Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

The Homecoming of Samuel LakeThe Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher's blurb:
Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.
I really enjoyed this beautiful novel. The characters are complex and full of contradiction. Sometimes character-driven novels languish a little for me, but this one has a nice plot that breezes right through a summer in the 1950s.

This book is a really emotional read. I was totally invested in this family, from spunky Swan Lake, her righteous father, her conflicted grandmother and the variety of aunts, uncles and cousins in between.  The one thing I had a hard time with was the bad guy. He is really, really BAD. You hate him like you are supposed to, but I started to dread when he would show up.

This would make a great choice for book clubs. You can read the first chapter here.

Also reviewed by: In the Pages... ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Reviews by Lola's Blog ~ Prairie Horizons ~ The Eclectic Reader ~ Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ex Libris

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common ReaderEx Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of 18 essays written by Anne Fadiman for Civilization magazine. While she claims she is a "common reader," I definitely take issue with that assessment. I read more than the average bear, but Fadiman takes reading to a whole new level.

The book started out strong and I loved her essay on how she and her husband merged their libraries after years of marriage (ours still isn't--we each have our own shelves). The middle dragged a little but it finished strong. Standouts for me were the essays on plagiarism and proofreading.

This is a great little book to read in snatches here and there. I did find Fadiman's tone a little pretentious at times, but her prose is fantastic and her knowledge is inspiring.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ It's All About Books
Source: Library

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially OurselvesThe Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

On the library shelves: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I became a fan of Dan Ariely when I read Predictably Irrational three years ago.  He is a behavioral economist, now at Duke, with a great business sense. In this book, he looks at dishonesty and how it affects ourselves, our communities and our workplaces.

Dan structures the book by discussing some experiments he has conducted and what they have demonstrated about how we make choices. Essentially, we don't choose to be dishonest based on a simple cost/benefit analysis. Instead, there are a number of factors that influence our decision to be honest including religious reminders, what others around us are choosing and how much we feel we can get away with that is "reasonable." After each discussion he gives an real-world example and then gives some ideas about how we can structure our lives to be more honest individuals.

My book club read this one in November. It is incredibly readable and makes for a great discussion. We loved discussing Ariely's various experiments and each of us had some interesting take-aways.

Source: Library

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baking Cakes in Kigali

Baking Cakes in Kigali: A NovelBaking Cakes in Kigali: A Novel by Gaile Parkin

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Angel Tungaraza lives in the Rwandan city of Kigali with her husband and five grandchildren. Originally from Tanzania, the family lives in an apartment complex full of expats. Angel's husband works for the university, but others in the complex work for the UN, CIA, as volunteer aids, etc. Angel runs a business making cakes and becomes the focal point for the complex when people come to order cakes and end up sharing their joyful and heartbreaking stories.

The thing that I love about this book is that it takes some pretty hefty issues--AIDS, the Rwandan genocide, famine, suicide and prostitution--and combines them all into a story that is astonishingly upbeat and full of hope. There are some really funny parts and some really eye-opening and poignant parts to this novel. I liked how I was able to look at some issues in a new way.

Probably my only gripe about this book is that Angel is very reminiscent of Precious Ramotswe from "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." Certainly if you like those books, you will like this one. But the similarities did bother me a little. Having said that, I really enjoyed this and would heartily recommend it.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Kindle Download

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Strike for Christmas

On Strike for ChristmasOn Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joy and Laura are part of a neighborhood knitting club. After Thanksgiving they are totally fed up with how their husbands act during the holidays. Joy feels like her husband doesn't appreciate everything she does to make the holidays special and is a grinch when it comes to her family gatherings. Laura's husband loves to throw parties but never helps out with all the work it takes to prepare or clean up. Together they convince the women of their town to go on strike.

Joy's husband reacts by doing only the bare minimum to keep the holiday spirit alive. Laura's husband tries really hard to do everything, with pretty funny consequences. Balancing it all out are a few women in the knitting group who would give anything to have Joy's and Laura's problems--one recently widowed and the other with cancer. Sometimes it gets a little cheesy, but I don't really expect anything less from a feel-good Christmas book.

This was my book club's pick for December and it is the perfect holiday read. It helps keep the busy-ness of the season in perspective, but it is also light and humorous. It's a quick read that I'd recommend if you get a few hours on a snowy afternoon.

This book was made into a Lifetime movie and is currently playing.

Source: Library

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

On the library stacks: Children's fiction and YA Classics
AR Reading Level: 11.0

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My son and I read this out loud to each other during Halloween. I had never read it before and found it to be quite delightful. We bought a version with a lot of illustrations and my son really enjoyed it.

I knew this book involved Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, but what I didn't realize is that there is a love story of sorts involved. Ichabod, a school teacher in town, tries desperately to win the hand of a wealthy farmer's daughter, Katrina Van Tassel. Unfortunately for him, the match is not to be.

This book, first published in 1820, has very difficult vocabulary words for kids. I found I had to concentrate quite hard when my son was reading and every once in awhile we had to stop and summarize what was going on. Having a Kindle version we could use to quickly access the dictionary was very helpful. This is a great children's book for advanced readers.

Source: Kindle purchase

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Reluctant Bachelorette

The Reluctant BacheloretteThe Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Renee Anderson

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Taycee Emerson lives in small farming town that's struggling to stay afloat. She's lived there all her life and, despite the fact that the rest of her family has moved away, she loves living there and owns her own flower shop.

Taycee's relatively uncomplicated life gets much more interesting when her former crush moves back into town. It gets even crazier when her best friend signs her up to be on an internet dating show without her knowledge, and the said former crush gets cast as one of her "bachelors."

This book is just good, clean fun. It's cute and predictable, but I felt invested in the story and read it really quickly. It's nice to read a romance without worrying about any kind of graphic content. I needed a change in reading pace and this really did it for me. It's a non-stressful, relaxing read that I finished with a smile on my face.

(If I could change one thing though, it would definitely be the main character's name.)

Also reviewed by: I Am a Reader, Not a Writer - Blog Tour
Source: Kindle Purchase

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Magician's Assistant

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Sabine has been a magician's assistant for over twenty years. She fell hard for Parsifal the magician, even when it was clear he was gay. But she stood by him and loved him through everything, including the death of Parsifal's lover. Eventually Parsifal marries Sabine so that she will inherit everything upon his death. When he dies unexpectedly Sabine finds out that Parsifal has lied to her about his whole past and upbringing.

Sabine is shocked to find out Parsifal's real name is Guy Fetters. His mother is alive and well and lives in Nebraska along with his two sisters and two nephews. When Parsifal's mother comes to Los Angeles to visit, Sabine is confused but desperate to find out who the real Parsifal is and why he has hidden his past. To complete her emotional journey, she visits the family in Nebraska.

I'm starting to thing that Ann Patchett's endings and I do not get along. Still, I thought this was a really beautifully written novel. I was emotionally invested in the story, right up until the last 30 pages or so when it really fell apart for me. The direction Patchett took the story did not ring true to the Sabine I felt I had come to know, which really made me question everything. I have continued to mull this story over though, so it definitely had an impact on me, even if it's not as positive as I would have liked.

Also reviewed by: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.7
Series: Book 1 of 3 (All Souls Trilogy)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Diana Bishop is a modern-day witch, doing work in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. She usually tries to suppress her powers because she doesn't want them to influence her work as a historian of science. But one day she uses a little magic to reach a book and a vampire spots her.

Matthew Clairmont is a 1,500 year old vampire who thinks Diana may hold the key to a secret all witches, daemons, and vampires are trying to discover. Together they try to figure it all out while trying to stay safe from dark forces that wish them harm. And, of course, they fall in love along the way.

This book is a mix of Harry Potter and Twilight for grownups. It's a large book, but a quick read. I thought Diana was a pretty bland character and I didn't really like Matthew much better. But I really loved all the sides characters--the family and friends of the duo. While I really did enjoy my time reading, it was pretty easy for me to pick apart the book when I finished it, and my book club felt the same. As such, I won't be finishing the series.

Also reviewed by: Peeking Between the Pages ~ Axe for the frozen sea ~ Book Addiction ~ Beth Fish Reads ~ Book Nut ~ Booking Mama ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Linus's Blanket ~ Capricious Reader
Source: Library

Monday, November 5, 2012

Crow Lake

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.5
Award: Alex Award for Adult Books for Young Adults

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous novel is set in a small farming community in northern Canada. Kate is just 7 when her parents are killed in a car accident. Her two older brothers make it possible for the family to stay together, including raising baby Bo. Her oldest brother sacrifices his teaching career so that Kate's favorite brother Matt can go to college. But a twist of fate leaves Matt in their small town for good.

Kate tells the story of the family, alternating between past and present. She is now a successful zoologist, struggling in her romantic relationship with a fellow professor. A trip homes brings all of her feelings to the surface, especially those regarding her disappointments in Matt.

I really enjoyed this novel. It's rich and atmospheric and so well written. I loved getting into the guts of the characters--their motivations, choices, and psychology. While it's mainly a character-driven novel, the plot certainly moved along enough for me that I didn't want to put the book down. Although I didn't read it for mine, I think it would make a fantastic book club choice.

Also reviewed by: In the Pages... ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Camel Bookmobile

The Camel BookmobileThe Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.9
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fiona Sweeney is a thirty-something living in New York who wants to make a difference. She travels to Africa to deliver books to remote villages by...camel bookmobile, of course. There is a problem in her favorite village, Mididima, when a disfigured boy from the village refuses to return his library books. Under the bookmobile rules, the village can no longer receive books if they are not all returned.

The controversy in Mididima is much more deep rooted than just a couple of missing books. The villagers are facing a serious drought. Some of them fear the new values brought into the village, represented by the books. They believe that sticking to traditional values will keep them safe. Others live for the bookmobile's arrival, yearning for knowledge and the expansion of their worldview.

As a trained librarian, I had such high hopes for this book. I liked that the story was told from multiple characters' perspectives. But I also felt that the jumping around made it difficult to truly flesh out any one character. I found Fiona difficult to like, even though I was rooting for her success as a librarian the whole book. The ending might have been realistic, but it also made me kind of sad.

Check out the real story behind the book here.

Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Book Clutter
Source: BookMooch

Monday, October 1, 2012

Code Name Verity

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 6.5

This book is getting a lot of great press, so my book club chose it for our September read. It is the story of two girls who become best friends during World War II. Maddie is pilot who drops her friend Verity off in France for a mission and then crashes her plane. Verity is a spy who gets apprehended by the Gestapo.

This book is the hardest book for me to rate and review this year. There were things about it I really loved and then other things I really didn't love. I found it incredibly slow reading. I seemed to shut down while I was reading it and I didn't have a strong desire to pick it back up. But, the writing was really phenomenal. So phenomenal in fact, that the whole story gave me nightmares.

