Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Noble Intentions

Title: Noble Intentions
Author: Katie MacAlister
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Noble Britton (yes, that's his name) has been deeply scarred by his first wife's betrayal, and locks all emotion behind high walls. Gillian Leigh is honest, forthright, and incredibly loving. When these two acknowledge their instant attraction and marry, Gillian, now Lady Wessex, vows to bring down her new husband's emotional barriers, love her new stepson, and have lots of hot sex. Okay, so she doesn't vow the last bit, but it happens anyway.

I loved Katie MacAlister's contemporary romances, but the first time I gave this book a try I had a hard time with it. This time, however, I loved it. I got caught up in the story (a mystery regarding Noble's first wife, Elizabeth, and the circumstances surrounding her death). I laughed out loud throughout the book (which made reading half of it in the library rather difficult). Though the sex scenes aren't as graphic as in her contemporary romances, I understand the difference now - the difference in the attitude of the characters - and I like the book all the better for it.

To anyone who has read any of Katie MacAlister's other novels (either under that name, or under her YA pseudonym Katie Maxwell), I say: you will not be disappointed. Heck, I say that to anyone looking at this book! It's got romance, interesting characters, a (murder) mystery, and plenty of humor.

The Wednesday Sisters

Title: The Wednesday Sisters
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Five women - Frankie, Kath, Linda, Brett, and Ally - meet in their neighborhood park starting in the late 1960s. Together they write, read each others' writing, and weather all that life has in store for them.

Author Meg Waite Clayton hit the nail on the head with this one! I know I'm not saying much, but that's because I'm trying not to squee, which I know is not conducive to reviews. What can I say about The Wednesday Sisters without squeeing? The Wednesday Sisters really touched something in me - both their experiences writing and their experiences outside of writing. I had never really thought about what life was like for women just older than my mother, who was in junior high at the time of this novel. I knew that women have made strides forward in the last forty years, but I had no idea just how large those strides have been - imagine not being allowed in the New York Marathon simply because of your plumbing!

As an aspiring writer myself, this book is a treasure. It reminds me that writing is not just making one draft, and that even if you get sixty-two rejections, send it out again; number sixty-three could be an acceptance. That I don't have to write a great first draft, or even second draft - that's what revision and editing is for. That even though I'm just me, I can and should write and aspire to be published.

The Wednesday Sisters is a gem. I highly recommend it to all women, to aspiring writers, and to friends, or anyone with friends. So, everyone, basically. In fact, I've already asked my mother to read it, and believe that her book club will love this book.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Journal of Curious Letters

Title: The Journal of Curious Letters
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Source: Library Thing's Early Reviewers
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Tick is a nearly normal 13-year old. He's a bit nerdy and loves solving puzzles, and never takes off the scarf which covers his birthmark (even in the summer).

Then one day he receives a mysterious letter in the mail which changes his life forever.

"The Journal of Curious Letter" is amusing, and I think I will be reading the rest of the series as it is released in paperback, but I did have some issues with it.

I know that my copy was an unproofed ARC, but there were several typos and/or omitted words. The author also tries too hard in places to be funny, and has an unnatural obsession (it seems) with the number 3.

The Shop on Blossom Street

Title: The Shop on Blossom Street
Author: Debbie Macomber
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Two-time cancer survivor Lydia decides that she is going to live life to the fullest (well, we'll see about that) and open up a yarn & knitting shop in Seattle. Through her shop & the beginning knitting class she offers she makes friends & we see the lives of four very different women - who aren't really all that different in the end.

My initial thoughts while reading it were as follows:

(around page 114) - This book as quite a few thoroughly unlikeable characters, but I feel myself drawn to read on. Maybe I'm hoping they will realize the error of their ways and repent by the end of the novel?

(around page 247) - I don't really like the way the narratorial voice switches from first-person POV for Lydia's chapters to third-person POV for the other three main characters. Also, Lydia doesn't quite like to stay speaking in the past tense. It bothers me, and makes me think Ms. Macomber's editor could have done a better job.

