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Review: Longbourn

LongbournTitle: Longbourn

Author: Jo Baker

Publisher: Knopf

Release: 2013

Summary: Running concurrent with Pride and PrejudiceLongbourn takes a bit of a different look at the Bennet family.  While Jane and Lizzy and the other Bennets make appearances, the primary focus on the book is below stairs, on the lives of the servants. Following Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, and Polly as well as the new footman James Smith, Baker tells the story that was happening in the kitchen as the events of Pride and Prejudice occur above stairs.

Review: Although it took me a bit to really get into this book, in the end, I really enjoyed it.  I love a good Pride and Prejudice spin-off, so this was right up my alley, and since I’ve read a fair number of these books, I was surprised to find one that is so creative and different from other books. I especially enjoyed the story of Sarah who, through the book, grew up and discovered what the world is made of and found the strength to deal with it all. While Baker’s portrayal of some characters in the book fit perfectly with Austen’s, others left a bit to be desired, and for much of the book, I found myself missing the connection to those characters.  Overall, a good book, but not the best spin-off I’ve read.

Rating: 3 stars


Review: Fire & Flood


fire and floodTitle: Fire & Flood

Author: Victoria Scott

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 305

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Summary: Tella’s parents have moved the family to Montana hoping the fresh air will help Cody, Tella’s brother who has a mysterious disease that the doctors can’t cure.  She’s bored and misses her friends and the modern conveniences of her life in Boston, but one night, that changes when Tella is invited to compete in the Brimstone Bleed, a race where one winner will get the cure for one person.  Fire & Flood follows Tella and her chosen Pandora (an animal who helps protect and give assistance) through the first two stages of the race: jungle and desert.  Tella makes friends and enemies and finds a strength in herself that she never dreamed she had.

Review: I liked this book a lot.  It reminded me of a few other YA dystopian novels I’ve read, but I also found it original in the way it was put together, and I loved the characters, especially Tella’s Pandora, Madox.  Yes, I loved the little fox, and I want one. I also really enjoyed the way the story was put together.  The author definitely keeps you guessing, and even at the end of this book, I have so many questions about the race and the stages, and the people involved.  I can’t wait to read the next book; I just can’t believe I’m going to have to wait more than a year for it!

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

This is a book I’d heard a bit about as I’d had some kids read this for their biography book report, but I have to admit, I ended up getting it mostly by chance as I was looking for something to listen to and this was available.  Now, I’m pretty sure it’ll go down as one of my favorites of the year.

The book chronicles the life of Louis Zamperini–from his precocious childhood, to his astounding running career, to his harrowing months on a raft in the ocean, to his heartbreaking time as a POW, to his touching story of healing. While the story itself is captivating, the way Hillenbrand weaves pieces together and describes the events really does bring the story alive and make it one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read.  Often, I get so wrapped up in my own world and problems that I forget how good I have it; hearing the stories here remind me of the many blessings in my life.

Rating: 5 stars

What I’m Reading 4

The next month marks the qualifying season for speech and debate which means craziness in my world.  However, since I turn 40 this year, I’ve decided to celebrate each month as I work up to that really big number that still REALLY doesn’t seem real. So, I’ve been working like mad, and it’s been a crazy night, but tonight I enjoyed some take-out, some Big Bang, some Merlin, and am burning some CDs for a new book to listen to starting tomorrow.  It may not seem like much, but after my last couple of weeks, it’s heavenly.  So, as long as I’m avoiding work guilt-free, I thought I’d also catch-up a bit on here, especially since I ended up finishing two books yesterday, so an update:

What I just finished: Daughter of Smoke and Bone–as I started this, I wasn’t sure, but in the end, I like it.  I liked the characters, the meshing of various elements that I haven’t seen work together before, the classic underpinings (some strong connections to Romeo and Juliet).   Definitely will be checking out the next book.

What I just finished: The Red Pyramid–Based around Egyptian mythology, this is pretty standard for Riordan.  I like his stuff, and I liked this, not as much as his Greek stuff, but I liked it.  I’m reading it with one of my tutoring kids, and we had some great discussion about character growth and theme which was really good.  I’ll be starting The Throne of Fire tomorrow.

What I’m reading: The Hobbit–also reading with one of my tutoring kids.  I haven’t read it for years, so I’m glad to be re-reading it before the movies.  Love Tolkien!

What I’m reading: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children–I’ll definitely give it interesting, but I’m having a hard time reading it at night as it is a little creepy.  We’ll see as I go how it ends up.

What I’m reading: The Brothers Karamazov–This has been on my reading list for many years; one of my tutoring kids decided this was the next book we should read.  It’s a little tough to get into, and it’s very dense, but I’m liking it, especially now that we are getting into it and the characters.

What I’m reading: One Thousand Gifts–my mom discovered this book a few months ago and has been handing out copies like crazy, so she, of course, gave one to her bookish daughter.  I started it a bit ago–it’s very poetic and pretty heavy, so I’ve a feeling it will take some time to work through, but what she has to say is good and good for me to hear.

What I’m reading: The Awakening–I started this with a tutoring kid and then forgot to finish it, so I’m hoping to get back to it to finish it soon.

I’m feeling like I need to finish some of these as I’ve got a little much going on right now, but at least they are all good! :-)  Happy Reading!

What I’m Reading 3

As I predicted, I’m surviving, but not with much grace.  Tutoring has taken over my life, but I love all my kids, so it’s good–as long as I can stay awake. :-)

What I’m listening to:  The Knife of Never Letting Go – I heard about this book from a friend of mine last year.  While I wasn’t sure about it at first, I’m really enjoying it.  It’s sort of dystopian, but it’s about the settlers on a new world. The most exciting part is that I haven’t figured it out yet.  :-)

What I’m reading: One of Our Thursdays is Missing – This is the newest installment in the Thursday Next series.  I’m still not very far in as I took a break and read another book, but it’s a really fun read so far complete with the usual shenanigans by various famous literary characters.

