Friday, May 1, 2015

Monthly Reading Summary - April 2015

We've come to the end of another month already.  Who can believe it, right?  Here's my monthly reading summary for April, and yes, the Index has been updated as well.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter/Barsoom #3) – 4
When John Carter follows his mortal enemies Thurid and Matai Shang, he learns of a plan to free his beloved wife, Dejah Thoris, from her prison six months early.  But his race to beat them to the rescue turns in to a race across Mars.  Will John Carter ever defeat his enemies and be reunited with his wife?

Even written 100 years ago, this feels like a modern action movie with a science fiction setting.  You’ve got a character overcoming overwhelming odds with a bit of ease and characters that are just developed enough to make us care.  And just like an action film, it’s plenty of fun if you approach it with the right attitude.  I certainly enjoyed finding out what happened next to these characters despite the flaws I mentioned.

Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara (Ellie Rush #2) – 4
Ellie is on patrol new the Walt Disney Concert Hall when a gardener is pushed down the stairs by the father of a famous Chinese cellist.  What lead to that?  Meanwhile, she gets a tip on a series of bank robberies from a very surprising source.  With the professional and personal implications of both cases complicating her life, can Ellie solve the cases without making too many waves?

Even with two mysteries I did feel the personal life portion of the book overshadowed the mysteries at times, causing them to be underdeveloped.  However, I still really did enjoy the book.  Ellie and the rest of the cast are very real characters, and you can’t help but be drawn in to the story.  I was turning pages quickly to find out what would happen next.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio (Book Club Mystery #1) – 5
Amy-Faye and her friends have formed a book club in their town of Heaven, Colorado.  The morning after they meet to discuss The Maltese Falcon, Amy-Faye goes to meet with a member only to find that member dying from poison.  The police rule is a suicide, but Amy-Faye is certain it was murder.  With the help of the other Readaholics, she starts poking around.  But what secrets will they uncover?

There were a lot of characters introduced early on, and I had a hard time keeping them straight early on.  However, as I began to get into the story, their different personalities made it easy to distinguish them.  The plot was strong with great twists and a couple of good sub-plots.  I was surprised by the ending, and set the book down wanting the next already.  I can’t wait for the sequel.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The King’s Stilts by Dr. Seuss – 5
King Britram has a difficult job keeping his kingdom from flooding, so he works all the time.  The only break he takes is to walk on stilts, but one of his advisers doesn’t think that hobby is very kingly.  What will happen when those stilts disappear?

This is a lesser known Dr. Seuss book, and that is a shame.  It is definitely early Seuss with no rhymes and lots of words on each page, but older pre-schoolers who have the attention span for it will enjoy it because it contains the typical Seuss fun and imagination.  Plus there’s a good moral in the story about balancing things in life.

A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett (Sugar Grove Mysteries #3) – 5
It’s sugaring season, which means Dani Greene is super busy with the sap running, the annual Maple Festival, and the annual visit from her difficult great-aunt.  The last things she needs is the body in the town hall basement.  The remains are identified as a drifter who came through town 30 years ago and stole cash before he left.  Now, Dani is asked to figure out who really took the money.  Can she do that without getting in a killer’s crosshairs?

This series has some great characters, and it was a treat to get to visit them again.  The new characters are just as strong.  The main mystery and some sub-plots weave in and out of each other, and the result is a book I didn’t want to put down.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Grand Canyon by Sandy Dengler (Jack Prester #5) – 5
When Jack’s childhood friend Ernie is gunned down in Grand Canyon National Park, Jack rides in to solve the crime with Ev close behind to keep him from making mistakes.  However, things get more complicated when two tourists are the next victims, and Ev thinks she knows who the next target is.

The plot of this book is wonderful and kept me engrossed both the first time I read it and on my recent reread.  The character growth, while expected for how things have progressed in the series, is still outstanding.  And the descriptions of the canyon, both from the rim and from inside, are beautiful.

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward – 3
Arthur is the only member of the Whipple family who hasn’t broken any world records.  It’s not that he hasn’t tried, but he always comes up short.  However, when the family birthday party is sabotaged, Arthur might be the only one who can uncover the truth.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  The various world records were outlandishly funny.  The characters were good, although most of them don’t get that much development.  Unfortunately, the plot was too unfocused and fairly uneven as a result.  I really think there needed to be more focus on that in another rewrite to make this book better.  Having said that, there are some dangling threads that make me curious enough to think about picking up the next book, but only if I can get it from the library.

1984 by George Orwell – 4
Travel to Oceania in this look at a world that was taken over by socialists.  We follow Winston Smith as he lives out his life under the constant watchful eye of Big Brother.  His vague memories of freedom lead him to hope for another revolution.  Can he help in some way?  What will happen when he starts an affair with a beautiful woman?

I read this book in high school, and it is just as sobering today as it was back then.  Yes, as a  novel it is a bit slow, but it does draw you in enough to really drive home the points Orwell is making.  Sadly, as our technology begins to catch up to the technology Orwell created, our country begins to walk down this path as well thanks to politicians on both sides.  This is a warning we still need to heed today.

Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan #3) – 4
Jane is on the scene of a foreclosure when a dead body is found in a bedroom closet.  Since the house was supposed to be empty, who is the victim and how did she get there?  Meanwhile, a man has confessed to a famous unsolved murder from 20 years ago, but detective Jake is certain the man is lying.  Is he really the killer?  Why would he confess to a crime he didn’t commit?


The multiple view point approach, which usually works so well, falls flat at the beginning of the book when those breaks keep jerking us around and keep us from getting into the story.  Once the story takes off, things really smooth out and I had a hard time putting the book down.  The characters, as always, are great.

8 comments:

  1. You had a great month! I loved 1984 but been years since I read it!
    Happy May reading!

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    1. I hadn't read it since high school myself, but it was interesting to reread it.

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  2. It looks like you had a good reading month, it is so long since I read 1984 I don't remember it at all but don't think I'll be rereading it!

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    1. You really need to reread 1984. It's an important book to read and think about.

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  3. A great month of reading! I need to get my review index up to date!

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    1. The indexes can get out of date in a huge hurry, can't they. Good luck getting them up to date.

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  4. It's great that you mix classics in with your other reading/reviewing. I go in spurts--reading a couple of classics I ought to have read in school at some point--and then deserting them for modern books.

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    1. Actually, I think I have more classics than normal in the list, and they were both audio books. Still, I might mix a few more in that way in the future. I'm quickly becoming addicted to audio books.

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