Review: Ripper

Ripper by Isabel Allende
2014, 496 pages

Mystery is not generally my genre. I occasionally pick them up, but more often stick to fiction…historical fiction. However, my friends are all about Allende, and this one happened to be available at the eBook library. So I figured I would give it a shot.

The story revolves around Amanda and her mother Indiana. They live in San Francisco with a small collection of unique friends. Amanda’s father, a police deputy, is blamed with her fascination with death, murders and other questionable interests for a teenage girl. Goodreads says:

When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, discovering, before the police do, that the deaths may be connected. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance be linked to the serial killer? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, the young detective must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.

Amanda also plays Ripper online. Ripper is a game which “had revolved around fictional nineteenth-century crimes in a fog-shrouded London where characters were faced with scoundrels armed with axes and icepicks, archetypal villains intent on disturbing the peace of the city. But when the players agreed to Amanda Martin’s suggestion that they investigate murders in present-day San Franciso — a city no less shrouded in fog — the game took on a more realistic dimension.” Amanda determines that she needs to solve the mystery with her faithful Ripper crew, complete with friend code named Sherlock Holmes and her henchman, Kabel (really her grandfather).

And I can’t say any more because I would ruin the mystery! It’s a quick, very engaging read.

Rating: 5 out of 5 bedazzles


Review: Suite Francaise

So we’re going to try something different for 2014. Instead of reviewing every single thing that I read, I’m just going to review things that I think my audience of one should read. Or at least see why it might be good to read. First up: Suite Francaise.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
2004, 448 pages

This book has made its way onto a variety of the “100 Books to Read” lists. I am not sure if it is because of the book itself, or the circumstances of the publishing.

Nemirovsky was a upper class Russian who ended up emigrating to France because of the Russian Revolution. She was a Russian, and a Jew. Two strikes. She became a famous author, married, had two daughters. And then World War II began. At the end of Suite Francaise, there are notes that Nemirovsky wrote about how she wanted to put together the book. There were supposed to be five sections, based on the war that she was living through. However, only two were published. She couldn’t finish writing the book because the war had not played out yet, among other reasons.

In 1942, while she was in the middle of writing the book, she was taken to Auschwitz where she died. Her daughters spent the rest of the war hiding from the SS. One of the daughters had the presence of mind to take the unfinished manuscript with her in her suitcase. It was too painful to look at, but eventually when the daughter did look at the manuscript, which she thought was just notes, she realized it was a novel. Thus, why it was published some 60 or so years after it was written.

As I said, there are two sections of the book. “Storm in June” focuses on about five different families fleeing Paris before the German occupation. “Dolce” is set in a small French town that is occupied by the Germans and a soldier moves in to every home.

I liked the book, it is well written, but I think I preferred the first section, “Storm in June.” She chooses a variety of characters, some rich, some middle class, an author, a very weird collector of beautiful things, and what they choose to do when faced with fleeing Paris.

“Dolce” focuses on three families in the small town that is occupied. The rich woman whose husband is the mayor, a middle class woman who sticks to her principles and really, really hates the Germans, and a farmer’s family. Naturally, all of these people hate each other, not just the Germans.

So, I thought it was very well written, and interesting, because it focuses more on the people and their interactions than it does on the whole impending doom thing. So while I think at least some of the hype is because of the way it was published, it really is a good read. It’s not nearly as depressing as you think it will be, and some of the characters provide much needed humor.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 bedazzles

First Reviews of 2014

Who knew I would still be doing this? The beginning of the year was low key enough, and the two books I read interesting enough, that the first weekend I have two books to review! But first, the bad news. There were also two books that I could not, for some reason, finish reading.

Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman
2013, 480 pages

This is a collection of short stories selected by Gaiman. I read about half of them, and only disliked about two. So, those are good odds. Unfortunately it was just far too long for me to pay attention to. I also have to be in the right mood for short stories, and after 200-and-some pages I was out.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
2012, 302 pages

I must have read a review of this somewhere, or a synopsis, and that is why I deicded to try and read this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t get past the first chapter. A rich banker is driving to his summer house on an island where his daughter is getting married. Meanwhile, he’s pulling the dirty-old-man thing and wants to sleep with one of his daughter’s bridesmaids. Nope, not going to read that.

Now the books I did finish:

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
2010, 274 pages

Larry and Silas, one white and one black, were secret friends when they were young. At that point there was to be little mixing of the races. One night Larry takes a girl out on a date and she never returns. Ostracized from his small town in Mississippi, he lives alone, and lonely, until 20 years later another teenage girl disappears. Now Silas, a cop, has to figure out what happened to the girl, and what happened all those years ago.

I’m not big on mysteries, but this one didn’t feel very long and was interesting. It alternated between the current investigation and the past with the two boys. I don’t think I liked it as well as Tilted World, also written by Franklin, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
2013, 352 pages

I read about this book somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. I really enjoyed it, but it was not entirely what I thought it would be. I thought the book would focus more on Zelda Fitzgerald, than Evalina Toussaint. The synopsis even says, “Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses the cascading events leading up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them.”

The book did not focus on the relationship with Zelda, but did focus on all relationships that Evalina made during her time at Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Evalina ended up at Highland when she was 13, after her mother (a prostitute), killed herself. Evalina goes back and forth between the real world and Highland, which is run by Dr. Carroll and his wife. After she loses a baby, she comes back as a patient, and then ends up working on the staff.

The relationships between Evalina and all the patients are all documented, and Zelda Fitzgerald does appear every so often, as she leaves and returns to Highland. But the parts that I found most interesting about this were the descriptions of treatment at Highland.

Shock therapy and insulin therapy were common, and terrifying, for me at least. Patients were essentially put into diabetic comas to help rewire the brain and make patients, many who suffered from depression, more normal. “On a few tables there lay only one syringe, which was destined for the metrazol shock patients such as myself. We, too, would be thrown into a spontaneous convulsion, like an epileptic fit.” Just….how is that okay?!

Another patient was sterilized, because she was white and had a black boyfriend. “‘Necessary therapeutic sterilization was performed for the public good…you gotta understand, these morons breed like mink. And she had run off with a Negro, remember that. The duty of the state is to protect the race.'”

It’s not all that depressing. There were performances, dances, gardening and other activities there too. It was a quick, interesting, enjoyable read. I recommend.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Vacation Reading

Ah vacation, I love you. Also a time to catch up on some reading that is not school related. Here are all the books I read during vacation, and the end of 2013!

The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall
2008, 305 pages

Sarah Lyall is a journalist who moved to London in the 1990s, married a British man, and lives there now. In this book she talks about all the cultural differences between the British and Americans. Topics that are covered: Parliament, boarding schools, stiff upper lips, the royals, you get the idea. However, it was just okay. I didn’t really care for the way it was written and it was not as interesting, or amusing, as I had hoped.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
2013, 266 pages

This book was written for kids. The school librarian told me it was a good one, so I agreed to try it. The reading level is about 7th grade. It was a very good read though.

Shortly before World War II, scientists discovered that if you shot uranium atoms at more uranium atoms it created a lot of energy. Scientists began testing it all over the world to see what could be done with it. With the beginning of WWII, someone naturally figured out that it could be used in weapons. The US, Germany and Soviet Union all decided that they needed to try and create a bomb using uranium. Soviet spies weaseled their way into the US to try and steal the secrets of the team, led by Robert Oppenheimer, that was working on the bomb for the US. Germany, after invading Norway, was taking heavy water from a plant that would allow them to use that water to create an atomic bomb, and needed to be stop. And Oppenheimer was busy working for the government and trying to get a bomb ready as quickly as possible.

The US won the beginning of the arms race, obviously, dropping the two atom bombs they made on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But the way that they got there was very interesting. It’s a good read, and you learn many things. One thing I learned, Robert Oppenheimer and Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory look a lot alike, which is probably intentional.

Robert Oppenheimer

Jim Parsons, aka Sheldon Cooper

For Every Solution, a Problem by Kerstin Gier
2007, 304 pages

I have not suddenly learned how to speak German. Gier is a German author, who also wrote the Precious Stones Trilogy that I quite enjoyed, (see October 11’s post for the review of the first book) and apparently Goodreads isn’t smart enough to have the English translation on the website.

Anyway, Gerri is almost thirty, (gasp!) and apparently the bane of her family’s existence. She is always the youngest, who is foolish, the only brunette in a family of blonds, and a romance writer to boot. Her entire family seems ashamed. Gerri decides that is a neurotic depressive and decides to commit suicide by taking all of her mother’s sleeping pills. However, before she goes she writes a series of goodbye letters to family, friends and coworkers to share what she really thinks of them. Through a series of misadventures, Gerri’s suicide plot fails, and she must deal with the fact that everyone now knows what she thinks about them.

