Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Already Gone

Already Gone by John Rector

This is a crime thriller.  On page two our protagonist gets his finger cut off with bolt cutters.  If you can't handle that, don't read this book.

This isn't a crime thriller from the perspective of the police or even the criminal.  This is told from the voice of the guy who now only has 9 fingers.  He can't figure out what's going on and who he needs to be looking over his shoulder for.  He's a newly appointed University professor but he didn't start out all normal and straight laced and therein lies his dilemna.

This was a pretty good book and the first big twist I saw coming probably just because all other avenues had been exhausted and  I've read tons of these types of books.  The ending annoyed me big time though.  If you like crime drama, check it out and then let me know if you liked the ending or if you agree that it should have ended differently.  I mean, that one guy shouldn't have died, you know???

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple

I really enjoyed this book but the main character, Bernadette, is as quirky as it gets.

Bernadette has made herself into a strange recluse.  She might have been a bit off-beat in the past but now she's fodder for the gossips at her daughter's charter school in Seattle.  Her husband is so wrapped up in work he hasn't really noticed.  Her daughter notices but doesn't really care and has crafted her life around the oddities of her mother.

I'm afraid if I say any more it will just be a giant spoiler so that's all I'm going to say except: FBI, Antartica, Microsoft, and email.  Enjoy!

Mother of Winter

Mother of Winter by Barbara Hambly (The Darwath Series)

This book takes place 5 years after the Darwath Trilogy.   The Dark has left the land and everything seems great and the people are working on rebuilding their lives and their world except something isn't quite right.

Something weird is happening and no one is quite sure what it is even.  There is a new plant that no one has ever seen before and it was never mentioned in any historical writings or the verbal histories of the nomadic tribes.  Other things are happening too but no one is quite sure what it is, why it is and where it is coming from.

This book was creepier than the first three (or maybe I cared more about the characters at this point).  I had to stop halfway through and read a couple of other books before I could finish it.

There is one more in the series and I'm looking forward to reading it - later.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

When old African and West Indies tales of the beginning of the world start to entertwine with the life of an ordinary man about to get married in London, things become a bit surreal.

Fat Charlie was born in America but when he was 10, his mother left his father in Florida and took him with her to live in London near her aunt.  Fat Charlie was happy to leave his father behind.  His father caused him a great deal of embarrassment and grief.  Just before he is to get married, Fat Charlie gets a call from his old next door neighbor in Florida who tells him that his father has died (in a rather embarrassing way of course).

Fat Charlie's trip back to Florida to bury his father and say goodbye is the beginning of a long strange trip into a world he had no idea actually existed.  He learns about the beginnings of the world, his father and he finds himself.

This was a really fun book that kept me engaged and entertained.  I loved the symbolism as well as the use of folk tales woven into the story of today's world.  I highly recommend this book and I am interested in ready more of Neil Gaiman's work in the future.

World War Z

World War Z : An Oral History by Max Brooks

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone and our narrator was given the job by world leaders to compile information about the event and write a report.  Once the report, full of facts, numbers and statistics is published, the narrator decides to publish the interviews as a book so that the world can read about the different personal experiences of those up-close to the action.

This book is sort of written in documentary form.  There is a reason the movie version differed from the book, it would have been a boring movie if it was done just like the book.  The book isn't boring though.  The book paints a big picture by giving you small glimpses into the lives and experiences of different individuals.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone interested in this type of novel.

The Darwath Trilogy

The Darwath Trilogy by Barbara Hambly

More specifically, the books are, The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, The Armies of Daylight.

The Time of the Dark I bought on my kindle for $2.99 or something like that and when I read it, I was hooked and had to get the rest.

Gil is a young woman who is entirely focused on getting her PhD in History.  She teaches and tutors as part of the process.  She begins to have dreams about some other place and time where the people run in terror from something unfathomable.  These dreams have a very realistic and un-dreamlike quality except that she knows she is asleep and the people around her cannot see her.  And then one night, they can.  She appears and is questioned by an elderly man.  When she answers that she was sleeping but now she's not, she falls back asleep and awakes in her own bed.

