The Savvy Bookworm

My Personal Book Review Site

The Fallon Blood, The Fallon Pride, The Fallon Legacy

Written By: Erika - Dec• 07•11

By Reagan O’Neal

aka Robert Jordan

I picked this series up at the library simply because of who the author is. Robert Jordan has written my most favorite book series of all time, The Wheel of Time. He writes beautiful fiction, and I was really intrigued to see how he wrote early American History.

I was not disappointed. These books were wonderfully written, and sucked me right into the story from the get-go. The first book in the series is The Fallon Blood, which is during the time of the Revolutionary War. The second book, The Fallon Pride, follows a second generation of the Fallon family during the war of 1812. And finally, the last book, The Fallon Legacy, takes the third Fallon generation to the state of Texas, and it’s fight for independance.

One of the things I really, really loved about these books is that though they were fictional, and followed fictional characters, they were historically accurate. We met actual historical figures and learned a lot about the wars from a different point of view. It was incredible, and very obvious that the author did their research on these tumultuous wars.

What surprised me about these books was the frankness with which they were written, to be honest. I realize it’s not fair to compare a fantasy series like Wheel of Time to this historical fiction series, and yet, I found myself doing that just a tad. The Wheel of Time is a really “clean” series, for lack of a better word. There is no sex, no cussing, and the dubious behavior is done by villians. It’s pretty cut and dried good vs. evil, and it’s a series that I could recommend to my mother to read with no reservations (if you know what I mean). With the Fallon series, well, let’s just say that I was a bit shocked when it came to the, uh, escapades of the Fallon family- and others in the books as well.

I really enjoyed this book series. I loved how each book took one of the generations of Fallons and followed them through. I came to love that family and the trials and tribulations that came with Michael when he first immigrated from Ireland to America. I felt like I was cheering him and his success on, as well as the subsequent generations.

Overall, I recommend these books, if for no other reason than they paint a brillain, accurate portrayal of war in the southern states at that time. Just be warned that there are most definitely bedroom scenes in the books, as well as murder, deception, and all kinds of intrigue that makes the story mysterious as well as adventurous. I would definitely read these again.

Vienna Waltz

Written By: Erika - Jul• 20•11

By Tracy/Theresa Grant

I picked up and put down this book about six times at the library. I love historical fiction, but I have read very little about the time this particular novel is set in. Napoleon has just been exiled, and the 1814 Congress is trying to decide what to do with the many pieces of Europe.

What really made me put it back down was that I was concerned that it had the potential to be trashy- that was not at all what I was looking for. I knew there would be intrigues and love affairs, but I didn’t want the love affairs to be descriptive. I was not disappointed.

This book was refreshing. It was loaded with intrigue and romance, but none of it was described in any kind of offensive manner. We learned of the many affairs of the people at court, but we never had to witness any of the action.

The one complaint I had about this book was that it took a very long time to get the cast of characters straight. There were so many Princes and Princesses, and it seemed like every single person had the potential to have caused the murder of Princess Tatiana. Who did cause the murder? We join Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch as they seek to discover exactly that. Along they way they uncover many different secrets and plots, and just how well did Princess Tatiana know Napoleon? Could she have been plotting some kind of treason to restore him to his former glory?

This was a very enjoyable read, and as I dug in to learn more about the author, I was surprised to find that other books have been written about our heroic couple, but they had different names. I will definitely be seeking them out. Ms. Grant is also working on the sequel to Vienna Waltz, and I look forward to seeing what new intrigues await the daring couple.

The House of Forgetting

Written By: Erika - Jul• 08•11

forgetting

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I picked up this book from the library because it looked different from what I’ve been reading lately.  I’ve kind of been alternating between Christian fiction (chick-lit type stuff) and fantasy, and this promised to be neither.  A psychological thriller is not in my normal scope of books I pick up, but when I read the description on the cover, I was intrigued, and thought I would give it a shot.

When we open up the book, we meet two characters, Thomas and Claudia, who appear to be normal people at first, but it doesn’t take us very long at all to find out that Thomas is a well-known author and professor with a very dark secret.  Claudia is the woman that no one knows about- literally.  Raised from the age of 7 by Thomas in the basement of his home, Claudia knows nothing of the world outside of Thomas’s house and garden.  During a dinner together, Claudia snaps and stabs Thomas with a knife, and her eyes are slowly opened as her lawyer and a team of detectives try to put together a case that will free Claudia from a lifetime of slavery and disappointment.  Claudia, of course, is not even the girls name.  We learn that her real name is Gloria, and I quickly became involved in her story, wishing that she could be set free from the mental turmoil her captivity has caused.

While this book was definitely a psychological detective story, it wasn’t the “thriller” it was purported to be.  Which was fine with me.  I found myself heavily invested in the lives of most of the characters, and I really wanted the good guys to win.  The book was beautifully written.  The author is also a poet, and this book shows it.  Other than the language used by the detectives and the lawyer, there was a beautiful flow to the story, and I kept wanting to turn the page.  The conclusion was somewhat satisfying.  Loose ends were tied up, and I felt that Gloria was going to be okay in the end.

This was a nice change of pace for me to read.  I haven’t really read any detective stories in a long time, and this was pleasantly different, while being familiar.  I almost felt as though I was watching an episode of Law & Order as I read the book though.  It was a vaguely familiar story, and I wasn’t really surprised  by the ending at all.  Overall though, it was a good read.  I wouldn’t read it again, simply because I know what will happen, and I think that’s the unfortunate effect of detective stories- once you know the answer, reading the book again loses some of it’s thrill.

I would most definitely pick up another book by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  He writes beautifully, with plenty of detail, yet not too much detail.  I recommend this book with reservations.  Someone who has been in an abusive relationship before may be disturbed by what Gloria went through, and there is also quite a bit of language strewn throughout.  The bedroom activity, while suggested, is not painted with a clear picture at all.  If you’re looking for a gentle psychological thriller, this may be what you’re looking for, as I didn’t find any of the “thriller” content to be there.  It was definitely more of a mystery than anything, so I would call it a psychological mystery instead of a thriller.

Inkheart, Inkspell and Inkdeath

Written By: Erika - Jun• 25•11

inkheart

By Cornelia Funke

I’ve debated whether I should review these books all together as a trilogy or separate them, and review Inkheart alone, and then Inkspell and Inkdeath together- because that’s how they read.  Inkheart, while it left the reader wondering at the end, could stand alone as a great book.  Inkspell is nothing without either its prequel or its sequel, and if someone tried to read Inkdeath alone, well, they would be extremely lost.

So I’ll just review them as a whole.  Or try, anyway.

I read Inkheart in an afternoon in the dead of winter.   I had actually seen the movie over a year before, and really enjoyed the movie.  Of course, I wondered about the book, but honestly, it was junior fiction- not something I dig into unless I’m reading with the kids for school.  But curiosity got the best of me, and one day it followed me home from the library.

It sucked me right in, and it was a very quick book to read- as I said, I read it in an afternoon.  The story was like nothing I’d ever read or even thought of before.   We meet our heroine, Meggie, and her dad Moe, who definitely seem like the odd pair of people.  Moe repairs books for a living, but both of them love curling up with a good book over and over.  Books are dear friends to Meggie.   As the story progresses, we learn that years ago, Meggie’s mother disappeared while Moe was reading a book aloud- and we discover that Moe is one of only a few people who can read stories to life.  When we reads the written word aloud, characters and beings literally can jump out of the pages of a book- but only at a price- something from our world must swap places and go into the book.   Meggie’s mother is lost somewhere in the world of Inkheart.

A fabulous adventure ensues as one of the main characters that Moe read out all those years ago, Dustfinger, searches him out- desperate to be read back into Inkheart- where his beloved still is.  Of course there are evil men who want to use Moe’s ability for their gain, and we all wonder if Meggie will ever be reunited with her mother if Moe refuses to ever Read again.

I dare not say much more, as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.   We meet so many people along the way- charming characters, and not-so-charming.  We learn to hate several of them- and I was literally on the edge of my seat for the last few chapters of Inkheart.  And then I just HAD to get the other two books.

Where Inkheart was a quick read- and definitely in the junior fiction category, I hesitate to place the other two there.  For one, they do not read so quickly.  In fact, I took quite a few days to read both Inkspell and Inkdeath.  There was so much going on, that they were the kind of books that I literally needed to set them down and think about what was going on.  In a way, that was also a means to savor the story, but I did find myself turning back a few pages at times- and re-reading what had just happened to make sure I got it.   Not only did these ones read more slowly, but they also read more darkly.  Let me explain.

When I read Inkheart, if there had been a soundtrack playing during the reading it would have been light, and bright.  Oh, there would have been moments of danger music or some evil tones as the villain Capricorn was on the pages, but for the most part, the soundtrack would have been light and melodic.  For the second two, the tone changed.  The evil, minor-toned music took center stage, and at times, it almost seemed as if the books were just oozing from the darkness.  Cornelia Funke writes the dark side very, very well.  There were even plenty of times where characters seemed to cross over from hero to villain and back again.  One minute you loved Dustfinger, the next minute you hated him.

They were spectacularly written.  Really, which is why I would not categorize Inkspell or Inkdeath as junior fiction- they didn’t read like it at all.  You can literally see the author come into their own, as Inkheart was a wonderful, wonderful story, and then it’s like she totally blossomed and really developed herself as an author coming up with the other two books.

I loved these books, and they will eventually become a part of the home library.  I can’t wait until Abigail is old enough to dive in.  The whole concept of the importance of reading the written word aloud to bring it to life is something that has stuck with me ever since I read these.   Even though I found the second and third books to be more dark than anything, they were still very, very enjoyable, and when I wasn’t reading them, I couldn’t wait to dive back in.

If you are a fan of fantasy, these really are a must-read.  The world of Inkheart is rich and imaginative, and who wouldn’t want to think about themselves being read into the pages of their favorite books?  These books are definitely a favorite.

April Rising

Written By: Erika - Jun• 23•11

by Susan Sallis

I am finally resurrecting this blog.  I’ve been finding so much more time to read, it’s time to take notes about what I am reading!  I’ve read some winners and some losers, and I’m sorry to say that it’s a really big loser that is waking this blog out of slumber.

I can’t even find a photo of this book online, so hopefully, the book is unavailable in most places, and you will simply never come across it and decide to give it a go.

It was that bad.

I love period books- I love getting caught up in a story from another time and place, and this book promised that.  It promised that we would follow the life of the William Rising Family, and how they navigated the great changes that were taking place in England in the early 20th century.  When we were introduced to the family, we learned of the strange quirks of their mother, Florence, and how she named all her girl babies after the months they were born.  We met March, the eldest girl, and May, the beautiful and delicate, and witnessed the birth of April.  Later on, baby Teddy comes along, and the oldest brother Arthur rounds out the immediate family.

I just don’t know where to begin with a review of this book except that it was extremely focused on the philandering activities of Will.  And then as the book went on, we read about the philandering activities of just about everyone in the novel.   The relationships between characters were often strange… And often completely inappropriate.  When World War One came along, I was hopeful that we would get a glimmer of some kind of excitement, and we almost did.  We got a glimpse of what life may have been like for British families while their loved ones and neighbors went off to the trenches, but we never got a real full glimpse.

This book was missing meat and substance.  The title is also baffling, because while it begins at the birth of April Rising, April is not the main protagonist, March is more so than April.  I kept reading this book, just hoping that it would pick up and improve- there was promise here- but it never matriculated.  It was a dull book full of lewd and lascivious behavior and I truly wished I’d never read it.

This book has also been published under the title “Scattering Of Daisies”, so avoid that one as well.  If I’m seeing things correctly, it looks like at one point they published a sequel.  I just cannot imagine wanting to read more about this bizarre family.

Deep Dish

Written By: Erika - Jan• 22•09

by Mary Kay Andrews

I can’t say that I’ve read a Mary Kay Andrews book before.  But I was looking for something different and light, and this popped off the rack and into my arms.  I’m always up for most things food related, and thought I’d give it a whirl.

The book begins with Gina Foxton, a 30-year old TV chef, with a penchant for Southern style cooking with a twist.  She strives to make her southern cooking as healthful as possible, without destroying the integrity of the food.  While she is only on a local tv station, she has high hopes of making it big time on the national cooking channel.  Well, plans run amuk, when the producer of her TV show, who also happens to be her boyfriend, is caught sleeping with a major sponsor’s wife.  The sponsor flips, pulls the sponsorship, and Gina’s show is threatened.  Her only hope for success lies with the Cooking Channel and securing a spot in it’s national broadcast.

Enter “Vittles” and and Hunk-O-Man Tate Moody, whose specialty is cooking with the bounty of the land.  Tate’s hook is that he also has a companion on the show, and not just any companion, but a charming four-legged dog named Moonpie.   Tate’s tv show is also vying for a spot in the Cooking Channel’s line-up.  The only thing standing in his way?  Why, Ms. Foxton of course.

In classic food television style, Gina and Tate are asked to face off in a competition of sorts, and both agree, desperately clinging to the lifeline that could make them or brake them.  While they begin the journey as adversaries, there is also a mutual respect that turns into amicability.

The ending was completely obvious and not a surprise, but I actually found myself enjoying this book very much.  It was a quick read, and completely entertaining.  I found the descriptions of the food completely engaging, and wished very much for a few recipes at the end of the book, like so many are doing now.  While the book was a bit on the fluffy side, it was a nice departure from heavier reading.  It was definitely a nice change from the usual beach-subject reads, and I would certainly pick up another book by Mark Kay Andrews if the mood struck.

Son of A Witch

Written By: Erika - Jan• 02•09

by Gregory Maguire

This book is the sequel to the ever-popular Wicked, which I’d read several months back.  After enjoying Mr. Maguire’s take on different fairy tales, it was fun to read a story about “what happened after”.

This story follows the story of Liir, a lonely recluse, who, after reading Wicked, we assume is the son of Elphaba, but really never have that confirmed 100% for us.  Liir himself doesn’t even really know, and much of this book is about him grappling with the idea that he could be Elphaba’s son, and does that help define who he really is.

The story was interesting, I guess. Liir takes up the cause that Elphaba championed, that of the talking Animals, and attempts to bring them together to stand up to the government of Oz who is trying to do away with Animals altogether and reduce them to being simply animals- beasts of burden and food for humans and such.  Along the way, Liir also pledges to find one of the only friends he ever had, his half-sister, Nor.

When the book begins, I admit that Liir is a bit boring.  He just seems so…detached and unfocused, not really sure who he is or what he wants to be.  But that is what this novel becomes about, it’s about watching Liir grow and turn into the man he will be one day.  It’s a rather fascinating journey, but completely different from the story in Wicked.  I was a little disappointed at first that this book didn’t actually seem like a sequel to Wicked, but after a while, I cam to appreciate and enjoy this completely new story, set in the new-familiar land of Oz.  There were some moments that caught me as unexpected, and then I had to go back and re-read a few pages, but after a while, I really settled in, and this was one of those books that kept me up at night until I’d finished it.

Gregory Maguire is indeed a fantastic storyteller.  I really enjoyed this novel, in the end, and was satisfied that I’d read it.  The conclusion solves the question he had about who he is and where he came from, and we leave the book hoping for the best for young Liir and his strange family he’s built for himself.  I will warn that there are a few adult situations in this book, so if that concerns you, stay away from this book.  Overall though, a few thumbs up here.  I’m looking forward to reading the next Oz installment from Mr. Maguire, A Lion Among Men, where we are told that we get to see the events of Oz through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion, Brrr.

Her Fork In The Road: Women Celebrate Food and Travel

Written By: Erika - Dec• 31•08

by Lisa Bach

I cannot close 2008 without at least one more post.  My queue of books I’ve read is getting longer and longer, and I just have been procrastinating getting them in.  Maybe over the next few days I’ll take the time to get a few more reviews in here.  I suppose not many people check in here, but that’s okay, this is really for my benefit.  I’ve surprised myself by going back and not remembering that I read some of these…

But to the book at hand.  Her Fork In The Road is actually a collection of stories from women food writers all over the globe.  It’s stories of their travels and explorations, and many of these have been printed before in magazines and journals, but here, they’re collected in one specific place.  What all these stories have in common is that they all reflect food in one way or another.   And oh my, so many of the stories caught me up with their descriptive and personal reflections.  I immediately wanted to find a travel agent and do my own food exploration.

I admit that It’s been a while since I held this book in my hands, but just thinking about it, I’m remembering the story of the woman traveling through the jungle in search of a curry… I don’t even remember what country she was in, but she was looking for a specific village where the curry was extra special, and we finally find the village.  We read about the women who are enclosed in a tiny hot building, stirring curry over a fire, literally pouring their sweat into the curry to give it “that special seasoning”.  The author of this story joins in, adding to the fragrant curry, and we learn that many of the women who made this curry in the past died from lung diseases from breathing in the smoke and curry all day long… the author reflected that this was a meal that people died for- literally, and I remember thinking that it just could not be worth it in any sense.

I remember the story about the hiker, who was hiking over several hundred miles in Nepal (maybe) and didn’t have as much money as she thought, and she talked about surviving on discarded M&M’s and eating dehydrated rations like they were going out of style.

But the stories are so beautifully written and so enchanting.  Food is a universal love language, and I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to just about anyone.  I also think it would make a great gift for a foodie or for a traveler, as this book encompasses both so well.

The House of Lanyon

Written By: Erika - Sep• 22•08

by Valerie Anand

I am turning into quite the fan of period fiction.  I love stories told in other time periods- I love picturing in my head what it would have been like to walk those streets or be a participant in the customs and traditions.  The House of Lanyon fits right into that genre, but sadly, the book did not live up to my anticipations.

The main characters in this book are the Lanyons.  Richard Lanyon is a hard-working farmer who is bitter about having his rivals be his landlords.  He spends much of his life complaining about the Sweetwaters and is always trying to figure out a way to get out from under them.   While he is trying to figure out how to extract his revenge on some misdeeds done to him, his son Peter comes to him and declares his intention to marry a woman from a fishing village.  Richard has already been brokering a deal for Peter with a woman whose family ties will aid Richard in becoming more self-sufficient.  Richard takes it upon himself to go and see the fishing lass and tell her Peter cannot marry her.  Upon seeing her beauty, Richard decides the best way to prevent the marriage would be to marry her himself.  She resists, and tragedy befalls, and Richard rides off, satisified that the threat to his plan is no longer there.

Peter marries Liza, who as it happens, was also in love with someone else- a young man destined for the cloth, and completely unmarriageable.  Peter and Liza come to an arrangement of sorts and live peaceably as man and wife, but always under the roof and the decisions of Richard who succumbs further and further towards madness each and every day.

I have to say, while I found myself intrigued enough to continue reading the book to the end, the pace was painstakingly slow. Events crept, and so many of the bits and pieces and details just seemed very contrived.   I also thought, as I read this book, that there wasn’t a whole lot about this book that screamed a period novel to me.  The War of The Roses was going on at this time in 15th century England, and while it did get in the book a little bit, so much more could have been done.  I guess overall, this book just lacked some depth, something real to sink your teeth into.  The whole of the book, actually, could have probably been played out in a short story or a novella, but it seemed like pages and pages would just pass by before something happened.  Then something would happen, and then a few more things right on top of that, but then pages and pages of nothingness again.

A disappointment overall.  It was another one of those books that I was happy to finish and return to the library, which is too bad, because the premise had real promise.

A Suitable Boy

Written By: Erika - Sep• 18•08

by Vikram Seth

The very first thing I have to say about this book is that it is long.  Really, really long.  That being said, I picked up the book from the library and figured that despite its size, I could finish it in a few days.  Oh, how wrong I was.  This book was beautiful from beginning to end, and I would pick up the book and read just a little, then set it down and savor what I had just read.

It really would be difficult to sum up the entire book because there were several story lines, each one interwoven with the others, and at the end, they all tied up as well.  I loved that.  But the story starts in India, where we meet the young woman Lata and her family.  Lata is of marriageable age, and it is time to find her a suitable husband, hence the title of the book.  When she first discovers love it is with a man whom her mother could never give her daughter to, and her heart is subsequently broken.  Mrs. Rupa Mehra is Lata’s mother, and oh, is she a character that one minute you love, and the next minute you hate.  Mrs.  Mehra still mourns the loss of her husband many years ago and is intent on finding Lata a man her father would have chosen himself.   She is a card, and in fact frequently makes and sends her own personal cards and notes to friends and family.

Along with the story of Lata and her family, we also get a story of government.  The book takes place in a time where Pakistan has just been formed, and what remains of India is fragile.  We get a rather in-depth glance at how the Indian government may very well have operated for a time through the eyes of Mahesh Kapoor and his enchanting family.  Also in-twined with the government is the issue of religion.  Muslims and Buddhists have been against each other, and many Muslims flee to Pakistan where they no longer feel religiously persecuted.

There are basically four main families who this story is about, and each family brings something completely different to the table.  They are so intricately woven together, that it does take a while to figure out who belongs to which family.  The beginning of the novel began a little slow, and when the first change of tone occurred it was bothersome to me, but after a while, I picked up on the pace and the rhythm that Vikram Seth was setting forth and I settled in.  AS I mentioned before, I would read this book for a while, and then simply set it down and walk away, and reflect on what I had read- I seldom experience that with a work of fiction.  It wasn’t a matter of setting the book down in disgust, it was a matter of wanting to fully digest what I had read, an intent to savor the experience.  The foreshadowing was also well done.  Sometimes I saw it coming, but sometimes I had to stop reading and flip back a few pages, because I certainly missed that reference before!

This book leapt right up into my favorites.  I am looking forward to reading it again sometime in the future, because I imagine that while the words on the pages may not change, there may be things I will catch a second time through that I didn’t the first time.  All I can say is that if you are any fan of Indian culture, this book is worth all 1500 pages and the time it will take to read them.

The Nanny Diaries

Written By: Erika - Sep• 08•08

by Emma Kraus and Nicola McLaughlin

This was a cute read.  I read it when I was looking to read something that wasn’t deep and this fit the bill perfectly.  The book follows the story of the aptly named “Nan” and her adventures as a nanny for the creme de la creme of New York society.  While a fictional account, it was written by two former nannies, which lead us to believe that this book could be very close to how life actually is for nannies and the well-to-dos.

It was literally jaw-dropping at times as I read some of the things that Mrs. X would demand of Nan.  While she was not a live-in nanny, she might as well have been with all the time she spent with the little boy, Grayer, filling in for Mrs. X who had “things to do.”  Add into all this the elusive Mr. X and his philandering ways, and the story really was quite hilarious at times.  I know I felt for Grayer, and I suspect there was a bit of truth in this fictional story.  How does a nanny not become attached to their young charges?  What happens when a nanny needs to be replaced?  And what happens when the parents never even come home at night?   There was a serious side to this book, but not enough to bog it down or cause the reader to become morose or depressed.

All in all, it really was an enjoyable read, chick-lit all the way, and the perfect thing to read when you don’t want to be preached at.  The tone of the authors was light and fun, and I would easily pick up another book that they wrote together.

All That Glitters

Written By: Erika - Jun• 21•08

by Gilbert Morris

Gilbert Morris is a well known Christian author who usually sets his novels in historic time periods.  I’ver read several of his novels, and have enjoyed each one.  This one was a little different.  This one was a modern day time line, constructed around a movie producer and his film crew.

When the book first opens, we meet Afton Burns, a young lady dealing with the very recent death of her mother in Scotland. As she is grieving, she receives an unexpected phone call from a man claiming to be her father.  He heard of her mother’s death, and was calling to ask her to come visit, give him a chance to be a father to her and get to know him better.  Afton decides to take the chance.  A trip to America couldn’t be that bad- could it?

It isn’t long before Afton is thrown headfirst into the very Un-Christian world of Hollywood.   She ends up assisting her father, and along the way, finds the father that she never knew she had.  As accidents begin to happen on the set of her father’s movie, as well as financing problems, Afton receives the opportunity to share Jesus with those around her.

I enjoyed reading this book-it was a nice evening read, a way to wrap up the day.  However, I found several aspects of the novel to be lacking.  The Hollywood people were so…formulaic and predictable.  The quiet recluse really wasn’t as mysterious as he seemed, and the storyline itself was terribly predictable.  A lot of the dialogue seemed contrived, and I know at the time I was reading this, I thought the moments where Afton discussed her faith just didn’t seem very realistic.   Like I said though, I did enjoy the novel, it was a nice break from some heavier reading I’d been doing.  However, it wasn’t a wow, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend purchasing the book.  If you come across it at the library, it would be worth the time to borrow it.  Definitely a Christian novel with Christian context- so keep that in mind as well.