Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Sense of an Ending [Barnes]

Book: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes

Review: This is the story of Tony Webster. In the first part, we meet Tony and his high school friends then follow him through his years at university. We learn about his friendships and first love. In the second part, Tony is retired and living a comfortable life, until an unexpected legacy makes Tony re-evaluate his life and his past decisions.

Barnes has done something very interesting with this book. He succeeded in creating completely unlikable characters (I'm not joking, I really detested almost everyone in this book except for perhaps Tony's ex-wife) yet I still enjoyed the read. Why you ask? Because this book makes us reflect on our past memories and decisions. How do we remember things that happened years ago? Are our memories true or have they been reshaped as the years go by? It's really fascinating to think about college and talk about it with girlfriends and see that they remember certain scenarios totally differently than myself. It also makes you think about past actions and the impact they may have had on people. In terms of 'The Sense of an Ending' I will say the ending seemed to come out of left field. The final reveal was foreshadowed in maybe one sentence in the first section of the book. 

This book is a very short, fast read. When I first read it, I thought I'd rate it a 2 or 3. But after thinking about the book for several weeks, I decided to rate it higher. 

Grade: 4/5

The Diviners [Bray]

Book: The Diviners [Diviners book# 1]
Author: Libba Bray

Review: It's the 1920s. Evie O'Neill caused some trouble in her small Ohio town and is shipped off the New York City to live with her eccentric uncle. He is the curator for the 'Museum of American Folklore', also known as the Museum of the creepy crawlies. Like any other 17-year old, Evie is thrilled to be moving to the big city. When a string of gruesome murders happen with an occult theme, Evie's uncle is asked to help out. Evie tags along and helps with the investigation. But Evie has a secret that she is keeping-she has a special ability to help track the murderer. 

I really enjoyed this book. Evie is very spunky and an engaging heroine. She uses a lot of 1920's slang, especially in the first part of the book, which I enjoyed but I can see how it might be a little annoying to readers. The mystery was perfectly freaky and the book lays groundwork for a potentially fascinating trilogy.  Bray does a great job describing 1920's New York. Overall, the whole book is very descriptive (and very long). The story is told in alternating narratives and there are a lot of characters. It took awhile to remember who everyone was which was frustrating. There was a romantic plot development at the end of the book that was ridiculous (zero romantic tension between the characters throughout the book and then BAM-it happens). 

Overall, a fun read. 

Grade: 4/5

Meant To Be [Morrill]

Book: Meant To Be
Author: Lauren Morrill

Review: Julia is a straight A student who follows all the rules, all the time. She's decided that her childhood crush Mark, who just moved back to town, is her MTB (meant to be). When she takes a study abroad trip to London with her English class, she is paired with class clown, Jason. After crashing a party with Jason in London, Julia starts receiving romantic texts from an unknown number. Jason agrees to help Julia track down the mysterious person. Will Julia finally true love?

Similar to Richelle Mead's Sydney Sage, Julia is a goody two shoes who follows the rules. But while Sydney is endearing, Julia is downright annoying. There was a lot of potential to develop Jason as a character, but it never happened. The whole texting subplot was easy to figure out and didn't bring much to the overall story. I wish that was eliminated and Morrill spent more time on character development. 

This one can be skipped. 

Grade: 2/5

The Fifth Woman [Mankell]

Book: The Fifth Woman [Kurt Wallander #5]
Author: Henning Mankell

Review: Four nuns and an unidentified fifth woman are murdered in an African convent. The local police cover up the death of the fifth woman. In Sweden, a retired car-dealer and bird watcher/poet is murdered in a ditch behind his rural home. Shortly afterward, a seemingly benign florist is found strangled and tied against a tree. Detective Kurt Wallander only has a few clues to go on. Can he figure out who is performing these brutal murders before any person is killed? 

Similar to 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' this book is written in extreme detail. Maybe this is a trait of Swedish authors? Unlike 'Tattoo' I found this book engrossing. Set in the early 90s, Wallander and his team cannot rely on smart phones or immediately access to the internet to research the case. They rely on old-fashioned police work (how I envision it at least). I felt like I was investigating the crime with Kurt Wallander. It was harrowing, dark, depressing and an overall really good read. I will definitely be checking out the rest of this series. 

Grade: 4/5 stars

Victims [Kellerman]

Book: Victims [Alex Delaware #27]
Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Review: Vita Berlin is a nasty, mean woman without any friends. She is found murdered in a very gruesome manner with one clue, a single sheet of paper with a question mark on it. LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis engages psychologist Alex Delaware for assistance. When more people are killed in a similar manner, Delaware and Sturis research mental health institutions and Delaware tries to determine how this killer's mind was shaped.

This is my first Kellerman novel and I really enjoyed the psychological element of the murders and investigation. The odd thing about this book was that it was written in first person narrative but I never felt like I was really "in" Alex Delaware's mind. The ending was slightly anticlimactic but I will definitely read some other books in this series. 

Grade: 3/5

The Indigo Spell [Mead]

Book: The Indigo Spell [Bloodlines #3]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: After getting to close for comfort with Adrian, Sydney tries to focus her attention on school and her Alchemist duties. But when young women start getting attacked for their magical abilities, Sydney investigates...with Adrian's help. Can she keep their relationship at the 'friend' level? Will she admit to herself that her feelings are real? How will Adrian handle being around Sydney after she rebuffed him? Meanwhile, Sydney finally meets ex-alchemist Marcus Finch, who tries to convince her the Alchemists are not what they seem and that he can help her 'break' her tattoo. What will Sydney do?

Richelle Mead-if you are reading this, I am standing up doing a cheer because this is officially my favorite RM series ever. I'm not sure you could have created a better duo than Sydney and Adrian. They balance each other so perfectly I can only imagine that when they finally get together, sparks may literally fly out of my kindle. 

Okay, okay, back to the book. I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding the witches and I love Sydney tapping into her magical abilities. Malachi Wolfe is absolutely hilarious and needs to have a scene in every Bloodlines book (if possible). There is a scene where Sydney has to travel for work and it was nice to see her interacting with her fellow Alchemists, especially since her belief system has been changing since she was in Palm Springs. 

My only disappointment with the book was Marcus Finch. The marketing campaign for the book (facebook and twitter) really went out of the way to create mystery around "Who is Marcus Finch?" Well, we met him. He's an ex-alchemist living in fear of being discovered by alchemists. He's in his early 20's, has a huge tattoo on his face, seems relatively carefree and girls love him. Personally, I wasn't that impressed nor did I understand the attraction (I guess Adrian has my heart, sorry Marcus!). Hopefully he'll play a bigger role in the next few books and I'll learn to enjoy his character more.

Although I loved all of the Sydney/Adrian scenes, the mystery and the adventure (there were several action packed scenes in this book) the ending was my favorite part. I cannot describe how excited I am for the next installment!!!

Grade: 5 stars

Magic Strikes [Andrews]

Book: Magic Strikes [Kate Daniels book# 3]
Author: Ilona Andrews

Review: Andrews hits a home run with the third installment of the Kate Daniels series, Magic Strikes. When Kate's friend (and werewolf) Derek is almost killed, she starts investigating an underground, ultimate fighting championship called The Midnight Games. She teams up with her (sometimes) partner Jim to figure out who is behind Derek's beat down. The problem? Curran, Lord Beast King, has forbidden any shifters from having anything to do with the tournament. Will Kate be able to solve the mystery and avoid a confrontation with Curran? 

Simply put-Kate Daniels rocks. If I were a literary figure living in Atlanta in 2040, I would totally want to be her friend. She is smart, funny, tough and loyal. Andrews does a great job creating tension between Kate and several secondary characters (most notable being the sexual tension with Curran).  Speaking of Curran,  I love how Andrew's focuses on the mystery and the brewing romance is a secondary story moving along slowly. It just adds to the anticipation for the next books (Moning did this with the Fever series too). I don't want to give away spoilers, but we finally find out what Saiman is and the ending leaves Kate in a precarious situation regarding her heritage. 

Overall fabulous read. If you like urban fantasy, you NEED to go read this series. 

Grade: 5 stars

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Code Name Verity [Wein]

Book: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein

Review: 'Careless chatter costs lives.' It's WWII, 1943. A British plane crashes in Nazi occupied France with two friends, a female pilot and a female spy. The spy is quickly caught by the Gestapo and held captive in a former hotel. She is forced to write a confession detailing everything she knows about the British war effort. This book is her confession to the Gestapo, where she tells the story about Maggie, her friend (the pilot), her path to becoming a pilot, their friendship and how they both ended up crashing into France. 

I will refrain from spoilers but this is without question the best book I've read this year. It is about many things-war, truth, humanity and most importantly, friendship. I laughed, I cried and I wanted to reread the book immediately after I finished it. It starts off very slow but I'm glad I pushed through and finished it. An absolutely fabulous read that I'm already recommending to friends. Don't miss this one! Even though this is marketed as YA, this will appeal to adult readers (I was surprised it was a YA book).  

Grade: 5 stars