Glen Gardner, NJ, United States | Member Since 2008
Ember is a city that was built to ensure that humans survived some disaster and the city is powered by electricity from a mysterious generator. I am fascinated by the controlled environment in which the people of Ember have lived. They get the power from a source they don't really understand and rely on the dwindling contents of storerooms full of items they cannot truly understand (i.e. canned food – the storerooms fascinate me). The society absolutely fascinates me. The kids go to school until they are twelve and then pick out of a hat the job they will be doing. This Assignment Day ritual fascinates me too. (I suppose I must declare the book “Fascinating!”)
I must mention here that the narration was inferior and the assignment day scene is a perfect example of why. The mayor who runs that ritual is fat. The book flat out tells you he is big and fat. It doesn't say he is wheezing and gasping like he is on his last breath, but every time he says anything it sounds like the narrator is on her death bed. I like her cheery sounding Lina, but Doon sounds too silly and kid like. Not that our hero and heroine aren't kids, being 12, but in that society they are really functioning as adults, so let's lay off the whiny little boy voice.
There are a lot of coincidences and things that cause one to need to suspend disbelief To me, the concept was interesting enough to make me want to read the book and overlook implausibility or flaws.
I liked one thing about Lina and Doon though. They are kids, despite being working members of society and this is clearly shown in the naivety they display at various points. It never occurs to them that the world isn't fair and that not everyone would react as they would. I thought it was well done and believable.
I was interested in how the people dealt with their dwindling supplies and Lina's reaction to a colored pencil was great. I am not sure I fully understand why the founders of Ember felt so much ignorance was necessary or how they could have missed the consequences that that could have over time. Maybe this will be addressed in the sequel. I am willing to overlook a lot of the little flaws in the book but it seems to me that Ember wasn't exactly perfectly placed to survive this huge disaster, whatever it was (it’s just down a hole). And the builders really set these folks up for failure with all the stuff that had to be figured out. But then again if it were all straight forward there wouldn't be the fun of solving the mystery. While Lina and Doon try to decipher the instructions to escape Ember I really wished I had a physical book so I could try to figure out the message along with them. It was just about impossible with an audiobook though so I didn’t even try.
The is not an easy book to describe. I suppose you could say that it is a coming of age story that also involves a police investigation into a series of killings. Because the victims were raped and mutilated I feared a lot of disturbing detail. We do get some information on the deaths, and a psychic flash here or there, but the book really does not dwell on the suffering and gory details as so often happens in books with serial killers (I try never to read those books). There is enough there to bother someone super sensitive I guess but I am pretty sensitive and found this book did not bother me. There are some other things that might bother some people. The book does have a certain atmosphere that might not appeal to everyone. You know when you are watching the news and they find the body of a young girl raped and murdered at a trailer park, and go on to report she lived with her exotic dancer mom and the mom's abusive alcoholic boyfriend and 5 sex offenders lived within 200 feet - and you just shake your head and think how this person was doomed from the get go? That is what the atmosphere of this book is like. Loads of family dysfunction, abuse and failure. I almost stopped reading very early in the book because the atmosphere was so unpleasant and made me uncomfortable but that feeling faded further on. It makes an amazing contrast that our narrator (Loved the narrator!) radiated such genuine goodness and innocence despite being raised in such an environment. In general I do not like books which are narrated from a teenage boy's point of view. But Biscuit was such a decent guy, that even when he had the sexual thoughts expected of a teenage boy it wasn't creepy. As some other reviews pointed out we certainly had a choice of suspects. One odd thing is in the book's usage of the paranormal element. Biscuit himself says he has "a touch of the sight but not enough to actually be useful" (or words to that effect). That is amazingly true. It seemed to me that there was not enough made of this paranormal element if the reader likes that element and too much made of it if the reader doesn't like it. There are also some chunks of the book where we seem to go off on tangents with certain characters who are peripheral to the main plot. I suppose these sequences make sense when viewing the story as a coming of age tale. I didn't love the book, but it did hold my attention and has stuck with me since I finished it. I also liked that we do get some wrap up on the various characters, though not everyone ends up exactly as I would have liked. Of course if they had that probably would have seemed strange in a book with so much dysfunction. Many characters are frustrating in how they don't necessarily create their own problems, but they do fail in stopping them from continuing. I don't think I would have liked the book nearly as much in print. Narrator certainly helps the reader feel connected to the story, and gives them someone to cheer for.
I read the first Tess Monaghan mystery a while ago and was in no rush to read the next. My main problem with Tess was just not feeling any connection to her. In book one she spends most of her time working out and rowing, which didn't interest me. In this installment she actually doesn't do any rowing, and only a little working out. She seems to have traded that hobby for the hobby of eating junk food. I read a lot of cozy mysteries, and Tess is not a cozy character. She likes to drink bourbon, smoke pot, and she is having an uncommitted relationship with a guy who is obviously in love with her. I felt sorry for the guy. The Tess character starts out being very much like a stereotypical male character and I was expecting to stop the series after this one. However, I have to say, that as the book goes on we see another side of Tess and I liked her much better. As the mystery developed I thought it was going in a very predictable way and was starting to feel disappointed and then an unexpected twist changed things. All in all, it was actually a pretty good book and I expect I will continue on to the next one.
I almost didn't read Murder of a Snake in the Grass because I had read a review that said this wasn't a cozy mystery and full of unpleasantness. I have to disagree with that. I found this one to actually be lighter than many others. There is a lot of lighthearted silliness which goes on in relation to Skye and her several love interests. There are some delinquent boys but they really don't get a whole lot of screen time, just enough to remind us that school psychologist is a bad job. I don't want to give anything away but Skye finally settles on one guy by the end of the book. We finally get the backstory on Skye's failed engagement. I found the performance of Skye's ex to be sort of tedious, but I can't speak to whether the accent was accurate. I suspect accents are just not the narrator's top skill. Basically this was good and in line with the rest of the series.
I enjoyed this third installment of the Scumble River Mysteries. I find Skye likable and entertaining, even if her taste in men is terrible. The mystery remains when Skye will fix her love life. In this book we encounter lots of self centered people, high school cheerleaders and beauty pageant contestants. I think I would have preferred more three dimensional characters. I mean does every single popular kid have to be mean, weight obsessed, completely shallow and basically indistinguishable from each other? Skye manages to be much more sympathetic to people than I would have been. I plan to continue this series and see what she's up to in the next book.
This is the third book in this series. I have become fond of Pru and her cat. Three stars is really too generous but two seemed a little too harsh. The narrator does a great job with the various characters but it is hard to enjoy some of these characters. Her whiny version of Jane - the parrot's current owner, and the parrot itself, do get tiresome. I stopped this book for a while in the middle because it wasn't holding my interest (I eventually finished). Part of that has to do with the fact that I am not as interested in parrots as in cats or even dogs. If you aren't already a fan of this series, I wouldn't start here. Not a whole lot happens in this one. Pru doesn't even show as much personality as she has in previous installments. I guess this is her softer side. On the one hand, she was less pushy in her investigations and didn't do those things that made me cringe in earlier books like showing up at funerals to ask obnoxious questions. Her cat even accuses her of having become domestic. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm not in a hurry to go on to book 4.
I enjoyed this book and found it to be educational. It did feel a little long and definitely repetitive. The author on several occasions told the same story. For example, he went through the story of coming up with the new flavor for Dr Pepper and then later when he talks to someone who has documents on it goes through the whole thing again. It isn't really surprising to hear about how food companies disregarded health concerns, or even flat out manipulated people. It was probably more surprising that there were people in the industry who didn't want to do that. One thought I had while listening to how each product is so carefully designed to hit the consumer's "bliss point" with the exact amounts of sugar etc. was that processed food should all taste absolutely great, but in reality I don't think it does. I had mixed feelings about the discussion of whether food companies are responsible for the obesity epidemic. The book didn't manage to convince me that people shouldn't take more responsibility for what they consume, at least now that nutritional information has been made available to them. One thing the book definitely did not do was turn me off processed food altogether. In fact, talking to me about sugary cereal for 3 hours only made me want cereal. I even stopped for cereal while listening though I did select a cereal with no sugar, only to get home and be smugly eating it when I looked up to discover just how much sugar is in the skim milk I had poured on my sugar free cereal.
I read a book in this series, then decide it wasn't that great. Time passes and the idea of the series appeals to me and I read the next one. And so it goes. One of the main problems for me is Olive herself. She tends to make bad decisions. I know she's only a kid, but it gets on my nerves after a while to see her plan out and execute these bad ideas one after another. She has such a hideously bad idea in this one that I almost stopped reading. Additionally, the fact that the villains in this series are paintings and can therefore get recreated leads to the (to me) rather boring situation of having to defeat the same people over again. I guess the set up of the plot prevents a lot of opportunities for new villains but it feels pointless trying to do the same thing book after book. I did want to say though that the author does a great job in painting the portrait of how horrible junior high can be, and the scene where Olive accidentally wears something inappropriate to school is priceless.
I am enjoying this series. This is book 2 and continues with the characters from Murder of a Small Town Honey, now caught up in the mystery of the murder of Skye's grandmother. This is a small town cozy mystery series so if you don't like some small town drama, descriptions of homemade meals and the occasional visit to a pork chop supper, pick a different series. We spend a lot of time with Skye's relatives in this installment and now we can completely see why she moved away in the first place. She endures a lot of family stress and work stress in this one. I used to think school psychologist sounded like a good job, but this installment definitely talked me out of that as Skye's job provides a lot of unpleasant drama for her. Additionally her love life does not come to satisfying conclusion in this one, but there is hope for improvement going forward. The mystery kept me interested throughout despite some occasional over the top perhaps not entirely believable twists. However, I don't think readers of books like this are as concerned about such things if they can accept that some random school psychologist in a small town will keep getting caught up in murder investigations in the first place. I have downloaded the next in the series. I'm not sure I love Skye exactly, but I do like the narration and the books keep me interested.
I would say it was time well spent, though I wouldn't necessarily say I enjoyed the book. It did provide useful information that helped my understanding of the developmental levels of girls and their particular methods of interacting. I was a girl many years ago of course, and it was interesting to see how many of the experiences you remember from childhood are actually generic - things that all girls come to experience over time, as opposed to the very personal experiences they seemed to be. I like the way they use situations that can be generalized (ie a situation of being different in the example the girl is Japanese American, but it is the "differentness" that can be changed and the principles reused) and then give specific examples of how you would use their 4 step plan. Admittedly the four steps seem pretty simplistic and at first I thought the book might be useless. But it really wasn't. It is through the examples they share that you see ways you could do something similar. It had a lot of sections that could inspire discussion with your daughter and some activities you can try as you (1) observe, (2) connect, (3) guide and (4) support to act. There is one scenario that we look at from one girl's point of view that is later revisited from the other girl in the story's point of view. This was particularly good in helping to see how the information that you may get from your child is colored by their world view. I discussed parts of the book with my 8 year old daughter. It helped me think of the right questions to ask her to learn valuable things about her friendships. You have to be starting with the right info to be guiding your daughter in the right direction. I started the book because I was thinking my daughter might be in a friendship with a mean girl, what they call a "yo-yo friendship". I realized what I had heard could just as easily be interpreted as my daughter being aggressive rather than assertive in her interactions. Now I really know what I want to look closer at. It also helped me to evaluate my level of connectedness with my daughter which is much better than I had assumed. I definitely learned things from this book. It felt longer to me than it actually was, but that is just because I'd rather be reading a mystery than be working on improving a skill, in this case, parenting my daughter. That's hard work.
I would not have selected this book to read on my own. It was a selection of our IT department book club. In retrospect it is a somewhat ironic choice since IT groups tend to be introvert heavy and our management adheres to the "extrovert ideal". As a sensitive introvert myself, I did enjoy that the book is very against the extrovert ideal. That ideal implies that any act which you do not celebrate by marching back and forth in front of a bigwig's office blowing you own horn is of no value. Of course most people like books that are affirming so it isn't surprising that I liked it. The book has several different topics. It discusses introversion and extroversion in the context of brain functioning. I always find books on the brain interesting so I enjoyed that part. I was less interested in the long discussion of the cultural differences between American and Asian views of introversion/extroversion. The beginning talks a lot about the extrovert ideal - how it came to pass that extroversion is prized in current American society above all other things. I found that discussion of interest. I did not realize how much that had changed. The author also discusses her attendance at various events designed to make you more extroverted or celebrate introversion. I did find her stories of interest. The ending section about relationships between extroverts and introverts (romantic or parent child) was also interesting. Although I found the narrator's voice pleasant, I did find it hard to hear when listening in my car, even at full volume.
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