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Speed Reviews

26 Jan

The Thorn BirdsThe Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough – 3.5/5

Genre:  Historical Fiction

This book is considered a reader’s classic.  It’s a saga-style novel that spans the early 1900s through the late 1960s and follows the Cleary family through their lives and the owners of a sheep farm in the back country of Australia.  I was completely enthralled with the story through the first half but then it lost some luster for me.  .  I knew the basics of this story from the bit of the 1980s miniseries I remember watching, and I was highly anticipating the love story aspect.  In the end, though, I didn’t ‘feel’ as deeply for the main characters and their love for each other as I expected to.  I really did think the author is extremely talented.  The description of the Australian landscape and the characters was superb.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – 4/ 5

Genre:  General Fiction

This story is about a high-school girl who loses her favorite uncle, and friend, to AIDS.  She deals with this loss in her own way, and learns a lot about life and loss through her mourning.  I wish I had the talent to write-up a book’s description in a way that actually makes people want to read the book, but alas, I don’t possess that quality.  You’ll just have to trust me that it’s good because my descriptions are atrocious.  Anyway, the main character, June, was so weird in a good way and that made me really love her and reading this book.  The story is sad, but powerful, and ends on the brightest note possible.

The White Queen (Cousins' War Series #1)

The White Queen (Cousins War #1) by Philippa Gregory- 3/ 5

Genre:  Historical Fiction

I love historical fiction, and I love Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl, among many others) but I did not love this book.  Coupled with the fact that I had a hard time keeping the characters straight – everyone’s names are Elizabeth, Edward, George, or Henry- it had waaayy to little romance and waaayyy too much war commentary.  It would be 3 or so pages describing the positions of the troops and the details of the battle, which was boring for me.  I also wasn’t as in love with the characters of this ‘War of the Roses’ time period as I was in times past.  Lastly, there was a mystical element to this story –  that Elizabeth Woodville (the White Queen)  was a descendant of a Greek water goddess and there were certain events that she controlled by directing the ‘water’.  It was kind of weird.   That said, England, before 1700, and I’m in anyways, so it was worth it for me to read.

Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – 5/5

Genre:  Mystery/Thriller

Ah, the coveted 5 out of 5 rating.  I. Loved. This. Book.  More so than this author’s more popular novel, “Gone Girl”.  I loved this so much for 3 main reasons:  1) The main character was super weird but likeable.  That’s my favorite kind!  I love multidimensional, flawed yet familiar main characters.  2) The mystery kept me guessing until the end.  I’ll admit I’m a good guesser and I’m always a touch disappointed when one of my guesses is right.  It wasn’t in this case!  3) the writing was excellent!  Told from multiple characters’ perspectives revealing the plot without confusing the reader.  Flynn is a near-genius in my opinion! Loved it, Loved it, Loved it!!

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – 4.5/5

Genre:  Mystery/Thriller

See my opinion on this author above.  This book was similar to Dark Places, in that the character was super off the wall which I loved.  It followed the same format as Dark Places which I loved too.  The only realize I had to rate it a bit lower than Dark Places is because I guessed the mystery early on.

 

The Fault in Our Stars (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The Fault in our Stars by John Green – 4/5

Genre:  General Fiction

This book is about a teenage girl dying from lung cancer.  She meets and falls in love with a boy who’s lost a leg to cancer and while they are in remission, they know their time is limited.  They have this normal yet abnormal relationship.  She’s a great character – snarky and sassy.  Her outlook on ‘the time she has left’ is so realistic yet optimistic – it’s hard to explain. The book is not nearly as sad as I thought it would be.    I liked it!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple- 3/5

Genre:  General Fiction

All right, this book is all over the place.  Best seller lists, best 2012 book lists, my book club pick, my other book club’s favorite book of 2012, etc. etc.  This book is about a girl and her family living in Seattle.  They are not normal, all with their own weird off-putting quirks.  The story is told primarily through emails and letters between characters, with some first person accounting by the daughter, Bee.  In my opinion, that style made the story seem more comical than I think was intended.  It just seemed forced.  Like I don’t think people write 10 page long emails complete with re-capped conversations.  Not sure why this was done.  Also, I didn’t get a good sense of any of the characters.  I mean they described them plenty, but since it was all through emails from them or about them from others, it was a bit disjointed and hard for me to get in their heads.  Lastly, it seemed to be all over the place – Microsoft, Galer Street, the house stuff, Antarctica, the cruise, Straight Gate – it was just so much!  On the other hand, the storyline moved very quickly and it wasn’t hard to finish the book.  And it was somewhat entertaining in spite of some of its shortcomings.

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Book Review: Darkfever (Fever Series #1) by Karen Moning

29 Jan

Darkfever (Fever Series #1)My Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Total departure for me:  It is hard-core fantasy; parts are NC-17 but suprisingly, I really enjoyed it! 

I’ve heard hard-core readers talk about this series over and over and over (and over) again.  Everyone luvvvssss these books.  So it was just a matter of time before I picked them up myself. 

The writing is adequate, the story unusual (for me) and I loved the main character by the end of this book.  This is an extremely surprising reaction in my opinion because it has 3 things I absolutely NEVER thought I would tolerate in a book:

  1. it is hard-core fantasy.
  2. parts of it are NC-17.
  3. my copy (thankfully on my Nook) had a LOT of cleavage on the cover. 

Yet despite all of this, I really liked this book and will read the rest in the series.  I know, right?  ME!   This story is about a young 20 something from Atlanta whose sister is murdered in Dublin, Ireland while studying there.  She travels to Dublin to come to grips with the tragedy and hopefully find some information to lead to her sister’s killer when out of the blue she discovers she is ‘special’ and otherworldly.  Chaos ensues. 

I never, EVER thought I would like a book like this.  Never say never!

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

12 Dec

The Red TentMy Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

This historical fiction is narrated by Dinah, daughter of Jacob .  As in the Jacob, brother of Esau, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.   She tells of her life as a young girl growing up in Mesopotamia amongst her father’s small tribe of wives and children.  The red tent is, literally, the place where the women go each month to bleed and ‘celebrate’ their womanhood.  As a child she saw the red tent as a mysterious almost heavenly experience.  Upon entering womanhood herself she became indoctrinated in the ways of a biblical woman and soon after enters wifehood, at which point her life takes a very grave and violent detour.  The novel follows her throughout her life up to her death in Egypt as a famous midwife. 

This book is pretty fast paced (I had to write down the names of the family members which added a bit of time for me) and the writing is solid.  It’s a great way to learn about the actual history and logistics depicted in pieces in the bible.  

I loved how being a girl during these times meant a lot of hard work and a lot of hardships, yet these women respected themselves and their womanhood like they were royalty though they were quite often treated like slaves.  They had this “Behind every great man…” attitude. This book was pretty emotional for me, especially as a woman, wife and mother.

I typically don’t like chick lit, but this is chick lit in a different sense.  There is a LOT of discussion about menses, child-birth, etc.  If you are not fully comfortable with these topics in their most descriptive, I suggest you not read this book.  But if you are, then this is a great ‘girl power’ book!

Book Review: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

26 May

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: CD Audiobook CoverMy Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

An entertaining epic a lot like Beaches.  Serious nostalgia if you were a teenage girl in the 1970s.

I’ve obviously had some reading time on my hands!   This was a book I really ‘tucked in’ to, the term I use to describe me being drawn in and wrapped up in a (usually epic) novel.  I love that!   This book it spans 30 years of a friendship between two girls who meet as young teenagers.   They meet in 1974, so it was just a teensy bit before my time, but if you were a teen in this era, you will get a bonus because this book is filled with nostalgic references (ABBA, anyone?) as they grow up.  Music references are a huge part of this story. 

Here’s what I didn’t like:  I’ve already heard this story!  I’ve seen Beaches like a billion times and I  watched Lifetime movies every Saturday and Sunday through 2002 and 2003 (don’t you dare judge me!).  There was really nothing in this storyline or characters I hadn’t seen already somewhere.  And honestly, that is pretty okay with me for the most part – it was just a bit disappointing.

Book Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

26 May

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman: Book CoverRating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

What a perfect start to spring!  

I found this book so refreshing in a couple different ways.  First, the imagery is extraordinary.  The story begins in northern Ohio (really close to where I really live actually) but most of it takes place in Georgia.  The descriptions of the Savannah heat, old plantation homes with lush flower gardens, and real southern hospitality were so illustrative, I swear I actually smelled honeysuckle!   This book was refreshing to me because it was a perfect departure from the heavy books I’ve been reading.  It’s almost as if my reading choices follow the seasons, and I was ready to read something more vibrant and colorful. 

This book reminded me a bit of The Help, but really only because they take place in the same time period and area.  Saving CeeCee is told from the perspective of CeeCee herself, and she is 12 at the start of the book, which makes the overall perspective was much more innocent than that of The Help, even though there is some seriousness to the overall tone of the book.   I gave it a 3.5, though, because it was a bit boring in parts.  Not slow, per se, but there were parts where what was happening wasn’t all that interesting.

The Beach House by Jane Green

22 Jul

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve found that how well you like a novel depends on what you expected from it to begin with.  If you  expect a book to deliver something specific to you (tears, suspense, a thrill, etc.) and it doesn’t, you don’t like the book.  If it meets what you expected you like it, and if it exceeded, you love it.   My expectations used to be way too high which led me to be frequently disappointed.  I had no flexibility with my expecations either – every book must have a plot that blows me away, or a character that is something I’ve never seen before, or make me cry from the 3rd page.  I still set my expectations pretty high, but I’m trying to get better at taking certain books for what they are meant to be – just a nice story that occupies my time.   Not everything has to be some earth-shattering concept that changes how I look at the world!  Setting my expectations more realistically has helped a ton in my enjoyment of reading.  It has taken some practice since I tend to be an extreme realist, but overall this is coming much more easily for me.

The Beach House is a perfect example of one novel I needed to be careful with when setting expectations.  Several years ago I would have passed it up because it wouldn’t be a book to have a profound message.  Now, I simply save it for a time when I want to read something that I expect to hold my attention.  Nothing profound, just tell me a story.  I need to relax.  And sure enough, when I asked the book to deliver that, it did.  Well!   

The main character in this story is Nan, an older, quirky woman who lives alone in a huge old house on the shores of Nantucket.  She live by herself and find she is in need of money so she decides to rent out her house to island visitors.  The house becomes filled with guests and her son joins the mix too.  They bring their own lives and experiences and create a unique dynamic in the house.  The ending has some twists to it, which surprised me. 

This novel was well written with the right amount of description to get you to know and understand the characters.   I liked Nan and all of the other characters just fine.  The Nantucket setting was so great – I could almost smell the salty air when I was reading this.   The plot was developed at a nice pace and all of the story lines were interwined nicely.  The story was heartwarming and touching, but not overly emotional. 

I recommend this book if you want something to hold your attention – it’s light-hearted and fun and  reminds you of a warm sunny beach vacation.