Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bookish Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a lovely mystery/crime novel by a first-time (70-year-old) novelist. The protagonist, Flavia de Luce, is quite charming. At 11 years old, she has a love of chemistry, an obsession with poisons, and takes great joy in tormenting her older sisters. When she stumbles across a dying man in their garden at 4 in the morning, she is suddenly caught up in solving the mystery and proving her father innocent of murder. Tied up in the investigation are rare stamps, an apparent suicide from her father's schoolboy days, a jacksnipe, a cream pie, and some strangers in town. Flavia is brilliant and you'll stick with her every step of the way as she plans to outsmart the inspectors and solve the mystery for herself. Luckily, this is only the first Flavia mystery, with more on the way

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bookish Review: Paper Towns

First, I must mention that I was a big John Green fan before I ever read this book, even though this is the first John Green book I've ever read. I am an out-and-out nerdfighter, a huge fan of John and Hank Green's vlog on YouTube. If you have not seen it, please check it out.You won't regret it. DFTBA.

So, I had really high hopes for this book--I was even a little afraid to read it, because if it wasn't as good as I hoped, could I still love John as much?

The book focuses on Quentin Jacobsen, his band geek friends, and his love for his mysterious and super-cool neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman. Margo and Q were friends when they were children, but of course that ended. Until one night, she appears at Q's window and takes him on the adventure of a lifetime. And then promptly disappears. Q feels certain it is up to him to find her, dead or alive.

There was a brief moment in the middle--maybe 2/3 of the way through--that I thought I was going to be disappointed. Things were dragging a little. But then, Q finds what he thinks will be the right path to find Margo, and the story picks right back up.

It's a great tale, funny and touching. A nice coming of age romp. Q's friend Ben is probably the weakest part of the tale--a few too many "honeybunny"s in his dialogue. But otherwise, it is quite enjoyable. Good for teens seeking their place in the world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cookish: Snacktime

Artichoke Dip

1 can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 8 oz block of cream cheese
1/3 cup of mayo
1 pkg Sargento premium blends, Parmesean and Romano
black pepper
garlic powder
crackers, for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Put the cream cheese in a microwave-safe container and zap for about 30 seconds, or til soft. Mix with the mayo, add the artichokes, and about 3/4 the bag of cheese. Add some black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Place dip in a glass pie dish or similar receptacle, cover the top with the remaining cheese and bake until hot & bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Serve with crackers. Yum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bookish Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Isn't the cover design of this book awesome?

Calpurnia Tate is a girl growing up in TX at the turn of the 20th century. In a household filled with brothers, Callie's mother has high hopes for her coming out in a few years and is struggling mightily to get Callie to learn knitting, sewing, cooking, and other domestic arts--all of which Callie hates. What Callie loves is investigations with her naturalist grandfather, who teaches her about microbes, plants, animals, observation, the scientific method, and The Origin of the Species. As Callie grows to love science, she also begins to realize that a career or education at the university is probably off-limits to her as her family believes her future lies in a good marriage. As she sees the injustice of it all, she begins to wonder what her future holds.

Callie is a very compelling protagonist, and the ending does not answer all questions about where her future lies--there's definitely room for a sequel here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bookish Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

This book is the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I really thought I already reviewed on here, but it sure doesn't look like it. My short review on facebook was: "A little slow to start, but very interesting and a good read. Can't wait to get my hands on the next one." Make sure you read that one first, and then get your hands on this one.

Stieg Larsson tends to set up his books with many different characters and storylines going on so that when you start you wonder where the heck he is going with all of it and how it will fit together, bit somehow it all works. The pacing in the beginning is slow, but it picks up as the book goes on. He has created some very interesting characters, particularly the main characters of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalistic crusader and ladies' man, and Lisbeth Salander, an astonishingly smart but socially inept hacker that has been declared incompetent by the state (she's "the girl" in both titles). This book brings more insight into Salander's psychological make-up as we learn more about the past, including who her father is. The main plot of the book centers around human trafficking and the sex trade in Sweden. Blomkvist is working with an author who intends to write an expose on the situation, but when he is murdered, and Salander becomes the main suspect, it is up to Blomkvist to discover what is really going on. Meanwhile, Salander stumbles upon a link to her past that she would very much like to sever, and though she doesn't want to rely on Blomkvist at all, she must accept his aid, at least a little.

The book definitely leaves you wanting more and sets things up nicely for the final volume in the trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Larsson has a very interesting and compelling style and it is extremely unfortunate that he is now deceased, so these 3 books are presumably the only ones we'll see from him. Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bookish Review: Revenge of the Spellmans

Lisa Lutz has done it again with another great Spellman romp. This is the third book in the series--please read the 1st two first; you won't regret it. It's a very fast and fun read. Izzy Spellman is forced into court-ordered therapy, which she mostly gets through by taking long pauses where she pretends to think about her responses. In the meantime, she takes up secretly living in her brother's house while trying to investigate the recent changes in his life. She also must decide if she wants to quit the PI biz for good, or go back to working for her parents. She also needs to stop Rae, her sister, from trying to break up their cop friend Henry and his girlfriend (even though Izzy is in love with Henry) and stop her from stealing Izzy's car. She must also convince her old friend Morty to move away to Florida and solve a case--the result of which will determine her future.

There's lots of intrigue, familial investigating, blackmail, car chases, stakeouts--all the usual Spellman ingredients. It's funny and well-written, and I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bookish Review: The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan

The Long Way Home is the second book in the Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan.

Charlie West was an ordinary teen until he woke up to discover a year of his life gone--during which he’d been convicted of murder and gotten involved with a gang of terrorists. Charlie is headed back to his hometown to uncover the true murderer and prove his innocence—to himself and everyone else.

This story is Christian YA fiction. It’s written in relatively quick chapters, and since Charlie is on the run from the police and a bunch of terrorists, it is pretty fast-paced. The main character is 18, though his point of view does feel a bit younger. Keeping in mind that an entire year has passed that he can’t remember, I suppose the slightly younger tone is not out of place. At times, I found the tone a bit dogmatic, but overall, it is a fairly fast read with a patriotic feel. I could definitely see this used in a Christian homeschool curriculum. I did not read the first book in the series, but I wasn’t confused about the plot. Some interesting points are revealed, and it does leave you wondering what will happen next. Recommended for teen guys with patriotic/religious leanings.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”