I think the story just got a little overwhelming for me. (The author does admit at the end that it got a little out of hand.) While it is theoretically possible, the story just isn't really plausible for the time period. But it includes a lot of great elements that make it a compelling tale. I just have really mixed feelings about it.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews ~ J'adorehappyendings ~ Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Book Nut ~ A Work in Progress ~ Diary of an Eccentric ~ My Friend Amy ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Thoughts of Joy... ~ It's All About Books ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Capricious Reader ~ things mean a lot
Source: Library

Sunday, September 30, 2012

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

On the library stacks: Children's fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.7
Awards: NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; ALA Notable/Best Books; SLJ Best Book; Newbery Medal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Claudia Kincaid lives with her family in Connecticut. She feels under-appreciated by her family and decides to run away to the Met. She convinces her favorite brother, Jamie, to go with her because she needs his financial support. The live in the Met for about a week, bathing in the fountain and sleeping in an old English bed on display.

A suspected lost work of Michelangelo draws huge crowds to the museum each day. The kids decided to do some research to help determine if it is real or not. They decide they must know the secret of the sculpture, so they spend all their money getting to the home of Mrs. Frankweiler, who was the previous owner.

I'm not sure if I read this when I was a kid or not. But I am homeschooling my 5th grader and decided to read it with him. My son liked this book better than I did. I think he really got into the fantasy of what it would be like to run away and live in a museum. I thought the book was cute, but I found Claudia obnoxious. There are lots of resources online to help teach and test this book. My son and I had a great discussion about it after we both finished it.

Also reviewed by: Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.0
Series: Divergent #2 of 3

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved Divergent and couldn't wait to read its sequel. In a similar fashion to my review of the first book, I will keep this brief:

1. It's good. Not as good as the first one, but a really solid #2 in the trilogy.
2. I liked the Inception-like elements. Real or simulation?
3. The plot was not predictable, which I really appreciated.
4. I really like how the author can move the story along while deepening our understanding of the characters and their relationships.
5. I'm on tenterhooks to see how it all ends.

Also reviewed by: At Home With Books ~ Melissa's Bookshelf ~ Book Addiction ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ The Eclectic Reader ~ Book Nut ~ A Bookworm's World ~ Girl Who Loves to Read ~ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Emily's Reading Room
Source: Borrowed

Friday, September 21, 2012


Abundance, A Novel of Marie AntoinetteAbundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This historical fiction novel opens as Marie Antionette prepares to leave her native Austria to marry the future king of France. She was 14 years old at the time of the marriage ceremony. Interestingly, the marriage was not consummated for seven years.

This book, published the same year the Kirsten Dunst movie hit the big screen, has a similarly sympathetic view of Marie Antionette as the movie. (She never said, "Let them eat cake!") Naslund has definitely done her research and even includes actual quotations where they are known. The novel helped me to see how Marie Antionette viewed the events going on around her from the perspective of her privileged upbringing. She cared deeply for the people of France but couldn't see how her own actions could be viewed hypocritically.

While this book obviously does not end well, I'm really glad I read it. I was quite fascinated learning about the inner workings of Versailles and Marie's role as a mother. While I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, if you have an interest in learning more about this very complex historical character, I suggest giving this book a try.

Source: Purchased

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.1
Series: Unearthly #2 of 3
Recommended for: Age 13+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this second book in the Unearthly series as soon as I could. Without giving too much away, I will say that this book does shed more light on Clara's angel world and how things work. There is more character development in this book and it is quite emotionally charged.

The love triangle between Clara, Christian and Tucker is alive and well in this book. But the main issue at hand is that Clara sees in a vision that someone close to her is going to die. She struggles as she tries figuring out who it is and, once she does know, realizing that there is nothing she can do to make things any different.

I am really enjoying how this trilogy is developing. It's actually kind of a sad book, but I think I might have even enjoyed it more than the first book. I am anxiously awaiting the conclusion in January!

Also reviewed by: Book Lover Stop ~ The Eclectic Reader ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Daddy Long LegsDaddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

On the library stacks: Children's and Adult Fiction (!)
AR Reading Level: 6.1
Interest level: Grades 9+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Judy Abbott is an orphan girl about to be released into the world. At the last minute, a wealthy trustee of the orphanage offers to pay for her college education, despite that fact that she is a girl. His only conditions are that he remain anonymous and that she update him periodically about her studies. Judy calls him "Daddy-Long-Legs" because she has only seen his shadow, but she would really like to figure out who he is.

This classic epistolary novel is really a treat. I loved Judy and her spunk. Most of the criticism I have encountered about this book is that it is a little weird, but I didn't think it was anymore creepy than cousins getting together in Jane Austen's novels. It IS a 100 year old book! Yes, I figured out who Daddy-Long-Legs was pretty early on, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of this delightful little book.

Here are some favorite bits:

It isn't the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh--I really think that requires spirit. 

It's true, you know. The world is full of happiness, and plenty to go around, if you are only willing to take the kind that comes your way. The whole secret is in being pliable.

On visiting New York:
But aren't the streets entertaining? And the people? And the shops? I never saw such lovely things as there are in the windows. It makes you want to devote your life to wearing clothes.

Also reviewed by: Puss Reboots ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Giving Reading a Chance!! ~ things mean a lot ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.2
Series: Unearthly #1 of 3
Recommended for: Ages 12+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clara Gardner has recently learned she is part-angel. Her mother has explained that all angels are given a purpose which they catch glimpses of in visions. Clara's visions of a boy standing in trees needing to be rescued from a fire has brought her family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Now not only is Clara the new kid at a new high school, she's also trying to figure out what her vision means. She realizes that the stunning boy in her vision is a popular kid named Christian. But a cute cowboy named Tucker has her struggling to choose where to focus her attention.

