February 2nd, 2010

Heart Sweets

Book 4: Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Here is book four from my Book List 2010. The link leads to a more detailed review in my journal.

4. Title: Witch & Wizard
Author: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet © 2009
Pages: 307
Thoughts: Link
Review in five words or less: Interesting, intense; short and choppy.
Personal Rating: «««½ out of five.

This is the story of Whit and Wisty Allgood, teenage siblings who have been accused of being a wizard and witch by ruling regime. They've been unjustly ripped away from their family and thrown into prison. Totally confused and terrified, the siblings must rely on each other to survive. As they learn more about their jail, they notice that most of the other prisoners are their age or younger.

While I think this was a good read, I did not really like how this story was told. It starts off with this one big event and then goes back into time to describe the things that happened leading up to this event. The only problem is the story never goes back to the big event. I found that to be extremely vexing because it makes the whole book feel incomplete. I know this is the first book in the series, but it was just so unsatisfying to have it end so abruptly and not address the issues of the big event.

Also, the short and choppy chapters were annoying. It seems that Patterson does this a lot in his books to make them fast-paced, but I think this is the type of story that deserves more descriptive detailing. A lot of story space was consumed by superfluous name calling and ridiculously placed chapter breaks. I would have preferred more story/details and less posturing.

The book was engrossing and entertaining enough for me to want to see how this all turns out, so I will definitely read the next book in the series. I do recommend this, but if I had to do it over again, I would have waited for the release of the second book. Maybe reading books one and two together would make the story feel more complete.


4 / 50 books. 8% done!


1246 / 15,000 pages. 8% done!
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# 6 The Lost City of Z


The Lost City of Z


David Grann



In 1925 explorer/adventurer Percy Fawcett mysteriously disappeared with his son and another young man while searching deep in the Amazon rainforest for the ruins of a fabled ancient city the he called simply “Z”.


He had made several expeditions on the same quest, mapping vast areas of previously uncharted jungle, and providing a good store of useful information about the inhabitants and flora and fauna of the rainforest.


However, it was his obsession to find the city of Z that drew him back to the Amazon again and again, in spite of the many dangers., hardships, and having to impoverish himself and his family in order to finance some of the expeditions, and in spite of the fact that others, with the exception of his wife, lost faith in the existence of the city of Z.


When writer David Grann discovered Fawcette’s diaries approximately three quarters of a century later he resolved to see if he could solve the mystery of what became of Fawcette, and the City of Z. Even though many before him had tried and failed to answer the same questions, some even dying in the attempt, Grann set off through the deep jungle to follow Fawcette’s trail.


I really enjoyed this book. The focus, for the most part, it seemed to me, seemed to be on Fawcette and his time, rather than Grann, which I greatly appreciated. I also appreciated that Grann did not overlook the story of Fawcette’s wife, Nina, who seemed to bear sacrifices and hardships without complaint, and who never lost faith in her husband’s dream, or in his ability to survive. Grann compares her to Odyseus’s wife, Penelope, and I find the comparison acutely accurate.

bleeding

Book 8

8. Title: Bone Crossed
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 287

Summary:
"As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, ace car mechanic Mercy has had to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human within the Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington on more than one occasion. But this time she may be in over her head.

"Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan. Now she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from the vampires direct reprisal by the werewolf pack -- and her close relationship with its sexy Alpha -- it's not Mercy's blood Marsilia is after . . . It's her friends>" ~ Jacket copy

Thoughts: I have enjoyed the Mercy Thompson series. I waited for this book the come out in paperback. I was kind of disappointed . . . It was a good book, but it didn't have the same Mercy-investigation that I love so much in the first three. This book concentrates more on Mercy's healing after the events of the last book. She is leaning over come the events and finally allow people into her life. It was still an enjoyable read, but if you're looking for the same story type as the other three, prepare to be disappointed. Aside from those issues, I think Briggs was trying to bring some element of "excitement" to the book with Amber/Amber's family, the discussion with Marsilia and her seethe, etc. However, all of it seemed to rushed. It took until the end of the book for Mercy to have her final confrontation with Blackwood, and that took away from the story. It seemed kind of strange how easily she was captured, how she got out, etc. It was way too rushed; I felt kind of cheated . . . Not a bad book, but not up to par with the others.

