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Reviews by Carrie

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message 1: by Carrie (last edited Aug 18, 2010 03:16PM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments My Name is Memory ; Anne Brashares
4 1/2 stars

My Name is Memory is a love story unlike any I have ever known. Ann Brashares unravels her tale a bit at a time and toys with her audience much like a cat bats a ball of yarn. We are tossed to and fro throughout the ages clinging to the memories of Daniel -- a soul who is both blessed and cursed with the incredible ability to remember all of his many lives as he is reincarnated over centuries.

Daniel's stories pull us into the ancient worlds of Northern Africa and Crete, to the not-so-distant past of war-torn England during the first world war, and finally into the modern east coast of the US. His accounts are tethered by the same forces that have always driven the human race: love and vengeance.

In each of his lives Daniel strives to find Sophia, his first love and original sin. By turn of fate, he succeeds in finding her many times over the long years only to lose her to some uncompromising circumstance. Once she is his brother's wife, another time she is old enough to be his grandmother, but always she is oblivious to their deep history. Apart from these obstacles, Daniel is also pursued by Joaquim, a corrupt soul seeking twisted retribution for old offenses.

Brashares entangles her audience so well that by the end of her novel the world appears changed. Her splendidly planned tale leaves us with the vivid and heavy impression that what goes around comes around, and not always in our favor. I am thrilled to have found this novel that is truly new: completely unlike anything I have ever read. Her words are placed beautifully and with care. Her characters are made not only of paper and ink, but of flesh and blood. Brashares' second break from young adult fiction is blessedly actually written for adults. With the language and finesse of a master storyteller, and an imaginitive, intellectually stimulating plot, this novel is one to place among your most treasured.

message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) I agree, this was a fantastic book. I can't wait until she writes a sequel!!!

message 3: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Me either! I've heard it's going to be a trilogy, but I'm not sure if that's true. It was just something I saw on someone's blog.

message 4: by Carrie (last edited Aug 26, 2010 03:21AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Sisters Red ; Jackson Pearce
3 1/2 stars

Jackson Pearce returns with her second modern fairy tale: Sisters Red. Scarlett and Rosie March are the unfortunate Little Red Riding Hoods of this tale, but they pack a punch. Literally. In this new take on the classic tale, Pearce delivers two heroines who aren't afraid to bite back.

When their grandmother is attacked and killed by a Fenris (the big, bad werewolf), only eleven year old Scarlett is left to defend her sister. She loses her eye and innocence in the battle, and a life-long vendetta begins. As the girls grow in the care of their woodsman neighbor, they learn the tricks of the trade of Fenris hunting and make friends with Silas, the woodsman's youngest son.

Time passes and hunting is the only life the girls know. At eighteen Scarlett is ruthless, unforgiving and persistent: determined to fight until every last Fenris is dead...or she is. Rosie is her partner, fighting alongside the sister to whom she owes her life. But things change when Silas returns from a year long sojourn in San Francisco: little Rosie March doesn't seem so little anymore. The two embark upon a romance that threatens to rip the seams of the sisters' bond.

Sisters Red is a novel that hinges itself on the idea that a magical world can coexist within our own while we continue on unaware. The sisters and Silas live deep in the forests of the south. They are cut off from most of the world and set apart by their knowledge of an evil that lurks just under the skin of harmless looking men. Pearce enshrouds the trio in secrecy, keeping them separate from normality, and then moves them into city as the hunt rages on. The effect is brilliantly defined lines of the magical reality and facade of average life.

The book moves fluidly, careening into action and gliding into romance as Scarlett and Rosie alternate narratorship. The sisters provide two archetypal
heroines for readers: one a warrior maiden and the other fiercely loving. The tale's only flaw lies within the magical way in which the girls are able to sustain wounds. I found doubt mingling amid the elegance and beauty of Pearce's storytelling when Scarlett and Rosie were completely undaunted by deep slashes and raging fires. These girls see a lot of blood, much of it their own, and in some cases the fighting theatrics were a bit overdone.

Still, this is not a book to be missed. It is captivating, gripping, and fully satisfying at its conclusion.

message 5: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cyndil62) | 1774 comments Carrie wrote: "My Name is Memory; Anne Brashares
4 1/2 stars

My Name is Memory is a love story unlike any I have ever known. Ann Brashares unravels her tale a bit at a time and toys with her audience much like ..."

Great review Carrie! Made me want to start reading the!!!

message 6: by Carrie (last edited Mar 23, 2011 04:04AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments One Hundred Years of Solitude; Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I honestly don't know what to say about this one.

It's definitely "readable." I was so caught up in it that I read it straight through in a matter of about three days. I loved the lyrical style; the whole book is filled with beautiful descriptions. Everything is described through all the senses so that the scenes feel exactly like memories.

However, I think I might have missed the point. I don't feel like I took away a greater message... I really tried. I mean, any book that won the Nobel Prize deserves an effort, but I just didn't get it. For me, it was an enjoyable read that I'll most likely revisit.

I really wish I'd got it. :/

I think I'll refrain from giving a rating until my next reading.

Anyone have any thoughts?? I'd love to hear some interpretations.

message 7: by Regine (new)

Regine It's one of my top five favorite books.

I have a full review written of it, but in a nutshell, I think that the message that Marquez was writing is how history is often repeated, and how the mistakes of the past and bring down each generation.

I love this book, but not everybody "gets" it.

message 8: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments @ Regine: I got that, and I saw a lot of things along the lines of "trying too hard to prevent the future is what ultimately makes it happen." I guess I was just expecting something different. I really enjoyed reading it, I just felt a little confused afterward. Maybe I can sort it out the second time around.

message 9: by Regine (new)

Regine Fate and destiny are also pretty big things in the book. I think that what you're saying about trying to prevent the future has a lot to do with the novel's concept of fate: you can't run away from it.

This book really becomes easier to read the second time around. Let me know when you decide to re-read!

message 10: by Carrie (last edited Mar 16, 2011 05:35AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Fall of Giants ; Ken Follett
4 1/2 stars

Fall of Giants was my first Ken Follett experience. I avoided letting Pillars of the Earth be the first of his books I read so that I could form an opinion about his writing without being effected by all the hype. That being said, I LOVED this book.

I've never been all that interested in history--nothing has ever been able to make it come alive for me, until now. This book has helped me understand at long last a lot of terms and events my history professors had been throwing around aimlessly. (A definition can only do so much. This story really shows how people were effected by these events.)

The story follows five families through the events leading up to World War I, and eventually the war itself. We see through the eyes of most of the major players in the war, allowing for a clear understanding of how so many people were persuaded to march into the greatest battle the world had ever seen. The families (one Welsh, one English, one German, one American, and one Russian) couldn't vary more in their ideals and beliefs, but all of them are linked by the grief and hardship of the war.

This book offers something for everyone: gritty battle scenes, accurate dates and events, character brushes with real historic figures, romance, political debates... Follett makes the tedious realities of war (the sometimes seemingly pointless dance of politicians) catch our interest. We come to feel about the current events in the novel in much the same way the common people of the day did: we watch the giants of the world with nervous anticipation, with the understanding that they hold the future of the world on their shoulders.

We become anxious for all five families, cringing when they come face to face as enemies on the battlefield, rejoicing when they nearly miss one another, and feeling divided when we know that one must win while the other admits defeat. This book really challenges some of our perspectives of black and white/right and wrong in the war. It lays bare the very preventable, in hindsight, chain of events that led to the catastrophic death of millions, showing the faults of all nations involved.

I am eagerly anticipating the next book in this "Century Trilogy," which will follow the next generation into the next World War.

message 11: by Carrie (last edited Mar 16, 2011 05:35AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments As Always, Julia ; Joan Reardon
4 stars

As Always, Julia is a gem. It was wonderful to experience the letters of two true friends. The fact that one of those friends was Julia Child, revolutionary chef of the 20th century, now seems like a wonderful bonus, as opposed to a main inticement for reading. Julia and Avis are witty, engaging, and thoroughly enchanting. Their letters pull us back in time where we are fully immersed in their lives. Joan Reardon includes many photos and images of original letters, enhancing the book beautifully.

It is fascinating to observe the birth and evolution of Julia's first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and equally thrilling to hear the two women passionately discuss (dropping many famous names of the time), art, foreign travel and typical family life for a 50s housewife. There wasn't a moment of this venture I didn't love to witness.

My only complaint is that the format for kindle wasn't quite perfect as the book itself. Some formatting inconsistancies and whatnot. I'll be ordering a copy of this one in print for my shelf.

message 12: by Carrie (last edited Mar 23, 2011 04:23AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Red Riding Hood ; Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

This adaptation of the soon-to-be-released film was captivating. An intriguing retelling of the classic tale, I couldn't stop turning pages unitl the end. However, there IS NO CONCLUSION once the last page is reached. A cliffhanger ending leaves us with a web address where a bonus chapter will be posted on March 13, 2011. This is a real annoyance considering all the excellent forshadowing and suspense leading up to the final scene. I imagine the disapointment is similar to what Dorothy felt when she realized the Wizard of Oz was no wizard at all.

