Friday, February 28, 2014

30:120 Insurgent by Veronica Roth

2nd book in the Divergent series.  The faction system is falling apart.  Eurdite has conscripted Dauntless to be their army after using a simulation to have them almost eliminate Abnegation. Half of Dauntless has chosen to remain as the force while the rest have been forced into hiding and are being hunted down.  Tris and Tobias go first to Amnity hoping for a safe haven but are soon forced to leave and try with Candor who are also forced to choose between sheltering them and war with Eurdite or hand them over and save themselves.  With no where left to go, they go to the Factionless where more surprises than they could ever imagine lay in store for them including a war that may end their way of life forever.

While I still enjoy the world, I had more problems with this book than the last one.  Tobias and Tris spend almost the entire book fighting and unable to understand each other but then deciding they are going to make it work before someone lies to the other one yet again.  It got old and tiresome and felt like a very forced ploy to get us to try and root for the star-crossed lovers.  I also found Tris to be a lot more whiny and behaving stupidly throughout the book.  I get mental anguish and trauma and everything but again, it felt that we were being beaten over the head with that (it was repeated in almost every single chapter by 1/4 of the way through the book) to try and get us to feel sorry for her but instead, I just saw her making stupid decision after stupid decision and I didn't feel it was truly believable so I spent a lot of time saying "Oh, come on, again!".  Also, the constant double/triple/quadruple crossing all usually for no good reason (I don't want to owe people so I'll keep changing side...REALLY???) just again, felt forced and like lazy writing.

Again, I like the world and the concept remains interesting but I think this one really suffered from lazy writing and heavy handed ploys.  I'm really hoping the last book is better.

Page count: 525p/6,718p ytd/187,710 lifetime

Thursday, February 27, 2014

29:120 The Ancient South Asian World by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer & Kimberly Heuston

Middle School History.  It's my second time reading this and here is my review from 4yrs ago:

The book covered from 400,000 years ago to about the time of the Huns invading South Asia. Yes, it's coverage in brief but it was a good introduction to the material. I knew a little about the Indus Valley people but hadn't heard of the Harrapan civilization before. So much of the history of that time period is lost which is a shame. I enjoyed reading more about their religion and how some things have developed, many things stayed the same for many, many centuries even while incorporating bits and pieces from so many other cultures through trade and conquest.

A vibrant and rich culture warmly explained for the middle schooler.

I'm sticking with that.  It really is an enjoyable read.

Page count: 172p/6,193p ytd/187,185p lifetime

28:120 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Bilbo Baggins of The Shire is a quiet loving little hobbit when Gandalf the Grey, wizard and meddler, decides Bilbo is really in need of an adventure so sets him up as the burglar to a small group of dwarves who want to take back their homeland from the dragon, Smaug.  The way is long and fraught with danger but in a moment of temporary madness, Bilbo runs after the departing dwarves to join with them.  The rest is history.

Honestly, if you have managed to not read this book or at the very least, see the movie, I can't help you and this review won't mean much to you.  It's delightful, silly, and scary.  It's not nearly as long winded as LotR and doesn't switch it's focus between multiple groups.  It was written for children and yet is still wonderful for the adults who read it for themselves or to their children.  My almost 13yr old chose to read it for school since we are doing a major study of LotR next year and this was a great introduction to him of the style and language while not being quite so daunting (and without all the flipping walking of Fellowship).  It's so easy to see why this is considered a classic.

Page count: 322p/6,021p ytd/187,013p lifetime

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

27:120 Divergent by Veronica Roth

1st in the Divergent series.  It is testing day and Beatrice is scared of what the test will tell her.  Her family is in the faction of Abnegation, those who serve, but she feels selfish and unworthy.  She admires Dauntless, those who are daring, but isn't sure that is where she belongs either.  She lies easily so Candor is out and she is not peaceful enough for Amity but is she may be smart enough for Eurdite.  She doesn't know what to choose and is looking to the test to tell her where she belongs.  But then she goes into the test and is instead told that she is Divergent, one who doesn't belong only to one faction, and that if it is discovered she will be in danger.  At her choosing the next day, she chooses to join Dauntless and her new life begins.  One in which she must hide what she is and what she can do, where she must learn hard lessons in even harder ways if she is to survive.

Dystopian YA and will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy.  You have the requisite love interest but it's handled nicely.  The characters are interesting although I do find Beatrice to be a bit whiny and slow on the uptake a bit more often than I care for.  On the whole, I thought the world was intriguing and well done (ok, and I admit I liked that it's set in Chicago and we occasionally get glimpses of that) and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Page count: 487p/5,699p ytd/186,692 lifetime

26:120 Betting on a Legend by Stefon Mears

Short story.  A timberman is sure that he caught a glimpse of a legendary monster and of course, goes on to tell his friend who of course doubts him and thus a bet is born.  When other friends catch on, the bet grows even further.  Now the stakes are high but have the potential to be even higher if they actually do find the monster and what that could mean for their village.

Nice little story with a lovely twist ending.  I ending up reading it while in the dentist chair and it was great for taking my mind off of things which is saying quite a lot.

Page count: 48p/5,212p ytd/186,205p lifetime

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

25:120 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Book club read.  Verity and Kittyhawk are the most unlikely of friends and if it hadn't been wartime, they likely never would have met and their friendship would never have been permitted.  Now their friendship has crashed them down in Nazi occupied France, an English pilot and a Scottish spy.  Verity continues with her mission but is caught early on and in a stroke of genius, manages to write out her confession and the story of their friendship while a captive of the very fortress she was there to destroy.  She knows that her life is over now, there is no way they will ever let her leave alive so she takes the time she is given and spills out their story while adding in just enough details to keep the Germans convinced they are getting what they want from her.

It is amazing that this is considered a YA book.  The character development and beautifully nuanced writing is superb.  I wish I had read it at a different time however as there has just been too many WWII books in my life in the past year and I'm now completely dulled to them and it makes hard to work up any sympathy or emotion of any kind for characters you know are almost certainly going to die.

Page count: 353p/5,164p ytd/186,157p lifetime

24:120 Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The first in a new trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.  Area X has been uninhabited and off limits for a long time with only teams of specialists being allowed in past the border for years now.  Of those eleven previous exhibitions, most have never come back and those that did were never the same.

Now the twelfth expedition is entering.  A group of four women; the psychologist (de facto leader), the anthropologist, the surveyor, and the biologist who is our narrator.  They are there to map out the territory, collect specimens, and bring back a report of what it has become.  They are expecting the unexpected but that doesn't begin to prepare them for what they find.  It starts with the tunnel (tower?) that they discover near the established base camp and the words written with some sort of living organism on the interior of it.  What is even more disturbing than the secrets Area X is hiding are the ones that they have brought with them over the border.  Will any of this expedition make it back to tell any of the secrets they learn?

My first time reading Jeff VanderMeer and all I can say is Wow!  I was blown away by this book.  I want to call it a psychological thriller but that doesn't do it justice.  It was thought provoking and anxiety inducing.  I spent much of my reading time biting my nails in suspense as to just what the heck was going on.  There was so much subtlety and nuance to almost everything that I know I will have to read it again just to try and catch half of it.  I can't wait for the  next one!  And can I just say, I love that they are bringing all three books in the trilogy out this year?!

Page count: 195p/4,811p ytd/185,804p lifetime

Thursday, February 13, 2014

23:120 Trouble on Reserve by Kim Harrison

Short story set in the world of the Hollows.  Quinn is off at Ellsabeth's with the girls and Trent needs a bodyguard for a standard business function so he hires Rachel.  Of course, it being Trent things are never that simple and when we join in, he is in a clandestine meeting on his boat with someone else and Rachel is hanging out with the other guy's bodyguard.  Things seem to go smoothly until they are leaving the parking area and Trent is hit with a tracking spell and they are most definitely being tracked and herded towards a kill zone.

Obviously they both get out alive since this takes place a few books ago but it's always nice to see how they manage with each other and it was nice to get a little taste of that world with the new book coming out so soon.  Can NOT wait!!!

Page count: 20p/4,616p ytd/185,609p lifetime

22:120 Anthem by Ayn Rand

High School English.  I have a hard time writing up a synopsis of this one.  My understanding is that it's a typical, if short, example of Ayn Rand's basic philosophy that working together and community is the greatest evil ever perpetrated by man and that the ego and self are all important.  It's simplistic in style, propagandist crap and I wish it wasn't in our curriculum but at the same time, I think it's good for kids to be exposed to other points of view and how to analyze them so unfortunately that means I'll be reading it at least two more times.  *sigh*

Page count: 82p/4,596p ytd/185,589p lifetime

Saturday, February 8, 2014

21:120 A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

The first book in the Time Quintet, read for 2nd grade Literature.  The Murry family has been without Mr. Murry for over a year now with no idea where he's gone although Mrs. Murry is certain he will come back some day.  Charles Wallace, the youngest, is a precocious 5yr old with uncanny abilities to know what people are thinking and feeling, especially his mother and sister, Meg.  He discovers three strange women living in an abandoned shack and knows straight off that they will be important.  He is proven right when they come to find him, Meg, and their neighbor, Calvin, to tell them it's time to go rescue Mr. Murry.  Now it turns out that Mrs. Who, Mrs. What, and Mrs. Which were previously stars who lost in their fight against the darkness but are still helping those who continue to fight, like Mr. Murry but he is lost now and it will take all three children to get him back and find their own way from the darkness back to the light.

A sweet story that definitely gets dark and kind of creepy but also shows us that not everything is as it seems and there is more to life than what we see on the outside and love does triumph.

Page count: 282p/4,514p ytd/185,507p lifetime

Friday, February 7, 2014

20:120 Crimson Veil by Yasmine Galenorn

The 15th book in the Otherworld series, told by Menolly.  Their father is still missing, Violet is still missing, they still know nothing about Lowestar and the god he wants to raise, another vampire bar is being targeted by what appears to be the same group that torched The Wayfarer, the magical storm that destroyed the Elven capital on Otherworld is moving towards the Dark Elves capital now, and two of the Kerrastar Knights are still unaccounted for.  That is just where this book starts!  Yeah, the crap is hitting the fan in a huge way as the war is definitely heating up and the sisters are trying their best to keep things from completely falling into chaos.  Menolly is being as stoic as she can but she needs to learn the hardest lesson of all which is how to let someone you love in.

Lots of action going on in this one but the main focus was definitely on Menolly and her relationship with the family, most especially her wife Nerissa.  It was lovely seeing them get married a few books ago and even better in some ways watching them grow and try to work on their relationship in this one.

Page count:  287p/4,232p ytd/185,225p lifetime

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

19:120 Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells

First book in a new series.  In a world of magic potions where the gangs have been replaced by Covens, Kate Prospero is a beat cop, dreaming of something more even as she hides her darker past.  You see, Kate will touch no magic, clean or dirty, now that she has left the Covens and vowed never to brew again.  Now a new potion has hit the streets, Grey Wolf, and it's more dangerous than anything that has ever come before and Kate is on the task force dedicated to bringing its creator and distributor down.  She wants this break more than anything...until the cost hits too close to home and she must ask herself how far is she willing to go?

I've had some other books by this author on my wishlist for a while now but didn't even realize it was the same as this author when this book was recommended to me by my local bookstore.  I'm going to have to go grab the other books by this author as this was fantastic!  Urban fantasy but without the usual suspects coming into play.  There are no witches, werewolves, or vampires playing here.  Yes, Kate and others have magic but they aren't witches.  The world is well built with consistent rules on how things work but this is explained to us as we go rather than through long expose.  It's dark and gritty, more like an episode of CSI but that makes it fresh and new as well.  Kate is very flawed but you can see yourself in her and the mistakes that she makes so easily.  Really can't wait for the next one!

Page count: 381p/3,945p ytd/184,938p lifetime