Friday, May 29, 2009

My twin?

I have a few blogs that I read in fell swoops every now and then--one being The YA YA YAs. I was catching up on it today and discovered a hilarious post that mentions my blog. Evidently Trisha from The YA YA YAs and I have eerily similar taste in our reading choices...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Explemary Novel as to Why You Shouldn't Run Away

Back in August, I read Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys. It had a hilarious appendix with descriptions about various books her book had satirized. One such book was Toby Tyler: or: Ten Weeks with a Circus by James Otis, or as I prefer to call it An Explemary Novel as to Why You Shouldn't Run Away From Home.

The plot is a little boy's fantasy come true: Toby Tyler runs away from his "mean" uncle and joins a circus. However, circus life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Toby's boss is harsh and whips Toby and yells at him when he doesn't sell enough lemonade. Toby makes a friend, though, in Mr. Stubbs aka a bad monkey. (I think he's a naughty monkey--he throws away Toby's money and tears up all their food when they're running away for the second time.) So Toby's unhappy, wishes he had never run away and spends his free time plotting to run home. After numerous trials, Toby finally does run away, where he is utterly forgiven. (And on a side note, Uncle Daniel asks Toby to stay with him until he DIES--but in a "oh, Toby, you're like my son; I love you; stay with me" kind of way.)

Classic stuff, indeed.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bleh reads

Some reads from last week and brief opinions:

Reluctant Burglar by Jill Elizabeth Nelson -- The cover copy really made it seem as if this book would be full of art theft and capers...but it really wasn't. That is one trouble with Christian fiction; some of the most intriguing story lines can involve morally wrong actions. So how does an author work around that?

Anyway, Burglar was more of a organized crime/FBI sort of book than an art heist novel. Whatever. It just didn't capture my fancy at all. To quote one Amazon reviewer, it's "vanilla."

Rating: 6/10

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner -- Book two in a series, following The Thief, which I remember liking okay. Turner's writing just must not do it for me. All the talk of war and battle strategy didn't captivate me, either. The book does has some surprising twists and I know many bloggers have raved over it, so evidently it does appeal to some people, just not me.

Rating: 7/10

Maybe I was just in a cranky reading mood? Ah, well, life goes on...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Times

I'm happy because:

1. Chuck has been renewed!

2. Dollhouse has been (shockingly) renewed! Seriously, I had about an ounce of hope it'd get a second season; everything I read said Fox was absolutely merciless and is all about ratings (and Dollhouse doesn't have great ratings). Yet, a network FINALLY took DVR recordings and online viewings into account (which makes sense for a show aired on Friday night...sheesh). Fox, thank you for giving us more of this fabulous show!

3. I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and adored it. The plot seemed a little sketchy to me (a bunch of kids forced by the government to fight to the death) but it was so well-written and engrossing. It makes me happy to read a book that I wouldn't normally read but then end up loving it. That's when I tell myself risk can be a good thing.

Rating: 10/10

4. I'm neutral emotionally toward Robin McKinley's Beauty; it didn't make me happy or sad. It was a nice retelling of Beauty and the Beast, complete with her own little reworkings. Good YA read but I think I like her adult books more.

Rating: 7/10

5. Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton was a really interesting read in that it features numerous chapters by different ancestors of the main character. Basic plot line: girl comes back to hometown and learns that her father is someone in the town and that her mother is distantly related to him. A genealogy search ensues. Also interesting is that the main girl is kind of a snobby jerk. She's not exactly an anti-hero but is certainly flawed. Intriguing, postmodern book.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It's evidently been my week of Hanna/Hannahs. First, German Hanna from The Reader and now author Hannah Tinti.

Fun cover, eh? It makes you think it's a YA novel but don't be fooled. The Good Thief starts out in a YA vein but then evolves into something I wouldn't want my child to read. It wasn't crude or vulgar but did have some scenes involving grave digging (with lots of detail about the dead bodies and such), people getting beat up and other sorts of things that an older reading audience (say 11 and up) could appreciate the details more and not get grossed out/scared. It could've been a good YA novel but as the book went on, it just didn't read like one.

The plot is rather Dickensesque. Ren, our young hero, is an orphan living at a Catholic orphanage. He's also missing a hand, which has scared off anyone who would've adopted him. Ren's luck changes when Benjamin Nab adopts him...but it turns out Benjamin is a thief. Fortunately for Benjamin, Ren is also a thief, a naturally talented one.

Benjamin and Ren meet up with Tom, a friend of Benjamin's. They con people, steal stuff, etc. The guys end up in a certain town, where all sorts of plotlines are created and tie together. Tinti definitely created a convoluted plot, but I thought for the most part, it worked--at least in the world that she had created.

I like Tinti's style of writing; it's flowy and detailed and again, reminiscent of Dickens. I bet her later works will be even better--after all, this was her first novel.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

That shameful? Really?

While I haven't seen the movie, The Reader seemed to have a fairly interesting plot, so I picked it up. Am I glad I did? Meh.

To preface, the story is set in 1950s Germany. Michael Berg is 15 years old and has hepatitis. He meets Hanna, a woman in her mid-30s, who finds him sick outside her apartment one day. Michael, once he feels better, goes to visit her...and ends up sort of being seduced? And they end up having an affair for months and months. Hanna requests that Michael reads to her; he does and that becomes a major part of their relationship.

The story is broken into three parts: Michael's teen years, his 20s and then 30s-ish. Hanna saturates his entire life, preventing him from really moving on in his life (at least in my opinion). Hanna has deep secrets of her own, which set up the theme for the book.

Overall, the book was okay but I didn't really sympathize with Hanna or Michael. I can understand the effect she had on him but I couldn't comprehend her one secret (the non-fire related one) and why she wouldn't try to correct it until it was too late. She was that ashamed of it? Really? I'm such a doer that I can't handle not fixing her situation. Ah well.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Doom and the West

First up, what an incredible season finale of Dollhouse! I really hope it's not the series finale because the last few episodes have been amazing and I think next season could really rock. The big reveals in the show completely surprised me--I love TV shows that employ a good twist every now and then (cf. Veronica Mars). So here's hoping Fox renews it...and NBC renews Chuck. Oh, and that ABC renews Samantha Who?. Yep, every network show I watch is on the edge. To quote my mother, "if you like a show, it must be doomed." Sadly, it appears to be true. Let's hope that's not true for books, too....

If I remember right, there was a decent hoopla about Gil Adamson's The Outlander. Enough of a hoopla that I added it to my TBR list, anyway.

The story follows "the widow," who is fleeing her twin brother-in-laws. She's fleeing because she murdered her husband and the twins want revenge. So she runs for her life and meets people, who generally help her out. The book is presented as a tale of survival: the widow fleeing across the Wild West, struggling to survive. Parts of the book surely are that but a big chunk of the book details her life in a little mining town.

I didn't love the book; the sympathy for the widow never fully developed. You never fully get her story, either. Personally, I think she's crazy and a murderess. This makes me ashamed of my English major self, but I didn't really get the ending--the last page or so. I just have oodles of questions and no answer. (For instance: Did the widow run away again? Or was she just being cute in writing what she did? How'd she learn to write? Gaaaah.)

It's a decent read with some nice descriptive, intelligent writing but overall, I just kept thinking that the book wanted to be something different and deeper than it actually was. But it wasn't.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Baby Strikes Again

While browsing through the new book shelves at my library, I stumbled across Janet Mullany's The Rules of Gentility. Why it's in the "new" book section, I don't know, as it came out about two years ago, but that sort of thing doesn't concern my library. (Just kidding, kind of, library. I love you!)

It looks like fun, right? Here's the description, courtesy of Amazon: "A delightful marriage of Pride and Prejudice with Bridget Jones's Diary, Janet Mullany's The Rules of Gentility transports us to the days before designer shoes, apple martinis, and speed dating—when great bonnets, punch at Almack's, and the marriage mart were in fashion—and captivates us with a winsome heroine who learns that some rules in society are made to be broken."

To an extent it was as described...except for a plot device that just really bothered me. And it's a slight spoiler, so read at your own caution. The device was a baby....the hero's baby with his mistress. Yikes. It just seemed so bizarre; the hero was actually really into being a father, even wanting his mistress to live on his estate, so he could be near the baby. The heroine seemed totally okay with it all. What woman would honestly be content with her husband's ex-lover living within throwing distance of them? And then I could see all sorts of issues with the hero favoring his firstborn with his legitimate children...goodness.

So the book was fun and light but I fell into the trap of placing myself in the heroine's shoes and found myself wanting to make different decisions than she did.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, May 1, 2009

Too attached to reality?

Maureen Johnson is funny; her blog makes his point quite, quite clear. However, 13 Little Blue Envelopes wasn't actually that hilarious, sadly. Some dialogue made me smile but overall, not as funny as some of her other works.

I'm not a huge fan of the cover; it kind of gives off a trashy feel to the book. And 13 Little Blue Envelopes not trashy in the least. Unrealistic, yes, but not unclassy.

My biggest issue with the book is its sheer lack of unrealism. Here's the plot: 17-year-old Ginny receives a letter from her aunt, complete with cash and instructions to buy a ticket and fly to Europe. The kicker is that Ginny's aunt died earlier that year.

So Ginny--a MINOR--packs up BY HERSELF and goes to Europe, where she doesn't know what she'll be doing, where she'll be going or who she'll stay with until she opens each letter at its appointed time. She travels across Europe, meeting people and

Conceptually, I like the book. It's good plot for a coming-of-age story and the European locations are fabulous. But what kind of parents would'nt require their TEENAGE daughter to at least call once while she's over there? Most of the time, she travelled alone and no one knew where she was.

It's not that I am a devout fan of realism (I watch Dollhouse so obviously realism isn't always key for me)--but if I'm going to be handed a big dose of fantasy, I want to be able to accept it whole-heartedly (cf. Twilight). Aspects of the plot's mechanisms bugged me--simple things like.

Regardless, this wasn't my favorite book by Johnson but still not a bad read.

Rating: 7/10