Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

If you are a Twilight fan you've already read this book and probably love it and wish that Stephenie Meyer would just keep writing more stories based in her vampire world and then life would be perfect for you. I'm not one of those fanaticals so although I've long since read the Twilight series, I didn't pick up this book the moment it was released. In fact it didn't really cross my mind until a couple of weeks ago when I overheard a few of the moms in a playgroup I take my kids to chatting about it.
So here's my take. Stephenie Meyer is a good storyteller. When you read her books you feel like you are there. She is good at what she does which is why she has been so successful. This little novella takes a character who has a very small place inside the book Eclipse and give us a glimpse into her life. It tells what life as a newborn vampire would be like. If you've read Eclipse you already know the ending to the story. You do however get to have a little smile as you meet up with Carlisle and Esme near the end of the story, remembering characters that you already like. This was a good, easy read (yes, I read it in one sitting). I'm not a big vampire fan so it was a book that I could give or take. I think those who are into vampires and Twilight will love it (and probably already do).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Above the Line Series by Karen Kingsbury

I am a recent reader of Karen Kingsbury's work, having discovered her only this past year. I like that her books are a quick read for me. I pretty much flew through these 4 books which is why I'm grouping them together. The Above the Line series begins with the story of Keith and Chase. Two ex-overseas missionaries with a vision to create really well done, inspiring films. I have to admit that there was a big part of me that wished this to be true, that there are such visionaries out there who want to make quality films without foul language or gratuitous sex scenes, just good films that appeal to a wide audience.
As Keith and Chase begin filming their first movie, Kingsbury opens up a whole range of characters to us. She begins with Keith and Chase's families and continues on to families working on the film and families in and around the area of the film. In this manner she brings back the much loved Baxter family of her earlier novels and the Flanigans.
As the series continued, the stories became less about Keith and Chase and more about the Falnigans, Bailey in particular. Though Keith played prominently in all 4 books, Chase faded out of most of the last two. I would have like to have seen more of Chase's story and his wife Kelly's struggle with mindless eating and weight difficulties. I thought that there was a good, relatable story there that Kingsbury kind of took the easy way out of in wrapping up. I also would like to have seen more of Ben and Kendall's stories (a father/daughter team that got involved with Keith and Chase's production company), but they too left the stories after the first two books.
I think Kingsbury has a great vision but sometimes that range is too wide. There is too much going on so you lose some characters in the process. I also think that telling too many stories mean that you do get some easy endings.

*Warning - book spoilers below this point*

Here's what I found frustrating: Brandon's quick conversion. This would have been a good book all on it's own, telling Brandon's story. The fact that we didn't get to see much of him makes his conversion much too easy.
-Bailey and Tim's drawn out relationship - just break up already!
-Bailey and Cody's forever getting together/not getting together story line, stop dragging us along here!
-That Andi came back to her faith pretty quick. Again, I think this comes from trying to tell too much. A book just about Andi would have been great.
-That there was a lot left hanging at the end of the 4th book.

This series is not a complete story in and of itself. It could be called The Baxter's part 4, or at the very least Bloomington, Indiana part 4. I know from reading Karen Kingsbury's website that there will be a Bloomington, part 5 which will be Bailey's stories. And great, I'm looking forward to them. I enjoy Kingsbury's books for the sheer fact that they inspire me a bit in my own faith. I like revisiting old characters, they are a little like old friends. As far as Christian writers go, she's alright. She is light though. She does touch on some very relevant issues facing Christians today, which is great. And she is current (sometimes too much so as I think her books will become dated pretty quick). You pretty much know what you are going to get with Kingsbury's books if you've read a couple of them. A pretty decent Christian book. It will be heartwarming and enjoyable along the way.

Monday, August 23, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Say what you will about Jodi Picoult, she always does manage to find a current 'hot topic' and incorporate it into her books. This book focused on Aspergers syndrome, a high functioning type of autism. I really looked forward to reading this book as Aspergers is a topic that has interested me for some time. I have taught several children with Aspergers and have made it part of my continuing education as a teacher to learn about and try to understand how best to teach these kids. This is the story of Jacob. He is an 18 year old high school student with Aspergers. He is extremely interested in and focused on forensics. He then becomes a person of interest in a local murder case. The very traits of Aspergers, inability to look someone in the eye, taking things literally, stimming...make him look guilty. I have to admit that I was captivated by this novel. I really didn't know until the very end of the book the whole truth of the story (which isn't always the case in books). I would be very interested in what the Austism and Aspergers community think about this book. Personally, I found Jacob to be less an Aspie and more autistic.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

So I've read Michelle Moran's books backwards. It didn't really matter. All the books were set in Ancient Egypt, but they weren't a series where you had to know what happened in one book to understand the next. This was Michelle Moran's first novel, based on the life of the Egyptian queen of the same name. It was again a very enjoyable, interesting book. I really enjoy her writing and look forward to her next offering, coming next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers has been one of my favorite authors for a number of years now. I love how she has used her gift of writing to glorify Christ and His work in her life. I often find Christian fiction to be weak in writing and don't like a lot of it. She is one of the exceptions. She is a fantastic writer and would be successful even if she didn't write Christian fiction.
Her Mother's Hope is a bit of a departure for Rivers. It is part one of a saga and a very personal book. It came about as Rivers was looking into her own family history, trying to figure out what caused a rift between her own mother and grandmother. A number of the events in this book are related to her grandmother and mother, but it is not a biography of those women. They inspired the book, but the book is not necessarily their story.
That being said I became so engrossed in reading these women's lives. They are very different women. The first, Marta, we meet as a young Swiss girl determined to escape life under her father's abusive thumb. The journey begins at the beginning of the 20th Century. The second woman is Marta's daughter Hildemare, born after the second world war. She is a much quieter soul from Marta, determined to serve others. My description hardly gives credit to the fabulous stories inside this book. I very much look forward to Her Daughter's Dream, the second book in this saga that will tell the story of the next 2 generations in this family.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

After reading Cleopatra's Daughter last year I fully intended on reading more of Michelle Moran's books, but I never did.  This past week my husband was ordering some things on Amazon.  He came up to me and said, do you want to pick out a book so we can get the free shipping?  Um, yeah!  So I finally got another Michelle Moran tale.  I loved it.  I absolutely love authors who can take a time in history and make it alive.  When you read this book you get a sense of what life in Egypt would have been like. 
This story is based on real life Queen Nefertari.  Nefertari is one of the more well known queens of Ancient Egypt.  Michelle Moran acknowledges that this book is a work of fiction, based on what could have been her life.  She take an author's licence in tying together people and events.  Some of the characters are based on real people, others are complete fiction. 
I found the story to be very interesting and want to read Moran's first novel, Nerfertiti.