Saturday, October 31, 2009

children's book review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney


After hearing all of the positive buzz about Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series reach a crescendo this month when the fourth book in the series was released, I finally decided to see just how good they were. I'm so glad I did.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was the first book I read for the readathon, and it was a wonderful way to start the day. It's written in actual diary form, and the delightful middle school boy, Gregory, who narrates loves to draw cartoons. The end result is something in the graphic novel family, but text dominates the graphics. For a taste of what the book looks like, visit Amazon's look inside.

As someone who read Captain Underpants, I had relatively low expectations. There is often quite a disconnect between things kids find funny (Captain Underpants, for example) and things adults find funny (are there kids who laugh at 30 Rock as hard as I do?) Diary of a Wimpy Kid is one of the rare books both kids and adults can enjoy. It's certainly a kids book, but I laughed out loud numerous times. It's hilarity is often clever, but there are also a few well-placed low-brow moments.

I thoroughly enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and I have already requested the next three in the series from the library. If there are young, reluctant readers in your life, please hand them this book. If there are kids who love to read, please hand them this book. Before you do, read it yourself, and laugh.

Entertainment Weekly also has a first look at shots from the film adaptation.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - universally recommended
Pages: 224
Publication date: April 2007
Source: my local public library 

Friday, October 30, 2009

book review: The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi


The Sound of Language is set in Denmark shortly after September 11, 2001. It focuses on two main characters: Raihana, a presumably widowed Afghan refugee who just moved to Denmark to live with distant relatives, and Gunnar, a recently widowed, depressed Dane who kept bees with his wife, Anna. Although Anna and Gunnar are the focus of the story, there is a broad cast of characters.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Anna's beekeerping journal from 1980, the second year she and Gunnar kept bees. Both Anna and Gunnar tell their stories, and the interior monologue is beautiful and often tragic. Anna feels she will never learn Danish; to her, the language sounds like the buzzing of bees. The Danish government requires refugees to go to language school and have a practicum. Anna ends up at Gunnar's home to learn beekeeping and the language. The tension among language, understanding, culture, communication and emotions resonates on every page.

The Sound of Language is both an intensely personal story and the story of cultures as a whole. Malladi's command of language was breathtaking. I was immediately drawn into Raihana's story. This novel grabbed me from the first page. I am amazed at how much story was in two hundred pages. At the core of this tale are the themes of identity, place and home. While the story is about Afghans and Danes, it's universally beautiful. It's the best book I've read so far in 2009.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - universally recommended
Pages: 226
Publication date: December 2007
Source: my local public library

Thursday, October 29, 2009

young adult book review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


The Hunger Games is the first book in a dystopian young adult trilogy. The setting is Panem, a country of 12 districts in what was once the United States. To remind its citizens of their power, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games each year. Through a lottery, one boy and one girl from each district are selected to fight it out until one only person survives.

The Hunger Games is intense and harrowing from the opening pages. The story is told from the perspective of Kitniss, a 16-year-old girl who had taken on the responsibility of hunting to feed her family after her father died. Kitniss is simultaneously vulnerable and strong, and I really liked her.

I read The Hunger Games during the readathon, and it was perfect for the occasion. I could not put it down. When I did finish it, however, I had to give pause. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, it lacked the depth and message to truly make it a great book. I also found the romantic love triangle storyline annoying; it came out of nowhere. It wasn't timely, and it seemed out of character for Kitniss. Mostly, it bothered me because it was incomplete. The love triangle storyline wasn't fully engaged, and it's clear Collins used the storyline to set the stage for the next book. I love trilogies and series, but I like each book to stand alone if they're released alone. Harry Potter is the perfect example: it was planned to be a seven-book series, and the books build on one another, but each volume is clearly its own story.

The Hunger Games is a wonderful, engaging story, but it pales in comparison to my favorite dystopian novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hunger Games is definitely worth reading, but I'm not sure it's destined to be a classic. I also fully admit to having high expectations, both from hearing other book bloggers rave about this book and my own enjoyment throughout the book. Sometimes books are so engaging and enthralling, they can't even live up to their own projections. Until the last fifty pages, I was sure I would rate this book five stars, but once I put it down, it didn't quite live up to its own promise of greatness. I am eager to read Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy. The movie rights for the book have already been purchased, and I think it will translate very well to the screen. I'm curious to see if the movie is shaped as a trilogy as well.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 stars) 
Pages: 384

Publication date: September 14, 2008
Source: my local public library

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

waiting on wednesday: cleaving by julie powell

Waiting on Wednesday is a new semi-regular feature at nomadreader. Jill at Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly event encouraging book bloggers take Wednesdays to feature an upcoming book they're excited about.

Title: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession
Author: Julie Powell
What else has she written: Julie and Julia, which was a summer hit starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams
Pages: 320
Publication date: December 1, 2009

I read and loved Julie and Julia when it first came out, which was before this lovely blog existed, so I'll share my thoughts on it now too. To be truthful, I didn't read it when it first came out because I bought it for my grandmother, who loves to cook, for Christmas. I read it shortly thereafter and instantly regretted the gift. Julie and Julia was not a simple, sweet account of a young woman in a small apartment trying to cook Julia Child's recipes. It was a raw, beautifully honest portrayal of life in New York City shortly after September 11th, a young marriage, and the frustrations of everyday life when you realize your dreams may not be attainable. It was about food, but it was more about life than food. Most importantly, I adored Powell's writing. Her honesty, style and life moved me. I loved the book, and I recommended it to everyone under forty, whether or not they liked to cook or eat. (Although I found the movie a little bland, despite the brilliant performances of almost everyone, it is appropriate for all ages). I hoped Julie Powell would put pen to paper again, and it's finally happened. I' m sure this book doesn't need the help of book bloggers and ARCs will likely be nonexistant, but I already have this book on hold at the library, and I can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

children's book review: rescuing seneca crane by susan runholt


Rescuing Seneca Crane is the second book in the Kari & Lucas mystery series. I adored The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, the first book in the series, and I devoured this one during the read-a-thon. The story picks up only a few months after the first novel ends. It's late summer, and the girls are off to Edinburgh, Scotland with Kari's mom, who is interviewing teenage piano prodigy Seneca Crane for a magazine piece. Kari and Lucas befriend Seneca, who has accomplished a lot professionally, but has had little room for a normal, teenage social life. As the title indicates (it's literal, not figurative), Seneca is soon kidnapped, and Kari and Lucas find themselves in the middle of another caper in a foreign country.

Once again, Susan Runholt does a tremendous job of describing locations. Edinburgh and the other towns of Scotland are like characters in this novel. The misunderstanding of the Scottish accent provided several laugh out loud moments for me. I loved this book as an adult reader, which is not always true of children's books. (A side note about grade level: the characters are teenagers, and teens would certainly enjoy it, but I think it's also appropriate for elementary readers too.) Runholt also deftly educates the readers while entertaining them. I learned a lot about classical music, Scotland and history along the way, but I was mostly aware of the adventure I was on and wondering how Kari and Lucas would solve the mystery and rescue Seneca Crane.

If you haven't read The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, please read it first. This book is just as good, but you'll love it more if you already know Kari and Lucas. I personally enjoyed Lucretia a little bit more because I enjoy art more than classical music, and I've been to most of the places Kari and Lucas visited in Lucretia. I haven't been to Scotland yet, but with Runholt's descriptions I could certainly picture myself there, and I do want to visit Scotland even more desperately now.

What's next for Kari and Lucas? Kenya! Adventure at Simba Hill is set in Nairobi and once again features art, this time stolen cave art. There's no release date yet, but I'll do my best to read it as soon as it's published (if not before) and let you know. In the mean time, enjoy the first two Kari and Lucas mysteries, and pass them along to all the young women (and boys!) in your life! Also, visit Susan Runholt's Web site; it has some fantastic features, including a world map featuring cities Kari and Lucas have visited or are going to visit.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - Wow!
Pages: 288
Publication date: August 20, 2009
Source: my local public library

Monday, October 26, 2009

book review: benny and shrimp by katarina mazetti


Summary: Benny & Shrimp is a delightfully quirky Swedish love story. Benny and Shrimp are both teetering toward middle age and meet at a cemetery. Shrimp is a recent widow, and her husband's grave is next to Benny's mother's grave. Their story questions and answers and questions and answers whether opposites attract, repel or both. Shrimp is a librarian, which I always enjoy! Benny is a farmer. They have different worlds, different interests and different temperaments, yet they are inexplicably drawn to one another.

Cover note: I included both the British (left) cover and the U.S. (right) cover because I like the British one better, but I want readers to recognize the U.S. version when they see it!

Review: There are some books that grab me as a reader right away, and there are some books I teeter along with, not really forming an opinion. This book was one of the latter, but about half-way through, I was hooked. Mazetti has a gift for complexity masked as simplicity. At the beginning of the novel, Benny and Shrimp were just ordinary people leading their ordinary lives, and not much seemed to happen. The book turns into a fascinating look at the human spirit, the ways we communicate, and how different or similar we really are. I can't recall reading any other Swedish literature, but I mostly forgot this book was set (and originally written in) Swedish. Geography was not a character in this book, but there were definitely some cultural insights. At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this book. Oddly, despite being the title and main characters, neither Benny nor Shrimp was my favorite part of this novel. Instead, I found myself drawn into the side story of Inez, one of Shrimp's co-workers. I would love to see this book turned into a movie. Despite geography not being a strong aspect of the story for me, it was an incredibly visual book, and incredibly dialogue heavy. I sincerely hope Katarina Mazetti writers another novel.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - loved it
Pages: 221
Publication date: July 2009
Source: Thank you to Caitlin at FSB Associates for providing me with a copy of this novel!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Read-a-thon #2!

Although it's not an official Dewey's read-a-thon, Dreadlock Girl Reads is throwing another read-a-thon for those who couldn't participate yesterday and those of us who can't get enough. I'm in favor of having read-a-thons four times a year rather than two, so I'm thrilled to join this one too!

It comes at the perfect time for me: two days after my last final, and what better way to embrace the holiday season and my break from classes than doing one of my favorite things: reading. I have plenty of books left over from yesterday, and now I know what strategy works for me.

Will you join us for the December 5th read-a-thon?

sunday salon: thoughts on my first readathon

The Sunday Salon.com
I participated in my first 24-hour Dewey's Read-athon (or almost 18-hour read-a-thon in my case) yesterday, and I loved it. Going into it, I wanted to have a variety of books to choose from, achievable goals, and I wanted to have fun. The biggest surprise for me during the read-a-thon was how much fun I had interacting with people. I also understand why many veterans abandoned mini-challenges, limited time on Twitter and blogging and focused on reading.

Strategy: My strategy fluctuated throughout the day, but around 6 p.m., I found the strategy that worked best for me: at the top of the hour, check in with the blog to see if I'd won any prizes (maybe next time!) and what the next mini-challenge was, check my email to see all of the comments on my blog (thanks cheerleaders, I had so much fun discovering new blogs, and I hope you'll revisit this one too!), check and update Twitter with my progress, pop in on a few other blogs, and check the football scores. I tried to keep this activity to 10-15 minutes. Then, I set my alarm for the top of the next hour, and I put the computer to sleep. When the alarm went off, I finished my current chapter and started the cycle over again. I read more quickly, enjoyed the community more and had more fun. It was the right balance for me, and it's a strategy I'll keep for the next read-a-thon.

Books: Here's the breakdown of what I read yesterday:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (kids graphic novel) - 217 pages
  • Rescuing Seneca Crane by Susan Runholt (kids/YA mystery) - 276 pages
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA science fiction) - 374 pages
All three were wonderful in very different ways. I'll post full reviews this week!

Goals: I had two goals for my first read-a-thon.
  • Read from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. (except for the KU game). I overslept, so by the time I started reading it was almost ten. The KU-Oklahoma game was blacked out here (in New York!), so I followed the score online and read through it. I bailed at 1 a.m. instead of starting a new book because I knew I couldn't finish it before bed. Overall: less than I hoped for, but still good!
  • Read 800 pages. I read 867 pages! Yes, I read all children's and young adult novels, but I still met my goal!
Charity: I planned to give to charity in some way, but I didn't want to commit to pledging a certain number of cents per page read or dollars per book read. Instead, I'm donating a flat amount ($20) to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's family and education program in honor of Kari and Lucas (my favorite teenage detectives!) Kari and Lucas met at a museum drawing class in their first book, and art museums figure prominently in their adventures around the world. After the idea came to me, I vowed to donate to an organization or cause that's meaningful to a character in a book I read during the readathon. Next time, I might even ask for sponsors to donate too!

Wrap-Up Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Oddly, the first hour because I overslept and was already behind!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Many of the mini-challenges required people to post on their blogs, yet non-bloggers were encouraged to participate. In the future, it would be great to have fewer blog-required activities! Also, I noticed at least one blog was picked twice to encourage people to randomly visit. While, it is mathematically possible, it would be great to spread the love and not have duplications!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I was amazed how much work was put into it. Thank you to the organizers!

5. How many books did you read?

three

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rescuing Seneca Crane, The Hunger Games

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid because it woke me up, and I was genuinely surprised how funny I (as an adult) found it

8. Which did you enjoy least?

The Hunger Games (it was up against stiff competition!)

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will absolutely participate next time (provided the date works for me) as a reader, and I will probably try to be a cheerleader as well. I found myself being an accidental cheerleader and loved it!

Overall thoughts:
It was a great experience, and I can't wait to do it again!

readathon: update #4

I'll do a final wrap-up post tomorrow, but faced with the option of starting a new book less than an hour before my goal finish time or going to bed, I'm choosing bed! I had so much fun, and I read three books: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rescuing Seneca Crane & The Hunger Games. I'll tally the pages for tomorrow's wrap-up post.

I didn't decide what or how to donate to charity before the read-a-thon, but it came to me during my second book: I'm donating to one of my favorite organizations: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of my two favorite (fictional) teenage detectives, Kari and Lucas, and direct the gift to family and children's programming. I can't say enough great things about this series, and if you've read The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, you'll understand why this donation is indeed perfect. I like the idea so much, I hope to donate to an organization important to a character of a book I read each read-a-thon. Read it forward, indeed!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

readathon: update #3

The Read-a-thon is half-way over, and I'm having a great time so far!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (on page 60)

2. How many books have you read so far?

  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney & Rescuing Seneca Crane by Susan Runholt

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

  • I am absolutely loving The Hunger Games, but I'm looking forward to my next book too. Perhaps I'm most looking forward to reading two more books after The Hunger Games (it's a long shot given my usual reading pace!)

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

  • Nope. Saturdays are my day off, but I won't be able to read until 8 a.m. because I work Sundays.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

  • I've given myself several interrutpions: cooking meals and watching football!

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

  • How much the comments have meant to me. It's always nice to get comments, but I'm especially touched by the number of cheerleaders visiting and supporting me today. Thanks!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

  • Perhaps it's my my mood, but many of mini-challenges haven't appealed to me. Perhaps more variety and keeping more about books rather than sharing personal stories?

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

  • What I realized half way through the day: step away from the computer. I'm checking in at the top of the hour (or the end of the first chapter after the top of the hour), doing a mini-challenge, checking Twitter, then setting an alarm for the next hour.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

  • Nope, but I overslept this morning, so I'm not even to 12 hours yet.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

  • Relax, and enjoy yourself!

readathon: update #2

After a late start, I seem to more relaxed than I thought I'd be. I absolutely adored Diary of Wimpy Kid, and I wish I'd gotten the next three in the series from the library too! Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to leave comments, I really appreciate it!

Now I'm reading Rescuing Seneca Crane by Susan Runholt. It's the second Kari & Lucas mystery, and I absolutely adored The Mystery of the Third Lucretia. I'm really enjoying it so far, but I don't want it to end because the third book doesn't have a publication date yet.

Also, I'm not getting the KU-OU football game, so I'll be reading during the game and following the score online. Happy reading!

readathon: update #1

Readathon is a trending topic on Twitter!

How is my day going so far you ask? Well, I just woke up after accidentally setting my phone to vibrate; I didn't hear my alarm.

The good news is now I'm well rested, and to lighten my guilt, I'm starting with Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Happy reading!

welcome to my first read-a-thon

In case you haven't heard, there's a 24-hour Read-a-thon going on this weekend. If you don't care about the read-a-thon, please feel free to ignore this blog until Monday. I'll post a few times while I'm reading Saturday, then I'll post a wrap-up post on Sunday. Come back Monday for a review a day!

It's finally here! I'm excited and nervous to embark on my first 24-hour Read-a-thon. I'm not even going to attempt to read for the entire 24 hours for two reasons: one, it's the Kansas-Oklahoma game, and my beloved Jayhawks might actually have a chance to win this year, so I'm breaking for the game at 3:30 p.m; two, I work all day on Sundays, and I don't think I'd be a very good reference librarian if I stayed up all night reading.

My goals:

1. Read from 8 a.m. (start time!) until 2 a.m. (except for the KU-OU game).

2. Read 800 pages: I typically read about 60 pages/hour (or a page/minute). I'm giving myself 70 minutes off to blog, tweet, eat, etc. Plus, I have some kids books and graphic novels in my pile, and I tend to read those more quickly. If I can read this many pages, I'll probably read 3-4 books, and that's not bad for a Saturday! On the other hand, if I get sucked into a Sarah Waters novel, I'll still feel accomplished.

My plan:

1. I've got lots of books on hand. I can't possibly be in the mood for something I don't have.

2. I have a mix of kids, young adult, graphic novels, and fiction. I've also included a mix of genres and plenty of authors I always enjoy and book from several series I'm enjoying.

