Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Man's Best Friend....or Boy....or Anybody!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4:  Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

Graphic Novel

Greg Heffley is addictive.  As soon as I finish one book, I want to immediately start the next one.  Every time he opens his mouth (or pen), I think "Yes!  That's exactly what I was thinking!"  (Which probably doesn't say much for my mature sense of humor.)

The 'dog days' of the title refers to the dog days of Greg's summer vacation.  Grey wants to spend his summer indoors by the TV but his mom has other plans.  Unfortunately, the family has no money so the annual summer family vacation turns into a 'staycation' at the local pool.

My favorite part is when Greg starts going to the country club with his best friend Rowly.  He orders dozens of drinks and food stuffs and charges it all to Rowley's dad...while complaining about the service.  So funny!  To pay off Rowley's dad, Rowley and Greg try and start a lawn service.  Greg isn't much for physical labor so the business doesn't last very long but has some hilarious consequences.  The best graphics are the portrayals of the hairy men when Greg has to walk through the YMCA shower room.  The funniest part is when the family accidentally leaves mom at a gas station.  Greg's brothers and the rest of the family are all back--and all still as strange.  In this family, Greg is the best of the bunch.

These books do not have to be read in order so jump in anywhere.  But, whatever you, jump all the way in with a big belly flop.  Greg is a hero to really get behind--he is so very fallible, so very human.  He says things I wish I could and does things I've thought about--but my good sense stopped me.  These books are really best for reluctant teen or adolescent readers, though, so don't let the comics make you think it's a little kids read.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Apocalyptic Fun

Rogue Wave by Boyd Morrison

Adult Fiction

I would have to classify this book as an apocalyptic weather novel--a fun genre if you're into the world ending through a cataclysmic and unlikely event.  In short, not very realistic but a very fun read.

When a meteorite smashes into the ocean, a mega-tsunami is formed, the largest ever seen or recorded; one that is too big to be believed.  And, that's the problem.  No one really believes it.  Kai Tanaka, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, can scarcely believe it when he sees the evidence with his own eyes.  Surely, there must be a mistake.  So, based on the data, he has to make a decision.  a.) Alert the public, causing widespread panic and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars or, b.) Save himself potential humiliation by ignoring the data.  It's a big decision.  One that involves the safety of over a million people, including his own family.

What follows is a roller coaster thrill ride just waiting for a Hollywood director with a big budget.  Tanaka waits just a little too long to make the call and now he has to scramble to save his own life, and that of his family, from a tsunami that threatens to obliterate Hawaii.

I really liked this book.  It was full of action and adventure from the beginning to practically the last page and you never knew what was going to happen next.  While no one is going to nominate this book for a Pulitzer, it is an engaging and engrossing read.  There's nothing wrong with just reading a book for fun and this one is fun to the extreme.  While many parts are unbelievable, there is a healthy dose of realism and you know from page one that readers can stow their sensation of belief in the over head bin. 

I can't wait to check out his other books!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Voice in the Silence

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Adult Fiction

This book revolves around a little discussed woman in the Bible, Dinah.  She was the sister to Joseph, the guy with the amazing coat, and almost a dozen other brothers. 

I've always struggled with many biblical stories as female voices are absent.  The Bible, for me as a woman, has always been a silent place, so discovering this book was a delight.  Finally, a voice, a story, behind the name!

This is a book about the power of women during this time, a time when women were viewed as little more than livestock.  Everything in this book revolves around the wives of Jacob, which is a much truer story than the ones traditionally told in Sunday school classes.  Dinah's story, her voice, is so strong.  It was amazing to get a glimpse into her world---and that's when you know a book has crossed over, has truly come alive--when the voice and the words and the world within in becomes real.  This character, Dinah, must have existed JUST AS the book said.  It was too real not to be true.

