Posts Tagged With: book review

Book Review: Golden Earrings – 5/5

Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra

golden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this book.

Do you ever read a historical fiction and think, “This must have happened.” It was so expertly woven, the truth and tales of the times intermingled with the fiction so beautifully I thought it had to be true. The richness of the story, though certainly not all uplifting, felt like something that just had to have happened. Of course, I realize that’s not the case, but I don’t think I’ll be able to ever think about the Spanish Civil War without imagining La Rusa’s impact.

I adored this (audio) book. It’s a historical fiction that reads like a mystery. I knew the instant I picked this up it would be a winner of my heart: Spain, flamenco, and ballet? It’s like Alexandra knew what draws me to a story and decide to put it all into one place – beautifully at that. If you don’t already have a soft spot for any of those items, you’ll be hard pressed to walk away from this tale without one.

What more is there to say? Paloma, Evelina, Celestina – Golden Earrings is a tale of strong women who are impacted by a terrible war. It’s a story about how people react when their lives are altered by others’ choices. It’s not a story about making all the right decisions. Each and every one of the characters in this novel make mistakes – very large mistakes – that send waves of impacts down the line for years. But mistakes don’t make a person, and Alexandra’s weaving of the characters shows that mistakes can be made by good people, but that good people aren’t immune to hard choices.

This is a little known novel that needs some serious love. It’s incredibly via audio book and I’m sure just as good on paper. Highly recommend,and I will definitely be picking up more of Alexandra in the future.

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Book Review: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella – 3/5

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Weddingnight

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I power read this book and, normally, with a power read, it means the book was soaring. Not so today. I really, really wanted to love this book (after all, I’ve Got Your Number is one of my favorite books out there) but it just didn’t happen. I tried. I read it with gusto. I laughed aloud at parts. I wanted the love to flow, and it just couldn’t happen.

Thinking back, there was just no one I felt I could root for. I like a good flawed characters but these ones were just too much. Fliss and Lottie, two sisters, did nothing by lie to each other (and truly, everyone) all the time. It became so frustrating – you got to the point as a reader where you just wanted all the action to stop and for some conversations to happen. It just seemed all too illogical. And – this is going to sound horrible – but the addition of Fliss’s child, Noah, was terrible. It just made her look like a horrible parent. Instead of being a comic relief, the child was obnoxious and made Fliss out to be completely incompetent at life. Without her son, I think I could have liked her. Don’t get me started with Lottie – she’s dumber than a box of rocks and I couldn’t identify with her at all.

Next, there is not one, not two, but three potential love interests in the book and – honestly – they all kind of suck. Each one is wrapped up in his own issues and, even though these issues chance and evolve, they never seem to truly mesh up to the right parts at the end. Lorcan gets the closest, but even he doesn’t make it there. It all just kind of… ends. I don’t get the sense that any of them will truly be happier because of it.

I’m disappointed by the book. I had some pretty high hopes. Parts are certainly cute and I did laugh aloud; the idea of the wait staff keeping the lovers at bay was hysterical. As this is my second Kinsella I won’t let it stop me from trying some of her other works, but it’s still painful. For me, it just missed the mark.

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YA Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green – 5/5

Paper Towns by John Green

Papertowns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Green is some kind of word magician. Or plot sorcerer. Or character wizard. I don’t know what exactly, but the point is that Green is filled with glitter and rainbows and confetti magic.

I devoured this book in less than a day. When I closed the final page I just gave one nod and said, “Nailed it.” Green knows exactly what he is doing in all his stories.

When a book is truly 5 stars I don’t feel like my reviews are needed. What’s there to say? Go read this book is pretty much sufficient. But, still, I suppose I can relay a little of what makes this beautiful.

I have never seen a better trio of boy friends. Q, Radar, and Ben are fantastic. Green’s dialogue is perfect. You can see each person, you can understand who they are, and, even better, you can understand why the three of them are friends. That’s a lot to know about people who aren’t the main stars in a relatively short book.

Then, of course, there’s Margo. Probably the only thing that is a stretch is the relationship between her and Q – it’s too stale in their history for it to start being friendly again now, but I’ll take it. Regardless, I love all the different ways we see her and the influence she can have on people.

There’s life lessons galore but there’s so much to giggle at as well. Such a wonderful book.

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YA Book Review: Mila 2.0 – 1/5

MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza

Mila

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

No. This book is just a giant no.

There are so many obnoxious things about this story. I really, really wish I hadn’t even finished it. I slogged through it because I had a theory and, of course, it wasn’t until I got to the end that it occurred to me I might not be able to test my theory until the next book in the series, and there’s no way I’m picking up that brick.

For a book about an android/cyborg/whatever you want to call Mila, it was freaking boring. Mila is the lamest machine-like-thing ever. She can do crazy ninja-like moves, which is cool if predictable, but what else? She can insert a microchip into her wrist (but can barely process it) and she has GPS. That’s it. So. Lame.

Nothing about what she is makes sense. “Mila” is supposedly some kind of weapon the U.S. has made? Why in the world would they EVER design an android weapon to take the shape of a teenage girl? Dumb. And this entire project is run by two scientists? Equally dumb.

There is just so much about this that is absurd. I can’t resist naming a few:

1) Kaylee, her so-called best friend of a month, tries to kill her over a boy who moved into town two days before. The crazy of that situation was so glossed over.

2) Mila’s “love” for a boy who, again, had been around for two days. Why? There is zero connection. I’m so suspicious of him but we don’t get any more information before the end of the book, so I have no way of knowing if my guess is right (seriously, though, Mila is on the run from a “secret organization” who “knows no bounds” and a strange guy shows up, all handsome, decides he loves Mila, and his name? HUNTER. *slow blink*)

3) Mila has all this attachment to her school, and friends, and horse, and mother, etc, but she’s truly only been “alive” for a month. For a machine with human feelings she has about 500% the amount of feelings anyone has for anything in that length of time.

And then – there’s the biggest, most ridiculous thing of all. It’s after Mila and her mother’s capture (sorry for the spoilers, seriously though, you don’t want to read this book) and the scientist is putting her through “tests. ” Apparently if she can show that she doesn’t have emotions (when they already know she does) then she can live. So they decide to put her through these tests using emotion as the main incentive for her to succeed. In the final test she literally has to go through a Tough Mudder-like course all the while watching TV screens of her mother slowly being burned to death.

I’m sorry but if Mila works so hard to win at these games isn’t that showing exactly how her emotions are controlling her actions and not her logic? A true machine would look at this obstacle course and be all like “that seems like a risk to a lot of people and myself just to save one woman.”

I always feel a little guilty when I go into these rants, but I just can’t get over how little sense this book made. If you were thinking about picking this up, just stop. If you want to read a good book about a young adult cyborg lady, pick up Cinder instead.

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Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible – 4/5

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

poisonwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I resisted picking up because I didn’t know what to expect. Books that talk about religion – good or bad – tend to make me antsy. I know next to nothing about any religion so I wasn’t sure how this would sit. Obviously, it sat well.

Kingsolver is such a fantastic writer. Politics and opinions in the book aside, she did an incredible job of making this story come alive. The Poisonwood Bible is told from the perspective of five different females whose lives are wholly changed by, truthfully, one man – the father of the family. I love how differently Africa changed each of them – turning inward, turning out, growth, death, and even stasis. I think we all have (or will have) an experience in our lives that change us forever. It was fascinating to see one event change so many characters.

Kingsolver’s writing is poetry. The way she describes not only the atmosphere and setting but also the thoughts are incredible. Each female voice is incredibly distinctive. Adah and Ruth May are particularly wonderful to read. I was able to enjoy this book on audio and the narrator is phenomenal. The way she does Rachel – it’s perfection.

For me, I think the book should have ended prior to the girls growing up. This is the distinction for me between five and four stars. The end of the book, while still enjoyable, gets political. Whether I think one way or another about it, when it’s a historical fiction novel, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is opinion. I liked seeing how the women turned out, but part of me wanted to stay back in the Congo, too.

This book is art, and I loved listening to the words wash over me. There’s a reason its well known and it’s worth your time and effort to experience Kingsolver’s style.

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Book Review: The Rosie Project – 5/5

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

rosie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book just makes you want to go “aww.”

The buzz about this story is totally justified. So much about this book is downright adorable. I am such a sucker for the boy-meets-girl scenario all tied up in a new package. For that reason there’s not much that I think needs to be said about it on the whole. The cover will “spoil” the majority of the book already. It’s not so much a book about “what’s going to happen” as it is “how are they going to get there.”

