The Emperor’s Soul

by Brandon Sanderson | 176 pages, published 2012emperor

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been reluctant to read more Brandon Sanderson books. But I enjoyed Elantris after finishing the Mistborn trilogy, so I thought I’d give this stand-alone book a go – especially since Jarom got it for me for Christmas! (Aren’t books the best presents?)

The Emperor’s Soul is definitely not as good as either Elantris or the Mistborn books, but it’s good. It was short, so it packed a lot into a small space. I liked it even more when I got to the end and found a note from the author that he got the idea from name stamps, which they use frequently in Asian countries like Korea, where he served his mission. Hey! Jarom did that too! And I have a name stamp!

This seems like a much less fantasy/magic-heavy book, although it did have elements of magic-ish-ness. With such a short read, I think you’d enjoy picking it up. It has a very different feel from the other Sanderson books I’ve read – which is good. I like when an author can capably write in several styles.

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by Orson Scott Card | 544 pages, published 2012ruins

This is the second of the Pathfinder series. It takes the story in a very different direction than I was imagining . . . I think I liked Pathfinder better, but who can stop at just one book? (Actually, I read quite a few first-in-a-series books this year that I have no intention of following up on. So I guess this is an exception.)

Not much to add to my recommendation of Pathfinder, which I do think you should read, but you might wait until all the books are out for a more satisfying read. I think Harry Potter was the exception to this rule.

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Walk Two Moons

by Sharon Creech | 288 pages, published 1994walk

How have I not read this before? I’m realizing (over and over again) that Newbery books deserve the medals they’ve received. Walk Two Moons is no exception.

If you haven’t read it, this is the story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle, who’s trying to find out what happened to her mom. It’s also the story of Sal’s friend Phoebe, and of Sal’s adorable grandparents. The writing is phenomenal, the characters are complex and beautifully written. And I couldn’t put it down, and when I finally did (when I finished), I was bawling. Sometimes those books are the best.

I have a copy if anyone wants to come borrow it. But I think you should go out and buy it.

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Every Day

by David Levithan | 336 pages, published 2012everyday

This was the first book we chose for our little book club. Fascinating premise: the main character wakes up as someone else every day. He/she only stays until midnight, is always a person his/her own age, and wakes up in the same state as the day before. The main character, who calls him/herself “A,” tries to interfere as little as possible with the daily routine of the person whose body he/she wakes up in – until one day, he/she falls in love with the person’s girlfriend and seeks her out every day after that.

There’s also a side story of a fake pastor who seems to be just like A, but has figured out how to stay in one body for an extended period of time. I wish more of the book had been spent on this, although supposedly there are more books to follow.

I had several problems with the book. The first is that, as an LGBT author, Levithan spent so much energy convincing the reader that love is love no matter what that almost every person A woke up as fit into the LGBT grouping somehow. I’m just not sure that statistically, that’s what would happen. Maybe I’m out of touch, and I do live in a much more conservative area of the country. But it didn’t seem quite as realistic to me – more of a plot device.

Second, A initially proclaimed that he/she tried to interfere as little as possible in people’s lives, but begins interfering in major ways after meeting Rhiannon (the love interest). A goes so far as to prevent one guy from going to Hawaii for his sister’s wedding because it would mean that A would be stuck in Hawaii, away from Rhiannon. Not cool!

Third, there was only one instance of A helping a person. A woke up as a very, very depressed girl who was planning to commit suicide in a matter of days. A, as the girl, told her father (who had been distant) what was wrong, showed him her notebook with suicide plans as proof, and pleaded for help. The girl got her father’s support and was able to get the treatment she needed. I wished she had been brought up again, or that A had tried to help any of the other people – instead of just skipping whatever plans they had for the day so he/she could go see Rhiannon.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend the book. I think it came down to how much I disliked A’s selfishness in disrupting people’s lives just to see this girl. And again, I’m hesitant to support teenage Love in all its reckless glory. It’s so angst-ridden and fleeting. Thank goodness I’m not a teenager anymore!

The Wise Man’s Fear

by Patrick Rothfuss | 993 pages, published 2011wiseman

I had some spare cash a few months ago so I ordered a copy of the second Kvothe book. I sat outside in a swing under the chestnut tree reading it and thought, life doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.

The book added new story lines, continued old ones, and kept up the lovely storytelling. It did add a few more adult elements and suspend-your-disbelief-a-little-extra parts. I’m not sure if I liked it more or less than The Name of the Wind – so we’ll call them equal. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard an update on when the third and final book will be out.

I still strongly suggest you start reading the series!

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The Appeal

by John Grisham | 368 pages, published 2008appeal

Guess what? This is NOT a standard Grisham novel. It took me by surprise, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. There will be spoilers here, so if you think you’ll read the book – and I’m about three-quarters of the way to recommending it – just go get the book and skip my review.

The Appeal is the most political of the John Grisham books I’ve read. It deals with a case by a small-town husband-and-wife legal team, suing a chemical corporation for knowingly dumping toxic waste and leading to cancer and death among the townsfolk. (Sound familiar? Isn’t this basically the plot of Erin Brokovich?) They win the case, but of course the corporation appeals. And the owner of the corporation finds a sneaky-sneaky way of putting a new justice on the state Supreme Court. The majority of the book is about how he accomplishes this, so I felt like Grisham’s intent in writing The Appeal was to convince me that state Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be elected. The bad guy is successful, and is so sneaky-sneaky that the new justice is an honest, respectable man who doesn’t realize he’s part of a scheme. The new justice is not litigation-friendly and votes against big settlements. Then, twist! His son is injured in a Little League game by a bat that is unsafely manufactured (knowingly), and the ER doctor misreads his chart and sends the boy home – where conditions worsen and he is left with severe brain damage. And might die. If only that doctor hadn’t been incompetent! If only the bat manufacturer had recalled the dangerous bats! While the justice is in the hospital with his son, it comes time to vote on the Erin Brokovich case. Extra twist, he votes against it still, but he changes his vote on a different-but-similar appeal, showing that he does care about the little guy.

Seriously though, it was just an attempt to sell you on appointing justices rather than electing them.

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The Associate

by John Grisham | 384 pages, published 2009associate

Another standard Grisham novel. Young aspiring lawyer working for a big, bad firm – but this time, he has a questionable incident in his past that leaves him open to blackmail. He gets to steal secret documents from a secret case! Sadly, this lacked adequate resolution. It just . . . ended. I guess Grisham was getting too close to his 400-page limit and had to call it good. I recommend sticking to a classic, like The Client.

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