Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy book cover and review
I thought a review of Anna Karenina would be appropriate on the last day of the year, since it took me about six months to read it.  I used my Serial Reader app on my iPad.  I love this app, and I think it's the only way I will read some of these long classics that have been on my list.  The Serial Reader app gives you a short segment of the book each day.  I did end up reading ahead to finish by the end of the year. It costs $2.99 to be able to read ahead, otherwise, the app is free.

Now for the book.  I'm not including a summary, you may click on the Wikipedia link if you need one. I really didn't enjoy Anna Karenina very much.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1.  There are too many characters, and they each have two or three names.  I had trouble keeping track.

2. Related to that, there are so many different (unimportant) tangents.  If you are interested in Russian politics in the 1800s, this is your book. If we could have just had Anna's story and Kitty's story, I would have enjoyed it more. I know this is often described as "the best book ever written," but I guess I'm not cultured enough to see it.

3.  Something is lost in the translation.  The turns of phrase and weird affectations were too much for me.  I really got tired of their dialog starting with "Well, and." Maybe that makes sense in Russian, but it's just bizarre in English. I was also annoyed at the many passages in French, that were not translated or explained.

4.  The third-person point of view kept me very detached from the story.  I normally don't have trouble with POVs, but in Anna Karenina, it affected my feelings towards the characters and the book in general.

5.  I hated Anna.  I guess I didn't have much sympathy for her slow descent into madness.  She was just annoying, then all of a sudden, she's crazy.  It happened too fast and therefore I didn't feel for her as I think Tolstoy wanted me to. Or maybe you are supposed to hate her.  I never know how I'm supposed to feel when I read classic novels.

I feel accomplished that I actually read Anna Karenina. It is a story of Russian history, and I did learn quite a bit. I'm ready to watch the movie to see how it compares.  I don't think it could be worse! I've chosen Les Misérables for my next Serial Read.  You probably will see a review for that next New Year's Eve!

Published from 1873 to 1877 as a serial. First published in book form in 1878.
Copy obtained from Serial Reader
1000 pages

Rating: 2/5





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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

I enjoyed Ever the Hunted even though I didn't find it very unique.

Britta is alone and on the run after her father dies.  She has no claim to his property and has been starving in the woods.  When she illegally kills an elk in the King's forest, she is arrested. She can save her life only by tracking down her father's killer, Cohen, and bringing him back to the King.

Cohen was Britta's best friend and trusted companion until he left and never came back.  Now Britta has trouble believing that he is the murderer, but the evidence against him is compelling.

There is a magical element in that Britta can tell whether a person is telling a lie.  The politics are complicated also.  The kingdom of Malam is on the verge of war with Shaerdanian.  Britta's father was Malam and her mother was Shaerdanian, so she's never been accepted in her country.  The Malams are afraid of the Shaerdanians and their Channeler's magical powers. If found, Channelers are executed.

Of course, things aren't as straight-forward as they seem. Britta must travel to Malam and seek out a Channeler to find out the truth of her father's murder.

There is danger and adventure and even a romance.  The characters are interesting and I wished for their success.  I was very happy that this episode had a definite ending -- no cliffhanger -- even though Ever the Hunted is the first book in a series.

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ever the Hunted, there wasn't anything exceptional or memorable.  I just don't think it will stick with me for long.  But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It is a quick book.  The sentences are mostly very short and simple, which can be a good thing for reluctant readers.

I will not hesitate to recommend Ever the Hunted to my teens who enjoy magical fantasy adventures.

Published by HMH BFYR, December 27, 2016
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book Review: Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey

I felt the tension slowly mounting as I read Hunter. The premise may not be particularly unique, but the story is still a good one.

Since the Diseray (which seems like nuclear armageddon) many years ago, monsters, or "Othersiders," from another dimension have been showing up on Earth.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Some familiar (such as Vampires) and some not (like Gazers.) They are all out to kill. Society has slowly been rebuilding and people have gathered in cities that are guarded by walls and shields to keep the Othersiders out.

