Tuesday, February 2, 2010

January 2010 Hobbit-ish Book Reviews

Greetings Humble Readers...

It's been a while since I have done a book reveiw post. I thought I would give you a run down on what I've been reading. Two posthumous offerings from a couple of my favourite authors, a couple great reads for book clubs (if only I was a part of one), the next big thing in kids fiction, a treatise on manners, and some fluff.

Ciao Bella by Janice Kirk (4 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - I stumbled across this one by accident, but I'm glad I did. It's the story of a young Canadian woman married to a missing Italian soldier, set at the end of WWII. The story begins with her waiting for him to return as she cares for his failing father. An American soldier, apparently lost and with a broken down motorcycle, takes shelter in their barn, and quickly becomes a part of their small world. The storyline that follows isn't altogether original, but unique in its subtle plot twists and interesting characters. Will her husband return? What is the American hiding? Can she let herself grieve when she doesn't know her husband's fate?

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton (4 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - A complete manuscript found in Crichton's office after his death, this is not a typical Crichton story. Not at all science-based, imagine a more brutal, less humourous version of Pirates of the Carribean. Don't get me wrong, it had it's amusing moments, but it certainly didn't fit with what I was expecting. The story of a privateer captain setting out to capture a Spanish galleon full of gold, there are plenty of battles, daring rescues, and near wrecks. The thing that's killing me is that it leaves you hanging... I know there was another book found among Crichton's papers. I can only hope that it carries on with the story.

A Dangerous Love by Sabrina Jeffries (3.5 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - A dying British Lord, father of three beautiful daughters, is trying to rectify an old wrong and provide for his daughers at the same time. His estate is entailed to the next male relative, the son of a cousin and known profiteer. Hidden identities, family secrets, and women who want to marry for love... all needed ingredients for a regency romance. I generally really enjoy Jeffries' romane novels, but this one felt a bit lacking. Her female lead was a bit wishy-washy, and the hero was less than heroic in many circumstances.

School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (4.5 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - An interesting collection of short, interconnected stories about a group of people attending a non-traditional cooking class. The teacher, a proponent of the slow food movement, works to show her students that food is a part of life, to be experienced and shared, rather than a necessity to be utilized. From the elderly couple with a surprising past, to the klutzy insecure young woman, to the man mourning the loss of his wife, and the woman in the first stages of memory loss/alzheimers... all the students have something to learn and it's not just how to combine tomatoes, garlic, and basil to make pasta sauce. This book was very enjoyable, and great book club fodder.

I See Rude People by Amy Alkon (3 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - I was instantly intrigued when this title showed up in my store. I have a very strong opinion about how manners have declined in our culture, and I was excited to see that I was not alone. Her chapters on mobile phone savages (take that! chick who talks on her cell phone in a public bathroom!) and underparented children were outstanding, and I was literally cheering the author on as I was reading. But in between were rambling chapters on how she was abused by others (her car was stolen, her identity was stolen, her bank account was fraudulently tapped) and how she hunted down the perpetrators. Her war on bad manners started when she decided not to be a victim any longer, and I applaud her efforts. I just didn't need to hear the minutia of her every interaction with uncaring law enforcement officers and corporate suits.

The Blythes Are Quoted by L. M. Montgomery (2 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - I can't express how disappointed I was with this book. I was so excited... the 'lost' final book of the Anne of Green Gables series! Never before published in its entirety. A manuscript delivered to her publishers on the day Montgomery passed away. Well, as a life-long fan of Montgomery, and as an avid reader of anything with her name on it, I was very saddened to find out that I had indeed already read 90% of this book. Rather than being a continuous narrative, it is a collection of short stories that only involve the Blythe family in a peripheral way. Other than that, there are poems between each short story with a bit of dialogue between Anne and Gilbert. The short stories have all been previously published in other collections. Don't waste your money if you are a LMM fan. Get it from the library.

Percy Jackson: Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (5 out of 5 hairy hobbit toes) - Loved, loved, loved this book! Riordan is capitalizing on the Harry Potter formula, but he does so with a sense of adventure and a major sense of humour. Percy, a middle school student dealing with ADHD and dyslexia, always seems to be getting into trouble. Strange things happen around him, things that only a few other people seem to understand. As he journeys to find out the secrets behind who he is, he ends up having the adventure of a lifetime... traveling across the US, battling creatures and beings of myth and legend, and saving the world in the process! FUN! I can't wait to read the rest.

So, that's it for January. 7 out of 75 down!


  1. That cooking class book sounds good. I'm going to add that to my list.

  2. Thanks! I'm going to check some of those out. Just out of curiosity - do you spend a fortune on books?

  3. Does the upcoming Percy Jackson movie have you as intrigued as I am? I need to get the book and read it.

  4. Thanks for the reviews. I'll have to check out Ciao Bella. I've been looking for a new book to read!

  5. Thanks so much for the review of Ciao Bella - we're so glad you liked it!

    --Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk

  6. Goob read just finished The Lightening Thief, he loved it and is very excited for the movie.

    Nice progress!


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