Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just a Book

Spirit Animals #2:  Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater

Adolescent Fantasy

I'll start with something positive: it was definitely better than the first one in the series.  That's pretty much the start and the end of my list.  It's not that this book is bad; it's just chronically okay, just alright and it never rises above that.  The fault can most certainly not be with the author, who manages to fix many of the problems in the first book.  My problem with the first book is that the characters were so flat and one-dimensional, owing perhaps to the sheer number of them and the brevity of the book.  While, in this book, we do get to know each character more, it still isn't enough to elevate them to the "realness" of a person. 

In this second installment, the four main characters continue on their quest, capturing icons in order to defeat a great evil, while also learning how to control and bond with their new spirit animals.  We also meet new characters and new villains which murk up the water somewhat rather than making the plot any clearer.

In the end, it's just a book, just a story which isn't a terrible thing.  For me, though, I like my books to have some sparks of life.  I wouldn't keep reading it except someone bought me the whole series as a gift and I feel a bit guilty abandoning them. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good, Clean Fun

Antarctica #1:  Journey to the Pole by Peter Lerangis

Adolescent Historical Fiction

I really love Peter Leranigs, but this was not my favorite book of his.  However, I did like the book.  It was good, just not great and that might have been because I had just finished reading an amazing book, so my expectations were high.

It is a story of the race to the pole in the early 1900's.  The main character, Cole, is a young boy whose father is obsessed with finding the pole.  Cole's mother has died and his stepbrother Andrew is competition for the father's affection.  Cole thinks he can reconnect with his father on the voyage to the pole, until he finds out that Andrew is going as well. The voyage is filled with disaster and misadventure, both natural and man-made.  And, yet, it wasn't a knuckle-biter.  Perhaps I've read too many of these types of stories.  The descriptions of the adventure were really fascinating--to think what men endured, what they willingly volunteered for in order to conquer unknown lands.  It's very clearly a clean adventure story with nothing in it remotely inappropriate.  Just good, clean fun that has a touch more family drama than hair-raising adventure for this thrill seeker.

The book did have great information on that period in history and really shows what it might have been like to travel to Antarctica back then.  It's definitely a book for adolescents and has nothing in it to really interest adults.

It's part of a series, but not one I will keep reading.  It just didn't hold my attention enough to search out the others.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Good, Old-Fashioned Ghost Story

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

Young Adult Paranormal

Katie Alender hasn't steered me wrong yet.  Each book I've read of hers (not very many, but all of them are quality writing) has been a good scary yarn from beginning to end. These are my very favorite kind of ghost stories:  the old-fashioned, edge of your seat thrillers without the gory violence. 

In this book, Willa and her mother have just moved to Hollywood to live with Willa's new stepfather.  It's a few life for both of them, but Willa is having more trouble with the move because she is still mourning the death of her father and feels she may have helped to bring along his death.  She has attempted to contact him using certain paranormal books and other items.  During one of her mini-séances, she inadvertently opens a psychic doorway and discovers a murder occurred in her new home and the ghost is communicating with her.  Things at school are a bit strained, too, and Willa questions whether the new friends she has made will think she's crazy.  Add in the element of a serial killer running loose and you have all you need for one really good read.

I really like Alender's books and her writing style.  It's easy to read and every chapter keeps you hooked on the action.  I loved the old-Hollywood flavor of this book.  The characters were realistic and the plot twists kept me guessing.  Alender is quickly rising to the top of my favorite ghost authors. Even though she primarily writes for the young adult set, the book had more than enough to capture my adult interest.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Loved the Ending!

Divergent #3:  Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Dystopian Teen Fiction

I'm probably not going to win any fans with this reviews, but I have to say I'm probably the only person that loved the ending!

This book series started off strong with Divergent, then went steadily downhill from there.  Divergent was a story of girl versus the establishment. In book, Insurgent, girl increasingly became pro-militant and determined she knew had a better plan.  In this book, the 3rd one in the series, the girl has decided her way is the only way and she knows how to save the world. 

