Monday, January 28, 2008

#5 -The Nature of Monsters

Book No: 5
Title: The Nature of Monsters
Author: Clare Clark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2007/
Completed: 1/28/2008
No. of Pages: N/A - Audio
Rating: 4.5/5*****

Eliza Talley is sixteen years old and lives in rural England. When she falls in love with the son of the local wealthy family, she and her mother believe all their troubles are over. However when Eliza finds herself pregnant, the son abandons her and his father strikes a deal with Eliza’s mother to send her to London to work for an apothecary there. Eliza is led to believe that the apothecary will ‘help’ her with her pregnancy.

Arriving in London Eliza is bedazzled by the big city, especially St. Paul’s Cathedral. However the home where she is indentured to work is gloomy, run by the tight lipped and harsh Mrs. Black, wife to the apothecary Grayson Black. There is also a lecherous apprentice Edgar Pettigrew and a fellow house maid, Mary who is an ‘idiot’ and has a hare lip. Put to back breaking work Eliza finds that Mr. Black has no intention of helping her rid herself of her child, but instead has other plans entirely. Eliza soon learns that the monsters of the world might live right in your own home.

At first I thought this was going to be a romance type book, as the start of the book was about Eliza’s affair with the young son. However this book was anything but a romance, more of a Dickens like tale of the poor and voiceless against the rich and powerful. Evoking the sights, sounds and smells of 18th century London the author does a masterful job of making us feel a part of all that is happening. Murky, dark and gloomy this book is absolutely compelling. In the end a whiny and petulant Eliza comes into her own, and gives not only herself a voice, but one for Mary who is perhaps the most innocent and deserving of happiness of all. Well researched and beautifully written I recommend this book to anyone who likes the gothic and seeing both the good and bad in mankind.
A very high recommend.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

#4 - All the Numbers

Book No: 4
Title: All the Numbers
Author: Judy Larsen
Genre: Fiction
No. of Pages: 269
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2007/Paperbackswap
Completed: 1/24/08
No. of Pages: 269
Rating: 4/5*****

Ellen Banks is a high school teacher who is spending the last weekend in summer, before the start of the school year, with her two sons at a friend’s lake house. This is a ritual they have followed for many years. Unfortunately what starts out as a lazy summer day ends in tragedy with Ellen’s son James being hit by a jet skier and suffering a catastrophic brain injury. So begins Ellen’s journey into the unthinkable, the loss of a child.

Larsen expertly weaves a tale of unbearable tragedy. Step by step we walk with Ellen, as she transfers her eleven year old son to the hospital, through the air lift to another medical center, surgery and the heart breaking decision to take James off life support. We are one with Ellen as she tries to comprehend what has happened to her, as she tries to be strong for her remaining child, Daniel, himself only thirteen. We understand her anguish as she decides to donate James’ organs, although the deed offers her no solace. We watch as she collapses, crawls into bed, weeps and goes through the motions. All the while Ellen’s sole objective is to get justice for James by bringing the boy who caused his death to trial for manslaughter.

This is what my mom used to call a ‘three hankie tear jerker’. I cried so much at some points I had to put the book down. Although I had some minor problems with the book, overall it was engrossing, heart breaking and ultimately uplifting. Knowing someone who lost her teen age son to a similar accident it was a slice of real life for me, and a book I’ll not soon forget.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

TBR Challenge 2008

Because I posted this in December it is archived in 2007, so I am reposting it here, so I can find it as I move through the challenge.

I've decided to participate in the 2008 TBR Challenge, hosted by MizB.

