Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

iconiconI actually read this book nearly a month ago, but I refrained from blogging about it sooner because it was a First Look Book Club book, and the discussion hadn't ended yet.

Barnes & Noble's First Look Book Club allows you to get advance reading copies of upcoming books, as long as you agree to discuss them on the forum. Vixen was my first First Look book, and I have to say it was a great experience, although I am not used to discussing a book in such detail on a forum.  I felt a bit like I was back in school, though it was well worth the "homework."

Vixen is the first book in a new YA series, which is going to follow several girls' lives and loves during the 1920s.  I'm fascinated with the Roaring Twenties, especially ever since my 1920s-themed wedding, but there don't seem to be many really good novels set in the period.

I loved the book.  It was just adult enough to be interesting to teen girls as well as adults (like me) who enjoy reading YA fiction.  The setting felt very realistic — obviously the author loves the 1920s and knows a lot about the decade.  The three main female characters were all very different, but very believable.  My favorite turned out to be Clara, whose character seemed somewhat sneaky and unlikeable at first, but who turned out to be the strongest in a lot of ways. The book ended with all three of the girls — including perhaps a new fourth character — disembarking on a new chapter of their lives.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the series — hopefully it won't take too long!

Click here to read the First Look discussions of Vixen for yourself!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead by Nick Drake

iconiconFor Christmas last year my mom got a desk calender that had a new book recommendation for every single day.  Having no use for it herself, she gave it to me, and I promptly gave it to my husband for his desk at work.  Occasionally he brings home a stack of the pages, and that is where I found out about this book.

Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead is a novel about the disappearance of the famous queen during the 12th year of her husband's reign.  A detective from another town is hired to find her, and he is the one who narrates the book.

The story was of course fictional, but it was a good mystery, and the period itself was incredibly well researched.  The book did take about 30 or 40 pages to pick up — it wasn't until they found a body of someone they thought was the queen that I started really taking an interest in the story.

I used to be quite fascinated with Ancient Egypt, and if you have similar interests, I think you would love this book.  In fact, I think anyone who likes historical fiction would enjoy it, so that's how I have categorized it on my blog — even though it is also a well-written mystery!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles

iconiconSorry for the lack of posts this month.  I was reading a very long book, A Clash of Kings, which meant no new posts — and then last week, when I read several other books, I took an unscheduled vacation and didn't update any of my blogs.

I took a short break during A Clash of Kings to read this book, which was due back to the library.  When I first heard about Dear American Airlines — on NPR, I think it was — I have to admit, I thought it was nonfiction.  I thought it sounded like an interesting premise for a book.

It turned out to be a novel, but not one that interested me terribly much.  The rants about the situation (being stranded because of a canceled flight) were funny at first, but it got old pretty quickly.  I found the flashbacks into the character's past more interesting, but the character himself wasn't very likeable.  Thank heavens it was short.  I ended up skimming it just to read the flashbacks.

So, I have to say that this is one of those rare books that I would not recommend... to anyone.  I always feel awful about giving a bad review, but I really hated this book!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

iconiconNote: The image links to an inexpensive paperback edition available from Barnes & Noble.  If you would prefer the ebook, you can download a nicely formatted edition for free from Girlebooks.com.

I discovered mid-week last week that it was Banned Books Week, and decided to take a break in my current read to honor one of the books on the list of frequently challenged books.  I was looking for something relatively short, since I was interrupting my current read, something that was either new or that I couldn't remember reading, and something that was available in ebook at an affordable price so that I could get it right away!  With these criteria in mind, I chose The Awakening.

I may have read The Awakening in high school — I can't remember for sure.  Or maybe I just read the end, as I remember reading something by Kate Chopin out of a textbook.  I also had read something about the novel (or novella?) before, since I knew how it ended.

It took me longer to read than I expected, but I did enjoy it.  The story is about a well-to-do young wife and mother who falls in love while on vacation.  This inspires her to start questioning her life up until then: her marriage, her motherhood, her family, even her daily activities, such as accepting society callers every Tuesday in her home (after returning from vacation).  Apparently just as in love with her as she is with him, the object of her affection leaves for a while, and Edna spends a lot of time pining for him — which encourages her to question her life even more.

An anonymous reviewer on Barnes & Noble's website wrote about the book,

"She had a husband that treated her well and two children but decided that wasn't the life for her. Instead she fools around with another man while in love with a different one than that. She is a tease and just couldn't surrender to the conformity of life."

Obviously this person missed the point of the book, but I can't help but feel that it is this kind of attitude that has resulted in this book being challenged so frequently.  Despite having everything she needs (or is supposed to need, being a woman), when she looks at her life with a more discerning eye, Edna finds she is unhappy.  This leads her to question a society woman's role in life, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is only one way to resolve her unhappiness.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

iconiconNote: The image links to an inexpensive paperback edition at Barnes & Noble.  If you prefer an ebook, you can download a nicely formatted version for free from Girlebooks.com.

After rereading Dracula — which is long and somewhat tedious in parts —I decided I needed something a little more lighthearted.  I had gotten The Enchanted Castle — one of my all-time favorite children's books — for free during Barnes & Noble's free classic ebooks promotion, so I decided that would be perfect.

Rereading a book I haven't read since childhood is always an interesting experience.  It surprised me how much of  The Enchanted Castle I had forgotten, although it came back to me as I read.  Also, Nesbit had a lot of fun with the childish antics of her characters — stuff that I didn't get when I was a kid, too.  I read the book several times as a kid, but it's probably been nearly 20 years since the last time.

I remember the first time I ever read this book.  Every summer when I was a kid, my mom would take my sister and I to a resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.  We would spend a week there with my grandparents, and sometimes, my uncle and cousins, too.

The place had a library where I would spend a lot of my time.  It was a large room with walls of bookcases with glass doors, and a handful of comfortable chairs strategically placed around the room.  Guests could check books out by writing down the book title and your room number in a big ledger left on the desk.  It was a bookish kid's dream-come-true of a library.

Anyway, during one visit I found a copy of The Enchanted Castle.  I only was able to get about halfway through it before we left, though, so when we got home my mom scoured the local bookstores (this being in the days before Barnes & Noble superstores) to find me a new copy.  I still have that paperback, actually, boxed up with other favorite childhood books like The BFG and A Wrinkle in Time.

Maybe it is memories of those summer trips that makes me love this book so much, but I don't think so.  The Enchanted Castle is the kind of book kids always love: one adventure after another.  I always loved E. Nesbit's books — in fact, I tried to get away with reading under the covers with a flashlight when I read Five Children and It as a kid — but The Enchanted Castle is still one of my all-time favorite books of my childhood.