June 29th, 2009

han shot first

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.) The Bean Trees: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marietta Greer has just completed two miracles of her rural Kentucky upbringing: graduating high school and avoiding pregnancy. To celebrate, she jumps in her ’55 Volkswagen bug and rides West, leaving her job at a Kentucky hospital counting platelets to stay true to her plan “to drive out of Pittman County one day and never look back” (11). On the road, she changes her name to Taylor and finds herself in Tucson, Arizona with a broken down car and a Cherokee baby in her arms.

Taylor is an honest, straight-forward protagonist that speaks with youthful tact and an open heart. Through her, Kingsolver voices the morals of an ideal United States brought down with prejudice and misunderstanding. The Bean Trees isn’t a celebration of the Southwest and its adopted mixed-heritage culture as it is a vision into a world stricken by the hypocrisy of that adoption. Comparing her rural Kentucky hometown and Tucson, Arizona together to discover they’re as foreign to each other as to be separate countries, Taylor declares herself an immigrant in her own right and easily warm up to Mattie--the local mechanic--and the plight of the hunted illegal immigrants coming and going from the sanctuary rooms above her garage. She is naive, but warm-hearted, as she struggles to comprehend the idea that a person can not only commit illegal acts, but can be illegal in the eyes of the law, too.

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Book Review

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First SuperheroThe Secret Life of Houdini By William Kalush and Larry Sloman

An in-depth look into the life of America's most famous illusionist escape artist magician (or all of the above).  Chock full of pictures and anecdotal information about Houdini's family, peers, and enemies this biography really does credit to the word 'comprehensive.'  Houdini was driven to succeed.  Not only was he a cunning showman, he was also a savvy businessman (motion picture ventures not withstanding).  Have you ever seen those movies about Victorian-era magicians?  The Prestige and The Illusionist?  Well, apparently Houdini was rigging challenges and sabotaging the competition (when he wasn't directly stage managing them) in his day, too.  Sloman and Kalush build a credible history highlighting the man's foresight, and the reader can't help but develop a real respect for what Houdini accomplished. 

Unfortunately the authors loose some credibility with their heavy handed use of conspiracy theory.  I've never heard of appendicitis being caused by poisoning.  Or trying to kill someone by having burly young men randomly hit them in the stomach.  But low and behold, Kalush and Sloman were so convinced that the Spiritualist movement was behind Houdini's death that they tried to arrange for the body to be exhumed. *cough* publicitystunt *cough*

I was also none to pleased by their excessively negative portrayal of Bess Houdini.  They were so over the top in their crucifixtion of his "brow-beating, whining, alcoholic, vapid and high maintenance" wife it bordered on the comical.  Yet the story of Houdini dragging Bess out of a theater and publically spanking her was relayed as though endearing.  Oi.

Anywho.  Overall I enjoyed learning about Houdini, but I could have done without some of the conjecture. 
bear jew

Sorry--One more.

Title: Prada & Prejudice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 238
First Line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a teen girl on a class trip to England should be having the time of her life."

Summary: Callie is tired of being a clumsy geek-girl. So during a school trip to London she buys her ticket to popularity: a pair of real Prada pumps. But then she wobbles on the cobblestones, trips in her too-high heels, and conks her head. When she comes to, it's the year 1815!

Luckily she meets kindhearted Emily, who mistakes Callie for a long-lost friend. Sparks soon ignite--of the nice and not-so-nice variety--between Callie and Alex, the handsome but totally arrogant Duke of Harksbury. Too bad Alex seems to have something sinister up his ruffled sleeve...

Can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, win a kiss from Alex, and prove to herself that she's more than just a loud-mouth klutz before her time in the past is up?

(Source: Back of book)

Review: This wasn't too bad. It was very similar to other Austen spin-offs I've read, though there are few spin-offs that are about teens (well, teens who act like teens and aren't in the 1800's and...well, you get it). Still, it was a quick, cute read that was one of those enjoyable Chick-Lit books. I will say the character was a pretty big snob (and not in an acceptable Elizabeth Bennett way--no, no), especially for someone who was in all these AP classes and stuff--she was incredibly immature. Still, there were some unexpected plot turns and the characters, while not well-rounded, were cute. I might recommend it for a day at the beach, but don't go crazy looking for a copy. The ending wasn't super, but it was okay--kind of predictable.

Worst part: Callie was a conniving snob. And I hated that she called him "Alex" because it seemed too improper, even if she is from the modern day--it didn't work.

Best part: I liked the party descriptions. I wish there had been more.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: No others at the moment.
book 1

Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl

Publisher: Harlequin, 2009
Genre: Romance
Sub-genre: Contemporary

Read the full, spoiler-free review here.

Start Me Up is set in the same town as Talk Me Down, and most of the characters cross over. Lori and Quinn were previously introduced as Molly's friend and brother, respectively, and now take centre stage.

One thing I love about Dahl's heroines is that they're unapologetically sexual critters. They have sexual histories and they enjoy getting down and dirty without feeling guilty about it. Lori is no exception. She reads like an adult woman with with life experience, and although her life has been in stasis for years, she doesn't sulk around about it; she carries on as best she can and cultivates dreams for the future.

Quinn is freaking adorable. Beta heroes are rare in romance land, so if you're like me and have a distinct fondness for them, Quinn is a fantastic speciman. Smart and slightly dorky with a sense of humour, he's very much the absent-minded professor who's finally found something to make him sit up and pay attention to what's going on around him.

The dialogue shines and the sex scenes sizzle, particularly when Quinn and Lori are acting out one of her naughty fantasies. It's easy to believe these two honestly enjoy each others' company, in spite of the jealousy and arguments that keep popping up between them. They're the kind of couple for which arguing is a form of foreplay, which means there's as much fighting as there is banter, but either way, the dialogue flows naturally and with a kick.

Ultimately, when I pick up something written by Victoria Dahl, I expect a lot of fun. Between the mockery of punishing kisses and the sex ninja, there was much giggling to be had, and you'd better believe I'll be harrassing Dahl next year when her next contemporary comes out.
Kitty: Angry Calico

Landon, Kristin: The Cold Minds

The Cold Minds (2008)
Written by: Kristin Landon
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 293 (Mass Market Paperback)

The premise: in this second book of Landon's series, years have passed since Linnea Kiaho and her lover Iain sen Paolo escaped the Cold Mind infestation on the planet Freija, since they learned that Linnea had the talent to fly. Now, they must recruit and train other Pilots, outside of the Line, because the Line refuses to acknowledge the Cold Mind invasion, and is content to let the poorer worlds rot. Linnea, who pines for her home, won't let that happen, even though the situation seems hopeless with an enemy that's impossible to destroy and allies who are content on destroying themselves.

My Rating

Give It Away: if you enjoyed the first book, The Hidden Worlds, then this is worth the cash. But if the first book gave you serious problems, I'm not sure you'll want to keep reading. There's no doubt that Landon is more comfortable here with her setting, her characters, and her story (and I do love the sense of hopelessness that pervades the story), but overall, the book didn't click for me, and it's because I had trouble buying character motivation and swallowing the supposed changes the characters underwent during the course of the book. Maybe it's middle-book syndrome, if this is in fact a trilogy (I don't know, but the third book, The Dark Reaches will be released June 30, 2009), and I do like the fact that while I don't buy the character changes, I do buy the changes made in the overall world and political system. Also notable, but not affecting my enjoyment in a negative manner, was how this second installment doesn't count at all as SF-Romance, whereas I felt the first book, The Hidden Worlds, did. The relationship between Linnea and Iain is far more strained and also more believable in this book, and that was refreshing, as it allowed the author to really focus on the bigger picture. And while this book didn't click for me, I'm still interested in reading forward, in getting the third book, especially since its premise looks like it'll really push the story forward. And I will also say that this is a trilogy (or series) worth checking out, but you definitely need to start with the first book, The Hidden Worlds, because while The Cold Minds tells its own complete story, I feel readers will be lost without the first book under their belt.

Review style: this review is divided into two sections, what I liked and what I didn't. I'll avoid specific spoilers. So, if you want to read the full review, just hop over to my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


ALSO!! I've just posted a GIVEAWAY in my journal, so please hop over there to check it out. Three books will be given away, so you don't want to miss it. Here's the link: Favorite Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, AND YA UF/PR Giveaway!