Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last One of 2014

The Jewel is the first in a new series by Amy Ewing, and it's a promising beginning. Set in a society where the royalty is a bunch of pampered elitists who cannot bear children of their own, Violet is a surrogate who is expected to give birth for the royal woman who purchases her at an Auction. Violet has no say in her fate; she was chosen after "passing" a blood test at age twelve, taken forcibly from her home and made to live in a holding facility for four years, and at age sixteen, she has been prepped for her role in life. Purchased by the cold Duchess of the Lake, Violet lives in dread of the time when she will be impregnated with the Duchess's baby and forced to carry her child. Even though she lives in luxury during her time with the Duchess, she is at the command and whim of her ladyship, knowing that once her mission is accomplished, she will be sterilized and sent to live in a holding community for the rest of her life, never to marry or see her family again. To say Violet is dissatisfied is an understatement.

Told through Violet's eyes, we see the humiliation she endures, and the desperation she feels at her fate. But more than this, there's a sense of loss--Violet is only sixteen, and her life will be over within the year when she successfully bears a child. Not only is the Duchess cruel, she's almost fanatic, and her reasons for choosing Violet are only for what Violet could bring to a potential child; the Duchess's first child, a nineteen-year-old son named Garnet, has been a tremendous letdown and she will not stand for that happening again. But there's so much more going on: Violet's best friend, also a surrogate, seems to be being grossly mistreated by her mistress, a murder takes place, and there's the presence of a male "companion" for the Duchess's niece, a young man named Ash whom Violet almost immediately falls for. But when a way out of her situation is offered, Violet has to decide if it's worth the risk and if she can give up her new romance.

Violet is immature in her actions at times, but very sincere in her beliefs. She is also loyal and assertive, to the point that she endures cruel punishments from a woman who seems a bit unbalanced in a society that devalues all life except their own. I never really bought into the "romance" between Violet and Ash because it seems pretty superficial and I sense there's something else going on with Ash (who seems to have no problem with Violet risking everything to be with him and expects her to understand his "work"). There's a physical aspect there that normally wouldn't bug me (and does add an additional twist to the story) but it just sort of reinforced my opinion that Violet is immature in her decisions. That same reinforcement exists in her relationship with Lucien, a lady-in-waiting who has chosen to help Violet out of her situation, but really strikes me as more of a bad guy in the long run (and I may end up being mistaken!). But if I keep in mind that yes, Violet has been sheltered and is now in an untenable place with a guy who is showing her attention for herself, I can understand the directions the author is taking and run with it. Less clear to me is the existence of the Augeries, a sort of forced selection ability the surrogates are trained to use which causes them pain and bleeding. We'll see where that plot point takes us.

I really enjoyed this story and the author's writing style pulled me in quickly. In fact, I fell victim to the "one more page" syndrome and ended up staying up much later than I'd planned just to see what was going to happen. When that occurs, I know I've got a winner on my hands. I am already anticipating the next entry in the series!


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Winter Crown

The Winter Crown picks up where The Summer Queen left off--Eleanor of Aquitaine has married Henry of Anjou, soon to be Henry II of England after receiving an annulment of her marriage with Louis of France. Far from being the glittering experience of co-rule Eleanor may have envisioned, she soon finds herself almost continuously pregnant as Henry takes care of his vast domains. Eleanor is never shy and retiring, however, and even with her numerous children, she gives Henry a run for his money in both personality and politics. What could have been a time of her life that would be easily glossed over comes alive in the capable storytelling hands of Elizabeth Chadwick; she brings Eleanor's determination, heartbreak, and haughtiness to life in ways that will have you cheering her on even when she could possibly be wrong.

I was absolutely swept away into Eleanor's world with The Winter Crown. The relationship between Eleanor and Henry is fraught with temper, both good and bad; you can feel the sparks fly whenever they are together, yet I never got the sense that Eleanor particularly liked Henry except for what he could bring her...and vice versa. Still, when his affair with Rosamund de Clifford is revealed, I could feel the humiliation and despair Eleanor tried to hide; even when she treated him horribly, I could still empathize with her. More moving, though, is the emotion Eleanor had to swallow at the early loss of her daughters to marriages for alliances; it's not something that is often discussed, being seen as a trial women and children had to endure during the era. Add in the violent times, including the death of Thomas Beckett, and the degeneration of the relationship between not only Eleanor and Henry, but between Henry and their sons, and you have a story that makes fact read like fiction in the best ways possible.

Whenever I read anything by Elizabeth Chadwick, I'm reminded that there are few historical fiction authors who can transport you into the times quite as thoroughly and as seamlessly as she does. Eleanor being one of my personal heroines, I'm particularly pleased with how she is displayed in The Winter Crown: she's a real person, capable of both subterfuge and assertiveness, but with a human side that translates across the centuries. With the end of The Winter Crown, I'm left hanging and waiting on The Autumn Throne. I feel confident that I will love the close of Eleanor's story as much as I have the first two thirds.



Who hasn't wondered what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge after the Christmas of his Reclamation? Though Dickens gives us the slightest glimpse by telling us he was as good as his word, I know I've wanted to know just what occurred. Did he never lose his temper again? Did his business thrive? With this novel, Scrooge: The Year After, author Judy La Salle fills in the blanks rather well while staying true to the era and the themes of the original.

I purposely chose to read this novel at Christmas because,'s originally a Christmas tale. This novel is set in November/December of 1844, the year after Marley's nocturnal visit and that of his three ghostly friends. To all accounts, Scrooge has been doing precisely what he said he would: giving to the poor, making friends, and keeping Christmas in his heart all the days. He has gone into business with his nephew, Fred, and is enjoying life. Until, that is, his business is broken into, and then a lady friend begins questioning the death of Scrooge's sister, Fan, twenty years prior. Scrooge becomes determined to find out what really happened when Fan passed, and delves into old letters and interviews with those who were there (which Scrooge, of course, was not, already having succumbed to the lure of the dollar). This marks the time when Scrooge becomes an amateur sleuth, equally afraid of knowing and not knowing the dark details of the loss of his sister.

La Salle does a remarkable job of staying true to the era and the language of the original A Christmas Carol. I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, but Scrooge as detective wasn't what I thought it would be. However, the story is so well written that I found myself caught up in the drama of Fan's death and wanting Scrooge to learn more quickly what occurred. I cheered him on with every revelation, wanting him to stay true to his new nature and find success in all areas of his life. There is a side bit of a long ago gamble that doesn't really add much to the overall story, but it does provide a bit of a red herring for Scrooge as he seeks the answers he needs.

This is a very enjoyable novel, and I'm pleased that La Salle helped answer a few questions I had as well as drawing me into the times so fully. I wonder if there's a possibility of more of Scrooge's tale? I know I'd love to see what happens between he and Mrs. Langstone! Full of depth and intrigue, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this What If story.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Thoughts On First Frost

I finished Sarah Addison Allen's First Frost last night and as I write this review, it occurs to me that I have several strong thoughts/opinions to share. But first, a bit of background: First Frost picks up the story of the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney, back home in Bascom, NC, living settled, mostly happy lives in the shadow of their family legacy and the same, spirited apple tree living in the back yard. While all seems mostly well, there are undercurrents of dissatisfaction, and not just between the sisters: Bay, now 15, has revealed her feelings to Josh Matteson, who doesn't reciprocate, and nine year old Mariah, who has suddenly developed a friendship with a girl no one knows. There is also the presence of a mysterious stranger who doesn't seem to have the Waverley interests at heart.

So, on to my thoughts:

1) This book is filled with beautiful, luxurious statements that had me pausing to savor the words. A couple of my favorites: "...happiness isn't a point you leave behind. It's what ahead of you. Every single day." " was like she's brought the entire month of July with her." Gorgeous writing.
2) A story doesn't have to be about a big, sweeping tragedy or event to make it worthwhile. It can be about a series of small events that resonate with your life and cause you to think.
3) A touch of magical realism never hurts anything and generally helps.
4) We believe what we choose to believe.
5) Visiting with old friends, even old friends who need a good lecture, is always a welcome thing.
6) Sometimes, all it takes to get you out of a reading slump is one fantastically engaging book. This is it.

I loved this story, even if I did get frustrated at times, especially with Claire. I love all the characters, especially Evanelle and Fred; their interactions were genuine and touching. If I'm still not sure about the ending with Violet and Sydney (no spoilers here), I can still believe in it. Allen's writing is so vivid and alive, I would probably go along with an ending that involved unicorns and talking frogs (neither of which make an appearance, thankfully).

Every time Sarah Addison Allen releases a new book, I'm practically giddy until I finish it, and this is no exception. My biggest problem is that now I'll have to wait more than a year for her next entry. First Frost is as good as it gets, and I suppose I'll just have to bask in its glow until the next one.


Monday, November 10, 2014

A Thousand Pieces of You

Marguerite is mourning the sudden, violent death of her father, a famed physicist who, along with her mother and a couple of graduate students, has perfected a device that allows individuals to travel to alternate life dimensions. In a desperate attempt to track down Paul, the grad student accused of killing her father, Marguerite and the remaining student, Theo, grab the Firebird devices that allow them to go to other dimensions, and take off after him, determined to bring him to justice. Of course things do not go as planned, and it doesn't take long for Marguerite to begin to question Paul's guilt and her own convictions as she first slips into a futuristic world, then into a Russian world that hasn't advanced much past the turn of the last century, and finally into an oceanographer's dimension. In all of these worlds, she is Marguerite, but a slightly different version of herself; she occupies the bodies of the other Marguerites while trying to discover whether Paul has actually betrayed her father.

Confused? Well, yeah, it is confusing, but it's also not all that hard to follow, either. While my description doesn't really do the complexity justice, I found that as I read, I really did know what was going on and did understand what Marguerite was trying to accomplish (even when she wasn't precisely sure herself). There is some technical language that really doesn't make all that much sense as far as alternate dimensions go (though really, it's a novel, so it could be done however the author decides). What bothered me was the slipping into the alternate bodies and consciousnesses of the "other" Marguerites...where did they go while OUR Marguerite occupied their bodies? I never really got a satisfactory explanation, but again, if you don't think about it too much, it works.

Marguerite's a bit hard to get to know, and her immaturity (even with two graduate students seriously interested in her seventeen-year-old self) often made me want to scream. I understood her need to avenge her father, but she's often reactive rather than proactive once she arrives in another dimension. I'm not sure I buy the relationship she forms with one of the graduate students; there just didn't seem to be much chemistry between them. But Marguerite is brave and determined, and she uncovers layers of the mystery with every dimensional jump until the final big twisty reveal (which I actually figured out ahead of time...woot! for me).

Despite my misgivings about Marguerite, I did love the storyline and Ms. Gray is a very good writer who holds the reader's attention quite well throughout. The idea of alternate dimensions is fascinating, and while I might prefer the take of Anna Jarzab's Tandem (Many-Worlds) this is indeed a good entry that keeps you entangled in the story. I'm ready for Book Two.


Saturday, November 01, 2014


Full Disclosure: I didn't realize this was the second book in the series when I decided to read and review it. So perhaps I might have missed a bit of relationship building (okay, I missed a lot) and some background information that it might have been handy to know (sure, I was confused a few times). But for all that, Invisible is a rollicking good story that kept me swept up and reading, figuring out what was going on and keeping me intrigued enough to want to know more.

Joy Malone is involved with a Scribe from The Twixt, the enchanted world humans know nothing about but co-exists alongside ours. Joy has the Sight, which is normally a condition that means blinding by the Twixt, but apparently she's done things in the past that have saved her and others and resulted in her relationship with Ink, the hunky, hot, not- human Scribe. She is also friends with his sister Inq, and on good terms with a giant frog-like Bailiwick known as Graus Claude. Joy has ignited the wrath of The Tide, and they have defied an Edict of Protection by sending a lethal Red Knight to kill her. While evading the Knight, Joy becomes involved with a) a side business with the Bailiwick which puts her at risk, b) the Cabana Boys and a Den of Iniquity, c) her brother's strange behavior, and d) a wizard. When Joy's best friend Monica gets hurt during one of Joy's encounters, Joy risks her life and her relationship with Ink.

I really enjoyed this story, even if I didn't understand all the references to the first book in the series. Still, the author does an excellent job of world and character building, even if Joy at times acts rashly and a bit immaturely. But she is always loyal and brave, and above all, determined. Biggest gripes? I don't need to know what each of the Bailiwick's hands is doing every time we see him, and Ink comes off as wooden way too often (even if he is just learning to experience human emotion). But I'm in! I'm on board for the next book in the series and feel certain the first book must be just as engaging as this one since we know that the second books in trilogies often suffer from slow plot and pacing. Fun story and well worth the read.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Reapers Are The Angels

How to describe The Angels Are the Reapers? Sure, it's a zombie story, but it's so different than most other books with that theme that it's hard to know precisely what to say. I finished the book a few days ago and I'm still digesting the story, and I imagine I'll still be thinking about it long after I finish this review.

The Angels Are the Reapers is the story of fifteen year old Temple, born after whatever it was that caused the dead to start returning as zombies happened. It's the only life she's known; she has no clue who her parents were, having grown up in an orphanage very quickly. When the story opens, Temple is alone on a small island with a lighthouse, thinking she's safe for the time being, but it doesn't take long for the "slugs" to begin to invade and Temple has to go back into "civilization", such as it is. It's obvious there's more to Temple's background, but we're only teased about it; Temple finds a community to join, but things go downhill rapidly and she's forced to flee almost as soon as she arrives. How a fifteen year old invokes the deadly wrath of a fellow warrior in the fight against the zombies and finds herself on his personal hit list is only part of the story; how she manages to take on an adult, intellectually challenged male in her travels, abide for a time in a genteel southern home, and face off against mutants round out the tale but still doesn't fill in all the gaps.

Temple may be the young adult heroine of this story, but it's not really a YA novel in tone or message. Temple is fascinating in so many respects, revealing layer after layer to her personality even though she seems not to be sophisticated enough to know what she does about people. She faces down her enemies in deadly fashion, yet it's obvious she still has a conscience. She adapts to her world because that's all she's ever known, showing a grudging respect for the man, Moses Todd, who is determined to hunt her down and kill her. She shows compassion when necessary and is ruthless almost all the time. Her story is going to grip you hard and won't let you go.

If there's anything I disliked about The Reapers Are The Angels, it would be the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything, but I will say that I was disappointed. Though it's well written and entirely believable, I wanted more...more emotion, more explanation, more redemption, more revenge, more everything. And maybe that's the point of the whole story: It is what it is. I know I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and I suspect that was the author's purpose all along: To get in there without apology.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Trust Me I'm Lying

Julep Dupree is a grifter--she cons people for a living. She may only be fifteen, but she's been well-trained by her father in the art of deception and conning people into doing what she wants. It's paid off; she attends the most prestigious private school in Chicago from funds obtained through her "business". But Julep has plans; she's going to Yale someday, and she's going to leave the illegal world behind. Until then, grifting is her way of getting ahead.

Things take a major turn for the worse, however, when Julep returns home one day to find her apartment ransacked and her father missing. Along with her best friend Sam, Julep, who knows her father wouldn't leave without clues, begins searching diligently because she knows it all has to do with a con gone wrong. The problems begin to mount when she is followed and the clues they find only seem to lead to dead ends. Mix in a new relationship with Tyler, the hottest boy in school, and Julep's continued illegal activities, and you've got the basis for a mystery that's going to require every faculty to decipher.

I liked Trust Me I'm Lying a lot, mostly because, despite her questionable profession, Julep is smart yet vulnerable. The mystery is layered and takes a turn into international illegal immigration/sex slavery (though nothing explicit is ever described as far as the sex trade goes), and Julep and her friends more than hold their own when pitted against bigger, badder people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Julep's desperation to find the only parent she knows runs through the novel, giving her a human side that she often tries to hide from her friends and the reader. She's a tough cookie, but she's still a high school student.

What doesn't work? Well, the book is set in a posh private school and Julep runs with people she'd probably never be able to associate with in real life. Don't get me wrong; I liked her interactions with everyone, even when she's trying to hold herself aloof because of her innate differences. I just don't see it all really working in the real world, but I'm willing to suspend belief for the sake of the story. I also found it odd that Julep could miss school and classes time and again and never really suffer any consequences. But maybe that's being nitpicky in a story that has the elements of an epic heist film and pulls it all off fairly well.

Trust Me I'm Lying is a good read, with a strong story line and even stronger heroine. If her morals are often questionable, Julep still manages to pull you over to her side and draws you into her illicit activities with the ease of a practiced con. I'm hoping there is a sequel because there's a few unanswered questions; nothing major, but enough that I don't quite think Julep's story is done just yet.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Shifting Shadows

This collection of stories from the world of Mercy Thompson is a must read for any fan of the series. Each story (none of which I'd read before) stands alone well and sheds more light on the overall world. I found as I read that I'd become totally immersed in that particular story and when a new one started, I'd be reluctant to move on because I'd invested so much of myself in the one previous. Some tales involve characters we know well, and some are of ones we've only heard fleetingly. So which were the best?

For me, "Silver" was the least of all the stories, a fact that surprised me greatly. I'd thought I'd be swept away in the story of the meeting of Ariana and Sam, but instead, I just wanted the plot to move along. It's still good, and it gives insight into the history that's been alluded to throughout the series. Still not the best, however.

Beyond that one misstep for me, my favorites include "Gray", a terrific Gothic tale of love lost and ghosts of all sorts. "Alpha and Omega" and "Roses in Winter" are both riveting; I read each in one big gulp. But the best, by far, is "Hollow", an official Mercy story that has her right back battling otherworldly spirits just after her almost fatal outing in Night Broken. Absolutely perfect Mercy, as usual.

I'm not a big short story reader, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this collection. Fans of the series will delight in glimpses into the past and present of our favorite shifter and her world.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Infinite Sea

I have to admit, it was hard to read The Infinite Sea. I absolutely adored The 5th Wave, and I was so afraid The Infinite Sea would not live up to my expectations. I shouldn't have worried, even though there were things I really wanted that I didn't get. And that's still okay.

Be forewarned...things might get a spoilery ahead.

Still reading? Okay, here's what I didn't like. I was put off that the story basically opened on Ringer's point of view, especially since I considered her a secondary character and I am so. emotionally. invested. in Cassie and Evan. It's not that I dislike Ringer, but I wanted to get right inside the action with Cassie immediately, and that didn't happen. But okay, I can cut some slack, even if Ringer was acting a bit like an automaton and still seemed very distant. But what happens...well, let's say it sets the stage really well for a big, big reveal later on, so all is forgiven.

I also feel let down on the Cassie/Evan front, mostly because my time spent with each was separate and quick. I still got a lot from their interactions, and Evan still managed to make me mad with all his self-sacrificing stuff. Necessary story building, but still frustrating. Plus the constant bickering between Ben and basically everyone felt a bit like filler material. More story building.