Thankfully, this isn't a story just about Tris.  If it were, it would read as little more than a very confusing overthrow of some political movement that becomes increasingly murkier as the book  series goes on.  Tris has lost most of what made her such an incredible heroine in this last book.  She is judgmental and it never really is clear why these adults in charge even listen to her.  She's a teenager they saw on TV, for Pete's sake.  It's just so unrealistic.  I also loathe the way she treats Four, who struggles with his own identity and family.  She seems determined to have him comply with her wishes, regardless of his own opinions and thoughts.  It's only because of Four that I kept reading.  He is really the dynamic character here and Tris is little more than a prop at the end of the book to show how his life fragments and heals.  I did like the duality of the book but the constant talk of battle and insurrection was boring. 

So, in the end, I probably should have stopped with book #1 in this series.  It was a charmer and I only felt disappointed the farther along I went in the series.  If you do manage to hang on to the end and you're like me (not a real fan), you'll probably also like the ending.  I do look forward to reading "Four", the next book in this series.  I hope it goes on with Four--he was always the best part, anyway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fingers Crossed #11 is Better

Ten Big Ones:  Stephanie Plum #10 by Janet Evanovitch

Romantic Thriller

Stephanie Plum is out of control.  Seriously, she needs to get it together.

She's still living in a dump, still working for her uncle, still can't do her job even half-way decently.  Her on again/off again relationship with a great guy is definitely off again and she can't help put push him away.  All that is mostly the plot of the book which is mixed in with some really bad criminals who are determined to kill her, again.  She goes to the only person who doesn't mind bending the rules for her, again.  She skates by on the skin of her teeth, again. This girl.  I feel like starting a fund so she can get a life coach. 

I feel the plot in the last book was starting to wear a bit thin, but this book made a bit of comeback.  I'm hoping it might be a turn-around for Plum.  I've been through ten books with her, but it's getting a bit monotonous to watch her make the same mistakes without learning anything, kind of like Rex on his gerbil wheel.  Fingers crossed that #11 will bring something new.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Starting to Feel Formulaic

To the Nines:  Stephanie Plum #9 by Janet Evanovitch

Romantic Mystery Thriller

My thrill with this thriller series took a bit of a nose dive in this book.

In this latest installment, less-than-adequate bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has to track down an elusive Visa bond jumper, an immigrant who doesn't seem content with upcoming arranged marriage.  As always, there's a few other greasy contenders for Plum's time, but, in the end she always gets her man or woman.

The old formula that has worked for the last 8 books in the series is still working here.  It's a funny, easy light hearted read.  It's one where you don't have to pay too much attention to, so feel free to take it to the beach and doze off in the sun.  Plum's on-again/off-again romance with Morelli takes an unexpected turn and the heat with Ranger goes up a notch or two.  That part I really liked! 

What I didn't like is that Plum is starting to seem like a static character.  By now, she's bagged at least 30 criminals.  Shouldn't she be getting a little better at her job?  Isn't she tired of living in a dump and driving a wreck?  Her lack of growth as a character is starting to wear thin.  I hope future books show a Plum that has some changes in her life and psyche.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating a Camelot with Vampires

Black Dagger Brotherhood #1:  Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

Paranormal Erotic Romance

I don't know what I expected when I was recommended this book, but...Thank you, Liz, for sending me down this path!  Girl, you've done right by me.

In the book, vampire king Wrath is irresistibly drawn to his soon-to-be mate, Beth.  He doesn't really need the love complications as he is trying to quell a potential uprising and hunt down bad guys who smell like baby powder. However, big baddie that he is, he is putty in her hands.  Beth has problems of her own; namely, she isn't aware she's a vampire-to-be.  This start of the series is the Camelot of vampire love lore.

This paranormal eroticism was my first foray into this genre and, yes, that's a genre. This book was like a pile of dark chocolate kisses--luscious, sinful, addictive and impossible to stop at just one.  You have to rush on to the next book in the series.  Those 500 pages slip through your fingers like water and minutes mean nothing until you get to the end.  This book is like a literary masturbation with multiple orgasms.  If that line offends you, make no plans to read this book series.  That language is tame by comparison and reading the book will surely fry your brain neurons.  It's a total overload of word sex.

My only pet peeve is with the ridiculous spelling of the character's names.  Vishous, Phury, Tohrment...they sound (and probably look like) WWF wrestlers gone awry.  It would be hard to keep a straight face when meeting them for the first time.  It just seems a bit silly.

Overall, I love the fantasy world Ward has created. It has breathed new life into what was becoming a very tired genre.  So amazing, so unbelievable and, yet, so very credible.  The real strength of the books is with the incredible job Ward has done with characterization.  There are so many characters and Ward fleshes each one out completely, forcing us to follow numerous subplots of very inhuman creatures with such human needs and failings.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Classic, Yet Different

Towards Zero:  Superintendent Battle #5 by Agatha Christie

Classic Mystery

Inspector Battle isn't nearly a favorite Christie detective of mine.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the little Belgian, Hercule Poirot, and that grand dame of country life, Jane Marple.  Battle is, however, starting to rise in my esteem and estimation.

In this book, a murder of a family matriarch throws the local constabulary into a quandary until one of the officers calls his uncle, Inspector Battle, who isn't all that sad at leaving an uncomfortable family situation to help out.  What I really loved about this book was the incredible backstory, which we don't often seen with Christie.  Usually, the murder occurs fairly quickly and the detective on-hand gets to sleuthing right away.  In this story, we are introduced to all the red-herring and guilty players right away and have to figure out from their motives which one of them might have made the masterful kill.  There are a lot of little side stories that are tidily tied up at the end.  Christie, true genius!

This is probably one of my favorite Christie books, and certainly my favorite Inspector Battle.  I loved the side stories and backstories of all the characters.  Each of them was so interesting and it had me guessing until the very last page.  These aren't books you necessarily have to read in order so, if you're a bit tired of the typical Christie mystery, you might want to give this a read.  A jolly good yarn!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Plucky, Fun Heroine

They Came To Baghdad by Agatha Christie

Spy Thriller/Mystery

This was a different kind of Christie book for me.  No Hercule Poirot.  No Jane Marple.  No Inspector Battle  No Tommy and Tuppance.  Instead, I was introduced to a new heroine:  Victoria Jones.

Victoria is a bit of a fluff-head.  By her own words, she's a terrible employee and is just getting fired as the book opens.  Sitting on a park bench contemplating her future, she meets a handsome young man and decides to follow him across the world, from England to Baghdad on just a hope she will run into him and another hope she might find some job to support herself.  What she does, instead, is get tangled up in an international spy game.  She bumbles through it all, making hilarious mistakes, and, somehow, solves the whole thing at the end.

This is a different Christie because it's so much more lighter-hearted than her other books.  While there are murder and sinister plots, Victoria is a plucky and adorable detective and I do hope there are other books with her in it.  Christie has never disappointed me, and this one just adds to her mythical legend as the greatest detective dame of all time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Missing Key Details Readers Need to Know

The Toadhouse Trilogy:  Book One by J.H. Lourey

Children/Young Adult Fantasy

This is the kind of book that's right up my alley--a book about books!  There are so very few of them (Inheart by Cornelia Funke, for example) and I loved it when I happen across them.

Aine and her brother Spenser live a very unconventional lifestyle.  After their parents were killed, they were shuttled off to a grandmother they'd never met to live as virtual hermits in the woods of Missouri.  Their existence is shattered when a monster invades their home. The monster is named Biblos and the only way to escape him is to put their trust in a man named Gilgamesh, who is clearly hiding some secrets of his own.  Escape comes in the way of a toadhouse, a sort of magical time traveling machine, that can skip dimensions into books.  What'a toadhouse?  A house where toads live? That, and other details, aren't really fully explained.

That summary probably seemed a bit murky which is why I couldn't give the book more stars.  The plot itself was a bit murky.  Key information is either completely left out or given so late in the book that it makes truly understanding the characters and their motivations difficult.  I did really love all the literary references and this will keep me coming back to the series for more.  It is well-written with adventure, action, and thrills and has a mystery that will probably only be solved in the third book of this trilogy.  Overall, I quite liked the book--it was something different, a breath of fresh air.  The characters were engaging, if rather difficult to connect with.  There's a lot I don't understand about the plot (why fairies...isn't it enough the story can skip through books?  It seemed like too much of a stretch), but I am hoping future books might clear it up.  If not, it's worth a read just to see which storybook the gang jumps into next.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Not As Great As The Inspiration Source

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick:  Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Various

Short Stories

What a gigantic disappointment this was!

I have loved the Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg for years. (Reading that book is a prerequisite for reading this one.) It's a book I have used in lessons, a book I have written about, a book that makes one dream and wonder.  I was hopeful that those pictures in the hands of such amazing authors would be a great read.

Not so.  Actually, the stories my middle school children have written about the Harris Burdick pictures were better than the ones in this collection.  I wanted them to be as fantastical as the illustrations they explained.  Alas, they were, without fail, just really mediocre. The authors who wrote them are amazing, but the stories they wrote aren't anything too spectacular.  The best ones would have to be Stephen King's and Lois Lowry's contributions (of course).  I wish I'd stopped with the original book and let my imagination soar.  Now, those illustrations are a bit spoiled for me by these stories that aren't nearly as great as what they attempted to describe.  This is not a terrible book, despite my harsh words; rather, it's just okay.  And, I expected so, so much more

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not Crichton's Best Work

Airframe by Michael Crichton

Thriller


The story starts with a mid-air near crash, a disturbance in high altitude that left 3 people dead and almost everyone else on the plane wounded. A group of investigators take over the case and try and figure out what happened to cause so much destruction on a flight where everything looked perfect.

This book was written more than a decade ago and some of it felt very dates, like the technology and clothing allusions. However, the inside take on the airline industry is fascinating, and relevant to me as an airline/airplane ticket consumer. Crichton handles the airline industry will all the thoroughness of an autopsy in his usual medical thrillers.

Some parts of the book ere slow, but most of it was a race to the finish. II found the parts about the brutal and violent unions to be a disappointment. As a past union member myself, I found this slightly ridiculous. Of course, I was in a teacher's union so maybe we were a bit softer-hearted than other union breeds. Violence at a work place should never be tolerated, but I felt this just perpetrated Neanderthal ideas about unions and played into stereotypes too much. The characters are static, but slightly interesting. Their lives were only relevant enough to make us care about what happens next in the story. I did like the solo female main character--it's sad to think this type of character still doesn't get much play today in the thriller genre.

The book stops way short of the near science fiction of his other thrillers. This is realism--a realistic portrayal of airplane/airline procedures and almost reads like an investigative journalistic expose. Crichton does keep true to his themes of the dangers of technological supremacy run amok and human arrogance. It's definitely not the best of Crichton's work, but, if you are a huge fan of his, then this book is not to be missed.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Does What a Book Should: Makes You Think

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus:  What Your History Books Got Wrong by James Loewen

History/Nonfiction

The whole time I read this book, I could only think of the recent (February 2015) movement by Oklahoma lawmakers that banned certain AP history courses because they didn't teach "American' exceptionalism".  If there were ever a case of needing a book in American classrooms, this is it and Oklahoma just proved it.  I feel this book should most certainly be required for ALL history teachers (and probably for all Oklahoma lawmakers!).  The fact that, according to the book, so many teachers of history are ignorant on this subject is frightening.  As a teacher (although not of history), I know this to be true.  Many teacher's programs do not focus on giving teachers relevant information so much as indoctrinating them into whatever current educational philosophy is in swing.  For the past fifteen years, testing has been in vogue and true academic thought and research have gone out the window as American teachers strive to teach kids to bubble in the right answer.  This book does what a book should:  makes you think and question and argue and rage.  And, then think some more.

