Thursday, January 29, 2009

Comfortable in my Own Genes by Tamra Norton

Comfortable in my Own Genes by Tamra Norton

Dani has big dreams of being a journalist, and so she joins the newspaper staff in her high school. She didn’t expect to run into Jarret, an old childhood friend that used to live down the street. Yet, his appearance has changed so dramatically that she almost doesn’t recognize him, skinny and fit after years of obesity. She is thrilled when one of her first assignments is to interview Matt, an exchange student from New Zealand. Mr. Beautiful has an accent that makes her insides melt, but she has competition in the form of her beautiful sister Trista. Dani has lived in her more beautiful and popular older sister’s shadow her whole life, and Dani can tell that Matt likes her. During homecoming royalty nominations someone plays a cruel joke on Jarret. Yet, Dani is determined that the joke will be on the pranksters, and she’ll make Jarret into the homecoming King. Teaming up with her popular sister, Dani works to defend her friend, and finds the appeal of “Matt the Beautiful” fading, as she spends more time with Jarret.

I enjoyed this high school fiction read. Though, I felt that some of the dialogue was awkward and forced, especially in a few beginning scenes. Some of the religious aspects are incorporated a little awkwardly, as in they become a little too obvious or preachy. I felt these were more minor flaws as for the most part the characters remained consistent and interesting. The main character Dani narrates in a humorous tone, yet the author still tackles serious themes—obesity, bullies, courage, and self-worth. She really hits a nice balance between being funny, and telling a meaningful story.

I felt that the plot moved forward at a nice pace, and had conflicts that I could really get behind. I found myself hoping that Jarrett would be vindicated, and that Dani would figure out her love life. I also really like how the romantic interest flows in the book because the author creates a good chemistry between them.

Overall, I had a good impression of this book and think that those that are in the Kay Lynn Magnum or Allie Condie camps will enjoy this read also. Though, this book is much more funny, and light.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Brooks has always been shunted from relative to relative since her mother and father died when she was little. While she is living with her critical Aunt, who is ready to send her to work at a boarding house, she receives an invitation from her Uncle Chester. He has left his 360 acre land in Montana too her in his will, if she is willing to come out and claim it. Hattie takes a train after gathering supplies and settles in on the land, but she has to fulfill the requirements to prove the homesteaders claim. Under the big sky in Montana Hattie works hard on her land, and comes to love her neighbors dearly. She’ll have to work hard in order to prove up on her claim, and earn the title of homesteader by herself.

This is a delightful read about a girl who homesteads in Montana. The characters in the small town of Vida are entertaining with their odd advice, habits, and personalities. The book is set during WWI, and since Hattie’s dearest friend is married to a German the book deals with a lot of the prejudice during that time. Though, I felt that this portrayal was one-sided. Sometimes I feel like historical authors try to give a message, but do so without showing the other viewpoint. Even if this viewpoint is selfish, ugly, or unflattering it was still very real. Everyone that is likable in the story has the “correct” view, but all the unlikable characters are evil and have the “bad” view. I find this a simplistic and unrealistic view of both history and human nature, but this is the pet peeve of a history major so take it for what you will. It really shouldn’t bother me so much, and I’m sort of irrational when it comes to this sort of thing.

Despite my crazy history view I really enjoyed this novel overall, though it did have a few plot things that bugged me, where the author picked up a detail and then dropped it later on in the plot when the action started. For example, say a boy goes back to his locker to get his book, and then runs into a big fight in the hall and a bunch of stuff happens, and the boy doesn’t get the book. Yet, it isn’t mentioned later that he needed the book when he finally got back to class or that he even realized he forgot the book later. Yeah, it really bugs me when authors leave out those type of little details assuming the reader is going to forget/not mind that the thread was dropped. I also thing that this is a little on the irrational side of as far as annoyances go.

From the length of my annoyances and critiques you would think that I wouldn’t recommend this book, but I think it is an entertaining story, with fun characters. If you don’t pick apart stuff when you read like I apparently do then you should try out the book because it is a fun, cozy, clean read. I also really liked the ending, though most people won’t. Maybe it is because my life hasn’t turned out perfect the last year or so either, and I could relate to the character’s experience, and even heartache when plans don't work out the way you expected them to. So, if the book sounds interesting go and read it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.

My dear husband gave this book to me for my Christmas present and I was so excited. I really love Harry Potter, and so wanted to read this little book. This little book contains five wizarding fairy tales that fit in with the Harry Potter universe—“The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump,” and “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” The last of which features prominently in the plot of book seven. The stories are fun and charming to read all in themselves. Yet, to add some fun to the mix J.K. Rowling has included commentary written by Albus Dumbledore at the end of every story.

His comments range between thought provoking insights, hilarious observations, and historical information and background on the wizarding world. Harry Potter fans will finally be happy to learn the difference between an animagus and merely transfiguring oneself into an animal. The reason behind Lucius Malfoy’s stubborn persistence to remove Dumbledore from his headmaster position at Hogwarts is also revealed. As well as other interesting anecdotes on the wizarding world that Rowling has created. She even draws the pictures! They are pretty decent too; I’m impressed.

This is a fun little book to read, and I would recommend it to all Harry Potter fans. Though I’m sure some non-fans will enjoy it too. The profits from this book all go to a charity organization that helps abandoned European children find homes

Author's website:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Eyes of a Stranger by Rachel Ann Nunes

Eyes of a Stranger by Rachel Ann Nunes

As Tawnia McKnight drives into Portland, leaving behind her boyfriend Bret Winn and her old job, she narrowly avoids a tragedy. One of the main bridges leading into the city collapses, injuring and killing many people. The tragedy leads Bret, a bridge engineer, back into her life, but while investigating the cause of the bridge collapse he finds a woman standing at the water’s edge that has the same strange eyes as Tawnia, and mistakes them to be the same person at first.

This woman, Autumn Rain, has lost her father in the bridge collapse and needs help getting back on her feet. Tawnia takes her under her wing, but they are so similar that she wonders about her mysterious adoption, especially since Autumn was adopted also. Autumn shows an interest in Bret, and Tawnia’s feelings are torn between her attraction to Bret, and a new handsome firefighter that saved Autumn during the bridge collapse. Yet, the situation turns dangerous when they discover that the bridge disaster was not caused by structural weaknesses, but by explosives.

I enjoyed reading this book, and the multiple plot lines that the author threaded through the story. I also liked how the author cleverly got her characters to be in the same place at the same time without it seeming too easy, and believable. I’m not sure what else to say about the book, but I like Nunes because she always puts out a good product. I wish for more character depth sometimes (like I do the majority of the time), but she always has interesting conflicts and plots. Plus, I always feel that she is one of the less melodramatic romance authors in the market, and that is refreshing. So, in short I liked it, but it won't be on my favorites list.