Monday, December 12, 2011

Bookie Friends Favorites Challenge

Bookie Friends Favorites Challenge

I read about this challenge today over at Introverted Reader, and it sounded pretty cool!  I am looking forward to seeing what some of the favorite books are!  My five are:

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
2. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
3. Remembering Blue by Connie May Fowler
4. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
5. Bag of Bones by Stephen King

If you want to participate, it's easy! If you are interested, you sign up for the challenge, and list five of your favorite books. You have a whole year to read 3-12 of the other participants favorite books. Sounds fun to me! 

Song of the Nile - Review

Title:  Song of the Nile
Author: Stephanie Dray
Source: Library (although a copy is on the way to me via the author and Teddyree)

Goodreads Summary:

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
The magic of Isis flowing through her veins is what makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra's daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother's throne be more than she's willing to pay?
My thoughts:
This book was just as enchanting as the first book, Lily of the Nile.  Selene is driven and committed to getting Egypt back, and will go to any length to get it back, including giving the Emperor a son.  You can't fault her for that, I feel, is that she was following the legend of her mother, whether it was true or not. 
She is married to Juba in this novel, although she dislikes him greatly for the role he played in her parent's downfall, especially her father's. She has a daughter by the emperor or Helios, although no one knows that but her and Juba.  Helios returns to her when she is at her lowest, then disappears again.  She is reunited with him while she is waiting for the Emperor at his command, and Helios and she take up their love affair.  I know that this is how it was done in ancient Egypt, and therefore historically accurate, but it was still difficult for me to get behind with my modern day way of thinking. I just couldn't really root for this relationship, and I wanted her and Juba to sort out their differences, as they did care for each other before. 
I couldn't read this book fast enough, however, and I really enjoyed it.  Again, Dray has a perfect blend of history, fiction and the subtle uses of magic.

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:

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray: As enchanting as Lily of the Nile.

Currently Reading:

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl:  I didn't get around to this last week.

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray: I love this author, and loved the first in this series.  I believe this one takes place around Christmas. 

The Wilder Life- Review

Title:  The Wilder Life
Author:  Wendy McClure
Source: Library

Goodreads summary:

Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she's never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House, and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura's hometowns. Whether she's churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of "the Laura experience." Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder's life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West. 

The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones-and find that our old love has only deepened.

My thoughts:

I loved this book! I was a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan when I was a kid, and I still am.  I re-read the series every winter, just like I read them when I was little.  From the day my mom  gave me these books, I adored the family and wanted to live the way the Ingalls family did.  I can't say that has really stuck with me; I think living a self-sustained life is pretty cool, except I do like modern bathrooms and access to books.  I always felt bad that the Ingalls family only had three books in their home library. 

McClure does a great job with talking of the good and bad of these books.  When you are small and reading them, the racism goes over your head; as an adult it is glaring! I think McClure handles this well, and shows that despite her year of Laura obsession, she can see the not so perfect times too.  She also mentions that Pa skipped town once to avoid a bill, packing his family up at night and taking off.  I personally did not want my perception of Pa tarnished, so I am going to forget I read that.

McClure also discusses Farmer Boy.  She was not a fan of that book as a child, thinking who wants to read about this perfect, spoiled life?  I loved Farmer Boy; however I didn't think it was fair that Laura had nothing while Almanzo had it all, but I enjoyed all the descriptions of living on the farm in upstate New York.  Despite having what seemed to be a charmed existence, I think the Ingalls had more fun.

I loved this book, it reminded me of all my favorite Little House memories, and assured me I was not the only superfan who wanted to live like Laura. I feel inspired by this book to bake some molasses cookies and curl up with Little House in the Big Woods, my favorite in the series, my second favorite being The Long Winter.  It just exuded a cozy, warm feeling filled with love. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

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:  

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure:  I loved this book, I can't begin to say how much. I am a huge Little House fan, and this book was fabulous.

Currently Reading:

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl:  I loved the first, felt a little iffy about the second, so I am curious about this last one.

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury:  I feel that Lily of the Nile has started a new trend for me, of Egyptian themed books. I can't get enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Switched - Review

Title:  Switched
Author: Amanda Hocking
Source: Librarything

Goodreads Summary:

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

My thoughts:

I actually really enjoyed this book a great deal.  I love supernatural creature books, and this was a cool departure from the normal vampires, fairies, werewolves, etc.  Because really, who ever equates trolls with interesting or beautiful? Yet that is what Hocking does with this book.

Wendy feels like has never quite fit in at school, or in her family- especially after her own mother tried to kill her.  She lives with her aunt and over-protective brother, and knows she is loved- yet she senses she is not quite like them, and agonizes over the trouble she has created in their lives.  Then she meets Finn, who has been sent to find her by her real mother, a troll.  Wendy also learns that she is a troll princess, and that she is a changeling. 

Usually heroines like Wendy annoy me.  The ones who are always rebelling and fighting for no reason whatsoever. Wendy won me over though.  I think in a sense I feel sorry for her- Wendy goes to the land of trolls (which is in Minnesota!) to give her aunt and brother a break, but also because she is curious to meet her true mother, since the one she knew for six years hated her.  Unfortunately, her birth mother is not that great either, and seems really cold.  And I loved Finn.  

I thought that this book was fun, and different.  This book reminds me of a PG version of Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, and I enjoyed it a great deal.  I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

New Beginnings - Review

Title:  New Beginnings
Author: Rebecca Emin
Source: Grimoire Books

Goodreads Summary:

Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true... and then some.
When Sam meets a different group of people who immediately accept her as a friend, she begins to feel more positive.
With her new friends and interests, will Sam finally feel able to face the bully who taunts her, and to summon up the courage to perform on stage?

My thoughts:
I like to read books by authors who are just trying out their wings, but I am discerning and think about which ones I will read.  I know a few beginning authors, and if I can help them out I will, but there are just so many out there that I really limit this.  When I met Jonathan Rand, of American Chillers fame, we talked about writing and just starting out, and he said when he first started writing the Chillers books, no one wanted to take a chance on him, so he self-published.  He soon became a huge success.  I know the students at our school love him!  So I think of him when I get a request, but I also think about the book too.
I decided I wanted to read this book first because I work in a school library and this is a book geared for the ages at my school, and second because it is about bullying, and we have had a huge anti-bullying campaign in our schools for years. 
I am glad that I chose to read this book - I think that kids will benefit from reading it.  Many times victims of bullies remain silent, and let the bullying continue, much to their detriment.  They don't know how to handle it, who to tell, if they will be believed even.  New Beginnings deals with all of these thoughts, and also explains what to do if you are bullied in a way that they may relate to. Sam, the main character who is being bullied, lets things go to far, to the point where the bullying becomes physically violent.  After finding an anti-bullying website, she takes control of the situation.  The student bullying Sam eventually realized they are the one with a problem and apologizes to Sam, but not before Sam tells a trusted teacher what has been going on.
This is definitely a book I am going to have in our library. 

Lily of the Nile- Review

Title: Lily of the Nile
Author: Stephanie Dray
Source: Library after reading about it on The Ecclectic Reader blog

Goodreads Summary:

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

My thoughts:

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and I completely loved this book.  I read it, and wanted to know more about Cleopatra Selene and her brothers, and to me that is testimony that a book has captured your interest, if you read it and want to read whatever you can about the same subject, fiction or non.  It doesn't suprise me that I liked it, I loved Margaret George's Memoirs of Cleopatra, and I read that Dray was inspired to write Lily of the Nile after she read The Memoirs of Cleopatra. 

I loved how the Dray balanced the historical with the magical elements- I think the magic bits were perfectly handled and not out of place or too over the top.  I also thought the characters were written very well, and right from the start I cared about them.  Their emotions were so real, and their situation so awful! To be the hope of the people yet in essence, prisoners to Octavian. And the end was amazing- Cleopatra Selene proved beyond a doubt that she was Cleopatra's daughter. 

I can't wait to read the second one in this series, Song of the Nile, which I won in a giveaway from The Eclectic Reader!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

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:

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray:  I read about this series on The Eclectic Reader, and rushed to the library to check out the first one.  I read it in two days, I loved it.  I just found out today that I was the lucky winner to the sequel, Song of the Nile from a contest on The Eclectic Reader! 

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest:  This book looked so good, but fell flat.

New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin:  Ms. Emin asked if I would mind reviewing her book, and I loved it. 

Switched by Amanda Hocking:  I received this book from Librarything, and read it in one day.  I thought this book was great!  

Currently Reading:

I don't know! I read the books I was planning to read this week over Thanksgiving break, so I need to find something to read this week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Four and Twenty Blackbirds - Review

Title: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Author: Cherie Priest
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Although she was orphaned at birth, Eden Moore is never alone. Three dead women watch from the shadows, bound to protect her from harm. But in the woods a gunman waits, convinced that Eden is destined to follow her wicked great-grandfather--an African magician with the power to curse the living and raise the dead. 

Now Eden must decipher the secret of the ghostly trio before a new enemy more dangerous than the fanatical assassin destroys what is left of her family. She will sift through lies in a Georgian ante-bellum mansion and climb through the haunted ruins of a 19th century hospital, desperately seeking the truth that will save her beloved aunt from the curse that threatens her life.

My thoughts:

This book had all the classic elements of a spooky, mysterious book - swamps, crumbling hospital/asylum, ghosts, murderous relatives, and an unknown past.  Like an adult version of Scooby-Doo almost, and I was (am) a huge Scooby Doo fan. And it had a few creepy moments- like a certain scene at a summer camp, and the vision of how the three women died.  But the book itself fell flat.  Eden was boring.  She also seemed to be removed from her own life, and not really care about what is happening to her.  She has a relative who is trying to kill her, but even says in the book that she is not really afraid of him.  If she is not, we sure are not going to be.  And if we aren't, then what is the point?  That completely removes any tension from the book, and without some suspense, it is boring.  And Eden is kind of tough to like.  A co-worker, albeit an annoying one, is killed in front of her, and Eden doesn't care since she never liked the woman anyway. That just seems soulless.  The book does pick up some excitement at the very end, where Eden is fighting for her life.  And she finally seems to care.  But that was it - the rest of the book could have been mysteriously scary, but since Eden didn't care, neither did I.

This is a case of never judge a book by its cover: This book looked like it was going to be a great read, but turned out it just wasn't.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beautiful Creatures- Review

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
My thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book - I adored the characters, they were all interesting and quirky and likeable, and I even liked the characters you weren't supposed to like.  Ethan is a teenage boy, growing bored in his small southern town, who only thinks about getting away from Gatlin.  Until Lena moves to town, that is.  Lena is reviled by her town and classmates; she lives in the forbidden creepy mansion Ravenwood, with her uncle, who the town fears and mocks.  He is the Boo Radley of Gatlin, and as much as I like Boo, Macon Ravenwood is a little cooler.  His house is magic, and the interior can change on a whim.  This is one of the things I loved about the book- the magical whimsy throughout.  I of course loved Marion Ashcroft, the librarian, who you also find has a bit more up her sleeves than just being the public librarian.  
Lena is a caster- and so is her family.  On their 16th birthday, the fates decide if they are a good caster, or a bad caster.  Which way will they turn out?  Which way will Lena go?  Lena is a powerful caster, yet she surprises the reader by also being just a regular teenager, with a crush on a boy.  There is a battle against the clock of good versus evil, and to be honest, you don't always know which way it will go!
This book is rich in its charms, with the small southern town, eccentric characters, magic, a loyal dog, and romance.  I very much enjoyed the world that Garcia and Stohl created.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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:

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey- I loved this book, and I am looking forward to the second one.  

Currently Reading:
Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest - I love Southern Gothic, although this book is giving me a hard time!  I thought I would be done with it by now.  So far, I am liking it.

New Beginnings by Rebecca Emin:  I received this book from the author, and I am excited to read it this week. 

South of Superior - Review

Title:  South of Superior
Author:  Ellen Airgood
Source:  Library

Goodreads Summary:

When Madeline Stone walks away from Chicago and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she isn't prepared for how much her life will change. 

Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters-one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As Madeline begins to experience the ways of the small, tight-knit town, she is drawn into the lives and dramas of its residents. It's a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but friendship, community, and compassion run deeper. As the story hurtles along-featuring a lost child, a dashed love, a car accident, a wedding, a fire, and a romantic reunion-Gladys, Arbutus, and the rest of the town teach Madeline more about life, love, and goodwill than she's learned in a lifetime. 

A heartwarming novel, South of Superior explores the deep reward in caring for others, and shows how one who is poor in pocket can be rich in so many other ways, and how little it often takes to make someone happy.

My thoughts:

I had high expectations for this book.  It takes place in Michigan, my home state, in the U.P..  It has eccentric characters, a run down hotel, and small town life. These are all things that for me are a great recipe for a book.  Unfortunately, this story was hard for me to get into and like.

I could not make myself care about any of the characters- actually, I take that back, I like Grayson, the little boy. And Arbutus. And the drunk guy with the beagle.  I did not like anyone else really.  The main character, Madeline, was too wrapped up in her own self-pity and anger and then alternately just plain boring most of the time; the love interest, or who I thought would be the love interest, Paul ended up falling for a druggie, neglectful mother who is way too young for him; and Gladys, well, she did have her moments where I liked her.  

The story kind of bumbled along, moving forward - I didn't think the story was really any good until I got to the last 1/3 of the book.  When Madeline started working on the hotel, moving into it, taking care of Grayson. I liked that then. The only negative in the end of the book was her relationship with Paul.  I didn't believe it as a reader, and it felt too neat, like the tying up of loose ends.

The sense of small town community was not there enough for me.  The depressed economy of Michigan, that was a great portrayal, especially in the upper peninsula, where things are even more difficult, from what I have read.  If Airgood did one good thing in this novel, it shows the perseverance of people when the chips are down, and how they take care of their neighbors, even if they don't necessarily like them.

This book was so-so to me, and I probably would not recommend it to many people.

The Devil You Know- Review

Title:  The Devil You Know
Author: Mike Carey
Source: my brother

Goodreads Summary:

Freelance exorcist Felix Castor had been happy to bid good riddance to his job, but now, needing cash, he agrees to cast out one last demon. He's eager to finish this ghost extraction as quickly as possible, but as menacing details keep popping up, Castor is dragged ever deeper into the realm of were-beings. Before long, he begins to suspect that he himself is the target of the entire operation. And that's only the beginning of the trouble .

My thoughts:

I loved the character Felix Castor.  He is the perfect mix of sarcastically witty, doggedly persistent, self-deprecating, and smart.  This is the first book in the series, and I also think this character has room to grow.  

I love a good ghost story - and this book delivered a great ghost story.   Felix is an exorcist, who plays a tune on his trusty tin whistle, a song for a ghost, one that captures and twists their existence into non-existence, like a pied piper of the spirit world.  I thought this was a neat way to have Felix perform his craft, without the traditional idea of exorcism.  We learn that Felix is an atheist, performing these exorcisms without the blessing of the church- therefore creating some questions about where they spirits go once Felix plays them into oblivion.  I am sure this theme will be popping up in the following books, since it is a question that Felix has as well.  

This is a world not just of ghosts, but of werecreatures and succubi.  Felix is nearly done in a few times by Juliet, an enchantingly beautiful succubus, who was instructed to kill him.  The end holds some surprising twists with this demon!  The wereanimals in this book are created by spirits invading the bodies of animals, and forcing them into bizarre creatures of their making.  Another creative twist by Carey. The world he has created is definitely new and different. And I like it.

This central plot of this book is fairly simple- Felix take a job he does not necessarily want, because he needs the money.  The job: Exorcise the ghost that is haunting an archive building.  This ghost speaks Russian and has even attacked one of the employees.  Felix is told by an old friend with an unfortunate problem, that he will die on this case.  And he very nearly does.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end, the whodunit and how why.  

This book is a fabulous supernatural mystery, and I think if you like that kind of thing, then this is a series for you.  I am definitely going to read the second in the series very soon.

Forever - A Review

Title:  Forever - the third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series
Author:  Maggie Stiefvater
Source:  Library

Goodreads Summary:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. InLinger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

My thoughts:  

I loved this book.  It reads like a slow, gentle snowfall, thoughtful and quiet.  And lonely and melancholy in parts as well.  It is a love story, and I believed the love.  This book is not action packed, high paced with non-stop fight scenes; however, the suspense and waiting, waiting, waiting, creates enough anxiety that you don't need it.  I have to say I liked Cole and Isabel more than Sam and Grace, which is typical for me, liking the story lines of minor characters more than the main characters story. Sometimes I think that authors believe they can be more free with supporting characters, let them do things that the main characters can't, and then write them more interesting as a not-intended result.  I love the take on werewolves in this series; it is so different really, from what is out there.  

The so-called bad guy in the book, Tom Culpepper, I couldn't help feeling sorry for him in a way. His son was killed by wolves, I can see how in his anger and grief he would use his power to eradicate them from his landscape.  He is a sympathetic villain.  Or at least I think so.

I think these books are wonderful, gentle reads.  I think they should be read in the middle of winter, under a bunch of blankets and a cup of hot chocolate.