Sunday, January 8, 2012

CBR4 Review 2: Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

If you've never read one of the 18 Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich, here's a quick primer. Stephanie is a really bad bounty hunter working for her sleazy cousin Vinny's bail bonds company in the suburbs of Trenton, NJ. In every book, the following things happen:
Stephanie eats a lot of junk food: donuts, fried chicken, pineapple upside-down cake, meatball subs, and pizza.
Stephanie does very little exercising.
Stephanie's car blows up.
Stephanie takes her Grandma Mazur to a wake at the local funeral home to try and figure out a mystery she has somehow stumbled across.
Stephanie's friend Lula (former prostitute, plus-sized, and super confident) shoots someone and there are no repercussions.
Stephanie must try to choose between the two beautiful men in her life: Handsome cop Joe (who wants to settle down and have a family) and mysterious and dangerous Ranger (who wants no strings attached).

All of these things happen in book 18. In addition, Lula falls under the spell of a love potion gone wrong, Ranger and Joe get into a mysterious brawl in Hawaii, Stephanie's mortal enemy Joyce Barnhardt is presumed dead, and someone (actually, many people) are trying to kill Stephanie because of a strange picture that somehow ended up in her bag on an airplane.

I know these books are formulaic and that the plots repeat themselves over and over again...and yet, I always look forward to reading the next installment. I enjoy peeking into Stephanie's life and seeing what outrageous (and completely implausible) situation she and her friends have gotten themselves into. Evanovich has created a ridiculous little world filled with equally ridiculous characters, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Looking forward to book 19. And no, I won't be seeing the upcoming Katherine Heigl just doesn't look right to me (although kudos for casting Debbie Reynolds as Grandma and Sherri Shephard as Lula). Maybe on Netflix.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bronwyn's CBR4 Review 2: Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume

I just read Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and it was about a girl named Sheila and she is afraid of lots of things. She doesn't want to admit it to her friends, or to herself.

She and her family move to Tarrytown, New York from New York City for the summer and there is a dog who lives at their rented house, and Sheila is definitely afraid of dogs. She has to learn to swim and she doesn't like that either.

My favorite part is when she swam all the way to 12 feet and then fell asleep!

She finally learns how to tell the truth and admit things, thanks to her new friends. Especially her best friend, Mouse.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CBR4 Review 1: American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquereque

As a devoted Stephen King fan, I was happy to stumble upon the Comixology app for my iPad recently, where there was a sale on the first volume of American Vampire books. American Vampire is in fact made up of two stories -- one that takes place in the 1920s in Los Angeles (written by Snyder and illustrated by Albuquereque), and the other in the Old West (written by King and illustrated by Albuquereque) -- with one common character, Skinner Sweet.

Snyder's story is that of Pearl, a young woman in LA trying to be an actress but barely making ends meet. She meets a nice man named Henry and is invited to a Hollywood party...which isn't what it seems. At the party she is brutally attacked by a group of ancient, European vampires and left for dead in the desert covered in blood and bite marks. When she wakes up she finds herself with a man she recognizes -- Skinner Sweet. He tells her that she is now a vampire, but not the kind that attacked her last night. She's a new kind of vampire...more powerful than the old Europeans can imagine.

King's story also tells the tale of Skinner Sweet in the late 1800s. Sweet is an old west outlaw who has a run in with a vampire (one of the very same who attack Pearl) in the desert. Sweet is buried and drowned and yet he still survives -- stronger and more evolved than any vampire before him.

Although I'm a life-long King fan, I preferred the story from Scott Snyder -- Pearl's struggle with what she had become was the real page turner for me.

The books are beautifully drawn and look great on the iPad -- I'm sure I'll be buying additional volumes in the future.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bronwyn's CBR4 Review 1: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, retold by Gaby Goldsack

I read The Wizard of Oz and it was about a girl named Dorothy and her dog, Toto. I really like this book! The book came with a ruby slippers necklace, and I like that, too.

Its called The Wizard of Oz because it is about the wizard who lives in Oz and this is how the story goes:

She gets in this little world and meets friends, but plans to see the wicked wizard! How is she going to get home? Her friends are Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. She gets home by tapping her shoes 3 times and automatically, she is home! The Wicked Witch of the West tries to stop her, but she dies because Dorothy throws some water on her.

The end.

Books, books, books

I really enjoyed the challenge of reading and reviewing 52 books in 2011 (for charity, no less), and am going to attempt the same this year.

As an added treat, my 7 year-old Bronwyn will be reading and reviewing along with me! She is even more excited about it than I am, and mom is very proud.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

CR Review #52: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Every year after Thanksgiving, we pull out all of the Christmas DVDs we've accumulated over the years for the kids to watch. And we find that we have a good number of variations on A Christmas Carol -- Mickey Mouse, The Muppets, Looney Tunes (no, not recommended), and my personal favorite, Mister Magoo. This year, my 7 year-old (soon to be seen reviewing books for the CBR-IV!) had lots and lots of questions about Ebeneezer Scrooge while watching Mister Magoo work his way through Dickens' story. And I found that I didn't have lots of answers for her, as my Scrooge knowledge was completely based off of movies and cartoons, as I had never read the story. So I ran to my kindle and downloaded in post-haste, and am so glad I did.

By now, most of us know the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and his love of money and hatred for all things Christmas related, so it wasn't the story that was such a delight for me. What made me enjoy the story more than I expected was the writing and the language, plain and simple. The words and language used by Dickens were never less than enjoyable, and in some cases, worth reading over and over.

And now, I can answer my kids' questions...
Was Scrooge an orphan? No.
Why was he alone at school? Why didn't his parents pick him up? According to his sister, their father was just plain mean.
How many children did the Cratchits have? Well, I'm still not completely clear on this least 5...maybe more.
What was the deal with those people who stole Scrooge's bed curtains? They might as well have been graverobbers, they were so disgusting.
Did they really eat razzleberry dressing and woofle jelly cake? No, only in Mister Magoo's story.

Anyway, that's review #52 for me -- a full cannonball. So glad I did this and am looking forward to next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

CR Review #51: Crossed by Ally Condie

Earlier this year, I read Matched, the first in a trilogy of books about a future society where marriage is arranged by "society" and in the instance of Cassia, who is matched with her life-long BFF Xander, a rare mistake is made in her match. Cassia is mistakenly matched with another boy she knows, Ky Markham, but the mistake is corrected and she is matched with Xander. Cassia should be happy, but of course instead, she falls in love with Ky. And at the end of the story (SPOILER), when Ky is taken away from Cassia by society and she decides to risk everything -- her family, her match with Xander, and her status as a citizen -- to find him.

I didn't love Matched, but didn't think it was a terrible story. I assumed I would feel the same way about Crossed, but boy, was I wrong. I could barely get to the end of Crossed, and really, could have cared less what happened to any of the characters (except for young Eli) by the end.

In Crossed, the narration alternates between Ky and Cassia. Every tedious chapter details how they are trying to survive, how much they love each other, and how hard they'll try to be together again. Ky's chapters also talk about how XANDER HAS A SECRET and how he doesn't trust the society rebels who call themselves THE RISING and are led by the mysterious PILOT. Cassia's chapters talk about how much she wants to be a part of THE RISING and can't wait to join them with Ky (who, according to Cassia's new friend, just might be the Pilot).

Its no surprise that Ky and Cassia and their rag-tag group of travelers meet up about halfway through the book, and then they talk and talk and talk and talk about THE RISING and whether or not they should try and join up with them. And Ky and Indie (Cassia's new friend) talk about XANDER'S SECRET.

By the time the end came along and they made their final decision regarding joining THE RISING, I had lost complete and total interest. Honestly, this book could have been condensed into about 10 pages of information about society and the rebels, and used as an introduction to the next book, and we would be no worse off.

I can't say I'll be picking up the next installment.