Sunday, February 26, 2012

18. Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

I liked this romance novel because it involves a forty-something woman, Julie, who is a mother and a journalist who is attractive but still forty-somethng.   She hates to cook because that is something her mother pushed her to do all her life.  Now she wins a ticket for a dessert class and finds herself in a class with the man she has had a crush on most of her life until they had a serious parting of the ways six years before.  And you can probably figure out the rest of the story line from here on.  Even though it is totally predictable, there are some fun characters in the book including Julie's mom and her daughter that keep the book interesting and humorous.  Rating:  3.5

17. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Can you believe I never read this book when I was a young girl?  I found it on my mom's bookshelves and finally got around to it.  It struck me as a weaker version of Anne of Green Gables, which is one of my all-time favorite books.  Rebecca is remarkably like Anne in her ability to bring cheer to those around her.  She gets into all kinds of scrapes that mortify and anger one of the old maiden aunts whom she has been sent to live with.  The other aunt, Jane, is an old softie who is always trying to make things better between Rebecca and Aunt Miranda.  There is a alluded future romance that you never get a chance to find out more about; but, all in all, it's a very cute book and fun to read.  Rating:  3.75

16. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is the second book that Cassie gave me for Christmas.  It is such an elegant book that I had it sitting on the end table for weeks.  The inside is just as pretty with the black and white striped end papers and the black sky with white stars page at the beginning of each chapter. 

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead."  From Amazon

I found the prose in the book to be just as elegant as its appearance.  The descriptions of the circus were so captivating that you are drawn into the magic of this elusive circus.  However, I didn't feel that I really got to know the characters.  Besides Celia and Marcus, there are other members of the circus, the true fans who follow it whenever they can determine where it will next appear, and finally Bailey, a young boy who is completely enchanted with the circus.  While I read the book, I felt a vague sense of menace which never truly materialized, so it felt slightly incomplete for me.  Rating:  4

Monday, February 20, 2012

15. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I orginally bought this book to read for the Twisted Fairy Tales challenge.  I don't even know if this challenge is still being held; but it's way past time for me to read it.  I think I put it off because the back cover describes Ella as having the unusaul gift of being obedient so she can never say no to any order given to her.  For some reason, that made me uncomfortable; and it certainly causes a lot of grief for Ella.  However, she is aspirited young woman who finds ways to rebel even though she has to follow the orders.  I have not yet seen the movie based on this book starring Anne Hathaway and wonder if anyone recommends it.  I like the actress and think she would make a great Ella.  Over all, I found this book to be a fun and light read.  Rating:  4

14. The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

From back cover:

"At first, Tally doesn't want to go to the boarding school called Delderton.  But soon she discovers that it's a wonderful place, where freedom and self-expression are valued.  Enamoured of Bergania, a serene and peaceful European country led by a noble king who refuses to bend to the Nazis, Tally organizes a ragtag school dance troupe to attend the international folkdancing festival of 1939 held in Begania.  There she meets Karil, the crown prince, who wants nothing more than ordinary friends.  But when Karil's' father is assassinated, it's up to Tally and her friends to help Karil escape the Nazis and the bleak future he's inherited."

This is a wonderful book for older children.  The illustrations are beautiful and the story is enchanting.  I found each of the characters to be interesting and unique.  Rating:  4.5

13. So Well Remembered by James Hilton

I absolutely loved Hilton's Random Harvest so I was excited when I found this book on my mom's shelves.  It's an old book, published in 1945; and in excellent condition.  However, the story is not nearly as wonderful as Harvest.  The story is about George Boswell, an amiable man who has a dream for his small manufacturing town and proceeds to chamr those around him into following his dreams.  He begins as the lowly son of a factory worker who educates himself and begins to serve on the town council.  He also meets Livia Channing, whose father was an owner of the largest factory in town and who put hundreds out of work  through embezzlement or mismanagement.  (Never really sure what he did)  George marries Livia and the marriage ends badly a few years later.  Then it's WWII and George meets a young man who is a patient in a local hospital after a horrible war injury.  He turns out to be Livia's son and George becomes involved with his life and trying to make things right for him as well.  It's just a slow tale of a good man who does his best for those around him.  Rating:  3.75

12. Maggie --Her Marriage by Taylor Caldwell

When I was young, I read all of Taylor Caldwell's book and loved them.  Somehow I missed this one which is okay because I didn't love it.  There is not really a sympathetic character in the book with the possible exception of Maggie's husband, John.  He is the most powerful man in the county but falls in love with Maggie, the daughter of the blacksmith.  She is in love with her cousin who is a dreamer and weak.  After sending him away to find his fortune as a poet, she marries John and proceeds to alienate everyone around her with her airs and demands.  She eventually figures things out in the end, but by then I didn't care.  Rating:  2.5

11. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This is the sad tale of the seige of Sarajevo which took place in the years 1992 through 1995.  As the inhabitants of the city are bombarded continuously from the surrounding hills, they learn to run across intersections and to hide in the shadows of crumbling buildings.  After a bomb hits a street where people are lined up for food, killing 21; a cellist carries his cello to the square and plays a beautiful piece of music for an hour at the same time for 21 days.  The author follows the lives of three strangers--a bakery worker, a young father, and a female sniper who is charged with protecting the cellist from the army on the hills.   The book follows each as they strive to carry on their lives in the most daunting of circumstances and how the music comes to affect them and other survivors in the ravaged city.  I found the story to be gripping and very well-written, but bleak, even though the cellist is a inspiring focal point.  Rating:  4

10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

"It was as black in the closet as old blood.  They had shoved me in and locked the door.  I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm.  I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight and I released each one slowly into the darkness.  Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful aftg another of the stale, musty air."

So begins my first venture into the Flavia de Luce mystery series.  I pictured a tall, blond twenty-something woman who was in deep peril because of her nosing into some dark secret.  I was so wrong.  Flavia is ten or eleven and a budding chemist with a passion for poisons.  She's hilarious in her oddities.  She is thrilled when a dead body turns up in the garden of her family's dilapidated mansion and annoys the police with her observations and sleuthing.  Naturally, she is right more than not.  A wonderful mystery with Flavia as a truly delightful character.  Rating:  4.75