Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Somewhere between making school lunches, keeping up with the maintenance on this 100-year old house the Army is allowing us to live in AND being the best wife ever, I decided I would read (and review) the 2016 books being made into movies.  I got the list from my new friends at PopSugar.  They are excellent at posting articles about stuff like this, you know.  You can see the full list here:     Or you can just wait and I'll post their reviews here every few weeks.  Deal?

The Circle was not my favorite so far this year but not my least favorite, either.  I was especially intrigued because the author is a fellow Illini (Oske-Wow-Wow!) and because the movie stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.  Sounds good, right? Well not so much, in my opinion.  It starts as a hopeful story of a young professional ready to take on the world with her new dream job in corporate America. The tech company she works for is more far-reaching than she bargains for, yet she goes along with it in order to keep the peace. She sacrifices friendships, family and ultimately herself as the company develops more and more overreach at her expense.  She becomes the poster girl for government transparency in this novel that is almost TOO far-fetched. 

Even though I didn't love this book, I am interested in seeing how the movie plays out.  There are parts of it (the mystery man who may or may not be be stalking her at work and her relationship with her aging/sick parents) that could add some real suspense to an otherwise partially predictable book.  It will probably end up being a rental though, because I've already read two more that I liked way better than The Circle.  And it will also end up being a rental because I don't like going to movie theatres.  But that's a post (or three) for another time. 

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

This is a great YA novel about the consequences of choices. It very much reminds me of the movie "Sliding Doors" - where an instant's hesitation makes for a world of change, and both outcomes are depicted.

Summer is a (young acting) sixteen year old girl who lives with her mother in NY state - NOT in NYC, as she mentions several times. Her parents are divorced, and her father is a somewhat famous painter who lives in Paris, but summers in Provence. Her dad has been pretty flaky since he left five years ago, but he asks her to join him for the summer in Provence. Her mother is reluctant, for reasons that Summer can't quite understand.

She has a best friend, Ruby, and an unrequited crush at home. She has no idea what will await her in France. As she is set to leave, she and her mother argue. Ruby takes her to the airport, but Summer is a little flaky herself, and very superstitious, and isn't sure she should go. Her phone is about to die and she's the last to board the flight. Just as she approaches the jetway, her phone rings...

The book alternates between two different "universes" jumping from what happens when she doesn't answer the unknown caller ID and gets on the plane to the other side where she does answer the phone and winds up not going to France. The jumping is handled very well - it's not every other chapter. The author does a nice job of maintaining a flow of the one side, then taking natural breaks to flip us to the other.

Neither outcome is perfect. I found it a little hard to like Summer in the opening part - she is just a little too wishy-washy for my taste in heroine. Of course, that is perhaps necessary to set up the premise. In France, things are far from perfect, but Summer learns to handle herself pretty darn well through adversity. In NY, it takes a little longer for her to mature, and there is more angst around her friendship with Ruby, but she does also ultimately come into her own there as well. The family drama surrounding her father's absence occurs in both places, but obviously is more apparent in the France half. Her relationship with Ruby is more highlighted in the NY portion. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the ending was satisfying and I very much enjoyed the book.

The voices are clear and authentic. The structure is handled well. I have not read any previous works from this author, but I'll be looking her up. Highly recommended for middle school and up. (No sex, drugs, drinking, etc., but the family topics might not interest readers younger than 6th-7th grade.)

I received this as an advanced reader copy in exchange for a review from The book will be published on April 26, 2016.
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

I was hugely lucky to be offered an Advanced Reader Copy of this novel from, in order to do a review. The book will be published on April 5th, 2016.

If you've ever read this blog before, you know that both Carrie and I love the series, so my glowing review won't be a shock. But it's the best thing I've read lately, so I wanted to plug the series one more time (at least!)

I have been reading Mary Russell books since the very first one came out, waiting a year or more between stories, completely devouring them when they are finally published... I was therefore ecstatic to be offered this advanced copy, especially since the rather worrisome title has been floating around now for a while.

This is another excellent outing in the series. I don't know if Ms. King had planned to do some background on Mrs Hudson all along, or if it was an offshoot idea, but the story of Clara Hudson is truly fascinating. It makes me want to re-read the books (which I do on nearly an annual basis, anyway) to see if there are signs of anything we learn in this installment. It does jump around in time, as the last book "Dreaming Spies" did, but since we are first learning of Mrs Hudson's parents' background and then her own story, while dealing with someone who may or may not be related to her in the "now", it makes sense.

Some backstory is also revealed for the younger Sherlock and how some of his habits and help came about. One of the things that keeps me loving this series is the character development. With the relationship better explained between Holmes and Hudson, you wind up learning interesting, and sometimes uncomfortable, traits about him.

The writing is excellent, as usual. I sat down and read this book in one day. It maybe isn't the typical Holmes and Russell story, but the characters' traits and relationships continue to develop well, and I enjoyed the story very much.

 I can't say much without giving more away than I want to in a review, but you should read this book. (Start at the beginning of the series if you're a new reader - while this would stand alone pretty well, the series is fabulous, and you'll thank me...) Highly recommended - Chanin Pin It