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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Audiobook Review – The Toll-Gate – Georgette Heyer

The Toll-House
Author: Georgette Heyer

Narrator: Daniel Hill
Run Time: 9hrs and 15 minutes
Producer: AudioGO

Book Description:
Captain John Staple’s exploits in the Peninsula had earned him the sobriquet Crazy Jack among his fellow Dragoons. Now home from Waterloo, life is rather dull. But when he finds himself lost and benighted at an unmanned toll-house in the Pennines, his soldiering exploits pale away besides an adventure — and romance — of a lifetime.

Review:
I have come to the conclusion that I am just one of those people who can’t appreciate Heyer’s work. In the romance community, she is the one recommendation that people come up with for realistic romances, but they just leave me feeling not quite complete. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad, they just aren’t for me. In this instance, I have to admit that I preferred the mystery aspect of the story (what happened to the Toll-Gate keeper) to the romance which was a bit ehh. It almost ended up being an insta-love situation, I never truely felt like there was any romance between the 2 main characters.

In conjunction with the iffy romance in the storyline, I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator. I think he did an ok job with the various adult male voices, but the female ones, as well as the young kid who was fairly significant in the book were only ehhh. They all just started to blend together after a while, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I had debated actually DNF’ing this at one stage, but decided to see it out. The ending was satisfactory with how the mystery was solved, and the narrator’s voice sorta grew on me, but not enough for me to want to seek him out again in the future. Overall, i can only give the book and narration 2 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Book Review

 

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Review – Weeding the Flowerbeds – Sarah Mkhonza

Weeding the Flowerbeds
Author: Sarah Mkhonza

Book Description:
Weeding the Flowerbeds is a memoir of boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School in Swaziland, a country in Southern Africa. In this book Sarah explores life in the boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School, a school that produced many graduates. She explores life in an educational institution where growing up is takes place under strict hostel rules in the seventies. As young Swazi girls Bulelo, Sisile and Makhosi grow up learning about life and Christianity. They learn to love school and also to appreciate writing and literature. All the time they feel as if they are being pushed in a certain direction and it is one of the teachers Mr. Fields and others who come to the school and make them understand the importance of choosing to be free in ones spirit. With all that education they leave the school and go and live their lives

Review
As I continue my around the world in reading travels, I’ve found it harder and harder to find books for some of the more random countries. Swaziland is one of those countries – no, not Switzerland (I swear, I can spell), but Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa. But when I was browsing other blogs, I found someone else doing an around the world challenge and she also read this book as part of her challenge. It wasn’t an easy book to find (I eventually had to cave and buy it from Amazon), but it was an interesting read.

A fictionalized memoir of three girls in a church run boarding school, it details their adventures over several years, as they progress through the levels prior to graduation. I liked the idea of the book, however, to me the execution was lacking. There was quite a bit of redundancy in the writing (repeating the same information in multiple places in the same chapter) and some times where what is being said is contradicted in the next paragraph (for example, in one paragraph she is doing push-ups, then talking about how she did the best in that set of sit-ups and then back to talking about push-ups). I think this is something that a good editor could have fixed – but as the author is a professor herself, I don’t know how much it was edited prior to release. I do find it interesting that there are very few reviews for the book out there (zero on Amazon, 1 on goodreads – aside from mine).

I think this is a good read if someone is interested in learning about life in the smaller African countries and the role that the various religious organizations have played in the developing nations. however, because of issues that I had with it, I can’t give it more than 2 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review

 

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Classics Challenge Review – The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier

Narrator: Frank Muller
Run Time:5hrs and 34 minutes

Book Description:
Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive?

Review
When I originally picked The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier to read for my 50 classics in 5 years challenge, I thought that it was because I had read it as a teen and wanted to re-read it to see how my opinion of it had changed over the years. However, I soon discovered that it wasn’t the book that I thought it was…(and unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out what that damn book it yet!!). But at the same time, I am glad that I chose to read/listen to it, but have decided that I need to pick up the second one (Beyond the Chocolate War), because I wasn’t all that impressed with the ending – it was too vague and unfinished for me.

However, the quote that continually shows up through the book – “dare I disturb the universe” is key to the events that unfolded through-out the course of the book. It is a question that so many people who engage in social protest ask themselves – is that one small action I might engage in, worth it. Will I succeed in what I am about to do? What are the consequences for me engaging in this action? It was interesting to hear, in the authors own words, how he came up with the idea for the book (his son who refused to sell school chocolates) and how his various what-if scenarios played out in the development of the various characters. Not only does the theme of social protest appear through-out but the idea of the role of bullying in society.

It was bullying by the group called the Vigils that started the chain of events that led to the events that occurred in the books; it was the bullying of Brother Leon of many of the students at the school that led to the culture where the Vigils flourished and were allowed to behave as they did. Like i mentioned above however, my main problem with how the book finished was that there was no real ending – the good guy (in this case, Jerry) didn’t prevail, we were kind of left wondering what happened or worse yet, left with the impression that evil will prevail and that it will beat good out every time. So I am curious to see what happens in the second book.

I found the narration by Frank Muller interesting – it seemed much more like a performance than the straight reading of a book. This isn’t something that I often run into when listening, so it was interesting. At first it was weird, but it kind of grew on me as the book progressed. He did have a good ability to have some fear inspiring voices like his rendition of Brother Leon. i have to say though, that since the entire cast of characters are male, there was really no way for me to judge how his female voices would sound – so I would be curious to listen to other narrations by him to find out how he renders those.

If the other books in my classics challenge are as thought provoking as this one, I look forward to reading more.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Classics Challenge

 

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Audiobook Review – Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series: #1 in the Anne of Green Gables series

Narrator: Susan O’Malley
Run Time: 10 hours, 41 minutes
Producer: Blackstone Audio

Book Description
As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever… but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected — a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she’d try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special — a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.

Review
I think most girls growing up probably read the story of the red-haired orphan adopted by Matthew and Matilda Cuthbert, set in Canada. For me, it had been nearly two decades since i had read it, but I still had fond memories, so after listening to my previous audiobook that had me bawling, I decided that I wanted a feel-good book to listen to. (Unfortunately, I forgot how moving and cry worthy AoGG was). But this is definitely a book that to me has stood the test of time – I laughed and I cried along with Anne as she struggled to find her place in life and society.

I do have to admit that I was surprised by how much my memories of the book were jaded by the movie version that I had seen. While I have planned on writing a book to movie post, a few thoughts. Anne and her dress with the puffed sleeves – this was probably one of the parts of the book I thought that I remembered the most, but I was surprised to find that what i thought occurred in the book, was primarily in the movie. The same with how the book ended and the death of a main character (I mean, I could spoil it by saying who it was, but there are still people out there who haven’t read this classic, so I won’t).

It has been a while now since I listened to the audiobook, so I really don’t have much to say about the narrator – it wasn’t bad enough to stick out in my mind, but at the same time wasn’t one the best narrators I have listened to in the past. It was only good – I wish I had more to say about it, but I don’t. The production of the audiobook was a bit funky in that you could hear where it had been re-mastered and the quality of the book changed through-out – there were parts where it was super quiet, and others where it got really loud – I’m personally not a fan of having to adjust the volume on my ipod in the car like I was having to with this verison.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Review – Ten Girls to Watch – Charity Shumway (@CharityShumway)

Ten Girls to Watch
Author: Charity Shumway

Thanks to Washington Square Press, Atria Books and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy

Purchase from Amazon here:
Ten Girls to Watch (Paperback)
Ten Girls to Watch (Kindle)

Book Description
Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She’s got an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that’s gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column.

So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of Charm magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest, she’s thrilled. After all, she’s being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women: once outstanding college students, they have gone on to become mayors, opera singers, and air force pilots. As Dawn gets to know their life stories, she’ll discover that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she’ll learn that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending.

