Monday, January 30, 2012

Its Monday, What Are You Reading

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 


Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates :  I love this author - but this book seems difficult, I hope I can finish it!

Read Last Week:

 Twenties Girl by Sophis Kinsella: This book was so fun, and I love the twenties!

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon:  This is such a gentle book, I really enjoyed it.  Reviews for both will be up soon. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maybe This Time - Review

Title:  Maybe This Time
Author:  Jennifer Crusie
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything. 

When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children, Carter and Alice, aren't your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What's worse, Andie's fiancé thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back, and he may be right. Andie's dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that's not the only haunting. 

What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-in-law, and, of course, her jealous fiancé. And just when she thinks things couldn't get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them. 

If Andie can just get rid of all the guests and ghosts, she's pretty sure she can save the kids, and herself, from the past. But fate might just have another thing in mind....

My thoughts:

My brain was fried from speed reading 11/22/63, and this book was the perfect follow up.  I loved it! It was like an English Gothic, set in Ohio- complete with castle, ghosts, and parentless wards.  It was fun, different, and I enjoyed the brief drop-in from Gabe McKenna, a character from another of Crusie's books.

Andie takes a job as nanny for her ex-husband North's wards, who are currently living with a housekeeper in their home, a haunted castle.  They most recently lost their nineteen year old Aunt May, when she fell from the tower of their castle, and since then had nanny after nanny caring for them before the nanny would run off from fear or frustration.  The kids are traumatized and hard to deal with if you are a person lacking compassion.  They need someone who will accept their quirks and help them to heal.  Andie is the perfect fit for this job - she is warm, caring, and willing to roll with whatever comes up.  She is no-nonsense when she needs to be, and does not believe in ghosts.  At least in the beginning. 

She also thinks she is over North, who does not seem to be over her; she is engaged to a writer named Will Spenser when she takes this job.  However, ever since she moved into the castle, she has been having dreams about North, not Will.  After weird seeing some strange people around the house, she begins to believe in ghosts.  Through a series of events, a psychic, a parapsychologist debunker, and a news crew end up at the castle, as well as North and his brother.  Andie has to convince her staunch, steady, and calm ex-husband that the castle is haunted, in order to save them all from the ghosts, who are not as nice as they seem.  At the same time, she is trying to remind herself that she is no longer in love with North. 

I loved Andie and North together, and I loved how well Andie took care of the children, who had some pretty big problems, all emotional issues that were turning into behavioral ones until Andie's brand of acceptance and sensibility started bringing them out of themselves, causing the children to open up to Andie so she could help them.

This was just a fun book, I loved the thought that they were in Ohio and not some moor in England. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

11/22/63 - Review

Title:  11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Source: Bought it from Barnes and Noble

Goodreads Summary:

November 22nd, 1963 was a rapid-fire sequence of indelible moments: Shots ring out; a president slumped over; a race to the Dallas hospital; an announcement, blood still fresh on the First Lady's dress. But what if President John F. Kennedy didn't have to die; if somehow his assassin could have been thwarted? For Maine schoolteacher Jake Epping, those hypothetical what if's become real possibilities when he walks through a portal to the past. Without special skills and still unfamiliar with his new/old surroundings, he struggles to discover a way to change the history he left. Like its Under the Dome predecessor, Stephen King's 960-page novel shows that this master of suspense is back at the top of his game.

My Thoughts:

I have been reading Stephen King for a very long time, since I was thirteen years old at least.  My dad gave me Conroy, my mom gave me Herriot, but I found King all on my own.  I have read and own all his books- I am a major fan, but not like the Annie Wilkes.  The first book by King I read was It - and I was terrified but hooked.  11/22/63 even revisits some of King's other books- including a few from It.  I think this will be an impossible book to review, the breadth of the novel was so complex and it was a 960 page book.  But I will give it my best shot!

This book was captivating from the very start- Jake Eppling is a high school teacher in 2011, who teaches Adult Ed classes on the side.  He eats at Al's diner, he has an alcoholic ex-wife, and is one day incredibly moved by a theme written by one of his Adult Ed. students, Harry Dunning, a custodian at his high school.  The day that changed Harry's life, the assigned theme, is Halloween 1958, the day that his father killed his mother and siblings.  Harry survived, but not after being hit in the foot and head with a sledgehammer, a move that gave him a permanent limp and slowed his thoughts.  Jake awards Harry an A+, not because it was well written but because it made him feel.  Jake takes Harry to Al's Diner, where we first meet Al. 

Jake only really knows Al from the diner, so he is suprised to get a phone call at school from Al, who asks him to please meet with him, he needs to talk to Jake.  When Jake gets to Al's house, he is shocked to see that Al has lost 40 pound overnight, and is dying of cancer, when just yesterday he saw Al, and Al was fine.  Al sits him down, and tells Jake the story that gets the book really rolling - he has a "rabbit-hole" in his diner, a portal to the past, to September 1958.  And no matter how long he spends in 1958, it has only been two minutes in 2011 when he comes back, and every time he goes back to 1958, it resets. So if he fixed something in the past, left for 2011, but then went back to 1958, what he had done the first time is undone.  Jake does a trial period in 1958, spending a month in the past, trying to prevent the murder of Harry's family.  Eventually Jake agrees to travel back in time, and stay until November of 1963, to stop the assination of President Kennedy, believing that this would prevent the death of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, and Vietnam.  And so his journey into the past began.

Jake assumes the identity of George Amberson, and has a few adventures and roles before he really needs to settle in and focus on preventing the death of Kennedy.  I was sad each time he moved on, when he shed a life for a new one.  When he went from George Amberson, real estate agent, to a writer in Florida, if particularly saddened me for some reason.  I fell in love with his last role, George Amberson, teacher, from Jodie, TX.  George/Jake had some time to cool his heels in Jodie- half the time he spent spying on Oswald, the other half he spent living in Jodie, where he made wonderful friends and had a satisfying, happy life, that seemed even better than his 2011 life.  And he fell in love with Sadie Dunhill in Jodie.  Their romance was a bright, shining love, filled with trust, laughter, and dancing.  And while you didn't want this to end, you knew it would, that George/Jake would leave to fulfill his purpose. 

And in the end he does, and loses Sadie in the process.  He saves Kennedy, and travels to 2011 to find that it was all for nothing.  He lost five years and the love of his life to find the world is an even worse place, that his interference has caused major problems.  He knows he has to undo what he has done, has to reset the world, and goes back to 1958 again.  But this time he doesn't do anything - he doesn't save Harry's family, he doesn't visit Sadie.  He spends a lonely month there and then goes back to 2011, where everything is normal again, or at least how he left it.  He looks Sadie up, finds that she is 80 years old and still in Jodie.  Jake visits her, and I sobbed my eyes out.  And that's how it ends.  In the beginning, Jake thought he was sacrificing a few years of his life to save Kennedy and make the world a better place; he ended up sacrificing his love to put the world back together. 

This was the saddest book I have ever read by Stephen King, the love story within was so beautiful is it is hard to imagine it was written by the master of horror.  The history was just as interesting - the stuff about Oswald and his cronies, his life, his wife and daughter.  This book is amazing! My word of advice - it doesn't read like a nearly 1000 page book- it is such  a good read you will get to the end and you won't believe that is it.  You will want even more to this story!

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:

11/22/63 by Stephen King:  I finished this book at 1:30 in the morning; it was sad and beautiful and blew my mind.  

Currently Reading:

Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt:  I am reading this courtesy of Netgalley.

I know I will read something else this week, but I don't know what yet!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

Read Last Week:

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare:  I love this series, such a fun read!

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:  Phenomenal.  A must read for everyone.

The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna:  I did not like this book, and I attribute it quite a bit to the fact that this was promoted incorrectly, in my opinion.  

Currently Reading:

11/22/63 by Stephen King:  Why I start this giant tome the week I start back to work, I will never know.  I have always loved Stephen King, and I am so excited to read this!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wedding Gift- Review

Title:  The Wedding Gift
Author: Kathleen McKenna
Source: Nook
Goodreads Summary:

It is a spine-electrifying supernatural tale where a huge Southern States mansion contains one of the most terrifying, violent and indeed psychopathic ghosts to haunt any town. It is also a murder mystery - why did Robina Willets apparently kill all five of her young children, and her husband, before stabbing herself to death? And, if you are in the camp of believing that 'justice .... just is not', then this will have you frothing at the mouth with righteous social fury. Add to that the vision of two exceptionally beautiful girls lying on a landing stage in the middle of a secluded lake, sleeping naked in the sun .... .... and then see if you can find any consecutive ten minutes in this book when you don't at least snicker at the heroine Leeann's sly, caustic, sometimes-knowing sometimes 'too stupid to live' commentary.

