Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Borderlands

Borderlands Borderlands by Brian McGilloway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Would have been 4 stars if I weren't still confused by the tangled web of interconnected froo-ha-ha that makes up this plot. I enjoyed the detective main character--he's a family man who makes mistakes, but interesting. He is joined by some interesting people at the station, but, whoa, the criminals in this book are so interconnected. And 4 murders in one week? Isn't that a little much for Ireland?

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Review: An Early Wake

An Early Wake An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is #3 in the County Cork mysteries and I'm a big fan. They're the cozy kind--small little paperbacks with no violent murder--just the occasional crime in the small town of Leap in western Ireland. Maura Donovan (raised in Boston and now a Irish pub owner for the past 6 months) is wondering how her little bar is going to stay afloat when a old guitar player wanders into the pub. Everyone knows him--he was a star in the early 90's and now he's back to play at Sullivan's Pub just like he used to. All of his friends come and play, too, which leads to Maura rolling in the profits. However, a dead body is found in the pub the next morning--why? Who was he? And how did he die?

I love getting to know the Irish countryside a bit more by reading these.

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Review: Cuckoo Song

Cuckoo Song Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This is not the book for me. Plenty of paranormal and maybe it's scary if you're 10? But I wasn't impressed enough to keep reading after page 75. I skipped and skimmed around the ending and admit that this book just wasn't written for me. But I know some people who have loved it!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Jimmy Bluefeather

Jimmy Bluefeather Jimmy Bluefeather by Kim Heacox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful, beautiful nature writing that makes me miss Alaska. Keb Wisting is a Norwegian/Tlingit/Alaskan man who has lived one heck of a life. Now his grandson has been injured in a logging accident that ruins his dreams of playing professional basketball. The two of them (and some friends) set off in a canoe that they built to find life's meaning.

Silly summary, but this is a deep book about family, living, dying, forgiveness, and all things good in life. This is one that they will be selling in Alaskan bookstores for a long, long time.

If you like travel memoirs or anything about the importance of place, give this novel a try.

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Review: Fallen

Fallen Fallen by Lia Mills
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's odd to read a book that's published by Penguin Ireland, because I kept thinking--what makes this book different? Why wasn't it published in America? It isn't much different than other books I've been reading. But I loved how I felt like I was right in the thick of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and the characters aren't really on either side--they are just trying to maintain their way of life. Sweet love story, too!

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Lake of Sorrows

Lake of Sorrows Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have edited about 100 pages out of this to make it a tighter read. Dr. Nora Gavin is a great character--she studies bog bodies and likes to screw up relationships. But this novel had a huge set of characters, and not all of them were necessary to the plot.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Review: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, YA nonfiction is kicking butt with quality reads. I don't read much nonfiction, but this was on the shortlist of the YALSA Nonfiction Award, and has received tons of starred reviews, so I figured it was worth a look. Reading nonfiction is difficult for me--I have to read slower than usual, and it's impossible to skim over things. Anderson kept me mostly interested, although I thought for sure that the symphony held a secret code or something--that tells you how much I knew about this topic! I was fascinated by the information about Stalin's evilness and how millions of Russians died at the hands of their own government. I also was intrigued by the information about the siege of Leningrad--reminded me of the Alex-award novel City of Thieves.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: A Woman's Heart

A Woman's Heart A Woman's Heart by JoAnn Ross
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pretty cheesy Harlequin romance, so pretty typical! The American is the male one though--come to the west of Ireland to supervise the filming of a screenplay he wrote. He's rich, of course, and a famous author who happens to stay at the bed and breakfast of a beautiful widow. They both think they don't want each other, when they really fall in love, and he becomes the perfect dad and husband figure even though he was a player his entire life. Ugh. I won't read anymore of these.

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Review: The Accident Season

The Accident Season The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This YA book is different--so that's a plus. It's set in Ireland so the accents on the audiobook are lovely. And you can sell it to teens as paranormal, but it's kinda paranormal--no vampires or creatures running around. But there might be ghosts.

Cara's family believes in The Accident Season--every October their family takes extra precautions because they fall, trip, break bones, and bleed. Their house is wrapped up in rugs and blankets and bubble wrap to try to prevent accidents at home, but horrible things keep happening.

There's a hint of Irish fairies and changelings and magical happenings, but it's what I would call a magical realistic family secret drama. Lots of romance here, too.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: The Hired Girl

The Hired Girl The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot believe that this book is published by Candlewick. This could have easily been published by Severn House or Tyndale or any of those other Christian publishers. I've read more Christian fiction than usual this year because of my current Ireland fixation, and this book easily fits in. The main character's struggle with learning about Judaism when she was raised by a Catholic mother is typical in many of the Christian fiction books I've read.

This is just darn good historical fiction about a young girl struggling to find her place in the world and learning how to think for herself. Joan is pretty naive and ignorant about the ways of the world, but, whoa, does she have the hormonal 14-year-old issues going on.

If you loved this book but don't usually read Christian fiction, you might want to take a look at some that average 4-5 stars on Goodreads. You'll be pleasantly surprised, I think.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: Pray for Us Sinners

Pray for Us Sinners Pray for Us Sinners by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marcus Richardson is from Ulster, but in the British Army. He's trained as a bomb disposal expert and is sent home to work undercover in the PIRA in 1973. Going undercover is hard, but he begins to understand a bit about why the working class Catholics hate the British. There is a lot of unexpected sympathy on both sides of the religion coin in Ulster, and a feeling that the fight is almost over. Even the die-hard PIRAs aren't sure why they are bombing innocent people when it hasn't brought about the results they want.

Not the most cheerful suspense crime novel, but the audio was worth it for all the different types of accents--Belfast, hick Irish, Dublin, snooty boarding school British, and so on.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: Lies Of Silence

Lies Of Silence Lies Of Silence by Brian Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a Man Booker Prize Nominee back in the day (1990), probably because the author manages to pack a whallop into a short novel. Michael Dillon, a hotel manager in Belfast, is ready to escape to London with his girlfriend and leave his wife behind. But when the IRA break into his home the night before he is to leave, he discovers that there may be other plans for him. The moral of the story seemed to be "Karma is a bitch."

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Review: To Ride a White Horse

To Ride a White Horse To Ride a White Horse by Pamela Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a rare day when I give a self-published book 4/5 stars, but this one deserves it. It won an award for romance by independent publishers, and I see why. The story has been told before--a poor Irish girl comes to America so that she can earn $ to send home to her starving family during the famine. But it's told well--I wanted to keep reading so much that I finished the book in one day. I can easily see this selling as a Harlequin or something similar. Or, heck, take out a few things and it could be sold as Christian fiction. I was pleasantly surprised!

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Review: The Guards

The Guards The Guards by Ken Bruen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is what I want in Irish crime fiction. And now I have to watch the TV show on Netflix called Jack Taylor. I've had it in my To Watch list for ages, but have never started it. If it's anything like this book, I'm going to love it!

Jack Taylor is kicked off the Galway police squad because he's a drunk. And it doesn't help when he punches a politician. Now a pretty woman asks him to find out if her daughter really committed suicide and he begins as a private investigation. Throughout the entire book, he's battling demons--alcoholism, friends who aren't really friends, and his boss who keeps asking him for his regulation overcoat back.

I have a thing for moody criminal investigators. Now I can add Jack Taylor to the list.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Scandal in Skibbereen

Scandal in Skibbereen Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahh, cozy mysteries hit the spot occasionally. Nothing graphic, and the murder is always something out of a Murder She Wrote episode.

But I do love how the main character is an American who inherited a cozy bar in Leap, Ireland, in County Cork.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My 12-year-old daughter enjoyed this more than me, which is probably a good thing, right? She wants to read the next volume, I don't, so I'm off to interlibrary loan it right now....

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Review: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I'm impressed. I usually don't like story collections by different authors because of the uneveness, but these stories were all romantic, magical stories about the holidays. Loved the diversity, gentle hints of romance, and overall wistfulness of the good things of winter. I could see some of these being used in class even.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell. 5/5.
The perfect New Year's Eve story about two best friends and coming home for the holidays during college freshmen year. I'm so jealous of this kind of young love.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link. 1/5.
I just wanted this to be over. I almost stopped listening.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena. 4/5.
He's a darn good short story writer, too. Shy is a college sophomore in NYC who is catsitting for his boss and trying not to starve over the holidays. When the upstairs neighbor visits and says her shower is broken, it's fate, right? They are opposites and eventually drag out each other's lifestories. Shy is a sweetheart.

Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han. 5/5.
Short, short story about a Korean girl who is raised by Santa at the North Pole! Seriously adorable and Elf-ish. Did you know Santa loves Wham!?

It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins. 5/5.
Marigold is stalking the boy from the Xmas tree lot by her house because she wants his voice for the cartoon is she making. And, um, he's cute. She bargains for a tree, even when she can't afford it, and he graciously volunteers to deliver it to her apartment. And the loooove begins there! They are perfect for each other and make each other happy. Awwwww.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan. 4/5.
The not named main character will do just about anything for his new boyfriend, including dressing up as Santa and visiting his house late one night. The younger sister still believes, and the brother wants to keep Christmas magic in the house. Not as much romance in this story as there is family drama. There's a lot of innuendo going on--and I liked it.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black. 4/5.
Teenage girl meets a real magical creature (goat legs!) in November celebratin Krampuslauf, and invites him to her grandma's trailer for New Year's Eve. Let the magical fun begin! Good mix of magic/fairy creatures into the real world.

What the hell have you done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman. 5/5.
Once again, Forman nails my thought process. I swear her characters might be based on my brain. Sophie, a Jewish city girl, is a freshman at a hick college and she's having a difficult time fitting in, but the dark and handsome Russell helps make her feel welcome.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire. 5/5.
Bad boy Vaughn is doing community service by helping with a church Xmas pageant that is being held at a Western bar. It's not being held in the church because Vaughn accidentally burnt it down! He's in love with the pastor's daughter (of course) and the two of them flirt and have fun. He's not as bad as his reputation and she's not as good as her's, so they are perfect together!

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White. 5/5.
Who doesn't want a new diner cook that can make people happy by the food he cooks?

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. 3/5.
Pop star switches places with a Swedish girl named Hulda and learns to love a hick place in Oklahoma. This story has been told before, but it was still enjoyable.

The Girl Who Wore the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. 4/5.
A little bit of weirdness in this one that reminded me of selkies and an old Irish song about a woman who hastes to wed a sailor so she can send him off to sea to be alone.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fegan is a hardened killer for the IRA in Belfast, recently out of prison and drinking too much. He's starting to talk and everyone thinks he's crazy, with good reason. He sees the dead people he has killed and they want revenge. And so crazy Fegan, with a twisted sense of Catholic guilt, takes care of business. I loved how the book was divided into sections labeled simply by how many people Fegan has left to kill. Chilling. And suspenseful!

This is the first of a series, and I'm wondering how. I guess I'll have to read #2 and find out!

I'm also listening to a northern Ireland crime novel in the car, and I kept getting the two books confused--lots of backstabbing, car bombs, and anger in both of the books.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: Carry On

Carry On Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last half of the book is 4 stars--Rowell writes romance like I want my real to be like. Her dialogue is snappy and I want to hang out with these characters.

But the angst and "fighting" between Baz and Simon for the first half of the book made me not want to keep reading. And I knew the Harry Potter references were there--I remember that much from Fangirl, but I had forgotten how similar the stories were! I kept picturing Harry Potter kissing Draco.

By the way, read Fangirl first--this entire novel is based on the story within the story in that novel.

So this is my least favorite Rowell novel, but notice that I still liked it--three stars means I liked it, people! She's a talented author--I'm so glad she writes for the new adult generation and blends the age lines all over the place.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: The Emperor of Any Place

The Emperor of Any Place The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Not the book for me and I usually love historical fiction and anything about Japan.

I couldn't handle the voice of person writing the diary.

It is so nice to not be on a book committee--I can put down any book I want and move onto the next one! Woot!

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Review: Playing for the Commandant

Playing for the Commandant Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an odd book. The main character is 15, yet acts like a naive 10-year-old. It reads like the book is for tweens--nothing is too explicit. I just don't understand how Hanna could be in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps and NOT know that the Nazis were killing Jews. Her friends and family were disappearing. She smelled the smoke. And people talked. EVERYONE knew what was going on inside the camp! Right?

(And now I want to research this a bit more to find out)

In the author's afterword, she explains that she found out that her father moved to Australia after his experience in the camps. Heartbreaking. And so I'm glad she's keeping Holocaust literature alive by writing historical fiction.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: The Cliffs of Night

The Cliffs of Night The Cliffs of Night by Beatrice Brandon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I interlibrary loaned this title because it's a romantic suspense novel set by the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. But when I received the title, I thought, "Wait...I've seen this cover before!" I don't remember how exactly--either it was on my mother's bookshelf growing up or I read it in high school (because my librarian loved this type of historical fiction).

In any case, I forgot what romantic suspense in the 70s meant. :) Grania Kirk is an American actress visiting Ireland because she's depressed about getting dumped by a boyfriend. She's quirky, witty, and a tad bit bored, so when she gets in the middle of a Irishmen digging for treasure and a so-called Irish policeman intent on arresting them, she's having the time of her life! So unrealistic, but, hey, I want to find my Irish man just like Grania did. I loved how she referred to Tommy as a man (in italics). :)

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