Thursday, March 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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Title: The Wizard of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Narrator: Anna Fields
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 3 hours 59 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Join Dorothy Gale, Toto, and all of her friends as they explore the incredible land of Oz. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is American's most enduring fairy tale. From the moment Dorothy puts on the silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers by MGM to take advantage of their new advance in movie making: color) until the moment she clicks her heels and returns home to Kansas you will be swept away and captivated by her extraordinary story. 

Overall Rating: 3.5
I can't believe that after all this time of watching the movies and reading the books derived from the original story, I've never read the original! The Wizard of Oz is a cute, fun kid's adventure story that I could see young children absolutely loving. It is a bit simplistic in terms of writing and storytelling, but the message is timeless, and that counts for something. Careful parents -- this is the kind of story children ask to read over and over and over again.

And I would just like to say that I really like the message of this novel. I think it's gotten lost within the numerous retellings over the years, but I thought it was really heartwarming and a good thing for kids to hear. I do wish the witch were a bit more evil and scary, though. She seemed more of a side character than anything, which was strange, again, after seeing/reading all the adaptations.

As for the narration, it was good -- good pacing, intonation, etc. Anna Fields makes sure to give everyone distinctive voices and does a good job at that. However, it contains nothing spectacular that would make me recommend it over the print version. I think reading either version is fine, it would just depend on your preference. I do, however, recommend reading it. It is slightly dated and I think adults would like it for its cultural history, not necessarily because of its inherent entertainment value (Although I'm still reeling over the whole silver slippers instead of ruby slippers thing. So weird!). But I'm sure that kids will love it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

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Title: The Indigo Spell
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: Bloodlines, Book 3
Hardcover: 401 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.  
Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, the Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Richelle Mead does it again! The Indigo Spell is a wonderful story in a series of intoxicating books about vampires. I started reading the Vampire Academy series October 2012, and have read through all of that series. Now that I finished the third book in the Bloodlines series, all I can say is that I’m hooked.

As with every book, there are good and bad points. In the past I had a hard time finding a bad point in the books that I reviewed from Richelle Mead, until now. The Indigo Spell has a great storyline with shocking twists, which make for an awesome book. Yet, as I immersed myself in the book, I was totally annoyed with the struggle between my two favorite characters Sydney Sage and Adrian Ivashkov. Now don’t get me wrong: I love this couple! It was Sydney’s constant, “yes please kiss me, no you should never had kissed me” attitude that nearly drove me insane.

Sydney struggles with her role as Alchemist and her forbidden attraction to Adrian, who is a Moroi Vampire, but again the writing didn’t seem consistent with who Sydney is as an Alchemist. She is a fierce protagonist, who had already helped a Dhampir runaway from jail. She watched Stigoi (evil vampires) being killed, joined allegiance with and was in debt to a notorious Moroi. Sydney even stood up to the Warriors of Light and uncovered a devious plan by another Alchemist. This is the person that we are supposed to believe would complain so much about a forbidden kiss.

The Indigo Spell is a great third installment to a really good series. I was really excited when Sydney stopped whining about using magic and began to kick butt. The magic added a whole different vibe to the storyline. As you can probably tell, I like strong women characters who know what it takes to get the job done. Sydney started out strong in the books Bloodlines, and The Golden Lily, but I was nervous for awhile as to what direction the author was taking the character. In the end, The Indigo Spell finished nicely, but not with the powerful kick that Mead is known for in the Vampire Academy series.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson

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Title: Alex Cross, Run
Author: James Patterson
Series: Alex Cross, Book 20
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover: 416 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Top plastic surgeon Elijah Creem is renowned for his skills in the operating room, and for his wild, no-expense-spared "industry parties," bringing in underage exotic dancers and models for nights of drugs, champagne, and uninhibited sex. That is, until Detective Alex Cross busts one of Creem's lavish soirees and ruins his fun. Now Creem is willing to do anything to avoid going to jail. 
But Alex doesn't have time to dwell on that case. A beautiful woman has been found murdered in her car, a lock of her hair viciously ripped off. Then a second woman is found hanging from a sixth-floor window with a brutal scar slashed across her stomach. When a third mutilated body is discovered, rumors of three serial killers on the loose send Washington D.C. into an all-out frenzy.  
Alex is under so much pressure to solve these three grim cases that he hasn't noticed that someone else investigating him-someone so obsessed and so twisted that they'll do anything-ANYTHING- to get the vengeance they require. Alex Cross, Run is James Patterson's most unrelenting story yet-a white-hot, sensational thrill ride with the most extreme and gripping characters Patterson has ever brought to life.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I was getting disappointed in James Patterson and thought he lost sight of the tenacious detective Alex Cross in his last few books. But I must say, this one is right on the mark as far as detective Cross is concerned.

Alex Cross, Run is entertaining and easy to read. It's what I had hoped Patterson would bring back. Plus I love the back story about Alex's brother. Nice touch!

Overall, this book still reads much like his last few books (which I didn’t really care for): different crimes being played out simultaneously, but what makes this one better is the fact that Alex Cross is getting back his MOJO. Alex doesn't have his wife Bree, a fellow cop showing up at a crime scenes on Christmas Eve expressing her disappointment in Alex. He also is NOT moaning through the whole book about how tired he is and how he should just put his family first. He's back trying to solve crimes, as only Alex can do.

My problem with this book: I believe James Patterson is churning out mediocre books and inventing numerous storylines so he doesn't have to dig deep and invest in the characters. He's writing one- dimensional stories and characters while hoping the audience buys into it just enough to purchase another book. Stop it Mr. Patterson! Don't make me scream at the top of my lungs. Alex Cross is multi-dimensional so please invest time in his opponents and make them worthy of having him called out to the scene. Casanova and the Gentlemen Caller from Kiss the Girls, Gary Soneji from Along Came A Spider, and the Mastermind from Violets are Blue, Double Cross and Cross Fire all characters with depth.

Although I didn’t buy into Ron Guidice’s character and his bigger-than-life grudge against Alex, I did enjoy the storyline involving Ava. I would have preferred the reappearance of Kyle Craig using Ava as a pawn instead of another silly character with no emotional depth.

I gave this book four stars because I did enjoy reading it. There were good parts to the book that showed the same Alex Cross from early books. Additionally, once I started reading I didn't want to put it down. I think this is a good read for novice Patterson fans. Anyone invested in Mr. Patterson might still feel a twinge of disappointment.