Saturday, April 18, 2015

Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara

Fiction

When Lui meets Ama, she becomes obsessed with his forked tongue. She is already part of the piercing world, increasing the width of the holes in her ears and now wants this forked tongue as well. Ama takes her to a parlour that helps her start her forked tongue journey. The parlour also does tattoos, and Lui wonders what she should ink her body with. She gets increasingly deep in to this world, experiencing both the good and the bad.

This is a very short book and while I was interested in the world of piercings and tattoos, the meat of the book was packed in to the last 5 pages and not fully explored. This made for a rather disappointing read and a lot of questions.

I'm not fantastic with grammar but Kanehara's seemingly excessive use of commas really started to piss me off. Almost every single sentence had a couple of commas.

That said, I did go look up what a "Barbie girl" was because I previously had no idea and characters called Lui this a couple of times.

First Line: "Know what a forked tongue is?"

Rating:
(2/5)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

Non-Fiction/Memoir?

Sara Nelson is a compulsive reader. She has thousands of books at home and can tell you exactly what she has and where it is. She didn't always used to be this way but having a mom and sister who are either published or poets, they nudged her in to obsessive reader territory. In 2002, Sara decides to read a book a week and chronicle her journey. Sara sees connections between what she's reading and what's going on her life, as well as the book choices she makes.

Like Sara, I've married a non-reader which can be frustrating at times. When you really want to share a book you've read and your spouse looks at you like you're crazy, I know that feeling all too well. There were anecdotes that Sara described I'm sure any reader could relate to and this was the one for me.

Despite the few items I could relate to, I otherwise felt like this book was completely unnecessary. A book about books, why? Getting to know Sara and her background, one could be inclined to believe that the only reason she wrote this book was to try and catch up to her sister and mother in their literary pursuits.

The other thing that bothered me about this book, was how much of a book snob Sara was, and not in the usual manner of what you would get from a book snob. Sara doesn't read many classics but one thing she almost refuses to read is anything that's popular. Some books are popular for a good reason though, why miss out on those? Instead, you should think about missing out on this one.

First Line: "Call me Insomniac."

Rating:
(2/5)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

Historical Fiction/Mystery

Maija, husband Paavo, and their two daughters trade homes with a relative and move to the Swedish Lapland in 1717. Paavo is a fisherman but has become afraid of the water, making this a good chance for the family to start new. As they move to the mountains, the two daughters come across a dead body. Maija finds other settlers to come examine the body and learns of the dynamics on the mountain. There are a few other families, a priest in the valley, a nobleman and his wife, and the local Lapps. Maija has to wade through old relationships and dredge up past history to determine who has murdered this man. The information does not come easy. When the ghost of this man starts visiting Frederika and she can hear the mountains, the family must quickly find out what happened before anyone else gets hurt.

The majority of this book takes place over the winter and the cold hung over this book giving it an incredibly dreary feeling. Getting through the book, at times, was almost like trying to wade through waist-high snow like the characters. In addition to the winter was the dark. There is no sunlight over the winter in this part of the world and despite all the descriptions for this and the eeriness the book had, I still had troubles picturing this forever night. Despite this, the atmosphere as a whole was incredibly well written.

Reading this book made me feel like I was back watching the TV show Lost. They both keep throwing twists and turns at you and there are varying degrees of supernatural elements at work, but you either never get a full resolution or the questions never get answered. In addition, virtually no hints were dropped about who was responsible. It made for a rather frustrating read, despite being a page turner near the end. I wanted the author to give me some resolution but hardly anything was solved until the last few pages which made things feel unfinished. Some things were never fully explained to my satisfaction either. Like what Frederika did about the wolves and why the letters were kept from Maija.

First Line: "'But how far is it?'"

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, April 05, 2015

American Assassin by Vince Flynn

Thriller

This is the first book in Flynn's Mitch Rapp series. Rapp is scouted by a clandestine branch of the USA government. Despite being the young age of 23, they suspect that Rapp will be a talented assassin. Rapp has history too. His girlfriend died in an air disaster, taken down by terrorists and Rapp wants nothing more than revenge. Rapp is brought to the training grounds with stick-in-the-mud Stan Hurley, who was also once the best in his time. They need to train up Rapp for a mission to bring home CIA agents that have been kidnapped in Beirut.

