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  1. I read this book on the plane while flying home from NYC. I don't recommend such close quarters, as the photos of creepy carnival children likely convinced my fellow passengers that I was deeply disturbed! 

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
    By Ransom Riggs

    Check it out on Amazon!
    Judge the Cover:

    I am a self-admitted cover-judger (see above), and I will tell you straight-up that the cover is the only reason I picked up this book. That is one creeeepy levitating little girl, and I want to know who Miss Peregrine is and who these children are!

    What's Going On:

    16 year old Jacob is used to his grandfather's crazy stories about his childhood growing up at Miss Peregrine's home for children during WWII, and fighting "monsters", but he knows they're just the stories of an old man who lost his family in the war. That is he thought they were just stories, until a series of events suggests otherwise, and Jacob sets off to search for some answers...is it possible his grandfather was telling the truth?

    Optimal Reading Scenario: Offbeat Coffee Shop

    You know those coffee shops where nothing matches, the baristas know more about brewing loose leaf tea than hygiene, and where no matter how weird you are, you feel like
    a) you blend in
    b) there will be someone weirder than you
    That's a good place to read this book, because this book screams weird, but it won't stand out in this scenario because guaranteed someone else across the room is reading something weirder.

    Crack it Open:


    "I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary, when extraordinary things began to happen." 

    Ok, so I literally knew nothing about this book before I started it, and boy oh boy did it have me hooked in the first couple of chapters! Ransom Riggs has a serious gift for intrigue. I was captivated by the suspense and mystery that builds up in the beginning, and the creepy vintage photographs that are scattered throughout the pages.

    It is unfortunate that you can only suspend disbelief for so long before you have to admit that this story is beyond the realms of logic, and it descends into the murky depths of fantasy. At that point, disappointment began to seep in. Don't get me wrong, I love the fantasy genre, but I really wanted this book to have a more rational explanation for all the weird stuff than what it turned out to be. I also didn't realize that it is not a stand-alone novel, but part one of a series, which made the cliffhanger ending a nasty surprise! The next installment comes out at the end of the month, and I will probably get around to reading it eventually.

    Overall, if you want to try something different, slightly creepy, with a dark sense of humor, this might book might be a good way to go. Its not a long or hard read, and the characters are pretty enjoyable with some laugh-out-loud lines. It's fairly new, and I wouldn't be surprised if it got the silver screen treatment in the next couple of years, as it's very visual and would probably translate well to film. Keep an eye open.

    Regis Reads Rating: * * *

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 2 Monkeys

    Jacob is a teenage boy...he swears. Also, there is some disturbing and violent content that may not be everyone's cup of tea!

    Does the cover make you want to read the book, or is that just me? Did you know that all the pictures used in this book are real, vintage photographs? What do you think is the optimal reading scenario for this book?

    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, and I'm not receiving compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit. 
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  2. The Scarlet Letter

    Friday, January 31, 2014

    I remember seeing this classic on my mom's bookshelf as a kid, reading about a page, and putting it back, bored to tears. I thought that by now, as an aspiring English student, I would have more appreciation for it, but I may have a ways to go yet...

    The Scarlet Letter
    By Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Check it out on Amazon!
    Judge the Cover:

    The cover of my particular edition boasts a rather more attractive Hester Prynne, but the basic idea is the same. A dark-haired young woman lost in thought, wearing Puritan clothing and sporting that unmissable letter "A". "What does this all mean?" you are meant to ask, "Who is this woman?"...read on, my friend.

    What's Going On:

    It begins in 1642 Puritanical Boston, Massachusetts, and beautiful young Hester Prynne is led to the scaffolds for public shaming. Though she is married, her husband has not arrived to meet her in the New World (presumed lost at sea), and now she has born an illegitimate child. The Puritan community judges and scorns her, and demands to know who the father is so that he may be judged also, but Hester refuses to name him. She is labelled with the symbol of an adulterer, and must live out her days in ignominy.
    Yet watching in the crowd are two men who have further parts to play in her life: the pious young minister Mr. Dimmesdale, and the stranger who has just arrived in town to see his wife publicly condemned on the scaffolds...

    Optimal Reading Scenario: English Class

    This book is perhaps best enjoyed when someone who is really passionate about it is pointing out all the best bits to you, ie: that really weird prof who spent years developing their thesis on one obscure sentence of the novel. You may end up reading over it more times than you care for, but at least you'll get something out of it, rather than turning the last page and wondering what you just read.
    Not like that happened to me, or anything.

    Crack it Open:

    "If truth were everywhere to be shown, a scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a bosom..."

    I knew the basic premise of the book when I began, and wondered, "what could possibly fill the rest of those pages?"...I'm sorry to report, that there is not much of interest to me here. I'm a reasonably fast reader, and this is not a long book (approx. 250 pages), but it took me months to slog through it. This is partly because of the old-fashioned style of writing, partly a lack of connection to the characters, and partly because I had so many other more interesting things to read!

    The Scarlet Letter basically deals with the issue of how people are judged by the faults the world can see, while "hidden" faults go unpunished (...or do they?). I'm sure there are lots of other themes and scholarly insights to be found, I just don't care enough to go into them.

    Please don't judge me: I know this is the first classic I'm reviewing here, and I actually really do enjoy the classics. Just not this one. I would love to tell you that my inner nerd enjoyed this, but when it came down to it, I really just glazed over and had to literally force myself to keep reading.

    If you want to know the story, and are looking for something a little more, ah, interesting, you could always check out the 1995 remake with Demi Moore and Gary Oldman.
    I think they took some liberties if you know what I mean.

    Regis Reads Rating: * *

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 0

    Unless we're talking about the movie, the only saucy times are a couple holding hands in the woods.

    Have you read The Scarlet Letter? What did you think? Am I judging it too harshly? 

    Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and I have not received compensation of any kind in exchange for this review. Dangit!
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  3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    This was actually an ethnography I had to read for my Cultural Anthropology class this past semester, but it was so fascinating to me that I had to share. Don't think of it as a dry textbook! It is easy to read and very worthwhile. 

    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down:
    A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
    by Anne Fadiman

    Check it out on Amazon!
    Judge the Cover:

    I was put off by the long title and concerned about the chubby child wearing the funny hat and pencil-drawn clothes. But fear not! That yellow circle means people like it! Lots of people! Smart people! You will like it too!

    What's Going On:

    This is the True Story (hint: this means it is going to be really interesting!) of a family of immigrants from the Vietnam area, living in California with a baby who has epilepsy. In Hmong culture epilepsy is not considered a life-threatening illness; it is a spiritual distinction and honor called "qua dab peg" which means "The spirit catches you and you fall down", an issue that can be remedied with the right shamanic rituals and sacrifices. The American doctors at the county hospital have a different opinion about how to deal with the situation, and this is the story of how two different perspectives on what is best for little Lia Lee affect her young life.

    Optimal Reading Scenario: The Library

    Between the extremely long title and odd illustration, you're going to get some funny looks reading this anywhere but the library. The library says, "I'm reading this for a reason" so no one will give you any trouble, the peace and quiet will be necessary for concentration, and if anyone interrupts you to ask you what you are reading, it gives you the added bonus of making you sound scholarly and intelligent which will impress those you wish to impress, and intimidate everyone else. Win-win.

    Crack it Open:

    "Our view of reality is only a view, not reality itself." -Anne Fadiman

    The book is written in first person from the author's perspective, which gives a great sense of "being there". Anne Fadiman goes into the situation as a journalist knowing absolutely nothing about Hmong culture or the anthropology behind cultural views of health and illness, and I think this is why it makes it such a great book. She is able to take the reader along her journey of discovery in a way that is completely accessible, interesting, and emotionally captivating. The chapters alternate between the development of Lia's story, and some history of the Hmong people that sheds light on why her parents do the things they do, and what they are thinking.

    Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the author is able to inject a lot of humor into the universally relatable topic of cultural misunderstandings. She has a dry wit that seems to come out of nowhere to catch you off guard and unexpectedly tickle your funnybone. Nevertheless, Fadiman obviously has great respect for the people she writes about, and she never points fingers or lays blame. She simply tells the story and uses it as a tool to help people understand why it is important not to judge, but to always strive for understanding, especially where cultural differences are concerned.

    The history sections felt a bit tedious at times, but they were necessary and enlightening. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Spirit, and recommend it to anyone interested in culture, North American medicine, or true stories. This is an amazing work on a little-known subject that sheds light not only on foreign cultures, but our own.

    Regis Reads Rating: * * * *

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 0

    Have you ever read an ethnography before? Have you ever thought of North American medicine as having a "culture" surrounding it?

