Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

So, with the craziness of everything, December has been a bad month for blogging for me. Sorry! Anyhow, I know it's already after Christmas, but I'm still in the Christmas spirit, and since I didn't get the opportunity to post at least one Christmas review before Christmas, it's happening now. Enjoy!

Title: The Paper Bag Christmas

Author: Kevin Alan Milne


Who Should Read It?
All lovers of Christmas! This story is adorable, heart-warming, and Christmas perfect!

What I Have to Say:
This is one of those stories that is meant to be read while holding a steaming mug of hot chocolate and curled up on a comfortable couch in front of the fireplace.

Mo(lar) and Aaron Alan are two ordinary boys who, thanks to a little trick played by their father, which starts with them deflating the legs of an apparently legless father and ends with them volunteering in the children's ward of a hospital for the Christmas season, have the opportunity to experience their first "real" Christmas at a very young age. They learn to see past the commercialization (don't we all need to do that) and discover the true spirit of Christmas, of giving, of love, and of acceptance.

Both Alan and Molar are charged with befriending some of the more difficult patients, and their charges end up touching their lives in an extraordinary way, as was forseen by Dr. Ringle. Dr. Ringle is the doctor in the children's ward, and if you ask me, there's no doubt in my mind that he's the real Santa Clause. What's so beautiful about this story, though, is that as the children grow and begin to learn the true spirit of Christmas, they help the patients learn to accept their terminal illnesses and see that, no matter what your position in life, friendship is priceless.

It's hard to say more about the book than that without giving anything away. This is a short, cute book that really helps the reader to remember the importance of Christmas and the joy of giving while expecting nothing in return. It reminds us, as cheesy as this is to say, of the true Spirit of Christmas. If you love Christmas, read this - I promise you won't be disappointed.

Summary:Dr. Christopher Ringle is the last person you'd expect to find moonlighting as Santa Claus at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. But it is there that he meets a young man named Molar Alan, who desperately needs a new perspective on the underlying value of Christmas. Dr. Ringle recruits Mo and his older brother as volunteers at a nearby children's hospital for the holiday season. At the hospital, Mo is tasked to help bring holiday cheer to the young cancer patients on the fifth floor. His biggest challenge is befriending a decidedly angry girl who is so embarrassed by her scarred appearance that she hides her face behind the safety of a paper bag. Almost in spite of himself, Mo finds that Christmas joy emanates from a source far greater than the North Pole, while the young girl learns that she is more beautiful than she had ever imagined.

Cover Story: The cover of the book that I read, which is the small Amazon one by the summary, is adorable. It's so Christmasy and wonderful and fits the book perfectly. The other one I find to be a bit plain.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Shadow of the Sun (Timeless #1) by Laura Kreitzer

Title: Shadow of the Sun (Timeless #1)

Author: Laura Kreitzer


Who Should Read It?
This is a great book for those that love teen fantasy about angels. It's creatively written and filled with new, interesting ideas about well-known supernatural beings!

What I Have to Say:
I'm going to be totally honest - over 100 pages in, and I was STILL thinking that I wasn't going to like this book. The writing seemed wordy and unprofessional, the story seemed underdeveloped while at the same time seeming overly detailed, and the characters and plot held no interest for me. I didn't like the characters, and I especially didn't like the writing style. I genuinely believed that this book had no way of redeeming itself.

And then something clicked. I don't know what happened, but suddenly everything fell into place, and I just couldn't get enough of Shadow of the Sun. It took me nearly two weeks to read the first 100 pages, and then I polished off the last 300 in about 3 days. While, stylistically, the book never became something to rave about, the author did seem to finally fall into her groove. And the story of Gabriella, a lab technician researching the supernatural, and the angels she discovers, became fast-paced, exciting, and somewhat twisted. Gabriella is strong, strong-willed, extraordinarily intelligent, and fierce, and I couldn't help but get the feeling that the author put a lot of herself into her. The romance between her and Andrew was steamy and fabulous (and there were times when I was very thankful to Kreitzer for not going into more detail), even if Andrew did slightly frustrate me sometimes.

In Shadow of the Sun, Kreitzer has composed an extraordinarily creative, well-though out (although there was one thing that happened that seemed to slightly contradict itself about which I'd be interested in asking the author) work of teen fantasy. It's light and fun and twisted, and when I was finally able to get into it, I couldn't wait to figure out what would happen next.

So, while this book does start off somewhat slow, if you can stick it out, it does pick up and become absolutely worth it, if you're into teen fantasy involving angels.

Summary:Gabriella's past is a mystery, but that never stopped her from achieving her goals. As a supernatural specialist, and far more intelligent than anyone her age, she has always been ignored by her peers. Because of the isolation she has always felt, she put her life and soul into her job. Being a supernatural specialist hasn't given her the divine intervention she always longed for, until one day a shipment arrives from Italy containing three dead bodies with an uncanny ability to regenerate. Gabriella is frightened and intrigued, but not as scared as she becomes when a dark creature attacks her.
As the bodies come back to life, the plot takes an unexpected twist that you won't see coming. The supernatural world only begins to unfold before her as angels appear, her dreams start to haunt her, and the very past she has forgotten comes back with startling clarity. Romance blooms, escape plans are made, an assassin is out to kill her, and death is only around the corner. But what is more terrifying than all of it is the fact she is the chosen one, the Illuminator, the one who will save them all.

Cover Story: This cover is absolutely stunning and amazing. Everytime I look at it, I want to read the book again!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the author. This in no way affected my review.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arriving Home and Secret Santa

So, as sometimes happens, I completely disappeared from the blogging world last week, and for this, I am sorry. It was the last week of classes before break, and I found myself actually STUDYING for the huge test that I had Wednesday. And then there was a mad rush to say goodbye to everyone and get my things together to come home for Christmas.

Now I am in Louisiana (arrived yesterday afternoon) and jet-lagged to the extreme. But I am excited to be home and to get to spend Christmas with the family.
I'll be a little bit here and there and everywhere over the next month before I head back to Japan, but I'm going to do my best to keep the blog updated and check out all of your blogs as much as possible.

In other news, before I left, I was SO excited to receive a fabulous present from my Secret Santa!
The chocolates and the teddy grahams were vegan (yay!!!!), and they were all devoured on the plane ride home.
My secret santa herself ended up being not so secret, which I was quite happy about. Because that means I can say a HUGE thank you to Simcha of SFF Chat. Thank you, Simcha!
It's especially nice because I feel like Simcha is already a friend, and so I was thrilled that she decided to pick out books not on my list that she thought I would like. I absolutely trust her taste, and the books she picked look FABULOUS! I can't wait to read them when I get back to Japan!
I also got some cute fairy pins, a beautiful bookmark, and an Israel towel. Oh, and a driedel, which I am super excited about, because I have always wanted one.

So yes, it was an asbolutely FABULOUS first gift of the year, and I am thrilled about it!

Now, I'm off to wrap presents, and hopefully you'll have some awesome reviews heading your way soon!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Title: Animal Farm

Author: George Orwell


Who Should Read It? EVERYONE! Seriously! It's witty and funny and brilliantly constructed. More than that, though, it's informative!

What I Have to Say:
Frankly, this book is frightening. And frighteningly awesome. I have vague memories of having read it way back when I was in junior high, but reading it again recently, I had no memories of the actual book itself, so this time around was basically like reading it the first time around. And boy am I glad I did decide to reread it.

So, it starts of seeming like, what is to me, a dream come true. The animals of Manor Farm decide to kick the human off the farm. I've always dreamed about something like this happening somewhere, to show humans that animals really do have feelings and the way we torture them on factory farms, raising them for food, is sickening. Unfortunately, from there it goes downhill (in terms of my dream of what would happen if this actually did happen in life), and what follows is a brilliantly master-minded story that gives us a unique look at the inner-workings of a socialist/communist society.

Sure, with the animals and all, it's fictional, but it's based on truth so much so that, were you to replace the animals with human animals, you would have communist Russia. Orwell's story is told in such a way that, even though you are reading something serious and important, you are absolutely hooked from line one, and you won't want to put it down until you know what happens to the animals of Manor/Animal Farm. Even though, if you know a little something about communism, you probably do.

I think it was absolutely fitting that Orwell used the guise of "pig" for the rulers of his farm. And the sheep, of course, were always the ones to blindly follow. It is scathingly critical in the funniest and most appropriate of ways. Despite the good intentions with which the farm is formed, we see how easily these intentions can change, and how readily the people in charge are willing to brainwash those "less intelligent" in order to gain a little more human comfort. It builds up in such a way, though, that it's almost as if those high up don't even realize what is happening.

Animal Farm is satire at its best, and I could go on for ages about how brilliantly Orwell has parodied communism and given all the best reasons it won't work, but the fact is, the book is short and wonderful, so I think it's best for you to just read it for yourself. So do it! Now! :-)

Summary: Having got rid of their human master, the animals of Manor Farm look forward to a life of freedom and plenty. But as a clever, ruthless elite among them takes control, the other animals find themselves hopelessly ensnared in the old ways. Orwell's chilling story of the betrayal of idealism through tyranny and corruption, is as fresh and relevant today as when it was first published in 1945.

Cover Story: There are a bagazillion different covers to this book, but I'm particularly partial to the cover of the one I recently read, which can be seen at the top. I love the creepy pig with the barbed wire and the pipe!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Things I Love As Much as Books (15)

So, I think it's a given that I love to read. Don't we all?
The thing is, though, there are a TON of other things in my life that I love just as much as reading. Sure, most of these things aren't as constant as reading, but they count just as much in my life when I'm loving them.
SO, I decided to start this weekly feature in which I write a short post about something in my life that I am loving just as much as reading!

I think I've posted about them before, but An Cafe. Just An Cafe. I absolutely love them as much as books. Maybe more. I am SO devestated that, for the time being, they are disbanded, and I'm just glad I had the opportunity to see them live before that happened.

Is the singer, Miku, not just the prettiest man you have ever seen?
Love love love love LOVE!

And that's all for this week!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Title: The Tapestry of Love

Author: Rosy Thornton

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read It? The writing is beautiful, and the descriptions are lovely, so if that's what you need to love a book, check this one out. Especially if you love France!

What I Have to Say:
I've got to be honest - it took me AGES to get into this book. A book like this, I should normally read in three days, and this took me three weeks. I just literally NEVER thought about it when I wasn't reading it, and I could never bring myself to sit still for long enough to ever truly get into it. I never grew to care about the characters, and the intrigue was hard for me to find. I don't know if it was the book's problem or if it was my problem.

In any case, I finally managed to control my jumpy urges and read the last 100 pages in one sitting, and, overall impression, despite the fact that I never really GOT INTO it, persay, I liked it. The intrigue did finally pick up a little bit towards the end, and I was finally able to find a plot. It was quite touching, and while the relationship never felt real to me, and the man in question was not one I would care to know and certainly did not like, it was still quite lovely.

Catherine Parkinson has just sold her old home in England and packed up and moved to rural France, where she plans to start a business as a needle woman. It has its poignant, funny moments, and the occasional moment that is so disturbing I almost wish I would have skipped on reading it. It was pleasantly written with beautiful descriptions that left me with an overwhelming desire to visit Southern France the next time I make my way to France. Thornton really does have a way with descriptions, and her writing style is such that, even though I didn't really love this book, I won't hesitate to read others of her books.

Summary: A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the CĂ©vennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbors, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's sister, Bryony

Cover Story: It's cute, and it fits the book well. I especially love the baguettes in front of the door. Mmmmmmiem, baguettes! Yum!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review by the author. This in no way affected my review.

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