Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House (The Agency, #1)A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

AR Reading Level: 5.1
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: The Agency #1
Recommended for: Grades 7+

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Mary Lang was a young girl in trouble. As an orphan, she kept herself alive by stealing from others--a crime that sent her to the gallows. At the last minute she was saved by the warden and sent to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. When she finished school she was asked if she would like to join an agency that uses girls as spies...precisely because during that time period, no one would expect women to be spies.

Mary was excited about the work and transformed herself into Mary Quinn. She became the paid friend of moody Miss Thorold. Once in the home, she was to get information regarding the shipping endeavors of Mr. Thorold. She meets James Easton in a wardrobe and the two work together, not only revealing what exactly is going on in the household, but answering questions for Mary about the fate of her father as well.

I went into this book with really high expectations. I kind of imagined it would be like the Gallagher Girls meeting Jane Austen. While it wasn't exactly that, it was a fun Victorian mystery nonetheless. The writing didn't always seem true to the period and felt a little clunky at times. However, the story was charming and I enjoyed the romantic element.

Also reviewed by: Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Booked on a Feeling ~ There's A Book ~ Thoughts of Joy ~ Your link here?
Source: Kindle Purchase

Friday, November 18, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's CrossingCaleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I loved Brooks' People of the Book, so I was excited to read her latest novel. Brooks seems to focus her novels on different places and periods in history, and for this book she takes on Martha's Vineyard in the 1600s. Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk was the first Native American to attend Harvard, and this book is a work of historical fiction built around his existence.

Bethia Mayfield is the daughter of a Puritan minister. Growing up on the untamed landscape of the Massachusetts coast, Bethia secretly befriends Caleb, a Wampanoag Indian. After Bethia's father tries to convert the tribe, Caleb comes to live with Bethia where he is tutored by her father. Eventually, Caleb is accepted into Harvard. Due to tragedies in Bethia's life, she is an indentured servant in Cambridge where she can watch Caleb's intellectual journey.

I think this book is more about Bethia's "crossing" than Caleb's. She has a certain attitude that seems somewhat inconsistent with the time and place, but makes her more relate-able to modern readers. I found this book slow and depressing, but I did like some of the writing. I particularly liked this passage about Bethia's love of her island:
"I would be cradled by the known world of kine and crop, the heaviness of each day's familiar chores lightened by love of the very place in which I did perform them. I knew that life; I knew my place in it. If I threw my thoughts forward I could see myself at every age."
Ultimately, it may have been a matter of bad timing for me, but too many people died in this book for me to be happy.

Also reviewed by: Book NutThe Boston Bibliophile ~ Your link here?
Source: GoodReads BookSwap

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Flying Without Fear

Flying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to GoFlying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to Go by Duane Brown

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

I think there is a very good chance that I read the first edition of this book about 11 years ago. I spotted this copy, during the Borders closeout, which has been updated for flying in the post-9/11 world.

I consider myself a somewhat nervous flier, although I've never let that stop me from getting where I want to go. But I like to occasionally refresh my memory regarding why flying is so safe, how planes work, what double and triple backups are in place, etc.

This book is a quick and easy read with good information. Brown covers different types of anxious fliers, and while some of his information and coping techniques really didn't apply to me, I found it all interesting and useful.

I probably would give this book 3 stars for the quality of the writing. However, I just recently returned from a trip to Argentina and I successfully applied my new knowledge regarding turbulence on my flights. This trip was much more enjoyable for me and I really did feel more calm for having read this book. So for that, I consider this a valuable resource that will definitely stay on my shelf.

Source: Purchased

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Strangers on Montagu Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street (Tradd Street, #3)The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

Publication date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: NAL Trade

Paperback: 352 pages
Series: Book 3 of 4 (Tradd Street)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been two years since The Girl on Legare Street came out, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. Honestly, this series just keeps getting better and better.

Jack's teenage daughter Nola moves in with Melanie since Nola and Jack can't seem to get along. When Nola gets an antique Victorian dollhouse as a gift, she is thrilled. But everyone soon realizes the dollhouse is possessed and Melanie must use her "gift" to help solve the mystery of the dollhouse so the spirits can rest.

The heat really turns up in the relationship between Jack and Melanie in this third installment. I have to admit, Jack is one of those male literary characters that I have a crush on. (Sometimes I want to smack Melanie for being so dense.) I liked the inclusion of Nola as a character. I was worried her teenage angst would bother me, but I actually found her quite likable. I'm eagerly anticipating the final book in the series after the cliffhanger ending!

Click here to read the first chapter.

Source: Publicist - Thanks Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Davita's Harp

Davita's HarpDavita's Harp by Chaim Potok

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

Ilana Davita Chandal is a young girl living in New York City in the 1930s. Her mother is Jewish and her father was raised a Christian by a wealthy New England couple. Because of dark experiences in their pasts, Ilana's parents turn to the Communist party as they turn their backs on religion.

Ilana lives a somewhat bewildering life. Her parents don't have much time for her. They hold loud meetings in their homes late at night where groups sing and argue. The family moves frequently. They house political refugees in their home from Europe. Ilana feels neither Jewish nor Christian, despite her aunt's best efforts to teach her about Christianity.

But things begin to change for Ilana when her father, a journalist, dies covering the fighting in Spain. Ilana's mother goes into a deep depression and Ilana begins to find solace in the Jewish faith. She doesn't agree with everything she experiences through her school and synagogue, but she finds she finally has a place where she belongs.

This is an elegantly written novel, interesting both from a religious and political perspective. I've never read a book that covered what it might be like to identify with the Communist movement in the United States during this time period. My heart just ached for sweet Ilana, a child caught in the cross-hairs of so much upheaval. I loved her bright mind and felt her inner hurt. This is a slow and thoughtful book, but well worth the read.

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Conference of the Birds - TLC Book Tour

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis

Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication date: October 27, 2011
Hardcover: 160 pages
Price: $27.95
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Peter Sis' website.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on a 12th century poem, this parable is beautiful in its simplicity and gorgeous in its illustrations.

This book takes us on a journey with a group of birds on their epic flight. The birds are trying to find their true king. But some realize that a journey like this will force them to give up some of their comforts and they resist. Some perish when they pass through the seven valleys of quest, love, understanding, detachment, unity, amazement and death. But in the end, those that have chosen to complete the journey and survived learn that the true king is each of them and all of them.

Reading this book is a pleasure. The colors are joyful, the texture of the pages is high quality, and the story resonates profoundly with our human experience. It's an uplifting read that I can easily recommend.

Peter Sis is a Caldecott Honor-winning children's author and illustrator. This is his first book for adults.

Check out these reviews: Bibliophiliac ~ Book Snob ~ Sarah Reads Too Much
Look for these reviews coming soon: Savvy Verse & WitCol Reads ~ Wordsmithonia ~ Hungry Like the Woolf ~ Melody & Words ~ Unabridged Chick ~ Seven Impossible Things ~ Alexandra Boiger ~ Abigail Halpin ~ Layers of Thought
Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.