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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

TITLE: Twilight
SERIES: Book #1 of The Twilight Saga
AUTHOR: Stephenie Meyer
NARRATOR: Ilyana Kadushin

PUBLISHER: Listening Library
DATE OF PUBLICATION: June 27, 2006
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (12 hours, 52 minutes)

GENRE: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0739345306

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:


Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife—between desire and danger. Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

MY REVIEW:

This is the first book in The Twilight Saga. I think I am one of the few that has not seen the Twilight movies or read the books!

This book is a lot more tender – more innocent -- than I expected, but then again it was marketed to the Young Adult demographic so maybe that has something to do with it. It is filled with teen angst, and the star-crossed lovers have so much sexual tension that it is palpable.

Edward is very charming, and Belle is the typical damsel-in-distress. Even though I have not seen the movie, I have seen from magazines and newspapers the photos of the characters that play the roles in the movie which is unfortunate. I much prefer my own mental imagery. While reading, I couldn’t help but picture Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, although I have no idea what actors portrayed the other characters which was nice.

The book builds up slowly, and I enjoyed that because I became immersed into their characters.

Did you ever read a book with a smile on your face? Well, this book did that for me. I think the innocence of “first love” was portrayed very sweetly. It wasn’t until the last third of the book that it became suspenseful. I was totally captivated, and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next!

The ending was bittersweet, and I was sad to see the book end. I was happy to have the second book, New Moon, to start on right away!

I don’t normally read the same book over again, but I can see that this is one of the select few that I could read again and enjoy it just as much.

Because it is marketed to the Young Adults, I think a lot of adults wouldn’t think to pick it up for themselves which is a shame because it is so good.

I am a pretty tough critic and don’t hand out five-star ratings lightly (the only other one for adult literature being The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society).This book is very deserving of its 5-star rating!!

I enjoyed Ilyana Kadushin's narration. I hope she does the rest of the series.

MY RATING: 5 stars!! Loved it!!

This book qualifies as:
#22 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#14 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#14 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#7 for my 1st In a Series Challenge 2011
#3 for my What an Animal Reading Challenge IV
#1 for my 2011 YA Reading Challenge
#1 for my Vampire Challenge 2011
#1 for my 101 Fantasy Perpetual Reading Challenge (Item #2)
#1 for my Banned Books Perpetual Challenge
#3 for my 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

Friday, March 25, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Island of the Sequined Love Nun

TITLE: Island of the Sequined Love Nun
AUTHOR: Christopher Moore
NARRATOR: Oliver Wyman
PUBLISHER: Blackstone Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: August 1, 2009
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (11 hours, 41 minutes)
GENRE: Dark Humor
ISBN: 978-1433293238

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy's body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss's pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean's goons. Now there's only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

MY REVIEW:

Christopher Moore books are not for everyone. He has been described as, “A very sick man, in the very best sense of the word.” His books are an escape for me, and I desperately needed one after reading A Child Called "It". He is zany, his humour is dark, and his books are totally off-beat.

My massage therapist recommended Moore to me because his books are easy to read, don’t take a lot of brain power to follow, and leave you entertained.

I have read four of his other novels (Fluke, A Dirty Job, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and Practical Demonkeeping), and this one was my least favourite.

This book is about a pilot, Tucker Chase, who winds up in a lot of trouble after crashing while engaged in a drunken tryst. He winds up taking an extremely lucrative job offer to fly medical supplies for a missionary on a remote island.

It was an enjoyable book, but not Moore’s best work.

If you are interested in reading one of Moore’s books, I recommend starting with A Dirty Job about a guy whose job it is to gather up souls before the Forces of Darkness get to them.

Oliver Wyman is the perfect narrator for Moore's novels. He is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to!

MY RATING:
3 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#21 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#13 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#13 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#8 for my What an Animal Reading Challenge IV 
#2 for my What's in a Name 4 Challenge

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Twenty-One Balloons

TITLE: The Twenty-One Balloons
AUTHOR: William Pène du Bois
PUBLISHER: Puffin
DATE OF PUBLICATION: May 6, 1986 (first published 1947)
FORMAT: Paperback, 192 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction
ISBN: 0140320970
SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:


Professor William Waterman Sherman just wants to be alone. So he decides to take a year off and spend it crossing the Pacific Ocean in a hot-air balloon the likes of which no one has ever seen. But when he is found after just three weeks floating in the Atlantic among the wreckage of twenty hot-air balloons, naturally, the world is eager to know what happened. How did he end up with so many balloons . . . and in the wrong ocean?

MY REVIEW:

I read this book aloud to my daughters. It is the winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal.

We loved it! What a great adventure story! It is about a man who yearns for a peaceful, solitary sojourn in his hot air balloon, only to end up on an inhabited but undiscovered island called Krakatoa.