My thoughts:

I am almost at a loss about what to say.  This book sounded like it was going to be a perfect book for me- a haunted huge mansion in the south. Unfortunately, it did not read like this at all, and feel it was misrepresented.  In fact, if it had been advertised as it actually is, then maybe I would have liked it better, rather than reading something that was not what I expected. 

The book takes place in Dalton, Oklahoma, which in my mind is a western/midwest state, not southern. I could be wrong, but when someone says a book is set in the south, I do not think Oklahoma.  The narrator is so unlikeable - she is shallow, vain, adulterous, and drinks and does drugs while she is pregnant.  She is a 17 year old beauty pageant winner who sleeps with an older, rich man and gets pregnant.  She never really liked him, calls him fat all the time, and when she loses the baby on their wedding day, she still stays in the marriage. Her husband George may actually love her, or just may love the idea that he is married to a beauty queen, who knows, the reader only sees him through the eyes of Leeann.  Her friend Jess seems to be the only character who has any character, and she doesn't like George.  To me, this seems like he is an idiot.  George moves Leeann into the Willet mansion, despite the history of the house.

The Willet house is haunted - the last people to live their died in a murder/suicide, committed by the wife Robina.  She is said to have killed her five children and her husband, then herself.  With a butter knife, hacking off limbs with a butter knife. This makes no sense to me. Leeann's brother actually died there years later, after visiting it on a dare with his best friend Donny, who incidentally Leeann has been in love with her whole life. Leeann balks at moving in, yet agrees when George tells her there is a pool she can tan around with her friends.

After they move in, Leeann sees the ghost of Robina, and is haunted by her.  Robina keeps trying to show Leeann something, but Leeann won't go.  After one particularly scary night, Leeann flees the house at dawn in her nightgown, and arrives at her parents.  When her father goes to talk to George, he discovers George dead, with his eyes removed and arms cut off.  Leeann is accused of murder.  And wouldn't you know it, she does have a motive if anyone finds out she slept with Donny the day she got home from her honeymoon (which she took with her friend Jess and not George), in bright daylight where anyone could see.  Of course, no one finds out who would tell, and Jess is let out of prison.  She decides to go back to the house to see what Robina wanted to show her, and Robina shows her what really happened the bloody night her family died.  I won't reveal that, but that was the only good part of the book, finding out what really happened.  I also won't tell you how the book ends.  It was actually pretty good.  Other than the terrible main character, who is completely unsympathetic. 

If you read this thinking you are going to get a southern ghost story- move on.  If you want a slightly humorous, campy tale of the life of a 17 year old beauty queen in Oklahoma, then this book is for you.  I think if the book were proposed correctly, and Leeann more likeable, this book would not be bad.  It is well written, and the backstory isn't that bad.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale - Review

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Source: Used Book Store

Goodreads Summary:

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

My thoughts:

This book is moving, powerful, thought provoking, and scary.  I am still thinking about this story, and feel it will stay with me always.

The main character, Offred, is handmaiden to a Commander, and we see her life in bits and piece- her memories of the time before, her life as a Handmaid, her times with the Commander, with Serenda Joy who is the Commanders Wife, much as she glimpses her life in bits and pieces around her white wings.  She is not happy, yet knows she is better off then the the old women, and the Handmaidens that have messed up, who go where the Unwives go, the Colonies.  These people are forced to clean radioactive waste and live in squallor, knowing that in a few years they will die from the exposure.  She could also be a Martha, one of the domestics that clean and cook for the families.  Yet Offred is freedomless, forced to be a breeding machine for the privileged elite who cannot produce children. 

Handmaids are not allowed to read, although since they were the first wave of women forced into this life, many of them are college graduates and can read, such as Offred. But to open a book and actually read could cause them to have a hand cut off.  Other offenses could lead to being hanged on the Wall. They also cannot drink or smoke, or have caffiene, they need to keep their bodies pure and clean for the purpose of childbirth.  Even their names are changed, to show the ownership of the men who they are serving. Offred = of Fred. They have three chances with three different Commanders, living with one Commander a few months before moving on if the union does not prove fruitful, to get pregnant, and if doesn't happen, they are Salvaged or sent to the Colonies.

Offred only has her memories of her dead husband and redistributed child, to keep her occupied when not shopping, sitting in her room, or servicing the Commander. It freaked me out more to read that the Handmaid must put her head on the stomach of the Wife and hold her hands as the act was happening. The Commander she lives with though, seems to be sort of liberal, and feel as claustrophobic as Offred, and invites her to clandestinely meet him in his study, to play Scrabble, read and talk. He was growing on me, until the one night he takes her outside bounds, disguised as a Wife, to a Club, where the women are dressed provactively, and he tells her that men need variety.  In the times past he said, women dressed in different outfits to provide that variety, but now since they all dressed the same, the Handmaids in red, Marthas in green, Wives in blue, that men now needed different women to create the variety.

At this club, Offred meets her old college roommate, that she had been envisioning creating havoc as she did at the center where they were trained and indoctrinated into being Handmainds.  Her friend Moira had escaped, but was now a girl at the Club, a prostitute that doesn't get paid, just there to create "variety" for the men.  She was no longer fighting the system, merely surviving it.

At the behest of Serena Joy, Offred sleeps with their driver, Nick, in the hopes of creating a baby.  Serena Joy thinks maybe the Commander is sterile, and she really wants Offred to have a baby for Serena Joy.  For Offred and Nick to do this, the consequences could be death.  This was to be a one time thing, but Offred continues the affair in secret, and finally believes she is pregnant.

Now comes the only part of the book I didn't like - Offred is taken from the home forcibly, in the black van that portends death or life in the Colonies.  The reader is left with a mystery: Was Nick an Eye, turning her in for their affair, or was he part of the underground resistance group, Mayday, and helping her escape? I like concrete endings, and I am choosing to believe that he helped Offred escape, where she would try to make it to England, where women are allowed to be themselves. 

What makes this book so haunting is that it doesn't seem like something that would never happen, in fact when one looks back at human history, it doesn't seem like an impossibility, with all the atrocities that have happened in the past. Let's hope it never does.

Clockwork Prince - Review

Title: Clockwork Prince, Infernal Devices Book Two
Author: Cassandra Clare
Source: Read on Nook, courtesy of my husband

Goodreads Summary:

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
 My Thoughts:
I loved this book as much as the first, Clockwork Angel.  Something about this world appeals to me, with its supernatural creatures and hunters set in Victorian England.  This book reveals a few answers to mysteries, and creates a few more.  As a warning, this review will contain spoilers. 
The Shadowhunter crew and Tessa are still hot on the trail of  Mortmain, and while they diligently follow their leads, they never find him.  Following one of their leads, Will is shocked to see his sister, Cecily! Will has been operating under a curse that states death will come to any that love, or so he believed  - he is working closely with Magnus to to try to reverse it, as he is in  love with Tessa.  Because of this curse, he ran from his family, to protect them.  The event where he is cursed is a very good scene  in the book- you feel so bad for Will! And Magnus, what a great character.  His parts were few and there needed to be more of them.
I didn't feel bad enough for Will though; Tessa and Jem's relationship gets closer, and steamier. The whole book I was terrified that Tessa was going to break his heart! Tessa seems more mature in this book, however, and I liked where this plot went.  As for Charlotte and Henry, they reveal to each other the fears they had regarding the other's feelings, and are firmly, madly in love.  The best scene in the book is Henry's heroics in a tea warehouse.  Charolotte is my favorite character, small but mighty, mothering and strong. She has her own battles to fight in this book, and was up to the task.
Sophie and Jessamine have secret loves in this book. These two and their romances play pivotal roles in the plot of this book - you will have to read it to find out what happens there.
This novel ended on quite a cliffhanger- I can't wait to read the next in the series!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge

This is such a cool challenge from Sheila at Book Journey!  I can't wait to track the locations of the books I am reading; I know I read quite a bit of books that take place in the south - it will be interesting to know just how many! Of course, my first book takes place in an unidentified place, so it will have to be the second book I read that I record. 

To participate, visit the challenge post.

Its Monday, What are you Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.

December was not a good reading month for me.  I didn't have time to take a breath with all the preparations for the holiday, and I didn't get much reading in at all.  I am beginning again this month with a few good books.  I also plan to take part in the Where are you Reading Challenge (if I can figure it out), and the Bookie Friends Favorites Challenge this year.

Currently Reading:

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:  I love Margaret Atwood, and what I have read of this book has me hooked!

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare:  I loved the first in this series, and I am looking forward to this book.  Although I find the two books I am reading to be interesting together..very different worlds.