I was a bit concerned during the first half of the book, because I wasn’t sure that it was such a good idea. But I ended up finding it mildly amusing. Fun fact: when you rent an apartment in Germany you have to pay for the kitchen appliances. It’s a good quick read, but probably not something that you absolutely MUST pick up.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus Book 4) by Rick Riordan
2013, 597 pages

Do you see how long this book is? Do you? 597 pages, that is a bit of a time commitment. The other problem: I don’t remember what happened in the first three books! So, I was just confused. There are so many pages, that rereading the previous books would just make it so much MORE of a time commitment! 7 demigods are zooming around the world to try and keep the gods, who are suffering from split personalities (their Greek and Roman sides), from disappearing forever because Gaea, older earth goddess, is rising and wants to destroy the world and have it overrun with monsters. There are many quests, and much killing of monsters.

There is apparently at least one more in this series. I just don’t know if I can stand it.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5 bedazzles

We’ve reached it. The end of vacation.

And with the end of vacation, comes the final review.

Longbourn by Jo Baker
2013, 352 pages

This book has received a lot of hype, or at least, hype that I am aware of. Longbourn is the story of the servants in the Bennett household. Sarah, Polly, Mr. and Mrs. Hill take care of the Bennett family through all of their relevant Pride and Prejudice drama. Relevant plot points, such as Lydia running off with Wickham, and Mr. Collins’ visit, are included. However, these are shown through the point of view of the servants. Along with the household drama, Sarah must choose between two suitors, the servant to Mr. Bingley, Ptolemy, and a mysterious new manservant who comes to serve at Longbourn.

The trouble with reading books that are continuations of a story that is so well known as Pride and Prejudice is that I have expectations about them. I thought that the characters from P&P would be int he story more, and that that plot would be followed more closely. Of course, why the servants would be included in that, I have no idea.

It was good, and interesting, and definitely works with P&P.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

In other news, I read more or less 124 books last year. How many will be read in 2014?

What I Read This Past Month

Well, there’s a big ice storm happening outside, and I will not be going anywhere today. So, what to do? Aside from reading and watching television, I guess I shall blog about what I’ve read in the past month! We will start with the ones that I read longest ago, so let’s see how much I can remember!

First up,

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
1995, 325 pages

This was our book club book for November, and I enjoyed it more than the others, naturally. Fun read that is perfect for curling up on the couch with during a storm of some sort. Read the review

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Steifvater
2008, 325 pages

Well, I don’t remember much about this book. It was written by the author of . I enjoyed Shiver, and this was written prior to that.

Side note, Lament is part of a trilogy, but the third has not been written. My guess is this series was not as popular as Shiver, but now that people have started reading her books it’s time to resuscitate them.

Anywho, Deidre is 16, and a musical prodigy with a harp. She doesn’t fit in at school, has the requisite male best friend who is secretly in love with her, and a dangerous, gorgeous boy suddenly shows up, creating the requisite love triangle. Luke, said dangerous boy, is a faerie assassin and has been told to kill Deidre. The Faerie Queen wants Deidre dead because she is more beautiful and may threaten the queen’s rule.

At least, I think that’s the plot. There’s a lot of Celtic faerie lore in the book, which was cool. However, as you can see, it was not very memorable. I did not feel the need to immediately reach for the next book, but maybe I will go back and give it a shot at a later date.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
2011, 446 pages

I believe I have mentioned my love of all things French? Hence my excitement when I saw this book at the library. As you may be aware, Madame Tussaud created the famous wax museums that are all over the world. This book follows her rise to fame just before the French Revolution.

Marie Tussaud worked for her stepfather, by sculpting a variety of people famous in France out of wax and having people pay to come and see the sculptures. By doing this, Tussaud made her living and was sort of like the tabloid magazines of the time. There were scenes with the royal family that Tussaud had gone to see, such as the royal family dining, a special room set with the criminals of the time, such as the Marquis de Sade (whoa, was that guy bad news) and others.

Tussaud and her family had to step carefully during the Revolution. Marie became friendly with the king’s sister, and was sent to teach her how to sculpt out of wax. When the Revolution came, however, Marie and her family had to figure out a way to walk the fine line between the two sides so that they could be on the side of the victor.

