2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I don’t know why, but I really loved it. It is actually quite a sad and depressing story, but it was just so beautifully written and so believable I just like it. I particularly liked the language and vocabulary used by the author. The writing is very eloquent and descriptive. Furthermore, there is a lot of character depth provided to the characters and you feel for everything they are going through.

The book is set in a Puritan settlement of colonial Boston. Mrs. Hester Prin came over from England before her husband in order to prepare a settlement place for them. In a short while she became pregnant, clearly not by her husband. She is imprisoned and her child, little Pearl, is born in her cell. The leaders of the town assign an unusual punishment for her – she must wear a letter A in scarlet on her chest at all times for the rest of her life. She refuses to utter the name of her fellow sinner, the father of her child, and chooses to serve her sentence out peacefully and alone. One the day of her public announcement of shame, her husband appears out of the woods and witnesses her guilt and sentence. He meets with her secretly and tells her she is not to disclose his identity so that he may find and seek revenge upon her lover. The day she is released, Roger Chillingworth, her secret husband, takes up residence as the town doctor. From here, the story follows Hester, Roger Chillingworth, and the Reverend Mister Dimsdale, a public, popular, and dying patient of Roger Chillingworth. You also get to see the growth of Pearl and how she is different from other children because of her behavior and outlook on life.

The story unfolds quickly and never ceases. You get to see the evil in the world, but also the restorative power of repentance. Also, it is a highly religious book, which follows a very precise religion. You may not agree with all the rules and regulations, but you get a clear picture of the world in which these characters are living and how they see themselves in it. There is much self revelation, an example of the power of guilt on a person, and the influence of anger and hatred can have on a person. It is a fabulous rendition of a specific time and way of living that many of us have forgotten. A must read for anyone who likes literature or a good psychological read.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.27.43 PM

Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J. K. Rowling


I can’t say this book was a disappointment, but it definitely was not my favorite. When I finished, I thought to myself that this is an exemplary example of a transition book. It felt designed to segue between to points, before Voldemort and after Voldemort returns. There was a lot of anger, strife, and cruelty in this book, particularly related to Dolores Umbridge. The storyline did progress quite far, however when I was reading it seemed to never end. I don’t know why it seemed to last an obscenely long time, but it just felt like it.

The story opens with Harry fighting off dementors in the small London village where he lives with his aunt and uncle. The Ministry of Magic finds out about his magical defense of himself and his cousin and ends up suspending him from Hogwarts pending a formal hearing. Shortly after, Harry is collected by a few friends to be taken to a secret hideout. The hideout is Sirius’s family home and serves as the base for the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s group of ‘soldiers’ that help to fight Lord Voldemort. Harry is angered that he has been kept in the dark so long and unable to talk to Dumbledore. During his hearing, Dumbledore appears and helps Harry to get the charges dropped. Once at Hogwarts, the estrangement from Dumbledore continues. Furthermore, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who is an agent of the Ministry of Magic, Dolores Umbridge. Throughout the school year, the Ministry exerts more and more power over the school, leading to Dolores Umbridge reviewing and firing teachers, handling all discipline, and eventually taking full control of the school. There is a lot of anger, fear, and abuse that goes on during this school year due to Umbridge. Throughout it all, Harry and his friends try to fight against Voldemort who finds a way to use Harry and his mind to do his bidding, even unintentionally. In order to fight Voldemort, Harry and Hermione set up a secret dark arts defense group that meets and teaches the young members how to perform jinxes and counter curses to better protect themselves. Unfortunately, they end up needing the knowledge at the end of the book, right in time to prove to the world that Voldemort is back.

Like it said, a lot happens in this book but it simply feels like a transitional book. Furthermore, there was no happiness to be found in it. In the other books, there was humor and happy moments to even out the bad, but this book was depressing all through. It does give you the inevitable doom that is prevalent throughout. At the end, you feel just as lost and just as hopeless as the others. I’ve watched the movies, and the other books do not seem much happier, but I want to keep reading just to see what happens to the characters.

You get to see a little bit more of Ginny in this book which I like. I think she and Hermione are my favorite characters. I look forward to seeing more of them in the coming books. Also, I am looking forward to seeing the relationships develop as the characters grow up and fall in love with each other. The relationships between all the characters grow and change in this book. You get to see a wide variety of emotional issues and situations that arise and how the characters travel through these tough times. The story does move along in a way that does not allow for repetition, but constant change and progress. It never really becomes stagnant. It is just really, really long and depressing.

In the end, I think this book needs to be read because it fills in a lot of history and information as well as providing the basis for the coming war. This book is definitely not for younger readers. I would say no one younger than probably 12 or 13. There is abuse, cruelty, death, and terror throughout the book and it will not be suitable for everyone.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM

Book Reviews

Immortal in Death (In Death #3) by J. D. Robb


I thought this was another of the more brilliant books in the series. It starts out with Eve meeting Mavis’s new lover, an upcoming designer named Leonardo. At the meeting, they have a rather violent run in with Leonardo’s ex, a rising star named Pandora. Pandora is later found beaten to death in Leonardo’s study by Mavis, leading to Eve having to arrest her best friend for murder even when she knows she didn’t do it. Shortly after, Officer Peabody refers a case to Eve that has striking similarities to Pandora’s death. After a third similar murder takes place, the book really takes off. It takes a while, but eventually the cases become linked and the narcotics department want to take over. After being forced to work together, the Eve and the narcotics department settle on Eve leading the investigation with the narcotics department helping. With the help of Officer Peabody, Roarke, and Finney, Eve is eventually able to release Mavis. The trail for the real murder is complicated and intricate. All of Pandora’s friends, high level models, actors, producers, and investors, all become suspects. It is difficult to find a link to the highly dangerous new drug that is the motive behind the gruesome murders. The solving of the case was very interesting to read. It took me a while to guess who the actual culprit was.

On the personal side, this is the book where Eve and Roarke get married. It is interesting to see her wading through the preparations for the wedding because it is not usually stuff she handles. Also, a recent case stirs up memories about her past that cause her a lot of stress. She reaches out to Dr. Mira and opens up new memories of her childhood she would rather remain buried. They break free at a point that is helps her connect deeper with Roarke and even Sommerset. You get to know Dr. Mira better this book which I liked. I find her a very interesting character. You also really get to see Eve, the things that make her tick and how she handles emotional relationships. It is done extremely well. It is a great book for see who the characters really are. The whole book is emotionally charged. There were times you felt you heart being torn right along with Eve as she dealt with everything going on in her life and the case.

This probably isn’t the best book to start with if you are just getting into the series, but it definitely is one of the ones that stands out for me. It’d recommend it to anyone who likes murder mystery books or romantic suspense. This one had equal measure of both topics in it. The stories are wound together fantastically. A great read, but be prepared to be emotionally moved.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.27.43 PM

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, 2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

All Through the Night: A Troubleshooters Christmas by Suzanne Brockmann


I actually love this book. This is probably the seventh or eighth time I’ve read it. When I saw I needed to do a book about an LGTB character for my Book Riot challenger I had no clue what to do. For some reason I completely forgot about the Troubleshooters series with a character I love being gay. I luckily remembered it the other day driving to work. I chose to do the book that covers his wedding to his partner (it’ll also count for my book set during Christmas for my Pop Sugar challenge).

Jules Cassidy is a high-level FBI field operative that has planned a strong role in the majority of the Troubleshooters series. He is a fascinating and awesome character. There were several of the books I read just because he was in it. His partner is Robin Chadwick, an actor, recovering alcoholic, and a gay man who came out of the closet in a very big way. The two have had a really rocky relationship, actually no relationship – just a lot of wishful thinking and sex, over the course of I think three or four books. They actually share an ex – Adam Wyndahm. They decide to get married and this book covers the proposal, prep, and ceremony.

Suzanne Brockmann actually does a fantastic job of winding three or more story lines together. There is the main story line – the men getting married, but there are actually two or three secondary story lines that occur. There is a reporter who crashes the engagement party and falls in love with their assistant Dolphina. There story line plays a major role as the reporter is cover the story of the wedding. Third, Adam starts causing trouble with his idea he is being stalked and they are after him and Robin. The three story lines intermix and intertwine effortlessly. There is drama, stress, and emotional upheaval all through the book. Adding to the mess is the President rsvping to the wedding. As Jules and Robin know a lot of Navy SEALS, counterterrorist experts, and have friends in the terrorism field, there are some issues with the President attending the wedding. The final icing on the cake is the renovations the house is under, with people often getting accidentally locked in rooms due to faulty doorknobs.

I think my favorite thing about Suzanne Brockmann’s writing is her phrasing. Some of the way she phrases things is hilarious and I often find myself laughing at how she decides to describe different characters and events. It’s not street slang or anything like that, just crazy good phrasing. Like I mentioned before as well, she intertwines multiple story lines in an effortless way that keeps you engaged throughout the entire book. I didn’t give this book a five only because I’ve read her other works and I know she does a lot more complex, involved stories. This one is an in-between book with a relatively short story and a focused story line. I would recommend reading the other books before this one. You do not get a lot of the jokes or references if you haven’t read the other books first.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Book Reviews

The Swindler (El Buscón) by Francisco de Quevedo


This book took the picaresque writing style to heart and is a great example of the style. The goal of picaresque is a story is where the main character gets by on his or her wits, primarily through cons, theft, and deceit. Those elements are layered all throughout this book. The main character gets drawn in to the world through necessity, but develops an affinity for the lies, tricks, and cons. His pursuit of a lifestyle draws him deeper into the world as his cons work, fail, work, and fail. You do get to see that a life of crime is no party.

The book follows Pablos from a young age. It is broken into two parts. The first part follows him as he is sent to school by his parents. He becomes a servant for a wealthy friend and follows him through different schools, facing hunger and poverty regularly.  He gets a letter from his uncle about his parents being arrested and he returns home to collect his inheritance and decide to go to Madrid in order to distance himself from his relations. On his way, he meets a con man who introduces him to a life of thievery and cons.

Start book two. The con man welcomes him into his band of cheats. They all instruct him on different ways to con, lie, and deceive. He learns to rig dice and card games, beg and not be recognized, have dinner with others and never have to pay, and ‘collect’ items to re-sell for profit. After the band is arrested, Pablos bribes a guard and gets out. He remakes himself as a gentleman. He woos a wealthy woman but is eventually found out. He is forced to flee Madrid. He eventually marries and the move to the New World to start anew.

It is rather fascinating how he manages to get through life. You get to read about his different cons and those going on around him. You learn a lot about the thief world of the middle ages and how a person got drawn into it. You don’t particularly get to know Pablos very well, but you empathize with him somewhat. There are points you cheer for him to succeed and other times you get annoyed with the cons he runs. How he gets into trouble, gets out of it, or manages to flee is interesting to read. However, the book is rather dry. There is not a lot of action or drama. It is rather like reading a biography. Readers of today I think would find it somewhat boring. The content is somewhat interesting, but you really need to want to read it in order to finish it.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.41 PM

Book Reviews

Glory in Death (In Death #2) by J. D. Robb


I did not like this book as much as the first one in the series, however it was still very good. The story line was not quite as intricate, but was still well-developed and thought out. What I loved most about it was the strong emotional turmoil that was prevalent throughout the book. There were a ton of emotional ups and downs, mostly downs, and it was a highly charged book. You could almost feel the stress from the characters come off the page.

The book starts with the murder of a high-profile district attorney. The crime is committed in a signature way and the killer takes a souvenir. Eve is called on to the case and is once again thrust into the spotlight of a high-profile murder. The killer escalates to another high-profile attack – the murder of a rising star. The same signature murder style and a souvenir is taken as well. Through all of this, Eve is butting heads with her commander. The commander and his wife are godparents to the district attorneys children. For him, the case is highly personal and he takes is stress out on Eve throughout, especially when she has to pull in the son and his father for questioning. As the case unfolds, Nadine First is pulled in to help Eve bait the killer. After a third killing, the case goes into high gear as the killer realizes he killed the wrong woman. Eve scrambles with her own guilt as she searches for the killer.

Eve relationship with Roarke is tested in this case as well. They have their first fight and Eve comes to terms with relying on Roarke as a necessary part of her life. Eve’s emotional growth and development in her relationships is fascinating to read and watch unfold. You learn more about Nadine, Mavis, and Officer Peabody. I like Officer Peabody. She is in the later books and it was neat to read about how they met. Nadine is also quite an interesting person, but is more of a common personality for a media star. However, she is well written and developed. Mavis is just…unique. She is so sweet you have to like her, but her personality comes through in spades.

If you liked the first book, I would definitely recommend continuing the series. This is a great segue book that sets the stage for the emotional and personal development Eve needs in order to grow in the next books. It is laid out with enough emotional drama and enough twists, turns, and red-herrings in the murder case to keep the book flowing smoothly and to keep the reader engaged. There were times I kept driving around just to hear more of the story LOL. For me, the shining glory of this book was the emotional drama followed by the murder case. Still a good book though.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM