Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie

*I received this book as an ARC.  The review, and my opinions, are all my own.*

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie is definitely not a fluffy beach-read.  It is a book that demands to be savored slowly and thoughtfully with its lushly-written descriptions and gradually-evolving plot.  Neither is it a book that can be fully appreciated the first time it is read.  The reader may even feel a little frustrated with how slowly the plot progresses but when you get to the end, you want to read it again in order to appreciate all the nuances and subtle hints that were missed in the first reading.

The book begins with Maddie in California, waiting for her fiance to arrive from England until she is told that he has died in a car accident.  She grieves for him and for the marriage that will never take place.  She continues to work and live her life but feels isolated and lonely until her Italian grandmother sends her to Tuscany.  In Tuscany she begins to feel alive again and becomes interested in the story of a centuries-old villa. 
Interspersed with the story of Maddie is another story that takes place in 14th century Tuscany.  It tells the story of the inhabitants of the villa that Maddie finds so intriguing, although it isn't until well into the book that the connection is made. It is about Mia, a mute young woman who lives with her aunt Jacquetta in 1347 Tuscany.  She has reason to grieve as well as do some of the patrons of the wayside inn run by her aunt. 
It is while staying in Tuscany and discovering the history of the villa that Maddie is able to make peace with the empty space in her life that was supposed to be her first year of marriage.  She is able to find her life again and fill it with other people and interests.  Her visit to Italy has become a pilgimage where she feels the lines blurring between the ancient and modern worlds and where she can imagine a better and happier life for herself, one in which she can be whole.  "Something was allowing her to be touched by the world around her again" when before she "felt emotionally torn between two worlds."  The weather figures in the story in a mystical sort of way, as do birds.  There is also a sort of mysticism and a feeling of destiny in Maddie's life.  All in all, it is an interesting book that lingers with you when you finish it so that you have to go back and read bits and pieces again and again.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I really enjoyed this futuristic Cinderella story! Cinder is a cyborg due to an accident many years before which meant that her foot and hand were amputated and replaced by robotic parts. She was brought home by a man who promptly died after extracting a promise from his wife to care for Cinder. In New Beijing, cyborgs are considered outcasts and Cinder's adoptive mother never lets her forget that. Cinder is an amazing mechanic and the family, her mother and 2 sisters, live off the income Cinder makes. Her reputation is so good that Prince Kai brings his robot to her to be fixed. Naturally he is smitten by her but is also unaware that she is a cyborg. Add in a plague and an evil queen from another planet who wants the Prince to marry her to avert war and it all adds up to be a fun and new take on an old story.        

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I got this book, as usual, from my local public library.

Another Flavia de Luce novel and I think it's my favorite so far.  I say so far because all indications are that Mr. Bradley will continue to write these wonderful books, thank goodness.  I love Flavia and her sleuthing!

Flavia de Luce is a precocious, Chemistry-loving, mystery-solving, 11-year-old girl living in rural 1950's England in a big old drafty mansion that her father cannot afford since her mother, the inheritor, passed away without a will.  He gives in to the necessity of allowing a movie to be filmed in the home.  Flavia and her sisters are thrilled and even put aside their bickering when the crew arrives just before Christmas.  Flavia has conjured up a super-sticky glue which she slathers inside the chimney in order to catch Father Christmas but even that is forgotten when a murder occurs.

What I loved about it:  Flavia, of course, but even secondary characters are well-described.  Dogger is one of my favorites.  I also love that all of Feely suitors end up at the house at the same time.  Oh, and I love that Flavia still believes in Father Christmas as smart as she is.

What I didn't like:  Hmm, can't think of anything.

Is it clean?:  Yes, although some of the graphic details may be too much for younger children.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie MacComber

This is the end of the Cedar Cove series and it is obvious.  The author goes from one story thread to another, recapping each one.  I didn't care for that much.  Most of the series is more enjoyable to read than this last installment. 
The main story was more interesting.  Beth Morehouse is a single parent with 2 college-age daughters.  Her daughters hatch a plan to get their parents together for Christmas but when their father shows up with another woman their plans fall to pieces.  Beth had a litter of puppies placed on her doorstep.  The other story lines are woven in when she tries to find homes for them. It is a sweet story but not her best.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I found this book
 at my local public library, as usual.

Alice, after passing out and hitting her head, forgot the last ten years of her life.  Alice thinks she is 29 instead of 39 and doesn't remember the births of her children, etc.  More than that, apparently Alice has become a very different person, one she isn't so sure she likes.  Alice's friends and loved ones are taken aback by this "new" Alice and their reactions to her are the best parts of the book, as well as her discoveries about her "new" self.
It's a fun and quick read (I had it done in a day) and I love a lot of the characters in the book although you want to smack some of them.  I found Alice's assumptions about some of the changes very interesting (I'm trying not to give too much away which is why this sentence is so wimpy).

I had to wonder "what if I lost the last ten years of my life?"  Hmm, the birth of my last child, 3 moves one of which was across country, a major injury with multiple surgeries, 3 daughters getting married, my mother's passing away, the birth of my grandson...a lot of life has gone on in those ten years.  Going back would find a more innocent and less experienced me.  Some of those experiences I wish I could forget although all of them are things that have made me who I am.  Alice discovers this same thing.  The "new" Alice has changed because of her experiences although seeing them through the younger, more innocent Alice's eyes helps her to reevaluate what effect those experiences will have on her.  Loved it!

What I liked about it:  I loved going through the process with Alice, finding out about those lost ten years right along with her and seeing the differences in the new and old Alice.

What I didn't like:  I didn't really like the whole "boyfriend" part. 

Was it clean?:  No, not really.  Too many incidences of that hated word although most of the book was pretty clean-no sexually explicit anythings and not much language overall but probably 10-15 f-words.  Really unnecessary.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Challenge for 2012

Have you seen this little widget before?  If you have, you must belong to Goodreads.  If you haven't, get on over to Goodreads and join!  This is a fun and easy way to set a reading goal for 2012 and keep track of the books you read.  They keep track of the books for you.  (You do have to do a little bit of work, besides the reading of course.)  I set my goal at 150 books this year and, not only do I plan on reading them, I plan on blogging about them too.  It's one of my resolutions this year.  Happy New Year everyone!

Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

As are most of the books I read, this one came from the public library.  
Richard Paul Evans' books tend to be pretty predictable but that is fine with me. Sometimes I need to read a book that is an easy and uplifting read. Lost December didn't disappoint me. Just by reading the blurb on the book flap you willl know most of the plot but the process is enjoyable and Evans includes some nice sentiments along the way.
Luke Crisp is the only child of a very wealthy man and is due to take over the family business when he decides to "live his life". He takes his trust fund money and does just that, blowing through his money quite quickly and discovering that his friends weren't really friends. Broke, homeless, and alone, he is too ashamed to face his father. He finds a lowly job after hitting rock bottom and discovers what is really important in life.

What I liked about it:  I like books that make me feel better about life when I am done reading them.  This book did just that, and I needed it today!

What I didn't like:  It was too short!  I would have liked the story to be fleshed out a little more, not a behemoth necessarily, just more than it is now.

Was it clean?:  Yes, as are all of his books.