Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Matched - Allie Condie

Also reviewed by Mindy.

Summary:  In the society, officials decide.  Who you love.  Where you work.  When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices.  It's hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate.  So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one...until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.  Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path no one else has ever dared follow--between perfection and passion.

Matched is a story for right now and storytelling with the resonance of a class.  (Summary from back of the book and image from http://wikimedia.org/)

My Review:  I think I went into this book with expectations too high .  It was recommended by many different people and many who like the same kinds of books I do.  And I just wasn't that impressed.  The culprit could be that my students just finished reading The Giver, which to me is the must-read dystopian book for young adults/children.  It felt like a knock off of The Giver and The Hunger Games.  I loved those books so much that this felt like an imposter.  While it's not identical there are too many parallels: choosing spouse (TG), taking pills (TG), choosing jobs (TG), controlling government with sinister people in power (HG), young adult star-crossed lovers/love triangle (HG) and it being a trilogy (both novels, although TG is a companion set, not really a trilogy).

But, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it or finish it.  I'm just a bit disappointed.  Maybe Crossed will be different or change how I feel.  I also wasn't wrapped up in the romance between Cassia and Ky.  I don't know why I couldn't feel it/buy in.  I just couldn't, which made it all the more difficult to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm sure my students will love it, especially since I've gotten them into this dystopian lit genre now.  It just didn't do it for me.

For the sensitive reader:  A couple kisses, but nothing to bat an eye at.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Sum it up:  Another rehash of the dystopian you-don't-get-to-choose-your-life scenario.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two Moons of Sera (Vol. 1) - Pavarti K. Tyler

Summary:  In a world where water and earth teem with life, Serafay is an anomaly.  The result of genetic experiments on her mother's waterborne line, Serafay will have to face the very people responsible to discover who she really is.  But is she the only one?  (Summary from book - Image from www.fightingmonkeypress.com  - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review:  Two Moons of Sera is a fantasy/romance novel that is being released in serial format.  I was given the first volume for review.

The first volume of Two Moons of Sera is only 76 pages.  It can be read (and was) in the bath, as long as you don't mind getting a tad bit pruney.  It was easy to read and I enjoyed the basic plot.  Serafay is a young girl caught between two very different worlds, drawn to the both of them but labeled an outcast.  She lives on with her mother in a deserted cove, until one day she meets an Erdlander that changes everything. 

My problem with Two Moons of Sera was not its plot, which I can see being tweaked into a movie or television series.  No, my problem is with the writing.  It just felt off.  I know that's not a very technical term, but it's all I've got.  The author's style occasionally felt stilted and undeveloped and lacked the smooth flow that you don't notice in books until it's not there.  Also, while I understand the need for Tor and Sera's awkward dialogue, the word "Huh" became really annoying. 

Still, this book ended far too soon.  It truly is just the beginning of a series and when it ended I wanted to know so much more about the characters and what was going to happen to them.   If I had been given the complete story, I probably would have kept reading.

You can visit the author's blog where she is having a month-long (Nov '11) giveaway, purchase Two Moons of Sera from Amazon, or download the ebook on Smashwords.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Not a whole lot to worry about.  Some naked swimming, but nothing detailed.  It is billed as "all the fun of YA, written for adults" which makes me wonder if things don't get more heated later in the series.

Sum it up:  An interesting beginning that could use a little polish.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crank - Ellen Hopkins

Summary:  Life was good
before I
met
the monster

After,
Life
was great.
At
least
for a little
while.

Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina -- she's fearless.  Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul -- her life.  (Summary from back of the book and image from http://commskills10pd1.wikispaces.com/Crank)

My Review:  I read this in a day, total.  And before you're too impressed, despite it's 537 pages the book is written in poetry format.  It reads FAST.  Combine the subject matter with Hopkin's writing style and it's one you can't put down.  I cannot imagine how quickly Kristina became Bree, although from everything I've ever heard or read about meth, it's an accurate portrayal.  For most it only takes one time and you're hooked hard.

Completely heart-breaking is the only way I could describe what I imagine her mother went through.  I read this book dreading more and more that my daughters would ever, could ever come in contact with this life destroying drug.  Kristina's fall from normalcy into drug induced insanity was so abrupt, so drastic I left the book honestly depressed.  I do want to pick up the next two in the series just to see where it leads.