As light as this novel is, I really enjoy the new flavor of the main character. He’s not your standard knight in shining armor – it’s endearing and energizing to see a new kind of protagonist, one with a “social handicap” so-to-speak. In that respect this story has some truly deeper ideas about love, how it manifests, as our expectations of ourselves AND others.

The moral of the story is not about being perfect individually, but perfect together, and it’s a lot of fun to read a book that reminds us of that.

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Series Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – 4/5

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

smoke daughter2daughter3

It may be possible that these are the prettiest YA series covers ever. Srsly.

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I love this series’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale.

Book one, for me, was an obvious 5 out of 5 – hit it out of the park kind of style.  But, with the curse of most trilogies (in my opinion), the second and third books get too weighty.  The second book doesn’t move nearly quick enough and the super bad-a** main character (necessarily) stumbles and whines and moans a bit. I get that Karou was going through hardship, but it’s just not fun as a reader to see how long it takes her to see what is right in front of her face.

Book two ramps up at the end and by the time you make it through book three, you’ll feel all weepy for not seeing more of the characters (at least I did) – Zuzana, Mik, Liraz, Hazael, Issa, Ziri, and, of course, Karou and Akiva. I loved them all, particularly the humans, throughout the whole process. The fighting, the plotting, it was all so beautifully done. I love how little right and wrong there is (did I say that already?  Well, it’s true). Every once in a while you get your certainty for who is inherent good or evil, but I love how the idea of angels and demons just doesn’t hold up. It’s a beautiful message, all and all.

The book should have ended at the end of the battle, when we know who won. Truly. It did not need to go on into this whole other plot. I’m not sure where Taylor was taking all of that – there were too many new ideas (and characters, for that matter) introduced in the final book. I think it was all one giant plot line that wasn’t needed. I think the core plot was perfect on its own.

Even though I have a few qualms, I loved the trilogy. Per usual, book one was the best and one I ate up quickly, but the other two well supported it all. Definitely a great YA series to pick up!

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Book Review: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) – 5/5

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

MOBY

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This!

Love! Love love love love love!

Book > Expectations

Diana Gabaldon is is genius, Davina Porter has the voice of an angel, it all culminates into a beautiful mixture of bliss.

When the last line of the book came, I gasped – aloud, on the street. I kid you not. With audiobooks it’s hard to know when the end is near and I was blindsided. I so, so, so want more! It was perfect and horrible all at one time; mostly because I can’t stand the thought of not having any new Outlander to read. I had only just finished book 7 a few months before this one came out.

I don’t know what it means to not have more at my fingertips.

I cannot handle this.

Did I mention that I love this? If you’ve made it this far to the series, you’re not going to need to read the reviews. Just know that Gabaldon is a wizard. Or mayhaps a witch.

Don’t care, just love.

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YA Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone – 5 of 5!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

smoke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it in a day. Within about three minutes of closing the book I was online, confirming the others were on the shelf, and walking back to the library to borrow the other two. It’s that good, folks!

I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale. Both the reader and the main character, Karou, spend the book trying to figure out who she is – and what connection she has to the (potentially) imminent end to the world. That’s a plot hook if I ever heard of one!

Okay, enough of this internet business – I need to crack open book #2!

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YA Book Review: Instructions for a Broken Heart – 2 of 5

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

instructions

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sorry, folks, this is not good. I know some of you loved the book, but this was cringe-tastic. It’s like Culbertson took all the bad parts of a YA novel and shoved it all into a beautiful package.

This book has so much potential! A recent break-up, an Italian vacation, twenty dares from a best friend – I love the premise. The execution was total blerg.

Where do I begin? Let’s start with my biggest frustration – the trip. That was the most boring, god-awful travel log I have ever read. Seriously, how do you write a book about a trip to Italy and focus only on the bad parts? I’d done a trip like what Jessa experienced in this book and I know what Culbertson was getting at – school trips abroad are generally terrible ideas. You sit in a boring bus all day, you barely have any time at locations, etc. I don’t want to read about it. I don’t need to see all the nuances of why traveling in a group sucks.

