I didn't know much about Korean Americans' experiences during the World War II era before I read The W Review first posted on Intellectual Recreation.
I didn't know much about Korean Americans' experiences during the World War II era before I read The War Between Us. I love that it tells a different side of the story, and that I felt like I really learned a lot while being entertained.
Sarah Creviston Lee was a historian before she took up the pen, and all of her experience researching really shines through in this novel. The setting, both in terms of time and place, is so well crafted. All of the meals that Lonnie makes in the book are meals that Sarah has prepared and then shared on her blog, History: Preserved, as part of a year-long project to cook from a wartime rations cookbook. I also happen to know that Sarah sews, and she has made a lot of historical clothing. Her excellent descriptions meant that I could easily visualize the characters' clothing. Little details like these and period-appropriate language really helped set the book in the correct era. The Korean culture was equally well done, with language, food, and other elements of the culture adding authenticity to Alex's character.
In addition to the great setting, the characters in The War Between Us are full and complicated. Their motivations and desires run deep. Just like all of us, they make mistakes, keep secrets, and muddle their way through. I was particularly sensitive to Alex's situation. His conflicted feelings about his family, the war, and his place in America are often so raw and real. He can be quick to anger, but, as a reader, I loved him anyway. I also really love Lonnie' younger siblings and her aunt. That crew has some spunk.
I enjoyed the slow buildup of the romance in The War Between Us. Lee gives her characters time to get to know one another. The added benefit here is that she also gives the town of River Bluff time to get to know Alex so that when things finally come to a head, he's made some good allies.
I'd definitely recommend this book for anyone that is interested in home front World War II era stories. ...more
Ignite is the second book in Sara B. Larson'sDefy Series. In the first book Alexa helped wrest the kingdom from the evil King Hector. Now that Damian is on the throne things in Antion are looking up. The gross wrongs of King Hector's realm are beginning to be put to right, and Alexa no longer has to hide the fact that she is a girl. However, there is one little sticky issue: she's still in love with him. And even though Alexa has determined that it's best for the country if she and Damian are not together, that hasn't made the decision any less painful. Alexa's personal issues aside, there is still a lot of work to be done in the kingdom of Antion. A regime change such as this calls for a delicate balancing act. Most especially, Damian and his advisers are wary of how the surrounding countries will treat the new Antion. They get a chance to find out right away when the neighboring country of Dansii sends an envoy.
Defy was just okay for me, but I really enjoyed Ignite. I think part of the reason is that this book has a lot more political intrigue. There's abduction, poison, swordplay, and, of course, magic. I liked that we got more up close and personal with the villains in book two. You can't hate a villain with the same venom if you don't really know them.
My one complaint about this book is kind of reminds me of when an interviewer asks about a personality flaw, and the interviewee reports on a flaw that is not really a flaw. Here it is: Alexa does everything in this book. She has to fight everyone, solve all the mysteries, and basically save the kingdom single handed. I know that Alexa is awesome and all, but doesn't King Damian have anyone else that can wield a sword?!
The Unhappening of Genesis Lee has a really interesting premise. Gena is a member of the Mementi, a small segment of the population that stores its memories in beads or links. They have the ability to remember everything as the beads store memories with absolute precision. The Mementi have an uneasy coexistence with the rest of the members of their society. When someone starts stealing memories the whole town could very well go up in flames. Gena may have the key to solving the mystery, if only she could remember it.
Shallee McArthur has created a very interesting world. The story as a whole is kind of a science fiction thriller, with the main characters racing to uncover the criminal. However, there is also a good bit of the deeper themes of remembering and forgetting, friendship, family, and loyalty. The questions about what gives an individual his or her identity are all carefully balanced with the fast-paced plot. The book deals with social prejudices and the moral implications of scientific advancement.
I love the title of this book. In addition to being clever, it's very applicable to Gena's situation. I liked how Gena kept forgetting Kalan, and the two would have to work out their relationship all over again. It almost had a fate-like feel.
I've got a several other books on my to-read list that feature a similar situation. I'm eager to see how other author treat the storing and forgetting of memories.
Ceony Twill is training to become a magician in early-1900s England. She is disappointed when, upon graduating from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, she is not given the opportunity to chose her own specialty and is instead compelled to become apprenticed to a paper magician.
The best part about Charlie N. Holmberg's book is the magical system. Magic can only be worked through man-made material and once a magician is bonded to a material he or she is bonded for life. Ceony sees paper as the most mundane of all the magical mediums, but she is won over by the whimsical creations of her master, Emery Thane. It doesn't hurt that Ceony seems particularly gifted at her new craft.
Then an Excisioner (a magician that works through medium of the human body) invades Thane's home and leaves with his beating heart. Ceony's journey to rescue her master takes her into Thane's heart.
The Paper Magician was an enjoyable read, and I am hopeful that the sequels will more fully explore this intriguing world and its magic.
I listened to the audio version of this book, and I found it a little disappointing. I felt the reader over-dramatized Ceony's voice, and that made her sound a little gushy.
Jessamin is a student in Albion (basically England). She doesn't fit in well since she's from Melei and of mixed race. One evening she runs into Finn, a young, dashing lord, on the street and suddenly things get very interesting. Jessamin gets swept up in the world of the nobility, and it's not just that these nobles have power and wealth. They also have magic and some fierce rivalries.
I really liked both Jessamin and Finn. I wish that the world of Illusions of Fate was a bit more developed. There was so much to like about it (all those creepy black birds, for instance), and I wanted more. I also really loved Eleanor. She was a breath of breezy fun in a this high stakes tale. I did not guess the ending, which is always a bonus!
I also really loved how this fantasy tackles race, colonialism, and imperialism. However, while I think the cover is lovely, I really do wish that Jessamin had darker skin. I think it should be really obvious that the main character is not a white European. That is a major sticking point in the story. Now, that said, I'm not certain if is Melei is a Caribbean island or a South Pacific island. I was imagining more of the former, but I could be mistaken.
Kelsey Hayes is working at a circus in Oregon. There she grows attached to a white tiger, who, in due course, is sold and is to be shipped back to India. Kelsey accepts a position to travel with the tiger to India and help reintroduce him back into the jungle.
The tiger, however, is not a beast, but a prince who was cursed 300 years ago. He can only remain a man for 24 minutes a day and only when he is free. The prince, Ren, and his faithful man-at-arms believe that Kelsey is the key to breaking the curse.
Thus begins a journey through the jungles of India and Indian myth and legend. Kelsey and Ren come face-to-face with Hindu gods. They travel through elaborate Indiana Jones-like temples, complete with snakes and booby traps. Along the way, (and this is where the book really falls apart for me) Kelsey and Ren fall in love. Kelsey's immaturity concerning the relationship drove me bonkers. To the point that I just wanted the book to end so that I didn't have to listen to her inner monologue. Kelsey's narration put a damper on what could otherwise have been a swashbuckling adventure tale melded with India mythology.
Kasie West is my current author crush. Reading her books is like giving yourself a little reward. On the Fence, West's new contemporary YA novel, has that golden glow.
Charlie Reynolds lives with a house full of boys. There's her dad and her three older brothers and then there's Braden, the kid from next door, who might as well be her brother. Charlie is athletic and competitive, and growing up with all those boys and no mom means that Charlie is a little insecure about girly stuff.
I love Charlie so much. She reminds me a lot of my friend Eve who is very athletic and has four brothers. Eve once told me how she went to play ultimate frisbee with some of the guys from her work and all of her brothers insisted on tagging along, so she shows up and says, "Hi. I'm here, and here are all my brothers." I can definitely see that happening to Charlie. One of the most wonderful things about this book is the dynamic between Charlie and her brothers. I love when an author writes a group of guys really, really well. (This is one of the things I love about The Raven Boys too.) Kasie West nails all the ribbing and teasing that means you are loved in a family like this.
I also didn't know, but was so pleased to discover, that On the Fence is a companion book to The Distance Between Us. Charlie is forced to get a job to pay her dad back when she gets a speeding ticket. She gets a summer job right down the road from Dolls and More, and Skye plays her part in Charlie's story.
Charlie has always just been one of the boys, but she's getting older and her new job kind of forces her to embrace her "girly" side. What will her brothers say about that? She might never hear the end of it. Plus, her relationship with Braden is becoming a more complicated. The scenes with just Charlie and Braden are loaded with things unsaid and complicated emotions.
On the Fence is funny. I laughed out loud more than once (the loafers!). It's also got enough emotion behind it that at times I was trying to hold in a few tears. The romance had me closing the book with a satisfied smile.
I always love a seasonally appropriate read, and On the Fence, out July 1st, 2014, would be a perfect addition to a summer reading list.
Holly Nolan's grandfather left her his Las Vegas wedding chapel in his Featured in "Reading on a Theme: The Boy Next Door" on Intellectual Recreation.
Holly Nolan's grandfather left her his Las Vegas wedding chapel in his will. Grandpa Jim also left her a letter to deliver to Dax Cranston, the grandson of his mortal enemy and the owner of the chapel next door. On top of mourning Grandpa Jim and dealing with a bidding relationship with Dax, the Rose of Sharon chapel is in financial straits. For Holly the chapel is more than just a job. It's family, it's home, it's her grandfather's legacy, and she's desperate to save it.
The Chapel Wars is a deceiving little book. You think that it's going to all light and cute, but it deals with so much and so many emotions. Holly's desperation to save the chapel is tied up with her grief over her grandfather's untimely death, her inability to imagine herself doing anything else, her need to support her family, and her pain over her parent's recent divorce (who, by the way, both work at the wedding chapel). I really loved the way this book dealt with Holly's grief, and the time that was spent on Holly's relationships with her siblings, especially James, and how the death and divorce affected them all.
Holly's romance with Dax is fraught with barriers as well. They are the grandchildren of mortal enemies and, thus, afraid to tell their families about the relationship. Also their chapels are direct competitors. Regular teenagers have plenty to negotiate when it comes to relationships and Dax and Holly are not exactly normal. I loved their banter. I loved Holly's obsession with counting and her love of Las Vegas. I love that Dax is complicated, hurting, and nuanced.
This blog post gives some insight into why the emotions in this book are so raw and powerful. I really loved it.
I'm keeping my eye on Kasie West. She has the potential to become one of my favorite authors. West's debut novel Pivot Point made my favorites of theI'm keeping my eye on Kasie West. She has the potential to become one of my favorite authors. West's debut novel Pivot Point made my favorites of the year list for 2014. I have not-so-patiently waiting for the sequel. Luckily I was able to fill some of the time with West's contemporary YA novel, The Distance Between Us. It was another smash-hit for me from Kasie West.
Caymen lives with her mom over their doll shop. When's she's not at school she's helping out in the shop so the two can scrap together enough money to carry on. Due to many a cautionary tale told by her mother, Caymen has always stayed far, far away from the rich folk that live in their town and patronize their store. But she starts to question the wisdom of that when she meets Xander, the grandson of one of their rich customers.
This book is exactly how I like my YA contemporary novels. Caymen is feisty, sarcastic, and funny. I laughed out loud more than once. And Xander gives her a run for her money. The scenes with the two of them are just so much fun. Plus the quirks! I love a novel with plenty of quirkiness, and the whole creepy doll shop thing really worked for me. (Maybe because, I too, have a grandmother that loves dolls. She had a whole room dedicated to them in her house. It was kind of creepy. Ahh those eternal wailers.) I loved the other characters, the surprises, the romance. I loved everything about it. Basically this book has a golden glow to it.
Defy by debut author Sara B. Larson is the story of Alexa who, disguised as a Alex, serves as a guard for the prince of Antion. Things in Antion aren'Defy by debut author Sara B. Larson is the story of Alexa who, disguised as a Alex, serves as a guard for the prince of Antion. Things in Antion aren't so great. The country is at war. Orphan girls are forced into the breeding house (thus Alexa's need to masquerade as a boy), and King Hector is pretty darn ruthless. Alexa guards prince Damian because it's her duty, but she's pretty convinced that he is smug, stuck-up, and wimpy. Things are, of course, not as they seem, and more than one person is putting on a mask.
The one thing that I didn't love about this book was that Alexa's lengthy descriptions of the beauty of the male body got a little sappy for my tastes. If she's just starting to notice these things because she's grown older, that's fine and actually kind of interesting, but I wish it had been handled with a bit more nuance. That said, Alexa is in a situation that she has never encountered before. Once the fact that she is a woman is revealed she no longer knows how to act. She's been pretending to be a boy for three years. Plus, there's those two boys that really like her confusing her even more.
