Monday, April 21, 2014

Loco Motive by Mary Daheim

6211725Summary:
From USA Today bestselling author Mary Daheim comes her latest Bed-and-Breakfast book featuring innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn and her irrepressible cousin Renie in a mystery that takes them on the wrong side of the tracks. . . . Loco Motive

It's autumn at Hillside Manor B&B, and with the changing leaves come some unexpected guests. There's Judith's son and daughter-in-law, with their two children in tow, a couple with an impossible (and unbelievable?) last name who show up from nowhere, and a pair of giggly young women who don't seem to know where they're going.

As Halloween draws nigh, Judith can barely cope with her gala of guests, but at least the worst guest from the first part of the week checks out--almost permanently. Wee Willie Weevil, infamous daredevil and martial-arts movie icon, insisted on performing his dangerous stunts from Judith's roof and left the B&B via an ambulance.

Hoping to escape the domestic mayhem, Judith agrees to accompany Renie on a cross-country train trip to Boston with first-class accommodations on the Empire Builder. Judith's bubble bursts when she discovers that Wee Willie and his entourage are fellow travelers. Although confined to a wheelchair, the diminutive stunt man seems capable of derailing the cousins' vacation.

Cousin Renie does her best to ease Judith's mind until the train collides with a truckload of sugar beets. Forced to wait for a new engine in a small Montana town in the middle of nowhere, the passengers can do nothing but watch and wait. Even before the train can get back on track, the cousins discover that their sleeper attendant has gone missing. Worse yet, another passenger's final destination is the nearest morgue.

Judith and Renie have to move full speed ahead if they want to blow the whistle on the killer before death strikes again. Can the train continue its journey? Will the cousins ever get to Boston? Stay aboard! (from GoodReads)


Review:
This is my first Bed-and-Breakfast mystery even though I've had two of these books sitting on my shelf for a few years now. I really enjoy mysteries so I was excited to sink my teeth into this series. While I liked the book overall, there were definitely things I had issues with.

Let's start with the good: I really like the protagonist Judith. I thought it was funny how she's an amateur sleuth and just stumbles upon these cases (unlike Nancy Drew, who is specifically asked to use her talents). I also felt like I could relate to Judith even though she's an older woman. One instance in particular where she's hesitant to tell her visiting son and his family that she's going to miss the Halloween festivities is definitely how I would act in that situation. The banter between her and her cousin Renie is really funny too. I also liked how they were traveling cross-country by train, which is something I've never done. I'd like to try it now because it sounds exciting!

I didn't like that it took over 100 pages to actually get to the mystery part of the story. The beginning stuff was mostly just filler that was unneeded. The mystery itself was a little confusing and there were so many characters that had their hands in the crime! It was difficult to keep track of them, especially since they had aliases and secret identities. Also the incident with Roy, the train attendant, was never resolved.

Overall, I did like Loco Motive because it was a mystery and I always love those. The problems I had with the book weren't enough to send me away from this series and I'm about to read the next book since I own it. We'll see how I like it.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: sent from publisher

2010/William Morrow/311 pages.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

3984393Summary:
The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock. (from GoodReads)


Review:
I still can't believe it took me this long to read Fahrenheit 451! It's one of the classic dystopian novels and that's my favorite genre. While I enjoyed the message of Fahrenheit 451, I wasn't as enthralled by the execution as I thought I would be.

I've always loved the concept of this book: how firemen in the future start fires rather than put them out. That is just so clever. The theme of censorship is, of course, prevalent and I can't imagine a time when all books would be banned. How terrible would life be! And that's what Ray Bradbury describes in his novel. There is no substance in life anymore and all anyone cares about is the programs on TV. The internet wasn't around when this book was written, but that seems to be the tech-driven culture that Bradbury was describing. It was definitely scary that this could be our future someday.

The style of this book definitely wasn't my favorite. Ray Bradbury uses really flowery language with a lot of description. That's just not my cup of tea. I did like the ending and image of hope it evoked. But I didn't like Bradbury's afterword and coda. In not so many words, he says he dislikes political correctness and the fact that "minority groups" want "special" treatment amounts to censorship. That was pretty much his way of saying that he doesn't care about POC or women being represented in his work. I would give him a pass since this book was written in 1953, but the afterword was written in 1991 so forget about that.

I think that Fahrenheit 451 is a super important book because the message of censorship is detailed so well but I don't plan on reading this again.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
FTC: my copy

1953/Del Rey/180 pages.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 181

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what new books are going to be released.

Breakable by Tammara Weber

17936925He was lost and alone. Then he found her.
And the future seemed more fragile than ever.

As a child, Landon Lucas Maxfield believed his life was perfect and looked forward to a future filled with promise — until tragedy tore his family apart and made him doubt everything he ever believed.

All he wanted was to leave the past behind. When he met Jacqueline Wallace, his desire to be everything she needed came so easy…

As easy as it could be for a man who learned that the soul is breakable and that everything you hoped for could be ripped away in a heartbeat. (from GoodReads)


I really enjoyed the predecessor, Easy, especially because it was the first time I'd read a book in the New Adult genre. I can't wait to see what happens next with the characters! Breakable will be released May 6, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 127

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read

1. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
This definitely belongs at the top of the list, as it's about the incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. But! It's actually really good!

2. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I had to read this for 10th grade summer reading and it was pretty difficult because the author jumps around in time. Some of the book is about the Iranian Revolution, her time studying in the U.S. and then her having an illicit book club.

3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I love this book! But it's definitely unique. Owen Meany is a little person who is somewhat psychic.

4. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The world building in this series is incredible and definitely different from anything I've read before.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell
This has such a great concept: using animals to explain the Russian Revolution.

6. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This book is about a part of WWII that I was unfamiliar: the deportation of Eastern Europeans to Siberia in order to work in labor camps.

7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
It's hard to believe, but The Forest of Hands and Teeth was my first experience with zombies. Now they're everywhere (figuratively). But this book really introduced me to the genre.

8. Drought by Pam Bachorz
This book is so bizarre. It's about a cult but there's some fantastical elements in it too. I didn't actually enjoy this one - it was too weird.

9. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
I can't even explain Eyes Like Stars. All you have to know is it's about Shakespeare and is awesome.
 
10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
This book is so weird! I can't really remember what happens but the protagonist does have Mad Cow disease, so there's that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Guest Post: Elizabeth Eckhart on Dystopias

With the recent movie release of Divergent and the upcoming release of The Giver, dystopias are a hot topic right now. Elizabeth Eckhart is here to tell us what makes a dystopian novel great:

With dystopian fiction all the rage, and Divergent having just premiered on March 21st, one might be feeling the urge to dive into as many dystopian novels as possible. Or, you might even be considering writing one yourself, whether it be short story, script, or full-length novel. Like any other genre, dystopian fiction has a plethora of fantastic, average, and not-so-great works floating around. If you’re wondering what sets the entertaining apart from the simply silly, or preparing yourself to create a dystopian world of your own, perhaps looking through some qualifications below might clarify why some dystopians rock our world and others, unfortunately, fall a little flat.

Proper World Building: Dystopian settings are generally our world at a different stage of time (generally the future), although they don’t have to be. Even if they do, it’s better not to think of it as simply this civilization in a few years. The best dystopian fictions operate successfully as their own world, and benefit from not depending on writing the history as if it were Earth with a few tweaks. Readers notice when an author has failed to expand their world to its full potential. For example, Hunger Games was critiqued for showing nothing outside of Panem (was there another government on the planet? more people?) and failing to even enter all of the twelve districts the country is broken into, while Divergent depends a little too heavily on the concept that Tris’s world is a futuristic, decaying Chicago. The best fiction writers will write a deep, planned-out world, detailed down to its history, government creation, character’s roles within this society, and the general public opinion on all of these happenings.

Motivation: Much like fantasy, sci-fi, and similar works of fiction, the element of motive behind actions must still come into play.What these means is that despite the awesome setting of a dystopian novel, characters must act with recognizably human motivation and drive. This goes for individual actions as well as movements in the history and major plot of the novel as a whole. In the Hunger Games Katniss stays true to her character —even when her reluctance to lead can become frustrating— which results in a believable character whom we can depend on to act according to her personality. Tris, likewise, in Divergent, often puts her relationships on the line as she follows her gut and partakes in risky, sometimes unnecessary behavior. The characters must have their personalities, faults and all, and can’t be changed on a whim in order to please readers or forward the plot.

Go Easy on the Social Commentary: Some writers and readers expect all dystopian fiction to function as some sort of commentary on our current or possible future state of affairs, when in reality, this isn’t always true. Some people just enjoy reading or creating dystopian worlds as a form of escapism. However, if the intention is to provide commentary, a dystopian should do so through the plot of the novel - not through long-winded speeches by characters, or heavy-handed over-symbolism that leaves readers rolling their eyes. Subtly here really is the key, no reader wants to be hit over the head with an author's beliefs if they didn’t expect it coming in. If a writer feels like humanity is becoming too dependent on technology, the narrative should show this reliance through characters’ actions and the story as a whole, and refrain from having every problem in the book the fault of technology directly (it simply isn’t believable to blame technology for every single problem). Ender’s Game, which was also transformed for the big screen last year (more details here), does an excellent job of discussing the blurred moral lines that are often crossed in war -especially when technology reduces face to face interaction with an enemy to minimal, if at all. Instead of outright discussing this issue, we watch as Ender, by far the most talented young army commander in the world, struggles with his knack for killing, and the repercussions of his actions in war. It’s a more nuanced, subtle approach to taking on technology that leaves room for the reader’s interpretation.

At the end of the day, Divergent and Hunger Games both succeeded at implementing most, if not all of these tactics. Where the two books both tend to fall flat is their lack of world building, which can be a common trend with dystopian novels. Some dystopian novels that do flesh out their world, without weighing down the text, include Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, or The Giver by Lois Lowry (which is also arriving on film soon!). Given the fact that all three of them are now considered classics speaks to the importance of putting in the effort to create that world.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Elizabeth!

 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 180

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what new books are going to be released soon.

Chasing Before by Lenore Appelhans

16081764Felicia and Neil have left Level 2 behind, but another level stands between them and Heaven: Level 3. While the purpose of Level 2 is to relive your time on Earth and make peace with your memories, the objective of Level 3 is to completely detach from life and prepare for your divine vocation.

During Felicia and Neil's training period, a series of explosions destroy the portals out of Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. Though Neil wants to become either a Muse or a Healer to help, Felicia is drawn to the Seraphim Guard. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can't stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life before she moves on--if she can manage to evade old enemies long enough to find a way out of Level 3. (from GoodReads)


I read Level 2 so long ago that I thought the sequel was already released! Looks like I'm not behind after all. I can't wait to see what the lovely Lenore has in store for us next! Chasing Before will be released August 26, 2014.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 126

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers and readers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Gateway Books in My Reading Journey

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This was the first dystopian novel I ever read, all the way back in 5th grade. Now that's my favorite genre. Side note: the movie is coming out soon!!!!

2. The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
I love mysteries and thrillers and I definitely credit Nancy Drew with introducing me to the genre.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I really loved Jane Eyre when I first read it and I realized that classic literature can be a page-turner!

4. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
I'm not the biggest fan of fantasy but I loved Clare's urban fantasy series. Definitely opened my mind a little to the genre.

5. Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
I usually only read fiction, but this non-fiction account of the 2008 presidential election was extremely entertaining. Now I'm more open to reading non-fiction as a result.

6. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
This was the first Sarah Dessen book I ever read! It also introduced me to the YA contemporary romance subgenre.

7. The Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
I love horror and I think it's due to the fact that I would freak myself out reading these in elementary school.

8. The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
I'm not the biggest fan of novels written in verse but I loved this one! I'm definitely willing to try more now that I've read this book.

9. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Before this book, I never realized vampires could be cool. Boy was I wrong.

10. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
After reading this a few months ago I realized that vampires are still cool! Even though the craze has died down a little, it's still possible to write a great vampire book.