Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review of Nailed

One girl. Two guys. Who says three's a crowd? When Mandy takes an unusual summer job-in construction-she has to prove she's just one of the guys. But she gets more than she bargains for being the only girl on the job. The mixture of hot guys, sunscreen, raw wood and testosterone proves to be an elixir she can't protect her heart from. Brooding Boston and flirty AJ find themselves looking at Mandy as more than just a girl who holds a hammer. Mandy soon finds herself not only lost in a whirlwind of a male-dominated world, but also the center of an inadvertently "constructed" love triangle. Mandy must choose between two guys who want her heart. But what's a girl to do when she wants them both?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: YA contemporary readers
High point: The messages
Low point: Mandy's cluelessness
Reader maturity: 15+

I really enjoyed Heavenly and A Season of Eden by the same author, but Nailed didn't connect with me as a reader.

While it's great to read about nonconformist female characters, Mandy was frustratingly oblivious and naive. (For example, she wears an actual swimsuit to a construction site and doesn't understand how that could be a problem working with a group of guys.) I like the messages of self-respect, following one's dreams and not settling for the wrong guy, but I couldn't connect with Mandy enough to enjoy it.

Mandy also didn't understand prejudice against women at the work site. While she has a point in that gender shouldn't matter, I found it hard to believe that she had grown up around construction and yet had no expectation of discrimination. My frustration with Mandy aside, her best friend was really fun, and the character of her brother was well-developed as he seesawed between the protector and the antagonist, depending on his mood.

Title:  Nailed
Author:  Jennifer Laurens
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review of The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War #3)

A story rich in passion and legend, The Lady of the Rivers is the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses. When Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. As Jacquetta fights for her king and her queen, she can see an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York. . . .
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Die-hard history fans
High point: Bringing Jacquetta out of the past
Low point: Very confusing historical setting
Reader maturity: 13+

The War of the Roses is complicated. Even the helpfully-included genealogical charts in Lady of the Rivers weren't enough for me to keep it straight. Wikipedia was even less helpful. so, strike #1 right there, I was confused. Alliances were made and broken in an instant, and it was too much for me to keep straight. It did, however, give me an appreciation of Philippa Gregory's research abilities and made me wonder how anyone in England ever survived.

One of the things that I liked about Lady of the Rivers is how Philippa Gregory took a relatively minor historical figure and brought her to life. As I understand it, not much is known about the real Jacquetta, but the the fictional version is a fascinating creature, both unusually powerful and unusually bold for her time. (She was also unusually lucky!)

Those without an interest in history may find Jacquetta's story dry and factual, but those who enjoy historical fiction (and, perhaps, have a better grasp on English history than I do) would do well to try out this addition to the series on The Cousins' War.

Title:  The Lady of the Rivers
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Won from The Eclectic Reader

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review of Size 12 and Ready to Rock (Heather Wells #4)

Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy

Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself--who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright--who just happens to be Heather's "new" fiancE. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, "this" reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Grown-up fans of The Princess Diaries
High point: Heather is back and as awesome as ever
Low point:  I don't know if there's going to be another sequel!
Reader maturity: 15+

If you follow me on Twitter, you may remember how excited I was to find a copy of Size 12 and Ready to Rock in my mailbox. And I was so right to be psyched!!

There's always a little bit of apprehension when picking up a book in a series that was dormant for years, then recently resurrected. In most cases, I would be right to be apprehensive but with Meg Cabot at the helm, my fears were unfounded. I wonder now, post-read, if Cabot didn't plan for more than 3 books the whole time...

In case you didn't know, this is a new book in one of my favorite series, so I hold Size 12 and Ready to Rock to an extremely high standard. Cabot managed to avoid all of the pitfalls I would've expected of the fourth book in a series. The mystery was fresh, with a suitable explanation for Heather's involvement (i.e. why she's involved in yet another mystery); there are a myriad of new characters, as well as the return of some old favorites; and Heather remains Heather, albeit a little older, wiser and more concerned with her relationship, though still as charming as ever.

Cabot delivered a wonderful addition to my shelf of Heather Wells mysteries, and that got me thinking...Do I detect a book #5 on the way?

Title:  Size 12 and Ready to Rock
Author:  Meg Cabot
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Received for review from publisher

Friday, October 5, 2012

Kindred Review: The Gatling Gun

Love of reading runs in the family! Today, I'm featuring one of my dad's recent reads. 

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 boxes

As an aficionado of military arms and a mechanical engineer, I have always viewed the Gatling gun with fascination:  a weapon ahead of its time. Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling’s invention has also been used in Hollywood films since 1939, including The War Wagon, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, and The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Although schooled as a medical doctor, Dr. Gatling found pleasure in mechanisms. Ironically, his main purpose for inventing this powerful weapon was to help shorten the war!

The authors obviously dug deep into the history books before writing this book. The book is generous with illustrations, patents and period newspaper articles. Coupled with official military reviews, as well as those of the actual soldiers using the weapon, the history takes on a tangible significance. However, the authors appeared to have ignored proofreading, as the text is fraught with grammatical and spelling errors. While I enjoyed historical content, it was very difficult to read at times. My copy of the book has been relegated to the coffee-table.

Title:  The Gatling Gun
Author:  Paul Wahl & Don Toppel
Genre:  History, Nonfiction
Year: 1965
Book Source: Received as a gift