Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holding my opinion until

The most bizarre thing happened to me. I was reading Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty and hit page 138--which could've been the ending--or not. I don't know because the book REPEATED itself. It jumped from page 138 back to page 110 again. It was so bizarre! I even skim read those pages just to make sure it wasn't a postmodern ending or something like that. Nope. The printers had simply screwed up majorly and repeated a few chapters.

How sad for me! Now I have to request it from another library to see how it actually ends. (On a side note, sometimes books on Amazon have a "Look Inside" feature, which I have discovered how to manipulate. I've read whole chapters with that feature...but sadly, Cicada Summer did not have that feature available.) Until then, I'll hold my opinion of the book....other than this: isn't that a GORGEOUS cover?? It's simply beautiful and old-fashioned and a work of art.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spies = Fun

My friend Julie recommended Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You as a really fun read. She was so right!

Sixteen-year-old Cameron "Cammie" Morgan is a spy-in-training. She, along with about 100 other girls, attend the Gallagher Academy, a special preparatory school that teaches the girls all they'll ever need to know about being spy. (The descriptions about their classes are farfetched and yet so fun. Carter does a good job of making everything believeable--you can almost swallow the whole story without any hiccup. Since I love spy stories, I happily accepted everything she said.)

When Cammie meets an ordinary guy while out on a mission, she falls for him. But is he a good guy? Cammie and her friends do a bit of recon work on him (which, again, is really funny and entertaining) to make sure he's alright. He appears to really like Cammie--but can the super spy and the ordinary boy actually date?

I really like this book. It's fun, full of hilarious asides about spy escapades and even my brother admitted it looked good. It's an easy read that's thoroughly entertaining.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The worst spy ever

I liked M. L. Tyndall's pirate series. Sadly her latest work does not involve pirates, but rather the world's worst spy.

Okay, seriously, to read and enjoy this book, give up any expectation for realism. The characters, action, etc. do not fit the early 1800s. And while it is a Christian romance, it's probably one of the "edgier" ones.

Here's the plot: Dominique is being forced to spy for France in order to save her brother's life. She unwillingly does so, agreeing to become a governess for an English admiral's son. Surprise, surprise: the governess and admiral fall in love/lust. There's emotional turmoil because the (young) admiral has been widowed; he doesn't belive in God anymore; and dang, that governess is hottttt. Dominique, on the other hand, is the world's worst spy; it is simply amazing that the admiral was too blind to see her actions.

Anyway, there's a happy ending and all that, including the admiral turning back to God. That was probably my biggest issue of the book. I firmly, firmly believe that you need to marry someone on your spiritual level--and someone who believes the same as you. Otherwise, you're heading for a load of trouble. Dominique is a Christian and the admiral has turned his back on God. He starts to pray at the end and everyone seems to think that everything is all right again. There wasn't true repentance and salvation; it was a "ok, let's make everyone okay with God so they can get married" ending.

I think the best example of that sort of ending is the Cheney Duvall series--Shiloh actually leaves her and goes away for awhile to fully develop a true relationship with God, without any distractions. That spoke true sincerity to me and a putting of God first above everything else. I didn't see that in this book.

Rating: 6/10

Why I like YA lit...and an example

I thoroughly enjoy young adult fiction, partly because I skipped over that genre when I was young. Throughout school, I always read several levels ahead of my age, so when I approached junior high and was starting to choose adult books that were not-quite-appropriate, my mom nudged me toward the classics, where I'd be sure to find a challenge. She was right--and that's how I met Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Fitzgerald and more. But nowadays, I'm savouring the fun reads that YA fiction offers, perhaps in an effort to make up for some lost reads...and lost time (I want a book I know I can finish in a day or two, as opposed to the two weeks that The Mysteries of Udolpho took me.

The latest YA offering I've read is E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Let's be honest; that is a FABULOUS title.

And a fabulous cover! I love it--and it's one of those rare books that has a cover that actually relates to the book. In the case of this one, that letter (and the seal) pushes the main action of the book forward.

The book is pitched as a story of Frances "Frankie" Landau-Banks' boarding school pranks. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it is, but don't go into this book thinking it's a tale of pranks. It's much more.

Here's the crux of the story: Frankie is being denied entry into a secret club of future history-makers merely because she's a female. She knows she's smarter than the male members and just as worthy of entry into the club, so she proves it.

There was a strong dose of feminism in the writing...I thought it felt a bit preachy at times. Which reminds me of another aspect that I found interesting in the book: Lockhart, through Frankie, explores some random aspects of modern history, including urban explorers, architecture as repression and a few other random topics. It was interesting but, maybe just to my eyes, a bit obvious. Perhaps that's just because I'm not 15, but it was something I noticed.

Overall I'm just a bit wobbly on whether I liked this book or not. I was expecting it to be a funny story but it was more of a "girl learns that females are not given as many opportunities as men, tries to right that wrong, and instead learns that it's impossible--oh, and you should fall in love with someone who values your mind, not your looks." Maybe this is E. Lockhart's story and she wanted to impart her wisdom? Anyway, I still love the cover and title.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

March is such a long time away

I devoured Colleen Gleason's When Twilight Burns and now have to wait until March until the last book of the series comes out. March is also when Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn comes out.

I want to read these books now. March is SUCH a long time away!

Utter classic

I adore Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. I first read it years ago in high school and fell in love immediately with the story.

The tale is set during the French Revolution. A band of Englishmen, led by the mysterious and unidentified Scarlet Pimpernel, defy the French revolutionaries to save the aristocrats who are being slaughtered. With disguises and sheer cunning, these men save the lives of many.

But who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? And when beautiful and clever Lady Marguerite Blakeney--and her dim-witted husband Sir Percy Blakeney--are forced into the affairs of the Scarlet Pimpernel by an evil Frenchman, will the Scarlet Pimpernel's identity be discovered?

I don't want to give away too much about the plot, but it's such a fun, fabulous read. There's disguises, an intense (that's not the best word, but I can't think of a better one...the story isn't exactly all sugar and spice, but you become so involved and root for the couple...) love story and a happy ending. There's suspense and humor and disguises...just go read it!

And when you've read it, then read another favorite series of mine by Lauren Willig, which also features flowered-named spies during the French Revolution.

Rating: 10/10

Monday, November 17, 2008

I like her books

Let me just say I have been thoroughly enjoying Colleen Gleason's books. Her books are just pure pleasure reading.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another first

This must be my week of first reads of authors I've heard so much about, because I finished Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice this morning.

The story is a fantasy. Aly, the daughter of a spy and a warrior (both of whom are nobles), is kidnapped and sold as a slave to another noble family in a different land. Aly plots her escape but before she can enact her plans, fate intervenes in the form of a god. The trickster god (his name is very Greek-ish and I can't remember how to spell it right) makes a wager with her that will last just one summer; being a bold, smart girl, she accepts. Aly puts to use all she's learned from her warrior mother and spy father to keep the wager...and to keep alive.

The book is related to Pierce's earlier works, The Song of the Lioness quartet, which actually follows Aly's mother. So...there was a fair amount that zipped over my head, simply because I didn't know the backplot. I hate when that happens, but I admit, it's my own fault for not looking into the series more before I dived in.

Still, the story was well-written, interesting, fleshed-out characters and all in all a great YA read.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Layered with fairy dust

First of all, can I just say it's snowing here again? My word, it's only the second week in November and already it's snowed numerous times. Thank you lake effect snow.

One of my favorite Disney movies is Sleeping Beauty, which I'm shocked to learn was released in the 1950s. (I was completely positive it was released in the 1930s.) Anyway, Robin McKinley's Spindle's End takes the classic fairy tale and twists it up.

All the creatures on the front cover slightly creeped me out but they ended up being very appropriate for the story. Still, this book has earned the tag "creepy eyes."

The story follows the basic plot of Sleeping Beauty: a princess is cursed by an evil fairy--she will die by pricking her finger on a spindle. However, a good fairy (actually fairies) step in and raise the princess as their own, hiding her from the evil fairy and all prickly spindles.

McKinley really fleshes out the story, adding in characters and extra plot lines. There's also much detail about fairies, magic and talking with animals. This book is definitely a fantasy. I want to re-read the fairy tale itself to compare with this story--because we all know Disney makes very-happy-versions of fairy tales. (In the actual Little Mermaid story, Ariel turns into foam. No Prince Eric, etc. Just foam.)

One last note: Princess Briar Rose is blessed with all sorts of silly things--long, golden hair, a sweet singing voice, graceful feet, etc. I was prepared to hate this perfect girl, but McKinley doesn't make her beautiful or perfect! Instead, Rosie was an accessible character, one that was utterly ordinary. I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed that.

This book was well-written and while targeted to a YA audience, it's absolutely great for adults, too. This was my first McKinley book; I think I'll be picking her up again.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not so much

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you may have picked up that I like Elizabeth Peters. When I heard that she was writing another Vicky Bliss book, obviously I had to read it.

The Laughter of Dead Kings is the final book for the series--and written only 14 YEARS AFTER the last book in the series, which to my mind, felt like a series finale.

What can I say about Laughter? It was okay--by far not my favorite of Peters' work--and just didn't capture my fancy. The series has spanned years and years; the first book technically in the series was written in the '60s. But this newest book just felt too rooted in the modern era. Cell phones, texts and email abounded. While that's obviously accurate, it's just not what I want from a book by Peters. She does note this incongruity in the introduction but whatever, I still didn't like it.

The plot is similar to any other Vicky Bliss plot; however, characters from all the books are brought back. And at the end, Peters inserts herself, which was mildly amusing.

Basically, I have to admit I skim read it. Oh well, c'est la vie. On a positive note, I made absolutely delicious scones tonight, which is going to brighten up my morning.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Book vs. Movie

If you're a woman, you've probably seen the movie Chocolat. Well, the book version of Chocolat (by Joanne Harris) is, um, VASTLY different than the movie version (and it was the original).

Here's my version of the movie: Magical chocolate lady with daughter moves to French city. She makes magical chocolate, everybody eats it, they're happy, fall in love, etc. She falls in love with a gypsy. Everybody's happy, yay, yay, yay. There may have been a conflict but I don't really remember it.

Here's my version of the book: Witch lady with daughter moves to French city. She makes chocolate but it doesn't make everybody happy or really have that magical of powers. She clashes with the town priest, helps people defy him, etc. After pages of subtle digs and not-so-subtle digs at the Catholic church, the priest (and Easter) is defeated by chocolate and pagan happiness. Oh, and yeah, there's a gypsy man but he ends up with somebody else.

Can you see why I'm having trouble digesting the book version? Obviously I have to view them as two separate creations because their stories are so different. The book gave the movie its very basic outlines but wow, the screenplay writers added so much more--and made it a happy, much lighter story, too.

I really didn't enjoy Harris' continual slamming of Catholicism and Christianity. I'm a Christian--not Catholic--but I hate how she portrayed the Christian faith. Honestly, I barely finished the book. She's welcome to her opinion but I don't agree with it. So keep that in mind for my rating.

Rating: 5/10