Monday, November 12, 2007

Corpse in a Gilded Cage

Did someone say cosy? It's all here: the Stately Manor, the not-quite-functional family, the long-lost relative, the solicitor, the butler (!), murder with a blunt instrument, and the classic denouement with all the suspects (that is, everyone) gathered for the pronouncement of whodoneit.

An offshoot a rich family, the new Earl and Countess of Ellesmere (formerly, Elsie & Perce Spender) arrive at Chetton Hall following the deaths of the two previous Earls. But Elsie and Perce don't like the massive and drafty (draughty) stone pile. They want to go home to Clapham. They instruct their man of affairs to sell the lot and they'll distribute the proceeds among their 3 children.

Mr. Lilywaite, though, is a traditionalist. He tries to persuade the Earl and Countess of their responsibilities: to the family; to Engand; to the law of primogeniture.

While sorting out the affairs of the estate, Perce and Elsie's children arrive to celebrate the Earl's 60th birthday. The children are divided on what is to be done. Phil, the eldest and new Lord Portsea, has three weeks to serve on his sentence, but his harridan wife, Elsie, fighting her corner, sees herself as the next Countess. Trevor, the youngest, is easy, although he does think the house would be a fine setting for his next starring porno role with his girlfriend, Michele. The new Lady Joan and her husband, Digby, are busy calculating what the sale will bring.

Then comes the murder.

Enter the rural, but intelligent, inspector and his, self-effacing, but intelligent, sergeant.

A perfect setting and a perfect vehicle for Robert Barnard's sly humour. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Audiobook -- Unabridged -- 9 CDs -- ll hours -- Narrated by Stephen Lang


Reminisent of Stephen King at his best, his son Joe Hill has written an awesome ghost story. Aging rock star, Judas Coyne, buys a ghost from the internet. The dead man's suit arrives in a heart shaped box. The ghost has business with Jude. He claims his step-daughter, Anna, killed herself because of him. He says he is going to kill Jude and everyone who helps him.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

I was sent this book by Barnes & Nobles as part of their "First Look" program. It is an Advance Readers Copy and the book is scheduled to be released February 2008.

Willie Upton is one of the last decedents of the original founders of her hometown, Templeton. She hasn't been home in years, but she returns, pregnant and scared that she is in much deeper trouble for trying to run over her lovers wife with a small plane.

She has always thought herself the child of her hippie mother's years in a commune and that her father was one of the three male members of the group. Soon after Willie's return to Templeton, her mother confesses that Willie's father is actually a local man. However Willie's mother refuses to tell Willie the name of her father, only that he is someone Willie knows and that he is most likely also descended from the town's founding fathers.

I really liked the book and am happy that I was selected to read and discuss the book with it's author.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

Back in May, Kristin reviewed this book; I promptly added it to my wishlist, eventually managed to win the wishlist race (yay! :-)); and finally got around to reading it this month.

I have to say I agree with Kristin: I truly loved this book. It's clever, original, and brilliantly executed.

Quick plot: Ella Minnow Pea lives on the island of Nollop, where the creator of the pangram sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" is revered. Disaster strikes when letters begin falling over the monument to Nollop - the government, in a fit of bureaucracy to rival none, declares that if Nollop had wanted those letters to remain in the language, they would not have fallen from the monument. Therefore, the fallen letters will be banned from use in speech or written form, with draconian punishments meted out to those who offend - the first offence receives a warning; the second a choice or whipping or exhibiting in public stocks; the third banishment.

The first letter to fall is z; surprisingly common once it's no longer allowed, but after all, not so great a loss. However as more and more letters fall, communication - and the remaining population of the island - become more and more strained. Eventually, the High Council - forced to rename themselves through the loss of 'C' - issue a proclamation: if a new pangram, shorter in length than Nollop's infamous sentence - can be found by a given deadline, all letter-related statutes will be reversed, and life can resume it's normal flow.

It's a quirky idea; and brilliantly executed. As each letter falls, the author banishes it from his own arsenal of letters, so by the time the remaining poor citizens of Nollop are left with a mere five letters, so is Mark Dunn. It's a fun book, a quick read, and a darkly sarcastic satire on the abuses and misuses of government. I enjoyed it immensely.

Link on bookmooch is here: It's not currently available (my copy was mooched pretty quickly); but it does come up frequently. Good hunting!

Dwellings, by Linda Hogan

Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World is an interesting book, lyrical in places, full of the author's impressions of nature and the world, and the spiritual conclusions she's drawn from this. Linda Hogan is a Chickasaw poet, and her view of things is heavily influenced by native american tradition. She's travelled extensively, and very clearly loves her world and believes in the strength of her traditions.

I found this a fascinating read, and a good insight into the author's beliefs and world. Despite that, a lot of this book left me appreciating the beautiful writing and the ideas she was trying to express; but essentially unmoved. I don't think this is a fault in the book. I think this is simply because, unlike Linda Hogan, I'm not an earth person. I don't see the world in the same terms she does. She says it herself, in a chapter on the Voyager spacecraft: "There seemed to be two kinds of people; earth people and those others, the sky people, who stumbled over pebbles while they walked around with their heads in clouds. Sky people loved different worlds than I loved; they looked at nests in treetops and followed the long white snake of vapor trails." If, like me, you trip over dirt because you're too busy watching the sky - well, this is a good book, definitely worth reading, and a very good look into a beautiful world; but it's not going to resonate.

If you're an earth person, fascinated by our world and the creatures who live in it - mooch away. I don't think you'll regret it.

Book available here: Please note the condition notes - there's some (minimal) writing in this book, and a lot of marked passages; don't mooch if this will bother you.

Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow, by Dedra Johnson

This book takes place over the course of a year or so; and is a harsh, uncompromising view of growing up in New Orleans as a light-skinned black girl, not accepted by her family or her peers, harassed by men on the street, and unwanted, abused, and lied to by her mother and her mother's family. Sandrine is a bright and motivated child, but there's little she can do to please her mother or earn her love - she apparently only notices Sandrine to criticise her and put her to work, and Sandrine learns early that if she wants to remain safe on the streets of 1970's New Orleans, she has to devise ways to defend herself. Her life is anything but ideal.

Her only refuge is summers with her father's mother, Mamalita; but these are abruptly taken from her when one summer her father remarries, and instead of going to spend the summer with her father and Mamalita, she ends up slaving for her new stepmother and watching out for her younger stepsister, Yolanda. What nobody bothers to tell her, including her distant doctor father, is that Mamalita is sick, and in no shape to have her visit - although given how self-sufficient Sandrine is, if anybody had bothered to mention this to either Sandrine or her Mamalita, I suspect that would have been no barrier to visiting. We learn why Sandrine's lost her only refuge when she does - long after she's given up hope and run away back to New Orleans for the remainder of the summer - when Mamalita dies. Then to make matters worse, her new stepmother sends her new stepsister Yolanda to New Orleans on the bus; and it's obvious very quickly that Sandrine's mother prefers the far-more-disobedient Yolanda to her own daughter. Now Sandrine's left with a bleak existence; left to care for Yolanda, who despite being only a year younger is far less self-sufficient; and with no hope of a way out any more. Unsurprisingly, she starts to rebel.

This is a beautifully written book, but emotionally draining. The setting is a very bleak one; her one friend suffers a fate that could easily have been Sandrine's own, but effectively abandons Sandrine to her own devices in the process. Sandrine however maintains a core of courage and strength through a litany of horrible situations and dawning revelations about herself, her mother, and her life, peaking when she realises that, if she wants to get out of her situation and of New Orleans, then she's just going to have to do it herself.

Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow is enthralling, and despite the horrific events, manages to impart some good lessons: decide for yourself what you are worth; rely on yourself, but don't lock yourself away from trusting other people; the world can be what you make of it.

It's also one of the most disturbingly racist books I've read in years. Many of Sandrine's problems stem from the fact that she is black, but could 'pass' for white if she chose to - and that everyone (including her mother) then assumes she chooses to, when in fact all she wants is to be allowed to be who and what she is and not be ostracised for it. This part is explicit in the text. More subtle, and therefore more disturbing, is an underlying 'white people are bad' theme, which Sandrine herself - despite mentioning that all she knows of white people is what she's seen on a television she's rarely allowed to watch - subscribes to. One wonders how, with such an attitude so prevalent and unnoticed, our world will ever cease to judge people by the colour of their skin.

Book is available for mooch here: Note it's an uncorrected proof edition.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This Body: A Novel of Reincarnation by Laurel Doud

A 39-year-old mother of two teenagers dies of a heart attack and wakes up a year later in the body of a 22-year-old drug- and alcohol-addicted girl. This story had me totally hooked, and I read it voraciously until it started to get less gripping (in my opinion) in the second half. I would still recommend it, though, especially if you’re a middle-aged woman with children (as I am), because I found myself relating to the heroine and imagining what I would do in that situation. It’s about family relationships, addictions, the choices we are faced with, the courage to make changes in our lives, and the acceptance of things we cannot change. One thing I found kind of annoying, though, is that this woman finds herself in this family of Shakespeare nuts, who frequently speak only in lines penned by the Bard.

I'm Not the New Me by Wendy McClure

Wendy McClure found, in a box in her mother’s basement, a collection of Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 1970s. The foods pictured on these cards are unbelievably unappetizing, and Wendy’s commentary on the food and the settings in each picture is laugh-out-loud funny. She features some of the photos on her website at, and writes a blog on her other website, ("pound" was already taken). In this book, “I’m Not the New Me,” she tells some of her story. It’s about being overweight, about dating, and about relationships with family and friends. Wendy has a great wry sense of humor, and women (especially those who have struggled with their weight) will enjoy this book.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Round-Heeled Woman by Jane Juska

Six months before her 67th birthday, Jane Juska, a semi-retired English teacher, placed a personal ad in the New York Review. It read:

Before I turn 67 -- next March -- I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. NYR Box 10307.

Round-Heeled Woman
is Juska's account of the men she met (and slept with). It is also a memoir of growing up in a small Ohio town, marrying, having a child, divorcing, moving to San Francisco and being a mother and a teacher.

Having placed her ad, she sorted the replies into Yes, No and Possible, and set out to have an adventure. And sex. And so she did. Except for an initial disaster, the men were intelligent, educated and interesting (as you would expect from readers of the New York Review), and happy to meet an intelligent, educated, interesting woman, and jump into bed with her. But they did talk, even about Trollope. Juska discovered New York and fell in love with the city, its libraries, museums and music -- and the man she went to meet. It was not mutual. She was saddened, but moved on to the next on the list.

This is not a sexy book. Juska is not shy about the details of what went on in the various beds she jumped into, but does not dwell on them. Still, the sex binge seemed to me sad and unfulfilling. Real passion can't limit itself to one-night stands; she ended up asking herself, "Once you've had a lot of sex with a man you like, how can you stop wanting him?" The answer appears to be, "You can't". When someone shares your interests, is kind and funny, and gives you what you want in bed, women generally fall in love. Juska fell in love with one soul-mate after another, but her ad had dictated terms that did not encourage a lasting relationship.

It is only in the last few pages that she identifies the true impulse behind her ad. There is the obvious: one big fling before age and infirmity rule. But more, she needed an outlet for the passion she had poured into teaching. And it is when she describes teaching -- her high school English classes, the writing courses she teaches at San Quentin, and her students -- that her book sings. Love, enthusiasm, and her gift for her vocation pour off the pages. What I wouldn't have given for such a teacher!

Round-Heeled Woman is a funny, witty and somewhat sad memoir. Did I say that Juska is a fine writer? I'm looking forward to the sequel.

The Color of Water by James McBride

This is the book I expected Vikram Seth's Two Lives to be: a joining of alien cultures. Two Lives, in fact, recounted the story of two ordinary people moving through extraordinary events. The Color of Water is an extraordinary story.

Orthodox, Southern, Jewish girl marries Black man in 1942. Her parents say the prayer for the dead for her. Her husband is a good man and religious. Ruth converts to Christianity, not because of her husband, unless indirectly, but because she's drawn to Jesus. They live in one room in Harlem and have 4 children. This is probably the most prosperous period of her life until her kids are grown.

They move to the projects and have 3 more children. He becomes a minister and they start a church (still existent). When she's carrying their 8th child, he dies from cancer. She has nothing, but somehow keeps going, although the kids are always hungry.

Eventually, she meets another man, a city worker, also Black, and they get married. They have 4 more children. He has a stroke and dies. She's alone, has 12 children, refuses anything like welfare. She has the church, a menial job and a small pension from the city worker. Here's how her kids turned out:

  • Andrew Dennis McBridge, BA, Lindon University; MD, University of Pennsylvania Medical School; MA, Public Health, Yale University, Director of Health Department, City of Stamford, Connecticut
  • Rosetta McBride, BA, Howard University, MSW Social Work, Hunter College; Staff Psychologist, New York City Board of Education
  • William McBride, BA, Lincoln University, MD, Yale University School of Medicine; MBA, Emory University, School of Business; Medical Director Southeast Region, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Merck and Co., Inc.
  • David McBride, BA Denison University, MA History, Columbia University, PhD, History, Columbia University, Chairman of Afro-American History Department, Pennsylvania State University
  • Helen McBride-Richter, RN, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, GONP, Emory University School of Medicine, Graduate Student in Nuse Midwifery, Emory University School of Nursing
  • Richrd McBride, US Army veteran, BA Cheney University, Chemistry, MS Drexel University; Associate Professor of Chemistry, Cheney State, Chemistry Research Associate, AT&T
  • Dorothy McBride-Wesley, A. A. Pierce Junior College, BA La Salle University, medical practice office manager, Atlanta, Georgia
  • James McBride, BA Oberlin College, MSJ Journalism, Columbia University; writer, composter, saxaphonist
  • Kathy Jordan, BA Syracuse University, MS Education, Long Island University, special education teacher, Ewing High School, Ewing, New Jersey
  • Judy Jordan, BA Adelphi University; MA, Columbia University Teachers College; teacher, JHS 268, Manhattan.
  • Hunter Jordan, BS, Computer Engineering, Syracuse University; computer consultant, US Trust Corporation, Ann Taylor.
  • Henry Jordan, junior at North Carolina A&T University; customer service and purchasing, Neal Manufacturing, Inc.,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Creepers By David Morrell

From Back Cover:
On a chilly October night, five people gather in a run-down motel on the Jersey shore and begin preparations to break into an abandoned hotel nearby. Built during the glory days of Asbury Park by a reclusive millionaire, the magnificent structure, which foreshadowed the beauties of Art Deco architecture, is now a decrepit, boarded up edifice marked for demolition. The five are "creepers", the slang term for urban explorers - city archaeologists of sorts who go into abandoned buildings to uncover their secrets. And, on this evening they are joined by a reporter who wants to profile them - anonymously, as this is highly illegal activity - for a New York Times piece. Balenger, the sandy-haired, broad-shouldered reporter with a decided air of mystery about him, isn't looking for just a story, however. And, soon after the group sets forth into the rat-infested tunnel leading to the building, it is clear that he will get even more than he bargained for. Danger, terror and death are awaiting the creepers in a place ravaged by time and redolent of evil.

My Thoughts on the Story:
All I have to say is really "WOW" what a story! My first instinct when I got through the first few chapters was that I was reading a ordinary "haunted building kills everyone in a bloody mess" story but boy was I wrong. Instead I got this amazing roller coaster ride that kept me turning page after page long after I should have gone to bed. I can't go into why the story kept me on the edge with out spilling the beans and giving away tons of spoilers needless to say... you must read this if you like on the edge of your seat thrillers. I started reading this book at lunch, continued after dinner and finished long after I should have been in bed. I simply can not imagine anyone being disappointed with the action in this story. Mind you there are a few unanswered question to the story that I feel if were answered would have made the story even better. There is a book two out to this series but I have not read it yet. It is on my mooching list for bookmooch. It is called Scavenger.

Happy reading.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Enchanted Forest Chronicles

By Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

About the Series:
Journey into a world where fairy tales are a fact of life and life sometimes is just plain boring. Follow the adventures of Cimorene, an unconventional princess as she discovers what it means to follow your own path and not the one set out by others.

Book 1: Dealing with Dragons: Meet Princess Cimorene the youngest daughter of The King of Linderwall. Cimorene is a princess who wants to do un-princess like things like sword fighting, magic and even cooking! Each attempt to learn a new skill is put to a halt by her parents. Finally in desperation to escape the drudgery of being a princess she takes the advice of a magic frog and soon discovers herself belonging to a dragon. Between caring for the dragon's needs and chasing away knights and wizards Cimorene discovers the life she always wanted to lead.

Book 2: Searching for Dragons: Kazul is missing and it is up to Cimorene to find her but she can't do it alone. Along with Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted forest she embarks on a hilarious expedition to discover what is killing the forest and who has stolen her dragon.

Book 3: Calling on Dragons: The Enchanted Forest is dying and the King's sword has gone missing. It is up to Cimorene to join forces with a hedge witch, a magician, a dragon and a rabbit called Killer in order to discover the scoundrels behind the plot to destroy her new home.

Book 4: Talking to Dragons: Skip ahead a generation. Daystar is a young man who lives outside the enchanted forest with his mother. When he turns 16, a wizard shows up to his house to his surprise his mom melts him. Then wanders into the forest, returning with a magic sword she hands him then tells him to get out and don't come back till he discovers what he is supposed to do with it. Confused Daystar stumbles into the Enchanted forest to discover his fate. Luckily for him he stumbles upon a few friends that join in as he discovers his path.

My Thoughts on the Series:
This is a good series. Wrede writes quite well had her story is chalked full of humor. Her twists on the age old fairy tales is enjoyable and she does an amazing job of satirizing them. Even though they are geared toward Young Adults they are quite appropriate for us "old" Adults and didn't drag at all. With each book you discover more strange and unique characters that help the story grow and flourish into an excellent series.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Stephen Coonts : Saucer: The Conquest

About the Book:
Charley and Rip are back once again in a high flying UFO thriller. In this sequel to Stephen Coonts's Saucer, Rip and Charley have gone their separate ways. Charley leaves to join a expedition to the moon and Rip is left at home to work on refining the technology they recovered from the Saucer's computer banks. What they don't know is that Charley's new boss, Artois has a master plan for taking over the world using the Moon base as a weapon. Along the way it is up to Charley and Rip to save their family and the world from the malevolent madman.

My Thoughts on the Book:
This story smacked of a "James Bond" movie genre. I absolutely loved this book as much as I did the first, though I did find the first half to drag out too long. It felt like they were trying to fill up page space with details on the space trip. But once the action started the book took off in a flying leap in which I did not want to put it down. Coonts is a master at writing great action stories with a lot of humor splashed through out to keep you smiling.


Book One: Saucer

Book Two: Saucer the Conquest

Happy Reading :)
Tesse aka blissful2beme

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

I'm not normally inclined to compare a book to the film, but it's hard to believe that everyone in the world hasn't seen the film. For those who haven't, this is the true story of how more than 600 men in a German POW camped worked together to achieve an extraordinary break-out.

I have to say this is the first book I've even seen made into a movie where Hollywood didn't screw it up. Granted, they invented characters, but the situations and events are the true story. The book, naturally, gives more detail on the mechanics of digging, providing clothes and documents, tools and food for the escape, which I found fascinating. You also get more sense of the grimness and hunger which can't be provided by well-fed actors.

Highly recommended and already mooched.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

This book made me feel so good. Obama always makes me feel good. He is positive and optimistic without being unrealistic. He can explain the great divide in American politics and how it came to be, and make you understand that it's not just meanness of spirit that has brought us to this pass. He talks about values without making you feel that there are quote marks around the word. He discusses the constitution with love and intelligence as might be expected from a professor of constitutional law. He talks of race and religion without making you feel threatened by either. There are chapters on Family, Politics, The World. He identifies problems without malice and lays out ideas for solving them; ideas that are down to earth, practicable and appeal to the common sense of most Americans.

Vote for who you want, but read this book. You can feel good, too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

Arielle Montero never knew her mother. She disappeared shortly after Ari was born and never returned to the house in New York. Ari is home schooled and rarely ever is allowed to leave her house. Shortly after she makes friends with the housekeepers daughter, she begins to notice how different she is from others and how different is her household. Her face is always blurred in pictures and in one taken of her father, he doesn't show up at all. She begins to suspect her father is a vampire. After her best friend, Kathleen, is savagely murdered, she demands that her father tell her why they are different and where is her mother. He doesn't know where her mother is and yes, he is a vampire. Is Ari a vampire also? What happens when a mortal and a vampire have a child together?

This is an amazing book. I did not expect to be this good!

Star Guards by Andre Norton

From Back Cover:
They were Terrans, considered by Central Control to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy. Divided into "Hordes" and "Legions," the former serving on primitive worlds with hand weapons, the latter indulging in technical warfare on more advanced planets. These men of death followed orders perfectly -- until rumors of whole unit annihilations began to spread. . .
Kana Karr was just a Swordsman of an extraordinary planet to quail a common rebellion. A simple assignment -- until Kana discovered teh awesome truth behind the inter galactic rumors and realized that not only his life but the fate of the whole human race was irrevocably entwined with the outcome.

My Thoughts on the Story:
This book sat in my TBR pile for almost a year, I would pick it up then put it back never really moving to read it till today. I find that I am glad I did pick it up and finally read it. The narrative starts out this an informative preface that sets the mood for a story along piquing your curiosity about what the main character did to set the galaxy on it's ear. I found the main character Kana, to be a believable character and one who grew as the story did. The interaction between the different alien races were interesting and kept you guessing as to what was going to happen. I found the ending to be satisfying and made me instantly want to see if there was a sequel to it. I would recommend reading this book to others. Since this is a 2 book series you may want to start with book one . Star Rangers first.

Star Rangers
Star Guards

Happy reading.


Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This story is set in Birmingham, AL. The story centers on Chance, a 23 yr old paleontologist, who is dealing with the grief and guilt of loosing her friend and family; Deke, Chance's ex-boy friend who has psychic powers, which gives him the ability to see the past from touching items and Dancy, a pale albino runaway who can see monsters and is the catalyst in the story. Dancy tells Chance and Deke about the monsters that are tied to Chance's family and the fossils they are researching...from there it becomes a tell of intrigue and horror as they discover how futile it can be to struggle against something that has no answers to an ending that can only be called ..."what just happened?"

I personally should have put this book down when I hit about mid way. The style of this writer is annoying and disjointed. I had trouble following the story because it was so mashed together with quick bursts of visions/dreams/character thoughts in the head, I was never sure what was actually happening or what was being imagined by the characters. There is no clearly defined reason for the creatures to be assaulting the family or if they were defined I missed in the disjointed dreamy prose the writer used. And the ending was very unbelievable, anti climatic and a jump to making me say " What the hell?" I personally will not read another book by this author, I found it annoying to the very end.

BM Link:

Review by Blissful2beme

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

A young man is missing and an old friend of Gabriel Blackstone calls in a favor. “Frankie” Whittington asks Gabriel to help her husband find his missing son, Robbie. Gabriel has a talent few others have, remote vision. He can enter someone’s mind, see what they see, hear what they hear, and experience what they experience. Using his talent, he discovers that the young man is dead and has most likely been killed by one of two very extraordinary sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk. Hacking into their computer, he reads a diary. He also discovers that one of the sisters has his same ability, only she is much stronger. He falls in love with the writer of the diary. He fears the sister with remote vision. Which sister is which?

This was a really good book. I was almost not able to put it down once I started reading it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Whole Truth by Nancy Pickard

The book opens on a courtroom scene. The defendent Raymond Raintree is about to be convicted of killing 6 year old Natalie Mae McCullen. In the courtroom watching the proceedings is Marie Lightfoot who is writing a true crime book about the case. After the verdict is read a scuffle ensues and the now convicted killer escapes.
Little is known about the defendent and this is especially troubling to Marie Lightfoot who needs more information about Ray Raintree's past and motives to finish her book.When media attention is focused on the manhunt for the escaped killer, information about his background comes from an unexpected source. As Marie delves deeper into Ray's past it also brings up issues with her own past which disappointingly are not resolved. A setup for a sequel perhaps?
The author swiches back and forth between live action sequences and chapters from Ms. Lightfoot's "book". This works well to propel the story forward while providing background information about the case and the main characters. she ties everything together nicely with a nice twist at the end.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby quotes his good friend Sarah Vowell from Take the Cannoli, "Asked by a magazine to review a Tom Waits album, she concludes that she 'quite likes the ballads,' and writes that down; now all she needs is another eight-hundred odd words restating this one blinding apercu." And now here I am, quite liking the essays and needing to do the same thing.

Nick Hornby's collection of articles written for Believer magazine on his struggle between the books he brings into his house and the ones he's actually able to read is so relatable that it made me believe that I too could be a wildly successful pop novelist if not for the lack of talent, time, and friends in high places. In endeavoring to write these reviews for the TBR blog I resolved that I would only read and review books I've accumulated (and not yet read) through BookMooch and PaperbackSwap. The number of books coming in vs. the number being read has gotten to a point that my wife has demanded I stop requesting books altogether. I've agreed to stop adding books to my wishlist.

"Housekeeping vs. The Dirt" is the second volume of these collected articles following "The Polysyllabic Spree." The running theme through the essays month after month is a choice that all of us readers must make every time we decide to crack open a book and resolve to finish it: meaningful, difficult, classic literature or pop, easy, pulp fiction. He says in the preface, "One of the problems, it seems to me, is that we have got it into our heads that books should be hard work, and that unless they're hard work, they're not doing us any good." I relate. I love his honesty and ability to drop his guard that we'll think he's lacking depth. In fact, I believe his depth is quite evident when he actually begins writing the essays.

He eventually happens upon "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson which he describes as "this extraordinary, yearning mystical work…" At this point, November 2005, the collection of essays take a turn, and he heaps unprecedented praise on Marilynne Robinson including calling her "one of America's greatest living writers." At the risk of contradicting much of what he's built his thesis around with this collection he says, "I have always prized the accessible over the obscure, but after reading 'Housekeeping' I can see that in some ways the easy, accessible novel is working at a disadvantage…" Oh Nick, say it isn't so. He goes on to equate how long it took him to read the book as one of these advantages: "If you are so gripped by a book that you want to read it in the mythical single sitting, what chance has it got of making it all the way through the long march to your soul?" In the space of two pages he flips his hypothesis on its ear and convinces me in the same breath.

I've never read any of Nick Hornby's fiction or purchased Believer magazine, but this collection of essays has made my own quest to read the avalanche of books crashing into my home feel noble in its own way. To find meaning in my life and connection between books simply because of where they sit on the shelf or the juxtaposition of two books being read simultaneously is all part of the wonderful experience of reading.

I'll leave you with another great quote that we can all remember when we're just not up for reading that classic behemoth and just want our best-selling, genre novel to sit on the beach with:

"…here's something… no one will ever tell you: if you don't read classics, or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do." Thanks for the reassurance Nick.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Talking With Serial Killers, by Christopher Berry-Dee

Christopher Berry-Dee researches serious crime: specifically, in this book, serial killers. He's apparently spent a lot of time corresponding with them, and for each of the killers he profiles in this book, has interviewed them in prison. The book is set up with a chapter per serial killer (or serial killing team, as a couple operated in pairs), and attempts to cover the killer's history (childhood, etc), crimes, capture, and possible motivations.

To be honest, I was disappointed with this book. I'm not quite sure what I was looking for from it - I don't normally read true crime - but whatever it was, I didn't find it. There's no real insight here - all Berry-Dee manages is to recount (badly) some fairly horrific crimes, and push a couple of pop-psychology buttons. If any of those years of letters and interviews have told him anything about these people, it's not evident here. There are a handful of excerpts from them, but they're the exception, rather the rule. In a book subtitled 'The Most Evil People in the World Tell Their Own Stories", this is definitely a disappointment.

The writing itself is uninspired, and could use a good editor - one who knows how not to abuse commas would have been a plus. The chapters themselves are either too ambitious or not ambitious enough - he either glosses over details, or goes into so much detail he manages to turn what should be shocking into merely tedious.

If you already know the stories of the serial killers he covers here, there's nothing new added. If you don't and are interested in such things, Berry-Dee does cover the basics. That's about *all* he does, and he doesn't remain unbiased - he clearly thinks two of them are innocent (of the particular serial killings they're accused of) and framed by police, and he spends the last few pages of the chapter on Aileen Lee Wournos attempting to make excuses for her - but if you want a short and unimaginative rundown of a dozen or so serial killers and one mass-murderer, this is the book for you.

Talking with Serial Killers is currently available for mooch here: Note the condition notes. ETA: now mooched

Friday, August 24, 2007

Saucer - Stephen Coonts

From the Back of the Book:
A relic from the past. A bridge to the future.

After 140,000 Years?
Seismic Surveyor Rip Cantrell has made an exhilarating discovery-a flying saucer embedded in the Sahara sandstone. Buried for eons, it's not the invention of modern man. Computer-equipped, it can't belong to ancient man. Rip's betting his life on the only alternative. If the ship's memory bank holds the proof he needs, it's going to rock civilization, and make Rip a very famous man.

Its Time Has Come.
Once the secret's out, Rip's outwitted by an enterprising billionaire set to steal the saucer's profitable technology-and outnumbered by the Libyan army looking to lay claim to history. But it's in a skeptical UFO investigation team that Rip finds an unlikely ally: test-pilot Charlotte Pine. Together, they come up with a plan to protect the saucer's secrets.

But Where In The World Is It Going?
Under a hail of bullets, in an exhaust of white fire, Rip and Charlotte are off. Accelerating on a fantastic journey across continents and oceans, they're about to experience the mystery of what once was, and explore the possibilities of what could be, on an adventure 140,000 years in the making.

MY REVIEW: What would you do if you were lucky enough to find a flying saucer in flying condition and had several armed forces chasing you all over the world for possession of it? Why, buzz a baseball game for the fun of it of course! I found this book to be one absorbing story. Reality would just slip away as I was reading it. The story was written in a serious tone highlighted with humor throughout and a smattering of romance. There was not a whole lot of character development in a deep inner sight sense. The book was like a excellent action flick. Once event leading to the next in a loud beautiful bang... I enjoyed the book so much, that I have put all of Coont's books on my TBR list, he's that good.

BM Link:

Reviewed by Tesse aka blissful2beme

Monday, August 20, 2007

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski is ninety, or maybe he is ninety-three, he can’t remember for sure. What he does remember in vivid detail is his life the year after his parents died and he missed his final exam in veterinary medicine at Cornell. He walked out of town, leaving everything behind him and jumped the first train that passed by. This one just happened to belong to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. His life in the circus was hard work, little or no pay, and a political structure that rivals any college campus. He falls in love with Marlena, who is married to the abusive animal trainer. He also falls in love with Rosie the elephant whounderstands Polish and is often the target of Marlena’s husband’s torturous abuse. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. I did not like the ending, but what I mean by ending is the very last paragraph. I did not like the very last paragraph. It made no sense, but the rest of the book was awesome! I listened to the unabridged audiobook. It was 11 ½ hours on 10 CDs. It was read by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The dead all lived together in one city. They stayed as long as one person left living remembered them. Luka was one of the dead. He printed a newspaper and passed it out among the other dead that grouped together at the coffee shop. Soon, there are less and less dead. More and more were going to that "other place", the place you went when no one living remembers you. A virus has spread and was killing off millions of people. It was a rapid virus, people died within the day the symptoms started. Fewer people were remembered and more and more were going to the other place. Laura Byrd was alone and trapped in Antarctica. She had been working on an exploration team for Coca Cola. The radio had broken. Her two team mates had taken one of the sledges to see if they could make it to the main camp. They had been gone three weeks, far longer than it should have taken them to get there and back. The cabin’s heating was failing. It was getting colder. She finally takes the remaining sledge and makes it to the camp only to find it deserted and twenty burial mounds in back. Where had her team mates gone? What had happened to the team that was stationed here? Back in the city, more and more people were disappearing. How long before they all disappear?

I really liked this book. It was very well written and all the elements of the story tied together in surprising ways.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Welcome to the Ark by Stephanie Tolan

Imagine if you would, being so smart you are totally misunderstood and feel completely alone. Imagine if you would how you would perceive the world and the world would perceive you. This is the story of 4 children who were labeled geniuses by society and how they struggled to fit in only to find that they couldn't and self destruct in the process. This is the story on how they unraveled and how they were selected for a unique group home project, where they are brought together to heal and discover that there is really a place for them in this world. And perhaps through healing themselves they might be able to heal the world.

I found this story to be a quick read and found the ideas presented in the book to be thought provoking on many levels. It addresses a lot of social issues and is on the verge of being an apocalyptic tale but just doesn't really follow through. When I read the final chapter a part of me thought "Oh, only if that really could happen in real life".Though I did feel the ending was rushed. On a scale 1-5, I would give it a 3-4 rating. I am sure a teenager would like it better than I since it is written for a youthful audience.

Review by Tesse(blissful2beme)

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way has received a lot of good press, and it was short-listed for the IMPAC award administered by Dublin City Libraries this year. So I picked it up not sure what to expect, since I tend to find literary book award nominees to be either excellent reads or excellent sleep aids, and it's pretty much a complete coin toss as to which road any given book takes.

A Long Long Way is an excellent sleep aid. Unfortunately, I was trying to read it on the bus, where falling asleep just makes you miss your stop, rather than in bed, where falling asleep gets you a good night's rest.

This book is the story of young Willie Dunne, born in the closing years of the 19th century, son of a Dublin policeman. We get the story of his childhood in a few short pages at the start of the book; then we jump straight into Willie's volunteering to go and fight in the British trenches in 1914. He then proceeds to spend an interminable number of pages (and years) sitting in trenches scratching lice and seeing fellow Irish die. This appears to be interspersed with randomly spaced visits home, where he argues with his father over the events in Ireland at the time - the Easter Rising, and all the political tension both leading up to and arising from the British screwups handling it. Although to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how that impacts the storyline, because by the time it showed up, I was skipping fifteen to twenty pages at a time, skimming through to try and pick up any threads of storyline that might actually be worth reading through the intervening pages for. I didn't find any.

If you're looking for a good read, don't pick up this book. If you're looking for a cure for insomnia - might as well try it, it's surely not good for much else.

I'd put it up for mooch, but I got it out of the library.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

No spoilers!

In my opinion, J. K. Rowling is the best thing that has happened to children's literature since Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott and Frank Baum.

And Rowling finished up the Harry Potter series in fine form. After beginning to lose her way as her books got longer-- No. 6 was veering toward the leaden -- No. 7 is as good as it gets. We meet many of our old friends, the adventure rattles right along, and all is revealed in the end.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling.

Fun Run and Other Oxymorons by Joe Bennett

Bennett is an expat-Brit, living in New Zealand where he writes a newspaper column and teaches English. Both occupations are evident in this collection of essays. He has a love for language, words and grammar, that make you savour his writing, especially if you're a person who thinks there is no one left in the world who knows an adjective from an adverb.

But that isn't to say that this is a heavy read. He is a funny and observant man and many of the columns made me laugh out loud. It is evident however, after the first couple of essays that they have been written as newspaper columns, and, like a year's subscription to the newspaper, are not meant to read at one sitting. They quickly become like being assaulted with a series of one-liners. Small doses are better, so it has taken me a couple of months to read a very light book, which I highly recommend.

Fun Run has been added to my inventory.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein, writer & film maker & Paula Bernstein, freelance writer, is both an interesting and provocative memoir. These twins, separated as infants and raised in different homes, were unaware of each other's existence as were their adoptive families until their mid-thirties when Elyse contacts the prestigious Jewish adoption agency Louise Wise Services, that handled her initial placement, in an attempt to find her biological mother. The news is stunning to both women and while Elyse is eager for this reunion, Paula is unsettled and ambivalent about having her life turned upside down just when everything was going so well. Hearing of their similarities is engaging, as is the idea of meeting your doppelgänger but what is really fascinating and never quite resolved is how and why this separation happened to both of these women and to other twins placed by the same agency. We learn that Dr. Viola Bernard a psychiatric consultant for the agency believed that it was best for twins to be reared apart, a lone voice in the psychiatric literature of the time. We also learn that Dr. Peter Neubauer a prominent psychoanalyst and director of the Freud archives at the time, took advantage of this belief and conducted a 'twins study' funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health. If twins and triplets were going to be separated, then this study would follow their development, all the while without full disclosure to the prospective adoptive families. Elyse and Paula and other affected twins, did make an unsuccessful attempt to view their records from this study, which now belong to the Yale archives and will remain sealed until the year 2066. While none of this was strictly illegal at the time, the monstrous scientific license these doctors took with both the children's and the adoptive families lives is in my opinion unconscionable.
Note: this review is based on the Advance Reader's Edition of the memoir.

Mary Jones

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

This is an historical novel set in 1665-1666 in a small village in England. Based on fact, it tells the story of the Black Plague coming to this village, possibly carried by fleas in fabric which has been shipped to the village tailor. As the members of the village start to die horrible deaths from the bubonic plague, the village’s rector makes a bold and frightening, but altruistic, proposal that the village quarantine itself, so that no one leaves and no one enters. This way, the plague will not spread beyond the village’s borders, and once it has struck whoever it is to strike, it may end there. Most of the people agree to this plan, and a system is put into place to receive necessary supplies from outside the village without the risk of spreading the disease.

The main characters are the Rector and his wife, along with their maid, Anna—whom the author learned from historical documents survived the plague, as did some of the villagers, though I won’t give away too much here! What happens to our human nature when we are “trapped” with fatally ill, contagious people? What happens when your beloved family and friends are suffering and dying all around you, and you are helpless to cure them?

I thought this was a fascinating account of the period. They lived a very difficult life in those days, and we have no right to complain about our easy lives in comparison! As a warning to the very squeamish, some of the details are quite gruesome. Toward the end, it got a bit like a “romance novel” to me, of which I’m not a big fan, but I enjoyed the novel nonetheless.

Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Jacquelyn Mitchard is most famous for her first novel and Oprah’s first pick, “The Deep End of the Ocean.” She lives in my home state (Wisconsin) and writes a newspaper column, of which I’ve been a fan. But I’ve never read any of her novels, until now.

Cage of Stars is about a Mormon family who suffers a terrible tragedy. A schizophrenic man wanders onto their small farm in Utah, and kills the two youngest girls. Their 12-year-old sister, Ronnie, is there when it happens, and the rest of the novel deals with her and her parents’ grief, guilt, and subsequent attempts at healing from this awful event.

The parents eventually decide, for their own emotional well-being, to forgive the murderer. This decision shocks and horrifies Ronnie, who develops a very different plan of her own for dealing with him, which will keep you in suspense until the end.

I learned a lot about Mormon life (beyond the stereotypes), and felt compassion for not only this lovely family torn apart by this tragedy, but also for the murderer and his family. Sometimes the dialogue between Ronnie and her parents and friends doesn’t ring true—everyone is too mature and articulate about their emotions. But it was an interesting and different novel.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Quoting from . . . “This life-affirming fable ironically opens at the end of the life of a seemingly ordinary man. Known as ‘Eddie Maintenance’ to those he works with at Ruby Pier, Eddie led what he saw as a disappointing life working as head of maintenance at a seaside amusement park. Upon his death, he learns that heaven is a place to make sense of his time on earth and that he will meet five people from his life who will help him understand its greatest lessons.”

I really liked this book, by the author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” and found myself (embarrassingly) sobbing at the end. It’s a simple tale, and can be read quickly. It’s comparable to “It’s a Wonderful Life” or to “The Christmas Carol” because of its theme of looking back at the life of a man, and seeing moments where his life intersected the lives of others, and what those moments meant in the larger scheme of life.

It would be great if this is how things really happened—you die and meet up with the spirits of select people in heaven, who help you to make sense of your life, so that you can find peace in the afterlife; and then your spirit, in turn, helps others make sense of their lives.

Even if you do not believe in an afterlife or a higher power, it’s worth thinking about how your actions here on earth affect others in ways you may never know, positive or negative.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Do White Whales Sing at the Edge of the World? by Paul Wilson

I admit it: I mooched this book purely for the title. It's a totally awesome title.

But, you know? This is maybe my best mooch to date. That includes a couple of books I've been looking for for a couple of years now, and a few wishlist books I still don't believe I won the race for. Those were great to get; but this... this is the perfect present you didn't know you wanted. I love this book. The writing sucked me in on the very first page; it's beautiful, lyrical and just sings.

So, the story is this: Gabriel Emerson is a resident in a colony for the feeble-minded somewhere on the Cumberland fells. The colony is in its final days; the residents are slowly being shuffled out and reintegrated into the outside world, and only the hardcore cases are left. As the last weeks of the colony draw to a close, Gabriel embarks on an epic journey: in a disused icehouse on the edges of the colony he sets out to re-imagine and re-trace the steps of the doomed - and disputed - discovery of a Northwest Passage by his namesake two centuries earlier.

Intertwined with Gabriel's dream - a dream powerful enough to carry three of his fellow residents through the Arctic ice with him, and be clearly visible to a fourth, watching from above and narrating the story for the rest of us - is Gabriel's story; and that of his family (unorthdox as it was); and the story of the mining town of Laing, that bore and shaped him; and that of four internees bound to the town by the detention acts for foreign nationals during WWII; and of the ways these all rubbed against each other and exloded one night in a tragedy horrifying enough to haunt Gabriel straight into the colony in the first place.

Ultimately, this is a book about dreams. It was a dream that built Laing; it was dreams that kept the internees going; it was the lack of dreams that cursed the town; it was a dream that Gabriel and his fellows followed in the last days of the colony. In Paul Wilson's own words: "But we were men who, like most poor men, fought and fought, and scrapped for life -- for pieces of the stuff in crevices and dreams. Our story is not in the leftover bones of our lives to be found bleached here in a heap on some shelf of ice, but our hearts that brought us here, and the dreams that drew us on."

I really can't recommend this book highly enough. If I ever find any more copies (priced reasonably!), I'll be buying them up to mooch out, because this definitely deserves to be out there - but this one I'm keeping for me :-).

Monday, August 6, 2007

Blood Memory by Greg Iles

In Blood Memory Greg Iles deals with the complex issues of repressed memories and child abuse in an open and insightful manner thet some may find disturbing.Outwardly Cat Ferry is a brilliant woman - a well respected forensic odontologist and a valuable member of an F.B.I. task force investigating a series of grisly murders in New Orleans. But beneath this professional demeanor lies another Cat - an alcoholic manic-depressive with a penchant for affairs with inappropriate and/or married men. To make matters worse she has just discovered she is pregnant with her married lover's child. After a panic attack at the latest crime scene causes her to blackout, she is supended from the task force. Battling to stay sober for the sake of her baby she returns to her Mississippi hometown. When an accidental chemical spill reveals bloody footprints in her childhood bedroom, long repressed memories of the night her father was killed start to resurface. Desperately she delves into her past to save her sanity and ultimately her life. For as determined as she is to learn the truth about that night and her traumatic childhood someone else is equally determined to keep it secret.
Iles weaves two mysteries that seem inexplicably connected though separated by nearly 25 years into a compelling story. Though quite long this book grabs your attention and doesn't let go until the end. Through all the twists and turns of Cat's quest to learn the truth about her family's secrets the suspense builds to an explosive conclusion.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Only Strange People Go To Church by Laura Marney

Maria works at a day program with mentally and physically disabled adults. She is mandated by her agency to include her clients in the larger community.  Unfortunately she is finding it a challenge to get the Scottish working-class town where she lives to welcome her clients.  She decides to put on a community variety show and invite participation from all the community groups.  With the help of her spiritual guides, Madonna and Nelson Mandela, and a fascinating group of eccentric characters, will Maria succeed in creating a hit show?

This is a funny and endearing book. The community of Hexton is full of wonderful characters. Maria’s clients are all fully realized individuals. Also helping with the show are Ray, the mysterious and charismatic furniture maker who lets Maria use the deconsecrated church he is using as a workshop to hold her show, Alice, the leader of the senior citizen can-can dancer group, an evangelical Pastor, and a transvestite Madonna impersonator. Maria has some challenges, some romance, and some moral choices to make as she tries to fulfill her mandate to include her charges in the larger community.

Having worked with children and adults with special needs for over 25 years, I can relate to Maria’s situation. The humour and humanity of this book make it a very enjoyable read.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

I love these books! They are funny fantasy/adventure and marvelous social commentary. Pratchett, as noted by The Times (London) is the Jonathan Swift of our day. This isn't the best of the lot, but that's like saying it isn't the brightest diamond in the pile.

A child is born and is invested with great powers. Eight years later, he arrives at Unseen University where all the wizards are happy to follow him for the greater glory of their kind. (The general population tend to ignore them.)

Almost all are happy. Rincewind, who failed most of his wizardly studies, and the Librarian, who, by mistake, was transformed into an Orangutan and prefers to remain one, are not happy. Together with Conina, daughter of Cohen the Barbarian, Nijel, a hero-in-training, and The Luggage, they set out to save the world from the Apocolypse of the Horseman and Three Pedestrians.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death opens with a clever parody of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  It describes a group of pilgrims traveling toward Cambridge in Medieval times.  Among the group is a doctor, trained in Solerno Italy in the art of examining the bodies of the dead.  More unusual even than the doctor’s specialty in these superstitious times is the fact that she is a woman.  She is traveling incognito with an investigator/spy to look into the deaths and disappearances of children in Cambridge.  The children’s deaths are being blamed on the local Jews and King Henry has asked help from his cousin, the King of Italy, to solve the murders before all the Jews in Cambridge become victims of an angry populace.

Franklin’s novel is both an engaging and suspenseful murder mystery and a detailed historical novel. The mystery of the children’s deaths, and the uncovering of the identity of the perverted child killer, is intriguing. But it is the exploration of the character of Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar that is central to the novel. Adelia is a woman of science in a time of superstition. She is an independent woman in a time when women have no power and no rights. She is an agnostic and a humanist in a time when the Church and the Crown are struggling for supremacy: when Thomas a Becket’s death is still fresh.

To do her work as a doctor Adelia must pretend that she is just the assistant to one of her male companions. Much of the fun in the book is reading how she holds her own with the men around her. As the mystery unfolds there is political intrigue, religious controversy and even a little romance. The novel has a satisfying ending yet leads me to hope there will be a sequel and another opportunity to spend time with this fascinating character.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dragonwyck by Anya Seton

An oldie but goodie, this is the first time I've ever read anything by Anya Seton. This book was first published in 1944 and was a national bestseller that was made into a movie in 1946.

I would classify it a gothic romantic tale, complete with the clueless heroine, Miranda Wells, and the lord of the manor, Nicholas Van Ryn. Miranda lives on a farm with her parents and a lot of younger brothers and sisters. She is fanciful and prefers reading and daydreaming to churning butter or milking the cows. Her mother receives a letter from a distance relative who lives in a manor in upstate New York. The relative, Nicholas Van Ryn, needs a governess for his daughter. Nicholas is involved in a loveless marriage and Miranda soon falls in love with him. The book is full of the usual dark secrets, tenant unrest, and dark overtones.

I enjoyed reading this book, but it was a bit predicable. Perhaps it is because I read so many similar books when I was younger (Gothic romance held my attention for all my junior high and high school years).

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

12 yr old Nicky was taking a walk in the forest with her father when they heard the cry that would change their lives. The cry of a baby abandoned in the snow. Follow the events which cause the shadows and questions that laid still and quiet since the death of Nicky's mom and little sister surface, as does the mother of the abandoned child. Discover the choices which lead each person to be where they are and the little details which enable them to grow to be who they destined to become.

I found this book to be completely engrossing and could not put it down until the last page was turned. I could feel the emotions emanating from the characters. I was impressed with the vividness in which Anita Shreve was able to bring them to life. I found myself on a wild emotional roller coaster ride as I turned the pages. A must read.

BM Listing:
Light on Snow

Review by Tesse aka blissful2beme

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

Imagine for a moment that you genetically engineered as a child with avian DNA grafted to your human DNA by some really really bad scientists. The results of the experiment are superhuman strength and with wings that can even fly. Imagine for a moment that you were not the only successful DNA mixing experiment, instead of wings the other specimens were mixed with lupine DNA and were created to hunt and kill you. Imagine what kind of life you would lead if you escaped from the labs only to find out you were supposed to save the world in some manner no one is nice enough to tell you.. then what would you do....especially if you were also responsible for the care of your 5 siblings in your flock. And to top it all off you were only 14 years old to boot. Well this is the story of Max who just happens to be all of what I just asked you to imagine.

My reaction to the story: I ate it up in one day, well the first two books. The third is still on my wish list. I found the story to be full of action suspense and mystery. The story was refreshing and almost movie like. I would not be surprised if they did end up making a movie out of it. I found the characters to be believable as children and was happy with the character development. I liked it so much that I am considering to go buy book 3 just so I do not have to wait for a wish list

Books in series are:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride)
Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (Maximum Ride)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees is the story of Missy Greer from Pittman County, Kentucky. She graduates high school, buys an old Volkswagon and leaves. She doesn't have a plan, she doesn't know where she is going, just that she wants a change. She drives till her car runs out of gas in Taylorville. There she decides to change her name to Taylor. Later, she stops for a burger and coffee at an old bar in the middle of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. As she goes back out to her car, a woman approaches her and puts a baby in the front seat of her car telling her to take it. When Taylor protests, the woman tells her she is the sister of the baby's mother. Then she leaves. Taylor takes the child with her and calls her Turtle because she clings to things like a mud turtle. Taylor's car has a blow out and she has no money for new tires. She has made it as far as Tucson, Arizona. She finds a job and rents a room from LouAnn Ruiz, another native Kentuckian. LouAnn has a brand new baby and they have been abandoned by LouAnn's husband. The story is about how they make a family out of themselves and the people around them that they grow to care about.

I really liked this book and I want to read the follow-up book "Pigs in Heaven". I went to a book talk by Barbara Kingsolver a couple of months ago and this was one of the books I purchased. I had never read anything by her before seeing her, but now have audios of several of her books and a copy of her newest book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" on my list of TBRs.

Cloud Nine by Luanne Rice

Cloud Nine is a tender very moving story of love and loss.
After a near-fatal battle with cancer Sarah Talbot gets a second chance at love. When a friend arranges a ride in a chartered plane for her birthday, she meets Will, a man still grieving the death of his son several years ago and his teenage daughter Susan. When she later hires him to fly her to the remote island where she grew up to reconcile with her father and son, Susan stows away.
The story of Sarah and Will's romance is as sweet as it is heart-wrenching. It is a testament to the life-changing power of love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

I saw the movie version of this book before I read the book itself. I loved the movie so much that I mooched the book at BookMooch that same night when I got home from the cinema! I was curious to see if the movie and the book were remotely alike (considering how often movie versions of books end up nothing like the original storyline) and I was not disappointed.

The storyline is a disturbing one; a female teacher becomes involved in a sexual relationship with a teenage male student. This isn’t as farfetched as you might like to think (or hope) it would be as such events have been prominent in the news over the last few years. Zoe Heller’s intriguing and slightly distasteful tale introduces two of the most captivating characters I have encountered in a novel, Barbara and Sheba. Barbara is the quintessential almost elderly spinster and Sheba is the fey like upper class bohemian. The juxtaposition between these two women only serves to reinforce the many diametric opposites that permeate this novel.

The supporting characters are almost as intriguing and it would be interesting to hear their version of the events that make up this story. However the reader is only ever exposed to Barbara’s perspective. Even though Barbara maintains that Sheba has related events so many times that she (Barbara) feels like she was actually there for all of them, Barbara’s own biases are more than apparent and it is because of the filter they provide that we are spared much of the insufferable romantic outlook Sheba has on the whole affair.

Barbara is the sort of friend that you can never work out if you want them in or out of your life and the naive Sheba is enmeshed in her web. While Barbara comes across as somewhat frightening with her stalker like manner, Sheba’s ingénue makes you want to slap her. One has to wonder what would make an educated, attractive wife and mother in a position of authority take up with a student such as Stephen Connelly. Whatever it is, it is real as this type of behaviour seems to be becoming more common in the wider community. While there doesn’t appear to be any malice in Sheba’s actions and she doesn’t mean Connelly any harm, there is no excuse for her abuse of her position of power. But for some reason the reader is left not knowing whether to pity her or condemn her. A similar conundrum is experienced in relation to Barbara’s character and many of the supporting cast. I think this is a good part of why Heller’s tale is so captivating. It captures the essence of the human condition in that there is good and bad in all of us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

July Reviews: High Five and Memory Keepers Daughter

High Five by Janet Evanovich.
Fifth in the Stephanie Plum series. I wonder if I'm ever going to get tired of these? Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I probably wouldn't give it an A, simply because a book needs to do more than entertain to really hit the "A" level in my personal, completely subjective grading system. However, I love that Stephanie's world has moved forward from the 1980's to the 1990's, seemingly without taking much time at all.

The Memory-Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards.

I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook. It is a very flowery book, with tons of over-description decorating it everywhere. Normally, I would find the style irritating. In audio format, however, it's not quite as bad. I listened to it while driving and, more often, while knitting. It's definitely a good "while knitting" book. Your eyes are already engaged in something treat-ful, and then your ears start passing all this flowery imagery to your brain, so it basically gives you an overdescription high.

As for the content of the book, I sort of liked it. I think I was looking for something a little different than these very sad lives orbiting each other, each person unaware of the pain the others are in. I never found any emotional honesty between the main characters (the people who actually had agency to change). For that reason, I would label this as a family tragedy.

I give this one a B. It's good, but has some flaws that make it less than excellent.

Wating: True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg

Waiting: True Confessions of a Waitress is not a restaurant exposé from the point of view of a server. Rather it is one woman's memories, impressions and insights about the professon at which she has supported herself and later her son for 20 years.
Ms. Ginsberg examines "waiting" from all angles and illustrates her perceptions and theories with stories from her own experiences and those of her friends and co-workers. Beyond this it is also the story of her life and the life lessons she has learned while "at the table" and she tells this story with honesty, wit and often humor.
Having worked as a server for many years I was able to strongly identify with many of her tales and with her analysis of the interpersonal dynamics between the server and everyone else in the restaurant - the other staff and the customers.
For anyone who has ever worked at this demanding profession, you will undoubtedly see a reflection of your own life in some of her experiences. For those who have never "waited" perhaps it will give you a better understanding of the person serving your dinner.

Cheryl Brigham

Monday, July 16, 2007

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman

I frequently wonder about character motivations and backstories. This novel provides this information about superheroes and super villains (as in comic books).

What if Batman and the Joker had actually gone to high school together? In this book, the villain was the kid who was a geek, picked on and pushed around, overlooked by all the popular kids unless they wanted something from him. The heroes were the popular kids, the jocks and the pretty girls, completely unaware of the damage they did to the villains-to-be. This book appealed to the band geek I used to be, still resenting the plastic popular people, happy to go to one of my reunions and see the cheerleaders had become obese. I found myself rooting for the villain.

I loved this book. I read it on a long car trip over a weekend. It isn’t a taxing read, and it is so entertaining! I highly recommend it, even if you don’t read much science fiction. The psychological aspects of the characters are fascinating, and the writing is so vivid it is almost like watching the comic book unfold.

Softspoken, by Lucius Shepard

Some narrators are unreliable. The reader cannot trust everything they tell. In this novel, every character is unreliable. Motivations are unclear. Actions are suspect. Why do characters do what they do? Does the narrator believe what she says, or is this a complicated, albeit entertaining, lie?

The narrator’s name is Sanie, a deliberate play on words. She is living with her husband at his ancestral home in backwoods South Carolina while he studies for the bar exam. Sanie is bored and disillusioned. The weather itself is almost a character. The author uses the drowsy-hot, humid days and the lack of transportation to depict how completely Sanie is removed from the world. For entertainment, Sanie has taken to walking the miles to town, sitting on the porch of the gas station swilling beer, talking to the men who venture in. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Sanie’s husband has closed himself off in the library while his sister wafts through the house like a shadow and his brother seems to drift in and out of a peyote induced dream. Sanie believes the house to be haunted, and her brother-in-law encourages this idea. He claims he sees the ghosts better when he is under the influence, so he shares his drugs with Sanie. Are the apparitions she sees real, or are they peyote hallucinations? When Sanie finally makes a decision to take care of herself and what she needs, her husband and his family show themselves for who they are. The conclusion is as nebulous as the novel, leaving the reader to decide what did, or did not happen.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is a short novel that drew me in quickly and was a speedy read. It made me think, and would be a good novel to read with someone else so discussion could be had. Some people might be put off by the dreamy tone of the writing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Validate Me Quick, I'm double Parked! by Toni Sorenson Brown

Follow the heroine Shirley, mother, wife, friend, business owner and daughter as she heads through life feeling loss seeking something that is elusive. Something many women seek but can not put words to... validation. Discover how Shirley gets the validation from the people she thinks she needs it from and how she discovers the one person who she needs validation from isn't a person she ever put on her list.

I found this book to be a quick and fun read. I found myself nodding my head in agreement to many of her revelations as she discovered more about herself then she knew before. It almost read like a self-help book but instead of bullet points it was all narrative. I recommend this to any woman or man who seeks some form of validation out of life and needs some humor along the way.



If any admin can please delete this post, I tried, but it seems that I cannot.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Inside out

Inside out By:Terry Treuman
Really great book.It is about a young adolescent who is a schizophrenic.You see the world through his eyes.The world in his eye is hurtful and confusing.He is never sure what is real and what is not.
When two teenage brothers attempt to hold up a Spokane coffee shop where Zach, 16, is waiting for his mother to bring his antipsychotic meds, he is among those held hostage. Thus begins this slender, but harrowing novel that depicts the standoff between the desperate pair and the police outside-all narrated by Zach, who is driven by impulsive outbursts, hateful voices in his head, and difficulty with processing reality. Chapters open with a brief passage that illuminates the history of his illness and suicide attempt, and interventions by his mother and psychiatrist. A phone call from the police to the robbers results in freedom for the others, but Zach, now overdue for his medicine, agrees to remain hostage. An odd bonding ensues among the troubled teens, all of whom are portrayed sympathetically. With no ammunition in their guns, the brothers are basically decent boys, scared and worried about their single mother's unemployment and cancer. Tension builds when one of them is wounded by a stray police bullet. They surrender, and Zach is reunited with his mother, his meds, and the simple comfort of a maple bar he had craved. A stark news article three months later imparts word that the unexpected hero of the crisis has committed suicide, the victim of his tragic illness. Trueman uses Zach's narration to challenge readers to feel the confusion and dark struggle of schizophrenia. The effect is disturbing, if somewhat didactic.