Sunday, January 19, 2014

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

There's a reason I only get some books from the library. Oh Janet.... why are all your Stephanie Plum books exactly the same?!?! I LOVED this series when I started at One for the Money. Kept loving it and buying the books up into the double digits. But now, now.... I keep reading in hopes that something changes.

I guess there was a change in this one. A giraffe named Kevin. That was new.

But Lula and Stephanie... the same. Grandma... the same.  Ranger and Morelli and the "inner turmoil" at having 2 gorgeous guys in lust with her..... the same. No resolution for anyone but Kevin.

There are still laugh out loud moments. But things are repeated so much it feels like Evanovich is writing these so that people can start anywhere in the series and get the ENTIRE back story. We know the back story. Please quit telling us.

I'm sure I'll read 21, 22, 23, etc. I'll keep going as long as the library stocks them. And I'll keep hoping. Hoping for something to happen besides a giraffe named Kevin.

Lincoln's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly

I borrowed this one from a friend after I saw the movie Lincoln, which was an amazing movie. I refuse to comment on the author because it seems most reviews of this book are actually either rants about O'Reilly or people defending him and frankly, I don't care. It's annoying when I was just trying to find a good review of the book.

To me, this book is technically historical fiction. It's not possible that anyone knew the level of detail that is depicted here and since it reads just like a novel, my bet is that the story was beefed up a bit to entice more people. This isn't a bad thing, but good to know so people don't take it word for word as historical and fact.

The author takes us through the end of the Civil War and into the last days of Lincoln and the manhunt for Booth and company. Fun fact: I didn't know there was a "and company" involved with Booth.

Through history classes, movies, books I have come to really like Lincoln. There's not much about him that you would feel is of bad character and frankly, what he endured is amazing.

This book is apparently Killing Lincoln with pictures. I haven't read Killing Lincoln so I can't say, but the pictures were good in this one. The timelines and all the additional information at the end were very interesting. I would recommend this book, regardless what side of the political fence you run your life on.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.... spoilers abound. You've been warned.

"Do you still feel like the girl who volunteered for your sister?" she asks me. "No" I answer.

I've decided that I'm not happy with this one. I don't know what happened to Katniss or the other characters but I'm not pleased with the path they went down. One of the main reasons I enjoyed The Hunger Games so much is that Katniss Everdeen was a kickass survivor. She remained that way, for the most part, in Chasing Fire but here in Mockingjay, I wanted to slap her, repeatedly. She had no part in her fate, she ran away from everything and was acting like a petulant child through most of the story.

Obviously, being in the Hunger Games, twice, is going to have a mighty effect on a person. But I didn't expect the near complete mental breakdown Katniss was having, the constant stays in the hospital while everyone else planned a war, the many outright assertions that Katniss "isn't a thinker" or a "brain". She's basically, now, just a weapon and the face of a rebellion. Just the face, they don't really allow her to speak.

I kept reading because I really did want to see the Capitol overthrown. I'm disappointed in Gale, especially how he just left. Nothing left to say, just disappeared completely from the story with an excuse of a "fancy new job". Based on Katniss' and Gale's relationship in the first two books, I don't buy this.

Peeta's mind being hijacked was a good twist and his wanting to hurt/kill Katniss would have added something good to the plot if Katniss wasn't off hiding in a closet (!) telling herself she deserved to die.

The plot was a good one. I'm just confused and upset with the characters. Where did they go? People just don't change that drastically.

As much as I don't like movies based on books, I do love Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss. I'm actually hoping that they change Mockingjay enough to let her continue to be the strong role model she should be. And leave the literary Katniss in the closet, hiding.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Turn of The Screw by Henry James

I listened to the audio through Craftlit, as part of the older episodes. I wasn't sure what I expected and I'm still not sure about it. It's tagged as a ghost story novella and I can get why it's a "big deal". But I'm in the area of "What a good plot!" and "Why can't it sound....less laborious?".

Classics, especially Victorian era classics, do have a certain method of speech and I get that, however this made me feel pulled out of the story more than it made me interested. Honestly, if not for Heather's commentary about the story, I would have missed a lot.

The plot is good and nicely ambiguous. A young governess is hired by a man to look after his niece and nephew. Mrs. Grose is the housekeeper and is the governess' confidante throughout the story. The young boy, Miles, has been kicked out of school for unknown reasons and the young girl, Flora, appears to be a sweet young girl.

The governess starts seeing ghosts and, once described to Mrs. Grose, finds the ghosts to be the former employees, including the former governess. Things start getting weird because we just aren't sure what is happening. It's clear she saw the ghosts. But does she continue seeing them? Are the children seeing them? Is the governess just losing her mind?

It's interesting to see her spiraling downward and seeing where it eventually ends up. The ending was crazy abrupt and still so up in the air that I'm not sure yet what really happened.

Since it's so short, I wouldn't tell people NOT to read it, but if you can focus on the plot and the twists and turns instead of the language, you will probably enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Year in.... 2013

So my books from 2013 are here. But I want to highlight the best of.....

 My two favorite literary podcasts this year were Books on the Nightstand and CraftLit. I've mentioned them often and with good reason. I was rarely steered wrong with BotN. I enjoyed every book I read that they recommended. Craftlit is different, it threw me back in the past to the classics that I probably never would have read. Heather is a teacher and so good at walking everyone through the literature, telling you want to look for and giving you so much insight it's like being in an awesome literature class in college.

As for books, I think the best of the year was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I can't wait to see the movie and you will hardly ever hear me say that. It was a beautiful book, told from the perspective of Death as he handles Nazi Germany. You really must read.

Next up, Wool (Omnibus collection) by Hugh Howey. This has all books, 1-5, in one set. I heard about this from the CraftStash podcast because there is some knitting involved. But trust me when I say this isn't a knitting centered book. It's a great story of people forced to live in silos because the earth is uninhabitable.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a great little book about a boy who is living with a disfigurement and it's such a good story, I blew off several outings with friends to read. This was recommended through Joan of Dark's blog

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Beautiful and painful first time novel. Please read.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne just killed me. Everytime I read about Nazi Germany, I die a bit because humanity was so bad. But then a story comes along that shows there were some good people out there.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. A departure for him but what a beautiful one. I'm very glad I took that trip.

And lastly, but certainly not least, the book I hugged because I wanted to hug the characters so bad.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Get lost in here and just go with the characters. You'll be glad you did.

Happy Reading in 2014!

32 in 2013

Sadly, I did not reach my goal of 40 books this year. I fell 8 short. But that's ok, because I know this year has been so busy with work (I'm not happy about that but I'm aware of it) and by the time I'd get home and be done working, I was too tired to read.

The last few books of the year were:

The Knitter's Book of Socks by Clara Parkes. Yes, this is technically a book, with patterns. I got it from the library and ended up asking for it for Christmas, which I got. It's very informative and will help my sock knitting skills grow.

Brick by Brick by David Robertson. I have to admit I got bored with this real quick. I stuck it out but, as much as I appreciate LEGO, I just didn't care for the book.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
Had to read before I see the movie. Very good. The first book in the trilogy was excellent. I don't think many serial books are excellent all the way through but I did enjoy the twists in Catching Fire.

I have another goal of 40 books for 2014. I'm hoping to re-focus on my personal life in 2014 rather than work. I think the fact that I am single makes it easier for me (and others) to push work instead of "family" personal time. But I see that changing :)