My thoughts now that I've finished it:

Yes, it has some trite moments, and the writing style bothers me at points, but I'll be reading the next book in the series, and I think I'll give her Cedar Cove series a try, as well. Perhaps even her romances. Knowing that Debbie Macomber is a romance writer, I knew that there were going to be happy endings pretty much all 'round - and I wasn't disappointed. Everyone (except one character) ends up happy. The one thing that bothered me was Alix's transformation from semi-punk girl to "pretty" girl in order to be happy. Yes, the young man she ends up with liked her before the transformation, but it bothered me that Macomber felt the need to physically transform Alix before giving her the happy ending. What's wrong with a punk/goth girl being happy?

Overall, this book is a feel-good read for knitters and non-knitters alike. Knitters will understand the friendship that knitting provides, and non-knitters will still like the story following the four women. If you don't mind semi-predictable happy endings, go for this book - I mean it!

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Title: Specials
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tally is now a Cutter, a special Special - designed to hunt down and take out the New Smoke, wherever it may be. However, she still has some troubles. She needs Zane, her old boyfriend, to be Special like the Cutters (so named because they cut themselves to retain "icy" clarity from the overwhelming input their new bodies and senses give them). In order to convince Special Circumstances to turn Zane Special, she and Shay devise a plan, a tricky plan, one that will change not only their lives but the entire world.

I loved this book! It went along at the same fast-paced speed as Uglies: as fast as Tally's new hoverboard or as her reflexes as a Special. I couldn't put it down except when I was too tired to keep my eyes open. I wanted to know what was going to happen - was Zane going to be alright? Were Shay and Tally ever going to be reconciled? Were David and Tally ever going to be reconciled? What was going to happen to the New Smoke, to Tally's city, and to Diego (the city Tally eventually tracks old friends to)?

I highly recommend this series! It has so much going on - sci-fi, dystopian fiction, a social commentary, an environmental commentary, and the list goes on. And it does it all flawlessly, in a fast-paced, high-adrenaline story you can't stop until the last page is done. I've got the next book, Extras, on hold at the library and am eagerly waiting my turn with it.


Title: Pretties
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tally Youngblood, now pretty, is having the time of her life - or so she thinks. She's beautiful, healthy, and completely spoiled. Encouraged to party and "surge" (surgically alter herself) and be generally vapid, Tally gets twinges that she's not happy like she's supposed to be. Then she gets a message from her old, ugly self. She knows what's wrong. She and her clique, the "Crims," attempt to keep their heads clear - to keep "bubbly" instead of "pretty-headed" and to escape from the clutches of the city authorities known as Special Circumstances.

Pretties was a good follow-up to Uglies, though not quite as gripping. True, it was still fast-paced and when I picked it up I didn't want to put it down, but I didn't have the driving urge to pick it back up once I'd put it down that I had when I read Uglies. That could have been because Tally was already pretty and was constantly fighting the pretty-headed fog surgically altered into her brain, and that fog certainly comes across in the prose of the book.

In all, I liked the book, and want to know what happens in Specials and then in Extras.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Miranda and the Warrior

Title: Miranda and the Warrior
Author: Elaine Barbieri
Source: San Jose Public Library
Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Miranda, a painfully proud young woman (who happens to be the daughter of the commanding officer of the local fort) finds herself in a sticky situation: she has been captured by the local Cheyenne, and given as a gift to Rattling Blanket, an old woman who has trouble caring for herself. Her pride refuses to let Miranda do anything except sit and pout, and demand to be taken back to the fort. However, the girl has eyes and slowly falls for Shadow Walker, the young warrior who captured her in the first place and who takes it on himself to show her the Cheyenne way.

Honestly, this book was not that great. It was fun, but not at all believable. Apparently all it takes for Miranda and her captor to fall in love is a week-long trip in which Shadow Walker swings between trying to show tough love (for which Miranda resents him), and showing outright compassion (which just plain confuses the girl). Stockholm syndrome much?

Teens - especially young teens - may like this book; anyone with a little more sense than hormones will find it to be, again, unbelievable. It had potential if it were a full-length romance novel, but as it is, it falls far short of the mark. I can only hope the rest of the line makes up for what this offering lacks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Missing Matchmaker

Title: The Missing Matchmaker
Author: Cindy Holbrook
Source: Santa Clara County Library
Rating: 1 star out of 5

When I first picked up this book from the library, I expected a typical Zebra Regency Romance, with a little bit of mystery thrown in. What I got was a jumble of plots and way too many side characters to understand the story - I couldn't even finish the book! I tried to force myself through it, and ended up giving up (having given up trying to understand the convoluted assassination/abduction/matchmaking plot(s) long before that) about fifty pages from the end.

Add to that the fact that the heroine is.. well, not too great (incredibly naive, and determined to be a "wild woman" by saying "jumping Jehosephat," "Sweet Mary's night rail" and devoting her life to reading anything except the religious sermons her late father restricted her to), and the hero can't make up his mind as to whether he likes the heroine or is still in love with the chit who played him last Season, and I will NOT be picking this one back up ever again. Thank goodness I only got it from the library, and didn't waste money buying it.

Hard Day's Knight

Title: Hard Day's Knight
Author: Katie MacAlister
Source: Border's
Rating: (no rating)

This was my first "descent" into romance. Last year a few months after my local Renaissance Faire ended I was going through withdrawal (hey, I'm a Rennie, so what?) and went searching for books involving Faires. I found Hard Day's Knight, and rolled my eyes, thinking "Oh, god, romance. What have I come to, to be reading romance?", and bought it anyway. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Hard Day's Knightactually has a plotline, and though it has sex, the sex is not the point of the book itself (a fact which relieved me greatly: if I want pr0n there's lots of fanfic on the internet). While I couldn't imagine a Faire being anything like the one depicted in the book, it sated my withdrawal at least a little bit, and got me hooked on the author.

Pure fluff, but loads better than a lot of romances I've seen (mostly my roommate's books, which, I'm sorry Steph, make me cringe). Definitely a nice escape from the Literature I'm supposed to be studying (which makes my brain hurt).

Oh, btw: I'm loving Romance now. *grin*

Sharpe's Rifles

Title: Sharpe's Rifles
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Source: Border's
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Although I don't usually like military history, I did enjoy this book. That could have been because I completely love the "Sharpe" DVD series - though the book was nothing like the movie, so maybe not. The style drew me in - dry enough to fit the genre, but not so dry that I did not care about the characters or the events. Those coming to this book expecting it to be what the movie was will be disappointed; those who come to it expecting a good story will not be disappointed in the least.

Looking for God in Harry Potter

Title: Looking for God in Harry Potter
Author: John Granger
Source: Border's
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

This book is one of my favorite pieces of meta. I'm a Christian attending/working at a Christian college, and a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. This book is interesting to read there - it's certainly a conversation starter.

Granger (no relation to the character by the same name) goes in depth looking at the Christian imagery and heritage of the Harry Potter books. The topics he writes on range from the imagery of alchemy to the choices one makes affecting one's life and one's walk with God. Granger's theology is sound, based directly on the Bible, and not necessarily on any one denomination or theologian.

Wuthering Heights

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
Source: Bethany University bookstore
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I have very mixed feelings about this book. While it's a beautiful book, and I will probably read it again, I could not stand the story! All of the characters are horrible people, in my opinion, and the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was the last two chapters. If I had not had to read this for class, I would not have finished it at all - though I am certainly glad I did finish it.

If you're looking to read the Classics, definitely do read this. Same goes for if you're looking to read a classic romance, or one of the Gothic classics. However, if you're looking for a "good" book, one that will leave you happy or going "aww," you're at the wrong book.

Beka Cooper: Terrier

Title: Beka Cooper: Terrier
Author: Tamora Pierce
Source: Border's
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Beka Cooper: Terrier marks Tamora Pierce's venture into the history of Tortall, and her first book written from a first-person point of view. Terrier is written as Cooper's diary (though there are entries from the journals of several other characters, Cooper's journal makes up the vast majority of the book).