This is NOT a book of revisionist history, but rather a book of actual history.  While many of the stories were old news to me (heinous Christopher Columbus and the genocide of American Indians, for example), many of the items in the book were new for me to read about.  That scared me quite a bit.  I like to think of myself as an armchair historian, but clearly I've not been getting the full story.  It was so disappointing and disheartening to read about the Vietnam War, a topic I have never been taught and only know about from the news.  The beauty of the book isn't that it necessarily rewrites American history; rather, it is the questioning the book causes.  I had to stop at several points and go look up and read about some of these topics.  Surely, some of the facts must be wrong, right?  Unfortunately, no. What I found only mirrors what we see on TV everyday:  the same event told in completely different versions by members of opposing political natures that eventually comes out not resembling truth in the least.  It fascinates me to see how we change our version of history to make ourselves (Americans) look better.  I'm still a bit perplexed by many items in the book and have added several new titles to my list of books to read later. 

Overall, this is probably a book most fascinating to teachers, especially teachers of history, and anyone interested in history.  It isn't a book to pick up if you want inspiring stories of heroism or general knowledge, but that makes it all the more important and relevant.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Such a Dislikeable Heroine!

The Latte Rebellion by Sara Jamila Stevenson

Young adult realism

I had some real problems with this book.  I wanted to like and it seemed like just the kind of book I could really get into:  plucky heroine striving to right the wrongs of the world and the culture around her.

In it, Asha wants to escape the confines and rules of her extremely strict parents after graduation for some fun before going to college.  Along with her friend, Carey, Asha starts the "latte" rebellion after being teased about her heritage and race at a pool party.  She decides to use "latte" as a way to bring awareness to her race as mixed heritage and comes up with the idea of selling t-shirts to make money to fund her trip.  Soon, though, the world at large gets in on the action and takes the rebellion much farther than Asha ever dreamed, launching her in trouble with school, her parents, and her friends.

Sounds great, right?  Right from the start, I had real issues with the main character.  This may be a fault with mine--anytime I dislike a main character, I end up really hating the book.  And, Asha is so dislikable.  I cannot get behind a heroine whose only goal is to make money for a summer vacation. The idea of mixed-race awareness is clearly of secondary importance to her, if that.  She repeatedly lies to her parents and her friends.  She treats her friend Carey in the most selfish way and then is surprised when Carey wants to abandon their friendship.  She loves the fame of the group, but doesn't really want to do any work towards the mission. Plus, for a girl who chafes at being labeled, she labels and categorizes everyone she comes across.  Their isn't anything wrong with the plot, grammar, or writing style, but the main character makes this a book I couldn't recommend to young readers for any reason.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Legends Galore

Lost Lands, Forgotten Realms:  Sunken Continents, Vanished Cities, and the Kingdoms That History Misplaced by Dr. Bob Curran

Nonfiction

This is my very favorite kinds of book--a book on myths, forgotten stories, whispered truths from the past. 

In the book, Dr. Bob Curran writes about myths from every corner of the globe.  While the title hints at Atlantis and other stories like it, Curran delves much more broadly and also writes about the forgotten lands and realms of America.  This was probably my favorite part of the book.  While I have read many books on Atlantis, El Dorado and other stories like that, I hadn't really read about, or even heard about, some of the stories and myths in the book from America.  I loved the part that talked about the Welsh king and kingdom in Alabama, the lost tribes of the Melungeons from Kentucky, and Native American stories.  Curran spends a lot of time with the myths of American and it made for a nice change of pace from the usual books I read on this topic.