I loved the tradition of the Red Tent and wonder why we ever abandoned it!  Women who are menstruating shut themselves away in this red tent until their menses is over.  Honestly, that sounds heavenly to me.  Sometimes, I wonder what we lost when we burned our bras in protest.  Most of the book takes place in the tent as each of Jacob' wives shares her story with Dinah. 

I loved this book.  It so very clearly shows the importance of women in a patriarchal society, and strong women at that!  The four mother characters were so very interesting and I particularly loved Leah, who won her husband's love through the strength of her devotion.  This is a book to love for both Christians and non-Christians, for all who are in the Sisterhood.  Which means 'sorry guys, you probably won't like it.' 

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Tempest in a Tea Cup

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way by Jon Krakauer

Nonfiction

This Kindle short, or short expose, is a reaction to the phenomena caused by Greg Mortenson and his book, Three Cups of Tea:  One Man's Mission to Promote Peace.....One School at a Time.

In this selection, Krakauer highlights what he sees as a gross misuse of funds by the famed humanitarian Mortenson.  He more than hints that Mortenson isn't much of a humanitarian and is little more than a common swindler. 

The evidence fell a bit flat for me, though.  Krakauer's research just doesn't show that Mortenson is a monster of greed.  Bad at money management and full of himself, sure.  But evil?  Krakauer just couldn't make that case.  Clearly, Krakauer dislikes the guy and I do get slight feelings of mistrust but I just wasn't swayed.

In all, though, it was a fascinating look at the topic and certainly gives balance to Mortenson's various books, all of which I very much enjoyed.  Krakauer is always master of the writing game and while his style is very interesting and gripping, this book just isn't as dramatic as some of his others.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Grab a Case of Tissues

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Adult Fiction

This was the first time in my adult life that I was put in time-out....by my husband.  I decided to read this book on the way to a family vacation.  My children are asleep in the back and my husband is happily listening to his ipod.  About halfway through the book, I start crying.  The farther I read, the harder I cry.  At one point, I was sobbing so hard my husband actually took the book away from me.  He said he couldn't stand to see me that way.  He wouldn't give it back until our vacation was over.  Even then, I had to sneak and read it because I started sobbing again each time I picked it up.

Amir and Hassan are like brothers-growing up in the compound of Amir's wealthy father in Afghanistan.  Class distinctions start to divide them and Amir, as a child, is forced to make a very adult decision.  This decision will haunt him for the rest of his life.  While this is ultimately a story of redemption, the setting of Afghanistan during the start of the war made the fighting so much more real for me than any news coverage I've ever seen.

This book is filled with so much regret over a foolish, immature decision, a decision that changed so many lives.  Haven't we all been there?  Perhaps not in a situation as dire as this one, but we have all made life-altering choices that have affected others and that is the real beauty of this story.  Although the cultures couldn't be farther apart, there is something so universal about the themes of love and betrayal.  Haunting and powerful.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Better and Better

Kane Chronicles #2: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Adolescent Mythology/Thriller

If it's possible, I liked this one better than the first.  That's the great thing about Riordan--you're never disappointed.  He just keeps getting better and better.

This second installment in the trilogy takes place not very long after the first book left off.  Sadie and Carter Kane are really struggling to adept to their new lives as....Egyptian magicians-in-training.  The brother/sister duo have sent off invitations for others like themselves and have started training them for the war that is brewing, with limited results.  In this book, the Kanes have to find the Book of Ra before the House of Life can defeat them.  Their biggest problem?  Trying to figure out who the enemy is!

This book had the same blend of humor and is just oozing mythology but is much faster paced than the first book, The Red Pyramid.  I think I like the settings and mythology better in this series than Riordan's other two series, Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus.  Egyptian mythology is so unknown to me.  I love losing myself in these adventures!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fun Horror

Wolf Storm by Dee Garretson

Adolescent Horror/Adventure

Stefan is about to make his first ever feature movie and become a big star-if he doesn't mess it all up with his clumsiness.  He keeps forgetting his lines; he makes his costar Raine furious; and, he accidentally almost kills one of the trained wolves, stopping the whole production.  When most of the adults leave to try and find help for the injured wolf, Stefan is left alone with his two teenage costars overnight. 