BUT...the story really took off mid-way and didn't let me go until I closed the last page (and even now, I'm still thinking about it). I totally love how Cassie has developed over the course of the books, and what happens with Ringer...well, my perseverance paid off big time as what I'd begun to suspect was confirmed. There's so much left unanswered, I know the author will never get it all tied up. But I have faith that he will. Right?

The Infinite Sea is a solid second entry in the series, one that furthers the story while making it murkier still. I'd say that's a confusing statement, but it's not. While it's not the mind-blowing plot that began the series, it still packs a hard punch and offers its own twists and turns. Now I'm just mad that I have to wait another year for the final book.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

In a Handful of Dust is the sequel to Not a Drop to Drink, a post-apocalyptic novel I enjoyed greatly. While this one is good, it's not quite as enthralling as the first installment. Let's recap.

In a Handful of Dust focuses on Lucy, not Lynn, and it's obvious that Lucy is still young in many ways, though we learn she's sixteen. Still living in Lynn's house, disaster breaks out when polio hits the small community and many children and adults die or are paralyzed. As the epidemic is studied by Lucy's grandmother, it becomes obvious that the outbreak is centered on either Lucy or her friend Carter as a carrier. Forced to leave the community, Lynn and Lucy trek across the country with a goal of California, which they've heard has desalinization plants for ocean water. Along the way, their path is filled with peril, not least of which arrives in the form of other people, including a horrifying stop in Las Vegas.

This novel seemed to move much more slowly for me than Not a Drop to Drink; there's a lot of action but I just wasn't as engaged for some reason. Not that it's not good by any means; the dangers the women face are real and brutal and there's never an assurance that they will reach anything worth the travel. I suppose I just got tired of Lynn's continuously dour demeanor and Lucy's rather childish actions. The final payoff is quite short and could have stood at least a couple more chapters of explanation and resolution. But overall this is a good book and it continues the story in a mostly satisfying way.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

Molly Pierce has a secret, but she doesn't know what it is. Everyone else around her does, but they won't share. Oh, and it's about Molly. If she wants to know what it is, she's going to have to peel the layers back and find out for herself.

I have to say, this book kept me guessing. I read it in one day because I needed to know what was going on and how it was all going to play out. There's just enough revealed at a time that you start to glimpse the bigger picture at least by midway, but it's still unclear as to details, right up until the very end. There's death, there's love, there's friendship, there's family, and there's Molly, trying to make sense of it all, just as we are.

I won't give away the secret here, but I will say it's plausible in a lot of ways, and not so plausible in others. The idea that so many people actually know what's going on yet they all allow Molly to figure things out in her own frustrating time wasn't the most realistic experience, in my opinion, but since it works in the book, I could go with the flow. And flow it does; one page leads to another quickly as you just have to find out what's going on. It's not the best writing in the universe, but it is engaging and it is a page-turner. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robin Williams

I hesitate to write this post because maybe it's silly to mourn someone you never met, but I do. When word of his death appeared on my Facebook feed, it hit my gut like an ice cold knife. Robin was one of my Top Four guys--along with Billy Crystal, Dick Button, and Scott Hamilton--guys I "claimed" as my own, who touched me deeply in some way. I never, ever thought I'd lose him so young and so tragically.

I know I'm not alone in my grief, and that's comforting. I really don't care if you "don't get it" or don't understand why I was devastated. These feelings are mine, and for me, I've lost a friend.

Rest in Peace, Robin. God hold you close.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

That's My Baby!

I've gotta baby girl (well, I don't care if she's 18...she's still my baby!) narrated a video last spring about the Academies at her high school. She just showed it to me tonight, and I'm so proud I could burst. As we get ready to move her into her dorm on Friday, I just know she's going to do great things because...well, LOOK AT HER.  She's just awesome.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

So...I Read a Romance

 You know sometimes you need to jumpstart your reading? Maybe pick up something mindless? So, because a good friend really liked this one, I picked it up.

They say confession is good for the soul. So...yeah...I read a romance. One with a horrible title, no less. And get this: I enjoyed it. For what it is, it's a fun romp with some delicious sex mixed in. So there.

The story matter is very light: Caroline moves into an apartment and is almost immediately kept awake by her neighbor's sexual antics next door. She endures until finally she snaps and goes over there, letting him have it. OF COURSE he's sexy and arrogant, which just inflames her, until they sort of become friends. A misunderstanding ensues, but it's worked out, and then...well, yeah, it's formulaic and silly, but it's still fun. Oh, and there's a cat involved. And lots and lots of sexual innuendo.

Wallbanger is funny, though I didn't just die of laughter like I'd thought I might. Caroline's pretty snappy with the comebacks, and her inner monologue is great. I went from disliking Simon (the "Wallbanger") to liking him a lot, even if I did find the amount of sexual escapades toward the end ridiculous. Would I read more by the author? Sure, if I'm in the mood for a mindless romance with only one possible outcome. That's not always a bad thing.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Dear Killer (This Book Needs to Die...and NOT in a Good Way)

Here's the disclaimer...I didn't finish this one, so take my review for what it's worth. It's not that the writing is bad; in fact, it's fairly engaging, and maybe with another topic, I might've been giving a totally different review. My biggest issue with the 60+ pages I read was the amorality of the title character. If there had been anything at all redeemable about her, I'd have kept on reading. And perhaps there is, later on in the book, but I just felt sorta icky reading a story told by a character who sees killing, even people she knows, as a business. Maybe that's not even it; maybe it's just that, no matter her childhood, I just couldn't root for a teen killer. This isn't Dexter, and killing people you know because you can is just not for me.

I'm giving this book 2 stars because I recognize it's unfair to judge an entire book on less than 100 pages, and I also recognize that maybe I'm missing something vital in not continuing to read. I just know, for me, this book just left me feeling unsettled, and not in a good way.


