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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