Hopkin's admits that this character is based on her daughter and that the child mentioned at the end is also her grandson.  I feel I must give her credit: she didn't sugar coat her role in the story.  Kristina painted a picture of her mother the way I've heard teens describe their mothers--and it was not flattering.  Hopkins was not trying to save face when she wrote this story--it's all the ugly details plain for everyone to see.

I feel hesitant to recommend this to just anyone, especially teens.  If it comes across as the red-flag-warning that I deemed it to be, I would say everyone should read it.  But, you never know.  Some kids may be enticed by the wild world, the highs and lows, the graphic relationships, the broken people.

I also feel I need to mention that there is a rape scene brought on by Kristina's overwhelming need for meth.  It's painful, raw, real.  Again, my worst nightmare would be for my daughters to come in contact with this drug.  It's horrifying.

Rating: 4.25 stars

For the sensitive reader:  Not a YA book to read lightly.  Swear words, rape scene (although not graphic), drug use, you name it and for the most part it's there.  Although I feel it's written in way of warning.

Sum it up:  I hope I never, ever have to face this real-life nightmare up close.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving
from all of us at Reading For Sanity!

May you stuff yourselves with turkey and read lots of books.

Wait!  Who are we kidding? 
You know you're going to fall asleep.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ramona the Pest - Beverly Cleary

Summary:  It is the greatest day of Ramona's life.  She is in kindergarten and she loves her teacher, Miss Binney.  She likes a little boy named Davy so much she wants to kiss him.  She's fascinated by Susan's beautiful reddish brown curls that bounce like springs when she runs.  Ramona is thrilled about all the new things to see.

So how in the world does Ramona get in trouble?  Why is she sitting on a bench when the rest of the class is playing Gray Duck?  Why does Davy run as fast as he can when Ramona comes near him?  And how does Ramona disrupt the whole class during rest time?  Well, anyone who knows Ramona knows that she is never a pest on purpose.

My Review:  Ramona the Pest, the first book in the well known Ramona Series, is told from the perspective of a young girl named Ramona Quimby, who is just starting kindergarten.  Make no mistake, Ramona Quimby is the original Junie B. Jones; she’s incurably curious, unfailingly honest, stubborn to a fault, and a bit of an unintentional pest.  No matter how hard she tries to be good, Ramona just can’t seem to stop herself from tugging on Susan’s lovely curls, chasing Davy around the playground, and getting herself in all sorts of trouble.  She loves many things about going to school, but the best thing about kindergarten is her wonderful teacher.  No one can even compare to Miss Binney.

We accidentally read Ramona Quimby, Age 8, the third book in the series, before this one.  Oops. I recommend reading them it order, of course, but it was nice to see that Ramona grows up in the next couple of books.  In this one, she really is kind of a pest.  She’s cute and funny, of course, but also does things she shouldn’t and makes great big loud noisy fusses when she doesn’t get her way.  I kept having to stop and say to my wide-eyed children, “Wow, she really should have done that, should she?!”  However, most of these incidences were quickly followed with the appropriate consequence, so I think that it all worked out.   
 
My children and I enjoyed reading about Ramona’s adventures and escapades – my personal favorites were when she got stuck in the mud in her new rain boots and ended up declaring her love for her reluctant rescuer, Henry Huggins.  The illustrations, found every few pages, were adorable and also kept my Ramona look-(and-act)-a-like (aka Sophie) from running off.  Overall, I thought it was a wonderfully engaging book, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it aloud to my children.

My Kids’ Thoughts:  Sophie, age five, said, “I want you to read it all over again!  Please Mama, please!” 
Her favorite part was “The whole thing!!” but she didn’t like “the part when the kids who were in school were saying ‘Hey, look at Ramona!’ when she was stuck in the mud.”

Kaisa, age eight, said, “I liked it when she dropped out of kindergarten and the chapter about the baddest witch in the world because her mask was kind of scary and funny at the same time.  And I liked it how she went up and kissed the boy (when she was wearing the scary mask) because it scared the boy that she kissed.  I also liked it when she lost her tooth.
I didn’t like it when Beezus was laughing at Ramona. You should read the book because it’s a really good book.”

My Rating: 4.25 Stars
For the sensitive reader:  A few scattered uses of the what my children call "the 'S' word" (Stupid) and some general five-year-old wickedness.

Sum it up:  Ramona is a pest, but a cute one.  She’s the original Junie B. Jones.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shakespeare's Secret - Elise Broach

Summary:  A missing diamond.  A 500-year-old necklace.  A mystery dating back to the time of William Shakespeare.

Named after a character from a Shakespearean play, Hero anticipates having a rough time starting the sixth grade at her new school.  She isn't at all interested in this literary connection--not until she finds that there may be a diamond hidden in her new house, and that it may hold the key to the mystery of Shakespeare's true identity.  All of a sudden, her name is very interesting and so is Danny Cordova, the most popular boy in school (and the cutest) who seems intent on uncovering the mystery with Hero.  (Summary from back of the book and image from http://us.macmillan.com/)

My Review:  It's never easy being the new girl; combine that with an unusual first name and, unless you're a ham for the spotlight, it's a recipe for ostracism.  Hero is an underdog.  Thankfully she's not so hung up on her lack of social life that it prevents her from developing her own personality.  Shadowed by her older sister's beauty and popularity, embarrassed by her quirky parents, Hero takes on each new school and situation all on her own.  At least in this new home she found an interesting neighbor and a mystery to unravel.

Hero's pursuits match her with an unexpected partner in crime--one who ruins her reputation simply by the disbelief that Danny would associate with her.  Hero's desire to fit in, but remain true to herself, drives her actions as well as the plot.

There's not a whole lot of plot development, but the history mixed in and the growth in Hero's character make the story an engaging and satisfying read.  According to the author, the history in the book is almost all accurate (she does elucidate the details that are not).  This alone makes the book intriguing for me.  I'm not sure my students would understand the significance of the claims or the historical figures themselves, but as an adult I'm glad they're being exposed to these characters in some way.

It wasn't a book that I couldn't put down and since the plot was a bit weak I couldn't quite give it 4 stars.  Overall, it was a nice, clean, interesting read.

Rating: 3.75 stars

For the sensitive reader:  Nothing to be worried about.  Squeaky clean.

Sum it up:  Laced with history, combined with some life lessons makes this an enjoyable early YA read.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beauty Queens - Libba Bray

Summary:  The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of cameras.  But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program -- or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan -- or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up? Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. (Summary from book - Image from www.goodreads.com)

My Review:  This book was ranked eighth on the Indie Kid's Next List for Summer 2011, so what I'm about to say might shock you...

Eighty-six pages. That's all I could handle. I can't remember the last time I was so annoyed by a single book.  I wanted to stop reading by the third page. I wanted to poke my own eye out with a pencil by the sixth.  So, the fact that I made it to eighty-six without any serious bodily injury is a miracle.  Go ahead -- be impressed by my perseverance.

Basically, this book is an absurdly jumbled attempt at cleverness that, for me, fell far short of its mark.  I realize that the author was trying to be six kinds of slick with her flippancy.  Ordinarily, I’m all for the mockery of beauty pageants and  the stupidity of popular culture, but, in this instance, I was so annoyed by the vapid characters and senseless plot that I didn’t care to wait around for any insightful commentary, sexy pirates, or stunning messages that might have been waiting in the wings.  The odds of eye-poking were just too high. 

My Rating:  1 Star ( I didn't just hate what I read of this book -- I loathed it. )

For the sensitive reader: The first 86 pages contained some swearing, crass discussion of sexual matters, and I'm pretty sure one of the contestants is a guy...or was a guy at one point. 

Sum it up:  Ugh.  So annoying.  Eighty-six pages of my life I will never get back.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Geek Girl + GIVEAWAY - Cindy C. Bennett

Hey!  You.  Yeah, you.  We'll be giving this book away, so you might want to pay attention.

Summary:  "I think I could turn that boy bad?  My two best friends--my only two friends, really--follow my gaze and laugh.

"Trevor Hoffman?"  Beth scoffs.  "No way, Jen."

"I bet I could," I say, shrugging.

"Why him?"  Beth asks.  "Why not any of the other nerds sitting there with him?"

"Because," I say slowly, "he isn't your typical run-of-the-mill geek.  Trevor Hoffman is different.  He would be a little more difficult to take down--more of a challenge, you know?"

Jen's life of rebelling and sneaking out is growing stale.  In an effort to combat her boredom, Jen makes a bet to turn Trevor, a nice little geek, into a "bad boy."  She is immediately pulled into Trevor's world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even--ugh!--bowling.  Unexpectedly, Jen discovers that hanging out with Trevor isn't so bad after all.  But when Trevor finds out about the wager, all bets are off.  (Book given free for review.  Summary from back of the book and image from  publisher.)

My Review:  I don't think I've ever given a book that was given to me free for review 5 stars.  I'm breaking that record today.  I loved this book.  I couldn't put it down.  While having our regular Silent Friday Reading day with my students I kept finding myself so absorbed in the book that I forgot to remind the kids to clean up before the bell rang.  Yes, I was that absorbed--which really is saying something because even slight twitching of my students during Silent Friday distracts me...teachers have a hard time turning off their second set of eyes and ears.

Jen is painted so very realistically.  I felt like reading her story was like reading many of my students' stories, their journal entries in class.  Teaching at a school of poverty, with many foster care kids, I see this stuff all too often.  Her anger, her rejection of all things good, her pessimism, her hatred of people she cannot relate to, her lack of self-esteem, all spot on.  Even her desire to defile Trevor was authentic.

Bennett does a masterful job of peeling back the layers slowly, or reeling you in and helping you understand Jen and actually take her side.  She also does a masterful job of depicting a truly good person in Trevor.  I think it would actually be harder to depict a guileless person than it is to depict a person with serious flaws.  Yet, she pulls it off.  What makes it even better is that she still makes him human, gives him real failings, ones you could believe someone as good as he is truly has.

The love story should also be of note.  I'm not the gushy type of girl who loves to read romance, but this story took me in.  I enjoyed the playful banter, the clean relationship, and even the demolition of their relationship when the truth unfolds.  I found myself with tears slowly rolling down my cheeks and I wished for both characters that the pain wouldn't have to be--not many stories make me actually cry.  I'm telling you, I really liked this book.

I think my favorite aspect to the story is the message that your past doesn't define you, that change is possible, and that you should never judge a person based on an outward appearance especially during their teenage years.  I loved Jen's transformation and how Bennett made her so easy to relate to and like.  I've never been a Goth girl, I don't pretend to understand her upbringing from a personal perspective, but watching it for eight years now I do believe Bennett created a believeable story and one that I'd gladly have on my classroom shelves.

Do pick this up.  It's a great read.

For sensitive readers:  Nothing to offend here.  Jen's tragic past is disturbing, but without it you can't truly believe her anger and damage.

Rating:  5 Stars

Sum it up:  A spot on read depicting a broken girl learning to trust and love.

Visit the author's blog, her website, or read more reviews of Geek Girl on Cedar Fort's blog tour.

___________________________

WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK?

To enter: 
  • Simply comment with your contact information.  That's it.  Pretty easy, huh?
If you'd like an extra entry (leave a SEPARATE COMMENT):
  • Spread the word!  Post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social networking site.  That's it.  Also very easy.  The more you link -- and you can link daily -- the more entries you get.  Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each.  We are still pretty old school.
Best of luck! 

Eligibility & Rules:  This giveaway is open internationally and will end on November 30th at 11:59 PM.  If  the winner lives outside of North America, they will receive an e-copy of the book.  North American residents will receive a print copy (unless they would prefer an e-copy).  The winner will be chosen randomly, posted publicly, and contacted swiftly to arrange delivery.  Reading For Sanity reserves the right to invalidate entries that do not adhere to contest rules.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Farmers' Market Desserts - Jennie Schacht

Summary: This guide, full of gorgeous color photography, will walk you through your local farmers' market in search of the most delicious fruits, freshest dairy products, and seasonal, regional specialties. . . to  create the ultimate desserts. Don't know how to choose the best peach in the pile? Worried that strawberries aren't yet in season? Can't tell the difference between a pluot and a plum? Farmers' Market Desserts supplies the recipes, facts, and tips that will build your skills and knowledge at the market and in your kitchen.

A Plum Tarte Tartin captures the musky, juicy end of August like nothing else. Orange Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Orange Buttercream are the perfect, hand-held party sweet for your holiday fete. Put locally grown dried cherries to use in a batch of Cherry-Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Farmers' Market Desserts will thrill you with simple, fresh flavors, all the while guiding you to shop and eat sustainably. Summary from book jacket. Image from Chronicle.com.

My Review: I grabbed a copy of this book out of a clearance bin at Borders when it was taking its last breaths on earth. Talk about a total score. I don't typically gravitate toward dessert-only cookbooks, but the fact that it was focused on fresh fruit and had a variety of recipes for all seasons make me curious. After closer inspection I found dozens of tips on how to pick out the freshest produce as well as storage recommendations and FYI sections about little known products (like quark).

