We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy (11-13)

I started The Hunger Games last Monday, and really didn't spend much time with the actual book in my hand.  The Audible version, narrated by Carolyn McCormick instead made my hour-plus commute much more enjoyable than usual.

I don't plan to go into too much detail where plot points are concerned, as Chassi has already hit the main points in her posts on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and I want to save the meat of the Mockingjay review for her since she's the reason I read this series in the first place.

I will echo her sentiment that the world Collins builds in the trilogy is very reminiscent of the world of Lois Lowry's The Giver, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The way Collins plays on the (dis)connectedness of those in the districts and the power and control of those in the Capitol makes for a heart-felt and finely crafted world.  My only complaint in this area is the lack of a map, but that just may be the fantasy novel lover inside of me. 

The story itself is extremely compelling, playing on both the action and the emotional aspects and motivations of the characters.  In places, it brings in quite a bit of social commentary, which is always a plus in my opinion.  My complaint here is the tired trope of so many YA books with female heroines--the woe-is-me, Team Peeta-Team Gale love triangle.  A little less focus on that and a little more focus on the social aspects would have served the story well.

As far as the end of the trilogy, parts of it seemed a bit rushed.  At first, I was disappointed in the final chapter of Mockingjay, but the epilogue saved it for me.  In fact, the more I reflect on the book, the more I understand why Collins had to end it the way she did.

Overall, this was a great trilogy, especially for young adults, but with plenty to offer for older readers as well.

4.5/5 Stars


Friday, September 24, 2010

Book #25 -- The King's Nun

As a historian of sorts (a degree in history and social science education counts as being a historian, right?), I was drawn to this book because of its historical theme… Oh, yeah, and also because it was in the big box of $1 books at Books-A-Million. Admittedly, I knew as soon as I read the description on the back that it very well could have been a cheesy, terrible romance-esque novel, but I’m proud to say that it wasn’t. My $1 and I are pleased.

Catherine Monroe's The King's Nun is about a young soon-to-be nun named Amelia who is chosen by her abbess to lead King Charlemagne on a tour of their monetary when he comes to visit. The monetary is in need of some financial aide, and Amelia’s job is to convince the king to give them some dough. When King Charlemagne arrives, Amelia realizes that she’s met him before, only she didn‘t know he was the king back then. Juicy, right?

King Charlemagne is impressed with Amelia’s intelligence, and soon he sends for her to come to the palace to advise him on some family issues. She’s not too thrilled about it, but she and the king become very close over the course of her stay at the palace. Not close like that, you gutter-minded animals, but, you know, emotionally close. Sort of. But eventually the king has to go to war with those dirty Saxons, and Amelia goes on with her life. I’d say the vast majority of the novel doesn’t even taken place with Amelia and Charlemagne in the same place.

Anyway, this easily could’ve taken a turn for the trashy side, but it really didn’t. There are no gratuitous sexual scenes, no mention of “loins,” and no trite happily-ever-after ending. I like that. Because of the subject matter, it kind of reminded me of The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which is hands-down my favorite book ever. Monasteries and royals and history and all that.

I feel like I should mention one tiny thing that bothered me, even though I know I’m a total snob and this wouldn’t bother most normal people. The chapters go back and forth between Amelia’s point of view and Charlemagne’s point of view, which is totally fine. The problem is that Amelia’s chapters are written in the first person and Charlemagne’s are written in the third person limited. Why does that bother me? I don’t have a clue, but it did. I’m cool with bouncing to different view points (in fact, I think most of my favorite books do that), but aaarrgghhh, keep it in the same person.

All in all, it was a quick, entertaining little story, and I think it was well worth my time. I dare say it might have even been worth more than I paid for it.

3 out of 5 stars

Read from September 14, 2010 to September 22, 2010


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book #24: Far from Xanadu

When I read Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters in June, I said I'd be adding her to my list of authors to look for in the bookstore. Luckily, I happened upon another of her books shortly afterward. As I mentioned in my last review, Peters generally writes about LGBT issues, sooo... not for everyone, I suppose, but I think she's brilliant.

In Far From Xanadu, the narrator, Mike is a buff teenage softball player in a small farm town who falls madly in love with Xanadu, the new girl at school who has a checkered past. Xanadu and Mike become best friends instantly, and Mike holds on to the hope that one day, they'll be more than friends. The problem, of course, is that Mike (whose full name is Mary-Elizabeth) is a girl. And Xanadu is straight.

What could have been a trite, predictable teenage story about forbidden/unrequited love or whatever (*cough*TWILIGHT*cough*) is actually a powerful novel about finding and loving yourself. Mike's got a lot more going on in her life than just the situation with Xanadu, especially within her own family. Her father recently committed suicide, her mentally unstable and morbidly obese mother hasn't spoken to Mike since the suicide, and her older brother has failed miserably at running the household and business in their father's place. Everything around her is in shambles, but she's struggling to find a way to pick herself up by the bootstraps and do something with her life. She thinks her ticket to happiness might be Xanadu. What she needs to figure out is how to be her own ticket to happiness.

I'm telling you, Julie Anne Peters is a master when it comes to writing emotions. I said the same thing when I reviewed her last book. You feel everything her characters feel -- it's incredible. It's a great read for anyone, I think, because I'm pretty sure everyone can look back at their teenage years and relate to Mike's situation. Maybe not as extreme, but, you know, teenagers are dramatic no matter how extreme or not-so-extreme the situation may be. What I really like about Peters' books is that I can absolutely see how integral and maybe even life-changing they could be to a teenager who is struggling with being "different," whether it's sexuality or something else. Any author that can use his/her gift to help other people is A+ in my book, and I think Peters is a master at that.

5 out of 5 stars

Read from September 5, 2010 to September 13, 2010


Book #23: In the Weather of the Heart

So, I finished this book a week ago, but I've been putting off reviewing it. I'm not really sure what to say about it.

In the Weather of the Heart is Valerie Monroe's memoir about struggling through her husband Keith's addiction to cocaine and prescription medication. His addiction is spurred by the bizarre suicide of his identical twin brother, who was also a severe addict. Monroe writes about getting through her Keith's rehab, his lack of parenting to their young son, and their crumbling marriage.

As you may know, I'm a sucker for a book (especially a memoir) about addiction or abuse or murder or suicide. My heart is black and made of stone like that. I figured this book was right up my alley, but I was kind of left feeling empty. I have enormous respect for Monroe and her husband for getting through such a difficult time, and it was inspiring to a certain degree, but I didn't have that feeling of triumph and love-will-conquer-all or whatever when I finished this. It was actually really depressing. I know what you're thinking: of course it was depressing -- the guy's twin brother killed himself and then he became addicted to drugs. I get that, but I think it was Valerie and Keith's relationship that depressed me. It didn't sound to me much like they actually loved each other before any of this happened. I guess I kind of felt like they didn't have a marriage worth much in the first place, so why fight so hard to keep it? I don't know. You see why I put off this review? My thoughts don't even make sense.

Even though it was what bothered me about the book, Valerie and Keith's relationship (or lack thereof) is actually the heart of the book. I think the point may have been that Keith's addiction eventually made their marriage better. Hm.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book, and it's beautifully written. I'm by no means passing judgment on either one of them as individuals, since I have literally no business judging the actions of attitudes of people in this kind of situation since I've (thankfully) never been there. I think they're both brave and wonderful people in their own ways, but I just didn't get much from the book.

3 out of 5 stars

Read from August 29, 2010 to September 5, 2010