2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J. D. Robb


I had read another J. D. Robb book earlier this year and had picked up Naked in Death after reading the Strangers in Death. I had greatly enjoyed Strangers in Death and wanted to start the series from the beginning. I hadn’t actually got around to reading until now.

I was blown away. There’s not other way to describe it. I thought the other book was great, but this was fantastic. It was the perfect book to start a series. I opens with Lieutenant Eve Dallas being assigned to the murder investigation of a high-class, high connected licensed companion. This murder is the first in a series of similar murders, creating issues and road blocks for Eve at every step. The murders are committed by the use of firearms – something that has been banned for the past 30 years in the book. This leads to the investigation of people who both knew the woman and has a registered firearm collection. Hence she meet Roarke. Roarke is a force of nature, a billionaire businessman that radiates power and danger. Eve with her standoff, aloof attitude surprises everyone by getting involved with him – something highly unusual for her. The romantic connect causes even more tangles that Eve has to wade through and a fine line she has to walk. Roarke has her questioning multiple aspects of her life, particularly her instincts about who she can rely on.

The murders lead Eve in multiple different circles as the following murders involve different types of women. Eve meets multiple different characters and people that later help influence the case and help solve the mysteries. Her instincts guide her even when the evidence is pointing in other directions. In the end, Eve has to face part of her past as she brings justice back for the victims.

The writing of this book was fantastic. The unfolding of the story was flawless and the twists and turns it took were seamless while at the same time being surprising. I am so glad I read this. It is a great example of murder mystery and romantic suspense rolled up into one book. I look forward to reading more of the series and getting to know Eve and Roarke better. Anyone looking for a new romantic suspense or mystery series should definitely try this one out. It is somewhat graphic, but no more so than any of the police tv shows currently on television.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Lazarillo de Tormes


I actually had read this book before. I was a Spanish major in college and I had to do a report on this book for my Spanish literature class. Of course that time it was in Spanish. I greatly enjoyed reading it in English. It was actually better than I remember. I’m not saying its fantastic and I’ll read it all the time, but an occasional read may once a year of so it would be good for.

It is a surprisingly short read, only seven chapters long (about 60 pages). The story follows a boy named Lazaro de Tormes (Lazarillo is his nickname) as he writes a letter to “Your Honour” about his life before ending up being the town-crier for the church in Toledo, Spain. Each chapter covers a different master he served. The first is a rather evil blind beggar he is employed by to help move from city to city and to run errands. The second is a stingy priest who almost starves him to death. The third is a rather nice country squire who actually turns out to be more poor than Lazarillo himself. Lazarillo actually goes back to begging for the both of them to earn food and money. Next is another priest, not quite as bad as his previous matters, but does too much traveling for Lazarillo. The fifth master was another clergyman, this one a trickster who sold “Papal Indulgences” that would guarantee a place in heaven. Lazarillo leaves him as well. He ends up in Toledo working for a priest by leading a water mule around town and selling water.

Through each episode of his servitude, you hear the tricks and scams the masters played in order to get money. The majority of the time, Lazarillo is either denied food or given very little so his master can save money. You learn his struggle with hunger and poverty and feel for his pain. You seem him try to stay true to his faith and not become an evil person like his masters. He ends up as he wanted – a respectable citizen with some money and a home.

The book is written very simply. It is a very quick, easy read with simple vocabulary and sentence structures. There is not a whole lot of cultural information imparted, but you get a little bit of knowledge about the different classes and what is expected. The country squire Lazarillo serves actually shares the most about expectations and the reality of gentlemen during the time. There is also a lot of scheming in the church by the priests.

I wouldn’t recommend this to just anyone. It is definitely a book you would go looking for instead of just picking it up and reading it. It would be quite boring to a lot of people. I like it for its simplicity and its contribution to Spanish literature. If you are looking for an educational read, a small biography of hard times, this is the book for you.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Seriously Mum, Where’s that Donkey? by Alan Parks


I don’t know why, but I did not like this book as much as the first book of his. Mostly, it was a telling of the events of the next few years of the Parks living in Spain and raising their alpacas. You actually don’t hear a whole lot about the alpacas, they are only the focus of about two or three chapters in the book. However, life is not dull at the Olive Mill. Spanish bingo, camera crews, travelers, stray dogs, and numerous animals fill the pages here. The tightness of their finances is a prevalent theme throughout, describing their various endeavors to earn more money. Lorna goes back to teaching dance, they rent out rooms to travelers, and think of different ways to save money.

You do meet a lot of new characters. I liked learning about the different people because you got to see a variety of cultural differences and personality types. Meeting neighbors, a new alpaca breeder, and various random encounters lead to new friendships and events. They try out Spanish lessons (they don’t go well) and learn where to take the stray dogs that turn up all the time. Lorna gains a following of local women as the local Zumba instructor. They join with other alpaca breeders to show animals in the local farm shows. They attend more of the local festivals than they have done in previous years and provide descriptions.

I’m not entirely sure why, but this book just had more of a serious feel to it. The events and things that took place didn’t get the humorous light they did in the first book. Also, there were more sad events and hard times than in the first book. His writing style was the same and I liked the candid way he describes everything, however, I don’t think I will be reading this book again though.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


The first thing that surprised me about this book was the time period it was set in. Usually “classics” are set in times before 1900/1910. This book actually takes place in the thirties, after the invention of cars, telephones, and general connection to electricity. It had a faint Gatsby type quality to it. The second thing that surprised me was that the narrator never gave her name. Throughout the book she is not addressed directly, except as “Mrs. de Winter” after she is married. It was quite interesting for some reason.

The narrator is a young woman you first me working as a companion to an American woman in Monte Carlo. There she meets Maximillian de Winter, a recent widower. The two have a very fast courtship and marry within the month. The return to Manderley, his well-known estate house. As the narrator settles in to married life (and during her courtship), she becomes aware that any reference to Maxim’s first wife Rebecca causing great tension within him. He doesn’t like to talk about her or hear her mentioned. At the house, she feels the anger of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who resents her taking Rebecca’s place. The narrator feels a constant competition going on between herself and the deceased Rebecca. This causes much heartache, pain, and tension through the first half of the book. Everything comes to a head at the Fancy Dress Ball that is held in her honor. Afterwards, you learn a great deal more about the drama that unfolded at the house before her arrival and the previous Mrs. de Winter’s death. The twists and turns the story takes at this point are quite fascinating and you really get to know and like several characters.

As I read it, I could see how it was considered a classic. The story line was quite interesting, but took it a step further by adding twists and turns one never saw coming. It takes a while though to really get into it. I had a feeling like I was reading Wuthering Heights for a while, where you hate (actually feel rage and hate) toward many of the characters in the book. It gives the impression of a twisted love story for a while. After the Fancy Dress Ball there is a marked change in numerous characters that improves the story greatly for the better. You let out a sigh of relief when you discover the different truths scattered throughout Manderley and with the de Winter household. I have trouble deciding whether or not I like the book actually. I really despised the beginning, actually wanted to stop reading it, but my husband assured me it was well worth it to finish. He was quite right. I was glad I finished it, not exactly happy about the way it ended, sort of a cliff hanger, but it ended strong. I chose to go with 4 cheese bits instead of 3 for my rating because I would read it again if I was looking for an interesting, non-traditional story.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) by J. K. Rowling


Another winner by J. K. Rowling. This book again was very in-depth and strongly emotional. It seamlessly continues the story of Harry Potter as he ends the summer and begins his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

At the end of the summer, Harry is invited to the Weasleys’ house to attend the Quidditch World Cup being held in England for the first time in a number of years. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are impressed by the game and are eager to talk about it afterwards. However, terror reigns in the camps around the arena as Death Eaters enter and begin to torture muggles. The Dark Mark appears in the sky and everyone scatters. No one knows what to make of it and people leave the game feeling very uneasy.

At school, they announce the Triwizard Tournament will be held at Hogwarts, inviting two other schools to join them on the Hogwarts campus. The tournament is known for its deadly tasks, and there is an age limit for those who can sign up to enter. Somehow, Harry’s name is entered and selected, making him the second champion from Hogwarts which has never happened before. Throughout the school year, the champions participate in three deadly tasks to show their skills and bring glory to their school. The champions are Fleur Delacoure, Viktor Krum, Harry, and Cedric Diggory. There is a lot of division within Hogwarts about who to support – Cedric or Harry. There is also a lot of strain placed on the friendships that are present throughout the book. A journalist is constantly digging up gossip on the people at Hogwarts causing additional problems, as well as strange goings on at the Ministry of Magic. In the end, Harry finally comes face to face with Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and the truth about the past and who he is meant to be.

You can see the students growing into teenagers. There are several themes present that were there before. Lust, attraction, jealousy, poverty, and mistrust begin to develop in this book. The characters are rounding out well and you are really getting to know what they are truly like deep down. You learn who supports Voldemort and who doesn’t. You get a lot of the backstory of what happened as the reign of Voldemort ended and how it is impacting the things going on in the book. Everything is starting to get tied together. Sirius Black begins to get woven in to the story and you learn more about Severus Snape. Dumbledore as well begins to show some of his history and power. It is quite a heartwrenching book. The emotions run so strongly throughout you are constantly being pulled in different directions on who to side with. I actually would have loved to see part of this book told from Hermione’s point of view. She is becoming quite an interesting character. As a woman, I would be interested to see how she viewed everything and what she was feeling and going through at different points in this book. I understand why the book has to be told from Harry’s point of view, but it would be interesting to see.

I would not recommend this book to anyone under seventh grade. The themes, the characters, and the darkness of the story line are too advanced for someone of younger years. However, as an adult reader I felt I could much more easily relate to this book as the characters are starting to grow up and see the world through the eyes of an adult. I had trouble deciding whether to rate this book with a 4 or a 5. I went with a four only because I am hoping the next books are even better.

My rating:

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