smith-jones - Reviews

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The Age of Miracles
The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 5/26/2013


What a depressing read, I wanted so badly to like it but the story didn't develop well. I waited and waited for something else to happen after all Earth is dying. I am left depressed and looking for a better way to end the book. The elements were there, good Sci Fi, very likeable characters so I don't know why it disappointed me so badly. I removed it from my wish list.


Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, Bk 1)
Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, Bk 1)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 193
Review Date: 7/27/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This story surprised me with its concept of a totalitarian government taking over the lives and choices of its citizens, although the restrictions applied to everybody, the affluent citizens had more flexibility and a wide range of privileges.

The regulations on population control were hard to accept, to be mandated to have only two children is a concept that in our democratic society is hard to envision.

It reminded me a bit of The Giver in the sense that a set parents was only allowed to have two children. In this very regimented and controlled society a third child was considered illegal and said child if discovered would be put to death. This story of Luke, a third child who lives among the hidden and in the shadows of his own house.

The plot has adventure, suspense, danger, contrasting role models and loss. The characters possess courage and cowardice, hope and lack of it, very contrasting.

This is also the story of two very different hidden children, a farmer boy and a girl born to privilege, that although grow in very separate social scales, have that one thing in common that makes them unite and form a friendship that makes them risk being discovered, they are both a third child.

My 11yr. old son read it before me and he found it very interesting. He recommended it to me and I'm glad I read it.


The Angel's Game (Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Bk 2)
Review Date: 11/14/2013


I am reading a library loaner and so far I'm enjoying this book, the story is enthralling. I woke up in the middle of the night this week, I grabbed the book hoping it would put me to sleep and it kept me reading until it was time to get up for work. (On page 110 of 531, 11/14/2013).

I will update my rating when I am done.


Bared to You (Crossfire, Bk 1)
Bared to You (Crossfire, Bk 1)
Author: Sylvia Day
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 185
Review Date: 10/21/2013
Helpful Score: 1


Not my cup of tea. I couldn't stand the vulgarity. I wasn't impressed at all.


The Best of John Bellairs: The House with a Clock in Its Walls / The Figure in the Shadows / The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring
Review Date: 10/22/2011
Helpful Score: 1


This tittle contains three stories in one. This review is based on the first story The House with a Clock.

This turned out to be a warm and fun book full of magic and mystery and the battle of four wizards in search for a mysterious clock hidden between the walls of an old house. The house becomes the new home of recently orphaned 10 year old Lewis who is now living with his uncle Jonathan -a bachelor- who has this wacky neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman.

During the first days of Lewis' living with his uncle, Lewis learns Jonathan is a parlor magician and that he is a pretty eccentric one. Both uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are wizards but young Lewis doesn't know that yet. He just knows that at night they act strangely and that the house comes alive with a constant tick tock noise emanating through the walls.

The mysterious clock is heard through the walls of this house but only one wizard knows why its ticking increases with time as if forecasting something bad about to explode.

The one wizard who hid the clock knows of it and where it is but that wizard is dead and trapped in his tomb. He cannot get out unless somebody releases him or his dead wife.

It is a book for middle school children, surprisingly well written and with an excellent story line with warm and compassionate characters. It deals with a young boy trying to fit in in a new city, new school with its own bullies and a new set of family members wacky and all.

By the way, 10 year old Lewis is very well loved and cared for by uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman the neighboring wizard.
__________________


Best of the Best Appetizers Recipes (Favorite Brand Name Recipes)
Best of the Best Appetizers Recipes (Favorite Brand Name Recipes)
Book Type: Spiral-bound
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/27/2012


This book is awesome, the recipes and their ingredients are not so exotic that one has to do a special shopping trip to the local ethnic market. The glossy finish, the mouth watering photographs are very attractive and encouraging. Anybody can put this appetizers together, they are very easy.

This edition comes in a hardcover with pages bound in a spiral style.


Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 48
Review Date: 12/21/2012


I'm half way through Between Shades of Gray and I'm having a hard time emotionally going through it. It's an excellent book though, I think I can finish it but my heart aches with every page I read.

This book is great, when I started reading it I didn't think I could go through with it; it made me cry with every page I turned. I thought I would give it 3 stars but the more I read and hung on, my rating increased. Yes, it's hard to read about the horrors inflicted upon others but it's a story that needs to be told again and again so we don't forget how privileged we are to have the freedoms we enjoy today. I gave it 5 stars. At the end I thought the author was going to leave me hanging not knowing whether Lina and her little brother would ever be freed or die frozen in that Siberian forced labor camp. Not knowing is the worst. Have plenty of tissues handy, you are going to need them but it is worth it.


Breaking Stalin's Nose
Breaking Stalin's Nose
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.6/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 7/16/2014


This isn't a long and complicated story about the origins of conmunism, it's a story narrated from the point of view of a very young boy whose view of the society he lives in change as a result of loss of his parents and a series of unfortunate events that force him to revise the way he views a regime he swears to protect and love.

The story doesn't even provide a proper end but I didn't mind it at all. The open end of the plot invokes a family or group read discussion with the reader about what would happen to young Sasha and his beliefs in a society that he loves and trusts, the communist one.

The graphite illustrations are beautifully done and I commend the author for this, his first book.


The Cat Who Went to Heaven
The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Author: Elizabeth Coatsworth
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.9/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 3/26/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This story is about a poor painter, his housekeeper, and a cat. The cat joined the household when the housekeeper instead of spending the painterss last coins on food, she purchased a small tri-colored cat, a symbol of good fortune, in its stead.

The painter was not happy about his housekeepers decision which meant both of them would go hungry for some time but this was not an ordinary feline; this cat named Good Fortune- with her kindness and extraordinary good manners wins the painters affection.

Not long after the arrival of Good Fortune, the painter is chosen you have to read the story to learn how his name was chosen- and gets a contract to paint Buddha at his death and all the animals that came to pay their respects -except for the only animal the cat- that refused to honor Buddha and hence denied an afterlife.

Remember, this artist now owns a cat and this is the only animal that didn't listen to Buddha's teaching, which saddened the cat in the story. As the artist immerses himself in the life of Buddha through daily meditations and as he receives the final inspiration for the painting, the cat has been next to him all along, patiently absorbing the visions.

Good Fortune wishes to be included in the parade of animals but the artist knowing that cats ignored Buddha now must make a decision about the inclusion of a cats image on the silk. His decision may decide his fortune or his demise as an artist.

I wont say much for fear of spoiling the story but I can tell you that I was crying by the end of the story. I asked my 9yr. old how he felt about how the story ended and he said: Im glad Good Fortune found a loving owner who didnt mind sharing food with her and that the artist chose to follow his heart and that Buddha and the cat made peace.


The Cat Who Went to Heaven
The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Author: Elizabeth Coatsworth
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 10/24/2010


This story is about a poor painter, his housekeeper, and a cat. The cat joined the household when the housekeeper instead of spending the painterss last coins on food, she purchased a small tri-colored cat, a symbol of good fortune, in its stead.

The painter was not happy about his housekeepers decision which meant both of them would go hungry for some time but this was not an ordinary feline; this cat named Good Fortune- with her kindness and extraordinary good manners wins the painters affection.

Not long after the arrival of Good Fortune, the painter is chosen you have to read the story to learn how his name was chosen- and gets a contract to paint Buddha at his death and all the animals that came to pay their respects -except for the only animal the cat- that refused to honor Buddha and hence denied an afterlife.

Remember, this artist now owns a cat and this is the only animal that didn't listen to Buddha's teaching, which saddened the cat in the story. As the artist immerses himself in the life of Buddha through daily meditations and as he receives the final inspiration for the painting, the cat has been next to him all along, patiently absorbing the visions.

Good Fortune wishes to be included in the parade of animals but the artist knowing that cats ignored Buddha now must make a decision about the inclusion of a cats image on the silk. His decision may decide his fortune or his demise as an artist.

I wont say much for fear of spoiling the story but I can tell you that I was crying by the end of the story. I asked my 9yr. old how he felt about how the story ended and he said: Im glad Good Fortune found a loving owner who didnt mind sharing food with her and that the artist chose to follow his heart and that Buddha and the cat made peace.


The Chaperone
The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 45
Review Date: 3/23/2013


I debated whether to give the book 3 or 4 stars. I was set on 3 but then changed my mind. I like a well tidied up conclusion and the story ended very satisfyingly.

Now, going back to the story, I loved Coras character and her beginnings had me turning the pages very fast, I wanted to learn what would become of her life after she was placed out.

I enjoyed the description of the times she lived and I could see and feel the tight moral atmosphere of the era. That was well done.

I did find it odd how Cora with all of her strict morale and social conventions and beliefs quickly began to adapt to the changing waves of the fast approaching modern times and the wave of economical social upheaval. I found hard to comprehend how that can happen so fast but then I remind myself the book did span her lifetime. I grew up with grandmothers and aunts who were very strict and old fashioned as Cora was and they are still that way sans the corset so I found that interesting.

In the end, I decided for the 4 stars, I am not a book critic nor do I intend to be. I enjoyed the book very much and found it very engaging.


The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie, Bk 7)
The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie, Bk 7)
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 12/15/2013


I found this book #7 boring; there is no other way to put it. I give it a 2-star rating.

I have read and enjoyed all previous books in the series except for this one. I found myself skipping pages, a lot o them, due to the plot being unrelated to the subject at hand, of little value to the enrichment of the story.

One saving grace -no pun intended- was the little drama with Jamie and Prue, I was hoping for some scandalous breach of trust or inappropriate conduct but no, it looked like it and that kept me reading.

When are they finally getting married? This series needs to pick up a bit or I'll give up on it.


Cutting for Stone
Cutting for Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 6/8/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Cutting for Stone is now one of the best books Ive read so far this year. If one is expecting a light easy read, this isnt it. It is very engrossing, complex and filled with medical terms. This book made me fall in love with Addis Ababa and the missionary doctors by the narrative style in which he city and that community was described.

The story is very complex adorned with the political turmoil of Ethiopia back in the times of Emperor Selaisse. The narrative covers the life of the twin brothers since before their conception until their middle age years, it covers secret love, lust, sexual explorations at the early age of 11 and then poverty, cruelty and social unrest happening in Addis Ababa.

Since the first death occurred during Sister Mary Joseph Praise and her nun companions first doomed voyage from India to Ethiopia I knew the book was going to be filled with cruelty, despair and suffering. I was not far from it, I cried so many times but that made me commit to the stories even more. The book deals with forbidden secret love, sacrifice, abandonment, romance, adoptive parents and then the sexual awakenings of the brothers at the tender age of 11.

The strong family ties built by the couple of physicians who raise the twins as their own is a testament of the bonds of love that come from the heart and not from the womb as well as the support of the small community that watched over them.

I found it inspiring how the new family was so dedicated to curing, attending, saving the poor from that neglected and poorly supplied hospital and what the doctors and then the boys as they grew had to do to provide life saving medical procedures to the people.

There are three love stories going on, Dr. Thomas Stone and Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Hemalatha and Gosh and then the twins and the girl who causes the rupture between them and who causes one of them to leave his homeland and the only family he knew for America.

The details of how they fall in love or in lust are not portrayed chronologically but rather disjointed in the way they were presented. This didnt bother me at all; it was as if the missing pieces of each puzzle had to be put together by the reader in that fashion.

Mr. Verghese didnt omit any details, the music and rhythms of the people, the food, the incense, the local customs and religious practices were part of the essence of the story with medicine as the backdrop. The medical terminology did now slow the flow of the stories for me and I loved it.

I would have enjoyed to see Marion fall in love and get married but like his father, he was the type of man who cold only give his heart twice, to his mother and then to the woman solely intended for him.

Read the book, it is worth it and I believe it will stay with you.


The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce, Bk 6)
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce, Bk 6)
Author: Alan Bradley
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 8/3/2014


I am being generous with the 3 stars in my rating since I had hoped the plot would thicken and grow more interesting but it didn't. I found that too many characters had appeared out of the blue e.g. Lena De Luce, Terence Tardiman and Mr. Tallis that I thought felt like an attempt to bring a certain mystery to Harriet's death that was far fetched; after all, Harriet had been nothing but a ghost of the past. I was not impressed, the whole spy theme held no interest to me as it was too far reaching in my opinion. I actually was hoping that Flavia would carry on with her experiment but alas, that was foiled too.

I appreciated the solid character like Dogger, Mrs. Mullet and of course the Colonel, even the sisters were faded here. Flavia was her usual irritating know it all adult chemist male in the body of an 11 yr. old precocious child.

I love Dogger, and I would have loved to read more about his time as a captive, that plot intertwined with Harriet's story, would have been so much more interesting.


With this said, I will paraphrase the quote I loved: "I have tried so damnably hard to leave alone, which seems to me the most precious gift one can bestow upon a child." Colonel Havilland De Luce speaking to his daughter Flavia when informing her of his decision about her future and Buckshaw's.


The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Bk 2)
The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Bk 2)
Author: Carrie Ryan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 39
Review Date: 5/28/2012
Helpful Score: 1


I enjoyed this book #2 more than the first. I found the characters better defined and with a lot more strength and less ambiguity than those of the Forest of Hands and Teeth, including Gabry. Gabry did test my patience but she was much better central role than Mary was in the first book in terms that she did figure out what she wanted, the young man she loved the most and was less self centered about her guilt. Now, this is the part the unnerved me, the feeling guilty for running and leaving her friends behind to get caught or bitten, for being distracted, for being afraid to leave the security of her surroundings. Thankfully, she pulls through all of that in time to muster the strength to do what needs to be done to get Catcher away from the pursuers no the Mudo this time-. You have to read the book to learn about this new group.

The introduction of new scenarios, dangers and horizons beyond the fences were handled very well and I believe that keeping the paths in the forest with their roman numerals sequencing tied it coherently to the first book. I liked that a lot. I still need to dig dipper in the co-relation between Shakespeare's sonnets and the roman numerals marking the paths.

I loved Elias and the mystery surrounding him, Catcher and his newly found physical advantage against the Mudo. "Mudo" by the way is the Spanish word for "Mute", interesting choice of word; enough said.

Read the story, this is a much, much better companion book. I have to read the 3rd. book now to learn how everything unravels.


The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story
The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 5/11/2013
Helpful Score: 1


This is a beautiful story with strong well defined characters. It's is tale of a ghost cat and a 9yr. old girl who died in 1912 and the new tenant's of this old crabby lady who owns the house and the garden where the little girl is heard crying at night. Why is the little girl crying, why does the cat come out at night to the old lady's yard?

It's not until almost 11yr. old Ashley and her Mom move to the upstairs floor of the old lady's house when Ashley and her 7yr. old new neighbor Kristy start playing in the back garden and discover a buried box with a porcelain doll inside it. Whom did this doll belong to? and who wrote the note buried inside with It?

I loved the way the cat was the messenger and the gateway through both worlds and how the author of the note honor a 72yr. old broken promise and mistake.

I cried, the loss and grief everybody is trying to overcome is a bit strong but well handled. My son read this book before I did and I could tell he was into the story when he summed it up for me.

Well done!


Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)
Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.7/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 11/10/2013


I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this. The introduction alone sidetracked me for a week with the Author's mention of what inspired him. All the books he mentioned were unknown to me and all of that history behind how the battle room was conceived in his mind made think whether this book was a good match for me.

It took me only a short weekend to finish the rest of the story and I'm elated I persevered. The story is not a light read but rather very profound and transcendental.

I loved Ender with his duality as a pacifist and a killer -although he didn't know it- He wanted to please those whom he loved and even feared. He made his choice based on love and in the end it paid off.

I some point I didn't believe there was a real war going with the aliens but not other than a plot to unleashed a new military leader to end global war on Earth. I won't say much not to spoil the plot but I was sold on the whole concept when the connection between Ender and the the other specie finally connected.

I loved the story at the end, getting there I was not fully convinced but everything fell into place and I can see the grandness of the vision the Author has of us a race and the means we might employ to stay into existence even if it means children get pushed to the limits beyond those of the adults handling them.


Entwined With You - A Crossfire Novel
Entwined With You - A Crossfire Novel
Author: Sylvia Day
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 6/2/2014


It was fun. I enjoyed the steamy scenes. I have started the next one already.


The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 370
Review Date: 2/16/2013


I started it very early this morning and I'm already past the middle. It's very well written, very expressive and to they point when it comes to the feelings of the cancer patients. I find that extremely honest and refreshing at the same time while piercing one's heart.

I finished it this morning and although it was well written I don't think this is a keeper for me.


Fever (Chemical Garden, Bk 2)
Fever (Chemical Garden, Bk 2)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 8/4/2012


This sequel under whelmed me terribly. The story of Rhine and Gabriel as free individuals in a society that I was hungry to discover through their eyes was not there at all. Sure, there were dangers and new villains but they didn't develop into full characters. Their captivity under Madame Zoleski's reign -how trite is that name? - was full of stereotypes and dullness.

The glimpse of life outside the mansion was lost among the shallow perils and somewhat predictable dangers that overshadowed what could have been a gripping sequel. Instead, lots of new characters that failed to bring the story forward were distracting for no purpose but to fill the pages with nonsense.

Ryne's new freedom and prospect of love and a new future was wasted, even Rowan -or at least the mention of his absence- her twin brother wasn't enough. This story should have given more to the cause. Why drag on and on about the nightmares, and the dream sequences, why not take Rhine's and Gabriel feelings to the next level? And Gabriel, his character should have been developed; instead, he was faded, abandoned without a follow up.

Let me not even gripe about the way the book concluded, with Rhyne still back where she started as if the pages quota had been reached and somebody yelled "pen down, stop where ever you are!"

I don't know if I'll read the 3rd. book Sever. If Sever Bk. 3 is going to end up like Fever, I have better books waiting for me.


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