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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