Good Books and the Random Movie

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31 May 2013

Brilliance of the Moon (Tales of the Otori #3)

Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn is the third book in her Tales of the Otori series about a fictional feudal Japan. Originally the series was a trilogy, but later she added two more books.

Otori Takeo is of three domains - he was born into a community of the Hidden, a religion forbidden in the Three Countries. He has the blood of the Tribe - a line whose members have extraordinary powers and are strictly controlled by the will of the family. And he was adopted by Ortori Shigeru, a Lord and rightful heir to a powerful family in the North. But Takeo must make his own way. He will go against many engrained customs to get there.

Shirakawa Kaede was born into a world where women have little power. But she is heir to the Maruyama domain - one of the few whose land follows the female line. She has already been used as a pawn in political relations between families and tribes. Now she plans to make her own way.

Takeo and Kaede will marry - regardless of custom or family obligations - for love. But in a time of turmoil when Lord Arai plans to take over all of the Three Countries through war, hostage or alliance, love will not be seen as reason enough to go against the grain.

Hearn has created a great series. It reads as if it is translated from ancient Japanese lore. Luckily for fans, following the trilogy there are two additional books - one 16 years later and one that takes place before the time of the trilogy. Read them all!

Hearn, Lian. (2004) Brilliance of the Moon. New York: Riverhead Books.

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29 May 2013

Packing for Mars

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach explains the difficulties of life without gravity - from the fascinating to the disgusting.

Roach guides readers through the history of space exploration - from the theory that without gravity the human body would not function (perhaps the heart needs gravity to circulate blood) to the preparations NASA is making to send people to Mars for the first time.

Life in space is difficult due not only to physical constraints, but psychological ones. All of that will be compound for the Mars trip by the fact that the shortest trip will still take 500 days. 500 days of being trapped in a small space with the same people. And due to the distance, if the math is off the ship could miss Mars all together.

Roach is a great writer who does not shy away from the gross. Her style is engaging and readers will learn a tremendous amount without even trying. I loved the chapter on what amounts to extreme skydiving.

Roach, Mary. (2010). Packing for Mars. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

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26 May 2013

The Hit (Will Robie #2)

The Hit by David Baldacci is the second book in his Will Robie series. Robie is a CIA assassin and sniper. He, and others in his division, are tasked with taking out the most notorious criminals in the world.

The only other agent equal to his skill is Jessica Reel. They trained together at one point, but the life of an assassin is a solitary one. Now Robie has been told to bring Jessica Reel in - dead or alive.

Reel has killed one of their own - an analyst at the CIA. Though analyst covers many job descriptions, his was to coordinate hits via satellite the shooter risked his or her life to pull it off and then escape. This killing makes the higher ups think that Reel has gone rogue.

And Reel knows that Robie will be sent to track her down. While he is studying her file, she is learning everything she can about him. The result is the two most skilled killers chasing each other around the East coast.

Baldacci created a great character with Will Robie. Now he has added a second character to bring things to an all new and stress-producing level for readers. Great series!

Baldacci, David. (2013). The Hit. New York: Grand Central Publishing.


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22 May 2013

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock is about finding yourself in spite of being bullied.

On the first day of high school Celia posted a sign on her locker that read "Celia the Dark." Being Dark and dressing in a black hoodie big enough to cover most of her face is the way she planned to combat high school. While she had a hard time in eighth grade due to two classmates - Sandy and Mandy - she had some hope of finding a group of other outcasts and wallflowers.

When Drake Berlin, the cute new skater boy from New York, came up to her and befriended her Celia was not sure what to think. But she needed a friend. Her plan for revenge against Sandy and her shadow Mandy could share time with a new friend.

Celia is completely focused on revenge, distracted only by her poetry and reading, but begins to see hope when she meets Drake. Finneyfrock captures the pain of being a teen, but gives readers hope.

Finneyfrock, Karen. (2013). The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door. New York: Viking.

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21 May 2013

Ice Cold Kill

Ice Cold Kill by Dana Haynes is his first book about Daria Gibron who was introduced in Breaking Point, part of his series featuring a NTSB crash investigation team. Gibron is ex-Shim Bet (Israeli Security Force) and has worked with the FBI and DEA since moving to the United States.

Daria Gibron has set herself up as a translator. She speaks more languages than most and it gives her cover for some more covert jobs. After an altercation in Los Angeles she decides to take a relaxing job in Costa Rica. But her afternoons of swimming and laying in the sun are cut short by a message on her private website. And old friend and colleague is asking for a meeting in New York, and says it is a matter of life and death.

All US intelligence agencies get a warning that there is about to be an attempt on the life of the President. And the suspects are meeting in New York. One is a Syrian assassin and spy, Khalid Belhadj. And the other is Daria Gibron.

Now every law enforcement group in the country will be on the look out for Gibron. While she has no idea what she is about to walk into, she should not be underestimated. She has the training and survival skills to face anything.

Haynes can write suspense with the best. His book will grab you and not let go. And Gibron is a great character. Though it is not necessary to read the Crashers book first, there is some back-story in them. Daria Gibron is a great read alike for Jack Reacher fans.

Haynes, Dana. (2013). Ice Cold Kill. New York: Minotaur Books.

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18 May 2013

Grass for His Pillow (Tales of the Otori #2)

Grass for His Pillow by Lian Hearn is the second book in her Tales of the Otori series set in a fictional medieval Japan.

Otori Takeo is a member of the Tribe - a group of people genetically linked by blood and trained to be assassins and spies. Though he wants to live the life of an Otori, the Tribe has offered him a choice - join them or be killed. Since his father was killed when he left the Tribe, Takeo feels he had no choice but to join them and accept their training.

Shirakawa Kaede was promised to marry Otori Shigeru. She is heir to two lands - Murayama where it is traditional for women to inherit land, and Shirakawa where she will have to fight to be seen as the leader. Either way, she has decided to make her own fate - she will not be married off to someone she does not know or love.

Hearn's tales of clans and alliances set in this imaginary medieval Japan encompasses all that is great about historical fiction, epic fantasy, and great storytelling. This series is brilliant! Read it now!

Hearn, Lian. (2003). Grass for His Pillow. New York: Riverhead Books.

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13 May 2013

Movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky has been turned into a movie. And for the third time in my life I have found a movie I like as well as, or better than, the book! It helps that the author of the book wrote the screenplay and directed it himself.

Charlie is a freshman in high school. He is trying to be optimistic about his first day but as anyone in or past high school knows - it is not the most fun you can have. On top of being a freshman Charlie is dealing with the suicide of his best friend. And he spent the summer in a mental hospital trying to cope. Now he must find his place.

On his first day there are two highlights: His English teacher is great. And there is a funny senior in his wood shop class. And that first Friday during the football game he sits with that senior, Patrick, and his world starts looking up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful movie about figuring out who your are because of, or in spite of, your past. It is about first loves, great friends and great music.

Starting:
Logan Leman
Emma Watson
Ezra Miller
Mae Whitman
Paul Rudd
Nina Dovrev

Written and Directed by Stephen Chbosky

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11 May 2013

Pink

Pink by Lili Wilkinson is a novel about discovery.

Ava is about to change schools. She wants to change her image and feels the only way she can try out a new look and try to find out who she really is is to start over somewhere else. Her parents and her girlfriend have different reactions. Her parents are happy that she will be attending a high school for smart kids. Her girlfriend is not happy about it.But Ava wants to go from an goth, politically radical lesbian to trying to be "normal." Plus she secretly likes the color pink. So now she can wear pink and meet different people.

The Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence in Melbourne is about to put on a musical. Her new friend convinces Ava to try out for a part. When she doesn't make it into the play she joins stage crew as a way to still hang out with her new friends in the play. But stage crew, or the screws, are not friends with the actors.

The screws are people who know who they are and are themselves in spite of being in high school. Ava will have to decide who she is and if she is willing to let others meet the real her.

Wilkinson has written a coming of age novel filled with many different types of people. Great read for all teens, including GLBTQ youth who are still figuring out where they fit.

Wilkinson, Lili. (2009). Pink. New York: HarperTeen.

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10 May 2013

Stormdancer (Lotus War #1)

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff is the first book in his Lotus War trilogy - set in the fictional world of Shima that resembles Japan and lead by a Shogun.

The Shima Empire is run by one man - the ninth Shogun of the Kazumitsu Dynasty. Though he is in charge of the running of the empire, he is more concerned with getting what he wants personally. And others in the Tiger Clan as well as the other three clans (Fox, Dragon and Phoenix) must no offend him or they will be killed. What he wants now is a thunder tiger - a mythical griffin-like creature that has been extinct for years.

Yukiko will join her father on a wild griffin chase to the Iishi mountain range - a place where humans do not travel due to legend of demons - knowing that failure will result in the death of the whole hunting party.

When Yukiko and a thunder tiger meet, her secret gift of being able to communicate with animals may be the only thing that will save her life.

Kristoff has created a dystopian world where the Blood Lotus is destroying much of the population - either with it opiate or by destroying the land in which it is planted. The regime is oppressive and ripe for someone to challenge it.


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07 May 2013

The Wanderer (Thunder Point #1)

The Wanderer by Robyn Carr is the first book in her new Thunder Point series set in a small town along the Oregon coast.

Hank Cooper just found out that one of his good friends has died. So he packs up his toy hauler and drives to the Oregon coast to get the details. While his friend's death was ruled an accident by local law enforcement, Cooper is surprised to find out that his friend, Ben, has left him a bait shop/ bar and about 200 acres of amazing coastal land.

While his first thought is to sell, Cooper wants to learn more about Ben's life in Thunder Point and figure out what Ben would want to happen to the land. And though Cooper has not spent much time in any one place since the Army - moving all over the world following different helicopter pilot jobs - Thunder Point seems like a nice place to explore for a time.

Landon and his sister Sarah moved to Thunder Point a few months ago. Sarah is a Lt. Commander in the US Coast Guard and flies rescue helicopters. Landon is now the starting quarterback for Thunder Point high school.

Carr has created a charming small town in a beautiful location and filled it with characters who readers will love. Though technically a romance series, fans of realistic fiction who do not normally read romance will also enjoy this book. Look for more reviews of her books here soon.

Carr, Robyn. (2013). The Wanderer. New York: Mira.

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05 May 2013

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King is a coming of age novel set in a small town in Pennsylvania.

Astrid Jones's family moved to Unity Valley when she was ten. Now, seven years later, she still misses New York City and the open-minded people who live there. Most of the people in her town seem to be small-minded and gossipy.

Astrid is a senior in high school. Her best friends are Kristina and Justin - who are the schools most loved couple of the senior class. Only they are not dating each other. They are covering for each other since they are both gay and dating other people. When they convince Astrid to come with them to a gay bar it makes her nervous.

Not because she has a problem with gays and lesbians, but because she is trying to figure out if she is one. She has been kissing her coworker, Dee, every weekend in the walk-in freezer at work, but she does not want to put herself into a box with a label until she is certain.

In the mean time, her school and town continue to spread gossip that usually has little to do with fact. In her philosophy class she is studying Socrates - who is beginning to influence her decisions. And when she feels trapped in her small town, she lays in the backyard and watches the planes flying overhead - wondering where the passengers are going.

King's novels vary greatly, but the two I have read have great lead characters who are strong women who refuse to be bullied into what others thing they should be or do with their lives. I will be reading all of her other books!

King, A.S. (2012). Ask the Passengers. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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04 May 2013

Cold Fire (Spiritwalker #2)

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott is the second book in her Spiritwalker trilogy.

Catherine Barahal has been married to a cold mage of the Four Moons House. She has been taken from the only family she has ever known. Now she is on the run from that same mage house. Along the way, Cat found out that she can enter the spirit world.

Now Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother are fleeing toward the rebels to find shelter from all of the groups that are after them for one reason or another. 

What follows is an adventure through both the spirit world and a world where a warlord is trying to conquer Europa and and island in the Antilles about to begin a civil war. Elliott's series is well crafted and her characters are great. Cat might remind readers a bit of Jacky from L.A. Meyer's series - a strong female character who refuses to follow the role proscribed for her by current dogma.

Elliott, Kate. (2011). Cold Fire. NY: Orbit.

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