The story quickly goes from a drama/comedy of misadventure to thriller to horror to survival. The reader gets to experience one fast roller coaster ride when a local wolf population invades their area; the houses loses electricity and heat during a blizzard; the roads become impassable so no help can arrive; and, oh yeah, there's an avalanche that almost kills everyone!

Sure, the plot strains credulity......or this is one unlucky dude.  But, it was a lot of fun.  Sometimes, it's nice to throw reality out the window and just grab on to some fun.  I really liked this book and I think it will greatly appeal to reluctant readers, especially teen boys.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Book I've Read This Year

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Historical Fiction

This is, no question, the best book of the year for me.  That's quite an honor considering I have met my goal of reading 200 books (so far!).  This book has an unfortunate title (with Fifty Shades of Gray--these two aren't even distantly related literary cousins!).

Fifteen-year old Lina lives in Lithuania.  One day, Soviets invade her home, arrest her family and send her to a Siberian work camp.  The trip is tortuous and they all barely survive.  The conditions are brutal but Lina's stubborn persistent connection to art and her hope in love keeps her safe, and alive.

The writing style is haunting and lyrical and beautiful.  The narrator seems so detached from the writing and yet is through this detachment that one realizes the special kind of horror that is in the story.  I have read many Holocaust books but none quite like this.  It is unique for many reasons but the purpose of singling out a professor's family really hit home for me.  Getting rid of all the people who know better is the worst kind of evil--the destruction of knowledge.  This book should win all kinds of awards--nothing else this year even comes close!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rare Game!

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice

Adolescent Survival

A hunting book!  Be still, my teaching heart!  This is literally only the second hunting book I've ever found written for young people.  How rare!  And, how very delightful that is was also well-written! 

This is my favorite type of genre (adventure/survival) and even if you don't like hunting, there's still plenty enough for you to sink your teeth into.  When both of Erik's parents are deployed to Iraq, he has little choice but to go and stay with his maternal grandparents, people he barely knows.  Naturally, this means he's going to miss his friends and school but missing his first grown-up hunting trip is almost more than he can bear.  Combine that with the pain of his parent's leaving and Erik is in true turmoil.  To make the situation worse, his grandparents are strange and don't know quite what to make of a young boy.  His grandfather, Big Darrell, almost seems to hate him.  When Erik finds and rescues a hunting dog from a porcupine attack, he's sure that he's found a friend at last, until Big Darrell says, "No dogs!".  Erik decides this is the last straw and heads out on his own.

This book hasn't stayed on my shelf since I put it out at school--that's the true sign of a good read!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Left Me Cold

Iced by Carol Higgins Clark

 Cozy Mystery

This is book #3 in this series and while I enjoyed the first two, this one just left me cold.  This is a cozy mystery so I knew not to expect hard-hitting crime, but still, there should be something that felt dangerous or thrilling.  There just wasn't.  This book was awkward and felt amateurish at times.  There were very cheesy jokes, cheesy dialogue and even a cheesy plot.  As a reader, you are aware the whole time that this is a book; none of it felt remotely real.

Reagain Reilley, a private investigator, is looking forward to some winter relaxation with her parents-down-to-earth funeral home director father, Luke, and mystery author mother, Nora.  Reagan's vacation time turns suddenly into a working vacation when some expensive paintings are stolen from a friend's residence and, of course, the Reilley's are right in the thick of it.

Normally, I would probably already be giving up on this series but I know it has to get better because I have read a later installment that was quite good.  Please don't disappoint me on the next one or we will have to part ways for good, Reagan Reilley.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Not As Good As I Wanted

Infinity Ring #1:  A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner


Adolescent Time Travel/Alternate History

I really wanted to love this book.  The premise is fascinating.  But, alas, I only liked it.  Kind of.

