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Amy W's SRP Reviews

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 4 months ago
Amy W.'s SRP Reviews




2008 Goals:

Read & review 15 books.


1.  Read the Narnia series

2.  Read at least 2 books about "Innovation" from work


2008 Reviews:


Review 1 - The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

Review 2 - Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia


(I am going to wait and review all of the Narnia books once I've finished the series.  I suspect my feelings about some of the characters are going to change as I move through the books. At least I hope so.)  


Review 3 - Secret Society Girl

Review 4 - Under The Rose

Review 5 - Rites of Spring (Break)


These three books are part of the "Ivy League Novel" series by Diana Peterfreund.  In the first book, a thinly veiled secret society at an even more thinly veiled Yale decides to break tradition and tap the first women into the society.  Several key, powerful, alumni are up in arms and do what they can to stop the class from becoming members.  At the center of the series is Amy, who mistakenly believes at first she is being tapped into a less powerful literary society.  Once she realizes what she's committing to, she needs to find her feet and figure out if she truly has what it takes to be a "digger."  There are some light romantic subplots, and initally it can be confusing keeping all of the characters straight - many of them have two names - their "society" name and their "barbarian" name.  


Not to spoil the second book (but duh, if there are three books, you assume that they do make it into the society in the first one) but once the girls are accepted into the society, more drama unfolds.  It appears that the society is being blackmailed, and that there might be a mole on the inside.  One of the girls dissappears, and Amy takes charge, with the help of a key alumni, to find her.  Very obviously a middle book, used to move the plot towards the third (and eventually fourth) title.  The characters bond and gel as a group, and become more than just the stereotypes they fill in the first book.  More romantic subplot, as well as a less than PG sex life pops up for the main character.  


The third book takes the characters onto the society's private island for spring break.  One of the villian alumni has begun a downward spiral and is in hiding on the island.  There are conspiracy theorists on a nearby island, and a blond society wife who doesn't approve of some of the "DigGirls" - villans galore.  So who is it that wants Amy dead?  The mystery is completely and totally secondary though for me, because she begins a romantic adventure that I _loved_.  I am so on the "team" for this romance, and suddenly, with a simple plot device I've become addicted to this series.  I won't spoil it, but I love her love interest (perhaps because he reminds me so much of my husband), and have become a total fan, rereading the books to pick up subtle hints of where this twist came from.  And some of their interaction scenes are so cute, I've reread those a million times too.  The first chapter of the fourth book (which comes out next summer, and I can not wait) is included as a teaser, and lordy be!  *fans self*


So as a whole, the first two books are just devices to get to the third (and fourth) in my mind.  Sure, they're good chick lit, quasi-YA fiction, what I would normally consider a "beach read".   I got the first two from the library, but after buying the third, I had to go buy the other two in order to get my fix until next summer.  I'd give the first two books 3.5 stars each, but the third is a 4.5 star book for me, for sure. 


Review 6 - Flight Explorer - Volume 1


The Flight series is a comic/graphic novel anthology edited by Kazu Kibuishi - there are currently 5 in the series and while not particularly "adult" are not marketed to kids.  The Flight Explorer books are taking a great thing and reaching out to children.  (I originally found the series because one of my favorite artists is contributing to them - Kean Soo of The Secret Friend Society.)  Each contributor has placed an impressively memorable short story into the collection, many with stunning art.  If I was pressed to find a theme in them, it would be one of self acceptance and self confidence (but that's left to personal interpretation, Kibuishi denies any theme in any of the anthologies).  I finished it in one sitting, and then forced it onto Matt so that we could talk about two of the stories in more detail.  (There is one with a psychic cat in a red rain slicker that touches my heart in an adorable way.)  So how much did I love this collection?  Matt and I had serious discussion on figuring out how we could find a way to sponsor this series, and future editions of it, into our public library.  As an introduction to the comic genre, young readers could go a _whole_ lot of worse ways than these beautiful pieces.  It even inspired me to dust of my copies of the "adult" Flight books, and reread them (which I'll try to review here too). 


Review 7 - Flight - Volume 1

Review 8 - Flight - Volume 2


As I mentioned above, The Flight series is a graphic novel anthology series, currently with five editions.  The first edition is the smallest at 201 pages, and is a great introduction to a new idea.  Published in 2004, it unites a talented and young (average age of contributors is 24) group of predominantly web comic artists.  Some of them are visually beautiful (Paper & String by Jen Wang) some of them are heartbreaking (Outside my Window by Khang Le) some would be better placed in an art anthology (Dummy Brother by Jacob Magraw-Mickelson).  More than one of them though, are astounding commentaries, written in a few pages, causing you to think deeply about what they're saying, and reading them more than once - I won't mention those specifically so that you'll read it yourself and see. 


The second edition was published in 2005, and more than doubles in size at 429 pages.  It starts out with Inner Sanctum by Michel Gagne, which introduces perhaps one of the most adorable comic book characters ever.  Not only does it double in size though, it doubles in poignancy.  More than one of the stories - no, really, the bulk of them, are bittersweet, heart touching, and just adorable little pieces of beauty.  Several of the artists featured in the first edition carry over stories to the second edition (a young American born Indian man travelling through India; a spoiled Egyptian cat that is drawn with perfect fluidity).  There's romance, there's wonder, there's heartbreak and saddness.  If the series just keeps getting better, I can't imagine how good the fifth edition will be.  



2007 Goals:

* Read & review 10 books.  Challenges:  None will be new purchases, all of them have to come from my current unread shelf, or the public library.  And returned without fines.  Also, at least two of the books will be non-fiction.

* All ratings out of five.


2007 Reviews:


Review 1 - Fledgling (Octavia E. Butler)

* Finished June 6

* Trade Paper - ISBN 0-446-69616-1 - 310 pages

* four stars

* Count towards goal - 1 of 10 - from my unread shelf


Sadly, I first heard of this book as it was published almost immediately preceding the author's death.  The book begins as a mystery, with a figure having survived a tragedy - awakening with amnesia after some sort of attack.  The reader, and character, soon discovers that she is Shori, a 53-year-old black vampire who appears to be an "elfin child".  Her existence is the result of genetic research, and the story details the concept of racism across species.  


This is an incredibly quick read, though it falls in the middle in many ways - there's perhaps too much sensualtiy for those uncomfortable with it (vampire feeding is almost an inherently sexy act here) but not enough sex for those looking for vampire smut.  There is some occasional graphic description of violence, but not as much as one would expect in a novel about, well, vampires.  The book ends suddenly, and I found myself desiring a sequel amost immediately.  Unfortunately, I suspect the Butler estate will have more class than the Andrews one.


Review 2 - My Sister's Keeper (Jodi Picoult)

* Finished June 3

* Hardback - ISBN 0-7434-5452-9 - 423 pages

* 2.5 stars

* Count towards challenge - 2 of 10 - library book


I have read other books by Picoult, who seems to specialize in controversial tragedies - teen suicide, high school shootings - and here "designer children."  A family finds that their daugher has leukemia; their son is not a donor match.  They decide to "design" a child specifically to be a donor to their sick daughter.  The book tracks this child's decision to file for medical empancipation.


When I checked out this book, the librarian warned me that I would cry at the end.  (I believe that someone – Alison? – had a similar reaction.)  The ending has an emotional twist that is indeed a shock to the system.  However, I found that I wasn’t as emotionally attached to the characters as I could have been – feeling more strongly and being more curious about a subplot involving the lawyer.  I did however enjoy the way the story was told – from different points of view, using different fonts, and bridging time periods with both flashbacks and present tense. 


Review 3 - The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman) - Audiobook

* Finished June 13

* Audiobook - ISBN 0-8072-1049-8 - 10 hrs, 33 min - 9 CDs

* 3.5 stars

* Count towards challenge - library book (since it's audio, I'm not going to count it towards the 10 "read")


 Quite some time ago my husband and I picked up this trilogy, after reading an article about how they were the "anti-Narnia" regarding religious allegory.  However, I found the text to be dense and a commitment that I just didn't have time for.  This is truly a series along the lines of Narnia, or Lord of the Rings, written for children but best suited for adults.  (I know that Harry Potter has been embraced by adults too, but it's still a different sort of writing.)  Pullman has admitted that he doesn't have a target audience when he writes, which is good.  While the main character is a child, these are not children's books.  There is incredible suspense, often relating to a child's relationship with one or more of her parental figures, there is violence - once so graphic that I gasped aloud while driving, and while no sex, there is a fairly adult description of castrati that might let the average youth reader take pause.


All of the above warnings aside, I adored this work as an audiobook.  Pullman himself is the narrator, and I was captivated by the author's passion for his work - and the other voice actors are all superb.  (Knowing that a movie is being filmed certainly added to my affection for Lord Asriel, to be played by Daniel Craig.  It was quite easy to picture him while listening to the book.)  I found myself not minding sitting in traffic, because that just let the story move further on, and more than once I would find myself thinking of the main character during the day.  The morning I finished the CD, I immediately requested the next in the series.  The plot revolves around a child and her quest - she is supported by unlikely characters (my favorite being the armoured bears) and thwarted by those you'd least expect.  Like Harry Potter, the novel is set in a paralell universe - one where zepplins are the main means of air transport, and humans have a daemon - companion that can shape shift until puberty.  I am anxious to continue in this series, and hope that books two and three stand up to the quality of the first.   


 Review 4 - The Knitting Circle (Ann Hood)

* Finished June 17

* Hardback - ISBN 0-393-05901-4 - 344 pages

* 3 stars

* Count towards challenge - 3 of 10 - library book


Both the author, Ann Hood, and the main character, Mary Baxter, have lost their young daughters to sudden illnesses.  The author admits that writing this book was a form of grief therapy for her, and the main character turns to a different craft - knitting - as her means of working through the grief.  The basis of the novel is that Mary, at the point where she can no longer function, is forced to join a knitting circle by her absentee mother.  Initially standoffish and judgemental of the other women (and eventually men) in the circle, her bond with each of them increases as her knitting skills do.  In fact, each circle member's past is recounted as Mary learns a knew knitting technique - purling, knitting in the round, etc...  At the end, she has become an 'elder' in the circle and sees the value in both knitting as a meditative process and turning towards others for support.


 I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, often telling myself "one more chapter" before I'd put it down.  My only complaints would be the skepticism that a group of women would become such fast friends (though there is some initial discord, it's swept under the rug quickly), and with one character, she just couldn't catch a break.  It got to the point that if one more bad thing had happened to her, I might have put the book down (as it was, I read the last chapter to spoil myself that she was ok).  I did enjoy the diversity of the characters - the circle crossed ages, genders and sexualities, which was a pleasant surprise.  And as a knitter, it was a contenting piece of fiction that embraced the idea that the craft can be both a celebration, and a way to get through the sticky points of life.


  Review 5 - Gentlemen & Players (Joanne Harris)

* Hardback - ISBN 0-06-055914-4 - 422 pages

* 4 stars

* Count towards challenge - 4 of 10 - library book


Someone wants revenge on St. Oswald's, an elite school for boys in England.  A plan has been made for the revenge, and as the reader, you follow the path of revenge as it plays out.  The person seeking revenge holds one faculty member in particular as an equal, or nemisis.  The points of view shift between the teacher and the mysterious former student.  Occasionally, flashbacks are used to detail the reason for revenge, but it isn't until the very end, that the student's identity is revealed.


I truly enjoyed this book.  I'm a big mystery reader, and this is the first in quite some time that surprised me at the end.  At points, it was hard to put it down.  After finishing it, I almost felt like reading it again to pick up the author's subtle hints - just to try to catch her at her own game.  I think I've found a new author, and plan on finding more of her books.  My only complaint would be the frequent chess references, that as a chess player, I didn't quite catch the significance of. 


Review 6 - The Girl in the Green Glass Mirror (Elizabeth McGregor)

* Hardback - ISBN 0-553-80359-x - 310 pages

* 2 stars

* Count towards challenge - 5 of 10 - library book


 This book really wants to have been written by Tracey Chevalier, or Susan Vreeland.  A central "character" in the story is a painting by an artist named Dadd - and occasional chapters are told from his point of view after being committed to an asylum.  The story details the life of an antiques dealer, who happens to be an expert on Dadd.  Her personal life is crumbling around her until she meets a man who has moved to her little English town to retire.  He calls on her to sell some of his collection, to find out that his collection has secrets, and salvation, for her.


However, this book wasn't written by Chevalier or Vreeland, two authors I admire.  The sections written about Dadd dragged, to the point towards the end I felt like skipping them all together.  There were a few too many side stories for my taste, stories that really weren't necessary, nor moved the plot along.  And the ending wrapped up with too neat of a little bow, considering all of the mysterious conflict during the rest of the book.


Review 7 - The Subtle Knife (Philip Pullman) - Audiobook

* Audiobook - ISBN 0-807-20472-2 - 8 hrs, 56 min - 8 CDs

* 3 1/2 stars

* Count towards challenge - library book (since it's audio, I'm not going to count it towards the 10 "read")


The second in the "His Dark Materials" series, it picks up where "The Golden Compass" stops.  The main character from that book - Lyra - meets up with Will, a young man from our world.  Will is on a quest of his own, but he and Lyra join forces, finding safety in numbers.  Lyra becomes almost a secondary character in this edition, and characters from the first book also make appearances, though a new cast of individuals are introduced.  What made this audiobook for me was the young man who read as Will - Steven Webb.  He was absolutely phenomenal, and it broke my heart that he wasn't present in the third audiobook set.


 Again, this book isn't a children's series.  The witch race makes it very obvious what they mean when they discuss taking human men as lovers.  There is suspense and violence that again makes me glad that we didn't give these books to our nephew.  The entire cast did a fantastic job bringing the book to life, to the point that when one of the characters died, I sobbed the rest of my commute home.  I will say however that I started the third series, and couldn't get into it.  I'm sad that after giving it a few CDs worth of a try, it just didn't hold up to the first two.

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 1:59 pm on Jun 22, 2007

My book club read My Sister's Keeper, and I was really sorry to have to miss the meeting. I liked it--it took me awhile to figure out how I felt about the ending, though. I did think there were too many subplots and that they were a little too melodramatic, though. The whole lawyer subplot with the misunderstanding about their high school breakup seemed like something that would be more likely to happen in a 19th century novel, and then the arsonist son/firefighter dad thing on top of that? The main story was dramatic enough, I thought. I did really like the sister who named all the appliances, though.

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