Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Fantasy

In the third book of the Thursday Next series, Thursday is taking refuge in the well of lost plots, where unpublished novels live. She has people that want to kill her in the real world so staying safe in a book seems like a good plan. She only needs to fill in for a character a little, and tries to help the main character of the novel treat his wife better and stop being so stereotypical.

Meanwhile, Thursday is trying to get her certification with Jurisfiction, the group the polices books. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is training her, but when a Jurisfiction agent is found dead, they wonder if they are safe.

This series is so much fun to read. There is an incredible amount of thought put in to these books, bringing in plot and characters from classics and other well known books. This time we get to see a bit more behind the scene and how Fforde proposes books are written in this word. There are viruses that misspell words, there are grammasites, and many other bad (or good) things that could make their way in to a book.

If you are new to this series, start at the beginning as it would be hard to pick up from book three. Recommended!

First Line: "Making one's home in an unpublished novel wasn't without compensation."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry

Mystery

This is the third novel in the Cotton Malone series, bringing back many of the characters we met in the first two books. When Cotton sees that two men have broken in to the local museum, he follows them in and finds them spraying the museum with an unknown substance. The museum ignites and water won't put it out. Cotton finds his friend Cassiopeia close by and knows that she's involved somehow.

Cassiopeia tells Cotton that the leader of the new nation from all the old USSR countries is trying to find coins from Alexander the Great. One of them was in the museum that burned but Cassiopeia was able to get there first and replace it. This leads Cotton and Cassiopeia on a parallel journey to find the coins.

Steve Berry books are a lot of fun. They are great thrillers with a historical element to it that always teaches me something. There were some characters brought in half way through the book that weren't developed and I couldn't remember too much about them from the previous books. It would have been nice to get more of a reminder on these characters.

Still a great book, and a good read for the summer!

First Line: "Alexander of Macedonia had decided yesterday to kill the man himself."

Rating:
(4/5)

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann

Mystery

In 1565 Kyoto Japan, Hiro, a ninja, is sworn to protect foreign Jesuit Father Mateo. The foreigner doesn't completely understand the customs or culture of Japan so Hiro tries to help him with this and with translation. When a young kid comes to the two asking for help, they find a girl on a bridge, murdered. The girl happens to be Hiro's niece so together with Father Mateo, the two vow to find out what happened. Tensions are running high at this time in Kyoto with the police forbidding the investigation and different warlord vying for power. A threat is made on Father Mateo's life and Hiro has to decide whether the investigation for the Father is more important.

Though this is the fourth book in the series, it can read as a standalone. The characters did mention other mysteries that they had solved so I assume that these were from previous novels, but there's no information missing that makes it hard to understand what is happening in this book.

While the mystery was interesting and there were lots of twists and turns, for me this book was more about the characters. I really enjoyed Hiro, the strong and loyal ninja. He has a bit of a sense of humor, putting up with Mateo's naivety in the ways of Japan. Father Mateo is a kind soul and despite being a man of religion, religion was in no way an overbearing part of this story.

An enjoyable read! I think I'll go back to the beginning of the series and start there!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "Knocking echoed through the silent house."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Susan Spann began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.
Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Fiction

This small little book is about Ambrose Zephyr and his wife Zappora Ashkenazi. When Ambrose finds out he only had 30 days to live, the two take off to try and see the alphabet. They don't make it too far and decide to come back home, as they reminisce on their lives.

I bought this book because I judged the book by the cover. The art design of the front and back pages is beautifully done and it's easy to understand why the author has won awards for book design in the past. Unfortunately the story isn't as nice as the book. Overall, the memories of this couple are so clipped and abbreviated that you can't get in to them before the author is off to something else. Because of this, I felt that I couldn't connect with the characters and therefore didn't care much about Ambrose's life coming to an end or Zappora having to give up her husband so early.

First Line: "This story is unlikely"

Rating:
(2.5/5)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Young Adult

Bruno is the son of a Nazi commandant who is moved from his home in Berlin to a house outside Auschwitz. As a completely naive nine year old, Bruno is unaware of what is going on and only thinks about how he wants to be back in Berlin with his friends. As he explores his new home, he finds another boy, sitting inside the fence. The two talk and become friends, from completely different worlds and in completely different circumstances.

This is a hard book to review. The subject matter is difficult, the outcome depressing, and yet Bruno was an annoying character for me. Surely a nine year old living under his Nazi father wasn't that clueless as to what his father was up to? Bruno seemed completely unaware of the state of the world, where he was, why other Nazi officers were such horrible people, and why the people working for his family were so scared. Even his friendship with the other boy focused mostly on himself.

Personally, I liked the ending and think the message behind it is good. I only wished that his parents had found out what happened, as this may have been a step towards them realizing how wrong they are.

First Line: "One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family's maid - who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet - standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Fiction

This is the story of brother and sister Joe and Elly. As kids, Elly is abused by a neighbor and only her brother knows. Joe realizes he's gay and for a while only Elly knows. The two understand each other inside out and know each other's darkest, deepest secrets. As they grow old, this helps them maintain a special bond. A few peripheral characters add some interesting story telling to the mix, including an eccentric friend who disappears as a kid and then returns as an adult in jail for killing her abusive husband. There's also a couple of regulars from Joe and Elly's bread and breakfast. And of course there's God, the rabbit.

This book started well and I really liked Elly as a character and her development. But there were just a lot of unanswered questions for me. Winman takes the approach that she doesn't need to blatantly state anything that happens in this book but it leaves for a really murky story. Furthermore, the characters don't seem to be overly bothered by things that happened to them, which makes you wonder whether what you suspect happened actually happened.

There were also a lot of things that happened in the book that served no other purpose than Winman being able to continue to tell her story. For example, the family becomes rich and there's really no reason for it other than to allow them to move to a B&B.

I was surprised when 9/11 was included in this book and then even more surprised when the outcome was completely glossed over and didn't really make sense.

It's unfortunate there were these weird plot problems because the story of Elly and Joe could have been great.

First Line: "I decided to enter this world just as my mother got off the bus after an unproductive shopping trip to Ilford."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman

Autobiography

Clare grew up with a mom who practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM) and a dad who was alcoholic. The dad eventually left and it was just Claire, her older brother, and her mom. They moved to Iowa, where there was a community of TM followers and Claire started to struggle with being an outsider. Having to attend the public school because her mom couldn't afford the tuition for TM school, Claire was bullied for being a 'ru'. When someone donated money for the two kids to attend school, Claire felt like she fit in for a while until she started to question what was being taught.

Having known absolutely nothing about TM or what it meant, this book provided a good background. There were sprinklings of the history of the movement throughout Claire's story as she tied what was happening to her with what was happening to the movement. It's not really a cult, it's not really a religion, it's probably best described as a movement. Claire explained very well what she was questioning and why she was questioning it. And frankly came to a very logical resolution where she didn't give it up, didn't adopt it wholly, but wound up somewhere in the middle.

The pacing of this book was excellent for an autobiography. I would have liked to read more about what happened when she went to her father as a teenager and how this was different from living at Utopia Park but this was glossed over. An interesting book, even if you don't know anything about TM.

First Line: "'I want to be initiated now,' I announced, staring into the eyes of the teacher."

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

Rating:
(4/5)

About the Author
Claire Hoffman works as a magazine writer living in Los Angeles, writing for national magazines, covering culture, religion, celebrity, business and whatever else seems interesting. She was formerly a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a freelance reporter for the New York Times.

She has a masters degree in religion from the University of Chicago, and a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University. She serves on the board of her family foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, as well as the Columbia Journalism School. Claire is a native Iowan and has been meditating since she was three years old.
Find her on Twitter and at her website.