Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

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Title: Etiquette and Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Length: 307 pages
Published in: 2013
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy (alternative historical fiction)
ISBN: 9780316190084
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: Gail Carriger wrote the Parasol Protectorate quintet, which I loved, and this is the first in her new series, Finishing School
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail’s legions of fans have come to adore

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My Thoughts: I’m really happy that Carriger is coming out with a new series. I thought this book was funny and delightful. I was especially glad to see a character from her Parasol Protectorate series, Sidheag Maccon. I’m hoping this means she will somehow connect the two. I wanted so much to know if Sidheag’s special talent would come out and how it would affect the story. But I guess Tgat@p for another book.

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

Title: Shades of Earth
Author: Beth Revis
Length: 369 pages
Published in: 2013
Genre: post-apocalyptic world/dystopic
ISBN: 9781595143990
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: This is the third in a trilogy by Beth Revis and it has been one of my favorite series to follow. (I’m very sad it’s all over!)
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They’re ready to start life afresh–to build a home–on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn’t the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed‘s former passengers aren’t alone on this planet. And if they’re going to stay, they’ll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who–or what–else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been for nothing.

My Thoughts: This was a wonderful end to a story I love. While I was sad to see it end, I found it to be just the kind of end I liked.

There is a lot going on in this book. The population of humans from Sol-Earth have been unfrozen and the shipborn people fear them. Despite the differences between them, both groups go to Centauri-Earth. There they are forced to work together to survive some intelligent alien life forms that populate the planet. I’ll admit that I managed to work out, for the most part, what that alien life form was before it was revealed without much thought on my part. But that doesn’t change how excited I can get about how the story leads up to that moment of revelation. And there was a certain character who those who have read the story will know of–who wasn’t all they appeared to be. I hadn’t pinpointed how different this person was, but I knew there was something wrong about them. That should’ve been pretty obvious, considering I’d figured out the other mystery.

Anyways, Revis hardly “ended” the story at the close of this book. The story has barely begun and she left the story open. There are some stories with which I’d like to be told the definite end for the characters and have some nice closure. But considering how much of this story was left to the imagination, I think it was a great choice on her part to let her readers imagine for themselves how the story goes on, or ends if you choose.

I’m sad the story has “ended” but I anxiously await any new worlds Revis might create for me to travel to.

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch {audiobook}

Title: The Dark Monk
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Narrator: Grover Garland
Length: 15 hours
Published in: 2009 (book, in German); 2012 (English translation)
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9781455867233
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading:
Last year, I listened to The Hangman’s Daughter on audio. When I saw this on the new release shelf at the library, I decided to see how it was.
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring that every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl, his headstrong daughter Magdalena, and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have made sure he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside, attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of the international bestseller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Potzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries. Once again based on prodigious historical research into Potzsch’s family tree, The Dark Monk brings to life an unforgettable, compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a seventeenth-century Bavaria and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

My Thoughts: I rather liked this book, just as I did it’s predecessor. (I’ve put in my request for The Beggar King from my library, so hopefully I’ll be able to read that soon!) It was easier for me to picture this book than the first one, but I can’t say there’s any reason for that. At one point, there were two or three different plot lines going on in this story, which confused me a little. With a few seconds pause in the narration, I’d be reading about Magdalena instead of the hangman or Simon & Benedicta. But he different characters’ stories all ended up together, as I assumed they would. There were some surprises in the book, at least to me. I don’t think too much when I’m reading a book, not usually looking for any sort of clues or trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. Unless the nature of the story is mystery, that is. This was more of an adventure than the first in the “series”, involving the Templars. (It seems so many novels have something about the Templars and/or the Masons if they involve religion or history…not that I mind.) I’m really looking forward to the next Hangman’s Daughter tale (The Beggar King).

Blast from the Past: Deception of the Emerald Ring

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
February 23-27, 2007–387 pages–fiction (England, Ireland) /mystery/adventure/history/chick-lit
★★★★★

I loved this! I love how Willig can take the same basic plot and use new characters and circumstances to make each of her novels different enough to stay away from redundancy but keep it so you can see why it’s a series! This novel was the most amusing because of all the events happening between Letty and everyone else. I like how the Black Tulip was still in this because it made it more exciting. This was the novel about Letty trying to stop her older sister from eloping with Geoff Pichingdale which “pushes” him to marry her (Letty) instead. They crack me up for fighting all the time, but I definitely liked when they realized their feelings had changed. I can’t wait for the fourth novel to come out!

“Patience is only a virtue when there’s something worth waiting for.” Letty p132

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

Blast from the Past: Breadfruit

Breadfruit by Celestine Vaite
February 7-23, 2007–334 pages–fiction (Tahiti, women, customs, weddings)
Borrowed from SEO Regional Library
★★★★1/2

Well, this took a bit longer to read because ti seemed more choppy in places, but I did really like it. I blame school work for taking up my time. This is the story of Materena’s wedding and how it came to be. Pito’s drunken proposal and then his really one, multiple times. It takes place during a big gap of years during Frangipani, but I don’t know when Tiare comes out in the US. Anyways, I didn’t like this as much as Frangipani, but it was still a great writing style.

“Girl, waiting for a man is like waiting for a chicken to have teeth.” Loana p15

“That’s what happens when you pay shit–you get shit.” Giselle p89

“Dreams don’t come to you–you have to make them happen…Dreaming dreams isn’t going to turn dreams into reality.” Materena p245

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

Blast from the Past: Frangipani

Frangipani by Celestine Vaite
January 26-February 5, 2007–294 pages-fiction (Tahiti, family, women, daily life)
Borrowed from WCDPL
★★★★★

Materena Mahi is one of the best characters I have ever read. I love the whole story here: her son, then finding out she’s pregnant with a girl as her man leaves her, then getting back with her man and having another son. I really like the simple life of the island and how Materena and Leilani have such an open relationship. I did find it add that they don’t get married until after one kid (in many cases), but they all are so free spirited. I enjoyed how many aspects of Vaite’s life were portrayed there characters. Like Materena’s French father she never knew and Rose’s Australian husband she leaves Tahiti for.

I also learned, if I’m ever in Tahiti, I should wear a frangipani/plumeria flower behind my left ear because it symbolizes I’m taken–behind the right it means I’m available and looking 🙂 (p11)

“A child is a gift for eternity.” (p11)

“It takes courage for a fruit to fall far from her tree.” (p135)

“To die with a clear conscience is the only way to leave this world.” (p161)

“Give because it makes you feel good. If you get something back, good. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter.” (p161)

“First prize is finding someone to be passionately in love with you for a lifetime.” (p162)

“Forty muscles are needed to frown, only fifteen to smile.” (p165)

“Crying is good for the soul, just as laughing is.” (p172)

“We don’t own our children’s lives.” (p244)

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

Fifty Shades Darker & Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

Titles: Fifty Shades Darker & Fifty Shades Freed
Authors: EL James
Length: 544 & 581 pages (respectively)
Published in: 2011
Genre: erotic romance
ISBN: 9781612130583; 9781612130606
Source: 
borrowed from a friend
Reason for Reading:
I enjoyed the first one, so I had to keep going
Rating: 5/5 for both

Here is the Goodreads summary of Fifty Shades Darker.
Here is the Goodreads summary of Fifty Shades Freed.

My Thoughts: I loved all three of these books. It’s hard to believe that pretty much all three of the books took place in about 6 months. I suppose it’s possible for a whirlwind romance, but my personal experience is dating for 5 years, engaged for 2, and then marriage–a bit different, but I wouldn’t believe every relationship has to go that way.

So much happened in these two books. It is already a bit difficult to remember which big events occurred in which book. But I found them more thrilling than I had anticipated. There was less sex in these than in the very first novel, which is alright–romance doesn’t have to be about sex, even erotic romance.

There was one thing that bothered me in all of these books, especially these two. (It also bothered me in the Twilight books, to which these are strikingly similar.) It’s that weakness in Ana. She is so strong about her decisions at the onset, but then, as soon as Christian gets near her (especially in a sexual way) she gives up. I understand that you have to pick your battles–that’s something you have to do with your spouse or your children constantly. But if it’s something small, which seems to be the case more often than not, why can’t he give up at some point?! It just bugs me how someone can be strong one moment and so weak the next (and I know I do it myself sometimes).

Blast from the Past: The Masque of the Black Tulip

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
1/4-18/2007–425 pages–fiction/mystery/adventure/history/chick-lit
Bought December 14, 2006 from Walden’s
★★★★★

December 5, 2007 (thru Ch. 8)—Okay, I wanna make a prediction for who the Black Tulip is. Well, kind of. Lord Vaughn is an obvious suspect because of his servant/enemy’s death and he comes back to London around the same time the BT comes. Too obvious to be him. Then there’s the Marquise de Montval, the one @ Almack’s trying to seduce Miles, as another obvious choice. She’s decked out in black and Willig even describes her as “exotic as a tulip in a field of primroses.” But I think it’s too obvious to be her too. I feel they’re working for the BT, esp. after the letter Jane finds saying for BT to get Miles (the Marquise) and Henrietta (Lord Vaughn) by any methods. I think they’re just in the league of the BT, neither actually him.

Okay, so after about a week of not reading I read the last half in about 5 hours. I was wrong thinking the Black Tulip wasn’t the Marquise, but I was right thinking it wasn’t Vaughn. The way Henrietta and Miles ended up together, practically eloping, did surprise me. The romance was quick and to the point, unlike Richard’s and Amy’s but I would’ve been bored if it was the exact same. (I didn’t like the chapters with Eloise and Colin at all in this book, probably because they haven’t got together and I think they should.) I think it’s a good thing Willig chose different characters to follow in this book because, while I like Amy and Richard, the redundant characters wouldn’t have done good for the book. I do like how the Marquise was stupid and thought Turnip Fitzhugh was the PC. How wrong she was.

PS- Gonna take a break before reading Willig’s 3rd in the series. Can have too much of a good thing, like with Austen.

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

Blast from the Past: Secret History of the Pink Carnation

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
1/1/2007-1/3/2007–428 pages–fiction/mystery/adventure/chick-lit/history
Bought from Waldenbooks, December 26, 2006
★★★★★

Well, I’m still reading this and I’ll probably finish it later. But I just wanted to sort of predict who I think is the Pink Carnation. Of course, my first thought was that it’s Amy when Lord Richard finally lets her join the league. But then I thought, maybe it’s Miss Gwen. I don’t really know why I think it could be her, but she is a spinster lady and Richard keeps mentioning how spies really need to be single. Plus, I just read the part when Amy finally figured out that Richard was the Purple Gentian. Miss Gwen had known for awhile I guess, and even Jane figured it out first. But maybe Miss Gwen didn’t figure it out but rather knew it all along. I’m really not sure who the Pink Carnation is, but I’m growing more curious by the page.

I just finished the book about five minutes ago and I love it! It’s not really well written like some books I’ve read, but it was light and entertaining and God knows we all need a book like that once in awhile. I really did love the plot and everything. I was sort of right about my predictions as to who the Pink Carnation was because Amy and Miss Gwen both did start the league of the PC even if it was Jane who ended up keeping the title and pursuing the dream. I can’t believe Eloise thought the PC would be a man. I definitely thought it was a woman the whole time. It think the author should’ve written it all set back in 1803 England/France rather than have Eloise with a frumpy/unrealistic (in my mind) idea for a dissertation. It would’ve been better without those present day parts, but I still love the book. On to the sequel…

“Infatuation is not even a poor cousin of love.” (p264)

“To the male mind, female plus bedroom equals just one thing.” (p269)

“You don’t think she lived happily ever after?
That’s an ending for books, not for people.
What are books about, if not people?” (p289)

“Mother, would you stop flirting with Father for a moment and listen?
“I never stop flirting with your father. That’s why we have such a happy marriage. And I hope that all of you find spouses with home you can happily flirt for the rest of your lives.” (p318)

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: EL James
Length: 514 pages
Published in: 2011
Genre: erotic romance
ISBN: 9780345803481
Source: 
borrowed from my boss
Reason for Reading: 
my four closest girlfriends, three coworkers, and my boss have all read it and recommend it
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind – until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time.

The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her – but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.

Can their relationship transcend physical passion? Will Ana find it in herself to submit to the self-indulgent Master? And if she does, will she still love what she finds?

My Thoughts: I’m not exactly sure what it says about me when I admit that I didn’t find hardly anything in this book shocking at all. Sure, there were things mentioned that I’d probably never do. Pretty much every woman I know that’s read these books says I will be shocked. And I really wasn’t. (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, maybe I’m just not surprised by what people are capable of in their own private sex lives.)

At the beginning, I just couldn’t believe how much like Twilight this story started out.

  • Man warns woman to stay away from him because he’s dangerous
  • Woman has hunky dark-complected man friend whom she’s completely uninterested sexually, but who poses a huge threat to the dangerous man
  • Man is popular and rich; woman is unknown and not all that rich
  • Story is set in Washington (state)
  • Man is dominant, woman is submissive (with huge self-esteem issues)

I even found it humorous that Christian said he wanted to bite her. If you don’t consider the fact that he was talking about Ana always biting her lip, it’d make him seem a little vampirish, a la Edward.

But, I really liked the Twilight series. So it’s not bad that those similarities were there. But this book is clearly meant for adults. My friend’s younger 16-year-old sister tried to buy the book at WalMart and they wouldn’t let her because she wasn’t old enough. And, let’s be honest, the book is essentially soft porn for the bookish person. Although I hear this is going to be made into a movie and I’m not sure how they’ll make it a movie that isn’t porn. It would certainly have to be rated NC-17 in the US, I’m sure (that replaced the X rating, and means no kids at all under the age of 17–but I’m not sure why they didn’t just make it 18 if you can’t buy porn when you’re 17…)