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TalesBetweenthePages

Tales Between the Pages

A Reader's Guide to Authors and Books www.talesbetweenthepages.com

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The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure: The "Good Parts" Version, Abridged
William Goldman
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Sarah Addison Allen
Progress: 33 %
Pioneer Girl
Bich Minh Nguyen
A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin

Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 600 pages.

Ad Nomad - Eric Jay Sonnenschein

I'm not sure this book will ever end. Brevity is not this author's strong suit. 

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall - Vaughn Entwistle Read the full review on Tales Between the Pages

Here’s the problem: it starts slow. It took me a very long time to reach the halfway point (I kept falling asleep. The kind of asleep where you’re in the middle of reading and suddenly are waking up because the Kindle hits you in the face.). But once I passed the halfway point, the pacing and plot really started to improve. I read the rest quickly and really enjoyed it. I want to tell you all that I really loved “The Revenant of Thraxton Hall” but I just can’t. Here’s what I can tell you:

Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde are paired-up in a Victorian style buddy cop drama. This was funny and interesting at first. I never realized that the two real-life authors knew each other long enough for Entwistle to conceive the idea of pairing them up as a crime-solving duo. Arthur Conan Doyle’s character felt real. Oscar Wilde’s, however, did not. I think he’s portrayed as more of a stereotype than anything else. I would have been more happy if his character spent less time preening and more time surprising us. Entwistle convinced me a few times that Wilde was faking for the sake of the case. But, alas. He wasn’t.

Entwistle finally found a writing groove that kept me from falling asleep. The story is interesting and has an interesting premise. I think its flaws lay in its execution. The prose in the first half of the book felt overwrought, like the author was trying too hard to sound Victorian. Maybe that’s why I kept falling asleep. Victorian novels and I don’t have the best track record. Or, maybe I just got used to the style as the book progressed. But, in the end, I found myself in a reading groove that allowed me to really enjoy the story.

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So basically, I just liked “The Revenant of Thraxton Hall”. It’s a solid three-star read that wasn’t bad but wasn’t stellar either. I would recommend this book to people who really enjoy Victorian inspired novels and to people who always figure out “whodunnit” beforehand.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen Read the full review on Tales Between the Pages

I’ve been a big Sarah Addison Allen fan since I read “Garden Spells” several years ago so it was a no-brainer for me to accept the ARC of her newest novel offered by NetGalley. “Lost Lake” is beautifully crafted and I devoured every word. Sometimes you come across a book that speaks to you at exactly the right moment in your life. “Lost Lake” is about loss and healing, which are two subjects I’m grappling with in my personal life. It helped me center myself and realize that we have the ability to change our own endings and that life will eventually be OK again.

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Magical realism permeates this text, as it does in all of Sarah Addison Allen’s work. As a general rule, there needs to be more magical realism in this world. I think it allows adults to experience whimsy in a way that doesn’t threaten their reality. It’s not a fantasy novel. It’s a novel about true-to-life situations with a touch of *something* that makes you wonder if coincidence is really just the universe giving you a little magic in your life. I think that’s why Devin is such an important character. Children are often more perceptive than we give them credit for. We try to hide our feelings from them to keep them safe, but they know. They always know. Devin is no different. She know that her mother isn’t “awake,” she knows she sees an alligator nobody else sees, and she knows that they belong at Lost Lake. Finding the Alligator Box brought her mother and Wes together and saved Lost Lake from the hands of a developer. Who says that children can’t handle the life things we try to shield them from?

In all, I loved “Lost Lake.” It centered my personal feelings on loss and gave me some clarity about how (not) to grieve. I highly recommend it for fans of Sarah Addison Allen, fans of magical realism, and fans of reading about the way disparate characters come together to create a truly amazing community based on shared experience.

The Seers (Holders, #2)

The Seers (Holders, #2) - Julianna Scott


Read the full review on Tales Between the Pages

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What I enjoy about Scott’s writing style is that the plot is fast-paced but the characters don’t move around a lot. Meaning, that there is generally one major setting for the entire novel. It was St. Brigid’s in “The Holders” and Adare Manor in “The Seers.” Sometimes it’s exhausting following a character all over creation. We really get to know an area when the character stays put and experiences all there is to offer. Adare Manor is certainly a gorgeous place, both in Scott’s description of it and in photos that I’ve seen on the internet.

So why do I think “The Seers” falls into the sophomore slump? It was the last quarter of the book.

The kidnapping of Jocelyn and Steven didn’t feel realistic. It was hard for me to believe that a few Bunnaidh buffoons could really overpower one of the most powerful Holders in existence. Really hard. It was also really hard for me to believe that Becca could launch a rescue mission with nothing but Alex’s ability to help her. Surely Darragh (the villain and just as powerful as Jocelyn) would have spells in place that would keep people like Alex from casting false images in the compound. Darragh needs to go back to villain school. I’m also trying to come to terms with Steven’s fate. I keep telling myself that they will find some miraculous cure in the next book. Hopefully I’m right.

(show spoiler)



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I want to take a minute to talk about Bastian. I was totally convinced that he was going to double cross Becca. I was wrong. He was an interesting character. He has his own secrets that are shocking and exciting. I liked the friendship that developed between he and Becca. They are uniquely able to understand each other. He’s protective over his brother, Steven, in the same way that she is protective over her own brother.

So, as it turns out, the only reason why I didn’t like this book as much is because I found the last action sequence too unbelievable. If it had ended on a stronger note, I wouldn’t have even thought of the sophomore slump.

But, “The Seers” was a good read. I really like this series and can’t wait to read the next.

Holders (Strange Chemistry)

The Holders - Julianna Scott Read the full review on Tales Between the Pages

The only reason why I read “The Holders” was because NetGalley gave me early access to “The Seers” and I didn’t realize it was the second book in a series until I got about five pages in. Oops. Let me tell you though, that was a happy accident. “The Holders” is an addictive read that left me wanting to know more about Becca and all of the secrets and mysteries she encounters.

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The only thing I didn’t like was that female Holders are generally inferior and not as powerful as the men. I get that Scott threw that in there to make a big deal out of Becca’s powers, but it just didn’t set well with me. I’m really interested in the way popular culture portrays women and I find that additions like this one, where women are expected to be inferior in a supernatural world, end up setting us back a little … even if it’s used to show how powerful a female character really is. For me, the good intentions are inevitably ruined.

One of the more interesting bits of information that we learn is that Holders have weaknesses. Alex’s weakness is particularly endearing. When not wearing his sciath (usually a gem that keeps their powers and weaknesses in check), you can see every emotion that he feels. I got to thinking about that. How embarrassing would that be? Could you imagine trying to start a new relationship with all of your emotions on your sleeve? Horrifying.

Alex and Becca’s relationship felt sincere. They honestly care about each other. And, on the plus side, we know that they’re unlikely to break up. That’s a plus. But, I found Becca’s jump-t0-conclusions-anger-issues quite annoying. She’s protective, yes. But I think that her protective nature was written completely over the top. There’s a way to make a character protective without making your audience roll their eyes. But, I do think this is one of the hazards of writing a first-person narrative. Alex is a good foil for her because he’s so calm and collected.

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Overall, I couldn’t stop reading this book. Though some of the book’s elements are familiar, Scott combines them with very unique elements that make for a fantastic read. Alex and Becca have a unique love story. “The Holders” left this girl totally satisfied and excited to start the next book.

Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky - John Vorhaus Full review on Tales Between the Pages

By the end of the first paragraph I was hooked. Vorhaus has a funny, irreverent, and charming writing style that reminds me of the absurdist style of Tom Robbins or Christopher Moore. (Note: I’m not calling Vorhaus absurd. “Absurdist fiction” is a legitimate genre. Read more about it here.) However much Vorhaus’ writing style reminds me of Robbins or Moore, his book isn’t absurdist fiction. Vorhaus taps into the psyche of his 16-year-old protagonist, Gene, to explore the status quo, the Vietnam war, and the rising counterculture in 1969 middle-America.

I always said that I was born in the wrong era. I read this book convinced that had I been a teenager in 1969 I would have been just like Lucy. The truth is that I probably would have been a square and not have done anything radical with my life. I imagine myself holed up in my room listening to the music my parents hated and thinking radical counterculture thoughts only when they were both out of the house. Lucy on the inside. Mary Jane or something equally square on the outside. Maybe I’d surprise myself. Lucy exhibits the kind of freedom that my 1969-me would have loved to have and the kind of freedom that my 28-year-old-2014-me would still like to have. Lucy represents the promise inside myself to do something/say something/stand up for something radical. I think that’s what she represented to Gene too. No matter how crazy things got in the book (and boy were they crazy) Gene’s heart never changed. I loved that best about him. It proves to me you can be radical AND good at the same time.

The Hidden Chamber in the Great Sphinx

The Hidden Chamber in the Great Sphinx - Linda A. Cadose Read my full review here

"The Hidden Chamber of the Great Sphinx" reads more like an incomplete first draft rather than a debut novel about an American archaeologist. I can't recommend it at all.

The Reading Group: A Novel (P.S.)

The Reading Group - Elizabeth Noble DNF. Thinking about reading this book made me depressed.

The Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 3)

The Icebound Land - John Flanagan Full review found on Tales Between the Pages

As always, I’m a big Evanlyn fan. Her character and strength are so powerful, making this series accessible to both boys and girls. I covered that in my review of “The Burning Bridge” if you want to read more about it. “The Icebound Land” takes her strength to a whole new level because she becomes solely responsible for Will’s well-being when they escape. She has to keep them both alive. And she does a fantastic job.

I also enjoyed the rapport between Halt and Horace as they embark on their quest to find Will and Evanlyn. Despite the gruff exterior, Halt has a good heart. Horace brings that out in him. In their journey, they find a rather Don Quixote-like character to battle. I had a lot of fun following that story line. With some of the harrowing things that Will and Evanlyn go through in the book, it was nice to have a little comic/action relief from the two of them.

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare Read the full review on Tales Between the Pages

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I figured out the Clary and Jace spoiler really early on. It wasn’t hard to figure out. But, I will say that it didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of the story. The world that the Shadowhunters live in is pretty complex so I spent more time trying to understand the “rules” of the world rather than the major hints Clare drops leading up to the big reveal. In other words, if you figure it out, it’s no big deal.

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Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later - Francine Pascal 2.5 stars

PIRATE LATITUDES

Pirate Latitudes - Michael Crichton Entertaining but it's obvious that it's a hastily published first draft.

The Saints and Sinners of Okay County

The Saints and Sinners of Okay County - Dayna Dunbar What a fantastic book!

The Venetian Betrayal: A Novel

The Venetian Betrayal - Steve Berry Read the full review at Tales Between the Pages

I have a love/hate relationship with Steve Berry. As you can tell from my previous reviews of Berry’s work, sometimes I love his stories and sometimes I don’t. In fact, I was so ambivalent about The Alexandria Link that I wasn’t sure I’d pick up the next book in the Cotton Malone series. But here’s the thing about me: I always finish a series. So when I found ‘The Venetian Betrayal’ at the library, I knew I had to get it. What’s the verdict? It’s his best book to date. I wasn’t hooked right away but after about 25%, I found myself needing to know what happened (in an I’m going to skip folding laundry because I need to read kind of way).

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But, the plot itself was definitely above average. With The Templar Legacy, I thought that Berry was just a passenger on the Dan Brown train. With ‘The Venetian Betrayal,’ Berry just established himself as a suspense thriller author in his own right. I think what sets this novel apart from the others is that he mixes historical myth/legend with real problems and possible political futures. The Central Asian Federation was conceived brilliantly and feels like a real political possibility for the western Asian nations like Kazakhstan. Inserting a possible cure for AIDS within the Alexander the Great historical legend gave the plot a boost from being a novel about just another conspiracy theory to a novel that uses legends to talk about more significant problems plaguing the world. It’s easier for me to conceive a plot about a magical draught that cures the world’s incurable disease in an attempt to talk about world politics than it is for me to conceive that Jesus had children ala Dan Brown.

Beautiful Creatures (Beautiful Creatures, Book 1)

Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia Read the full review at Tales Between the Pages

Have you ever read a book and thought, “Man, I should have written that!”? This was that book for me despite the modicum of shame associated with a late-20-something woman jockeying to get one of the two copies of this book from the YA section of the public library. I even invented an imaginary younger sister just so I could say I was getting the book for her. But, Adult YA shame is another post, I fear. In short, I loved this book and it’s everything that I expect for my own fiction writing.

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‘Beautiful Creatures’ brilliantly portrays a Gothic south. I’m from a small Midwestern town and can totally relate to the small town mentality of Gatlin. Ethan’s desperation to leave and experience the world is natural and actually happens to teens who live in small towns all across the country. I was one of them. Sometimes I thought time would stop altogether before I got old enough to leave so in that regard, I could really identify with Ethan. Plus, I could totally feel the slow pace associated with the Deep South. This book was vivid enough for me to see the sights, smell the smells, and really experience the place.

Also, I loved that the main character was a boy. Most YA that I read tends to be very female centered (not that it’s a problem!) and it was refreshing to see things through a boy’s perspective. Plus, I loved that he had to think about his basketball playbook so Lena couldn’t detect what he was really thinking about. What a brilliant attention to detail.

More importantly, the storyline didn’t feel contrived. Sometimes when magic is inserted into a book that knows the intimate details of a real place, it doesn’t feel real. In Gatlin, those with magic have always been around to those who knew where to look. It reminded me of Harry Potter and how the muggles were totally clueless to the wizarding world.

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Sad Desk Salad: A Novel

Sad Desk Salad - Jessica Grose Read the full review at Tales Between the Pages

I’ll admit that I enjoy reading “women’s fiction” even though I detest the term, “women’s fiction.” When I found this book on Edelweiss, I knew I wanted to read it. I dove in with the expectation of encountering quirky female characters who eat alone at their desks every day.

What I encountered were quirky characters who I couldn’t relate to. There were moments when I found the main character, Alex, interesting. I’m an avid reader of the website, Jezebel, and ChickHabit reminded me much of it. Since I dabble in internet writing, I found Alex’s obsession with her job highly interesting. I often fantasize about sitting at home and writing all day. If I do reach that point, I hope I don’t end up like Alex — strung out, obsessive, and highly suspicious. She gets so consumed with her job that it ruins her relationships. The plot felt contrived and I ended up disliking the characters.

Overall, not my cup of tea.