Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review | D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton

Title: D is for Deadbeat
Author: Sue Grafton
Publication Date: January 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

Series: Kinsey Millhone {Book 4}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
When Alvin Limardo walks into P.I. Kinsey Millhone's office, she smells bad news. He wants Kinsey to deliver $25,000. The recipient: A fifteen-year-old boy. It's a simple matter. So simple that Kinsey wonders why he doesn't deliver the money himself. She's almost certain something is off. But with rent due, Kinsey accepts Limardo's retainer against her better judgment…

When Limardo's check bounces, Kinsey discovers she's been had big time. Alvin Limardo is really John Daggett--an ex-con with a drinking problem, two wives to boot, and a slew of people who would like to see him dead. Now Kinsey is out four hundred dollars and in hot pursuit of Daggett. 

When Daggett's corpse shows up floating in the Santa Teresa surf, the cops rule the death an accident. Kinsey thinks it's murder. But seeking justice for a man who everyone seemed to despise is going to be a lot tougher than she bargained for--and what awaits her at the end of the road is much more disturbing than she could've ever imagined…

There's a song about a man walking into a room that kept playing in my head during the opening scenes of D is for Deadbeat, one that stayed on repeat as Alvin Limardo handed Kinsey the cashier's check and explained what he wanted. As Kinsey unravels the mystery behind "Alvin" and his check, I realized the song fit him perfectly. 

The characters of D is for Deadbeat were amazing. Each forced Kinsey out of her comfort zone, from John Daggett's young wife, Lovella, to the harsh critique of Coral, the snarly bar server. I loved the intensity of each characters' detailed stories, the backgrounds that slowly intertwined together to reveal, well, a mess made by one single man. 

To be honest, I found the plot to be borderline creepy in the beginning. What on earth did Daggett want with a teenager? Was he just a kooky philanthropist, or did he have hidden motives? I didn't expect the plot to have so many layers: just when I thought I had a handle on it, Grafton adds in another character, another story, or a hidden piece of the plot to keep me on my toes.

The scene when Kinsey finally confronts the killer is absolutely captivating. The psychology and current mindset of the killer was so creepy, but I couldn't stop. I had to know how, when, why. Once the dialogue started and all of the secrets spilled out, I couldn't put the book down. 

D is for Deadbeat is one of those stories that I wanted to stay in the story long after it ended. The narration built up a repartee between Kinsey and the reader that made me feel like I was going on these trips with her, exploring and questioning witnesses in Santa Teresa instead of sitting outside of the office. An amazing read, especially for the mystery lover.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mini Monday | "The Warrior" by Jim Butcher

Title: "The Warrior"
Author: Jim Butcher {website}
Publication Date: January 2009
Publisher: Roc
Series: The Dresden Files {Book 9.5}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Butcher's "The Warrior" tells the story of Michael (Harry's old friend, conscience, and a Knight of the Cross) and a threat to his family. Harry, unable to leave a friend in danger, stands by his side and helps him defend his family against things that he doesn't even quite understand.

I've mentioned before in these Mini Monday posts that I don't typically read author forewards or introductions because I want to get into a story without any preconceived notions. I've found myself reading Butcher's short intros before each of the Dresden novellas and have fallen in love with them. (Maybe I've been really missing something all this time?) Before "The Warrior," Butcher explains how the power of one action creates so many consequences. Not necessarily negative consequences, but how what you choose to say (or not say) in a certain moment lends so much power to the future. He explores this theme after the end of Small Favor, leaving it for the reader to judge the harshness of Michael's lot. 

I am consistently amazed at the amount of detail and character development in these short stories. Michael's character, already so well-established in the series, is fleshed out once again, and Dresden finally sees a hint of Michael's dark side. Both men (the main characters in this story) shine through brilliantly. 

In short, if you're a fan of Michael, "The Warrior" is a must-read. This story is also a great example of the depth of The Dresden Files - it's not just magic and fancy spells. Butcher tackles more difficult issues, and the way that he does so has me coming back for more. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Links Love | July 2015

Keeping Up the Blogging Mojo // Jenny in Neverland
Lost the grove? Check out Jenny's tips to keep yourself inspired.

Discussion {DNFing a Book Versus Putting It On Hold} // Liza from Reading With ABC
We've all hit the wall with a story before. The next time I do, I'll definitely by using Liza's tips! 

11 Charts That Accurately Sum Up Being a Book Nerd // BuzzFeed Books
Every book lover will find at least one chart that makes them say, "Oh, that's me!" Mine's #10!

List of Regularly Occuring Bookish Twitter Chats // Book.Blog.Bake.
This post is from February, but I just stumbled across Stormy's great list! I've been trying to find more ways to get involved with the bookish community, and these just sound like so much fun! 

Sherlock Holmes: Examining the Evidence - in charts // The Guardian
I wish I could print these and hang them in my home office/work cube. The designs are amazing and the stats appeal to my nerdy, analytical heart. 

Gender Roles and the Heroine // Pub Crawl
Gender roles and how to create your heroine. A great read that has interesting perspective for readers as well as writers. 

Bookish Grumblings: Classics Classism // Playing in the Pages
Savannah's blog is one of my favorites, and when she opened this post with one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes, I jumped for joy. Her take on the role classics play in today's world is a fantastic read.

Blogger vs Wordpress // Bookmarked
The question on every blogger's mind: which one stands out?

On the Same Page: Secret Sister Project // The Book Addict's Guide
I wanted to sign up for this project so much, but with all the upcoming life changes, I didn't want to accidentally fall behind. I am such a huge fan of this amazing support system, and can't wait to participate! 

When was the last time you updated your about me page? Check out this resourceful post if it's time for an update! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reread | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Daily Prophecy
Author: Sarah J. Maas {website}
Publication Date: August 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Series: Throne of Glass {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. 

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
I normally don't reread books I didn't like. That's not an unusual trait for most book lovers, but usually I agree with the majority. Throne of Glass didn't do a whole lot for me the first time I read it, back in 2013. When I posted about books I considered rereading, the consensus was there: Throne of Glass was a must-read. 

Now, I'll admit, I procrastinated. I remember reading this book back in our old apartment and just feeling frustrated. The paperback (a much better cover than this one, I might add) sat on my shelf for a year. I finally picked it up last week. And whoa.

2013 review versus 2015 review

Maas struck a perfect balance with her assassin, Celaena Sardothien.
Still completely agree. I feel I appreciated Celaena's perspective even more and related to her on a different level, from the annoying Kaitlin to her relationships with Dorian and Chaol.

From her past, Calaena is a hard soul, but Maas takes care to develop some softness in her, to keep her secrets away from the reader to keep us intrigued. On my reread, she developed from the page into a living, breathing character, one that quickly felt like an old friend.

Her writing was clear and concise, allowing the reader to slip into her descriptions easily.
Another agree. The kingdom of Adarlan, ruled by the glass castle built over the stone (the rock beneath the glamour? The castle alone would make an interesting essay...), the mines...Maas created the perfect atmosphere and setting for her assassin.

I had a few problems with her dialogue.
This wasn't a problem on my second read. There were times, admittedly, that I thought the dialogue became a little corny, but nothing to the extent I felt before. My biggest complaint was the lack of authenticity in Chaol and Dorian's interactions, but their emotions and actions rang true in this read. Chaol's pride and slight jealousy of his friend contrasted with Dorian's outer bravado/ladies' man style and hidden uncertainty created such a fascinating tension between the two men.

...Maas had done such a wonderful job creating a new twist of the classic love triangle...
In general, I'm not a fan of love triangles, but I am of this one! I don't entirely agree with Calaena's decision in the end, but I'm not sure if she'll stick with it...

My new perspective on Calaena and her suitors changed my opinion of Throne of Glass. Maas has me hooked: I've already requested the next book from the library.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Canon Profiles | Mark Twain

Born: November 30, 1835 as Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Died: April 21, 1910
Known: writer (nonfiction and fiction), lecturer, essayist

  • Wrote what is most commonly called "The Great American Novel," The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).
  • Civil rights supporter, found in both his early and later writings.
  • Wrote what is considered the first of alternate history.
  • Inspired generations of writers and is called the Father of American Literature.

Total works:
Novels (13)
Short Stories (24)
Collections (17)
Essays (14)
Nonfiction (9)
Other writings (6)

  • "Now is the accepted time to make your regular, annual, good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
  • "If books are not good company, where will I find it?:
  • "Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest."

Admittedly, we only scratched the surface. Here are some great resources about Twain to get you started!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Review | Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of the Edwardian Era by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Title: Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Era
Author: Greg King and Penny Wilson
Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Lusitania: She was a ship of dreams, carrying millionaires and aristocrats, actresses and impresarios, writers and suffragettes - a microcosm of the last years of the waning Edwardian Era and the coming influences of the Twentieth Century. When she left New York on her final voyage, she sailed from the New World to the Old; yet an encounter with the machinery of the New World, in the form of a primitive German U-Boat, sent her - and her gilded passengers - to their tragic deaths and opened up a new era of indiscriminate warfare.

A hundred years after her sinking, Lusitania remains an evocative ship of mystery. Was she carrying munitions that exploded? Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy that doomed the liner? Lost amid these tangled skeins is the romantic, vibrant, and finally heartrending tale of the passengers who sailed aboard her. Lives, relationships, and marriages ended in the icy waters off the Irish Sea; those who survived were left haunted and plagued with guilt. Now, authors Greg King and Penny Wilson resurrect this lost, glittering world to show the golden age of travel and illuminate the most prominent of Lusitania's passengers. Rarely was an era so glamorous; rarely was a ship so magnificent; and rarely was the human element of tragedy so quickly lost to diplomatic maneuvers and militaristic threats.

The story of the Lusitania is a new interest for me; I have always heard the story in passing, but after reading Erik Larson's Dead Wake, I was hooked. I found King and Wilson's Lusitania while looking through GoodReads a few weeks ago and picked it up at the library, hoping King and Wilson's Lusitania would share more information to fuel my latest fascination.

King and Wilson's Lusitania focuses on a few first and second class passengers, telling their story in incredible detail. Many of these passengers I hadn't heard about before in my reading, so that held my attention. I found it a little strange, however, that King and Wilson don't follow a third class passenger: in fact, they rarely mention the more than 1500 people who stayed in the Lusitania's third class accommodations. 

I hoped for more information on the U-boat commander Schwieger, but this nonfiction only devoted a chapter to the man that changed not only the course of the Lusitania's history, but the rules of warfare in general. For a man who had such an impact on so many lives, I found it a little strange that he was portrayed as a minor character. 

After the boat sails, the narration was strong and engaging: King and Wilson follow the chronological order of the ship's last voyage. The order before was a little confusing: the narration bounced back and forth between the past and the time on the dock without a clear train of thought. Not a big deal, but was a little hard to follow at times.

In the end, Lusitania was an okay read. It wasn't bad by any means, but I found myself yearning for more information, for more details on the passengers...just more. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review | The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Title: The Accidental Empress
Author: Allison Pataki {website}
Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: Howard Books
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. 

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

I picked up this book for a few different reasons: the cover is gorgeous (I'll admit it!), the title intriguing (how can an empress be "accidental"?), and the history of the Hapsburg royal family. Shamefully, I know next to nothing about the Hapsburg empire: it's just a name that was mentioned once or twice as I went through college, but rarely was any context or history provided. The story of a young, powerful emperor following his heart and marrying the slightly wild Sisi caught my attention. 

Sisi, in the beginning, was so engaging. Her personality, her lightheartedness shone through the pages, and her defense of her shy sister, Helene, spoke well of her. I found myself falling in love with the character as her relationship with Franz Joseph blossomed. The mix of the joy of falling in love and the shame of falling in love with her sister's betrothed created a vibrant character, one that I felt would carry me through the story. Yet as her life changed and the pressures and expectations of the court became harder on her, Sisi disappeared from her own story. Instead of an active participant in the plot, I soon felt she was only the narrator, standing on the sidelines of her own story. 

The relationship between Sisi and her husband was painfully strained, especially due to the constant interfering of her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie. It got to the point where their interactions were simply too painful to read. Both relationships broke my heart: the broken love of husband and wife, and the condescending mistrust of in laws. 

Pataki did a beautiful job of setting the scene: more often than not, I felt like I was with Sisi in Austria or Hungary. The pacing of the book, however, was a little more erratic: instead of a smooth flow, the story felt like EMOTION, nothing, nothing, nothing, EMOTION, nothing, EMOTION. If there had been a more consistent pattern to the story, I would have been completely hooked by Sisi's story.

The Accidental Empress is an interesting portrayal of a fascinating woman: her life, her loves, and her struggles. This is by no means, however, a quick, easy read; Sisi's story is emotionally wrenching. I'm curious to see how Pataki wraps up her story in the next book