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, January 22, 2015

The Idea Doesn't Live Up to the Reality: The Ark by Boyd Morrison

The Ark by Boyd Morrison


I've read Morrison before so I know not to expect a Pulitzer Prize winning performance.  Still, I am not a book snob and always up for a good read, not matter the genre, no matter the author, no matter the topic.  And, I've read Morrison before and really enjoyed the story.  He's an author I have no problem recommending to people who just want a fun vacation read.

But, this one just didn't meet my expectations, which weren't all that high to begin with. The premise of the story is fascinating and Morrison's plot idea is brilliant:  Noah's Ark of ancient lore wasn't actually a disaster by flood, but rather by plague.  An evil scientist (naturally, and my favorite villain) has discovered the plague and is out to destroy the world unless he can be stopped.  Doesn't that just sound amazing?  It's why I go the book.

Rather than a taut biological and adventure thriller, I got a book long on escapism and short on actual plot twists.  The book could have been halved, easily, and still been just as good.  I've never read as many narrow escapes as in this book.  Truly, it bordered on ridiculous and I eventually didn't really care if the main character escaped or not.  The characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. 
Sigh.  It's a great disappointment from Morrison's other stories and not at all what I wanted.  The only thing that saves it from being a complete wash was the fascinating premise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Get Off Your Laurels, Kenyon!: Unleash the Night: Dark-Hunters #9

Unleash the Night:  Dark-Hunters #9 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Paranormal Romance

This latest installment in the Dark-Hunters series was my least favorite yet. 

In it, Marguerite is a very sheltered young woman who is saved from a dangerous encounter by a mysterious and strong and incredibly good-looking man.  She falls in love with him and finds out he is not what he appears, because he is a shape-shifting tiger.  Against all odds, they fall in love and are determined to stay together.

Even the plot summary for that felt boring.  This one was just so trite and predictable.  I hate when that happens in a series!  For a series to continue to capture readers, it must continually instill some new element in the story.  This one didn't.  It just felt as if the author were resting on her laurels.  Get off your laurels, Kenyon!  You have the moxie for on-the-edge, so write that way!

Sigh.  I'll read the next one and hope this was just a fluke.  Otherwise, I'm going to need some other recommendations to feed my vampire fix.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg: Left Me with This Question, "Who Cares?"

Why Do Men Have Nipples?:  Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg


Normally, this is the kind of book I love.  Weird trivia, weird humor--what's not to love.  But, in the end it wasn't all that funny.  The trivia wasn't very fascinating.  That just leaves weird.

I absolutely hated the format of this book.  At the beginning of each chapter, the two co-authors have printed a transcript of their instant messaging.  I suppose that might be a good idea if they discussed writing the book or wrestling with which trivia to include but many of the transcripts read like this:  "You there?"  "I'm here. Let's name this chapter Sexpots and Despots"  "Did despots have sex a lot?"  Really fascinating stuff. NOT!

Also, the trivia here was not written about in a way to be interesting to the reader.  It's a collaboration between a doctor and a humor writer so it should be hilarious, but the medical mumbo jumbo was over my head a lot of time and then I found I didn't really care enough to look further into it.  And the humor writer was just about the unfunniest person I've ever read.

The only thing that saved the book from being a "one-star" read was the few bits and pieces of interesting and relevant trivia.  Still, it's like mining for gold in a big batch of dirt.  Skip this altogether if you only want to know the answer to the title--you can easily look it up on online.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Never Better Than Okay: Whisper by Chelsea Cameron

Whisper:  The Whisper Trilogy by Chelsea Cameron

Young Adult Paranormal Romance

I picked up this book because I really enjoy reading Cameron's other series, The Noctalis Chronicles.  Unfortunately, that probably set me up for disappointment because this series/book isn't nearly as good.

At first, I had a huge problem with the problem....because it was so familiar.  This story is about a girl who is a "sensitive", or person who can see and communicate with ghosts.  It is her "job" to send them on their way through the light by helping them to send messages, settle old scores, say goodbye to family, etc.  She meets a ghostly presence whom she names Jack.  The two are attracted to one another, fall in love, and continue doing ghostly good deeds.  Anyone familiar with Meg Cabot's Mediator series will see right away how familiar this plot line is, and not nearly written as well.  There are also lots and lots and lots of grammatical and editing mistakes which really pulls away from the storyline as well as weak dialogue and formatting errors.

Still, by about halfway the book, I found that I was starting to enjoy it more. It rose to an "okay" level, but never higher than that.  I think I'll just stick with the other series by Cameron--it's quite addictive!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Should Be Required Reading: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Adult Fiction

Really, I should have expected strong emotion from this book.  The author's other book, The Kite Runner, is the only book I've been barred from reading.  I read that one during a long car trip and I was sobbing so hard, my husband took it away from me because I was distracting his driving.  He hid it until we returned from our trip.  (To be fair to him, I tend to have unnaturally strong reactions to books and can get riled up or depressed for days.)  This book was no different.  I loved it and hated it and can't get rid of it and can't bear to part with it.  It's a book everyone should read; some people more than others, perhaps.

There are some groups of people for whom reading this book should be required:

1.  All young women and men in modern, industrialized countries.  Truly, it should be required reading for seniors in high school and freshmen entering high school for two reasons.  First, while we might feel that the glass ceiling in America is unfair and antiquated, our feminist struggle, in no way, equates to what women around the world have to endure.  While I had read stories and seen news documentaries, this book showed how clearly that being born a woman in Afghanistan equates to being born a lower class of citizen, or gender.  To have no power over who you marry or how your children are treated--I've never read a book that shows how powerless women are, still, in modern society.  And, while we have all seen and heard about the war "over there", to read such an account of how the war affected every citizen and his and her hopes and dreams was so powerful.

2.  This book should be required for all women and men who think the feminist movement is over-rated.  I often hear women who say it is their duty of obey their husband follow them, or that women have achieved enough.  It's one thing to disagree with your husband and give in to his opinion, and entirely another thing to have no say in who you marry, where you live, what happens to your children--too read so vividly about women who have no rights puts the women's liberation movement into such clearer perspective for me.  It is an issue that is dire around the world and to rest after we've come so far isn't good enough.  We shouldn't rest until the treatment men and women receive are equal and just and fair.  Because the alternative is unthinkable.

3.  Finally, this should be required reading for those who are opposed to our involvement in wars around the world.  While I am certainly not pro-war in any way, I do see the vital importance in standing up for a group of people who are powerless to stand up for themselves.  The acts that are perpetrated on the powerless in other societies and our own must be stopped.  Albert Einstein said, "The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."  There might not have been weapons of mass destruction, but the heinous massacre of citizens by zealous extremists was enough of a reason to intervene.

I love books like this--books that fire me up, get me righteously angry, make me cry and scream and rage. This is a that will stay with you forever, one you can read again and again and find something beautiful in every reading.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More Questions Than Answers: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

I'm always up for a good dystopian novel and this one was definitely unique in this genre. 

Eva and Addie are two souls sharing the same body.  When they hit puberty, one soul (the dominant soul) was supposed to overtake and the other soul would just vanish.  A really unique idea--two different and strong personalities inhabiting one body.  I really like the inner exchange between the two main characters and had no idea how the major plot problem would be solved.  The writing is solid and each character in the book was really fleshed out.  Overall, I enjoyed the story.

However, what stopped the book from becoming a really solid read for me was my initial confusion about the "why"....Why, in the future, are there two souls inhabiting one body? This question led to a host of others that were never answered.   Was this some of scientific experiment?  Was it a religious epiphany?  Why was there a war to stop this?  Why is having two souls bad?  Why would the government care how many people could squeeze into a body?.......one question led to another and another and these never got answered throughout the body.  I see the book is part of a series so maybe these issues will get dealt with later.....but, if not, I don't think I can reading a series that leaves unanswered so many important questions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

James Patterson Wrote This? Really?: Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson

Adult Sentimental Fiction

James Patterson wrote this?  Really?

While I could never prove it, I feel certain saying this was another farmed-out novel of his, with him just selling his name so he could sell some books.  You would think, by now, I would have learned my lesson with Patterson, but no--I just keep coming back for more.

The story is a story within a story.  Kate has fallen in love with Matt, who has something of a secret past.  When he dumps her, he gives her a diary written by his wife, Suzanne, to his son, Nicholas, hence the title.  Yada yada yada.  You can guess the ending, which I did by the first chapter so I won't belabor your time any longer.  Think predictable, trite, overly-dramatic, and drippingly sentimental. 
I shall give two reviews:  if Patterson wrote the book (which he did not) and if someone else wrote the book and put Patterson's name on it (which they most certainly did). 

If Patterson wrote the book:  Dude, stick with crime novels.  Seriously, this is far from your best work.  I have been a fan of yours for decades and recently reread some of your very first books.  While they were amateurish compared to your masterful later works, they were still authentic and respectable to the reader.  This was borderline ridiculous for you--I kept waiting for one real moment in the book, one moment where I knew it wasn't a book, knew it wasn't a story.  I kept waiting for one surprise, one thrill.  Those things never happened.  This felt like one of those "factory reads"--another book to plug out with cardboard characters, stilted conversations, and ridiculous plot twists.  Go back to what you know and do best because, at that, there is none better than you.

If someone else wrote the book:  Dump Patterson's name and write for yourself.  If I hadn't been expecting "Patterson", I probably would have liked the story.  Your writing is tight and grammatically correct and you obviously have some interesting ideas.  There were a lot of loose ends in the book (why two Matt's, for instance?  Why did Suzanne act so recklessly with her son after pages and pages of her careful love?)  Hire an editor and make your own magic.  Or, consider writing for the Lifetime channel--this would fit in well with their other movies and you would have an audience that loves you.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tick Tock, Just Watching the Clock: Tick Tock by Dean Koontz

Tick Tock by Dean Koontz

Paranormal Romantic Horror Thriller

Fortunately, this wasn't my first Dean Koontz book.  If it were, it would be my first...and my last.  Normally, I can count on Koontz to provide me with a chilling story, a taut plot, and unforgettable characters.  Now, I just want to forget this whole thing.

By his own admission in the introduction, Koontz wanted to do something different with this book.  He sought to meld together a variety of genres and write a light-hearted, romantic, horror story.  If that sounds a bit strange, that's the perfect explanation of this book.  Just strange.

Tommy Phan is a first-generation American, trying desperately to forget his Vietnamese heritage. He buys a Corvette and goes home to find a doll on his porch.  The doll turns out to be a demon that tries to kill him.  He tries to escape, wrecks his Corvette, and is rescued by a waitress with paranormal powers.

A bizarre plot sequence.  The mix in genres was unsettling to me and the book never really got any better than just "okay".  Because I know what a master Koontz is, I'll have to research better and not read any more of his literary experiments.  "Tick Tock", for me, meant watching the clock drag by as I tried to finish this story.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Witch with Potential: The Coven Series #1: White Witch by Trish Milburn

The Coven Series #1:  White Witch by Trish Milburn

Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

I didn't really expect to like this book quite as much as I did.  I admit to being something of a "judge a book by its cover" reader and I was totally turned off by the cover.  It looked amateurish.  I know, I know, I shouldn't judge...but I do.

I expected a semi-good read with nothing really new to pique my interest.  But, I am delighted to report I was wrong.  The story started off a bit rocky (it shot out off the gate too quickly and with too little background explanation), but I soon found myself really involved in it and had a hard time putting it down. 

In it, the main character Jax has run away from her witch coven, determined to live life on her own terms and without her powers, wanting nothing more than to be a normal teen.  She knows this means there's a price on her head but she's willing to risk it all for her freedom.  Then, she meets Keller, a witch hunter who also happens to go to her school and, of course, she can't help falling for him.  (There's always something about a tall guy with a weapon, isn't there?!?)  Along the way, Jax makes friends, gets bullied by the popular girls, and discovers parts of her past weren't all that bad.

Really, not a bad read.  I feel that young adult girls, who are the target audience for this book, will like it just fine.  It's a fast read that focuses on action and romance with lots of kissing.  For me, though, I wish the author had slowed the story down a bit.  It would have been much stronger with more explanations of....well, just about everything.  For all that, I will be checking out the second in the series and hope to learn more about the main character there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What a Dilemma!--The Pines #2: Wayward

The Pines #2:  Wayward by Blake Crouch

Science Fiction/Dystopian Thriller

It isn't often that I give a book 5 stars.  I save those for the books I can't put down; for the books that move me as a human; books that I think everyone should read.  This is definitely one of those books I just couldn't put down.  I inhaled this second installment in The Pines series just like I did the first one.  That is a rarity for me.  Usually the second book disappoints but this one just picked up speed and now I am rushing to buy and read the last one.  But....I don't want to read it because then it's over.  What a dilemma!

This story picks up just where the first left off, so be sure to read them in order.  Ethan Burke finds himself as the unwilling sheriff of a utopia, the last bastion of humankind in a world overrun by aberrations, humans that have warped and changed into monsters over the last two thousand years while he and his fellow Wayward Pines townspeople were sleeping.  Ethan should be happy to be alive but his ethical and moral code has a problem with the beautiful prison where he lives with his family.  He can't leave Wayward Pines, and he increasingly discovers he also can't stay.  What a dilemma! 

I loved everything about this book--the main character Ethan, a fallible man who tries to do his best even when that obviously isn't good enough; the other characters--a couple of love triangles kept it interesting; the evil scientist--why aren't there more stories about evil scientists?!?  I love those villains!; the setting--a dark and disturbing future where science has run amok.  What's not to love about this book?  What a dilemma! 

I can't find a single thing to complain about.  As a reader, that's a nice dilemma to have.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Delights and a Disappointment--The Lost Heroes#2: The Son of Neptune

The Lost Heroes #2:  The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

I am both delighted and disappointed with this second installment in The Lost Heroes series.

First, my delights: Percy Jackson is back! I have missed this plucky, all-too-human demigod. After reading the first in the series, I was afraid we had seen the last of Percy and his adventures. But, he's back with more exciting thrills as he loses his memory, starts a new prophecy, and tries to save the world-again. That "again" is a compliment, not a put-down. There isn't another hero I would rather read about. Riordan is absolutely at his best in this one--full of more mythological creatures, more riddles and more fun. I am truly hooked on this series and already have the next three waiting in my queue to read. What's not to love?

Now, for my disappoints: where in the world is Jason Grace? While I truly love a good Percy yarn, I actually liked Jason better. Perhaps it's the war-mongering Roman in me but I was even more excited by the possibility of a new hero to follow. He isn't anywhere in this book. It's not much of a disappointment, though, as this story was excellent. Hopefully, he'll be in the next book, working with Percy--the best of both worlds!