3.5 - 4 / 5

Pages-to-Date: 2340
Currently: Whip It by Shauna Cross
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The Camel Bookmobile


The Camel Bookmobile


Masha Hamilton



New York librarian Fiona Sweeney believes in books and literacy with a missionary zeal that sends her to Kenya, traveling with camels loaded with books to distant villages in the bush where most people have never held a book in their hands, nor seen a white woman


Her camel bookmobile is popular, but many in the village worry that books will bring modernization which will destroy their way of life. Others believe that modernization; more contact with the outside world; is what the village needs to survive.


I liked The Camel Bookmobile well enough . I’m all bout books. Throw in an exotic location and camels, and you’ve got me.


However, The Camel Bookmobile just failed to hook me completely. For one thing, it was too predictable. Some things were, perhaps, telegraphed a little too soon. For another, some of the culture clash and the strife that she brought to the village were just a bit too cliché, and too expected.


I still enjoyed it, but I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t the stellar read I had hoped for.

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# 8 The Mapmaker's Wife



The Mapmaker’s Wife


Robert Whittaker




Jean Godin, an eager, curious young man, joined a French expedition to better chart South America, experiment with longitude, and to record the many discoveries they made along the way. Jean was a lowly assistant, yet a valuable member of the 1735 expedition.


The expedition would last many years, and would change Jean’s life forever. He would fall in love with and marry the beautiful Isabel Grameson, a young Peruvian woman of high caste, whom he would marry.


Their love would endure the deaths of several children, and a twenty-year-long separation, until Isabel would risk all in a perilous journey through the deadly and little-known Amazon to find her way back to Jean’s arms.


I enjoyed this book, although it got off to such a slow start it took me months to read. I kept waiting for the story of Isabel’s unparalleled journey through the deep rainforest, which wasn’t told until 2/3 of the way through the book.


It was, however, an amazing story of survival under the harshest conditions imaginable.


In the end, it was definitely worth the read, not only for the survival tale, but for the interesting and colorful history as well.

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# 9 1421: The Year China Discovered America



1421: The Year China Discovered America


Gavin Menzies



Gavin Menzies asserts that it was the Chinese and not Europeans who first discovered, sailed to, and even colonized not only the Americas, but Australia, New Zealand, and much of the rest of the world.


He claims that the Ming emperor, Zhu Di, sent vast fleets of huge, yet stable ships on voyages of exploration, with the purpose of charting unknown lands, bringing them under the umbrella of nations paying tribute to China, opening trade with them, and colonizing them, with explicit instructions to always treat their peoples in a friendly manner.


The author maintains that the instructions were carried out under the command of great seamen like Zheng He, Zhou Man, and Hong Bao who sailed great armadas of massive junks laden with supplies, trade goods, crops to be cultivated, livestock, and even concubines to populate and colonize those new lands.


I definitely agree with the author’s theory that it was China that first discovered America, etc.. Personally, I feel that the story of Columbus being the first non-indigenous person ever to lay eyes on the Americas is Euro-centric at best, and Western hubris at worst. The main reason I agree with the premise, though, is that China was a much more advanced civilization. It just makes sense to me.


That’s why it bothered me that in spite of all the author’s expostulations and the effort he put into looking for evidence, it seems to me that he failed to have found incontrovertible proof.


It seemed that he was so attached to his theory that many times he would stretch the evidence to make it fit, at times even to a ridiculous degree. He also sometimes drew conclusions from very flimsy evidence and dismissed out of hand any facts that seemed to contradict his ideas.


Even though I was disappointed in Menzies’ scientific approach, (or lack thereof), I really did enjoy the book. I learned a lot from some parts, and it gave me a lot to think about.

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Moving right along: Books #6 and 7

Book #6: Bloodring - Faith Hunter (2006, 319 pages)

Thorn St. Croix is not human, and if her friends knew who she was, she probably wouldn't be alive.

In Faith Hunter's debut of the Thorn St. Croix series, Thorn lives in a future where Armageddon has occurred and humans now share the earth with mages like Thorn; seraphs, angels; mules, a human hybrid; and kylen, a mage-seraph hybrid.

Thorn is an unlicensed mage, living in secret among humans in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. After the disappearance of her human ex-husband, she comes face to face with Thaddeus Bartholomew, a kylen who doesn't even know who he is. As the search for her ex intensifies, Thorn finds her secret in jeopardy.

I received this book as a gift, and honestly, I thought this was a fantasy romance novel. I was massively mistaken. This is really a fantasy action novel, interspersed with religious notes that are masterfully woven into the plot. I didn't think I would like it, but I loved this book, which is why I gave it four out of five stone mages.


Book #7: Deep Dish - Mary Kay Andrews (2008, 385 pages)

When her TV show is in financial jeopardy after her producer/boyfriend's romp with the sponsor's wife, Gina Foxton needs a miracle to save her show. That miracle happens when she finds herself up against local TV hottie Tate Moody in The Cooking Channel's Food Fight competition. The winner gets a network show, and Gina wants it so bad she can taste it.

As the competition progresses, Gina not only has to worry about getting her own show. She also finds herself having a love/hate relationship with Tate, trying to dodge the advances of her ex, and finding ways to avoid contact with her overbearing mother.

As with Andrews other books, Deep Dish presents a wide array of delightfully Southern characters with a great love of food. The characters are fun and very well-developed and never once do you feel as though they are not real. That's what I love most about Andrews' books: how real and natural them seem. That is why I have to give this book a strong five out of five Vittles.

Total Books Read: 7 / 50 (14 percent)
Total Pages Read: 2,365 / 15,000 (16 percent)
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♥ Book #6 :: Whip it ♥

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Title: Whip it a.k.a Derby Girl
Author: Shauna Cross
Copyright date: 2007
Publisher: Square Fish
How many pages: 234 pgs
How long it took me to read: Less than 24 hours...
Category: Fiction
I learned about this book from: the movie

This book was purchased at: it wasn't. Library book.
This book is: a really fun and amusing book.
Other books by this/these author(s): n/a
Favorite characters: Bliss Cavendar and Pash Amina
When and Where the story takes place: Texas: Bodeen, Austin

Plot in a nutshell: Here, the teen angst is embodied in 16-year-old Bliss Cavendar, a blue-haired, Chuck Taylor-wearing indie rebel living in a tiny Texas town of country music-loving beauty-pageant fans. Yearning to escape the suffocating boredom, Bliss and her best friend, Pash Amini, crash a roller derby event in nearby Austin. The girls are entranced by the glammed-up skaters in heavy makeup and fishnet stockings who shove and elbow their way around a track. Bliss soon lies about her age, becomes a derby girl, meets a cute boy and learns several unsurprising life lessons. Despite being formulaic, the novel shines in describing the dashing world of roller derby, where the players are hot and have nasty names like Dinah Might, Eva Destruction and Princess Slaya. When Bliss describes watching "girls dive on the track, leap over one another, pile on the infield for brawls, fly over the rails into the crowd (more than once!)... and yet, you can tell they're having the time of their lives," her naked enthusiasm for the edgy, underground sport injects some energy into an otherwise labored tale.
Main characters: Bliss Cavendar
What I liked best: Grabbed my attention right away. Made me laugh out loud. Pash and Bliss remind me of my High School bestie and I. Fun read. "Suckville, USA", I feel the same way about Calgary. The humor.
What I liked least: So tired of the "We used to be friends but now she's a popular bitch and I'm a misfit" storyline. It was really predictable from the start that the derby and the pageant would overlap. The whole story is predictable.