Orange Is The New Black

I read Orange is the New Black because of the hype surrounding the Netflx show (which I haven't watched yet). Now that I've finished the book, I have to say it's an interesting look at life behind bars but not exactly compelling reading. I believe the fault in the book lies in the fact that it takes place in a minimum security prison, and the author is doing only fifteen months' time. Not that that makes it necessarily easier, but there's no hardcore drama because most of the women incarcerated just want to put in their time and get out. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Piper Kerman writes the story of how she came to be a criminal with a clear voice, and it's obvious she's not like many of the women with whom she does time. After a misspent youth that led her to do a drug drop, Piper thinks she can move on, until she finds herself indicted on the charge five years later. Luckily for her, pleading guilty greatly reduces her jail time and her family, and most especially her boyfriend, are very supportive of her. Once she is sentenced to Danbury, it takes her a bit to get used to all the customs and regulations she must endure, but she seems able to make friends and learn how to get along. I have no idea if she did, in fact, have many friendships with women of all races and religions, and it doesn't really matter because this is her story to tell in whatever way she wants. I did find it interesting how the women were able to move about freely within the building and on the grounds, and how they made do with contraband just to enjoy a few moments and treats.

I think my biggest issue with the book is that, really, not much happened during the time Piper spent in jail. Sure, there were a few situations and there were some tear-jerking relationships made, but really, the book is mostly about the day-to-day mundaneness of being in prison. While I appreciated the stories, they never had me on the edge of my seat, dying to know how it all turned out. While the book is interesting, it's just not a page turner, and no one should go into it expecting it to be like the series.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Monsters...and not the good kind

Monsters brings the Ashes trilogy to a close, but it complicates matters and drags things out way more than was necessary. As the book opens, Alex and Tom are separated and trying to survive in a zombie-filled world where humans are almost as big a problem as the people-eaters. There's a lot of traveling, and Alex is back with Wolf, the zombie who seems to still retain some human emotion. Meanwhile, Chris meets up with Ellie, the girl originally with Alex when the Zap happened, but his story takes a major turn when his injuries turn out to be much worse than feared. Somehow, the main characters slowly, slowly make their ways back to one another in a showdown that may take the town of Rule down in pieces.

I wasn't a fan of the multiple points of view; there's a section in the book that I found myself skimming in order to get back to the main stories. By the time we finally end up in Rule, I was about ready to blow the town up myself. However, I really did enjoy the final third of the book, and the chapters moving back and forth between characters' action was riveting. I loved how it all played out, even if I do feel the story would've benefited from serious culling. It took me quite a while to remember who was who and where we were when I began the book; whoever decided that the "catch-up" pages belonged in the back of the book--after the ending!!--was a major idiot. It really slowed my reading down while I came to grips with what all was going on since it'd been more than a year since I read Shadows.

Monsters is a book I can recommend, with reservations. I think it would've been best had I read it right after Shadows, and if you feel like skimming, it's all right to do so. You won't miss any major plot points and it will get you to the action, which is really good once you arrive. And be forewarned--this is one majorly gory book! Bick doesn't shy away from details of zombie-people-eating, and you'll need a very strong stomach to read it. I also got very tired of hearing about the "monster" in Alex's head--okay, I got it, it's all tied into the theme and the zombies and her illness...too much. But I did enjoy the read and am glad I read the entire series.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where She Went

I'm one of the lucky ones because I was able to pick up Where She Went almost immediately upon finishing If I Stay. I was so emotionally invested in If I Stay, I think I would've gone into a deep, dark depression if I'd had to wait as long as many did to get some resolution to this story. And it is with a happy heart that I can report that this sequel definitely worked the same magic as the first book. I was hooked from the first page.

Where She Went is told from Adam's point of view, and we've fast forwarded three years past Mia's devastating accident. Adam's now a bona fide rock star but he's miserable because only months after Mia left for Juilliard, she inexplicably stopped responding to his emails and texts. It was obvious that she no longer wanted to be with him, and he began a spiral down into depression that only the music kickstarted him out of. But things still aren't good for Adam; he can't get past Mia just dropping him, even though he's been with other girls and even has a serious live-in. Then he finds himself in NYC and he passes a poster for Mia's cello concert, and thinks...he has to go. Even if he doesn't talk to her, he has to go. And of course they meet up and explanations are attempted. Throughout the story, we move back and forth through the three years, seeing what Adam's been through. It's riveting to follow his traumatized losses and his disappointment as we begin to find out Where She Went.

This sequel definitely lives up to the storyline of If I Stay, even if I had a hard time with how Mia finally came to give her reasons. It's so well written, so emotional, that I literally inhaled the book in a day. Forman makes the story make sense and she gives the characters so much life that it's easy to find yourself lost in the telling. Sometimes sequels let a reader down, but this one takes us on an unexpected ride that fulfills its promises. Loved it.


If You Haven't Read This Book Yet...

...then you need to pick up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry! It's definitely a book for book lovers. I know that I absolutely delighted in the mentions of other books throughout, and the idea that relationships can be built around and by a love of reading is truly uplifting and unifying. If the novel itself is a bit light on plot--and the reader can tell what's going to happen in advance--it's more than made up in the engaging writing and the depth of feeling that flies through the pages.

The story is pretty basic: A.J. Fikry owns the only bookstore on the fictional Alice Island off the East Coast, and he is miserable after the death of his wife. That all changes with the appearance of a toddler left in the shop one night, and before he knows it, A.J.'s opened his heart in more ways than one. Also intertwined with the central story is Ismay, A.J.'s former sister-in-law, herself a victim of a loveless marriage, and Chief Lambiase, the lonely policeman who somehow begins his own book club. There's a mystery, too: A.J. was once in possession of a first edition copy of Edgar Allen Poe's first novel, Tamerlane, but the book goes missing early on. Will it ever be found? As the story progresses, I found myself less interested in the missing book as the lives and personalities of the characters take center stage...and then, bam! the book's back in the spotlight and I was as excited about it as I was in the beginning.

So what makes the story so special? Well, there are some lines that are just gems, such as "We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works." Little lines that just sneak up and then hit you full force with their honesty are peppered throughout. But mostly it's the characters, who are flawed, real, charming, and human. It could be anyone's life; it could be my life. And if it was my life, I'd say it was a good one indeed. Just read it. You'll be glad you did.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Sit Back and Listen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

If I Stay

If I Stay is a rather short book, less than 200 pages, but it's packed full of emotion so deep and events so blinding, it doesn't need any more. Having inhaled this story, I can say that I'm an emotional wreck blown away by the impact of the words. I'm going to be thinking about this one for a long, long time.

