Monthly Archives: May 2013

An Innocent Bride (Betty Neels)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase
Though it arguably has a lot of the components of a normal Betty Neels romance… this one just didn’t really click for me. You’ve got the strong male hero who just wants to take care of the prideful, trying-to-make-it-on-her-own damsel in distress. You’ve got the typical medical drama (this time a sick aunt) who draws them together, as well as the female antagonist who is suitably catty… still, something about this novel just irked me; the resolution felt uneven. Overall, not my favorite effort from Neels.

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Posted in Romance

Without (Donald Hall)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I don’t read much poetry… but what poetry I do read tends to be by Donald Hall and a handful of others. This is without a doubt my favorite single work by Hall, though it is lean, sparse, and an emotional roller coaster.  Scratch that, roller coasters have ups and downs, this is a more of an emotional spiral into all of the edges and dimensions of love, death, and grief at its rawest. It is one of my favorite all time collections.

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Posted in Literary Fiction

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education (Diane Ravitch)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is one of the most important books about education currently in print. It is timely, it speaks to important issues at both a policy and practical level (though more the former than the latter), and most importantly, it is not only well thought out and well researched, it is also accessible. Too often, I’ve read education books that are clearly tiered towards researchers, towards economists, towards just teachers, or just school leaders. This is really a book that sums up the state of education (and truly, it’s a sad state of affairs) as well as how we got here (the good intentions and so on). It’s kind of short on solutions (I think), and some have claimed that it’s a little idealistic… so fine… it’s not perfect. But, it is important, well-written, and something that I think parents and educators should read to better educate themselves on our current K-12 school system.

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Posted in Nonfiction

The Perfect Mistress (Victoria Alexander)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I thought the setup was interesting: a young woman faced with financial hardships inherits a potentially profitable set of memoirs from her great grandmother. A man who’s afraid that this family secrets will be exposed is desperate to prevent her from publishing the memoirs… and there’s a ghost (in the form of the great-grandmother) to spice things up.  Still, none of these characters ever really got beyond surface witticisms and stereotypes, and I found finishing the book to be a bit of a chore.
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Mistborn: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mistborn is close to my ideal for a high fantasy swords-and-sorcery novel. The setting is unique and compelling, the characters aren’t all tired derivative archetypes, and the book doesn’t start off with glacial slowness. I really hope that this is signifies a permanent step forward in the fantasy genre, and we can wave goodbye forever to the dreadfully uninteresting boy of humble origins who is destined to be a great hero drudgery that the fantasy genre has been forced to slog through for too long. I knew when I started reading this book that it was the first book in a series, so as I neared the conclusion I grew increasingly apprehensive, fearing a forced, unsatisfying cliffhanger looming ahead of me, but to my surprise, the conclusion flowed well with the rest of the narrative and was very satisfying. The conclusion was in fact so satisfying that I am a little apprehensive about how the author will start the next book in the series. I would definitely recommend Mistborn and would probably go so far as to say it would serve as a good emissary for the genre for people who don’t have much exposure to fantasy.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Little Hoot (Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jen Corace)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is one of those cute backwards books which the parent will find just as (if not more) entertaining than their child. All Little Hoot wants to do is go to sleep at a reasonable time, but he’s been told by his parents that if he wants to grow up to be a proper owl, he’s going to have to stay up, and up, and up… so he plays and counts and struggles his way into not going to bed!

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Blood Riders (Michael P Spradlin)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Badass cowboys fight off a nefarious vampire invasion; that pretty much sums up Blood Riders.

What, you want more?  Fine.  While the story doesn’t stray too far from the central premise, I found much of the additional attempts at characterization and mystery to be relatively uninteresting.  I mean, with this sort of book, you pretty much just want to see how many vampire fights you can cram into your page count, and you don’t really need long backstories for everyone and reasons why they are interested in shooting up vampires.  Oh, and the evil vampires aren’t really vampires; for some reason, they just have pretty much identical magical powers and weaknesses to vampires, and somewhere offscreen we learn that actual vampires exist as well, which was rather confusing.  Even with these quibbles and a few slow spots, Blood Riders delivers on the promise of lots of cowboys fighting vampires (excuse me, Archaics) well enough that if you are interested in that sort of thing, I would definitely recommend the book.

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Unraveled (Courtney Milan, Turner #3)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a satisfying end to a very, very well done series (perhaps one of my all-time favorites). The setup is probably my least favorite, but (as usual for Milan) the characters are just so richly drawn that you’re just engrossed in the book before you know it. Here, we have a dedicated magistrate who’s got a very, very traumatic past. He trusts almost no one, and prefers solitude (and in some ways, he prefers suffering). He falls for our heroine because she doesn’t pity or fuss over him, but rather, makes him feel calmer, more centered. Though the initial “falling” happens quickly, the relationship that develops between these two is very satisfying, and there are some nice cameos from earlier characters to make this feel like a well done finale (as opposed to just a solid standalone).

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Posted in Romance

The Painted Bed (Donald Hall)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a relatively short collection by a poetry master. Though I don’t often read poetry, when I do pick up a collection, it almost always has Donald Hall’s name on it. This is not my favorite by him, but it’s very, very well-written. Detailing the years directly after his wife, Jane, passed away, this is his second collection dealing with the emotional desolation of losing his mate. I prefer Without, and feel like this is almost its ugly stepsister… but still, if I hadn’t been comparing it to Without, I’m sure I would have rated it (even more) highly.

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Posted in Literary Fiction

The Only Heir (Mary H Collins)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a quick read with a convoluted story. The protagonist, Kimberly, has just graduated from college and is off to New York City to work in the fashion industry. In many ways, this is a coming of age story, as Kimberly navigates the big city and adult issues such as sex (and the results thereof), living alone, major career choices, and dealing with people who may be considered insane. However, the twists and turns of the plot keep the reader busy trying to navigate the implausible sequence of events. You may be interested in this book if you want something quick to read that explores a version of life that does not seem to be quite possible. Perhaps it is meant to be a book that helps us escape from reality, but if so, I’d rather stay in reality.

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