Friday, December 26, 2008

#86 - The Lincoln Lawyer


Book No: 85
Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: Mystery/Legal Thriller
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2005/Audible.com
Completed: 11/20/2008
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4/5*****

Michael Connelly has long been one of my favorite authors; I am a huge fan of his Harry Bosch series. In The Lincoln Lawyer Connelly broadens his range by writing his first legal thriller and it is a damn good one.

Mickey Haller is the son of a lawyer who was a legend in the field. Although his father died when he was young Mickey has read many of his books and takes to heart his adage: "The scariest client a lawyer will ever have is an innocent client. Because if you f*** up and he goes to prison, it'll scar you for life."

When Mickey is hired to defend Louis Roulet in an assault and rape case he begins to think he may have actually found the proverbial innocent man. Soon his investigation turns up a dark side to Roulet and Mickey finds he has some ethical choices to make.

This book is, as usual, well written, tightly plotted and fast paced. In Mickey Haller we have another great protagonist – a basically decent guy with a few issues, who isn’t above bending the law to achieve his goals. This is a great new character and I am looking forward to The Brass Verdict where Haller meets Bosch. That should be another winner.

#85 - The Beach House



Book No: 85
Title: The Beach House
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 11/23/08
No. of Pages: 340
Rating: 3.5/5*****

The Beach House has the perfect title, because it is the perfect beach read. Not very deep, easy to read, characters you enjoy and a general feel good read.

Nan Powell has lived in her big rambling house, Windmere, on Nantucket for over 30 years. She is a bit of an eccentric, well known around the town. When it becomes clear that Nan is facing some serious financial problems she decides to take in boarders as she tries to figure out what to do with her home as some ne’er to do developers are longing to get their hands on the property.

The mix of people who come together at the house all bring some baggage; Daniel recently separated and hiding a secret; Daff, a recent divorcee and mother of a spoiled 13 year old; Michael, Nan’s son who has come back home after ending an affair with his boss. Then there is Bee, Daniels’ wife who takes a house nearby so she and Daniel can work on a reconciliation; Michael’s lover who shows up and makes a shocking announcement and a man from Nan’s past who throws everything into tumult, reveling some startling secrets.

Lots of storylines intersect and a lot of it is predictable, some of it a bit preposterous and you can figure out how everything will end, but the storytelling is fun and it is a great escape book

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

#84 - Still Waters


Book No: 84
Title: Still Waters
Author: Jennifer Lauck
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2001
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 11/23/08
No. of Pages:448
Rating: 4/5*****

At the end of Blackbird, Jennifer Lauk’s first memoir, 12 yeaar old Jennifer’s wicked stepmother (literally) finally relinquishes custody of her and her brother Bryan and we are left to believe she is finally safe. Unfortunately it was not to be.

This book opens with the police report chronicling Bryan’s suicide. We know then that maybe there is no happy ever after. Jennifer is first cared for by her grandparents, slowly settling in. She soon learns it is temporary and that her brother is living with one aunt and uncle, and she is going to live with another. Peggy and Dick Duemore eventually adopt Jennifer, but she is valued more for her Social Security check and housekeeping skills than anything else. She stumbles through her life unloved and barely cared for. Upon finally going to college and freeing herself from her ‘family’ she begins to carve out a new life for herself, eventually finding the courage to face her past and her brother’s death.
Again a deeply sad story and although one can sense the anger in this memoir one is also rewarded with the knowledge that Jennifer Lauck has found some measure of peace and happiness in her life. She has a wonderful writing style and voice that makes you care deeply about her.

Friday, November 14, 2008

#83- Billy Collins- Live



Book No: 83
Title: Billy Collins Live
Author: Billy Collins
Genre: Poetry
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2008/Audible
Completed: 11/09/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 5/5*****

I am not a huge fan of poetry; it’s not that I dislike it; it is just not something I look for while searching for a good read. However I was convinced to give Billy Collins a try. A former Poet Laureate of the U.S., Collins’ collection of poems was a delightful revelation for me.

This collection of about 20 of Mr. Collins poems is read by the author. The poems are very contemporary and speak of simple things we can all relate to. ‘The Lanyard’ a poem about going to camp and making a lanyard to give to one’s mother is charming, funny and touching. The poem about a dog that has died is also funny- but once again touching. In fact I loved all the poems in this collection and plan on getting some of Billy Collins books to read and keep – to read the poems again and again as needed. If you think you don’t like poetry give Billy Collins a try-I think you will be surprised.

#82- The Photograph



Book No: 82
Title: The Photograph
Author: Penelope Lively
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2004
Obtained: 2005/Audible
Completed: 10/31/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3/5*****

The Photograph is found by Glyn Peters one day while clearing out a closet in his home. The photo shows is wife Kath, who it seems has met with some kind of tragedy. In the photo Kath is surreptitiously holding hands with her brother in law Nick, who is married to her older sister Elaine. This sets Glyn on a mission to discover if Kath and Nick had an affair, if so who knew about it and was his entire marriage a sham?

I have to say I am pretty ambivalent about this book. I enjoyed the writing which I found very descriptive, I got a real feel for the characters. The story of Kath is revealed little by little through the eyes of Glyn, Elaine, Nick, their daughter Polly and Nick’s former business partner Oliver. They each remember Kath as being extraordinarily pretty, vivacious and outgoing. Apparently nobody ever saw the darker side of Kath.

While the premise of this book is very good- how a photograph can change lives – almost in an instant. The main problem is every one of the characters isn’t anyone I would care to know and it is hard to like a book with such unappealing people. Elaine is a cold fish, Nick has major Peter Pan issues and Polly was completely self absorbed. I did kind of like Oliver but he seemed rather peripheral to the storyline. The biggest problem of all is that I really didn’t care that much for Kath, a person who didn’t seem to do anything with her life, falling back on her beauty to make it through. She didn’t really work, didn’t have any overriding interests, floating through life and for some reason we are supposed to feel sorry for her. I found the premise of a beautiful woman who no one understands a bit trite. The big secret that Kath was keeping wasn’t that astonishing, nor was the big reveal about “that day” that is referred to throughout the book. I found the ending anti-climatic and the wrap up of Elaine and Nick’s storyline unbelievable given the circumstances. Good writing doesn’t always make for a good book.

#81- The Other Queen



Book No: 81
Title: The Other Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 10/31/08
No. of Pages:
Rating: 3/5*****

This book was long, 448 pages long. This isn't usually a problem for me, I like historical fiction, but this book was an exception. For the most part it was talk, talk, talk and boring, boring, boring.

Focusing on Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, this was the story of the many years Mary was kept in 'protective custody' in England, when she was granted sanctuary by Elizabeth after fleeing rebels in Scotland. She is housed with the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot and his wife Bess of Hartwick, who hoped to gain favor from Elizabeth by taking care of the Other Queen while Elizabeth and her advisors, including William of Cecil, decide what to do about Mary. Because she is the Queen's cousin, and many believe the rightful heir to the throne of England, there is much intrigue and plotting surrounding her.

