Reading Rainbow

My book slump has ended! Good for me, bad for my bank account. Seriously, one of the best/worst things about the Kindle is the ease in which a person can buy books. I really don’t want to know how much I’ve spent on books since I bought the Kindle last fall.

With that said, I have knocked out quite a few titles since my last update. I’m definitely on a kid-lit kick right now (even more than usual). I’ve decided that while I hate adult fantasy, I love kid-lit fantasy. That said, I did manage to read a few adult books as well.

#61-#64 The Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull
In my previous book post, I wrote about Fablehaven, the first in a series of five. I enjoyed the first book a lot, but wasn’t sure if I would make it through the entire series. I was wrong. The remaining books in this series are:
Rise of the Evening Star
Grip of the Shadow Plague
Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
Keys to the Demon Prison
I really liked this entire series. I thought that the series and the characters matured from book to book and I was consistently entertained by the stories. While they are sometimes predictable (they are written for a younger audience, after all), there were certainly twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming. The last book was a bit slow to start, but that didn’t detract from the overall entertainment value. I liked they way that the book handled the maturation of the main child characters – not making them too grown up too fast – as well as the relationships that were created between characters. Overall, a solid series.
Grade (for series): A

#65 Something Borrowed  by Emily Giffin
From kid-lit to chick-lit. I’ve read one previous book by Emily Giffin (Love the One You’re With) and liked it all right. I felt the same about this book in general. It was an easy read, good for a lazy day at home. However, I had some major problems with the ending. A brief plot summary: Rachel and Darcy are best friends. Darcy is a bitch. Darcy is engaged to Dexter. Rachel falls for Dexter. Rachel and Dexter have an affair. Darcy also has an affair. Darcy and Dexter break up. Darcy and Rachel aren’t friends anymore. Rachel and Dexter end up together. Now, I thought it was all well and good until the end. I could TOTALLY see why Rachel and Dexter work together; I could also understand why Rachel was friends with Darcy even though Darcy was horrible.  But what I don’t believe is that Rachel and Dexter would have been a happy, functional couple following their affair. It was just too neat an ending. Otherwise though, it was fine. Will I read another book by Emily Giffin? Eh, maybe.
Grade: B

#66 The Hound of Rowan, by Henry H. Neff
Another kiddie book, The Hound of Rowan, is the first in a series called The Tapestry. It is basically a Harry Potter rip-off. While it has some differences (for example, technology is embraced not eschewed; the kids have animals that they care for; the kids come from across the world, not just the UK), it’s pretty similar – ie: the kids have untapped powers, the kids are specially selected, the kids go through a process similar to the sorting, there is a school sport (soccer-esque), there is a powerful yet charming headmistress, quirky teachers, and a villainous group that seeks to thwart them. Basically Harry Potter. The story follows Max as he starts his new life at his new school, has some adventures, figures out a mystery, saves the day, etc. I could see why kids would enjoy the book, but for me, it was too similar to Harry, and no where near as good.
Grade: C+

#67 Three Fates, by Nora Roberts
Yes, my Nora Roberts weakness rears its head. I actually have read this before, although I didn’t realize it when I bought it. It’s a pretty silly book that covers all the usual topics – romance, intrigue, shady characters, happy endings, people falling in love ridiculously quickly, everyone getting married, blah, blah, blah. It was funny reading this book in our current age of cell phones, Blackberries, GPS, and wi-fi internet, because whenever the book was written, these things didn’t exist. They certainly would have been a help to the characters. Anyway, basic plot: three invaluable statues of the Fates (Greek goddesses) are spread around the world. Lots of people want them. Some people will kill to get them. This book was terrible, but in a good way. Like eating fast food. You know you shouldn’t, you know you won’t get anything from in the end, but those 5 minutes while you are actually consuming it are delicious.
Grade: C

#68 The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan
Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson series, is quickly becoming one of my favorite kid-lit authors. I like his writing style and the weaving of mythology into the stories is a fun and interesting technique. The first book in Riordan’s next series The Red Pyramid, The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian mythology (versus Percy Jackson which focused on Greek mythology). I know a lot less about Egyptian mythology than Greek, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. The main characters are siblings who have been mostly raised apart for their own protection (though they were unaware of the reason). Sadie, raised by her grandparents, and Carter, raised by his father, are reunited following a bizarre experience at the British Museum when their father seemingly destroys the Rosetta stone and dies. The siblings learn later than they in fact come from a family of Egyptian magicians, who have worked over the centuries to control the powers of the Egyptian gods. There are more twists and turns along the way that I won’t reveal, since I really do recommend this book. I’ll be looking forward to the second installment.
Grade: A

#69 Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea, by Chelsea Handler
I’ve never watched Chelsea Handler’s show on the E channel, but I did watch some clips. She is definitely funny, and I think I would enjoy the show, if I had cable. However, I’m not sure how I feel about her as a writer. Parts of the book were really funny, parts were really offensive, and parts were just unnecessary. It’s styled as a memoir (she’s written several now), but it’s really not very personal. Often sarcastic, always crass, the book was easy to read. I would consider reading her other books, but am not in any big rush. I definitely preferred Kathy Griffin’s memoir to this one.
Grade: B-

#7o House Rules by Jodi Picoult
I like Jodi Picoult a lot. However, the woman really needs to branch out. Her style – different first person narrators works for her, but I’d like to see how she does writing from just one perspective or the third person. That said, I really enjoyed House Rules, which I read in about a day when I was home sick. The book is about Jacob, a 18 year old boy with Aspberger’s Syndrome (high functioning autism), who is accused of murdering his tutor. Other voices include his mother, Emma, his attorney, the investigating police officer, and his brother, Theo. I found the portrayal of Aspberger’s to be fairly accurate and appreciated the way that it was handled in the book. There is some mention of the whole vaccine controversy (about which I have mixed feelings – I think vaccinations are necessary, but I do think that maybe spacing them out a bit more is a good idea), but it’s not preachy about it. Autism is definitely an interest of mine, having worked with several kids on the spectrum. It’s a frustrating condition which is often misunderstood and I appreciate that Picoult’s book did not exacerbate those stereotypes. As a mystery however, I had it figured out about half-way in. So, that was a bummer. It was also quite frustrating that no one listened to Jacob, or to Theo, which would have solved things much quicker. But then, I guess, there wouldn’t have been a story.
Grade: A-

#71 The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
This book is the first in a series that has been around for a while. I remember when the Harry Potter books were still coming out that it was “recommended” to me by Amazon.com. Well, Amazon, I finally followed your recommendation and quite enjoyed it. The alchemyst [sic] in question is Nicolas Flamel (who should be familiar to Potter fans), and who is, in fact immortal. So is his wife, Perenelle. And so are a bunch of other humans, both good and bad. John Dee, in particular, is very bad. (Dee and Flamel were both real people. Dee was part of Queen Elizabeth’s royal court during the 16th century). Flamel is in possession of magical book that contains, in addition to the potion for immortality, the secrets to bring back the Elder race (kind of like gods, but not exactly) and destroy the world. Dee gets ahold of the book, minus the last two crucial pages, which are ripped from the book by Josh, who is employed by Flamel (who he thinks is just a bookseller). Thus Josh, and his twin sister, Sophie, get swept up in the quest to get the book back and save the world. Turns out that Josh and Sophie are perhaps twins referenced in a prophecy and that they have remarkable untapped magical powers. The book follows them as they begin they journey and ends as they arrive in Paris to find a new foe. In short, I really enjoyed this book and am currently reading the second, The Magician. Unlike Fablehaven this book was definitely written for an older audience (teens vs tweens) and that shows in the plot devices, character development, and lack of obvious foreshadowing. The dynamics between characters are very believable, and while you think you are sure of the good guys, there is also room for doubt. I’m not sure how many books will eventually make up the series, but at least 4 are out now and I plan on reading them all.
Grade: A

(Completely unrelated: For those who are wondering, I am not going to blog about my engagement story. It’s way better when I tell it in person. I will post our engagement photos after we have them taken.)

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