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confuzzledbooks

Confuzzled Books

If you are wondering what kinds of books I review and events I host, this little section is the place to look. Books I love to read: Children's, Young Adult, Paranormal and Fantasy books. Books I like to read: General Fiction, Romances, Religious Fiction, Mysteries and Biographies. So those are the genres of books I will generally review. If you send me a book outside of those areas, I'll consider it, but it may not fit my tastes. Reviews will take about 2 months to post; I try to post them around the time the book is released. On giveaways: Sending me a signed book to give away on the site is a great way to get your book noticed. I do a "mystery book" giveaway about every 2 weeks, where I read the book and twitter about it without revealing its title, then reveal what I've been reading and give it away. The whole event takes a couple weeks, and I feature the giveaway book on my blog for most of that time.

Currently reading

A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Rebecca Solnit
All You Can Ever Know
Nicole Chung
The Mermaid
Christina Henry
Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32
B.C.R. Fegan, Lenny Wen
The Party: A Novel
Robyn Harding
The Chemist
Stephenie Meyer
If you were me and lived in... Mexico: A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around the World: 1
Carole P. Roman
Silver: Return to Treasure Island
Andrew Motion
The Creativity Book: A Year's Worth of Inspiration and Guidance
Eric Maisel
The Search for the Red Dragon
James A. Owen

Legal Thriller Minus Thriller

The Whistler - John Grisham
Lawyers Lacy and Hugo are hired to investigate a claim from an anonymous report about a dirty judge using an Indian casino illegally to take money from. As the lawyers reveal truth there are unfortunate deaths and more than enough bad people.

 

I read this because of a book club I had been in.  The theme for the month was Grisham’s books. I had not read one of his in years.  The last probably being Pelican Brief around the time the movie came out. I felt that the book had so much action and suspense. So I was hoping for a similar story like his blockbuster The Firm.

 

Unfortunately, the thrill was gone from this book. How he stretched out this story over 350 pages is beyond me. This was barely a conversation over coffee with a friend. About halfway through we lose a character that I assume we are supposed to care about losing but to be honest none of them mattered to me.  The crimes that were done were not a surprise it is pretty much stated in the beginning what the dirty criminals had done. There were no big surprises or big horrifying truth revealed.

 

I know Grisham has some good books but this for me was not one of them.  Definitely not a legal thriller I considered his books to be.

Flora & Ulysses Are Extraordinary!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - L.K. Campbell, Kate DiCamillo

Young Flora is a little girl with an obsession with her comics that her father introduced her to. Reading them is a nice distraction from her parents being separated. She lives solely with her mother who is a writer and thinks the comics are not good enough for her daughter. Outside Flora house, an unusual accident with a squirrel and vacuum cleaning salesman creates a superhero. The squirrel, whom Flora named Ulysses, can now fly, has super strength and writes badly spelled poetry. What happens next can only be described as an extraordinary tale just like her comics.

Like most Kate DiCamillo books Flora & Ulysses has whimsical storytelling, fun characters, and so much heart. I have to say my favorite character was Ulysses the squirrel. He did not say much but he sounds like a smart, cute, and fluffy friend to have around.

My least favorite thing was Flora’s mother. She reminded me of Cinderella’s stepmother. She did not understand her daughter nor did it seem she wanted to. She was so unkind with Flora and even though her personality changed I still felt she was not to be trusted.

I have read almost all of Kate DiCamillo’s books and I am not stopping after this one. Her characters are always different and quirky. There is always a calming comfy feeling when reading them. Even though she writes for children I would recommend her books for all age.

Dark Family Secrets Make A Dark Family

The Dinner - Herman Koch
The Dinner starts with two brothers and their wives at a fancy restaurant in The Netherlands.  The one brother is a politician and the other a businessman out of work because of an illness. They both have teenage sons who seem to get along. The way the cousins get along and spend their time is what starts to bring the drama to the story.  It is mostly set at the restaurant and flashbacks other places where the story takes an unexpectedly dark turn.

