ABR’s #CBR5 Review #25: Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

holidays-iceI typically have trouble ramping up the holiday spirit so this year when I had the decorations up and the shopping done I thought I’d read something to help. I mistakenly chose David Sedaris’ Holidays On Ice. I’ve had the book on my book shelf for many years. I’m familiar with the “SantaLand Diaries,” the story that leads the book, and I would consider myself a David Sedaris fan, but Holidays On Ice was not the book I needed.

I would highly recommend the first essay, “SantaLand Diaries,” in which Sedaris details his experience as a Macy’s elf named Crumpet. In a twisted way, it just might put you in the holiday spirit. At least you’ll be able to laugh at some of the more stressful moments, like waiting in line to see a Santa that terrifies the kids and shopping amongst the masses. It’s funny, sad, pathetic, revealing and unfortunately, honest.

Although I would recommend the book on the strength of “SantaLand Diaries” alone, I also enjoyed “Dinah, the Christmas Whore,” which recounts a Christmas when the Sedaris family rescued a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend and invited her into their home for the holiday.

But do yourself a favor and skip “Season’s Greetings To Our Friends and Family,” the Dunbar family Christmas letter, which goes from sad to awful to sickening, and “Christmas Means Giving” in which two neighbors go to grotesque lengths to outdo each other during the holiday season. Yes, I understand they are sarcastic, but I thought they were just too creepy and outlandish to be funny.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #12: Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake

Assassins in Love is the first in a new series of books written by Kris DeLake.

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This was obviously another vaginal fantasy pick. I was pretty skeptical based on the title. I had some time to kill before Thanksgiving dinner, so decided to read a few pages. Surprisingly, I was hooked by the second chapter, which made my 82 year old grandmother quite curious to know what the heck I was doing in my room and not helping in the kitchen! The book is told from both assassins’ POV with alternating chapters.

The setup reminded me alot of Mr. and Mrs Smith with Brangelina. Rikki is an independent assassin on job on a cruise spaceship. She’s already done the deed but having trouble desposing of the body through an airlock. Out of nowhere this mysterious and surreally attractive guy, Misha, comes to her rescue. He opens airlock two seconds before guards descend upon them. They pretend to be a drunk couple trying to get it on who hit the button by mistake. Since Misha is a VIP guest, they stroll back to the bar with only a warning. Rikki is speechless (maybe by his beauty) and has to go along with everything until she can escape. But maybe she doesn’t want to escape? Misha too can’t concentrate around her. He’s blown away by her – smart, somehow manages to work freelance when the Guild is a much safer bet, beautiful and suspicious of him. He tells her he wants to recruit her for the Guild. He also mentions they met before. Rikki doesn’t remember him and hates organized groups (too many rules). First chance she gets, she steals an escape pod and runs away from those beautiful ice blue eyes.

I know what you’re thinking, this has cheesy romance written all over it. But actually, there’s a deeper story from when they met originally. It was rather cool following Rikki’s past as her memories slowly return while simultaneously Misha who is completely omniscient about those events dropping clues for her. I also loved this future where assassin work is totally legit if the person has broken the law or wronged someone. Corporations have to stay in line lest a ninja assassin comes out the shadows and wastes them. The attraction between Misha and Rikki started off a bit cheesy since they had to be all over each immediately to save their skins. Even still, they remain suspicous of each other since assassins aren’t supposed to drop their guards. But there’s something they can’t seem to deny in the end. Yes, an attraction, but also a subtle curiousity to learn more about each other.

I would recommend this book for fans of futuristic urban fantasy and action oriented romance novels. The Assassins Guild series continues with completely new characters in the same setting.

Read my other reviews on my tumblr.

Miss Kate’s CBRV review #6: The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, by Charlie Lovett

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Peter Byerly is an antiquarian restorer and book dealer. He is also in mourning for his wife Amanda. His friends and family despair of him ever pulling himself out of his funk.

One day while leafing through an old volume on Shakespeare forgeries, he finds a watercolor portrait of what looks like his late wife. It’s can’t be, because this picture was painted during the Victorian era.

This starts him on a journey to discover the truth about the painting and the book in which it was found. He also tries to tackle the mystery of whether Shakespeare actually wrote his masterpieces. The story moves back and forth in time, and I won’t spoil it by telling you more.

The Bookman’s Tale has been compared to Shadow of the Wind, another great story about book obsession. I can see it, but this actually reminded me more of The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, in that the book itself is almost a character. Some of the coincidences in this story are a bit too convenient, and there’s a little supernatural element towards the end that I felt didn’t really fit. If you love books, however, I think you’ll like this.

Read more reviews at misskatesays.com: http://misskatesays.com/2014/01/03/miss-kates-cbrv-review-6-the-bookmans-tale-a-novel-of-obsession-by-charlie-lovett/

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #24: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

12-tribesHistorically, the 12 tribes of Israel are descendants of the patriarch Jacob. In this book, the 12 tribes are descendants of Hattie, a 15-year-old Southern girl who marries, moves from Georgia to Philadelphia, and settles into a life that brings her disappointments and tragedies. Rather than plagues of frogs and locusts, Hattie is plagued by alcoholism, infidelity, doubt and depression.

The book begins with the birth of Hattie’s first children, twins Philadelphia and Jubilee. Had the rest of the book maintained the pace and drama of the first chapter this book would’ve been excellent. I found the first chapter so heartbreaking I had to put the book down. But the remaining chapters, which are told by and about Hattie’s offspring, are often much less impactful.

Floyd is a sexually confused musician traveling through the South in the 1940s. Six is a prodigious but sinful preacher. Alice and Billups are adults traumatized by abuse they suffered as children. Franklin is unfaithful. Cassie is institutionalized. Bell is dying alone. By the end of the book, each of Hattie’s ‘tribes’ has told a story, and each one is more depressing and hopeless.

Many of the chapters exist as singular stories, but I thought the best ones casually mention Hattie and bring her back into the story, even if only peripherally. Ideally the book would end with a fairly complete portrait of Hattie, whether or not we liked what we saw, but many of the stories stop and start abruptly and the fates of many characters is untold.

My biggest issue with the book sounds disrespectful – after all the time period it covers was tumultuous and violent – but I wanted someone, anyone, to be happy, to find happiness. Chapter after chapter the characters struggle with alcoholism, infidelity, abuse, poverty, illness. It’s heaped on so that by the end of the book you’re a little jaded. (Much like Hattie, I suppose.)

There is a passage near the end of the book that summarizes the entire novel for me:

“Fate had plucked Hattie out of Georgia to birth eleven children and establish them in the North, but she was only a child herself, utterly inadequate to the task she’d been given. No one could tell her why things had turned out as they had, not August or the pastor or God himself. Hattie believed in God’s might, but she didn’t believe in his interventions. At best, he was indifferent.”

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #23: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12yearsThis book doesn’t need much introduction. It is the memoir that has gained renewed attention since the release of the film by the same name. The memoir was written in the 1850s by Solomon Northup who, although he was a free man living in the North, was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He remained a slave for 12 years until he was able to convince a white abolitionist to help him contact his family and secure his freedom.

I have not seen the movie, but I would highly recommend the book. It is beautifully written, poetic in places, horrifying in others. It is much more than a historical narrative, it is the story of a loved and loving man who remains hopeful and spiritual in the harshest of situations.

As you’d expect, it is educational, but it is also inspirational. Some passages are so lyrical, they read like a psalm.

The book really deserves a more thoughtful and robust review, but no matter how elaborate the review, it would come down to the same recommendation: Just read it.

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.

Miss Kate’s CBRV review #5: Midwife of the Blue Ridge, by Christine Blevins

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Given my obsession with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I pretty much jump when I see any books about 18th century Scotland/Scottish immigrants. I picked this book up hoping to get a taste of some bodice-ripping, witch-cursing colonial goodness before Gabaldon’s next book comes out. I was’t too disappointed with Midwife of the Blue Ridge. While it’s not a great book, it is fun.

The book’s description says that “As the lone survivor of an attack on her village, she is thought to be cursed…she hopes to escape the superstitions of the old country…” This all happens within the first couple of chapters, and then we never again hear of her being considered a witch. Maggie is a young Scottish midwife who signs herself into indentured servitude in America. She arrives in 1763, around the time of the Native American uprising known as Pontiac’s War.

Maggie’s feisty, she’s gorgeous, she catches the eye of all the red-blooded men in the colony. There are your usual characters: the folksy settlers, the super hot frontiersman who is afraid of marriage (of course), and the rich, titled, dissipated fop (read: villain). There are war parties, kidnappings, settler being thrown off their land, etc. Through it all, Maggie keeps her chin up. 

There was nothing really surprising in this book, no plot twists that I didn’t see coming (ok, maybe a couple). But it’s a fun, escapist read.

Read more reviews at misskatesays.com: http://misskatesays.com/2014/01/03/miss-kates-cbrv-review-5-midwife-of-the-blue-ridge-by-christine-blevins/