The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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Title: The Sweetness at the bottom of the pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Length: 370 pages
Genre: Mystery
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5
Why I read it: On my TBR shelf

What it’s about: 11 year old Flavia is a genius at chemistry, and when a dead body id found in the family garden she sets out to find the murderer.

The good: The plot seemed straight out of a Christie novel. You had the English countryside, and an amateur detective no one would suspect of having all the answers. Flavia sometimes comes off as a know-it-all, and has the confidence and ego to back it up, and other times you forget that you are reading about a bored, lonely, 11 year old girl. As I was reading, I would think “why are the adults answering to a preteen girl? Shouldn’t they just tell her it’s not for her to know?” Then she’d remind you that she is just a kid and use it to her advantage.

The bad: Unlike a Christie novel, there were not many plot twists. While I didn’t figure it out too soon into the novel, it was easy to figure out “whodunit”,so to speak. And while I did love that all these people were being out-smarted by a kid,at the same time, I couldn’t believe all the stuff she got away with. even for a small village, an11 year old should not be able to bike all around the town without telling anyone where she was. Maybe I just couldn’t think in terms of that time in England.

Final thoughts: I first heard about this book through book club. It was the pick way back in the early days of my membership, but I wrote it off as a book I wasn’t interested in reading. I am ashamed I prejudged it so. While it had it’s discrepancies, and it was, at times, predictable, just the characters alone were enough to make me keep reading.

Debut Author Challenge : Hollow Earth by John & Carole Barrowman

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Yay! My first challenge,and my first challenge entry. For my first entry I went with Hollow Earth.

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Title: Hollow Earth
Author: John Barrowman and Carole E. Barroman
Length: 382 pages
Genre: fiction, middle-grade, fantasy
Format: Hardback
Rating: 4/5
Why I read it: John Barrowman, need I say more?

What it’s about: The synopses says it’s about twins who can put themselves into pictures, but that is slightly inaccurate. The twins Matt and Em, can put themselves into pictures, but they can also draw a picture and animate them, thus bringing their drawings to life, or manifesting them into reality (I.E. if they draw a key to get into a locked room, they animate the drawing and can use the key to unlock the door). Anyway, one day they are with their mother at work when they animate themselves into a painting, unfortunately The Council has been keeping an eye on them and notices their antics, so the Calder family has to flee to Scotland. Once they get there, Matt and Em learn more about their abilities and how to control them.

The good: In genre that is being taken over by witches, werewolves, vampires,angels, and zombies, this was not only an original (or at least close to one) concept, it was filled with imagination that I really wasn’t expecting. I mean, I love John Barrowman, and I loved his autobiographies, but when it comes to actors, it’s one thing to write a good book about your life, and it’s one thing to act out a story from someone else’s imagination, but it’s another thing entirely to make your own imagination into a story (I’m not saying actors can’t be talented authors, just that it’s a nice surprise when they are). When I first heard about the book, I was excited about it simply because John Barrowman is one of my favorite actors. That is the same reason I bought the book and the reason I read it. But as I was reading I seemed to forget that it was written by an actor and his sister, it was simply so good that it wouldn’t have mattered who wrote it, I would still love it.

The bad: Unfortunately, the book is not without flaw. first off, there were a few too many characters. One person, Vaughn, was introduced in chapter ten, and didn’t make another appearance until chapter fifty-six. Which brings me to my next qualm. The book simply had too many chapters. A whopping Seventy-five chapters total. 19 chapters more than the fourth Harry Potter Book, and still 400-odd pages less. Granted the chapters were, at most, five pages long. The next thing that irked me was the obviousness of who the villain was. Maybe it was the fact that this character didn’t have a close relationship with anyone else in the book that gave it away, or maybe it was simply the fact that the person played a key role, but was also overlooked until an opportune time. Lastly, the title makes it sound like Matt and Em would actually learn more about Hollow Earth, or that it would play the biggest role in the story, but alas,all that was found out about it was that it was real and there was a society formed in its name to oppose The council, and they want the twins because they are powerful. Nothing more. No idea what the HES wants in the grand scheme of things, no idea what Hollow Earth itself is. An Alternate universe? a secret school for animere? I don’t know.

Final thoughts: Despite the faults of the book, it was fun to read, and I do eagerly await the sequel, but I don’t really think it should be a middle-grade book. YA, sure, sci-fi, maybe, but I think just given the chapter count alone kids 9-13 may not have the attention span for it.

House rules by Jodi Picoult

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Title: House Rules
Author: Jodi Picoult
Length: 548 pages
Genre: Fiction
Format: ePUB
Rating: 3/5
Why I read it: Book club pick

What it’s about: Jacob is 18 and has Asperger’s syndrome.He has an obsessive interest in forensic science. Then one day Jess, his social skills tutor, is reported missing. Soon jacob is a suspect and arrested for Jess’s murder. His mother hires a layer on his behalf and they go to trial.

The good: It seems when Picoult wrote this book, she really did her research on Asperger’s. Not only how it affects the person who has it, but everyone in their lives. I liked hearing about the effects from everyone’s point of view. I liked reading about how Jacob’s brother felt he was a ghost and could get away with things because Jacob needed all the attention. I liked reading about how everyday things that people who do not have Asperger’s take for granted. But my favorite was reading from Jacob’s POV. his parts of the story line told of how everything is difficult for him, from making friends to holding down a job.

The bad: While it was good to hear how difficult Asperger’s can be, hearing about how Jacob doesn’t like the colour orange, or being touched, or crumbling paper, on almost every page got very redundant. I also fail to see the point of putting Jacob’s mom and his Lawyer in a romantic relationship. Okay, yes, she hadn’t been in a relationship or had friends for fifteen years, but there was no reason for it in the story whatsoever.

Final thoughts: I never intended to read any of Picoult’s books. I was on the fence about even reading this one for book club, but I decided to give it a shot. So I was surprised when it took me three days to finish it and that I liked it so much.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

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Title: Tipping The Velvet
Author: Sarah Waters
Length: 383 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: ePUB
Rating: 4/5
Why I read it: On my TBR Shelf
What it’s about: This is the story of Nancy Astley, a girl who grew up working with her family in their oyster restaurant, but when she goes to a music hall and sees Kitty Butler, she instantly falls in love. The two start a secret relationship, and soon Nancy joins Kitty on the stage as a “masher”. After finding Kitty has cheated on her, she flees from their shared boarding room. shortly after this, Nancy begins to wear her masher costumes and becomes a male prostitute. This continues until she is picked up by Diana, and she becomes Diana’s (for lack of a better word) sex slave, but the Nancy soon becomes tired of being Diana’s play thing and resenting her and when Diana catches Nancy with her maid, she throws Nancy out onto the streets. Nancy, remembering someone she had arranged to meet, before being picked up by Diana, searched for Florence Banner. Florence agrees to let Nancy stay one night, but Nancy soon makes herself at home and continues to live there.

The good: I love how Waters shows the realness of same sex relationships in a time where being gay could have landed you in jail. I loved seeing Nancy grow up from a sheltered, small ocean town, 18 year old to a woman who could own up to her past, be comfortable with who she is, face her demons, and eventually stand up for who she is and what she wanted. I LOVE how Waters some of her own life experience and put it into the novel. When Waters was 19 years old she went to Whitstable and met and fell in love with another young woman, and while that is as far as the similarities between her and Nancy go, it’s still nice to see a writers personal experiances weaved into their work.

The bad: I saw the BBC mini series before reading the book ( seems that happens to me a lot), and even though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, I still knew the story, and knew somewhere in the back of my mind what was going to happen. Even without remembering much of the end of the miniseries, the last chapter was a bit too predictable and too much coincidence with not one, but THREE of Nancy’s past lovers being at the fair (sorry if that was a spoiler for anyone).

Final thoughts: despite the predictability, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read, and not only Waters Debut, but my first time reading anything Waters had Written.

That is it, my first official review for 2013, and exactly a year since my first review.