Monday, July 29, 2013

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

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Austenland--the beautiful place where we can all go and get our Regency Austen fix. Balls, corsets, etiquette, and of course a man :)

It's fabulous in theory. I really, really want to like the Austenland novels. But they almost become to fluffy, like cotton candy blowing through the land on a windy day, or how it tastes really good for the first millisecond before it all dissolves in your mouth and you realize how empty it was...

Hale's heroines have to be confidenceless women who don't how awesome they are until a man lets them know they are. We meet our fabulous character Charlotte Constance Kinder...who's a consistent people pleaser. It's her duty to let the ones she loves to step all over her, even when her dirtbag husband cheats on her and she bends over backwards to make it all better when he divorces her. Giving him half of her business accounts and assets, all but the actual business. Good thing she keeps making money, though, so at least she's not penniless...

We see bits and pieces of her life before she gets to Austenland told in short flashbacks. She has the perfect life, a perfect husband, with two perfect children until she doesn't and decides to use a bit of her talents on the internet and boom she has a multi-million dollar business and her husband can't handle a woman who makes more than he does...

She blames herself, of course, it was her job to keep her man. There must be something wrong with her.

Enter vacation at Austenland. She reads up on her Austen, Agatha Christie, and gothic novels and she's set up for a fabulous trip back to Regency England and even a "marriage proposal" by the end of the two weeks.

I don't know. It was fluffy, and cute, a nice cozy romantic mystery. But I wanted more and I expected more. Hale never gives any motivation for Charlotte. Why does she feel she needs to be a doormat? Why can't one still find love even if they already know how awesome they are? Why does Hale have to make her characters so clueless? Just to make sure they realize in two weeks how awesome they are because a man has fallen in love with them? It seems to always go back to what a man thinks. Does he think she's clever enough? Well, because she asked that in her head he knew she was the one for him....and even at the end with the bad experience from her first husband you would think she would be a bit more cautious about whom she claims to fall in love with...he is an actor after was all so unmotivational and cliche.

I guess the gothic mystery was OK. The whodunnit and all that. But the characters never once rang true for me. Even her demonization of alcohol was really odd. Why did she not like alcohol? OK, you don't like it, it's not for you...but it seemed that every character that partook in the novel was a bad person...and the one person she falls in love with is an alcoholic so he's now sober and will never touch any again! Yay! So convenient! Everything just is so convenient. I guess that's the point of a silly, fluffy, cozy, child romantic book. It's written for adults but it felt like it was written by a teenager. I don't know. Hale has not shown adult fiction chops. But I keep hoping and waiting and keep getting disappointed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Zombie Nation: From Folklore to Modern Frenzy by E.R. Vernor

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This is a really fun and information-packed zombie book. The book's pages are all color with bright photos and blood-like smears. Almost every page comes with little info boxes that look like hazard warnings. So it's pretty.

It's short with only 4 chapters but he's not trying to do an in-depth history of zombie lore and culture. Vernor explores zombie ideas from religion in chapter one. He gives quotes from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Bible. Zombies have been a pretty long time. Then he tackles some of the science behind zombie-ism. What could cause it? He gives some modern-day examples of people going crazy and then eating people. He does get a bit political when it comes to government stuff but I ignored it and moved on. Chapter 3 explores movies and books. I got some great ideas for some movies to check out. The final chapter focuses on using the zombie craze to truly get prepared for man-made or nature-caused disasters. He stresses survival preparedness. If you are prepared for an all-out zombie apocalypse, you are prepared for almost anything!

A great book to get a sampling of the zombie craze!

I reviewed this through NetGalley.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mini Book Reviews (3)

1.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Not my favorite of John Green's but it's still great and makes you keep a box of tissues nearby. A beautiful story on dying. What do we do when we have a disease that will inevitably kill us in a short amount of time? Lots of philosophy throughout this one and dealing with death is something we should always be aware of. It happens to us all and to all those we love.

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2. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby

Jacoby is a great writer and she is able to seamlessly combine history and mini-bios into one great book. There are so many great people that history seems to have forgotten--Ernestine Rose, Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all due to their outspoken views on patriarchal religion. I loved getting to know these beautiful people that all helped shape our great nation.

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3. Trapped by Kevin Hearne

This is the fifth installment of Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. This time Atticus is trying to bind his new druid apprentice to Gaia but somehow the only place he can do it is in Greece near the Olympic Gods!

This one has funny pop-culture references, talking dog, hilarious gods, monsters, and goddesses he's always annoying and killing! Even a bit of romance! If you haven't read the first book go do it now!

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4. The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke

This is the finishing sequel to Clarke's Assassin's Curse. Both are amazing kick-booty female-driven fantasies. Ananna and Naji are bound together because of a curse. She's a pirate and he's a blood assassin. He must keep her alive to live and if she actually wants to be a pirate captain she must find a way to break the impossible curse.

She's tough, smart, and gets things done. It's great to see female-centered books that don't only focus on romance and finding a man. One of the best adventure-fantasy series I've read in a long time!

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5. Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters by Donna Jo Napoli

I picked this one up to read with my son. It's beautifully illustrated and Napoli adds in some commentary that helps with discussion. She also has little info boxes about science, history, and geography to help put times and stories into context. My son is still little so I think I enjoyed the stories more than he did but he loved the pictures! I will be returning to this one again and again.

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Cat Thursday (11)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

Michelle is doing Christmas in July this week as I thought I'd put up two of my cats in Santa's hat! My other kitty ran away every time so he is not in this one :(

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Monday, July 22, 2013

One Line Movie Reviews (10)

1. Side Effects (2013): A great twisty turvy murder mystery!

Rating: B+

2. Kumare (2011): A fake guru finds a following, finds himself and helps others to realize they only need themselves to find happiness and peace.

Rating: A

3. Identity Thief (2013): Melissa McCarthy is gold but even she couldn't lift that bad story and dialogue along...messy.

Rating: C

4. The Heat (2013): Women power from two different sides of the track and soooo hilarious!

Rating: A

5. Sons of Provo (2004): This movie really only makes sense if you have ever been Mormon and/or raised around Utah Mormons, especially, but if you have that background and a love for boy bands, this is comedy gold with a sweet message at the end.

Rating: A- (source)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cat Thursday (10)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

Michelle is doing a Christmas in July kitty them so I thought I'd go with cats in Santa hats!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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This was a fast-paced book and so entertaining. But I felt it was a bit fluffy on so many issues that it was trying to explore. When it comes to fantasy I want powerful world-building, I want powerful character-building. Sometimes in YA we only get one or none. I really feel like this had the potential to be an epic fantasy, but it just fell a little flat.

The characters and the plot was pretty 2-dimensional. I knew right away who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. There were a lot of dark and light concepts running, and I felt the author tried to throw some grey in there but without much success. 

Oh, love triangles! How I love and hate thee! In theory love triangles should flesh out how nuanced love is, that there are many types of love and that you really can love more than one person at a time for different reasons. So in one way she explores lust and power when it comes to Alina's attraction to the Darkling. But I wouldn't call it a love triangle. Yes, she wants to do him dark and dirty but not necessarily live with him and bear his children! So not truly a love triangle. Which brings me to Mal...he's pretty one note. Of course, he loves Alina he just doesn't realize it until she's gone! So convenient.

Bardugo never explains why we should except the second-rate status of the Grisha...lots of unanswered questions.

She did have an interesting take on psychology, though. I like how she explored Alina's powers. She couldn't tap into them until she faced her demons...her head shrink was her own head! Facing those unconscious ideas and then growing from them and becoming powerful. I loved that.

I also loved that Alina had to make some hard decisions but some of those decisions were backed by power and lots of it. And how she realizes awesome power comes with awesome responsibility (yeah, that is from Spider Man). She grows, she learns to be independent, she learns about love and mercy and the power that comes from having those.

She does touch a bit on tyranny and what that can mean for a country and ultimately the world. But she only touches on it. I'm hoping some of these barely touched grays will come into fuller focus in the next two books.

So while it's not by ideal YA fantasy (that would be Seraphina by Rachel Hartman), it's pretty entertaining and has a lot of potential by Bardugo.

I did read some other reviews about how they didn't appreciate her lack of Russian knowledge and history. If I were a Russian or had some intimate knowledge of Russia and its language and culture, I'd probably be a bit annoyed as well. But I never was throughout the book. I thought adding a distinctive Russian flare to the book enhanced its mystery and fantasy. So I say read with a caveat that if you have Russian knowledge don't read this because you'll be annoyed :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Camping With Gabe--Mirror Lake

Some friends of ours invited camping for a quick one-niter! We threw together our camping stuff and headed up to the mountains Friday to Saturday. It's been hard getting out camping much with Gabe being so young but each summer he (and thus we) enjoy it more. This year he had friends to play with and a beautiful lake to dip his toes into!

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It's always nice to get out into nature and relax by a campfire and eat junk. The only thing not so great is the sleeping...meaning I get none! Yay, to the Earth! So beautiful :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

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What better way to celebrate William Shakespeare and Star Wars than to combine the two? It's Star Wars but written in iambic pentameter play style complete with chorus, asides, and a snarky and talking R2D2!

It's also pretty hilarious to listen to Darth Vader in your head speaking in rhyme and meter.

The only thing against this is the same thing I have against Shakespeare...sometimes it was hard to understand. My poetic brain never truly turns on. So it helped that I already knew the story and could follow along despite the lingo.

Quirk Books even shot a cheesy but funny trailer for the book:

I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on Star Wars and would love to actually see this as a play someday!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, July 5, 2013

One Line Movie Reviews (9)

1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013): With both good and bad witches this was a real treat!

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Rating: B

2. House at the End of the Street (2012): Creepy and jumpy with a surprise twist ending.

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Rating: B

3. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013): Cute but a bit overplayed addition to the Wizard of Oz series.

Rating: B-

4. The Croods (2013): Not all cave people are brutes!

Rating: B

5. Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Best of Both Worlds (2013): Best season finale and opener in Star Trek TV history!

Rating: A-

6. Eraserhead (1977): I can never ever gain back that time I spent watching this horrible flick.

Rating: D

7. Beautiful Creatures (2013): Surprisingly good rendition of the book!

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Rating: B+

8. Jack the Giant Slayer (2013): I'm not sure what kind of movie it was going for...kid's show light or kid's show dark...I don't think the makers knew either...

Rating: C

9. Warm Bodies (2013): A great zombie romance!

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Rating: B+

10. Howl's Moving Castle (2004): Fantastic fantasy romance!

Rating: A

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cat Thursday (9) Independence Day!

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

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Happy birthday, America!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Countdown City by Ben Winters

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Another great edition to the Last Policeman series as we countdown to asteroidal extermination.

Hank Palace has been dismissed from his duties as a detective, has inherited a drug dealer's dog and his childhood babysitter comes knocking...Beautiful Martha Milano needs him to find her run-off husband Brett. Why has he left? Another bucket-lister before the end or another reason? Hank has to keep on plugging away at the litte things and uses this new case as a way to distract himself from in the inevitable.

Along the way we see how society is slowly breaking down and anarchy sets in. Everyone has guns, food storage and no qualms about getting more from others more weak.

He tracks Brett through various "utopian" societies trying keep a semblance of order as well as conspiracy theories about governments looking forward to ultimate destruction.

Winters really doesn't pull any punches. What would society really do if we learned the end was near and there was nothing to be done? Hold onto humanity or every man, woman, and child for him or herself? I think he's got it about right. Whole systems break down and people turn tribal and protect their own. Us versus them becomes smaller, less us's and more thems.

I'm looking forward to the last installment! Are the conspiracy nuts right? Can the save the day? Only one more book to find out!

A big thanks to Quirk Books for providing me an advanced copy for a fair and honest review!


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