Thursday, May 30, 2013

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Title: Clockwork Princess

Author: Cassandra Clare

Read by: Daniel Sharman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: Approximately 15.5 hours (13 CDs)

Source: Simon & Schuster Review Copy – Thank-you!

I have been told by many people that I must read one of Cassandra Clare’s young adult novels, particularly The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I have seen the previews for the new movie based on that novel that will be coming out later this summer and it looks excellent. I jumped at the chance to review Clockwork Princess on audiobook.

Clockwork Princess is the third book and conclusion of The Infernal Devices series, which is related to The Mortal Instruments series. I will admit it took me awhile to get into this book as it is the third in the series. I wasn’t feeling the characters at the beginning as they were all new to me. As I continued to listen to the story though, I found myself caught up in the adventure and caring for the characters and their final outcome. I loved the ending, and realized that overall; I really need to read/listen to the first two books in this series, especially to learn more of the history of the Shadowhunters, Silent Brothers, and other groups of characters in this novel. I also definitely need to move City of Bones further up my “to read” list.

Clockwork Princess has at its heart a teenage love triangle set in Victorian England. Tessa Gray is a beautiful immortal shape shifter with a mysterious past. She is engaged to be married to Shadowhunter Jem, a sickly, but handsome and wonderful young man. She also is in love with Jem’s best friend and fellow Shadowhunter, Will. Will and Tessa both love Jem too much to do anything to hurt him, but work together to try to help him fight his illness. When the evil Mortmain takes the entire drug that Jem needs to survive, Will and Tessa work to destroy him and save their friend. They all live together in the institute of Shadowhunters run by Charlotte Branwell. The institute is where Shadowhunters train to use their skills to protect humanity against the evil lurking everywhere. Will the Shadowhunters be able to protect humanity against Mortmain and his evil devices? Will Will and Tessa be able to save Jem?

I thought the battle scenes were excellent and I also loved the background politics that were working against Charlotte. There was one scene that I don’t want to spoil here that took place in a parliament like setting that had me gasp, “what just happened?” with surprise and much interest. Finding out the back story on Tessa was also intriguing. I love a good love triangle and I’ll admit that this one brought a tear to my eye by the end of the story.

I enjoyed also the literature that brought into this novel. The characters all discuss one of my favorite novels, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. They mention other classics, but I also liked the shout-outs to literature in the names of the characters as well. Charlotte Branwell reminded me of Charlotte Bronte. She was an independent smart woman that shares Bronte’s first name, and her last name, Branwell, is actually the first name of Charlotte Bronte’s tragic brother.

Daniel Sharman was the narrator of this novel and did a fine job. At times I did feel his voice was a bit too soothing and I wanted a more dramatic reading. But at other times, his voice for the characters and soothing reading was spot on. It was an interesting book to listen to on the road.

Overall, Clockwork Princess was a moving and thrilling novel. It definitely has made me want to read the rest of the series as well as the Mortal Instrument series!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman

I somehow have found myself three books behind on book reviews, and all three were excellent books. I have them all posted now with this review for The Big Thirst. One of my office mates came back from Spring Break and told me that this was a book that I had to read. He gave me a summary and told me it was all about one of my favorite subjects, water. I am an environmental engineer / water resources engineer. Water is my career and is now what I am teaching about to the next generation. Would this book enthrall a lady of water like me? The answer is yes. I was fascinated by The Big Thirst, and what is even better, it was written in such a way that you don’t have to be a water expert to enjoy it. Fishman wrote the book at a down to earth level that can easily be understood, while including enough facts and figures to keep someone like me interested.

Fishman tells the story of the importance of water to human beings and how the use of water was revolutionized one-hundred years ago when cities began to pipe clean water to each household in the United States. The problem is that now most Americans take this water for granted.

Fishman explored how the driest city in the United States, Las Vegas, uses innovative means to make sure that their fountains are flowing and guests are supplied with plentiful water in a wonderfully named chapter “Dolphins in the Desert”. I was fascinated, but “water czar” Patricia Mulroy also made me nervous when she stated that she thought Great Lakes water should be piped to places like Las Vegas. I take Fishman to task for not further exploring this idea and why it is not the same as the mining of oil. Water is a replenishable source. If you take it away from the Great Lakes to an outside watershed that far away, it is never coming back. Meanwhile the Great Lakes (which are already at historic lows), would not be able to provide the habitat for its native species, water for the people that live in the many cities that surround them, water for the boats that haul freight, iron ore, etc. on the lakes, and water for tourism which is a large part of the economy of most cities along the great lakes. I believe that if people want Great Lakes water, then they should move to the Great Lakes region. End of story. I will get off my soap box now and politely put it away.

Fishman also examine water uses in other countries – in particular Australia and India. I was amazed about the story of India’s water. I had no idea that the major urban cities do not have 24/7 water service and laugh that the idea is even possible. The water quality in India was distressing. I hope with all of the technical expertise and knowledge that India has, that they will soon tackle and solve this very pressing issue. It was also sad that lower income girls are not able to attend school in India because they spend their time either hauling water home for their families or waiting for the water truck in urban cities. Very sad.

I could go on about this book all day, but I will curb myself. The book did repeat some information towards the end, but Fishman was using it as points to wrap up his conclusions. Overall, this is an excellent book and a must read for everyone who drinks water and would like to continue to do so in the future.

This book had MANY great quotes, but I will pick only a couple to share:

“By 1936, they conclude, simple filtration and chlorination of city water supplies reduced overall mortality in U.S. cities by 13 percent. Clean water cut child mortality in half.”

“The problem is that bottled water is a wacky, funhouse-mirror version of the real world of water. Bottled water subtly corrodes our confidence in tap water, creating the illusion that bottled water is somehow safer, or better, or healthier. In fact, tap water is much more tightly regulated and monitored than bottled water.”

“Just in India, forty children an hour under five years old die from contaminated water. One Indian toddler, not even old enough for kindergarten, dies every ninety seconds from bad water, twenty-four hours a day.”

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

No, sadly, I have not seen the new movie. I do have the soundtrack and have been vastly enjoying it. I decided to reread the book before the release of the new movie.

I loved The Great Gatsby in high school, and when I had to read it in college. I read it after college and enjoyed it then as well. I love the language of the novel and how I get something different from it each time. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fabled life and his short stories. This knowledge has always deepened my love for The Great Gatsby. My review is going to be on my feelings on reading the novel this time around and not a full synopsis.

This time as I reread The Great Gatsby, I really noticed Tom Buchanan much more than I remembered. He is not a nice guy, but he is more than just a mustache twirling villain. As I read it this time, I noted that he became unfaithful to Daisy very early in their marriage. He of course took Daisy for granted until he discovered that she was Gatsby’s object of desire. He also had his tragic girlfriend Myrtle. At the end of the novel, when Nick confronts Tom about Gatsby, Tom says, “he ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car.” He also talks about crying after her death. While he was brutal to Myrtle in life (broke her nose!), he was devastated by her death and to him, his actions to Gatsby were warranted.

What were not understandable were Daisy’s reactions. How could she so coldly never tell anyone it was her driving and cause Gatsby’s death. She never even went to his funeral and was never seen again after Gatsby returned her home and stood guard outside her house to make sure Tom didn’t hurt her. That is the real tragedy of the book to me. Gatsby may have made some unsavory deals to become wealthy, but he truly felt for his ideal woman, Daisy. Sadly, she was his ideal, and the reality of who Daisy was would never match it. One of my favorite quotes in a book full of quotes is when Gatsby says, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” He wanted to return to his version of the past where there was a perfect Daisy that loved only him. Sadly, there never was a perfect Daisy.

I could wax on about The Great Gatsby for quite a while, but needless to say, I vastly enjoyed my reread of it and I look forward to watching the movie. I also read the book as part of Colbert’s Book Club, which if you didn’t see the episode of The Colbert Report on The Great Gatsby, you should!

I also love that this is a novel that is loved by many. I had students tell me that this is one of the only novels they enjoyed in high school. I like that it is loved equally by both men and women. A book that can get everyone to enjoy literature is always a wonderful thing.

Book Source: My Personal Library

Thinking of You by Jill Mansell

As the end of the semester speed up to its final conclusion, Thinking of You by Jill Mansell kept me sane. Jill Mansell is one of my favorite “chick lit” authors. She is a British author and writes wonderful books about entire casts of characters that I would love to meet.  I would also love to visit them in the United Kingdom.  Their communities sound wonderful.

In Thinking of You, Ginny has a case of empty nest syndrome with her daughter Jem off to college. After a misguided adventure trying to visit Jem, Ginny returns now looking for a new roommate, a new job, and a new love. Much adventure ensues with Ginny having many mishaps along the way. Poor Ginny ends up with a bummer of a roommate after a grave misunderstanding. She also ends up with a bummer of a boyfriend. Meanwhile Jem is having adventures of her own. Sharing a flat with the handsome and rich (yet arrogant) Rupert and one of her good friends, Jem begins an ill-advised affair with Rupert. Things do not go well and Jem has much character growth during her first year of college.

There are a lot of wonderful characters in this novel and a plot that finds our heroines making mistakes, but also finding out some wonderful things about themselves. I don’t want to give away more about the plot and ruin the novel. Needless to say though, it is a very well written book, and highly enjoyable. I love to read any new books by Jill Mansell, she is a gifted writer.

Overall, Jill Mansell wrote another winner with Thinking of You and I highly recommend it. It is a perfect “beach read” for the summer.

Book Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks – Thanks!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Roots of Betrayal by James Forrester

With The Roots of Betrayal, James Forrester has once again delivered a thrilling historical fiction adventure. It’s been a hectic month with the end of the semester, but this book transported me to another world. It was hard to put it down and get some sleep!

The Roots of Betrayal is the second novel in a trilogy about the William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms. Clarenceux is a secret Catholic during a time that it was very dangerous to be a known Catholic. In the first novel, Clarenceux worked with Rebecca Machyn to solve a mystery and discovered a document that could bring down Elizabeth I as the legitimate ruler of England. Fearing that this would create a religious Civil War, Clarenceux has concealed the document in his home with the blessing of the Queen’s advisor, Sir William Cecil.

In The Roots of Betrayal, Clarenceux discovers that the document has been stolen from his home and that he has been betrayed by Rebecca Machyn. Clarenceux goes on a perilous voyage to discover the forces behind the betrayal and robbery and also above all, to protect his country from religious warfare. Along the way he meets pirate Raw Carew. Carew was at first seeking the “Catholic Treasure,” but then puts himself on the path of revenge against an individual that harmed the people he loved. Carew and Clarenceux become unlikely allies and work together to solve a perilous mystery.

The Roots of Betrayal was a unique story with a great twist for the ending – I did not see it coming. I love books that lead me on a great adventure and have me guessing until the very end. I loved the setting in 1564 in Elizabethan England. It has always been a fascinating period of history for me. I also enjoyed the characters. I loved the introduction of Raw Carew. He was a “Robin Hood” of the seven seas. He was an interesting character that followed his own moral code. He did some dastardly deeds and was fascinating overall.

Overall, I highly recommend The Roots of Betrayal and Sacred Treason for anyone looking for a fascinating historical fiction thriller or just a great read overall.

Book Source – Review copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Winners of April Audiobook Giveaway!

Thank-you to all that entered the April Audiobook Giveaway courtesy of Penguin Audio.  I apologize in the delay for announcing the winners.  It is the end of the school year for me, so things have been very hectic around here!  I am also behind on posting reviews by quite a few books, so look for reviews to be posted in the next week or two as I work to catch up.

All winners were selected using and are as follows: 

Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett by Mike Huckabee - Suko of Suko's Notebook

Mad River by John Sandford - Judy of Love2Listen

Dark Storm by Christine Feehan - Laura L.

The Tombs by Clive Cussler - bn100

Unintended Consequences by Stuart Woods - traveler

Poseidon's Arrow by Clive Cussler - Petite

Collateral Damage by Stuart Woods - Erica

Severe Clear by Stuart Woods - Donated to the Kewaunee Public Library

Thank-you to all who entered and especially to Penguin Audiobooks for providing the great audiobooks for this giveaway.

Please stay stunned for another audiobook giveaway soon . . .