Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of Year Wrap-Up

So it looks like I read 81 books this past year. That seems a bit excessive to most people except that a few were re-reads (which go faster) and many were young adult novels and series'. Most of it was light and fluffy and fun.

I have a new goal for next year.

When I was young, my family would often play a card game called Authors. It is essentially the same as Go Fish with a literary twist. There are 13 Authors represented and each one has four cards. Each card represents one of their books, usually the more famous or popular ones. These means there are 52 books (in a few cases, poems) represented. These authors and books were considered to be "the classics." Many I have read as required reading in high school or college but I haven't read them all.

I have decided to try to read them all. A daunting task considering that I will still read my book club books and probably a junk book or two for reprieve. I doubt that I'll get them all read this year but I'll give it a go and see how far I get.

Here's the list:
James Fenimore Cooper
The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Spy, The Pathfinder
Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables, Twice-Told Tales, The Wonder Book
Sir Walter Scott
The Talisman, Ivanhoe, Kenilworth, The Lady of the Lake
Washington Irving
Rip Van Winkle, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Alhambra, Tales of a Traveler
Louisa May Alcott
Little Men, Little Women, Eight Cousins, An Old-Fashioned Girl
Edgar Allan Poe
Fall of the House of Usher, God Bug, The Raven, Annabel Lee
Henry W Longfellow
Courtship of Miles Standish, Song of Hiawatha, The Village Blacksmith, Evangeline
William Makepeace Thackeray
Henry Esmond, Vanity Fair, The Virginians, Pendennis
Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, The Mysterious Stranger, Tom Sawyer
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Crossing the Bar, Idylls of the King, Charge of the Light Brigade, The Brook
William Shakespeare
Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest
Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Child's Garden of Verses, Kidnapped
Charles Dickens
The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol

Wish me luck! Have a safe and happy New Year's eve!

City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff

This book takes place during World War II in Leningrad during the "seige of Leningrad". Our narrator and main character is alleged to be the author's grandfather, Lev Beniov. The author visits his grandparents in Florida and asks them for their stories of the seige. His grandmother won't talk about it but his grandfather tells his story. When the grandson asks for more details to fill in the gaps, his grandfather tells him, "make it up, you're a writer"

Lev is seventeen and not old enough to join the army. After his mother and sister are evacuated to the country, Lev remains behind in Leningrad. He and his friends are on fire watch duty when they spot a paratrooper falling from the sky. With the hope of food, specifically chocolate, they decide to break curfew and run into the street where the body lay. The teens don't find chocolate but brandy or schnapps and Lev procures a knife. When the police arrive, all escape but Lev.

After surviving the night in the prison known as The Crosses, Lev and his cell mate, Kolya are taken to the NKVD headquarters in Leningrad. Kolya is a soldier in the Red Army who was picked up for desertion. Lev is being held for looting. The general of the NKVD charges them with a task: bring him a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. If they do not, they will be found and shot. If they do, they will get first class ration cards.

This book is the tale of two young men who become friends as they make their way through food deficient Leningrad and out into the countryside. They have to get by both the Red Army as well as the German Army in their quest.

This was a very good book I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Clockwork Prince

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This is Book 2 of the Infernal Devices series and it picks up right where Clockwork Angel ended.
It is a fun fast read that is young adult fiction.

I may just stop and wait for all the books to be written in this and the "modern" series The Mortal Instruments. Then, I can start at the beginning and read them all in succession. Maybe not.

The frustrating aspect of these books is that the teen characters are so characteristically teen that I want to slap them up side the head. I just keep thinking, "if they'd only just say what they mean/feel, this could be resolved immediately." But, of course, that doesn't happen in teenager world and it would make the books much shorter to boot.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time - The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan

This is a non-fiction account following about a dozen families through the "dirty thirties" and beyond. This book was very interesting and extremely readable considering the amount of factual information that was given.

I had never really understood the enormity of what has been termed "the dustbowl". I read The Grapes of Wrath but that didn't even scratch the surface of explaining exactly what life was like in the Great Plains region. It really gave me perspective on what we need in life during this holiday season.

I highly recommend this book!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

This is another post-apocalyptic young adult novel. In this scenario, the US declared war with China. The US sent nukes to China and China returned the favor with a biological weapon, P11H3. In the end, everyone just called it P11 or the Eleventh Plague. A souped-up strain of the flu swept through the US, Mexico and Canada. Beyond that, no one really knew because the country had collapsed. The lack of staff caused the entire infrastructure to collapse. People tried barricading themselves in their homes in a reverse quarantine but they ended up being barricaded in a tomb.

Twenty years after it all went down, a few people are still struggling to survive. A fifteen year old boy, Stephen has been traveling with his family as scavengers his entire life. Now, only he and his father survive. The question Stephen asks is, "will everything be the same?" Will they survive, will they keep going the way they always have? The idea of change is a frightening one for Stephen because there has been only one way he has ever known, his grandfather's way. His grandfather is gone now but will their way of life be gone too?

I liked this book. I thought it offered a good representation of how people would evolve in such a scenario. There are, of course, the predators as well as the people who keep moving in order to stay safe. There are also those who strive for a life that is safe without having to be on the move or on the run. The big question is whether Stephen and the friends he finds along the way allow the people that destroyed to world to keep on running the world or whether they will force a change.

The Way of the Warrior

The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford

This is book 1 of the Young Samurai series.

The year is 1611, Jack Fletcher is a young English boy who is sailing toward the Japans with his father, the pilot, and a crew on a trade ship. Until now, only the Portuguese have known the route but Jack's father claims to have knowledge of the way in his rutter, a navigational diary of sorts that apparently others would kill for.

After the ship becomes damaged and waylaid in a bay off the coast, it is attacked by ninja. The next morning, Jack finds himself orphaned and shipwrecked in Japan. He knows nothing of the language or customs save one thing, if you see a samurai, bow low. This bit of knowledge saves him in a tense situation. After that, he tries to begin learning everyday words to help him communicate. Soon after, the leader of the Samurai adopts him into his family and with the help of a Portuguese priest, Jack learns the language of his captors turned saviors.

This book talks about karate and the training of the samurai but also covers the values of this training. Loyalty, honesty, courage are all inspected in different ways in this book. While Jack never forgets the little sister he left behind in England and wonders about her fate, he stays focused on the task at hand. The task placed before him is to complete samurai training at a school in Kyoto. He also must figure out who has hired the ninja assassin to kill him and steal his father's rutter.

The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Book 2 of the Heroes of Olympus series

Percy Jackson is back! Only, he doesn't remember anything about himself except his name and a vague memory of Annabeth. After spending time on the west coast with a pack of wolves, he arrives at a camp for demi-gods. He knows this is where he belongs but it doesn't feel quite right. He quickly falls in with a pair of mis-fits who are fairly new to the camp. Soon, they are tasked by the God of War to take on a quest.

As the quest continues, Percy's memory slowly comes back as the horrors of what is to come unfold before them. These three unlikely heroes must join with others to save the world - again.

I am looking forward to the next installment in this series.

The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

This is book 1 in the Heroes of Olympus series. This series picks up where the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series left off.

In this series we meet three teenagers who are at a Wilderness Camp for Wayward Youth. They are visiting the Grand Canyon visitors center at the south rim on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. One of the kids claims to have no memory of who he is or anything else for that matter. His two best friends claim to have months of memories together with him. Their strange and very grumpy counselor also has no idea who this kid is but suspects that he is the "special package" that the counselor has been waiting for.

In this book, we realize that there is more than one camp for the demi-gods of Olympus. The mystery and adventure is wrapped up in the revelations since the amnesiac hero, Jason, slowly unravels the mystery of himself while on a life-threatening quest with his friends, Piper and Leo.

This is a great addition/continuation of the Olympians series. Again, I think this is a wonderful way to get today's kids interested in the mythology of old.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Water Wars

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

This is another young adult novel. The setting is the US in the future stretching from the mid-west up to the Canadian border and over to the Eastern sea-board. The polar ice caps have melted, aquifers have been poisoned by man or seawater and fresh water is at a premium.

The very few control the water and who gets it. The general public is kept in a sort of slave state by being fed a steady diet of propaganda and bad water that keeps them alive for a time but kills them before they grow old.

A young girl meets a boy who doesn't seem to believe in the propaganda. He doesn't have to go to school and learn about weather, water and the war over the water. He is rich. He has a gasoline powered car and body guards and fresh, clean water - lots of it.

The girl and her brother become friends with this strange boy. When he disappears, they decide they must rescue him. They head out on a great adventure full of danger as well as knowledge of the truth of the world and who controls it and how.

This was a pretty good book although the environmental message felt like it was being crammed down my throat. I keep looking for a book that gives us that great environmental message without feeling like it's so obvious. Being young adult fiction, the heroes are inevitably teen-agers. This time, at least, they are aided by a couple of unlikely adults along the way.

Perhaps it's because I have been reading so many books that are part of a series, but this book (as well as other non-series books) have felt like they ended a little too quickly and neatly. It's the feeling I get with some foreign films where it just ends and you think "they must have run out of money and decided to just end it there." It felt like the author said, "I'm almost out of paper and I don't want to have to run to the store for more so I'll just wrap it up in the next 10 pages."

City of Shadows

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

This is a historical novel that begins in 1920 Berlin. It tells the story of a Russian Jewess who immigrated after being attacked in the Pogroms in Russia. It also tells the tale of last Czar and his family and their fate. It tells about the rise of a young politician in Germany named Hitler and how he helped to save the Germans from the poverty and starvation that followed World War I. It tells the story of an ordinary German who turned out to be an extraordinary man.

I really enjoyed this book. Ariana Franklin does a great job weaving a fictional story with factual people. She has done a great job of it with her Mistress of the Art of Death series and continues with this book.

If you are interested in reading more about that time in history, I recommend this book. It gives a good and grim account of life in Germany during that era and the hope that was brought with the rise of the Nazi party, for some. It also makes it easy to see how taking the easy road with one's government can be turning your back on what is right and true.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This is another selection of young adult fiction. It's possible that there will be a second book but, unlike most young adult fiction these days, it's not obviously set up to be a whole series.

This was about a 16 year old princess who was fat and considered herself to be pretty useless (and she was at first). On her 16th birthday, she is married to the King of the country next to hers and she has no idea why and didn't see him until he lifter her veil after the "I do's" of the wedding ceremony were over.

Elisa is one of those teenage girls in books that drive me crazy. She is clueless about what is going on around her and she doesn't really care at first. Admittedly some of her ignorance is purposeful because of her countries religious beliefs. But she really doesn't start pressing for more information and asserting herself until it is almost too late.

Elisa is a bearer. This means, on her naming day, a beam of sunlight shone on her and a blue jewel was embeded, by God, in her navel. The jewel is alive and warm and pulsing. It pulses more and heats up when she prays. Elisa is supposed to do something great but she has no clue as to what it will be or when the opportunity will arise.

Elisa figures it all out just in the nick of time, of course and disaster is averted. I felt like the author could have done just a little bit more in developing the background of the religion in the book. Everyone seems to be driven by their religious beliefs but I really didn't feel like there was enough depth in the explanations.

This book was okay but even if there is a sequel, I don't think I'll be reading it.

Blood on the Tracks

Blood on the Tracks by Cecilia Holland

This was a Kindle single so I have no idea if it is available in publication anywhere else.

This was a short novella about the Great Uprising that took place in 1877. This was a protest of the railroad workers and the general public against the owners of the railroad and, most specifically, their reduction of wages by 10% as well as increasing the workload of the brakemen by making most freight lines double headers (twice the cars as normal with no extra staff).

There were quite a few parallels with regards to the state of the economy in 1877 and the current economy in 2011. Also, the seeming disregard for the rights and well-being of the workers by the corporate heads seems about the same.

This was a quick and interesting read about a situation in our history that I had never heard of before.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I could say that this book made me cry. That wouldn't be quite accurate. The last 30 minutes of reading, I was sobbing. The words were literally swimming through my tears. Maybe I just don't cry enough in life and then I am inundated by the un-felled tears in the few times that something strikes me simultaneously so beautiful and so sad at the same time.

This book is the story of a young girl living in Germany. It takes place during the years just before World War II and the early years of the war itself. It is the tale of a young girl who is just living a young girl's life during that time. The story is of her life with her foster parents. It begins with her mother and brother and they are traveling on a train toward her new foster home. This young girl becomes the book thief.

The narrator of the story is death. The story without this narrator would be a good one. With the perspective offered by the narrator, it becomes a great story. Death often offers tidbits of information regarding his role in a certain city at a certain time. Death offers commentary on the Fuhrer and his minions. Death's perspective of the fate and ultimate death of humans is one of detachment and offers beauty and brutality together.

The visuals in the book are wonderful. People and the weather are described in ways that are easy to imagine in my mind. The author is not verbose using excessive adjectives. Rather, he describes people and the weather just as a young girl, the book thief, would describe them. It is childlike but effective and lovely.

After this book, I think I need to take a book break for a bit. This is one of those books that needs to simmer for a day or so before I can start something new. I highly recommend this book.

P.S. I just had an awful thought. I was thinking that someone out there will think that this would make a great movie. It won't. The movie industry will not be able to pull it off. Please don't make a movie of this book, you will not be able to do it justice and the movie will suck.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

This is a Historical Novel based on a family of ancestors of the authors'. The Kuisls were one of Bavaria's leading dynasties of executioners. Potzsch has done research on the history of his family, the practices of executioners during the 1600's and specifically the history in Schongau where his ancestors lived and worked.