Not giving anything away, this is the story of Mia, whose nice, ordinary family is torn apart by a horrific car wreck one very normal day. Mia tells the story as she "exists" outside her body from the moment she wakes from the wreck; she watches what happens in the hospital and comes to realize it's going to be up to her whether or not she stays in this world or goes on. She's there when her family visits, when her best friend arrives, and when her boyfriend breaks the rules in order to see her in the ICU. She has to accept the unacceptable and decide if it's all worth it. Intermingled in the tale of what's happening to Mia now are flashback stories showing her relationship with Adam, her dedication to her cello, and times she had with her parents and younger brother. Heart-wrenching stories, stories that show that sometimes what seems most normal is actually incredibly special and not to be taken for granted.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved Mia's voice, and most of all, I loved the people she loved. My heart broke so many times, but in so many wonderful ways. Many readers (myself included to some degree) will feel most strongly about younger brother Teddy, but I truly was most moved by Gramps. When he speaks quietly to Mia, I could feel every word. This book is a beautiful, horrible, astounding monument to the ordinary lives of people and what it means to be truly alive. Highly recommended.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Burn: The Final Pure Book

Burn finishes up the Pure trilogy, and like the other two, this one is well written and a page turner. This time we've got Pressia and her friends returning in the "borrowed" airship, only to find that their home is now burning and everything is coming to a head within the Dome, but they now have a possibility of bringing it all down. Partridge has returned to the Dome and is now in charge upon the death of his father, but he's confused and finding out that change isn't quite as easy as he'd thought it would be. Lyda's in the Dome as well, but there are still people in suspension, and Partridge discovers his father's left messages for him even after death. And there's so much more--El Capitan must deal with his feelings for Pressia, as must Bradwell, and people within the Dome aren't sure they even want to change. It's a page turning plot that made me realize how much I love these characters, flaws and all.

Biggest issue with Burn? The hanging plot threads that are never resolved. There are a lot of them, in fact. Not wanting to get spoilery, but a few plot points would be all right, but the amount of items left without resolution is pretty huge. I was surprised that we didn't get to see some big payoffs we'd been anticipating, and even more surprised when I got to the end and realized how many pages were actually spent on things that, in the end, didn't really matter all that much. As an aside, if there was ever a more irritating character than Iralene, I've yet to meet her.

Still, Burn is beautifully written and vivid. I totally love this awkward, warped, confused world and I would love for Ms. Baggott to consider more books in this setting. It's not a pretty book, but none of the three are. What it lacks in physical beauty, however, it more than makes up for in characterizations. When even a small black box can elicit emotional pangs from the reader, you know it's a special series.



The third book in Marissa Meyer's series which began with Cinder, Cress retells the story of Rapunzel as set in the dystopian world of the future. Cress has been kept on board a satellite of Earth by the Lunar Queen's thaumaturge, Mistress Sybil. Her ability to hack into computers has proven her to be a valuable asset, but it's a lonely existence, broken only by the occasional visits of Sybil over seven long years. Until Cress makes contact with the spaceship Rampion, where Cinder, Scarlett, Wolf, and Captain Thorne are hiding until they can work out how to return to Earth and defeat Lunar Queen Levana. At this point for Cress, it's all or nothing, so she works out an escape plan that somehow becomes a survival journey for she and Thorne. Meanwhile, Cinder tries to figure out how to get to Emperor Kai before he can marry Levana, and somewhere along the line, Scarlett is abducted by Sybil's forces.

You'd think there's a lot of action going on, and there least after the halfway mark. Until that point, there's a good deal of planning, stalling, and events not working out that had me thinking I needed to fast forward. While I was still engaged, I just needed the story lines to converge and get to a point. However, once I read on past the halfway mark, the plot takes a definite upswing and Cinder and Company are in almost constant peril. It was after that point that I truly became vested in the story and had to keep reading to know what would happen next.

The characters are well done, and Thorne is an absolute delight with his cunning and arrogance. I really liked Cress; she's got brains and a human side that is very endearing. I did grow a bit weary of all the glamouring going on but since that's part of the Lunar world, it's understandable. Meyer takes the essence of the fairy tale and while keeping it generally recognizable, entwines it into her universe in such a way that you forget it's actually a fairy tale. I'm eager to see where we're headed next.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

We Were Liars

We Were Liars focuses on the wealthy Sinclair family, owners of the Beechwood Island off Martha's Vineyard, where each of the three daughters have their own houses, along with their parents. The main character is fifteen year old Cadence, whose friendship with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and family friend Gat forms the basis of the Liars.The family has always spent the summers on the island and it is during this fifteenth summer that Cadence discovers she is in love with Gat, but it's also during this summer (the first after her grandmother Tipper has died) that the daughters begin bickering with their father over inheritances and favoritism. Cadence's father has moved out, her aunts are having relationship problems, and the "littles" (the younger Sinclairs) are almost a non-issue. Then tragedy strikes: Cadence suffers a traumatic head injury and develops severe migraines, disrupting her sixteenth summer plans and keeping her away from the other Liars. But there's more to it than that...or is there?

This book is a mystery, a coming of age story, and a soap opera wrapped up in relatively spare storytelling. Cadence is an unreliable narrator, but it's obvious that there are much larger issues going on than wealthy family troubles. If no one seems sympathetic, they are still absolutely compelling. I kept turning the pages because I had to know what happened; I felt fairly certain I had figured out what was going on and yet there was a driving need to know precisely why and how it happened. It's not a particularly pretty story, or even a story that's beautifully written. What it is is a story that leads you down a path you know is destructive and yet you keep going. I'm going to be thinking about this one for a very long time to come.


Where Things Come Back

I picked up Where Things Come Back by John Corley Whaley because it is my daughter's favorite book of all time, and she's been urging me to read it for a while now. And while I may not have loved it as much as she does, I was suitably impressed with the unique story that merges several story lines very well. I'll explain my biggest issue in a bit.

Basically, Where Things Come Back focuses on a summer in Lily, Arkansas, when Cullen Witter's younger brother Gabriel goes missing at the same time as the town goes a little crazy over the sighting of a woodpecker long thought extinct. Cullen's a pretty typical seventeen year old, obsessed with Ada Taylor and absolutely crushed when Gabriel disappears without a trace. As his family is blind sided, the town comes under the spell of a man claiming to have seen the woodpecker, thus causing almost everyone to be on the lookout for the elusive bird. Cullen is lucky to have a friend who is extremely supportive but he's at a loss. The fact that his cousin has just overdosed and his love life is complicated by a girl he's slept with and a girl he wants just muddies the situation. The essential question is how do you go on when nothing is the same?