This first book in the series was written by James Dashner, author of Maze Runner.  While I know he is a popular writer, he is not really the best choice to write a short, thrilling work.  Personally, I find him a bit boring and dry. 

Best friend Dek and Sera stumble onto the secret of time travel in Dek's basement and travel back in time to fix the current mixed up history.  While the premise is interesting, it is also confusing. I suspect many young readers will have no idea about some historical allusions and much of it will just fall flat.  Or perhaps that was a problem with my own feeble brain rather than a plotting issue, although I suspect the latter.

This book is similar to the premise of the bestseller series 39 Clues.  Each book is to be written by a different author, a passing of the literary torch.  It was such great fun in 39 clues.  I loved seeing how the author's style changed the story and characters.  This book is also a multi-platform with the book having some kind of secret code for an online game.  But, it comes nowhere close to the magic of 39 Clues and I predict will fizzle in just a few books.  I don't know if I'll hang around for it or not. Overall, I felt kind of cheated of a good story and kind of like I was trapped in some type of weird marketing scheme.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Better and Better and Better.....

D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton

Adult Mystery

This is book 4 in the Kinsey Milhone Alphabet Mysteries and I am both glad and sad. Glad there is 22 more but sad there is only 22 more. 

Kinsey's new client doesn't last long.  He appears in the first chapter but he makes a big impression.  Somewhere along the lines of $25,000 worth!  Kinsey is supposed to deliver the money  to a young man but that proves pretty difficult because the young man doesn't want the money and a lot of other people do.

I liked this one the best so far.  The ending was an absolute stunner for me.  I never saw it coming!  (Doesn't that make for the best mysteries?)  I really like the character of Kinsey.  At first her demeanor was off putting--she's so emotionless and clinical and dry.  Of course, those are also the qualities that make for such  a good detective.  Needless to say, I'm in this for the long haul and can't wait to see what Kinsey comes up with next.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Unmatched By Lesser Books

Matched by Ally Condie

Adolescent Dystopia Fiction

This read, for me, was like falling in love slowly.  I only really liked the book for awhile and then it started to grow on me and then I was reading it feverishly, desperate to begin the next as soon as I finished this first installment.

This is a dystopian book like The Hunger Games but Cassia is no Katniss Everdeen.  Which isn't to say she is a lesser protagonist.  Cassia is satisfied with her life, never coloring outside the lines of what is expected of her by her family and by society.  What's not to be happy about?  She has a loving family, good friends and she has been 'matched' (as in government-sponsored betrothed) to her childhood BFF who adores her.  The feeling is mutual.

Until.

Until Cassia glimpses a different future.  When she witnesses a supposed computer glitch that 'matches' her with Ky, a boy she knows but who has always been an outsider, she is intrigued by the possibilities.  Her intrigue starts a small revolution, first in her own heart. This is why I like her a little better than Katniss.  Revolution is not thrust upon Cassia; she absorbs it and projects it all for love and justice.

This book just got better and better.  I felt like I was growing and becoming more aware with Cassia, rather than through her.  And, while you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the covers of this series are pure delight for the eyes.  I cannot wait for the next one!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Another Good Show!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid #3:  The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

Adolescent Graphic Novel

What's not to love with this series?  A funny and true version of middle school life told through the jaded view of a slacker, Greg Heffley.

Will Greg's father ever despair of changing his sons?  Apparently not!  This third book has the oldest male Heffley encouraging his middle son to toughen up and play team sports-or else!  Well, the else turns out to be military school.  Greg, of course, resists all attempts at change and stays his adorable, hilarious, selfish self.  One of the funniest parts of the book occurs at the very beginning when Greg makes his own New Year's resolution to be more helpful.  So, he gives his mom advice about her junk food habits and growing waistline.  Gotta love him!

These book are just so funny, even for me, an older woman.  I know they are targeted for middle school male reluctant readers but I love them, too!  I often have to fight over my own copies in my open classroom.  This is a really fast read and you can devour the entire book in about 90 minutes or so.  I can't wait to jump into the next one!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gifted

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Adult Classic Fiction

Sometimes, rarely, you read a book and you know the author isn't skilled or masterful but gifted. Gifted in a way a virtuoso is, gifted in a way that can't be taught or bought, but only received through some divine blessing.  Such is Hurston and this book.  I have never read Hurston before and am so delighted to have discovered her.  What an absolute literary treasure.  It is a pity there are so few of her works.  I'll have to space them out so I don't exhaust them too soon. 

Janie marries first to escape from home to man picked out for her by her grandmother.  He was so much older and she found she had traded one kind of servitude for another.  It must be better to marry for love, she resolves.  Longing for that, Janie walks away from her marriage into the arms of a man who makes her a great many promises which he keeps.  She is a fine lady with nice things, held up on a  pedestal.  But still, Janie longs for love.  Finally, she takes for a lover a man twenty years younger who makes her wildly happy, wildy angry, and wildy sad.  Which of these choices is right?  Which is love?

Hurston is a true master of human emotions and can express in a few words oceans of what is unsaid and still understood by the human heart.  This is a book on women's right--and the unfairness of being a female in her time period.  I love that Hurston stays true to her voice, to the story, even though Janie's action are so difficult, so controversial, and yet, ultimately, so true.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More a Fizzle than a Spark

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Adult Romance

I am not a huge Nicholas Sparks fan so my review might not be to your liking if you enjoy his work.  I've read one book of this that I've loved, 2 or 3 that I've liked a lot and then the rest are kind of like this one-just okay. 

Travis and Gabby have absolutely nothing in common.  Travis is a good-natured goof, into sports and hanging out.  Gabby is focused on her life plan of career+marriage+family=happy.  Gabby's dilemma?  Stick with her boring boyfriend of several years or take a chance on love.  This book is about them before their courtship and then shoots straight to a decade in the future.  Travis has to face a major decision about their relationship.  That was a bit of a jump for me and really had me struggling to figure out what the heck happened and what is Travis so undecided about.  And, quite frankly, why does he even want to get mixed with up Gabby in the first place?  She's stuffy and demanding and irritating.  I was kind of hoping he found someone better.

It seemed liked Sparks was trying to make some grand statement about life, but I'll be darned if I could figure it out.  I do like the romance part--warm and fuzzy with a nice dash of sexy.  Overall, the book just fizzled for me with no Sparks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Just Don't Get All the Fuss

The Maze Runner by James Daschner

Adolescent Dystopian

I really wanted to love this series.  I mean, it was on the NY Times Bestseller list, for Pete's sake!  But, I didn't love it.  I didn't even like it.  I kept waiting and waiting for the book to live up to its reputation, but it never did.  It started out weird and boring and stayed that way.

When Thomas wakes up, the only thing he can remember is his name.  He doesn't know where he is or who he is.  All he knows is that he has to escape.  The entire book had one setting and I found myself wanting to escape it, too.  Thomas has landed in the Glade, a sort of perpetually moving bush maze with flesh-eating monsters.  The why of this is never really explained.  It's not very clear why this manic need to escape is in the story or why they have to desperately search the maze every day or, well, the 'why' of hardly anything is explained.  What is the point here?  Is it in the second book?

It mostly reminded me of a modern day Lord of the Flies, another book I didn't love.  I just don't know if I have the gumption to sit through another book....I hope a lover of this series will step forward and tell me what I'm missing. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It Gets Better and Better

Blood Bound:  Mercy Thompson #2 by Patricia Briggs

Paranormal Romance

This is a very unique paranormal tale-not just another story where the main character falls in love with a vampire or werewolf.  In this book, the main character is ALSO a paranormal (a shape-shifting coyote) and falls is love with BOTH a vampire and a werewolf, or two.

In this second installment of the series, Stefan, Mercy's vampire friend asks her for a favor-to accompany him to the master vampire's house.  Stefan gets more than he bargained for and now he isn't safe, and neither is Mercy.  The paranormal aspects of this book get really deep as a demonic possessed vampire goes up against Mercy's werewolf neighbors. 

I really like this series.  It is the perfect amount of paranormal, adventure, mystery and romance.  My favorite part, though, is the romance with next-door neighbor Alpha-wolf Adam, who is competing with Mercy's feelings for her first love, werewolf Samuel.  The cheesy covers don't do the story justice as this series continues to get better and better.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waverly Hills TB Hospital

With Their Dying Breaths: A History of Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium by CC Thomas

History
With Their Dying Breaths: A History of Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium
The book I'm reviewing today is my own.  This story, the story of Waverly Hills, is one that has haunted me for years.  Not because of the haunted history of the place, but because the history is one that stays with you. 

When I first learned of the hospital, I was writing for a local newspaper and just went to do a piece on the infamous haunted house.  But, something about the place stayed with me and I wanted to learn more.  I started to do research and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  Kentucky's history with tuberculosis was so fascinating that I just couldn't get enough.  So much suffering and it wasn't so long ago---yet, hardly anyone remembered how tuberculosis devastated entire communities.  I read what I could get my hands one, which wasn't much.

And, that's how the book came to be.  It isn't so much a story of the haunted-ness of the hospital as it is about the lives that lived through it.  I tried to be as comprehensive as I could, which makes some of it a bit dry, but I thought it was important to include it all.

Now that I've written it, I find the story still isn't finished.  I have so many people telling me about other stories out there, waiting for me.  Stories from beloved parents, grandparents--many of whom were touched by the hospital and by tuberculosis.  I hope to tell their stories, too.  So, contact me if you have a story to share or know someone who does.  It's the only way that history will stay alive--if we keep the stories alive.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not My Favorite Plums

Plum Lovin': A Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers Novel by Janet Evanovitch

Paranormal Mystery

This is not the usual Stephanie Plum books I have come to love; it isn't a hard-hitting quirky who-dun-it.  As a 12.5 in the series of Plum books, it veers off the course into some type of quirky paranormal who-dun-it.  And, I just don't like these at all.

It isn't a bad series, but get a new main character, Evanovitch.  Make a new series and leave my series alone!  This series is taken.  Why doesn't the author just start something new instead of horning in on a series I already love and one that isn't paranormal in any way?

A strange man named Diesel shows up at Stephanie's apartment and he needs detective help.  Stephanie is kind of busy on a case so they trade favors:  he'll find her bounty if she plays Cupid.  The literal Cupid, who appears to be missing.  Stephanie is really having a hard time wrapping her mind around this new reality and I can't blame her--as a reader, I feel a bit that way too.

The only real similarity with the regular Plum novels is Stephanie's bumbling attempts to solve a crime, which is always a hilarious delight.  But, without Ranger or Morelli, a really important piece of the Plum pie is missing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My First Picoult, but Not My Last

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Adult Fiction

I really like this author's writing style.  It's my first book by her but won't be my last.

Ellie is a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is having some personal issues and a professional crisis.  She heads to her aunt's home in Pennsylvania Amish country for some R&R.  Her vacation is interrupted when her aunt begs her to take on a new case--her niece and Ellie's cousin by marriage.  The cousin is an unmarried Amish teen accused of giving birth secretly and then killing the baby.

Their clash is apparent in every way-philosophical, cultural, religious, their views of women.  Their situations force them to face some hard truths about themselves.

You just don't know what going to happen or how it's going to end.  How can there be a happy ending to such a sad story and why did I even expect one?  This one is a mystery that keeps you gripped and, even though you know what's going on, you don't really know what's going to happen.  I hope all her other books are this good!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Historical Adventure!

Lost Rights:  The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic by David Howard

Nonfiction, History

The introduction to this book was so captivating, so masterful, so story-like, it's hard to believe such a tale actually happened!  Who says great adventures only happen in the movies?  I find the best ones are the ones from real life and this proves my point.

