Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Gateway Gateway by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars, actually.

Gateway is the story of Daiyu, a Chinese-American teenager who buys a ring at a fair in St. Louis, MO, and ends up in a world called Jia the instant she walks under the St. Louis Arch. She's been brought there to infiltrate the upper echelons of the local Han society and get close enough to the charming prime minister that she can slap a bracelet on his wrist and send him back to his own world before he can do any more damage on Jia. During her training, she falls in love with a young stonepicker called Kalen, who is the only person she's certain she can trust.

This is the first of Sharon Shinn's books set partially in our world--specifically modern-day St. Louis. I found it a little difficult to get into the story for some reason (most likely because I ended up reading in such short chunks), and I thought the characters were a little less well developed than usual. But the story gets quite exciting by the end, and I did enjoy the book overall. I just had a hard time believing in the romance between Daiyu & Kalen, and I wish Aurora & Ombri's characters had been more three-dimensional.

For reader's advisory purposes, the main doorway was story. Character was probably intended to be the secondary doorway.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (Bevelstoke, #1) The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Julia Quinn is one of my favorite romance authors, but this is not my favorite of her books. I've now read it twice because I couldn't remember what happened in it/wasn't sure I'd read it before. I had. It just wasn't that great. I liked that the heroine, Miranda, wasn't ravishingly beautiful, for a change. And there are some funny moments. But the hero, Turner, takes a ridiculous amount of time to realize he loves his wife, and in the meantime, he makes her miserable. Frankly, I found Turner to be irritating and thought Miranda really could have done better for herself.

This is the first book in the new Bevelstoke series, and the next book, What Happens in London, is one of my new favorites. Read that one instead of this one!

Typically Quinn writes books with both story and character doorways, but in this case, I don't think the characters are quite well-written enough to justify a character doorway label. However, I would say setting is a secondary doorway since it's an historical romance.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My very favorite part of this truly excellent children's book is when Trixie goes "boneless." Cracks me up every time. Well, the whole thing does, really. I LOVE this book! You really can tell that Willems knows kids and can capture their expressions in his artwork perfectly.

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Leonardo, the Terrible Monster

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (ALA Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)) Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Mo Willems' books. This one is an adorable story about a young monster who is terrible at being scary. It'd work well as a read-aloud at home or for a storytime. Just be sure to take a deep breath before reading Sam's big rant. :)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Quatrain Quatrain by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sharon Shinn is one of my favorite contemporary authors because her stories are compelling, her main characters feel like people you know or want to know, and the worlds she creates seem real.

In Quatrain, Shinn tells four stories set in four separate worlds. The first--"Flight"--fits into her Samaria series--just before Gabriel becomes Archangel. Salome has spent the past 17 years avoiding angels and raising her niece, Sheba, and now her past is about to find her again.

In "Blood", Kerk's search for his long-lost mother leads him to a new understanding of the gender-based power dynamics in gulden society and a new appreciation for one particular indigo woman. This novella fits into the world Shinn created for her novel Heart of Gold, and the only thing I didn't like about it was that it wasn't longer! I actually exclaimed aloud in protest as I turned the last page and realized I'd come to the end.

The third novella, "Gold," is set in a world I didn't recognize (although for all I know, it may be from one of the remaining Shinn novels I haven't yet read). A petulant seventeen-year-old crown princess is escorted to safety in the magical kingdom of Alora to wait out the impending war. The longer she stays, the less she remembers her home and family. I think it's the weakest of the four stories, but I give Shinn credit for her portrayal of the self-absorption of so many teenagers.

The fourth and final story was, of course, my favorite. "Flame" features Senneth and the world of Gillengaria and its Twelve Houses. This one takes place in the days leading up to the start of book 1 of the series, Mystic and Rider. Senneth burns down three plague-ridden cottages as a favor for a village and later saves a small child from the flames of a hearth fire. In the process, she's exposed as a mystic and faces prejudice from both strangers and acquaintances when mysterious fires start erupting all over town.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two words: turkey sex.

Barbara Kingsolver is hands down my favorite modern author. She uses the most beautiful prose--vivid and lyrical--to write stories and characters that come to life, no matter whether she's writing fiction or nonfiction.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver tells the story of her family's decision to deliberately buy, grow, and eat only food produced in the vicinity of their farm in southwestern Virginia. The idea is to eat seasonally and get off the petroleum-fuel-dependent global food system with its gigantic carbon footprint and devastating environmental consequences. They aren't quite as strict about defining "local" as were the authors of Plenty: one man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally. But Kingsolver's family lives on a small farm where they can grow much of their own produce and raise--and slaughter--their own poultry, so they have a head start in the "local" department.

