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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Monday, February 25, 2013

Great Series!

Lorien Legacies #2:  The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

Adolescent Fantasy

This second installment was just as good as the first one in the series and picked up right where the other one took off.

This story is told from two different points of view:  Four, who is now an outcast and on the run with Sam, his best friend; and Six, a disturbingly beautiful alien like Four.  The love triangle that develops between them has now turned into a love square and begs the question:  can Four fall in love only once?  Was he really in love after all?  

The other half of the story is told by Seven.  Seven and her guardian have been hiding in a convent in Europe.  Seven/Marina has not had an easy time in the convent with such austere living conditions and her guardian has abandoned her emotionally to serve God and the church, almost convincing Marina that her earliest alien memories were a fantasy, until the Mogadorians show up.

As much as I love John/Four, Six is quickly turning out to be my favorite character.  She is so brave, so strong, so take charge!  It's no wonder Four is falling her her-even though that violates all he knows and has been taught.

This book probably has more excitement and adventure in it than the first one.  John is on the run and chasing the Mogadorians; he's in a love triangle/rectangle and has no idea what to do with his feelings; and he knows he's net on the hit list--that's an awful lot for a teen to handle!  And, each ending is such a cliffhanger!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Haunting Tragedy

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Adolescent Fiction

I loved every single thing about this book.  The narrator in this story was perfect in telling his tale-not over-emotional or sentimental, which made the horror and tragedy in it so much more real.  I loved how the book started with a mystery and the narrator worked at this niggling feeling when he didn't even know there was a mystery.  The cover was haunting and brilliant.  It completely captured the feel of the book.

Brady's life turns upside down when he plays the hero in a missing person's alert.  When his neighbors, a mother and her three-year old son, go missing in the Chesapeake Bay, Brady rushes to help.  He knows the area better than most people.  He finds the missing kayak and the small boy Benjamin, but was it in time to save him? 

Brady's big moment soon turns into a nightmare that gets worse with each passing day.  He begins to suspect that his best friends J.T. and Digger might have had something to do with the kayak sinking and he soon has to confront his own guilt in the situation.

I loved that this book didn't pull any punches and didn't make any apologies for the characters or their actions.  The tragedy that occurred was a crime and it was dealt with just that way.  Life doesn't always have a happy ending and I love books that don't try to make one.  There is a lot of depth to this story.  For its short length, it's a real nail biter!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Just So-So

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Adolescent Fiction

The book centers around three dumpster boys, those who make a living scavenging from huge mountains of trash.  One day, Raphael finds something in the trash-something that might be worth money to his destitute family.  When the police scour his neighborhood looking for it, Raphael hopes to turn this trash into even more treasure.  Gordo and Rat, two other orphans, are his partners in crime as they try to unravel the mystery of these papers and why the police are so interested.  Their adventure takes them from the trash heap to a prison to one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in their city and, finally, to a graveyard where the mystery is finally unravelled.

It is a futuristic novel, but not really dystopian which made it a little confusing for me.  In this future, most of the world is a third-world nation--overdeveloped, poor, corrupt with too many orphaned children.  There is absolutely no explanation of how this came to be.  So, why not just set the novel in a third-world present day setting?  The futuristic setting just didn't make sense and wasn't explained.

I did like a lot of things about this book.  The mystery and story within the story was captivating; the characters were likable and well-developed; the plot was realistic and exciting.  I did like that a variety of people told the story in different chapters.  It added to the depth and was different.  In short, I liked it okay.  I just didn't love it. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Should Get More Press Than It Does

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Teen and Above Fiction

I loved everything about this book.  It was definitely one of the best reads of the year for me.  It was originally marketed as an adolescent book but I think the publishing company really missed the mark on that one.  The reading level and subject matter make it definitely inappropriate for readers younger than 13.  And, it isn't just the overt sexuality of the bonobo monkeys (who knew they were so ......frisky?), but also the violence and political situations dealt with in the book.

When Sophie goes to visit her mother in the Congo for Spring Break, she's all ready for the crazy lifestyle change.  After all, her mother runs a bonobo sanctuary and Sophie lives most of her life as a typical American teen.  What Sophie didn't expect was to rescue her very own bonobo monkey, whom she promptly names Otto, and then fall in love with him.  What Sophie also didn't expect was the realities of the Congo's government and rebel fighting to find its way into her world.  Suddenly, Sophie is on her own in a forest enclosure full of wild animals with only two things on her mind:  escaping to safety and protecting baby Otto.