If you're looking for an in-depth read on topics like the Bermuda Triangle, etc., you'll need to look elsewhere.  This book serves mostly as an introduction to myths and stories worldwide.  For many of the chapters, I can honestly say I already knew of most of what was being discussed.  This is a book for beginners and for those who, like me, can't resist gossips, hints, and legends.  I have a whole page of new things and topics to read about. (The Devil of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky...who knew?)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Make Yourself Truly Happy and Buy Another Book

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying To Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

Self-Help

Self-help is a new genre before, one I hadn't needed and didn't particularly want to try.  However, the buzz generated over this book captured me.  I read reviews and interviews with people who said the book changed their way in some profound and meaningful way. 

I have one question to ask those people:  How?

The book is divided into 12 different chapters, one for each month of the year whereby the author dedicates that month to changing something in her life:  career, marriage, children etc.  Overall, it sounds like a great idea.  However, the "advice" generated in the book is alarming.  Her big marriage advice was to treat her husband "nicer".  If you are shallow enough to not already treat your spouse nicely, I doubt your marriage will be saved by the book.  As for children...apparently, the lesson is don't let their whining annoy you.  As a mother of two, good luck with that and that came with the program, so suck it up.  The whole book just seemed so ridiculous to me.  I can't think of one piece of advice I gleaned that wouldn't be so obviously apparent for anyone with an ounce of self-reflection.

What bothered me most of all about this book is the obvious attempt just to sell.  The author is very clear about her purpose in writing to be just to sell books.  So, in this book, she gathered all her blog entries from other readers and tacked them in.  Not all the entries were relevant or interesting and it just felt like an attempt to make the book thicker.  There are also lots of quotes and "studies" about happiness, more obvious attempts to fill the pages with something relevant.  The title kind of got my goat, too.  A year trying to fight right?  Can't recall an instance where the author was really focused on anything other than her own selfish pursuits.  Read Aristotle?  Not a chapter in the book so I'm not sure how it made it to the title other than to make the book seem more worthy.

You want some happiness? Save the money you would normally spend on this book and look elsewhere.  Buy yourself a latte, a bouquet of flowers, take your spouse or boyfriend out for a hot dog, buy a stranger some balloons...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Formatting Ruined the Story For Me

A Slave No More:  Two Men Who Escaped To Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation by David Blight

History

"A Slave No More" tells the true story of two men (Wallace Turnage and John Washington) who escaped slavery and lived the remainder of their lives as freedmen.  This story is the narrative of their slave life and escape rather than an account of their lives after that.

The book is divided up into two main parts:  the first part is the retelling of the narratives by David Blight, the author.  In it, Blight takes the words of the men and rewrites their stories, embellishing the tale with historical events for the reader as well as adding opinions and thoughts of his own.  The second part of the book is the actual accounts written by the men themselves.

The format of the book was really troubling to me as a reader.  I disliked how Blight rewrote the men's stories, explaining that their poor grammar and syntax was the cause. The importance of their first person account was diminished with the retelling and, in many parts, Blight seems to be speak with the arrogance of a historian lecturing down to the reader.  I disliked Blight's historical references, many of which were unneeded, and bogged the story down.  The real force of the book, the tales told by slaves who lived and breathed almost seemed tagged on as an afterthought at the end of the book.  It seems to me that their stories should have come first and then Blight's thoughts after that, or perhaps mixed in along the way.  I did enjoy learning what happened to the men and their families after their narratives were finished, though.  Overall, its isn't a book I can recommend, either for a good story or for an important historical read.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spenser is Back!

Spenser #13:  Taming a Sea Horse by Robert Parker

Mystery/Thriller

Spenser is back!  It's so nice to see him return to his pre-Susan-made-me-lose-my-mind days.  The last few books in the series were really painful for me to read.  I really like to see Spenser as an impenetrable fortress of good and watching him mire about in self-pity was awkward, especially since I so dislike Susan, the cause of his morose pity party.

In this installment, Spenser is called back to the home of his favorite prostitute madam to find a missing girl.  However, the more Spenser digs, the more he discovers that the girl doesn't want to come back...because she's in love.  Unfortunately, she's in love with a piece of garbage so Spenser had to become her moral compass and get her back on track, killing a few people and scaring even more along the way.  Hawk, another favorite character, is back and the two are such a fun duo to read about.  Susan is also back, but she does little more than lay around in Spenser's bed and dole out pity psycho babble so I can stomach her presence.

I did find this story to be a bit darker than some of the previous reads.  The lessons about love and true love and betrayal seem bitter and, even though Spenser saves the day, the ending left a bad taste in my mouth.  Still, he's one of my favorite detectives so I'm going to stick with him and hope he gets his unconcerned groove back soon.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Sweet Story That Explains the Real Reason Behind the Season

The True Gift:  A Christmas Story by Patricia MacLachlan

Children's Holiday

Patricia MacLachlan is far and above one of my favorite writers.  Her writing style is the true gift of this story.  Every book of hers that I've read has broken my heart a little, in the sweetest way, and this was no exception.  Her works are so lyrical, more like poetry than prose and getting swept away by her words is so easy, like swinging in a hammock with the gentlest of breezes.

In the story, brother and sister Liam and Lily are going to their grandparent's farm to spend the holiday season.  Instead of focusing solely on his gifts, Liam is distressed to see that White Cow has to spend the holidays alone in the field.  In true Christmas spirit, he uses his savings to buy a calf, a companion for White Cow.  The story is told so simply, so sweetly and is a great reminder of the real reason behind the season.

This is a great Christmas read, a great read-aloud for a classroom of elementary kids, a great short and easy read, and a great multi-generational family read.  It's just a great read, no matter the reason.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Horrid, Literally and Figuratively

The Castle of Wolfenbach:  A German Story by Eliza Parson

Gothic Romance

Bad, just so bad.

It's a "horrid" novel, one that Jane Austen referred to in her Northanger Abbey.  While many believe that "horrid" refers to the gothic nature of the writing, I believe Ms. Austen was using her tongue-in-cheek wit to describe the experience of actually reading it all the way through.

In the overly long story, Matilda is an orphan, having been cared for by an "uncle" all her life.  When she comes of age, and apparent hotness, the uncles announces they are not related and he wants to marry her.  When she refuses, he flips out (like the psycho he is) and tries to take advantage of Matilda.  She entrusts the help of a servant and flees into the night unlaunching a story of such ridiculous turns of events and rambling dialogues and explanations that it will put even the staunchest reader into the deepest sleep.

So, in essence, it's just really awful.  Personally, I'm not interested in reading books to get a point.  I just want a good read.  This wasn't it.  I'll stick to Austen and leaved the horrid writing to others.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Sinful Pleasure...Much Like Tastycakes

Hard Eight:  Stephanie Plum #8 by Janet Evanovich

Romance/Mystery/Thriller

I'm sure there was a mystery in here somewhere...probably someone did something wrong and then skipped out on their bail.  Then, the world's worst bounty hunter stumbles across a bigger mystery and tries to solve it, getting herself, and everyone surrounding her almost killed several times over before she accidentally solves the crime.  I'm sure that's what happened in this book because that's what happens in every book.

If the plot is why you read these, you're clearly missing the point.  The point is the hot dichotomy of Ranger Vs. Joe.  In this book, that triangle just turned up the heat about 100 degrees.  I can't give too much away if you haven't read it, but I'll have to say I was shocked by the events that take place.  I don't know why because it's been leading up to this for, oh, about seven other books, but still...

This was is as funny, as ridiculous, and sinful as each of the previous ones in the series.  The difference here is that Evanovich just upped her game and now I'm scrambling to find #9.