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Archive for the ‘4.5 Stars’ Category

Friday Favorite: Favorite Memoir

November 12, 2010 1 comment

Let me say one thing about favorites.  I have a lot of them.  My husband always teases me that I don’t know the real meaning of the word “favorite.”  The truth is, I do know the definition, but I perhaps bestow the title of “my favorite” too liberally.  This is something I got from my mom, who never hesitates to call something a “favorite” if she likes it a lot in that moment.

So while something is my favorite whatever this week, it might not be next week or next month or next year.

Anyway.

Okay, it took me a while to come up with a category for this week, but I finally did.

Favorite Memoir.

I’ve chosen The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.  This book came out a few years ago, and being a big Bill Bryson fan, I read it as soon as it did.

First of all, everything I’ve ever read by Bill Bryson is hilarious.  Laugh out loud funny.  Full of perfectly couched one-liners that I share with my husband.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid was no different.  I laughed and I cried (because I was laughing so hard).

It’s all about growing up in the fifties, and even though I didn’t grow up then, I can still appreciate the time period with all its wackiness and uncertainty.  I also think that no matter when you grew up, there are certain themes and rites in everyone’s childhood that make this book incredibly familiar to anyone who’s ever been a child.  Which is to say, all of us.

I love Bill Bryson.  He is probably one of my top five favorite authors of all time.  And he definitely is my favorite non-fiction writer.  If you haven’t read anything by Bill Bryson, you are totally missing out.  For some reason, I usually end up taking Bill Bryson books on trips, but why that is, I don’t know.  Maybe because he’s mostly a travel writer?

(Disclaimer: Bill Bryson does use occasional foul language in his books for all easily offended friends out there.  Personally, I hardly notice it, but I know that is a big thing for some people.)

Four and a half stars for being awesome.  I would actually probably give all Bill Bryson books a four and a half.  (Except for A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I would give a four only because it’s so dang long.)

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

August 31, 2010 1 comment

This is definitely one of those paranormal/modern fantasy/young adult/romance books that I mentioned in my last review.  I don’t remember how I heard about it, probably just came up on a list like, “If you like Twilight, you might like this” sort of thing.

Anyway, however I found it, I’m really glad I did.  I loved this book!  It had a great premise, a lot of mystery and just enough romance with (of course) a hot boy, to keep the pages turning faster and faster.

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Sophie is a great YA character.  She’s got the right amount of teenage angst without being whiny (like, say, Ever Bloom!), she cares about her friends and she’s got a lot of courage.  She’s pretty sarcastic and funny, too.  You can’t help but like her (and want to be her friend).

A friend of mine says she likes YA books best when the guy in the them is “hot and rich.”  If that’s you too, then check out Hex Hall, you won’t be disappointed.  Archer Cross (cool name, huh?) is the unavailable (at first) crush of Sophie’s who is always on her side when the kids and teachers give her a hard time.

If you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll be a fan of this book.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series, Demonglass, which comes out in March 2011.

Four and a half stars for being awesome, but not quite a favorite.  I’m going to have to wait for the rest of the series before I decided that one. 😉

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

July 15, 2010 3 comments

I heard about this book from my friend, Jenni Elyse, who read this book last year. (You can read her review here.)

I love the cover– it’s beautiful and it gives a hint of ethereality that goes well with the story.

Here’s the blurb from Bree Despain’s site:

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel’s dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Bree Despain has an incredible hook, right from the beginning.  Within the first few pages, you’re dying to know what happened between Jude and Daniel and why Grace’s attraction to Jude is so… forbidden.  (That sounds so ominously bad, but it’s the only word I could come up with.)

Anyway, Bree Despain is both a gifted storyteller and a skilled writer, so the book is easy to enjoy.   I was enthralled from the beginning and this is one of those books that I stayed up until 2 a.m. just to finish.

I have no self-control when it comes to books.

Grace is a wonderfully believable character.  She’s strong, and although she has her doubts about things, she doesn’t come off and whiny or annoying (like some other YA heroines can be).  She’s a realistic character torn between loyalty to her brother and her nearly uncontrollable curiosity to find out the truth about Daniel.

This is definitely one of the better YA paranormal fantasy romances I’ve read recently, and we all know that I’ve read a lot. 😉  It’s a teen book, but it doesn’t come off as incredibly angst-y.

Four and a half stars for being the best paranormal romance I’ve read recently.  I’m looking  forward to the sequel, The Lost Saint, which comes out later this year.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

July 13, 2010 1 comment

I stumbled upon Sarah Addison Allen while perusing the bestseller shelf at my library.  I read her newest book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and I really, really liked it.  Garden Spells is her first book; it was published in 2007.

Here’s the blurb from her site:

Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where everyone has a story to tell about the Waverleys. There’s the house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, and the wild rumors of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots, tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies. She has everything she thinks she needs, until one day she wakes to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden… and Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.

I wouldn’t necessarily count this as a “fantasy book,” but there are a lot of fantasy or supernatural elements.  However, there are no witches or princesses or castles, so I hesitate to put it in the fantasy category.  But I wouldn’t know what category it SHOULD go in, so I’ve tagged it as fantasy anyway.

Apparently, I’m feeling a little contradictory today.

Anyway, I really liked this book because of the beautiful setting and the small supernatural details that seemed pretty believable at times.  I could easily picture the town of Bascom, and wished I could move there.

I’d especially love to have a neighbor like Evanelle, Claire’s distant cousin whose “gift” tells her to give people things, though she doesn’t know why they need them.  She gives Claire clean sheets and a box of Pop-Tarts, the grocer a mango splitter, and the dairy farmer a jar of maraschino cherries, and it goes on and on.

Know what else I love about this book?  The ending.  I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

Four and a half stars, because it’s not a favorite (yet), but it’s close!

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

July 10, 2010 1 comment

I just finished this book and I loved it!  The Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favorite stories as a child and I would always beg my grandmother to read it to me any time I was at her house (it was her book, not mine).

Anyway, so when I saw the cover of this book and read the flap, I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed.  And I totally wasn’t.

Here’s the summary from Jessica Day George’s website:

Returning home from the war, young Galen finds work with his mother’s family in the royal gardens. There he learns that the king’s twelve daughters have a secret: every night they dance their shoes to tatters, but no one knows how or why. When prince after prince tries and fails to find the answer, and the family is haunted by accusations of witchcraft, Galen decides to help. Armed with a pair of silver knitting needles and an invisibility cloak given to him by a strange old woman, he follows the princesses and unlocks the secret of their curse.

It takes places in a fictional version of 19th century Germany, and has a lot of German elements in it.  (Shout out to Germany!)  This book has lovely bits of fantasy, realistic familial interactions,  and romance (of course).  Not to mention a hero who can knit!

(I love the idea of a man knitting.   I would love it even more if I could witness it for myself!)

Anyway, this book is great.  And when I finished, I got to the author’s bio at the end of the book and found out that Jessica Day George went to BYU, my alma mater! I love BYU and love anyone who went there.  I already thought Jessica Day George was great, so that was a little icing on the cake.

I recommend it for: fans of fairy tales, anyone who wishes they were a princess, anyone who wants something heart-warming and happy to read.

Overall, I give it 4.5 stars.  I reserve 5-star ratings for books that are on my favorites shelf.  But I liked this book a lot.

Until next time,