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!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book #27 -- Mockingjay

Derrick has already given you his thoughts on Suzanne Collins' final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. Now it's my turn. I waited over 24 hours to gather my thoughts on this, and I'm still not sure I'm ready to review it. I'm going to try anyway. I'm going to try not to be too specific in case anyone reading this hasn't read the first two (and if you haven't, you should be ashamed), but there may be some spoilers.You've been warned

In Mockingjay, Katniss finds herself in the center of a revolution. The rebels are using her as the "face" of their cause, and the Capitol (the old regime in Panem) is determined to get rid of her. She's adjusting to a new way of life now that she's living outside of Panem's law, and she's also dealing with the fact that she feels personally guilty for so many deaths. Then there's the whole Peeta/Gale thing, and the fact that a lot of her former "team" members are being held and tortured by the Capitol. You know, basically the same thing every seventeen year old deals with. No big deal.

Despite the fact that there's a lot of stuff going on in this book, it's somehow still pretty slow. I read both of the first books in a couple of days each, in that "couldn't-put-it-down" fashion. This one took me... oh... almost a month. The pacing just seemed a little off. It seemed like the first 3/4ths dragged and the last 1/4th was rushed. Or that there just wasn't so much of an ending at all? I don't know, I'm so conflicted about this.

I wouldn't say that I'm disappointed, it's just that it feels a little empty. But I think it's supposed to. It is empty. There's no sense of hope and triumph and "yaaaay, it all worked out!" Strange for any book these days, but especially a young adult book. I was sad when I finished it, for sure. Much like Derrick said, I think the more I think about it, the more I understand why things happened the way they did, but man... I got so invested in all of these people that I wanted a little better for them.

Obviously, I still recommend the entire series, and for God's sake, if you've read the other two, don't skip the last one. But don't expect an epic feel-good ending, 'cause it ain't there.

Here's what I found the most interesting, though. At the end of the book, in Collins' acknowledgments, you will find this:

"... Jason Dravis, my longtime entertainment agent, I feel so lucky to have you watching over me as we head for the screen."

Well. That's intriguing.

3.5/5 stars

Read from October 5, 2010 to October 25, 2010.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Drawing a Blank: Or How I Tried to Solve a Mystery, End a Feud, and Land the Girl of My Dreams (16)

I picked up Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft for next to nothing on the clearance shelf at BAM! one day last summer, and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since.  For some reason, when I was looking for my next read, I picked it up, and I'm glad I did.

The book centers around Carlton Dunne IV, a loner who is more at home in his published comic strip than in his own life.  His mother has died, his step-mother has left, and his father has shipped him off to a boarding school, where he suffers the tortures of adolescence.  Soon, however, he is drawn into a world shadowed in his comics where he learns things about his father, his family, and himself along the way.

With it's 17-year-old protagonist, you would think that the target audience would be high school students, but I found that it would probably fit better into a middle school classroom.  I could see myself teaching this to 7th or 8th grade students (or possibly 9th), but nothing much higher than that.  The chapters are short, which makes for a really quick read, and the comic panels sprinkled throughout add an element of creativity and depth.

Overall, I'm really glad I picked up this book.  I may even try to work it into a lesson some day.

4/5 Stars


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fluke by Christopher Moore (15)

Yeah, I went with another Christopher Moore book. I loved Fool so much, I pretty much had to.

Fluke was quite a bit different than Fool or Lamb, though. The satire in this book is much more subtle, but definitely there. This book actually reminded me a lot of some of Kurt Vonnegut's books, with a humanist slant and a dash of sci-fi.

The writing quality was excellent, and the story was well crafted, if a bit like a roller coaster. The beginning of the book is a bit of an uphill climb, as it takes a while to get going. Once it does, though, it's a fast-paced, up-and-down ride with plenty of twists and turns and a nice coast into the end.

Fool is still my favorite Christopher Moore book, but Fluke was a good read.

4/5 Stars

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fool by Christopher Moore (14)

This was almost my second review of a book by Christopher Moore.  His book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff was the last book I read before we started the blog, and I loved it.  However, it wasn't until I read Fool that Moore cemented a place in my top five authors, putting him up there with my other two favorite satirists, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Mark Twain.

Fool is Moore's take on a classic Shakespearean tale with the punchy satire of Vonnegut and the riotous British comedy of Eddie Izzard.  It follow Pocket, King Lear's court fool across five acts set in the early 13th century.  The key to its humor (humour?), though, is the blend of medieval society and Shakespearean language with modern memes and cheeky British wit.  I found myself laughing hysterically on several occasions (be sure to read the footnotes!).

Like the last few books I've read, I read this on in a mix of traditional and audio, but both were great.  The audio version was great because, as an American, British slang is funnier when I hear it spoken.  However, the audio version did not include the footnotes, and I often found myself reviewing chapters I had already heard just to read them.

All in all, Fool is one of the funniest book's I've ever read, and Christopher Moore is one of my favorite contemporary authors.  I cannot suggest this book enough.

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book #26 -- Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery

A historical fiction Kindle freebie! Yes! This book is the first of a series, and undoubtedly this is offered for free on the Kindle so that you feel compelled to buy all of the other ones after you read it.

In Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery by James R. Benn, Boston cop Billy Boyle finds himself drafted into the army in the middle of World War II. His uncle is some dude named Dwight Eisenhower (heard of him? I haven't), so he manages to land a desk job instead of being sent to the front lines of battle. He goes to London and is stationed at the Norwegian headquarters there. He quickly learns that there is a German spy somewhere within the Norwegian headquarters. Soon enough, there's a murder to solve. Even though he's naive and unprepared, Billy has to put his police training to work to help the U.S. Army in the middle of World War II.

I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure everyone would. Toward the beginning, there's a lot of political/military talk that I can take with the bat of an eye after five years of history courses, but it might be a bit confusing to someone who's not interested in history. Some of the background information kind of seemed like they were written like a textbook instead of a story.

Billy isn't the strongest of characters to carry an entire series, if you ask me. He's rather "aw, shucks" and "dang, this crap is hard," which I guess is supposed to make him relatable and endearing, but I have no patience for... um, anything, so he kind of just got on my nerves. There's enough going on that it didn't ruin the book for me at all, but unless he toughens up a little, I'm not sure I could handle him as the protagonist for a whole series.

This is one of those rare books where the sub-plots were more interesting to me than the main plot. The whole spy-murder-conspiracy business was intriguing until they started figuring it out, and then I was just like, "... OK." For a book set in the middle of a war with so many opportunities to include some crazy, twisted, mind-blowing vigilante stuff, I felt like the route Benn took with the plot was lacking. Especially the ending.

If I stumble across these books in the future, I may pick them up... And who knows, I may get a wild hair for some World War II fiction one day and actively seek out another book in this series. For now, I'm going to say this was a decent piece of historical fiction and move on to the much-anticipated Mockingjay.

2.5/5 Stars

Read from September 23, 2010 to October 4, 2010

-- C