The Seasonal Reading Challenge discussion

136 views
BOOK REVIEWS > Petra's Spring Challenge Books

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Petra (new)

Petra Once upon a Telephone: An Illustrated Social History by Ellen Stock Stern. 3*

Lots of interesting information on the developement and history of the telephone, without being dry or boring. The illustrations and advertisements of the ages were more than interesting, as were the social implications of the phone.
It's more of a small coffee table book than a novel or detailed story but there's a lot of interesting tidbits of information that make this an amusing book.


message 2: by Petra (last edited Mar 04, 2010 05:06PM) (new)

Petra Heartsick by Chelsea Cain. 4*

A psychological thriller mystery involving a serial killer, a reporter and a detective who has a past with the Killer.
Gretchen Lowell is one of the most sadistic, manipulative serial killers that I've read. Her methods make one's skin crawl.
I took away a star for the author's use of over-descriptiveness of details....looks, items, moves, etc. It read like a perfect film script in that way. Every move was documented.
I've managed to get the other 2 books of the series into this challenge and am looking forward to reading them.


message 3: by Petra (new)

Petra Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff. 5*

A warm story of 2 Multiple Personality individuals coming to terms with their "souls" and their individual pasts and learning to trust Life and people in the process.
The story is delightful, humerous, sad, heartwarming and positive to read as the Souls try to make order in their lives. The characters are interesting and the story is easy to follow (despite the numerous personality switches).


message 4: by Petra (last edited Mar 07, 2010 12:51PM) (new)

Petra Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. 2*

Ugh! I upgraded The Hunger Games from 2 to 3* because of Roo but Catching Fire has no Roo equivalent and gets 2*. Gracious, Katniss is slow and often dense.
I also didn't like that she was made so weak in this book. At least in The Hunger Games, she came across as a strong advisary. In this book, she doesn't show any strength of mind or action.
Will I be reading Mockingjay when it comes out? Yes...I want to see how this ends. That's another thing I'm not fond of with Catching Fire. It's definitely not a stand-alone book. It stops in the middle of a plotline and leaves the reader dangling


message 5: by Petra (new)

Petra Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips. 3*

This was a light, humerous and enjoyable story of Gods living in London. There's nothing deep in this book and no more than a passing knowledge of the Gods are needed, which makes it really fun to read.
I thoroughly enjoyed the humour, sarcasm, egos, back-stabbing and antics that go on throughout.
In many ways, this book reminded me of Christopher Moore books (note: I've only read 2 of his books) but with not quite the same polish and detail.


message 6: by JenniferD (last edited Mar 09, 2010 03:54PM) (new)

JenniferD (jooniperd) Petra wrote: "Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips. 3*..."

Hi Petra.

I have just started this novel and I am hoping for light and humourous. I have only read one of Moore's books, but like the style of humour. Thanks for posting your thoughts!


message 7: by Petra (new)

Petra Hi Jennifer. I look forward to your review after you've read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


message 8: by Petra (new)

Petra Everyman by Philip Roth. 3*

A story of a Life.....everyman's Life.
The story starts with the funeral of the main character and then we're taken on a trip through his life. Death seems to follow him from the age of 9. He lives an "everyman"'s Life with all it's foibles, joys and sorrows.
Somehow he tends to see the negative side of things throughout his Life, with Death at it's side.
The writing is really well done and despite the rather depressing look at Life, I enjoyed this story.


message 9: by Petra (last edited Mar 13, 2010 11:27AM) (new)

Petra Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain. 4*

Another page turner from Chelsea Cain. I'm enjoying the Gretchen Lowell series.
This book is somewhat weaker than Heartsick (the first in the trilogy) but, despite that, the characters are compelling and the storyline keeps one turning the pages quickly. The ending is a bit far-fetched but it doesn't matter. True escapism and enjoyment. I look forward to the next book in the series.


message 10: by Petra (new)

Petra The Works of A. E. Housman. 5*

I've been a fan of A. E. Housman for years and enjoy reading his poetry over and over. I've never read this book in it's entirety before and have really enjoyed savoring these poems over the past couple of weeks, some which I've read before and many that I haven't.
There's a beauty in his descriptions and sorrow & joy in his life that comes through so clearly. I don't think he was very successful in Love.

Here's a sample of his poetry:

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
and nothing will remain,
And miles around they'll say that I
Am quite myself again.


message 11: by Petra (last edited Mar 20, 2010 11:36AM) (new)

Petra Birthright: The True Story of the Kidnapping of Jemmy Annesley by A. Roger Ekirch. 4*

Extremely interesting story of a family torn apart by greed, title, inheritance and in-fighting. This real-life case was the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson's book, Kidnapped.
There's a lot of detail in the beginning of this book on family inheritance laws of the 1700s in England and Ireland but all of the information is needed to understand the legal fight that occurs later.

(PS: this book mentions "the famed magistrate and novelist", Henry Fielding, who oversaw one of the lawsuits in this book. Therefore, this book would work for the first part of Task 30.6)


message 12: by Petra (new)

Petra Someone Named Eva by Joan Wolf. 3*

I would have loved this book when I was younger. It's an interesting story of a young girl taken from her family during WW2 because of her "aryan" looks, given a new name and "trained" to be German. As a more mature Reader, this story was interesting but not great. It does tell of a side of the War that I wasn't aware of and will have to look further into.


message 13: by Petra (new)

Petra Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. 2*

Someone will have to explain this book to me.
The individual stories of the people in this group are interesting (and bizarre and sometimes gross). They each have an interesting history. However, the story of their stay in the Theatre is less engaging. They're their own worst enemies and, in a large part, cause their own problems.
I'm not sure what the point of the book is. Are we (humanity) haunted by our ambitions, our fears, our pasts, our hopes (emigration to Venus)? Are we so in need of fame and glory and riches and the spotlight that we put ourselves at risk of death?
A very strange story and a very bizarre, gross way of telling it.


message 14: by Petra (new)

Petra Italian Shoes: A Novel by Henning Mankell. 4*

Slightly over a year in the life of a man who has retired from Life. He's spent his life seperating himself from people and when an accident occurs he completely isolates himself. Then he's confronted with is past and slowly comes to awareness of the need and pleasure of human companionship.
Beautifully told and written.


message 15: by Petra (new)

Petra God's Fool by Mark Slouka. 2*

The story of the twins' life is there....but it's between a lot of inner thought/ramblings of Chang. The story is told so much from Chang's perspective as to make his brother a mere shadow. We learn nothing about Eng. We don't really learn anything about their lives after they marry. Eng's wife isn't even mentioned except as a shadowy figure and, even then, hardly mentioned at all. Actually, all the people are merely mentioned. They aren't really characters in themselves.


message 16: by Petra (new)

Petra All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg. 5*

I highly recommend this book.
Beautiful story of coming to peace with one's past. The story of Matt, a small child, as he adjusts to his American life, while living with the fear and guilt brought on by leaving his Vietnamese family and life is poignant and touching.
The verse format brings out tears and emotions of a child adjusting after a traumatic childhood.


message 17: by Petra (new)

Petra Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. 3*

A delightful tale, full of magic, wonder and Oompa Loompas. It's fun and quirky and full of imagination. I listened to this on audio and was entertained. I would have loved it as a kid.


message 18: by Petra (last edited Mar 28, 2010 05:38PM) (new)

Petra All This Belongs to Me: A Novel by Petra Hulova. 4*

Interesting, multi-generational family saga.
The story takes place in Russian-ruled Mongolia at a fairly recent time (year unknown but cars, although rare, are to be found). It tells a tale of life on the Steppes, infidelity, the fallout of this act, transplantation into the City and the dangers of the City for young girls.
The lifestyles and thought patterns of this country are different and I would be interested in learning more about this culture. Throughout this book, the reasons why some decisions were made was curious. Life in this book is much simpler than North American life but has the same pitfalls and misunderstandings.
This is an interesting new (to me) author and I'm glad I discovered her. The characters are warm and interesting. The story is interestingly told.


message 19: by Petra (new)

Petra Cujo by Stephen King. 1*

Awful, awful, awful. I'm surprised this book was published. It's a disconnected story with people who react childishly and abnormally.
I've heard that King wrote this book while in the deepest depths of his alcoholism and I believe that. It reads like rambling.


message 20: by Petra (last edited Apr 02, 2010 11:26AM) (new)

Petra Portrait of a Killer: Jack The Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell. 3*

What's not to like about an easy reading book about a Jack The Ripper theory? This book is entertaining and interesting.
However, I would disagree with Patricia Cornwell's conclusion that the "case is closed". It's far from it. I'm no expert but peppering a "case closed" book with statements such as "it could have been that", "perhaps", "it's very likely that", "maybe", etc. isn't conclusive; it's speculative.
Entertaining; not scientific or proved.


message 21: by Petra (last edited Apr 06, 2010 07:32PM) (new)

Petra The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. 3*

As I was reading this, I found myself thinking that it's the Literary Alternative Reality equivalent of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series:
Not much happens, it happens at a slow pace, the characters aren't well developed and yet I enjoyed the relaxing, somewhat humerous story. I won't rush out for the other books but will read them in time.
I loved the Dodos......and want one as a pet. Doesn't matter which version, although a wingless Version 1.2 sounds cute and interesting. Plock, plock.
I did like the tongue-in-cheek play on words throughout the book, as well as the play on the character's names (Paige Turner and Braxton Hicks, for example).
There were interesting Literary discussions throughout the book (who wrote Shakespeare's plays?, for example) that were fun to read through.


message 22: by Petra (last edited Apr 09, 2010 11:49AM) (new)

Petra Blaze: A Novel by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). 5*

What a marvelous find of a book! I didn't expect to find such a gem from Stephen King.
Blaze's story is so sad. I've read some reviews that see him only as a criminal and that just adds to the sadness and alienation of Blaze's story.
I saw him as a kind, gentle, good-hearted man who is easily swayed by others and was deserted by everyone else in his life. If he had had the right support, even once, he would never have gotten mixed up with criminals. If only Harry Bluenote, the farmer, had lived, Blaze's life would have had such a wonderfully different turn. The poor boy had no support or understanding from anyone at all while growing up.
I really felt for Blaze in his loneliness and confusion and to really dislike those who turned their backs on him time and time again.
Richard Bachman has much better character developement than any King book I've read.

On an aside, I listened to this on audio and the story is narrated by the same person who narrated John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charly" and, in a way, Blaze's story reads a lot like Lenny's story in "Of Mice And Men".


message 23: by Petra (last edited Apr 12, 2010 06:47AM) (new)

Petra Relativity: From Einstein to Black Holes by Gerald El Tauber. 3*
(This is one of the Venture series mentioned only on Goodreads as Relativity)

An interesting look at Einstein's theory of Relativity and how it relates to Physics, where Physics hopes to go in the future, etc. Interesting but not clearly told. Even the concepts that I'm familiar with seemed convoluted and mysterious. Although this is more of a "beginner" book in learning about the Theory of Relativity and is, in that context, a decent book, I think it could have been explained more simply and clearly.


message 24: by Petra (new)

Petra The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell. 2*

I enjoyed the mystery of deciphering the Hypnerotomachia. I am always amazed at the depth of knowledge that is required to decipher ancient texts accurately, be it a book such as the Hypnerotomachia or The Bible. This book gives an indication of the effort and commitment it takes to accomplish such a task.
However, that's the best part of this book. The characters aren't engaging and the "coming of age" part of the story takes away from the book. It's very much a College book. Perhaps it's written for College students who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code.
The attempt of a love interest could have been removed completely and the story would have read the same, maybe better.
This book was an easy, fluffy read. Entertaining but not memorable.


message 25: by Petra (new)