This book, to me, is just littered with Culbertson’s life experiences. It’s so obvious to me that each experience Jessa has Culbertson likely had in life. I’m all for authors drawing on true experiences, but this is just too much. All the referrals to specific musicals and games and whatnot – it was all too exact. Television shows and movies were just too alienating; as a reader I didn’t know a lot of the pop culture that was mentioned. None of it had meaning to me and so I just felt like I was listening in on a young girl’s (boring) life.

And then, of course, my main issue. Every single character needed to just get over him or her self. I know people are self-absorbed at that age but I don’t want to read about it in the extreme. Jessa’s pity party went on for far too long – blah blah you loved him blah. Based on everything we learned from Carissa, he obviously sucked, so you shouldn’t have loved him. And this whole “being too busy” thing was just lame. And can I mention how apparently everyone in their brother was poet or a singer? I know they were drama kids, but still.

I don’t know, it seems like very little in this book rang true (what’s up with Jessa having like six incredibly close guy friends? And everyone on the trip hooking up? What was up with her telling a new story for her scar all the time?) or, when things did ring true, I didn’t want to know (I don’t need to know how bored you are on the bus. I really don’t,)

It’s not my intention to be completely mean.  I did finish it, after all. The writing was decent and there were some really nice lines but I just couldn’t get lost in it. So not worth it.

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Book Review: Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac – 3 of 5

Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac

outwitting

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lucie Aubrac was one kick-a, bad-a lady.

Germans on my doorstep? Whatever, I’ll just lie to their face.

Nazis capture my (Jewish) husband? NBD, I’ll just march up to Klaus Barbie and give him a piece of my mind.

Pregnant? Psh, I’ll go on raids and rescue missions until I start having labor pains.

Seriously, there’s a book (and I guess, a movie) about Lucie Aubrac (aka: Catherine, Lucie Bernard, Lucie Samuels, etc) for good reason. She did some incredible things as part of the Resistance in France in WWII. Add on top of it that this diary-style book captures the nine months of her pregnancy – when her husband is captured and she helps mastermind his rescue – and you have one hell of a story.

So why only three stars? Unfortunately, this book is a prime example of how poor writing can turn something as exciting as Lucie Aubrac’s life into a history book. I don’t know if Lucie’s writing style was a bit silted or (what I think is more likely) the translation was poor. Excitement comes across as corny and all of the events are discordant and often confusing. Everything felt like it was in fast forward. Before the emotions of fear or anxiety or hope could squeeze in the action had already changed. I ended up skimmed much of the end of the book.

I’m pretty die-hard when it comes to WWII memoirs – if you’re that way too, you may find this enjoyable. If not, I wouldn’t recommend picking it up. I think ti’s important to know who Lucie Aubrac is – do a little research – but, unfortunately, her memoir falls flat.

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Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth – a (surprising!) 4 of 5

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

pillars

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 with a surprising round-up.

Really surprising. I’m not even sure I can leave it at a 4 star review. This book should not have been something I liked, I’m not a fan of religion, after all. If fact, for a lot of the book I didn’t like it that much… but somewhere in there I got won over.

Obviously, this book is long. That sucks about it. It really doesn’t need to be that long. There’s quite a bit of unnecessary rambling (yes, yes, buildings and architecture are complex, etc.) and Follett seems to assume that by the end of the book we’ve forgotten what happened in the beginning so he has to repeat it (which, I suppose is fair, due to the length). All of this makes it tedious – but not enough for me not to like it.

For the first fourth, maybe even half, of the book I was certain I would give it a solid three stars, maybe 2.5. Decent quality, just nothing too great. But somewhere from the middle to end I started to care more – I think I just really like Jack. The Pillars of the Earth has a bit of a George R.R. Martin feel; you’re never quite sure if good is going to win over evil or not. I started to care and I started to cheer for people. It was a great feeling.

What I love about this book is who the good and bad people are: they are everyone. The kings and earls, the clergy, the peasants, each group had their good and corrupt representation. I loved the women, especially Ellen. The book really flowed for its length. Some of it was fantastical and hard to swallow as believable but I liked it all the same.

I don’t know, I can’t explain it. This book just lives up to its reputation for me. It’s a story I’ll carry with me for a while. If you’re in the mood for a long book, this will be worth considering!

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