Category Archives: eight and a half shoes

Book Review : Speaking From Among the Bones

Title : Speaking From Among the Bones

Author : Alan Bradley

Publisher : Delacorte Press

Publication Date : February 5th, 2013

Pages : 378

Stand Alone or Series : #5 in the Flavia de Luce series

Why I Read : I’ve read all the other books in the series and I love them!

Three Words : mystery, young heroine, English sensibilities

Red Flags : very small amount of violence esp. associated with the murder.

Summary : We find ourselves once again in Bishop’s Lacey with the irrepressible Flavia de Luce. The church is opening the crypt of the town’s patron saint, St. Tancred and the village is a-twitter. Although all the adults are trying to keep Flavia away from the opening, she would not miss this for the world. And of course, all their fears are realized when it is Flavia who discovers upon opening the tomb that it contains the bones of one deceased fellow – not St. Tancred! It is actually the church organist who disappeared several weeks prior. He is found with a strange gas mask attached to his face- very strange indeed. Flavia CANNOT let this stand and decides to find out what has happened and who is responsible. As she delves into the past, she uncovers many secrets including ones to do with her family…..specifically her missing mother!

My Take : Sigh….I just delight in Flavia de Luce. Every time I read one of these books I close the cover, hold the book to my chest and sigh. Part of me just wishes that I was Flavia – she is so mischievous, so intelligent and yet she cares fiercely about her family including her “hated” sisters. The mystery is always interesting and keeps you on your toes. There is always fun scientific tidbits thrown in through Flavia’s interest in chemistry (specifically poisons). One of the best things about these books are the combination of Flavia’s extreme intelligence with the naivete of being a child, she doesn’t always understand the very grown-up things that are happening around her. But in true Flavia manner, she always thinks she understands perfectly. Does is sometimes stretch the imagination that once again, there is a murder in the sleepy village of Bishop’s Lacey? Well of course- but honestly who cares when the writing is this fun?

My Rating : eight and a half shoes – Very very good.

Trina

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Book Review : The Runaway King

Title : The Runaway King

Author : Jennifer A. Nielsen The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Date Published : March 1st, 2013

Pages : 352

Stand Alone or Series : #2 in the Ascendance Trilogy

How Obtained : e-ARC courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)

Three Words : adventurous, exciting, coming-of-age

Red Flags : none (appropriate for young to older adolescents)

***************WARNING!!!!!! This review contains unavoidable spoilers for the first book – The False Prince (click for my review). You have been warned!!

 

 

Summary : When last we saw Sage, he had just revealed that he was in fact the actual missing Prince Jaron, living in disguise and estrangement from his family. He has now divulged the secret to the kingdom and plans to take his rightful place on the throne. But it is never that simple, is it? First, there is an assassination attempt within the castle walls. It becomes abundantly clear that rumors of a neighboring country (one that is in allegiance with the PIRATES) getting ready for war may be more than rumors. Their country is woefully underprepared for war leaving Jaron with many hard decisions.¬† And now, Jaron’s council of regents don’t seem to believe that he is fit to be the king. What is the young king to do?? Jaron concocts a daring plan to rescue his kingdom that involves fleeing in disguise, joining the pirates and besting their king….easy, right??

My Take : Yeah!! I loved the False Prince so much so when I saw that this was available on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it before it was published. I am so glad that I did. What a fun and wonderful addition to the series!! First of all, the story was action-packed and full of adventure. Jaron is always getting into scrapes that he seemingly has no way out of but somehow he always manages to come out on top. Which brings me to the next thing that I loved about this book – Jaron!! I defy you to read this book and not fall a little bit in love with this reckless, daring, bold, adventurous, stubborn, intelligent, cunning man-child. We all know that I love a bad boy (with a heart of gold of course). He often does things that seem crazy and selfish and ridiculous but somehow it all turns out right in the end and that’s kinda the point, right? My only real issue with this book was the ending seemed a little bit too unrealistic….I won’t spoil it for you but it stretches the bounds of imagination. But honestly, the book is so much fun I find myself not caring that much….I honestly could not put it down. Great sequel and I can’t wait to read #3.

My Rating : eight and a half shoes – half shoe deduction for somewhat unrealistic ending.

Love ya,

Trina

 

 

 

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Book Review : Princess Academy

Title : Princess Academy

Author : Shannon Hale

Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the Princess Academy Series
Publication date : April 17, 2007
Pages : 336

Three Words : middle grade, fantasy, fairy tale elements

Red Flags : none (appropriate for younger adolescents)

Summary : So Miri lives in a remote village on the mountainside. The villagers have mined the stone quarries for a special type of rock for generations. Miri, however, is not allowed to mine the quarries but is responsible for all things domestic which she is not too jazzed about. So she is jealous of her sister and thinks that her father doesn’t respect her, plus she has all these feelings for her boyhood friend but she doesn’t feel worthy. It’s a very confusing time for poor Miri.

Then – news from the king! The king’s diviners have pinpointed where the next girl to marry the Crown Prince should come from (apparently this is something they do for each prince) – Miri’s village. Suddenly each teenage girl is forced to attend a school set up in the mountains – a princess academy. There Miri contends with an extremely harsh schoolmistress, the other girls’ intense jealousy and competition, not to mention her own feelings that maybe she doesn’t want to marry that stinking prince!

When bandits decide to invade the academy in order to kidnap the future princess, Miri and her companions must use all their wits to save themselves. Will they succeed? Who will marry the prince?

My Take : Have you ever read a book that you really didn’t want to like but found yourself unable to put down? That was this one for me. It is completely written for a middle grade/young adolescent audience and you knows I loves my sex, violence, bad language and drugs! When I first started the book, I kept thinking “this is cute and all but booorrrringg.” But then I started to notice that Miri was a female character that I really started to like and respect. She doesn’t always do things right and occasionally she even acts like a brat but in the end she is brace, resourceful, intelligent and caring. When I think of things I would like my daughters or myself to be, these rank right up there. Next, I just got sucked into the whole story. As you know I love the learning at school trope, I couldn’t wait to see what Miri would do. As she tries to strike up friendships with the other girls, sometimes succeeding but sometimes not. Miri struggles with whether she even wants to marry the prince – thank you Shannon Hale for making it totally believable. In the end, I really liked this book and I would recommend it. Sometimes it is ok for a story not to include all the violence, sex, etc… in the world – Don’t worry dear readers I won’t make it a habit ūüėČ

Rating : eight and a half shoes – flat knee high boots that you can wear with EVERYTHING (I need some and it has been on my mind)

Trina

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Mudbound or Sex and Racism

I recently read the awesome and amazing When She Woke¬†which you all know that I loved beyond words so I had to check out Hillary Jordan’s first novel – Mudbound. I blasted through this novel in about two days. It is really not typically something I like to read about – 1940’s Mississippi but this was very well done. I have come to two conclusions from this book : Sex = awesome and life-renewing, Racism = sucks. Really who can’t get behind that message….

Laura is this city girl who is somewhat plain and everybody thought she was going to be an old maid, until the day she meets Henry McAllan. He’s older and has some prospects so she agrees to marry him. They have some kids and life is going okay. Then he decides to move her to Mississippi to his farm, with his Pappy – a horrifying old racist a-hole. She is somewhat resentful and kind of over the whole thing when the war ends (WWII) and who comes back but Jamie – younger brother of Henry. He is everything Henry is not, handsome, young, witty, charming, but also full of PTSD issues and dealing with it the old-fashioned way – getting drunk a lot. You might be able to see where this is going…..Meanwhile, the oldest son of the black sharecropper family¬†on the farm also comes back from war and he is having issues with war as well, but also coming back from fighting for a country where he is a second-class citizen. Soon Jamie and Ronsel, the sharecropper’s son, strike up a friendship – a dangerous thing in 1940s Mississippi. All of these relationships clash in an intense climax that will leave you shocked and thoughtful.

This book stuck with me long after I read it…..something I love. The relationships between all of the characters struck me as interesting and realistic.¬†The entire book is¬†written where each chapter¬†is from the viewpoint of a different character, which is¬†great because so much of the turmoil¬†is within these characters and only bubbles out at the end.¬†All of the characters are flawed and sympathetic, they do things you can’t understand and then you¬†somehow do understand. Can you tell I really liked this book? I can’t wait to see what Hillary Jordan¬†writes next! I¬†give this book eight and a half shoes – sparkly Ugg boots – it’s not something I would usually go for but I totally like them anyway.

If¬†you like the aspect of a woman dealing with moving¬†in with family she is¬†uncomfortable with try Vinegar Hill¬†by A. Manette¬†Ansay¬† about a woman who is forced¬†to move in with her in-laws when her husband loses his job but finds living¬†unbearable with her father-in-law, a cruel religious fanatic. Or try Wallace Stegner’s Angel of¬†Repose, a Pulitzer Prize winner. In this novel, ¬†Lyman Ward, a wheelchair-bound historian whose marriage has failed, decides to write a fictional biography about his pioneer grandparents to discover why they grew apart over the years. Through their letters and documents, Lyman pieces together the story of Susan, his grandmother, who moved from the East Coast when she married his grandfather, Oliver Ward, a mining engineer in the late nineteenth century. (taken from RA Online)

For some non-fiction books on racism try Sons of Mississippi¬†by Paul Hendrickson. The author has taken the photograph on the cover of seven men, all white and county sheriffs in Mississippi who were determined to keep James Meredith from integrating the University of Mississippi. He weaves together their life stories with that of their children and James Meredith’s children to provide a context for race relations then and today. For a first-person account, try Bone Black by bell hooks in which she describes her own childhood as a “challenging” child who wanted to think for herself.

Let me know what you think! Please sign up as a subscriber…it’s so easy to do.

Trina

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Witches, Werewolves and Vampires – OH MY!

I hope you are feeling lucky today because I have been a-readin’! Like myself, some of you may feel that the whole vampire, werewolf supernatural thing is played out. After being subjected to the particularly odiously written Twilight as well as numerous mentions of Team Edward/Team Jacob (p.s. Edward wins!!) loyalty from tweens and adults, I was ready to stop with the whole genre. But I read so many good things about the three books (that’s right I said three!!)¬†I am reviewing today that I had to give in and submit. And I am so glad that I did. Friends you are in for an adult treat…

Our first book is a little gem called A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness. Diana Bishop is a witch from a long line of witches. However, she has decided to renounce the whole magic thing since her parents were killed in some horrific magic ritual in Nigeria (personally I would just maybe renounce exotic travel instead of the whole magic thing but that’s just me). She is now an Oxford scholar poring over old alchemical manuscripts in the Bodleian library. So she really doesn’t expect anything interesting to happen when she retrieves another manuscript called the Ashmole 482. She takes a look at it, finds nothing that interesting and puts it back in the stacks. But alas, she has actually discovered a super important magical manuscript which sets the underworld abuzz. Soon witches, daemons, and vampires are descending on the library which she finds pretty unnerving but tries to ignore. One vampire seems particularly interested in her-Matthew Clairmont, a Oxford geneticist. Soon Matthew and Diana are working together as things get more and more dangerous and¬†they discover more about the mysterious manuscript, the mystery of Diana’s parents murder and a whole host of¬†other things.

I really enjoyed this book. Diana and¬†Matthew¬†are both fun, interesting, flawed, strong and believable characters who just happen to be fantastical creatures of the night.¬†Although the book is¬†certainly not a thriller, it does have thrilling moments and has that easy conversational style among characters that you wish you¬†had with your friends including sarcastic commentary and witty repartee. I’m totally hooked on the mysteries and can’t wait to read the next books in the trilogy. Although sometimes the pacing can be slow and in the middle my attention started to wane, I kept going¬†and enjoyed the ending. Of course it also gets extra points for taking place in a library at the beginning. See they are exciting! This book is a pair of leopard print flats –¬†super cute and wearable, eight shoes.

Three Appeals : historical details, mystery, fantastical settings and creatures

Red Flags: Some Violence and Sexual Situations

If you liked this book here are some more you might like:

1) The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright – a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

2) The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – Katherine Howe

While clearing out her grandmother’s cottage for sale, Connie Goodwin finds a parchment inscribed with the name Deliverance Dane. And so begins the hunt to uncover the woman behind the name, a hunt that takes her back to Salem in 1692 . . . and the infamous witchcraft trials. But nothing is entirely as it seems and when Connie unearths the existence of Deliverance’s spell book, the Physick Book, the situation takes on a menacing edge as interested parties reveal their desperation to find this precious artefact at any cost. What secrets does the Physick Book contain? What magic is scrawled across its parchment pages? Connie must race to answer these questions – and reveal the truth about Salem’s women – before an ancient family curse once more fulfils its dark and devastating prophecy . . .(taken from Fantastic Fiction)
3) The Witch’s Daughter – Paula Brackston
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he will be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. Her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl named Tegan starts hanging around. Against her instincts, Elizabeth teaches Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories – and demons – long thought forgotten. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
Ok, on the next book – The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Jake is a werewolf – and not the nice, chest-baring, protecting innocent girls from vampire kind that we find in some other unnamed novel – but the kind who eats people. You’ve got your classic anti-hero in this book. Jake also likes to have indiscrimate sex especially with prostitutes, drinks and smokes all day long, all while trying to evade¬†his enemies including vampires and a mysterious organization that is killing werewolves. When he learns that HE is the last werewolf Jake comes to a conclusion – he is tired of life and ready to die. That’s right – he’s a suicidal werewolf. As he is counting down his last days, Jake has a chance meeting that changes his entire outlook. Will he be able to survive?
I totally dug this book! It really got me because I thought it brough some original ideas to a seemingly tired genre. First, it seems like most of these books are from a female point of view – usually victim but occassionally perpetrator. Jake is extremely male, with all the sex and not caring about personal hygiene and eating people and such. Occassionally he has a sensitive side that makes you like him, really you can’t help it. Secondly, it was written in journal form which I also found a little bit different from the usual supernatural genre. Lastly, he is suicidal…. and yes I know many of these things can be connected to Anne Rice but unlike her vampire, Jake is giving up because he feels bad about what he has done. Really he’s just tired of life. This book is thrilling but also explores what makes Jake the way he is. As so many of these books seem to do, it started to wane a little bit in the middle but then it got right back to the excitement. I also give this eight shoes – totally enjoyable.
Three Appeals : male perspective, fantasy, original story
Red Flags : Extreme sex, language and violence Рnot for children!!
If you liked the Last Werewolf, then try:
1) The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his ‘prayer log.’¬† There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.¬†(taken from Fantastic Fiction)
2) The Pack by Jason Starr
When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side, Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss’s betrayal. Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life- and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys’ night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality. As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their “pack,” they were talking about much more than male bonding. And as he falls prey to his basest instincts, Simon must accept that werewolves exist if he is to turn the tides of his fortune…
Now for the last book review….The Radleys by Matt Haig. I would say that this is the most literary of the bunch so if you are not super into the fantasy/horror thing this might be your cup of tea.¬†The Radleys are your average suburban dysfunctional family. Peter is the local doctor, in love with his wife but considering an affair because his wife has stopped all his advances. Helen, unhappy housewife, who tries not to think about a fateful night in Paris with another man. Claire, their daughter, who has become a vegan in an attempt to get animals to like her and Rowan, their son, who is shunned by most of classmates. When Claire commits a passionate act of violence, it unleashes a tidal wave of activity as well as revealing the secret that Peter and Helen have been trying to keep for seventeen years. They are vampires.
I think this was my favorite from the three books.¬†It was written in many short chapters from the viewpoints of almost of every character in the book. You got a little taste of what life was like for each of the characters. It deals with a lot of different themes while still maintaining the horror aspect of vampirism. Haig explores nature vs. nurture, the family as a unit, the nature of love, etc…. I would probably call this the thinking person’s vampire book. I left this book feeling satisfied. I would give this book eight and a half shoes – I love it when you put down a book or watch a movie and you keep thinking about it for a couple hours afterward.
Three Appeals : Literary quality, fantastical elements, strong characters
Red Flags : Some sex, violence and language
If you like the Radleys try :
1) The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson
When Darren Bennett meets Eric Lederer, there’s an instant connection. They share a love of drawing, the bottom rung on the cruel high school social ladder and a pathological fear of girls.¬† Then Eric reveals a secret: He doesn’t sleep. Ever.¬† When word leaks out about Eric’s condition, he and Darren find themselves on the run. Is it the government trying to tap into Eric’s mind, or something far darker?¬† It could be that not sleeping is only part of what Eric’s capable of, and the truth is both better and worse than they could ever imagine. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
2) The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig
Eleven-year-old Philip Noble has a big problem. It all begins when his dad appears as a ghost at his own funeral and introduces Philip to the Dead Fathers Club. Philip learns the truth about ghosts: the only people who end up ghosts are MURDERED. So begins Philip’s quest to avenge his dad. Hilariously funny, it is full of poignant insights into the strange workings of the world seen through the eyes of a child.
Whew….I’ve done my work. Hope you enjoy these books!
I would also like to put out the call… if you have a question about what to read next leave a comment on this page. I would like to find a volunteer that I can find books for and post about it on the blog.
Trina B.

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