Wednesday, May 30, 2007

For the Love of Venice - 2 Stars

Summary of For the Love of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli:
Reluctantly, 17-year-old Percy sets off with his family to spend the summer in Venice. With his civil-engineer father absorbed in his work project, his artist mother flitting off to absorb the ambiance, and his engaging little brother immersing himself in the adventure, Percy finds himself listlessly wandering the beautiful old city. Then he meets Graziella. The attraction is mutual and instant, although the young woman is perplexingly adversarial. Conflicts arise when Percy discovers that she is a member of an underground political group prepared to use extremist measures. Frustrated by the language barrier and by political differences, Percy is on uncertain ground; he is unable to understand Graziella's stereotyping of him as an intruding American who is among those ruining life for native Venetians. He becomes the epitome of the confused, well-meaning, liberal-minded American. A crisis brings the two closer, and they are able to talk and expose the fallacies and truths in one another's thinking.

Eh, this book was decent. I'm glad it was short, because it just seemed absolutely silly. Things seemed very unlikely to occur and just not realistic at all. Don't read it.

Doomsday Book - 5 Stars

Summary of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis:
The year is 2048 A.D., and a young history student named Kivrin is preparing to do an on site study of the turbulent fourteenth century. Her mission has placed two of the University's professors at cross purposes, as the proponent for this study, Mr. Gilchrist, finds himself pitted against Mr. Dunworthy, Kivrin's mentor, who believes that this trip in time is far too dangerous. Mr. Gilchrist, however, is in the position to have the final say on the project.

Kivrin is scheduled to land in the rural English countryside of the fourteenth century some twenty years before the Black Death savages England. Armed with the knowledge of fourteenth century customs, dress, languages, religious practices, and history, Kivrin is raring to go back in time. When she travels back, however, an unforeseen crisis in the present places Kivrin in a potentially deadly situation upon her arrival in the past.

The book alternates between what is happening in the present and what is happening in the past, as those in the present work to unravel the mystery of what went wrong. Meanwhile, Kivrin struggles to overcome the anomalous situations she encounters that run contra to her expectations. Believing herself stranded in the past, Kivrin artfully maneuvers around the precarious situations in which she finds herself, never losing her humanity despite the horror of her situation, given what went wrong.

This book is amazing. I've read it before, and I had forgotten how good it is. I got hooked and anxious about everything going on. The book really engages you and draws you in so you experience the same emotions that everyone else is. I highly recommend this book to others.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Spellcoats - 4 Stars

Summary of The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones:
"The Spellcoats" is the only book in the Quartet which is told in the first person. The voice we hear belongs to a young girl named Tanaqui, living with her family and her family's collection of gods on the banks of the great River. She doesn't speak her story, or write it - she weaves the words into an intricately detailed "rugcoat", a kind of wearable diary. The time is many centuries before the Dalemark of the first two volumes. There are no guns or bombs, scarcely any musical instruments, and the continent has a different shape, dominated by the one huge brown north-flowing river, worshipped by Tanaqui's neighbors as a god in its own right.

This is the third in the Dalemark Quartet, and I like it even more than the previous 2. I was wondering when there would finally be a heroine, and it was in this one. I wish I could remember a bit more the mythology in the previous books so I could piece them together better. The epilogue helped some, but a good cheat sheet would be better,. Despite that, the story is very engaging and enjoyable.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Men in Kilts - 4 stars

Summary of Men in Kilts by Katie MacAlister:
Mystery writer Kathie Williams firmly believes in rules when it comes to romance, and falling in love at first glance is not one of them. Yet somehow one look at Iain MacLaren and Kathie forgets the conference she's attending to dream up ways to seduce the dishy Scotsman. She accepts a surprise dinner invitation from Iain, which leads to a much more intimate kind of evening than she ever could have imagined. Throwing caution to the wind, Kathie agrees to spend the rest of her vacation with him on his sheep farm in the Scottish Highlands, but any hope of a long-term relationship with her laconic lover means dealing with his assorted relatives and neighbors, a scheming ex-paramour who is not about to let Iain slip through her clutches, and Iain's career, which involves letting adorable lambs become someone's entree.

This is another one of Katie MacAlister's genius romances, which always involve believable situations, real women (curves and all), and likable characters. I found myself finding a lot in common with Kathie, the main character. I laughed at her determination, and was also laughing at myself for doing the same thing in my own relationship. I saw her fear, uncertainness, and later trust mirror my own relationship. I really could connect with the story, which then made it even more enjoyable at the happy ending, as that's how I want my own life to end up. I definitely recommend this to the romance-enthused.