Aside from the disappointing last chapter: I also felt the main love triangle was poorly developed and left a lot to be assumed. But on the other hand, the book did a nice job of exploring the idea of mass hysteria and paranoia. When killings begin for the first time in generations, we're plunged into the panicked world of the townspeople of Daggorhorn, throwing accusations left, right and center in hopes of purging the wolf from their midst. It has a very Salem-witch-trials feel to it.

As a prelude to the upcoming film, the book is a success. It functions as a sort of literary teaser trailer. As a novel in its own right, however, it leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps the "bonus chapter" will relieve some of my objections come March 13th.

EDIT: After reading the final chapter, I'm even more disappointed. The surprise ending fit none of the earlier scenes in the book and little was resolved.

message 13: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments The Thirteenth Tale ; Diane Setterfield
5 stars

Once upon a time, prolific fictional author Vida Winter wrote a book of thirteen tales. Curiously, only twelve made it into print. Ever since that slip, the world at large has beat upon the door to Miss Winter's seemingly non-existant past, trying to discern the meaning of the missing thirteenth tale. Over the long years, she has successfully rebuffed every attempt. However, as Miss Winter slides into old age she is aware that the truth must out. Readers are ushered through the deep mystery surrounding her life by a similary haunted writer, the biographer Margaret Lea.

Raised in a book shop, Margaret is above all a lover of stories. So when the famed Vida Winter writes her a compelling letter offering to expose her mystery-shrouded life for the first time, Margaret cannot resist the temptation. Miss Winter's craftily worded narratives pull Margaret back through the decades to the older woman's previous identity. Margaret is sucked into an investigation that will bring forth a harrowing revelation indeed. The devestating realities of the two writers demonstrates that the truth of our own lives, which we so often run away from, can be the greatest and most important story we'll ever tell.

Setterfield writes, "There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic," and through her own brilliant novel she proves this to be true. We are gripped from the first line and held captive until the last. Setterfield's characters are impatient guides pulling us through an intricate maze of ghost stories and misleading truths, only allowing us to gather our bearings when we have arrived at the bittersweet end of her tale. The book is magnificently penned. Phrases are so well turned and words so carefully chosen that we cannot help but take pause to admire their beauty; scenes are cut and reopened with such skill that we cannot help but rush ahead to discover the ever illusive truth. The Thirteenth Tale, pulsing with so many years of repressed pain and memory, refuses to be easily forgotten, haunting us like the many ghosts of her heroines' pasts.

message 14: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I really liked The 13th Tale, too. It's been 2 years since I read it, so it may be time for a reread. It was one of my first group reads here on COL. We had a very interesting discussion ( that you may want to check out.

I'm enjoying reading your reviews!

message 15: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Thanks Jennifer! I had no idea it was a group read... :)

message 16: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Sunshine ; Robin Mckinley
3 1/2 stars

Robin McKinley's Sunshine isn't quite like any vampire novel I've read. This is not a strained paranormal romance; no one wants to become a "creature of the night;" nothing about death (or the undead) is glorified. The story we get is a slice of alternate reality, a dystopic future that is over run by Others and part-bloods with speacial abilities and, sometimes, an affinity for killing off careless humans. McKinley spares no gritty details.

Rae Seddon, nicnamed Sunshine, is a baker best known for cinnamon rolls as big as your head. Her world is limited to her family's restaraunt and its inhabitants, and her landlady. Amid the Other-ridden shambles of America, she has managed to live a painfully normal life -- her experience of Others being limited to what she reads in vampire novels. However, Sunshine's life is turned upside down and given a thorough shaking when she is abducted by vampires during what was supposed to be a quiet retreat to a lakeside cabin. After less-than-friendly treatment, she finds herself shackled next to the last imaginable captive: another vampire who mysteriously refuses to kill her, and seems to need as much help to escape as she does. In the months that follow, every principle of Sunshine's life is challenged. Friends become suspicious, and the lines between enemies and allies are blurred. If she is to survive, Sunshine must reach deep within herself to unleash a hertiage she didn't know existed.

Sunshine is compelling, suspensful, and above all original. Robin McKinley breaks from her tradition of reviving timeless heroines' tales to offer up one of her own. While some of Rae's acquaintances are left half-sketched, and the launch into Other-world is somewhat unexplained, this novel remains gripping. Sunshine's voice becomes as unmistakable as an old friends's, and it's beyond easy to stay vested in her adventure.

message 17: by Carrie (last edited Mar 17, 2011 02:33AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments You Know When the Men Are Gone ; Siobahn Fallon
5 stars

No one can really know what life is like for a military family unless they've been in one, but Siobhan Fallon's collection of stories can bring you to a level of understanding that runs a close second. The story of the women and children who struggle to survive without their husbands and fathers is one that desperately needed telling. Fallon did it justice. In her collection, she delivers glimpses of the lives of both soldiers and wives, of both the lucky and less fortunate, of men and women both in love and falling apart.

Behind the ominous fences of Fort Hood, Texas, lies a world unknown to most civilians -- a world where "home" changes location in as little as six months, where a vacation is unheard of, and where tomorrow is not always guaranteed. Here soldiers leave their families to try and maintain normalcy in generic apartment complexes while they go off to war. Here fast friendships form, rumors abound, and hundreds of women spend their days waiting for their phone to ring and bring them reassurance that, at least for today, their husband is safe and life can go on. It is not a life for the faint of heart.

Fallon's stories are memories netted like butterflies -- they are poignant, beautiful, strongly emotional, and as soon as you've grasped one, it flits away on the breeze, leaving as abruptly as it appeared. Each story is as unique as every military family. Some leave us with hope, others with despair. Some are terrifying and strange, and others echo typical domestic life. However, they all inspire a well-deserved compassion for the unsung heroes of war: those who our troops leave behind.

You Know When the Men Are Gone is a profound and brilliant debut from an author who knows her characters quite a bit better than most. I hope it is only the beginning of a stunning literary career.

message 18: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal ; Conor Grennan
6 stars

Conor Grennan had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to volunteer three months at the Little Princes children's home in Nepal. Tackled by a mob of tiny orphans upon his arrival, he could think of nothing but how wonderful it was going to be to escape. But in the weeks ahead, the children of Nepal worked their way into Conor's heart, sparking within him a passion and determination to help them find their way in the world. When Conor discovered the children were vicitms of child trafficking, his mission solidified into a clear goal: to bring the lost children home.

Heart warming and bone chilling at once, this book is not one to be missed. Conor Grennan's story, the story of the lost children of Nepal, is a beautiful tribute to the power and neccessity of compassion. With every page the smiles and tears of the "Little Princes" are etched into our hearts, leaving us entirely changed at the close. Conor's book reads like a letter from an old friend -- honest, witty, and charismatic, with a breath of life in each word.

This is not just a book I'll pass along to my friends, this a book that leaves me itching to act. Conor's story awakes a need to stop observing the troubles of the world, and start taking steps to solve them. Here is living proof that even one man, with nothing more than a fierce will and kind heart, can make a profound difference in the unfurling future.

message 19: by Regine (new)

Regine Carrie wrote: "Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal; Conor Grennan
6 stars

Conor Grennan had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to vol..."

This was one that I've been wanting to read for a really long time. Glad to know you liked it!

message 20: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Regine wrote: "Carrie wrote: "Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal; Conor Grennan
6 stars

Conor Grennan had no idea what he was getting himself into when he a..."

I absolutely loved it. :) I'm having trouble starting something else now, actually, because I can't get it out of my head.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I am in the midst of this book and do think it is wonderful. Great review!

message 22: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Thanks, Marialyce. Glad you're enjoying it too!

message 23: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments The Sherlockian ; Graham Moore
5 stars

Graham Moore puts a fresh magnifying glass to an old story with The Sherlockian. While Moore weaves tales of both Harold White, a modern day Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, and Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes' begrudging creator, a fresh mystery begins to unravel across more than a century. Whether or not one is familiar with Sherlockian lore, this book is addictive and becomes more satisfying with every word.

Harold did not expect his similarity to Sherlock Holmes to extend beyond his tendency to don a deerstalker hat. Yet when a fellow Sherlockian is murdered the night before he was due to reveal the lost diary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harold cannot help himself. Within hours he is swept off to London on the winds of fate to bring a murderer to justice and unearth the mysterious diary once more.

Laced within Harold's quest is the story Conan Doyle himself. Though he detests his Holmes with every fiber of his being, Arthur finds more and more congruity with his creation. He has a penchant for justice, a knack for logical deduction, and an insatiable appitite for the truth. These qualities drag him into the greatest adventure of his lifetime -- a mission to out a subtle serial killer. Accompanied by his loyal sidekick, Bram Stoker, Arthur immerses himself in the mystery that will bring forth the death of his boyish optimism and give birth to the Holmes of legend: a painfully rational man, ruthlessly pursuing justice by any means neccessary.

Moore navigates the border between fact and fiction gloriously, providing both enough fact to sate the scholar and enough embellishment to delight the casual reader. By the time the last page has been turned, one has the desire to invest in a few new biographies and a set of reliable lock picks. The Sherlockian is historical fiction at its very best.

message 24: by Carrie (last edited Jun 28, 2011 05:17AM) (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Across the Universe ; Beth Revis
4 stars

Summary: In the not too distant future, Earth's economy is collapsing and people are becoming desperate for financial support. Meanwhile, a new planet has been discovered that has been deemed habitable, and hundreds have put their hope in this new world. Amy's parents are two such people. The catch? It will take three centuries to make the voyage through space, and since Amy's parent's are labeled "essential" to the founding of a colony on the new planet, her family is among a group of engineers, military personel, and other specialists who are cryogenically frozen before take off. As if being half-conscious in a coffin of ice for 300 years isn't bad enough, a mysterious mishap wakes Amy up fifty years before the ship is due to land. The only non-functional member on the massive ship, Amy must discover why she was unfrozen early in order to keep her parents and the other "essential" specialists from thawing too soon, or worse, dying, before they reach their destination.

Thoughts: Beth Revis is my new hero. I never thought I'd find myself so enamoured with a science fiction novel. Yet here I am, head over heels for Across the Universe. The story is fantastic; the characters are real, with real motivations; and Revis' writing is both subtle and beautiful. Most importantly, she avoids the major pitfall of the YA genre: her characters do not fall immediately into passionate love for no apparent reason. The romance featured here is kept on the back burner, but feels genuine and believable.

Across the Universe is an exceptionally stunning debut novel. This is not an adventure you want to miss.

For those with eReaders: As a Kindle eBook, this was one of the better ones I've read -- clear, consistant formatting, with good editing. The price of the eBook is actually one dollar higher than the price of a hard copy, but the convenience of the eBook format makes it well worth the money. No complaints.

message 25: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Wither ; Lauren DeStefano
3 stars

Summary: In a world free of all major ailments, life should be perfect, but instead, a freak medical accident has reduced the life expectancy of women to 20 and men to 25. All children born to the "new generation" are doomed to die a gruesome death, contracting an undefeatable new virus mere months after their 20 or 25th birthday. To keep the human population from dwindling, young girls are kidnapped and sold as brides to the polygamous weathly upper class, or forced into prostitution. Rhine Ellery is one such stolen girl. She is lucky enough to become the bride of a kind architect in Florida, but unlike her sister wives who were raised as orphans, Rhine has a brother and childhood home. She has tasted freedom. Though no bride has ever managed an escape, the possibility of returning to her life and brother is what Rhine lives for.

Review: Another review called Lauren DeStefano's Wither "The Handmaid's Tale retold for teens." There are certainly strong similarities between the two books; in both women are forced to leave their lives and homes to work toward the "greater good" of repopulating the earth. However, it's not quite fair to think of Wither as a derivation or copy. This is truly a unique story, and an impressive, though not flawless, debut.

Rhine is a strong heroine. That in itself sets Wither apart from the mass of YA novels centered on helplessly besotten girls. From the moment she is taken into captivity, Rhine is resolved to escape, and neither her rich husband's oblivious kindness nor the budding romance she shares with a servant will deter her. Reminiscent of Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Amy (Across the Universe), Rhine's strong will is a welcome break to the YA mold.

Also notable is the relationship between the "sister wives." The expected "competition" never forms. Despite their stark differences and unequal privileges, the girls have surprisingly little animosity toward one another. In fact, they truly begin to form a sister-like bond, protecting each other from the many dangers of their world. Their characters were surprisingly well developed, and their actions always justified. These girls feel startlingly real.

[SMALL SPOILER AHEAD!] My only complaints about the book lay in Linden, the hopelessly blind and doting husband. He is supposedly controlled by his overbearing father, but I found his obliviousness in regard to his wives' pasts hard to believe. Apparently, he doesn't even realize that the girls have been kidnapped -- he is under the impression that they were raised to become wives, and that they submitted willingly to their marriage. Since the girls spend their first few days in his mansion drugged and unconsious, I found this (for lack of a better term) excuse for his character hard to swallow. DeStefano tries to make Linden almost pitiable, but I didn't buy it. Had he known about the girls' plight and been sympathetic or outraged by it, had be been a true prisoner of his father, it might have been beneficial to pen him as a "good guy," but as it was, he read as either incredibly stupid or falsely benevolent. Neither was effective. (Maybe this issue will be cleared up in the sequel?)

Overall, Wither was a well written and fascinating story. I'd definitely recommend it as a fun read, but wouldn't give it any medals.

For those with eReaders: I read this one on my kindle, and it was EXCELLENT. The cover (both front and back) and inside flaps were shown, as well as the designs on the opening pages. No errors in editing, as far as I could tell, and no mishaps with formatting. One of the best I've seen so far. Price was fair -- about $10, so cheaper than a hard copy.

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