The story is told from the three viewpoints of Bess, George and Mary herself. Although there is much that happens during the three or four years that Mary was cared for by the Shrewsbury's it all seemed rather boring in the retelling. Mary is a self absorbed woman, always plotting and never caring of the consequences to anyone involved in her schemes. George is completely besotted with Mary and this brings great unhappiness to his new wife Bess. Bess herself is a woman who has achieved her status through marriage and hard work- she is practical and overwhelmed by the thought they she may lose her home- bankrupted by the care of the Scottish Queen with no reimbursement form Elizabeth forthcoming.

The book seems well researched, although the timing of many of events seems to be compressed into a shorter time frame, and the final ending of Mary's life, which happens 15 years after the story in this book, is tacked on like an afterthought. Interesting, but not a compelling read.

#80- The Abortionist's Daughter



Book No: 80
Title: The Abortionists Daughter
Author: Elisabeth Hyde
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Audible
Completed: 10/25/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3/5*****

The Abortionist’s Daughter is Megan Duprey, a 19 year old college student; Megan’s mother is Diane Duprey a well known abortion doctor in their Colorado town. One evening Megan gets a phone call from her father Frank who is the local DA. Diana has been found dead in her swimming pool at home. When it becomes clear that Diana has been murdered the suspect list is long: fanatical anti-abortionists; Megan herself, who quarreled with her mother that fatal morning; Frank; who was often heard having loud fights with Diana; Rev. Steven O’Connell, the local leader of an anti-abortion coalition. Then there is Megan’s slightly unhinged former boyfriend, who is claiming that Diana was a meth addict. So who killed Diana Duprey?

Although this is a murder mystery, it is also a view of marriage, family relationships and the abortion issue - presented fairly equally from both sides. The best parts of the book are the prickly relationship between Diana and Megan - the dialogue between them seems very real. The problems with the book, for me, were I didn’t much like anyone in the book. With the exception of Huck Berlin, the detective investigating the case, I didn’t really care about anyone. Even Huck does some bonehead things that had me rolling my eyes. I figured out who did the dirty deed fairly early in the book, and the actual revelation was completely anti-climatic. There were several side stories that were distracting, and there was one major clue introduced at the start that was never resolved nor brought up again and that really annoyed me.

So for me this was not such a good book. Some parts were interesting but for the most part I just felt much uninvolved, almost as if I were watching a play from a distance.

#79- Amagansett



Book No: 79
Title: Amagansett
Author: Mark Mills
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2004
Obtained: 2006/Paperbackswap
Completed: 10/20/2008
No. of Pages: 392
Rating: 3.5/5*****
A very character driven and slowed paced mystery set in post WWII Long Island.
I really enjoyed this book. The pacing was slow, the characterization rich and the mystery quite involving. It's was also set in Long Island, where I live, in one of my favorite areas of the island - so I 'knew' many of the places mentioned in the book.
When Conrad Labarde is out fishing one morning he finds the body of Lily Wallace - the daughter of one of the wealthier 'summer people'. The local police officer, Tom Hollis, a recent NYC transplant is willing to accept the coroner's cause of death as suicide by drowning; until Conrad begins to point out some conflicting evidence. Conrad then mentions one name to Hollis, Lizzie Jenks, a young victim of a hit and run two years earlier. What does Lillian have to do with Lizzie and more to the point what does Conrad know about it?
Very complex, beautifully written and well researched this is a book to savor. The portrait of the Long Island fisherman, once the main livelihood of the east coast, now virtually extinct, is fascinating in and of itself. Not for lovers of slash and burn thrillers, this is a more literary take on a murder mystery.

#78- What I Was



Book No: 78
Title: What I Was
Author: Meg Rosoff
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 10/15/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 2.5/5*****

This is a coming of age story told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator. He is 100 years old, it is the middle of the 21st century and he is recalling a period in his life during the early 1960's. Miserable in his boarding school, in an isolated area of England, and unhappy with his strained relationship with his parents, his lack of social graces and lack of friendships the protagonist comes across a boy named Finn, about his age, who lives alone and self sufficiently in a small beach hut not far from his school. Our narrator becomes friends of a sort with Finn. This friendship eventually leads to tragedy and the revelation of a secret that changes both their lives.

I cannot put my finger on what I didn't like about this book, except that I figured out the secret quite early in the book and after all the events unfold the narrator gives an anti-climatic telling of his life after the events of that year - yet I wanted to know more about some of the things he mentioned in passing. Also there was a bit of environmental doom preaching that seemed contrived.

The author usually writes YA books, and I think that although this book is marketed to adults it might resonate more with older teens.

#77- Certain Girls



Book No: 77
Title: Certain Girls
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 10/4/2008
No. of Pages: 384
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Eight years ago Jennifer Weiner introduced us to Cannie Shapiro-single, over-weight and recovering from a very bad break-up. She writes a book about her relationship that becomes an overnight sensation and changes her life completely. This was the premise of Good in Bed.
Fast forward 13 years and Cannie is married and the mother of a 12 year old- Joy. Joy is a typical teenager- fighting with and embarrassed by her mom. Cannie is an overprotective Mom just trying to make the world a safe place for her daughter. When Joy learns that Cannie's book is a very sexual retelling of her life she reads it and begins questioning everything she knows about herself, her mom and her family.
Humorous as always - this is a very different book than Good in Bed. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be, but I did enjoy it very much- although some of the twists were completely unexpected.

#76-- Dark Horse



Book No: 76
Title: Dark Horse
Author: Tami Hoag
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2003
Obtained: 2003/Audible
Completed: 10/5/2008
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3.5/5*****

This was quite an enjoyable mystery set in Palm Beach, Florida with the horse set as the background.

Elena Estes is a former Palm Beach cop, who left the force in disgrace after the death of a fellow officer during an undercover sting operation. Nursing both her physical as well as emotional wounds she is approached by a young girl, 12 year old Molly Seabright, who wants to hire Elena to find her missing sister. Intrigued despite herself Elena begins an investigation that exposes the under belly of the wealthy equestrian set. A good mystery with lots of seedy characters, multiple plot lines and a romance I enjoyed reading this book, although I did unravel art of the mystery early on.
Easy and fun reading.

#75- In the Company of the Courtesan


Book No: 75
Title: In the Company of the Courtesan
Author: Sarah Dunant
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2006/Audible
Completed: 9/26/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4.5/5*****

This is my second book by Dunant that I have read this year, and she is surely becoming a huge favorite of mine. This book languished in my TBR pile for more than 2 years, and I am so glad I finally got around to it- thank goodness for reading challenges!

This was a fascinating look at the life of a courtesan in Venice c 1530. Told from the perspective of Bucino Teodoldo, a dwarf and business partner with Fiammetta Bianchini, one of the most celebrated courtesans in Rome.

When Rome is sacked in 1527, the two escape with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and a few jewels they saved by swallowing them. With this small purse they set off to Venice to re-establish Fiammetta as a great courtesan in their new home.

Filled with intrigue, politics and more than one betrayal this is historical fiction that is vividly brought to life. Mixing both fictional and real historical figures, the book was inspired by the portrait the Venus of Urbino by Titian, who is a character in the book. Great characters, beautiful writing and plotting that will keep you reading long after the lights should be out. I cannot wait for another book by Ms. Dunant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#74 - Black Out



Book No: 74
Title: Black Out
Author: Lisa Unger
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Shelfari
Completed: 9/15/08
No. of Pages: 358
Rating: 4/5*****

I have read and enjoyed both of Unger’s previous books Beautiful Lies and Sliver of Truth, which featured Ridley Jones. This book is a standalone and once again presents a roller coaster ride of suspense, physiological terror and string taut tension.

Annie Power’s is living a fairy tale life as the wife of a well to do businessman, Gray and mom to her beautiful daughter Victory. She has a fabulous home, cars, money live in help, and everything you could ask for. Annie Power’s however is hiding a huge secret- five years earlier her husband Gray, who is involved in private security, helped her fake her death to escape from the clutches of psychopath Marlowe Geary, a serial killer who Annie had been involved with during his killing spree. Annie remembers almost nothing of the years she spent with Marlow, suffering from disassociation and memory loss. Although her husband has assured her that Marlowe is dead, when a necklace Marlowe once gave her shows up in front of her home Annie is sure he has come back for her. As she begins to remember more and more of her past she also begins to suspect her husband is lying to her about his work and is plunged into a cat and mouse game with a corrupt police officer when she is witness to a crime. As more and more of her memories come back Annie knows that she must face her past in order to have a future.

This story had really intense pacing and made me stay up way too late at night trying to get to the end of the book. I did find the ending a bit convoluted but overall this was a non-stop ride through an unsettling landscape of some very dark and twisted characters. Read it with the lights on.

#73 - Kissing Games of the World



Book No: 73
Title: Kissing Games of the World
Author: Sandi Kahn Shelton
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/First Impressions ARC
Completed: 9/7/08
No. of Pages: 385
Rating: 3/5*****

Jamie McClintock is living a quiet life in a small town in Connecticut. Her son’s father abandoned Jamie and Arley shortly after he was born. So Jamie came to stay with her sister but needs to leave and find a place of her own. Eventually she moves in with Harris Goddard, an older man raising his grandson Christopher. Thw two have them have settled into a platonic friendship, raising the two boys together and helping each other out. When Harris dies from a massive heart attack Jamie’s life is thrown into turmoil when his estranged son Nate Goddard comes back to claim both his father’s home and his son, Christopher.

Nate Goddard is good looking, rich and as arrogant as they come. He has big plans to sell the property to developers and take Christopher to live with him in California. Although Jamie and Nate detest each other on sight, they try to get along for the sake of their sons. Nate is engaged to be married and Jamie is planning on moving to Vermont to be an art teacher. But the best laid plans don’t always work out.

This was a sweet if predictable book. You know from the first meeting where this book is heading. It was an enjoyable and easy read, good for a day at the beach or a cold day in winter, curled up with a cup of tea. Nothing earth shaking, just a pleasant story with amiable characters.

#72 - Lady Macbeth



Book No: 72
Title: Lady Macbeth
Author: Susan Frasier King
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Audible.com
Completed: 8/31/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3/5*****

Shakespeare’s tale of Lady Macbeth is completely rewritten here. This Lady Macbeth is no murderer, and does not walk the halls at night bemoaning her crimes. Gruadh inghean Bodhe, Rue, is descended from former Celtic Kings. Married against her will to Gilcomgan of Moraya a man much older than her, Rue has adjusted to her life and is expecting her first child when Mac bethed mac Finnlaech arrives at her castle to tell her of her husband’s death in battle and to claim her as his wife, which he could do as the victor in the battle. Suspecting that Macbeth has murdered her husband so as to strengthen his own claim on the Scottish throne, she eventually forms an uneasy truce with her husband and begins to help him put into action his plan to take the throne of King Duncan, setting events into play that will eventually bring his own downfall and murder.

This was an interesting take on the story of Lady Macbeth, but overall I found it to be somewhat boring and uninvolving. It seemed as if Rue, who is the narrator of the story was rather aloof and detached from the story and it never really came to life for me, I was never fully involved with the characters and their story. I learned a lot of Celtic life and superstitions, but I never felt as if I really knew nor cared for either Lady Macbeth or her husband.

#71 - The House at Riverton



Book No: 71
Title: The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Fiction/Gothic
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 8/31/2008
No. of Pages: 473
Rating: 4/5*****

Grace Reeves is 98 years old and living in a nursing home. A movie is being made about the notorious death of the poet R.S. Hunter at Riverton House. When a young filmmaker contacts Grace as the last living person to have knowledge of the events leading to his death, Grace is thrust back in her memories to that time just before World War I, and her life as a housemaid at Riverton. Deciding she wants to tell the truth about all that happened she begins recording her story for her grandson, so he can know the truth of what she witnessed.

This book tells the story of Grace in alternating chapters of the past and present. It has a gothic tinged tone to it, as we learn of the lives of the ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ people that populate Riverton. Starting out as a young girl of 14 Grace is slowly enmeshed in the life of the three siblings Hannah, Emmeline and David, the privileged upper class children who live at Riverton, eventually becoming Hannah’s personal maid. As the Great War begins it wreaks havoc on many of the characters in the book, and at the end of the war many cracks are apparent in the separation of the English classes. Soon both Hannah and Emmeline begin to rebel in ways that will have tragic results.

I really enjoyed this story that involved a mystery, two love stories and an impending feeling of doom. There were a couple of good twists in the narrative but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else, so I will just say it kept my attention throughout, and I am looking forward to another book by Ms. Morton.

#70 - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Book No: 70
Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Borders
Completed: 8/30/08
No. of Pages: 288
Rating: 4/5*****

This is an absolutely delightful novel, filled with charm and characters so real you forget it is a novel.

Written in an epistolary style, the heart of the book revolves around Juliet Ashton, a columnist who wrote stories of the war in London and its aftermath. Set in 1946 London the story begins when Juliet receives a letter from Guernsey, from a man who found her name in book her read and wanted to know if she knew of other books of that type. So begins a series of correspondence between Juliet and the residents of Guernsey and members of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Slowly Juliet realizes she wants to write a book about these people and their tragedies as well as heroic responses to war and deprivation. She goes to visit Guernsey, a trip that will change her entire life.

I am a big fan of books told in letter format and this story was such a feel good experience and one that still brings a smile to my face when I think of it. A lovely and touching novel that I have been recommending to everyone.

#69 - Such a Pretty Fat



Book No: 69
Title: Such a Pretty Fat
Author: Jennifer Lancaster
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Target
Completed: 8/23/08
No. of Pages: 400
Rating: 4/5*****

This is the third book by Lancaster I’ve read in the past few months, so now I’ll have to wait a while because that’s her entire inventory. As usual Jen’s take no prisoners style of writing and humor had me laughing my a** off, and shaking my head in agreement or shaking my head in disbelief at some of the things that come out of her mouth.
This time around Jennifer is confronting her issues with weight, and the realization that she needs to get healthy before she has a slew of health problems. Her denial, realization and then grappling with the reality of learning to take care of herself is mad funny and something all of us can probably relate to on some level. Never lacking for self confidence Jen is sure that she can lose this weight her way- and it’s not a realistic approach. Eventually she accepts the truth of her lifestyle choices and faces it head on - but we are laughing all the way and rooting for her success.

#68 - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim



Book No: 68
Title: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: Humor/Essays
Published: 2004
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 8/12/08
No. of Pages: 272
Rating: 3.5/5*****

David Sedaris’ take on life is just a little left of center. He is droll and entertaining in this collection of stories that mostly focus on his family’s loony adventures and skewed sense of the world. I’m really glad he is not my brother because the man has no mercy in his depictions of his sisters, brother and parents. No one escape’s unscathed, not his boyfriend Hugh or their eighty year old neighbor or David himself. Some of the stories are laugh out loud funny, others are more than a little gross, but like a bad accident you can’t help but look (or read). I have to say that my first book by Sedaris was When You are Engulfed in Flames, and it was an audio. As much as I enjoyed reading this book, I realize that something is lost when reading this as opposed to listening, and it is Sedaris’ inflections and pauses and dry tone that make him such a great storyteller. So I liked it a lot- but would have loved to listen to it.

#67 - Isabella Moon



Book No: 67
Title: Isabella Moon
Author: Laura Benedict
Genre: Suspense/Thrillers
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 8/05/2008
No. of Pages: 368
Rating: 3/5*****

Kate Russell is a recent transplant to the small southern town of Carystown, Kentucky. Recently she has come to believe that she is being haunted by the ghost of Isabella Moon, a young girl who disappeared two years earlier. Convinced she knows where Isabelle’s body is Kate goes to the sheriff with her story. When Sheriff Delaney reluctantly follows up on the lead, he does find Isabella’s body. But now Kate is one of the prime suspects I the case and she has many secrets of her own to conceal- including why she came to this town in the first place. When another murder takes place some dark secrets of the town’s residents come bubbling to the top.

This book was a real page turner, and I really liked it, even if some of the plotting was familiar or obvious. The WTF? ending had me completely flabbergasted, and not in a good way. I just hated the conclusion and it took the overall rating of the book down a notch.

#66 - The Street of A Thousand Blossoms



Book No: 66
Title: The Street of A Thousand Blossoms
Author: Gail Tsukiyama
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/ Middle Bay Raffle
Completed: 7/30/08
No. of Pages: 422
Rating: 4/5*****

Gail Tsukiyama is one of my favorite writers. Her books are always graceful, peaceful, eloquent depictions of people caught up in events that they cannot control, yet always seem to become better human beings because of or in spite of the tragedies they face.

Hiroshi and Kenji are two brothers orphaned at an early age and raised by their loving grandparents. The book begins prior to WWII, and the deprivation and hardship of this war on the Japanese civilians is vividly rendered and brought to life. Continuing through the next 30 years, through post war occupation and rebuilding we watch each boy become a man, finding their places in the world. Hiroshi enters the world of Sumo wrestling while Kenji has a more artistic bent, learning to create the masks of the Noh theatre. Through their loves and losses we are completely immersed in the brother’s and the country’s struggles to rebuild from the ashes of a lost civilization, to find a new place in the world. With compassionate portrayals of both these two brothers and the strong women in their lives we become part and parcel of their struggles, defeats and successes. A completely different book than the other WWII book I read this month, this one far more riveting and heartfelt.

#65 - Cover the Butter



Book No: 65
Title: Cover the Butter
Author: Carrie Kabak
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2005/Audible
Completed: 7/29/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Kate Cadogan is a forty year old Welsh woman, trapped in a loveless marriage for 20 years. When she comes home one day after spending a weekend away with her husband she finds her 20 year old son has had a big party while they were gone. Her home is trashed, her son is completely indifferent to her anger and her husband only wants to look at the telly and watch the latest sports. When Kate fuels her anger with alcohol she falls into a tormented sleep. Through her dreams we relive Kate’s life with a controlling and distant mother, an ineffectual father, a love thwarted and an unplanned pregnancy. It is this dream that awakens Kate to the need to live her life for herself.

While I applaud certain aspects of this book, set in the early 60’s through today, I actually wished Kate wasn’t so wishy-washy. Until the turning point in her life every decision she made was to please someone else. I longed for her to stand up for herself just once, and when it finally happens it seems like such a long time coming it is almost anti-climatic. Still I could appreciate the themes of love lost and found and finding out who you are.

#64 - The Zookeeper's Wife


Book No: 64
Title: The Zookeeper’s Wife; A War Story
Author: Diane Ackerman
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/Smart Reader
Completed: 7/28/31
No. of Pages: 342
Rating: 3/5*****

This book was such a disappointment for me. I usually like books about WWII and of those people who risked their own lives to save those being persecuted by the Nazi’s. Unfortunately this book left me cold. I had no connection at all with any of the characters, from the rescuers to the rescued. I read the entire book just wishing it was over.

During the time of the German invasion of Poland, Antonina and Jan Zabinski harbored hundreds of Jews and members of the Polish underground for as little as a few nights to several years. Risking their own lives and those of their children they provided refuge in their home and in the various cages of their former zoo. All in all an admirable and truly remarkable story. However Ackerman would go into detail about the playing of one song on the piano and glide over many of the logistics of this incredible charade. It is never made clear exactly how this subterfuge was carried out, and one never feels close to any of the people in the book. The writing is either so dry it is like choking down crackers or so overblown it is like smothering in verbosity. I read another book about WWII just after this one, and the difference was remarkable. I really wish the Zabinski story could be told by a more gifted writer, this book had then sensation of a distant look back, without any warmth or true feeling.

