Wednesday, April 16, 2014

(26) One Perfect Day

Title: One Perfect Day: A Mother and Son's story of Adoption and Reunion by Diane Burke & Steve Orlandi
Publisher: Skyhorse publishing
192 pages
Genre: adoption/autobiography

Synopsis: The moment Diane Burke, an author and mother of two grown sons, received an unexpected certified letter in the mail, she had no idea her life would be shaken to its core. Memories of a past she had buried more than forty years ago suddenly resurfaced and she wasn't prepared to deal with them.

Steve Orlandi, happily married, father of two and step-father of three, was living the typical middle class American life. But since the age of eight, when he discovered he was adopted, he had led that life dealing with inner questions about his self-identity and genetic history. Always on his mind was one simple, yet complicated and loaded question: Who am I?

Review: Diane placed her son for adoption when she was teenager.  She didn't have a choice as many women didn't back then.  She was shipped off to a home for unwed mothers and told she just needed to act like nothing happened after she delivered.  Of course that wasn't as easy as it sounds.  Years later she gets a phone call from someone asking if she placed a baby several years ago and after the initial shock she found her heart wasn't missing a piece anymore.

While Diane’s story is tragic and difficult, Steve her now grown son had a very different life.  In fact he had a very good life and didn't decide to search until later in life. Steve’s story really touches on the need to feel connected and have closure. Meeting his birth mother helped him with that.

I've read a lot of adoption and reunion stories and this one was tough.  Diane's family was less than supportive when it came to the adoption and even when it came to getting out of her dysfunctional marriage. Diane is a brave and courageous woman who has overcome so much.

Monday, April 14, 2014

(25) Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Anchor Books
516 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Synopsis: 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 both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Review: This is only the second audio book I have completed.  It is read by the same person who read the Harry Potter books, Jim Dale and won an award for it.  He is an amazing narrator and really helped keep you engaged.  I guess my biggest issue with audio books is finding the time to listen to them.  Between reading and doing my normal stuff I find it hard to find the time and wind up with long stretches of time in between listening so I sometimes lose continuity.  That didn't happen with this book though.  No matter how long in between readings I picked up right where I left off.  The narration helped keep me engaged and I was fascinated with how it would play out.

I love the story.  A duel of sorts with neither side really understanding the rules or the objective.  The supporting characters were all interesting and some had secrets of their own that wind up being integral to the plot. Spanning years this story was a mix of mystery, fantasy and romance.  Celia and Marco have a love that can not be or at least its not supposed to be. But that is the least of their worries...most of the book deals with who were the two people who were dueling, who was winning, what was the prize, how is a winner declared? It keeps you guessing until the end.

While the story is really about Celia and Marco it also focuses on Marco's teacher and Celia's father who created this duel to figure out whose method of teaching magic is better than the other and they don't seem to care how many lives they destroy in the process because to them it is only a game.  A sad but very accurate portrayal of most leaders in the world, not caring much about the people only about the end game and who is right and who is wrong.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

(24) NOS4A2

Title: NOS4A2: A Novel by Joe Hill
Publisher: William Morrow
686 pages
Genre: Horror

Synopsis: Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Review: This story takes place in two different time periods.  One when Vic is a kid, and one when she is older and has a son of her own.  I think I'm going to have nightmares about Charles Manx and Christmasland. Christmas songs may give me the heebie jeebies and vintage rolls royces are something to be terrified of.  Even Manx's dopey sidekick Gas Mask man isn't as terrifying as Manx and his Christmas land.

I loved the spookiness of this book, it wasn't just violent (not that it wasn't violent there were definitely parts that were) it creeped you out sort of like movie The Silence of the Lambs. The idea of the Shorter Way, the other people who can travel to these dimensions and the payment these trips take from the people who travel them is wonderfully creative. My only problem with this book was its length.  I feel like it didn't need to be that long and the story could have been told in a few hundred pages less. Was it worth it? Yea, I think it was but I still think there was some room for editing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

(23) Mockingjay

Title: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
390 pages
Genre: Dysopian, YA

Synopsis: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Review: I know this book has gotten a lot of mixed reviews, more bad than good actually and I'm not sure why.   I thought the dark depressing tone of Mockingjay was right on point with the series.  I mean this is a world where they send kids into an arena to kill each other and the capital calls it entertainment! They are also at war which is not all sunshine and roses. I think some readers may have wanted the fairy tale ending but life doesn't always turn out that way.  Someone who has gone through what Katniss went through would be emotionally damaged goods and she is, but despite all that she continues to move forward and while she isn't very aware of her power she starts to figure out some of the political game. Realizing she is still a pawn in a game is a disturbing reality but Katniss is smart and despite her emotional turmoil she knows how to survive and ultimately how to win.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

(22) Cinder

Title: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer
Publisher: Square Fish
448 pages
Genre: Fantasy/ YA

Synopsis: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review: I bought these books for my daughter for Christmas and after she tore through them she gave them to me.  I have read multiple reviews on them but the true test for me is if my daughter likes them.  She said she wasn't sure about them before she started to read them but she is totally hooked and I have to agree. Cinder is a clever play on the fairy tale Cinderella, only this Cinderella is a cyborg. All the elements of the popular fairy tale are in there in an updated and whimsical way.  I loved this book.  Politics, mystery, and fairy tales combine to keep you turning the page.

Ever since Gregory Maguire updated Wizard of Oz I have been waiting for someone else to upgrade another classic story and Melissa Meyer has nailed it.  Creating the fantasy world of different planets, impending war and a deadly plague this story really has it all.  Cinder is a strong female lead character, and while she may get pushed around a bit she rises to every challenge, and ultimately it is now up to her to save the Emperor and ultimately the planet.

A big kudos to whatever illustrator designed the cover as well! Fabulous!
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