Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Shepherd's Tale

The Shepherd's Tale (Serenity, #3)The Shepherd's Tale by Zack Whedon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At last, the backstory on Shepherd Book! The graphic novel begins moments before Book's death and jumps backwards through the stages of his life, ending when he's a teenager. It really explains so much, and it makes me want to re-watch the series.

I am so impressed with this graphic novel. It's the first one I've read that actually makes me believe a picture (or in this case a panel) is worth a 1000 words, and Zack Whedon even makes each word worth 1000 words. I'm astounded that such a complete and nuanced story can be told so succinctly.

The artwork by Chris Samnee is less photo-realistic but manages to convey more. I had no problem following the story and keeping track of who was whom and what was going on. Hooray!

For readers' advisors: character, story, and setting doorways.

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Cat O'Nine Tails

Cat O'Nine Tails (Cat Royal, #4)Cat O'Nine Tails by Julia Golding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cat Royal's friend Syd has disappeared, so she and her friends go to London to find out what happened to him and along the way get press-ganged into becoming part of the crew of a British naval vessel in late 1791. Turns out someone paid the press gang to ambush them specifically, and getting home will be harder than they thought.

I accidentally read this one before #3, and maybe that makes a bit of a difference? The story is enjoyable, if somewhat improbable. What makes it three stars instead of four is that I immediately figured out the mystery of who paid off the press gang, and there wasn't much in the way of character development.

There was a little more violence in this one than in the first two, although it was certainly realistic and not graphic. There was also a smidgen more teen angst.

For readers' advisors: story and setting doorways.

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Room One: A Mystery or Two

Room One: A Mystery or TwoRoom One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixth grader Ted Hammond loves mysteries. So the day he spies a girl in the upstairs window of an abandoned house in his tiny town in rural Nebraska, he knows it's his chance to solve a real-life mystery.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Serenity: Better Days

Better Days (Serenity, #2)Better Days by Joss Whedon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Volume 2 of the Serenity graphic novel series was a little more confusing to follow than the first. The story bounced around between present and past, memory, fantasy, etc., and when I finished reading the story, I had to go back and reread most of it just to figure out what had happened. This was partly because the artwork didn't always resemble the cast members closely enough (esp. Simon), but also because the story jumped so much that I'd forgotten about a particular subplot that turned out to be key.

Bottom line? It would have made a wonderful episode of the Firefly tv show, and fans will probably still enjoy reading this graphic novel episode because Joss Whedon wrote it, so it has his snappy dialogue. There are some very funny scenes, particularly those when Jayne speaks.

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways

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Extra Credit

Extra CreditExtra Credit by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Abby Carson is failing the sixth grade because she hates doing homework. Faced with the threat of being held back, she decides to not only starting doing ALL of her homework but also take on a big extra credit project: write letters to a pen pal halfway around the world, post them on a bulletin board, and do a class presentation at the end of the year.

Sadeed Bayat is the best student in his village in Afghanistan, but it's not proper for a boy to write to a girl, so his little sister is chosen to be Abby's pen pal...with Sadeed's help. She dictates letters in Dari; he translates them into English. But he's dissatisfied with what his sister writes and composes a letter of his own, which he mails in secret. And pretty soon, Sadeed realizes that he knows Abby better than he knows anyone else, and Abby realizes that kids are pretty much the same no matter where they live. But not everyone is happy with this culture-bridging assignment.

Andrew Clements does a fantastic job of bringing these characters and cultures to life. I wanted to climb into Abby's tree fort and thank Sadeed's teacher for his dedication. Excellent book.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, with setting as a secondary doorway

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Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3)Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tamora Pierce weaves a masterful tale of treachery and treason, magic and mayhem in this final episode to the Beka Cooper trilogy. The four-year-old prince has been kidnapped and made a slave in a violent attempt to overthrow the king. Beka, her scent hound Achoo, and her partner Tunstall are assigned the secret (and dangerous) task of finding and rescuing the prince. They and their companions set off across the country, tracking the slavers and their deadly mages. Traitors are everywhere, though, making it difficult for Beka to know whom to trust.

I was so glad this book was longer than the others. The length gave Pierce time to really develop the characters and the story. She kept me guessing until the end as to who the traitor was. I was, however, a bit sad that most of Beka's friends from the first two books only made brief appearances, although that made sense for the story.

For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways. There is a lot of slang (and made up slang) in the Beka Cooper books, so it's nice that Pierce includes a glossary at the end.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy: A NovelDreams of Joy: A Novel by Lisa See

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dreams of Joy begins the night Joy learns that her aunt is her biological mother, and her mother is her aunt. Joy blames herself for her father's recent suicide, and she's furious at being lied to about her biological parents, so she runs away to China. It's 1957, and the Communist Revolution is in full swing there, and Joy is awash with enthusiasm for the New Society.

I want to like this book, but I just can't make myself finish right now. I listened to seven of the thirteen CDs, so I made it more than half way. I simply can't take any more of Joy's selfish, self-centered, naive blindness! Her enthusiasm for all things Red China never wanes, and she doesn't see that she's run away to do the very thing that caused her father's death, really. She willfully ignores the disparity between life in the countryside and the flashy parties with Chairman Mao in the cities, choosing instead to believe the propaganda, no matter how idiotic it is. It makes me want to scream!

Joy's mother, Pearl, I find more likable, although not enough right now to pull me through to the end of the book. And Joy's biological father, Z.G., isn't compelling enough for me to understand why Pearl & her sister May have been in love with him for the past 20 years.

May and Pearl are the eponymous characters from See's earlier book, Shanghai Girls, which I haven't read. Perhaps I should have started there; maybe I'd like this book better if I'd read the first. I may someday get back to finishing this one and reading the first one, but I'll have to wait for my blood to stop boiling first.

For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Magic Steps

Magic StepsMagic Steps by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Four stars for the book. Minus 10 stars for the audiobook. AUGH!!! I was so excited when I put the first CD into my car stereo this morning. A full-cast audiobook of book one of a series I've read and loved by one of my all-time favorite authors--what's not to love??

This audiobook, that's what. Oh. My. Goodness. Tamora Pierce may be an outstanding author, but she simply cannot read out loud! It was like listening to a female Forrest Gump. Every syllable was given equal emphasis, even the articles and prepositions. Every word was overly enunciated. AUGH!!!

Then the rest of the cast started speaking, and it was as though I'd been transported to the worst amateur theatre production EVER. The language didn't flow like natural language, and everything was exaggerated and--like Pierce's narration--overly enunciated.

Awful awful awful. I couldn't even listen to the whole first CD. I tried to make myself, but I just couldn't stand it any more and ejected it as soon as I got to the parking lot.

Next time, I'll find an audiobook read by professional actors. Oy.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering Raquel

Remembering RaquelRemembering Raquel by Vivian Vande Velde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nine years and one day after a boy I knew was killed when he stepped off a curb and was hit by a car, I read a book about a girl who stepped off a curb and was hit by a car. Perhaps this is why this book resonated so deeply with me. The difference between real life and the book, though, is that in real life the boy was well-known and well-liked, whereas Raquel is well-known by only a few people.

Remembering Raquel is told in a series of short "chapters," each told from the point of view of a different person--everyone from the janitor who cleans out her locker, to the EMT who responded to the scene, to the driver of the car, to Raquel's friends, family, and classmates. Short, poignant, and even sometimes humorous memories and regrets that together paint a picture of a girl I wish I'd known. This book may haunt me for a while.

For readers' advisors: character doorway

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True (...sort of)

True... Sort ofTrue... Sort of by Katherine Hannigan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delly Pattison is constantly in trouble. Her exuberance leads her on "Dellyventures" that only her little brother RB seems to really understand. To Delly's stunned amazement, she gets into so much trouble, in fact, that she's about to be sent away to a special school for troubled kids. But how can Delly stop being Delly?

One day there is a new kid in school, Ferris Boyd, who doesn't talk and is never, ever to be touched. Ferris is a "mysturiosity" to Delly and must therefore be investigated. Their unlikely friendship saves both of them.

This is a book for all those children who are labeled "bad" by adults who fail to understand them or recognize a lack of impulse control transforming into depression. I wanted to crawl inside the pages and scoop these children up and rescue them, save them from the pain of being misfits.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, Delly's language of invented words is another doorway, and be aware that the book deals with child abuse

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Across the Great Barrier

Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic, #2)Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the late 1850s, Eff takes a job as an assistant to the two professors at the college menagerie in Mill City. Her twin brother, Lan, wants her to go to college, but she doesn't think that is the right path for her. Instead, she accompanies Professor Torgeson and their guide Wash Morris on a survey of wildlife west of the Mammoth River, where they make some very interesting discoveries, including stone animal sculptures that are not sculptures at all.

I very much enjoyed book two in this series, although it's definitely leading up to book three, since some major plot threads are left hanging. But I liked watching Eff mature and learn more about her magic and how to use it.

For readers' advisory: story and character doorways, with setting also due to the alternative history aspect

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Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Those Left Behind (Serenity, #1)Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't usually enjoy graphic novels, but I'll read anything that lets me live once more in the world of Firefly/Serenity, even for a little while. Since Joss Whedon himself wrote the story, it's like my favorite show came back to life for a half hour or so. (It's a very short novel.)

This episode fills in a little of the gap between the end of the tv show and the movie, which was helpful. It's about a job that goes wrong (don't they always?) and takes place when both Inara and Shepherd Book are getting ready to leave Serenity. There isn't time for much in the way of character development, of course, but the story is exciting, and the dialogue cracks me up. The artists from Dark Horse Comics (Go, Milwaukie!!) do a pretty good job with the artwork. The characters usually look pretty much like the actors, and I had no trouble telling who was whom or what was going on. The spine label says this is volume 1, so I will be finding out how many others there are and where I can get them!

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways, primarily

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

No Man's Mistress

No Man's Mistress (Dudley, #2)No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Viola Thornhill has owned her home, her refuge, for two years, and then one day a tall, dark, handsome stranger arrives claiming that Pinewood Manor is actually his, and the battle of wills begins. She is determined to show Lord Ferdinand Dudley that he is just not cut out for country life...except that it seems he is.

The premise of the beginning of the book seemed so familiar to me that I almost stopped reading it, thinking I'd read it before (it was first published in 2001). I'm glad I kept going because it turned out to be quite an interesting story and one I had a hard time putting down at the end of my lunch breaks.

I still need to figure out the book it reminded me of--all I can remember is that it was an historical romance set in Regency England (I think) where the main character was a steward or something, and she went by the name of Henry. There was a scene where she tricked the hero into mucking about in the mud with...pigs??? If anyone remembers, please let me know so it'll quit gnawing at me!

If the ending hadn't been somewhat improbable, I would have rated No Man's Mistress 5 stars.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways, and setting (Regency England). There are some steamy sex scenes, just FYI.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011


Heartwishes (Edilean, #5)Heartwishes by Jude Deveraux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gemma Ranford gets a job cataloging the Frazier family's historical documents--boxes and boxes and boxes of them--and falls in love not only with the town but also with the eldest Frazier son, Colin. He falls for her as well, which doesn't go over well with his ex-girlfriend, Jean, who still sees Colin as hers.

For a while this book was pretty exciting, but I felt like it fizzled out in the end. Had I written this review midway through reading the story, I would have almost categorized it as mystery or suspense because of the whole plot line with Jean's uncle (the international thief), but Deveraux doesn't take full advantage of it, unfortunately.

I wish I'd read books 1-5 in the series first, because there are just way too many hints and inside jokes about earlier plots involving Colin's friends and cousins. I always felt like I was missing something, although not necessarily anything crucial to the plot of this book.