This was my book club read for August. We all decided the summer is a great time to read something a little more frivolous, and most of us are pretty new to the angel scene. It turns out it was a great read. More people actually read the book this month than usual, and quite a few of us (including me!) had to check out the second book in the series right away.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ The Eclectic Reader ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Book Lover Stop ~ Book Journal ~ Tales of Whimsy ~ Your link here?
Source: Kindle Purchase

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Crimson Warning

A Crimson Warning (Lady Emily, #6)A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Series: Lady Emily #6

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lady Emily Hargreaves lives in Mayfair with her dashing husband Colin. While Emily continues her eccentric pursuits in studying classical languages and now promoting the women's suffrage movement, Colin serves quietly as a secret agent to the Crown.

As the season begins, red paint is found on some of the doorsteps of the 'ton' elite, and soon thereafter a scandalous secret is revealed about the inhabitants. Lives are being lost as part of the uproar and together Colin and Emily must solve the mystery behind the red paint before more lives are ruined.

After just feeling ho-hum about last two books in this series, I almost gave up. But I am SO very glad I read this one. I felt like so many of the characters got a new lease on life and I'm excited about this series once again. I love how the mystery included so many of the Hargreaves' friends and neighbors and I enjoyed the political aspects to this book also. Thankfully I won't have to wait long for the next installment.

Also reviewed by: Girl Who Loves to Read ~ Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ Books, Belles, and Beaux ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Peach Keeper

The Peach KeeperThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Willa Jackson has been hanging out in Walls of Water almost her whole life. She was the former high school prankster, but returned to the town after her father's death to show how respectable and normal she could be. She runs a sporting goods store even though she has no passion for it, catering mainly to the tourists on the main street.

In high school Willa never hung out with the Osgood twins, the children of the most prominent socialite family. But when Paxton Osgood restores the house of Willa's grandmother, they are all forced to confront a past that had quite literally been buried.

I don't know why I have waited so long to read this one. I love the fictional North Carolina mountain towns the author creates and she infuses just the right amount of magical realism for me. This is a sweet story that has nice mystery and romantic elements. With cameos of characters from previous novels, this book will certainly satisfy the author's fans.

Also reviewed by: Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ A Bookshelf Monstrosity ~ Library Girl Reads and Reviews ~ write meg! ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Chick Lit Reviews and News ~ 2 Kids and Tired Books
Source: Library

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.1
Series: 1 of 3 (Summer)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Belly (I'm not a fan of her name) goes to the beach every summer with her mom and her brother. They stay with their lifelong friends, the Fishers, who have two boys named Conrad and Jeremiah. The boys are around Belly's age and they've never really seen her as a girl until the summer she is 15 years old.

Belly has had a crush on Conrad forever, but Jeremiah has always been her friend. There is tension in the house Belly hasn't noticed before, and Belly ends up spending a lot of time with a boy she meets at a party. The story is given more color with flashbacks to past summers.

If I think about this book too much, I can really see some things that bug me. But the truth is, it was an absolutely perfect summer beach read. I read it in a day and was totally entertained. However, I don't think I will read the rest of the series.

Also reviewed by: write meg! ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made the blogging rounds awhile ago, and I had decided I wasn't going to read it. But it was my book club's pick in July, so I ended up reading it anyway. It's a sweet story and I'm glad I read it, even if I wasn't totally wowed by it.

Major Pettigrew is a widower who lives in a small Sussex village. To the horror and dismay of his son and his upper crust neighbors, the Major likes the owner of the village shop, a woman of Pakistani descent names Jasmina. Between this budding relationship, the monetary problems of the local aristocracy, and the Major's own selfish son, the values the village holds dear are in some jeopardy.

I enjoyed this book. Not a lot happens in the first half, but it does help set up the eventful second half. I like the Major's wit and wisdom, but he was probably the only character that I felt I really connected with. Having lived in a village similar to this, there was quite a bit of truth in Simonson's observations on life, even if some of the events were quite melodramatic. My book group all enjoyed this one and it made for a nice discussion.

Also reviewed by: Maggie Reads ~ Lesley's Book Nook ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ The Boston Bibliophile ~ Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ It's All About Books ~ Capricious Reader ~ Thoughts of Joy... ~ Jules' Book Reviews ~ write meg!
Source: Gift

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (The Penderwicks, #2)The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

On the library shelves: Children's fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.4
Series: Book 2 of 3 (The Penderwicks)
Award:  Publishers Weekly Best Book

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My kids and I adore the Penderwick family. We listened to the audiobook (with fantastic narrator Susan Denaker) on our travels this summer. I love this series because everyone from my 1st grader to my 7th grader is engaged in the story and wants to listen in.

From the author's website:
In the second book about the Penderwicks, the sisters are home on Gardam Street and ready for an adventure! But the adventure they get isn’t quite what they had in mind.  Mr. Penderwick’s sister has decided it’s time for him to start dating—and the girls know that can only mean one thing: disaster.

Enter the Save Daddy Plan—a plot so brilliant, so bold, so funny, that only the Penderwick girls could have come up with it. But in the meantime, they have some other problems to deal with. Rosalind can’t seem to get the annoying Tommy Geiger out of her hair—and she can’t stand him, really. Skye loses her temper on the soccer field in a most undignified manner. Jane’s love of creative writing leads her into deep waters. And Batty’s getting into mischief spying on the new next-door neighbor. As for Hound, he’s always in trouble.
This book is just good, clean, quality children's literature. I will admit that I did enjoy this one a smidgen less than the first, but perhaps that's because I already know how wonderfully delightful each character is, so the book didn't have that "newness" element. Having said that, I would absolutely recommend this series for the entire family as a read-aloud or to listen to together. We've already started on the third.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Audiobook

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Savannah (Savannah Quartet, #1)Savannah by Eugenia Price

On the library shelves: Adult fiction
Series: Book 1 of 4 (Savannah Quartet)

My rating:  3 of 5 stars

I decided to read another chunkster this summer. Clocking in at nearly 600 pages, Savannah certainly fit the bill. This sweeping novel is set in the early 19th century and tells the story of young Mark Browning who has renounced his fortune in Philadelphia and has decided to make his own way in the town of his mother's birth. On his voyage to Savannah he meets Robert Mackay, a wealthy merchant, who takes Mark into his home and makes him one of his family.

Mark has a bit of growing up to do in his adopted city. His intentions are good but sometimes his energies are a bit misguided. He falls in love with two women, unearths buried family secrets, and discovers his true passions. He still retains a bit of his naivete, but he is certainly a charming man.

I enjoyed this novel, but it went on a little long for me. There wasn't as much substance to the characters as I would have liked and I felt like some points were rehashed far too many times. It was an entertaining read though and, despite some anachronisms, I did enjoy the historical elements. Many of the characters were real people and the events of the time such as the Marquis de Lafayette visit and the War of 1812 figured into the novel.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


MilkweedMilkweed by Jerry Spinelli

On the library shelves: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 3.6
Awards: Booklist Editors' Choice; Parent's Guide Book Award/ Honor Book; Golden Kite Award/Honor Book

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel is set in Warsaw during World War II. It features a homeless boy who has no past and doesn't even know his own name. He is befriended by an older boy named Uri and given the name of Misha. Uri invents a past for Misha and tells him he is a gypsy. Even though being a gypsy in Nazi-occupied territory is bad, being a Jew like Uri is worse. 

Eventually Misha and the other street boys are moved into the Jewish ghetto. There they experience the horrors of hunger, sickness, filthy living conditions and torturous rule by the Nazis. Eventually many are sent to the concentration camps, but Misha escapes.

I normally love Jerry Spinelli but I was so disappointed this was the one required summer reading book for my rising 7th grader. This book is very unlike his other novels and I felt that he was going for shock value instead of literary value. I read the book in one sitting because I just wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible. I failed to connect with the characters and the book felt vague, dark, and hopeless.

Also reviewed by: Diary of an Eccentric ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #13)The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Series: No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #13

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mma Ramotswe has two big problems. 1) Mma Potokwane has been fired as head of the orphan farm and 2) One of the apprentices at Speedy Motors has been wrongly accused of a crime. Add into that Grace Makutsi's adjustment to married life and a stranger who shows up out of the blue (I didn't know he was coming, but I almost cried) and you have a recipe for an absolute winner in this 13th installment.

There really isn't much more gushing I do about this series that I haven't already done in the past. It amazes me that I can still give 5 star ratings to a series that has been going on so long. Somehow McCall Smith gets right to the heart of human nature in such a gentle manner that it takes my breath away. I love my yearly visits to Botswana.

Also reviewed by: A Reader's Journal ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Lesson in Secrets

A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs, #8)A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

On the library stacks: Adult mystery fiction
Series: Maisie Dobbs #8

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this 8th installment of this wonderful series, it is 1932 and Maisie finds herself working for the British Secret Service. Posing as a philosophy lecturer, she is able to infiltrate a college in Cambridge where there are suspicious political activities. When the school's founder is murdered, Maisie is able to solve the crime while investigating the disturbing rise of fascism in her own country.

Once again, I just adore Maisie. She's smart and witty, but also feminine and sensitive. I loved the further exploration of her personal life as well as that of her assistant, Billy Beale. I enjoyed the various settings and locations the novel depicted as Maisie traveled back and forth between Cambridge, London, and Kent. I also love how the author integrates historical fiction with her mysteries.

I can't believe this series is soon to be 10 years old! I recommend starting at the beginning if you are a new reader.

Also reviewed by: Savvy Verse & Wit ~ Lesley's Book Nook ~ A Work in Progress ~ Diary of an Eccentric ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Monday, July 2, 2012

Born to Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never SeenBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
On the library shelves: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher McDougall liked to run, but he kept sustaining injuries. After visits to numerous doctors, he went on a quest of sorts to Mexico where he met the Tarahumara Indians. He was shocked to discover the tribe runs for days on end, for FUN. They are a peace-loving people with incredible stamina who run wearing sandals made from tires.

McDougall went on to research the world of ultramarathoners, learning about the personalities and drive of those who are drawn to the sport. He also investigated the science behind human running and put forward the notion that we evolved to run.

McDougall formed a special bond with an American man known as Caballo Blanco who lived among the Tarahumara. The book culminates with a race Caballo organized between some of the best ultramarathoners and the Tarahumara. Caballo Blanco died recently, making this a timely book to read and consider. Check out this article from the New York Times.

I am not a runner. Reading this book did not make me want to take up running, but I found it fascinating nonetheless. I think the science aspect was a little one-sided and I would have liked the author to have presented more about the alternative points of view. But my book club found lots of topics related to this book to discuss including physical and mental health and consumerism. I personally really enjoyed this book--part science, part memoir, part biography--and came away with lots of interesting things to think about.

