Monday, April 25, 2011

April's Books

In an earlier post, I came to the conclusion that writing book reviews and travelogues in the same blog wasn't such a grand idea. But then I came up with this brilliant plan--why not write up all my books at the end of each  month in one crazy long post?

A note about my rating system.
1=I couldn't finish it. Blech.
2=I finished it, but I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
3=I finished it, and I don't regret it, but I probably won't search out anything else by this author.
4=I loved it!
5= It is nearly impossible to get a 5. To get a 5 would almost always mean that it has taken its place among my favorites. Occasionally, to get a 5 might mean that it ought to take its place among my favorites, if only I had slightly better taste.

(I read this book for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens
Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
by: Brandon Sanderson
published in 2010
292 pages

For: Middle Grades and Up! This one needs stars and trumpets to announce that it's a book boys would enjoy.
Rating: 4/5 stars (I loved it!)

If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Brandon Sanderson's less serious side, you're really missing out. This is book 4 of the Alcatraz series, so you should start from the beginning with Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians. Alcatraz doesn't realize that his propensity for breaking things is actually a talent--all the Smedry's have talents like that. He'd have found out a lot sooner if his grandfather's talent wasn't always being late for things. Now that he knows, the future of the human race rests on his shoulders.

A quote from the book: "Being a Smedry--I was coming to learn--was like being a mix of secret agent, special forces commando, diplomat, general and cheese taster."

And a great quote for all you authors and theater people: (from page 260)
"Anyway, what just happened is something we call a teddy bear on the mantle. This is an ancient storytelling rule that says, "If there's an exploding teddy bear that can destroy people's clothing in a given book, that teddy bear must be used to destroy someone's clothing by the end of the book."

You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management
YOU On A Diet
by: Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz
published in 2006. (There is a newer version, but this is the one I read.)
370 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars

Some time ago, I told myself that I'd never read another diet book. I'm so glad I didn't listen to myself. I'm a real sucker for science mixed with humor, so I would have enjoyed this book even if I didn't have any weight to lose.

A random quote: "Technically, (CCK) stands for cholecystokinin, but for our puposes, let's think of it as the Crucial Craving Killer because its main purpose is to tell your brain via the vagus nerve that your stomach feels fuller than a Baywatch swimming suit."

This book is full of great wisdom for people who are sick of dieting but don't know what a healthy lifestyle would look like without it. I just wish I'd found it before I signed up for 3 useless months of Weight Watchers. Oh well...

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard
by: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
published in 2010
305 pages
Rating: 4.5/5 stars (I really loved it!)

The first time I heard about this book was during a marriage class at a Women's Conference at church. It caught my fancy, so I checked it out from the library. What an amazing book! Whether you want to change your interactions with your family, lose weight or change the direction of a multi-billion dollar company, this book is for you! But it's not just your typical self-help book. It was as hard to put down as any action-adventure novel could claim to be. I wanted to take notes, but instead I read it from start to finish. Luckily there's a handy-dandy section at the back for people like me.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist
by: Paulo Coelho
This book is an English version of O Alquimista the Portugese original edition. which was published in 1988. It was published in English in 1994.
167 pages
rating 3.5/5 (I liked it)

From the back cover: Paulo Codlho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.

The beginning of this story really spoke to my soul. In the beginning, it's a story about change--and how we can't continue to grow if we become too content with our lot in life. It's told like a fable--only one person is actually given a name. Everyone else is called something like "the shepherd" "the old man" and "the Englishman". I'm going through a time of change in my life right now, and it's simple message quieted my soul.
The end was disappointing. It stopped being about personal growth and became more a search for something that seemed to me to be nirvana. It just got kind of odd. I still liked it, but the ending made it drop from 4 stars to 3.5. This would make SUCH a great book group book. If only I belonged to one...

(I read this book for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I
 Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I
by Lisa Mantchev
published in 2009
368 pages
For: Young Adult and up.
rating 3/5 stars (I liked it)

What a quirky book! It's quirkiness is one of the strongest things it has going for it. Someone who had a love for the behind-the-scenes part of theatre would probably be completely smitten. It's the story about all the characters from all the plays that ever existed, who live inside the Theatre Illuminata, and act when they are called upon. Ariel, from Shakepeare's The Tempest, is the only character who doesn't like his imprisonment, and he wants to figure out how to free everyone. Beatrice must stop him, and find a way to convince the theatre manager to let her stay. I was bothered because Beatrice never took the time to think "Am I doing the right thing?" I'm not convinced she was, but there was no room for a moral dilemma. The writing was great, and I'd love to find out what happens next, but I'll probably just read the spoilers on wikipedia.

The Magic Thief
The Magic Thief
by Sarah Prineas
audio version recorded in 2008
For: Middle Grades and up! Another one that needs to be circled and trumpeted because boys will enjoy it.
 4/5 stars

I listened to this on CD, and the story was a trifle too slow for listening. If I'd read the book, it probably would have been a much more solid 4 star entry. I can't wait to read the sequel. Magic is somewhere underneath the ground, and cities have been built on the places where it bubbles up to the surface. Magicians have a locus magicalus--a stone that helps them harness the magical power. Conn is a homeless boy and a pickpocket, and when he steals Nevery's locus magicalus it ought to kill him--but it doesn't. Intrigued, Nevery takes him on as an apprentice. Meanwhile, the city's magic seems to be disappearing, and Nevery has to find out why.

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4)
City of Fallen Angels
by: Cassandra Clare
published in 2011
432 pages
1/5 stars

Yep. You read that right. My very favorite Mortal Instruments series, and I didn't even finish reading the fourth book. Let me rant for a moment.

I HATE IT when an author decides to push the envelope once she's got her readers hooked. We're pretty fastidious readers, and the Mortal Instruments series was already a little close to the edge. But I loved Jace so much--there was such a pure, shining spirit inside that sarcastic, gorgeous hero. I am one of Cassandra Clare's most devoted followers. But I won't follow her here.

Luckily, I was pretty happy with the way book 3 ended anyway. It seems a bit sadistic to throw these characters back into the action. I got through about page 75 before I stopped reading, and even more luckily, I really wasn't that into it. Jace had some nightmares, and Simon was perched to get involved in a turf fight between 2 vampires, and that's all! I wasn't hooked, except by my previous love of the characters, so it was not too gut-wrenching to stop.

Here's where I stand for the Once Upon A Time Challenge:

Book 1: Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
Book 2: Eyes Like Stars

Still to go before June 20:
Folklore: Mists of Avalon
Mythology: Waiting for Oddysseus
Fairy Tales: A Tale Dark and Grimm
and A Midsummer's Night Dream


  1. I love it that all of your reviews are together! I've gotta send Wes to the library to pick up some of these. :)

  2. You didn't like Weight Watchers huh? It worked for me but I'm still interested in that book. I've only read the Alchemist above (I'd rate it about where you did, maybe a little lower). I'm glad you posted these, I'm always on the lookout for new books.

  3. Oh and I've read the first two book so the City books and liked them. I'm sad to hear the fourth is not so great.

  4. I loved book 3, so don't give on them yet!

  5. When I lost weight before, Weight Watchers worked for me, but I just couldn't get into this new program. With the old program, it got pretty intuitive--I could usually guess how many points I was eating with amazing accuracy. I can't do that with the new system at all. I don't get it, and I'm not into it enough to put in the time. Are you using the new system?