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Book: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling (yes, that one)
Recommend: The writing was great, the plot however… not so much.
I’ve been dying to read this simply because I had to know what an adult by her would be like. If you’ve followed my blog for any time at all you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I put this book on request at the library though because I didn’t want to put money into something that was just awful. I was slightly concerned that this book would just not have the magic (pun only somewhat intended) of the YA series.
Within the first five pages you knew we weren’t in a magical England anymore. These characters were as mundane (dare I say muggle) as they come. The whole book centers around the death of the head of their town council which creates a shift in the balance of power in their small town. Everyone is dying to get their foot in the door but soon the long-buried secrets of those running for office are being exposed for the whole town to see and it puts the whole town in an uproar.
Let me start with the positives. I wasn’t sure she would be able to write believable, honest characters that were fleshed out enough for adult readers. I was so very wrong. The characters, major and minor flaws proudly on display are complex and have quite a bit of depth. Rowling is the master of character creation and that was the only thing that kept me going.
The plot however, was just disappointing. First of all, this is small town England politics. My immediate thought was who cares and continued along those lines for the entirety of the work. Second, there is nothing truly exciting in the plot. Most of it is just dull and sad. Honestly it was a bit too real for me. If I wanted to hear about people with horrible home lives I would just go to work. Seriously, as a teacher this is a whole lot of what I hear all the time. I found the whole thing petty and just not deserving material to write a book about.
Now, the truly sad. Honestly there is quite a bit of language and some adult material in this book. It is mild in comparison to some things I’ve read but honestly it is almost completely unnecessary. We know you aren’t writing for kids here. You don’t need swearing, sex and drug use to convince us.
All in all, the characters were well-formed but I wished they had been doing almost anything else. Really glad I didn’t purchase this one. I hope her next book is for kids or at least about something more interesting.
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Book: Hocus Pocus Hotel
Author: Michael Dahl
Recommend: This is a cute series for readers ages 9-11 set in a hotel built by a magician.
The school’s bully asks one of the nerdy kids who has a photographic memory to meet him at the Hocus Pocus Hotel. Charlie thinks Ty asked him to meet there so he could beet him up but he had a very different plan. Charlies was the only one who could solve the mysterious disappearance of one of the hotel’s guests that had gone missing.
This is not the type of magic that can cause controversy, I’m happy to say. This book is all about illusionists and even reveals some of the tricks in the books with diagrams. Even I found myself studying the diagrams closely to figure out how they did what was described.
This was a great book for young readers aimed at boys. It is nice to see more books being written for boys in this age group. I think male readers tend to get ignored somewhat, especially child/teen readers. YA fiction is the worst example of this. There are so many more YA books aimed at girls than their are for boys. No wonder boys don’t want to read.
The first book of the series, I definitely see the potential for this series to pick up quickly and develop into a long series. Worth giving to your kids.
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Book: The Pleasures of Men
Author: Kate Williams
Recommend: Most of it was a good read but…
I actually somehow received two copies of this book as an ARC directly from the publisher. I was not sure I would enjoy it, so I had been putting it off. The title alone made me wary and finally, I decided that I needed to tackle it before it was released.
This book tells the story of a young woman, stuck within the confines of Victorian England who is somehow drawn to the violent murders occurring in London, near her home. As the body count rises, she gets closer to the truth but can’t she figure it out before she becomes the killer’s next victim?
Most of this book was an enjoyable fast-paced read with a complex, flawed main character that is extremely compelling. However, the amount of sexual content in this book made it very hard to enjoy. This author, in particular used this crude device to keep the story moving and to pad the length. It did nothing for the story but create a sense of shock and annoyance, particularly since it such an obvious tool to keep the reader plowing through the book. The book would have been much better without it.
While it was an interesting read, the center section was just too unbearable to make this something I would recommend to anyone.
Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Recommend: If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters and like a good mystery.
Have you ever had a book that you were just plain curious about? I’ve heard about this one. Had it in my hands more than once and never got around to picking it up and reading it. I wished I had found this one sooner.
This book tells the story of a young woman who has her first job out of school, working as a companion to a wealthy older woman. She meets a man of society and falls in love with him but she is sure that he does not return her feelings. As she is ready to leave for New York, she meets him to say goodbye and he proposes to her. She accepts his proposal but as soon as the honeymoon is over she finds herself in the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca.
I don’t want to ruin the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but it has one of the best plot twists I have ever read! I can see how many have tried to imitate this writer in one way or another in modern material and none of it quite does this justice. Definitely worth the time and something I have a feeling I’ll be downloading onto my nook soon.
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Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Author: Lemony Snicket
Recommend: Definitely worth the read!
I was looking through my bookshelves today and realized that in all the time I’ve had my blog, I have yet to talk about this series of books!
I have read these books now a couple of times and each time I read them I am reminded how funny they are in a dark and slightly twisted way. Yes, the story is about three orphans trying to make their way in the world without their family with villains seemingly around every corner but somehow they manage to maintain a tongue-in-cheek amusement factor that get me laughing every time. Whether it is the quirky grammar obsessed Aunt Josephine, the horrible Count Olaf, or the fashion frenzied distant relatives, the adults in these books are completely over the top.
Jim Carrey as Count Olaf
This is a great series for kids. I love how the author likes to use very big words and give definitions that always start with, “Which in this case means…” and gives an off the wall definition that is somehow still accurate (or mostly so). As an adult reader, this can get a bit repetitive but for kids, it’s a great way to increase vocabulary. As a teacher, I think this set of books would be great for kids who are gifted. These characters would be something they could relate to.
I always try to find something less than positive to say about the books I review. For this set of books, I would say that the last book doesn’t really create a sense of an ending, despite its title. The reader is left hanging, wondering what is next for these kids. There is no resolution. No profound solution to their problems. It just leaves them to carry on, trying to make it in a world out to get them. I was hoping for much more from this author regarding the conclusion to his 13 book series.
Definitely worth the time and worth giving to the middle grade readers around you.
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Book: Sole Survivor
Author: Dean Koontz
Recommend: If you don’t mind plots that are a HUGE stretch..
I picked this one out from the online selection of my public library. Someone had mentioned it to me (I don’t remember who now) and said that I might enjoy this one. I have read Dean Koontz before and typically don’t find his work all that interesting. I find most of what the man writes predictable and not worth spending time on. Couple that with the fact that most of them are centered around themes I would rather not spend my time on, I usually avoid his work.
For some reason, I decided to read this one though and was pleasantly surprised to find that, at least for this book, his writing was somewhat different. The book tells the story of a reporter who had lost his wife and daughters in a plane crash the year before and was basically waiting for death. He goes to visit the graves of his family and it begins a crazy ride of conspiracy, suspicion, and chase that is somewhat typical of Koontz. As he races to find out what really happened on the plane, he finds out that there may have been two survivors of the crash.
I found this book to be a light, entertaining read. It was more enjoyable than I thought it would be simply because it was much cleaner than most of Koontz’s other works. However, when you reach the final reveal of the book, it is just a bit too fantastical and outrageous to be believable. It feels like watching Scooby Doo, where everything is freaky until you find out that some normal person was behind it, only this time in reverse. This time you think someone normal is behind it to find out that it is simply something that the brain can’t accept. Then add in more religious conjecture than most would care for in a light read and you have yourself one of the oddest endings I have ever read. If there was a prize for strange ending, Mr. Koontz just might win with this one.
I expected general fiction and came away with someone out of science fiction. It was interesting but not what I was planning on reading. Worth sitting down to go through but not so amazing that it will be memorable.
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Author: Ted Dekker
Recommend: Yes- it reminds me a bit of the movie Seven though
Okay, my friend’s husband (from the last post) lent me this book quite a while ago and for one reason or another I just had never gotten to it. I picked it up the other night, determined to get through my lent book stack which was growing to the point of ridiculous, and started on this one.
This story feels like a blend between one of the Hannibal Lecter movies, a TV crime drama and a good ole Nancy Drew. I would warn you that this book does get violent at times. There are bombings, gunshots and fighting going on through the telling of the story. The basic plot is that a man named Kevin is suddenly targeted by a psycho named Slater, a man obsessed with sin and threes. Kevin is a seminary student who is very interested in the natures of man. I don’t want to give up too much but I think the author did a great job of creating doubt until about halfway through the book where he was protesting the truth too much for it to be anything but. I still enjoyed getting through it and there was one twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
It was well written and focused on telling the story, allowing Christian elements to come into play as the story lent itself to it. It was not overtly Christian but Dekker did not shy away from it either. I think he could have spent just a little longer talking with the seminary professor and highlighting a few things but other than that it was a great read. I wouldn’t call this author the next Tolstoy but he does have the makings of a new Stephen King if he continues to work at it.
I haven’t seen the movie yet but I am now interested after reading the book Hmm… I wonder if it’s on netflix????
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