The book is very entertaining, and we loved the "way of life" on the island of Krakatoa. The author has a great imagination!

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#20 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#2 for my 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

BOOK REVIEW: Viking Adventure


TITLE: Viking Adventure
AUTHOR: Clyde Robert Bulla
ILLUSTRATOR: Douglas Gorsline
PUBLISHER: Avyx
DATE OF PUBLICATION: January 1, 2000
FORMAT: Paperback, 117 pages
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Juvenile Fiction
ISBN:
978-1887840415

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

Sigurd, a Viking boy, cannot see the value of learning to read and write. All he can think of is adventure. But then he has an adventure that he cannot help but tell. And to do that, he decides, he must learn to write. A fine story for young readers.

MY REVIEW:

I read this book aloud to my daughters.

We enjoyed this book. We have read other Bulla books, and we have not been disappointed yet.

This is a great historical fiction novel to read while studying the Vikings. Sigurd leaves his family behind to sail on a journey to Vineland (what the Vikings called North America).

This book has it all: friendship, treachery, danger, and survival. Tied all together, it is a great adventure!

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#19 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Saturday, March 19, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: A Child Called "It"


TITLE: A Child Called "It"
AUTHOR: Dave Pelzer
NARRATOR: Brian Keeler
PUBLISHER: Recorded Books
DATE OF PUBLICATION: July 18, 2007
FORMAT: Unabridged Audible Audio Edition (3 hours, 46 minutes)
GENRE: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
ISBN:
978-1402510052

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games--games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother's games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an "it."

Dave's bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive--dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.

MY REVIEW:

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, it is extremely disturbing and describes child abuse in graphic detail. It is the victim’s story, which was identified as one of the most gruesome and extreme cases of child abuse in California history back in the early 1970s.

As a mother, I cannot fathom how someone could do what this sadistic woman did to her own child. My heart ached reading this book, and the only thing that got me through it was wanting to find out what happened to his parents. I don’t know what is worse: the abuser or the parent who stood by and let it happen and never stopped it. I find myself feeling sicked by the mother and very angry at the father.

I have now discovered that the victim has written a total of seven books. Apparently, one of the victim’s brothers also wrote a book about how he was abused after Dave was taken away. The author’s website is here: http://www.davepelzer.com/.

As much as I do want to find out what happens in the rest of the books and hopefully see some justice, I cannot stomach reading any more about child victims. I read too many of them this month: Boneman’s Daughters, Room, and now this book. I need to take a break from these sad stories. 

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#18 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#12 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#12 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#6 for my What's in a Name IV Challenge

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Breathless


TITLE: Breathless
AUTHOR: Dean Koontz
NARRATOR: Jeffrey Cummings
PUBLISHER: Brilliance Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: November 12, 2009
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (8 hours, 8 minutes)
GENRE: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
ISBN:
978-1423357070

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz delivers a thrilling novel of suspense and adventure, as the lives of strangers converge around a mystery unfolding high in the Colorado mountains—and the balance of the world begins to tilt….

In the stillness of a golden September afternoon, deep in the wilderness of the Rockies, a solitary craftsman, Grady Adams, and his magnificent Irish wolfhound Merlin step from shadow into light…and into an encounter with enchantment. That night, through the trees, under the moon, a pair of singular animals will watch Grady's isolated home, waiting to make their approach.

A few miles away, Camillia Rivers, a local veterinarian, begins to unravel the threads of a puzzle that will bring all the forces of a government in peril to her door.

At a nearby farm, long-estranged identical twins come together to begin a descent into darkness…In Las Vegas, a specialist in chaos theory probes the boundaries of the unknowable…On a Seattle golf course, two men make matter-of-fact arrangements for murder…Along a highway by the sea, a vagrant scarred by the past begins a trek toward his destiny…

In a novel that is at once wholly of our time and timeless, fearless and funny, Dean Koontz takes readers into the moment between one turn of the world and the next, across the border between knowing and mystery. It is a journey that will leave all who take it Breathless.

MY REVIEW:


Who wrote this?? I am a die-hard Koontz fan, and this is the first of his novels that I have read that didn’t “feel” like his.

I love Koontz because his plots are plausible, always involving some kind of psychopath that is playing psychological mind games to terrify his victims. This book is not at all like that. I didn’t even find it particularly suspenseful. The book is more sci-fi than anything.

The beginning of the book was very confusing with six different storylines. They do, in the end, come together but I found it hard keeping track of all the different people (one of the downsides to listening to audiobooks is that you can’t easily flip back and forth in the book). The main character, Grady Adams, is going out for a walk with his Irish Wolfhound, Merlin, and they spot two furry animals as large as dogs but as nimble as cats that aren’t like anything previously known to science. The sudden arrival of these creatures seems to be linked to other strange phenomena.

I kept waiting for the “action” to occur, but it didn’t happen. I did not feel totally captivated by the story, as I usually do with Koontz. For me, this but was just “ok”. This is a more recent novel, although nothing like Velocity which was the latest Koontz novel I read in January which is much more like his earlier works.

I hope that this is not the new Koontz! I’ll go back to reading his older novels. 

MY RATING: 2 stars (this is the lowest rating that I have ever given, and it saddens me to give it because I'm such a Koontz fan)

This book qualifies as:
#17 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#11 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#11 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#2 for my What an Animal Reading Challenge IV

Monday, March 14, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Room

TITLE: Room
AUTHOR: Emma Donoghue
NARRATORS: Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren, and Robert Petkoff
PUBLISHER: Hachette Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: September 13, 2010
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (10 hours, 45 minutes)
GENRE: Fiction
ISBN:
978-1607886280

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue's Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time.

MY REVIEW:

This book was on both Amazon.ca and Indigo’s Best Book of 2010. It was listed as Amazon's Best of the Month for September 2010. It was actually sitting at #1 on Macleans Fiction List for the week of March 8th, 2011.

It is a pretty disturbing book written from the perspective of a five-year old boy named Jack, who has spent his entire life in captivity. He was borne to a woman who was kidnapped at the age of 19 and held captive in a single room for seven years. Jack’s mom tries to make his life as “normal” as possible. I do not want to give any further details, as I do not want to spoil the story for others.

The website, http://www.roomthebook.com/, has a floor plan of room, as well as discussion questions.

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#16 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#10 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#10 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: BoneMan's Daughters


TITLE: BoneMan's Daughters
AUTHOR: Ted Dekker
NARRATOR: Robert Petkoff
PUBLISHER: Hachette Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: April 14, 2009
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (10 hours, 25 minutes)
GENRE: Suspense, Thriller
ISBN:
978-1600246050

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS: 

A Texas serial killer called BoneMan is on the loose, choosing young girls as his prey, His signature: myriad broken bones that torture and kill - but never puncture.

Military intelligence officer Ryan Evans is married to his work; so much so that his wife and daughter have written him out of their lives. Sent to Fallujah and captured by insurgents, he is asked to kill children not unlike his own. The method: a meticulous, excruciating death by broken bones that his captor has forced him to learn.

Returning home after the ordeal, a new crisis awaits. A serial killer is on the loose, and his method of killing is the same. Ryan becomes a prime suspect, which isn't even the worst of his problems: Ryan's daughter is BoneMan's latest desire.

In a story that is devastating in its skill and suspense, - Ted Dekker brings to bear his ability to terrify and compel in BONEMAN'S DAUGHTERS.

MY REVIEW:

This is my first book by this author.

The beginning of the book reads like two separate stories: One story tells about Military Intelligence Officer Ryan Evans, who is psychologically tortured by insurgents in Iraq; the other story is about a serial killer nicknamed “Boneman”, who kidnaps young girls and breaks their bones but not their skin, leaving them to die of internal bleeding. The two stories eventually meld together, which is where the story starts to pick up pace.

The narrator, Robert Petkoff, did a great job…even Boneman’s voice was creepy!

I enjoyed the book well enough to look for other works by this author.

MY RATING: 3.5 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#15 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#9 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#9 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge

CymLowell

Monday, March 7, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Beezus and Ramona


TITLE: Beezus and Ramona
SERIES: Ramona Quimby Series, Book #1
AUTHOR: Beverly Cleary
ILLUSTRATOR: Tracy Dockray
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
DATE OF PUBLICATION: March 1, 2000 (first published 1955)
FORMAT: Paperback, 160 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction
ISBN:
978-0439148023

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

Beezus Quimby tries very hard to be patient with her little sister, but four-year-old Ramona has the habit of doing the most unpredictable, annoying, embarrassing things in the world. How many nine-year-old girls have to put up with a silly little sister who hops around in rabbit ears and bakes a rubber doll into her sister's birthday cake? Sometimes Beezus doesn't like Ramona very much, and that makes her feel very guilty. Sisters are supposed to love each other, but pesky little Ramona just doesn't seem very lovable to Beezus.

MY REVIEW:

I read this book aloud to my daughters.

Cleary was one of my favourite authors as a child, and I loved the Ramona Quimby series. It was a pleasure to re-read this one with my girls. Ramona is hilarious, and we all laughed out loud at her antics. My girls are nearly the same age as Ramona and Beezus in this book, so it was especially fun for them to read how other sisters their own age relate to each other...and maybe they see that they don't have it so bad :)

We will be reading the rest of the series together.

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#14 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#6 for my 1st In a Series Challenge 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: 1st To Die


TITLE: 1st To Die
SERIES: Women's Murder Club Series, Book #1
AUTHOR: James Patterson
NARRATOR: Suzanne Toren
PUBLISHER: Hachette Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: November 1, 2005
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive WMA Audiobook (8hours, 56 minutes)
GENRE: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
ISBN: 978-1594834400

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:



James Patterson, bestselling author of the Alex Cross novels Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls, and Pop Goes the Weasel, offers the first of a new series dubbed The Women's Murder Club, featuring a four-woman team that occasionally works outside the system. None of the gritty darkness or frenzied action is lost in 1st to Die, although the female protagonists offer an even deeper emotional context to this suspense thriller.

Inspector Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department suddenly finds herself in the middle of two horrifying situations: The first is that she's just learned she has an often-fatal blood disease. The second is a double homicide case she's now heading up that involves the murder of newlyweds on their wedding night. Burdened with Chris Raleigh, a new partner reassigned from the mayor's office, Lindsay finds that she has too much to deal with and turns to her best friend, Claire, the head ME on the case. Claire offers helpful advice and human, friendly contact amid a job filled with violence, cruelty, and fear.

Soon a fledgling newspaper reporter, Cindy, makes contact with Lindsay looking for a career-making story. Although Lindsay can't officially comment on the case, the two women form a rapport, and Cindy joins Lindsay and Claire for their weekly meeting. When a second pair of newlyweds is murdered, and later a third, the investigation leads to a prominent crime writer, Nicholas Jenks, who has a history of spousal abuse and a predilection for kinky, dangerous sex games. With the help of an understanding assistant D.A., Jill Bernhardt, Lindsay tries to make a case against Jenks, who even had an affair with one of the slain women. Eventually Jill joins the "Murder Club," and the four ladies share private interdepartmental information in an effort to track and stop the killer before he strikes again.

The major subplot -- Lindsay's facing up to her illness even while she learns to fall in love again -- carefully compensates for the novel's coarse scenes of brutality. Lindsay Boxer isn't merely an obsessed cop trailing a maniac; she's also a terrified woman confronting the onslaught of disease. The story lines balance out to show us the true mettle of someone who puts the safety of others before her own.

Again, Patterson's skill for producing furiously paced fiction are evident as the novel breezes by rapidly. The short chapters keep the narrative leaping with increasingly taut plot elements, but there's an emotional commitment that makes our protagonist even more amiable and involving. 1st to Die is a novel that works as an intense series of character portraits that will leave the reader touched and delighted.

MY REVIEW:

This is my first book by this author and also the first in the “Women’s Murder Club” series.

The pace was good and kept my interest. I would have given this book four stars, except that I found that the plot twists were predictable and that I thought the “Women’s Murder Club” formation was a little lame. I appreciate that series is about four women who collaborate to solve crimes, but to name it a “club” seems to trivialize the intention of the quartet. Even so, I enjoyed the book.

It was more graphic than I expected, but I am interested enough to continue on in the series. 

MY RATING: 3.75 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#13 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#8 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#8 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#5 for my 1st In a Series Challenge 2011
#1 for my What's in a Name 4 Challenge
#1 for my James Patterson Reading Challenge II

Friday, March 4, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: White Stallion of Lipizza


TITLE: White Stallion of Lipizza
AUTHOR: Marguerite Henry
ILLUSTRATOR: Wesley Dennis
PUBLISHER: Avyx
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2008 (first published 1964)
FORMAT: Paperback, 111 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-1887840293


SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS:

The magnificent Lipizzan stallions of Vienna come to life as never before in this exciting story by award-winning author, Marguerite Henry.

A young boy named Hans dreams of one day working with the famed stallions of Lipizza. But coming from a family of bakers, Hans is discouraged from ever becoming a rider. That is, until the day he is invited to watch the extraordinary Ballet of Lipizzaners -- from the Imperial Box! -- and his life is changed forever.

Marguerite Henry artfully weaves authentic details about the skillful training of both horse and rider, as she unfolds the story of Hans and his beloved Lipizzan stallion, Borina.

The brilliance of Hans's dazzling public performances and his devotion to the art of classical riding make this story uniquely rich in history and horsemanship -- a story to be treasured by horse lovers of all ages.


MY REVIEW:


I read this book aloud to my daughters.

We loved this book! My elder daughter especially loves horses and riding, so she was particularly interested in the details that Henry provided with regards to training of both the horses and riders.

This inspirational book teaches that dreams can come true through hard work and perseverance. Hans did, at times, feel discouraged but he persisted. We should all work hard to attain our goals, which is a good value for young children to learn.

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#12 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#1 for my What an Animal Reading Challenge IV
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