Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dualed (2013)

Dualed. Elsie Chapman. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

My second attempt at reading Dualed went much better than my first. The second time I picked it up, it was an easy read. Easy meaning that I read almost all of it in one sitting. The content itself, well, easy doesn't really describe the world Chapman created in her novel.

West, the heroine, has known her whole life that she'll have to kill or be killed in order to take a place in the community. That's just how things are now. Every person has an alt--a genetic clone of sorts. Every alt poses a threat. When an assignment goes active, both know it's kill or be killed. And both also know that timing is key. They have exactly one month to complete their assignment or both will be killed. West is the only one left in her family. It's a dangerous world, a violent world. Many people are PK's peripheral kills--being killed "accidentally" during the fight between two alts. No street or neighborhood is really safe because of it. There will always be teens who have gone active and are in survival mode. Though West does not have any family in her life--readers do briefly meet Luc, her brother--she is not truly alone. Her brother's friend, Chord, cares about her a great deal. The book opens with Chord receiving his assignment; readers get a brief glimpse of what the book will be like. His assignment is completed very quickly and dramatically. Though some of the drama is lost since readers barely know the characters and haven't come to care yet. Effective for letting readers know that death, violent death, is what this book is all about perhaps.

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West. I didn't like or dislike her really. I had a hard time understanding her, why, she would be completely fine being an assassin and murdering others on almost a daily or at least weekly basis. Yet be so anxious about facing her own alt. After all, the risks to her own life are the same. The fact that she was an assassin meant that she was capable of killing. It also meant that she was not afraid to put her own life in danger. Every job she took, there was risk that she could die if it went bad. Yet West does the opposite of what you'd expect: she hides and waits and hides and waits and hides and waits and mopes a bit.

Chord was a good guy, well, as good a guy as you're going to get in this crazy society where all adults have committed murder at least once. I did get the sense that he cared about West and wanted a relationship with her that was based more on them and less on Luc.

Overall, Dualed is a not-for-me book. Others may enjoy it more, of course.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

China Dolls (2014)

China Dolls. Lisa See. 2014. Random House. 376 pages. [Source: Library]

China Dolls is historical fiction. The novel follows three women through the latter days of the 1930s through the 1940s. Three very different women I might add. The friendship between these three women is not quite pure or ideal. Grace, one of the heroines, is running away from an abusive father. Her dream is to sing and dance and to go into show business. Ruby, another heroine, is also a dancer and performer. Helen is the third heroine. Before a chance meeting with Ruby and Grace, Helen had no big dreams of show business. In fact, Helen could not even dance! Yet, a chance meeting one day led all three women to audition for an Oriental nightclub. (For the record, Oriental is the term used throughout China Dolls.) Talent is only half of what is required, they learn. Appearance is super important. It is more important to be beautiful and amazing and be somewhat teachable than to be incredibly talented. Helen and Grace are hired to be essentially part of a chorus. (They're called Ponies.) But Ruby remains a part of their lives. For better or worse.

While each woman is given a back story and/or a sob story, I had a hard time liking any of the characters. Helen, Grace, and Ruby may spend time together, but, that doesn't mean they like each other and want each other to succeed. Helen, Ruby, and Grace could be quite mean and awful to each other.

The history is interesting. The story is certainly full of drama. The characters are incredibly flawed and remain consistently selfish.

I liked it fine, but, I definitely did not love it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Girl From The Tar Paper School (2014)

The Girl From the Tar Paper School. Teri Kanefield. 2014. Abrams. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement is a quick nonfiction read for young(er) readers. Set in 1950-1951 in Farmville, Virginia, the book tells the story of Barbara Rose Johns and the student strike she inspires, perhaps one of the first of its kind. The heroine, Barbara Rose Johns, is tired of the inequality between the white school and the black school. The conditions of the black school are truly pathetic and shocking. Instead of believing that nothing will change, that nothing can change, that this is just how things are and how things will always be, Barbara decides to put her mind to it. Barbara contemplates everything carefully. Once she makes up her mind, she organizes and acts. She finds supporters; she turns reluctant hesitate-to-act listeners into full supporters. By the end, her case is combined with several other cases--all from different states--into Brown v. Board of Education.

I found this an informative, thought-provoking read. I thought it was well-researched. I liked the personal approach. I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

To Love And Be Wise (1951)

To Love And Be Wise. (Inspector Grant #4) Josephine Tey. 1951. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

I definitely liked To Love And Be Wise. It is an Inspector Grant mystery. Some of the Grant series I've loved, others, not quite so much.

Inspector Grant is at a party with a friend, Marta Hallard, the event is to celebrate the release of a new Lavinia Fitch novel. While there he happens to see an oh-so-beautiful young man. People's gaze just seems to follow him, he's that beautiful. He talks to Grant and asks him to point out Lavinia Fitch. He claims he wants an introduction to Fitch's nephew, Walter Whitmore. The young man's name is Leslie Searle. Introductions are made, and Leslie is even invited into their country home--indefinitely.

Several weeks later, Mr. Grant is called down to investigate a crime or potential crime. Mr. Searle has gone missing. He was working on a project with Walter Whitmore. (Walter Whitmore is apparently a radio celebrity and Searle is a famous photographer.) He hasn't been seen in a day or two. There is no body, though they have dragged the river repeatedly. Searle had definitely argued with several in town, including Walter. Could he have been murdered?

I liked this one. I did. I liked the community in which it was set. I liked meeting Silas Weekley and Lavinia Fitch, for example, mainly because they're referenced in my favorite, favorite, favorite book Daughter of Time.

By the way, isn't this a horrible cover?!

Favorite quotes:
"Why do you listen to him?" [him = Walter Whitmore]
"Well, there's a dreadful fascination about it, you know. One thinks: Well, that's the absolute sky-limit of awfulness, than which nothing could be worse. And so next week you listen to see if it really can be worse. It's a snare. It's so awful that you can't even switch off. You wait fascinated for the next piece of awfulness, and the next. And you are still there when he signs off." (12)
"Perhaps the old saying is true and it is not possible to love and be wise." (42)
"I suppose you don't read Lavinia Fitch?"
"No, but Nora does."
Nora was Mrs. Williams, and the mother of Angela and Leonard.
"Does she like them?"
"Loves them. She says three things make her feel cosy in advance. A hot-water bottle, a quarter-pound of chocolates, and a new Lavinia Fitch."
"If Miss Fitch did not exist, it seems, it would be necessary to invent her," Grant said. (73)
"You really ought, just for once, to try those pickles, sir," Williams said. "They're wonderful."
"For the five hundred and seventh time, I do not eat pickles. I have a palate, Williams. A precious possession. And I have no intention of prostituting it to pickles." (92)
Silas has his own success, his family, the books he is going to write in the future (even if they are just the same old ones over again in different words). (136)
"I was just thinking how shocked the writers of slick detective stories would be if they could witness two police inspectors sitting on a willow tree swapping poems." (151)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Week in Review: July 20-26

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Duke's Children. Anthony Trollope. 1880. 560 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Lost in Shangri-La. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2011. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
The Swift Boys & Me. Kody Keplinger. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days. Michele Weber Hurwitz. 2014. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Soldier Doll. Jennifer Gold. 2014. Second Story Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Out of the Depths. Edgar Harrell, with David Harrell. 2014. Bethany House. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
The Great Divorce. C.S. Lewis. 1945. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
Burning Sky. Lori Benton. 2013. Waterbrook Press. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

Which book will it be? I usually know before I start writing the post. But. Not this time. North and South is one of my favorite books! It is a comfort read for me. Perhaps not a traditional comfort read. But it is a true favorite. (I love it more than Pride and Prejudice. I do.) The Duke's Children finished the Palliser series strong. And I adore Trollope! Out of the Depths wowed me. It really did. It's a powerfully compelling testimony! It is an autobiography of a marine who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. It's an incredible read! Both books deserve more readers in my opinion.

This week I choose North and South. I have no doubt that Out of the Depths will appear on my best books of the year post on Operation Actually Read Bible.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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