3. Have fun!

The books:
My list hasn't changed too much from my initial post, but here are the ridiculous piles:


Pile One (kids and YA):
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate
  • Nerds by Michael Buckley
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (reread)
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Rescuing Seneca Crane by Susan Runholt
  • First Light by Rebecca Stead
  • Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
Piles Two and Three:
  • Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane
  • The Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell
  • The Last Judgment by Iain Pears
  • Heart Trouble by Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Death at LaFenice by Donna Leon
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  • You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane
  • The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
  • Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer
  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
  • The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
  • The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton
  • Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • Double Love (Sweet Valley High #1) by "Francine Pascal"
  • Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow
  • Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
  • The Complete Perseplis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
I will not even read all these books in 2009, but I will have options! Happy reading!

Friday, October 23, 2009

book review: perfect fifths by megan mccafferty

Welcome to day five of Megan McCafferty and Jessica Darling week at nomadreader! I have finally written my last catch-up review for my summer reading and vacation from blogging.

This book is the fifth in Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, and both the review and summary contain spoilers from the first four novels.

Summary: This book takes place a few months in the future (as in early 2010), which makes the timing of Marcus and Jessica's stories work. Jessica has a perfect job, and she spends her life on the road working. Marcus is finishing up at Princeton. When they run into each other at the airport, they talk about life, love and their relationship.

Review: The entire book takes place in one day (with a few flashbacks and backstory to fill the readers--and Jessica and Marcus--in on what's been happening.) I can't imagine taking longer than a day to read it. It's the first book told with a more traditional narrative rather than in diary-style. It was a fantastic read, and I loved it, despite not being as enthusiastic for Marcus as most fans of this series. The entire book is a celebration of the series as a whole. At the end of the book, however, I was perplexed. This is the end? The story is only now beginning. I loved it, but I truly hope it's not the last time we see Jessica. I'm happy to let her live her life for five or ten years, but I still want more.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5) - really loved it
Pages: 258
Publication date:
April 14, 2009
Source: my local public library


Can't get enough Megan McCafferty? She's on Twitter, where she posts current tweets as well as snippets from her own high school diaries. She also was a Web site, which you should read to stay in the loop about her next novel, Bumped, a dystopian high school comedy, which is set to published in 2011. The plot: only teens are able to have babies, and adults contract them to do so.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

book review: fourth comings by megan mccafferty

Welcome to day four of Megan McCafferty and Jessica Darling week at nomadreader!

This book is the fourth in the Jessica Darling series, and the summary and review will have some spoilers if you haven't read the earlier books.

Summary: Jessica Darling is out of college and believably barely working. She nannies for her sister (who pays her an obscene but believable amount of money), and she lives with Hope (Hope!) and another familiar Pineville face. As Jessica is celebrating her independence and adulthood, Marcus is starting college, as a first-year-student, at Princeton. Cue relationship drama: once again, Marcus and Jessica are not at the same place in their lives.

Review: I love the opening scene of this book. Our beloved Jessica has discovered some of her own bad-assness! As perhaps the only fan of these books who doesn't really care about Marcus (I don't necessarily dislike him, and there are times I'm rooting for them, but mostly, I'm a pure Jessica fan: I want her to succeed and make me laugh along the way), I loved this book. The timing is quite different from the first three: it all takes place in about a week. Jessica breaks up with Marcus; he proposes. She spends the week (and the book) contemplating their relationship, but this timeline gives her pining for Marcus and general indecision an adultness. This book is a departure from Jessica's teen angst, but she's still Jessica. I also loved having Hope be a main character. It was delightful to finally get to know her as an individual. I confess, too, that there's a certain comfort in seeing a smart, funny character you admire struggle with the normal post-college problems. After a less enjoyable (but still great) third book, it was wonderful to return to one I enjoyed immensely. For fans of the series, there are many familiar faces in surprising places; it's delightful to meet old friends and foes and see what they're up to as well.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5) - really loved it
Pages: 320
Publication date: 2007
Source: my local public library

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

book review: charmed thirds by megan mccafferty

Welcome to day three of Megan McCafferty and Jessica Darling week at nomadreader!

This books is the third in a series, so the review and summary will include some spoilers from the first two books.

Summary: Jessica Darling is finally out of Pineville and in college at Columbia. She lands the dream internship at a snarky Brooklyn magazine.

Review: I expected to love Charmed Thirds as much as I loved Second Helpings. I'm a huge fan of New York City, snarky magazines and college life. I was thrilled for Jessica to experience all of these things and hear her insights. Sadly, I was a little underwhelmed; it's my least favorite Jessica Darling book. My biggest problem with Charmed Thirds was how much and little it covered. McCafferty condenses all of Jessica's college life into one volume. Sloppy Firsts covered a year and a half, while Second Helpings, the longest book, only took on one year. In order to fit in four years worth of work, school, love, anguish and humor, the book mostly jumps between summers and winter breaks. I understand the temptation to tell the story this way: it allows the rest of the Pineville characters to still be around, but I wanted to see Jessica in exciting courses embracing intellectualism in a new way. I still liked it, and I completely admit to having expectations that were too high. At the end of the book, I was happy: my beloved Jessica is now done with college and gets to be an actual adult! I instantly became optimistic and excited, although somewhat more cautiously, about what will happen.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - loved it
Pages: 368
Publication date: 2006
Source: my local public library

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

book review: second helpings by megan mccafferty


It's day two of Megan McCafferty and Jessica Darling week at nomadreader! I loved this series, which I read over the summer, and each day I'm posting a review to celebrate finally catching up on summer reviews.

Because this is a sequel to Sloppy Firsts, there will be some spoilers for the first book in this review and summary.

Summary:
Jessica Darling is a senior now, and she's making the hard choices about where to go to college and what she wants out of life. She's still dealing with the fallout of a broken heart, dating her academic rival, and dealing with an anonymous and accurate school gossip ezine. Once again, the reader is privy to Jessica's thoughts through her diary.

Review: After getting to know Jessica Darling in Sloppy Firsts, I was really rooting for her in this novel. I desperately wanted her to make the right choice for college. There is still plenty of candor, insight and humor, but Jessica's reactions to the September 11th attacks still surprised me (in a good way.) I'm curious to know how these events affected McCafferty's story: were they an impetus or did they help shift the story to accommodate timeliness? It's impossible not to compare the two novels, and Second Helpings takes everything wonderful from Sloppy Firsts and makes it better. Jessica is smart, funny, ironic and vulnerable, and all of these things make her absolutely delightful to read about.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5) - wow
Pages: 368
Publication date: 2003
Source: my local public library


Monday, October 19, 2009

book review: sloppy firsts by megan mccafferty

In honor of finally catching up on the last five reviews from books I read this summer, it's Megan McCafferty and Jessica Darling week here at nomadreader. Each day this week, I'll post one review for each book in the five book series.

Summary: Sloppy Firsts is the story of Jessica Darling, a high school junior in New Jersey. Her best friend, Hope, has moved to Tennessee after Hope's brother died of a drug overdose. Jessica is a faithful diarist, and her story unfolds through diary entries and a monthly letter to Hope.

Review: One of my best friends recommended this book to me, and I'm so glad she did! I loved Jessica Darling from the very beginning, and I wished the books were around when I was in high school because I would have loved them then too. Jessica is a wonderfully honest narrator, but the reader can still see how she struggles with her self-esteem. Jessica's perception of herself is not always the exact reality, but it's refreshing to read a story with enough depth to let the reader understand the narrator's point of view and alternate points of view. Are any of us truly aware of our exact gifts, talents and perspective to others? The novel is tender, funny and true. Jessica Darling truly feels like a friend after reading this book. I was so glad to discover this book eight years after it was published so I could read the next in the series right away.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - loved it
Pages: 303
Publication date: August 28, 2001
Source: my local public library

Tomorrow: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Sunday, October 18, 2009

young adult book review: fade by lisa mcmann

Background: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Wake, and my one complaint was that there wasn't enough of the story; I wanted more. Thankfully, I discovered Lisa McMann's book late enough that the sequel was already out (book three, Gone, will be published in February 9, 2010.)

Because this book is the second in a series, there may be some spoilers for the first novel. Please feel free to skip ahead to my review.

Summary: The book opens happily: Janie and Cabel are happy and have settled into a high school, virginal version of domestic bliss. Their relationship still must be a secret, but they're happy and supportive of each other. They're both still working undercover for the police, and this case is intense: the cops received two calls, six months apart, on a high school-specific hotline about teachers having sex with students. With no details to go on, Janie and Cabel try to figure out if its true, and if so, who the offending teacher is. Cabel struggles watching Janie put herself at risk to catch the bad guy.

Review: I loved Wake, but Fade is better. If you're faint of heart, be warned, this novel is as naughty as the average episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Translation: this novel addresses sexual predators (the teacher preying on an 18-year-old student variety) in a very real way. I found myself drawn to Janie more and more as a character and as an inspiration. She is strong, physically and mentally, beyond her years. As an adult reader, this novel felt much more mature to me than Wake did. McMann is still true to her characters, but they are hardly living in a young adult world. Watching Janie come to grips with dream catching was tremendously emotional. Needless to say, I cannot wait to see how Janie's life is going when Gone comes out next year (Given its publication date is two days after my wedding, I think you all know an ARC for the honeymoon would be delightful!)

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) - read it (first, read Wake) now!
Pages: 248
Publication date: February 10, 2009
Source: my local public library

Saturday, October 17, 2009

book review: club dead by charlaine harris

Intro: Club Dead is the third novel in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I loved the first novel, Dead Until Dark, and liked the second novel, Living Dead in Dallas, even more. I still haven't seen the HBO series True Blood, which is based on this series. Each season of the show is based on one book.

Because this book is the third in the series, there will be some spoilers if you haven't read the first two books.

Summary: Bill Compton is working on a secret project for the king of Mississippi, and he's afraid something will happen to him. In the event that he goes missing, he gives Sookie instructions on how to hide his work and what people to call. Naturally, Bill is soon missing. Most of this book takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, and the drama involves werewolves and shapeshifters as well as our beloved vampiers.

Review: The simple truth: Club Dead is not as good as the first two novels in the series. For the first time, Sookie got on my nerves. Although there have been glimpses of her conservatism and somewhat hypocritical moral stances, Harris seemed to remind the reader constantly that Sookie is a good Southern girl with good intentions who only does wrong in these extenuating circumstances she constantly finds herself in. The moral relativism was bothersome. More importantly, the story wasn't as good. With Bill missing, Sookie spent her time with Eric and a nice Were, Alcide. Despite the prevalence of morality reminders, without Bill around, Harris did not shy away from the sexual innuendo. Perhaps the frequent mentions of how much everyone wants to sleep with Sookie precipitated all of the morality mentions. Although I would call Harris more of a storyteller than a great writer, the quality of writing seemed to have declined in this book. Perhaps without a story as invigorating, it exposed her writing style. In the end, I enjoyed it. Bubba was back in this novel, and I love his character. I also enjoyed seeing more depth in Eric. His character has grown on me immensely, and I actually like him now. Kudos to Harris for bringing out his multiple sides. It's also nice to see other recurring characters return. This series is truly a series, and small characters I forgot about resurface in fantastic ways; I hope this trend continues. Perhaps the best part of the book was its ending: it clearly opens the door for the next book, which I hope begins at around the same time. I will definitely read the next book in this series.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) - liked it
Pages: 292 pages
Publication date: 2003
Source: I own it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

book review: family affair by caprice crane

I discovered Caprice Crane on Twitter (@capricecrane). On slow news days, I find myself researching whom the authors whose work I admire and enjoy follow on Twitter. Caprice Crane has quickly become the source of multiple laughs per day, and as a fan of the new Melrose Place, which she writes for, it's clear there's the same humor. Although I'm not certain, I would wager Caprice is responsible for this line (reconstructed from my memory): "Ella, if you need help getting in contact with quality designers, I can help. Marc Jacobs and I play in the same capture-the-flag league." When she tweeted about the release of her latest novel, I immediately requested it from the library.

Summary: Family Affair is a novel about the marital ups and downs of Layla and Brett Foster. Layla's father left when she was young, and her mother died when she was in high school. Brett, her high school sweetheart, and his family essentially adopted Layla. Brett starts to think of Layla as more of a sister than a wife and thinks his family prefers her to him.

Review: From the very first page, I enjoyed this book. I love Caprice Crane's writing style, and I instantly liked the characters, especially Layla, and their senses of humor. When Brett and Layla quickly began acting stupidly, I got frustrated. It would have been so simple to solve their problems initially. I stuck with the book, and despite a few unsurprising events, I fell in love with it all over again. Did I love it from the beginning to the end? No, but I loved it. As I sat on a plane reading the last one hundred pages, I was laughing and crying. I love books that evoke those different emotions. The tears came from the realness and likability of the characters; the laughter was a necessary antidote and helped me love them even more. As a whole, the book is fantastic, despite my aversion to the middle parts while I was reading them. I confess, had I not been on an airplane, I may have laid this book down for awhile, but I'm so glad I read it straight through in a day. I'm looking forward to reading Caprice Crane's first two novels, Forget About It and Stupid and Contagious.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5) - loved it
Pages: 368
Publication date: September 29, 2009
Source: my local public library

Thursday, October 15, 2009

audio book review: austenland by shannon hale

I listened to Austenland on audio on a long drive alone. It was absolutely perfect for the occasion. Austenland is the story of Jane Hayes, a single New Yorker, graphic designer and Jane Austen (especially the Colin Firth BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice) devotee. When her quirky aunt passes away, Jane learns she was left a peculiar thing in the will: a two-week holiday trip to an English estate where she will live in Austen's time. It's essentially an elaborate Jane Austen role-playing theme park, complete with period costumes, customs and lack of technology. The men are played by actors, and our heroine, despite acknowledging Darcy has ruined her real relationships by being too good, has a tough time letting go of her modern persona and relaxing.

Austenland is pure, brilliant fantasy and utterly dreamlike for Austen fans, but the comedy keeps the story from slipping into schmaltzy. Even those who feel dear Jane is teetering on overexposure would enjoy the satire. It's a quick, delightful tale, and Katherine Kellgren's reading was marvelous. Her voices were delightful and helped bring out the personalities of characters.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 197 (6.5 listening hours)
Source: my local public library
Publication date: May 31, 2007

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

young adult book review: wake by lisa mcmann

Wake is the story of Janie Hannagan, a high school student who is uncontrollably drawn into the dreams of nearby people. While this power sounds cool, it means she must live other people's nightmares. When someone dreams nearby, she is sucked into it, which is extremely problematic when you're an otherwise normal teenager.

I enjoyed Wake. It's a fascinating paranormal concept, and Janie is a likable heroine. I felt her pain, fear and awkwardness and admired her strength and perseverance. My one complaint is the length; it's too short. I was left wanting more depth and story. Thankfully, there is a sequel out, Fade, which I hope to read soon.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 210
Publication date: March 4, 2008
Source: my local public library

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

book review: little pink slips by sally koslow

After devouring and enjoying The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, I was thrilled to learn Sally Koslow had written another book: Little Pink Slips.

Little Pink Slips is the story of Magnolia Gold, a North Dakotan turned New Yorker who now is editor-in-chief at Lady magazine. Magnolia is professionally successful and incredibly focused on her career. Cue intense workplace drama.

Although I really enjoyed the character of Magnolia, I did not enjoy anyone else in the book. (In Molly Marx, I loved everyone, even the obnoxious and selfish characters, because they had depth and believability). Magnolia could not catch a break in this book, and it wore me out. I confess, I am not a huge fan of workplace drama. (Seriously, even The Office depresses me: I dread the thought of life in an office environment surrounded by people you dislike.) I found myself rooting for her to find a way to walk right out of the pages and find new friends, a new job and new coworkers.

Perhaps my expectation were too high after Molly Marx, but I was underwhelmed with this book. I loved The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, and I liked some elements of this book, but it went on too long and involved too many people I didn't care about. I think Sally Koslow is a great writer, but Little Pink Slips lacked the combination of humor and insight that drew me into Molly Marx. I was disappointed, but Koslow has proven herself capable of writing a multitude of three-dimensional characters, and I'm still eagerly awaiting her next novel, With Friends Like These, due out in summer of 2010.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5) - okay
Pages: 389
Publication: April 2, 2007
Source: my local public library


Monday, October 12, 2009

graphic novel review: the surrogates by robert venditti

When the television spots for The Surrogates started airing a few weeks before it came out, I remembered from my fall movie preview that the film was based on a graphic novel. After seeing the previews, I wanted to read the book.

The Surrogates is set in 2052 in what is now called Central Georgia Metropolis (formerly Atlanta). Most people now live quiet lives in their homes and send out their surrogate to work and play, while their brains are hooked into the surrogate from home. People get to experience things without the possibility of death or injury. Other interesting twists tidbits: you choose what your surrogate looks like and some people elect a surrogate of another gender as a way to bypass sexual discrimination. It's futuristic science fiction told incredibly convincingly; it's easy to think it could be our not-so-distant future.

The concept is intriguing, and I really enjoyed the story. I was not, however, a fan of the drawing style. It didn't hinder my understanding or enjoyment of the story, but it certainly didn't enhance it. At the end of each chapter, there was an interesting supplemental item such as a newspaper article or promotional material encouraging you to buy a surrogate. As someone who doesn't read a lot of graphic novels, and thus has a hard time training my eyes to not dance all over the page, I appreciated these more traditional visual elements both as background and variety.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - really good
Source: my local public library
Pages: 158
Publication: September 13, 2006

Sunday, October 11, 2009

children's book review: the mystery of the third lucretia by suasn runholt

After reading A Reader's Respite's glowing review of The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, I knew I wanted to read it. When it came in for me at the library, I first read the author's biography, which begins "Susan Runholt shares a love of art, travel and feminism with her teenage heroines." I would add reading to the list, but I'm proud to share the other three with Ms. Runholt, Lucas and Kari.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia is the first (of many, I hope) Kari and Lucas mystery. Kari and Lucas are best friends who live in St. Paul, Minnesota (a town I also happen to love). Kari's mom has one of the coolest jobs ever: she covers fashion and international culture for a teen magazine (if such a job exists, I would gladly apply for it.) Kari, who sees her father a few times a year, and Lucas, whose parents are eager to spend money for her to experience culture, often get to go along for the ride. The book takes place in St. Paul, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. The girls happen to find themselves trying to solve an international art mystery.

I cannot say enough positive things about this novel. I wish it existed when I was younger, but I still loved it as an adult. I laughed out loud often, learned things (in a delightfully unpreachy way) and eagerly awaited the mystery being solved. Kari and Lucas are both real girls and inspiring to women (and men) of all ages. I am eagerly awaiting my turn to read the second Kari and Lucas mystery, Rescuing Seneca Crane, which came out in August 2009. I wish I knew more young women so I could give this book to them; I know it would have meant the world to me as a younger woman. In the meantime, I nominated it for a Cybil award and passed it along to the Amelia Bloomer Project. Happy reading, feminists, art lovers and mystery fans of all ages!

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Pages: 278
Publication: January 1, 2008
Source: my local public library

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dewey's read-a-thon: I'm in!

I've decided to join Dewey's read-a-thon this year. It's on a date that's pretty good for me, and I've had so much fun observing the blogs of those who have enjoyed it in the past.

My plan: I will aim to read for almost 24 hours, but I am not sure my body is capable. The read-a-thon starts on October 24 at 8 a.m. my time, which is perfect. I'm taking a break at noon to watch the KU-Oklahoma football game. I'll still read during commercial breaks, and if Oklahoma goes up by more than 28 points, I'll abandon the game and go back to reading. I hope to read from 8 a.m - 2 a.m., with a three-hour football-watching break. I will update twitter and my blog whenever I need a reading break.

What I'll read: I plan to do a little catching up on my Read Every Word list, a list of authors whose books I want to read all of; a little catching up on my "books I've been meaning to read for far too long pile"; and I plan to read books other bloggers with similar tastes have rated 5 stars. I'm also taking the advice of read-a-thon veterans and sticking to slightly fluffier books (I'll save Cormac McCarthy's The Road for another day).

Possible books:
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
  • the next Sookie Stackhouse (I plan to read one on the plane next week!)
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
  • L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
  • The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Breaking the Bank by Yona Zeldis McDonough
  • No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
Read-a-thon veterans, what are your thoughts? I want a variety to choose from so I can read whatever I'm in the mood to read. After making this list, I wish the read-a-thon was this week!

Friday, October 9, 2009

illustrated novel review: the adventuress by audrey niffenegger

If there is a more perfect book to read after The Lost Symbol, I don't know it. The Adventuress is sparse and brilliantly complex; The Lost Symbol is verbose and simple.

The plot of The Adventuress is difficult to describe without telling the story myself. I like this succinct description from my library's catalog: "The Adventuress follows the dreamlike journey of an alchemist's daughter." If you've read Niffenegger, you know how she plays with fantasy and reality in a magical way; The Adventuress is no different. Like The Three Incestuous Sisters, it's a unique format. It's most like a picture book for grown-ups. The artwork is mesmerizing, and there are several panels I would gladly use to decorate my walls.

When I finished it (far too quickly), my first thoughts were simply, "wow." It's a quirky, smart, hauntingly beautiful story told with the a sparse use of words and mesmerizing and beautiful art.

Rating: 5 stars (loved it - highly recommended)

Source of book: I checked this book out from the library.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

book review: the lost symbol by dan brown

I'll assume you either know the plot of this novel or you don't want to know about it, so I'll spare you the summary.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this book. If you asked me my thoughts while I was reading it, they varied among "I love it!," "It's really good!," "I can't stop rolling my eyes!," "When will it end?," and "Well, it's not very good, but I really like it." I completely understand why SKrishna didn't rate this book. And I completely understand why the ratings at Amazon are so disparate. There are parts of this book I would rate 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars. Different readers will place more importance on some parts than others, and with this book more than any other book I've read, I would find it impossible to predict a reader's reaction. Here's how I viewed the book:

1 star elements: The ubiquitous italics; there are other ways to emphasize things you want the reader to pay attention too. As a reader, I abhor this technique. My eye tends to glance around the page and picks up on things that are different. The italics distract me, and they really serve no literary purpose here.

The watches. I get it; Langdon has a Mickey Mouse watch. It's important to him; it's irrelevant after the first mention, and it's annoying in a suspenseful scene. The fact that Katherine also has a very special watch given to her by her parents is laughable, but at least it was only mentioned once. I suppose she wasn't as concerned with time as Langdon.

The formulaic romance. I loved Angels and Demons (and I want to read it again to see if my opinion has changed), and I thought The DaVinci Code was mediocre at best (I credit growing up in both a church and intellectual community, but I found nothing shocking or outrageous in the book, and after Angels and Demons, it seemed formulaic). I am willing to suspend my sense of reality for the sake of a good mystery or adventure story. I am not willing to overlook the fact that for three books now, Robert Langdon happens to end up solving a very important mystery with a ridiculously intelligent, articulate and attractive woman who has some very close relation to the man (whom Langdon is also closely related to somehow). At least there was a quick mention of what happened to the Angels and Demons woman in The Da Vinci Code. Here: nada. As a woman who has a fondness for intelligent, worldly men, the idea of these women falling for Langdon seems improbable at best and laughable at worst.

The sexism. Hearing alleged intellectuals walk around talking about "man's secrets" is infuriating. Hearing Katherine talking about mankind rather than humanity is worse. For a book so concerned with being forward thinking, Dan Brown could use a seminar in appropriate language and gender bias.

2 star elements: The villain (I'll avoid specifics in case you haven't read it). He's too unbelievable. He's so unbelievable he wasn't scary. I like a villain with a few doses of humanity or something about him or her I can relate to.

3 star elements: Although I liked parts of it, it was all too much. It was too long, too hard to maintain that much intensity for that many pages. The resolution was unsatisfying.

4 star elements: The idea of this book is cool. I like adventure stories. The thrill of the chase was fun. For 80% of the book, I really enjoyed Katherine as a character. She was intelligent, open-minded and inspiring. I appreciate she got to make some discoveries instead of our intrepid hero, but as I said earlier, her use of mankind instead of humanity rubbed me the wrong way, and I don't think she would fall for Robert Langdon.

This paragraph: "Is there? Is it not possible that we are still living in the Dark Ages, still mocking the suggestion of 'mystical' forces that we cannot see or comprehend. History, if it has taught us anything at all, has taught us that the strange ideas we deride today will one day be our celebrated truths. I claim I can transform the pyramid with a touch of my finer, and you question my sanity. I would expect more from an historian. History is replete with great minds who have all proclaimed the same thing...great mind who have all insisted that man possesses mystical abilities of which he is unaware." p. 308

5 star elements:
Whether you consider it science fiction, science, an interesting religious view, or just unsettling, noetic science is intriguing and fascinating. The ideas in this book made me think, even if the book also made me groan. I'll give you this point, Dan Brown, I didn't tweet about noetics, but I am blogging about it.

Will I read the next Dan Brown novel? Probably. Here's what I would like to see Dan Brown do: first, write children's books. Wouldn't it be fun to see a sixth-grade Robert Langdon solving little mysteries? The problems could be more elementary too, and it would fit perfectly. Another option would be to have Langdon have a daughter who suddenly appears and wants to get into symbology. A young adult heroine is born. She could follow him around the world learning and solving little puzzles. These formulas would work for children's books, but I find them getting old in adult books.

I'm pretty much done with Langdon as a hero. If he comes back, I'd really like to see him in a more supporting role, or at least an equitable role. Katherine had the most to do of his female characters, but she still felt too much like a sidekick for someone who knew more than Langdon in many pivotal scenes. If Langdon comes back as the hero, and he inevitably will, can one of his three female sidekicks also return? I can't stand adding another one.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) - I loved parts, and I enjoyed parts, but as a whole, it's mediocre and likable. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Only if you'll talk to me about it.

Source: I checked this book out from the library

Monday, October 5, 2009

illustrated novel review: the three incestuous sisters by audrey niffenegger

I stumbled upon this book in the library catalog a few weeks ago. I was frantically trying to reserve a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry so I could read it sometime before Christmas, and I saw that there were two books listed by Audrey Niffenegger I had never heard of: The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress. I immediately requested them both.

As you can see by the cover, the art is beautiful. I knew Niffenegger was an artist, but I somehow missed the news that she wrote these two illustrated novels. Before I read it, I thought "illustrated novel" might be semantics to market a graphic novel to those who might not necessarily read them otherwise (and specifically those who read The Time Traveler's Wife.). I was wrong. I enjoy graphic novels, but this book seems closest to a children's picture book in how it tells a story. The pictures are more powerful than the words, but they two elements work together beautifully.

The Three Incestuous Sisters
is lushly illustrated. I read it with nomadreaderboy, and we would gladly purchase an additional copy to cut up, frame and hang all over our home. The art is beautiful. The story is fascinating and very Niffenegger. It has hints of the supernatural, but the sisters are flush with humanity. It's a quick read, but I found myself reading it (and gazing at the art) very slowly. I even read it in two sittings to make it last.

I absolutely loved this book.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5) - really loved it

Sunday, October 4, 2009

book review: vision in white by nora roberts

I am one of the last people to read Nora Roberts. My soon-to-be mother-in-law loves her (as do many other people whose book taste I agree with), and I've been intending to read her for quite some time. When I heard about her wedding quartet series, I knew it would be the perfect introduction to her work. I've shied away from actual wedding planning books, but I have enjoyed many novels about wedding planning. The premise of the series is great: four lifelong friends have a wedding planning business. One is a photographer, one is a florist, one a pastry chef and one is the actual planner. Each book will be from a different point of view.

Vision in White features Mac, the photographer. Photography is one career I think I would love but will never actually do, and I immediately connected with Mac. She does some annoying things throughout the book (seriously, she's a strong woman the entire novel, but she can't stand up to her mother, an annoyingly caricatured character) that make it hard to root for her at some points. There was too a little too much drama for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed the book. I didn't necessarily Roberts' prose, but once I got to know the characters, I focused on the story rather than the writing and read the book quite quickly.

I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, Bed of Roses, which features the florist, naturally. and comes out October 27, 2009. I'm most curious to see how it will to see Mac as a minor character and if the other three transform into strong narrators over the quartet.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5) - enjoyed it

For another review, see what SKrishna, a Nora Roberts fan, thought.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

book review: the late, lamented molly marx

Summary (from library catalog): Until she was found dead along the bank of the Hudson River, Molly Marx led an enviable life. A young wife and mother, Molly now finds herself in the Duration, where with the help of a refreshingly unorthodox guide, she can observe the friends and family she left behind: her philandering plastic surgeon husband, the irresistible colleague who became her lover, a competitive twin sister, her controlling mother-in-law, a loyal but confused friend, and her purest love: a three-year-old daughter.

Review: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a delightful book to read. It grabbed me from the beginning, and I treasured every page. Suddenly, around page 200, I realized I didn't want it to end. Partially it was because I loved the characters; they were people I wanted to eat dinner with. I didn't want to say goodbye to them. Mostly, though, I couldn't imagine how the book could end satisfactorily. Part of the book is a murder mystery of sorts (think Elisabeth Hyde's The Abortionist's Daughter - it is a whodunit, but your first instinct is to describe it as powerful, character-driven literary fiction), and it becomes clear that someone had to kill Molly; I didn't want any of the characters to be guilty. I also wanted Molly to somehow find life again. She's such a vibrant character I often found myself forgetting she was dead. She was dead, of course, and eventually the characters have to face reality. I see some of my imaginary self in Molly. She's a fellow Midwesterner turned Northeasterner, and she worked in publishing. Certainly publishing and librarianship are connected, but I'm a little farther from the action in the library.

I'm still glad I read this book; I loved it. Unfortunately for me, the ending was somehow unsatisfying. The first two thirds of the book would have gotten 5 stars, but after a few months of pondering, I give it four stars. I still loved it, and I still recommend it, but I'm not grabbing it from the virtual shelves to place in your hands. I will, however, be first in line to read Sally Koslow's next novel.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - loved it