Wednesday, September 21, 2011

YA Wednesday- Steel

Steel
by: Carrie Vaughn


Genre: YA
Rating:3 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure. 
The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.


In theory this is a pretty awesome book. Fencing is a sport which is generally not written about so that was refreshing. Jill was your standard teenager who after losing seems to think the world is over, but we have all been there so I forgive her. I also liked how the pirate's world was portrayed. None of the romanticizing found in the Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise, I felt that she had really done her research in that regard.


What made me not like it...the writing was juvenile. There was the relationship which seems mandatory in YA novels which was rushed and I felt unnecessary to the whole thing. Henry was ok on his own but the way that Vaughn tried to get the two of them together seemed awkward and contrived. Then there was the magic aspect...and the ending. I just felt confused and dissatisfied with the whole thing by the time I was done with it. 


My overall reaction was "Meh" **shrug of the shoulders**  I didn't feel like I really wasted my time but it is one that I won't remember by next semester.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classic Tuesday - Eight Cousins

Eight Cousins
by Louisa May Alcott


Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Life with seven boy cousins isn't quite what Rose expected. Left an orphan after her father's death, Rose Campbell is sent to live at the "Aunt Hill" with her six aunts and seven rowdy boy cousins. For someone who is used to a girl's boarding school, it all seems pretty overwhelming. Her guardian, Uncle Alec, makes her eat healthy things like oatmeal, and even tries to get her to give up her pretty dresses for drab, sensible clothes.


I liked this one a lot more than Little Women, while it is still on the more didactic end of the spectrum it is a most wonderful little story. Now I must state that if you have read any Alcott the same basic principles apply. But unlike little women rather than having a narrator tell you how to live your life, the lovable Uncle Alec does so in a not too preachy manner. Now as the children are still children they are overly perfect and sweet, yet the adults (who are for the most part overlooked) are what makes the book for me. I love Aunt Jessie and wish that I had one or that I could be one sometime in the far distant future. 


I like how there is an emphasis on children remaining children. With my 6 year old sister asking to dye her hair blonde it seems like the final nail in the coffin of childhood is very close to being hammered down. This is a wonderful childhood classic and one that should be read rather than looked over.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - Tacky the Penguin


Tacky the Penguin
by: Helen Lester

Genre: Children's
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
"Tacky was an odd bird, but a nice bird to have around." Compared to the other penguins Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect, Tacky is an odd bird. Yet when hunters come to the ice we find out that he is a nice bird to have around.

I have already reviewed a Helen Lester story-A Porcupine Named Fluffy - which I adore and this is another one of her creations. I giggled at Tacky's antics when I was little - I mean really a penguin in Hawaiian shirts? who cannonballs into the ocean? you can't get much better than that- and my little sister does so now and my children most likely will as well. The rhyming used will ensure that you remember the specific lines like how the hunters come with their "maps and traps and rocks and locks."

This is another unknown wonder of childhood that I would recommend for everyone.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Frightening Fluffy Friday: Love on a Dime

Love on a Dime
by Cara Lynn James


Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 2 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
In age of elegance and excess, Lilly Westbrook longs for a love both true and eternal.Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and ladies of leisure. Of opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons--dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.But it's not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that's exactly what she does.No one in Lilly's social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company...and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.But Lilly must put aside her feelings and follow the path that will maintain her family's social stature and provide the financial security that everyone is depending on.Now Lilly faces a double dilemma. Can she continue to protect her secret identity? And will she have the courage to choose the man who will risk it all just to win her heart?


I couldn't take this book seriously. I really found it so entertaining to read bits and pieces of it to my roommate in a dramatic voice causing her to laugh out loud at the effusive writing. It is like sugar, chocolate syrup and cotton candy mixed together it is that fluffy. The premise is good, there is the romance and intrigue (the local gossip columnist has found out her identity and is now blackmailing her) there really is the making of a decent novel in there. Sadly the execution failed.


Lilly is unable to make up her mind. She is too proud to ask for help even though it can come from many different sources, and  she makes too big of a deal out of everything, if she would simply relax and think for a moment she would know what to do. She and Jack really needed to make up their minds, communicate and the story would have been cut in half.


I could go on and on about the predictability  of the plot, the unlikable characters and the really juvenile and contrived writing but I have to go to class. Pass on this one good cover, bad writing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Historical Thursday - A Constant Heart

A Constant Heart
by Siri Mitchell


Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. her destiny is guaranteed...at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.


As an authors first foray into the world of historical fiction I would say that she did a neat job of it all. You could tell that she did her research in regards to the lifestyle of the period thoroughly and represented the era well. She took a different stance on her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth though one I am coming across more often. Rather than the benevolent and nearly perfect being that we are  taught of in our school years she depicts a demanding, vain and fearful  woman competing to remain the "fairest of them all." I find her going a little too over the top in creating the "wicked step-mother" for dramatic emphasis rather than showing Elizabeth as a real person. Though this did open the door to show the make-up practices of the time which were in no way FDA approved.


Now as to the story, it is written in alternating POV between Marget and her husband, sometimes too abruptly for my taste though since I didn't get confused I forgive Mitchell for it. I pitied Marget in the beginning of the novel but by the end of it I was tired of her lack of backbone and willingness to let everyone run her life. The same applies for the dear Earl. The love story was cute and seemed genuine enough but there there is all of this doubting going on that I kind of got bored with it all.


It concludes nicely and plausibly, wrapped in a neat bow and not hinting at a sequel (I really hate books that do that - leave plot lines open in case the book becomes popular and they want to make more money.) It is full of angst so if you are in the mood for that it's a good choice, but on the whole, I won't tell you not to read it because it's a very nice historical novel. On the other hand, I won't tell you to run to your nearest bookstore.  It was...respectable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

YA Wednesday: Where I Belong

Where I Belong
Gwendolyn Heasley

Genre: YA
Rating: 2 stars

Summary:
Corrinne seems to be living the perfect life, plenty of money, access to all of the hottest clubs in NYC until suddenly it all comes falling apart and she finds herself living in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Now she finds herself needing to work, attending a public school and frantically searching for a way back to life before the recession.

Goodness, don't waste your time on this one. I was up at my cabin without anything else to read so that is my only excuse. Give me 2 months and I will have completely forgotten about it.

Corrinne was irritating and shallow I feel like she had just stepped off the set of Gossip Girl, the writing style seemed juvenile and how many times have we seen this story? Perhaps I am older than the intended audience but even then I wouldn't recommend this to my younger siblings or their friends. While Kitsy was a better character she still wasn't enough to redeem the book.

 I felt like all of the plot lines were left unresolved because of this curve ball that is thrown into it. It probably was one of the worst endings of a book I have ever read. It felt like the author was on a deadline and cranked out the last chapters in 30 minutes the way I occasionally do my homework. There's hardly any closure and you are left extremely dissatisfied.

Don't judge the book by it's cover, it is a pretty cover I know, but don't be fooled! You will have wasted your time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Classic Tuesday: King Lear

King Lear
by: William Shakespeare

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
Deciding to divide his kingdom between his daughters, King Lear portions out his land to those whom he believes love him most setting the stage for the most classical of Shakespeare's tragedies

Now I wonder if plays count as books, but that is the beauty of the Bard. He has an all-encompassing reach for both the English and Theater worlds with influences on everything in between. There is so much going on that there is no way for me to cover it all in a little 300 or so word blurb but I shall try my best.

I have read this one twice for school and both times I was struck with how powerful it was. It deals with love and all of it's forms, with the fears of old age, with the battle for power everything needed to create an amazing story. Written toward the end of his life, I believe that a lot of Lear is Shakespeare's own personal fear and struggle of growing old and losing the respect that he feels he deserves. Lear is one of the most complex characters simply because of how dynamic he is. He begins Act 1 as a spoiled man who doesn't know himself, who is not wise enough to know what love and devotion really are. From there he descends into madness until finally being able to see the truth only in time to die himself. (Sorry if I spoiled but it's a Shakespearean tragedy, you know that everyone is going to die.)

I could go on about Regan and Goneril as the first evil (step)sisters that I have come across - they certainly make Anastasia and Drisella look like perfect angels. Or about Edmund a truly evil character rarely to be rivaled in literature. Shakespeare manages to capture human nature in all of its interesting shades so wonderfully that it is impossible to do him justice.

Read (or if possible watch) this wonder of Shakespeare, it will leave you satisfied and, hopefully, thinking.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

Veiled Rose
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary From Goodreads:


Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.
Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands.
But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find?
Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishing for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Because I was given this, I didn't have the chance to read the first book in the series. And while I wish that I had some more background information on some of the characters, this novel works well as a stand alone. the characters a believable and dynamic. Rose Red in particular is a very solid character with a likable personality and really carries the thing through. She provides the depth to what would otherwise be your very basic boy-meets-girl-and-then-problems-ensue plot.There is that romantic element within the story but rather than making a straight forward teen romantic plot the author chooses instead to explore the complexities of relationships and in a way that add depth to the whole. 

As expected from Bethany House there are religious undertones. It's rather like the cautionary tales of the Brothers Grimm. The point of the story isn't completely obvious and yet you are aware that it's there.

The humor of the story was wonderful with a few moments where I giggled out loud and if you are at all a fan of young adult fantasy I would recommend this book for you.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Crime and Punishment


Crime and Punishment

by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption. 

This was the first book assigned for my high school AP English class it was summer reading and it was something which was dreaded by all. I am finding that classics are a lot like vegetables, we eat them because we are told to and then realize..."hey I actually like broccoli!"  I must admit I started the summer with good intentions and kept telling myself I would start it tomorrow until I found myself looking at the first day of classes. Never fear I got it done and I loved it. Russian Literature just might be one of my favorite genres. 

What I love about this piece is how deeply it delves into the psychology of man. By getting so directly involved with the thinking process of Raskolinkov we delve deep into human psyche.  The book isn't so much about the crime and punishment themselves but rather about the internal crime of pride and the internal punishment which Raskolinkov goes through. This could be the very first psychological thriller ever written, a genre which hadn't ever been tried before and Dostoyevsky did a masterful job at creating marvelously shaded characters and writing a story that is absorbing and thought provoking.

I love this piece and believe it should be one of the first “vegetables” forced upon readers who are lacking in the classics. 




Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm sorry, I don't have the energy or heart or attitude to handle a post right now.

In a way I am being more fair to the book I have scheduled today, in my present mood it doesn't matter what I read it would still be horrible. So I will be kind to the hapless book who was supposed to be the center of my attention today and leave it for another time.

Happy Reading. (oh if you have things that you think I should read I would love to hear from you.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Historical Thursday: Hattie Big Sky


Hattie Big Sky
by Kirby Larson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary from Goodreads,
In 1917, Hattie Brooks was a 16-year-old orphan who had spent most of her young life passed from one relative to another. But a letter arrives from an uncle she never knew she had, and everything changes as she leaves for eastern Montana to prove her uncle's land claim.
Hattie was no tenderfoot when she arrived in Montana, but in her first year there, she's forced to battle the hazards of weather -- bitter winters filled with blizzards, and summers of drought and the threat of wildfires. Though homesteaders arrive anticipating a difficult road, one thing Hattie hadn't expected to confront was a seething prejudice among her neighbors. At the height of the First World War, the patriotism and loyalty of German-Americans was suspect, and Hattie finds herself at the center of an unsubstantiated hatred for one of her neighbors, a man who has shown her nothing but kindness. 

Now I know what you're thinking..."Two 5 stars in a row? I thought she said she was picky!" Well first of all I didn't say "picky" and secondly this one deserves it too, I can't help that I found another amazing book. And besides what are you complaining about? This just means that there is another great book for you to read!

So my thoughts on this book. I have never read about a cow with quite as much personality as the one found here. When even the animals are fully developed characters we know we have a keeper. On a more serious note, this book deals a lot with the anti-German sentiments which were around especially throughout the first World War. All of this prejudice that Hattie and her friends have to face really is quite sad to see. Hattie is a character who I fell in love with and the writing style (done in first person) is simply charming. 

I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It may say that it is a young adult fiction but it is a book that is wonderful at all ages.

Shame Nation

Shame Nation Genre: Non-Fiction Rating: 4 Stars Summary My Thoughts: This is a book everyone needs to read. The title perfectly fits ...