Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin ★★★★★

Non Fiction – History – Politic/Sports
(sorry if you disagree with my labels, I had a real difficult time putting  this book in a proper category)
288 pages
Publication Date:  January 1st 2008
Original Title:  Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a NationAfter Nelson Mandela had been released from prison and won South Africa’s first free election he faced his biggest challenge; putting together a broken and divided country.  Latching onto the idea of rugby as his nation building tool, Mandela used a previous symbol of apartheid – the Springboks – and the chance to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup to pull off his greatest and most miraculous triumph.  “One Team, One Country”

This is book is about more than a sports story.  This is a story of human depravity and greatness.  As well choreographed as any truly great Hollywood film (and incidentally turned into a movie with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon) or magnificent epic novel.  Beautifully written and told with heartfelt sincerity this book completely captivated me even though I already knew the ending.  I was riveted with each turn of the page, waiting in eager anticipation to see how the final triumph was brought into fruition.

With the effortless flow of the narrative Carlin delicately unfurls the story like a blooming flower with each page coming together to create a colorful and deliciously scented bloom.  Carlin masterfully orchestrates the different firsthand accounts and different viewpoints to put a together a fairly complete picture of the lead up to the South African hosted Rugby World Championship and the crowning jewel of Mandela’s presidentship.  He lays out enough background to help us understand how incredible this turn of events were and gives enough individual stories to get the real impact of the situation.  His compassion for all sides allows him to understand the differing viewpoints and pass that understanding onto us. 

Mandela is sketched as a clever, deliberate, politically savvy man raised up for just such a time in his country’s history to help it navigate the choppy waters of fear and impatience. Mandela is a genius; he knew where he wanted to take his country, found a means to get there, and convinced people from very fragmented groups to help implement a plan of action.  “One Team, One Country” was not only the motto for the Springboks, but for every South African.   Now granted the road from there has been bumpy for the country, but that should not take away from what it has accomplished and can accomplish in the future.

ISBN  0143117157 (ISBN13: 9780143117155)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich ★★★☆☆

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1)
I’m looking for more than a casual fling.
Fiction – Mystery- Fantasy
313 pages
Publication Date:  August 30th 2010
Lizzie and Diesel Book 1

Even though she is relatively new to Marblehead, Mass. Lizzie Tucker has slipped smoothly into a very comfortable life.  She works at Dazzle’s Bakery in Salem creating masterful cupcakes and other pastries and in her spare time she is working on a cook book.  Everything seems to be going along very nicely until Gerewulf Grimorie shows up.   Wulf is searching for the Stones of Power, a set of stones each containing one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and Lizzie is one of only two people in the world capable of identifying them.  Following not too far behind him is Diesel, Wulf’s cousin, assigned to stop Wulf and get the stone first, and he needs Lizzie’s cooperation to achieve it.  Along with Carl the Monkey, a nija cat named Cat, and Glo, a woman who is almost sure she is a wizard, Lizzie and Diesel are in a race to find the gluttony stone before Wulf and his medieval loving, sword wielding, tights wearing, minion Hatchet, can control it.

While this book didn’t capture the genius of the Stephanie Plum series or had a high caliber cast of secondary characters it was still alright –not ground breaking by any means, but I don’t regret the time I took to read it.  I do have to admit –though it pains horribly me to say- I was a little disappointed.  I had every intention of falling deeply in lust with this book; I wanted more than a causal liking and a one day fling, but sadly that didn’t happen.  Evanovich’s own brilliance is in some ways was the problem, because I know she is capable of putting out a better crafted novel so I have higher expectations of her than I would in other cases.  This series does have real potential and I hope Evanovich can find a way to be more comfortable with Lizzie and her life (it didn’t feel organic like some of her other novels).  I would like to see her depart a little further from her Stephanie Plum formula and really give Lizzie and Diesel a chance to make their own way in the world. 

The writing, as always, was one of the strengths of the book.  Chockablock full of detail and description you can really get the flavor of Lizzie’s world.  I love the setting near Salem, Massachutes, for its charm and the possibilities open for plot points.  I liked Lizzie, but could do with a little more personality from her.  Diesel – who I was already introduced to in the Stephanie Plum in-between books- is a little different than he appeared in the SP books, but I would say that is because this time he is colored by Lizzie’s perspective instead of Stephanie’s.  I found Glo mildly amusing, but I think she could be amped up a bit.  As for Wulf, I never really got an awe inspiring fear of him and I think Evanovich could do a little more to make the stakes feel higher and the suspense stronger.  I didn’t really care for the ending (or as I call it -the nothing resolved and the book just sort of stops point-, but I have to say that is always pet peeve of mine when that happens no matter the book).

Two days after finishing it I am still trying to not let my expectations color it and just accept it for what it was; an amusing, light and breezy read.  In some ways my disappointment has fueled my desire to read Wicked Business, with the hope Evanovich can redeem herself.

ISBN  0312652917 (ISBN13: 9780312652913)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thank you!

Hello My Lovely, Lovely Readers,

Today after less than six months we have hit the 500th page view (and my family promises  they didn't all come from them so yay - though admittedly my husband was a little noncommittal on the subject).  I'll tell you what those page views, with their instant gratification, can really bolster an ego. 

But seriously,  thank you so much for sharing in my love of books.


Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True Story by Mark Kelly and C. F. Payne

Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True StoryMy brother and sister-in-law sent my girls this book purely because of the name according to my brother.  My girls (5 and 2 1/2) were delighted with the adventures of Meteor the Mouse.  This book was a fun, imaginative story with interesting pictures and a great way to introduce the idea of space flight in a way kids can absorb.  After the main story there is a section on how a real mouse on one of Mark Kelly's  Endeavour Missions inspired the story as well as some of the history behind space flight and some of the necessities that go with space travel .

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heist Society by Ally Carter ★★★☆☆

Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)

Cons and Capers
Fiction – YA - Mystery
Reading level: Ages 11 and up  Grade 6–10
287 pages
Publication Date:  February 9, 2010
Heist Society Book 1
Literary awards:  ALA Teens' Top Ten (2010), Goodreads Choice Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2010)

Kat Bishop’s longest con has just come down crashing around her ears after the intervention of friends from the life she was trying to leave behind.  Three months into her stay at Colgan Boarding she is accused of pulling a prank she had nothing to do with.  Expelled and forced to leave Colgan, Kat’s friend Hale – a sixteen-year-old billionaire play boy with too much time on his hand- brings Kat back into the family con business to save her father from a mob boss who is missing five prized art pieces.  With a two week deadline and a crew of talented teenagers Kat must pull off the biggest heist of her life.

I found the premise of this book very intriguing and the execution adequate.  The idea of a teen who finally escaped the “family con business” only to be pulled back in against her will to match wits against enemies that her elders wouldn’t even take on was very exciting.  (Okay I will admit here for all to see that I was predisposed to like this book.  I love me some cons and capers- The Thomas Crown Affair with the beautiful Pierce Brosnan, Oceans 11, The Italian Job, Leverage and the like.  Sure all of my examples are movies and TV shows but I think the genre can transfer nicely to either book or film form.)  Carter starts right in from the beginning with a very great intro for Kat and Hale, providing background and Kat’s motivation for going to Colgan School.  She then continues on by creating a fascinating world in which Kat’s friends and family are always looking for the next job.  Carter managed to keep me eager to find out what was happening next through the whole book (which is not always easy considering she is competing with two kids, a husband and all the things I need to get done on a daily basis to keep our household running smoothly as possible).

The writing, while not elegant, was readable and very easy to get through.  Carter cleverly uses the two week deadline to pace her chapters and add drama and suspense to the writing.  Carter was very good at getting the mood and feel of a place, but not quite as good at painting a word picture of the different locations.  I found her description a little too generic for my taste

This story starts out as Kat Bishop’s quest to find out who she is beyond her family, but this is only part of the whole story.  Kat’s quest brings her right back to where she started, and in doing so Kat finds a bigger purpose in helping right a decades old wrong.  I like how Carter used Gabrielle in comparison to Kat to show how different people can use very different approaches to achieve the same goal.  Sadly, the blossoming romance between Kat and Hale, while certainly a focal point in their relationship dynamic, felt very artificial.  I hope in the next book it will be a bit more seamless and flow better in the plot line.

ISBN  1423116399 (ISBN13: 9781423116394)