There are Hunters who have special magical powers, each a bit different.  These Hunters can summon their own Hounds from the Otherworld that help them fight the monsters.  The Hounds also all have unique magical abilities.

Joy, our main character, has been called to Apex, to be trained as a Hunter to defend the city. The government and army in Apex don't know about the monastery where Joy has been that train their own secret group of Hunters.

Joy's uncle is the Premier of Apex, and when she arrives he secretly conveys to her that all is not what it seems.  She needs to be careful.  Something is going on.  He also can't show any favoritism towards Joy, so she's on her own.  Not only does she have to adapt to her new home, but it turns out that Hunters are like rock stars.  They each have their own TV station and are in a competition for ratings.  It's more than she can handle.  Fortunately, she makes some friends who help her.  Good thing, because there are enemies too.

Joy is a very good Hunter and soon moves up the rankings.  However, someone is after her.  She doesn't know who or why.  And she doesn't have very many people she can trust.  There is also a bit of a love interest, but it is a small part of the story.

Hunter is the first in a series.  The second, Elite, is already available.  I'm hoping to get to it soon. My book club read Hunter, and they all enjoyed it very much.  It's easy to read and keeps you turning pages.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
374 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, December 19, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd @suemonkkidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd book cover and review
Wow! I saved the best for last this year.  The Invention of Wings is perfection.  At least for me.  I'm sure I would have loved it in print for, but the audio version just took my breath away.  Usually, at this time of year, I quit listening to books and switch to Christmas music, but I was unable to concentrate on music because all I could think about was this book!

The Invention of Wing is a duel narration by Sarah, an eleven-year-old girl, and the slave she has been given for her birthday, Handful (aka, Hetty), who is about the same age.  We begin in the early 1800s.  Sarah is not your typical eleven-year-old.  She's very intelligent, reads her father's books from his library, aspires to be a lawyer like her father, and most importantly, is against slavery.

Throughout her life, her hopes and dreams are continually crushed, but she never gets past her negative feelings about slavery.  The book covers over 40 years and follows Sarah as she moves north and she and her sister, Angelina, become infamous abolitionists, and also some of the first feminists.

Handful gives her perspective through the eyes of a slave.  She and Sarah become friends and Sarah teachers her to read, an act for which they are both severely punished.  Handful's mother, Charlotte, is also a vivid character.  She's the plantation's seamstress, but also secretly makes quilts which enrich the historical accuracy of the story. Handful goes through much hardship, as you would expect, but continues to have a beautiful spirit which shines through.

Sarah's voice is one of my favorite things about The Invention of Wings. The way she speaks is intelligent and witty.  I became mesmerized as she tells her story. While The Invention of Wings is a story about slavery, it's really about the lives of these characters, and not just these two.  All of the characters come alive.

Sarah and Angelina are historical figures as are several other characters.  Sue Monk Kidd gives extensive author's notes at the end to explain her research and what is fictional. I can't explain why this book is so special to me.  The historical setting and the characters' voices are exceptional.  I just want everyone to read it.

As I said, the audio version is also one of the best I've listened to.  The narrators (Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye) just make you believe they ARE the characters.

This is, for sure, my #1 book of 2016.

Published by Thorndike Press, 2014
Audiobook obtained from the library
661 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Catching Up Again

I can't seem to keep up with these posts, and also, I'm trying not to collect too many books since my reading pace has been very slow.  So here's a couple of week's worth of new books.

For Review:
Cruel Mercy by David Mark book cover
Cruel Mercy, by David Mark from Edelweiss
I've read most of the Detective Sergeant McAvoy Series and loved them.

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac book cover
The Cutaway, by Christina Kovac from NetGalley
Sometimes a book just grabs me.  Not sure why.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken book cover
Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken from the publisher
This is the sequel to Passenger. The publisher sent me a finished copy!

From the Library:
Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Cohn and Levithan book cover
The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Already read and reviewed.  Very entertaining!

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey book cover
Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey
This is my book club's choice for this month.  I just started it.

Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas book cover
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I think that should keep me busy for a while.  How about you?  Leave me a link and be sure to stop by Team Tynga's Reviews to visit all the participants. Thanks for stopping by.





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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book Review: The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Cohn & Levithan book cover and review
The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily continues the story of Dash and Lily that we discovered in Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. It's a delightful and romantic Christmas story.

As I said in my review of Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, I loved the way these two characters interact.  Yes, in Twelve Days they had some rough parts and a little lack of communication, but in the end, their wit and intelligence shone through.

They are both dealing with family issues too, and all the side characters add additional warmth to the story.  Lily has always loved Christmas, but she's having trouble getting in the spirit this year.  She's been busy, mostly taking care of her Grandfather, and she feels like she and Dash are growing apart.

I really enjoyed that the romantic problems are solved well before the end of the book. So we get to see some of the old Dash & Lily as they try to outdo one another for Christmas.  It is over the top, and I fell for it totally.  It's a quick read that is appropriate for middle school kids too. I think teens will enjoy this new Dash & Lily story, and I can't wait to hear them talk about it.

Published by Knopf BFYR, October 18, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
215 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Debbie Macomber

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber book cover and review
Twelve Days of Christmas is a wonderful feel-good Christmas romance. Just what I was looking for.

Cheerful Julia can't stand her new grumpy neighbor, Cain.  The harder she tries to engage him, the more standoffish he is.  And when he steals her newspaper, well, that's the last straw. She decides to kill him......with kindness.

It is her best friend's idea.  Julia is also trying to get her dream job in social media.  She and one other person must start a blog.  The person who gets the most hits on her page gets the job.  Julia decides to blog The Twelve Days of Christmas, her daily experiences trying to force Cain to be friendly in time for Christmas.

Yes, we all know where this is going.  But that's what these stories are for, right? It's cute and romantic.  Heartwarming.  Inspiring. Sweet. The road to romance isn't smooth.  There are misunderstandings and catastrophes.  And, well, of course, it is a bit over-the-top.

The narrator of the audiobook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, really added to the sappiness of the story.  I found her to be a bit too dramatic, for a story that was already filled with drama.

However, this is exactly the Christmas story I wanted.  It is also very short and quick. So, if you are in the mood for some sappy, heartwarming love story, try out Twelve Days of Christmas.

Published by Ballentine, October 4, 2106. Random House Audio
Audio book obtained from the library
288 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Mind Games by Heather W. Petty

Mind Games by Heather W. Petty book cover and review
Mind Games is the second book in Petty's Lock & Mori series and the young Sherlock and Moriarty are in the thick of things.

Mori's number one goal throughout the entire book is to make sure she protects her brothers.  That means her father must stay in jail.  But she is receiving threats, and someone is trying to frame her for all of her father's murders.

I didn't enjoy Lock & Mori as much in this installment.  The entertaining banter I mentioned in my review of Lock & Mori was nonexistent.  Mori was so concerned about keeping Lock at arm's length and denying her feelings that it bordered on annoying.

The actual mystery about who has targeted Mori was interesting, although Lock didn't seem to have to use those brilliant powers of deduction as much as I would have liked.  After all, this is supposed to be Sherlock Holmes, and that is what his character is supposed to be about.  I was surprised by the eventual revelation, and that is always a good thing!

After the first book I wasn't sure this would be a series, but let me tell you, there is no longer any doubt. The cliffhanger in Mind Games is brutal.  We are left  with our main character in an impossible predicament. No resolution whatsoever.  And, if you recall, that's a big pet peeve of mine. So, I do intend to continue with the series, but I'm hoping for more.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, December 6, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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