Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: "The Grownup" by Gillian Flynn

Even in short story form, Gillian Flynn presents the high suspense, twisting reality that fans began to expect following Gone Girl's success. The Grownup is under 65 pages and has a small trim size, so the story is indeed very, very short. Plan to spend less than an hour devouring this read. I'd say it's about the length of two chapters of a novel, which is actually a helpful way of understanding this book. The first half is basically a character sketch - going deep into the history and motivations of our unnamed narrator. From learning to be a con-artist from her mother, to delving into prostitution, to pretending to be psychic, her past is captivating in how she shows her ability to read, understand, and therefore manipulate, people.

 For the second half, she explores her next entrepreneurial enterprise - home visits. A worried client, Susan, visits the psychic shop repeatedly before fully explaining that she fears her house is haunted and has been negatively affecting her stepson, making him  as evil as the darkness the house seems to exhale. The psychic agrees to help, thinking this a quick scam to make some good money, but she soon realizes that something strange is going on, and that her fake psychic cleansing remedy won't save the family, or herself.

Originally published as "What Do You Do?" in George R.R. Martin's Rogues anthology, this ghostly tale of deception is suspenseful even in its brevity. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, the plot twists are so sharp, with one following immediately after another, that the ending feels rushed and compressed. You don't have time to process one change before something new happens.  It's still a great read for a quick thriller as long as you're ready for just how quick it will be.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: "The Time Chamber" by Daria Song

"Whatever the fairy touched, no matter how mundane, turned into something beautiful and mysterious."
The Time Chamber Coloring Book by Daria Song

The Time Chamber by Daria Song is an intricate coloring book for adults and young adults. Unlike other popular coloring books, this one has a story line with a sentence or two on a few pages throughout the book. It tells the tale of a young fairy who lives inside a cuckoo clock and decides to venture outside to experience the wonders of the human world. The story didn't add much to the experience for me, but I could appreciate its uniqueness and imagine a pre-teen really enjoying it.

The illustrations are full of tiny details to explore and color, though it's also not too overwhelming. Many coloring pages have the fairy on them. Some of my favorites included a vanishing library and a chandelier room. There are also two visual lists of hidden objects that you can identify throughout the book, with a key at the end.

I used color pencils, which worked well even in the small details. The pages are double-sided, so I did try out a marker and pen to check for bleed-through, which wasn't too bad, but some of the images have a lot of open white space where it would be painfully obvious. Many of the illustrations run the spread, which creates a large two-page design, but also unfortunately means that there are illustrations running right through the gutter making them near impossible to color.

All things considered, there's a good variety in detail level and design of the images, so as long as you're on board with the fairy theme, this coloring book is definitely worth checking out. You can even color in the both sides of the removable dust jacket. There's also a to/from page at the beginning - good to remember when you're looking for that last minute gift.

The colorable inside of the removable dust jacket.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: "5-Minute Bedtime Treasury" by Precious Moments

"Let there be furry bunnies and fast cheetahs!" God said with delight. "Fill the land with wrinkly elephants and tall giraffes. Let the animals play on my earth!"
The 5-Minute Bedtime Treasury is a 192-page padded hardcover book. There is a ribbon bookmark bound into the spine for an easy way to keep track of your place each night. It contains 46 Bible stories separated into three themed sections: God is trustworthy, God is good, and God is love. Each story ends with a "bedtime Bible promise," a short Bible verse that somehow ties in to what the story was about. For example, after describing the flood from Genesis 6-9, the verse that follows is Psalm 91:1: "Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by God All-Powerful." The illustrations are standard Precious Moments drawings, in pastel coloring, with many animals.

There are many ways in which this book is focused on the young children it is written for. In the illustrations, many prominent people are drawn to look very young (as is the Precious Moments style), but I thought it made the book more relateable for children. The illustrations are full of detail to captivate the attention of young ones as they are being read the story. The stories themselves are written with short sentences and in a playful manner. It made them engaging and kept them moving at the pace a toddler needs. The "5-minute" estimation of reading time seemed accurate to me, leaving plenty of time for slowly reading and looking at pictures.

There's also a few pages to fill in: a family tree, an "all about me," a space to trace your child's hand, a church record, and a write your own prayer page for an adult and for the child. These pages will make the book a keepsake that I could see children saving and then reading to their own kids someday.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Book Look for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: "The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

In The Bronte Plot, Lucy Alling works at a reputable antique shop for with the owner, her mentor, Sid. She loves her job, but her favorite part is what she loving refers to as Book Day, where she takes care of all of the special edition, rare books. It's through these rare books that she takes an interest in a young attorney, James, who comes in to buy a few books as gifts. They begin dating, but it ends abruptly when James catches her using unscrupulous business tactics.

However, James' grandmother, Helen, takes a special interest in Lucy, and after the break up she hires Lucy as an antique consultant for a trip to England. With Helen's health condition precarious, her family is outraged by her decision, and simply don't understand. But for Helen, it's a trip of going back to go forward, and Lucy plays an important role in Helen's personal mission. 

Though Lucy is slow to admit it, the trip holds similar trials for her as well. She is reluctant, but anxious, in seeking her estranged father, whose only contact for more than a decade has been to send Lucy a book on her birthday.  The most recent was postmarked England. But she knows that a love of fabricating stories runs in the family, and she's not quite ready to face the reality of how much her father's lies have hurt her, and shaped her.

Lucy, her father, Helen, and James all share a love a literature that runs common through the novel, uniting the characters. Author Katherine Reay, as with her other two novels (Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane), includes many quotes and references to classical literature, especially the Bronte sisters. A novel for book lovers, whether or not your exact tastes line up with the characters, The Bronte Plot is another delightful escape into a the lives of characters you'll love from the beginning despite their flaws.

I especially enjoyed the pacing of the book, which though there was downtime in Helen and Lucy's England journey, every moment was vital to the characters' growth and it was captivating to watch it play out. Every piece lead toward the forgiveness, redemption, and honesty that came with the characters facing their pasts to ultimately move forward.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Book Look for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review: "The Gap of Time" by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time begins with a brief synopsis of the play it's based on, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Since I haven't read the play, it was helpful as an introduction so that I could later appreciate aspects of the cover that specifically related, or deviated, from the original.

The Gap of Time is set in modern day, where Leo becomes obsessed with the delusion that his wife, MiMi, is having an affair with his friend (and former lover) Xeno. He's exponential paranoia leads him the belief that the child MiMi is pregnant with is not his own. Refusing to believe their protests or the wisdom of a paternity test, after the child's birth Leo hires a friend to take his baby daughter to Xeno. The baby, Perdita, never makes it to Xeno, and instead adopted by a single father and his son. Perdita has a few possessions from her past, but otherwise is unaware of what led to her adoption. After meeting and befriending Xeno's son Zel, slowly the truth comes out and all parties are taken back through the years to uncover what really happened.

From the description of The Winter's Tale at the beginning, it seems as though the plot line stayed pretty much the same. The names are all similar, or the same, which would make it easy for someone familiar with the Shakespeare version to pick up.

I mostly enjoyed The Gap of Time, but there were some areas where it felt like the theme was forced. For example, Xeno is clearly stuck in the past as he creates a video game to play out a mix of memories and dreams. Every time it was mentioned it seemed to be trying to remind us that the book is set in modern time (video game) and that there was more to the Leo and Xeno, Xeno and MiMi relationship but all of it was in the past and therefore untouchable, but also unforgettable.

The theme was also a little overdone in the more lyric passages, such as "the early separation of earth-moon, hundreds of millions of years before life of any kind happened on earth, had no reason to be the grand motif of our imagination. But it is" (122). For someone looking for a philosophical take on time in novel form, perhaps it would go over smoother, but to me it just got in the way of the narrative and took me out of the moment.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.