Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

October 17

Comments: 6

Book Notes: Until I Get Around to Proper Reviews

by Ann-Katrina

Hold on to your bookmarks, I’ve got a lot of book notes. I figured that since I have so many books waiting for their proper spotlight, I should give a few quick updates in the interim.

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Koko Be Good The artwork is heart-stopping, but the story is lukewarm. I cannot speak enough about Wang’s artistic style and eye. I even got a bit envious. However, when it came down to the writing, pacing, and clarity of the story, I winced. That’s why I’m ambivalent.

I want to tell you to run out and buy it just so you can stare at the pretty pictures, but I fear you’d hate me when you got around to reading the convoluted and mediocre story. So, for now, I’ll just say if you’re going to buy it, get it used.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely There was something about this book that dug into me and made me continue reading, but there’s something else that made me say meh when I finished. The writing was adequate (though it could have used some more editing), and so was the storyline. ‘

I think where this book failed for me was in the characterization. None of the characters truly felt genuine and I never did latch on to the plot. In ways it felt too convenient and had too many holes. Still, it wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, plus it was quick. I’d recommend this when you’re bored and just want something quick and fluffy with a slightly dark edge.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay

I did it. I finally drank the Kool-Aid. I don’t even know where to begin with this series. I saw the first book while I was walking through a department store, it was $6 and I’d been hearing so many people talking about it that I just plopped it down in my cart. And for about a week it sat unread and unloved on my bookshelf. Then, out of the blue, I saw it and grabbed it and devoured it.

I was near tears because I was coming up on the last few pages and didn’t have the second book. But I couldn’t stop myself, I had to finish and when I did, I was numb. It was three whole days before I was able to pick up another book to read. Eventually I read all three of the books with the same zeal (the third book less so mostly because I was afraid of what was coming).

This series is raw, bleak, and unforgiving. Collins held no punches and I think that’s why I was so enamoured. I laughed, I cried, I balked right along with Katniss. I felt all of her emotions so vividly. The books sucked me right in.

The third book, I will admit, took some prodding since I was reluctant to read more than two chapters at a time. Everything in it was so bleak. I just didn’t understand how anyone was to recover. Then it picked up toward the middle and I simply couldn’t put it down. I’m going to have a hard time putting into words everything these books have done to me. I can’t wait for the movies to come out and I hope they don’t frack it up.

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Radiance This is my first book by Alyson Noel and only grabbed it on a whim. The cover looked interesting, the synopsis grabbed me (to be honest, because it sounded similar to a short story I’d written), and I pegged it for a light read. Ultimately I made a good decision. The book was a quick, light read although it dealt with some heavy subjects (death and coping).

It was also interesting to learn that it was a spinoff of the Evermore series I’ve been hearing about, but never felt compelled to read. Even after reading Radiance I still don’t feel compelled to read it, but probably will eventually.

The writing was well done, spare and evocative; the protagonist was spunky and felt natural; and the storyline held my interest, but I didn’t care much for the heavy new-age spin. Overall though I have few complaints about this book.

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle

The House of Dead Maids Perfect book for the Halloween season. It’s a prequel to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, but you needn’t have read it to enjoy The House of Dead Maids. This book stands well on its on and is truly a chilling gothic ghost story—well-written, and strange.

It’s a rare thing when a contemporary horror novel, especially written for children, can get me to think twice about the sounds I hear outside my window, but this book did exactly that. Worth every penny.

The Amulet Books 1-3 by Kazu Kibuishi

The StonekeeperThe Stonekeeper's CurseThe Cloud Searchers

I have a new favorite graphic novel series. Or, at least it’s in the Top 5. The illustrations are amazing, as is the coloring, as is the story. OK, I’ll admit the story is a bit reminiscent of some other hero tales of the past, but the other areas of the graphic novel series makes up for that. Plus the characters are quirky and entertaining. Plus, the editing and pacing are worthy of note.

With as many graphic novels as I’ve seen published with shoddy writing and inconsistent stories and art, it’s clear that Kibuishi takes his time and carefully crafts his graphic novels before sending it off to the masses. I cross my fingers and hope that it doesn’t change with future issues.

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Mrs. Kimble This is the product of a commenter’s recommendation. And I’m glad I listened. This book held my interest from the beginning to the very end.

It starts on a strange note, with a mysterious man dying in his car while waiting for a drawbridge to lower, and then travels back through time and shows us who this man is and how he affected the lives of three (actually more) different women.

This book is a tapestry. All of the lives, though separate, are connected. Though there were some editing faux pas, noticeable writing quirks, and few areas where the thread was dropped, it was still an expertly woven story.

This is a book for people who enjoy gawping at the lives and inner workings of others rather than plot-driven tales. It’s languid in its telling and will leave you with much to ponder afterward.

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February 22

Comments: 2

Micro Read-a-Thon Update, Reviews in Queue, and the Week Ahead

by Ann-Katrina

The weekend is over. And it flew by. I barely had a chance to savor it. But, let’s not dwell on that, otherwise I might start twirling around really fast in an effort to time travel and that definitely wouldn’t be pretty.

Sunday was supposed to be dedicated to a mini read-a-thon, but due to some improper planning on my part (and lack of sleep the night before), it was transformed into a micro read-a-thon—two books and four short stories in six hours. I just missed the mark…by about four miles.

I did manage to finish one book (Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt) and get three quarters of the way through another (The Devouring by Simon Holt)—keep reading for some book notes. I also learned that I read much slower when I’m tired.*

Reviews in Queue

There are so many books around here begging to be reviewed, but I’ve been putting it off. I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s a mental block. Maybe it has something to do with the changes to the review system.** In any event, here are a few waiting for their moment on the chopping block:

Topless ProphetTopless Prophet by Alan Markovitz (with Thomas Stevens)

Before you read the title, see the cover image, and scoff, let me first explain the reason for requesting the book. I enjoy books on business and success—when they’re well done. If you can weave that valuable knowledge into an entertaining memoir, all the better. Plus, I enjoy a hint of risqué. And that’s precisely what Topless Prophet is.

It’s not as smut-filled as one might assume at first glance and deals more with Markovitz’s life growing up and entering the adult entertainment business, plus it dispenses some excellent advice (and inspiration) which could be applied in almost any situation. It’s also an interesting look behind the scenes of a high class strip club.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie BabbittTuck Everlasting

When I finished this book, I wondered why I hadn’t read it much sooner. I was also left in awe at how quickly it floated by.

This book was a much faster read than I’d anticipated, but it has so much to offer. Words fail me.

It’s one book that I can squarely recommend for both children and adults. For the child, there’s an entertaining story about a girl who’s tired of the status quo and ends up on an adventure with a peculiar immortal family and learning about life in the process, and there’s a heavier message for the adults.

The question posed on the front cover is no joke: What if you could live forever?

The DevouringThe Devouring by Simon Holt

When I first read the description at Amazon, I thought it sounded sufficiently interesting. Then I read a few reviews and they all had something in common: they said the book was frightening. Still, I didn’t believe them. I’ve read (and watched) so much horror and thriller and blood-soaked thrasher stories that they rarely phase me anymore. Then I began reading…

…and it is frightening.

It’s not your traditional frightening. Nothing seems overtly out of place until you realize the cold air you feel blowing across your arms and legs is not natural or that the smell of carnival popcorn doesn’t belong in your bedroom or the woman sitting on the bed is not actually your long-gone mother. Or that your soul has been replaced by something dark and no one around you knows. It’s a slow chill that snakes through you until you’re numb. That’s the kind of frightening it is.

It’s not without its clichés, but I still can’t wait to finish this one.

The Week Ahead

I don’t often publish “week ahead” posts, but I figure: I’m here, I’m typing, so why not?

Since embarking on this little reading experiment, I had to put aside Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson—of which I’m halfway finished and it rocks—so I’ll probably finish that up this week, then move on to something weightier; Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (which I snagged thanks to a recommendation by Sravana) or Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline perhaps.

Suite ScarlettMrs. KimbleBird in Hand

After that, I’m sure I’ll want to move on to something light and carefree, or maybe some non-fiction. Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt, Mister Monday by Garth Nix, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot are good candidates.

Goody HallMister MondayThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Since I tend to be a moody reader, we’ll have to wait and see to be certain.


*I decided to use a track timer while reading. At the end of each chapter, I pressed the ‘Lap’ button. It was interesting to see bottlenecks or fluctuations based on my posture or overall alertness.

**After an unscientific survey performed a while back, I’ve decided to break my reviews up into two parts posted separately. One part will be the summary and vocab words (I originally planned to do vocab, but never actually did it) and the second part will be my thoughts on the book.

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