For readers' advisors: story doorway

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Lady Knight

Lady Knight (Protector of the Small, #4)Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Newly minted Lady Knight Keladry of Mindelan is assigned to the difficult task of organizing, supplying, and defending the refugee camp she christens "Haven." Few soldiers can be spared to help her defend her refugees from the raiding Scanrans and their metal killing devices powered by the spirits of murdered children, so she begins training "her people" to defend themselves. Kel itches to get outside the walls and search for the mage responsible for the devices, as she has been tasked to do by the Chamber of the Ordeal, but she knows her duty. Then one day, Kel must make a choice between conflicting duties.

Yet again, listening to Bernadette Dunne read about Kel's adventures made me glad to be driving and sad to arrive at my destinations. I'm only sorry this is the fourth and final book of this series.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways with setting doorway also

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Second Grave on the Left

Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson, #2)Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wise-cracking grim reaper Charley Davidson is back, and this time she's racing to save both her supernatural boyfriend's corporeal body and her best friend's (regular human) friend. She's not that great of a private investigator, but being able to see and talk to the dead does give her a distinct advantage. Also, she heals freakishly fast, which is a useful skill to have, given that people and demons are hunting her down, trying to kill her.

I devoured this second book just as fast as the first...only now I have to wait until January for the next one! Augh!! Third Grave Dead Ahead is scheduled to come out in January 2012. I will be placing it on hold as soon as the catalog record is available.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways. There is some sexual content, although less than in the first book.

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Friday, September 23, 2011


Squire (Protector of the Small, #3)Squire by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Listening to Bernadette Dunne read this book was so exciting I hated to get out of my car. In fact, I sat in my driveway a couple of times just to hear "a little bit more" before I shut off my engine and went inside. It's a longer book than First Test and Page because it encompasses all four years of Kel's time as Raoul's squire, including some very exciting battle scenes and tournaments.

I appreciated the realism of Kel's crushes on Cleon and Dom and how she struggled to figure out how to handle herself around them. Brought back some wince-inducing memories from my own teen years, that's for sure. I also appreciated how Pierce handled the whole "sex talk" scene between Kel and her mother. Lots of girls would never talk to their parents about sex, and it was great how calm and perceptive Kel's mom was, allowing Kel to decide for herself whether she was or was not ready. Likewise, I appreciated that Kel chose to wait...and so did Cleon.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways primarily and setting doorway because of the magical, made-up world

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional LivingOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally! A practical, step-by-step how-to book on clearing the clutter and organizing your house. Nothing earth-shattering or surprising, just a ten-day plan to go through your house and get it cleaned up and organized. Admittedly, I haven't actually tried the plan yet, but I think I could easily do it if I could get my husband on board and break up the 10 days over weekends or holidays (or use vacation time, I suppose). And I'm relieved that I kind of DID do many of the steps already as a side effect of moving last month.

What I especially loved was that she includes an appendix of simple recipes for homemade cleaners and personal care products, the ingredients of which can be purchased at grocery store in most areas of the country. They're both environmentally friendly and cheaper--win/win! I think I need to go purchase my own copy of the book just for the appendices (there are four in all). :)

The other thing I love is Oxenreider's attitude of decluttering as a process or a journey, wherein ANY progress is better than no progress. She didn't make me feel guilty for not having a magazine-worthy house; she just suggested ways I might improve the appearance and functionality of my home. And she made a case for why it was worth the effort--i.e. because you need time and space to do the things you want to do, be it crafting or cooking or curling up with a good book. Clutter causes chaos and makes it difficult to live your life.

Something else I appreciated about the book was the binding. It's spiral bound with a hard cover so it'll lay flat but not snag on anything. Love that!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011


PagePage by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume #2 in the quartet is as entertaining as volume one. In fact, at one point I stopped at a flashing red light at a 3-way intersection and was so absorbed in listening to the story, I forgot to go when it was my turn (waiting for the light to turn green??). Oops!

Page covers the final three years of Kel's page training--i.e. puberty. Pierce does a great job addressing Kel's dismay at growing breasts and starting her "monthlies," but this may be a deterrent for boys reading/listening to the story. (Or possibly an education??) Most of the story, however, is about Kel's leadership and growth over the course of three years and her sense of responsibility for her skittish new maid. Kel has a very strong sense of right and wrong and is incensed to learn how Lalasa has been abused, so she teaches the reluctant older girl to fight back. Kel's quick thinking and cool head also save the day when the group of pages she's with is attacked by bandits.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, and it's fantasy so also setting doorway

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

More Than a Mistress

More than a MistressMore than a Mistress by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do so love a romance novel that bothers to show how two people might actually be compatible on a deeper, more long-term level. This one does that. Balogh takes two people who don't know each other and don't like each other and shows them discovering there is more to each than either realized. And more to themselves than they realized, too.

Jocelyn, the Duke of Tresham, is furious when he gets shot in the leg during a duel because he is distracted by the screams of a woman in servant's clothing. Jane Ingleby is furious about losing her job when stopping a duel causes her to be late to work. She demands Tresham write her a note to give to her employer; he refuses and insists she work for him as his nurse as punishment for getting him shot. Jane fears being discovered by her cousin the earl and hanged for murdering his despicable son, so in desperation, she agrees, telling Tresham she was raised in a "superior orphanage." Trust does not come easily to these two.

For readers' advisors: character doorway primarily with story a near second. The setting is Regency England (London, to be specific). The middle portion of the book has some steamy sex scenes.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bespelling Jane Austen

Bespelling Jane AustenBespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like these stories, but they just didn't do it for me. They were OK--maybe even 2 1/2 stars. I felt like they could have been better written than they were, though. They felt rushed and not sufficiently developed, especially when it came to the believability of the romances.

The first novella in the book, "Almost Persuaded" by Mary Balogh, was very loosely based on Austen's Persuasion. Too loosely, which really was a large part of the problem. Jane Everett and Captain Mitford are soulmates who fall in love and then screw it up lifetime after lifetime. In this lifetime, however, each gets to keep a piece of memory from their past lives, although Jane has been raised to believe her memories are fantasies or dreams and has a hard time believing in reincarnation. Captain Mitford has no trouble talking her into making out with him within hours of their first meeting, swimming in just her shift, and having sex with him in the sunshine, despite her breeding as a proper young English lady, yet she can't overcome that same training when it comes to her memories, which she knows happen to coincide remarkably with local history? Seriously? Had Balogh stuck closer to the original story and characterizations, just folding in the reincarnation subplot, I think the novella would have been much more believable.

In Northanger Castle, Colleen Gleason tells of young Caroline Merrill, who has read far too many gothic novels and is convinced that vampires and poisoners are around every corner. Which, as it turns out, is not too far off, although she gets most of the details wrong. Gleason sticks a lot closer to the spirit of her inspiration, Northanger Abbey, and as a result, I think this is the second most successful of the novellas, right up until the fairly ridiculous ending.

Blood and Prejudice, by Susan Krinard, had great potential: modern-day setting wherein Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham are 200-yr-old vampires & Elizabeth is a bookstore owner whose family's company is being taken over by Bingley's family's pharmaceutical company. Krinard stays relatively close to the spirit of the original story. But again, it all falls apart in the willing-suspension-of-disbelief department by the time they get to the rushed ending. There are only *legends* among the locals about "nightwalkers"? Really? No one noticed that the exact same people have owned/lived in Pemberley for 200 years?? And Darcy has a Twilight-esque vampire battle with Lady Catherine to save Elizabeth? *sighhh*

Finally, Janet Mullany's "Little to Hex Her" rounds out the book. It's very loosely based on Austen's Emma. Also a modernized version, this one features Emma Woodhouse as the temporary manager of a supernatural dating service owned by her sister Isabella. Emma lives in Isabella's D.C. apartment in a building owned by Emma's ex-boyfriend, Knightley. Elton is an elf bent on revenge because Emma's assistant, Harriet, turned him into a frog (temporarily!) when she realized, while they were on a date, that he was interested in Emma instead. Frankly, this is probably the best of the novellas because it digresses so far from its inspiration. The romance is still slightly forced, but at least the story is fun.

For readers' advisors: story doorway, primarily. Some sexual content, especially in the last novella.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011


EscapeEscape by Barbara Delinsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book struck a chord with me. The details of Emily's life aren't the same as mine, but I really identified with her desperate need to escape her life (job) that had become so different from how she'd envisioned it being. My life pales in comparison to her high-stress career and New York lifestyle, yet I feel her pain and completely understand how she could reach the breaking point that causes her to leave work, pack a bag, and start driving away, out of the chaotic city to find refuge in the woods. Haven't we all felt that way?

What I love about this story is that the people seem real. No one is perfect. Change is grudging and gradual. Relationships take work, yet no one is committing adultery. What a relief!

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story is secondary

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Test

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)First Test by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was interesting to listen to a book I'd previously read in graduate school. Bernadette Dunne occasionally placed emphasis on different words or read sentences differently than I would have. She did a good job, but it was just...odd. Still, listening to the story made me actually wish my commute were longer (!!), and I sometimes sat in my car for a few minutes after I arrived so I could hear just a little bit more.

This is a book about a 10-year-old girl who wants to become the second female knight (see: the Alanna the Lioness quartet by Pierce) even though most all the boys and the training master do not want her at the school and don't think she can succeed.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty

The Secret Life of Walter KittyThe Secret Life of Walter Kitty by Barbara Jean Hicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness, the facial expressions on Walter's (a.k.a. "Fang's") face are hilarious! They really do speak volumes: life is rough when your Person and her husband misunderstand you...and get your name wrong. :D

Would be great to read with your kids (or adults!), but to fully appreciate the book, you have to be able to see the pictures, so I don't recommend it for a large storytime.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries

Sugar Snaps and StrawberriesSugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book for gardening novices just getting started. I loved that Bellamy gave instructions for how to test your soil's pH levels, which I was wondering how to do. There are loads of beautiful photos, which were great, although it would have been nice had she included some more specific shots--for example, when she talks about various weed species, it would have been helpful had there been photos of the more common varieties. (I tend to be afraid to pull weeds early on in case what I'm pulling is actually the plant!) There is so much information in this book, however, that I am thinking I might need to go buy it so I'll have a copy on hand this winter and next spring when I'm planning my garden. This one, plus one that focuses specifically on what to plant in my particular region of the world.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

A Crafty Killing

A Crafty Killing (Victoria Square Mystery, #1)A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up off a reshelving cart because I needed something to read on my break and was in the mood for something light. This was a perfect choice: a cozy mystery, the first in a series, interesting enough to keep my attention and yet not requiring more brain power than my overtaxed noggin could handle at the time! (And now I'm curious to find out what happens in the next book in the series.)

Recent widow Katie Bonner becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation when the owner of Artisan's Alley dies and leaves her half of his business. It isn't how she had planned to be a part of the Victoria Square business district, but she quickly realizes she's got to take over running the Alley if she's to avoid bankruptcy. When a second corpse appears on the premises, her life becomes even more complicated.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Like Heaven

Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet, #1)Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Julia Quinn because her books make me laugh out loud. This one is no exception. Honoria and her friends and cousins crack me up! I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish reading this book, despite being totally exhausted after working all week. This is why I purchase Quinn's books instead of just checking them out from the library.

Fans of Julia Quinn will recognize the Smythe-Smith family from the horrendous annual musicales mentioned in most, if not all, of Quinn's novels. Honoria Smythe-Smith is one of that family's infamously untalented musicians (she tortures ears with the violin), but the difference is, she KNOWS she's awful. However, it is the duty of the unmarried Smythe-Smith women to play in the quartet. Honoria is therefore desperate to get married. (Well, and because she wants a large, noisy family to compensate for her currently too-silent home.)

Marcus Holyrood has promised Honoria's brother he'd watch out for her and make sure she doesn't marry anyone unsuitable. Last Season he scared off a couple of fortune hunters, an elderly hopeful, and a man with a cruel streak, all without Honoria knowing what he'd done. This year, however, the social recluse finds himself in a more hands-on role.

For readers' advisors: it's a tough call on doorways. Character and story are strong, but Quinn's humor also makes language a contender, and the 19th century England time period makes setting a factor as well. Anyone else who read this want to chime in and give your opinion?

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The Secret Mistress

The Secret Mistress (Dudley, #3)The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Balogh manages to take a young, wide-eyed ingenue and make her interesting, sympathetic, and endearing. Angeline's excitement and restless energy born of her enthusiasm for her first London Season are adorable. She finds everything thing fresh, new, and wonderful, and that makes those around her see the world through new eyes, too.

Likewise, Balogh takes a proper, stiff-necked young man and turns him into a startled romantic. His good manners win Angeline's heart, but her impulsive behavior has him bewitched, bewildered, and befuddled. She forces him to reexamine his perspective of the world and himself. It is an utterly delightful take on a tale older than time.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways primarily, but also setting, as it's set in 19th century England

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen

Smokin' SeventeenSmokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars, maybe. The whole Stephanie/Morelli/Ranger triangle is getting really stale. I think Evanovich wrote herself into a corner when she based so much of the humor and sexual tension of her earlier books on those relationships. Who can Stephanie choose, and who gets the shaft? And would either choice be believable, or would it kill the series? I understand Evanovich's dilemma, but if she continues to do nothing, she's going to alienate readers by the droves.

There were a few chuckles in this book, but no belly laughs. The bail bonds office hasn't yet been rebuilt since it burnt to the ground, so Vinnie, Connie, Lula, & Stephanie are sharing "office space" in Mooner's bus. Then a backhoe uncovers a body where the dumpsters used to be, and the search is on to figure out who did it and why. (I actually guessed really early on who the killer was.) More bodies turn up. Business slows down. Vinnie comes up with some...creative advertising.

Meanwhile, Stephanie's mom decides Stephanie will never get married at the rate she's going, so she fixes Stephanie up with Dave Brewer, recently returned to the Burg to live with his folks after his divorce and a scandal over foreclosure fraud. Now Stephanie has three men, not just two, vying for her attention.

For readers' advisors: story doorway. The character development is virtually nonexistent in this one.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Grave on the Right

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, where is the next one?! And why did I wait to read this one? I put it on hold a while ago and then kept suspending my hold because I couldn't remember why I'd put it on hold or where I'd heard about it. (Apparently I'd read an excerpt on Eventually I forgot to re-suspend the hold, and the book showed up at my library, so I checked it out with some others and read those first. But by yesterday I needed something to read at lunch and grabbed First Grave on the Right, which grabbed me right back. Could not put it down. Even took it with me when we went to run errands this afternoon.

It's got a sort of Stephanie-Plum-sees-dead-people feel to it. Similar zany, fast-paced style and sense of humor but with more ghosts and steamy supernatural sex scenes. See, Charley Davidson is the grim reaper, but in a nice way--she helps the departed pass through her into the light. Only sometimes they need her to do things for them before they go, like solve their murders, for example. So she helps her Uncle Bob, an Albuquerque police detective, with his case files.

Meanwhile, she's also dealing with an irritating but super-good-looking skiptracer named Garrett Swopes who has the hots for her but who is also having a hard time believing she can see dead people. And then there is Big Bad, the mysterious blurry black shadow who's saved her life several times over the years and keeps appearing at the edges of her vision. Not to mention the fantasy lover who has been visiting her dreams every night for the last month or so and is now starting to appear other places, such as her shower, living room, office, and who may turn out be less a fantasy and more...out of this world.

I'm glad this is the first in a series because I can't wait to find out what happens next.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways

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Marrying Daisy Bellamy

Marrying Daisy Bellamy (The Lakeshore Chronicles #8)Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this novel. I wasn't all that particularly interested in the characters at first. They seemed...well, like kids in their early twenties. But then at a certain point, the story started to get interesting and more complicated, and eventually I was really hooked. I did guess a couple of the plot twists in advance, but Wiggs handled them with more depth and maturity than is usual for the romance genre.

Daisy Bellamy has been in love with Julian Gastineaux since they were teenagers; however, a drunken weekend party her senior year in high school resulted in an unplanned pregnancy with Logan O'Donnell as the father of her son Charlie. Logan turned out to be a good, responsible father, and he wants them to be a family. But Julian is the one who lights Daisy up, and when he proposes, she says yes. Unfortunately, Julian's secret mission for the air force wreaks havoc on all their lives.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really LiveThe Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Until a friend loaned me this book, I'd never heard of Sarah Susanka or her Not So Big House movement. Now, it seems like I'm hearing and reading her name mentioned everywhere, and for good reason. She advocates home design that is functional and beautiful and human-sized, based on how we really live and what we really need our homes to provide for us. The opposite of the McMansion, in other words. And wow, do I ever wish I could live in a home she designed for me! The photos in this book make me long to dive right in, they are so welcoming and cozy.

The intended audience for this particular book is really those who are planning to build or substantially remodel homes, which I am not. But the great thing is that there are so many photos and such clear descriptions of the goals of the design and the ideals behind the floor plans and detail work, that I think I will be able to incorporate some of the philosophies into my already-built home. And I will definitely be checking out more of her books to see what else she has to say!

I also love that Susanka emphasizes good design going hand in hand with environmentally friendly design--as in the two are inextricably linked. Part of the philosophy of the Not So Big House is to put less of a burden on our planet, both in building and in ongoing expenses (i.e. energy efficiencies). I really appreciate that she sees eco-friendly choices not as luxuries but as necessities. And I am grateful that someone out there is fighting back against the scourge of soul-less "house farms" that have exploded on the scene in recent decades. People would be much happier and less stressed if their houses really did rise up to welcome them home every day instead of causing them unconscious psychological pain. So thanks, Sarah Susanka!!

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Friday, July 1, 2011


QuicksilverQuicksilver by Amanda Quick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz writes quite formulaic stories, but the upside is that they are entertaining, quick reads. This latest one is set in London in the late 1800s. Virginia Dean and Owen Sweetwater team up to figure out who is murdering glasslight readers before the killer succeeds in killing Virginia. The paranormal artifacts from In Too Deep reappear in this installment of the Arcane Society series, but this time they are brand new.

The romance in this novel felt forced, but the suspense kept me turning pages.

For readers' advisors: story doorway

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Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First HomeNolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home by Ilona Bray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so glad I checked this book out this spring! I started reading it thinking my husband and I were going to buy my grandfather's house, figuring I'd just skip over all the parts that didn't apply to us. Luckily, I stink at skimming, so I ended up reading nearly everything. I learned SO much about this whole home-buying process, from vocabulary (what "points" are, for example) to what to expect and what to watch out for at each stage in the process. Buying a house turned out to be a whirlwind experience once we decided to buy an entirely different house, and having read the Nolo book was a sanity-saver for me. It's so well organized and well written--very clear and easy to follow. I referred back to multiple sections many times, especially the chart on paying points to lower your interest rate (pg. 134) and how long it takes to recoup the costs. That page helped us know we shouldn't waste our money because the current cost of points is too high. Thank you, Nolo Press!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Unmistakable Touch of Grace

The Unmistakable Touch of Grace: How to Recognize and Respond to the Spiritual Signposts in Your LifeThe Unmistakable Touch of Grace: How to Recognize and Respond to the Spiritual Signposts in Your Life by Cheryl Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this book to me at a time this spring when I'd received some devastating news. Talk about an unmistakable touch of grace. :) She left me first a note with the title and author and then later a copy of the book on my desk so I could check it out, which I did. It took me a while to get through it--this is not a hard read, but it does require some thought, so it's not a quick read.

Richardson tells many stories throughout the book about her experiences and those of her clients and friends, and while a few felt a little too close to "magical thinking" for comfort, on the whole they really resonated with me and reminded me to slow down and let go of my illusion of control. The universe is unfolding as it should (and has better plans for me than I made for myself in many cases).

I also like that Richardson includes and honors many different spiritual and religious beliefs and practices. And each section has not only stories but also action steps (experiments) to do and resources for further reading and research.

The section on meditation and silence featured Bill Harris, founder of Centerpointe Research Institute, whose research on brain waves has led to the Holosync audio technology which aids people in assisting deeper states of meditation. My eyes popped open at that point because I have the first 2 levels of Holosync at home and have just fallen out of the habit of listening to the CDs. So I saw that as a divine sign I needed to recharge my iPod and get back to meditating on a more regular basis. :)

For readers' advisors: character doorway, I think. Good choice for readers of Louise Hay, Eckhart Tolle, and any other authors from Oprah's Live Your Best Life series.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of TalesTortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Tamora Pierce! I'm usually not a big short story fan, but these are great--perfect for reading on lunch breaks. She ranges all over, telling stories involving past characters, to a couple of modern-day real-world tales (one magical and one not). I had no idea Pierce was once a housemother at a group home for teenage girls and that she has a background in psychology. That totally explains how she gets her characters to feel so real and to grow and develop.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, with setting and story secondary

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Dark Mirror

Dark Mirror (Dark Passage, #1)Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was SO excited for this book to come out because I love Mary Jo Putney's books, and I enjoy YA fiction, but this book was really a watered down version of her Guardians series, and I was quite disappointed. Everything felt too easy, too glib. Putney is known for the depth of her characters and character development, and most of that was lacking this time. The premise of the story was interesting--members of the British aristocracy discovered to have magical talents are sent to a prison-like school to be "cured," but a group of rebel students work to develop their talents instead and end up traveling through time to save England--and sometimes got exciting, but much of the time I found myself rolling my eyes and/or gritting my teeth. These teenagers adjusted to "modern conveniences," inventions, and socio-political changes WAY too easily to be believable. The pace was a little too fast. The romance seemed shallow. The book wasn't precisely bad...just lacking in depth and nuance.

On the other hand, I might be judging harshly because my expectations were so high to begin with. And I probably will read the sequel.

For readers' advisors: story doorway, with setting secondary (Regency & WWII)

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Who Makes the Bed When the Honeymoon Is Over

Who Makes the Bed When the Honeymoon Is Over:100 Ways to Make Housework Quick, Easy & Fair! (and improve your sex life, too)Who Makes the Bed When the Honeymoon Is Over:100 Ways to Make Housework Quick, Easy & Fair! by Mary Ellen Pinkham

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of the title, which seems particularly relevant to me as I try to figure out how I ended up doing about 85% of the housework. *grrr!* I had high hopes that this short little book would give me some tips on negotiating a more fair and balanced housekeeping relationship. However, all I really learned was to remember to include non-cleaning-related tasks when making a list of chores to divvy up--i.e. don't leave out bill paying & lawn mowing, etc. I did enjoy the funny quotes, particularly the one from Dave Barry on p. 17: "The obvious and fair solution to the housework problem is to let men do the housework for, say, the next six thousand years, to even things up."

Much of the book is taken up with basic instructions on how to clean things, dividing everything into categories: daily, weekly, monthly, twice a year, special occasions. I didn't really need the instructions for most of them, and I would have preferred she suggest less toxic options for some of them, although she does do that for a few. The author has her own line of cleansers, which she consistently recommends, so it feels a little self-serving.

This may be a good book to recommend to newlyweds who are in their early twenties and new to housekeeping in general.

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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the VoidPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Roach's writing style makes me laugh out loud. She is one of the main reasons I began branching out into reading nonfiction. Her research is incredibly thorough. I don't think I'd go to the lengths she does to get her facts straight. I'd happily, joyfully experience weightlessness in the C-9 airplane that flies parabolas! But I seriously doubt I'd try treating & drinking my own urine. I'm with her husband on that one--UGH.

What I especially love about this book is that she focuses not on the history of the development of the technology (rockets & bolts and such) of space flight but rather on the human aspects of it--eating, sleeping, vomiting, interpersonal conflicts & psychology, sex, gravity & G-forces, hygiene, "waste elimination," etc. All the stuff you were curious to know but which rarely, if ever, gets explained. So fascinating! My one regret, however, is that I read this book almost entirely during my lunch breaks...which not only slowed me down but also sometimes made it difficult to eat. Particularly true of the vomit and poop chapters. :( My husband was not so foolish, thankfully, and read it on evenings, weekends, and our mini-vacation.

For readers' advisors: character doorway because Roach's personality infuses her books like she's cracking jokes and telling stories just for YOU. Story doorway is a distant second because it is fascinating, albeit non-linear, history she's telling.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Peach Keeper

The Peach KeeperThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Peach Keeper is a delightful story of friendship and finding yourself. Living your best life, as Oprah would say. Seventy-five years ago a secret was buried at the edge of a cliff, but secrets do not stay buried forever, and this one is shaken loose when Paxton and Colin restore the town's original grand home to its former glory. Willa, Paxton, Sebastian, and Colin grew up in the same North Carolina town but worlds apart. The labels they bore in high school--Joker, Princess, Freak, and Stick Man--still haunt them twelve years later. They are about to learn that none of them is quite what people thought.

Sarah Addison Allen infuses her books with magic. Not the spells and incantations sort, but the delicious kind--bells and scents and objects that appear and disappear, protective birds, earthquakes, and so on. I read this book pretty much in one sitting and wished I could dive into it and meet these people in real life. I also loved the cameo appearance by Claire and Bay from Garden Spells.

For readers' advisors: character doorway primarily but also story doorway

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Bears!

More Bears!More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know it's going to be a good day when a picture book arrives in the mail unannounced and apparently free of charge! More Bears is a very cute book about an author who is "forced" to add more bears to his story until there are too many. This is great for having little kids yell, "More Bears!" with every turn of the page. Fun for a read-aloud.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter

The Kitchen DaughterThe Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ginny Selvaggio could not be more different than I am. She loves to cook and uses cooking to soothe herself. I am making myself learn to cook some basic things and would really rather my husband do all the cooking. She has Asperger's Syndrome, which means eye contact is painful for her, she has difficulty interpreting social cues, she's very literal, and loud noises and physical contact by everyone except a select few send her into a panic. I am very social, love hugs, have a sarcastic sense of humor, and prefer to speak face-to-face because of the eye contact. (OK, I'm with her on the loud noises thing--I hate that, too.) But Jael McHenry's new book The Kitchen Daughter let me experience what it is like inside Ginny's head, to see the world from her perspective.

The book begins with the funeral of Ginny's parents and tells the story of Ginny's struggle to cope with grief and with her younger sister who doesn't understand her at all. Ginny's parents have sheltered her all her life, and Amanda believes it's now her responsibility to take care of Ginny, while Ginny wants to stay where she is and live on her own. The day of the funeral, Ginny retreats to the kitchen to cook her grandmother's recipe for ribollita and inadvertently summons her grandmother's ghost, who has a message for her, "Do no let her." But the unwelcome intrusion of a little-known aunt into the kitchen dissipates Nonna before a frightened Ginny can ask what she means. The rest is a story of courage, communication, and personal growth.

For readers' advisors: character doorway, with story a secondary doorway thanks to some unexpected plot twists. I'd especially suggest this book to anyone who has a friend or family member with Asperger's, anyone who enjoys Sarah Addison Allen's books, and foodies who will appreciate the sensuous descriptions of food and cooking.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Monster at the End of this Book

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book)The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of my all-time favorite books when I was a kid. Especially if it's read with a dramatic "Grover voice." :) My mom used to read it to me, and then I used to take it with me in my "babysitting kit" when I was a teenager, and I read it to my babysitting charges. Over and over and over.

The premise of the book is that Grover has heard that there is a MONSTER at the end of the book, and he desperately tries to prevent you, the reader, from reaching the end of the book and the scary monster. He devises all sorts of ways to nail the pages shut, brick them up, etc., but of course that doesn't work. I won't spoil the ending for you, but it's pretty hilarious and can lead to teachable moments about fear.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

In Too Deep

In Too Deep (Looking Glass Trilogy, #1; Arcane Society, #10)In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tenth installment of the Arcane Society series focuses on Fallon Jones and his new assistant Isabella Valdez. She takes on a seemingly innocent investigation of an old mansion some think is haunted, and it turns in to a discovery of a serial killer and antique paranormal artifacts. Very exciting, fast-paced story to read.

The sex scenes/romance were pretty formulaic if you've ever read any of the rest of Krentz's books, but Fallon and Isabella are a good match. And I appreciated that the Nightshade conspiracy was more tangential for most of the novel. It was nice to learn more about Fallon and Isabella's talents and histories, as well as more about the townsfolk of Scargill Cove.

For readers' advisors: story doorway, primarily, with character secondary

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Monday, April 4, 2011

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Thursday Next, #6)One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thursday Next is back! Or no, wait, Thursday Next is missing! It's up to the written Thursday, with the assistance of her trusty butler, Sprockett, to figure out what happened to her. What was she working on when she vanished, why did a book with its ISBN number scrubbed off suddenly dissolve and scatter a long swath of debris across numerous genres, and what is up with the murderous Men in Plaid?

The latest installment in the Thursday Next series takes place almost entirely within BookWorld. Fforde keeps readers on their toes with his literary humor, complicated plot twists, and off-the-wall imagination. I can't wait for the next one--there are lots of loose ends just waiting to be tied up. Or not. It is Jasper Fforde, after all. :)

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Troubled Waters

Troubled WatersTroubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Sharon Shinn's books! She has this amazing ability to create whole new worlds and make you wish you lived there with her characters. I don't know whether this will be a stand-alone novel or the start of a new series, but I'd love for Shinn to write more of them.

Shinn's newest book begins just after Zoe's father has died. A few days later, a wealthy stranger arrives and announces that he is there to bring Zoe to the capital to become the king's fifth wife. A grief-stricken Zoe numbly acquiesces, but when they actually arrive in Chialto, she suddenly realizes she doesn't want to marry the king and makes her escape. Over the next few "quintiles" (a quintile is 72 days), she learns who she is, what she can do, and what she wants.

The story begins a little bit slowly, which is appropriate for someone in the fog of grief, but gets going as Zoe reawakens to life. It's not quite as gripping as her Twelve Houses series (my favorite!), but it's an excellent tale told well. (Darien Serlast reminds me a bit of Tayse, of Mystic and Rider fame.)

For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways, primarily, although story picks up in the second half. It's also a good crossover book (i.e. adult book for teens).

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The Good Daughters

The Good DaughtersThe Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ruth and Dana were born on the same day in the same town but into two very different families. Ruth's family has farmed the same piece of property for generations. Dana's family flits from one place to another, always chasing the next big idea, none of which ever seem to pan out. And yet their lives intertwine, thanks to a Big Secret they don't discover until the end of the book (but which I figured out almost at the beginning). The book is really a story of the lives of the two women struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit in to their worlds.

For readers' advisors: character doorway, and be aware that there is a fair amount of sexual content, although nothing explicit

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

200 Tips for De-cluttering

200 Tips for De-cluttering200 Tips for De-cluttering by Daniela Santos Quartino

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Update: I would give this book negative 5 stars if I could. Ugly ugly ugly! Impractical. Hard. Cold. Sharp. Sterile. Soul-killing. I found TWO photos that look like someone might actually live in the space--pg 247 and pg 352. The worst sections of the book were on kitchens and bathrooms. A bathroom in a see-through metal mesh cage?! Really?! A sink down inside a glass box?! Really?!

It is quite obvious that these "living spaces" were designed by a bachelor. And the only person I can imagine living in them is the character Adrian Monk from the TV show "Monk." Ironically, the only photos that weren't as painful to look at were some of the pages in the children's room section. At least those usually had color to them. And many of the colors were actually pleasant to look at, unlike the majority of the book. This book takes "clean lines" and "contemporary design" to extremes. What makes that especially disappointing to me is that the cover of the book looks so homey and welcoming--floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves, sunlight, and an iMac on the desk. Too bad the contents didn't live up to the cover.

For the few out there who might actually like these designs, never fear--the author includes hundreds of photos labeled with designer names to facilitate ordering. The book feels like a thinly veiled Ikea catalog, only heavier.

Also, the book advertises "Eco Tips" in the title, but I haven't found anything resembling eco tips anywhere, and there is no chapter on that. More false advertising! :(

Original review:

I'm not impressed so far. What little there is in the way of text is OK (a bit cheesy), but mostly it's all photos of these dreadful uber-modern "homes" that I'm pretty sure no one has ever or will ever live in. Particularly not anyone with children. I mean, seriously, a kitchen that is 100% white and has nothing at all on the countertops or walls or windows or anything?! These photos all feel cold and sharp and very very unwelcoming. Ugh. It's like Ikea meets ascetic monk. Thankfully, a friend recommended the book "The Not So Big House" instead. Phew!!

I will continue to glance through the rest of this gigantic book, however, just to see if there are any decent (i.e. practical, useful) tips in later chapters. But then I'm returning it and thanking my lucky stars I didn't shell out any money for it.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (Jane Austen Mysteries, #10)Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Austen is back to sleuthing in Stephanie Barron's latest mystery. This time Jane's sister-in-law Eliza has just died of what seems to be breast cancer, so Jane accompanies her brother Henry to Brighton to flee the overwhelming melancholy of his house in London. En route to Brighton, the duo rescue a teenage girl tied up in a carriage. She's been abducted by Lord Byron, the famous poet who has become obsessed with her. Jane and Henry return her to her father, General Twining, and go on about their business. But Miss Twining is a magnet for trouble, and soon Jane is immersed with trying to figure out who did what to whom, why, when, and how.

I love how Barron creates these novels that fit within the timeline and documented events of Jane Austen's life. Did Jane ever go to Brighton? Did she ever meet Lord Byron? No one knows, but she could have done so, according to the gaps in her chronology.

I also love Barron's portrayal of Jane's secret delight as people praise Pride and Prejudice in front of her, unaware of the author's identity. :)

For readers' advisors: story doorway mostly, but also setting and a bit of character

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Friday, February 18, 2011

An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

814 pages, and still everything is left hanging by the end?! Ack! Diana Gabaldon had better be working furiously to finish the next book asap, that's all I can say. There are too many cliffhangers to count in this one.

Volume seven in the Outlander series takes place during the Revolutionary War (Jamie & Claire's time) and 1980 (Brianna & Roger's time). Gabaldon skips around between storylines and narrators quite frequently, which keeps things interesting and also can be frustrating. There is a LOT going on in this episode. I read very quickly, and even I couldn't read fast enough to satisfy my urgent need to find out what the heck happened!

I really wished I had a computer by my side (or an Apple iPad/Touch/Phone) while reading this book because I kept wanting to look up names, battles, places, and timelines to remind myself of historical details I'd forgotten. The book really brings the Revolutionary War to life.

For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting are all strong doorways, but the length and occasional sexual content might scare off some readers.

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