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Archive for August, 2012

3 Below by Patrick Carman

Posted by Caitie F on August 31, 2012

Title: 3 Below 
Author: Patrick Carman
Hardcover: 240 pages
Pub Date: Sept 1, 2012
Publisher:  Scholastic
Rating: +++

Summary from goodreads:

Charlie had his chocolate factory. Stanley Yelnats had his holes. Leo has the wacky, amazing Whippet Hotel.

Now that Leo has uncovered a few secrets behind the wacky Whippet Hotel, he’ll have to save it!

Leo has explored the zany, wonderful Whippet Hotel from basement to top floor, with trains, flying goats, and mazes (among other things) in between. But even Leo doesn’t know every secret of the Whippet – and when he discovers that there’s more beneath the hotel than he’d thought, it doesn’t take long for more adventures to unfold


I loved the first book in this series, Floors so when the publicist handed me this at BEA I got really excited to read it!

Sadly, I think the first book was much better planned out and had a better story. That was original and entertaining and this book was much less on both accounts.

It didn’t help that it was the very same villain from the previous book, so I spent the entire book knowing they would easily defeat her since they did the last time. I also figured out a twist very quickly because I knew what the man who built the hotel was like. It feels like other readers, both kids and adults, will be able to pick up on it very quickly. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fun book tough!

The other issue is that the basement floors just weren’t as entertaining. I never stopped to really picture them because the picture wasn’t all that great, especially when I compared it to the first book.

Leo is still an excellent character and saved this book from being a huge disappointment. He is such a brave and intelligent kid and it makes it a lot more fun to read what is going on in his head. He also gets silly and Remi also adds a lot of humor to the book. Their friendship is even stronger and they complement each other really well.

I wish I had enjoyed this more, since Floors was so good, but I will still look forward to seeing what is next in Leo and Remi’s adventure!

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Posted by Caitie F on August 24, 2012

Title: The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Softcover: 384 pages
Pub Year: 1966
Rating: +++

Summary from goodreads: One of the greatest novels ever to come out of the Soviet Union. A parable on power and its corruption, on good and evil and on human frailty and the strength of love. Equal parts fable, fantasy, political satire and slapstick.


A friend at work has started a classics book club. While I cannot go because of location, I am going to read most of the books and we are going to talk about them. This was the first choice, and it is also in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die book, so I picked it up from my library!

Somehow, I completely missed Russian literature both in high school and as an English major in college. It has always been intimidating to me because of this, so I never rushed out to try. I am glad I started with this for several reasons.

First, it is a comedy, so it was more accessible and universal. It was a dark comedy, but there were still some laugh out loud moments. and I felt like I understand at least what was going on. The writing style was also easy to follow and there were some amazing passages that I read multiple times because the way he described things was so creative and perfect! It was also a really great story on the surface, so I could enjoy it at least on that level.

But I know I missed a lot of the political satire and the overarching parable. I didn’t realize that my book had a commentary in the back until I was ⅔ into it and I wish I had known. I think I would have been able to get a lot more out of the book and have a deeper understanding of the Soviet Union from the perspective of someone living there if I had used it.

It is an enjoyable book and if you think you might want to try Russian literature for the first time, this is a good place to start. Just check for a commentary when you start.

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The Facility by Simon Lelic

Posted by Caitie F on August 22, 2012

Title: The Facility 
Author: Simon Lelic
Paperback: 352 pages
Pub Date: Aug 28, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Rating:: ++++

Summary from edelweiss:

In The Facility, Lelic has produced an electrifying thriller set in a near-future Britain. Totalitarian powers, emboldened by new anti-terrorism laws, allow the police to “disappear” people from the streets. But when unassuming dentist Arthur Priestley is snatched and held prisoner at a top-secret detention facility, his estranged wife, Julia, and a brave but naive journalist named Tom Clarke embark on a harrowing quest for the truth that soon puts all of their lives in danger.


I love a well-written exciting dystopian novel. They are eye-opening, show possible futures in an entertaining way, and have a chance for some great characters and plots.

You know what I love even more? A  dystopian that is not very far in the future at all and the horrible things that are going on are based on laws currently in place (in this case it is in the UK, but a lot of the laws also are in the US in some form). Have the laws been slightly extended? Yes, but they are extensions that seem unrealistic at all. And that makes the ideas and issues in this book more prevalent and awesome. But what adds to it even more is that the entire world isn’t under attack from something. An entire country isn’t. It is regular citizens that are suffering.

The worst part? No one seems to care unless it is happening to someone they know. In general, people are dismissive and basically say “as long as it isn’t happening to me, it is okay.” And these people just think that people are being wrongly detained and don’t know what is really going on (but I don’t want to spoil it for you!). Yet as long as the government says it is for the safety of all and it isn’t a big deal, people believe it. It happens in our world today, which really made everything in this dystopian book feel more real.

My only issue is that a lot of the characters are flat. It is much more a plot-driven and writing-driven book than character-driven…though the two driving characters are the most interesting, even if they are not who we would consider the main characters. Those two make up for the rest a little, but it was a problem, which is why I liked the book instead of loved it.

If you liked 1984 and enjoy adult dystopian books, I highly suggest you read this.

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The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer

Posted by Caitie F on August 15, 2012

Title: The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
Author: Enid Shomer
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pub Date: August 21, 2012
Rating: ++++

Summary from publisher:

Before she became the nineteenth-century’s heroine, before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert traveled up the Nile at the same time. In reality, they never met. But Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, they ignite a friendship marked by intelligence, humor, and a ravishing tenderness that will alter both their destinies.

On the surface, Nightingale and Flaubert have little in common. She is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. He is a notorious womanizer, involved with innumerable prostitutes. But both are at painful crossroads in their lives and burn with unfulfilled ambition. In Enid Shomer’s deft hands, the two unlikely soulmates come together to share their darkest torments and fervent hopes. Brimming with adventure and the sparkling sensibilities of the two travelers, this mesmerizing debut novel offers a luminous combination of gorgeous prose and wild imagination, all of it colored by the opulent tapestry of mid-nineteenth century Egypt.


Fiction that includes historical fiction is always interesting and when that idea was paired with the adventure of exploring Egypt and some romance, I knew I would have to read the book. Know that it is not light and fun, it is a book that will make you think and ponder.

Let me start with my issue with it. I have no idea what parts actually happened. I know that Nightingale and Flaubert never actually met. But the author used a lot of primary sources to learn what they would sound like and how they thought. So I am assuming Nightingale’s thoughts on marriage are accurate. What about her letters? Were any of those close to the actual letters? What about her relationships with her family and her servants? I just wish I knew what was true and what was not, without having to read all the primary sources myself!

If you can overlook that, it is really a great book. Be prepared to want to visit Egypt if you don’t already though. The rich setting made me feel like I could see the temples and the river. It never felt like there was too much, but it was enough that whenever I stopped reading I had to reorient myself to my surroundings.

The narration went back and forth between Nightingale and Flaubert and I found myself preferring Nightingale’s side of things by far. She had really issues and problems to deal with compared to the whining of Flaubert that no one understood him. She wanted to step out on her own and go against society. She wanted to make a difference in the world. In her time, trying to do that without a husband was not an easy thing. Her ideas will make the reader think about gender roles even in society today.

The great thing about the duel narrators was getting to see how actions and conversations were interpreted by each, since it was rarely in the same way. It was also nice to get to see how they treated those around them, especially since they are both from the upper class. Flaubert also provided some much needed comic relief, since his was often the lighter side of things.

Overall, it is a very good piece of historical fiction and if you like the genre, and like a book that makes you think about the times, you should give it a try.

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Three Mini Reviews!

Posted by Caitie F on August 9, 2012

I have three books that I have finished in the last month and I never got around to reviewing them because I never felt inspired to write out a full review. I would like to share what I thought, so here are three mini reviews with mini summaries.

Title: The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Paperback: 269 pages
Pub Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Rating: +++

Summary: The Earth is slowing and everything is affected. This book follows one 11-year-old girl as she deals with not only the Earth’s sudden changes but her parents fighting, losing friends, and a first love.

Review: This book just felt so eh. I read it less than a month ago and I can’t even remember it all that much (except for her grandfather, his character really stuck with me and gave me emotional reactions).

I really liked that it looked at a natural disaster from the perspective of a regular person and family, it was much different from what we usually see. I also liked seeing how the government reacted and all of the parts of the story actually about the slowing. Everything with Julia was less interesting and the book got very slow towards the middle and the end.

I did enjoy the writing, I just think the book had a lot of potential that it didn’t meet. It almost felt like the author wanted to write and adult book and a young adult book at the same time, which ends up with having a book that is hard to get into.

Title: A Feast For Crows
Author: George R R Martin
Hardcover: 753 pages
Pub Date: October 17, 2005
Publisher: Bantam
Rating: ++

Summary: The fourth Song of Ice and Fire book. With none of your favorite characters.

Review: This book took me SO long to read. I had to force myself to pick it up. The first ⅘ was slow, boring, and mostly about characters I didn’t really care about all that much. Like the Greyjoys – the Kingsmoot was the biggest letdown.

The end picks up and some characters get what is coming to them, but overall this book sucks. So glad it is over and so glad I didn’t wait a few years for this crap!

Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Paperback: 448 pages
Pub year: 1865
Rating: +++

Summary: It is Dracula. He is a vampire. He terrorizes people in England and turns some into vampires. People want him dead.

Review: So everyone knows that basic story of Dracula. I have never seen a movie or read the book. but thanks to pop culture I knew the basics.

The basics are, for the most part, better than the book. I did really like HOW the story was told – it is through diaries, journals, and letters. I am a sucker for this kind of storytelling, especially when it is done well and on that aspect,  it is done very well.

The book can be split into thirds. The first third is when Jonathan is at Dracula’s castle and writes in his journal about what is going on. Knowing that Dracula was a vampire made this part quite boring. Yet it was well-told, so I kept going.

The second third is before we see Jonathan again and don’t know what happened to him. In that, his fiancee and her friend exchange letters and then it follows Lucy suitors, sickness. and her death, and Van Helsing appears. This was too long and boring. Could have been cut in half. I almost wanted to stop reading, but I knew it had to get better

The final third is when a bunch of men and one really awesome woman go after Dracula. This was slow at times, but I loved reading about them plotting and planning, so it was fine that it was slower. The climax was quite awesome and makes it a book worth reading.

My one big issue is that I had to remember when this was written and not twitch at every mention of women being weak/not as smart/generally inferior to men. I know it was a time period thing, but it still bugged me, I just can’t help it.

Overall, still glad that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die made me read this.

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