What I finished: Dead Reckoning – Not my favorite Sookie novel, but still good.  I found it as exciting as the others with a good mix of her life and troubles, but I felt like the end was a bit unresolved.  We shall see what she does with it in the next book, I guess.

What I finished: The Mountain Between Us – A few years ago, I discovered Charles Martin.  I LOVE this author!  He’s such a fantastic storyteller.  The way he weaves stories is beautiful and heart wrenching and moving and hopeful all at the same time, and this story was no different.  I found this book to be a bit different from his others in that I didn’t see the twist coming AT ALL.  As I thought back over the story, I should have, but I didn’t.  I laughed; I cried; I threw the book across the room when I finished it.  It was GREAT!  If you haven’t read his stuff–DO IT!

What I’m Reading….

School just started, and things are NUTS, but I think I’m starting to get back into the swing of a schedule complete with three new kids to tutor. :-)  I’ll survive this year, but it might not be with much grace. :-)

What I’m listening to:  Dead Reckoning – I love Sookie Stackhouse.  This is the newest installment, and so far, I’m enjoying the new angles of her mysterious life.  I am a bit surprised that Bill doesn’t show up for at least the first 1/3 of the book.

What I’m reading: One of Our Thursdays is Missing – This is the newest installment in the Thursday Next series.  I’m not very far in, but it’s a really fun read so far complete with the usual shenanigans by various famous literary characters.

What I finished: Tempted – Another House of Night novel.  These are okay–mindless to listen to.  I actually liked this one more than the last couple in the series, so maybe it’s getting better.

What I finished: First They Killed my Father – Wow. Just. Wow.  I’ve traveled to many countries with tragic histories.  However, I’m still so surprised by what people have done to whole countries.  It is SO not okay. :-(

What I finished: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment – I ended up liking this more than I thought I would.  I’m still not a huge fan of his teen “slang,” but by the end, I was engaged and might even read the next in the series.

What I finished:  Jericho: Season 3, Civil War – A friend of mine got me into the TV series this summer and then told me about the book.  While not as good as another season, it was a good little Jericho fix.

What I finished: Fallen – This is a series new to me.  It was okay, and I’ll probably read the next, but I was disappointed with some of the gaps throughout the story.

What I’m Reading….

So, maybe not weekly, but better than I’ve been doing, and as Elizabeth said, no guilt. :-)

What I’m listening to: Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper–This is kind of a modern retelling of, you guessed it, Romeo and Juliet. It’s okay.  It modernizes it in an interesting way complete with gangs and racial issues. It’s okay.

What I’m reading: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare–I fell in love with this series a few years ago and was so excited when I heard Clare was expanding the trilogy with three more books. Not too far into it yet, but liking it so far.

What I’m reading: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson–I’m reading this with one of the girls I tutor.  I’m enjoying the story and am intrigued with the unique elements of the fantasy. However, I’m a little surprised at the writing which isn’t as great as I thought it would be as Patterson is such a well known and loved author.

What I’m reading: First they Killed my Father by Loung Ung–I’m also reading this with one of my tutor kids.  Wow!  I often find myself moved by the story, and the further into the story I get, the more endearing I find the 6 year old girl who lived through so much.

What I finished: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver–Yep, read it.  It’s good.  I’m still working through much of it as that’s the kind of book it is, but it’s beautifully written and has so much to make you think.

What I finished: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah–Very good.  Sometimes, I just can’t believe the evil and sadness in this world.

What I finished: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman–I love Gaiman.  Creative, original, well written, unique.

What I finished:  Flight Volume 6–Years ago, one of my students brought in Volume 2 for me to read.  While I spent a bit of time looking at a couple of the stories, I didn’t read it all.  I liked it as it isn’t my usual reading fare, and as is typical for most anthologies, I liked some stories more than others.

Something New

So, I’ve been meaning to be better about posting reviews, but alas, it doesn’t ever seem to happen, so I’m going to try something different.  I like the idea of Sunday Salon, but am going to adapt it a bit.  Once a week, I’m going to try to post what I’m listening to, what I’m reading, and what I’ve finished.  So, here it goes–

What I’m listening to: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman–I love Gaiman.  He’s got great voice and style and imagination, and this book is no different.  I’m about half done, and I’m enjoying the characters and the trouble they get into.

What I gave up on: Kiss by Ted Dekker–It may have been the audio, but I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t ever sympathize with the main character, and it was downhill from there.

What I’m reading: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah–I’m reading this with one of my tutor students.  It makes me really sad to read all that these child soldiers lived through, and I think the contrast makes the beautiful writing even more spectacular.

What I’m reading: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver–I’m liking this.  It’s beautifully written and has much interesting wisdom and is especially interesting with my religious background.

What I finished: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind–I found the TV series based on this book last summer and loved it, so I knew I wanted to read the book.  Then, one of my students started reading the series this spring and gave me the first book at the end of the year.  I LOVED it!  It’s different from the TV show, but so good!  I’m excited to read the next one!

This is It!

Okay, I swear. This is it. no more, but this isn’t really tied to specific books; it’s simply a challenge to Outdo Yourself. The idea is to read more books than you read last year. It looks like I’ll finish somewhere between 71-72 which is definitely more than I read in 2009, so I’m going to try to read 1-5 more books next year putting me somewhere between 73-78. Maybe I’ll even try for an even 80; we’ll see how the year goes.