This is a good mystery story in itself but also a really fascinating look at life in a small Bavarian town during that time. The ignorance and "witch hysteria" that existed then made my skin crawl. The idea that the patricians of the town would prefer to burn an innocent woman to placate the public rather than investigating the truth was infuriating but not surprising.

So much regarding the social mores of this era makes my blood boil but it is great to be reminded of how many freedoms we truly enjoy.

I highly recommend this book.

Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is book 1 of the Infernal Devices series which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series.

Set about 100 years ago, we have the same types of characters (some are the same). There are ShadowHunters, vampires, warlocks and demons. The story seems more intense than the Mortal Instruments books though.

Even though the main characters are underage ShadowHunters (same) and there is the beginnings of a teen romance (same), it seems more intense because technology of the world is not the same and so the heroes seem more endangered.

The next book to be published within the two series is the second book of the Infernal Devices series. I'll be reading that and then contemplate the next Mortal Instruments book that is scheduled to be available this next spring.

City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

This is book 4 of the Mortal Instruments series.

When reading these books I am reminded of how frustrating teenagers are. I think back to myself during my teen years and compare my non-communicative self to the non-communicative characters and realize Clare has accurately depicted teenagers.

The harrowing saga continues and Clary and Jace still can't seem to just say what they think and/or feel. Neither can any of the other teen characters. Again, the adults are practically non-existent in the adventures. I have to think that if my child had been in such harrowing and life-threatening situations, I would keep a tighter rein for awhile but that just isn't conducive to the plot.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

City of Wind

City of Wind by Pierdomenico Baccalario

This is Book 3 in the Century series. Book 4 has been written in Italian but doesn't appear to have been translated into English as yet.

The adventure continues with our 4 teen-agers who must save the world without knowing that is what they are doing. The enemies continue to pile up but surprising friends appear and one enemy turns friend. The children begin to confide in their parents' in order to get their help as well as continue to enjoy the freedoms needed to complete their tasks.

I am enjoying this series in part because each book is set in a different city (this time Paris) and a great deal of ancient history is incorporated.

My Antonia

My Antonia by Willa Cather

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1918. It is an easy read and has lovely language, to boot.

This is the story of a young immigrant, Antonia, as told by a young man who moved to Nebraska to live with his grandparents the same day Antonia and her family moved there. They grew up together and made an impact on each others' lives.

They way the story is written, you really get the feel that this young man is telling you the story of his youth, most specifically his life with regards to Antonia. It is a nice story and doesn't really feel old fashioned in it's language so it is easy to read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I loved this book. When I finished it, I just wanted to sit and think about it a bit more rather than reaching for my next book (which is often my norm).

This book spans quite a few years and jumps back and forth in time sometimes offering a date but often it does not. You only know you are reading the past as it concerns the circus because of the age of certain characters. The main dates given are between the late 1800's and into the early 1900's.

The way the book jumps around in time, enhances the mystery surrounding the circus and the people involved. Some things are magical, some are not, some are merely enhanced by magic. The magic is not base trickery but real transformations as well as illusions that are broadcast into the minds of the viewers rather than a masque of sorts.

The Night Circus opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It's official name is Cirque de Reves, The Circus of Dreams. The circus itself is a character that is alive. We are given the story of the Circus from a variety of perspectives. I really enjoy the parts that are addressed to us, the readers. With this perspective, you understand that the circus could be something long ago or something that will appear in your town next week.

Within the story is a romance, as well as love that a child might have for a parent (albeit an abusive one), the love of friends and the love for the Circus. The way the book ends, it does not lend itself to a sequel but leaves the reader dreaming of the possibilities unwritten. The possibilities of the lives continued and of the possibility of the Night Circus in their town, now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

City of Glass

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

This is book 3 in the Mortal Instruments series. The plot culminates in Valentine's search for the third Mortal Instrument, the Mortal Mirror. Pretty early on, I figured out what the Mirror is. There was one character revelation that surprised me.

I like how Clare uses biblical references and winds them into the story. Since the Nephilim are part angel and are charged by heaven with ridding the earth from Demons, this makes perfect sense. In this book, we encounter two angels and they don't disappoint even though one is near death.

I am liking this series still. After a short break, I'll read Book 1 of the prequel series, The Infernal Devices. Book 2 of that series is set to publish in December of this year with Book 3 following a year later. Book 4 of Mortal Instruments is published but Book 5 is set to publish this next spring. Book 6 of Mortal Instruments is slated to publish Sep 2013. We'll see if I stay interested that long. I should know better than to start reading a series before it's completed.

The City of Ashes

The City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

This is book 2 of the Mortal Instruments series. In book 1 Clary learned the identity of her father as well as the existence of the arcane world around her. Her father was able to steal the first of the Mortal Instruments, The Mortal Cup.

In book 2, Clary's father, Valentine, is after The Mortal Sword. Clary, Jace and their allies learn why Valentine is collecting the Mortal Instruments and they do their best to stop him. At each new twist and turn, Clary and Jace learn more about their unusual abilities and why they have them.

This is still a pretty good series. Clary is getting a little tedious with her teenage whining over her love for her apparent brother Jace and her love for her best friend Simon. Since this is young adult fiction, I guess I can't complain about that too much. There are a few plot twists that are set up really clearly that it's annoying that the characters don't see it - again, young adult fiction.

Monday, October 17, 2011

City of Bones

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This is the first of The Mortal Instruments series. There are four books published but I found a listing where another two books are planned for publication. She has also written a trilogy of prequels to the series in the Infernal Devices series.

This was pretty entertaining reading. It is young adult fiction set in our modern world but within our world live a variety of demonic creatures as well as the human angel hybrids who hunt them called ShadowHunters.

An average 15 year old girl named Clary stumbles onto the fact of this "other world." For unknown reasons she can see past the glamour that is created for the mundanes (plain humans). Soon, she is embroiled in a mystery and the search for her missing mother.

I thought this was a good way to blend the supernatural world and the real world together. It's also a pretty good story line as to why kids are saving the world and solving the problems rather than the adults.

I have the first three book of the set and if all three stay this fun and easy to read, I will probably read the whole series. I think after the first three of this series, I'll probably ready the prequel books and then get back to Mortal Instruments.

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire by Pierdomenico Baccalario

This is the first book in the Century series. The books are written in Italian and translated into English by Leah D Janeczko.

Once every hundred years, the world must be saved by four kids. In this century, four seemingly unrelated kids happen to end up in the same hotel in Rome together.

They are thrown into a mystery of ancient secrets. This is a game of sorts but someone has changed the rules. Someone who wasn't supposed to die was murdered. The stakes are higher but no one is telling the kids anything - they have to figure it out on their own.

This is supposed to be a 5 book series in young adult fiction. This is a pretty entertaining book. I'm planning on reading at least the next book which is Star of Stone. If I still like it, I'll finish the series.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This was a fascinating story. Anyone who has ever worked in a lab and looked at cultured cells under a microscope has probably seen the HeLa cells. They are the most cultured and utilized cells in science. They have been sent into space, irradiated, implanted into all sorts of lab animals as well as humans (both knowingly and not). This book is the story of those cells and the person from whom they originated.

Rebecca Skloot spent years researching the information in this book as well as getting to know the family of Henrietta Lacks and, most importantly, gaining their trust.

This book covers the personal histories of Henrietta Lacks and her children. It also talks a great deal about the scientific advancements that could not have been made save for the HeLa cells. The science is presented in a very accessible manner and the story of the people involved is engaging.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Murderous Procession

A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin

This is book 4 of the series The Mistress of the Art of Death.

Adelia Aquilar is from Sicily but forced to remain in England by King Henry II. She is a 12th century anatomist who was requisitioned by Henry Plantagenet to solve a series of murders. Once the case was solved, Henry decided Adelia was much too useful to him to allow her to return to Italy so she has been forced to build a life in England.

Now, Henry is requiring that she accompany his daughter, Joanna, as she travels to Sicily to marry William II King of Sicily. Adelia is thrilled to be returning home but Henry is holding her daughter hostage to ensure her return. Adelia must also help Henry keep a mythical treasure from his scheming sons while a madman stalks her, determined to end her life as she ended the life of his lover over two years ago.

I really enjoy these books. Franklin seems to do a great deal of research regarding the politics of the day but also where medicine was at the time. I'm wondering how many more books are to come since she has come to a point in history when the Church really took over medicine and everything became much more conservative in both England (especially after the death of Henry II) and Italy.

Grave Secret

Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

This is the latest book in the Harper Connelly series. These book have been all about the same but this one tied up some mysteries in the personal life of Harper and Tolliver. The ending was tied up really neat and really fast. I felt a little like a guest who had over-stayed their welcome and was being shoved out the door. The way it ended also made me wonder if Harris is going to continue this series or if she's done. If you've read the others, read this one.


Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

This book delves into what is behind the decisions we make. It looks at studies pitting snap decisions against the long, drawn out decisions we make. We learn when we can trust our immediate "gut reactions" and when it might not be the best choice.

Malcolm Gladwell does a good job combining the findings of numerous studies and putting them together with text that is easy and enjoyable to read and understand. This book will definitely make you think about how you think - and why you think it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Good Year

A Good Year by Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle is the original escapist author. The basic theme of all his books is that of an Englishman who travels to the south of France and decides to stay.

In A Good Year, the main character Max finds himself the recipient of his Uncle's property in Provence on the same day that he quits his high stress finance job in London. His best friend loans him the funds he needs to make his way to Provence and "see what he can see" so to speak.

The movie staring Russell Crowe was similar but not the same as the book. I enjoyed both alternative story lines - which is not always the case.

This is a fun, fast read that will having you dreaming of small chateaus and vineyards in the sunny south of France.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Now You See Her

Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Based on the information that I have received from my sister, the writer, here's how I think this went.
James Patterson had the jist of an idea for a book and he gave that info to up-and-coming writer Michael Ledwidge who wrote the book.  Ledwidge may have called/emailed Patterson for suggestions about some twist or turn in the story line and Patterson would have read the story and given his final stamp of approval before it went to the editor/publisher but Ledwidge probably did most of the leg work (or finger work as the case may be).

This is a mystery/thriller that spans almost 20 years.  It is the tale of a woman who found herself in an unthinkable situation.  She is seemingly saved by the man who becomes her husband.  She is naive and young and swallows every line he feeds her.  Later she realizes this and chastises herself as she makes plans to save herself.

Years later, she must confess the truth of her past and finally reap the violence that has waited for her all these years.  Whether she will survive and be able to keep the life she has built are the questions looming in her mind.

An Ice Cold Grave

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

This is book 3 in the Harper Connelly series.

Harper is hired by the sheriff of a small town in North Carolina to help search for several missing young men.

When Harper locates the burial site of the six locals and two others, she is overwhelmed by the horror and violence she feels from their corpses.  Dealing with her first case of a serial killer, she and Tolliver are sucked into the drama and intrigue that getting too close to the truth will bring.  Meanwhile, they are dealing with their own drama and emotions and finally come to a decision that they can both agree upon.

Again, even though the crimes described are horrific, the writing is not so graphic that it becomes difficult to read.  Harris is able to portray the scene without getting so detailed that I feel all creepy.  She keeps it light and fun.  It would be nice if she would quit giving us Harper and Tolliver's back-story (it's a series people, start at the beginning!) but I suppose she feels the need since some people will just pick up a book in the middle of the series and start from there.

Grave Surprise

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

This is book 2 in the Harper Connelly series and I think I'll keep reading them.

In this book, Harper is using her unusual ability to locate dead bodies and identify their means of death when she encounters an unexpected corpse buried above an expected corpse.

Harper and her manager/step brother Tolliver are pulled into a family drama that they would like to avoid.

This book is a fun, twisty easy read.  It's a murder mystery that is no where near as gruesome as many I've read in the past few years.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

This book jumps around between modern-day in the Seattle area, Leningrad in the early days of World War II, and the voice of a tour guide at The Hermitage.

During World War II, Marina is a young tour guide at the Hermitage. She was raised by her uncle and his wife after her dissident parents are jailed and gone forever. Her best friend Dmitri is in similar circumstances with his father taken away. They bonded together in their youth for support and have stayed best friends ever since. Dmitri is a student now and has joined the Volunteer Army. As Dmitri trains for war, Marina and the other employees of the Hermitage are packing up the paintings and other precious items for shipment someplace safe.

In the current day, Marina and Dmitri are old and getting ready for their grand-daughter's wedding. Marina has problems with her memory and Dmitri has taken on the task of caring for his wife entirely. He is determined to keep the worst of her problems from his children because their son wants to put them in "a home" but Dmitri has promised his wife that won't happen.

The voice of the tour guide crops up periodically taking us through her usual script of various rooms and paintings of the Hermitage. Over the course of the book we find that when Marina's brain checks out of the here and now, The Hermitage before and during the war is where it goes. She gives us an insight into the overwhelming beauty housed at the Hermitage, in itself a stunning building. She also gives us a view into the horrific life led by the people of Leningrad during the siege of the German Army.

I really enjoyed this book! This was a first book for Debra Dean and I would be happy to read more from here especially if it is historical fiction.

The Puzzle

The Puzzle (Samantha Jamison Mystery) by Peggy A Edelheit

This book was a Kindle Single that I bought for $.99. That said, I think I overpaid - especially considering the time I spent reading.

The text of this book was disjointed and jumped from one topic to the next. The main character was a person that I had no empathy for in her blind stupidity and was barely believable.

The mystery factor was disjointed and random. The main character is trying to solve her husband's death/murder and receives random threatening notes. Upon receipt of these notes, she becomes almost catatonic in her hysterical fear but she never speaks to the authorities about anything.

The supporting characters are not well developed in their supposed menace. The final resolution is absurd. Oh, and I have my doubts as to whether this book was actually edited or not.

I don't recommend this book. I will not be seeking out any other book by Peggy A. Edelheit because I can only guess they will be equally pointless.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

This is book 2 of the KingKiller Chronicles.

In this book we follow Kvothe in his travels after he leaves the University for the first time. Again we are on a great ride of varying experiences and harrowing intrigue.

The benefits of reading a book about an entirely fictional world is that anything is possible. This is a fun ride and I am thinking that I'll read book 3 next. Of course, A Dance With Dragons is sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read right now too.

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is book 1 in the KingKiller Chronicles.

A famous and infamous wizard tells his own story in this series.
This book covers his youth and his first years at University, the school of magic. This is a high-action story of an orphan living his life on the edge of society and surviving.

This is a wonderfully woven story and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Chronicles.


Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott

This was a fun, fast thriller. I am looking forward to reading more books in this series.

Sam Capra is a CIA agent and soon-to-be-father. In one moment, everyone he works with is dead and his wife and child are taken. He is targeted as a traitor and must fight to prove his innocence.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This book is an epic story of love, politics and family ties. It is set mostly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but also New York and India.

The story is narrated by one of a pair of twin brothers who were conjoined at the head and separated at birth. The story covers their two sets of parents (birth and adoptive) and the love of medicine that drives them all. Set largely during the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie, the tumult of politics adds to the story.

I enjoyed this book although it wasn't a fast read. I just couldn't get to a place where I wanted to climb into the story and escape this world. Because of this, it took me longer to read since I was reading for shorter times and was easily distracted from my reading.

I think this would make a great book for book clubs because there is quite a bit to discuss with each character.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Dragonriders of Pern

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

I read the first three books of this series: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon.

This is a fun series that takes place on another planet. The people originally arrived on the planet in space ships but over hundreds of years have lost their technology.

A small percentage of the population ride and care for dragons which were genetically created in order to destroy a microorganism they call Thread that rains from the sky. In the beginning of the series, it has been 400 years since the last fall of Thread. The people of the planet Pern don't believe that Thread will fall again. They are beginning to wonder what purpose the dragons and their riders serve. One dragonrider believes that Thread will fall again and has spent time reading ancient writings to determine when the fall will come.

The first three books cover about 20 years. There's romance, politics and discovery. There are 23 books in the series from what I can tell. This will definitely be a good series to read as filler between heavier and more serious books.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In this book, Gladwell takes a close look at the people we deem to be most successful - athletes, musicians, businessman and the like. Rather than looking just at the individual and what they are like, Gladwell examines how they got where they are today and who helped them either personally or through circumstances that were set forth.

He also looks at how our culture, families, our generation as well as idiosyncratic experiences in upbringing create a person who will be successful - or not. This is a book chock full of information from everything from Canadian Hockey players to why Asians are better at math, to why airline crashes occurred for some airlines more than others.

This book could have turned out extremely dry and boring but Gladwell does a good job writing in an engaging manner so that the information he presents is interesting enough that you want to keep reading. I would definitely consider reading other books by Gladwell. The two I have heard of are: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking which is all about how we make decisions, and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference which is about the point in which an idea, style, social trend etc. begins to spread like wildfire or, to coin a phrase "becomes viral".

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

If you have seen the movie, you know what this book is about and how it ends. If you liked the film and the idea of the story line, I highly recommend reading this book.

The story is set during the Civil War. It takes place in essentially two locations. One, is Cold Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the second location is wherever Inman is on his way back to Cold Mountain from the war.

I think this is a love story that has several loves. The first and most obvious is the love between Inman and Ida that had only just begun as Inman left for the war. Now, four years later he has decided to head home to see if Ida feels about him the way he feels about her. Meanwhile, Ada who never felt any man up to her ideals, pines for Inman for reasons she can't quite understand.

The second love in the book is the love that Inman has for Cold Mountain. The language used to describe the mountain for which he pines is spectacular. I felt like I could smell the mountain and could easily visualize each area that Inman would dream about. Ada also begins to love Cold Mountain, most specifically, Black Cove where she lives. With the help of Ruby, an extremely capable, no-nonsense young woman, Ada begins to learn about the land and how to sustain herself with the land. Ada was raised in the city and for the period of time where she and her father lived in Black Cove, they had hired hands to do the work of life. When her father dies and the hired help leave, Ada is clueless about caring for and feeding herself. She wears dirty clothes because she doesn't know how to do laundry. Ruby saves her life and then starts her on a journey of discovery about herself and the land she learns to love.

This book does a really good job describing the way that the Civil War affected both the people who fought as well as those on the periphery. It was an awful war and many people died because of the war who were probably never even counted in the totals of the dead soldiers.

This was a great book and I enjoyed it very much.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Half Broke Horses

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

This is the prequel to Glass Castle which I have not read. I am planning on reading it now that I have read this one.

Half Broke Horses is about Walls' grandmother, Lilly. She was quite a woman. Her early years were spent on a pretty hard-scrabble farm in west Texas. Her family moved to a more fertile but still rustic farm in New Mexico when she was still fairly young. At the age of 15, she became a teacher in a one-room school house. The men were at war and the teachers and other women were working in the factories. Her stint as a teacher only lasted a couple of years but she was hooked.

This story takes us through Lilly's life until her daughter, Rosemary (Walls' mother) is married and has had children. Where Lilly was a grounded and hard-working woman, it's pretty clear early on that her daughter Rosemary is hell-bent to fight such convention every step of the way.
I understand that Glass Castle is a pretty dysfunctional story that can be a difficult read. I'm still looking forward to reading it now that I've started at the beginning.


Shipwrecked by Mishka Shubaly

This is a short story that depicts a brief adventure of the author. Mishka has led a pretty slovenly life drinking, doing drugs and slacking his way through school. Now working as third mate on a ship in the Caribbean, he gets some quick life lessons. When the ship runs aground during the night, Mishka must strike out for help to save himself and his fellow ship-mates.

Grave Sight

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in Harris' "Harper Connelly" series.

Harper is a young woman who, after being struck by lighting, can sense the presence of dead bodies and how they died. She, along with her stepbrother, makes her living finding bodies as well as confirming how people died.

This first book was a fast, fun read. Harper and Tolliver end up in a small town in the Ozarks of Arkansas and end up having to help solve the mystery behind 4 deaths in order to be able to get out of the town.

This is definitely not hard-core police drama but it's definitely a fun, summer read.

I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

The latest in the Sookie Stackhouse series did not disappoint. It's still a fast fun read. More of the same: vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and fairies. Sookie gets a few questions answered but, of course, has more to think about because of it all as well. I figure there's at least 2 more books before Harris can tie up the series. I'm looking forward to them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Winter of Our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

This novel is sent in 1960 in a small New England town. The narrator/protagonist is a grocery store clerk whose family helped to found the town. He is only a grocery store clerk now because his father lost the family fortune. This book is a kind of study of the successes of man and what motivates men to success, or not. The tone of the book was strange and I felt anxious as I read - as though the discontent was a tangible thing in the words of the book.

Ethan is a clerk who is discontent but somehow unaware of this until his fortune is read and he is told that he will become wealthy. At this point, the discontent of his family with their economic situation boils to the surface. Ethan begins to realize that he also is discontent and begins to plot various ways by which to make money. He begins to study and question the morals by which he was raised and wonder about those that haven't got such morals.

The language of the book is wonderful to read but again the tone was difficult at times. The end leaves you somewhat unsure as to the actual outcome. You think you know the path that will occur but there's a chance that it didn't work out that way. We'll never know.

I highly recommend this book along with all others by Steinbeck.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Game of Thrones

A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

These are books 2, 3, and 4 of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The fifth book, A Dance With Dragons is slated to be available 12 July 2011. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival.

Like the first book, A Game of Thrones (I had it wrong on the last post), these books continue the fictional fantasy world. A few more characters are introduced, a few more die. Okay, more than a few die. The 4th book, A Feast for Crows, is a slightly different format. It's quite a monster but it only covers half the characters for a period of time. Reportedly, book 5 will cover the other half of the characters for that time. I am hoping that Martin has at least one more book in him because there wasn't really an ending for the half covered in book 4. I am guessing he will need one more monster book after 5 to finish the whole story line. Who knows, maybe he has a bigger vision than I or maybe he just likes it when authors leave everything hanging (I hope not).

Although these books are big (book 1 694 pages, book 2 708 pages, book 3 976 pages, book 4 704 pages and book 5 is listed at 1040 pages), they are not hard or laborious to read. If it weren't for various sex scenes and all the violence, they often read like young adult fiction - meaning fast.

If you like fantasy and/or medieval-type era fiction I would highly recommend these books.
I couldn't put them down and they kept me from finishing my book club book in time :(. I need to get to work finishing that now so I can tell you all about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

This is the first book in the Game of Thrones series. Book 5 is scheduled to be released 12 July 2011. This is a long awaited book as it has been many years since book 4 was published. Fans of the series have been waiting not patiently. I have all 4 books published so far but I will try to drag out the reading of them in order to not have to wait so long to get book 5.

This book is set in a sort of medieval time but in a fictional world. This is a world where the seasons last for years. Summer has lasted seven years and the saying goes that a long summer brings an even longer winter. Winter is coming and with it comes a dark and cold world where sinister supernatural forces are amassing.

Meanwhile in the world of men, a deadly game of political chess is played. Children are betrothed to link families and gain power and property. Alliances are formed and broken for the benefit of the realm or the person, depending on the person. The seemingly central family, the Starks, come from the land of the north and are hard and unrelenting people bound by honor and the old religion. They must make their way through the political world of the south while protecting themselves and the realm against the forces of the north.

This book was very engaging and entertaining and it's a fast read even though the books are pretty hefty. This is a great fantasy series which is why HBO has picked it up and made it into a TV series. The HBO series seems to be sticking to the book (after 1 episode) with just a few changes. Most notable is that they have made the Stark children a few years older than they were in the book - probably for logistical reasons on finding kids who could actually pull off the intense rolls they needed to play. The one bummer is that the author ends up having to kill off a lot of characters in order to play out his massive game. I was really annoyed about one particular character's death but, really, I couldn't see any way around it in order for the story line to flow where it needs to go.

I highly recommend this book, and the series, just be patient for that 5th book. Book 4 was published in 2004 and the 5th has been a long time coming. According to the author's blog, "it's a monster."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This was a fun light novel about love found by two people who had thought they were at the end of their lives.

Major Pettigrew is deeply anachronistic. The story is set in modern times but Major Pettigrew often seems like he is living during the time of World War II or before. He is very particular about duty and honor and manners and the proper way to behave or not to behave. He finds himself liking and then loving a woman whose life is also about duty and honor and the proper way to behave or not to behave but for very different reasons.

The Major's relationship with a shop-keeper of Pakistani descent rocks the boat in the small English village in which they both live. Many of the neighbors are up in arms about the fact that she is Pakistani yet others are more aghast that he would spend time with a shop-keeper.

The book looks at manners and the reasons behind them. It also looks at duty and honor and biases of many types. It paints many shortcomings in a very unbecoming light and even when the biases and prejudices of the Major are laid to bare, you can't but help liking him. He learns so well from his mistakes and does his best to make amends that we should all be like Major Pettigrew.

This was a fun in-between book that only took a couple of days to read. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fast fun romance that doesn't feel like a romance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter's Bone: A Novel

Winter's Bone: A Novel by Daniel Woodrell

This book came to my attention when the movie adaptation was nominated for several Academy Awards. I am now more interested to see the film than I was before.

This book is told from the voice of Ree Dolly, a 16 year old living in the Ozarks with her mother who has "gone crazy" in an almost catatonic way and her two younger brothers. Her father, Jessup, comes and goes in between time periods spent cooking crank, using or doing time in jail for said activites. This time, Jessup is due in court but can't be found. Ree must find him alive -or dead - or lose the house and land on which they live.

Ree wants nothing more than to escape in a year into the army but first she must fight the close-mouthed system of a large extended family whose history trails back to the first settlers of the area. Asking hard questions can get a person killed but Ree is forced to ask them and suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, she must also try to prepare her younger brothers for life without her. She is working to teach them to cook, fight, shoot and hunt as well as take care of their mother. She is reluctant to tell them of her plans to leave but feels the urgency of making sure they will survive without her.

Like I said, I am looking forward to seeing this movie in part because I really want to see how much of this hard life is portrayed and in what manner.

On a side note, I have not slowed down on my reading even though it seems that I have. I just decided to re-read a bunch of "junk food" books while I was on vacation. I figure it's about the same as reading People magazine. I tried to read my last book club book, The Idiot by Dostoyevksy but it just wasn't happening for me. I have been trying to plow through my latest book club book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It is strange and difficult and I can't decide if it has anything to do with the fact that I'm reading it (trying) on a Kindle. I have been in a honeymoon period with my Kindle but that is waning and I am going to try to just read old-school books for awhile after I finish "Hedgehog". I am also about 3 1/2 months behind on The Sun so it's about time to play catch-up on that again. So much to read, so little time.....

The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a government conspiracy spy thriller - what I got was a government experiment gone wrong turning people into vampires horror.

Now I like vampire books as much as the next person (more, in some cases) but this was a little too creepy and horror for my tastes. I prefer my vampires to be more refined and human-like as opposed to mutated humans with rows of sword like teeth and a soft clicking of their jaws. The description of vampires was what creeped me out more than anything.

The basic premise is this: A team of scientists are working on an immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by some variety of bat found in South America. Of course things go wrong and the virus spreads and within a short period of time, the U.S. is in an apocalyptic state. The virus turns humans into vampiric creatures. The story begins in 2012 then skips ahead to 2018 when the virus gets loose. Then again, the story skips ahead 92 years to what is happening with a colony of human survivors and their struggle to battle the "virals".

The ending of the book was not satisfying. I was annoyed by the way the book ended but I have since found this was the first of a trilogy. The next books, The Twelve and the City of Mirrors are due to be published in 2012 and 2014. I may end up reading the next two so I can see how the story is resolved but at least this time I'll be prepared for the fact that it is horror.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maximum Ride

Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

This series consists of Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, Maximum Ride: School's Out - Forever, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, Maximum Ride: The Final Warning, Max, Fang and Angel.

This is a series that follows six genetically altered kids that have 2% avian DNA. Because of this, they have wings. They grew up in a lab living under horrible conditions. Now they are living on their own and taking care of themselves the best they can.

They end up having to save the world and each other. They deal with issues of environmental pollution and the general destruction of the planet by grownups. They do all this while dealing with life as a hormonal teenager (for a few) and just being kids (for the rest).

This is a fantastic young adult series that was a really fun read. I read it on vacation and it was perfect for vacation reading. I'm pretty sure there's one more book slated for the series but it won't be out until next year.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sookie Stackhouse

The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark/Living Dead in Dallas/Club Dead/Dead to the World/Dead as a Doornail/Definitely Dead/All Together Dead/From Dead to Worse/Dead and Gone/Dead in the Family

So far there are 10 separate novels in the series. There is also a collection of the short stories within the series, A Touch of Dead, and The Sookie Stackhouse Companion. Neither of which have I read. An eleventh book in the series is due out 3 May 2011. This is the series on which the HBO series TrueBlood is based. I haven't watched the tv series at all.

Sookie is a barmaid in a small town in Northern Louisiana. She is also a telepath. A fact she refers to as her "disability". There is no specified time frame for this series but you get the impression that it's current and happening now. Especially in the later books there are a few references to the war in Iraq. There is a slight difference from "our" modern time in that vampires have revealed themselves to the world and now "live" side by side with the living - at least after dark anyway.

A Japanese company developed a synthetic blood for blood banks and hospitals but the positive off-shoot is that vampires could drink the synthetic blood and stop drinking from humans to survive. This prompted the vampires to finally come out of the shadows. Their propaganda is that they are not actually dead but they have an extreme allergy to sunlight, garlic and silver. Like most propaganda, it's totally not true - they really are dead.

Sookie meets her first vampire one night at the bar where she works. Because of her "disability" she discovers a couple of her more annoying regulars are plotting to attack the vampire in the parking lot and drain him of his blood. Vampire blood fetches high prices on the black market because it speeds a human's ability to heal, gives them strength and vitality and improves their sex life. Of course the blood can also cause someone to go insane especially if it is mixed with synthetic blood, pig blood or if it is old (meaning it's been awhile since the blood was removed from the vampire). Apparently vampire-blood addicts are a rising problem.

Sookie saves the life of the vampire and this begins a crazy whirlwind of an adventure. The two "drainers" she fought to save the vampire try to kill her but the vampire saves her. She dates this first vampire, Bill, for awhile but then they break up. She has one harrowing adventure after another and her life is in jeopardy many times.

Over the course of the series we meet a variety of Shape Shifters (can change into any animal form) and Weres (can change into only one specific form), Demons, Goblins, and Fairies. She dates a werewolf, a weretiger, is courted by a werepanther as well as dating another vampire. Considering the fact that human men all just think she's weird this is a pretty amazing track record. She has a hard time dating humans because she can hear everything they are thinking and it's quite distracting and often times a buzz-kill. The supernatural people she either can't hear or they are fuzzy and easy for her to block.

This is a fun series that is such a digression from reality that it has great escapist qualities. There is a little romance, a great deal of suspense, action and intrigue as well as politics (vampire and were). I'm looking forward to reading the 11th book when it is published and I recommend the series to anyone looking forward to some fun, fast, fantasy escapist reading.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Twilight Saga

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

This is a four book saga that I've read before but I felt like some light, easy reading that was fast. When I originally read the books they took me roughly a day per book although the last book took about a day and a half just because it was bigger. This time around it took me about 3 days to read these as well as a portion of an un-published book Midnight Sun by the same author.

Midnight Sun is essentially the same as the first book in the series, Twilight, but told from the perspective of the guy whereas Twilight is told in the voice of the girl. Part way through the project, someone leaked a rough draft of Midnight Sun on the internet. This caused the author a great deal of grief and consternation and it halted the project. Since then, she has posted her last rough draft on her website for those interested in reading it. It only covers about the first third of the book Twilight but I enjoyed it more than I thought. Originally, I thought she should write a fifth book to wrap up the series more but in hindsight, I agree with her decision. Too bad it was never completed.

The first book in the series, Twilight, it is a story of teen love and the life of a girl, Bella, who is both insecure and comfortable in her own skin, in a way. The object of her affection turns out to be a vampire, Edward. The difficulties of the relationship are both obvious (he wanting to drink her blood) as well as unusual. When other vampires set their sights on Bella, Edward saves her life and saves her from becoming a vampire as well.

The second book in the series, New Moon, was the most tedious for me to read. Bella falls completely apart when Edward leaves her. He tells her he no longer loves her and the devastation of the news leaves her in a very zombie-like state. Only the friendship of a family friend, Jacob, brings her back to the land of the living. He is an Indian boy from the nearby reservation until, of course, he transforms into a werewolf. Bella is forced to make a decision between her love for Jacob, the werewolf, and her love for Edward, the vampire. She risks her own life in a brave attempt to save Edwards life and succeeds. But by doing so, she begins the breaking of her best friends heart.

The third book, Eclipse, is a tug of war between vampire and werewolf for the love of Bella. The fact that they are natural enemies does not help matters at all. There is some pretty good action in the book as the vampire family must unite with the wolf pack in order to fight an army of newborn vampires intent on killing Bella. Bella is finally able to make her decision about who she loves most but still is unable to release her bond with Jacob.

The fourth book, Breaking Dawn, is the best of all the books. It is broken into 3 parts telling the story from the perspective of Edward then Jacob then Bella. I am reluctant to say much about this book because there are so many surprises that I don't want to be a spoiler. I'll just say that if you read the first two books of this series, keep going. It only gets better.

The movies of the first three books have been made and they are separating the last book into two movies because it was so long and encompassing. If I had made the movies, I would have definitely done a few things differently. The first movie especially was a disappointment.

These books are young adult fiction and are pretty much just chick-flicks with vampires and werewolves. They are fast easy reads. The main thing that bugged me was the co-dependency of the relationship between Bella and Edward. I think there are insecure teen girls that would read this and think that is what a "normal" relationship should be. If you take all the books as a whole though, you see there is a supernatural element to their relationship that isn't really alluded to until book 3 and really talked about until book 4. Anyway, if you want an easy romance read with some supernatural fantasy and myths, these are a good choice.

Company of Liars

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

This is a sort of re-visit of The Canterbury Tales. It is set in 1348 and the Black Plague is sweeping across England. Nine travelers band together for safety as they try to stay one step ahead of the pestilence. Some are seasoned travelers not used to risking their hearts by traveling with others. Others are young and naive and would die without the help of the others. Slowly they form an uneasy alliance as they make their way across the country. Each carries a lie within them and the lie becomes the death of them.

This was a fascinating story of what life may have been in 1348. Alchemy, history, mystery and plain human drama weaves a powerful web in this book.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Sookie is a psychic waitress living in the south with her grandmother. Vampires have come "out of the coffin" so to speak and are living amongst the living. The propaganda is that vampires are not actually dead but have a virus that makes them appear to be dead. Synthetic blood is available at many bars and restaurants. Vampire blood is available on the black market and helps with healing and enhances sexual performance among other things.

Sookie meets her first vampire and within a few hours has saved his life and really angered the people who were trying to steal his blood. Sookie begins a romance with this vampire who is in the process of trying to "mainstream" and has moved into his families house just down the road.

Murder and intrigue follow and Sookies brother appears to be the cause of the murders. Sookie desperately tries to find out the truth before she becomes the next victim.

This is a murder mystery, romance soap opera with vampires. It was a fun book and a fast read. I recommend the book to anyone that this genre might appeal to.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Darcy's Story

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

This is Pride and Prejudice retold from Mr Darcy's perspective. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, I'd say this is a must read.

I would have to vote Pride and Prejudice in the top 5 chick-flick books ever. This is just a new rendition which is just as enjoyable. Aylmer has stuck with the original story and really worked hard to determine what Darcy would and wouldn't have known and when. She works to develop his character more fully so we are not as shocked as Elizabeth Bennet when he proposes during their mutual visits to Kent. She also directly quotes dialog from Austen which allows the reader to match this book with the events of the original quite easily. I know I was replaying the A&E/BBC mini-series in my head as I was reading the book.

This is a light and entertaining read.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Star Trek - Inception

Star Trek - Inception by S.D. Perry and Britta Dennison

This book is a supposition of what may have happened in the early life of James T. Kirk and Spock. The book was written just before the movie, Star Trek, was released. They were projects independent of each other so the publishers held the book until well after the movie release so that the one did not affect the other.

I watched the movie again after finishing the book and thought it interesting that both projects aimed to give Spock a love life but in the book, he does not respond as he does in the movie.

The book is more about Carol Marcus, lover of Jim Kirk, as opposed to Jim Kirk himself. She becomes the mother of Jim's son. She is a scientist and has discovered a way, she believes, to turn non-viable dirt into a viable growing medium. Her goal is to enable each planet to grow their own food so hunger is eradicated. Environmental terrorists tamper with her experiments and almost cause a catastrophic disaster. Through the efforts and ideas of Star Fleet's, Spock and Jim Kirk as well as Carol and her team of scientists, are able to stop the process from taking over and, ultimately, destroying the planet Mars.

The story itself is interesting as is the "science" behind the plot. The book gives us a peek into the early lives of Spock and Jim but no other members of the original Star Trek cast. That is one thing that the movie did in fine Hollywood fashion. They gave us the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and tied it up with a bow. They also gave us an alternate reality line that can be followed in a series of movies or television shows if they so desire. As far as I can tell, the book's reality was right in line with what we know from the original series.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a great book from the two creepy books I had just read. It was light, fun and fast. I would recommend the book to anyone who is a lover of Star Trek or science fiction.


Perfume - the story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind

This is the story of a man with the unfortunate name of Grenouille (frog in French) born with no scent of his own but possessing an acute sense of smell. So acute that he is able to recognize individuals by their scent when they are blocks away. He apprentices himself as a perfumer and quickly masters the mixing process of the oils. He then determines to learn how to extract the oils themselves. After learning several different methods of extraction he devises an horrific plan. A series of grizzly murders ensues culminating in a final 25th murder. The result is a perfume like no other.

This book is creepy beyond creepy. The concept itself is an interesting one but the writing is terribly descriptive. It reads almost like three separate stories. The first being the beginning of his life and his first apprenticeship in Paris. The second part is a bizarre dream sequence where Grenouille had escaped humanity and is living in a cave at the top of the highest mountain. He subsists on eating small amounts of grass, moss and lichen. He drinks water from a minute spring where it takes him over an hour to drink what he needs for the day. I found myself skimming this section because if felt tedious and redundant and somewhat disjointed. After seven years, Grenouille emerges from the cave and begins the third part of his life. The final part of his life is his life as a journeyman in Grasse where he learns the various methods of extracting oils. This is also the culmination of his horrific plan and finally his life. I was surprised by the end but then decided it made sense and poetic justice.

If you like books of grizzly murders, this is the one for you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first in a 5 book series of mysteries. So far, 3 have been published but according to the interview at the end of this book, the author is planning 5 books.

The heroine and narrator is an 11 year old girl named Flavia de Luce. It is 1950 and she lives outside a small village in England. Flavia is devoted to chemistry and, more specifically, the origins, manufacture and antidotes of poisons.

When a strange man dies in front of her in the cucumber patch of the garden, Flavia is completely intrigued. Thus begins her investigation in which she is often crossing paths with the police, much to their dismay.

This is a fun murder mystery and having the investigation done by and told by an 11 year old, makes it more entertaining. The fact of her youth really allows her to go just about anywhere and do most anything without being noticed or questioned. For, who pays attention to the goings on of children?

I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Room by Emma Donoghue

This is a weird but good book. The book begins on the 5th birthday of Jack. A boy who lives in Room with his Ma. Jack narrates the book by telling us all about the daily routines of Jack and Ma. Soon we realize that Jack and Ma are being held captive in Room although Jack knows nothing of this since he was born there. The story tells us how Ma came to be in the room, their lives within the room, their escape plan and their lives shortly after leaving Room to be Outside.

There is a great deal to this book that goes unsaid. Since Jack is only 5 he doesn't grasp much of what is going on. We can understand what has happened based on the very basic information we are given by Jack even if he doesn't. This is an interesting perspective on the relationship between a mother and her son and how she loses herself in becoming a mother while living in isolation then must find herself again when she re-enters the world but must still remain a mother.