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Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: Paranormal, YA
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 351
Date read: December, 2010

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

Why has this book been hyped so? The fact that it took me nearly a month to read it should be a pretty good indicator of what I thought of it. It was okay, but definitely no more than that, and while I may at some point read the sequels, I'm in no rush to do so right now.

For once the main character was enough of a Mary Sue that even I noticed. But of course, when "Cassandra (Clarissa) Clare" writes about a main character called "Clarissa Clark", it's kinda hard to miss. It was also very obvious that the author had been heavily influenced by Harry Potter and her fanfiction writings there - only her 'muggles' where called 'mundanes' instead. Also there was a glaring plothole where Clary hands Jace his steele back, only to have it in her pocket just a few pages later - something which really ought to have been caught by editors.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't bad. I just found it all-around average - plot, people gallery and writing - which when considering the hype around it, made for a rather disappointing read.
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Title: Hunted
Author: PC & Kristin Cast
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 332
Date read: December, 2010

The good news: Zoey's friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren't Neferet's secrets any longer. The bad news: Ancient evil with the face of an angel has been let loose - that and various other nasties (whose faces aren't so angelic). Grandma Redbird is in trouble. Heath is in trouble. The House of Night is in trouble. Okay, let's face it - Zoeyss whole world is in trouble! But when the trouble comes from a being who appears to be beauty personified, will the world believe it? Especially when only a teenager and a group of misfits are the only ones who really understand the danger he brings.

Alas, after a brief respite, P.C. and Kristin Cast return to their habit of sending multiple love interests Zoey's way. Come on, guys. It's getting old, and it wasn't even attractive in the first place! Why all paranormal books these days have to have a love triangle (or a love square in this case) I'll never understand.

But thankfully, it is a lot better handled in this book than in book 3, so I still have hope that they will redeem themselves in later books. Zoey's internal dilemma here is actually believable and for the one person where it isn't, the authors are already dropping hints that Zoey may call it off. Yes! Please do! Bah!

Apart from that one annoyance, I was very intrigued in the story and easily got caught up in the fast pace of the plot. I really hope we get to read a lot more about Stark and the few remaining 'sane' teachers in the next book, and am very interested to see how the fall-out from this book's ending will be handled.
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Title: Untamed
Author: PC & Kristin Cast
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 306
Date read: December, 2010

Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey's adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened.

After a very disappointing book 3 I was happy to see P.C. and Kristin Cast back on track in this one. Just sad that it had to happen by Zoey losing all three of her boyfriends in one bad move, but if she can't get her act together and make up her mind herself, I guess circumstances have to do it for her. And I was thrilled to see her no longer trying to tackle everything herself, but actually listening to her friends and to Nyx once in awhile. She is a lot less Mary Sue'ish in this book and accordingly a lot more likeable.

Aphrodite is still my favourite character, but I have to say that the friendly nuns run a very close second. And I'm incredibly relieved to see that the Casts no longer lump all religious people together with the narrow-minded, but actually cut some of them some slack.
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Title: The Gift
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2/5
# pages: 309
Date read: December, 2010

Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else.

On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe's presence begins to grate on Lou -- particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou's life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed

I think I've just about given up on Cecelia Ahern by now. I loved "PS. I Love You", but though I keep being fascinated by the premises of her books, every book since then has been not bad, but a bit of a disappointment. Unfortunately, this was no exception.

A bit of an alternative "It's A Wonderful Life", the book was interesting enough to keep me reading - and it's a quick read, so I pretty much finished it in one sitting - but the ending fell flat, and left me thinking I had wasted my time. I'm glad I just got it out of the library, and didn't actually spend any money on it.
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Title: Knit the Season
Author: Kate Jacobs
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 260
Date read: December, 2010

Not only are the holidays are just around the corner, the women who knit at Manhattan's Walker & Daughter have an extra reason to celebrate: there's a wedding planned for New Year's Day. In the meantime, college-age Dakota Walker is working to finish a sweater her mother started before Dakota was born. As she takes on her mother's pattern, she learns from her family and friends that there was much more history in these stitches than she had anticipated, and that to build on her mother's legacy, Dakota must allow herself to become the woman she truly desires to be.

Definitely the weakest of the lot, but it's a sweet Christmas story (starting just before Thanksgiving and ending just after New Years Eve) and a quick read, so perfect for a lazy Christmas Day morning.

It's linked quite closely to "Knit Two" and ties up a lot of the loose ends from that book. Some elements were a tad too good to be true, but "it's Christmas", and I can completely understand wanting an extra doze of 'feel good' for that.

"Knit the Season" is mostly about Anita, Peri, Catherine and Dakota, with the rest of the Knitting Club being pretty much just periphery characters. I've always liked those four best anyway, but I did feel the lack of the other characters was a bit too glaringly obvious, but it's also bar far the shortest of the lot, so I guess there just wasn't any room for more plot.

And it did leave me feeling very Christmasy, which is always the main point of a Christmas read :)
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Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: WW2, YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 224
Date read: December, 2010

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about this novella. I had no expectations at all, as the only thing I knew about it, was that it took place during WW2 and that "the boy in the striped pyjamas" was a prisoner of a concentration camp.

Generally speaking, I liked the book - although I'm not sure that 'liked' is the right term for the effect it had on me. I liked the way it was written through a young naive boy's POV, even if that boy did at times act FAR beneath his age. I'd have found it a lot more believable if Bruno had been 6 rather than 9. Forgetting the names of some of his best friends after less than a year? Really?

Still, it was Bruno's naivete and innocence that made the story work. The ending wouldn't have been at all believable if Bruno had been more mature or world-wise. As it was, it was a tragic story that (apart from Bruno's age) really worked for me.
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Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: C.S. Lewis
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 172
Date read: December, 2010

When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy took their first steps into the world behind the magic wardrobe, little do they realise what adventures are about to unfold. And as the story of Narnia begins to unfold, so to does a classic tale that has enchanted readers of all ages for over half a century.

I was "in between books" and in the mood for a quick and cozy read, so it just felt natural to turn to one of my favourite comfort series. I've always loved the story of Narnia, and TLTWTW is one of my favourites in the series.

One thing that takes me by surprise every time I read it is how short it is. Probably thanks to the various movie adaptions, I keep adding details and stretching out scenes, only to discover that the book really is quite fast moving, and Lewis doesn't dwell much on neither characterisations, descriptions or action.

But I can't even begin to imagine how it must have been to return to 'our world' after having not just been all grown up, but kings and queens too!
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Title: The Book of Tomorrow
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 320
Date read: December, 2010

Tamara Goodwin has always got everything she's ever wanted. Born into a family of wealth, she grew up in a mansion with its own private beach, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and all that a girl could ever wish for. She's always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. But then suddenly her dad is gone and life for Tamara and her mother changes forever. Left with a mountain of debt, they have no choice but to sell everything they own and move to the country. Nestled next to Kilsaney Castle, their gatehouse is a world away from Tamara's childhood. With her mother shut away with grief, and her aunt busy tending to her, Tamara is lonely and bored and longs to return to Dublin. When a travelling library passes through Kilsaney Demesne, Tamara is intrigued. Her eyes rest on a mysterious large leather bound tome locked with a gold clasp and padlock. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core.

The premise sounded really interesting, but the book was extremely slow-moving - it wasn't until page 100 that Tamara even found the mysterious book! Also, I didn't think the writing style really meshed with the genre. I think Cecelia Ahern tried for 'suspense' rather than 'chick-lit', which made for a really weird mix, that didn't really work for me. It did improve after the first 100 pages, but there were still too many things left unexplained or plot-devices that were just a tad too convenient. It had its moment, but in general I didn't care much for it at all.
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Title: Cathedral of the Sea
Author: Ildefonso Falcones
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 607
Date read: December, 2010

Arnau Estanyol arrives in Barcelona and joins the powerful guild of stone-workers building the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar, while his adoptive brother Joan studies to become a priest. As Arnau prospers, he secretly falls in love with a forbidden woman. When he is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved cathedral is finally completed, or will his brother spare him?

A difficult read, as books set in that time tend to be. It always infuriates me to read how nobels treated peasants, how rich treated poor, how Christians treeated Jews, and how the inquisition acted in general.

But leaving aside my natural distaste for those elements, "Cathedral of the Sea" is a brilliant book that gives a fascinating insight into the life and the times of a man in Barcelona in the 14th century. I loved reading about Joan and Armau's childhood and their fascination with the church of Santa Maria. I did feel Joan's developement wasn't sufficiently explained though.

Life handed Armau a tough hand, and it got a bit frustrating to read how one bad thing after another happened to him, but I enjoyed seeing how he made the most of thing, and kept bouncing back up with the help of kind onlookers.

It is by no means a cozy book, but has its comforting moments - I loved seeing Armau's family and friends rallying around him!
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Title: All By My Selves
Author: Jeff Dunham
Genre: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~9hrs
Date read: December, 2010

Whether he's breathing life into an old curmudgeon, an over-caffeinated purple maniac, or a screaming, skeletal, dead terrorist, Jeff Dunham is the straight man to some of the funniest partners in show business.

All by My Selves is the story of one pretty ordinary guy, one interesting hobby, one very understanding set of parents, and a long and winding rode to becoming America s favorite comedian. With wit, honesty, and lots of great show business detail, Jeff shares all the major moments in his journey. From the toy dummy he spotted at a toy store when he was 8 years old to playing to arenas filled with screaming fans, Jeff takes readers behind the curtain to explain how he turned an old fashioned art form into something truly modern and hip. Best of all, Jeff s story is accompanied by asides and interruptions from his characters who share all the hilarious details Jeff himself is too embarrassed to include.

From the very first time I even heard about this book, I was keen, but I wasn't too sure whether the book would actually be any good, or if it was just a gimmick. Especially when I saw that Jeff Dunham's characters took part in it as well. How would that even work in writing? Wouldn't it end up being too 'cute' for words? The only way that would work would be if the book came out on audiobook, narrated by Jeff Dunham himself...

... Famous last words, because of course it did. And when I discovered that, I saw no reason to hesitate further, and immediately turned to audible.com to buy it (I usually stick to audible.co.uk, but unfortunately they didn't have it). It was worth every penny! I usually listen to audiobooks while biking to and from work, and I can't help but wonder what the other cyclists must have thought, when I biked past them laughing my head off - yes, Jeff Dunham is every bit as funny in book as on stage - and literally found myself biking detours to get to listen to "just another five minutes".

It's a well-written book, coated with Jeff's humour and charm. I got to know a lot about him that I had no clue about, and am even more impressed by his current success than before. I was thrilled to hear his performance in Denmark being mentioned and laughed out loud at his surprise at how popular he was here as well.

I highly recommend it to any fan of Jeff Dunham - but get the audiobook version. I don't think it would be nearly as good without Jeff himself telling the story and doing the voices.
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Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 223
Date read: December 2010, June 2012

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley--a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all of that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry--and anyone who reads about him--will find unforgettable.

For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter.

I have to admit, it's pretty weird to read this and know that the series is now over. It was like revisiting part of my past, and knowing I could never return to that time again. (And yes, I know exactly how weird that sounds - I've never felt that way about a book before.) Because of that, I can't say whether it was as good as I remembered or not, because it had this atmosphere of nostalgia hanging all over it - making it almost impossible to review properly.

There were some things I had forgotten - e.g. how obnoxious Ron and Harry found Hermione in the beginning - and I can't help but think that Dumbledore's way of handling the last-minute point-giving was a bit cruel to the Slytherins. Why make them think that they had won, and then take that away from them at the very last moment? Harry had been in the hospital for 3 days, the points could have been given earlier.

But as always, the magic drew me in completely, and I pretty much read this in one sitting yesterday evening.
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Title: The Girls
Author: Lori Lansens
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 345
Date read: December, 2010

Meet Rose and Ruby: sisters, best friends, confidantes, and conjoined twins.
Since their birth, Rose and Ruby Darlen have been known simply as "the girls." They make friends, fall in love, have jobs, love their parents, and follow their dreams. But the Darlens are special. Now nearing their 30th birthday, they are history's oldest craniopagus twins, joined at the head by a spot the size of a bread plate.

When Rose, the bookish sister, sets out to write her autobiography, it inevitably becomes the story of her short but extraordinary life with Ruby, the beautiful one. From their awkward first steps--Ruby's arm curled around Rose's neck, her foreshortened legs wrapped around Rose's hips--to the friendships they gradually build for themselves in the small town of Leaford, this is the profoundly affecting chronicle of an incomparable life journey.

I'll admit straight out that I mostly picked up this book because I'm fascinated by cojoined twins. I can't imagine what it must be like to be that closely linked to another person ALL THE TIME. Reading it made me wonder how close to reality Lori Lansens got, because she's obviously not cojoined herself, but her descriptions seemed very realistic.

Some chapters of the book were written by Rose and others by Ruby. Though Rose's were the most detailed, and the ones where we learned most about the sisters' "public" lives, I actually preferred the chapters written by Ruby, as she was less fussed about being a 'proper writer', and wrote things straight out rather than trying to get to them chronologically, which meant that we ended up getting to know the girls a lot better through her chapters. Also, in fictional books I'm generally more interested in people's "nows" than in their pasts. But that's just me ;)
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Title: Mænd der hader kvinder (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 10/10
# pages: 556
Date read: March 2008


The retired director for the Vanger concern, Henrik Vanger, hires Mikael Blomkvist, journalist at the periodical Millennium, to write his biography. Blomkvist reluctantly accepts the job and as an assistant he hires Lisbeth Salander, a tattoed, pierced young lady who's been declared incapable of managing her own affairs, and who just happens to be a fantastic researcher and the best hacker in Sweden. Together they dig deep into the Vanger family's past and there meet a darker story than any of them had ever expected.

Though more than 500 pages I read it in less than 24 hours. I simply couldn't put it down. I read until far too late last night, and got up early this morning for the sole purpose of reading a bit more before having to leave for church. The plot is fascinating, uncompromising and horrifying, but the masterpiece is Stieg Larsson's way of expressing this plot, and the characters that he brings forth. It is not easy reading, and many of the details are just disgusting, but once you pick up the book, it's impossible to leave it until the last page is read.

Reread in 2010. I still think it's an amazing book, but this time I was really surprised to see how slow it actually is. I didn't remember that at all from my first read, but the first 8 chapters are pretty much just background. The story quickly picks up after that, but I understand how some people might give up before they got to that point.

But still a terrific book!

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