Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Reads of 2009

First, I have to say I'm psyched because I read 90 books this year, the most ever for me. Yeah! I hope I can duplicate that for 2010, but even if I don't, I'm pleased with my reading for this year.

Now, in no particular order, my Top Ten Reads for 2009 (all rated at least a 9 on my 10 point scale):

  • The Endless Forest by Sara Donati
  • An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
  • Fade Out by Rachel Caine
  • Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison
  • Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
  • The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
  • Forever Princess by Meg Cabot
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

There were plenty more which *almost* made the list but these were definitely in my Top Ten.

Big sadnesses: A few of my favorite series came to an end, including Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries, Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson, Sara Donati's Into the Forest, and Anna Godbersen's Luxe series.

My biggest book resolution for 2010 is to read more of my own books (which now threaten to take over the house and form a mutiny if left unread) rather than continuing to request so many ARCs and review books. I've got to remind myself that I purchased these books for a reason and I really do want to read them.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Philippa Gregory's The White Queen

I've always liked Elizabeth Woodville, warts and all. I never expect her to be portrayed perfectly, mostly because a good deal of what she did herself was so imperfect. So it was with trepidation that I approached Philippa Gregory's take on this most enigmatic woman, The White Queen. Would she be portrayed as a she-wolf, a witch, a misunderstood wife/mother, or something altogether new? The answer is yes to all of these...and a good amount of no as well.

Following EW from the time of her first meeting with Edward IV until the eve of Henry Tudor's invasion into England, Gregory speedily runs through the major events of an unbelievable life: the initial attraction, the secretive marriage, the births of so many girls before a son is finally achieved, the backstabbing among brothers and cousins. Indeed, so much had happened to EW in the first 100 pages I was curious as to how the following 300 pages would be filled. The fact is, there is an incredible amount of intrigue and happenstance that was literally raced through, and someone unfamiliar with the time period might be confused by the lack of details. And told from Woodville's point of view, most of the events are so one-sided as to leave one thinking everything was black and white. Perhaps this particular issue will be resolved in future books that will flesh out the characters more fully. I do believe that a lot of repetition (sometimes within paragraphs) could have been edited out and more detail of surrounding circumstances given instead.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy this novel; it's more to say that maybe more could have been done to make EW seem less one dimensional. Of course she was ambitious and of course she foisted her family into the spotlight, and I think Gregory did an admirable job of making EW seem like a good mother (something I'm not so sure is entirely accurate...). The magical element was less disturbing to me than I'd feared it would be, woven well into the story and used just enough to make it seem plausible. The problem I have with it is that EW's story is so good, so vibrant by itself that the addition of magic/witchcraft was really unnecessary. I also am not a fan of the present tense and I feel it did absolutely nothing to make me feel more "into" the story in this case; indeed, all it did for me was call attention to itself.

All that said, however, this is still an entertaining take on Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who ensnared a king and used her wiles to influence history. It is basically historically accurate (yeah! a plus in my book) and it reads easily. I'm curious to see where Gregory is going to take us and hoping that she'll give us more details in the getting there. A good first novel in an intended series that actually rates 3.5 stars from me.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Numbers by Rachel Ward

What would you do if you knew the day everyone you see is going to die? When fifteen year old Jem looks at anyone, a number flashes into her brain that gives the date that person is checking out for good. She's always seen the numbers, including the one on the day her mother overdosed; for years, Jem's coping mechanism has been to keep to herself as she's shuffled between foster homes. Not a perfect plan, precisely, but one that offers protection from people who disappoint and numbers that are relentless. Until she comes to know Spider, a boy at school, and the two develop a friendship despite the fact that Jem knows his number will be all too soon.

Numbers is a unique look at what a person might do with the knowledge of impending death, and whether anything can be done to alter fate...or even if what you try to do to alter fate is what causes the incident in the first place. Jem's ability leads her to freak at the site of a London bombing--she sees the same date on too many random faces--and she and Spider hit the road when they are suddenly deemed suspects in the explosion. Knowing Spider's days are literally numbered, Jem still comes to rely on his strength and force of personality, allowing herself to be drawn to him despite what she knows and the personal walls she's built. Unwilling to face the knowledge of his impending death, she desperately seeks a solution to holding his fate at bay without being seen as more of an oddity than she already feels she is.

It took me a while to get into Numbers, only because neither Jem nor Spider seem especially likeable at first. But both characters really grew on me as the story unfolded, and Ms. Ward does an excellent job of building toward the ultimate drama. I do think the "on the run" bit went on a little long, but the questions raised for Jem were both challenging and unpredictable. Filled with interesting supporting characters, Numbers gives you much to think about, and an ending you won't see coming. Recommended.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And Now For a Different Paranormal...