I tried out (and adored) the Ginger-Pear Skillet Cake and the Meyer Lemon-Goat Cheese Soufflé Cakes which I've posted on my recipe blog. (Just follow the links.) There are literally recipes for every season and like the summary says, it shows you how to shop and eat more seasonally. The author also incorporates a handful of vegetables and foods that aren't typically found in sweets into her desserts. Cornmeal Cake with Fresh Corn and Berries? Yes, please.

I appreciate that, although this is a dessert cookbook, the author has a light hand with the refined sugar and relies more on the sweetness from the fruit. This book is proof that you don't have to dive off the deep end of indulgence to enjoy dessert.

My Rating: 5 stars

Sum It Up: A fresh, delicious collection of dessert recipes for all seasons.

Chronicle Books is giving away two copies of this cookbook! Visit the review post for Farmers' Market Desserts on Perry's Plate for details! (Jumping through hoops not required.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe

Summary:  Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation.  But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse.  As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible.  The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it:  Deliverance Dane.  This discovery launches Connie on a quest -- to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge. 

As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past than she could have ever imagined.  (Summary from book - Image from findnsave.miamiherald.com )

My Review:  I’ve been sitting on this review for about a week (that means I finished the book but didn’t review it right away).  It seems I’m suffering from writer’s block, or at least the inability to express myself in any meaningful or articulate way.  So I’m not going to try (too hard, anyway).  Please forgive me and bear with me, because this could get dicey.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a historical fiction novel, set in Salem, Massachusetts, and brimming with intrigue, romance, magic, and historical detail.  In 1991, Connie Goodwin is a graduate student who is supposed to be working on her dissertation when she stumbles across a mysterious key in her late grandmother’s house.  The key reveals the name of an accused witch who was rumored to possess an ancient spell book.  Connie is convinced she has found the perfect focus of her dissertation and becomes obsessed with tracking down the book’s whereabouts.  Unfortunately, there are those who will stop at nothing to keep her from uncovering the truth.  With every chapter, this story slips back in time to the late 1600s, just before the Salem witch trials, and follows the lives of of a line of mysteriously gifted women and the book they hand down through the generations.     

I had the opportunity to amble around Salem, MA a few years ago while visiting a friend (okay, it is RFS reviewer, Emily…please don’t camp outside her house).  Her hometown is quiet, gorgeous, and positively overflowing with historical sites.  I learned a lot about the history of the area, ate clam chowder, stood on the North Bridge, dipped my toes in the Atlantic, and even visited a graveyard filled with accused witches.  While I don’t profess to be an expert on the Salem witch trials, I closed this book feeling like I had been there for everything.  The author brought her setting and characters to life through her talent for writing and what I can only assume was a great deal of research.  Many of her fictional characters were inspired by real people, associated with real historical figures, and involved in actual historical events.  Each page left me mesmerized by life in the 1600s, watching events unfold, or in 1991, with Connie, obsessively digging for the truth.    

My one complaint about this book, and the reason I can’t quite give it 5 stars, is that it was fairly predictable.  I saw a lot of the “twists” long before they happened.  However, this is a very good book despite its predictability.   The history of the area, the house, and the lives of the women who lived there were absolutely fascinating.  I loved reading along as Connie uncovered bits and pieces of the past, and it seemed that each journey back into the late 1600s revealed even more of the story.  As for the ending and the more romantic, dangerous, and magical elements of the book?  Well, I won’t spoil things for you, but I think as long as you can let go of the tiniest sliver of reality and embrace the unexplainable, you’ll enjoy it as well.  Overall, I think that most readers will be captivated by The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

My Rating:  4.25 Stars 

For the sensitive reader:  Might have been one or two uses of profanity, but they barely registered.  A disturbing description of a physical exam given to accused Salem witches, and some violence surrounding their executions.   

Sum it up:  A fascinating step back in time. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me - Lisa Papadermetriou

Summary:   Allie Kimball and her best friend, Tamara Thompson, have been looking forward to starting sixth grade all summer.  But sixth grade isn't turning out to be what Allie expected at all.  She discovers that middle school is a different world, requiring a whole new vocabulary.  The halls of middle school are full of strange new beasts, like glommers--girls who never go anywhere alone--and norks--a combination of a nerd and a dork.  Now Allie has to define herself before she gets lost in the jungle of sixth grade.  The question is, where does Allie fit in?  (Summary from back of the book and image from  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/)

My Review:  Middle school is painful, at least it is (or was) for most of us.    One of the most painful aspects of transitioning from elementary school to middle school is that at eleven years old you can't foresee the the changes that are coming, and not knowing is the worst part.  If you did have some sixth sense that awkward and sometimes lonely days are in your future, you still don't have the life experience to know the depth of your torment.  Allie's experience is no exception. 

