Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

January 17

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An Unanticipated Book Splurge

by Ann-Katrina

I went out this evening to pick up a new stereo system for my living room and came home with more books. (By the way, how, in any world, is that logical? But I digress.) The three new books added to my library:

Century's Son coverLeaving coverTreatment cover

Century’s Son by Robert Boswell:

In the small college town of Hayden, Illinois, Morgan and Zhenya have settled into a loveless, stagnant marriage. He is a former labor organizer who now works as a garbage collector, and she is a political science professor and the daughter of a prominent Russian émigré. The suicide of their son, Philip, some ten years before has left the pair emotionally dead, lacking even the courage or initiative to separate from each other. Their surviving child, Emma, has become a teenage mother and refuses to reveal the identity of the child’s father.

Into this sullen mix marches the Century’s Son, Peter Ivanovich Kamenev, Zhenya’s exasperating father. A Russian writer and an impresario of history, Peter Ivanovich claims to have had the opportunity to assassinate Joseph Stalin, to have marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the American South, and to have visited a strip club in Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, Zhenya has discovered several inconsistencies in her father’s invented history, and she also discovers the limits of her patience with his neediness and self-dramatization.

Peter’s arrival, though it tears at the family, also rejuvenates it. He forces Morgan and Zhenya to confront themselves, their children alive and dead, and their lives past, present, and future, as lived, as planned, and as imagined. He embraces Emma and her child; he recognizes and exploits all of the small hypocrisies and foibles of daily life. His deceitful, smooth-talking vibrancy invigorates and infuriates everybody around him.

Leaving by Richard Dry:

In 1959, newly widowed and pregnant Ruby Washington and her thirteen-year-old half brother, Easton, board a bus in rural South Carolina. There, far from the violent events that forced her to flee her home, Ruby hopes to make a new life for her family.

Ruby gives birth to a daughter, Lida, and strives to raise the girl and Easton. But as their Oakland neighborhood changes during the turbulent 1960s, the three are driven apart by forces that Ruby cannot control. Easton becomes involved with civil rights activism and the Black Panthers; Lida, keeping a hurtful family secret to herself, spirals into a cycle of dependency and denial. Finally, Lida’s sons, Love LeRoy and Li’l Pit, must fend for themselves in the inhospitable streets of America, leaving one city for another, searching for a home.

The Treatment by Mo Hayder:

It is the middle of the summer in Brockwell Park, a pleasant residential area in London. Behind the placid façade of one house, a man and wife lie tied up and imprisoned in their own home. When they are discovered, badly dehydrated and bearing the marks of a brutal beating, they reveal one final horror: Their young son has disappeared. Called in to investigate, Jack Caffrey uses all the tricks of the forensic investigator’s trade to piece together the scanty clues at the crime scene. But the echoes of a heartrending disappearance in his own past make it almost impossible for him to view the crime with scientific detachment. As Jack digs deeper, attempting to hold his own life together as the disturbing parallels between past and present mount, the real nightmares begin.

The three books were on the clearance rack, so I won’t be heartbroken if they aren’t the best choices ever, but I’m yanking out my optimistic disposition. I’ve read the first chapters of each (while standing in the aisle like a giant bookend) and the Amazon reviews and they all look promising. Plus, they’ll introduce me to some new authors. That’s a win in my book.

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August 16

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A Barrage of Books (Hooray! Happy Dance)

by Ann-Katrina

The past couple of weeks have been good for books. After a trip to Borders, I realized that I didn’t get all the books I’d wanted, so I headed to Amazon and then I headed to Bookcloseouts. Not only that, I also received a few titles from publishers. All in all, I can’t complain.

From Borders

American GodsScary Stories to Tell in the DarkTales from the Odyssey Part 1The Thief Lord

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Having enjoyed other Gaiman novels, I decided it was time to give one of his grown up books a try and I’ve heard so many good things about this one that when I saw it, I had to buy it.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz: There’s a 99% chance that I already own an older version of this book. I read a great deal of R. L. Stine and Alvin Schwartz when I was a kid, so this is going to be a nostalgic reading experience for me.

Tales from the Odyssey (Part 1) by Mary Pope Osborne: This was a book I couldn’t resist—Greek gods, goddesses, and a cursed Grecian king? I’ve already finished it and must say, what an excellent retelling of Odyssey for a young audience. Already looking forward to the second part. (See the Amazon section.)

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke: The first thing that caught me was the cover: Dark and mysterious. Then I read the back cover and knew that I wanted to read this. It would probably be a good R.I.P. challenge read, but I don’t know if I can hold off on it that long.

From Amazon

Tales from the Odyssey Part 2SoulsticeSong of the WandererUninvitednothing-but-ghostskiss-blog

Tales from the Odyssey (Part 2) by Mary Pope Osborne: When I got home and got halfway through the first book, I realized I’d made a mistake by not snagging the second book. (Plus, Borders didn’t have it in stock.) So I hunted it down on Amazon and was glad to find it in stock and on special, 4 for 3, which meant I needed to get another three books to take advantage. (Yes, I know there are 6 books, but technically the last 2 were bargain books.)

Soulstice (The Devouring, Bk 2) by Simon Holt: I don’t know how long this book was sitting in my shopping cart just waiting to be bought. Finally, I thought about The Devouring and how badly I want to find out about Ebon which broke me down. I’m trying to save this read until October, but I don’t think I’ll make it. Maybe.

Song of the Wanderer (The Unicorn Chronicles, Bk. 2) by Bruce Coville: I absolutely adored Into the Land of the Unicorns, which was the first book in this series. I was elated to see that the second book was also on special, so I snapped it up. It will make a lovely light fantasy read.

Uninvited by Justine Musk: The title turned me off. I’d already tried a book titled Uninvited and the memory of reading it still hurts. But I read the back cover Musk’s book and the storyline just sounds so intriguing, plus (as far as I can tell) there aren’t any vampires, which is a good sign.

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart: I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready to read this book yet, but I’ve seen so many people mention the beautiful writing that I just can’t resist. I’ll just steel myself and dive in…one of these days.

Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel: Some time ago I saw this title mentioned on a blog (sorry I can’t remember it now so I could give some credit) and forgot about it. Then Amazon recommended to me, I saw that it was a bargain book and figured why not? From the description, it feels like it’s going to be a fun read.

From Bookcloseouts

The Tarot Cafe Vol. 5The Tarot Cafe Vol. 6The Tarot Reader's Daughter

The Tarot Café Vol. 5 & 6 by Sang-Sun Park: I enjoyed volumes 1-4 (well, 1-3 more than 4, but…) and I’m trying to figure out why it took me so long to get the final two volumes. As an aside, I’m a bit sad that book 6 is the final in the series, but all good things must eventually come to an end, right?

The Tarot Reader’s Daughter by Helen Dunwoodie: Pure impulse buy. This may come as a surprise, but I love tarot cards—primarily the artwork. When I was doing a search for the Tarot Café books, this book popped up in the search results. It was cheap, it looked interesting, so it was another why not? moment.

From Publishers


Empty by Suzanne Weyn: When I opened up the package and saw this book inside, I got chills. There’s a soft spot in my heart for dystopian reads and this one was especially unnerving because it deals with the depletion of fuel. What will happen when there are no more fossil fuels? What will people do? What will we become? Can’t wait to find out! (Um…not in real life though.)

Solitary by Travis Thrasher: Let me be honest and say that I have no idea what to expect from this book. I received a nudge from someone who said it would be up my street and the publicist was kind enough to send me a copy. I’ve already read the first couple of chapters and I have to admit, I like Thrasher’s style so far.

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford: The back cover made me laugh. That, my friends, is a really good sign (usually). Rich grannie declaring that she’s about to die and that she’s changed her will to exclude the whole family unless the culprit of a crime comes forward and offers her lawyer a written confession…oh I can just imagine the confessions now.

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July 21

Comments: 2

Another Book Binge, and This Time I Didn’t Even Need to Leave Home

by Ann-Katrina

Remember how I was saying it’s nearly impossible to leave the house and not come home with a bunch of books? Well, it seems that I don’t even need to leave anymore. The books, they will find me. And I think I kind of like it this way.

Two books came in for review on Monday. First up courtesy of Simon & Schuster is a middle grade fantasy adventure titled Jack Blank and The Imagine Nation by Matt Myklusch. Second is Passing Strange by Daniel Waters (that cover is the UK version, btw), third book in the Generation Dead saga, courtesy of Price Minister.

Jack Blank and The Imagine Nation by Matt MykluschPassing Strange by Daniel Waters

The next two just arrived two, courtesy of the UPS lady. I ordered them from Amazon after they sat in my “to be ordered later” shopping cart for a few months. Both are a set of short stories for children. First is The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt and the second is Half-Human compiled and edited by Bruce Coville.

The Devil's Storybook by Natalie BabbittHalf-Human

That, combined with the other books on my shelf waiting to be read should keep me busy for a little while.

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July 18

Comments: 12

[TSS] Is it Ever Possible to Leave the House Without Coming Back with a Truckload of Books?

by Ann-Katrina

Fresh on the heels of finishing both Pharos by Alice Thompson and Stolen by Lucy Christopher (finally!), I discovered another book, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, waiting for me in my mailbox on Saturday and I couldn’t resist starting it.

Pharos by Alice Thompson Pharos was an intriguing read. The best part about the book was the prose. It was evocative, (usually) spare, and eloquent. The story itself wasn’t bad, but I still need to digest it a bit before I try to express my opinions coherently.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher Stolen. Oh, Stolen. What can I say about that book? Well, first I’d say that it’s agonizingly slow in the beginning and although it does pick up somewhat around the later middle and end, it’s still relatively slow throughout. That said, I did like the story. Basically, I kinda wish it was written by someone else. But that one is also digesting so I can write a cogent review.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow I’m about two thirds of the way through Plain Kate and I’m enjoying the journey. There is so much to love about this book so far: it’s a fairytale without gratuitous sugarcoating, there’s talk of witchcraft, there’s a blood-sucking ghost, and the protagonist isn’t handed all of her heart’s desires on a silver platter—she actually has to work for it. That said, I’ve spotted a couple of (minor) problems which I’ll address in the review, but as of now, this one’s a winner. (I’m totally in love with Taggle, Kate’s cat, because he’s just plain hilarious.)

Assuming I finish Plain Kate today (which I’m positive I will), I’ll take in a few short stories or possibly read one of the new books that came home with me today.

And speaking of new books, I’m now of the belief that it’s darn near impossible to leave the house without coming back with a bucket-load of books. This morning while grocery shopping, I noticed that they were having a 75% off sale, so I decided to rummage through the remains and have now added 3 new books (technically 4, but one of them is a craft book) to my library. I’m not really complaining though because they were only a buck apiece.

The Third Option by Vince FlynnThe Wire in the Blood by Val McDermidThe Distant Echo by Val McDermid

I hadn’t realized I’d picked up two books by the same author, but I’m hoping that I really like her style because she’s a new to me author (both of them actually).  Also, I hadn’t realized that The Wire in the Blood is the second book of a series, so I’ll have to scout out the first one before reading it.

If anyone has read Flynn or McDermid or these books specifically, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them.

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March 15

Comments: 5

Fell Off the Book Buying Abstinence Bandwagon and Hit the Pavement Hard (But It Felt So Good)

by Ann-Katrina

I spent yesterday out and about with family and two of the places we ended up landing were Costco and Target. Costco and Target, people. How is someone supposed to resist the draw of discounted books staring her in the face? How, I ask?!?

(Obviously I was weak and ended up with three new books: Tales of Old Florida edited by Frank Oppel, 1,001 Dreams by Jack Altman, and Under the Covers and Between the Sheets by C. Alan Joyce & Sarah Janssen)

Tales of Old Florida1,001 DreamsUnder the Covers and Between the Sheets

Each of the books made it into my cart after I picked them up on a lark and flipped through them and decided they were sufficiently interesting. I would have grabbed more, but I was distracted by shiny pens stopped myself just in time.

And remember my slight obsession with journals? Well, I also came home with some new journals and a notebook.

Banana Notebook and JournalsBanana Notebook and Journals

This is actually a set of three small journals (5.75”x8.25”) by the Banana Paper Company with ruled, grid, and blank pages and a large ruled notebook, by the same company, with dates atop the pages.

Ruled Journal PagesGrid Journal PagesBlank Journal PagesBanana Paper Notebook Pages

These pictures, unfortunately, do not do justice to the gorgeous natural grain, specks, and color of the paper. You can, however, click on them for a slightly larger view.

There were even journals made from stone(!), how awesome is that? I would have grabbed a couple if my sister composure did not grip me and drag me out of the stationary aisle.

And I’m love with another journal I snagged, Native Flowers by Jill Bliss. The floral design and subdued colors make me smile inside.

Native Flowers JournalNative Flowers Journal Inside Page

Native Flowers Journal Inside Unruled PageNative Flowers Journal Inside Grid Page

We also made a 5 minute detour to Office Max, and I didn’t make it out unscathed, but at least I only left with a few essential (or so I prefer to believe) office supplies and…

Fast Company Magazine

a Fast Company magazine because (and this is a secret) I think Mark Zuckerberg is pure geek-hotness…

New Sharpies

…and two new Sharpies (the clickie kind, w00t!) in orange and hot pinkish red.

But the fun did not stop there. I decided to check my mail when I got home, because The Laziesâ„¢ kidnapped me Saturday, and what should be in there waiting for me? Two shiny new ARCs courtesy of Simon & Schuster. (The Laziesâ„¢ obviously did not have my best interests at heart.)

Simon & Schuster ARCs

The ribbon holding them together was so cute, I had to snap a picture. The attached card reads:

Bound tight for your protection…
But nothing will stop you from falling in love.

And since I know you’re anxious to know which two books they are…

Claire de Lune by Christine JohnsonShade by Jeri Smith-Ready

From the back of Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson…

Torn between two destinies…

Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday. Her pool party is a big success, and gorgeous Matthew keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she’s the only girl there. But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy: She’s a werewolf.

As Claire is initiated into the pack of female werewolves, she must deal not only with her changing identity, but also with a rogue werewolf who is putting everyone she knows in danger. Claire’s new life threatens her blossoming romance with Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt. Now burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, Claire is struggling to feel comfortable in either skin. With her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, she will make a choice that will change her forever…

And from the back cover of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready…

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan’s band playing a crucial gig and Aura’s plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend’s life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan’s sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He’s gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and talk to ghosts. This mysterious ability had always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan’s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because Dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn’t help that Aura’s new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura’s relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura’s heart…and clues to the secret of the Shift.

These two books look awesome.

Sunday was a very fine day, indeed.

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