Review
I have to admit that the cover is the first thing that drew my attention on the book. I love reading magazines when I get a chance, and especially, the ones that feature the top anythings – sports stars for a year, hottest guys in each states etc. So when I read the premise, a girl assigned to track down the “Ten Girls to Watch,” I knew that I had to get a hold of it.

Dawn as a character was interesting and I can remember being that age and just starting out. But at the same time, it also showed that sometimes connections are the best way to get started or established in an industry – but at the same time, it is your work and initiative that gets you to the finish line ultimately. I also liked the variety of profiles of women that were presented through-out. One of my only complaints is that it seemed like everyone was super successful and I don’t know if that is necessarily reflective of true life, but for the purpose of fiction i guess it works. I just wish that there have been some not so successful women…

I’ll definately be on the look-out for more books by Ms Shumway in the future – and I hope that they live up to the standard that she set in Ten Girls to Watch. In the meantime, I’ll be on the look-out for any similar authors (if people have any ideas…). Overall, I gave it 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Audiobook Review – Only One Life – Sara Blaedel

Only One Life
Author: Sara Blaedel
Series: #3 in the Louise Rick series

Narrator: Joyce Bean
Run Time: 9 hours, 23 minutes

Audiobook provided for review by AudioGO and Audiobook Jukebox

Book Description
It was clearly no ordinary drowning. Inspector Louise Rick is immediately called out to Holbaek Fjord when a young immigrant girl is found in the watery depths, a piece of concrete tied around her waist and two mysterious circular patches on the back of her neck.

Her name was Samra, and Louise soon learns that her short life was a sad story. Her father had already been charged once with assaulting her and her mother, Sada, who makes it clear that her husband would indeed be capable of killing Samra if she brought dishonor to the family. But she maintains that Samra hadn’t done anything dishonorable. Then why was she supposed to be sent back to Jordan? Samra s best friend Dicte thinks it was an honor killing. A few days later Dicte is discovered, bludgeoned to death, and Samra’s younger sister has gone missing.

Review
One thing I have learnt over the last year or so of reading Nordic Noir is that the most obvious solution is never it – so I had to keep my mind open as the mystery played out in Only One Life. This is the third book in the series, although only the second one had been released in English prior to this. That being said, I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much having not read/listened to the previous book in the series. Although, I will be reading it in the near future, as well as looking forward to book 4 that is due out in December.

If I was going to compare Sara Blaedel’s writing to other authors from the area, I would put her somewhere in the middle of the ranking when it comes to the darkness that is prevalent in the genre. The crime was dark, and there was lots of society influences that contributed to the crime, but at the same time, she was able to focus on some of the interpersonal relationships that made the crime all the more real. The book also made me want to pick up some other books that deal with honor killings – whatever the setting. I did identify the killer early on, but then I completely dismissed the person because I didn’t believe that it could be them. You think I would have learnt to not do that by now…lol!

This isn’t the first book I’ve listened to that Joyce Bean has narrated and it won’t be the last. There is something about her voice that just sucks me in. Her range of voices continues to surprise me – having listened to her narrate Urban Fantasy (the fever series), mysteries (Karin Slaughter) and now Scandinavian crime fiction. I found myself driving long routes home just so I could finish up a chapter, or sitting in the parking lot at work. For me, I find that listening to these mysteries helps me to pronounce many of the names that I would normally massacre if I was trying to say them.

Overall, I’d give the book 3.5 stars and the narration 4 stars with a 4 star rating overall. I hope others who read/listen to Only One Life enjoy it as much as I did.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Deja Vu Review (5) – Longest Book You Have Read and Enjoyed

The Deja Vu Review is a weekly meme hosted by Brittany at The Book Addicts Guide. Its an opportunity to revisit old books you might have read before you launched your blog, but that you think should maybe still be highlighted.

One of the longest books you’ve read

I LOVE long books – with as fast as I read, long books give me something that I can savor and really dig into. There are many long books that I love, least of all, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – but since most people know that I am a Jamie maniac, I’m not going to feature it here. Rather, I’m going to mention 2 other books that I’ve read and loved.

Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follet
Read in 2004

This was one of the many books I was assigned in college and I actually read it and loved it (shock gasp!). There was just something about the imagery provided by Follet that made me fall in love with the book. The paperback comes in at over 900 hundred pages, but it was well-worth it. I learnt so much about Renaissance architecture and cathedral building. And I ended up getting an A in the class, which was a double bonus.

Kushiel’s Dart
Jacqueline Carey
Read in 2011

I had heard of this series many times, but not being a fantasy fan, I hadn’t picked it up. Until one of my co-workers brought in her copy and told me that I had to read it. I was immediately sucked in to the world that Ms Carey built. I have the rest of the books on the TBR pile (and my co-worker is still harassing me for not reading them yet…) I even recommended this to another romance reader, since it has many of the themes that we love and she loved it as well (I think she read the entire thing in like 2 days…).

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Meme

 

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GRL2012 – Day 0.5 – Albuquerque, New Mexico #GRL2012

So I’ve been doing a count-down to New Mexico since I registered for the conference back in March/April (I think). And its finally here!!!

I arrived in Albuquerque on Tuesday night – and wow – it is nice and warm (no more crappy DC weather for a few days!), although the elevation made me feel a bit funky for a little while (much better now though). I’m all checking in at the Hard Rock Cafe here – awesome hotel rooms – although, there are no refrigerators and coffee pots in the room (this could be dangerous…).

Myself and a few online friends spent yesterday in Santa Fe. There was a group of people who went via the train, but I decided to be sane and not get up at 6am on vacation, so we drove. Had a fun day seeing some of the old churches, went to the Georgina O’Keefe Museum (lots of pretty pictures) and then had this mouth watering, drool inspiring Beef Chimichunga for lunch with a cheese sauce (with lots of green chili’s) that I want to bottle and sell!!

Back to the hotel time and it was time to mingle with lots of the authors who are here. I was totally trying to not go all fan-girl on some of them – but I have no doubt that will happen before the weekend is over. Or sooner, if they keep providing me with Cake flavored Vodka (whoever came up with that needs to be Sainted!). Of course, there was also gambling involved last night at the blackjack tables – and the casino won as is the norm when I try…but hey, its all in fun right!

I took some pretty good pictures while we were in Santa Fe, that I will try to get up soon, but in the mean here…here is a picture of something the hotel put on the floor for us – awesome right?

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Review – Warrior’s Last Gift – Melissa Mayhue

Warrior’s Last Gift
Author: Melissa Mayhue
Series: 1.5 in the Warrior Series
Publisher: Pocket Star Books

Thanks to Pocket Star Books and Edelweiss for providing the e-copy of this book

Book Description
When Jeanne MacGhie had nowhere to turn, Eymer Horvesson stepped in with an offer of marriage. He asked for only one favor in return…and now that he’s dead, Jeanne will stop at nothing to keep her promise to the young warrior—even though it means turning to the one man she swore she’d never speak to again.

Eric MacNicol never expected a cavalier refusal to wed would result in his losing the one thing he truly wanted in life. When a warrior’s final request forces him on a cross-country quest with the widow, he must battle his inner demons to make the right decision this time. Only one last gift from a fallen warrior can offer them both a second chance at true love….

Review
Since I re-discovered Melissa Mayhue’s books above a month ago, I have been slowly but steadily working my way through her Daughters of the Glen series. However, when I was browsing Edelweiss not long ago, I saw that she had a second series out, again with Highlanders and I was all over it. Warrior’s Last Gift is the bridging book between the first and second books in the series, and while short (only about 70 pages), I felt that she was able to develop the characters into people I would like to get to know more of and hopefully they will appear in later books (pretty please!)

As with all books there was some stuff that I really enjoyed and others that I didn’t. I liked how you could tell that the author had done her research in various Norse traditions – it was reflected in the substance. However, at the same time, there was also a common romance trope that I’m not a fan of (involving babies), which was kind of disappointing. I can see why it was in there, but I don’t know, it just felt a bit too cliched’

I’m really looking forward to reading the other books in this series, especially with the Norse mythology that is featured in them, as well as the time travel. I would give Warrior’s Last Gift 3.5 stars for being a short cute read and I am looking forward to reading more.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Mini-Review – Les Miserables – Volume I (Fantine)

Thanks to Tien of Tien’s Blurb for hosting the above read-along.

So originally this post was supposed to go up over a week ago and I could have sworn that I finished it and hit post – but apparently not. I blame it on…umm, my ability to be a complete and utter scatterbrain at times…anyways, here we go. This review is my thoughts on the volume I of Les Miserables (Fantine), along with some discussion questions posed by Tien. This review has the potential to be completely and utterly SPOILERIFIC!! so you have been warned ;)

General Thoughts on Volume I
I have to admit that when I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the translation (by Denny) flowed. I was very easily sucked in and reaching my page goal each night (about 15-20 pages) was easy to do. I even found myself reading just a little bit more (which is always a bad idea when you had to be up at 4am for work)…I do have to admit that if I hadn’t had no only Tien, but other friends reading this, I might have gotten distracted but having that buddy support system for reading is great.

My other main thought so far is that I was surprised how well the first part of the musical mirrored what had happened in the book up until the end of the volume. And yes, I was singing various songs from the musical as I was reading.

Discussion Questions
1.What do you think of Bishop Myriel? He’s definitely described as being truly saintly; I’m wondering if there’s any pessimistic reader out there?
I have to admit that the beginning I was that pessimistic reader – I couldn’t believe that anyone was as perfect, as truely righteous and saintly as Bishop Myriel. But as his story progressed, he started to grow on me and Hugo’s writing style was persuasive in such a way that by the time Valjean’s path crossed with Myriel’s, I was convinced that he was that true saint. The kind of permission that you would expect have been made a Saint in the Catholic church 100 years or so post book setting.

2. For those of you who are reading this for the first time, was there any assumptions you have made previously from whatever source which was just incorrect? Was there anything which surprises you from the past week’s readings?
As I alluded to above, I’m a huge fan of the musical, although I have never seen it live (and yes, I’m still mad at my mom for not taking me to see it because I was too young…) I was pleasantly surprised with how well the musical mirrors (albeit reduced in time and descriptive). Personally, I can’t wait to see the new movie to see how well it has been adapted from the book.

3. What do you think of the contrast between Javert & Valjean?
The dichotomy between Javert and Valjean is intriguing, although I don’t think we have necessarily seen all there is to see yet since overall there was fairly limited interaction between the two. I have to wonder, whether in part, Javert’s pursuit of Valjean is in part jealously of his success – you have Javert who was born in a jail to a convict and made a life for himself that was moderately successful as a police inspector, but comparatively, then you have ValJean, a convict who served nearly 20 years, who is released, doesn’t finish his parole, and turns into a huge success – a rich business owner in a time, when many were struggling to just survive.

4. What has been the high point for you this week? Any quote/s which bowled you over this week?
As I was reading through this section and found a particularly interesting quote, I was bookmarking the page – unfortunately, I forgot to go back and highlight several of them…whoops.
But looking at the pages that I marked, there were several that I thought were significant:

“I mean that the man is ruled by a tyrant whose name is Ignorance, and that is the tyrant I sought to overthrow. That is the tyrant which gave birth to monarchy, and monarchy is authority based on falsehood, whereas knowledge is based on truth. Man should be ruled by knowledge.” – conversation between the Bishop and the old man (pg 52)

“There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity.” (pg 69)

“Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man” – this quote epitomizes the book – the choices that we as individuals must make, how many of them are based on promises made to other people. How you choose to live your life is affected by those promises

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Book Review, Read-Along

 

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