Gil and a biker artist named Rudy soon find themselves inadvertently pulled across the void into another world.  A world where people run in terror from The Dark.  Using their knowledge and experiences to help them cope and deal in a pre-industrial world not their own, Gil and Rudy must find a place in society and wait until it is safe for them to return to their own world.

Barbara Hambly draws from her own education in Medieval History to create a rich world for this series.  Her characters are believable and full of life.  The trilogy takes us through the battles with The Dark and delves into the long history of the world in which Gil and Rudy now reside.

There are two companion books that follow this series.  One, The Mother of Winter, tells us of the world 5 years after the end of the trilogy.  The other, Icefalcon's Quest, is the tale of a single character from the trilogy.  I am currently ready Mother of Winter but I've had to stop a few times because it is creepy and I need a break at times.

I highly recommend this series for people who enjoy sci-fi fantasy fiction.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Warm Moonlight

Warm Moonlight by Joseph Wurtenbaugh

This was a Kindle Single so I'm not sure if this is available if you don't have a Kindle.

This is a short story of a woman telling her great-grand-daughter an amazing tale of adventure, peril and rescue.  The story is told as a short chapter in the life of the grandmother.  It is up to the young woman whether to believe if it is true or not and how to use the information.

This is a really nice short story.  I recommend it as a quick read for an afternoon.

A Provencal Mystery

A Provencal Mystery by Ann Elwood

This is a historical novel combined with a mystery novel.

An American historian and professor researching for her tenure paper spends her days going through the historical records of a nearby convent in a small town in Provence, France.  Suddenly, the diary of a 17th century nun appears in her research material.  She is distracted from the research giving her the facts and figures of the inhabitant of the convent.  She tries to stay on task but is encouraged by a friend, a nun, to keep going with the new material.

First, an apparent murder occurs in the diary.  Second, an apparent murder occurs in the research library.  Our historian and her colleagues are the suspects.  Soon, it seems if she can solve the 17th century murder, she can solve the murder from now as well.

This was a really fun, fast read.  I highly recommend it.

Love Medicine

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

This is the first book in a series of Native American books by Erdrich.

This book was layed out like a bunch of vignettes that eventually entwine and create a full story of a community that is full of secrets, love, contention and difficulty.

This is not a happy book but it is worth reading.

Dead Ever After

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

This is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  It is book 13.

When I started reading this book, there were a couple of references that I couldn't remember so I decided to just re-read the entire series.

I enjoyed this final book and I thought all the threads were tied up pretty nicely.

Another book in this series is slated for publication Oct 29, 2013, After Dead.  It gives us a wrap-up of what happened to each of the characters after the series was over.  I have pre-ordered my copy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Every Man Dies Alone

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

This book was based on an actual Gestapo file.

Fallada was given the file after the war by a friend and after reading through the entire file, he sat down and wrote a fictionalized version of the story in about 24 days and 539 pages.

This was a very engaging story about a couple living in Berlin during World War II.  They voted for Hitler the first time but later became disillusioned by his regime.  After their son is killed in the war, they decide they must do something to speak out against the lies and propaganda of the Nazi regime.

This is the story of their day to day lives and the lives of those people who are geographically close to them. Because of this, these others become embroiled at some point or another in the saga.  It is a tragedy many times over.

This was an excellent book and I highly recommend it.

Fallada wrote quite a few other books and it looks like they have all been translated into English.

Day After Night

Day After Night by Anita Diamante

This book is based on a true story.  It is the tale of the rescue of more than two hundred Jewish refugees.  They were being held as prisoners for illegal immigration into Israel after World War II.  The British Military were running this prison near Haifa.

The story is told from the voices of four young women who had all survived the holocaust in a different way. They were all plagued with the ghosts of their past and the things they had done to survive but were looking forward to a new life.  A life after death, a day after night.

This book was extremely well written and I really enjoyed it a great deal.

Diamante also wrote the Red Tent which I thoroughly enjoyed several years ago. She has another book The Last Days of Dogtown that is on my "to read" list.

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Seven-year-old Lavinia left Ireland with her parents and brother.  When she arrives in the United States, she is orphaned and soon to be separated from her brother.  The ships captain kindly takes her home so that she can work off her passage.

Being a white girl indentured with black slaves causes a great deal of social confusion in Lavinia's life.  It isn't until she is married with a young child that she starts to really realize "the way things are."

This is Historical Fiction in that the author has re-created the life-style of slaves and slave owners of Virginia. The characters are all fictional but they are characters that, for the most part, are believable and have depth of character.  The one character that is lacking, I wonder if it wasn't on purpose since he was never really present anyway.

This is the only book by this author but I would read another if she wrote one.

The Copper Sign

The Copper Sign by Katia Fox

Beginning in England in the year 1161, Ellen, a blacksmith's daughter wants nothing more than to follow in her father's footsteps.  Unfortunately, such is not the lot for a girl.  Circumstances arise where it is most convenient for Ellen to become Alan as she flees the wrath of her mother and the local lord.

Ellen has a great many adventures and learns a great deal as she travels through England and into Normandy and then Belgium.

This isn't historical fiction but it feels similar to it.  It was originally written in German and the translator also translated The Hangman's Daughter which I also liked very much.

I really enjoyed this book.  It had a great escapist quality to it and I very easily fell into the world of 12th century Europe.

Awakened (Vampire Awakenings)

Awakened (Vampire Awakenings) by Brenda K. Davies

This is what I can only hope is young adult literature.  The story is pretty boring.  I stopped halfway through and read a whole bunch of other books and then I just decided to get it over with and finish it.

The characters are college-aged (sort of).  It's your basic "girl meets hot bad boy" story except, of course, that the bad boy is a vampire.  He and his vampire buddies are mostly lame.  They haven't really taken time to explore their vampire selves.  They have spent their time hanging out in frat houses and giving college girls weird "hickeys".

There are two books in this series and she's written another series (Destined) that seems equally vapid.

I don't think I'll be reading any more of this series or any others by this author anytime soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Cloud Roads

The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura) by Martha Wells

The book is about an orphan named Moon.  He is living with a group of people called the Cordura.  The Cordura are physically different looking from Moon and wonder about his heritage but so does he.  He has no idea where he came from or what he is.  What he does know is that he can shift his body into another form - a form with scales and wings.  He doesn't do this in front of the Cordura and he has managed to keep this part of himself a secret for quite sometime now.

This book is about Moon's journey to find out who he is and where he came from.  It is also his journey from being a solitary loner who trusts no one as a matter of survival to learning to trust others and open himself up to them.

This is the first in a series of three books as of now.  This author has written quite a few other books as well including a series called Fall of Ile-Rien with 3 books.  I like the story although like many fantasy books, you have to decide if this alternate world is one you can relate to or really want to spend some time in; if so, keep reading the series but if not, stop after the first book.

I have so many books on my "need to read" list that I don't think I'll plan to continue the series as it stands.  Maybe if I find myself thinking about the world of the Raksura I'll change my mind.  It only took me a couple of days to read this so I wouldn't be making a huge time commitment.

For not, I'll get back to the four books that I am reading right now.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

If you have never read the blog written by this woman, I highly recommend it.  Check it out

Jenny grew up in rural Texas.  Her father was a taxidermist and her family was not wealthy.  Jenny always wanted to fit in but never did.  Jenny suffers from depression and panic attacks.  This book is all about her life with some extra imagination sprinkled on top.

She can take a horrific situation and make it sound absolutely hilarious.  I laughed most of the way through the book.  This book is not for the faint of heart or very young.  She covers a variety of topics but if you can't stand the sight of blood in the words on a page, skip this one.  For everyone else, you should buy this book and read it!

Apocalyptic Planet

Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth by Craig Childs

If you are a Creationist or a non-believer in science, I don't recommend this book.  It will be, to you, a work of fiction and delusion.

If you are very interested in science, geology, the history of the planet and where we are headed, this is a great read.

The author traveled to a variety of locations around the globe to see first hand what was going on with the climate, the topography, the plant and animal life that exists now as well as to probe into the geological evidence of the past.

The scientific evidence he brings forth takes us clear back to the birth of our solar system and planet.  There is some very deep science and immense stretches of geologic time covered in a way that is interesting and readable.

This book combines science and adventure to make a very readable book.  He gives us the thoughts and predictions of a variety of scientists regarding where we are and where we are headed.

I highly recommend this book.  It is a book that doesn't have to be read cover to cover but you can pick and choose which chapters you want to read first (although I recommend starting with the first and ending with the last but the middle is easily a mix and match).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lord John Grey

I finished off the Lord John books by Diana Gabaldon with...
Lord John and the Hand of Devils, The Custom of the Army and The Scottish Prisoner.

The Hand of Devils is a trilogy of short stories.  The Custom of the Army is a novella and the Scottish Prisoner is a novel.

These books are pure entertainment and if you haven't read any of the Outlander or Lord John books, I would read them in their proper order. The proper order is as follows:

Outlander (big novel), Dragonfly in Amber (big novel), Voyager (big novel), Lord John and the Hellfire Club (Lord John and the Hand of Devils), Lord John and the Private Matter (novel), Lord John and the Succubus (Lord John and the Hand of Devils), Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (novel), Lord John and the Haunted Soldier (Lord John and the Hand of Devils), The Custom of the Army (novella), The Scottish Prisoner (novel), Plague of Zombies (Down in These Strange Streets ed George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois), Drums of Autumn (big novel), The Fiery Cross (big novel), The Breath of Snow and Ashes (big novel), An Echo in the Bone (big novel), Written in my Own Heart's Blood (not yet published bug novel), A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (novella), The Space Between (The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination ed John Joseph Adams), Virgins (Warriors ed by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

Stegner excels at his description of people, their emotions and what makes them tick.  This book is no exception.

This book follows a family over the course of about 50 years as they struggle to survive in an uncertain world.  The voice of the book is an omnificent third party.  The voice first follows Elsa who marries Bo Mason against the better judgement of her family.  Bo is an erratic and volatile man who is in search of the next great break.  He is constantly trying to find his "big rock candy mountain."  Later, the voice changes and follows the youngest son Bruce.  Bruce had a difficult early childhood but learns to adapt to his ever-changing environment.  He ends up succeeding in ways the rest of his family never did.  He is also able to see his family with a detached view which seems almost cold and calculating.

This book takes place largely in the west and up into Canada.  It is set during the early years of the 20th century so we see the local effects of World War I, prohibition and the flu pandemic.  It is viewed as a largely autobiographical novel.  Whether it is or not, Stegner's tale is heart wrenching and poignant. This book was very difficult to read at times but in the end, I really enjoyed it and thought it was well worth reading.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon

This is book 2 in the Lord John series.  It follows the timeline of the previous book and gives us more insight to Lord John Grey.  We get to see his inner torment to be true to himself and his family without revealing his homosexuality to the world.

Again, I continue to enjoy these books.  It looks like there are a couple of Lord John books that are not part of this series but were published before the next book in the series.  I think I will go with publication dates and read them in that order and see where it gets me.

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows: An Outlander Novella by Diana Gabaldon

This is a novella that is a companion to the Outlander series.  It follows An Echo of the Bone.  I am going to have a hard time waiting for the next book in this series to be published.

This book answers the question of what happened to Roger MacKenzie's parents during World War II causing him to become orphaned.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a great teaser of what is to come in the series as well as answering a question that has been hanging out there a bit.

Lord John and the Private Matter

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon

This is Book 1 in Gabaldon's Lord John series.  This started out as a off-shoot novella alongside the Outlander series.  The novella became a novel and then it became a series in it's own right.

It isn't quite as engaging as the Outlander series but I wish that I had read this book in it's proper place with the Outlander series.  It's weird to go back in time, so to speak, and try to remember what was going on in the Outlander books at the time of this book.

I enjoyed the historical information about the LGTB community at the time and I will keep reading these books and see where they take me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

This is book 7 in the Outlander series.  It takes us further into the American Revolution and gives us an up-close view of a few battles that took place between the American Army, such as it was, and the militia troops against the British Army and the Colonial Army (Americans for England).

I think Gabaldon does a great job with her historical research and I am still enjoying the story line of the Frasers and Mackenzies.

This book had a twist in that Brianna and Roger took their children back to the present.  Really they went back to the 1980's but in the grand scheme of the book series that is the present.  They were able to "keep in touch" with Brianna's parents through a stack of letters that were held for over a hundred years at the Bank of Edinburgh and then delivered to Roger's uncle the Reverend Wakefield.  The good Reverend thoughtfully hung onto the box that had a metal plaque engraved with the name of Roger and Brianna's son.

When reading about time-travel, one must suspend all disbelief and just go with it and see where it leads.  I really enjoy these books.  There is a companion series that I am planning to start although I have a couple other books on my to read list first.

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

This is a western set during the California Gold Rush.  Charles and Eli Sisters are brothers who have quite the reputation.  They are killers for hire and they are successful and ruthless.

The story is told from the voice of Eli, the younger brother.  He is laying out their life as they go on another job.  Relations seem strained between Eli and Charles and Eli is contemplating a new line of work.

This was a "light, fun read" after I finished  my failed attempt at Satanic Verses and then reading Wolf Hall.

It wasn't really light but it was darkly humorous and I did enjoy it and the Murphy's Law way that things turned out.

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This is a book of historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell.

During the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell began working for Bishop Woolsey.  After Woolsey's fall from favor and then his death, Cromwell began to work for the King.  He was a man of extremely low birth who had become educated depsite his upbringing.  He was a soldier, a baker, a book keeper, an attorney, an importer and a finder of things, people and information.  He spoke many languages and his past was a mystery.  The mystery of his life was something that Cromwell used to his advantage.  Others made assumptions and he made no effort to correct them.  Because of this, he was a much feared man.  He was able to melt into a background and be virtually invisible while he gleaned information from what he heard and especially what he saw.  Cromwell was a great reader of people and used the information from watching to his advantage and the advantage of those he worked for.

This book takes us through King Henry's battle to annul his marriage to Katherine of Arragon, his courtship of Anne Boleyn and a bit past the birth of his daughter Elizabeth.  At the end of the book, relations between Henry and Anne are strained.  She had had several miscarriages and failed to produce the male heir that she promised. We meet Jane Seymour and find that her family estate is titled Wolf Hall.  Her presence in the life of Anne Boleyn and the random meetings with Thomas Cromwell are intriguing teases.  I'm not sure that it made sense to name the book Wolf Hall though.

I really enjoyed this book.  It seems well researched with regards to the King, the Boleyns as well as Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Woolsey.  As always, I enjoy the results of research done with regards to how people lived.  The day to day lives of people and what they ate, wore, did for work and how their houses were laid out.  This book is medium sized at 672 pages.  I felt like the author used her time wisely.  The story really didn't drag on other than the fact that an inordinately long time was spent with Anne dragging her feet and Henry wrestling with the whole religious community but that really did take a long time so it was historically accurate.

Mantel continues the saga with her next book Bring Up the Bodies.

The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I did not finish this book.  I  got 41% through it and I had to stop.

The book seems an endless loop of questioning religion, questioning God, questioning the existence of God, questioning the need for religion, and so on through the voices and experiences of many different people from many walks of life although all of them are Muslim.

Now we know why there was a fatwa put on Rushdie's head.  The higher religious authorities of Iran don't stike me as people who are okay with anyone suggesting that we should question God and religion.

One day I might finish the book but, then again I might not.

Rushdie has an enormous vocabulary and he uses it.  His usage of an extremely erudite prose slows down my rate of reading just a bit.