My list of books to read over the next 12 months are:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Triangle - The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle
Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
Day of the False King by Brad Geagly
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
The Grenadillo Box by Janet Gleeson
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
Imperium by Robert Harris
Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille
The Vanishing Man by Jeffrey Deaver

My 12 alternates:

Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Dancing Days by Anne Marie Forest
Babyville by Jane Green
The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
The Angel with One Hundred Wings by Daniel Horch
The White by Deborah Larsen
I Know this Much is True by Wally Lamb
Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
Fortune's Rock by Anita Shreve
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

#3 - The Water's Lovely

Book No: 3
Title: The Water’s Lovely
Author: Ruth Rendell
Genre: Mystery
No. of Pages: 340
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007
Completed: 1/20/08
Rating: 3/5*****

I have never read a book by Ruth Rendell so I was looking forward to discovering a new author. Unfortunately I did not care for this book much, and if it is indicative of the books she writes I think it would be quite a while before I would read her again. The story started well enough with one of the characters recurring dream of what appears to be a murder. However after that it became a never ending account of self serving whining people who inexplicably all seem to be connected by the most tenuous of threads. There were really only three people I cared about, and they seemed to be there only as a comparison to all the other ninnies in the book.

The plot involves Ismay and Heather, two sisters who are very close. Their stepfather died under mysterious circumstances 12 years earlier, and their mother has receded into mental illness, cared for by her sister Pam. The four women live in the family home which has been converted into two flats, with the two sets of sisters occupying one apartment each. We follow their various love lives, including a happy marriage, a disastrous love affair and some terrific views of middle aged dating, including speed dating, Internet matches etc. Most of the plot involves long winded musings, mostly by Ismay, who was the most annoying character in the book with no spine at all. I was barely into this book when I was hoping she would do something, anything except mope and ruminate on lost chances.

The coincidences that move the plot along are improbable, and almost never ending, one after the other. The book is supposed to be a suspense tale, but read at times like an afternoon soap. The story just plods along, and the ending not only annoyed me, but seemed completely unnecessary. I literally threw the book down after reading the last page.

Since this author has won numerous awards, and there were many passages that I thought really well written I may give her another go, but someone would have to talk the book up a lot before I’d try another one.

Friday, January 18, 2008

#2 - Imperium

I finished my first challenge book for the year. For the TBR Challenge I finished Imperium by Robert Harris. Whew, only 11 more for this challenge :)

Book No: 2
Title: Imperium
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2007/paperbackswap
Completed: 1/17/08
Rating: 3.5/5*****

I very much enjoyed Harris’ last book Pompeii, but this venture into Ancient Rome fell a little flat for me.
Imperium is a fictional biography of the great Roman Senator and orator Cicero. It is told from the view point of his slave/secretary Tiro, credited with inventing modern shorthand. The book follows Cicero’s pursuit of a political career, and the many machinations and double dealings that occurred in the Roman Republic during this time(79-64 BC).The first half of the book deals with Cicero prosecution of a thoroughly corrupt and evil governor of Sicily, while pursuing a seat in the Senate and a Praetorship. The second half of the book deals with Cicero’s pursuit of consulship. The portrait of Cicero is pretty much a warts and all depiction, showing his ability to justify his actions when politically motivated and often involve not always doing ‘good’ over the politically expedient.
Although obviously well researched I often felt overwhelmed with all the names of the characters, many of which had very little personality, often blending in my mind. I also found the most charismatic characters to be the villains, and the ‘good guys’ somewhat one dimensional. The appearance of a young and manipulative Julius Caesar was the most fascinating part of the story; unfortunately he appeared far too briefly. My understanding is that this is to be part of a trilogy, so I would like to see a further exploration of the relationship between Caesar and Cicero. I do like books set in this time period, so I would possibly continue on if there are two more books written.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Okay, I Lied

So yesterday I posted that I was not going to sign up for anymore challenges. Today I signed up for the Chunkster Challenge 2008. Trying to read 4 chunky books over the course of the year isn't so bad though, because three of my books fit some of my other challenges! So here are my books for this new challenge, and that's it, I swear!

