Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Audio Book Review: Finishing School Series

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)

By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“It's no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.” 
― Gail CarrigerEtiquette & Espionage
From Goodreads:
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

From Me:
This book is utterly delightful! Our heroine is clever, a Hermione without the wand, and fearless, but not in a "too stupid to live" way. Having read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, I got a kick out of meeting characters in their youth that I knew as adults from Alexia's story, particularly the nine-year-old french girl who dressed as a boy. My fingers are crossed that Sophronia one day meets Akeldama - I think he'd like her.

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: ****
Narration: *****
“Ah. And how many ways do you know to kill me, while we dance?”
“Only two, but give me time.”  
― Gail CarrigerCurtsies & Conspiracies
Another great story by Gail Carriger! I truly love her Steampunk world and Sophronia's place in it. I had a hard time in the beginning of the book with the way the other students were treating our heroine, but it was explained well and made sense with the plot...I was just glad when that particular part of the story ended. 

Can't wait to find out what happens next!

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) 
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“Lady Linette has been teaching us seduction techniques.” She lowered her eyes and then looked off across the gray moor, presenting him with her profile, which was rather a nice one, or so Mademoiselle Geraldine told her.
That statement successfully shocked Felix. He swallowed a few times before saying, his voice almost as high as it had been a year ago, “Really?” 
― Gail CarrigerWaistcoats & Weaponry
Sophronia and company take on another adventure, this time helping Sidheag with family issues (notable background info in the Parasol Protectorate series). The ladies are terribly clever, and not much can stop them. Mixed with the action and a masquerade ball, Carriger deftly weaves in incredible humor - the girls may have started their training in seduction techniques, but it's clear they're still naive about some aspects of the opposite sex. Suffice it to say that these parts of the story brought out the giggles.

Now I need to go back and read the Parasol Protectorate series and get a refresher before diving into the Custard Protocol! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Bad Blood

Bad Blood (Latter-Day Olympians #1) 
By Lucienne Diver
"I needed a shrink and a ladies' room--not necessarily in that order." --Bad Blood, Lucienne Diver
I'm so excited that Lucienne Diver will be one of our featured authors at this year's Lake County Library BookFest! Bad Blood was great fun with a super-sassy P.I. heroine, a la Charley Davidson. But instead of Charley's ghosts and demons, Diver's Tori Karacis is "facing off" against the Greek gods of old! Surly gods, creatures from the sea, two potential beaus, and a prehistoric sloth are just a few of the problems Tori has to deal with, not to mention the supposedly hum-drum case of a woman's missing dog.

I can't wait to see what happens to Tori next! Recommended.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Vision in Silver

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) 
By Anne Bishop
"Meg Corbyn entered the bathroom in the Human Liaison's Office and laid out the items she'd labeled the tools of prophecy: antiseptic ointment, bandages, and the silver folding razor decorated with pretty leaves and flowers on one side of the handle." --Vision in Silver, by Anne Bishop.
Another great entry in The Others series. The mythology utilized in this series is so great - and so different from any other urban fantasy/paranormal/SFF series I've read. 

After finishing the book, I wondered if it was the end of the series. Honestly, if this *had* been where the series ended, I would have been very happy with the final result. It left you with hope for certain things while wrapping up other things nicely (was that vague enough?). But it looks like there will be at least two more books in the series. Books I will definitely be reading! 

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: Lives in Ruins

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble 
By Marilyn Johnson
“When the Apocalypse comes, you want to know an archaeologist, because we know how to make fire, catch food, and create hill forts” 
― Marilyn JohnsonLives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was in high school. I'm actually pretty sure that's what I told the year book people when they asked what career I planned to go into. HA! I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes as an actual archaeologist. I don't like getting dirty, bugs, or the outdoors.

I do like history, and discovering new things, and the idea of lost stories being discovered and told again -- hence my fascination with this field. I'm glad I became a librarian; I can be surrounded by these stories once they're brought into the open and help other people discover them. Without all the dirt and scorpions (though lets not talk about what is occasionally "discovered" in the book drop or children's play area).

Lives in Ruins was a fascinating look into a profession that people think is super cool (thanks Indiana Jones!), but doesn't get the support it needs to keep our pasts from being destroyed. Did you know that most archaeologists have a lot of trouble making ends meet - at work and at home? Archaeology, like Library Science, is not where the money is.

Marilyn Johnson is a very brave woman and a very great writer; she makes you feel like you're bumping along on the road to a pyramid in Peru, digging in the Grecian sunshine at a forgotten temple in the Mediterranean, or walking above a secret military graveyard in the middle of a field in New England. If you're fascinated with Archaeology or history or just enjoy a great non-fiction book, I'd highly recommend Lives in Ruins. Now I can't wait to read Johnson's book about my own profession!

Audio Book Review: Yes Please

Yes Please  
Written by Amy Poehler
Narrated by Amy Poehler, Carol BurnettSeth MeyersMichael SchurEileen PoehlerWilliam PoehlerPatrick StewartKathleen Turner
Book: ****
Narration: *****
“Telling me to relax or smile when I’m angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You’re just asking to get your nose and genitals bitten off.” 
― Amy PoehlerYes Please
Amy Poehler is a delight and a heroine. I'd like to be her when I grow up, except for the acting thing and the comedy thing. 

A lot of people will go into this book thinking it's a comedy book, which it is not. There's plenty of funny in it, but it is definitely more of a memoir, with Poehler's thoughts on life, stories from her childhood, and reflections on the world. Some of the anecdotes are hilarious, but others are touching or uncomfortable, but all are very real. But the comedy is definitely still present, like when Amy describes sitting on Clooney's lap at the Globes or making jokes with Tina.

There are so many ways to read a book anymore: print, digital, audio, holovids, direct-to-brain downloads, and fiction mist (oh wait, those last three haven't quite happened yet). So let me tell you right now the best way to read this particular book: audio, Audio, AUDIO. The book is read by Poehler, and she is a marvel. You can read the text in her voice if you're familiar with her work, but it's far better to HEAR the text in her voice, or sometimes Carol Burnett's voice, or Kathleen Turner's voice, or Patrick Stewart's voice, because they all join her in the narration! At one point Seth Meyers joins Amy in the recording booth and they have a little chat, later Amy reads a chapter to an audience at a comedy club. If you're a Parks and Recs fan, then you'll enjoy the clips from the show interspersed in the chapter dedicated to her time in Pawnee. These are all things you would miss out on if you use your eyes instead of your ears to read Yes Please. Please say YES! to the audio - you won't regret it!

Amy, you deserve all the pudding!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Audio Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) 
By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
“Perfection is different to every viewer.” 
― Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey
From Goodreads:
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

From Me:
A delightful cross between a Jane Austen story of manners and...well, magic. If I had to compare this story to anything, I'd say it's fairly similar in tone to that of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, though Shades is not as dense. 

I loved Jane, she was very Anne Elliot-esque, and Anne is probably my favorite classical heroine. Her sister, Melody, on the other hand, frustrated me to no end (people who act like her generally do). 

I listened to the audio book version of the story, and it was read by the author, who did a wonderful job. I always feel like I'm getting the truest version of the story when it's read by the author, and Kowal did a lovely job with the telling.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Austen, fantasy, and historicals. It'd also work well as a YA crossover.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: First Frost

I love the cover art for Allen's books!
First Frost (Waverly Family #2) 
By Sarah Addison Allen
“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.” 
― Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost
Another beautiful story by the amazing Sarah Addison Allen, who has become one of my all-time favorite authors. Her worlds are so warm and wondrous, and reading one of her books is like cozying up to a fire with something warm and sweet to drink.

This is Allen's first "sequel," though Claire has shown up in another book besides her own, but I like to believe that all of these stories happen in the same fictional universe. Like all of Allen's stories, magic weaves throughout the tale - in this case, characters who through food or hair styling can affect a person's day, a character who has the sudden urge to give some random thing to some random person - a thing that person will need, and a young girl who knows where everything belongs. 

I loved revisiting the Waverly family, seeing their lives after the "happily ever after." Much of this story follows what happens to Bay, now 15 years old, after she gave a letter to Josh, a senior in high school who she knows she belongs with - a knowledge that comes with her Waverly gift. It's nice to see that even though these characters had their HEA at the end of Garden Spells, despite their touch of magic, they're still normal people with normal issues and insecurities. 

A magical story from a magical author. Highly recommended.

I received an eGalley of First Frost from NetGalley.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life

In Real Life
Written by Cory Doctorow
Illustrated by Jen Wang
“This life is real too. We're communicating aren't we?” 
― Cory DoctorowIn Real Life
In Real Life follows Anda as she gets into gaming and discovers issues within the gaming world, as well as the actual world. It examines girls in games, gaming for money, "gold farming," and differences in how other countries treat their employees.

Frankly, this story was a little too after-school-special-y for me to truly enjoy it. It wasn't bad, not at all, but it may have been improved by more text and back story; in this context there were too many "issues" to care about the characters. That being said, the artwork was gorgeous. Jen Wang did a beautiful job.

Maybe I didn't love the book, but I'd still recommend it to young gamers, particularly girls who think maybe it's not ok for them to like gaming. It's a super fast read, so it's worth the half hour it takes to get through it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Audio Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories 
Edited by Stephanie Perkins

Stories Include:
· “Midnights,” by Rainbow Rowell.  Read by Rebecca Lowman. 
·  “The Lady and the Fox,” by Kelly Link.  Read by Fiona Hardingham.
·  “Angels in the Snow,” by Matt de la Peña.  Read by Henry Leyva.
· “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me,” by Jenny Han.  Read by Kim Mai Guest.
· “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown,” by Stephanie Perkins.  Read by Samantha Quan.
· “Your Temporary Santa,” by David Levithan.  Read by Dustin Rubin.
· “Krampuslauf,” by Holly Black.  Read by Julia Whelan.
· “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Foreman.  Read by Abby Craden.
· “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus,” by Myra McEntire.  Read by Lincoln Hoppe.
· “Welcome to Christmas, CA,” by Kiersten White.  Read by Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez.
· “Star of Bethlehem,” by Ally Carter.  Read by Shannon McManus. 
· “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer,” by Laini Taylor.  Read by Ann Marie Lee.

“He says presents aren't important, but I think they are - not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.” 
― David LevithanMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Such a great collection of YA holiday romance stories from some of the best YA authors! Even the grumpiest Scrooge should find at least *one* title to tickle their fancy. There were a few hit and miss stories for me, but on the whole, it was a great way to get in the holiday mood.

A few thoughts on the stories:

Best title: Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus, by Myra McEntire
Most Swoon-worthy: It's a Yule-tide Miracle, Charlie Brown, by Stephanie Perkins
Most Real: Angels in the Snow, by Matt De La Pena
Most Magical: The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor
Most Abrupt Ending: Polaris is Where You'll Find Me, by Jenny Han
Best Narration: The Lady and the Fox, by Kelly Link, read by Fiona Hardingham
Easiest Story to Match to the Author (aka I could have named the author without knowing who wrote it ahead of time): Midnights, by Rainbow Rowell
Best Chemistry: Welcome to Christmas, CA, by Kiersten White

Of all the stories, I think my favorites would have to be Laini Taylor's and Kiersten White's. But I loved something about all of them and may have to make this compilation a yearly read.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Give and Take

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success 
By Adam M. Grant
“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” 
― Adam GrantGive and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
From Goodreads: 
For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Using his own pioneering research as Wharton's youngest tenured professor, Grant shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Combining cutting-edge evidence with captivating stories, this landmark book shows how one of America's best networkers developed his connections, why the creative genius behind one of the most popular shows in television history toiled for years in anonymity, how a basketball executive responsible for multiple draft busts transformed his franchise into a winner, and how we could have anticipated Enron's demise four years before the company collapsed-without ever looking at a single number.

Praised by bestselling authors such as Dan Pink, Tony Hsieh, Dan Ariely, Susan Cain, Dan Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, Bob Sutton, David Allen, Robert Cialdini, and Seth Godin-as well as senior leaders from Google, McKinsey, Merck, Estee Lauder, Nike, and NASA-Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.

From Me: 
This is our Florida One Book-One State pick for the upcoming year. It's an in depth look at personalities from the angle of givers, takers, and matchers, and how they succeed and/or fail in the workplace. It's highly readable with interesting anecdotes. 

That being said, this is not the kind of book I choose to read; give me fiction or give me boredom. I wouldn't label Give and Take as boring; it's much better than that. But still -- there were no dragons.