Meanwhile, intwined through Cullen's story is first the story of Benton Sage, a young man who is a missionary trying to live up to his family's expectations. When he goes off to college, he becomes obsessed with a missing book of the Bible, and it's this obsession that transfers this story line to Cabot Searcy, Benton's roommate. Cabot is determined to discover the meaning behind the missing book. Somehow, these very diverse story lines work to fuel the disappearance of Gabriel and Cullen's summer of discovery.

The language in the book is rich and riveting, and Cullen is a genuine story teller, often able to look beyond himself to describe the action as he feels others see it. I found myself caught up in the big mystery of Gabriel but less so in the secondary stories of Benton and Cabot. Possible spoilers.....

While I thought the way the stories diverged was quite inventive, I am not a fan of how many threads were left dangling at the conclusion. I've discussed the ending with my daughter, who found it hopeful and beautiful, but I like more definitive information in a mystery as big as this one. I have used my imagination to fill in the blanks, and I suppose that is how the author intended for us to read it. Still, it's a sore spot for this reader.

Overall, however, this book is definitely well written and very good; I race through it and feel as though I need to read it again to catch all the subtle nuances. I can see why it's my daughter's favorite, and with my own minor issues, it's definitely one of the best reads I've had all summer.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Dust Lands: Raging Star

While I totally loved the first Dust Lands book, and the second was very good, Raging Star started off very slowly for me. I know it's been a while since I read the second book, and maybe I did need a couple of chapters to get back into the unique writing style. Problem with that theory is that the slowness lasted for at least the first third of the book, and I almost started to skim ahead to see how the series ended. I'm glad I didn't, however, because the ending definitely made up for the initial problems.

Raging Star brings Saba and her band to the ultimate showdown against the founder of New Eden, De Malo and the Tonton. But the book opens with the group bringing down a critical bridge and Saba's unease only intensifies when things happen that cause her to wonder if they are fighting the best way possible. There is also something underhanded happening within the group as Nero is feared killed at one point. Saba is forced to the edge of sanity and physicality by her decisions in how to defeat the New Eden people, and the lies she's felt compelled to tell wear her down further. I wanted her to get herself together and I wanted to shake her; the author did an excellent job of showing how Saba was pushed to the wall and still maintained her position as a leader fighting injustice. Once the plot started coming together, the pace picked up nicely and the ultimate showdown is well worth the wait.

There's a lot of tragedy in Raging Star: a lot of heartbreak, a lot of holding on because there's nothing else left to do. But there's also a lot of people stepping up in unexpected ways and a lot of finding inner strength when you believe there's none left. Saba is a wonderful character, truly alive and flawed, and she's surrounded by characters who love her or at least respect her enough to listen to her ideas. If the first part is slow, the wade through is well worth it as the final third is a wild ride that won't let you go until the end. I'm sorry to see this trilogy end, but I do think the author achieved an almost perfect conclusion.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

For Downton Abbey Fans

Servants' Hall is a collection of stories that follows the life of the author in her years of domestic service in post WWI England. Margaret starts life as a kitchen maid and ends her tenure as Cook, having worked at several different homes in the years of her service. Along the way, she encounters several odd, lively personalities and has a few adventures with both guests and employers. Of particular interest in Margaret's friend Rose, who marries the son of the household in which she serves, setting her on a path she has no idea how to maintain. Margaret and her friend Mary attempt to stay in touch with the hapless Rose after her marriage and the results clearly show the problems in marrying "out of your station" during those days.

Margaret writes in a clear, engaging style that brings the reader into a world gone by and sheds light on how life was lived below stairs. Having not read her previous book, I was enthralled with how things were and impressed by the command of the language someone "in service" had when writing. I definitely want to pick up anything else the author may have written; she definitely had a way with words and her stories, while possibly embellished, were filled with the human-ness of the life of a servant. Relatively short, this book is a great read and fans of the time period will love seeing how the real folks lived.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eleanor and Park. READ THIS BOOK. NOW.

I don't usually write reviews right upon finishing a book, but Eleanor and Park is different. It's been a few hours since I closed it and my heart is still overwhelmed. I want to crawl inside this book; I wish I'd written it. Truly magnificent. There are lots of reasons why.

1) Eleanor and Park are both REAL. They fall into this relationship in the most bizarre of ways (she's forced to sit with him on the bus) and yet, it all makes perfect sense. A relationship that develops slowly and as friends has a true base, and you can feel it in every word.
2) The home lives of each one are entirely believable. I know people who have as messed up home lives as Eleanor, and they struggle to overcome every day. I also know people who have relatively normal, sane parents who strive to make a good home for their kids, even if they sometimes mess up along the way. Eleanor's world and Park's world are in perfect contrast to one another and they work.
3) Eleanor works hard to rise above the horrible way she is treated at home and in school, but she also has a pretty impenetrable wall that only Park can get around. And yet, he still messes up. It's all a journey and both Eleanor and Park make major strides in becoming the person they want to be.
4) It has a killer soundtrack. I grew up in the 80s and I loved the references to music I knew and loved, and I love how it tied Eleanor and Park together and to the storyline. Music speaks when we can't.
5) The emotions are raw. There are so many and I experienced them all through the beauty of Rowell's writing: pain, anger, resignation, desperation, passion, happiness, embarrassment. You name it, it's there, and each emotion leaps off the page and wraps itself around you.
6) That ENDING. Wow. Just wow. Please don't write a sequel; it's perfect as it is.
7) Rowell's writing. I know I've already mentioned this but it is just exquisite. When Eleanor talks about Park's arms being a tourniquet around beautiful. And it's all like this.

There's a lot of adult language and I did get upset that Eleanor was so hesitant about Park but it's all a part of the story and every single bit makes sense. My heart hurt, my heart sang, my heart got dragged through it all. Now I just want to sit here and hold the book and experience it all again. Yes, it's that gush-worthy. Yes, it's that moving. Yes, you need to read it. Right now. Highly, highly recommended.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Loving Me Some Mercy

I'll start by saying I adore Mercy Thompson Hauptmann! She's a true heroine, real with faults but loyal and confident. Her relationship with her husband Adam is more than romantic: it's a partnership with bonds so deep you can feel them. So, yeah, I pretty much love all the Mercy Thompson books, and this is another outstanding addition.

This time around, Mercy faces what may be her strongest foe yet: Adam's ex-wife, Christy, who has slept with a man who is now stalking her big time. Christy is the antithesis of Mercy and it took maybe 1.5 seconds for me to dislike her completely. Mercy does better with the ex than I would have; she reminds herself that this is for Jesse, her stepdaughter, and Adam's need to make Christy safe. That said, it's more than a little hard for Mercy when it becomes obvious that the majority of the pack still loves Christy and Christy's out to use every bit of manipulation available to make herself look like a victim. Trouble is, she IS a victim to some extent because the man she slept with turns out to be a volcano god and he is beyond crazy, killing his way to get to Christy.

Possible spoilers've been warned.

The scenes where Mercy engages the volcano god are action filled and top-notch story telling. Briggs writes so that you can feel every blow Mercy gives and receives, and her cunning is sharp and mostly self-reliant. I find myself holding my breath whenever Mercy fights because I know she's going to get hurt but the fact is, she is so determined that I feel as though I am there. The way she faces her demons, both literally and figuratively, is thoroughly believable and entertaining.

The other facet to this story is Mercy being asked by one of the Grey Lords to return the infamous walking stick which she had previously given to Coyote. This side story brings a whole new character into the sphere: Mercy's half-brother, Gary Laughingdog. Their exchanges are typical of siblings in a lot of ways, and their reactions to dealing with their shared father Coyote are often humorous. Definitely going to love seeing where this goes in future books.

This novel takes the pack and Mercy to new levels of understanding and brings some big issues to light. Is everything resolved neatly? Of course not, and that's the beauty of this series. I'm drawn in by Mercy's assertiveness, her relationship with Adam, and her never say die attitude. Highly recommended!


Monday, June 23, 2014

A Triple Knot

A Triple Knot is the fictionalized story of Joan of Kent, royal daughter descended from Edward I of England who ultimately became Queen Regent for her son, Richard II. The novel, however, does not get to this point of Joan's rather engaging life; we follow her from the time she's a child who is basically raised with the king's children until she finally marries the man known as the Black Prince, some twenty years later. What happens in between really could be the invention of a novelist, with Joan marrying Thomas Holland, a lowly knight, in secret, and then going into another marriage with the son of the Earl of Salisbury at her family's direction. Her feelings for Thomas and her resistance to her second marriage ultimately becomes a decision for the Pope and the proceedings are dragged out over time. It's really amazing that this renowned beauty somehow managed to be united with the man she loved and overcome her family's insistence of the validity of her second marriage; beyond that, she eventually captured the heart of the Black Prince and came to power in her own right. Truly an amazing account that should be excellent fodder for an historical novel.

Unfortunately, A Triple Knot does quite a bit of "telling" rather than showing; there's a dearth of dialogue that would have illuminated the characters involved and involved the reader more fully with events that are at times pretty confusing. Even when there is dialogue, it's often either stilted and formal, or very flowery; I just could not get a connection to any of the characters because I just couldn't relate to them. There's a lot of intrigue going on (as I'm sure there was at the time) but Joan is cast firstly as a victim of a sexual predator, then as a mature lover (at age twelve!), then as a brave woman defending herself and others on shipboard, then as a sullen, depressed young woman; after that we find Joan as victim again, lover again, repeat cycle. With all that actually happened in this remarkable young lady's life, it seemed a bit overdone to have her fight off an attacker physically on a ship but then be held captive by her erstwhile husband a bit later. I know the gaps needed filling, and it's the author's prerogative to do so, but I just couldn't buy into it.

Not that there's nothing redeeming in this novel; I did enjoy parts of it and found that the author remained as true as I could recall to the known facts. It's just the characterizations the author chose in using those facts left me feeling cold. With a wealth of fascinating personages and events that changed the course of history, I just wanted at least one person to whom I felt a connection. I stuck with the novel through the end and never truly enjoyed the journey as much as I wanted to.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Now For Something Different...A Graphic Novel

The Fifth Beatle is a graphic novel of the life of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein from roughly the time he meets the boys until his tragic death just a few short years later. At just over a hundred pages, it is lushly illustrated in a style that evokes the time period with its colors and likenesses, and yet it is more than that. It's both a celebration and a unencumbered documentary on the life of a troubled genius.

The novel takes us down the path of Brian's obsession with the boys, his driving ambition to see them become successful, and his tirelessness in bringing them to the world at a time when the world most needed them. It doesn't, however, shy away from the darker stuff, all of which contributed to Brian's demise: His necessarily closeted homosexuality, his addiction to drugs, and his not always sharp business acumen. More than that, the book is colored with Brian's insecurities and his overwhelming need for love in whatever form it was available. With sequences that chronicle actual events (this Beatles' fan recognized actual well-known conversations) interspersed with whimsical episodes, the story moves through the successes and disappointments, staying true to the facts and the people of the time.

The actual artwork is breathtaking and vivid, with characters' countenances reminiscent of their real life counterparts. It took me a bit to get the idea of Moxie, the girl who seems to be Brian's assistant; I didn't recall anyone so named in his real life, but after I *got* it, I have to admit, she's a good addition that helps us see another side to Brian's personality. When I finished the story, I was left with a sense of waste and disappointment for Brian Epstein, and yet the story is told so well in both pictures and text, it's a must for any Beatles' fan. Well worth the price for daring to examine and illuminate this tortured genius.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Graduation Day

Graduation Day is the final book in The Testing series, and it wraps everything up rather nicely. While I never felt on the edge of my seat while reading it, I certainly can say I enjoyed the action (even if some of it was hard to swallow).

Basics: Cia is at the University, but she knows The Testing must stop so future generations will not have to undergo the rigorous, brutal conditions she and her fellow students did. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone is watching her, and she's unsure who she can trust, outside of boyfriend Tomas. When she expresses her concerns to the President, she finds herself at the heart of a plan to eliminate several officials. But she knows she can't do it alone.

There is a lot of action in Graduation Day, but also a lot of dithering, and "testing" of others' resolve. Cia always wants to do the right thing, but she takes a long time figuring out what to do, a fact that makes the novel drag at some points. In fact, though overall I liked the novel, there were several times I felt events were way too coincidental; without giving away spoilers, I will say that I doubt young people could move about so freely as Cia does in the beginning, especially when she's being watched for suspicious activity. I also wondered about the confidence the President placed in her, which seemed a little far-fetched, even for a post-apocalyptic novel. And I'm still not sure I'm buying that explanation at the ending, but it was action-filled and interesting. Overall, this is a good ending to the series and actually rates a strong 3.5 stars, so I'm rounding up for general enjoyment.