It was mostly interesting, but let’s face it, I know how the Revolution ended so I kind of skipped the end. I wasn’t sad that I read it, but it just kept going on and on and on! I don’t have time for that!

Rating: 2 out of 5 bedazzles

Doomed to Repeat: The Lessons of History We’ve Failed to Learn by Bill Fawcett
2013, 336 pages

I picked this up because I saw it on a display in Barnes & Noble a while ago that was full of quirky books. I thought it would be more like something that Bill Bryson writes, entertaining with enough humor to keep you engaged. This, however was not that. Full of doom and gloom and just leaves you feeling annoyed that history does, indeed, repeat itself. A pretty dry read too. I didn’t finish it.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

The Two Hotels Francfort by David Leavitt
2013, 272 pages

This story takes place in Lisbon, Portugal during two weeks in the summer of 1940. Americans are arriving from all over Europe to take a ship back to the United States to be safe from Hitler’s march across Europe. The story focuses on two couples, Pete and Julia and Edward and Iris. Julia’s a little delicate….mentally unstable, and the other three are involved in a very weird love triangle. It was sort of interesting.

Rating: 2 out of 5 bedazzles

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
2013, 288 pages

This is also a movie, which I watched. It focuses on a group of 16 and 17 year olds living out in California who got bored, or something, and decided to rob many famous people during 2008 and 2009. The author was originally sent to interview the teenagers for an article in “Vanity Fair,” which then became a book after Sophia Coppola decided to turn it into a movie.

It’s all just very weird, and the kids clearly suck. They wanted to be famous, or close to famous people, or something, so they went and stole what they wanted and then bragged about it to friends before they were finally caught due to surveillance footage and some classmates telling the police. Interesting, but messed up. Also, what on earth were the parents doing?! Seriously.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
2013, 320 pages

The Tilted World takes place in Mississippi during 1927, when the Great Flood ravaged the South. It was also during Prohibition. So, during the buildup to the giant flood, two agents, Ingersoll and Ham, travel to Mississippi on assignment from Hoover, then in charge of many things, to figure out what happened to the last two Prohibition agents who went missing in the town of Hobnob, Mississippi. There they meet Jessie and Dixie Holliver, the main bootleggers in the town. Jesse is dangerous, and probably a little crazy, and Dixie is the one making the moonshine. Ingersoll begins to fall for her, but will Ham and Ingersoll figure out what is going on before the levees finally break and the whole town goes under?

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
2001, 637 pages

Iris Chase begins a memoir of her life, essentially. Her sister, Laura, is a famed writer who committed suicide just after World War II in 1945. Iris chronicles what happened in their lives that led to Laura’s suicide. The chapters alternate between Iris’s recollections, the “novel” that Laura wrote, entitled “The Blind Assassin” and news clippings from Iris’s life, including the obituaries of her sister and other family members. I liked it, I did, but it was too long. I began skipping the chapters from “The Blind Assassin” just to get to the end. The end was pretty awesome, I should probably read it again just for that, but it was so loooong!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Books I Read This Month

Lately I have been thinking about my book blog, and how I have been truly atrocious at keeping up with it. I mainly am doing this thinking because I have not neglected my book club blogging every month. Amazing what peer pressure can do. It’s a little ironic, as some of the students I work with have to create their own weekly blogs about the books that they are reading. So, I’m truly neglecting my duties.

Work and life have gotten in the way, and by the time I drag myself home I do not have the desire, or ability, to put coherent sentences together about what I read. That does not, however, mean that I have not been reading. Far from it. The pile of books keeps growing, just as it always has, and I have also been participating in my book club with friends from college. (For our latest monthly read, Practical Magic, click here) Needless to say, some of those books have not been enjoyable for me, but others have. This month’s book, Mariana, is a good one. I recommend it.

This will be a pretty long post, as I must get myself caught up with where my last reviews ended. Let’s face it, that’s at least a month’s worth of books. Although, I am definitely a slower reader now. So many other obligations. Sheesh, this job thing really gets in the way!

Also, these reviews go from most recently read to older read. Hence why the reviews will get progressively shorter!

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
2013, 528 pages

There were all kinds of things going down during this summer in America. This book chronicles it all.

Charles Lindbergh was being all awesome and flying across the Atlantic and then touring around the United States. Apparently prior to that America was way behind in the aviation department. Never mind that he was probably a Nazi and had secret love children with two German women, at this point in time everyone loved him.

Babe Ruth was having the best season ever, and so were the Yankees for that matter. Interesting. Baseball is nothing like this anymore. Similarly, boxing was huge and people loved it.

Chicago was all kinds of corrupted and Al Capone was in charge, his last summer to do so before he was jailed for tax evasion.

Those are the highlights anyway. I really enjoy the way that Bryson writes, and have read just about everything by him. I think I prefer his travel books, but I do find his other books, on the history of a house, or of a summer, to be almost as interesting.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Emerald Green by Kerstin Geier
2013, 464 pages

The last book in the Precious Stones series (that I know of, anyway) about teenage time travelers. It was just as good as the first and second, and they are definitely worth a read. My Ruby Red review (the first in the series) is here. I would recommend them as breezy YA reads, and they are less silly and stereotypical than you would expect. I can’t explain any more, as then I might give away something accidentally!

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
2012, 720 pages

I found this book to be sadly disappointing. I loved the first sentence, really the whole first chapter. However, the book was so long! While the premise is everything that I would love, two young people living in New York City during the 1950s, there ended up being so many words, and so much description that there was not nearly enough action. Disappointing, really, as I had such hopes for this book.

Seriously, the awesome first sentence: “If you were a spirit, and could fly and alight as you wished, and time did not bind you, and patience and love were all you knew, then you might rise to enter an open window high above the park, in the New York of almost a lifetime ago, early in November of 1947.” Sadly, that was not enough to keep me interested in finishing more than half of it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 bedazzles

Vanity Fare: A novel of lattes, literature and love by Megan Caldwell
2012, 416 pages

Molly is going through a rough divorce. She has been a stay-at-home mom and needs a job. The ex-husband has a new girlfriend and his company has just gone under. What is she to do? She ends up getting a job writing copy (or promotional ad stuff) for a new bakery that is opening with a celebrity chef. She decides that she will mix literature with the books, and so each chapter is named for a piece of literature and a pastry. Having read this over a month ago, I can’t remember any of them, but I thought they were cute. It was a light, fluffy read.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles (merely for the fact that I now cannot remember anything about it)

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
2009, 384 pages

Second in the Precious Stones trilogy. Just as awesome as the first and third. Seriously, read them! My review for the first:

I love this book! It’s a series too, so double yay! Anyway, Gwen is 16, living in London and has a peculiar family. Her cousin, Charlotte, has been preparing her entire life to travel back in time. There is a time traveler gene in the family. The Guardians, people in charge of these time travelers, were able to predict when the particular child would be born.

There is this special chronometer (I think that’s what it’s called) that allows them to control when they go into the past. It was foretold that there would be twelve time travelers, all named after a particular jewel. Gwen is the twelfth. The goal is to put a little of each traveler’s blood in the chronometer to fulfill a mission. However, the previous two travelers made off with the original chronometer. Now Gwen and Gideon, the eleventh time traveler, must go back in time and try to get blood from everyone. But will it work!?

The best part of this book is that Gwen is not a damsel in distress. She makes her own decisions and has the right amount of skepticism.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Abdication by Juliet Nicolson
2012, 344 pages

This story takes place in 1936, the year that the British king abdicated his throne to marry a divorced American. So…..big news! The story is told between two points of view, a servant of a Parliament member who meets the king and Wallis Simpson (what kind of name is Wallis, seriously?!) and a clingy friend of Simpson. Interesting, quick read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde
2010, 384 pages

My usual fluffy British chick lit. Sophie lives in a family of geniuses, and they all think she’s an idiot. Clearly, she’s not. She does everything her family asks her to do, including visiting grumpy old relatives. Sophie finally decides she needs to do something about her life, and goes to visit a friend in New York. She meets the man of her dreams, even though he is against. A comedy of errors ensues. Good stuff.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Book Club Books:
Mariana by Susan Kearsley
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Where’d You Go Bernadette by
The Woodcutter by Kate Danley
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Updates for October 11

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
2012, 312 pages

It’s interesting that I enjoy Dave Eggers’ books. They are not happy, often sad, but they’re so well written that I usually read them anyway. I even have a hard time putting them down! It’s unusual, that’s for sure. I usually avoid the sad, and the intense, etc.

This one, however, did not work for me. Alan the salesman is currently in Saudi Arabia, helping try to convince the King of Saudi Arabia to buy a hologram program. He spends a lot of time thinking about his past, in which he worked at Schwinn until they began to outsource all of the work, while bouncing between his hotel and this city that they are trying to sell to Saudis as the future, and a great place to live.

It’s a little confusing. Mostly, Alan is depressed, and spends a lot of time being depressed, and explaining what happened in his past to make him depressed. Not terribly interesting, when nothing happens.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
2012, 324 pages

I love this book! It’s a series too, so double yay! Anyway, Gwen is 16, living in London and has a peculiar family. Her cousin, Charlotte, has been preparing her entire life to travel back in time. There is a time traveler gene in the family. The Guardians, people in charge of these time travelers, were able to predict when the particular child would be born.

There is this special chronometer (I think that’s what it’s called) that allows them to control when they go into the past. It was foretold that there would be twelve time travelers, all named after a particular jewel. Gwen is the twelfth. The goal is to put a little of each traveler’s blood in the chronometer to fulfill a mission. However, the previous two travelers made off with the original chronometer. Now Gwen and Gideon, the eleventh time traveler, must go back in time and try to get blood from everyone. But will it work!?

The best part of this book is that Gwen is not a damsel in distress. She makes her own decisions and has the right amount of skepticism.

Awesome book, have the second one on my bookshelf right now!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

I Really Need to Blog More…

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
2013, 416 pages

I am so bad at blogging lately! I read this book at least two, maybe even three, weeks ago and didn’t blog about it. It wasn’t that it was bad, I just apparently didn’t want to write about it. So now it is much later and I need to just get on with it! So here we go.

Palisades Park was, once, a real place in New Jersey.

According to the book it closed in the 1970s. The book follows the effect this amusement park had on the Stopka family. Eddie Stopka first visits the park with his parents when he is a young boy. He loved it so much he never forgot it. Fast forward and he meets and then marries his wife in the park. His children are raised in the park. His daughter wants to become a high diver, based on those she has seen in the park.

The book starts in the 1920s, and goes up to the end of the 1960s. The Depression, World War II, Korean War, and the Civil Rights Movement are all parts of the plot.

The author himself went to Palisades Park himself as a child. The book is like a love letter from him to the park. It’s well written, and interesting. Worth a read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
2013, 400 pages

This book is pure silliness. And that is awesome. It switches back and forth between sisters Fliss (Felicity, because I was wondering where the nickname ‘Fliss’ could possibly come from) and Lottie. Lottie proposes to her boyfriend, Richard, and he panics. The rejection is too much for Lottie and she jumps headfirst into a relationship with a former boyfriend she hasn’t seen in fifteen years.

Lottie, determined to end her poor dating record, decides that there will be no sex until they are married. Of course the new boyfriend decides that they must get married immediately! The rest of the book is about Fliss’s attempts to sabotage her sister’s wedding night so that Lottie can get out of the marriage if she wants to.

It’s a hilarious comedy of errors, and should definitely become a movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
2013, 433 pages

Where do I go with this book? There were things I enjoyed, and things I really did not care for. Regardless, I stayed up way too late finishing it last night. That made it a book that I read in one day. Generally that doesn’t happen unless I liked it. So…..what does it all mean?!

I should probably explain the plot before I go picking it apart. Essentially it is this: 18-year-old Cath and her twin, Wren, move in to college. Cath is introverted, and always seemed to follow her twin around. Wren decides they need some space in college and becomes the party college girl, complete with hospital trip due to too much alcohol. Cath resists making friends, talking to people in public, general friendliness. She writes fan fiction based on a series (very Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia….I mean, we know what it’s about) that she loved as a kid. Her sister used to write with her, but does not now. The eighth book in the series is coming out, and Cath is determined to finish her novel version before the real one comes out. She spends a lot of time on message boards. Her father’s a little manic, there is boyfriend drama, there you have it.

The bad:

First of all, the names. There are twins, Cather and Wren. The reason is explained that the mother did not pick out two names, just one, and so split it between the two. Cather is too close to catheter, as both I and my friend Alyisha observed, to make it an acceptable name.

The fanfiction angle. I get it, I appreciate that it exists. I have never read fan fiction, but I’m sure there is some wonderful stuff. Someone can point me in a direction and I will give it a shot. However, in what universe is finishing a fiction novel online more important than, you know, taking your finals and staying in college?

