Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, 274 pages

This features a group of people trying to survive in a lifeboat after their ocean liner sinks. Just how far will you go to live, even at the cost of others? I especially liked how the author weaved the main character's struggle in the life with their struggle before and after the lifeboat. Just how weak is the "weaker" sex?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gay Men Don't Get Fat by Simon Doonan, 254 pages

I'd seen this book on Lisa's hold pile and it looked interesting. I must say I felt like I was reading a foreign language at times, because it was filled with a ton of lingo that I'm not cool enough to know. I learned more about "bears" in the gay subculture than I ever knew, lol. The author seems like he would be a blast to hang out with.

First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth, 210 pages

I'd brought this book home for my youngest so she could learn more about the woman who brought the Girl Guides to America and transformed it into Girl Scouts, but I ended up reading it myself. I've been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, wearing the Brownie uniform, selling cookies, earning my Silver, and now have two daughters that are Girl Scouts. So it was intriguing to learn about the fascinating Juliette Low. She was from the South, married an Englishman, was presented to the Queen, almost divorced at a time that was a social no-no, and was a force to behold. She affected the lives of more girls and women than she'll ever know with Girl Scouts.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, 150 pages

I had recently picked up the new children's book that was a sequel to this. The movie has always been one of my favorites (because who doesn't love Dick Van Dyke) but I'd never read the book. So, I decided it was time to read this children's classic by the author of the James Bond series (yep, that Ian Fleming). Well, I hate to say it, but this was one time that I liked the movie better than the book. The candy played a very minor role, the mother was still alive, and they didn't have the toymaker or evil ruler at all in the story. The book wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't the wonderful story that I've loved since I first saw it as a kid. But I'm glad I can now say I've read this book.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, 342 pages

I had brought this book home for Samantha (my 10-year-old) and she loved it. She finished it and then went around the house asking all of us to read it so she would have some to talk about it with. I picked it up and realized she was right about how wonderful it was.
The book starts with Sage, an orphan being picked up along with two other boys by Conner, a nobleman with a devious plan. Their country stands on the brink of war because the king's family is dead and there is no one to take the throne except for the king's long-believed son. Conner plans to sit an impersonator on the throne to save the country from a power-struggle. Sage knows that Conner can't have two "princes" running around, so Sage must win this contest or be killed. But secrets abound in all the players, and the truth could be a death sentence for anyone.
This book grabbed me from almost page one, and was great. I am definitely hoping that the author writes a sequel, because I really want to see what happens next with the characters and the country. One of the best children's books I've read.

Scotched by Kaitlyn Dunnett, 263 pages

This is a Scottish-themed mystery series set in Moosetookalook, Maine. One of the things I enjoy most about these books is that they are generally fun, fast reads. This one featured a cozy mystery convention, something I would love to attend.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Fowlers of Sweet Valley by Kate William, 343 pages

This looks at Lila Fowler's ancestors starting in France during the Revolution up to her parents' tumultuous relationship.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Circus of the Damned, The Scoundrel, 116 pages

This is the graphic novel retelling of the Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton. Seeing them visualized through comic book makes for an intriguing new look at these novels. I am interested in seeing how they handle the more sexually explicit storylines that are coming.

Bewitching by Alex Flinn, 342 pages

I've really enjoyed the fairy-taled books by Alex Flinn. This one tells the story of Kendra, the witch from Beastly, who tells the story of her first 300 years. This has Hansel and Gretel, the Princess and the Pea, and the Little Mermaid, plus Cinderella. One of the best parts was the current-day story weaved with stories from the past. This is a great read for fans of the Sister Grimm books looking for a more grown-up read.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Queen of the Conqueror by Tracy Borman, 296 pages

Matilda is the wife of William the Conqueror, and is one of the least written about English queens. Matilda came from a lineage of strong and smart women, and proved herself both during her marriage. William has been long known for his winning of England in 1066, but Matilda ruled his duchy during his campaigns away, one of the few women to hold that sort of power. Her background made William a more acceptable choice of king for the English, and she proved a fertile mother, with nine children. She also was a determined mother, who went against her husband to protect her oldest son's rights, at the cost of her husband's trust.
I'm a fan of English historical fiction, reading almost everything there is about English royalty, but I've not read anything about Matilda or this time period. Tracy Borman did a superb job bringing Matilda to life, shining a light on a woefully under-examined female role model. Her book reminded me of Alison Weir's wonderfully crafted books, making Tracy Borman a must-read author for history fans. I look forward to seeing what historical figure she writes about next.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn, 470 pages

This was an intriguing look at Rome during the reign of Emperor Domitian as told by a Jewish slave girl, Thea, and a gladiator, Arius. Both are held captive to the desires of others, unable to have a life together, torn apart by the petty whims of a vicious master. When they both catch the eye of Emperor Domitian, his attention threatens not only all they hold dear, but also their lives.
I always enjoy historical fiction, and I'm not as familiar with Roman history as I like so this was a pleasant treat. It was intriguing and captivating, and was an interesting look at a tumultuous time. It was also nice to learn more about the Vestal Virgins and the gladiator system.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig is always outstanding, I love the blend of Regency historical romance with intrigue combined with modern England ala shades of Bridget Jones' Diary. This one has Augustus Whittlesby in France with a cover as a horribly bad poet, using his reams of unreadable poetry to hide his reports. American born Emma Delagardie is a widow who is a close family friend of the Bonapartes. Whittlesby uses her connections to get close to Napoleon, trying to discover information about a secret device that could enable Napoleon to invade England. But Whittlesby finds himself falling for Emma.
One of the things I enjoyed in this book was a look at The Pink Carnation, I'm hoping we get to see her fall in love in an upcoming book. Eloise and Colin's relationship has also been one of the things that keeps me picking up each new books. I'm interested to see what happens via the treasure hunt (I don't want to give anything away.) As I've said before, it's Jane Austen meets James Bond in these books, so they're a delightful treat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale, 277 pages

This was the sequel to "Austenland" and I think I liked this one even better than the first. This time, it's Pembrook Park and Charlotte Kinder is heading there after a divorce leaves her reeling. Throw in a brooding Mr. Mallery, a mystery sickness, a "brother" who makes her heart beat a little faster, and a dead body, and it's sure to be a vacation Charlotte never forgets.
I would so love to go visit a place like this on vacation. I loved the addition of a murder mystery to this, plus, I loved getting to see little bits of Charlotte's past. I am an Austen fanatic, and I recommend this book whole-heartedly.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen & David Oliver Relin, 349 pages

Greg Mortenson has promoted himself as a savior who has spent years building schools in Pakistan. While the premise of this book is wonderful, because what is better than fighting terrorism through educating boys and especially girls, but this book is very heavy on the self-promotion. At one point, he is able to get in to see Mother Theresa's body while she lays in state, and he considers himself as selfless as her. There is a ton of controversy swirling around Mortenson and his claims, but this was not a bad read if you look at it as nothing more than fiction. Unfortunately, that is not how he sold this book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Do You Remember Me Now by Karen Hanson Stuyck, 301 pages

Deciding to seek revenge for bullying inflicted during high school, a killer is knocking out members of The Six, a group of the popular and mean leaders from high school. Kate Dalton suffered at the hands of The Six, but has managed to re-invent herself and returns home to nurse her sick mother, little knowing it will place in the lineup as a suspect. She must team up with detective Sam Wolfe if she not only wants to clear her name but survive her reunion.
I hated a lot of high school, so this book hit too close to home at times. While I would never actually knock off some of my high school bullies, this book was a good read.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Pack by Jason Starr, 341 pages

Simon Burns has lost his job as an ad exec, and decides to be a stay-at-home dad for his 3-year-old son. This change stresses his already rocky marriage and introduces his to a group of dads at a local playground in New York City. While Simon is glad to make some new friends, there seems to be something off about them. Little does he suspect that they are werewolves, and Simon soon finds himself fighting to save not only his marriage, but his life and humanity.
This was a little to much of a guys book for me, and I felt the werewolf storyline wasn't done proper justice. But, because I read everything, I would pick up the sequel.

The Patmans of Sweet Valley by Kate William, 340 pages

This traced the family of Bruce Patman from the first member, Henry Patman, who came to America in the early 1800s up to his parents relationship.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce, 216 pages

I have been a fan of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang since the first time I saw the movie. When I discovered it was actually a book written by the same person who brought us James Bond (Ian Fleming) I loved it even more. So discovering a new sequel made me hesitant, wondering how they mangled a beloved favorite. But I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this new update. The sequel has a family in England restoring an old family camper, and the father putting in an engine that turns out to be from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Chitty takes the family across the world gathering some of it's old parts, while being chased by a nefarious figure. The illustrations in the book really added to the story. I loved how very English this was. While it can never measure up to the original movie (yes, the one time I like the movie better than the book) it was still a great read.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, 444 pages

This was a new look at the story of Catherine the Great as told by Varvara, a spy in the court of Empress Elizabeth, Catherine's mother-in-law. It brings new depths to the story of Catherine's arrival in Russia, her marriage, her children, and her seizure of the throne. This was a engrossing book, a great read for fans of historical fiction.

How to Ride A Dragon's Storm by Cressida Cowell, 254 pages

Hiccup is competing in the annual Intertribal Friendly Swimming Race, except the winner is the first one back, it's the last one. But knowing how Hiccup's life works, nothing goes as it's supposed to. Hiccup finds himself on a ship bound for the "imaginary" America, followed by a dinosaur of a dragon, with nemesis Norbert the Nutjob who is determined to kill Hiccup. So, it's everything as normal.
These are some of the funniest kids' books, I've really enjoyed all of them so far.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Austenland by Shannon Hale, 196 pages

Jane has an obsession, "Pride and Prejudice", that is, Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. She has not been able to find love, looking for an ideal that, so far, doesn't exist. When an aunt passes away, and as a bequest, leaves Jane three weeks at Austenland, a Regency-era playworld, Jane decides to go and live this obsession out, and then bid it goodbye once and far all. But the fantasy soon becomes hard to distinguish from reality. Jane must decide if Mr. Darcy is worth chasing after all.
I am a big Jane Austen fan and this was a wonderful treat. It felt very Bridget Jones' Diary meets Jane Austen. I would so love to go to a place like this if I ever won the lottery. This was a wonderful book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all Jane Austen fans.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth, 368 pages

Arthur Conan Doyle heads to a spa in Hamburg, Germany, determined to get some rest and sort through all of Sherlock Holmes' fan mail. But almost immediately upon arrival, he meets up with his friend, Oscar Wilde, who is never restful. The two discover a set of grisly clues in the mail consisting of a lock of hair, a finger, and a severed hand, with the trail leading to Rome. Oscar insists that they answer the call for help sent to that intrepid detective, Sherlock Holmes, and they quickly find themselves enmeshed in a mystery that centers around the Vatican. Wilde calls upon Sherlock's investigative techniques, hoping to solve this case before him or Doyle end up dead.
I am a newly come fan to the Wilde mysteries by Gyles Brandreth, but I'm a convert, through and through. Each one I've read has been a delight, mixing Wilde's many witty quips and sayings with Sherlock Holmes and his exasperated creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Each one alludes to Oscar Wilde's future downfall, creating a sense of tragic foreboding, but as Wilde would want, but the novels are still entertaining and intriguing. Fans of Oscar Wilde, Sherlock Holmes, and historical mysteries will all enjoy these wonderful books.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp, 378 pages

This examines the last Russian tsar Nicholas and his last years as told by Mathilde Kschessinska, the ballerina who captured his heart and had his first, though illegitimate, son. It was intriguing and captivated me from page one.

Blood Work by Holly Tucker, 304 pages

This looks at the history of blood transfusions, including the first dog to dogs and a calf to man. It's hard to believe that more people didn't die from these early transfusion attempts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, 315 pages

Auggie was born with severe facial deformities that resulted in him being homeschooled until now. He is about to start fifth grade at Beecher Prep. Auggie knows that he is normal on the inside, his outsides just don't show it, but can he make his classmates realize that.
Jeana had reviewed this book and it sounded pretty good so I checked it out for my 10-year-old. I happened to finish the book I was reading on my lunch break and this was in the van so I started it today. I couldn't put it down. This was one of the sweetest books I've ever read. It reminded me somewhat of the "Mask" movie with Cher. I was crying at the very end of the book, it was so good. This might be a juvenile book, but I think everyone should read it. I really can't say enough good things about it. Pick it up, but make sure you have some tissues at the end of the book.

Once Upon a Time by Kate William, 199 pages

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are spending their summer as au pairs-for a royal family! When Jessica sees the beautiful European chateau where they'll be staying for the summer, she feels like she's living in a fantasy world-complete with a prince, a royal ball, and a guarded castle. Is there an evil stepmother too? Elizabeth adores her young charges at Chateau d'Amour Inconnu. The only problem is Pierre, a six-year-old who likes to hide from her. While trying to find Pierre one day, Elizabeth gets lost in a vast topiary maze on the castle grounds. What she discovers at the maze's end just might turn her wildest fantasies into reality!

Fashion Victim by Kate William, 197 pages

Fired! Elizabeth Wakefield has been booted from her magazine internship-for stealing an idea she thought up in the first place! With the help of her twin sister, Elizabeth sets out to prove she was framed. Her snooping leads her into terrible danger when the glittering world of fashion publishing takes a dark and nasty turn. Jessica Wakefield has a major dilemma. Dating fashion photographer Quentin Berg has been an exciting whrilwind of glamorous late-night parties. He knows all the right people. But Quentin isn't all he's cracked up to be-in fact, he's shallow, stuck-up creep. It's Cameron Smith-a clerk from the magazine's mail room-who's got real class. Do nice guys really finish last?