Cooper is a puppy - a trainee ofthe Provost's guard - in the Lower City at a time when people are disappearing without a trace, the King of the Thieves is lazy and has stopped really doing his duties, and children are disappearing - including the grandchild of the most powerful (and corrupt) landlord ofthe Lower City. Beka, through her ability to hear the ghosts that pigeons carry, becomes involved in the disappearances, and through her friends reports to us the intrigues in the Court of the Rogue.

This is a great start to a new series of Tortall, and I cannot wait to read the next book, to see what happens to this ancestor of the Rogue cum Spymaster, George Cooper.

Mary, Queen of France

Title: Mary, Queen of France
Author: Jean Plaidy
Source: Border's
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Mary is the younger sister of Henry VIII, and he dotes on her. This book covers much her life - her betrothals to princes of Europe, her miserable marriage to the King of France, her love affair with Charles Brandon (the king's best friend), and finally her marriage to Brandon against her brother's wishes - a very dangerous game to play against Henry VIII.

The book's pacing was not even. At times the story raced and I flew through the pages; at other times it dragged on and seemed much longer than its 290 pages. Overall I liked the book, and I'm planning on eventually collecting all of the re-published books by Jean Plaidy.

Ella Enchanted

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Source: unknown
Rating: (no star rating)

"Ella Enchanted" caught my attention from the moment it came out, and it's had a special place on my bookshelf ever since. I've always been interested in Cinderella stories, so when I saw "Ella Enchanted" in the store, I knew I had to buy it. And buy it I did. I read through it in a matter of hours.

"Ella Enchanted" is a re-telling of the Cinderella story set in a fantasy world of trolls and ogres and fairies that can do magic (but usually they don't). It follows the basic plotline of Cinderella: a girl is forced to do what her stepmother and stepsisters say until she can marry her prince. But from there out, Levine takes the story into her own world and puts her own spin on things.

If you've seen the move but haven't read this book, be warned: the scriptwriters for the movie drastically changed things.They kept the same basic principle, but changed the story almost entirely, and made the movie much more frivolous than the book. I encourage you to read this book, but don't start it expecting it to mirror the movie, or vice-versa.


Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Source: Border's
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Uglies takes place in a utopian/dystopian (yes, it can be both) America several hundred years in the future. In this future, everyone turns "pretty" (ie, has a surgery to bring one's body and face to a physical point which is very close to average, and biologically pleasing) on their sixteenth birthday - and pretties are not only beautiful, but vapid, vain, and entirely focused on having fun.

Tally is looking forward to the operation and being able to rejoin her friend Peris, until her friend Shay shows her a different option: run away to the wilderness and the Smoke, never turn pretty but keep your own choices. When Shay herself runs away to the Smoke, leaving Tally behind to have the operation she is so looking forward to, the authorities (Special Circumstances) offer Tally a terrible choice: go after Shay and turn her and the Smoke in, or never. Ever. Have the operation and turn pretty. The choices she makes and the information she discovers changes her life forever.

I found it hard to get through the first few chapters. Until Tally meets Shay, she is as vapid as the pretties she is eager to join. However, once the two girls meet, the book just FLIES. The only reason it took me two days to finish it instead of one is because I started it very late in the night and didn't want to stay up until dawn.

This is truly a book I would recommend to any fan of young adult fiction and/or sci-fi.

First Post!

This blog is pretty much intended to be a record of my reviews, thoughts, etc. of books I read - whether I finish them or not. I love books, but I don't love ALL books. And hey, if you want to send me a book to read & review, please do! (I will, however, be honest: I won't give a book a good review simply because I got it for free. I'll give it the review I believe it deserves, good or bad.)

...And that was incredibly pompous of me. Meh. If you're reading this (which I assume you are), basically: these posts are my reviews of books I finish there's no real rhyme or reason to what books I read when - except that I get on kicks sometimes: Romance, mystery, historical fiction, certain authors, etc.