Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

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February 24

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Short Story Review: The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link

by Ann-Katrina

Pretty Monsters coverThe 25 page short story The Faery Handbag is from the anthology Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link or you can read it for free on her website.

Short Synopsis

A grieving Genevieve is searching for her recently deceased grandmother’s very special handbag. As she does so, she explains who her grandmother was, where she came from, and what makes the handbag so special.

My Thoughts on The Faery Handbag

Like ‘The Wizards of Perfil‘ I’m left unsure of what I feel.

As with Link’s other stories this one was readable. It flowed well and before I knew it I slammed into the end. And I do mean slammed. The end was so abrupt that it felt unsettling, but similar to ‘The Wrong Grave‘ it left you with plenty to ponder. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t like it, the abruptness (I like the plenty to ponder part).

One aspect of the story that I found skillfully mastered was the unreliable narrator. Enough doubt is cast about Genevieve’s story to keep you guessing about whether she’s telling the truth, whether she’s outright lying, or whether she’s just a girl trying to cope with the loss of her beloved grandmother and missing (boy)friend Jake. It even cast enough doubt to question the existence of her grandmother and Jake. This story certainly isn’t what it seems.

Despite loving Link’s writing style and her dexterity with voice, I wasn’t in love with this story and that’s mainly because of the denouement…there wasn’t one.

Final rating: C+

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February 23

Comments: 2

WoW: The Bard, Bread, and Butterflies

by Ann-Katrina

That’s to Jill from Breaking the Spine who made this meme possible. In the past I’ve only featured a single book on Waiting on Wednesday, but today I’m upping the ante…

How Shakespeare Changed Everything cover How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche

When I saw it I immediately added this book to my list because I’m of the belief that one can never know too much about Shakespeare.

This book is scheduled for publication in May 2011 by Harper. The description was culled from Amazon’s website:

Shakespeare is all around us. From nightclubs to Broadway musicals, in voting booths in the American South and the trees of Central Park – William Shakespeare’s literary power is so intense and widespread that it intrudes into the material world. "Esquire" columnist Stephen Marche takes us on a delightful tour through the continuous stream of Shakespeare’s influence, summoning up the Bard in the most unexpected places: In 1890, as part of a plan to introduce every bird mentioned by Shakespeare to North America, Eugene Schieffelin imported and released a bunch of pesky Starlings into New York’s Central Park. The Nazi Party issued a pamphlet entitled Shakespeare – a Germanic Writer, and in 1936 there were more productions of Shakespeare in Germany than in the rest of the world combined. Shakespeare coined approximately 1,700 words, including lackluster, fashionable, auspicious, bandit, glow, hush, dawn, gnarled, hobnob, traditional, and the name Jessica. In 1930, Paul Robeson became the first black actor to play the part of "Othello" in England after being rejected for the role in the U.S. Robeson famously said of his performance, "Othello" has made me free. Packed with fun and fascinating tidbits, "How Shakespeare Changed Everything" offers a deep look at how the world as we know it could not exist without the great Bard.

Friendship Bread cover Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

When I was younger I had the strange idea of sending a “have a nice day” card to a random stranger and telling that stranger to send a card to ten more people. I thought it would make the world a better place. (Yes, I was one of those freak students who loved IALAC week when we got to make warm fuzzies, give two to ten random people and told each of them to give one away. Sadly, most people today probably don’t know what IALAC stands for…anyway, I digress.) So, when I saw the description for Friendship Bread, it spoke to that part of me, the part who wants to see the world become a better place. It also encouraged me to look up Amish friendship bread to see if it’s a real thing. It is. :)

This book is slated for publication in April 2011 by Ballantine Books. The description was culled from Amazon:

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread. 

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

Winged Obsession cover Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World’s Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler by Jessica Speart

This book had me at butterfly smuggling. Seriously. BUTTERFLY SMUGGLING. o_0

The book is scheduled for publication in April 2011 by William Marrow. This description was culled from the Amazon website:

One of the world’s most beautiful endangered species, butterflies are as lucrative as gorillas, pandas, and rhinos on the black market.

And in this cutthroat $200 million business, no one made more money than—or posed as great an ecological danger as—Yoshi Kojima, the kingpin of butterfly smugglers.

Determined to capture Kojima, rookie U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Ed Newcomer became close to the smuggler, posing as a young apprentice eager to learn the smuggling trade. But twice the agent’s inexperience allowed this criminal, with a nearly supernatural sense of survival and an overwhelming sense of paranoia, to get away.

Just when it seemed Kojima was out of reach, Newcomer was given one last chance to reel him in. Somewhere in the hunt, Kojima had become obsessed with the agent. This obsession, along with his continued mania for butterflies, could finally spell the downfall of the untouchable smuggler.

But the story doesn’t end there. Working under-cover to research this book, Jessica Speart befriended Kojima as well. Like Newcomer, she was going to betray Kojima. What she didn’t know was that this cagey smuggler was planning to turn the tables and use her as a patsy for continuing his illegal butterfly trade.

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February 22

Comments: 4

Teaser Tuesdays: Those Are Pretty Dancing Shoes

by Ann-Katrina

Teaser Tuesdays Happy Tuesday! It’s time again for another edition of Teaser Tuesdays

Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • You also need to share the title of the book where you get your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given
  • Please avoid spoilers

entwined This week’s teaser:

"Azelea ran through the gardens, her black skirts billowing in the breeze of honeysuckle and lilac. She had forgotten how fresh and alive the gardens felt, with bright flowers bursting all over it like fireworks." pg. 207 Entwined by Heather Dixon

I followed Heather Dixon’s blog (before she made it private) and adored her illustrations and stories, so when she revealed that she’d be working on a full length fairytale retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses I knew I wanted to read it and I consider myself lucky to have gotten my hands on an ARC.

So far, though, I have to admit that it’s slow going. Then again, I’m only halfway through the second chapter, which means it should definitely pick up (if the the hints she gave her blog readers are any indication).

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February 22

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Recent Arrivals: Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer

by Ann-Katrina

Recent Arrivals chronicles the books that have made their way onto the Today, I Read… bookshelf. Here’s the latest arrival: Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer

Geek Fantasy Novel cover

First line: Wishes are dangerous.

Initial thoughts: I don’t know what to think except awesome. I love the cover and from the first chapter it looks like a fun read. It brings back those high school memories of playing D&D and a geekily modified version of freeze tag in my neighbor’s backyard.

Book description:

Be careful what you wish for. Really. Wishes are bad. Very bad.

They can get you trapped in a fantasy world full of killer bunny rabbits, evil aunts, and bothersome bacteria, for example.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Ralph, alas, does not. He’s been asked to spend the summer with his strange British relatives at their old manor house in order to set up their Wi-Fi network. But there’s much more to it than that, of course. It’s just that nobody told Ralph. He’s a gamer, sure. But this game is much stranger–and funnier–than anything manufactured by Nintendo.

Book Details: 320 pages; Scholastic Press; Pub. April 2011

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February 8

Comments: 2

Teaser Tuesdays: The Words in the Rose Bushes

by Ann-Katrina

Teaser Tuesdays Happy Tuesday! It’s time again for another edition of Teaser Tuesdays

Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • You also need to share the title of the book where you get your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given
  • Please avoid spoilers

Alphabet of Thorn cover This week’s teaser:

“She stared at the problem silently a moment, her pale eyes nearly colorless and very cold. They moved finally from the problem in midair to Tessera, who felt their cold like a frost in her bones.” pg. 131 Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

It’s been too long since I’ve read any true lose-yourself-in-another-world fantasies, so I’m finding this book to be truly enchanting. I also love the lush writing style. Since I just started the book there isn’t much by way of character development and it jumps around a bit, but I’m hoping that all will become clear by the time I turn the final page.

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