Read-a-Thon Reviews

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-24-2002
Read-a-Thon Reviews
Sat, 06-15-2013 - 11:15am

The read-a-thon starts today! Post your read-a-thon reviews in this thread. If you have trouble posting, trying giong through this link:

If you can NOT post and you have reviews, please email me at , and I will post them for you. 

Remember to post the review number before each book reviewed, you may post multiple books in one post.

Happy Reading!!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2000
Wed, 07-24-2013 - 11:17am

Read-a-Thon Review #6

Remembering the Bones: A Novel by Frances Itani

From Goodreads:

Georgina Danforth Witley has never felt she has led anything but an ordinary life. But here she is on her way to meet the Queen. Born on April 21, 1926, the exact same day as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Georgie is one of 99 privileged Commonwealth subjects invited to an 80th-birthday lunch at Buckingham Palace. All she has to do is drive two hours to the airport and board the plane for London. Except that in her excited state, Georgie drives her car off the road, tumbling hood over trunk into a thickly wooded ravine. Thrown from the car, injured and unable to move but desperately hopeful that someone will find her, she must rely on her strength, her full store of family memories, her no-nonsense wit and a recitation of the names of the bones in her body—a long-forgotten exercise from childhood that reminds her she is still very much alive.

As Georgina lies stranded and helpless, she reflects on her role as a daughter, mother, sister, wife and widow; she casts back over family histories, lost loves and painful secrets. What has it all amounted to?
Frances Itani has given us an insightful, moving and beautifully written novel, fanciful and profound by turns. Remembering the Bones goes deeply into the life of an ordinary person who, in her instincts to survive, becomes extraordinary.

Outstanding! I feel that I know Georgie and care about her. I’ll certainly look for more novels and stories by Frances Itani.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-11-2008
Sat, 07-27-2013 - 3:48pm

Read a thon Review #22

102. The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present by Duncan Wall 308 pages 7/24/13 pub 2013 Wall, on a year abroad, sees a French new circus, becomes enraptured with circus, applies for and receives a Fulbright to study circus at France’s national school for circus. I really loved this book. Would I have liked mention of the major (to me and its time) movie Les Enfants du Paradis/ Children of Paradise? Yes. Lecoq, as a teacher of clowns, was mentioned often, but Etienne Decroux, a teacher of mimes, was not.

I did not know that circus started worldwide two hundred years ago, as a way for retired cavalrymen to show off their horsemanship by Philip Astley. They were in a ring because that was how horses were and are shown. At first, permanent circus buildings were built for them, tents came later. At one point Astley had nineteen circuses in Europe. (How was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show not a circus?) Wall’s experiences trying to be an acrobat, flyer, juggler, I’m not sure he gives himself much of chance to do clowning, but each of these disciplines is also looked at historically and at modern day and traditional circus companies.

“2002 in France was the ‘Year of the Circus.”’ (15)

“Before mass media, [Pascal] said, before television or the movies, the circus had been the world’s most popular spectator event, a combination of professional entertainment and professional athletics. Like we glorify athletes or movie stars today, audiences had glorified circus performers. ‘This was a celebrity poster for the trainer. It’s the sort of thing a child might have hung on his wall.’” (43)

“Jerome [Thomas, France’s master juggler] takes himself very seriously. He is openly arrogant, even egotistical, and he occasionally refers to himself in the third person, in a way that might be ironic but probably isn’t.” (94)

When he interviews the Jerome Thomas of clowns, Andre Riot- Sarcey, Wall asks him to define clown. “’Let’s say I do this…’

Suddenly his entire physicality changed. He blew his eyes open and puffed out his chest and started strutting in tight circles, his backside jutting out behind him like that of a rooster. I laughed.

Immediately Andre stopped and sauntered back to his seat. ‘Et viola.’


‘What?... That laugh, for a clown, that’s magic. Suddenly I know I’ve done something right. I have approval.’ And on the next page Andre insists that Wall takes this note: “CLOWN = FUNNY” (217)(ARC from Amazon Vine received in January 2013)

Read a thon Review #21

101. Alive!: A Valentino Mystery by Loren D. Estleman 284 pages 7/20/13 pub 2013 This is number three of a series about Valentino, film detective, or so his business cards say. Somehow he’s related to Rudolf and works as a film archivist for UCLA. In this novel, which I only found because it was on the ‘new’ shelf at the library, a former friend, once an actor, now a drunk, calls saying he’s got something big. Valentino doesn’t believe him, and he is killed. Valentino finds out he did actually have something big: the screen test Bela Lugosi did to play Frankenstein’s monster. (He didn’t get cast for many reasons: because the guy who did his makeup did a terrible job, because his English was too poor for him to schmooze with Carl Laemmle, Jr., because he wanted lines, because he’d saved Universal six months before making “Dracula” and the studio only paid him $500.) This was fun, but I would have preferred more of the Hollywood history and less in the present. I’m looking forward to the first two books in the series, about a print of Murnau’s “Greed” and Garbo.(Community Library, mystery)

Read a thon Review #20

100. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Dave McKean 312 pages 7/19/13 pub 2008 After my friend and I saw Neil Gaiman speak last month in Saratoga, we thought this would be a perfect light, easy, fun summer book for our book group to read next. Nobody Owens, is a toddler when his parents and older sister are murdered, he winds up in a graveyard to be raised by ghosts and a vampire is made his guardian. It takes a graveyard to raise a child, indeed! I am so glad I reread this!(Community Library, read for Messy Housekeepers BC 7/31/13. I’m making pizza, possibly fruit pizza for the group.)

Read a thon Review #19

99. The Make Good Art Speech by Neil Gaiman graphically designed by Chip Good 7/18/13 pub 2013 This is a beautiful book, both what it says and how it stays it. I’ve seen him give the speech, on the internet, but reading and reading it in this fashion is great.

“And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your tail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what you do best. Make good art. Make it on good days too.” (I bought a signed copy for a graduating friend at a Neil Gaiman book signing, but the copy I read came from Community Library.)

Read a thon review #18 

98. The Heat of the Sun by David Rain 80/ 288 pages 7/17/13 pub 2012 The premise is better than the book: it's about Madame Butterfly & Pinkerton's son, Trouble. As narrated by his Nick Carraway- type friend, Sharpless, whose father was the consul in “Madame Butterfly,” the storytelling is flat, remote. Normally, I quite like this kind of fanfiction, metafiction, story about a story, but this writer didn't make these characters, situation, or plot compelling or engaging. They didn’t sing, for or to me.(ARC from Amazon Vine rec’d ~1/25/13)



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-11-2008
Sun, 07-28-2013 - 4:57pm

Read a thon Review #23

103. Frames: a Valentino Mystery by Loren D. Estleman 269 pages 7/28/13 pub 2008

 In this novel Valentino, who is not related to the silent firm megastar, buys a crumbling movie theater palace, that comes with a corpse and a complete copy of von Stroheim’s “Greed,” that has been missing since Thalberg refused to release the ten or twelve hour version in 1925. Fun.

“Never underestimate the power of a mad genius to crap himself in public.” (79) “’ No matter if I could talk to you three weeks steadily could I possibly describe even to a small degree the heartache I suffered through the mutilation of my sincere work.’” (146) The first quote is about von Stroheim from a film historian in this novel. The second is von Stroheim talking to his biographer.(Interlibrary loan)



iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2000
Fri, 08-02-2013 - 11:31am

Read-a-Thon Review #7

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Heechee Saga Book 2)by Frederik Pohl


In Book Two of the Heechee Saga, Robinette Broadhead is on his way to making a fortune by bankrolling an expedition to the Food Factory--a Heechee spaceship that can graze the cometary cloud and transform the basic elements of the universe into untold quantities of food. But even as he gambles on the breakthrough technology, he is wracked with the guilt of losing his wife, poised forever at the "event horizon" of a black hole where Robin had abandoned her. As more and more information comes back from the expedition, Robin grows ever hopeful that he can rescue his beloved Gelle-Klara Moynlin. After three and a half years, the factory is discovered to work, and a human is found aboard. Robin's suffering may be just about over...

 This was a very good sequel, answering some of the questions from the first book, and asking a great many more. It contained more hard science than Gateway, explained very well, but not quite as much action , especially in the middle. Still, it was suspenseful, exciting, informative never dragged, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2000
Sun, 08-04-2013 - 11:04am

Read-a Thon Review #8

Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles deLint

From Booklist:

Imagine Mary Norton's quirky Borrowers as twenty-first-century Goth teens bent on discovering their true genealogy. De Lint has crafted a delightfully edgy fantasy that will lead teens to his popular adult series of Newford books, where magic and fantasy thrive in a seemingly ordinary community. Fourteen-year-old T. J.'s family has been forced to move to a suburb, leaving behind their family farm and T. J.'s beloved horse. Shy and awkward, T. J. has trouble finding a niche in her new school, and she misses her old friends desperately. Enter Elizabeth Wood, a 16-year-old "Little" who is six inches tall and all punky attitude (four-letter words abound). T. J. and Elizabeth are both fascinated and sometimes disgusted by each other, and they form a tight, complicated friendship that sees them through a slew of adventures in both the quotidian and magical worlds. As in The Blue Girl (2001), de Lint mixes marvelous fantastical creatures and realities as he taps into young women's need to feel unique, understood, and valued. Carton, Debbie

This was a very quick read, and I liked the point-of-view shifts between TJ and Elizabeth in different chapters. I’d like to read more about many of the characters. I hope that deLint includes them in more complex stories written for older readers. Little (Grrl) lost seems to be intended for middle-years or younger YA readers, which shouldn’t be a problem (Narnia, The Little Prince, Harry Potter, etc.), and it introduces readers to deLint’s urban fantasy world, but it’s nowhere near the quality of The Blue Girl.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-11-2008
Wed, 08-07-2013 - 12:34pm

Read- a- thon Review #29

109. Fallout by Todd Strasser 258 pages 8/7/13 pub 2013 In October, 1962 I was three years old and blissfully unaware of the might have been that is the premise of this novel. But several years later, the whole neighborhood knew that a neighbor had a bomb shelter, in the way that kids know things. This novel imagines that Kennedy wouldn’t back down from mutually assured destruction, when we know he did. Scott’s dad has had a bomb shelter built under Scott’s bedroom. He’s stocked it for his family of four, but six more neighbors (not necessarily friends) crowd in with them. It’s claustrophobic and tense like “On the Beach,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Ten Angry Men,” which I suppose, was intentional.(ARC from Library Thing, rec’d 8/6/13 to be released in September, 2013)


Review #28

108. Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught 232 pages 8/6/13 pub 2012 “Freak, Drip and Sunshine ride in a short bus and hang out in a single self-contained classroom labeled SED. That’s Severely Emotionally Disturbed, for you long- bus people. There’s ADHD (that’s Drip)… I’m SCZI. Schizophrenic. …Sunshine’s our only SM, selectively mute.” (5) Freak (Jason), Drip (Derrick) and Sunshine call themselves alphabets, to say they are labeled, and because they’ve created their own language. Then Sunshine disappears. Jason is terrified for her and doesn’t have anywhere to put his anxiety, because he’s mentally ill, but he’s also in love with her, or is he imagining it? I liked this very much. I liked especially that the mentally ill kid didn’t solve his friend’s disappearance, there are police and the FBI too, but it is resolved.(Interlibrary loan)

Review #27

107. Bumped by Megan McCafferty 323 pages 8/5/13 pub 2011 Melody and her parents have signed a lucrative conception contract years before with a wealthy couple. Harmony, her identical twin, has shown up on her doorstep, she was raised in a religious community and she has run away. A virus has made it so that only teenagers can give birth, so their babies are very valuable. This is all about choice and the lack of same, and the government and private enterprise attempt to control conception. A Handmaid’s Tale did it better, but this is easier reading. I can hope that girls who like this book will check out Margaret Atwood’s truly frightening novel.(Interlibrary loan, from a short list of YA feminist novels.)


Review #26

106. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 7 cds and 307 pages and includes his Newberry acceptance speech 8/3/13 pub 2008 I want to hug this book! Listening to it, read by Neil Gaiman, was an especial pleasure and I got to listen to it with my family on a mini vacation in the Berkshires.(the book on cd came from Community Library, I bought a copy of the physical book at the Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, MA, $8.99.)


Review #25

105. Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught 308 pages 8/2/13 pub 2008 Jamie Carcaterra writes features for her school newspaper, calling herself Fat Girl, hoping she’ll win a “’National Feature Award” and a scholarship to the journalism program of her choice,’ (4) Her boyfriend’s family can afford to get him bariatric surgery and he nearly dies, something that according to Jamie is not uncommon. Jamie is thoughtful and understandable and I quite liked this book.(Interlibrary loan, from a short list of YA feminist novels.)

Review #24 -- I didn't finish this one because I didn't like it, does it still count here?

104. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau- Banks by E. Lockhart 98/ 345 pages 7/30/13 pub 2008 I did not care for or about Frankie and her entitled friends at an exclusive prep school. Frankie may have glimmers of being a sophomore feminist, but first I wish she would address the classism in her set. Maybe were I in a different mood, I would like Frankie more, but probably not.(Interlibrary loan, from a short list of YA feminist novels.)



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-11-2008
Sat, 08-10-2013 - 12:41pm

Read a thon Review #30

110. Alone: a Valentino Mystery by Loren D. Estleman 268 pages 8/9/13 pub 2009

Unlike the other two Valentino mysteries this doesn’t revolve around a missing piece of film, but missing letters from the notoriously private Greta Garbo. There’s also a murder, or two, love life woes, and the crumbling movie theater and a building inspector. I’ve now read all three of these, they are fun, as a classic film fan, but there’s very little here I didn’t know.



iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2000
Tue, 08-13-2013 - 4:13pm

Read-a Thon Review #9

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

Book Description:

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller,Surfacingis the story of a young woman who returns to northern Quebec, to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realize that going home means entering not only another place, but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she discovers that what she is really searching for is her own past. Permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose,Surfacinghas grown in reputation as a novel unique in modern literature for its mythic exploration of one woman’s spiritual pilgrimage.

I followed this woman’s story with increasing trepidation, as she began a journey to find her father, and gradually descended into madness, to emerge into either sanity or a different form of existence. The many levels of symbolism will take several readings to fully appreciate.

Atwood’s poetic language, often an impediment to understanding prose, is quite effective in this novel in establishing the setting, the situation, and the minds of the characters. This is the first of Atwood’s non-science fiction novels I’ve read that really grabbed me.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-11-2008
Tue, 08-13-2013 - 8:01pm

Read- a -thon Review #31

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor 418 pages 8/13/13 pub 2011

“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” (143)

“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I’ve seen things, angel. There are guerilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make for beasts to grow inside. Armies need beasts, don’t they? Pet beasts, to do their terrible work! And the worst is, it’s almost impossible to retrieve a soul that has been ripped away. Almost.“(122)

I really, really liked the first 300 or so pages of this. The last hundred pages didn’t work as well for me. It’s there the setting changed. At first it was our world, well as much as our world includes the entirely magical cities of Prague and Marrakesh. Karou is an art student in Prague, studying puppetry and drawing. She does errands for Brimstone, who raised her, but he doesn’t live here. Karou falls in love with Akiva, who is a seraph, from the other world, Eretz. (Akiva, Eretz, Prague, one would think this is Jewish fantasy, but one would be sadly, mistaken.)

(Community Library, YA Challenge #10, friends 5 star book, 50 States+ YA Challenge, Czech Republic.)

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-28-2000
Fri, 08-16-2013 - 3:34pm
Julia; You said,"Akiva, Eretz, Prague, one would think this is Jewish fantasy, but one would be sadly, mistaken." Perhaps it's a Kafkaesque(Kafka-ish?) version of a Jewish fantasy. Roberta