The majority of the book focuses on the training of Rapp and, sadly, only the last little bit was actually on a mission, which was the most interesting part. The action and suspense of the team's time in Beirut was great and poises the rest of the series for many interesting reads. Funnily enough, even though there was so much background for the book, I still feel like I never really got to understand what makes Rapp tick. I know he carries a big grudge, that he's very athletic and used to play lacrosse but aside from that, I don't know much more. Hopefully we learn more in the next of the series.

First Line: "Mitch Rapp stared at his reflection in the dusty, cracked mirror and questioned his sanity."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, April 03, 2015

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Historical Fiction

The Sarajevo Haggadah is a beautiful fifteenth century illuminated Hebrew manuscript that has miraculously survived many conflicts. This time it was saved from the Bosnian War when Hanna Heath is called on to look at and restore the book as a expert but also a neutral party. Hailing from Australia, Hanna flies to Sarajevo to examine this masterpiece. She finds a small insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a hair. Trying to get as much information as she can out of the book and it's history, the reader is privy to the real story as we learn how each item came to be in the book and how the book came to be itself.

With such an interesting premise for a book, I was very eager at the beginning and really wanted to know how this book came to be and the lives it touched along the way. As the first couple of stories got underway, I was a bit sad for Hanna that she would never know what I know and yet felt like I was privileged to be part of the secret.

Yet as the book continued, my reading of it got slower and I couldn't really put my finger on it. When I got to the end, I realized I didn't really care and it was because of Hanna and her mother. Brooks introduces a toxic relationship between Hanna and her mother. Mom is a doctor who will accept nothing less than Hanna also being in the medical field and lets her know it any time they see each other. The thing is, this added absolutely nothing to the story. Instead, it made me dislike both Hanna and her mom and not care much what happened to them. In addition, Hanna's love interest is also a bit of a snore.

It's a shame that the execution of this book didn't live up to the idea of it.

First Line: "I might as well say, right from the jump; it wasn't my usual kind of job."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Mystery/Thriller

Camille Preaker is returning to her small home town with many reservations. Having left years ago because her sister died and her mother never loved her, Camille finds herself back. Camille was recently released from a facility to help her stop cutting words into her body and now works at a Chicago newspaper. Her boss wants her to report on a recent kidnapping of a child in her home town, falling on the heels of a murder of a similarly aged child a few months ago.

Camille has a new half-sister, Amma, who gets all the doting attention of her mother. Nothing seems to have changed in the town. Her mother still acts the same way, her mom's friends still gossip as vigorously as they used to, and the police department is too small and inexperienced. Camille starts asking around and instead of getting information on who the possible murderer is, instead gets depressing stories about people that have remained in the town and horrible stories about her mom.

This is Flynn's first book, before Gone Girl became a hit. This is a fantastic book too though and carries its weight against Gone Girl. It had me incredibly angry at Camille's mother, sympathetic towards Camille, questioning Camille's love choices, and pretty much every other reaction I'm sure Flynn was going for.

I could not put this book down. I wanted to slap Camille's mom so many times and just kept hoping for her to get put in her place. This was almost as important to me as determining who the murderer was. I love psychological thrillers and this ranks right up there among the best of them.

First Line: "My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Wandering Prince by Jean Plaidy

Historical Fiction

The Stuart family is run out of England when Cromwell turns the country into a Commonwealth. Charles II is a prince wandering around to different courts while he makes attempts to return to the throne. His mom and youngest sister Henriette (Minette to her brother) are in the French court. The other family members are either imprisoned in England or at court in other areas.

Though this is the first book in the Charles II, it is really about two woman rather than Charles himself. The first woman is his sister Minette. She starts as a child and blossoms into a woman, falling in love with Louis XIV. Louis doesn't find out he loves her back until it's too late and he's already been married. The second is Lucy Waters (though a quick Google search has her name as Lucy Walters so I'm not sure why her name was incorrect in the book). Lucy is described as the most beautiful woman in England and Charles falls in love with her quickly. He can't marry her but that doesn't stop a love affair from happening.

I found this book quite dense and a slow read, though it was still very interesting. Most of my historical fiction reading on the British monarchy is in the Tudor era. I didn't know much of either Charles II or Louis XIV and even though this book didn't focus on those two characters, learning about those around them during the time does a lot to shed light on those royals.

Minette was the most interesting character in this book. She went through a transformation from shy, skinny child to beautiful, joyous lady. It seems like she brought many kinds of art to the French court. A whole book could be written on her.

This book isn't as salacious as Philippa Gregory but it is still a great story of fascinating historical figures.

First Line: "It was late afternoon on a July day in the fourth year of the Great Rebellion."

Rating:
(3.5/5)