Friday, April 27, 2012

Kindred Review: Our Fathers' War: Growing Up in the Shadow of the Greatest Generation

Love of reading (and history) runs in the family! Today, I'm featuring one of my mom's recent reads. 

A powerful and unique portrait of generational strife and changing styles of masculinity as seen through the stories of ten World War II veterans and their baby boomer sons.
It is fair to say that Tom Mathews’s relations with his father, a veteran of World War II’s fabled 10th Mountain Division, were terrible. He came back from the war to a young son he’d barely met and proceeded to bully and browbeat him—for his own good, he thought. In the course of puzzling out almost fifty years of intermittent conflict, Mathews came to understand that their problems were not simply personal, they were generational—and widely shared by millions of other baby boomer sons. And so, to write this powerful book, which traces the kinetic effect of the war on the men who fought it, their sons, and their grandsons, Mathews has uncovered nine other dramatic and telling father-son tales of veterans in some ways missing in action and how internal war wounds shaped their lives as fathers. These include a combat infantryman whose life was saved by the fabled Audie Murphy, and a black member of the storied Tuskegee Airmen corps. In a moving final chapter, he and his father return together to Italy to revisit scenes from the war—and attempt, at long last, to forge their own separate peace.

In a very real sense, Our Fathers’ War tells the secret history of World War II and its echoes down the years and generations. In the course of doing so, it offers a portrait of evolving styles of American manhood that many, many fathers and sons have been needing and awaiting.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes

Our Fathers’ War is a study of an interesting theory about fathers of World War II and why they cannot connect to their sons.  Why they came home from war and pushed them away.  Why the sons feel they are never good enough and rebel.

Upon reading the first few stories, I thought these fathers and sons could be any family in any generation.  Could not their fathering be the result of personality, their own upbringing, and other influences that make us the parents we are?  But after reading Mathews interview with the poet, I understand what Mathews was describing; the horrors of war that cannot be spoken,  closed down emotions which created fathers and husbands who could never reach a potential.  A generation who possessed this specific reason for being the fathers they were.  How many generations did this emotionless form of fathering influence?  Mathews touches on this in several multi-generational interviews.

The book is composed of well written narratives about real people and the strong forces that molded them into the fathers and sons they were.  The final narrative is a touching ending for the author and his father who created their own strong force to counteract the emotions and scars of war.

 The book has quite a bit of rough language which I would prefer to have been left out, but I understand that it is a book about real people and this is how they spoke.  

Thought provoking book that I will read again in order to see what I might have missed the first time.

Title:  Our Fathers' War
Author:  Tom Mathews
Genre:  History, Memoir
Year:  2005
Book Source:  Received as a gift

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel (The Agency #3)

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Mainstream YA fans, devourers of historical fiction...anyone, really
High point:  Lots of James!
Low point:  Mary didn't quite seem herself
Reader maturity:  13+

The Agency is one of my favorite YA series and definitely my favorite historical. After I receive my copy of the latest novel (pre-ordered!), I wait to read it until I have a nice, long, uninterrupted stretch of time in which to savor the experience. And it's always an experience.

All the things that I've praised about the first two books of the series are still here:  strong heroine, slow-paced and fulfilling romance, mystery, action, history coming to life...

And yet...there was something strange about Mary in this one. At first, I thought she was acting counter to character, but eventually decided that she was, in fact, evolving. The hot-then-cold reception she gave James and her inability to make up her mind about the issue of her father (not a crime, but not very Mary-like either) gave me pause at first, as I thought she'd had a sudden mental departure from herself. However, it turns out that she's facing painful memories and hard choices. So while I didn't enjoy this particular Mary as much as I did the ones in A Spy in the House and The Body at the Tower, I understand that the change was necessary. She seemed to be in a good place at the end, so I'm still quite hopeful for the next book in the series.

After I got past Mary's indecisiveness, I found the story to be solid, if not riveting in intensity. The Traitor in the Tunnel focuses much more on character evolution and relationship building than do the previous novels. It was great to see Mary move forward, both personally and professionally.

The Traitor in the Tunnel is the third in a YA historical series most wonderful! While I wouldn't recommend starting with The Traitor in the Tunnel (because it's the third one), if you enjoy historical fiction at all, this is a series you need to try.

Title:  The Agency:  The Traitor in the Tunnel
Author:  Y. S. Lee
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Want to Read Wednesday: Insurgent (Divergent #2)

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review of Two Moon Princess

A Spanish Princess.
An American Boy.
A King set on revenge.

An unrequited love
and a disturbing family secret
bring a World to the brink of War.

In this coming-of-age story set in a medieval kingdom, Andrea is a headstrong princess longing to be a knight who finds her way to modern-day California. But her accidental return to her family's kingdom and a disastrous romance brings war, along with her discovery of some dark family secrets. Readers will love this mix of traditional fantasy elements with unique twists and will identify with Andrea and her difficult choices between duty and desire.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Fantasy fans
High point:  The unpredictability
Low point:  The characterization
Reader maturity: 13+

While Two Moon Princess has good bones, it's a little rough around the edges. I found Andrea to be immature for her age and inconsistent in personality, the latter of which is a feature of several of the characters. They're either hot or cold and likely to be both within a matter of minutes. I also noticed that every male character who didn't love Andrea turned out to be a jerk, which, while satisfying from a teenaged emotional standpoint, isn't very realistic.

Character complaints aside, Two Moon Princess has a decent story. Andrea is a princess in her world, who longs for freedom. In the process of searching it out, she inadvertently starts a war. She's brave (well, some of the time) and impetuous (pretty much all the time), and she's a good character for expressing adolescent realism. Unlike so many YA characters in dire circumstances, she's not a level-headed, in-control, mini-adult; she acts and reacts passionately.

Another thing in favor of Two Moon Princess was its ability to keep me guessing. I had the romance pegged in Chapter 5, only to be proven wrong in Chapter 7 when I made another guess, which was, in turn, proven wrong. The unpredictability was refreshing!

The protagonist of Two Moon Princess is about 17 (in our world), but the book feels written for an older middle grade audience. It's completely clean (aside from non-descriptive battle violence) so it's appropriate for anyone with the ability to read it.

Title:  Two Moon Princess
Author:  Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Genre:   Fiction - Fantasy
Year:   2007
Book Source:  Won from I Like These Books

Friday, April 20, 2012

Kindred Review: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

Love of reading (and history) runs in the family! Today, I'm featuring one of my mom's recent reads. 

When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.

With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating: 2 out of 5 boxes

When I heard about the book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, my interest was piqued. I am intrigued by stories of people and what their lives were like in Europe during World War II. I was looking forward to reading this book because it appeared to be from a different viewpoint, a zookeeper’s family, than others I have read.

The book is taken from diaries written by Antonina, the wife of the zookeeper in Warsaw, Poland. The first two chapters of the book are used to create the setting of the zoo. I understand that the reader needs background information, but I felt that the depth with which the writer went into describing the animals and zoology was unnecessary and sluggish in a book subtitled "A War Story." I almost quit reading, thinking that the book was not as I supposed it to be about life in Nazi Poland, but I decided to read a little more. Once the story moved forward to life revolving around the war, it did become somewhat more interesting. Though much of the book just skimmed the surface, there is a section that explains Jan’s involvement with the ghetto which delved a bit deeper into the people and life at that time.

 I also understand that the book is taken from diaries, so there is limited information, but a connection never really developed with Antonina or Jan, the zookeepers. I also felt disconnected from the characters that were saved by the zookeepers. Though the viewpoint was different and therefore held its unique interests, the writing left me feeling as though I had only seen the outline of a book and I wanted to read the finished product.

Title:  The Zookeeper's Wife:  A War Story
Author:  Diane Ackerman
Genre:  History, Biography
Year:  2008
Book Source:  Received as a gift

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amaranthine Review: Anne of Windy Poplars

Anne Shirley has left Redmond College behind to begin a new job and a new chapter of her life away from Green Gables. Now she faces a new challenge: the Pringles. They're known as the royal family of Summerside--and they quickly let Anne know she is not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School. But as she settles into the cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds she has great allies in the widows Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty--and in their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. As Anne learns Summerside's strangest secrets, winning the support of the prickly Pringles becomes only the first of her delicious triumphs.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Girls of all ages
High point:  The odd people of Summerside
Low point:  None whatsoever
Reader maturity: 8+

Favorite quotes:  "Isn't it queer that the things we writhe over at night are seldom wicked things? Just humiliating ones."

"I hate to lend a book I never seems quite the same when it comes back to me."

Anne of Windy Poplars is the 4th book in the Anne series, and it's just as charming and sweet as the first. Anne is more mature and less verbiose than her eleven year old self, but she's just as mischievous and dreamy as ever.

After I finished reading this (the most recent time), I wondered to myself how L. M. Montgomery managed to keep the momentum of Anne's story without it becoming dry or redundant. I'm still not exactly sure, but I think it has something to do with the inclusion of so many subplots and characters that stretch the bounds of belief. And the characters are so vibrant! Even the ones that have only one appearance manage to steal the show. The people of Summerside astound me! I want to know if they were inspired by people like that somewhere or if I'm reading tales that are pure imagination. Rebecca Dew's one-liners made me laugh aloud more than once. Anne of Windy Poplars is similar to Chronicles of Avonlea in that there are many small vignettes tied together by Anne's own story and her letters to Gilbert.

In an earlier review, I mentioned that there's a little of Anne in every girl, and that holds true for the Anne of Windy Poplars. Though still prone to mishap (perhaps that's why she's still so likable, even as she ages), she's good at heart, with wild dreams and flights of fancy than we can still relate to, over 7 decades later.

Title:  Anne of Windy Poplars
Author:  L. M. Montgomery
Genre:  Children's Fiction & Literature
Year:  1936 

Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Want to Read Wednesday: The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age-old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Dystopian and mystery readers
High point: Anya's loving family and friends
Low point: The culprit behind the poisoned chocolate was predictable
Reader maturity: 13+

The summary on the inside cover of All These Things I've Done gave me pause--a Mafiya daughter, a dystopian, a romance...Could all these things work together in a way that would actually work? (Short answer:  Yes.)

What makes All These Things I've Done stand apart from other dystopian or crime family novels is the focus on friends and family. Anya has a fantastic support system. She is, if not in name then in fact, the head of her family, and she does a stellar job of taking care of them and keeping them together. She shoulders much more of a burden than should be hers, but she did it in a realistic way. Sometimes in stories like these, the character is too adult or too childlike, but she's the perfect mix of adult responsibility mixed with teenage passion.

Something else that sets this novel apart is Anya's tendency to talk to the reader, a technique that I've always enjoyed. It reminds me of the old-timey books I read when I was younger, when authors tended to tell their stories as if to a present audience rather than some unseen public. Anya explains a lot of her actions and thoughts to the reader too, and I'm glad she does. Otherwise, her actions might appear out of character when they are actually rational moves on her part. The introspection this provides also allows greater insight into Anya's personality. Without it, she would seem too put-together.

When writing this review, I discovered that this is the first in a series, and I'm quite excited about that. As I finished the last page of the book, I wondered if (and hoped) there would be more in store for Anya and the remains of her family.

Title:  All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Genre:   Fiction - Dystopian
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Won from Valerie Kemp

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kindred Reviews: Barbara Bush: A Memoir

Love of reading (and history) runs in the family! Today, I'm featuring one of my mom's recent reads. 

Barbara Bush endures as one of America's most popular First Ladies. She has won worldwide acclaim for her wit, compassion, and candor as both a presidential wife and mother. In this #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, Mrs. Bush offers a heartfelt portrait of her life in and out of the White House, from her small-town schoolgirl days in Rye, New York, to her fateful union with George H.W. Bush, to her role as First Lady of the United States. Here, she writes candidly about her early years with George Bush in West Texas; the tragic death of her young daughter; •the world of Washington politics and the famous figures she's met •in her role as the nation's leading literacy champion; her feelings about the Iran-Contra scandal, the Persian Gulf conflict, and the Cold War; the disappointment of the 1992 presidential campaign -- and the mixed blessing of regaining her private life...and much more. Filled with entertaining anecdotes, dozens of personal photographs, and a healthy dose of humor, this memoir is as compelling and honest as the former First Lady herself.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes

I have been an admirer of Barbara Bush since her husband was president. She seemed to me to be honest--not a limelight seeker--and a solid supporter of her husband. As I read her memoir, I was not disappointed as all these attributes are present but was surprised at some which the book revealed. I found her, through the book, to be someone who is ready to have good fun, someone who can definitely stand up for herself when warranted and someone who is very self-deprecating about her looks and her weight.

The book is written in an honest, easy to read format, almost as if Barbara is sitting in the room telling her stories. Most of the book I thoroughly enjoyed. Reading about the Bush’s experiences in foreign countries was fascinating. Following her and George from house to house, through the birth of their children, into politics and all that entailed was very interesting. After George entered politics, parts of the book are very immersed in the campaign trail. This was slow reading for me because I am not interested in political maneuvering. Even these parts, though, held some interest as she writes about the opponents on a personal level.

I think by reading this book, I got to know the real Mrs. Bush. The writing comes across as forthright, written by a person who is not pretending to be someone she isn’t. She is obviously biased when it comes to her husband and his politics, but after reading her story, I believe that is what she honestly feels and who she is. It's a good read on many levels--historically, personally, culturally and politically from one side of the spectrum.

Title:  Barbara Bush:  A Memoir
Author:  Barbara Bush
Genre:  Autobiography
Year:  2003
Book Source:  Borrowed

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review of Shadows on the Moon

A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Readers looking for a YA book that's an experience
High point: The writing style
Low point:  Terayama was two-dimensional compared to the other characters
Reader maturity:  13+

Shadows on the Moon masterfully molds the timeless themes of love and betrayal into a riveting tale set in ancient/fairytale Japan. With a new wardrobe, Suzume could be a girl of the 21st century. Instead, she's trapped in a twisted maze of revenge generations in the making.

I enjoyed the beautiful imagery and glimpses into the lifestyles of nobility, servants and gijo. The city came to life under Ms. Marriott's pen. Suzume's special abilities are beautifully described. In my mind's eye, I could see her covering her scars and deceiving her stepfather. The shadow-weaving is an integral part of the story, and the frequent descriptions contribute without overwhelming or becoming tedious.

Just a word of warning (and possible SPOILER ALERT)--Suzume self-injures. Her condition is treated respectfully and her journey to health is certainly a positive message, but the descriptions of her self-abuse, while not disturbingly graphic, per se, are still vivid and could serve as a trigger to some or be considered too mature a topic for younger readers.

In short, Shadows on the Moon is beautiful and magnificent in its descriptions of Japan and Suzume's shadow-weaving abilities. The touch of romance adds lightness, and Suzume's journey of personal growth from innocent to avenger to the strong young woman she becomes is one of the best I've ever read.

Title:  Shadows on the Moon
Author:   Zoe Marriott
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Fantasy, Cultural
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Received an ARC for review from Candlewick Press

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Want to Read Wednesday: Dark Eyes

Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.

Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko - her darkeyed father - finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally's had her own killer training, and she's hungry for justice.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review of Girl Parts

David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat his “dissociative disorder,” he can’t get enough of luscious redheaded Rose — and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up, knowing Rose isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal “companion” is about to become her own best friend. In a stunning and hilarious debut, John Cusick takes rollicking aim at internet culture and our craving for meaningful connection in an uberconnected world.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   1 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teenage boys?
High point:  Rose's transformation
Low point:  The crude content
Reader maturity: 15+

Somehow I missed the actual meaning of the blurb on the book cover of Girl Parts and naively assumed that "girl parts" merely referred to the robotic female within the pages. And it does...but it's also referring to anatomy. Once I figured that out, it was all downhill from there.

I couldn't get over the crude, immature and misogynistic content in order to appreciate what good there might have been in the novel. Nothing in particular struck me as being incomplete or hastily done, but I was so blinded by the egos and self-centered of most of the characters that everything else faded into the background. Maybe there's a good tale in there somewhere about a boy learning to respect himself and women or of another boy and girl learning to break out of their shells and trust a little...or maybe everyone ends up exactly where they started.

As the only non-crude character (at least for a while), I liked Rose (again, for a while). Her transformation from newborn robot to almost being a person was very convincing, and I liked the way her personality and quirks developed.

Obviously this wasn't my cup of tea, due to content, but other readers have liked it, as it has 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I've linked to it in case you're interested in some other opinions. Mine seems to be more extreme than most.

Title:  Girl Parts
Author:  John M. Cusick
Genre:   Fiction - Science Fiction
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, April 6, 2012

Kindred Review: At Home on Ladybug Farm

Love of reading (and history) runs in the family! Today, I'm featuring one of my mom's recent reads. 

A year after taking the chance of a lifetime, Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget are still trying to make a home for themselves on the newly-renovated Ladybug Farm. Life in the Shenandoah Valley is picturesque but filled with unexpected trials- such as the introduction of two young people into the ordered life the women have tried to build for themselves.

As the walls of the old house reveal their secrets and the lives of those who have gone before begin to unfold, the cobbled-together household starts to disintegrate into chaos. And when one of their members is threatened by a real crisis, they must all come together to fight for the roots they've laid down, the hopes they share, and the family they've become.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes

This book is a delightful, easy read. At Home on Ladybug Farm is the second in a series. I have not read the first book, A Year on Ladybug Farm, but would now love to. Beginning with the second book was not an issue. I found nothing in this book that needed to be explained by reading the first.

The characters were fun to get to know with just enough back story of their lives to understand who they were, but not dwelling on their past because this is a story of new beginnings. The story line was mostly light. There is a theme about Noah, thought to be orphaned teenager, and his mother. Unlike the pasts of the other characters, the story does not dwell on the negative aspects of his life but more on the positive things now happening as he tries to find his place.

As one who finds history very interesting, I was pleased that the telling of the three women’s stories was interspersed with history about the old house which they bought and the people who had lived there before them. The author included several comical events which balanced the emotional stories of the past and present. It was refreshing to read about people following their hearts and making it work. There is a surprise ending which I will not spoil, but I did not see coming until the near the end of the book. The ending was happy and left me cheering them on to continue their mission of fixing up the old house and pursuing their interests.

Title:  At Home on Ladybug Farm
Author:  Donna Ball
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Year:  2009
Book Source:  Borrowed

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amaranthine Review: Anne of the Island

New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and frivolous new pal Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises...including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide if she's ready for love...

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Girls of all ages
High point:  Gilbert, the romance, Philippa
Low point:  None whatsoever
Reader maturity: 8+

Favorite quotes:  "Oh, she thought, how horrible it is that people have to grow up--and marry--and change!"

"I wouldn't want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked and wouldn't."

While telling my mom about my most recent re-read, I said, "I kept reading faster and faster because, even though I know Anne ends up with him, I was so worried that somehow she wouldn't!." My mom replied, "That's the mark of a good book." And Anne of the Island is certainly that!

There are so many great things about Anne of the Island; for one thing, I love the addition of Philippa. I can relate to the indecision and matter-of-factness in her character. But Anne frustrates me in this one (that's why I mentioned wanting to skip to Anne of Windy Poplars in my review of Anne of Avonlea). She's avoiding Gilbert one minute and getting riled up at a rival the next--and then, her refusal! Fortunately for Anne and her readers everywhere, we get to see Gilbert's best attributes, such as his patience. On my previous read-throughs, I didn't realize just how much she tested him. For some reason, I was under the impression that Anne was a little naive about his intentions, but I guess the point is that she needed to release her idea of perfection and embrace the wonderful person in front of her, just like she did with her dreams in Anne of Avonlea. The sleepless night she spends in her little upstairs room is one of the most touching and intense scenes in literature as the reader waits anxiously with Anne to find out Gilbert's fate.

I can't wait to dive into Anne of Windy Poplars! It's a fun one.

Title:  Anne of the Island
Author:  L. M. Montgomery
Genre:  Children's Fiction & Literature
Year:  1915
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Want to Read Wednesday: The Night She Disappeared

Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete’s Pizza. One night, Kayla—another delivery girl—goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can’t move beyond the fact that Kayla’s fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete’s. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn’t dead—and to find her before she is.
[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review of Inside Out (Insider #1)

Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Dystopian readers
High point:  Trella's evolution
Low point:  The confusing descriptions of Inside
Reader maturity: 13+

Initially, Inside Out disappointed me. I was expecting a strong, girl-power-wielding character with whom I could relate, and instead I got Trella--selfish, conceited, holier-than-thou Trella. But just as Trella realized she'd misjudged her fellow scrubs, I realized I had misjudged Trella.

My misgivings about Inside Out concern more than just Trella. I found the descriptions of the layouts and lifestyles Inside complicated and confusing. Fortunately, the plot alone is enough to carry the novel, and fortunately for the continuation of the series, Trella learns a few lessons that make her a more bearable human being. The rules of Inside still don't make sense to me (or at least the origins of Uppers and scrubs and their lack of reproductive rights) but I'm hoping that will be further explained in Outside In.

While it wasn't what I was expecting and didn't quite live up to my expectations, Inside Out was a fun read that left me eager for more and glad that I have Outside In waiting on my shelf.

Title:  Inside Out (Insider #1)
Author:  Maria V. Snyder
Genre:   Fiction - Dystopian
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased