Posts Tagged With: readwomen2014

Book Review: Thousand Pieces of Gold – 3/5

Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne Lum McCunn

gold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s hard to rate these kinds of books anything by the highest rating. I mean, how terrible and calloused of me is it to rate a book about a young Chinese girl who is sold by her family only three stars? But I have to be honest – it just lost me after the first third of the book.

I’m just going to come out and say it. After Lalu gets to the U.S., her life just really isn’t that bad. Now before I start getting hate mail, I understand there was a lot of fear and challenge in her life and I absolutely marvel at that. I get that Lalu was an amazing and strong individual and this is the story of her life. I just felt like the first part, when she was really young, was the true essence of the story. She kind of found her happily ever after – so why did the book keep going?

That’s always my problem with biographies, in all honesty. We’re always forced to read right up to the very end. But someone’s death isn’t always the climax of their life. This needed to end far sooner and it would have proved to be, overall, much more entertaining and impactful.

I can’t say I’m sorry to have learned about Lalu’s life – I am glad that I know this woman existed. I just wasn’t entirely thrilled with the portrayal of her story. I’d only recommend this to someone who has a very keen interest in that time period and geography, otherwise it’s likely not worth your time.

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Book Review: The Other Typist – 3/5

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

typist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well.

So, this book, if you haven’t already heard, has a strange ending. It’s a very confusing one at that and, unfortunately, for me, puts the whole book into a tailspin. Prior to the last couple of chapters, this would have been a much higher rating.

I don’t want this to get spoiler-y, but some people are comparing the book a sort of “Sixth Sense” – where you feel like you need to re-watch it in order to understand the ending. In my opinion, this is more like a much lower caliber of horror story (think Hide-and-Seek, or any other similar styled movies) where there’s a “trick” ending, but going back and watching it again doesn’t help. Part of me wants to read this story again, but I don’t think that would clarify. Perhaps I am wrong, but I get the feeling that Rindell didn’t make a firm understanding one way or the other and we just have to decide for ourselves.

Anyone remember watching Shutter Island with Leo DiCaprio? Where you don’t know for sure at the end whether or not the top will fall? This is that kind of book. I truthfully don’t think the answer is there, and I personally think that’s a cop-out.

Aside from that, I think the book is really well done. I enjoyed the writing of it, I enjoyed Rose’s voice, and I liked the setting.

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Book Review: Every Reasonable Doubt – 3/5

Every Reasonable Doubt by Pamela Samuels Young

doubt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a lot of things about this book I really liked. Good writing, interesting plot, good pace, strong characters; there is a lot to love. I really enjoyed the dynamic of the law that you need in this kind of thriller paired with the social dimensions of race and relationships. Overall, really well done.

So – why only three stars? There are two things about this story that drove me nuts and I just couldn’t get over. In many ways, they ruined it for me. It’s not stopping me from starting book two, but if book two rubs me the same, I won’t be continuing from there.

Now that I’ve created suspense, here are the two catastrophic issues I had with this novel.

1) Shoddy Investigation: Obviously, a big draw of a legal thriller is an interesting crime and a good investigation, especially when the capabilities of the attorney are so hyped. Seriously though, the details of this crime were SO poorly done. I have no background in any form of investigation and I can poke holes in a ton of this. For example (no spoilers here, no worries). This murder was supposedly committed by a tiny, weak woman and NO ONE asked how it was possible that the man didn’t/couldn’t defend himself. Excuse me? Then there’s the question of blood on the main suspect’s clothes – it finally came up at the very end of the book but it was the lamest after-thought ever. She changed clothes and NO ONE noticed? I don’t care how similar the dresses were- people at a social charity event know if you went and changed your dress. It’s ridiculous, and those were just two obvious things. Maybe I’m off the mark since, like I said, I don’t have that background, but it was bothersome.

2) A Whiny Little Prick of a Husband: This is 100% purely personal opinion here so take it with a grain of salt. I loathe Jefferson. Seriously. What an ass! Look, I get it. I love my husband to death and I hate it when he or I get busy at work and cannot see each other. But do I guilt trip him every five seconds that I see him? NO. Does he make me feel terrible when I work late? Absolutely NOT. When one of us has to ramp up and do more we support each other. I recognize when my husband is stressed and working his butt off and I help him through it. Jefferson did the opposite and look, I get to a certain extent the frustration, but the lack of support he provided to his wife was unreal. And the book made it seem like the main character, the wife, was the one at fault. I saw absolutely nothing in the Jefferson character that showed me how he supported her at all. He knew darn well when he married her that she was a lawyer and to sing a new tune just when she’s hitting it big is just a dick move. It was infuriating and a very main part of the plot.

So! Unfortunately, despite a lot of really positive things with this novel and author, those glaring pieces of the plot really sucked the enjoyment out of the novel for me. I’m hoping for an improvement moving forward!

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Book Review: The Gods of Gotham – 5/5

gotham

 

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Engrossing! This book had me hooked from the start. I’m not one who often tackles mysteries but this has so many other nuances – historical fiction, romantic interest, poetry – it’s going to be pleasing to all kind of readers.

Let’s start with the last I mentioned; the poetry. Faye’s writing is beautiful. I just love the way the story is described. The unfortunateness of an audiobook is how hard it is to dog-ear favorite lines but I have a lot of them. The way people grimaced, the way the sun fell over the city, the smells and sounds of the day all were described so uniquely and so beautifully. It fit is really well with the setting and I think that manner of seeing the world a little differently helped us as the reader understand the main character as well. It was like the general narration was a part of what made Tim such a great detective- he already saw the world in a unique way.

Let’s add that on to the historical fiction – oh, I love the setting. So interesting, so changing. I adored the use of the different language and jargon – it worked extremely well in the book. Very pleasingly hard to follow at times. It wasn’t just thrown in there to be in there – Faye used it well.

The characters in this story are unique – people in particular like Valentine and Mercy are a mixed bag of questions. They really off-set the other cast of characters. That’s the thing with mysteries that is always hard – you have to have a good sequence of people so the suspect list isn’t too short, but you can’t flesh out everyone. Having two really unique people I thought helped balance it out nicely. The fact that these people meant a lot to the main character – brother and love-interest respectively – made it all that more important that they were the interesting ones.

Lastly, of course, there’s the plot. It was a truly good story! Unique background that kept me guessing. Toward the end I had a very good understanding but it wasn’t so far in advance that it was predictable.

And that’s that! I don’t have a bad thing to say about the book. Recommend!

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Series Review: The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4/5


darkmirrorbridei2 bidei3

The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4 out of 5 stars

Marillier is my kind of writer. I have now completed five books of hers and I love her style. She mixes history with fantasy in a way that makes everything come alive. It’s genius. The stories feel like fairy tales and yet they are darker than that – they have the low heartbeat of life throughout. They are poetry and yet easy to read. I’m sold on her style and someday I am sure I will devour all of her writing.

I was able to enjoy these books on audio and, can I just say, the narrator for this audio book has the voice. Like – melt the ladies right down to their Maryjanes kind of voice. Not that my own husband doesn’t have a nice voice and all, but if he spoke like Michael Page… *fans self*

Each book in this series works toward the same goal – the rise of a new king to the kingdom to bring all the lands together.  It starts off at the core of it all; we see the future king grow up from the mere age of 8. In some ways that can make the first book a little slow and predictable. In others that predictability really clashes with the magic and wonder that arises and makes the whole scene really interesting. Book one is focused on Bridei and Tuala, while book two and three hone in on other characters, with Faolan playing a large part in all three (in many ways I feel like this series ought to be called The Faolan Chronicles.)

Book one may seem a bit slow as it establishes the new reign – but where book one lacks adventure, book two makes up for it. Most of the story in the second installment takes place in a faraway land where secrets and suspicions run wild. Unpredictable love abounds and magic plays an even deeper role.

The third book rounds out the other two perfectly.  A lot more focus is placed back on the kingdom and there’s even more history involved, but that’s not to say the action is put at bay. People who were once perfect are no longer one-dimensional. There’s a lot that goes on and we have yet another excellent character thrown into our midst.This book relies heavily on character growth and it happens so well. What Faolan went through in book two was crucial to put him in the right spot for book three.

I love the likely and yet unlikely romance that occurs in all three books.  Marillier does a wonderful job of making it the focus but not the whole story. I find it hard to believe that the series is over. In many ways I don’t want it to be (there’s so much promise of what Bridei and Tuala’s children will become – and even what Saraid will mean in it all). Maybe that is another series that has been created or yet to come. Regardless, I was sad to put these characters away. For me, this was one of the best ends to a series I’ve ever encountered. A little Disney-esque maybe, but it worked really well and tied off a lot of loose ends.

All in all, a great read.

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Book Review: The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier – 4/5

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

darkmirror

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Can I just say – the narrator for this audio book has the voice. Like – melt the ladies right now to their Maryjanes kind of voice. Not that my own husband doesn’t have a nice voice and all, but if he spoke like Michael Page… *fans self*

Anyway, that’s completely beside the point. This rating is supposed to be about Marillier’s story. I love this author – it’s like she can do no wrong. I can see where some people think this book isn’t up to the same caliber as some of her other books – in truth, it’s a bit predictable. The education of Bridei is flawless; and the hiccups he encounters are dealt with in a way we would expect. Every once in a while we get a wrench thrown in; but it’s nothing that’s going to boggle the mind. That being said, I came to really love that little kid. I love Tuala even more. It’s definitely one of those books where you want to shake the characters and say, “Rebel already!”

It’s a smart book. Marillier is a masterful storyteller. The tale weaves in and out of truth and fantasy and I feel the same things I felt the first time I encountered her in Wildwood Dancing. She add that curious element of darkness and mystery to the fairy tale; it gives me shivers as I read.

I obviously loved it as I have bought the second book immediately. Another winner in my opinion!

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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: 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: 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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Book Review: The Lost Girls – 3 of 5 stars

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. by Jennifer Bagget

lost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There a lot about this book that I love – there is so much to be jealous of. These girls found the time and dedication to travel for an entire year. It’s something I would love to do and it’s also something I know I will never do. It’s just not my life. So living vicariously was exactly why I picked up the book. These girls traveled to places I have never been and say such amazing things. I really loved reading about it.

Still, I just can’t rave about the book. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, it’s just a little bland. Vanilla. I can tell these girls are used to a very journalistic writing. Their prose all sounds exactly the same and, with names like Jennifer, Holly, and Amanda, I found it impossible to keep them straight. I was constantly mixing up who was who. I feel like the book would have really benefited if they could have figure out a way to develop different writing styles. Some visual aides could have really helped – you know they took a million pictures. I would have loved to have seen the beat-up van, Esther, the yoga retreat, etc.

Despite the adventures and nice mixture of this-is-what-I-saw and this-is-what-I-felt, it took me a really long time to get through this book. This is something I should be devoured. Besides the lack of voice, I’m not sure what was missing – other people maybe? One of my favorite memoirs is Somebody’s Heart Is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa because of the author’s incredible ability to observe others and bring them into the story. This memoir is firmly on these three girls and, despite being a young white woman traveler myself, I just couldn’t quite get invested.

Still, it’s certainly not bad, and it’s a great thing to read if you’re itching for a trip of your own but can’t get away. There are nice tid-bits along the way, too, that give some good perspective.

“After all my searching for something to believe in, what if taking the journey itself were the highest act of faith? Traveling anywhere that was foreign inevitably meant I’d have to rely on the kindness of strangers. To venture out in the world, I had to have faith in the goodness of people – and to be open to the lessons that every new person might bring.

Amen, Holly. Or was that Amanda who wrote that? Jennifer?

Oh, who cares. Amen, sister.

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