Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley: Most Awesome!

Lately, not much gets me excited.  I've found myself reading the same type of book over and over, and quite frankly I became bored with myself.

And then The Rook decided I needed to read something so fantastic, so clever, so damn funny, that it would leave me a happy camper for a few hours.

I am a happy camper.  I loved this book.  Seriously, loved it.  I can imagine it as a BBC series full of quirky characters in that beloved quirky place, London.  There's something to be said for a city that is a gazillion years old--you do believe pretty much anything can happen there.  And in the center of this craziness, you meet Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced Mifany).  She's lost her memory, and is surrounded by a ring of dead people; she's in a park and completely gobsmacked.  This begins Myfanwy's journey as she pulls out a letter from her coat, reads it, and quickly discovers she's a Rook--a top notch member of the Checquy--Britain's secret supernatural agency.  It keeps all of Great Britain safe from all the supernatural stuff that goes on all day, every day.  Most people are oblivious to it, and the Checquy likes it that way.  Imagine Emma Peele with amazing abilities to control people's nervous systems just by thought.  That's what Myfanwy does.  Except the Myfanwy that wrote that letter (and many more for the new Myfanwy) is known as meek, mild, and top notch with numbers.  The new Myfanwy isn't quite that way, and as she navigates her first day at work--bluffing the whole time--she soon discovers her powers have been underutilized and she's pretty pissed at whomever took her memories.  

Follow Myfanwy as she works to find out who stole her memories, why, and what it's got to do with what the old Myfanwy uncovered during her routine paperwork duties.  You will love the new Myfanwy--who's not afraid to swear, stand up for herself, and kick some ass.  You'll also come to know the old Myfanwy, who knew something was going to happen to her and took the time to build a file full of information for the new Myfanwy.  All of the players in this novel are so much fun to get to know, and Daniel O'Malley's ability to construct such an amazing, crazy, convoluted, oh-so-British world full of supernatural creatures and situations will keep you glued to the pages.  

Quite simply, this book is one of my favorite books of 2012.  Maybe, just maybe, it could take the top crown for this year.  This book is perfect for anyone who loves science fiction/fantasy, all things British, and wants to read a rollicking good story.  I found myself snickering quite a bit.  

Rating:  5/5 for an amazing, imaginative novel.  Please do not stop writing, Daniel O'Malley.  

Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Message of Hope from the Angels by Lorna Byrne

This book came to me the week after my sister passed away.  I went to work a few days after her funeral to check in with my manager and talk about things, and when I went into my office, this was sitting on my desk.  My manager told me it had come in as a free copy that week with my name on it.  

I took this as a sign, but it's taken me a few weeks to pick it up and read it.  It's a slim book, but one you want to linger over and take your time reading.  Some people may think this is all a load of bunk, but really--who wouldn't want to believe that Angels are all around us, all the time?  Angels that comfort, guide, help, and lend us unwavering loving support 24/7.  Guardian angels that are with us all our lives, never leaving us, and leading us when it's our time to go back "home".  I'm all on board with this.  I've always believed in Angels, but this cemented my belief.

This book is written very simply, and would not stand up to a rigorous book review on flowing sentences, structure, and a strict outline.  That is what makes it so satisfying to read.  Lorna Byrne is an Irish mystic--she's been seeing angels since she was a little girl, and for most of her life, never told a soul what she could see and hear.  Now, after her first book, Angels in My Hair was published a few years ago, she's become a beloved figure to many who are looking to understand our world, our purpose, and how we can overcome our problems to make ourselves and the world a better, loving, more open place of light.  Heck yes, sign me up!  I am wide open to believing I have an angel with me all the time.  I am wide open to believing I can say something as simple as "Help me be more confident and courageous today" and know that someone is listening, and doing their best to give me that courage and confidence.  Angels cross all boundaries of religion, belief, culture, education, and lifestyle.  They are there for each soul on this planet with unconditional love and support.  That's a pretty amazing thing.  

So this book came at a critical time for me, and it has given me a small nugget of happiness and comfort.  I have already ordered Lorna's first book, Angels in My Hair and can't wait to read her life story and her experiences.  You don't need to read that before you pick up A Message of Hope...  

If you are looking for a special Christmas present (or any other religious holiday that's celebrated this time of year--we can all use this book!) or a book of comfort for someone who is having a difficult time in their lives, pick up this book and gift it.  The Angels will be happy you forwarded their message of love and strength to someone you love.

Available in hardcover 
Rating:  4/5 for an inspirational message written simply, yet sincerely.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plans for 2013 Reading Extravaganza!

I have been very guilty of buying too many books this year.  My few "extra just in case" books have grown to around 200 extra--unread--brand new--books.  I was going to buy Life of Pi until I realized I already had it on my Nook and bought it on sale months ago.  Oops.  

Having a life altering event happen to me always makes me stop and reflect on what I've been doing, what I'm going to do, and how do I get myself moving again.  Because of course I have come to a complete halt in my usual schedule, and I'm finding that not only am I having a difficult time diving back into my reading routine, I don't really care much about it.  I know my perspective will change as I progress in my grieving for my sister, and I will once again be turning to my books for the comfort only a book can provide.  They truly ask no questions of you, wait patiently, and amazingly--there are many many kinds to fit whatever mood you're in at the moment.  Luckily through my purchasing in 2012 (and 2011!), I have many kinds of books to choose from when I get on the reading wagon again.

I've been thinking about what reading goals I want to make for 2013 with the understanding that I usually don't manage to keep them.  Pretty much as soon as I make the goal, I change it within hours.  I irritate myself that way! 


Get it here
I think this will be the year of Sci-Fi/Fantasy for me.  I have accumulated so many novels in that genre that I can quite happily read them all year and probably not have to buy one more.  I know I will, though.  I love this genre and always buy more books but don't have time to read them.  This will change in 2013.  Of course, doing book talks for my bookstore means that I do need to keep reading other fiction and non-fiction titles, so I have a good mix to talk about at a moment's notice.  But Sci-Fi/Fantasy will be top dog in 2013!!  

A friend of mine had a great idea, and I've seen this idea on many blogs.  I think it's time I do this myself:  make a list of books to read in 2013, and cross 'em off as I read them.  It's a great way to read those classics, those dusty books on the shelves, and have a goal that's not only fun to reach, but chock full of good reads.  Since I'm also exploring my "spiritual" side, there will probably be a sprinkling of New-Agey titles in here, too.  Can't wait.  

I've managed to make my Good Reads Reading Challenge for this year, and I'm happy with that.  Yes, I could frantically read more in the next month--but quite frankly I can't concentrate long enough on one book to finish it, and I don't want to.  There.  I don't want to.  Blah.  

Stick with me, people!  I'll be gathering my list together of must reads for 2013 and post it on my blog, so you can see my progress.  I hope to have it up by Mid-December, and of course I will have my favorite reads from 2012 coming up shortly.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

I picked this book up a few months ago, began it, then set it down to read other books.  Just today, I picked it up again and finished it.  It's the kind of book that thoroughly entertains, lets you escape for awhile, but has a great message all at the same time.  At this time of year, there is so much going on, and it can be hard to sit still long enough to read without falling asleep.  This is perfect book for a quick escape!

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society takes place in the small town of Naples, Florida in 1962.  Women are still expected to get married, raise a family, and be content as a housewife.  The South is still mired in segregation, the KKK, and old ways--and they don't like Northerners.  Especially Jackie Hart, a red-headed spitfire from Boston who's moved to Naples with her husband and her three kids.  She's a bit of a mystery to most people in town, and does not fit in well.  She decides to start a literary society at the library, and the cast of characters that show up make up a delightful group of people that you quickly grow to love:  Priscilla, the young black woman who works for the rich white family ( and is incredibly smart and well-read), Mrs. Bailey White--an older woman recently released from jail for killing her husband; Plain Jane, an unmarried middle aged woman who write poetry for a living, Miss Lansbury, the local librarian; Robbie-Lee, the only man who joins--and is clearly gay, but doesn't know it's so obvious; and Dora, a divorced young woman who works in the post office and is the narrator of the novel.  

Oh, at first they are all a little wary of each other, and that Southern politeness keeps them from sharing their secrets.  But little by little, things happen, Jackie shakes up Naples, and they all soon bond together in a friendship that many of us never experience but still desire.  

This book is all about dreams--how it's important to have them, how it's important to dream big, and how it's important to share them with others.  You never know who or what will help you make that dream attainable.  This is a great book for a group of friends or a book club to read and discuss over a good dinner and a few drinks.  There's sure to be laughter and maybe, just maybe some secrets spilled.  

Available in paperback and as an E-book.  

Rating:  4/5 for sheer enjoyment, quick read, and memorable characters.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley

The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley is one of those books that caught my eye at the bookstore because it kept selling out.  That always gets my attention and had me reading reviews and deciding I should probably add it to my reading list.

Two families are at the center of this novel, which mostly takes place in contemporary Ireland, with a side story taking place in Ireland and England during and after World War I.  Grania Ryan is a young woman who has fled New York City and her boyfriend, Matt, after suffering a miscarriage.  She's arrived home in Ireland to stay with her parents on their farm.  Her refusal to talk to Matt has left him confused and completely at a loss in New York.  His hesitation in coming to Ireland to talk to Grania sets in motion a huge shake up in Grania's life.

Grania meets a young girl, Aurora on the cliffs near Dunworley House, a magnificent home owned by Aurora's father, Alexander.  It has been in Aurora's family for decades, and holds many secrets and much unhappiness.  Lily, Aurora's mother, jumped from the cliffs a few years before, and Aurora claims to see her mother wandering on the cliffs every night.  Grania quickly becomes involved in Aurora's life, and finds herself agreeing to stay at Dunworley House while Alexander travels for business.  

But all is not as it seems, and Grania's mother, Kathleen, soon tells the story of her great grandmother Mary, and her connection to Dunworley House and Aurora's family.  It has brought nothing but pain to the Ryan family, and Grania is quickly finding herself unable to separate herself from Aurora despite warnings from her mother.

This was an interesting story about two families, their history, and what people do for love--both between a man and a woman, and between a woman and a child.  Lucinda Riley combines ballet, Russian history, World War I, and contemporary New York together in a story that keeps you reading.  Aurora is not your average child, and she is the one who moves the story along.

An entertaining story, with some sad moments, some uplifting moments, and I have to say some kind of sappy moments.  But overall, it's an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about World War I, England, Ireland, and has an interest in family sagas.  

Rating:  3/5 I found Grania a bit irritating in her desire to throw away her life in New York so easily; and Aurora--while a lovely character, was a bit too much to take sometimes.