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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