth and they actually kind of like the place. They're not ready for the End of Days. So they set out to make sure it doesn't happen.
I read this book about half a lifetime ago, which makes me feel a little old. I really enjoyed it. When I saw that it was going to be adapted for radio by the BBC and we could stream it on our side of the pond, I was excited.
I think I was a little distracted as I was listening to it. I only listened to it around the house so I could stream it over our wifi. And of course I was puttering around as I listened. I laughed in all the right places but it felt disjointed to me. I think that's at least partly because I would get focused on whatever I was doing for a minute or two and then try to pick up the thread of the narrative again. Also, the BBC app is terrible. I could only listen to five minutes at a time before the audio started whistling at me, so then I'd have to exit completely out and go back in to listen to the next five minutes. That shows some sort of dedication on my part, doesn't it, that I listened to the whole thing like that?
Also, (I'm afraid to say this), I tend to love Neil Gaiman's books but I've never been a huge Terry Pratchett fan. My sister has tried to get me to read the Discworld books forever. I've read a few. I enjoyed one and the others were just too random and over the top for me. That's how Good Omens felt to me now. I don't know if my taste has changed or if it just stood out to me more in this format.
The adaptation was very well done though. I haven't listened to many (if any) other radio adaptations, and I liked the full cast and the sound effects. I can't think of any weaknesses in that aspect of things.
I don't know if this is still available, but fans of the book should definitely check it out. I think I just had too many other things going on because I really should have loved it....more
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that somethinMademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that something is afoot, if she can only figure out just what it is. Someone seems to be determined to kidnap Dimity and her brother (What is his name? I can't be bothered to look it up just at this moment), and Sophronia's friends aren't speaking to her.
Hmmm...I loved this while I was reading it and laughed my way through several parts, even going so far as to read them to my husband. But now that I'm sitting down to write my review a couple of weeks later, I find that I've forgotten most of the book. I'm going to knock it back a star. I think it's fallen prey to the "filler" curse. How often does book two of a series only feel like filler? Entirely too often for my taste.
The book was as witty and charming as I expect Gail Carriger's books to be. I loved that Lord Akeldama finally made an appearance. He will eat Sophronia up! Hopefully not intentionally. I actually enjoyed the triangle that is forming between Sophronia, spoiled Lord Felix, and down-to-earth Soap. I'm Team Soap all the way! I fear that it's a doomed relationship before it even gets started though.
The whole thing with the other girls shunning Sophronia felt very forced. She's a smart girl and she should have realized what was going on. I guess sometimes it's hard to see it when you're right in the middle of things though.
And I think that's all I have to say about that. I'll definitely continue with the series, I just hope the next installment is a bit stronger....more
Will Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidWill Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidst the cartel bosses and terrorists that are his usual hits. He's assigned to take out a woman who works for the Department of Defense. The official story is, she's got terrorist ties. He walks into her apartment and realizes something isn't right. He freezes and re-evaluates as her child wakes up and starts to panic, just in time for a second sniper to kill both him and his mom. Robie goes underground to find out what's going on. He climbs on a bus and watches a teen girl board as well. Shortly behind her is a man who looks like a professional. Robie watches as the man prepares to kill the girl, ready to act if he needs to. It turns out, she's capable of taking care of herself but now she's on the run with Robie.
I wanted something pretty exciting and fun to listen to and I have to say this did fit the bill. It took me by surprise when the sound effects started though. I can't recall having sound effects in many other audio books and I'm not sure if I like them. Mostly they just yank me out of the story as I look around, wondering where the gunshots are coming from. (I live kind of in the country in the South. It's not unusual for neighbors to indulge in some target practice.) I liked David McLarty's narration quite a bit. He has a gruff kind of voice that I thought suited the story perfectly. I also liked that Orlagh Cassidy read the female dialog but I occasionally felt too much like she was actually reading to me. I know, it's an audiobook and she is reading to me but I don't want it to sound that way. Mostly I enjoyed her narration too though.
While the book itself was exciting and I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the end, I saw too much of it coming from way too far away. There were a couple of times where I caught myself thinking, "Heaven help us if this is the best and brightest our country has to offer" and rolling my eyes. I might not have put all the pieces together but I did at least know what the pieces were. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was supposed to be a big surprise.
