Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Non-Fiction

Four ladies of the Civil War show their cunning nature and intelligence by spying and deceiving those against their cause. This book focuses on four ladies:

- Belle Boyd, a 17-year old charmer who shoots a Union soldier in her home then becomes a spy for the Confederate army. She gets her information by using her charm.
- Elizabeth Van Lew living in Richmond, Virginia, leading a spy ring. She had ciphers and codes for sending all of her messages, under the noses of prominent Confederates.
- Emma Edmonds, a Canadian, enlisting as "Frank Thompson" as a Union private, fighting, nursing, and spying for her cause.
- Rose Greenhow, using her daughter little Rose to provide important information to the Confederates.

Watch author Karen Abbott describe the four ladies in her book:


These women were incredibly brave and it's quite amazing that many years before women were even allowed to vote, these women were controlling so much information and changing the efforts of the war. I think it's natural to pull for some of these women more than others. Personally, I enjoyed Emma's story the best, and not only because she was Canadian but because she did so many things that one would never think at that time a woman could do! She was a soldier, she fought in the war, she nursed others back to health, she spied, she posed as a man who posed as a women, and she posed as a black man to gain information for her side.

I found that I had troubles keeping track of the four women in this book because of the way it was written. Abbott switched between the stories of the women multiple times within a chapter and I feel like it would have been easier and smoother had each chapter been dedicated to a single woman.

I also found that there were some pacing issues with this book. It was like a roller coaster ride where some parts were very interesting and others did nothing to move the story along.

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

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter from New Jersey, is back for the fourteenth installment of her series. This time she isn't doing as much bounty hunting as she is bodyguarding and babysitting. A famous singer is in town and Stephanie has been asked by Ranger to help with keeping her in line and on time. In her spare time she does look up one skip, Loretta, who asks Stephanie to take care of her teenage son while she's getting bonded out. This ends up lasting for much loner than expected and Stephanie has to live with a teenager in Morelli's house for quite a few days.

These books have become less about plot for me and more about how the characters interact with each other. These books still make me smile and are easy to plow through which I why I keep coming back to them. After I've read something heavy, these are a nice break.

First Line: "In my mind, my kitchen is filled with crackers and cheese, roast chicken leftovers, farm fresh eggs, and coffee beans ready to grind."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Women's Fiction

Shandi and her little boy Natty are moving to Atlanta, after her father offers up his condo so she can be closer to college. Her best friend Walcott is helping with the move and the three stop at a Circle K on the way. Shandi and Natty go inside to get some drinks where a cute man looks lost looking at laundry detergent. Coming up with a thousand ways to approach him, she doesn't really notice another man enter the shop with a gun. He charges the cash register and robs the store but before leaving, a police officer enters the store and the robber shoots her. Realizing he can't leave, the robber takes everyone in to the back and both Shandi and the cute man, William, relive past events in the fear of not having any future ones.

Shandi gave birth to Natty a virgin. She has chosen to forget the day Natty was conceived but in the back of the Circle K, she starts to remember being drugged that night. William lost both his wife and kid in a car crash exactly a year ago. He forbid anyone from mentioning his wife's name infront of him shortly thereafter but starts to relive courting her during high school and remembering how much love they had for each other.

Having read quite a few of Jackson's books in the past I was looking forward to this one. She does a fantastic job of writing imperfect southern women. Shandi isn't the best character Jackson has written but she is typical to Jackson's writing. She's southern, she makes the reader like her, and she has many flaws that she acknowledges and tries to sort out. I think this is part of the reason why I like Jackson's books so much. The characters know they aren't perfect and they usually try to sort things out.

Also typical to Jackson books, this one was very easy to get in to. I started reading and felt like I couldn't stop. I needed to find out what these characters were hiding from themselves and how they were going to get past their issues.

Despite all this, by the time I completed the book and put it down, I felt a little bit let down. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the ending was crammed with revelations. In about 20 pages, there were two plot twists which made me feel like there wasn't enough time to digest what was happening and get resolution out of it. The second was the story of rape that seemed to get played down as not being a big deal. It's not surprising that the rapist himself tried not to make a big deal out of the rape, but when other characters started going along with it, it bothered me. Rape is rape, regardless of the back story that goes along with it.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour.
Buy the book here.

First Line: "I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Fiction

Everyone in the northern hemisphere is believed to be dead, following WWIII and the thousands of nuclear bombs dropped on the USA, China, Russia, and many other countries. The radioactive cloud is slowly making its way south, killing those in its path. An American Navy Captain is docking his submarine in Melbourne, Australia, one of the most southern major cities in the world. Captain Towers and his men were not able to return home after their last excursion and they believe that their families are now all dead. The Australians ask them to take one more trip up to Seattle where they are getting radio signals from. Australian Peter Holmes goes with the team and watches them pull close to the shore and call out for survivors, never seeing anyone.

Those in Melbourne must come to grips with their impending death. It is only a few months until the radioactive cloud is expected. Some do every day lasts like planting a garden, some take up car racing, some try to fall in love.

I picked up this book because I very much enjoyed Shute's A Town Like Alice. This one has the same gentle and fluid writing style though it's quite a different subject matter. The denial by characters and then their slow or fast acceptance was rather interesting. It makes you wonder how you would come to grips that your time on earth is ending soon. It also makes you question how you would spend your remaining time. It was surprising that so many people were working up to almost the end. Why bother? Wouldn't you want to make the most of your time left?

This book was utterly depressing and at times I felt let down because just when you think something is going to happen, nothing really does and it's steady as she goes for the entire novel.

First Line: "Lieutenant-Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Science Fiction

In the previous novel, Ender's Game, the buggers are no longer threatening earth and Ender has become the Speaker for the dead for the buggers. As Ender and his sister Valerie travel the worlds, their names live on in infamy. Valerie continues to write, Ender continues to speak. When a speaker is requested on Lusitania when a xenologer is killed by a new race of species, the piggies, Ender knows he must travel to speak the death and find out what the piggies were malicious in their murder or whether it is a misunderstood custom. When Ender arrives, 22 years later, there has been an additional death and Ender knows he must save the piggies before yet another race is destroyed.

Where Ender's Game was about war, tactics, and gaming this book was about society, guilt, and races living together. Despite characters being the same through both books, it was a completely different dynamic. But it completely worked. This novel was eloquent (though a bit preachy at times) and captivating.

I would have liked for Card to explore some of the characters a bit further, such as Jane who is a computer persona, but I suspect we'll learn more about her in future books. I will definitely be continuing on to the third book in the series, though I've heard it isn't as good as the first two.

First Line: "In the year 1830, after the formation of Starways Congress, a robot scout ship sent a report by ansible: The planet it was investigating was well within the parameters for human life."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

Teen

The third book in this series shows the four girls, Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget, as they have just finished high school and are in the summer before going to university. Carmen finds out that her mom is having a baby with David, her recently married husband, and questions her decision to leave home for school. Tibby's younger sister falls out a window which makes Tibby question how good of a sister she is. Hanging around the hospital so much, she meets a cute intern. Lena is taking art classes when her dad learns that she's drawing nudes in class and pulls his financial support for art school. This forces Lena to figure out how to win a scholarship to still be able to go to art school. And finally Bridget is back at soccer camp where Eric is also a coach. Everything comes full circle for her in this third summer.

These girls are a lot of fun and very supportive of each other, which is so nice to read. I enjoyed this book more than the second book. The girls seemed to learn a lot about themselves and it was much happier than the previous book.

First Line: "'Ok, Bee with Greta and Valia and Lena,' Carmen ordered, shepherding a wandering grandmother with her hand."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Death Cure by James Dashner

Teen

Before The Maze Runner movie comes out, I figured that I should finish up the trilogy and read The Death Cure (see my reviews of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials). As you can see, I wasn't too big a fan of book 2 which is why it took me so long to get to book 3. However a colleague at work picked it up and reminded me that I really should finish this series. I won't give a plot summary here because it would be spoilers for anyone that hasn't read the first two books. Suffice to say, it's fewer games and trials and more "real world".

I had much the same problem with this book that I had with book two. These kids are put in so many awful situations and in the first two books I had hoped so much for their survival but became so used to everything going to shit that I stopped hoping because it was pointless. There is absolutely no positive situation for these Gladers. I'm not sure I've ever read a book before where I've just given up on hoping for the best. But in this case, why bother wasting energy. Everything goes wrong and everyone almost dies. Yes, it happens again.

By the end of this book, I had more questions than I had answers. Why did Theresa flip-flop in her decisions? Who the heck was Chancellor Paige? Was Brenda just another variable to get them to their final destination? In terms of wrapping up the series, the ending was a bit weak but not entirely unsatisfying. Though I wasn't surprise as the series went downhill from the first book.

Rating:
(3/5)