Jemima J: A Novel


This book was fine as a story, but I don't like the message it sends about our bodies. ***Spoilers*** Jemima is this overweight girl whose life is falling apart. She can't get the job; she can't get the guy. In a sudden flash of commitment, she decides to lose the weight. Suddenly, she's thin and bordering on happy. At the end of the novel, we see the previously overweight Jemima suddenly getting too thin and being told to gain weight and work out less. So, she eventually does. She finds her happy medium weight and her perfect job and her gorgeous guy. Ummm...Jane Green, if you think that by making your now skinny and happy heroine gain 5 pounds at the end of the novel you have redeemed this book from it's status as just another piece of media that tells us we have to be thin to be happy, you are terribly, terribly wrong. Your message is even worse than that! We have to be a certain kind of thin. Thin but not too much so! This reminds me of a comment made by a friend of mine who had previously struggled with anorexia. She said, 'Well, it's confusing to be a person with anorexia in this culture because you are losing weight and people are telling you how great you look, and then, suddenly, you're too thin and people are telling you to get help and to gain weight and that you are looking ill and you are not able to see the difference between the weight where they said you looked great and the one where they say you look ill.' I just can't support this book's message.
Finding Noel: A Novel


This is the Evans I am used to--an uplifting (ultimately) Christmas story with just a hint of sorrow to keep it going. Fictional junk food, but Evans at least completes this short novel in one book, so that is an improvement on The Walk.
Twenties Girl: A Novel


I swear that Kinsella/Wickham just keeps rewriting her previous novels! Twenties Girl features the same ditzy but lovable heroine and the same stoic but kind love interest that we have seen in many other Kinsella novels. To me, Lara could just as easy be Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series, which would make sense because Ed is pretty much Luke as well. I do not remember the name of the female lead in Undomestic Goddess, but she is also very similar to Lara/Becky. Even the family members are the same--the anxious mother, the slightly removed father who is never quite sure what is going on around him.

Kinsella does have stock characters, but they are good ones. The heroines' behavior is cringe-worthy at times, and thus both hilarious and familiar to readers. The heroes are dashing and attractive and infallibly very rich with short, American names and short, American personalities. For "chick lit," the tales are entertaining.

What saved this book for me was Sadie herself, the real twenties girl. Sadie's character clearly drew the vast majority of Kinsella's attention. Sadie is complex, with unpredictable emotions and an incredibly dense history. She makes Lara look like stale bread. If Kinsella could have done with the other characters what she did with Sadie, this book would have been spot on. Maybe next time!
The Lost Symbol


A page turner, as always with Brown. However, this novel's ending dissolves into trite, predictable twists and general truisms that don't live up to the exacting detail and precise construction of its beginning. Overall: disappointing.

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In "Forbidden," Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee create a reeling dystopia in which every emotion, except fear, has been removed from the human mind. The agent of this removal is Legion, a virus released on the heels of a philosophical reawakening that emphasized the importance of unity, order, and restraint. As with many of Dekker's novels, then, the premise is an odd balance of the technological and the metaphysical. Throughout most of the novel, Dekker and Lee maintain this balance, but by the end of the story, details are toppling every which way as the authors scramble to reach their desired outcome, the establishment of Jonathan as Sovereign, without sacrificing Feyn, the previous Sovereign-to-be. Achieving said goal requires Dekker and Lee to write in a false murder, several complicated life-support systems, a band of nomads, and a subterranean dungeon housing an army in stasis. The novel's conclusion seems to be largely Dekker's work.

Other than the rushing chaos at the end of the novel (an appropriate description as the book describes humanity's rise from the Age of Chaos), "Forbidden" reads as a convincing and fast-paced dystopian drama. The novel's strongest writing appears when Dekker and Lee describe character's conversions and resulting emotions. The authors describe emotions rolling in, one after another, love and fear and pain and loss, and they make the reader believe that this cacophony exists, which is no small accomplishment.

While he certainly tends toward extremes, Dekker writes stories that capture readers' attention and always chooses co-authors who somehow temper his sometimes overstated plot lines. "Forbidden" is no exception to this rule, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy fiction, dystopian stories, or other Dekker or Lee novels.
Lost December: A Novel


This was fine...It isn't going to win any awards, but it also didn't infuriate me like Miles to Go. So, all in all, it was okay.


In my opinion, this is much better than Uglies. I think that the issues Westerfeld is dealing with are relevant to teens and adults alike, whereas Uglies was a little more about problems teens run into--acceptance, finding your place in adulthood, that sort of thing. Pretties asks us the classic dystopian questions--is self-awareness necessary to happiness? Is pain necessary to happiness? These are important things for all of us to consider, but especially teenagers, who experience so much angst and have to make choices every single day that determine the rest of their lives. At 16,17 18, they are deciding who they want to become, and this book is modeling that for them. I enjoyed reading this one.
What the Family Needed


I found this novel really compelling--Amsterdam made me care about each member of this magically gifted family, from the constantly confused Alek to the erudite Giordana. However, the book takes on a large project in attempting to tell the story of an entire family, over three generations, in under 300 pages. As a result, I sometimes felt like the story lacked resolution. I don't need perfectly tied-up endings, but a bit more clarity would have improved the story for me.


I guess I am on a dystopian kick...not sure if that says more about me or about the current young adult fiction market... Anyway, this book is a bit slow and a bit long for what it is until it gets to, say, the last fifty pages or so. Then, the story rockets off before crashing blindly to its end. I am big on thorough resolution, so this is a pet peeve of mine.

I feel like the end of this book was written the way it was solely to pave the way for the sequel. I have zero issues with series. I do, however, have issues with books that are written just to write more books. Each story should be complete, freestanding. Of course, not everything can be resolved. I understand that fact, but I resent the purposeful condensing of the end of the story because the good stuff is all being saved for the next book. Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series is guilty of this same crime of authorship, though the worst offender, in my opinion, is Richard Paul Evans' The Walk. I understand that with the publishing industry in the shape it's in, there are economic necessities, but I remain annoyed.

The premise of the novel, that the world has created an operation to eliminate love (deliria nervosa) from its citizens is far-fetched but thought-provoking. And, almost all dystopian novels have some pretty crazy premises. The Hunger Games--fighting children in a ring. The Uglies series--operations to make someone beautiful. I mean, really, it's in keeping with most of the genre. That being said, Oliver isn't exactly subtle. For me, the operation was reminiscent of The Giver except that Louis Lowry's amazing work blows Oliver out of the water, all while using subtlety. Clearly, Oliver wants to explore a world without love, but she puts too blunt of a point on it. She cudgels us with it when she is clearly capable of so much more (or so much less, perhaps!). The tiny excerpts from "cultural materials" at the beginning of each chapter show that Oliver can think of the tiny details, can slowly twist our current world into something ugly and cold and loveless while leaving these little familiar pieces for us to recognize. So, why, why, why does she use an operation featuring cutting your brain apart and young girls launching themselves off lab roofs to make her point? It's too extreme, and it takes away our ability to relate to the dystopia, to see it as possible and to fear it, which is, I am pretty sure, the point of the genre. Essentially, Oliver wants to explore a world without love and she pretty much stamps that on the first page of the novel through the discussion of the operation. Really, give the readers a job--make them work a bit--don't create one side that is clearly evil and one that is clearly good, liberated, and free. The world isn't, and will never be, like that. This is the difference between the nuanced dystopias of Lowry or (at times) Collins and that of Oliver.

In a related vein, I felt that, because Oliver was so painfully clear about whose side we should be on, I spent three-quarters of the novel waiting on stupid, cattle-like Lena to catch on. I started to actually resent her for her boundless stupidity. I understand I was supposed to relate to her confusion, but how could I do that when Oliver had already given me all of the answers--told me who to sympathize with without exception? Oliver squashed her own world and her own protagonist with a heavy hand.

Now, on the positive side--Delirium, though long, was still a page turner for me. Oliver is an excellent writer, the kind who paints images with words in a way that makes you realize she has true talent. She is especially gifted when it comes to portraying Alex. Oddly, when I think of this book, I think of all her vivid descriptions of oranges and yellows and coppers--the autumn hues she uses to describe all of Alex, the sun on the water, the sunset, the fire at the end of the book. Oliver is absolutely a talented writer, in that sense. She has the way with words that anyone who is writing novels needs. Also, she really did make me care about Alex, probably because she kept telling me how beautiful and good and pure he was. I should have been immune to that sort of overkill, but she described him so beautifully that she hooked me on this part of the story.

In the end, I would be willing to try another book from her, preferably in a different genre. I am just not sure dystopia is right for her, whether or not it's trending right now.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


I have read most of these stories before, but not all of them. So, I finally just sat down and read the whole volume. They are all excellent, of course, but I was particularly fond of "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," which I found to be the most modern of them all as well as the most exciting. It's hard to go wrong with Holmes.