#63 - Belong to Me


Book No: 63
Title: Belong to Me
Author: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/ARC-Les
Completed: 7/25/08
No. of Pages: 395
Rating: 5/5*****

This book is a sequel to the fabulous Love Walked in that I read last week. Once again I was completed captivated by the characters established in that book and the new ones introduced here.
Cornelia Brown is now married and has moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia after deciding to leave New York City in the wake of September 11th. Here Cornelia seems to run into a brick wall- usually able to make friends without a problem she struggles to fit in with the very cliquey women in her new town, especially Queen Bee Piper Truitt. As each of these women struggle with personal problems, both within their marriages and within themselves a most unexpected friendship is born.
I love De Los Santos’ way with characters, words, images, friendship and marriage; the whole nine yards. She writes about people we all wish we knew, but gives them real life problems to deal with. I can’t believe it will probably be another year or two before I can read another one of her books. Totally delightful!

#62 - When You Are Engulfed in Flames


Book No: 62
Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: Memoir/Essays
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Audible
Completed: 7/21/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4/5*****

I have been hearing that I have to read Sedaris for some years now. Not a big listener of the radio I had no idea who he was. So when I found this available on audio, when I was looking for something light I finally decided to give him a try. And guess what?? I freaking love David Sedaris. I laughed out loud so many times while driving in my car that I am sure I scared more than one driver. This collection of essays was funny, sad, poignant, sweet, cute, and hysterical. One story after another with Sedaris doing the reading, it was just a great way to spend time in the car. The scary thing is wondering who is watching you and taking notes- Sedaris bases his tales on people and events that he has observed, his notebook and pen always handy to jot down a few notes. The story entitled Solution to the Saturday Puzzle was one of the funniest I have ever heard and I wonder what the star of the piece, Becky the nasty plane seat-mate, thinks of it- if she has indeed ever seen it. The ending essays, which cover Sedaris’ trip to Japan in order to quit smoking, run the gamut of emotions and were also among my favorite pieces. I just downloaded Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to my Kindle. I want to compare the listening experience to the reading experience because I so enjoyed listening to Sedaris’ rendition of his stories. I think I have found a new favorite, and that always makes me happy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boy Have I Fallen Behind



Summertime was busy, busy. Packed daughter up and moved her back to school (University of Florida--GO GATORS) the week after I last posted, then was busy doing nothing but chillaxing (by 16 year old's word). Spent a week in Montauk on the beach and at the pool, and then it was back to school time and I am just now getting back into a regular schedule. It takes some time to readjust to alarm clocks and deadlines. So I am quite far behind in my postings, but I didn't stop reading, so I'll be catching up the next few days. The photo is of my daughter and her friend, in Montauk at sunset.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

#61 - Love Walked In


Book No: 61
Title: Love Walked In
Author: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 7/21/08
No. of Pages: 307
Rating: 5/5*****

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe how much I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down, laughed, cried and read it over two days time, to the exclusion of just about everything else.

Cornelia Brown is a tiny sprite of a woman who loves old classic movies; in particular The Philadelphia Story. When Martin Grace walks into her coffee shop one day, looking so much like Cary Grant it’s unbelievable, Cornelia goes out with him and begins to fall in love. What she doesn’t know is that Martin has a few secrets he has yet to share, and when one is revealed to be is eleven year old daughter, Clare, Cornelia begins a journey that changes her entire life.

This book was pitch perfect, with two amazing characters in Cornelia and Clare, people you just wish you really had in your life. The secondary characters were all wonderful, and fleshed out people. The movie and poetry references were so clever and I was completely bewitched by this book. I was also very pleased to know there is a sequel, entitled Belong to Me, and I have it and have already devoured half of it. I’ll be back with that review shortly. My first 5***** book of the year (I’m cheap with that rating)

#60 - Zel



Book No: 60
Title: Zel
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Genre: Fairy Tales
Published: 1996
Obtained: 2008/Amazon
Completed: 7/18/08
No. of Pages: 227
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Zel is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale. In this one Zel is actually placed in the tower by her mother, after she meets a young man in the market one day. Zel’s mother is a witch, who loves Zel more than anything, and wants to keep Zel with her always and cannot bear the thought of sharing her with anyone.

I liked a lot of the touches in this book, especially the one that dealt with how Rapunzel dealt with being locked up alone in a tower with no company. I did find the storyline of the mother more than a little creepy; I guess I couldn’t understand any mother doing such a terrible thing to her child. Overall it was a interesting take on a classic tale.

Monday, July 21, 2008

#59 - The Yummy Mummy


Book No: 59
Title: The Yummy Mummy
Author: Polly Williams
Genre: Chick Lit/Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 7/18/07
No. of Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5*****

The title definitely screams chick lit, but this book was much more deeply layered than I expected, and quite enjoyable.

Amy Crane is a new mother, living with her six-month old daughter Evie and Evie’s dad Joe, Amy’s boyfriend. Amy is struggling with a bit of the baby blues and questions about her relationship with Joe, and whether or not they would be together if it weren’t for their daughter. She’s also caught between two sets of friends, her birthing class group, which consists of earth-mother types, and her newer friends, a group of Yummy Mummy’s. You know the type; lost their baby weight in ten days, have live in help so they can lunch, get their hair done, shop etc. When Alice, Amy’s newest friend takes on project Amy, she succeeds in turning Amy into one of the YM’s; as well as a MILF (Acronym for Mom’s I’d Like to ****). While Amy slowly begins to find her balance Joe is pulling farther away from her. Then there is the complication of the very hot Pilates instructor who has Amy in his sights.

Lots here to laugh at, but anyone who has gone through new motherhood will identify with many of Amy’s feelings, doubts, and qualms about her new life. There is quite a bit of poignancy here too, and Amy is someone you really care about. Another good summer beach read.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#58 - Grimm's Fairy Tales


Book No: 58
Title: Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Author: The Brothers Grimm
Genre: Fairy Tales
Published: unknown
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 7/14/08
No. of Pages: 560
Rating: 3/5*****

I read this as part of the Fairy Tale Tag challenge at Play Book Tag. What I didn’t know is that the Brothers Grimm didn’t actually write all these fairy tales- 64 of them- but actually collected them as a way of saving the oral traditional tales told throughout centuries. That would explain why many of the stories seem a little repetitious; they are often the same basic story told in different ways. While I enjoyed reading some of my childhood favorites, I was astonished at how violent some of these stories are. Disney may get bashed for sanitizing stories, but to be honest I would feel a little queasy reading some of these unvarnished stories to young children. It took me 2 weeks to get through all the stories, and many of them were a bit silly I did overall enjoy the experience of revisiting some old favorites.

#57 - T is for Tresspass


Book No: 57
Title: T is for Trespass
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/paperbackswap
Completed: 7/13/08
No. of Pages: 387
Rating: 4.5/5*****

This is the 20th book in the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series, and after some not so great entries in the series this one was one of the best.

When Kinsey’s elderly neighbor Gus, a cantankerous old man, takes a bad fall, Kinsey and her landlord Henry do all they can to help him. This includes investigating the home care nurse Gus’ niece wants to hire to care for him at home. All seems okay at first, but when Kinsey begins to suspect elder abuse things go from bad to worse. As readers we know from the start that there are indeed evil deeds occurring; the fun of the book is the cat and mouse game played by Kinsey and the villainous Solana Rojas. A few side cases keep Kinsey busy also, but the main storyline is gripping in its accelerating horror in what seems like an ordinary life, and the hope that Kinsey puts the pieces together before its too late.

#56 - Sweetwater Creek


Book No: 56
Title: Sweetwater Creek
Author: Anne Rivers Siddons
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2007/Audible.com
Completed: 7/11/2008
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4/5*****

This was a sweet and enjoyable coming of age tale set in the Carolina’s low-country. Emily Parmenter is twelve years old, living on her family’s plantation with her distant father and two older brothers. Her mother disappeared while Emily was a toddler and her adored older brother Buddy committed suicide, leaving her bereft and lonely. Her only salvation comes from training the family’s well known Boykin hunter spaniels. Emily seems to have an innate talent for this and her life is in a simple pattern of school and working the dogs, her only friends her beloved dog Elvis, her Aunt Jenny and the housekeeper Cleta. Into this quiet world comes the golden Lulu Foxworth, a debutante in need of a place to recover from what appears to be a nervous breakdown. In order to impress the wealthy Foxworth family Walter Parmenter invites Lulu to spend the summer working with Emily training the dogs. Lulu jumps at the chance and soon spins her magic web around the family. With her arrival comes life and laughter to an empty household, but it also brings dark secrets that ultimately changes everything. Permeated with sadness the story is also about friendship, love, betrayal and finding one’s way in the world.

#55 - The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club


Book No: 55
Title: The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club
Author: Laurie Notaro
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2002
Obtained: 2007/Kindle
Completed: 7/11/2008
No. of Pages: 240
Rating: 4/5*****

I seem to be on a roll, reading laugh out loud funny books by incorrigible women, first Jen Lancaster and now Laurie Notaro. This is Notaro’s first book and I literally laughed until I cried. The book is a collection of essays she wrote for the Arizona Republican; chronicling a few years in her life, through college and trying to become, more or less, a responsible adult. No one escapes unscathed; she targets not only herself, but friends, family and strangers. Her description of her teeth getting stuck in a caramel apple, while driving, is priceless. Another funny bit of great beach reading. I love summer!

#54 - Marley and Me



Book No: 54
Title: Marley & Me
Author: John Grogan
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2007/Paperbackswap.com
Completed: 7/11/08
No. of Pages: 291
Rating: 3.5/5*****

I am not a big fan of animal books so I was prepared to not like this book, but it was a choice of my F2F book group. Although I love dogs, I didn’t want to read a memoir about ‘Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog”, sure it would be a sentimental remembrance that just wouldn’t appeal to me. So imagine my surprise as I was utterly captivated by the story of Marley, if not the world’s worst dog, surely a difficult one. A very large, headstrong and virtually untrainable Labrador retriever, Marley was also lovable, steadfast and the true definition of man’s best friend. His absolute joy for life and his love of his fmily came through on every page. Marley was not an idealized version of a dog, a Hollywood Lassie or Rin Tin Tin both of whom probably never sniffed anyone’s crotch. He had the heart of a puppy through all of his 12 years, but at 90 pounds his exuberance was often of a destructive nature. Marley hated thunderstorms, loved the ocean, was protective of his family and always ready with a big slobbery kiss. I give a lot of credit to the Grogan family for seeing the good in their beloved dog, he is the kind of adorable puppy that when grown often ends up back in a shelter. For all the love Marley gave them, they returned it in equal measure. A funny and thoroughly enjoyable memoir.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

#53 - Where Are You Now?


Book No: 53
Title: Where Are You Now?
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap.com
Completed: 7/8/08
No. of Pages: 289
Rating: 3 /5*****

Mary Higgins Clark is a ‘comfort’ read for me. I’ve read all of her mysteries since her first book Where are the Children? came out, about 25 years ago. In the last several years her books have been hit or miss with me, although I found this one to be one of her better stories. The mystery involves the disappearance of Carolyn MacKenzie’s older brother “Mack”. Ten years ago he disappeared without a trace, yet he calls home ever Mother’s Day to tell his family he’s okay. Now an attorney Carolyn has decided to find out what led Mack to walk away from his family. In starting this investigation Carolyn opens up a Pandora’s Box of trouble and long buried secrets. While the writing was not top notch, the mystery was fairly well done, although some of the stereotypical cop behavior was a little over the top. Still I was entertained, even though I had figured out most of ‘whodunit and why’ about half way through the book.

#52 - Kitchen Confidential


Book No: 52
Title: Kitchen Confidential; Adventures in the Cultural Underbelly
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2000
Obtained: 2003/Bookbox
Completed: 7/7/08
No. of Pages: 302
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Anthony Bourdain has become the celebrated bad boy of the restaurant business, and in the process has become a star of the Food Network, some of whose famous chefs he ridicules in this book, written before said stardom. That however does not take away from the enjoyment I took from this strangely beguiling memoir. I say strangely because Bourdain is clearly an Alpha Male, who has lead a wild and crazy life, crawling up the restaurant food chain to become the Head chef at Les Halles, a celebrated NYC establishment. This book is outrageously profane and full of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Having worked in the business myself for over 20 years, I can attest to the truth of many of his stories about life in the kitchen. The story telling is gritty but also extremely funny, and inside all the machismo I think there beats the heart of a nice guy, although I’m sure he would have you believe otherwise. The downside is you’ll never eat in a restaurant without thinking about what’s going on in the back of the house, and wondering what exactly went into the meal you are eating.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

#51- Bright Lights, Big Ass



Book No: 51
Title: Bright Lights, Big Ass
Author: Jen Lancaster
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 6/30/08
No. of Pages: 400
Rating: 3.5/5*****

She’s bbaacckkk! Jen Lancaster, of Bitter is the New Black fame, continues her totally irreverent view of the world in Bright Lights, Big Ass. Picking up pretty much where Bitter ended, Jen continues skewering anyone she finds pretentious, and gives you more of her wry and frequently convoluted take on the world. She and Fletch are slowly getting back on their feet after their financial meltdown and are still living in the city, which Jen make sure you know is nothing like Sex in the City. After receiving her advance to write what would become BITNB, Jen is still working temp jobs so she can write, still spying on her neighbors and still shopping-although her holy trio of stores is no longer Bloomies, Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus; it’s now Target, Trader Joe’s and Ikea. Her writing can sometimes seem way over the top, but her acute observations make you laugh in spite of yourself. Some of the best ‘beach reading’ I’ve done in a while. (Well since last week when I finished Bitter is the New Black). Also her wonderfully delicious and long subtitles really helped rack up the points for the Alphabet Soup Challenge!

Friday, June 27, 2008

#50 - The Queen of the Big Time


Book No: 50
Title: The Queen of the Big Time
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2004
Obtained: 2004/Audible.com
Completed: 6/26/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Adriani Trigiani revisits the theme of Italian immigrants in her story of Nella Castelluca and her family. Roseta is a small Italian community in Pennsylvania where Nella lives on the farm with her parents and four sisters. It is the early 1920’s and 15 year old Nella longs to go to school in town, and hopes to one day live there. When an accident forces Nella to give up her dreams of an education she goes to work in the local factory, where she meets two men who will become the loves of her life.

While I enjoyed much of this book I found the writing often very simplistic and there seemed to be huge gaps in the storyline. Certain characters are very well developed at first and then seem to fade away. Also toward the end the book seems to fly through the years. However the story of Nella and her determination was often enjoyable, and brought a tear to my eye more than once. I loved her Big Stone Gap books more, and this one wasn’t quite as good, but it wasn’t a bad read either.

#49 - Bitter is the New Black


Book No: 49
Title: Bitter is the New Black
Author: Jen Lancaster
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 6/23/08
No. of Pages: 415
Rating: 4.5/5*****

Jen Lancaster’s memoir is funny, very, very funny. It may not be for everyone, but I laughed ‘til I cried while reading her story.
During the go, go dot.com craze at the turn of the millennia Jen Lancaster is living high off the hog. She makes a ridiculous amount of money, as does her live-in boyfriend Fletch. They have a spectacular apartment in the hippest part of Chicago and they spend money like crazy. Then comes the dot.com crash and before you know it Jen is out of a job and soon after so is Fletch. In the next two years, until re-employment comes her way, Jen mines her major lifestyle changes for some deliciously brutal comedy writing.

Jen doesn’t censor her thoughts and everything she thinks just comes out. Nobody escapes her wicked and wry commentary, not even herself. As she figures out how to go from the high life to please don’t turn my electricity off, she examines her irresponsible life-style and has an epiphany but it hasn’t changed her sardonic outlook one bit, she’s as caustic as before but now she is a bit more understanding of some of the plight of average wage earners. A bit!

I enjoyed this book so much I immediately got Bright Lights; Big Ass and will be back with that review fairly soon.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

#48 - Blackbird


Book No: 48
Title: Blackbird
Author: Jennifer Lauck
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2000
Obtained: N/A
Completed: 6/21/08
No. of Pages:406
Rating: 4.5/5*****

Blackbird is the story of Jennifer Lauck’s childhood, which is reflected in the sub-title- A Childhood Lost and Found. Told through the perspective of the child that she was, Jennifer tells of the harrowing six years of her life, from the ages of 5 to 11. Five year old Jennifer is living with her parents and older brother Bryan. It is obvious that Janet, Jennifer’s mother is in the end stages of a long illness, and Jennifer takes care of her mom as best she can at her young age. In the course of time Janet Lauck passes away, and the children are left with their father, a kind but overwhelmed man; he quickly remarries a woman with children of her own, who obviously does not care for Jennifer or Bryan at all. When another tragedy befalls the Lauck family, things go from bad to worse. Although there is some abuse in the book, it is far more psychological than physical and quite disturbing. The indomitable spirit of Jennifer to keep on going, despite it all, is what lifts this book from maudlin to inspiring. The child’s eye view of the adult world is heartbreaking at times, but you will care about this little girl and root for her right until the end, hoping someone or something good comes her way.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hooray! I am all caught up

It took me about a week, but I am all caught up, and posted over 20 reviews. What a relief :)

#47 - The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox


Book No: 47
Title: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Author: Maggie O’ Farrell
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 6/19/08
No. of Pages: 245
Rating: 4/5*****

I really enjoyed this book, a gothic tinged mystery.

Iris Lockhart is living out her life in Scotland, running her vintage clothing store, having an affair with a married man, and just living a fairly normal life. One day Iris receives a stunning phone call, regarding her Aunt Esme, a woman she never knew existed. It seems that Esme is being released from a local mental institution where she has been incarcerated for 60 years, and Iris is named as the person to receive notification. When Iris calls her mother she is assured there is a mistake, but Iris cannot ask her grandmother Kitty about Esme, because Kitty is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. So Iris brings her supposed aunt home, and tries to unravel the mystery of her incarceration.

Through Esme’s memories and Kitty’s ramblings we slowly piece together the tragic and haunting story of Esme, which leads to a final and stunning act.

I could not put this book down, I had to find out Esme’s story, and I had to read the ending twice to make sure I understood what happened. Very compelling read.

#46 - Sliver of Truth


Book No: 46
Title: Sliver of Truth
Author: Lisa Unger
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/paperbackswap
Completed: 6/14/08
No. of Pages: 305
Rating: 4/5*****

Sliver of Truth is the sequel to Beautiful Lies, a book I read and enjoyed several months ago. Many questions were left unanswered at the end of Beautiful Lies, and here Unger tries to answer them, with some heart-pounding suspense, twists turns and all out action. It’s hard to review a sequel without ruining the first book for those who haven’t read it, but I’ll give it a go.

Ridley Pearson’s Uncle Max died a few years ago and Ridley has recently found out some life altering news about Max and his life. But if Max is dead then why is the FBI following Ridley and asking her questions about him? Why does Ridley’s friend Jake believe Max is alive? And why does everyone Ridley contacts while investigating Max’s death end up dead? Unger produces a very dark and intricately plotted story that delves more deeply into Ridley’s character as well as those people who are a part of her life. You care for Ridley and walk with her every step of the way, hoping she will find the answers she so desperately seeks. Good sequel and I am definitely going to read Black Out, Unger’s newest book.

#45 - Stealing Athena


Book No: 45
Title: Stealing Athena
Author: Karen Essex
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Bookbrowse.com
Completed: 6/12/08
No. of Pages: 452
Rating: 3/5***

Stealing Athena tells the story of two women, Aspasia, courtesan to Pericles, the famous politician who spent his lifetime seeing that beautiful monuments to the Gods were built in Greece; and Mary Elgin whose husband Robert Elgin would spend many years of his life trying to bring all of Greece’s art to England. Through these women’s eyes we learn of all that went into building the Parthenon, a temple to Athena and all that went into the deconstruction of the Parthenon 2000 years later, when Lord Elgin removed many of the marble friezes and had them sent to England, where they are today, known as The Elgin Marbles.

I should have loved this book, as I am a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly those focusing on ancient Rome and Greece, and those set in Victorian England. I was however disappointed in this book. The two stories did not seem to mesh well together and none of the characters came alive for me. The writing was often so descriptive the story would lose momentum. I never really cared for anyone in the book and struggled to finish reading it. At over 450 pages, what this book needed was a good editor to tighten up the story. Not a bad book, but not a very good one either.

#44 - The Quickie


Book No: 44
Title: The Quickie
Author: James Patterson
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/Gift
Completed: 6/08/08
No. of Pages: 352
Rating: 1/5*

Why, oh why is James Patterson a bestselling author? I seriously don’t get it. I stopped reading his books several years ago because I found that they just seemed to be getting worse and worse. Then last summer my mom-in-law gave me this book as a gift. It languished on my shelf until now and frankly I wasn’t missing anything. The plot, so to speak, involves Lauren Stillwell, a police officer who finds out her husband is cheating on her. So instead of confronting him she decides to have a ‘quickie’ with a co-worker. While looking out the window of the room where she has her assignation Lauren sees something so shocking her life is turned upside down, and she can’t tell anyone, because that would reveal her affair. The plot was dumb, the characters cardboard cut-outs that I cared not one whit for, the dialogue trite, when not laughable, the writing pedestrian and the ending ridiculous. Awful is too nice a word to use when describing this book.

#43 - Ice Trap


Book No: 43
Title: Ice Trap
Author: Kitty Sewell
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/paperbackswap
Completed: 5/31/08
No. of Pages: 340
Rating: 4/5*****
Dr. Dafydd Woodruff’s marriage is falling apart. The inability to have children has both David and his wife Isabel struggling to maintain the relationship though Isabel is bitterly disappointed in this failure. Things only take a turn from the worse when Dafydd receives a letter from a young girl maintaining that she and her twin brother are his children from a relationship 15 years earlier. Insisting that this is impossible, Dafydd is stunned when the DNA tests he demanded prove he is the father. Deciding that in order to prove his innocence Dafydd leaves Isabel and travels back to Moose Creek, in the Canadian Northwest Territories. It was here Dafydd came 15 years earlier, trying to forget the medical error he made and hoping to rebuild his confidence. Taking an interim position he has a difficult relationship with the caustic head nurse Sheila, who is now claiming he is the father of her children.

This is one of those stories, where you are almost positive that the main character is being expertly played, and you enjoy watching the cat and mouse game between Daffyd and Sheila as the psychological tension ratchets up. The barren town of Moose Creek is a perfect setting for this mystery, with its cast of eccentric characters and the bitter weather as a chilling background. Although some of the resolutions seem a little implausible, overall I enjoyed this suspense tale very much.

#42 - The Meaning of Night


Book No: 42
Title: The Meaning of Night
Author: Michael Cox
Genre: Mystery/Victorian
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2007/Audible.com
Completed: 5/31/08
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4/5*****
This Victorian mystery opens with Edward Glyver’s confession of a murder he committed. He has killed a stranger, an innocent man, as a practice run for his planned murder of his enemy. Who this enemy is and why Edward wishes to kill him is the basis for this book, the purported confession of all the events in Glyver’s life that have pushed him to this point.
Very Dickens like in tone this story is an examination of obsession and how it can overtake a life, to ruinous results for all. Our protagonist Glyver is a man that, although you can understand some of his anguish, isn’t all together likeable. When Glyver is told to trust no one, it is apparent that everyone in this tale is not what he or she seems. Filled with long buried secrets, lies, betrayals, revenge, love, houses of ill-repute, and opium dens one can almost hear evil laughter in the background. Though a long book, it moves fairly fast as we are caught up in the web of lies and sinister doings. A first rate tale.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

#41 - All Hallow's Evil


Book No: 41
Title: All Hallows Evil
Author: Valerie Wolzien
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published: 1992
Obtained: 2003/Half.com
Completed: 5/29/2008
No. of Pages: 247
Rating: 3/5*****

Another entry in the Susan Henshaw cozy mystery series. Soccer mom Susan Henshaw finds a body in the library of her local library. Naturally she solves the crime before the ‘real’ detectives. Nothing very special here, an average cozy without much heart.

#40 - The River Wife


Book No: 40
Title: The River Wife
Author: Jonis Agee
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/Doubleday
Completed:
No. of Pages: 396
Rating: 4/5*****

It is 1930; seventeen years old, and pregnant, Hedie Rails has just married Clement Ducharme and has moved into his family estate, a remote home in rural Missouri. Hedie’s new husband seems to be involved in some shady business, going out at all hours of the night, sometimes coming up bloodied and hung over. While roaming the house at night Hedie finds the journals of Annie Lark, the first wife of Jacques Ducharme, the larger than life ancestor of Clement and the man who built the estate. Through Hedie’s reading we learn how Annie was rescued by Jacques during the New Madrid earthquake. With Annie’s’ story anchoring the early life of this saga, and Hedie’s the latter part, we also learn the stories of the other women and their children in Jacques Ducharme’s life, and how each of them struggled to find their place in a man’s world and how Jacques ruled them all with an iron fist. Throughout the book it is the spirit of Annie that inhabits everyone’s memories and her ghost that inhabits the Ducharme estate.
I was quite entranced with this book, in particular Annie’s story, but all of the ‘river wives’ had fascinating stories, except perhaps Hedie, whose story was the most uninvolving of them all. All in all I think this was a very worthwhile read and believe there is a lot here for book clubs, it’s a wonder to me this book isn’t more popular with discussion groups.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#39 - Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea


Book No: 39
Title: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea
Author: Chelsea Handler
Genre: Humor
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008
Completed: 5/21/08
No. of Pages:
Rating: 4/5*****

I laughed a lot while reading this book. Chelsea Handler’s series of essays is laugh out loud funny even if everything she does is so not right. She is completely not PC and is constantly getting herself into trouble, mostly because she lies a lot and drinks way too much. The book starts with Chelsea convincing everyone in her third grade class that she is going to have the role of Goldie Hawn’s daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, a movie that doesn’t even exist and ends with Chelsea pretending to be her dad’s trophy wife on their honeymoon to get an upgrade to first class. Along the way there is regifting, relationships with very young men, and Chelsea’s strange obsession with a midget who looks just like her. If you take offense easily this book is not for you, but if outrageous humor is your idea of fun then read this book.

#38 - Wife Goes On


Book No: 38
Title: Wife Goes On
Author: Lesley Lehr
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap.com
Completed: 5/20/08
No. of Pages: 307
Rating: 3/5*****

Four women from varying walks of life are going through, contemplating or recovering from divorce. Through a series of coincidences they end up being friends and each other’s support group as they begin to make new lives for themselves.

Cute and often funny this was an easy read chick-lit book. Reminiscent in many ways of The First Wives Club it was breezy and sometimes witty but some of the situations seemed wildly improbable, and I find it hard to believe that these four women, from such different environments would cross paths in the first place, never mind become fast friends. A nice bit of fluff to start of the summer, a no brainer read.