Family drama: dad’s a manic and sometimes needs to be hospitalized, the twin is a drunk because, you know, that’s what you’re doing in college, and a mother who abandoned them. No wonder she’s disappearing into fan fiction. Her life is kind of sad times.

The good:

Well, I did finish it in one night. I needed to know how the boy drama ended! No YA book is complete without boy drama!

The girl is not a pushover. She doesn’t want to just sleep with guys, so good for her. She has her own world and she wants to keep it, even if it is considered lame by others, so also good. She had her own opinions and she kept them. She didn’t go changing because of boys. So, again, that is good.

The story was fast paced and an easy read. Good in this sense.

The book is interspersed with chapters from both Cath’s fan fiction and the imaginary series that she took her ideas from. The parts were good, and seemed like it could actually be a series.

Rating: I think 4 out of 5. I’m indecisive.

Austenland: Book vs. Movie

Austenland by Shannon Hale
2007, 197 pages

2013, 97 minutes

The plot for both the book and the movie stays surprisingly the same, hurray! Jane Hayes is a 30-something living in New York with a very serious Mr. Darcy obsession. It has cost her boyfriends, relationships and general normalness. Through one way or another she ends up going on a three week vacation to Austenland in England. There you are completely immersed in Regency England and are essentially a heroine from a Jane Austen novel. Actors are hired to play the male characters, there is a Colonel Andrews, Mr. Nobley, Captain East, your general Jane Austen men. Each female guest gets a man assigned to her to complete the Austen fantasy. The last night there is a ball, and all women will be proposed to by the suitor that they are assigned.

Jane can’t decide between the gardener, Martin, and Mr. Nobley, the Mr. Darcy of the bunch. Jane also has to decide what is real and what isn’t. Are any of the relationships real? Would any last outside of Austenland?

The plot of both is similar, but I found the movie much more amusing. The reason for this: Jennifer Coolidge. She plays the man-hungry, fake-British-accent lady with all the hilarious lines in the movie.

Don’t hang yourself, Jane!

Anyway, both are awesome and worth a read or a watch. I would definitely recommend the movie, as I laughed pretty much the whole time. And that is always a good thing.

Rating for book: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles
Rating for movie: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

September 14: Things I’ve Read This Week

I believe I have mentioned the full-time teaching job, and the long commute. However, that does little to get rid of the fact that I still enjoy reading for a while in the evening as a way of unwinding. However, this will turn my book posts into weekly posts for the foreseeable future.

Earth by Jon Stewart
2010, approximately 200 minutes

My first audiobook foray was disappointing. This, however, was anything but. The first thing that I have noticed is that I am a much more visual person than an auditory one. I have a really hard time being able to focus on the threads of a narrative for an extended period of time in the car, while driving and listening. This may have to do with the fact that I am multitasking, but I also prefer reading words. I have an easier time remembering things that I have seen than things I have heard.

Anyway, I have found the perfect audiobook for this!
1. It is funny.
2. It is narrated by the author, the always fabulous Jon Stewart and his Daily Show crew.
3. Did I mention it was funny?

Sadly I do not remember enough to be able to justify these claims, but it’s a good time. I promise.

*Side note* I found Earth, the book version, today. I will have to read it and compare.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
2013, 368 pages

The third entry in the “Glamourist Histories.” It is Jane Austen meets people who can create illusions out of the ether. This entry, not so awesome. The main idea is that the weather in 1816 is so cold that there is no summer, and there is snow even in July. This is being blamed on coldmongerers, glamourists (the magician people) who deal with making things cold in summer. So, essentially, they create the air conditioning instead of machines.

There are riots, and personal problems too. Jane is busy trying to find a husband for her younger sister. In a word, meh.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Naked by David Sedaris
2001, 3 hours

This audiobook took me three days to listen to. That was nice. I also figured that since the Jon Stewart audiobook worked out well for me that I would try this one. Also a humor writer, also narrated by the author. (David’s sister, Amy Sedaris, is pretty awesome, she reads many of the female parts of the book in different, ridiculous accents.) However, I did not enjoy this quite as much as I did Earth.

For one thing, what Sedaris sounded like in my head when I read his other books and what he actually sounds like are two very different things. That was odd, and threw me for a bit of a loop. It also seems more serious than some of his other books. Many of the stories talk about his childhood. It just seemed a little down.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles