Title: The Luminaries
Author: Eleanor Catton
Sub-genre: Literary, New Zealand, History
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Summary: It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner
My Evaluation: wow… I was so incredibly disappointed in this book. So many things wrong with it, it’s not even funny. The plot sounds super amazing and something that would be right up my wheelhouse and as rebeccaschinsky says “something that would wring my bells” but this book was HORRIBLE! The mystery was there but just the author’s writing style and the LONG drawn out things made it horrible. There were so many things wrong with the book:
- not spelling out the word damn… like seriously? It’s a literary fiction book and you can’t spell out the swear words?
- I had no idea what the astrological signs had ANYTHING to do with the plot
- The author takes way too long to describe things and it made so many things um-necessary to the plot
- I hate the author’s third person speak. It’s not a play, so saying things like “we interrupt the narrative…” just does not work for me
- I really wish Catton had included a pronunciation guide for Maori words, a map of New Zealand, especially 1800s New Zealand, and/or if you’re not going to use well known words, to put a translation guide in the back
- Way too many characters and how they’re related
- Very poor editing and just linguistically, having multi-paragraphs that are in parentheses is really bad writing.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Title: Flat Out Love
Series: Flat out Love, #1
Author: Jessica Park
Sub-genre: Romance, Young Adult, Chick Lit
Publisher: Amazon Childrens Publishing
Summary: He was tall, at least six feet, with dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes. His T-shirt read Nietzsche Is My Homeboy.
So, that was Matt. Who Julie Seagle likes. A lot. But there is also Finn. Who she flat out loves.
Complicated? Awkward? Completely.
But really, how was this freshly-minted Boston transplant and newbie college freshman supposed to know that she would end up living with the family of an old friend of her mother’s? This was all supposed to be temporary. Julie wasn’t supposed to be important to the Watkins family, or to fall in love with one of the brothers. Especially the one she’s never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have connection.
But here’s the thing about love, in all its twisty, bumpy permutations—it always throws you a few curves. And no one ever escapes unscathed.
My Evaluation: I wasn’t sure how I’d like this book but the plot sounded interesting and I gave it a chance. Boy was I glad! I was in tears for the last two chapters of the book. I was drawn to the characters and what they were going through. Plus the mystery of why the Watkins family the way they were kept me reading. It definitely wasn’t sloppy “teen” romance either. I wish Goodreads would allow half stars because I really give it more like 4.9. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars, is because it was just slightly predictable ;)
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Title: Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz
Author: Yehuda Koren, Eilat Negev
Sub-genre: History, Genocide, Holocaust
Publisher: Robson Books
Summary: Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz is a moving and inspirational story of survival, of a troupe of seven dwarf siblings, whose story starts like a fairy tale, before moving into the darkest moments of their history; the darkest moments of modern history. At a time when the phrase survival of the fittest was paramount, the Ovitz family, seven of whose ten members were dwarfs, less than three feet tall, defied the fate of so many other Holocaust victims. The irony was that, doubly doomed for being Jewish and disabled, it was their dwarfism that ultimately saved their lives. Authors Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev deftly weave the tale of this beloved and successful family of singers and actors, the Lilliput Troupe. Their dazzling Vaudeville program, the only all-dwarf show at the time, made them famous entertainers in Central Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Descending from the cattle train into the death camp of Auschwitz, the Ovitz family was separated from other Jewish victims on the orders of one Dr Joseph Mengele. Obsessed with eugenics, Dr. Mengele experimented on the family, aiming to discover the biological and pathological causes of the birth of dwarfs. Like a single-minded scientist, he guarded his human lab-rats, and subsequently, when the Russian army liberated Auschwitz, all members of the family - the youngest, a baby boy just 18 months-old, the oldest, a 58 year-old woman - were alive. It was the only family that entered the death camp and lived to tell the tale. The family eventually restructured their lives and became successful performers once again, but the indelible mark of their experiences was carried with them until the end. Giants is based on thorough exhaustive research and interviews with Perla Ovitz, the troupe’s last surviving member, and scores of Auschwitz survivors. The authors tracked down significant medical documentation and unearthed original Nazi records.
My Evaluation: wow… what an amazing story. I had never hear of them before a quick mention on, I think, NPR. I couldn’t believe had never hear of them before. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars (my rating on my book blog will be a 4.8) is because there random stories of people who were also “Mengele’s Pets” and it really had nothing to do with the Ovitz family. Otherwise, it was a good book
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Title: Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet
Author: Jenifer Ringer
Summary: A behind-the-curtains look at the rarefied world of classical ballet from a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet
In her charming and self-effacing voice, Jenifer Ringer covers the highs and lows of what it’s like to make it to the top in the exclusive, competitive ballet world. From the heart-pounding moments waiting in the wings before a performance to appearing on Oprah to discuss weight and body image among dancers, Dancing Through It is moving and revelatory.
My Evaluation: Remember: the following is my opinion and does not reflect on anything other than this.
Jenifer Ringer’s book about her life as New York City Ballet dancer was good. However, I was not a fan of her talking about god (ie: god planned it so I would dance the sugar plum fairy while Alistair was in the audience… For the record, she didn’t say exactly this). Yes she is allowed to right about her relationship with god but write a book about that and leave it our of a book about dancing. I wanted to read a book about that not about her life as a christian. So this is why I had to give the book 2 stars. The stories about her dancing life where great (would have liked a little more stories involving dancer Ethan Steifle ;) ).
Rating: 2 out of 5
Title: The Sandcastle Girls
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Sub-genre: Historical Fiction, Genocide, Syria, Armenia, Romance
Summary: When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. It’s 1915, and Elizabeth has volunteered to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide during the First World War. There she meets Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. After leaving Aleppo and traveling into Egypt to join the British Army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, realizing that he has fallen in love with the wealthy young American.
Years later, their American granddaughter, Laura, embarks on a journey back through her family’s history, uncovering a story of love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations
My Evaluation: What a book! once again Bohjalian does absolutely well with historical fictionalized novels. This book was excellent and a must read! The historical context of this book was one that I knew a little about (I did read Black Dog of Fate, another excellent book) but I wish I knew more so this book was excellent in providing more historical details. This book was moving and made me cry out at the end (no spoilers). The one tiny (and I stress tiny) thing that drove me a little nuts was when Bohjalian was switching back to the historical part of the novel, the tenses didn’t change (saying something like Elizabeth takes instead of saying Elizabeth took) but its a very tiny detail and didn’t really distract from the book overall. Again, probably rates right up there with Skeletons at the feast… maybe better!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Title: The Doomed Queens
Author: Kris Waldherr
Sub-genre: History, Women’s history, Royalty
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Summary: Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends—dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there’s a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome.
My Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book. It was fun and fast to read. It of course includes your usual suspects of Princess Diana, Cleopatra, and the Boleyn Wives but it also includes people that aren’t as common and even eastern queens/rulers which is really nice! The reason it didn’t get five stars is because her “treatment” of mental illness. In one part she says about Juana the Mad, that if she lived in today’s society, a doctor would just through a handful of lithium at her and be done with it (I’m paraphrasing here). It was rather disgusting the way that treatment of what being bipolar is and even how mental health is treated today. But overall this book is a good book and fun to read of some of the people that don’t get mentioned as much
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Title: The Rebels of Ireland
Series: The Dublin Saga #2
Author: Edward Rutherfurd
Sub-genre: Ireland, History, Epic
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Summary: Edward Rutherfurd brings history to life through the tales of families whose fates rise and fall in each generation: Brothers who must choose between fidelity to their ancient faith or the security of their families; a wife whose passion for a charismatic Irish chieftain threatens her comfortable marriage to a prosperous merchant; a young scholar whose secret rebel sympathies are put to the test; men who risk their lives and their children’s fortunes in the tragic pursuit of freedom, and those determined to root them out forever. Rutherfurd spins the saga of Ireland’s 400-year path to independence in all its drama, tragedy, and glory through the stories of people from all strata of society—Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor, conniving and heroic.
His richly detailed narrative brings to life watershed moments and events, from the time of plantation settlements to the “Flight of the Earls,” when the native aristocracy fled the island, to Cromwell’s suppression of the population and the imposition of the harsh anti-Catholic penal laws. He describes the hardships of ordinary people and the romantic, doomed attempt to overthrow the Protestant oppressors, which ended in defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the departure of the “Wild Geese.” In vivid tones Rutherfurd re-creates Grattan’s Parliament, Wolfe Tone’s attempted French invasion of 1798, the tragic rising of Robert Emmet, the Catholic campaign of Daniel O’Connell, the catastrophic famine, the mass migration to America, and the glorious Irish Renaissance of Yeats and Joyce. And through the eyes of his characters, he captures the rise of Charles Stewart Parnell and the great Irish nationalists and the birth of an Ireland free of all ties to England.
A tale of fierce battles, hot-blooded romances, and family and political intrigues, The Rebels of Ireland brings the story begun in The Princes of Ireland to a stunning conclusion.
My Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it definitely more than the first book. Not that the first book was bad but this book was better. Though I do agree with one reviewer who said the ending was rushed. Completely agree with that. Between the events of 1916 and the early 1920s. It was definitely rushed. Not to mention, Rutherfurd really glossed over Josph Plunkett’s role in the Easter Uprising (one of my favorite songs is “Grace" about Joseph Plunkett’s wife, Grace), with only a brief mention. It was rather sad. Rutherfurd definitely could have cut out chunks of both books and gone further in to the 20th century and wrote about the Troubles in the 1970s. However, Rutherfurd did an excellent job of explaining why there have been so much trouble in Ireland. I definitely feel I know Irish history a bit more and understand why things happened. One last criticism I have is that I feel there’s a bit too many characters.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Title: The Lullaby of Polish Girls
Author: Dagmara Dominczyk
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction, Poland, Coming of Age
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Summary: Because of her father’s role in the Solidarity movement, Anna and her parents immigrate to the United States in the 1980s as political refugees from Poland. They settle in Brooklyn among immigrants of every stripe, yet Anna never quite feels that she belongs. But then, the summer she turns twelve, she is sent back to Poland to visit her grandmother, and suddenly she experiences the shock of recognition. In her family’s hometown of Kielce, Anna develops intense friendships with two local girls—brash and beautiful Justyna and desperately awkward Kamila—and their bond is renewed every summer when Anna returns. The Lullaby of Polish Girls follows these three best friends from their early teenage years on the lookout for boys in Kielce—a town so rough its citizens are called “the switchblades”—to the loss of innocence that wrecks them, and the stunning murder that reaches across oceans to bring them back together after they’ve grown and long since left home.
My Evaluation: I’m really dissapointed in this book. I had really high hopes for this book and while there were parts that I really enjoyed but I just had so many problems with it. The first was while most of the time I can handle switching between time points, but in this book, it just kind of drove me nuts, especially with keeping track of three character view points. I also felt there were details left out that left the girls’ stories incomplete, especially in Anna’s story and it just left me hanging a bit. Also, in my copy of the book, Dagmara has an interview and she writes about the language (this was the thing I had the most problem with the book). While, an occasional swear word or vulgar description is okay, this book has WAY to much of that. Dagmara writes that “If I were a male writer, this wouldn’t be such an issue…” (pg 226). And I wholly disagree with this, at least in my opinion. Had this book had less vulgar descriptions/swear words, I would have liked it much better, no matter the gender of the writer. I think that having this many swear words in a book makes a book worse and frankly doesn’t add the characters personalities. It was a huge turn-off.
I also really didn’t like that it just felt like things were… lacking. On the back of the book, it reads like there was this big event that brings the girls back together again. And once I finished the book, I wasn’t really sure what that event was. It was really frustrating.
Rating: 1.9 out of 5
Title: The Tainted Relic
Series: The Medieval Murderers #1
Author: The Medieval Murderers: Michael Jecks (Goodreads Author), Susanna Gregory, Ian Morson, Philip Gooden, Simon Beaufort, Bernard Knight
Sub-genre: England History, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Summary: It was July, 1100. Jerusalem lies ransacked. Amidst the chaos, an English knight is entrusted with a valuable religious relic: a fragment of the True Cross, allegedly stained with the blood of Christ. The relic is said to be cursed: anyone who touches it will meet an untimely and gruesome end. Several decades later, the Cross turns up in the possession of a dealer, robbed and murdered en route to Glastonbury. Investigating the death, Bernard Knight’s protagonist, Crowner John learns of its dark history. In Oxford in 1269, the discovery of a decapitated monk leads Ian Morson’s academic sleuth William Falconer to uncover a link to the relic. In 1323, in Exeter, Michael Jecks’ Sir Baldwin has reason to suspect its involvement in at least five violent deaths. Thirty years later, several suspicious deaths occur in Cambridge - and, once again, the tainted relic has a crucial part to play. Finally, it’s despatched to London, where Philip Gooden’s Nick Revill will determine its ultimate fate.
My Evaluation: So dissapointed by this book. It sounded so good when I read about the series but as I read it, it was just… a mess. Having this many authors does not do the historical fiction genre any favors. They may be greats with their own books, but combining them together created just a mess. There were five acts in this book and I could tell where each author had written. The story did not flow, and was extremely loosely connected by a relic. In addition to the mess of writing, I cannot stand it when authors (and it seems to happen more with British authors) use words that are frankly, just pretentious. If you’re using a word that has a more common meaning, use that common meaning! Don’t try to sound uppity and snooty just because you can. Not to mention the “mystery” part of this book was extremely sad and lacking. In fact, it wasn’t really there through most of the story. I will not be reading the rest of this series, which is unfortunate because I think the ideas had such promise.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Title: The Princes of Ireland
Series: The Dublin Saga #1
Author: Edward Rutherfurd
Sub-genre: Ireland, History, Epic
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Summary: The saga begins in pre-Christian Ireland with a clever refashioning of the legend of Cuchulainn, and culminates in the dramatic founding of the Free Irish State in 1922. Through the interlocking stories of a wonderfully imagined cast of characters — monks and noblemen, soldiers and rebels, craftswomen and writers — Rutherfurd vividly conveys the personal passions and shared dreams that shaped the character of the country. He takes readers inside all the major events in Irish history: the reign of the fierce and mighty kings of Tara; the mission of Saint Patrick; the Viking invasion and the founding of Dublin; the trickery of Henry II, which gave England its foothold on the island in 1167; the plantations of the Tudors and the savagery of Cromwell; the flight of the “Wild Geese”; the failed rebellion of 1798; the Great Famine and the Easter Rebellion. With Rutherfurd’s well-crafted storytelling, readers witness the rise of the Fenians in the late nineteenth century, the splendours of the Irish cultural renaissance, and the bloody battles for Irish independence, as though experiencing their momentous impact firsthand.
My Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book! Not knowing much Irish history, this book has been a great help to start learning. I can’t wait to start the sequel. I really enjoyed the author’s description of ancient Ireland and weaving family tales into the history was well done. The only things I didn’t particularly like were having to flip back and forth to the maps and family trees. It would have been nice to have those maps in the bad and then fold out so I could refer back to them more easily. Also the pronunciation guide was okay but I also would have prefer a meanings guide. However, overall it was a well written book.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This summer, tealeavesandbookbindings and secondbananabooks are hosting a 24-hour read-a-thon! Inspired by Dewey’s read-a-thon, the Read Your Day Away read-a-thon will take place on Saturday, June 28th.
Want to join?
- Help spread the word by reblogging this post, and by following @ReadYourDayAway on twitter
- Set a personal goal of how much you would like to read during the read-a-thon, and make a tumblr post or tweet tagged #readyourdayaway. You can also participate on youtube or on a book blog!
- The read-a-thon starts at noon CDT - check here to find out what time that is in your time zone
- When the time comes, read, read, read!
- Be sure to update everyone on your progress by using the tag #readyourdayaway
- If you have any questions, message secondbananabooks or tealeavesandbookbindings, or tweet @ReadYourDayAway.
All questions answered on tumblr will be tagged as #readyourdayawayasks, so check there for FAQ!
Title: The Fault in our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Sub-genre: Death, cancer, Teen
Publisher: Dutton Books
Summary: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
My Evaluation: So I will be honest here and say: I don’t get what the big deal is over this book…. Yes, it’s pretty good writing and I liked the characters well (or didn’t as Green intended) enough but did I cry? Nope. Yes it was sad that [spoiler here that is a major plot point] but did I cry over it like I cried over character deaths in other books, absolutely not. It wasn’t that sad. Not sure why I didn’t but I think it’s because a)in part I inherently knew it was going to happen and b)I didn’t really identify with the characters. They’re teens, they have cancer, two things I’ve never really experience (I mean of course I was a teen once) but I didn’t connect with them the way I have when other characters I was attached to died. So overall, it was a good book but I don’t feel it’s this masterpiece that everyone was making it out to be. Also, there were large chunks of text that weren’t necessary and just added rambling esoteric thoughts that didn’t have anything do with the plot and that was really annoying.
Rating: 2.6 out of 5
Title: Love Life
Author: Rob Lowe
Sub-genre: autobiography, memoir
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Summary: When Rob Lowe’s first book was published in 2011, he received the kind of rapturous reviews that writers dream of and rocketed to the top of the bestseller list. Now, in Love Life, he expands his scope, using stories and observations from his life in a poignant and humorous series of true tales about men and women, art and commerce, fathers and sons, addiction and recovery, and sex and love.
My Evaluation: Once again, Rob Lowe wrote an excellent book. I found this book much more touching, personal, and heartfelt than the first book (which was all of those things. This one even more). Especially the last two chapters on his marriage were extremely well written and frankly every couple should read it and see that the things he writes are about what a marriage should be. My only issue with the book is the following:
[Lowe is talking about Bigfoot and his wanting know more]: “Side note: have there ever been a more horrific barrier to reading than the Dewey Decimal System? No wonder libraries are becoming irrelevant.” This state a)is horrible horribly false and b) as a trained librarian horrible rude and makes me think a little less of Rob Lowe. If he’s all about learning he should know that Librarians AREN’T becoming irrelevant. /ran
Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Sorry for the lack of posts! I’m slogging my way through The Princes of Ireland right now and while it’s great, it’s just long!! :D
Title: Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked?
Author: Robert D.Webster
Sub-genre: Death, Mortuary, Funerals
Publisher: Rooftop Publishing
Summary: A funeral director reflects on 30 years of serving the living and the deceased while providing us with a behind-the-scenes story told with both empathy and humor. He attempts to assuage our curiosity and answer those questions that are uppermost in our minds when faced with death, including: - How do you handle the loss of a loved one? - What really happens during a death call? - Why do people send flowers? - What occurs during the restoration process? - What do people leave in loved ones’ caskets? - How has the undertaker’s role evolved?
My Evaluation: Really disappointed in this book. The stories were great but it was very preachy in parts and the writer came off in his writing as pretentious and that he’s the best guy in the world and never does anything wrong. It really turned me off the book.
Rating: 2 out of 5
- Down Among The Dead by Michelle Williams
- Coroner’s Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana by Louis Cataldie
- A Question of Murder by Cyril Wecht
- Blood on the Table by Colin Evans
- Beyond the Body Farm by William Bass
- Forensic Detective by Robert Mann
- Stiff by Mary Roach
- Death’s Acre by William Bass
- Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William R. Maples
Title: Life in Motion
Author: Misty Copeland
Sub-genre: Sports, Ballet, biography
Summary: As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina.
Really enjoyed this book. I heard about Misty’s story a couple of years ago and glad she finally got a book out (I didn’t know everything, just that she started at a Boys and Girls club). There were a couple of things I didn’t like about her style though… It was very jumbled and jumped around in time a lot of the time so that was kind of hard to follow. I also would have preferred a lot more writing about ABT then how it’s kind of abstractly written about in the book. But overall, it’s a good book and Misty’s story is definitely inspiring
Rating: 3.8 out of 5