What I liked about this story is not that it's an accurate portrayal of how tough going into middle school can be, but how it shows how to survive.  Allie stays involved.  She doesn't completely shut down and close herself off from the world.  She keeps moving, even though she feels so betrayed and alone, she doesn't wallow in her sorrow.  While this isn't the most literary book, it is a great narrative that I know my students could relate to.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sum it up:  A cute, middle school, growing up experience.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

Also reviewed by Heather.

Summary:  "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers.

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman.  (Summary from back of the book and image from
lifewithbooks.com)

My Review: This is the second time I've read Rebecca and I liked it better the first time.  As an adult I found the writing left something to be desired.  It was ok; I'm not saying it's poor writing, but it wasn't great.  In my eyes, it's no Jane Eyre--my favorite book; feel free to argue all you like, but you won't change my opinion.  As a thirteen year old reading this book, I remember being enthralled.  The suspense, the Gothic feel, the mystery, the twist, all added up to a great read.  I think it also makes a difference when reading it a second time that you already know the ending.  Anti-climactic to say the least.

I have been told by a couple people that if you read the first couple chapters after finishing the book it ends more satisfyingly, keeping with the sequence of events.  I don't know if that matters to me, but I mention it for those who might read this in the future.  I was also told that du Maurier was the Nora Roberts of her time, and this actually made me feel less judgmental of the book.  If you're churning out book after book, I can only imagine that the writing can become repetitive and at times lack creative thought.  The plot is fantastic, full of twists and turns, but the writing was not.  Repeatedly you'd see the phrase, "Yes," I said.  The characters dialogue left much to be desired at times.

I believe this is a book that every avid reader should read once.  The storyline itself is enough to recommend it.  It's clean, it's suspenseful, it's got a great twist and overall is spoken of enough that it's a good frame of reference for other novels.

Another note: the movie made by Alfred Hitchcock follows the book very closely (with only two differences in the ending, albeit significant changes).  I highly recommend watching the movie once you've read the book or if you know you'll never read it but want a condensed version.

Rating: 4 stars--for the plot and overall storyline.

Sum it up:  A more recent version of a gothic love story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Searching RFS

Hey RFSers,

I wanted you to know that I've scrapped the "Search By" option on the sidebar.  Now you can search our review archives by Title, Author, and Rating by using the tabs up top.    You'll still find the option to search by genre (or category) located in the right sidebar.  I hope this works for you, because it will make my life a heck of a lot easier.  And really, isn't that what it's all about?!

Happy Reading,
Mindy

Monday, November 7, 2011

Froggy Boots Go With Everything - Jill Zabkar Martin

Summary:  In Froggy Boots Go With Everything, Martin turns a boy’s favorite fashion accessory into the prop that fuels his imagination as he wears his froggy boots for one adventure after another. Encouraging imaginative play as it blurs the boundaries between fashion and fun, this sturdy little board book is a delightful read for everyone.  (Summary from publishing company - Image from www.froggyboots.com  - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review: When my daughter Sophie was two years old, we found the most adorable frog costume for her for Halloween.  She loved it and took to calling it Frog. Original, I know, but she was two so we let it slide.  At bedtime, she would ask for Frog and her devotion to it was so adamant that it functioned as her sleeper for the next year until she grew out of it (and the zipper broke).  If you have kids, then you probably have a similar story about that one item, be it blankie, lovey, or froggy boots, that your kid simply could not live without.

Froggy Boots Go With Everything has eighteen pages of colorful illustrations(by Kirsten G. Van Mourick), sixteen ideas for froggy-booted fun, and a picture list of extra things to look for in the back.  Each page showcases a location, activity, or imaginary adventure that a young boy has in his beloved green froggy boots.  He searches for pirate’s treasure, plays at a friends house, visits the zoo, explores the moon, takes a bath, plays cowboy, and much more.   Young children will love the pictures and especially enjoy searching for the small green frog hidden on each page.

My favorite moment with this book was finding my toddler sitting quietly on the couch studying each picture before bringing it to me to read aloud.   As a board book, it was easy for her little fingers to turn the pages and it withstood the standard toddler-inflicted abuse that most books (left within reach) receive in our home.  Overall, I’m quite pleased to add it to my childrens' book collection.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Sum it up:  Froggy-booted fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Season - Sarah MacLean

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford doesn't fit into the world of Regency Longdon -- she's strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and she absolutely loathes dress fittings.  Unfortunately, her mother has been waiting years for Alex to be old enough to take part in the social whirlwind of a London season so she can be married off to someone safe, respectable, wealthy, and almost certainly boring.  But Alex is far more fascinated by adventure than romance.

Somehow between ball gown fittings, dances, and dinner parties, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get entangled in her biggest scrape yet.  It's a mystery brimming with espionage, murder, suspicion, and love.  Romance and danger fill the air in this juicy paperback, as this year's season begins!  (Summary from book - Image from www.scholastic.com)

My Review:  I really needed this book.  I have been dealing with a lot lately and it was only a matter of time before I ended up uber-stressed, and desperate for some light, romantic reading.  I know you what you’re thinking.  You’re looking at the cover (or at least, now you are) thinking, “Wow, this book looks incredibly shallow.” And you are right.  It was shallow.  It was also utterly predictable, mindless, and I loved every minute of it.  It was like ice cream for my brain.  Rocky Road.  Or, perhaps, Midnight Truffle…in a waffle cone.  Nom nom nom!

Alexandra Stafford has been thrown headlong into London society by her marriage-minded mother and she’ s not the least bit pleased.  She and her two friends, Ella and Vivian, would rather die from spinsterhood than marry a man for his wealth or title, and they are determined to make it through the London season without garnering a single proposal from the boring, stuff-shirted dandies that prance around London.   Together the unconventional trio takes the season by storm, until their curiosity gets the better of them and they end up embroiled in espionage and murder.     
There are a kabajazillion romance novels out there that will let you escape reality and indulge in a little starry-eyed fantasy, but very few of them manage to do so without exposing an incredible amount of skin.  The Season sizzles quite nicely without crossing any lines.  It’s not Pride & Prejudice clean – and thank heavens for that – because I think we can all agree it would have been nice if Darcy and Elizabeth had enjoyed a least had one good clandestine make-out session.  Much like Elizabeth, love sneaks up on Alexandra.  Lord Blackmoor stole my heart the second he called her governess a “cabbage head” and I enjoyed their flirtatious banter and heated arguments.

Believe me, there’s plenty to criticize if you want to start comparing this book to award-winning literary fiction, but I decided to check my brain at the door (the one eating the all that delicious ice cream) and had a really good time.  If you like clean romance novels and have the ability to relax and read without obsessing over plot predictability,  character depth, etc., then you’ll probably welcome this thoroughly entertaining escapist YA romance.
Side(sad)note:  As far as I can tell, The Season is MacLean’s only YA romance novel.  She has no plans to write a sequel, though there is definitely room for expansion into a series, and her adult novels seem to be a bit more risque in nature (if the half-clad women on the covers are any indication).   
My Rating:  4.25 Stars.  (I really want to give this book 5 stars, because I really did enjoy reading it, but in a literary sense, I just can’t do it.)

For the sensitive reader:  I can’t think of anything objectionable except the fact that Alex occasionally referred to her romantic interest as her “savior,” when I really think “rescuer” would have worked just as well.  Personally, that word has a more spiritual meaning for me, so it was a little distracting when used in the romantic context.

Sum it up:  Ice cream for my brain!  Nom nom nom!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Opportunity

It's about time I reviewed something around here, don't you think? 
Me, too.  And I will.  I promise. 

But today I'd like to direct you over to RFS reviewer Natalie's other blog Perry's Plate
She's doing something pretty awesome, and I think you should take a look

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: Love it or Loathe it GIVEAWAY WINNER

Congratulations to

(We'll be contacting you swiftly to get your Love it or Loathe it list and arrange shipping.)

Didn't win?  Keep reading!!
We have a little something for you anyway.  We're cool like that.

Visit www.cafepress.com and fill your cart with goodies. 
If you enter the coupon code TWI15 at checkout, you'll receive 15% off all purchases over $40!  (Shhh... even stuff that isn't Twilight or Anti-Twilight related!) 
Be sure to pick up an awesome book bag or any one of their amazing customizable gifts. 
Christmas is coming, you know!

In case you need them, here are the links for theTwilight Saga LOVERS and the LOATHERS.

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