Also reviewed by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Watch Christopher McDougall speak at TED here:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
On the library shelves: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.5
Award:  VOYA: The Perfect Tens
Recommended for: Age 15+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hazel is a 16-year old from Indiana who is terminally ill with cancer. At the request of her mother, she attends a support group to help her get out and make friends. One day Augustus Waters shows up to support group with his friend Isaac. Augustus is missing part of a leg resulting from his own fight with cancer, but Augustus is fortunately in remission now. Augustus and Hazel become friends, but Hazel is reluctant to let the relationship to progress further in an effort to spare Augustus the pain of watching her die.

I have a love/hate relationship with John Green. Fortunately, this book leaned more towards love. The prose and wit is fantastic, even if it was a little pretentious for teenagers. I felt totally invested in all of the characters, including the colorful and quirky supporting cast. Some of the life observations were moving and yet realistic in a way I really appreciated. Yes, this book is sad, but it's also uplifting and funny.

Just a word about the audiobook: I thought the reader sounded too old to be Hazel which I had a hard time getting past. I also thought her Dutch accent was horrible.

Also reviewed by: In the Pages... ~ Piling on the Books ~ Capricious Reader ~ Book Addiction ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ Bart's Bookshelf ~ The Bluestocking Society ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Book Nut ~ It's All About Books ~ The Avid Reader's Musings ~ things mean a lot ~ ~ Steph the Bookworm ~ Your link here?

Source: Library Audiobook

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Woman of Substance

A Woman of SubstanceA Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
Series: 1 of 7 (Emma Harte Saga)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Harte is a young girl who lives in a Yorkshire village with her family. Her dad and brothers work at the local mill and Emma works at the Fairley Hall estate nearby. Emma hopes that one day through her own hard work and intuition, she will lift herself and her family out of poverty. When she is cruelly treated by the Fairley family, her resolution turns into a deep-seeded desire for revenge. Emma eventually makes it to Leeds where she begins to amass her fortune by a series of shrewd business deals and relationships.

This book is a chunkster. While some of the language was way too flowery and overly descriptive, I wouldn't have read 900 pages if I wasn't enjoying it. The book spans over 60 years of Emma's life and her character is very well developed. I really liked that this book was set in the same location and during the same time period as Downton Abbey.

Even though BTB wrote this book in the 1979, it didn't feel overly dated. While historical events certainly play a role in this novel, I could almost imagine a similar book being written in modern times. In fact, BTB penned the 7th book in this series just 3 years ago. I probably won't read anymore in the series, but I really enjoyed my time with this one and it works well as a stand-alone novel.

Source: BookMooch

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kissing the Bee

Kissing the BeeKissing the Bee by Kathe Koja

On the library shelves: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.4
Award:  Parent's Choice Award/Honor Book
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dana and Avra are seniors in high school planning their senior prom. They're best friends, but they have very different plans for their lives. Dana is planning on going to college, but Avra plans on escaping the night of the prom with her boyfriend Emil. Dana has had a secret crush on Emil, but when she starts to see cracks in Avra's and Emil's relationship, she wonders if the feelings might be reciprocated and if Emil will really go along with Avra's plans.

The bee analogy is woven into this novel appropriately and meaningfully. I detest the cover, but don't let that turn you off from reading a real gem. While I certainly enjoyed the love triangle aspect of the book, what really stuck out to me was the exploration of the friendship between Dana and Avra. I could relate to Dana's feelings about Queen Bee "Avra" in her life, and reading this really brought some emotions to the surface and made me reflective. This short novel is beautifully written and well worth the time.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Thursday, June 14, 2012


SeedfolksSeedfolks by Paul Fleischman

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.3
Awards: NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books; SLJ Best Book; Golden Kite Award/Honor Book
Appropriate for: Grades 6+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Seedfolks is the story of a patch of land between buildings in a rundown section of Cleveland. One day a young girl decides to plant beans there. Eventually others notice, the lot is cleaned up, and a community garden blooms. So many people from all ages and races are drawn to the garden, each person creating something important and unique to them. Together they create beauty out of ugliness.

This book is told in 13 different voices, each with their own chapter. It's a slim novel easily read in an hour or so. It's a book that I think would work well in a classroom setting as there are some early teen-appropriate issues to discuss.

I thought this was a nice book, but I wasn't wowed like I was hoping. I know it wasn't the author's point, but I think I wanted more depth and perhaps resolution for the characters. However, I especially enjoyed reading the end of the book where Fleischman discusses his inspiration for the novel.

Also reviewed by: Capricious Reader ~ Becky's Book Reviews
Source: Library

Monday, June 4, 2012

Heaven Is Here

Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday JoyHeaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielson

On the library stacks: Adult Biography
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should say up front that I know Stephanie and her sweet family. We lived in the same area in New Jersey for a couple of years and we went to church together. In August 2008, Stephanie (a popular blogger), her husband Christian, and their friend and flight instructor Doug were in an airplane crash. Doug passed away after a short time, Christian broke his back and has burns on 30% of his body, and Stephanie has burns on nearly 80% of her body.

This book starts out talking some about the crash. Then it goes back in time to Stephanie's upbringing, her love story with Christian, and then chronicles their life together until the time of the crash. After the crash, Stephanie discusses how hard it was to accept her new self, to connect with her children again after being in a coma for months, and to move forward in a different life to the one she had planned.

I think the highest recommendation I can give this book is that I can hear Stephanie's voice throughout the book. Not only is it well-written, but the sentiments are authentic and genuine. I read the book in one sitting, both laughing and crying as I read. I think this would make a great book club pick and a great gift. I've already purchased one for a friend.

Source: Library

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next DoorLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 3.7
Companion to: Anna and the French Kiss
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's the summer before her Junior year in high school. Lola lives with her two dads in a cool Victorian house in San Francisco. She likes to dress in costume and she's incredibly creative. She's already getting her Winter Formal outfit ready--a Marie Antoinette number with combat boots.  Lola thinks she's in love with her rocker boyfriend, Max. He's 22 and her parents are none too pleased about her seeing him.

But then Cricket Bell moves back next door. Cricket had broken her heart a few years before and now Lola's not sure how Cricket is going to fit back into her life, or if he even should at all. But since their bedroom windows face each other, she doesn't really have a choice.

Lola is delightfully quirky. It was fun seeing characters from Anna and the French Kiss woven into the plot, although they were certainly background to Lola, Max and Cricket. I probably liked Anna a teensy bit more, but this book was just super cute, upbeat and romantic. I would recommend it for older teens because of some mature content.

Also reviewed by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ It's All About Books ~ One Literature Nut ~ Book Nut ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ write meg!
Source: Library Audiobook - I thought the reader was good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.7
Series: Book #5 of 6 (Gallagher Girls)
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this series is adorable. My 6th grader is currently inhaling them like candy. However, I must admit that this 5th installment is my least favorite of the series so far.

Cammie Morgan has woken up in a convent in Europe. Shockingly, she doesn't know how she got there. On top of that, she can't believe the date. The summer is entirely over and she doesn't remember any of it.

Back home at Gallagher Academy, a spy school for girls, Cammie is desperate to find out what she was doing all summer. Her friends at school, although distant at first, have come around and are trying to help Cammie solve the mystery and to keep her safe from the evil Circle of Cavan.

This book felt a little frantic. It seemed to jump from one thing to the next making it feel choppy and rushed. There was certainly a lot going on, but I felt a little more rattled than entertained. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. I just didn't think the writing was as strong as the others in the series. However, I do think Carter is setting up the series for a great conclusion that I'm definitely looking forward to.

Also reviewed by: Girl Who Loves to Read ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: Gift

Monday, May 28, 2012


Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

On the library stacks: Young Adult Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.4
Series: Book 2 of 3 (Delirium)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't really want to delve too much into the plot of this second book in the Delirium trilogy. If you have read Delirium but it has been awhile, I suggest giving yourself a refresher before starting this one. I was a little lost at first. And if you haven't read Delirium, I highly recommend you do!

I actually liked this book even better than Delirium.  That's pretty shocking since it's the second book in the series and I have found that rarely happens to me. It was a book I did not want to put down. It was fast-paced and I liked how it alternated between the past and the present. I liked the love interest and the cliffhanger ending is sure to simultaneously shock, irritate and delight fans of this dystopian series.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews ~ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Book Addiction ~ A Bookworm's World ~ Bart's Bookshelf
Source: Library

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.5
Awards: Kirkus Editors Choice; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Michael Printz Honor Book; SLJ Best Book
Recommended for: Ages 13+

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Puck Connolly loves her island home of Thisby. She can't understand why her brother Gabe wants to leave the land she loves. So she signs up as the first woman ever to run in the annual Scorpio Races in the hopes that Gabe will stay and change his mind. Dangerous carnivorous water horses come up out of the sea each year on Thisby. Some are captured and tamed enough to ride in The Scorpio Races. Puck doesn't have a water horse, but that won't stop her.

Sean Kendrick, who has won the race four times trains water horses at the Malvern yards. Mr. Malvern is the richest man on the island has agreed to sell Sean is beloved horse named Corr if he wins. Sean feels drawn to help Puck train, even if they both can't win the race.

This book is told in the first person and alternates between Puck and Sean. I listened to the audiobook and the readers who played Puck and Sean were fabulous. The readers had British accents, so I was bothered just a little that Stiefvater used the word "pants" quite often instead of "trousers." But it's a minor quibble. Well, that and for the life of me I could not understand why anyone would want to live on an island with man-eating horses, let alone ride one. But, I was drawn into this world and I ultimately had to find jobs to do around the house that would allow me to finish listening quicker. Highly recommended.

Also reviewed by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Not Enough Bookshelves ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Silly Little Mischief ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Audiobook

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And EvilMidnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil by John Berendt

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
AR Reading Level: 6.2

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the 1980s John Berendt spent 8 years splitting his time between New York City and Savannah, Georgia. While this book is partly a memoir of Berendt's time in Savannah, it's also the true crime story of an antique dealer and preservationist named Jim Williams who was tried for the same murder four times.

Savannah is one of my favorite cities. While this book is a little dated, the essence of Savannah that Berendt depicts is exactly the same today as it was 30 years ago. I love the homage the author pays to the city's history, architecture, culture, and natural beauty.

Berendt also gets himself hooked up with some of the more interesting characters in town. There's the high class party house where no one ever pays rent and utilities are obtained illegally. There's Lady Chablis, the exotic dancer who is really a he. There's a voodoo witch doctor. And of course, the story of Jim Williams who shot and killed Danny Hansford, a troubled young man who had worked for him and whom he had tried to help, even bailing him out of jail.

This book hooked me from the beginning, and was a really quick read. The only thing that kind of bothered me is at the end the author's note says that he did take some "storytelling liberties, particularly having to do with the timing of events." I did do some research online and most everything checks out. Like the movie (which I didn't see), the book is definitely rated R. But if you like true crime stories or you want to know more about Savannah, I would recommend it.

Also reviewed by: eclectic/eccentric ~ Open Mind, Insert Book
Source: Purchased

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Out of My Mind

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

AR Reading Level: 4.3
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Award: NAACP Outstanding Literary Work
Appropriate for: Grades 4+

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I'll just say up front that my feelings about this book are certainly in the minority. I LOVED the concept of this book. But I had problems with the execution.

Melody is a 5th grader with cerebral palsy. She is unable to talk and she is confined to a wheelchair. While some doctors and teachers had considered her severely mentally disabled, Melody is very smart and soaks in everything she hears in school and on TV. With the help of an amazing next door neighbor, a teacher's aide and a new speaking device, Melody is able to prove to others that she has a great mind and she eventually makes the school's quiz bowl team.

Although I really liked the premise, at times I felt the book was unrealistic and melodramatic. I had some issues with the writing--mixed tenses, dated slang and definitely some language that didn't sound like a 5th grader to me (I have a 4th and 6th grader). I felt like Melody came off as more snarky than spunky and I didn't really like how Melody and her mom chose to fight their battles with the one-dimensional mean doctors, teachers and school bullies.

This was my book club's pick for this month. We all agreed this book was good for raising awareness and helping us think about how we interact with adults and kids with disabilities.

Also reviewed by: Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ Book Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sister of My Heart

Sister of My HeartSister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing on with my recent obsession with all things Indian (I found a great new restaurant that I love too!) I decided to read a more modern novel set in India. While I don't think it was totally clear, I think this novel was set from the 1960s through the 1980s.

This book is told from the alternating points of view of Anju and Sudha, two cousins of an upper-caste family in Calcutta. The girls were born on the same day and were best friends growing up. They are raised in a strict home under the care of three mother figures who try to protect the girls from a serious family secret.

Both girls are forced into arranged marriages and must make their own journey in a changing world where women are breaking barriers but traditional values are still clung to in their caste. The girls are pulled apart by their circumstances as one goes to California and the other stays behind. While their paths diverge for a time, eventually their relationship is stronger than everything that threatens to pull them apart.

I enjoyed getting to know Anju and Sudha. Their characters were well-developed and I liked both of them for the unique women they were. I felt their anguish at the decisions they had to make and found myself debating through their thought processes with them. I liked that I didn't see the ending coming, but I wasn't totally surprised by it either. I can definitely see the appeal this book would have with book clubs.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Borrowed

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Twentieth Wife

The Twentieth WifeThe Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
Series: Book 1 of 3 (Taj Mahal Trilogy)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This historical fiction novel is the story of a girl named Mehrunnisa (also known as Nur Jahan) who was born in 1577. Her family were Persian refugees that made their way into royal court life in India, and Mehrunnisa spends quite a bit of time growing up in the royal harem. Although her life does not go according to her plan, she does eventually marry her childhood crush, Prince Salim, becoming his "twentieth wife."

For a frame of reference, Mehrunnisa is actually the aunt of the woman for whom the Taj Majal was built. This novel stops at the point that Mehrunnisa begins her reign as Empress. While there are moments the book reads like a history book, I appreciated how much of this novel is based on fact.

I was fascinated reading about life during this Golden Age in India. I really liked Mehrunnisa as a person and I felt like the author gave all her characters interesting personalities. I felt like there was a good balance between the story and the history. I would definitely recommend this enjoyable novel for anyone who is interested in India and its rich culture.

Also reviewed by: Shweta's Book Journal ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

AR Reading Level: 7.0
On the library stacks: Adult Mystery
Series: Book 1 of 11 (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Russell is a teenage girl who lives with her Aunt near the Sussex Downs. One day as she is ambling along, she quite literally runs into Sherlock Holmes, now (mostly) retired. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and Mary becomes Sherlock's protege.

I should admit this is the second time I've tried to read this book. My last attempt was about 7 years ago and just couldn't get into it. However, I was determined this time and once I got past the first 70 pages and got into the mystery parts of the book, I did quite enjoy myself. I think Mary seemed a little too modern for 1915 and I'm not 100% sold on the chess and beekeeping analogies. But I'm a sucker for mysteries and I liked how this one unfolded.

I should probably NOT admit that I've never read any original Arthur Conan Doyle. But this book has definitely intrigued me enough to possibly give it a whirl. I am definitely glad I read this book before I started watching Sherlock (LOVE!) because I did at least have a context for the characters and their personalities.

Also reviewed by: Puss Reboots ~ Book Nut ~ cucullus non facit monachum ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the PlagueYear of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
AR Reading Level: 6.9
Awards: Alex Award/Honor; Book Sense Book of the Year 

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's 1666 in a rural English mining village when the inhabitants are struck by the Plague. Inspired by their dynamic vicar, most of the villagers decide on a self-imposed quarantine as a way to protect other nearby towns from their same fate. Before the disease has run its course, nearly 2/3 of the population will be dead. But not Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, who is also our narrator.

Let's face it, bubonic plague is kind of depressing, but this is a well-written book. I love that Brooks based her novel on the so-called "Plague Village"--a town called Eyam in northern England. Brooks had not only clearly checked her facts and figures, but I also liked the complexities of her characters. This book not a quick or easy read and I thought the ending was kind of frantic and a little weird. But I do feel more knowledgeable for having read this and I think the story will stay with me.

Also reviewed by: Jules' Book Reviews ~ At Home With Books ~ 1morechapter ~ Linus's Blanket ~ Good Clean Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch