Book Review: The Christmas Wish

Title: The Christmas Wish

Author: Tilly Tennant

Format: Kindle

Published: 2018

 

DROP EVERYTHING!  STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!  Go and read this book now!  *Disclaimer: not for people who hate heartwarming, funny, feel good holiday romance novels.  This has become my FAVORITE holiday read ever; to the point where I may even re-read this!  (I know that’s a shock, I NEVER re-read my books!)

The story starts out with Esme who decides to break it off for good with her boyfriend and goes to her grandmother’s house for some solace.  She has neglected her friends and family while she was dating her tool of a boyfriend and has an estranged relationship with her parents.  Her grandmother is the only person she knows that will take her in with no questions asked.

They bond and her grandmother is hell bent on her repairing her relationship with her parents.  Shortly before Christmas, she passes away.  Esme discovers her grandmother bought a paid for a trip to Lapland, a place in Iceland she has always wanted to go but her husband would never take her.  As Esme goes through her grandmother’s belongings she discovers tickets to Lapland that her grandfather had bought but passed away before he could take his wife.  Esme is torn at what to do with the trip and, as any down and out woman does, goes back to her tool of a boyfriend.

She tries to convince her boyfriend to go on the trip with her but all he wants her to do is to get the money back for it and spend it on something else.  Esme decides to be bold, sneaks out of the house while her boyfriend is at work, and does what her grandmother would have wanted her to do; she goes on the trip by herself.

She meets up with 3 other solo travelers; Zach, Hortense, and Brian.  Hortense and Brian end up hooking up and that leaves Zach and Esme, as friends.  Esme starts to grow fond of Zach but he is keeping his guard up high and she cannot figure out why.  Don’t even get me started on his mood swings, they’re intense.  As she takes this trip, she starts to realize there is more to life than she will ever see with her boyfriend and she needs to start living her life.

I cannot say anything else without giving key parts of the book away so, go read it!  The detail in this book around Lapland just painted a vivid picture in my mind.  I know how a very high desire to visit Lapland in person and one day visit these places Tennant describes in this book.  The attention to detail is unreal and really makes this book stand out.  I truly felt like I was everywhere described in this book.

This is a 5-star book.  Yes, 5 stars!  I wanted to be in Lapland.  I was rooting so hard for all of the characters in this book.  They all faced some difficult things in their lives and all were able to see past those times.  This made my heart smile, and my face, and even made me tear up a little and laugh out loud.  The penmanship Tennant has is just stellar and remarkable.  This truly goes beyond your typical holiday novel and is a genuine, solid read.  Does it involve romance?  Yes, but, this book offers so much more than that!  Tune in next week for advance copy review of An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

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Book Review – Tales of the Peculiar

TITLE: Tales of the Peculiar
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
ILLUSTRATOR: Andrew Davidson
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

Tales of the Peculiar is a companion book to the author’s Miss Peregrine series.  It is a collection of ten short stories, each led with a woodcut illustration.

So I’m going to start right off the bat and say that this is not meant to be part of the story that Riggs does for his trilogy.  It’s meant to be other stories from the same world.  Basically, fairy tales for peculiars.  As such, it takes place long before the trilogy and features no photographs, which we’ve come to want from Riggs.  That doesn’t make it bad at all, just takes a minute to get out of that mindset.

 

Here’s an overview of the stories.  Warning that although I tried to not spoil anything, you never know what slipped through.

The Splendid Cannibals
Travelers with money and a village of peculiars with the ability to regenerate limbs.

The Fork-Tongue Princess
A princess already promised, but her secret will make her a monster.  What’s a peculiar to do?

The First Ymbryne
She didn’t know she was a peculiar until she accidentally managed a special power – the first time loop.

The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts
A woman who had only ghosts as friends moves to a haunted house to make friends.

Cocobolo
A chinese man who searches for his lost father on the open seas and finds a family secret.  They’re peculiar.

The Pigeons of St. Paul’s
Pigeons in London need a place to roost, so they talk in the ear of the best builder and make him build a cathedral.

The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares
She used her powers to take away peoples nightmares, but was it a good idea?

The Locust
A weird boy with no friends befriends a bug and becomes one.

The Boy Who Could Hold Back the Sea
A boy with the power to hold back and control water currents shows his power and has to go into hiding.

The Tale of Cuthbert
Basically the origin story of Miss Wren’s Menagerie.  There are peculiar animals that need saving, a gentle giant willing to save them, only who will save him?

 

Okay, so I loved the story of the first loop.  The cannibals story was just silly, although one of the stronger ones in the book.  Really, you’re reading fairy tales for peculiars, so you’re going to get absurd stuff (even fairy tales for humans are absurd).  A few stories were weak, but that’s to be expected just by the nature of what everything was.

I loved the woodcuts, even though I was used to bizarre photos and expecting them – I wish they’d’ve found a way to throw in a couple (the area now, perhaps?) – but what was done totally worked for this type of a book so I’m not complaining.

In all, if you like the Peregrine books as I have (My review of book 1 is here) I think you should pick this up as well, so I’ll give it a 4/5 pages with a warning – if you weren’t into the Peregrine books, I don’t think you’ll like this one all that much.

Book Review: Seven Spunky Monkeys

TITLE: Seven Spunky Monkeys
AAUTHOR: Jackie French Koller
ILLUSTRATOR: Lynn Munsinger
FORMAT: Hardback/Picture book
PUBLISHED: 2005

SO, I had decided a while ago that I wouldn’t do most of the picture books I check out for the kid that I nanny, except for a few exceptions. I found this one, and the art looked cute and the dust jacket said it was a bunch of monkeys going on an adventure, so I grabbed it on our way out of the library one Tuesday.
The book is told in typical (annoying) kids book rhyme (*Note – why can’t kids just hear sentences instead of stupid cutesy stuff?), and is the often done format of animal does something, animal disappears, lather-rinse-repeat until there are none.

The rhyming isn’t that bad. Sometimes it’s in limerick form, other times an ABAB rhyme pattern, but not overly stupid. I didn’t mind it.
But the story line reaaaaly annoyed me.
So seven monkey friends go have fun and then… they all fall in love in cutesy monkey pairs. Um. And then there’s only one left who decides “I’ll show them I don’t need them!” and goes to see a movie, gets there too late, and then ends up at a bakery where he… falls in love. *facepalm*
And then the seven monkeys have seven monkey spouses and seven monkey babies and isn’t life better this way?!

UGH!
Look, this is a book designed for two year olds. Can’t they just have cute little monkeys without a flow chart of cute little monkeys hooking up and having babies?
Even the kid, who loves books so much he will read them to me (okay, he will sit there and tell me in a mixture of gibberish and real words what a picture looks like) didn’t care for this book.

I’ll give it a three out of five because the rhyme wasn’t annoying and the artwork didn’t suck, but I wish the book would have ended before we had to have the happy monkey family reunion.

Book Review – Daughter of Deep Silence

TITLE: Daughter of Deep Silence
AUTHOR: Carrie Ryan
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2015

I’ve got to start this review out by saying that I love, love, love Forest of Hands and Teeth that Carrie wrote several years ago, so when I saw this in the library, I snatched it, despite the overly full armload of books I was already carrying.

With Forest, I was transported to a world with amazing details, and a story that I hungered to finish, and as somebody who absolutely hates first person – especially first person present – 90% of the time, I loved that the story carried me through so well that I didn’t care that that was how the book was written.  I figured that Carrie’s writing style would continue on to another book.

 

Daughter of Deep Silence starts off on a cruise ship.  Except something has gone very terribly wrong.  Armed men have come aboard the ship and outright murdered everyone on board.  Well, almost everyone.  The senator and his son of course make it out perfectly fine.  And Frances Average-And-Boring Mace and her newly acquired rich BFF Libby O’Martin, who dies just an hour before a boat finally rescues them.

Senator Wells and his of course perfectly amazing (*swoon*) son Grey have lied about what happened; they say a huge wave took out the boat.  Frances wants to speak up, but then she’s offered the deal of a lifetime from Libby’s father – she looks enough like Libby that she could pass as her, so why not?  After all, her parents were killed on the boat, she’s got no other family.  Why not be a child of affluence instead of an orphan lost in the system?

Fast forward four years, and Frances-turned-Libby is now out of high school and ready for revenge.

*sigh*

I hate the characters’ names.  Grey reminds me of 50 shades, Frances Mace is clunky and hard to say (I’ll wait), which also makes it clunky to read, and Libby O’Martin sounds cheap… like Patty O’Furniture or something.  Seriously, there wasn’t a name in the book I really liked at all, and when the very name of a character is grating, it makes it hard to read the book…

And back to the whole first person present thing.  I came of age right about with the YA movement.  I was there when YA was crap, I was there when it picked up steam, and now that I’m a, um, bit older *cough* I’m still reading the stuff.  When the genre started, the authors were perfectly capable of books that didn’t feel like trashy romance with the sex (barely) removed, and they were perfectly capable of past tense and third person.  I don’t know when we got to the part where those things were totally not allowed, but I really really miss those books.

I get that I’m a little older than it’s target audience, but oh dear gods.  The MC spent the better part of the start of the book gushing over wonderful amazing Gray.  Page after effing page of what pretty much boiled down to how much in love she was and how she couldn’t help but feel him touching her and if only they could be a couple and…  ARGH.

If she were even 16, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.  But the chick was fourteen.  FOUR TEEN.  Fourteen put me in Junior High, and I can assure you that I wasn’t worried that guys were effing amazing and if I could just make out with them, let alone falling in love with some guy that I had met a day ago and already kissed.  So, sometime around page 80, I realized that I just wanted this bitch to take a cold shower and shut up already.

Oh, and also, we’re dealing with her going back to Libby’s home and ending up with the guy that Libby’s father basically raised as a son and who was in love with Libby.  You know, because if from the time you’re five until you’re twenty, you’re raised like this kid is your sister, you’re totally going to be head over heels for her, right?  We’re talking Libby’s Dad adopted him.  Forgive me while I’m grossed out.

But I had anticipated this book for so long that I was going to read the damn thing at least for a little while longer.  The story line was on an upswing and I hoped that it would improve.

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let’s keep reading.

Somewhere about page 300, the story finally got exciting for me.  Stuff was happening, and we were mostly over the crap about Frances being in love with Grey and totally over the crap about Libby being in love with Shepherd.

The ending got a little over-the-top.  Obviously Carrie Ryan wasn’t going for the less is more thing.

Fortunately, it was a fast read, so I’m only out about four hours of my life.  But still.

 

I think the story about what happened *before* this book started would have been way more interesting than this thing.  I’m sorry I picked it up, and I’m sorry that an author I loved has now been downgraded to “Well, she wrote that one thing, but…”  like Ursula K. LeGuin or several others.  And yeah, I know that I won’t love everything that every author ever does, but it just makes me sad when I come across something that I can’t even *like*.

Bottom line.  A lot of the things that annoyed me about this book were things that might not annoy other readers.  If you like first person and/or present tense, then you’re not going to be nearly as annoyed with this book as I am.  If you don’t care that we have young teenagers stupid in love with each other, then you won’t have nearly the problems with this that I did.

I waited a couple days after reading to rate this.  Before the last 100 pages, I’d’ve given this book a two, but the ending was mostly satisfying and left me with a better taste in my mouth than the start of the book, so I’ll give it a three out of five pages and happily return it to the library.

Book Review – W is for Wasted

Title: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2013

W is for Wasted is the 23rd book in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series.
In this story, we follow Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) as a series of bizarre events unfold around her. To start, a homeless man dies on the beach with her name in his pocket. The story flips back and forth between the first person POV of Kinsey (as the entire series was) and the third person POV of something happening to somebody, but you’re not exactly sure who is involved or why we need to know it. Oh, and for some strange reason, Robert Deets is in town, asking Kinsey about the guy who stiffed him on a bill. Eventually it all ties in.

As the story unfolds, Kinsey ends up with a group of unlikely allies – the homeless friends of the dead man. Henry ends up with a cat. And we eventually find out how it all fits together.

I’m trying to not have any spoilers here, so I apologize if the review is vague, but there’s really not a lot of specifics I can give.

I didn’t mind the storyline so much. It was a bit predictable in places – a lot of the third person stuff I had figured out really early on. But then again, this is a cozy mystery, so of course it’s a bit predictable. There weren’t any huge issues, aside from characters that I just didn’t like. But that wasn’t a fault of the author.

I did have a bit of an issue with some of the phrasings in the book and a few of the references. Remember, the series started in the early 80s, and Sue has tried really hard to make Kinsey not age all that much. She keeps her slightly antiquated – she likes using index cards so she can slide them around… She likes the sound of her typewriter – so we don’t feel time as much, but there’s still that little thing in the back of your mind. If Only Kinsey had a cell phone. But then again, if that were the case, she’d be in her 50s, and I’m thinking there’s not that much running down the beach after a guy with a gun that she can do in that state.
Anyway, as I was saying… there were several references that we had to question – some felt too old, some felt too new, some were just weird. Like I said, Kinsey’s my mother’s age, so I kept asking her “would you have ever said…” or “what would you call…”

My biggest problem, though, had to deal with this book versus the rest of the series.
Here’s the thing. When Sue started the series back in the early 80s (it’s almost as old as I am!), the books had a very dedicated format/feel/whatever. The last few, however – since at least Q – have had a different feel than the rest of the series. I’m not saying it’s bad or good, but you sort of want a series to have the same feel all the way through. Maybe that’s the side effect of writing a 26 book series, or the side effect of writing for 30 years on a series. But A, B, C… don’t feel anything like the last half dozen have. (My favorite in the series is still L.)

So this causes the problem of rating the book.
I asked my mother (she read it at the same time I was, which made sharing the book really interesting) what she would rate it and she said 4/5.
As a standalone, I’d agree. The writing is better than the earlier books, and the story is tighter.
As for how it fits the series, I’d only give it a 3/5, if that makes sense.

Book Review – And Tango Makes Three

ladyfreadom

 

 

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

Illustrations by Henry Cole

Hardback, 2005

In the newer ranks of suddenly banned books, we have “And Tango Makes Three.”  So, of course, back to my ongoing saga of having to read it.

In this book, we are transported to New York City and the zoo.  There, all the penguins are taking mates and doing all the things that mates do together, including building nests, making eggs, and hatching penguin babies.

Except that we don’t follow one of those couples, we follow Roy and Silo, two boy penguins who, as it turns out, are very very happy together.  And they do all the things that a penguin couple do, except lay an egg, even though they actually take a rock to their nest to see what happens.

A zookeeper puts an egg in their nest for them, and they nurture it, just like the other penguin couples, and love it, just like the other penguin couples, and take turns taking care of each other and the egg, just like other penguin couples, until it hatches into little baby Tango.  Thus making three.

So, you know, parents banned this adorably cute book because, *gasp*, Roy and Silo are big, gay penguins, and we can’t have that no matter how fabulous the two of them are.

And the book ends with them lovingly snuggled together.  And then I turned the page and read… “Author’s Note:  All of the events in this story are true.”

*sigh*

So let me get this straight.  (*snicker*) People are trying to ban a true story from being in our libraries?  Again?  Just… *sigh*

I’m sure you know what my opinion on that is.

As for the book, it’s sweet, it’s charming, it’s simple, and again, it’s 100% true.  I love this book.  5/5

Book Review – Machine Man

Machine Man
Max Barry
2011
Paperback

Okay, so, I love Max Barry. One of his books, Jennifer Government, spawned one of my favorite games, Nation States. He is probably the only Australian author I read (or the only one I can name, for that matter) and his stuff is a little aloof, just like I am. So when I heard (okay, okay, I realized it a bit late, but still) that there was another book out, I jumped at the chance and didn’t put it down until it was done.

And then I read this book.

In Machine Man, the main character is a research scientist who loses a leg in an accident with a large piece of equipment. He then sets out to build himself a better leg… After building himself one leg, he realizes that it is superior to his other leg, and it can’t reach its full potential unless he has a matching set.

The book then goes into the morality of building a better person. When do you stop? How far do you progress the technology? Who do you apply it to? When the company he works for starts secretly sealing his technology to make super soldiers, he gets justifiably upset and his company tries to take him out. In other words, a typical Max Barry story line – he is, after all, the king of

I liked the concept of the book. I like the main character and several of the secondary characters related to him. I liked the development of the PR people. But there’s a point in the story where the story line goes so far over the top that it gets… silly. [Side note, Iron Man 3 sort of did a few similar things…]

And the last third or so of the book sort of lost it for me.
The end was okay.

So as far as rating this book goes…
If you’ve never read Max Barry, I’d suggest starting with a different book. Jennifer Government are Company are my favorites. If you love everything he’s written and “OMG! Another Max Barry book!” then pick it up. But I really don’t suggest starting with this book. And because of that, I’m only giving it a three.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Lexicon just came out and I’m the first person who gets to crack the cover of the library’s copy…

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