Barbara wrote the bulk of the book, while her husband, Steven Hopp, wrote sidebars filled with related facts & figures, and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver, contributed the sections about meal plans and recipes. The sidebars were really interesting (if sometimes a scary reality check), despite my irritation that they interrupted the flow of the story. I only wish I were a competent enough cook to attempt some of Camille's recipes. (What does "braise" actually mean & how do you do it?)

I already miss having my own vegetable garden, and this book is inspiring me to plan how I can carve out space to grow much of my own produce in the back yard I now have. I can spend this winter poring over online heirloom seed catalogs and drawing diagrams, just like my father used to do (and maybe still does?) with roses and flowerbeds.

And as for the turkey sex...well, let's just say that Barbara's evocative description of the trials and tribulations of mating teenage turkeys had me laughing 'til my face hurt.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, Plenty is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for the urban dweller. It's the story of one couple's determination to get off the petrochemicals & pollution diet our global food supply has turned into these past few decades. They made a decision to--for one year--only buy & eat food grown/raised/gathered within 100 miles of their Vancouver, BC, apartment, started blogging about it, and learned just how many people were interested in their story.

I enjoyed how the authors took turns writing the chapters, so readers get two different perspectives on this adventure. I felt I got to know the authors--to the point where I got really anxious when they nearly broke up over canning tomatoes. And they inspired me to plant a garden in my back yard next year as well as to resume purchasing the bulk of my produce from my local farmer's market this summer. I just wish I knew how to cook (or even recognize!) half the vegetables J.B. MacKinnon writes about using.

In reader's advisory terms: the main doorways are story and character, although setting is fairly important as well. Many of the chapters include stories and information about the history of people, wildlife, and food in the Pacific Northwest--which I found fascinating and often sad.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn (Twilight, #4) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely devoured this book. It's 756 pages long, and I read it in two days, despite having many other things to do that weekend that prevented me from focusing all my attention on the book. I really wanted to focus all my attention on the book.

Breaking Dawn is the fourth novel in the Twilight series, and--not to give anything away--does a pretty good job of wrapping up the story lines. It's a real page-turner, obviously, since this series is perfect for people who want to read "a good story." In reader's advisory terms, "story" is the primary doorway, and "character" is a close second. I especially enjoyed the sections from Jacob's point of view.

There isn't much else I can say without spilling the beans, so I'll stop here.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Happens in London

What Happens in London (Bevelstoke, #2) What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is now one of my all-time favorite romance novels, primarily because it made me laugh out loud numerous times. Quinn's books are usually humorous, and this one now rivals Romancing Mr. Bridgerton for the title of My Favorite Romance Novel (Pride and Prejudice is just in its own category/league altogether). The scene in which Sebastian performs his reading of Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron while standing on a table had me laughing so hard, tears were pouring down my cheeks.

The premise of the book is that Olivia Bevelstoke's gossipy friends tell her Sir Harry Valentine--her new next door neighbor--is rumored to have murdered his fiancee. She doesn't believe them...really...but it makes her curious, so she spies on him from her bedroom window, thinking he doesn't see her. He does, which distracts him from his translation work for the War Office, and that irritates him. However, Olivia has caught the attention of a visiting Russian prince, so Harry is ordered to spy on her. He ends up paying court to her in public as a way to spend the requisite amount of time in her presence, and since this is a romance novel, they discover they actually might be able to stand each other after all.

The characters feel like real people. The writing is funny and quick-witted. And the story moved right along so that I was frustrated by any and all interruptions that forced me to stop reading.

My only quibble with it is that it ends a little too quickly. I wanted to find out more about Vladimir--like maybe he needs his own book to clear up the mystery that is his back-story.

Incidentally, this is the second in the new Bevelstoke series, which began with The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention-Impaired [abridged]

Reduced Shakespeare Reduced Shakespeare by Reed C. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The full title for this book is actually Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention-Impaired [abridged:]. It's written by the same fellows who brought us the play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged:], which you can get on DVD or in book format. (It's hilarious!)

Even the Table of Contents is funny in this book--the fact that it's annotated cracks me up. It should also be a clue that this is not the book to start someone out on if they are just being introduced to Shakespeare for the first time. Yes, it gives plenty of biographical information and plot summaries--even movie reviews--etc, but the humor is so irreverent that a newbie to the Bard might get confused in spots. (Actually, the tone is so irreverent that sometimes I questioned whether the authors even LIKED Shakespeare's works.)

There was one place I found, however, with some glaring errors, and that was on page 105 of the hardback edition. The plot synopsis of Titus Andronicus is incorrect. It's confusing and has the characters mixed up. A better summary can be found at SparkNotes. Otherwise, the book is a very entertaining read!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

At Last Comes Love

At Last Comes Love (Huxtable Quintet, #3) At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this 3rd installment in the Huxtable sibling series. It was a great summer read--entertaining and light but with enough substance that I wasn't wincing or rolling my eyes. I did guess most of Duncan's big secret, but I did not predict the twist at the end.

Margaret Huxtable and Duncan Pennethorne are both 30 years old, which is a welcome change from the norm of historical romances and their 20-year-old heroines. They both need to find a spouse in a hurry: Margaret, because she unwisely boasted to her ex that she had a secret engagement, and Duncan, because his grandfather is going to cut off his income if he's not married within 15 days. Some secrets are kept a little too long; others are leaked too soon. And at last comes love. (*groan* Sorry! I couldn't resist.)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Then Comes Seduction

Then Comes Seduction (Huxtable Quintet, #2) Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in a series of four historical romance novels centered on the Huxable siblings, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a perfect summer escapist novel.

Katherine's story begins just after the end of the first book and then skips ahead three years. At the start of this book, she's 20 years old and the focus of a drunken bet: Jasper Finley bets his buddies that he can seduce her within two weeks. It's a wager that comes back to bite them in the backsides three years later when his half-sister's cousin and aunt try to use it as leverage to get control of his sister and her fortune.

There is no real advancement in solving the mystery of Constantine's behavior (a plot thread held over from book #1--First Comes Marriage), but you do see more of him in this volume. I am hoping that book #3 (At Last Comes Love or even #4 (Seducing an Angel) delves into that storyline and resolves it.

It was a fun read, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the quartet.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back

Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back by Brooks Palmer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

To paraphrase another review of this book, this is not a book about how to de-clutter but rather WHY to de-clutter. Which would be perfectly fine...except that it's not at all what I was looking for when I chose to read it. What I really need is a how-to manual of tips & tricks to get and stay clutter-free.

I am a clutter-magnet, especially for paper, and I know this is primarily because of two reasons: 1) I forget about anything I can't see (apparently I missed a brain development stage as a toddler!), so I can't put something away until I've finished dealing with it, and 2) I'm too tired and lazy by the time I get home every day to deal with most things right then & there. However, my home & my desk at work are merely cluttered, not piled high with accumulated junk--or "treasures," depending on your point of view--like the dozens of people and examples Brooks Palmer talks about in this book.

Palmer's former clients seem mostly to be hoarders, and his stories are about helping people break free of their OCD habits caused by various types of trauma, negative thinking, denial, addictions, etc. The book is cataloged with subject headings like "house cleaning" and "storage in the home," but obviously the person who assigned the subject headings never actually read the book. I would classify it as self-help or therapy. There are a few tips--"exercises"--included in grey-shaded boxes here and there amongst the chapters, but overall it's designed to help readers make the mental shifts necessary for letting go of excess stuff.

If you are a person whose possessions (or even thoughts) have become a prison of sorts, this book might very well rate 4 stars. For people like me who just wanted tips on organizing my living room & office, it's not that useful.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum, #15) Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were a few laugh-out-loud moments in this one, but overall, I was disappointed that Evanovich hasn't developed the characters very much. How hard would it be for her to have Stephanie catch a skip as he crawls out a window? Or learn she actually likes some healthy thing Ella has cooked over at Rangeman? Or show some personal growth in one or more branches of the Morelli/Stephanie/Ranger love triangle?

This one felt a bit formulaic to me. And I had a hard time believing that Ranger would ask for Stephanie's help in figuring out how someone is breaching his security codes for his clients. I mean, he's uber-competent, and she's an utter screw-up--what could she possibly have to contribute that he hasn't thought of already?

Still, there were some funny parts, and Lula, Grandma Mazur, and the cross-dressing fireman made me smile. If you're reading it as a fluffy beach-read, it's still a good choice.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Perfect Poison

The Perfect Poison The Perfect Poison by Amanda Quick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stolen plants from Lucinda Bromley's conservatory kick off this installment in the Arcane Society series. She calls in Caleb Jones, founder of the Jones (investigative) agency, to help her find the thief and prove she did not poison Lord Fairburn. This leads to the discovery of a new attempt to create the infamous "Founder's Formula" that is rumored to enhance psychic abilities but in reality causes addiction, madness, and death.

The seduction/sex scenes often caused me to roll my eyes or wince (they are remarkably similar to most all the other ones in this series), but the overall story was entertaining. I definitely enjoyed getting to piece together more details of the overarching mystery of the "Circles" and the sinister shadow conspiracy tying them all together. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series.

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First Comes Marriage

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, #1) First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to really get into this novel, but I enjoyed it once I did. It's not my favorite of her books, although I very much appreciated the novelty of a heroine who was NOT stunningly beautiful--she's consistently described as "plain." Vanessa is, however, cheerful and kind and full of laughter, despite being such a young widow, and she marries Elliott so her older sister won't have to (the older sister pines for a man who left her to become a soldier several years earlier).

This is the first in a series, so all sorts of things are left hanging at the end. (I won't say what because that might spoil it for you.)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Bloodhound (Beka Cooper, #2) Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 in the Beka Cooper series picks up a few months after book 1 leaves off. This time, Beka is no longer a trainee "puppy" but a real "Dog" (i.e. police officer) in the middle of unraveling where all the counterfeit money is coming from and halting the spread of it. It's a pretty good read, as with all of Pierce's books.

If you're recommending it to teenagers, be aware that there is some sexual content (more than the first book). Nothing graphic, but definitely some hormones happening, and Beka does actually have sex a couple of times. (Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed with the guy she chose, but for a teenager, she handled it maturely.)

According to the Find a Book website, Bloodhound is categorized as "High/Low," meaning that it's high interest but low reading level (for vocabulary). I don't think I agree with that because so much of the story is told in what Pierce--via Beka--calls "street cant." Think: fictionalized fantasy version of Cockney. It's fun to read, and Pierce does include a glossary at the end of the book, but someone who struggles with reading in general may have trouble with the made-up words and phonetic spelling.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, let me clarify that actually I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars, and second, it's not strictly a graphic novel. It's a big, thick kid's book that reads really fast because probably 2/3 of the pages are pencil illustrations, and some of the pages of text have only a few lines on them. The result is a very fast-paced story about an orphaned boy living in secret in a train station in 1930s Paris, France. The illustrations move the story along and remind me of a filmmaker's storyboard...which makes sense, given how the story turns out. (I won't ruin the mystery for anyone who hasn't yet read it, though.)

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Thursday, July 9, 2009


Eclipse (Twilight, #3) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three and a half stars, actually--if the characters had figured out what was going on as soon as I did, I might have given the book 4 stars. (That would have dramatically shortened the novel, though.) It was still a compelling, fast read, despite my impatience.

One thing that puzzled me, however, was why in the world nobody saw the parallels between Sam & Emily's "imprinting" and Bella & Edward's connection. Unless I'm missing something, it seems to me to be the exact same type of thing. ...Which means that Jacob should fully recognize and accept the implications. The fact that he didn't makes me wonder if Stephenie Meyer realized that it would necessitate a major re-write of the end of the book, and she was unable or unwilling to do that? Maybe she knew teen fans love angst and didn't want to deprive them of so much of it?

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kosher Sex

Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy by Shmuley Boteach

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This would make a great book club book because there is so much room for discussion and disagreement. I swung back and forth between totally agreeing with what Boteach said and completely disagreeing, experiencing nearly every point in the "agreement spectrum" along the way. I found myself really wishing I could discuss what I was reading with someone else who had just read the same thing. (I would LOVE to get my boyfriend's take on the book.) There is just so much to talk about!

For example, when I read the chapter on using sex to mend bridges, I REALLY wanted to argue with Boteach: how can he possibly think that sex can be used to end a fight?! Make-up sex, absolutely, but not until the real issues are uncovered and the fight is over because I have yet to meet a woman who wants to be touched like that while she's still angry. It just fuels the Rage Monster. Boteach advocates using sex to halt all but the biggest, most serious arguments, but I think that if the underlying issues aren't addressed promptly, they will fester and cause more arguments. (I did agree with his point about a higher frequency of sex overall being likely to prevent many arguments from beginning in the first place, though.)

On the other hand, I also wanted to be able to discuss the places where I completely agreed with Boteach, such as the chapter on adultery and the pain it causes: When a man cheats on his wife, "she experiences a pain equivalent to death. Her former marriage goodwill oozes out slowly, and she finds every reason in the world to quarrel. Her friends see her and will hate you for snuffing out the fire in her soul" (p.223). He really nailed that description.

These are just two of many many examples, so I really do recommend this book for reading in book groups.

Something else I'd love to see? Rabbi Boteach and Alison Armstrong (of PAX programs) discussing these issues!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Goodbye, Evil Eye: Stories

Goodbye, Evil Eye: Stories Goodbye, Evil Eye: Stories by Gloria Devidas Kirchheimer

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because of the title. I'd just returned from Egypt, where the Evil Eye is still a strong concept. Turns out that this book isn't really about evil eye stories so much as it is a book of...short vignettes? I am not sure how to classify it, really. The book is thin, and the stories seem to have nothing to do with each other except that they all feature Sephardic Jews in America. (The Sephardim are Jewish people "whose multilingual roots lie in Spain, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, [and:] the Middle East," according to the book's cover.)

Frankly, reading this book was difficult. I never finished. I got all the way to page 108 (out of 150), but in all that time, I never really liked any of the characters in the stories. The tone often felt slightly disrespectful rather than amusing, as though the author was trying to be funny but harbored resentment toward the older generation(s), and that translated into a condescension which trickled through in the narrative. And I never figured out whether the stories were supposed to have any basis in fact--although the book is catalogued as a 974.71, which is in the Dewey range for history.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment by Steve Harvey

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I put this book on hold at the library because I saw Steve Harvey on Oprah a couple of times, and I thought he had some useful advice for women. Steve's voice jumps off the pages of the book, making it an entertaining read. It's maybe a bit more targeted for single moms--especially African-American ones--or fast-track career women than it is for me personally right now, though. I'd rate this book 4 stars for anyone who has NOT already attended or listened to a PAX workshop, and 3 stars for anyone who HAS, simply because it won't really be new information. I didn't always totally agree with Steve, but most of the time, he was right on the money.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Running Hot

Running Hot (Arcane Society, Book 5) Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another entertaining volume in the Arcane Society series. This one is set in modern day, so Krentz thankfully avoids the use of the word "psychical," which I greatly appreciate. Our hero & heroine are both off-the-charts in terms of psychic talent, of course, but they always are. The thing I appreciated most was that this book moved the story a little further along in terms of revealing details of the Nightshade Organization. On the other hand, if you hadn't already read the previous four volumes, you might be a bit confused by ongoing plot lines.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Laughter of Dead Kings

Laughter of Dead Kings (Vicky Bliss Mysteries, Book 6) Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Peters brings back Vicky Bliss in a modern setting, this time heading to Egypt to solve the theft of King Tutankhamun's mummy from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor (ancient Thebes). I started this book about a month and a half before I actually went to Egypt, and although it took me too long to read it (in snippets during lunch breaks, mostly), I really enjoyed it. I got about 3/4 of the way through it before I went on vacation and finished the rest once I got home. Having just been there and seen the places Peters describes, I have to say I got SO much more out of the book once I came home! Before my trip, I'd have rated the book probably at about 3 or 3 1/2 stars. Afterward--particularly after reading the ending where Peters writes herself into the story, which tickled my fancy--I'd have to give it 4 or even 4 1/2 stars. I now want to purchase a copy to reread and savor, knowing, for example, exactly what the Karnak Temple complex looks like at night and how enormous it is and how easy it would be to hide in the shadows (and how difficult to find or follow anyone!).

Peters does refer numerous times to previous Vicky Bliss novels, so if it's been a while since you've read them, it could be helpful to reread them before beginning this one. Also--don't expect it to follow chronologically with the earlier Vicky Bliss novels, which were written years ago. Peters just jumps ahead to present day as though the other books took place within the previous few years. Neither Vicky nor Schmidt nor John have aged significantly.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Secret Lives of Men

The Secret Lives of Men: What Men Want You to Know About Love, Sex, and Relationships The Secret Lives of Men: What Men Want You to Know About Love, Sex, and Relationships by Christopher Blazina

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm giving up on this one. I've been trying to read it off and on for a few months now. What the author has to say is valuable, but...oy. The writing style reminds me of students who have to write a 10-page paper but only have 5 pages' worth of things to say. It's very redundant & dry. A good editing would go a long way. *sigh*

Instead, I would recommend checking out what the people at have to say. The PAX workshops are expensive but totally worth it, and there are now some programs on CD, DVD, and even in book format.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Plum Spooky

Plum Spooky (A Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers/Holiday Novel, #4) Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not sure what holiday this book is supposed to be linked with, although it does include an encounter with a retired Easter Bunny. This Between-the-Numbers novel features a lot of Diesel, a little Ranger, and very little Morelli (aside from phone conversations). Lula and Carl the Monkey spend a great deal of time "helping" Stephanie track down the socially inept (to say the least!) boy genius, Martin Munch, who has teamed up with Diesel's evil cousin Wulf. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, although not nearly as many as in Fearless Fourteen. It was light entertainment, but not my favorite of the Stephanie Plum books.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Fortune and Fate

Fortune and Fate (Twelve Houses, Book 5) Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actually, I'd give this book 4 1/2 stars.

Fortune and Fate is part of Sharon Shinn's "Twelve Houses" series, set in Gillengaria. This novel takes place two years after the end of Reader and Raelynx and tells the story of Wen, a former King's Rider who exiled herself after being unable to save the king's life. She's tortured by guilt and believes she must travel the country helping strangers to atone for her failure. She thinks she is unworthy of friendship and cannot be trusted with anyone's life, so she keeps moving from place to place in order to avoid building relationships. Fate intervenes, of course, or this would have been a terribly boring novel. :)

Shinn does such a fabulous job of blending character development and plot into a seamless story. I admit I did guess the villain before Wen figured it out, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I especially loved the way Jasper Paladar teaches Wen to appreciate books and reading--that warmed my librarian's soul. And I was glad that parts of the book also focused on the ongoing story of Senneth and Tayse, Cammon, Justin, Kirra, and Donnal--the series' original leading women and men. I wasn't ready to let these characters go after the end of Reader and Raelynx, so it's a relief that the story continues.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

My review

rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

I am a Jane Austen addict, albeit not quite as obsessed as Courtney Stone, the main character of this novel. I am not so miserable in my own life, which is apparently a good thing, as it makes me less likely to awake one morning in 1813 as she did. (For all my moments of wishful thinking, I don't really want to be someone else.)

Courtney, however, retreats to the world of Jane Austen as often as possible, especially since she discovered her fiance cheating on her with the wedding cake designer. Reading about Austen's world is not the same as living in it, however, and Courtney-inside-Jane-Mansfield's-body has a great deal to learn both about her new situation in life as well as the true meaning of being responsible for her actions.

I nearly tagged this book onto my "mystery" bookshelf because so much of the story is Courtney/Jane discovering what in the world happened in Jane's life--friendships and heartbreak alike--and how she came to inhabit Jane's body. (My practical soul could have used a tad more explanation on that last bit.) It's great fun to read, even if I did want to smack Courtney/Jane quite often and tell her to catch a clue.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Melting Stones

Melting Stones Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melting Stones is a continuation of the "Circle" series--the Circle of Magic quartet and The Circle Opens quartet. This one tells the story of Evvy, a 14-year-old mage-in-training whom we first met in the Circle Opens quartet as a stone mage discovered by Briar. In this book, she is traveling with Rosethorn and Myrrhtide, two full-fledged mages who have been summoned to an island in the middle of the ocean where trees and other plants have been spontaneously dying in random locations. Evvy is a girl emotionally damaged by slavery and war, and this story is really more about her learning to trust more than the six people she lives and trains with at Winding Circle.

Tamora Pierce once again does her usual excellent job of depicting teenagers with all their talents and flaws. And I loved how she anthropomorphized the magma "spirits"--I thought it an excellent way to describe what happens before an eruption.

This book was originally written as a full-cast audio book, which I didn't realize when I put it on hold all those months ago. I'm very curious now to listen to it.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Five Minute Tales

Five Minute Tales: More Stories to Read and Tell When Time is Short Five Minute Tales: More Stories to Read and Tell When Time is Short by Margaret Read MacDonald

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading the stories, and I think they would be good ones to tell when you're trying to kill a few minutes somewhere or (in some cases) need a bedtime story. Some would be easier to memorize than others, however. But I can attest that the Monkeys in the Rain story--I call it the Brazilian monkey story--works very well for use in a library story time!

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