I don't know that I'll be running out to read or listen to more books by this author but if the mood strikes for another thriller-ish read, I'd give him another try, either in print or audio....more
Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that isChronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.
The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.
Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.
I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it....more
Testimony covers a lot of ground, from the making of the movie, Schindler's List, to the idea of filming Holocaust survivor testimonies, to the actualTestimony covers a lot of ground, from the making of the movie, Schindler's List, to the idea of filming Holocaust survivor testimonies, to the actual project, and now sharing the testimonies and collecting new ones from ongoing genocides around the world.
The first half of the book kept my attention better than the second half. I love the movie so seeing the behind-the-scenes photos and reading about the actor's thoughts was fascinating. I also liked reading about the real people the characters were based on and how filming such harrowing scenes affected all the cast and crew. When the narrative moved on to the idea of the Shoah foundation and collecting the survivor/witness stories, I was still on board. I liked reading about how the USC Shoah Foundation is sharing their expertise with other groups around the world with similar goals. I was reading in bed wondering how you get a job collecting stories. I even searched StoryCorps to see if they were hiring (They were but I'm not bilingual). The idea of such a huge, important undertaking just appealed to me--no, it called to me.
The second half got more technical, focusing on ensuring that the testimonies are secure and stay in a format that is always relevant to the modern age. That started to lose me. I'm proficient with the technology that's relevant to my life. I don't really stay on the cutting edge of anything. And I definitely don't understand anything about movie editing, etc. I do understand that all of this is important but I didn't really follow it. I was back on slightly firmer footing when the narrative switched to sharing the testimonies with the world. Even at that, I quickly got to the point where I just wanted to know what website I could go to for myself.
What kept me going were the transcribed excerpts sprinkled throughout the book. I'm drawn to stories of the Holocaust so reading about what these survivors endured was a highlight of the book. I was glad that the editors chose to include narratives from not only Jewish survivors, but also a homosexual survivor, rescuers/witnesses, a Jewish woman active in the resistance, a Sinti and Roma survivor, and survivors from other genocides (Rwanda and Cambodia). I personally know very little about other genocides or even really other perspectives on the Holocaust. I especially like that all these excerpts included current photos of the speakers and photos from their past.
Anyone interested in the Holocaust and/or Schindler's List will find this book fascinating. Pick it up for yourself and bear witness. We must never forget.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review....more
Talmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozesTalmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozes off for a few minutes and wakes as the girls run away with some fruit they've stolen. He decides not to chase them because they look hungry. A day or two later, the girls show up at the orchard. He starts cooking extra food and leaving it out for them but they won't let him get too close.
Meanwhile, a stranger shows up in town looking for girls who sound an awful lot like the two Talmadge is watching over. Talmadge ponders things for a while and decides to meet with the stranger at his homestead. Talmadge does not like what he sees. The man, Michaelson, eventually offers to let Talmadge have 20 minutes with a nine-year-old girl for $2. Talmadge quickly leaves, resolved that Michaelson will never get his two girls back.
I really liked this on audio. Narrator Mark Bramhall's rough voice suited the feel of the story perfectly.
I got frustrated with the book though. A large part of it centers around Talmadge trying to find the youngest girl, Della, after she's grown up and left home. Della doesn't seem to give a flip about anything at that point, and she definitely doesn't care that she's breaking his heart. I tried to tell myself that she'd been through unimaginable things and I needed to cut her some slack but I couldn't. Then I would try to remind myself of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the lost sheep and that still didn't work (I don't know what it was about this book that brought out the Biblical references; it's not remotely religious). Della doesn't want to be found and I thought that should be the end of it. I'm obviously not a parent.
I tried looking at it from Talmadge's point of view. He feels responsible for Della. But he also lost a sister when he was in his teens. She went into the woods one day and never came back. He just can't find it in himself to let Della go as long as he thinks he knows where she is, and especially not after he learns that she's in trouble. I could wrap my head around things a little better from his perspective. But I still wanted to shake him and point out that he was neglecting the girl who was still at home--sweet, faithful Angeline.
Angeline got the short end of everything. She's a good girl so Talmadge doesn't feel he has to worry about her too much. She's pretty self-sufficient too. But even she seems to be hurt that Talmadge starts running off and leaving her alone to chase after Della, whom she barely remembers. I can't decide if it was Bramhall's narration falling short in this one respect or if Angeline was really written this way, but she did come across as a bit clueless. I had a hard time remembering how young she was as well. Her whole dialog seemed to be, "I don't understand," or "What's going on?" or "Tell me what's happening." Bramhall's high, breathless narration for her part didn't help.
By the last few chapters, I was pretty much done so I'd tuned out. I kind of heard what happened to everybody but I was lost in my own thoughts by then.
The book really is well-written and has a strong sense of place. This could have been a case of the wrong book at the wrong time for me. If you're in the mood for something fairly dark that explores the way that families can be formed and torn apart, give it a try....more
Kate has been living the past year of her life in a daze. Her husband died and she's retreated into herself, letting her mother-in-law make all the deKate has been living the past year of her life in a daze. Her husband died and she's retreated into herself, letting her mother-in-law make all the decisions for Kate and Kate's whimsical daughter, Devin. But Kate wakes up one morning to find that she's somehow agreed to sell her house and move in with her mother-in-law, who does mean well but who invariably crushes Devin's unique charm. So Kate and Devin hit the road, only to find themselves at Lost Lake, an old summer camp/resort owned by Kate's aunt Eby.
Eby has been mourning her husband for years now and she's tired of putting on a brave face. She's just agreed to sell her property to a land developer. But there's something magical and healing about this lake that can't be lost in a land grab. Lost souls tend to gather here to look for hope and redemption. Now they must come together to save the place that's saved so many of them.
When I first read this, I thought it was another solid four-star book from Sarah Addison Allen. But now that months have passed, it's faded away and I'm only left feeling that it was a decent entry in her body of work. I'm bumping it back to three stars.
Devin may have been my favorite character. She's a bright child but she definitely marches to her own drummer. She loves to play dress-up and can frequently be found in outlandish combinations such as fairy wings and cowboy boots. What's not to love? She responds to the lake's magic almost instantly and fights hard to save it and solve old mysteries.
The resident chef, Lisette, broke my heart. Her first romance was troubled to say the least, leaving her mute and solitary. It's obvious that she has a lot to offer the people around her but she chooses to remain isolated, only offering peeks of her soul through her cooking.
The other characters were solid enough. I wanted to shake both Kate and Eby at times. The faithful flock of summer residents were a hoot. All ancient in years, they have young, irrepressible spirits and they aren't losing their refuge without a fight.
So why only three stars? The plot just felt a bit too familiar. There's nothing wrong with familiar; familiar is comfortable. But familiar doesn't really stand out either. And I can't say it any better than that.
I think Sarah Addison Allen fans will definitely enjoy this one, I just don't think it will be a favorite. Readers new to Ms. Allen's work will probably be enchanted. I do enjoy her books and hope she continues sharing them with us for years to come. ...more
During the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect toDuring the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect to be executed the next morning, they instead find themselves facing a Colonel in the Red Army. He will let them go free if they agree to find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. Leningrad is surrounded by Germans and people are starving to death in the streets. They don't know how they're going to do it but they undertake the task.
I really think I would have enjoyed this more in print. There was nothing really wrong with Ron Perlman's narration, but the tone of his voice is just so low that it was pretty easy for me to unintentionally tune him out as I was driving.
That said, I did enjoy it. Poor young, serious Lev, to be stuck with Kolya! But I loved Kolya. He's like that one person that you really like even though you're uncomfortable around him more often than not because of the things that he says. He has no idea when to shut up but he's so charming that he generally gets away with saying whatever he's thinking. He thinks a lot about girls and how much he hates the Germans and a book named The Courtyard Hound. He quotes it all the time! I would have been more of a Lev in their situation, terrified of everything, but Kolya kept young Lev going. He kept me laughing and shaking my head.
The novel felt a bit like The Odyssey, with the young man drifting from one insane adventure to the next. While their journey only lasts a week, so much happens that it felt like much longer. Cannibals, sadists, epic chess games, I just never knew what they were going to get into next. I liked that.
What I did not like was the ending. Not one little bit. I can see that it was necessary but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
This was a perfect read during the--what are they calling it? Polar Vortex?--that has chilled most of the US. I'll complain about the cold all day if I can but reading about these young men in the frigid temperatures of Russia, well the USSR at the time, with no food and inadequate clothing helped me keep things in perspective. Settle in to read this when it's cold outside, enjoy it, and be thankful for what you have....more
Violet Turner owns a vintage clothing shop in Madison, Wisconsin. She's on her own after her rocky marriage ended and she likes it that way. She's alwViolet Turner owns a vintage clothing shop in Madison, Wisconsin. She's on her own after her rocky marriage ended and she likes it that way. She's always dreamed of owning a shop like this and she's happy enough.
Then she finds out that she's being evicted from her building, a good friend asks her to hire a pregnant teenager, and several of her customers' lives are falling apart at the seams as well. Will this circle of friends get each other through these tough times?
I did enjoy this a lot, I just had a good idea where it was going from the beginning.
I did like all of the characters and the strong stances they took. They've made mistakes in the past but they've learned from them. They're going to live life on their terms now. I think women need to be reminded to do that from time to time. April, the pregnant teen, has had a pretty tough life but she's doing the best she can. Amithi's marriage is disintegrating and she's questioning her whole life. Betsy is a do-gooder who's trying to get them all straightened out. Violet is the main character and I liked her a lot. She's caring, pretty spunky, and trying to keep her business afloat. I especially liked her taste in clothes!
I wanted so badly to visit this shop, it was ridiculous! I do actually have a taste for vintage clothes but you would never know it to look at my usual uniform of jeans and tees. I just don't have the patience to dig through all the junk to find the treasure. I need to find a store like this where someone like Violet has done the digging for me! I loved reading the descriptions of the items in the store.
This was a fun read with a good reminder added in. It was a tad predictable but that can be comforting at times. If you're interested, you should definitely give it a try. It's worth picking up for the cover alone!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review....more
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 tHomicide 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....more
In a dual narrative, author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the lives of a modern-day fictional author, Kathryn Callaghan--a "woman of a certain age,"--anIn a dual narrative, author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the lives of a modern-day fictional author, Kathryn Callaghan--a "woman of a certain age,"--and artist Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, famous for painting portraits of Marie Antoinette. Both women are looking back over their lives, evaluating their choices and reflecting on their losses.
2.5 Stars but I'm generously rounding up.
I am not the greatest audience for this book. I hesitated before requesting a review copy. I really, really, really disliked Ms. Naslund's last book, Adam & Eve, and I disliked Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man when I read it in college. I've never done well with stream of consciousness. If I'm going to follow random thoughts down the rabbit hole, I'd rather follow my own; they're more interesting. But. I really, really, really loved Ahab's Wife, also by Ms. Naslund. It has a firm place in my personal top ten list. It was a toss-up so I decided to go for it.
The modern-day story just dragged on and on and on. I mean it when I say I don't do well with stream of consciousness. I could not care less about every little thought that crosses a character's brain. That said, it felt right. I have the feeling that if I were closer in age to either of these two characters, I might have loved this book. The reflections, the difficult choices that are made about aging parents, children as children and when they're adults, marriages, it all rang true and I feel that Ms. Naslund captured it perfectly. As a 35-year-old married woman with no children and parents who are still (knocking on wood) working and in decent, if not perfect, health, I couldn't find the kind of bone-deep connection I think I would have needed to really appreciate this novel.
I did much better with Madame LeBrun's story. It was much more structured with a beginning, middle, and end, and I liked reading about her life just before and after the French Revolution. The "during" years were a bit glossed over, but she got safely out of the country before everything got really bad, and anyone wanting to read more about that era should read Ms. Naslund's excellent novel about Marie Antoinette, Abundance. Her parts were very short though and before I knew it, I was mired back in the one never-ending day in the life of modern Kathryn Callaghan.
As always, Naslund's writing was beautiful and I loved the sense of place in both stories. I want to see Kathryn Callaghan's old Louisville neighborhood and Élisabeth's apartment in Paris and her cottage at Louveciennes.
Otherwise, this book was mostly forgettable for me. Readers who do better with stream of consciousness or who are more contemporaneous with the two main characters will enjoy it more than I did....more