Overall rating: Although it was very predictable, the girl thinks a lot like me so I had a blast reading it. It brought me back to old times with my ex bff. The book kind of reminded me of Angus, Thongs and Full frontal snogging in a way. I absolutely loved it...as you can tell by the way I devoured it in less than a day...Eep! I can't believe I'm at #7 already! I keep double checking to see that I didn't miscount at all. Last year at this time, I was still reading book #3! :P
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(no subject)

Title: The Bermudez Triangle
Author: Maureen Johnson
Year of Publication: 2004
Genre: YA
Pages: 370
First Line: "The host stood at his podium under the pink-and-yellow neon arch and surveyed the three girls who had just come through the door."

Summary: The Bermudez Triangle is:

Nina Bermudez, who TiVos every episode of Trading Spaces because watching people rip down bad decorations soothes her.

Avery Dekker, who worships Jack Black but has learned to play Billy Joel's "Piano Man" by heart just so that she can hate it in detail.

Melanie Forrest (a.k.a. Mel), who inspires guys to develop instantaneous, epic crushes--the kind that cause them to want to iron their clothes and listen to the lyrics of slow songs.

Lifelong best friends Nina, Avery, and Mel face their first separation the summer before their senior year, when Nina attends a ten-week program at Stanford. But how much can happen in ten weeks?

Plenty, it seems. Nina finds herself blindsided by Steve, the adorable ecowarrior down the hall. Too bad he lives in Oregon and she's from upstate New York. When the Stanford program ends, she has to wait 8,736 hours before she can see him again.

At least she'll soon be reunited with Mel and Avery. But Nina isn't the only one whose life was turned upside down in ten weeks. While Nina was gone, Mel had her real first kiss. With Avery.

Source: Back of book



Review: Before you get concerned about it being like Sisterhood, it's not. It's more mature and the plot is much different. All-in-all, not what I expected, and probably some of the more quality writing I've seen from Maureen Johnson. It did feel a bit long at parts, and sometimes stuff was totally unnecessary to include and just slowed down the plot. You don't have to be a lesbian to enjoy the book -- it's fun in general. Hank Green (John Green's brother) recommended the book as a "should be read in high schools" (because there had been a banning issue) and I'm not sure I would go THAT far because I don't think it was of THAT much quality. But it was good and if you've got the time, it's worth a look.

Worst part: There were several parts of the book that felt like it was just dragging and I was ready to move on.

Best part: Avery's character was really well done, I felt.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Suite Scarlett, Devilish, Girl at Sea, The Key to the Golden Firebird and others.





8 / 50 books. 16% done!
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(no subject)

Title: Killing Mr. Griffin
Author: Lois Duncan
Year of Publication: 1978
Genre: YA
Pages: 222
First Line: "It was a wild, windy, southwestern spring when the idea of killing Mr. Griffin occurred to them."
Summary: They only planned to scare their English teacher.

They didn't mean to kill him.

But sometimes even the best-laid plans go wrong.

Source: Back of book



Review: I wasn't aware this was written in the 70's until I started writing up this review. From that perspective, I'm more impressed because I feel the plot is more original. The writing wasn't fantastic -- typical horror style, nothing terribly amazing but not awful, either. Characters were pretty two-dimensional and fairly predictable. I really liked Mr. Griffin's character. Plot was somewhat predictable. A quick read and kind of interesting. Probably worth it if you need something to read on the go. Plus, it's physically a tiny book.

Worst part: Part of the end was really confusing. Collapse )

Best part: Mark was probably the best part but he could have been done even better.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: I Know What You Did Last Summer and others.





9 / 50 books. 18% done!