 

I read this for a book club. This book was not technically picked, the theme for the month was “Food”. This was the closest I had on the subject. I was not sure what to expect because I had never heard of the book before. Reading the description of the characters and story did not interest me.  In fact, I think my husband picked up the book. The story was very different than anything I have read and with this one I consider it a good thing. I really did not expect the turn at the end. In truth, I figured the opposite was going to happen and most lived happily ever after. Nope, that was not the case.  The kids were juvenile delinquents who needed a kick in the ass and a trip to jail, as did other characters by the end. The book kept me interested. It was like watching an accident on the side of the road.

 

I do not usually read books with such dark and despicable underbelly unless it is so supernatural or fantastical that I know the happenings will not come to be.  This was a story about something that could happen and probably has. So my only dislike after reading this is me whining “why’d you have to make me think such dark thoughts?”

 

It was an interesting read but I think if I had the choice to read it again for the first time I would not. Reading a review would have been enough for me.  That does not mean I hated it and it was not interesting. I just feel like I spent more time then I want on this book.

Good Start For Kids

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov - Mary Englar
Part of the”Queens and Princesses” series this installment is about one of the most famous Russian princesses, Anastasia Romanov.  Anastasia was the youngest of four daughters and older sister to brother Alexie. Her parents, Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra, ruled Russia Empire in the early 1900s. This book shares pictures taken of the family and facts about the short life of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.

 

The Romanov family has been a favorite of mine to read about. Not sure why but Anastasia seems to be the fan favorite of the family.  Maybe because she appeared to be normal and not just royal. She had fun climbing trees, taking photos of her family and making faces in photos others took of her.  Maybe it is because people want to believe she made it out of the war alive. This book describes a little of those things and there are many other books that go into detail about Anastasia and the rest of the Romanovs.  This one is a good starting point for juvenile readers.

 

The pictures in the books are good although they are ones that I have seen before.  I feel like we could have learned a little more about Anastasia in general.  The book goes more in detail about the whole family which is part of her history but this is a book that is supposed to be about Anastasia, not just the Romanov family.

 

This is a book for ages 8 - 12 and it is a good start on the history of Tsar Nicholas’ family.  As a kid, I would have loved this book. I will be keeping this for my Romanov collection which is getting really big.

Reminds Me Of Irish Folklore

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

In a tavern off the coast of the Thames, locals come to hear stories and drink their troubles away. Some of them are about to play a part in a story that myths and legends are made from. A little girl is brought to the tavern saved by a man who happened to see her in the river. The man passes out from exhaustion and the girl is believed dead. After the local healer comes to aide the man and confirms the child’s fate. Even though the girl appears dead to the knowledgable healer she suddenly starts breathing. As the girl and man heal the hunt is on to find her family. The strange thing is 3 families want to claim her as theirs. One couple who lost their daughter 2 years ago, one widowed man searching for his young daughter, and one sister who thought she harmed her missed sister many years ago. Told like an Irish fairy tale, Once Upon A River is a mystical tale of what can destruct a relationship and what can heal it. 

I loved this book from beginning to end. Anything told in a way that reminds me of an old Irish fairy tale will usually get high praise from me, especially if the story is not predictable. I thought as I started the book the time period it takes place in would only be in the intro to the story and the time period would fast forward to our time later. It does not. The book stays in the same time period throughout the book. Which for me added to the mystical side. The three families who believe the girl is their’s and who the girl really is or where she belongs is a big mystery until the end. The fact that I could not predict any of the storylines is a plus for me. When my brain works out what is going to happen next I get bored. Same happens with tv shows and movies for me too.

I read Diane Setterfield first book The Thirteenth Tale. Everything in that first book that I wanted The Thirteenth Tale to be, is in this new book. I don’t any thoughts on how to make it better because Once Upon A River is best as it is.

Diane Setterfield does have a mastery of words that I can not really figure out how one does write as she does. I am curious at what is next for this author. I could see a sequel or some of these characters popping up again in future books but that is not for me to decide.

