Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

After China unleashes what is dubbed the Eleventh Plague, or P11, the United States has collapsed and all that is left are salvagers roaming in tiny groups, slavers searching for people to kidnap, loosely affiliated military groups, and small settlements where people try to recreate what they remember from before the Collapse. Stephen is part of a salvager family now made up of just himself and his father. After a freak accident gravely injures his father, Stephen joins a small settlement, but is very distrustful and always wants to run.

Slowly, Stephen discovers that there are others like him, bearing the scars of their dystopian world. The Eleventh Plague is a story of friendship and the invisible chains that bind us to others and finding your own path and not always doing what others expect you to do. The book is an easy, quick read. There are a few twists and turns here and there making it very hard to put it down. I loved it!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 14
Pages Read in 2014: 3294
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Filed under Dystopian

Of Pigs, Pearls, and Prodigals by John Bytheway

I read Of Pigs, Pearls, and Prodigals: A Fresh Look At the Parable of Jesus by John Bytheway while studying my scriptures for the last several weeks. I went through one chapter (which is one parable) each day and now my scriptures have lots and lots of notes and quotes related to those parables. I appreciated the insights very much, as well as the conversational tone of the book (with occasional typical John Bytheway humor mixed in).

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 13
Pages Read in 2014: 3016
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Filed under Religious

Anastasia by Colin Falconer

Anastasia by Colin Falconer takes the theory that Anastasia Romanov survived the night her family was murdered, combines it with a young woman who looks like Anastasia but has no memory of her life prior to leaving Russia, and spins a love story than spans four countries and three continents over the course of several years. The author did an excellent job describing 1920s Shanghai, Berlin, London, and New York City. The story is told in the alternating voices of Anastasia and Michael (an American journalist who rescues Anastasia from a river as well as life on the streets as a prostitute). I never had to pause to remember whose chapter I was reading since they had very distinct voices. Anastasia reads fast and is very sweet. The ending was a complete surprise and not necessarily what I wanted, but it does seem like a fitting end to the story.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 12
Pages Read in 2014: 2792
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Filed under Historical Fiction

Long Knives by Charles Rosenberg

I think with a few revisions Long Knives by Charles Rosenberg could be a fantastic book. It is not bad, but there are enough problems that I was continually distracted from the story. I really felt like I was reading a late draft rather than a final product.

First the good. The premise and plot are great. A former lawyer/current UCLA law professor is suspected to have poisoned one of her students and at the same time she is being sued for the return of a treasure map (that the student had at the time of his death and she is accused of stealing). She hires two of her former friends and colleagues to represent her. The story is engaging for the most part and, while it’s not a “can’t put it down” type book, it kept me interested through the whole 500 pages. The story was not entirely predictable and, although I guessed who had actually done it before the big reveal, I changed my mind on who could be the culprit several times (though the why was a bit odd). The grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling are excellent. There is very little foul language, and when it does appear it makes sense to the story.

But then there’s the bad. At least twice the author forgot things he had previously written. In one case, one of the lawyer friends sees her in her classroom and comments on bruises she has (from a bike accident) and then a few scenes later he greets her at his office as if he hadn’t already seen her and wants to know where those bruises came from. The same character later takes a bite from an apple and then a couple pages later starts eating his apple (again, apparently) by removing the peel. A few scenes really did not contribute to the overall story (and actually detracted from it) and could have been cut. Most of the characters were not well-formed, including the main ones. I honestly did not care if someone killed Jenna (the professor) or if she was thrown in jail and I found her and her two lawyer friends to be not so smart, even when it came to litigation. The what seemed like 987 references to drinking or making coffee drove me crazy. The scene where the title of the book appeared in the text was very awkward to me, almost like the author really liked the title and wanted to use it so much (even though it didn’t really make sense for the book as a whole) that he created an odd scene to get it in there.

Overall, I liked Long Knives well enough. I’m not sorry I read it and I didn’t quit reading before the end. I think I would like it a whole lot more if it went through a couple more revisions. I think it totally has the potential to be a 5 star book, but just isn’t as it is currently.

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 11
Pages Read in 2014: 2527
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Filed under Thriller

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

When I was little my sister read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg in school. For some reason I was always intrigued by the title of the book and the impressive name of the author. I wanted to read it, and probably could have at the time, but it took me until now (at least 25 years) to finally actually read the book.

Claudia is bored with her life. The sameness, her feeling that her parents take her for granted. She cooks up a plan to run away and take her younger brother Jamie with her. Somehow, she thinks, when she returns home she will be different. So Claudia and Jamie run away and spend an entire week living and hiding in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Somehow they manage not to get caught. And it turns out the routines Claudia was used to at home are almost the same while being a runaway because you can run away from home, but you can’t run away from yourself.

The story is told from the point of view of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in the form of a letter written to a mysterious person named Saxonberg. While at the museum, the kids discover a mystery in the form of a statue purchased by the museum for only $225 at auction from Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The statue is noteworthy because it may or may not have been carved by Michelangelo. Claudia becomes fixated on solving the mystery of who carved Angel and that eventually leads them to meet Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

As someone who would have absolutely loved living in a museum and learning everything I could from the exhibits when I was a kid, I really enjoyed From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s cute, sweet, and not entirely predictable like many middle grade novels.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 8
Pages Read in 2014: 1810
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Filed under Middle Grades