Jen K’s #CBR5 Reviews #146-148: Final Three

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong – 4 stars.  Elena narrated tale involving the Pack in Alaska.  Straightforward story.

The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill – 4 stars.  He doesn’t get it perfect but is amazingly progressive for its time, and could probably still teach some more conservative minded people some things today.

Devil’s Brood – 3 stars.  A little too much detail, but otherwise a very well researched historical fiction novel about when it all fell apart for Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Lots of plots and rebellions against a brilliant monarch by his headstrong sons.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Reviews #134-145: Playing Catch Up at the End of the Year, Part II

Jen K’s #CBR5 Reviews #111-133: Playing Catch Up at the End of the Year, Part I

Okay, so I didn’t really want to do this, but I also figure you all would probably prefer one or two posts with several links to me posting twenty separate posts at once.  This is what I get for waiting till the last minute to catch up!  Although at least I’m catching up this year since last year, I just gave up and left about 20 or 30 unreviewed.

  • Book 111: My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares – 2 stars.  I was hoping for The Gargoyle; this wasn’t it.
  • Book 112: Broken by Kelley Armstrong – 2 stars.  Still love the series, but this was my least favorite.  They wouldn’t overlook the obvious that easily.
  • Book 113: Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell – 3 stars; good selection of short stories, some interrelated about womanhood
  • Book 114: The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye – 4 stars.  So good, New York, 1845, murder mystery.  Read it.
  • Book 115: Dr. Sleep by Stephen King – 4 stars.  My favorite King novel in a while.
  • Book 116: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – 4 stars.  Very sweet, cute, original ghost story set in turn of the century Malaysia
  • Book 117: The Odyssey by Homer – 4 stars.  Reread for school.  Damn, Odysseus makes lots of dumb decisions.
  • Book 118: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson – 4 stars.  Explores the impact of cholera on a neighborhood in 19th century England and what it meant for science and city planning in the long run.
  • Book 119: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – 4 stars.  Rainbow Rowell, I’m sure you’ve already read it.  Or read everything you need to know about her.
  • Book 120: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier – 3 stars.  A plague takes out human kind, and the dead only stick around as long as someone alive remembers them.
  • Book 121: Cinder by Marissa Meyer – 4 stars. A fun beginning to a YA series with a cyborg Cinderella, and an evil queen on Earth’s former colony, the moon.
  • Book 122: Children of the Flames – 4 stars.  An moving and informative account of the twins that survived Dr. Mengele’s experiments in Auschwitz.
  • Book 123: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – 4 stars.  Classic Victorian sensation novel – turns out I much prefer Collins to Dickens, and he actually has rather strong women characters (at least one, anyway).
  • Book 124: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal – 2 stars.  Just don’t.  I rated it 2 so there must have been something redeeming about it but I don’t know what.  It ended, it didn’t take long to read?
  • Book 125: Purge by Sofi Oksanen – 3 stars.  Sex-slave trafficking and Estonia during World War II after, cumulating in 1992 after the USSR fell.
  • Book 126: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – 2 stars.  The third release that’s part of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and it feels lackluster in comparison.
  • Book 127: Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams – 3 stars.  Travel story/history of the Inca trail.  Engaging and informational.
  • Book 128: The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes – 3 stars.  Explains the genetics behind tracking the origins of modern Europeans.  Somehow, they all trace back to seven women.
  • Book 129: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – 4 stars.  Seattle, Depression, orphans and actors.  Good but not as good as Ford’s first novel.
  • Book 130: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak – 2 stars.  Good idea and concept ruined in the ending.  Also, I’m pretty sure the main character is a “Nice Guy.”
  • Book 131: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – 4 stars.  A premise that sounds like a cliche and yet ends up being an outstanding and thoughtful novel about the foster care system and life after emancipation.
  • Book 132: The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand – 3 stars.  Fun, light weight chick lit/romance with chocolate.  In Paris, if that’s your thing – it’s not mine.  Paris, that is.  Chocolate, definitely.
  • Book 133: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer -3 stars.  Sequel to Cinder, while not as good, it is the rare sequel that doesn’t feel like filler and is super fast paced.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #110: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

I bought this novel in May because the cover caught my eye (and the pages are lined blue), and then didn’t even read it until September – I hadn’t heard anything about it when I bought it but over the summer, it started getting quite a bit of favorable buzz. Waiting was such a mistake – this novel was totally amazing, and I have only one small complaint about it, but I’ll get to that later.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #109: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

I haven’t seen much buzz on this novel which surprises me because it was definitely one of the more enjoyable books I’ve read this year. There are certainly a few I would rank above this so I’m not entirely sure if this would make my top 10 for the year, but I have a soft spot for novels about readers and people that love books so naturally, the title alone caught my attention. It’s interesting to me how given all the technology that is a part of life now, that all it takes is to set a novel ten to twenty years before the present day, and things that would be completely nonsensical today work again. For example, it actually has to be explained now if characters can’t get in touch with each other at any time. However, place it in the ’90s and practically no one had a cell phone so it doesn’t even have to be acknowledged.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #108: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I loved Moyes’s previous novel, The Last Letter from Your Lover, and though I would say that I didn’t like this one as much, it was still a very pleasant read. Me Before You is both better and not as good as The Last Letter from Your Lover. The earlier novel had a parallel story line setup with a story set in the 50’s/60’s as well as one set in the modern day, and the one focused on the earlier timeframe was just amazing. Nothing in Me Before You was as strong as that relationship or story but this novel as a whole was definitely much better than the modern day part of The Last Letter from Your Lover. In fact, I was a bit worried before I started this because the modern day characters in The Last Letter didn’t appeal to me as much, so I was a bit skeptical about an entire novel in the modern era. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and overall this is a strong story.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #107: Vinegar Hill by A. Mannette Ansay

This novel’s title may sound familiar because it was a part of Oprah’s book club back in 1999. The novel was actually originally published in 1994 which I didn’t realize until I was looking at the different versions available on Amazon. I guess I was under the mistaken impression that the book club is a mix of new novels (for that year, at least) and classics. Having said that, I can definitely see why this novel was selected for the book club.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #106: The Dinner by Herman Koch

While this was a well-written novel, I don’t think I would ever actually recommend it to anyone. The characters were absolutely despicable and didn’t have any redeeming qualities. While I know that is a complaint leveled against Gone Girl as well, I actually enjoyed Gone Girl and figuring out its twists – in other words, it had something other than the characters going for it. This book on the other hand didn’t have anything in it other than the characters whose actions just made me feel slightly grimy for reading about them. For me, it’s a novel that I would love to discuss but I don’t actually want to put anyone through reading it to make that discussion possible.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #105: Broken Harbor by Tana French

While scanning through other reviews, I noticed a lot of people were disappointed with this novel (it’s one of the reasons I waited to read it), but I actually enjoyed it. The main character may not be as likable or sympathetic as some of French’s previous protagonist, but I enjoyed the slow build up, and the eventual revelations about Scorcher’s past and family life. Like all the other detectives in French’s novel, Scorcher has a background that is a bit more complex than one might expect. In his case, he has a younger sister that is unstable of whom he is very protective. Usually, he can manage to maintain his bearing and keep his private and professional lives separate but this time, his sister has a break down right when he is working a high profile case that happens to have occured in a location that is important to their childhood.

Full review.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #104: Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

I thought the concept of this book sounded great – epistolary format, two women, two generations, two wars.  The idea of exploring the effect of two wars on two generations that directly follow each other just sounded like such a great idea.  What similar issues would they face on the home front, what would be different due to time and the evolution of warfare (obviously the Blitz and the targeting of the civilian population would be a huge change)?  What would it be like to have lived through a war and loss only to watch your daughter face the same things?  Additionally, there were comparisons to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was such a sweet book.  It was a bit quirky but I completely connected to the story and the character and was drawn in.  Unfortunately, I think the comparisons were mostly made due to the war time setting and the epistolary nature of the narrative.  This was more of a regular war romance, though I guess maybe the descriptions of the one character’s college pranks could qualify as quirky (he was a University of Illinois grad, which may have been my favorite thing about the book – ILL-INI!)

Full review.