Mixing Good And Bad

Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) -

Scientist Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with finding a way to reanimate human life after death. After he successfully fulfills his desire he immediately regrets it, condemning the new horrific life form to live in hiding. As Frankenstein’s new monster learns to understand those around him and his own existence he begins to hate his creator. The monster enacts revenge on Victor by taking away those he loves, only stopping if the doctor does what the monster asks for.

The very start of the book reminded me of Moby Dick, at least the little I read of it. Victor Frankenstein obsession with creating life is very much like Ahab’s obsession with finding the whale. Then the middle of the book was like The Picture Of Dorian Grey which a book I really liked and very much about doing good or evil and how it affects those around yourself. It ends again like Moby Dick as Victor new obsession directs him. The middle of the book had me interested because it is really a discussion on what being human is or could be, and regret. Actually, it is about even more than that so much you could a book about and people probably have.

I for one not a fan of the scenes where Dr. Frankenstein was channeling Ahab from Moby Dick. His obsession is part of the reason I couldn’t finish Moby Dick. Luckily Frankenstein is much shorter than Moby Dick.

I am glad I took the time to read this. It is a book that is so much different than what the movies and tv have done. In fact, there is so much difference in the movies I am really curious why or how they came up with things...like the character Igor...no where in the book. The monster having a square head and bolts on the neck...nope not in the book. I am not a big fan of most classics but this one that I did enjoy.

Close To An Irish Fairy Tale

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

A gentleman returns to his childhood home and begins to remember something from his past he suppressed or was magically blocked from his mind. As he recalls an old babysitter and her unique introduction to his family he realizes she is not what she seems. A young girl and her family try to help him rid the hold an evil presence. 


Neil Gaiman has a knack for creating stories that seem like they have always been around. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is told in true fairy tale format. When say fairy tale I don’t mean Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, I mean a story straight from Ireland with actual fairies. Even though the word fairy is not mentioned in the story, the description of how mischievous fairies are is all over the villain. That is what I like about this book and Gaiman’s writing.


My only dislike is that the book is too short. I feel there was so much more could be told about the girl, her mother, and grandmother. Why was there a troublesome in the area of the lake? What was the lake’s history? I hope maybe one day Gaiman will return to those characters in another story. 


I am a sucker for stories with fairies and this one is so much more intriguing. Because I recognize details that come from old Irish folklore. It is also a short read and as I said shorter then I would like but still charming. 

Your Art Matters

V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone: An ABC for Grownups - Seth Godin

There seems to be a trend of books that look like they are for children but written for adults. There are adult coloring books and picture books on writing or life. This picture book from
Seth Godin is on the abc’s of motivating to create art. 

In some ways, I felt this book, with its motivational words of wisdom, reminded me of another author’s speech about creating art and that author is Neil Gaiman. It’s a wonderful speech and if you haven’t heard or read look for it on the interwebs. This picture book is simple but prompt. Something to pump up an artist who, like me, wonders if their art matters.

The feeling the book gives is a wonderful pick me up even if the literal words do not stay with you. I have to keep reading over each letter trying to remember what the one before it said. I guess that makes it is a good thing it’s only a picture book. 

V Is For Vulnerable is a book that can be read repeatedly especially when you need a push to keep creating. 

Not As Good A First

Blood Lite II: Overbite - Heather Graham, Jeff Strand, Kelley Armstrong, J.A. Konrath, Janis Ian, Derek Clendening, Amy Sterling Casil, Sam W. Anderson, Aaron Polson, Brian J. Hatcher, John R. Little, Joel A. Sutherland, Jordan Summers, Allison Brennan, Lezli Robyn, Scott Nicholson, Sharyn McCrum

This is the second book in this anthology theme. Inside is a collection of short stories that connect fantasy and a little humor. 

I think it was a great idea to shoot for a sequel anthology because the first one had a little magic in it’s writing. Some stories from the original still linger in my brain. 

After reading and enjoying the first anthology, Blood Lite, I expected not just funny stories in fantasy settings but memorable. Fact is I can only remember one story in Blood Lite II: Overbite and had to do with a guy out with his girlfriend at a diner. The description of the girlfriend was disgusting and not funny. The other stories are lost from my memory. I even had to re-read quite often.

This one missed its mark but there is a third installment and...I probably will read it too.

Love Affair With Sadness

If You Come Softly - Jacqueline Woodson
Miah, a black boy, starting a new school runs into Ellie, a Jewish white girl.  They feel connected and start a relationship. They keep their relationship a secret because they know their parents will not understand because of their different color. Their future seems bright and hopeful until one day someones bad judgment call ends the life of one of them.

 

I picked this up because of John Green’s new life’s library book club. I am not a big fan of contemporary novels but I do read them from time to time. The characters did grab me and I did fall for Ellie and Miah. I felt Ellie’s pain when she mentioned to her sister about dating someone of color and her sister was against it.  Miah parents were not as tolerant on the subject of interracial coupling either. I feel there was a lot more pain in this book then the love Ellie and Miah shared and that made the ending sadder.

 

I disliked one thing about the book and that was that the very first chapter basically tells you how the book ends.  Even though I loved the characters getting to know each other and their relationship with their own family there was still that little voice in the back my head saying, “Yeah but so and so is going to kick the bucket.”  

 

I do think Woodson is a fine author.  For a book that is 20 years old and still relevant is in some ways a good thing for an author but because of the theme it is very sad it is still something the world deals with daily.   

Long Reign Buffy !?!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: New School Nightmare  - Carolyn Nowak
A good starting point for anyone who has not seen or read the previous Buffy The Vampire Slayer seasons. This would technically be a reboot or alternate history. Buffy Summers is starting a new middle school in Cleveland and finds out she is a vampire slayer. It’s hard to be a teen let alone a slayer but with her new female watcher and two best friends, a witch and a werewolf, she is not alone.

 

Buffy and the slayer mythology is about the only thing familiar with this graphic novel if you are a fan of the past Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Now, I do not know if this is going to match the reboot that will be taking place on tv. I think probably not since the book has the blonde haired and white Buffy because it is rumored that the new tv series Buffy will be African American. ]

 

The art is quaint and there is nothing too racy for young kids. Since there are new characters interacting with Buffy it is all new to me, which did make it hard to put down and fun to read.

 

The story is cute and action-packed but as a Buffy fan, I did miss Willow, Xander, and Giles from the original group. I think is great that Buffy is coming back in some way, I just wish it a continuation or a new slayer rather than use Buffy again.

 

As Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a creation of Joss Whedon, I will probably support this version of Buffy and any others. So “Long Live Buffy!”... I guess.

Not As Helpful As Hoped

The Enchanted Life  - Sharon Blackie

Dr. Sharon Blackie writes a book that many psychologists would not encourage most to believe and that is the power of mythology, fairy tales, and magic. She describes her connection to nature and how she creates her own enchantment within life over years she has practiced.


What interested me in this book was the title and I was very interested in a doctor who as a scientist also believes in magic. I know from experience these kind of doctors are hard to come by. As someone who does believe that we create our own magic or enchantment in our lives, I sometimes lose belief and or doubt in magic in life. So I was at the time of reading this looking for some hope and something relight that spark that anything is possible.


As I continued to read the book Dr. Blackie made some interesting points about fairy tales and the ones you relate to or see yourself as. That in particular really made me think of why I think do or things about myself. But for the most part, the book did not really teach me anything new or help me to see myself in a better way, which is more what I need. I feel like we read about her finding her own contentment in nature and relationships but not really explaining how to find that happiness for yourself. I just needed more from the book.


I do think Dr. Blackie has some interesting points and I think I would have a couple of questions if we ever met. Even though I was not satisfied with the knowledge I received from this book I would read another by her.

Dazzling Art!

Fairy Dreams - Carol McLean-Carr

Fairy Dreams is written and illustrated by Carol McLean-Carr. The paintings are intricate and brightly colored. There is so much detail that every time it is viewed you will find something new. The story focuses on items to find in the imagery.

 

This kind of detailed fantasy drawings are popular and it is not hard to see why. Of course, the characters are fairies which are a big thing for me. Big “Yay!” for fairies.

 

The story is lacking as it is more of a find and seek. It mentions an item to find in the illustrations on the page. I don’t know if it is because my eyesight is going, but I couldn’t find the items. Not a one. I keep trying but I am not sure if my book is a little faded or something. I do love the illustrations but sometimes looking for the items I felt it very busy.

 

I wish the story was a little more interesting. The art is amazing though. When I was a child I was not really introduced to many “Seek And Find” books. Now Barnes & Noble kids clearance section is usually full of them. I am going to take another look at this book and try to find some items. I will probably pass it on to someone who might love all of it.

Beauty In Realistic Illustrations And Story

Turtle In The Sea - Jim Arnosky
The story of a Momma turtle as she battles the negative areas of the sea to make it to a beach where her children will be birthed.  Although she comes out with scars, life still prevails.

 

The first thing that grabs you about Turtle In The Sea is the beautiful illustrations. Each page could be a work hanging in a museum. Just really wonderfully detailed.  The writing is smart and fits with the artwork masterfully.

 

There is really nothing I can find wrong with this book.  Even the slightly sad parts which are just realistically what happens in the sea are pleasant to view.

 

This is my first book by Jim Arnosky but from what I have read in other reviews all his books have similar beauty. They are the type of books I would love to collect even though I do not have kids.

Dark But True

When Will This Cruel War Be Over?: The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson, Gordonsville, Virginia, 1864 - Barry Denenberg

Young Emma Simpson lives in Virginia in 1864 during the middle of Civil War. She writes in her diary about the trials, Emma, her mother and other family members survive through. The men in the family are fighting in the War. Food rations start to dwindle as family and friends get sick and some die. Based on a real person we see the dark side of war in America’s past. I find these Dear America books interesting and wish I had them when I was younger. They do tend to be pretty dark. I guess that is to show children they have it easier these days. These Dear America book do usually end with death of the diary writer or just an abrupt ending, which probably meant death as well. This one I am happy to say actually has info on what really happened to Emma after the war. As I mentioned I dislike the fact that the stories are so dark, in these series of books. I do not know how much of the diaries are real or made up but i guess when people usually write in their diaries it is not because something good is happening or you are working out some happy through your mind. It would be nice to read one Dear America with a happy conclusion. I will continue to read the dear america books because they have a charm about them and they make me feel like I am learning. I do wonder how close they are to the actual history but how will I ever know.

Full Of Irish Magic and Love

An Irish Country Christmas - Patrick Taylor

In the third installment to the Irish Country series we happily retreat back into Dr. Barry Laverty and Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly lives around the Christmas holiday. As they share the practice that Dr. O’Reilly started their bond is getting stronger. Dr. Laverty hopes that his girlfriend, Patricia, can make it to spend the holiday with him and Dr. O’Reilly rekindles an old flame. Meanwhile the characters in town are a loveable and sometime silly group of Irish folk.

 

I love this series not only because you don’t have to read it in order but it reminds me of how Ireland feels when you visit it. It is magical, friendly and relaxing. It feels like going home to me. Of course my heritage has a lot of irish in it so it is only natural for me I guess.

 

Some people complain that the books are getting redundant and have formula but I do not feel that nor would I mind if it was.

 

The Irish Country stories are a nice cozy and warming stories that feel real to me. They are plausible stories that usually end with a happy ending. I have realized something about happy endings. I use to get bored of them but now I realize I like them more than any other ending. If your life were a book which ending would you like? Not many of us get happy endings and it is what I hope for and if I don’t get it at least I live briefly in a book that does.