The book wasn't quite was I was expecting but it was so much more.  It was like a hearty beef stew-so much in there to digest and a story that will really stick to your bones and fill you up. The setting and political situation was so foreign to me. I loved learning and reading about it. It is so far removed from my life yet the author made it so real and accessible. The entire book was fraught with emotions-joy, sadness, fear, excitement, confusion, guilt-the reader feels everything the main characters is going through.  This book is filled with such bravery and such beauty amidst such very real despair.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Misery than Mystery

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Adolescent Fantasy

I read this book because one of my students recommended it, saying it was the best book she's ever read.  I wish she hadn't moved so I could ask her what she meant.  I mean, was it the only book she's ever read?  Because to be the 'best book' on some one's list, it must be a very short list of books read.  So as not to beat around the bush, I hated it.  The book isn't nearly as mysterious as it is absolutely ridiculous.

The book centers around a group of children-Reymie, Sticky and Constance-who each pass a test in order to be accepted in a special school, known as 'The Mysterious Benedict Society'.   Each of them has a special talent of some kind.  Constance's talent is to be extremely rude if that lets you know how amazing their talents are.   That took up about half of the 400 pages.

The other half of the book is a quasi-adventure whereby these orphaned misfits team up to defeat Mr. Benedict's evil, long-lost twin brother who is brainwashing the youth of America into being obedient creatures though subliminal messages on TV and the radio that also robs them of their happiness.  Much like the feeling I experienced reading this book.

Stewart has a writing style, and many other plot similarities, to Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Alas for him, none are portrayed as skillfully as Snickett.  This book was one of the most boring I've ever read.  I literally had to force myself to finish it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

She Does It Again

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Classic Mystery

A murder.....in a sealed airplane...with only a few suspects.  Should be easy to solve, but when the finger of the law seems to be pointing straight at our detective, Hercule Poirot, we know something is amiss.

At first, everyone thinks it was simply a wasp sting, but Poirot knows differently.  The murder victim is a moneylender and Poirot must delve into her life, and her clients, to solve the mystery.

I really liked that the mystery followed the characters off the plane and back to their complicated lives, followed soon by the pitter patter of Poirot's little nosy feet.  And seriously-how fun!  I mean, how many murders are committed by a poisoned dart of a deadly South African snake on a crowded plane cabin and nobody is any the wiser?  This was really fun to read on an airplane and was originally published as "Death in the Air".  Reading it in that setting really put things into perspective on the impossibilities and possibilities of such a thing.

When I first started reading Christie, I loved Ms. Marple and heartily disliked Poirot.  However, the more I keep reading about him, the more I enjoy his eccentricities.  One thing I adore is that he seems to figure things out quickly, gives the reader a slight hint, and then plays it close to the chest so as not to give anything away.  I also love that he makes mistakes and admits them. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Better and Better X4

Dead to the World:  Sookie Stackhouse #4 by Charlaine Harris

Paranormal Romance

This series just keeps getting better and better.  I can't wait to finish one and start another but I am trying to pace myself so they'll last longer. 

Sookie starts this book with a New Year's resolution to stay out of trouble and to avoid all things vampire related.  Which shouldn't be too hard since she and Bill (the vampire) have broken up.  That lasts precisely one whole shift at work for whom should she see on her way home from work? 

Erik, the vampire.  Naked.  Running for his life.  What's a girl to do?  (I did mention he was naked, right?)

When Sookie pulls over to find out what is going on, she is shocked to discover Erik doesn't seem to remember her.  Bizarre, considering how close they've been in the past.  After calling Erik's lackeys, Sookie learns that Erik  is under a witch's spell and she is hired to babysit Erik until he can be fixed.  Usually, Sookie has no problem fighting off Erik's advances but this Erik is new-tender, loving and a perfect man in all respects.  Sookie takes full advantage of his amnesia.