Marie Antoinette; The Journey by Antonia Fraser
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Their Shoes Challenge List

Here are my choices for the In their Shoes challenge:


Marie Antoinette; The Journey by Antonia Fraser (bio)
Blackbird, A Childhood Lost and Found by Jennifer Lauck (memoir)
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (memoir)
Brief Intervals of Horrible Sanity; One Season in A Progressive School by Elizabeth Gold (memoir)


Lincoln; A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Cardawine (bio)
Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain (memoir)
The Hungry Ocean; A Swordboat Captain's Journey by Linda Greenlaw (memoir)
Wonderful Tonight; George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me by Pattie Boyd (memoir)

Another Day, Another Challenge

I've joined in on the In Their Shoes reading challenge now. That's three challenges and with the 24 Book Challenge Group at Shelfari and the Book a Week group at Yahoo, I hope to whittle down my ridiculously large TBR pile. I am not buying books, just trading at Paperbackswap . Unfortunately with my large cache of credits there, the pile dosen't grow, just doesn't recede either. Lately this has been bothering me, since I feel obligated to read all these books. I think in the next few weeks I may do a book purge and clean out my shelves of books I am no longer interested in. I'm waiting for a rainy or snowy day to just stay home and do it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ontheporchswing Reading Challenge

I belong to a group at Yahoo called On The Porch Swing. We are doing a challenge that consists of five books over the course of the year that meet certain criteria. (Click link above for more info)

My choices are:

Color: Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg
Name: Katherine by Anya Seton
House: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Family: Sister of my Heart by Chitra Divakaruni
Water: The River Wife by Jonie Agee


Green Darkness by Anya Seton
Sweet Dreams Irene by Jan Burke
All the Way Home by Wendy Corsi Staub
Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman

This is my second challenge to join this year as I am also doing the TBR Challenge

I hope these challenges help me in my quest to make the TBR pile a little smaller.

Wish me luck :)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Book #1 of 2008 - The Missing

I actually finished reading this a few days ago for Shelfari's Suspense & Thrillers group. This was the January read, and it appears most people enjoyed the book which was a relief for me since I recommended it. It had been on my TBR mountain for a while and I saw this as a good opportunity to try and clear out another book.

Book No: 1
Title: The Missing
Author: Chris Mooney
Genre: Thriller
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/Paperbackswap
Completed: 1/1/07
Rating: 3.5/5*****

This is a fast paced thriller, with many interesting characters. The major problem with the book is it is a theme that has been done before (Kiss the Girls by Patterson is one that comes straight to mind). Still and all with its short chapters, twists and turns and super creepy villain it is a well done serial killer thriller. I did figure out some of the plot twists but because I cared for the main character that wasn’t a problem at all. The ending doesn’t quite tie everything up into a neat little bow, and I liked that also!

While hanging out in the woods near their home, three teenage girls witness a murder. In their haste to escape a backpack is left behind, and soon the killer is on the trail of the witnesses, determined to leave none of them alive. Only one of the girls escapes his wrath, and we flash forward twenty years later, where Darby McCormack is now a CSI for the Boston PD. While investigating a missing girl case Darby finds a woman hiding beneath the porch of the victim's house. Soon it becomes clear to Darby that this case is leading her back to her own past encounter with a murderer.

Despite some predictable plot lines the character of Darby was so well written and I was so invested in her that I had to continue on until the end to see if she gets the bad guy. I would love to see another book featuring the intrepid Darby McCormick, and her partner Coop, I think there may be a romance in there, though that wouldn’t be necessary for me to enjoy another outing with Mr. Mooney.

Making time, a little at a time :)

Okay so I've decided I need to try and check in here at least twice a week, so that I can keep up my posting, answer any comments (not too many so far) and update my reading etc.

For the TBR challenge I am reading Imperium, which is good, but slow going. I think it's all the names, Cicerio, Pompey, Sthenius, Marcus, Pius etc. I can't keep everyone straight. It seems to be picking up speed though, so hopefully it will go a bit faster.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I just don't have the time

I want to get more familiar with this blog world, but don't seem to have the time. What with working out, the kids, keeping house, Shelfari, online groups and trying to read I wonder if I'll ever learn what to do here. Guess I'll just have to try and carve a half hour or so everyday to work on my blog skills, which are minimal right now. I wanted to put a button on my page for the TBR challenge and for the life of me don't know how to get it in here. I know it's probably staring me right in the face, but so far I am at a loss! One tiny baby step at a time. :)