Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: The Goddaughter Caper by Melodie Campbell (Gina Gallo Mystery, Book 4)

SynopsisIn this latest caper featuring reluctant sleuth Gina Gallo, strange things are happening in Steeltown. A body shows up in the trunk of Gina’s car. Another is mistakenly shipped to her cousin Nico’s new store. And then Gina and Nico stumble across a stash of empty coffins. Worse, everything mysteriously points to her own retired relatives at the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home! (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a quick, fun, easy read. Campbell had a knack for witty dialogue and memorable characters. None of her characters are deep and complex, but they feel each have a unique feel and don’t all run together. Her descriptions of several of Gina’s family members had me giggling. But Campbell’s strength is certainly her dialogue. Particularly, the banter between Gina and her fiancé, Pete. I laughed out loud at a few point due entirely to her dialogue. The story has a good mix of action, romance, and mystery – although the mystery parts get solved rather quickly. Expected, I suppose, for a “rapid read”. Given the length, there isn’t room to really develop the mystery well enough to “hook” the reader. I was never on the edge of my seat wondering who done it. But I enjoyed reading about the character’s antics and that smoothed over the lack-luster mystery part. Over all, it’s an enjoyable read, perfect for a day at the beach or poolside, along with a cold cocktail and a cannoli!

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-459810-532
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 2-20-2016
Pages: 130

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Requiem of Stars by Tracy Hickman (Songs of the Stellar Winds, Book 1)

Synopsis: On silver wings they sail the darkwind between uncounted worlds, the ships of the Pax Galacticus, rules of the galaxy. Their journeys are mostly routine. But when a revel privateer ambushes the Pax frigate Shendridan, First Master Serg Dresiv finds himself in charge of a stricken vessel, a decimated crew, and  complement of rebel prisoners – including their cunning and heartless commander, the beautiful but deadly Thyne Haught-Cargil. As Serg struggles to save the ship and bring the rebels to trial, Thyne plots her escape and the destruction of the Shendridan. Until they all come face-to-face with a massive armada of unknown origin and terrifying power – and Serge and Thyne suddenly find themselves reluctant allies in a desperate battle to save humanity. (from the back of the book)

Review: This was my first Hickman novel. I was not impressed. He builds complex worlds, populated by complex people, but there is something off about his story writing. I just couldn't get into it. The book failed to hook me from the first, and barely kept my attention. I couldn't tell you what about the story or book I didn't like, it just seemed...boring and cliched and overly complex without meaning. I finished it because I did want to see the end. But I guess it was intended to be the first in a series that never got written, as the book ends without completing the story. I know the story will appeal to many people, but it didn't to me.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-57302-0
Year Published: 1996
Date Finished: 2-19-2016
Pages: 376

Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Synopsis: Anne Eliot, seven and twenty, is haunted by the loss of Captain Wentworth, her true love, and the decision she made that drove him way. Now, eight years later, fate has brought them back together. Is this a second chance for both, or will she lose him again to the whims of persuasion? 

Review: This is my favorite Austen novel. It has more subtlety and quiet depth of emotion than her others. Anne is also my favorite character. I enjoyed hearing the audio version, read by Juliet Stevenson, who had the perfect grasp of Austen and her work. Highly recommend..

Note: Since this was an audio book, I chose to post the picture of my favorite movie version of Persuasion, with Amanda Roots as Anne and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Year Published: 1818 (Audio Version 
Date Finished: 2-20-2016
Pages: N/A

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ by Lee Strobel

Synopsis: What IS the truth about Jesus? Today, the traditional picture of Jesus is under an intellectual onslaught from critical scholars, popular historians, TV documentaries, Hollywood movies, bestselling authors, Internet bloggers, and atheist think tanks. They're capturing the public's imagination with a radical new portrait of Jesus that bears scant resemblance to the picture historically embraced by the church. How persuasive is this new image of Jesus? Is it based on well-supported facts and arguments? Or does it fade away when exposed to the hot light of
scrutiny? In this dramatic investigation, award-winning writer and former legal editor
Lee Strobel explores such controversial questions as:

- Did Christianity suppress "alternative gospels" that portray Jesus more
accurately than the New Testament?
- Did the church distort the truth about Jesus by tampering with early
biblical texts?
- Have fresh insights and explanations finally disproved the resurrection?
- Were the essential beliefs about Jesus stolen from earlier mythology?
- Have new objections disqualified Jesus from being the Messiah?

Evaluate the evidence for yourself as leading experts grapple with the latest objections from today's foremost critics. Then reach your own verdict in The Case for the Real Jesus. (from the online description)

Review: With his trademark efficiency, Strobel digs into the question about Jesus. He answers several of the most common questions about Jesus – including the one I most wanted answered: Did Christianity build the myth of Jesus from Pagan Myths. While Strobel didn’t answer this completely to my satisfaction, he laid the ground work for further investigation.
Each of the experts he speaks with have a list of credentials a mile long. These are some of the smartest, most respected scholars in the world. To see them not only address these ideas about Jesus, but the scholarship that led to these ideas, gives the reader confidence that the answers presented have merit and truth. Worth reading if you have questions about Jesus. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-310-24210-9
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 2-18-2016
Pages: 309

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

Synopsis: Mercy Watson, a disarmingly charming pig adopted by a loving human family, makes her debut in this new series of chapter books for beginning readers. After the Watsons tuck Mercy into bed with a sweet song and a kiss, she feels warm inside, as if she has just eaten hot toast with a great deal of butter on it. However, afraid of the dark, she snuggles into bed with the couple. Moments later, all three are rudely awakened from their lovely dreams with a BOOM! as their bed falls into a hole that has opened in the floor beneath them. In hot pursuit of buttered toast, the porcine wonder inadvertently gets help and saves the day. Along the way, she causes great, humorous distress to the next-door Lincoln sisters. (from the online description)

Review: This is a cute story, with only a few minor flaws. I like Mercy and her butter toasted obsession, the fact she can't speak (being a pig), and the sisters. I did not like the Mercy got praise for helping when in fact she was just chasing food. But the illustrations are fun and cute and clever, and I think children will enjoy this lively tale.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-7636-2270-2
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 2-14-2016
Pages: 21

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: My Little Pony: A Very Pony Place by adpt. by Nora Pelizzari

Synopsis: Old-style My Little Ponies do things.

Review: This is child's novelization of a made-for-tv movie. It's dreadful. The story lines, the pictures, the dialogue  - it's cheesy and inane. Not worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-121525-4
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 2-14-2016
Pages: 14

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Hana-Kimi (For You in Full Blossom) by Hisaya Nakajo (Volume 6-8)

Synopsis: These volumes cover the visit of Mizuki's best friend, Julia, coming to visit from America. The school goes on a trip, naked people do naked people things, Mizuki still manages to hide she's a girl, despite acting more and more feminine, and the Sano is dark and mysterious as ever.

Review: Once again, I found these volumes (6-8) fun, amusing, engaging, and romantic. The characters are developing quirks and complexities, and I enjoy seeing new characters (like Julia) enter the arena.
My only complaint is that it is getting more and more unbelievable the boys haven't figured out Mizuki is a girl - seeing how she often does really dumb or feminine things. But, it's a story and meant to be a bit over the top. That is part of the fun!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-59116-498-2 / 1-59116-499-0 / 1-4215-0007-8
Year Published: 1998 / 1999 / 1999
Date Finished: 2-12-2016
Pages: 250 / 250 / 250

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Synopsis: If you don't know what this is about, google it or, you know, move out of the rock you've been under.

Review: I finally read the entire thing - well, I listened to it via audiobook. This was my third attempt, although the other two were over a decade ago. I never could finish the trilogy. Inevitably, I'd get lost somewhere in the third book (having skimmed most of the second) and quit. Well, due to it being audio, I managed to finished the entire thing. My favorite part was the Ride of the Rohirrim, followed closely the arrival of Aragorn at the Fields of Pelennor, with his banner unfurled! These parts, to me, made the heart beat faster  - high in emotion and thrills. Other than that, the story was good - with the right amount of introspection and adventure. I found the lack of female characters disappointing, but the female characters that are in the story are strong - particularly Eowyn - who is my favorite. There seemed an excessive amount of singing, but in a society and culture were most stories are told via song, that makes sense.
While I recognize and honor the historical and literary value of Tolkien's work, and understand that Tolkien's work is monumental in the realm of fantasy literature, I don't think Tolkien will ever be a favorite. It's just not for me.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Year Published: 1955
Date Finished: 2-11-2016
Pages: N/A

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review: Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray

Synopsis: Warning: This book may cause flatulence. Walter is a fine dog, except for one small problem: he has gas. He can't help it; it's just the way he is. Fortunately, the kids Billy and Betty love him regardless, but Father says he's got to go! Poor Walter, he's going to the dog pound tomorrow. And then, in the night, burglars strike. Walter has his chance to be a hero. (from the online description)

Review: My nephew received this book as a Christmas gift, along with the stuffed dog that actually farts. So when I found a copy at the used bookshop, I had to have it. It's hilarious, using humor to teach the reader to accept people despite flaws - even smelly ones. The art is a bit odd for my taste. It's had a cut-from-the-magazine feel, but it still conveys the store in bright colors and shapes. A fun read for kids and parents.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-58394-053-7
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 2-6-2016
Pages: 28

Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Little Polar Bear, Take Me Home! by Hans de Beer

Synopsis: In his earlier adventures, Lars, the little polar bear, has often been lost far from home, and each time, someone has helped him get back safely. Now, it's Lars's turn to help when a little tiger named Sasha finds himself lost and alone at the North Pole. (from the online description)

Review: My second Little Bear Book! I adore the illustrations and fun adventure plot. Little Bear is always ready to make a friend, and in this case, he helps his friend get home. Adorable, and fun for small children.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-55858-630-x
Year Published: 1996 
Date Finished: 2-6-2016
Pages: 28

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: A Song and a Prayer: Devotional Thoughts from L'Abri by Betty Carlson

Synopsis: This interesting and inspiring book reflects the fact that the author lives in the mountains of Switzerland at the world-famous L'Abri Fellowship. Highlighting the spiritual dimensions of life, it mirrors the concern of the Fellowship estabished by Dr. and Mrs. Francis Schaeffer. Woven into these devotional thoughts aer true stroeis which read like fiction - like the one about the confused opera singer who found true peace at L'Abri. There are apt and pointed illustrations of spiritual truths - like the one which related an interesting conversation between Francis Newman and John Nelson Darby. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is slightly dated, but still helpful. The stories are sweet and slightly fluffy, and Carlson's writing is a bit meandering and sometimes the story that starts the devotion doesn't really relate to the point of the devotion by the end. But, she has points worth thinking about, and the truth she promotes is Godly. Worth reading.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: None
Year Published: 1970
Date Finished: 2-2-2016
Pages: 100

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Flavia De Luce, Book 4)

Synopsis: It’s Christmastime, and Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight. (from the online description)

Review: Unlike the previous three, this story deals more with Flavia and her interactions with the people around her, particularly her family, and not so much on the solving of the mystery. Although Flavia isn't about to let her family dynamics get in the way of some clever sleuthing. With her usual flair and boldness, she goes about "assisting" the local constabulary - much to their dismay. Flavia has a delightful and heart-breaking mix of maturity and innocence. She is growing up, and has many truths about life to face, which as a reader and adult, I both dread and look forward to seeing her mature. The mystery of her mother, and the past of her family got even more tangled and twisted. Like the previous three, I listened to this via Audiobook, read by the incomparable Jane Entwistle. Entwistle gives such a lively voice to Flavia, It's enchanting to listen to her speak the story. I highly recommend this story, either by book or audiobook.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-307-87945-5
Year Published: 2012
Date Finished: 1-27-2016
Pages: 7 1/2 Hours 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

Synopsis: In 1707, young Sarah Noble and her father traveled through the wilderness to build a new home for their family. "Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble, " her mother had said, but Sarah found that it was not always easy to feel brave inside. The dark woods were full of animals and Indians, too, and Sarah was only eight. The true story of Sarah's journey is inspiring. And as she cares for her Father and befriends her Indian neighbors, she learns that to be afraid and to be brave is the greatest courage of all. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a simple book about a universal truth: being brave isn't about how you feel, but what you do. Sarah is faced with increasingly scary thing, ending with her father leaving her with Indians while he travels back to get her mother. Sarah must be brave, braver than she's ever been. Will she be able?

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1954

ISBN: 0-689-71540-4
Year Published: 1954
Date Finished: 1-24-2016
Pages: 58

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting by the NRA

Synopsis: The NRA standard guide to safe and proper use and handling of pistols. Includes color pictures with labels.

Review: Received this and read it as part of my training for my concealed weapons permit. It has clear, concise language, easy to understand illustrations, and excellent safety instructions. It will certainly be a useful reference.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-935998-05-4
Year Published: 2009
Date Finished: 1-23-2016
Pages: 144