This book was much more sensual and sexual than the other books, perhaps owing to the fact that Erik is her partner rather than Bill.  (I have waxed eloquent in other reviews about my loathing for Bill so I will spare you my diatribe here.)  Alcide is back and want to get with Sookie which made for a very interesting love......square.  There is much more action and violence in this one, too.  Overall, the best one in the series yet!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

More Than Cozy

Death Goes Postal by Rosemary and Larry Mild


I picked this book up expecting a cozy mystery but that isn't what I got.  Most cozy mysteries are short with thin plot lines.  This was quite a lengthy tome with a very intricate plot and many intricate subplots.  Appearances can be deceiving.

The story centers around middle-aged married couple Dan and Rivka Sherman.  During a mid-life crisis, they decide to buy a bookstore in a huge Victorian mansion.  They knew they were inheriting some issues, but had no idea they were going to be the victims of a ruthless killer determined to retrieve a priceless manuscript.

There are many quirky characters in this book.  "Appearances can be deceiving" would probably have been a better title because that is true of the characters and their individual situations in this book.  I like how the authors tell the story from each of their points of views.  It adds depth to the story but still doesn't give away the murderer.  I really liked how we also got into the mind of the murderer and watched the murder but still didn't know who it was.

I love that this is an indie book of quality.  It is meticulously and carefully written and produced.  I also love that it is written by a husband/wife team.  That is just too adorable.  Their picture on the back is so sweet.  These are the people who dreamed up such murder?!?!   I know I've said it one, but I'll say it again, "Appearances can be deceiving". 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

You Get What You Pay For

Circus of the Dead by Seth Blackburn


You know the old saying, "you get what you pay for"?  This is a free book on Amazon for Kindle, so you do the math.

Gabriel is a young man who is looking for some excitement with his friends in a post-apocalyptic zombie world.  They live in a very structured society and when the Reverend forbids his parishioners to see a local traveling circus, that just ensures Gabriel and his friends will go.

The ending was one of the worse I've ever read.  Here's how I knew it was over--there were no more pages.  No denouement, no resolution.  Just, the end. Dissatisfying.  It wasn't that I hated this book.  I just didn't like it.  It felt very amateurish and quickly done.

This book reminded me of Darrell Shan's series, Cirque Du Freak.  Same exact plot, substituting zombies for vampires.  Unlike Cirque Du Freak, this is much too inappropriate for teen readers.  It is chock full of foul language and drug references as well as being sexually suggestive and very violent.

I suppose my biggest pet peeve with books like this is that they are so focused on the topic that a focus on good writing goes right out the window.  Everyone is rushing to write and read zombie books right now because zombies are 'in'.  But, still, there has to be a good effort to make a good story. 

Thankfully, it was a very short read.  I will not be reading anymore books by this author and will continue the search for a good zombie tale.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Favorite Vampire Series

Sookie Stackhouse #3: Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Paranormal Romance

I just love this series.  While I have read many vampire/paranormal series, this one is my favorite. But, they must be read in order!

In this installment, Bill has been acting very strange and working on a secret project, leaving Sookie to her own devices.  Then, suddenly, he announces he's leaving town and he'll see Sookie when he sees her.  Clearly, this relationship in on the rocks.  But, when Bill doesn't come home or call and Sookie starts hearing rumors that's he gone back to his old girlfriend, she wants answers.

Enter the irascible Erik, vampire leader.  He also wants some answers so he persuades Sookie to check into the situation.  Erik, being Erik, also takes full advantage of Bill's absence and uses it as a way to get closer to Sookie.  His plan succeeds.  Yeah, Erik!  He's hot.

Erik also calls in a favor to a powerful local werewolf pack and puts Alcide on Sookie-watching duty.  Alcide, being a warm-blooded male, and Sookie realllllly hit it off.  Yeah, Alcide!  He's hot, too.  (A little hairy for my tastes but whatever.)  Now, Sookie doesn't just have one love interest, she has three and isn't sure  she wants any of them.  A girl after my own heart.

I was so delighted with the plot twists in this one.  I just can't stand Bill.  He is always so cold and emotionless.  Yeah, I know he's a vampire, but still, he's just creepy.  I never understood what Sookie saw in him.  He's too boring and broody for my tastes.  I love the character of Sookie.  She is very no-nonsense, a working girl who has to worry about real-life things like the rest of us:  jobs, bills, house maintenance.  It makes me connect with her more as a reader.  I can't wait to read the next one!