Petra Broken by Daniel Clay. 5*

I'm not going to say much about the story of this book because the less detail one knows the more intense the reading experience would be. I knew nothing about this story and the tensions that built as I read added so much to the story.
The story is compelling and the writing slowly builds the tensions in this book.
This is a story of the consequences of actions and how one family can change a neighbourhood. It also shows that with a little help and support we can overcome obstacles and grow stronger. Sadly, this doesn't always happen in this story (as it doesn't always in real life either). Some characters fall through the cracks and their hurt & pain intensify and add to the disruption of the neighbourhood.
I liked the voice of Skunk telling her tale, the characters were real and believable, their stories blended together smoothly as the life of the neighbourhood unfolded. By the time I got close to the end of the book, I couldn't put it down. I needed to know how it ended.

PS: one of the leading characters in this book (Rick "Broken" Buckley) has a mental disorder. Also, the book "Silence of the Lambs" is mentioned in this book (task 30.6)


message 26: by Petra (new)

Petra Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. 4*

I really enjoyed this sweet story of a girl beginning to question who she is and who she wants to become. She grapples with such issues as religion, how to deal with truth when she disagrees with friends, her first bra and her first period. Margaret is a really sweet, down-to-earth little girl.


message 27: by Petra (new)

Petra The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. 1*

Communist Russia, fear, desolation, hardship, strong people with true hearts, the occasional drunk who lives for the next shot of vodka, integrity, grit, love, valour.....if these are things you expect and look for in a novel set in Russia, run quickly....this book is NOT for you!
The characters are weak, the dialogue is choppy, insane, unbelievable. The story is full of "convenient" solutions to every problem.
There are no surprises for the Reader. Everything is crystal clear long before it happens.
Since this book is subtitled "Alexander & Tatania #1", I had a quick look and found that this series is 3 books long. I don't have to read the other 2 books to know what happens by the end of the third book. I'm not going to waste my time anymore.


message 28: by Petra (new)

Petra Fool by Christopher Moore. 4*

A funny, entertaining re-telling of King Lear, told from the point of view of his fool (jester), Pocket. The book was bawdy, lustful and intriguing. It had deceit, backstabbing and shagging....lots and lots of shagging.
The characters of Pocket and Drool were burst-out-loud laughable and yet also endearing.


message 29: by Petra (last edited Apr 30, 2010 05:43PM) (new)

Petra The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco. 3*

Interesting. Reviewing a book like this is hard as it is an interesting story and parts are very well told and draws the reader in. Then there are the over-descriptive sections that go on and on and on and on.
Yambo awakes after a stroke without his memories. He goes to his family/childhood home to try to reawaken his memories and submerses himself into the books, records, newspapers of the past. (It's amazing how much of a fire hazard this house is with it's tons of old newspapers and magazines)
There are some very interesting looks into facist Italy during the war. The stories of the people as they lived through these times were quite heroic. Good people caught in hard times.
All in all, this book asks the questions: How much is one's self/personality tied up into one's memories? Without memory, does one have a self? What if one has memory but no connections to the World? What if one's universe/existence lies only in one's self?
The ending is abrupt and leaves some loose ends but the reality of the situation makes it plausible and "okay".
This aspect of the book deserves 4 or more stars. It's really an intersting concept and is well delivered.
Eco rambles a little bit as he studies the aspects of memory loss on a person in lots and lots ....and lots....of detail. There are times when he could move onwards quicker than he does.
This aspect of the book deserves 2 stars (and some editing).
Hence I gave it 3* as a compromise.
All in all, this is a blend of very interesting stories amid a lot of detailed descriptions of books & their contents, history through newspapers & magazines, school curriculum through childhood essays and notebooks.


message 30: by Petra (new)

Petra My Antonia by Willa Cather. 3*

I enjoyed this memoir told by Jim about his childhood with Antonia. It describes the life of immigrant families and the hardships of pioneering a new land.
Antonia was such a wonderfully lively person but I found her to be more of a background person in this story. Being a story told as a memoir of Jim, Antonia's thoughts and feelings are never known and I would have liked to know more about her and how she experienced/felt about life.
The writing is beautiful. Willa Cather has a way of describing the Land that puts you right there.
I preferred O Pioneers! but this one was good, too.


