Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

If you’re only interested in particular books, then read the final reviews arranged by topic.

February 17

Comments: 2

Short Story Review: The Wizards of Perfil by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters cover The 30 page short story The Wizards of Perfil is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link.

Short Synopsis

A mad king has declared war on everyone leaving families broken and fear in his wake. An orphan named Onion, in the care of his aunt, is nearly sold into slavery, but at the last moment, the stranger from Perfil decides to take Onion’s ill-tempered cousin Halsa. Onion and Halsa are both special, they share the same gift, so while Halsa rides off to serve the Wizards of Perfil, it’s as though Onion is right there with her. In time, Halsa, after much hard labor, and Onion learn that the Wizards are nothing like they’d expected.

My Thoughts on The Wizards of Perfil

I’m not sure what I feel right now. I’m a bit unsettled.

The prose was smooth and I glided through pages with ease. The story unfolded like a half-remembered-dream where nothing could quite be nailed down (like ages or dates or locations) which worked in its favor and the story was unique and the characters were memorable, but I can’t shake this feeling that this would have been a better story had it been longer or, at least, more fleshed out. And the end, which I sort of saw coming, fizzled when I expected an explosion (or maybe a firecracker).

The reason for my ambivalence, though, is because I enjoyed reading it. Link is certainly a skilled wordsmith and she has a way of crafting genuine characters. (One small quirk was Halsa’s abrupt and quite jarring personality shift and Onion’s willingness to accept it at face value, but that was minor.) Plus, I like the thoughtful elements of the story; it was almost like a parable causing you to question the costs of war and faith.

But, the fact remains that I’m squarely on the fence and in my mind this story fell just short of excellence.

Final rating: C+

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February 14

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Short Story Review: The Wrong Grave by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters cover The 23 page short story The Wrong Grave is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link.

Short Synopsis

A boy regretting his decision to bury some of his poetry with his deceased girlfriend decides to dig her up and get them back, but receives a shocking surprise when he does.

My Thoughts on The Wrong Grave

I didn’t know what to expect from Kelly Link’s writing, but having read this story I can say it was a pleasant experience. This story was so many things—comical, dark, and poignant—and her writing style and subject matter aligned well with my own morbidity. (Dealing with Death has a way of skewing one’s personality; what one, who has not dealt with Death, might find disturbingly dark another may find amusingly dark.)

Each of the characters’ personalities were delineated, naturally flawed, and none of them seemed stock. I even found myself wanting to know more about the story’s anonymous narrator who had me chuckling every few pages.

As far as a plot or point to the story, there really wasn’t one that I could discern, but that was OK. It was just a charming sliver of another, longer story that I won’t ever know—unless, of course, Link ever decided to write it, at which time I would eagerly read it. Instead, I’m left to wonder and speculate and dwell on what happened to Miles and that girl he dug up.

Final rating: B+

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February 7

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Review: Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew

by Ann-Katrina

Totally Tangled cover

Title: Totally Tangled
Author: Sandy Steen Bartholomew
ISBN: 157421671-6
Story Length: 50 pages
Genre: Arts & Crafts

Back Cover of Totally Tangled

Can’t draw? Stressed out? Even if you are an artist and feel perfectly calm…Zentangle is for you! Learn to focus, relax your mind and boost your creative confidence. No kidding!

Three Quick Points About Totally Tangled

  • Point 1: Not for n00bs. The book doesn’t go into details about the Zentangle steps and the book assumes prior knowledge of tangle (i.e. pattern) creation.
  • Point 2: Disorganized. The format doesn’t have a logical flow and had me skipping around from page to page.
  • Point 3: Strays into the realm of “zendoodles”. After researching Zentangles I learned that a number of the book’s examples are Zendoodles or Zentangle-inspired art rather than actual Zentangles. Continue reading »

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January 31

Comments: 2

Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop

by Ann-Katrina

Trapped cover Title: Trapped
Author: Michael Northrop
ISBN: 978-054521-0126
Story Length: 240 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Psychological Thriller

Back Cover of Trapped

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But the power goes out, and the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the day adds up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision…

Three Quick Points About Trapped

  • Point 1: A smooth read. There was nothing difficult in the reading. One word flowed into the next, one sentence into the next, and one paragraph into the next.
  • Point 2: Underwhelming characters. Each character seemed like a slightly varied stock template, from the bully who wasn’t so bad after all to the hormonally challenged teenage boy to the super hot blond.
  • Point 3: A pressure cooker with too little pressure. The students’ situation was dire, no doubt about it, but there wasn’t enough character variation to spark true conflict.

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December 15

Comments: 1

Review: Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicki Myron with Brett Witter

by Ann-Katrina

deweys-nine-lives

Title: Dewey’s Nine Lives
Author: Vicky Myron with Brett Witter
ISBN: 978-0525-95186-5
Story Length: 320 pages
Genre: Pet Stories

Description of Dewey’s Nine Lives

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World was a blockbuster bestseller and a publishing phenomenon. It has sold nearly a million copies, spawned three children’s books, and will be the basis for an upcoming movie. No doubt about it, Dewey has created a community. Dewey touched readers everywhere, who realized that no matter how difficult their lives might seem, or how ordinary their talents, they can-and should-make a positive difference to those around them. Now, Dewey is back, with even more heartwarming moments and life lessons to share.

Dewey’s Nine Lives offers nine funny, inspiring, and heartwarming stories about cats–all told from the perspective of “Dewey’s Mom,” librarian Vicki Myron. The amazing felines in this book include Dewey, of course, whose further never-before-told adventures are shared, and several others who Vicki found out about when their owners reached out to her. Vicki learned, through extensive interviews and story sharing, what made these cats special, and how they fit into Dewey’s community of perseverance and love. From a divorced mother in Alaska who saved a drowning kitten on Christmas Eve to a troubled Vietnam veteran whose heart was opened by his long relationship with a rescued cat, these Dewey-style stories will inspire readers to laugh, cry, care, and, most importantly, believe in the magic of animals to touch individual lives.

–From Amazon.com

Three Quick Points About Dewey’s Nine Lives

  • Point 1: Some overlap. I purchased the first book so did expect some overlap in the recounting of Dewey’s related stories, but it’s hardly noticeable. It just gives the book an air of familiarity.
  • Point 2: Immensely readable The prose style is casual, much like a friend telling you a story.
  • Point 3: Surprisingly heart-rending. I expected to smile, perhaps giggle, while reading, but I never expected to cry (at least, not as much as I did).

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