Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Children's Literature

Bo and Prosper are brothers that have run away after their parents died and they found out their aunt and uncle only want to take in the younger brother, Bo. To stay together, they escape to Venice and fall in with a bunch of other homeless kids in an abandoned movie theater, lead by the thief lord. The kids steal small items to pay for food, but the thief lord comes back with much more expensive items to help out. When Bo and Prosper find out that their aunt has come to Venice and hired an investigator to find them, they are on high alert. The thief lord is presented with a contract to steal a wooden wing for a few million lire. The children work together to figure out how to steal this item while trying to stay out of the private investigator's way.

Having just come off reading Funke's other book Inkheart, which I didn't enjoy all that much, I was surprised that I really enjoyed this one. The characters were cute and enjoyable, including most of the adults. Many of the characters want what they can't have, but somehow find ways to get what they want. All that, topped with a great ending. It's a fun book!

First Line: "It was autumn in Venice when Victor first heard of Prosper and Bo."


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Children's Literature

Meggie is a 12 year old book enthusiast, spurred on by her father who repairs books for a living. One night, a mysterious man appears outside their house and Meggie's father, Mo, invites him in. He turns out to be an old friend who knows much more about Mo's past than Meggie. Stating that the two are in danger, they pack up their belongings and move to Meggie's great-aunt's house. Elinor is even more of a book enthusiast than Meggie and Mo, as her only friends are book and she is completely surrounded by them in her house. Unfortunately danger finds them there too.

Meggie soon learns that her mom did not die when she was young, but that her father is able to read characters in and out of books. One night when Meggie was young, Mo read out some bad characters to Inkheart and accidentally read her mother in to the story. Now those guys are after Mo.

What is a very unique idea for some reason didn't pan out for me. It started pretty slowly, with Mo and Meggie spending way too long at Elinor's house as the author tries to build up that character, but it adds very little to the main plot. Then the characters kept repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. By the end, I was tired of their antics rather than routing for them and didn't really care what happened.

I won't be continuing in this series.

First Line: "Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain."


Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz


Allison was orphaned at the age of 7 and shuffled around a bit before she wound up in the care of Dr. Capello. She quickly came to love both him and the other children under his roof, including young Roland who she had a crush on. However when Allison was pushed down the stairs of Dr. Capello's house, her aunt came to get her and take her away from that home. She never heard from the family again.

As an adult, Allison is going through a breakup when a package comes from a name she recognizes. Roland has sent her a package asking that she come back to say bye to Dr. Capello, who is dying. Allison is hesitant to go back to the house where she knows someone wanted to hurt her, but wants to see the family she loved.

When Allison returns to her foster family, it's been more than 10 years since she has last seen them. She's unsure about who tried to harm her so you'd think there would be some hesitation from her part to completely open up to these people while she tries to figure out what happened. Instead, the dialogue picks up like she had been living with no break. The dialogue in the book was a bit off for me the entire story, with everyone treating each other a lot more closely than you would have expected in that circumstance.

Getting past this, the book is a light, quick read. To me, this is a perfect summer beach novel. Something that isn't too heavy (though there are some pretty serious parts of the book) and can be finished quickly. I was turning the pages because I wanted to know who was responsible for pushing Allison down the stairs and was a bit surprised by the outcome. I love being surprised by books like this!

First Line: "All Allison wanted was for this conversation to be over."


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Prison, My Home by Haleh Esfandiari


Haleh was born in Iran to an Austrian mother. She moved to the USA to teach with her husband and got American citizenship, but returns to Iran frequently to take care of her elderly mom. At the end of her most recent visit, she says good bye to her mom and heads off to the airport when her taxi is run off the road and she is robbed. The robbers take both Haleh's Iranian and American passport plus all of her belongings but don't touch anything of the taxi driver's. As Haleh determines what is required to get new passports re-printed, she soon learns that's the least of her worries. The Intelligence Ministry has decided that Heleh is trying to organize a revolution in Iran and interrogate her. Nothing she says can deter them from these thoughts.

Weeks turn in to months as Heleh answers these questions. The academic work she has done in the USA is very suspicious to the Ministry. They keep asking her the same questions over and over. Heleh has a few contacts that try to help her and she finds out that two factions within the government are in disagreement about her. One wants to let her go, one thinks she's hiding information. The latter wins and Heleh is put in solitary confinement in jail. Her husband, back in the USA, launches a full-fledged media offensive. If the information Heleh is providing isn't enough to get her released, the perhaps pressure from other influential people will.

As Heleh explains what happens to her, some background on Iran's history also needs to be provided to explain how the country got to the point where it's accusing dual citizens of revolution. While this information is helpful and necessary to paint the picture, Heleh provided way too much of it. There was about 35 pages at the beginning of the book describing Heleh's past and Iran's past. It was pretty dry and I found myself skimming.

What happened to Heleh, how she overcame it, and the impact to her family is the meat of this story. It's a shocking story about how an innocent grandmother can be treated.

First Line: "The early hours of December 30, 2006, began for me like any day when I would depart Tehran for the United States."


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ruby by Francesca Lia Block


Growing up in an abusive family, Ruby decides that she will leave for LA as soon as she is legal. She finds a job as a nanny with a doctor who suspected the abuse, and we learn about Ruby's past and the magical touch she has. Ruby knows about her destiny and she sees who she is supposed to fall in love with. This just happens to be a superstar actor who has disappeared from the scene. Ruby sets off to England to find him.

We slowly learn about what Ruby had to endure during her childhood and it's pretty heartbreaking. I enjoyed the part up to Ruby setting off to England the most because of this. We were learning about her, she had a touch of magical that still felt like it could be real. Once she goes to England though, it becomes a full fairy tale and much less believable. Of course he love is a top tier actor. Of course he's sick and she's the only one that can cure him.

This was a super easy read and I breeze through it. I was engaged for the most part, if a little frustrated at how cliche the romance was and how the book ended a bit abruptly.

First Line: "On the day of his father's funeral, the boy walked into the parlor and saw his mother smiling."


Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Kill Artist - Daniel Silva


Gabriel Allon is an ex-Israeli intelligence officer turned art restorer. His old boss tracks him down in England to come do one last operation for him, hunting down a known Palestinian terrorist Tariq; the same man that killed his wife and child.

Allon needs a female to infiltrate one of Tariq's men and chooses fashion model Jacqueline, whom he had an affair with right before his wife and child were killed. Gabriel keeps a close eye on Jacqueline as she seduces a terrorist, but the enemy is aware of more than Gabriel knows.

This is book one in the Gabriel Allon series. I'm surprised it continues, to be honest, and it sounded pretty certain that Gabriel was going to forever step out of the covert-ops limelight and remain low-key. I'm not really certain how this series can continue. Out of Gabriel and Jacqueline, I enjoyed Jacqueline more as she seemed much more genuine and honest about her feelings. Gabriel is a bit bottled up and I don't really know anything about his past other than his wife and child died in a horrible attack. Hopefully the next in the series expands on this a bit more.

The story itself was pretty good, though the twist at the end I didn't really understand the purpose of. It seemed a bit far fetched and not to provide any value to the person that performed it.

First Line: "The restorer raised his magnifying visor and switched off the bank of fluorescent lights."


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard


This is a cute story about a dog and human adopting each other during difficult times. Leonard is an ultra-marathon runner, where he runs 250km in 7 days, in the middle of the desert. This time he's in the northwest corner of China and the Gobi desert is in his path. Leonard is taking this race seriously and thinks he can place well. Then at the end of stage one, he spots a little dog wandering around camp trying to get scraps of food. Leonard thinks no way am I giving my precious food to that dog and sets off on the second stage. The dog follows. Surely the dog must belong to someone? As the dog continues to follow Leonard along, he decides to name her Gobi. Gobi ends up completing a few stages of the ultra-marathon and captures Leonard's heart.

This is such a lovely, feel-good story. It focuses not only on how these two met and created such a strong bond, but also the long journey in trying to get her home. There was a lot of red tape, and paranoia, because this story was making national news and much money was given to help with the cause. Leonard starts to worry about kidnapping. Plus he's in China and the government there is always concerned about how their own image is playing off in national news. There were a lot of things for Leonard to be concerned about. He's super lucky he has such an understanding wife, as he spent months in China after the race trying to get Gobi back.

It's a quick paced book, Leonard doesn't focus too much on a single thing. I recommend it!

First Line: "I stepped through the airport doors and out into China"