December Reads and Review Catch-up

Because I am so behind on my reviews, I’ve decided to cheat a little and do mini reviews for the last 13 books that I read in 2013. Basically, I never posted any of my December books, so this counts as the reviews and my round-up all in one!

5-Star Books:

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search, by Gene Luen Yang (Writer), Michael Dante DiMartino (Writer), Bryan Konietzko (Writer), Dave Marshall (Editor), and Gurihiru (Illustrations): I read all three parts of this graphic novel series within 24 hours. They’re fun, colorful, and engaging. They recall the show so well, it’s like reading new episodes, and the biggest deal of them all is that we finally learn what happened to Zuko’s mother! (One of the biggest mysteries of the show that was never solved.) These graphic novels are perfect for any lover of the show; however, they would make little sense to anyone not familiar with the Avatar cartoon.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (Author), Brooke Shields (Narrator), and Paul Rudd (Narrator): I love the Wizard of Oz and all the oz books; you would only have to see my dining room décor to realize this. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the classic tale of Dorothy Gale and her fantastic trip to the land of Oz where she meets the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and a whole host of other people and creatures. Thorough all the excitement of adventure, she just wants to get home to Kansas. Of course, this is not my first read of the classic novel, but it is the first time I’ve listened to it in audio form. Brooke Shields is the narrator, and she does a decent job—nothing ground breaking, but she seems like a mother reading to her child. Some of her voices got a bit annoying occasionally, but nothing that ruined the story.
  • The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, by Christopher Moore: It is a holiday tradition in the Loebick household to read or listen to this book every holiday season. This year was no exception. It’s a tale of Christmas miracles, zombies, and talking fruitbats—something to really get you in the season. Oh, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

4- Star Books:

  • Daughters of Darkness, by LJ Smith: The second installment of Smith’s Night World books is a big improvement over the first. Gone are many of the over-played clichés, though with most teenage urban fantasy, some still remain to sate the squealing girls. Daughters follows the story of three vampire sisters, Rowan, Kestral, and Jade, on their escape from the confinements of the night world. Love, death, and werewolves all play a part in this quick and entertaining read.
  • Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen: This book is my favorite Austen novel, because of many reasons. Mostly, I find the character of Catherine Morland the most relatable of Austen’s heroines. She’s awkward, bumbling, and lets her imagination run away from her. It’s also fun seeing how Austen satirizes the Gothic novel, which was so popular during her lifetime (and beyond).
  • Night Owls, by Lauren M. Roy:  *Disclaimer: I am an online acquaintance of Ms. Roy. Also, I received this title as a Digital review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review* Officially, I can’t review this title until it’s released in February—So when the time comes, I will actually publish a full review. Suffice to say that I am excited about this book’s release. It’s a fun and unique addition to the urban fantasy genre.
  • Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time #11) by Robert Jordan: Thank god this book is an improvement on the last one where nothing happened and the most nefarious bad guy was grain weevils. Knife brings back the action and adventure, and actually focuses on the main characters. There are only a few times where the POV is from a completely meaningless character’s prospective. And best of all, the story moves forward!
  • Blue Christmas, by Mary Kay Andrews: This fun little Christmas novella brings back Andrews’s reoccurring characters Weezie and BeBe. Weezie is determined to win Savannah’s historical district’s Christmas decorating contest, but someone keeps sabotages her displays, and her boyfriend Daniel is more moody than usual. Blue Christmas is a quick romp through Southern Christmas and hospitality, sprinkled with both funny and heartfelt moments.
  • This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash: Dark Road is about two sisters, Easter and Ruby, growing up in the mid-90s and what happens to them after their mother suddenly dies of an overdose. They are kidnapped by their father, who unfortunately has some bad men after him. The suspense in this book is subtle, but the message about family and love is clear. Good, solid storytelling and dynamic characters bring this novel to life.

3-Star Books:

  • Yuletide Universe, by Various, edited by Brian M. Thomsen: It’s always more difficult to rate and review anthology collections. This one is particularly troublesome. There are some amazing stories, ones that make you shiver, some that make you laugh, but there’s those few in here that are so dull or so out-of-place that the over-all quality of the book is brought down. A couple of the stories, I didn’t even finish (seriously, what does a demon slaughtering pets have to do with Christmas?). It’s a good book to pick up, but only for about half the stories in it.
  • Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: I love the Christmas Carol as a story. I read it every few years during the holidays. This year, I decided that I would listen to an audio version, and since I had such great luck with the dramatic version of Agnes Grey, I thought I’d download a dramatic version of Carol from Librivox.org. While most of the volunteer voice actors do well, there are a few in the particular version I listened to that really brought down the quality of the whole experience.

 

Whew, now I need a nap…

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