Monthly Archives: April 2012

Review: How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since her father died, Jill McSweeney has alienated her friends and withdrawn from life. Jill can see there’s something missing in her life, but she’s not entirely sure how to fill that void.

Mandy Kalinowski has grown up alienated, unwanted and alone. After connecting with a boy at the state fair, she winds up pregnant and wants to ensure her baby has what she never did. She advertises on-line that she wants to give up her baby for adoption…an ad to which Jill’s mother responds. Mandy runs away from her mother and her live-in boyfriend (who has an interest in Mandy as well) to live with Jill and her mother for the final few weeks of her pregnancy.

Told from alternating first-person points of view Sara Zarr’sHow to Save A Life flirts early with teenage angst overkill, but by about a quarter of the way into the novel settles into something more authentic, real and fascinatingly readable. Mandy and Jill may be exactly what the other needs in order to begin relating to the world, though both are extremely flawed characters. Zarr is able to make both characters sympathetic and unlike-able during the course of the story–many times within a few paragraphs.

And, of course, any book that has characters referencing that they like classic Doctor Who and taking off time from work for a marathon of one of my favorite shows, earns extra points in my book.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along, Week One

Following up on the recent Lies of Locke Lamora read-along, this week kicks off a read-along for the second Gentleman Bastards novel, Red Skies Under Red Seas.

Once again, our read-along is hosted by The Little Red Reviewer.   And this week’s questions come from Bryce from My Awful Reviews.

And I also want to give credit to Bente over The Bente Way of Life for the cool read-along graphic you see to the right.  Thanks!

This week’s questions cover through chapter three in the novel.  So, there will be SPOILERS for that section of the book.  If you want to know more about the reading schedule you can find it at Red’s. 

Now, let’s get into the discussion…

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TV Thoughts: Game of Thrones, Eureka

Game of Thrones: Garden of Bones

If you can’t show every single battle on the show due to time constraints and budget limitations, at least you can make the lack of screen battles interesting.*  That’s how “Garden of Bones” starts out this week, showing us the lead-up to and the aftermath of Robb Stark’s attack on the Lannister camp.

*This doesn’t mean we don’t eventually need to show a battle or two on-screen.  But I have a feeling those will come later this season. 

At several points this week, the aftermath and impact the war is having are shown.  It was a week with a lot of flinch inducing moment, most notably the scene where Robb helps hold down an injured enemy soldier and he has to have his foot removed to prevent further infection.   Once again, this is one of those things you just wouldn’t necessarily get away with on broadcast television or basic cable.

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Booking Through Thursday — Inspirational

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A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Two people asked a similar question:

Charlie Quillen asks:

Has a book ever inspired you to change anything in your life, fiction or non-fiction alike?

Lindsay asks:

There have been books I loved, books that I fell in love with, and books that changed my life, and they’re not always the same nor mutually exclusive.

A couple of years ago, I saw former hacker Kevin Mitnick interviewed on television, talking about his book The Art of Deception.  I was intrigued enough by the interview to put a copy on reserve at the library and then read it.  And it was fascinating to read how Mitnick didn’t rely as much on technical skills to uncover information, but instead worked through social conventions to get the information he wanted.   It was compelling to see how the most seemingly innocent and innocuous questions could lead to someone having the ability to hack into your life and business.   It led me to be a bit more wary of how much information I would reveal in a business setting and on-line to people I didn’t know.  It’s a fascinating read and in the day and age of sensitivity about information, I highly recommend it.


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Mistborn Read-Along, Week Three

Mistborn Characters. Image Courtesy of RoseMuse

It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time for the latest round of discussion in the Mistborn Read-Along.   We’re reading the first installment in Brian Sanderson’s epic fantasy series.  The read-along is organized by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings and this week’s questions are courtesy of Grace at Books Without Any Pictures.   If you want to participate or see other responses to the questions, drop by either or both of their blogs.  And while you’re there, thank them for doing this for us!

This week, we’re looking at chapters 16-25.  Things are starting to heat up!

And now, onto the questions….

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Review: Never Tell

Never Tell: A Novel of Suspense
Never Tell: A Novel of Suspense by Alafair Burke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Called to look into the death of sixteen-year old Julie Whitmire, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is quick to dismiss the death as a suicide. But after political pressure is placed on the department by Julie’s high profile, wealthy and politically connected parents, Hatcher and her partner are forced to dig a bit deeper and quickly discover that things aren’t necessarily as black and white as they originally assumed.

The theme of “never assume” is prevalent in Alafair Burke’s newest installment in the Ellie Hatcher series, Never Tell. Filled with a variety of suspects, this procedural suspense thriller has it’s moments but Burke ultimately falls short of the other pantheon of mystery novelists today like Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly or Laura Lippman.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma: An Unabridged Classic Doctor Who Novel

Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma: An Unabridged Classic Doctor Who Novel
Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma: An Unabridged Classic Doctor Who Novel by Eric Saward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poll Doctor Who fans on what they consider to be the worst classic series story ever made and “The Twin Dilemma” will be at or near the top of that list.

In many ways, it’s a bit unfair that “Dilemma” follows the instant classic “The Caves of Androzani.” But the simple fact is no matter how matter how much you try and gloss over the limitations of the story, it’s still one of the bigger misfires in the entire classic series run. A lot of that can be firmly chalked up to the fact that, in the end, it’s the story of a giant slug trying to take over the universe with an incredibly ludicrous plan, even by Doctor Who standards.

Adapting the script to novel form, Eric Saward seems to understand this and tries to distract you from the script’s shortcomings by beefing up Mestor as a threat, downplaying the titular twins and throwing in lots and lots of tangents and asides. The tangent and asides may be the best part of the story–one in particular that has the Doctor reflecting back on the fates of his companions was memorable for me at a young age, but that might be because it SPOILED the death of a major character–but like the script they can be hit or miss. The idea of the twins’ father being scared of them is an intriguing one as is Saward’s (controversial) attempt to explain the physiological reasons behind re-generation.

Unfortunately, those aren’t all enough to save the story or somehow make the televised version any better in the final estimation.

But like most things associated with the sixth Doctor’s era, the best part of this is the performanc of Colin Baker. Baker’s reading of the story is spot-on and almost worth the price of admission alone. The only drawback is that his interpretation of Peri is pretty much a miss. But other than that, Baker’s giving it his all.

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Review: The Man from Primrose Lane

The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel
The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel by James Renner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I understand there’s a need for various sections in the bookstore and library, every once in a while a book comes along that defies you to easily shelve in one particular section or another. In the case, I find myself wishing that there was just a section of the store that was called “Good Books” or “Yes, You Really should Read This One Because It’s Really Worth It.”

Part mystery, part speculative fiction, The Man From Primrose Lane is one of those books that defies easy categorization.

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A Prairie Home Companion at the Ryman

I’ve been a fan of Garrison Keillor for years now.

I had the privilege of seeing Keillor “in concert” close to decades ago at Wolf Trap in Virginia.   He was there for an evening with he and guitarist Chet Atkins.*  And while it was a great evening in which I got several of my favorite books by Keillor autographed (and even got to shake his hand after the show and have a pleasant conversation with him), the evening wasn’t a live performance of his radio show A Prairie Home Companion.

* The show was before I became so enamored with bluegrass music and really understood how awesome it was to hear Chet Atkins perform live.  In fact, you could almost say the crowd that evening was split in half, with half of us wondering how the guy on the guitar was and when we’d get more Keillor and the other half wondering who the guy telling the stories and singing baritone was and when we’d get more Atkins.

I’d seen filmed broadcasts of a Prairie Home Companion on television and I’d watched the movie a couple of years ago.  But it wasn’t quite the same as seeing the show live and in person.

Last night, I got to cross “See a live performance of a PHC” off my bucket list…and in one of my favorite venues to take in a show, the historic Ryman auditorium.

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Booking Through Thursday — Annoying

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A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Bookish Sarah asks:

What are your literary “pet peeves”?

It’s probably ironic that this bothers me, given how many misspellings and grammatical errors crop up on this blog, but misspellings and grammatical errors in a book really get my goat.  And they can really take me out of the reading experience.  If you’ve got too many, you may even lose me as a reader–not only for the book I’m currently reading, but also future publication efforts.  (That said, I’m much more forgiving of them on-line because there’s not an editor there who should catch those things.  At least most of the time!)

Speaking of pet peeves, I will also fess up and say that right now, as a fan of science-fiction and fantasy, I get really depressed and annoyed when I wander by the “new releases” section of my local bookstore.  For one thing, shelf space in the bookstore seems to be shrinking, making it harder for new books and authors to get the attention they need or deserve.   Add to it the sheer glut of paranormal romance novels that are being highlighted in that section as opposed to books that more classically fit the definition of sci-fi and fantasy.  I really feel like there should be a whole other section of the store for paranormal romance stuff so that maybe those books that better fit the classic definition of sci-fi and fantasy or are an alternative could get a chance.   I realize this makes me sound like a snob, but I doubt that Dune, one of the landmarks of the genre, would get the marketing push to catch on, much less be read today that it did when it was published.


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