    Disclaimer: These are my own opinions; I am not getting compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit.
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  4. Allegiant

    Friday, January 3, 2014

    The long-awaited finale to the Divergent Trilogy is here!
    Because of exams and other claims on my time, there has been a significant gap between when I read this book and when I am writing the review. I will do my best to remember it accurately :)

    Allegiant
    by Veronica Roth
    Check it out on Amazon!
    Judge the Cover:

    This symbol is new, and to be honest I don't get it. But it looks exciting and tidal wave-y.
    Plus, an airport...

    What's Going On:

    (SPOILER ALERT! Make sure you're up to date on all things Divergent/Insurgent before you read on!)

    The saga continues with Allegiant taking place just days after the shocking conclusion of Insurgent. The city has swapped Jeanine Matthew's serum-induced regime for Evelyn Johnson's factionless tyranny that forbids anyone to act on the new knowledge of their world. Tris and Tobias join the Allegiant resistance movement, and escape beyond the fence to uncover more truth and lies about their existence than you ever thought possible! Duh duh duh duuuuuuh....

    Optimal Reading ScenarioIn-flight Entertainment

    This is the book you should pick up in that over-priced airport convenience store. Its fast-paced enough to keep you turning pages for the duration of that excruciatingly long flight or layover, and it won't require a lot of brainpower.
    Bonus: its a trilogy, so pick up the other two and read them all!

    Crack It Open:

    "You don't believe things because they make your life better, you believe them because they are true." 

    Things get interesting in Allegiant. For one thing, there is a new POV: we get to see things from Tobias's perspective about 50% of the time. While this is necessary for the plot, I found it a little disorientating at times.

    As far as characters go, I've come to accept that this is just not the trilogy for me. Sure Tris and Tobias grow up a little (I was finally starting to warm up to Tris, and then the book ended...geez), but I'm just not impressed with the supporting cast who remain pretty stagnant throughout. I tried to wrap my brain around Caleb, and Peter, but their characters are just a bit too much of a stretch for me.

    But exploring beyond the fence...! This is what I have been waiting for you guys! What is going on out there? Where the heck did this society come from? How are the Divergent supposed to help? All the fundamental questions that have been pushed to the sidelines because of more pressing matters are finally getting their time in the spotlight. The pace is a little slower in this book than the others, but it worked for me, because there was so much to develop and take in. It made the final chapters seem more climactic by contrast, which is important for the end result. There are a lot of political themes presented in this book, and overall I thought it was thought-provoking, and ended on a strong note...and what a note!

    Well done Ms Roth. I heard you wrote this series while in university, and I am a little bit in awe of you!

    Regis Reads Rating: * * *

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 1.5

    Death, violence, explosions, tragedy...extra hot sauce...you know what's on the menu by now!

    Well, that's it for the Divergent trilogy! It was a good run. What's the next Young Adult series I should read?

    Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, I am not getting compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit.

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  5. The Year of Learning Dangerously

    Friday, December 20, 2013


    I was homeschooled from K-12, so when my mom recommended this title to me, I knew there was plenty of opportunity for hilarity!

    The Year of Learning Dangerously:
    Adventures in Homeschooling
    By Quinn Cummings


    Check it out on Amazon
    Judge the Cover:

    Looks accurate!

    What's Going On:

    Preteen Alice is a bright kid that hates math, and is underachieving her way through the school system. Her mother, Quinn Cummings (the author) decides to take matters into her own hands, and thus begins a journey into the weird and wonderful world of homeschooling. As she begins to research the different approaches to education, she discovers surprising and sometimes shocking subcultures among the likes of libertarian "Unschoolers", and conservative Fundamentalists, to name a few.
    Cummings recounts her experiences with laugh-out-loud humor and honesty, even as she is confronted with her own fears, inadequacies, and insecurities.

    Optimal Reading Scenario: Surrounded by Friends

    At first your friends are going to take a skeptical glance at the title and maybe think you're off your rocker. And then you'll start chuckling to yourself as you read, and they'll shoot you a sideways look. Then you'll read them a funny excerpt and they will laugh along, and a seed of jealousy will be planted. They will want your book, but its yours and you get to read it first. Make sure you laugh out loud a lot to keep them envious. They shouldn't have judged you.

    Crack it Open:

    "...these people might be on to something useful. Maybe we should be encouraging our children to be brave and individualistic learners, unbowed by traditional classroom roles or bedtimes, solving the problems of the world with unique minds covered by blissfully unbrushed hair. Maybe these people will become my brethren, my Radical homeschooling tribe." 

    There are four authors on the back cover that each use the word "hilarious" in connection with this book, so I think it's pretty safe to say it's not just an inside joke among homeschoolers. In fact, it might even be funnier if you are unfamiliar with homeschooling; I'm not sure. Though I've never homeschooled any kids myself, I've been on Alice's end of things and that meant there were some relateable moments.
    Quinn's undercover missions to different homeschool conventions, with their specific dress code and alibis, were a definite highlight!
    In the end though, I felt bad that she never found a "tribe" of average un-extreme homeschoolers like herself, and I especially wish she had been able to connect with some supportive parents who felt her same doubts about homeschooling. Contrary to her perception that they are all uber-prepared and super confident in their decision to homeschool, there are a lot of them out there that feel just as lost as she did (trust me, I've overheard enough of my mom's over-the-phone pep talks with new initiates)! However, I did feel that she concluded on a positive note, and it was an amusing and informative read.

    Regis Reads Rating: ***

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 0

    Some mild language, but nothing shocking.

    Have you ever wondered why people choose to homeschool? What are your experiences with homeschoolers? Do you think this book is an accurate portrayal? 

    Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and I am not receiving compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit. 
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  6. Insurgent

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    Today I review the second installment in the Divergent Trilogy! 
    You can read my review of book one here

    Insurgent
    By Veronica Roth

    Check it out on Amazon
    Judge the Cover:

    This time I'm in the know! The tree is the symbol of Amity, the faction that strives for peace. It looks like it might be dying, or at least getting ready for a long, cold, winter.
    A sign of things to come?
    Ps. those taglines are getting more ominous all the time!

    What's Going On:

    (SPOILER ALERT! Go read Divergent, and then you may proceed without consequences)

    Insurgent picks up exactly where Divergent left off, a literally seamless transition, which makes for great marathon reading.
    Tris is dealing with the aftermath of having just seen both her parents murdered at the hands of her faction while they were under the sinister simulation created by the Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews. She is also coming to terms with the fact that she killed one of her best friends (in self-defense!), and she has to be supportive of her boyfriend, "Four" a.k.a. Tobias, as he comes face to face with one of his greatest fears: his father.
    Its all very emotional and traumatic. I'm sensing a bit of a Debbie Downer reminiscent of the Mockingjay fiasco here, but let's be real, I'll keep reading because want to know what happens after the tumultuous conclusion of Divergent.

    Optimal Reading ScenarioIn-flight Entertainment

    This is the book you should pick up in that over-priced airport convenience store. Its fast-paced enough to keep you turning pages for the duration of that excruciatingly long flight or layover, and it won't require a lot of brainpower.
    Bonus: its a trilogy, so pick up the other two and read them all!

    Crack it Open:

    "Like a wild animal, the truth is too powerful to remain caged." 
    - Candor Faction Manifesto

    Ok, so all the crying, depressing, guilty-and-grief-stricken, self-destructive stuff isn't really my cup of tea. My fictional friendship with Tris has always been a little shaky, and I got annoyed with her emotional constipation ( I recognize this might be a reflection on my own personality rather than poor characterization). Granted, she has an excuse to act this way. What I wasn't impressed with was that she continuously lied to her friends' faces, and never really seemed to be too remorseful about it. Even predictably heroic and forgiving soul-mate Tobias gets fed up with her at times! Speaking of which, while I enjoy some saucy times as much as the next person, the smooching is non-stop. And all I can think is please, make it stop. Tris, you need PTSD counselling, not kissing. Apparently she disagrees.

    For me, the best parts of the novel were exploring more of the city and the different factions. The reader gets to take a peek into each compound and learn more about the way the other factions work. This is the side of the story that explores the bigger themes like power, corruption, religion, what real peace is, and what it will cost. Divergent touched on these, and Insurgent goes a little deeper. I'm interested to see where Ms. Roth takes it with Allegiant.

    I felt this book was a bit more of a page-turner than book one, because there is more at stake in Tris's life at this point. There is plenty of action, and I found more surprises waiting for me at the end of this book than Divergent. Though the characters grew a little stale for me, and a few acted in ways that seemed manufactured for shock value, the plot is intriguing enough to check out the final book in the trilogy. Once again, Veronica Roth has secured my reading priorities by leaving me with so many questions. Now I just have to wait until I get a hold of a copy of the newly released Allegiant!

    Regis Reads Rating: * * * 

    Mischievous Monkey Rating: 1.5

    Not a lot has changed here since last time. Insurgent is jam-packed with gun-toting, knife-wielding battles, bloody wounds, executions of the evil and innocent alike, and more. One point for violence!

    As mentioned before, there is plenty of kissy-kissy action with mild to medium sauciness. It gets a half point, because let's not forget, this is a young adult book about an emotionally vulnerable sixteen-year-old who is heavily invested in a very recently established relationship with an older teenage boy, and there is no parental supervision of any kind.
    Let's be smart, kids. Don't try this at home.

    Two down, one to go! Did you like Insurgent? Will you go on to read the finale? What do you think is going to happen?

    Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, I am not getting compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit.

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  7. Why Shoot a Butler?

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    I heard the name Georgette Heyer referred to as being "very Agatha Christie", with this particular book recommended as a first read. Being a rather enthusiastic Christie fan, I knew I had to check it out!  
    Why Shoot a Butler?
    By Georgette Heyer
    Check it out on Amazon
    Judge the Cover:

    This cover tells me 3 things that I like : 
    1. I don't know anything about cars, but this look like it might be set in the 30's or 40's. 
    2. The car appears to be moving very quickly, with what I assume to be a lady (its a little blurry, ok?) at the wheel. I take this to mean we have an interesting female lead, and the story will be fast-paced.
    3. I spy with my little eye an English countryside...

    What's Going On:

    Its the early 1930's and Frank Amberley is a successful barrister on his way to visit his relatives in the quaint English town of Upper Nettlefold, when he happens upon a crime scene- a dead man shot in his car, and a young woman nearby who protests she knows nothing about it. Though he can't prove anything against her, Amberley is sure she is hiding something.
    It isn't long before the case gets complicated and the incompetent local police force are forced to swallow their pride and ask the arrogant amateur detective for his assistance.
    Amberley knows he can solve the mystery surrounding the murder and Miss Shirley Brown's part in it, but time is a precious commodity, and it's running out...

    Optimal Reading Scenario: A Classy Evening In

    Its all about the quality of time, not quantity, you spend reading this one. Turn on the smooth vintage jazz, and sink into your velvet upholstered wingback chair with your book and a glass of merlot. Enjoy the moment. A crackling fire in the hearth, and a sleeping cat or dog nearby are conducive to the atmosphere, but keep away from the phone and tv- you need to concentrate. It's classy time! 

    Crack it Open:

    "Dear me! Am I going to see more of you?" She inquired. 
    "You are going to see much more of me than you want to," said Mr Amberley grimly. 
    "I've done that already," She informed him in a voice of great sweetness.

    If Sir A. Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie had a literary lovechild, the result would be something like this.

    Our main man, the famous barrister Frank Amberley, is sarcastic and condescending to almost everyone he comes in contact with, which he claims a right to by being intellectually superior. Despite his rude and know-it-all ways, there is something indefinably attractive in his authoritative manner, and contrasting moments of unexpected sensitivity and gentleness. By the end of the story I was quite taken with him, against my better judgement. 

    The novel is complete with everything you could want in a vintage mystery: burglaries, foggy nighttime meetings by the river, car chases, masked balls, kidnapping...you name it. Each and every player in the mystery, from Sergeant Gubbins to Aunt Marion (especially Aunt Marion!), exudes personality that is both familiar and satisfying, and Georgette Heyer skillfully infuses the dialogue with understated humor that made me giggle and grin like the book geek I am. In my head, I was watching the story unfold as an old black and white movie with the swoony old-fashioned accents and glamorous costumes, which is a very pleasant way to spend a quiet evening. 

    The mystery itself is satisfying, though I doubt it will blow anyone's mind. If you have Amberley's brains (which I don't) you may be able to pick up on all the clues and red herrings, and solve it yourself. While I couldn't piece it together one hundred percent, I had a pretty good idea of who was behind it all, so I wasn't shocked at the conclusion, but I did enjoy hearing how it all fit together. Nevertheless, it was a fun ride, and worth a couple of evenings to read.

    If you like the characters and romantic British setting of a Christie novel, and the logical deduction and cool intelligence of Sherlock Holmes, you will certainly enjoy trying to solve Why Shoot a Butler?

    Regis Reads Rating: * * *

    Mischievous Monkey Rating = 0 

    Of course there is death involved in a murder mystery, but there is nothing terribly morbid or gory here.

    Have you heard of Georgette Heyer? Do you enjoy old-fashioned British murder mysteries? Will you play detective with Why Shoot a Butler? 

     Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, I am not getting compensation of any kind for reviewing this book. Dangit. 

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