message 31: by Petra (new)

Petra Blankets by Craig Thompson, 4* (592 pgs)

Seems that the Graphic Novels I pick up are all memoirs.
I enjoyed this journey through Craig's early life. The graphics are expressive and to-the-point.
The babysitter was gross.
The guilt and belief and faith of his religious upbringing are poignant to this story and I like how Craig remained true to himself throughout.
The love story was sweet and very touching.


message 32: by Petra (new)

Petra Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. 3*

This was a sweet book about a girl coming to a realization about her community and society. Things aren't what they appear to be.
Kira is a bit passive, for the most part, but since this book hasn't got a lot of action, it works well. Although that last statement may make the book seem boring and uneventful, it's a good broadening of the story begun in The Giver.
This book does come across a bit as a way of connecting books 1 & 3 but I won't know that until I read the final book of the trilogy.
Reading this book does make me feel better about The Giver.


message 33: by Petra (new)

Petra The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperly. 3*

A cute story of evil vs. good. An evil magician terrorizes the town of Samarkand. This book was for a young audience and because of that I didn't enjoy it much....it was just too young....but I can't rate it for that. It is what it is and it really is a cute tale.
If you need a few pages for the magician task, this book fills the need.


message 34: by Petra (last edited May 08, 2010 11:50AM) (new)

Petra Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain. 4*

Loved this series! The first book (Heartsick) is more mystery driven, while the other two (Sweetheart & Evil At Heart) are more character driven.
The characters (Archie, Gretchen, Susan) are compelling, interesting and real. They're what makes this series work.
In this book, the storyline takes a twist and shows Society's morbid interest in serial killers and their fascination with them. There's less "mystery" to this book but more "character" drive....and yet enough mystery to keep the interest alive.
I look forward to more Chelsea Cain books in the future. Will she continue this series? Interesting thought. There's so many avenues to persue. I'd love to know more about Gretchen's past, Archie & Debbie's future (is there one?) and Susan's future, too.


message 35: by Petra (last edited May 11, 2010 07:03AM) (new)

Petra Beatrice and Virgil: A Novel by Yann Martel. 4*

The writing is spectacular. It's flawless.
And yet, it's a hard book to recommend (although I do) because there is no real action, so to speak. The Reader sits beside Henry listening to the Play being read aloud.
In "Life of Pi" there's a journey, a moving forward. In "Beatrice and Virgil" there's no moving forward, no journey, and yet there's an awakening of awareness and an artistically accounted witness of events that bring out the horror. The events within the play being read are so subtly brought out that the Reader is slowly drawn into the terror.
I would recommend this book but can see why the reviews are so varied. It's not a book for everyone because of the slow pace of the story.


message 36: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (jooniperd) I am glad to read your brief review of this novel, Petra. It has had such contentious reviews. I was not a fan of Pi (I read it before it went viral) so I am not tripping over myself to read Martel's new one any time soon.


message 37: by Petra (new)

Petra Jennifer wrote: "I am glad to read your brief review of this novel, Petra. It has had such contentious reviews. I was not a fan of Pi (I read it before it went viral) so I am not tripping over myself to read Martel..."

Jennifer, I don't mean to turn people away from a book. This one really is good. It's more of an emotional, "feeling" book; not an action-packed book.
I'm glad you're reading my reviews. Thanks!


message 38: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (jooniperd) I like your book selections so enjoy your reviews. Please don't think you were turning me away for the novel. Because I didn't like Pi that much, Beatrice & Virgil isn't high on my list. I am quite happy to know (from you) that the writing is beautiful - that gives me more hope than the reviews were leading me to believe. I recently read The Sea by John Banville and could not believe his use of language and the beauty he created with words.


message 39: by Petra (new)

Petra A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. 5*

This must be Dicken's best work. It's dark, gritty, horrifying, loving, hopeful, destitute. It's a story of friends and family, as well as of enemies and spies.
The Reader feels the emotional impact of this story in their belly.
The best love story ever told.


back to top