The adventure in this book is pretty solid, the stakes were definitely high, and a lot happens. There are multiple layers of secrets, and the pace at which they are revealed is good. I liked that Alexa is a darn good sword fighter, that she was trained by her father, and that (view spoiler)[there's a good reason why she is so good with the sword (hide spoiler)]. Also it really didn't bother me that a lot of people knew that Alexa was really a girl because, honestly, it's pretty tough for a girl to pull off being boy once she reaches a certain age, and the fact that so many people knew her secret really threw Alexa.
I inevitably compare Defy to the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, and it's easy for me to think, "oh, but Alexa is no Alanna." The thing is, if I look back at my review of The First Adventure I wasn't in love with Alanna or her series right away either, but by the end I thought it was just about the best thing ever. Here's hoping that Larson can make this fantasy series truly epic.
Pivot Point was easily one of my favorite reads last year, and I impatiently awaited the second in the series Split Second Pivot Point 2. Split Second begins shortly after Pivot Point left off. Addie is going to visit her dad in Dallas for the extended Winter Holidays. Dallas is also the home of Trevor, but he is merely a forgotten memory from one of Addie's searches.
Split Second is possibly even more heart pounding than Pivot Point. The book alternates between Addie and Laila, who are outside and inside the compound. I loved reading about both of the them. Laila has a difficult home life; she's raw and defensive, and I kind of love her. I really love her interactions with Connor. Addie has some healing to do after the events of Pivot Point, and then there's Trevor.
In Split Second it becomes clear just how far the Compound's government is willing to go to protect themselves. I hope Kasie West continues this series. I, for one, would love to read more about these powerful kids.
Strands of Bronze and Gold is a retelling of the Bluebeard fairytale set in antebellum Mississippi. After her father's death Sophie Petheram leaves BoStrands of Bronze and Gold is a retelling of the Bluebeard fairytale set in antebellum Mississippi. After her father's death Sophie Petheram leaves Boston to live with her Godfather, Bernard de Cassac, on his plantation. A widower four time, at first Monsieur Bernard seems enchanting and sad, but as the plot progresses the creep factor steadily increases.
Monsieur Bernard is officially on my most creepy villains list. He is so manipulative and so possessive. It was hard to read about a woman who as powerless as Sophie is. I thought the antebellum setting worked well for this retelling. It gave Monsieur Bernard even more control over his surroundings and, therefore, even more control over Sophie.
I've heard some complaints about this book being too slow. I listened to the audio version, and I have a much higher tolerance for a plodding pace when I am listening in 20 minute segments rather than reading in long bursts. I did listen to some of the beginning of this book on the plane, and I was rather bored. I even put the iPod on double speed to pick up the pace (the reader is also very slow). However, the end of the book really picks up, and by the time I finally got there I had almost forgotten the slow beginning.
By the way, the author, Jane Nickerson is a friend of a friend. This in no way affect my review, I just think it's an interesting aside....more
Evie's attempt to be "normal" isn't going all that well. Despite the joy of lockers, there's her out-to-get-her gym teacher, her after school job at tEvie's attempt to be "normal" isn't going all that well. Despite the joy of lockers, there's her out-to-get-her gym teacher, her after school job at the paranormal hangout, her vampire roommate, and the reappearance of faeries, not to mention her immortal boyfriend. Maybe it's so hard to be normal because almost nothing about Evie's life is normal. Plus, Evie misses being special, so she takes a job with IPCA under strict stipulations, one of which (no working with faeries) means that Evie has to work with newcomer Jack.
I didn't enjoy this sequel to Paranormalcy quite as much as I did the first in the series. Evie is a bit too shallow for my tastes. She's often slow to figure things out, and she keeps way too many secrets in this book. Still, the world is still fun and funny. It's nice to read a paranormal series that doesn't take itself too seriously. ...more
I had heard good things about Kiersten White'sParanormalcy, and I was not disappointed. Paranormalcy is at least one-part satire, poking fun at both the other paranormal romances that populate young adult literature these days and popular culture (think Buffy and Gossip Girl).
Evie is special (aren't they always). She can see through glamours, thus her usefulness to the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency). But Evie isn't really all that kick-butt preferring to use her trusty taser Tasey to get the job done. Evie's lack of kick-buttness kind of got me down at times, but it really helped with the whole satire bit. This book is pretty funny. Evie is spunky narrator. Girly to a fault sometimes, sheltered, naive. ...more
My library in Kansas did not have a copy of Sean Griswold's Head while I was there. (Now they do. I just checked). I purchased the book for my stash oMy library in Kansas did not have a copy of Sean Griswold's Head while I was there. (Now they do. I just checked). I purchased the book for my stash of "books to read while between libraries." I really enjoyed Lindsey Leavitt's two middle-grade novels and was looking forward to reading something a bit more mature.
When Payton Gritas discovers her father has multiple sclerosis (in a truly horrifying way) she doesn't hold it together very well. Because she won't speak to her parents they arrange for her to have sessions with the guidance counselor. The guidance counselor suggests that Payton find a focus object which will hopefully take her down the road to expressing her feelings. Payton picks Sean Griswold's head (not exactly what the counselor had in mind). What follows is a charming story about Payton coming to grips with her life. Her relationship with Sean (who she hardly knows when she picks his head to study) develops in unexpected ways, and truly does help her on her road to self-expression and acceptance. Sean is such a nice guy, but he's not at all dull. Also, hooray for a book about athletes. ...more
The Royal Treatment is pretty much as darling as the first in the series. Desi has been advanced to Level Two. She's dealing with a whole new set ofThe Royal Treatment is pretty much as darling as the first in the series. Desi has been advanced to Level Two. She's dealing with a whole new set of princesses. She's learning more about Facade and her MP (magical potential), and it's looking like the insides of Facade are not so perfect. At home Desi's tried out for a play and is trying to help Kylee work up the nerve to speak to Reed.
So stinking cute. This book is perfect for its target audience....more
Entwined is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. It's more of a younger book. It reminded me of Ella Enchanted or The Goose Girl. It's not told in first person. (Hooray for that. I am getting a little tired of first person YA books.)
Basically this is a cute story full of sisterly affection, sneaky magic, a little fairy-tale-style romance, and, of course, dancing. I enjoyed seeing how the girls relationship with their father and suitors developed. I must say that I never did trust the villain.
And Heather Dixon is another BYU/Utah/Mormon author. I did not even know until I flipped to author bio (which I will admit I always read before I finish the book).
Also the cover is gorgeous. It's so much lovelier in person because of the shiny, silver leaves (which decorate the inside too). ...more
Once again I have neglected logging the books I've been reading for far too long (darn that dissertation and my non-procrastinating ways). Luckily, IOnce again I have neglected logging the books I've been reading for far too long (darn that dissertation and my non-procrastinating ways). Luckily, I have a post-it note right here with all of them, and I will do my best to remember my thoughts.
[Book: A Mormon Mother] was Janell's pick for book club. It's the story of Annie Clark Tanner, as written for her children, of her life as a second wife to J.M. Tanner. It was enlightening and a bit disturbing. I know we are only getting one side of the story here, but she and her children were ill-treated by Tanner who eventually stops supporting them all together. It's only one story and as Annie Tanner says, every plural marriage relationship was different and there were no norms because relatively few practiced this principle, but I'm glad it wasn't my life.
I was so sad to miss book group when this was discussed. I'm sure it was a fantastic discussion....more
Desi Bascomb lives an unsatisfying life in Sproutville, Idaho. Her parents seem to love her baby sister more than her. Her ex-best friend is making heDesi Bascomb lives an unsatisfying life in Sproutville, Idaho. Her parents seem to love her baby sister more than her. Her ex-best friend is making her life miserable. Her long-time crush can't seem to remember her name. And her job involves wearing a rodent costume. Desi wishes to make an impact or at least have a better job. And that is why Meredith arrives, and she gives Desi the chance to be a princess sub (they prefer the rem surrogate).
Lindsey Leavitt's debut novel, Princess for Hire is darling. It is a little younger than the books I've been reading lately (Desi is only 13), and it reminded me why I used to read some much children's (rather than YA) fiction. It was because those books can be so darn cute. I would highly recommend this one. I wish I could read the second in the series right now.