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Title: Can I Have and Do it All, Please?
Author: Christine Caine
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 153
Date read: October, 2011

More than ever before, women are navigating through increasing amounts of responsibility, activity, scheduling and multi-tasking...and we need some answers about how to have and do it all in life!

An okay book, but a bit of a disappointment as it once again reminded me that an incredibly passionate and inspiring preacher does not always make for an incredibly passionate and inspiring author, and at times it fell a bit flat. I'm afraid it's one of those books that in two days' time, I couldn't tell you which points she made.
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Title: Equal Rites
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 283
Date read: October, 2011

The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check on the new-born baby's sex...

Better than "The Light Fantastic", not as good as "Wyrd Sisters". I've never really taken to Terry Pratchett - he tries too hard to be funny, rather than letting it come naturally. This was no exception, so why I really liked both Granny Weatherwax (who wouldn't?!? ;) ) and Esk, I wasn't terribly enamoured by the book itself.

So 2/5 for the book itself - Granny Weatherwax adds the extra 0.5.
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Title: Beggars in Spain
Author: Nancy Krauss
Genre: Sci-fi, short story (novella)
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 95
Date read: October, 2011

Leisha Camden was genetically modified at birth to require no sleep, and her normal twin Alice is the control. Problems and envy between the sisters mirror those in the larger world, as society struggles to adjust to a growing pool of people who not only have 30 percent more time to work and study than normal humans, but are also highly intelligent and in perfect health. The Sleepless gradually outgrow their welcome on Earth, and their children escape to an orbiting space station to set up their own society. But Leisha and a few others remain behind, preaching acceptance for all humans, Sleepless and Sleeper alike. With the conspiracy and revenge that unwinds, the world needs a little preaching on tolerance.

I didn't realize until after I had started reading it, that this was published first as a novella and later as a full-length novel. It was completely by accident that I'd gotten hold of the novella rather than the novel - might as well have been the other way around.

But now that I have read it, I'm glad I read the novella. It was a brilliant story - engaging and thought-provoking - but I don't think it would have worked nearly as well as a full-length novel. The pacing would have been off, it wouldn't have been as tight nor - I think - as poignant.

As it was, I couldn't get the story out of my head and found it extremely well written and provocative (in a good way). I'm sorry Alice and Leisha never became close, but was glad to see that the ending opened for the possibility of that in the future.
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Title: The Grounding of Group 6
Author: Julian F. Thompson
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 290
Date read: October, 2011

Parents get mad at their teenagers all the time, right? But what if your parents got so mad that they decided to have you killed?! That's what happened to the kids in Group 6, but they don't know it yet. They think that they've been sent to Coldbrook Country School in order to get straightened out. Sure, all of them admit to having caused their parents a few problems, but they're just normal kids. They have no idea that their parents hate them enough to kill them. Group 6 is about to find out exactly what's in store for them at Coldbrook. Will they survive?

I read about this in "Shelf Discovery" by Lizzie Skurnick, and as the premise sounded absolutely fascinating, and the atmosphere like it would be similar to "Singularity" / "House of Stairs" by William Sleator, I immediately added it to my to-read list. Last week it finally arrived from Amazon.

I'd say it both lived up to my expectations and it didn't. The premise was indeed fascinating, and I thought Julian Thompson handled it well. Sure, you'd have to take a bit of a leap of faith to believe in the premise in the first place, but within the limits he set himself, he made it work. I'd love to have seen the letters to the Doctor though, or heard the other side of the conversations with the parents.

The atmosphere was nothing like William Sleator's books, but I'm not going to fault the book for something I dreamed up.

I know it was probably meant to be annoying, but I loved how Doctor turned everything he said into a song - I've SO been known to do that myself. I do try to limit myself though - I know it tends to annoy people more than amuse them ;)
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Title: The Beasts of Clawstone Castle
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Genre: Childrens, Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 192
Date read: October, 2011

When their parents go to America for the summer, Madlyn and Rollo are sent to their great-aunt Emily and great-uncle George at Clawstone Castle, home of the legendary and mysterious Wild White Cattle of Clawstone Park. But times are hard at Clawstone, as the fancier castle down the road attracts all the tourist traffic. Determined to save the castle and the herd, Madlyn and Rollo audition a cast of ghosts to add some thrills to the Clawstone tours, and soon visitors are pouring through the gates. But just when things are looking up, the ghosts and children find themselves facing a great mystery, and some very sinister enemies. Will Madlyn, Rollo, and their ghostly friends find a way to save the day?

I've wanted to read this for so long, that I can't even remember who recommended it to me in the first place any longer! Finally it became available through interlibrary loan, so I could get my hands on it, and wouldn't you know - I ended up being ever so slightly disappointed! Go figure. The story was decent enough, but much more of a children's book than I had expected, and while I liked the characters well enough, there were too many holes in the plot for me to really appreciate it.

Had I been meant as the target group I would probably only have rated it 2 stars, but since it's so obviously a children's book - and I can definitely see the appeal it would have for children - I've given it one extra.
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Title: Ship of Destiny
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 906
Date read: October, 2011

The dragon, Tintagila, released from her wizardwood coffin, flies high over the Rain Wild river. Below her, Reyn and Selden have been left to drown; while Malta and Satrap attempt to navigate the acid flow of the river in a decomposing boat.

Althea and Brashen are finally at sea together, sailing the liveship Paragon into pirate waters to rescue the Vestrit family liveship Vivacia, who was stolen by the pirate king, Kennit; but there is mutiny brewing amongst their ragtag crew, and in the mind of the mad ship itself. And all the while the waters around the Vivacia are seething with giant serpents, following the liveship as she sails to her destiny.

I hadn't thought it possible, but I have to say that this trilogy is even better than the Farseer trilogy. I think it's possible that I just liked the characters better, and that the plots themselves are comparable.

My favourite part by far was seeing the various characters grow and mature. Malta especially of course, but also Keffria and to a part the Satrap. I think that is one of the greatest strengths of Robin Hobb's writing - the characters aren't static, and they aren't two-dimensional.

I'm sad to see the story end, but think I will wait until my next vacation to read the Golden Fool trilogy - the books are extremely gribbing, and it has been entirely too difficult to put them down to go to bed or get to work this past week. It'll be so much easier if I don't have such constraints.
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Title: Stone of Tears
Author: Terry Goodkind
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~39hrs
Date read: October, 2011

The veil of the underworld has been torn.

And Darken Rahl, from beyond the veil, has begun to summon a sinister power worse than any he has wielded before.

Armed with the Sword of Truth, Richard Cypher, now become Richard Rahl, must learn to control his own new-found power; or the world will spin into darkness unending.

The Sisters of Light promise help. While Richard journeys to their forbidden city, his beloved Kahlan sets out for Ayindril, citadel of the old wizards, in search of Zedd and the help only he can lend. War, suffering, torture, and deceit lie on their paths. So, also, does their destiny.

I still love this series as much as I always did :) On my first read-through, this was actually my least favourite, because I didn't like all the pointlessness of getting Richard to the Sisters of the Light. Of course, I now know that it had to happen to set up the plot for the next books, and somehow don't mind as much. I do understand Richard's frustration with Sister Verna and Pasha though - they were insanely overbearing at times!

I really don't get why Kahlan didn't use her power against Prince What's-his-face and the wizard - that could have solved the conspiracy right there! But of course, then the prophecy wouldn't have come to pass.
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Title: Pectus' sten (The Stone of Pectus)
Author: Lise Bidstrup
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 250
Date read: October, 2011

What if the world isn't at all like most people think?
What if demons are real, and very, very close?
And what if it all falls upon a boy and a girl to prevent the world to descend into chaos?

Isabell can hardly believe it, when she is approached by a member of the secret "Higher Order". The gentleman tells her a fantastic story about a world that consists of so much more than what people can see, and that this world will only be able to continue, if she agrees to a quest: finding the stone of Pectus.

Laus definitely can't believe it, when he receives a letter saying that he has been chosen to participate in a super-secret TV-show called "The Stone of Pectus". Still, he ends up in a plane heading towards Orvieto, Italy where things turn out to be very different from what he had expected.

I was contacted by the author herself, asking me if I'd be willing to review this book. The premise sounded good, so of course I agreed. Fortunately I did not live to regret that decision ;-) The book arrived late one afternoon, and by the following evening I had finished it. It's a fun story, easy to read, and captures the attention of the reader, even when she - as in this case - is quite a bit older than the target audience.

Thankfully, in a well-written book that really doesn't matter. I enjoyed the plot, loved seeing the friendship grow between Isabell and Laus, and had my own private snigger at the names Lise Bidstrup had chosen for both the good and the bad supernatural creatures (the demons were called "Pravus" and "Ingratus" - once I saw that I was pretty sure it wasn't a coincidence that one of the good guys was called "Auxilius", and stopped to look up the rest :) ). I'm always relieved when I like a book I'm asked to review - it makes everything so much more comfortable :)
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Title: A Homemade Life
Author: Molly Wizenberg
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 336
Date read: October, 2011

When Molly Wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new pâtisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.

Part essay-collection, part cookbook, I was greatly charmed by this book by Molly Wizenberg. Her essays were short and sweet, and fully explained to the reader, Molly's love of cooking and anything cooking-related. The recipes were unusual, and most of them sounded absolutely delicious. I've bookmarked pretty much half of them, to try out myself sometime.

Molly Wizenberg comes across as a charming and sociable person. I think I would like her :-)
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Title: Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles
Author: Margaret Mahy
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 96
Date read: October, 2011

Brothers Jasper and Julian get a horrible shock when their children provide them with their heart's desire! Jasper is wicked and his seven faint-hearted sons are a severe disappointment to him. Julian is good, and his tomboy daughter is a disappointment to him. When the children create two tyrranical robots to send to each other, Jasper and Julian begin to realize that they have made a terrible mistake.

I first encountered Margaret Mahy in general and Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles in particular when Dad read this aloud to us back in 1990. Ever since then, the book has popped up my in thoughts on a regular basis, but I was never really able to find it anywhere, so I forgot about it again.

Then, when I was browsing the other day, I found that it was finally available from Amazon Marketplace for a decent price, and naturally went straight out and bought it. To my great joy it arrived in the mail a mere 4 busines days later.

Great was my trepidation when I picked it up... would it live up to my expectations? I remembered it as a hilarious story with lots of mischief, but would my 32-year-old-self think likewise?

Fortunately the answer was yes. It fully stood the test of time and I left my husband much bemused by laughing out loud at more than one occasion, without being able to tell him exactly why.

My inner 10-year-old is much appeased.
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Title: Autumn Term
Author: Antonia Forest
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 295
Date read: October, 2011

Twins Nicola and Lawrie arrive at their new school determined to do even better than their distinguished elder sisters, but things don't turn out quite as planned.

I had this recommended to me because I mentioned loving books that take place at boarding schools, and fortunately the recommendation was spot on :-) I loved reading about Nick's and Lawrie's antics in Third Removed and especially thought the description of the play extremely well done - that is EXACTLY how it feels... right down to the melancholy and "day after blues". I think Antonia Forest must have had experience with acting herself, to be able to describe it so well.

A lovely cozy book, and the perfect accompaniment to a lazy afternoon.
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Title: The Fox Inheritance
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 2/5
# pages: 384
Date read: October 2011

Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.

Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.

Everyone except Jenna Fox.

I read "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this sequel. Unfortunately it didn't even come close to living up to my expectations. There were aspects of it I liked - especially the Bot-driver Dot - but as a whole it just didn't work for me. The writing was spotty (not just "disjointed for a reason" like in book one), the transitions didn't really work, and though the book tried to lead up to the resolutions of two conflicts, neither were really satisfyingly resolved, as Mary Pearson used what most of all seemed like a deux ex machina to kill two birds with one stone.

It was intriguing enough to keep me reading, which is pretty much the only reason why it gets 2 stars rather than just one, but that's all I can say in its favour.
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Title: Heist Society
Author: Ally Carter
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 304
Date read: October 2011

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind.

Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected. Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list.

Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help. For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Fun, unassuming read. Nothing to blow you away, but an enjoyable book to bring on a vacation and a quick read. Obviously completely unrealistic, but I still enjoyed reading about the tactics and details of setting up a heist. Reminded me somewhat of If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon in that regard.
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Title: Dragonsinger
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 240
Date read: March 2006, September 2008

Pursuing her dream to be a Harper of Pern, Menolly studies under the Masterharper learning that more is required than a facility with music and a clever way with words.

This is one of those books that would have been too short practically no matter how long it was. One of my very favourite books, and one of my introductions to the fantasy genre. I love the atmosphere it describes, and would love to experience some lessons at Harper Hall myself... even though I'd probably be more likely to be one of the clueless girls (although not as cruel I hope) than Menolly.

I love the lyrics that start off each chapter. Usually when books have lyrics or poems as introductions to chapters I just skip them, but here they seem an integral part of the book :)

It's a shame no more books have been written about Menolly's life at Harper Hall. I was so disappointed with Dragondrums, because I wanted to read more about Menolly - not Piemur.

Those of you who've read more Pern - are there any more books about Harper Hall at all?
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Title: Lioness Rampant
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/10
# pages: 308
Date read: August 2007, October 2011

Summary: Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs....But Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good -- but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna's archenemy, Duke Roger, is back -- and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past -- both as a warrior and as a woman.

Review: I'd never noticed it before, but on this reread of the quartet, I realized that this is actually the weakest of the lot. Tamora Pierce tries too much in this book, with 4 different plotlines being twisted together. Because of this, it's by far the longest of the four. It doesn't make it bad though, just means it's not as tightly spun as the other three.

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Title: The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 216
Date read: August 2007, October 2011

Summary: A knight at last, Alanna of Trebond heads out to seek adventure in the desert of Tortall. Captured by desert tribesmen, she is forced to prove herself in a magical duel to the death. But her real challenge doesn't come until after she wins. As the first female shaman, Alanna must fight to change the ancient traditions of the stubborn desert tribes -- for their own sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Review: When I first read this quartet, I stopped after the two first books, because it just seemed wrong to me to read about Alanna when she wasn't still at the palace. I didn't realize that her adventures other places could be just as interesting to read. Fortunately I got over it, and now enjoy this book just as much as the rest of the series.

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Title: Lady Knight
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 406
Date read: August 2007, October 2011

Keladry of Mindelan (a.k.a. Kel), has finally been knighted. Never one to rest on her laurels, Kel champs at the bit, ready to tackle the horrific magic killing devices she was shown in the Chamber of the Ordeal during her knighthood initiation. The huge, insectlike machines, "made of iron-coated giants' bones, chains, pulleys, dagger-fingers and -toes, and a long whiplike tail," feed on the souls of dead children and are systematically killing off the citizens and warriors of Tortall.

Thoroughly disgusted to discover that not only is she not going to be assigned a combat post, but she has been placed in charge of a refugee camp instead, Kel, in her usual noble, stoic way, swallows her disappointment and sets out being the best refugee camp commander possible. Of course, destiny has a way of sneaking up on a young woman like Kel, and soon she is fulfilling the ordeal the Chamber set out for her... and then some.

While I still love the book, I guess this is my least favourite of the quartet. Not that it's not well written, it just gets repititious at times, and could probably easily have been 50-100 pages shorter.

Still charming though - I don't think Tamora Pierce is able to write uncharming books :-)
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Title: Third
Author: Lorna Summers
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 965
Date read: July 2007, April 2009, October 2011, December 2014

Summary: Set in a post-apocalyptic world similar to that of "A Handmaid's Tale" this story takes place in a world where only a small percentage of men and women are fertile. The population is kept from extinction by 'thirds' - fertile women who chose to serve as a surrogate mother as often as they can before they retire.

Charlotte Bennigan is an experienced third. Matt is her 6th "little husband", and she's already been pregnant 8 times by the time he moves in, so she assumed she knew exactly what to expect. She knew how to have a friendly, affectionate yet professional relationship with him. But Matt is nothing like any little husband she's ever met before and suddenly it becomes difficult to separate business from pleasure and remember what's appropriate for a third and her 10 year younger little husband.

Review: Third is one of those few books that I really cannot put down - forgoing sleep in order to read just a couple of more pages, not only on my first read-through, but in every subsequent reread. It's LONG (965 pages), but doesn't feel long, because I'm totally drawn in from the very first page. It's well-written, poignant, funny, devastating and just plain fascinating. Though I know what's happening quite well by now, I still alternatively laugh out loud and wipe my eyes while reading it. It has some of my favourite literary scenes, that just break my heart with the beauty and emotion of them.

I love the characterisations - the people become REAL to me, and they draw me in the way few others can. Lorna has managed to make the people three-dimensional, and I ended up caring for all of them and wanting to learn more about their internal relationships, their triumpths and their failures.

Third is still in the final stages of editing and thus not ready for purchase yet. I'll be sure to let you know when that changes.

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