Thursday, April 30, 2009

A book and a TV show that make me talk out loud

First up, Chuck's season finale made me laugh out loud and say "WHAT???" To quote my sister, it was awesome. Here's hoping NBC renews it for next season.

Swedish author Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was truly an interesting, engrossing read--one that will stick with me. I even dreamed about it (a high compliment, indeed!).

From the start, it's apparent that this is going to be a different sort of book. The protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, is sentenced to jail within the first chapter, guilty of libeling a very powerful financial guru. (And no, he doesn't get off. He serves his time.) When a wealthy man offers to help Mikael take down the guru in return for solving a murder that's haunted him for almost 40 years, Mikael accepts.

As a separate plot line that becomes entangled with Mikael's is Lisbeth Salander--a truly fascinating character who dresses like a punk rocker but is a brilliant investigator. Mikael and Lisbeth don't interact until at least midway through the book but their first scene is wonderful. Larsson does a fabulous job of creating characters--everyone is distinct.

The book is dark, however, and had a fascinating interweaving of violence against women and people's reactions to it. It wasn't exactly subtle, but the theme was so well-done that Larsson deserves props.

The very last page, though, made me say "WHAT?!?!?" and not exactly in a good way. It was understandable but not what I wanted for the ending--until I found out Dragon Tattoo is the first book in a trilogy. Phew! And from what I've read of book two, it's even better than this one.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A week's worth of reading...if I can remember

My last week was a fun, busy one so I didn't do a ton of reading. I finished reading High Adventure in Tibet by David Plymire. High Adventure is a biography of David's father, Victor Plymire, who went over to Tibet in the early 1900s to share about Christianity. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not living in that era--it sounded pretty primitive and rough. The story itself was very interesting, though.

I did pick up Mariana by Susanna Kearsley, too, just for a fun read.

Mariana follows modern-day Julia, who somehow is transported back in time as Mariana. Both women fall in love but Mariana's life is a bit harder...evidently Julia has to work out some issues as Mariana before both women can rest in peace. There were some reincarnation themes, etc. throughout the book to explain all of that. Anyway, the story switched between Julia's story and Julia-as-Mariana. I felt more vested in Julia's story and adored how the story ended for her.

While this isn't my favorite Kearsley, it was still an enjoyable read, mainly because she's such a descriptive and enticing writer.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More, more!

I've reached the end of Carol Goodman's writings--or at least her books. I'm a bit sad about that.

The Ghost Orchid is probably her best in terms of atmosphere. The story is set in an old mansion in New York, complete with decaying gardens and fountains. There's two plotlines going on: present day and a story from the Victorian Era. And, to be fair, an even earlier story from the 1700s...but Goodman ties them all together.

The story does focus on mediums and has a prominent ghost theme, which I don't care for, but I like Goodman so much I went for it anyway. Her imagery is lovely, though.

Sadly, my favorite part of the book is a short interview with Goodman at the end of the book and she mentions that her books do focus on water (Lake of Dead Languages, Seduction of Water, The Drowning Tree)--and that in Ghost, she purposely placed the water underground. I adored her interview--it was interesting, had great insight into her work--and how she works--and yeah, made me more of a fan.

Rating: 8.5/10

Immediately added to my wishlist

The title alone of this book convinced me to add it to my Amazon wishlist (aka my books I want to read but probably won't buy list): The Pale Assassin (Pimpernelles) by Patricia Elliott. It's the female league of the Scarlet Pimpernel!

Here's the description: "Eugenie de Boncoeur is growing up in Paris, unaware that her guardian has contracted her to marry the sinister spymaster known as 'le Fantome' when she turns sixteen. She finds herself falling for the handsome lawyer, Guy Deschamps, but there is little time for romance; France is descending into chaos as the Revolution takes hold. Soon Eugenie is fleeing for her life. Her brother Armand has become involved in a plot to save the King from the guillotine, the mob is searching for aristocrats, and le Fantome, the pale assassin, is on their trail - desperate for revenge."

Sounds like fun! Is it sad I'm already rooting for her to end up with le Fantome? I bet he'll turn out to be a good guy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A bit different from the usual

On a whim, several years ago, I picked up Suzanne Strempek Shea's Becoming Finola. The cover was pretty and the plot sounded interesting. I ended up loving the book and went on to read most of Shea's other novels. Sheas' Hoopi Shoopi Donna made me cry--and I don't cry easily while reading. So I went into her Lily of the Valley expecting tears. Instead, I ended up not caring about the narrator, Lily, or her story.

Lily is an artist who chose to stay in a small town, not doing much. Her big break comes when the richest lady in town asks her to make a painting of her family--but her family is all dead and Lily has to use old photographs to create the portrait. So the book goes back and forth, into Lily's past, as well as the rich old lady's. There isn't much of a plot to the book, other than Lily working on the painting.

One Amazon reviewer sad the book made her slightly depressed--and I can see why. Lily is 39, divorced, living in a little apartment in a small town, mainly doing grunt artwork to survive. She doesn't appear to have much ambition to do anything else, so my pity was pretty darn low. At the end, the "moral" of the book is that you choose your family, blah blah blah (can you tell I thought it was a bit preachy and overdone?). Evidently that makes poor, single Lily feel better--yeah, so it's clear I didn't think much of Lily or her art. At least no tears were shed.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weekend = No Reading

I started a new book this weekend but after a hundred pages or so, I said, "Rachel, do you really want to read this book or are you just reading it because you like the cover and think you should read it?" At that moment in time, the answer was a resounding "no, I don't want to read this book." Honestly, the book itself isn't that bad--I just didn't care about the topic matter--so I don't want to mention it by name. Maybe someday I'll give it another read.

I decided to pick up Mary Stewart's Madam, Will You Talk? instead. I first read this about a year ago and in re-reading my blog post about it, yeah, my opinion remains the same. It's a fun, action-packed story featuring numerous chases and a woman who can really drive. Lovely reading.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Was just the sophomore slump?

I'm wondering if Erynn Mangum's Rematch was just a case of sophomore slump, because her third book, Match Point, didn't irritate me at all.

For the following illustration, you should know my parents have two Jack Russell Terriers: Jack (clever name, eh? he's a Humane Society dog, so we didn't name him) is crazy and NEVER STOPS moving/barking/playing while Penny is old and likes to eat and sleep. While Rematch felt as if Jack wrote it, the third book felt as if Penny wrote it, with a few paragraphs written by Jack thrown in.

The third book has the tables turned on Matchmaker Lauren Holbrook: suddenly she's finding herself being set up for looooooooove. Everything turns out fine, with almost more resolution than I needed (for example, two people in the book need a house. They look at one house, decide it'll do just fine and boom! They bought it. Wow.)

Anyway, if you like chick-lit, you'll probably like this book.

Rating: 7/10

Lastly, let's give props to the cover designer. The colors just pop and the designs suit the books perfectly:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Couldn't accept

I read Erynn Mangum's Miss Match about two years ago and remember really enjoying it. It was cheery, bopped along and was pretty relatable to my life: the main character, Lauren Holbrook, is in her early 20s, living at home, loves chocolate and coffee and believes her calling is matchmaking. While I'm not a matchmaker, it was fun reading.

Fast to my present day reading of the second book in the series, Rematch, which didn't enchant me; it bugged me. It was many little things...Lauren only drinks coffee (and the occasional pop) and eats chocolate or junk food. For lunch, she'd have cheesecake. For dinner, it'd be a brownie sundae. AND YET SHE'S STILL SKINNY. Gaaaaaaaaahhhhh. Seriously, if anyone ate like that in real life, they'd weigh 250+ pounds. Perhaps it's because I work so hard to stay in shape and know that I can't overindulge, but I hate reading about people who eat a ton of crappy food and still are so thin. Maybe it's because I've moved on in my life and Lauren hasn't but I think our similarities have ended.

The book just felt like a Jack Russell Terrier wrote it--hyper, hyper, hyper. The dialogue was snappy and the book never seemed to drag; in fact, I wanted it to slow down at times. But again, one aspect that bugged me was that everyone--including people they just met--called each other "honey," "sweetheart," "dear," etc. Random guys would call their female friends "honey"--and they were honestly just friends. Um, that's abnormal. If it was just one person, I could've handled it. But seriously, EVERYONE did it.

And one last complaint: Lauren's dad's new girlfriend, in discussing marriage, says that she didn't meet her first husband until she was 25. In context though (and perhaps I'm just a bit sensitive on this subject), the girlfriend made it seem as though 25 was kind of old to find your mate and that Lauren still had plenty of time, as she was only 22 or 23. GAAAAAAHHH. I'm just praying I'll get married by my late, late 20s. I also read this weekend that a woman's fertility starts to decrease by age 25, so yeah, I'm screwed--old and infertile.

I know the author is young (I think she was 22 or 23 when she wrote the book) so I'm sure that as she matures, her writing and aspects of the plot will, too.

On a positive note, any elements of faith were extremely natural and woven in quite well. Her faith was part of the story. So props on that, Mangum.

I checked out book two and three at the same time, so I will read the third book.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chemistry? Yeah, Chemistry!

Sometime last year I read a review on The YA YA YAs about Perfect Chemistry. In their words, this is the book: "Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry is a teen romance full of clich├ęs, melodrama, an unrealistic denouement, and a completely over the top epilogue. And I freaking loved it. Ate it up with a spoon like it was an ice cream sundae."

Perfect Chemistry is about Alex, a Latino gang member, and Brittany, the "perfect" blond cheerleader. Forced to partner in their high school chemistry class, their very-different worlds collide and yes, it's chemistry.

The story is obviously unrealistic but so addictive. The short chapters switch between Alex and Brittany's point of views, which didn't bug me, suprisingly enough. You see their lives and their secrets and how they're meant for each other. And while the epilogue is completely over the top, I adored it.

Basically this book is sheer fun--don't take it seriously and enjoy the chemistry.

Rating: 9/10

What I've been reading

I have been a reading roll, checking off my TBR list. First, it was Snow Angel by Jamie Carie and then The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (which I bought at a library book sale either this summer or last year? I'm sad that I have no idea).

Snow Angel is Carie's first book and isn't it a pretty cover? Gorgeous colors. Anyway, the story follows Elizabeth, who is determined to mine for gold in Alaska. After being caught in a freak snow blizzard, she's about to freeze to death when she sees a lighted cabin. The cabin belongs to Noah, a hardy (and attractive) farmer/but-how-can-you-be-a-farmer-in-Alaska-so-yeah-I-don't-really-remember-but-he's-not-a-miner. Noah ends up falling in love with her but Elizabeth's secrets and her past hold her back.

The story had a nice faith aspect woven in, too. Connected with Elizabeth's struggle to trust Noah is her struggle to trust in God.

I didn't like it as much as Wind Dancer but Carie has restored some of my enjoyment in the Christian fiction department. I'll definitely read more of her books.

Rating: 7.5/10

I was randomly in the mood for nonfiction, which never happens, but I didn't have any checked out from the library. Thankfully I remembered I had The City of Falling Angels, which I bought because I loved Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Seriously Midnight was one of the first for-fun nonfiction books I ever read and it changed my thinking--nonfiction could be interesting, I realized.

I didn't love City like I did Midnight. It had one problem that I've noticed in nonfiction: a lack of a unifying theme. (And no, I didn't count "Venice" as a theme.) It rambled, examining different incidents and characters of Venice. There was a sort of "theme" in that he followed an arson case but that was truly scattered throughout. Anyway, it's an interesting look at a European city and unlike Savannah, I have no desire to visit it.

Rating: 7/10