Luce can't remember a time when she didn't see the shadows--dark black moving shapes that come and follow her, usually near water or in dark areas. After years of attempting to "fix" their odd daughter, Luce's parents send her to a northeastern boarding school where the worst happens and Luce ends up involved in a mysterious death. At this point in her seventeen years, it's reform school as the only option, so her parents enroll her in Sword and Cross, which would have been bad enough if the one guy Luce feels she somehow knows hadn't flipped her off on their first meeting. But she can't let that stop her, and her obsession with the beautiful yet distant Daniel grows as the shadows become bolder and death finds her once again.

Fallen by Lauren Kate is different among the young adult paranormals out today in that it deals with creatures not often featured: angels. Specifically, angels who have fallen from heaven for one reason or another, and are cursed. In this case, as the layers are slowly revealed, Daniel's curse becomes clear: he's forced to live forever, meeting and loving Luce every seventeen years...and then watching her die. But something is different this time, and the uptake is that an epic battle between good and evil has been ignited with the change in circumstances.

Fallen has a great premise; it just also has way too slow a beginning in a book of over 400 pages. Told from Luce's point of view, we get little insight into other characters for almost half the book, and Daniel remains enigmatic through 3/4 of the proceedings. Things seem to happen to Luce rather than having Luce take control of any situation, a storyline I hope will change in the next book to come in the series. And the final dawning of Daniel's true status on a perplexed Luce? I'm still scratching my head over just how she came to the conclusion she did because it really wasn't apparent to me how she connected the dots other than thinking about a dream a little bit.

Fallen's flaws are outweighed, however, by the novelty of the situations and the tragedies Luce and her classmates find at the hands of characters they choose to trust. Lots of questions are left unanswered in this installment, so I will have to hope that things are cleared up at least somewhat in the next book. But Fallen is engaging and definitely different than most other young adult paranormals out there. I say enjoy it for what it is and try not to nitpick the main characters too much--at least at this stage. But if Luce fails to understand more and take more control as the series progresses, then the disappointment will be justified. As it is, this is a good beginning and leaves me ready for the next one.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Claim to Fame Review

I've been reading...I finished The Endless Forest by Sara Donati for review (can't say much other than...LOVED IT), but it took a while to read (I think I was savoring). Then I went for an entirely off-beat change of pace in the form of Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I've loved Haddix since Among the Hidden because her premises are always unique and captivating, and this one was no different. I do think the story could've used a bit more fleshing out, but overall this was a good, quick read...just what I needed to move me out of the nineteenth century and back into my own.

Next is my review for Amazon Vine--let me know what you think.

Lindsay Scott was famous as a child; she was the youngest actor on a popular comedy called Just Me and the Kids. For five years, she lived a pampered life in front of the cameras...but all that changed on her eleventh birthday. That was the day the voices started and Lindsay's life unraveled. What would you do if you could hear every single thing anyone ever said about you inside your head? What if you were famous and your hit show (which was cancelled right after you started hearing the voices) is in constant reruns all over the world?

The only place Lindsay is alone with her own thoughts is inside the house her father purchased in Springdale, Illinois; it's a haven where the voices can't reach. So for five years, Lindsay stays inside, taking online classes and keeping as much to herself as possible--and always avoiding going outside whenever she knows her show is on in reruns. But all that changes when her father dies unexpectedly and Lindsay's kidnapped by two well-meaning teens (who believe she's being held against her will). Suddenly Lindsay is forced to go beyond her own front door and is confronted with the most shocking revelation of all...she's not alone in hearing the voices.

Margaret Peterson Haddix always has unique storylines, and Claim to Fame is no different. Lindsay, understandably freaked out by her awkward ability, wants to continue living alone but can't hide as a minor. Once she realizes that she's not the only Hearer in the world, she must decide what sort of life she's willing to live by seeing how others' decisions have affected themselves. Lindsay, in most other ways, is a typical teen suffering through the loss of a beloved parent, making friends with people she probably once wouldn't have acknowledged.

The story moved a little slowly at first, but as Lindsay begins to learn more about her "gift", the pages kept turning quickly. I liked that Haddix gives Lindsay much to think about in the future, and I could foresee a possible sequel. I do wish Haddix had given us more information on the actual gift and the town's ancestors, but again, that may be forthcoming. Overall, this is an intriguing story that made me want to know more (and made me thankful I can't hear what others are thinking about me!).