This is the story of one of the fourteen original  Bill of Rights.  There was one made for each of the thirteen colonies and one for the federal government.  The one for North Carolina was apparently stolen during the sacking of Raleigh at the end of the Civil War and was discovered/revealed decades later in Indianapolis hanging on the wall of a modest home.  Let the bidding begin!  But, who owns it?  The homeowner from Indianapolis or the State of North Carolina?  Or is it really the missing document from another state?

A cast of characters-both villains and heroes-inhabit these pages and are fit for any Hollywood screen.  The convoluted workings of tracing the who/where/what and why of this is so interesting and underling it all is patriotism and greed.  I love how a story such as this is so full of scandal and intrigue.  So much fuss for such a tiny scrap of paper!  This was a very interesting read with a very sobering ending.  I have definitely never read a book like this one.  If you like mysteries from history, be sure to check it out!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Appalachian Charles Dickens

The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby by H.L. Grandin

Adult Fiction

This author is an Appalachian Charles Dickens and that isn't necessarily meant as a compliment.  His command of the English language is masterful.  His descriptions are lush and effusive.  Yet, what the heck does he mean by it all?  I sometimes got so lost in the rocking, rolling cadence of Grandin's words that I forgot there was even a story going on.  It is more like a narrative poem than a piece of traditional fiction.

Tyoga is a boy/man walking between many worlds, most notably that of the white man and Indians of the Indiana and western territory.  The frontier is just starting to expand and open up and Tyoga is caught between these two very different societies.  Tyoga is a pioneer, raised as a neighbor and adopted son of a local Native American tribe.  One would expect social and cultural problems and there are many, but mostly with his adopted brethren as opposed to his white family that are never introduced or even referenced beyond the first chapter.  If this were such a struggle for Tyoga, wouldn't he mention his family at least once?  Tyoga also has a very strange encounter with a wolf and somehow their two souls merge together.  It isn't explained in the book much better than that.  There are the hints of a kind of love story, well two love stories, but Tyoga is so wishy-washy, he pretty much cheats on both of them, leaving a very bad taste in the reader's mouth.

The book was extremely sensuous and sexual in weirdly inappropriate ways.  I most certainly didn't love the story and found it extremely hard to connect with Tyoga or even relate to him as a human being.  In the end, I just didn't care about him and was hoping he would get eaten by some type of wild critter so a more reasonable/rational main character could take over.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not What I Expected

God Is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

Nonfiction

This was not the book I thought it was going to be.  I suppose I expected an atheistic rant against Christendom but it wasn't that at all.  And, I expected that because many of my Christian friends warned me not to read it.......which, naturally made me want to read it more as I am something of a rebel and don't like to follow any one's lead.  I like to check things out for myself and then decide. 

I'm glad I did.  The author does not specifically pick one religion but fairly discusses many different religions and some things they all have in common:  subjugation of women, wars fought on supposed religious grounds, ridiculousness of food practices (i.e. pork, 'Fish Friday', etc.).

I really liked this book.  It caused me to examine my own prejudices and long-held beliefs and ask myself the Why's of what I believe and practice.  There is a danger with this book--it will cause you to think and probably re-evaluate your own world views on religions that are different than your own.  You might be surprised to find how many commonalities there are more so than differences.

I sincerely believe this will cause no one to become an atheist but probably rather become a stronger proponent of their faith.  Any faith that cannot stand up to some examination isn't much of a faith, I find.  And, really, I believe that society focuses too much on things about religion that just isn't very important in the long run (example--month long Facebook rants about 'X-mas' takes the Christ out of Christmas, which of course is ridiculous as a learned Christian knows that the X is actually another marker, or symbol, of Christ from long ago).

It was very interesting but would probably be offensive to some ultra-conservatives.  Of course,they wouldn't go near it with a ten foot pole anyway just based on the title.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dame of Spooky

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

Adolescent Ghost Story

Hahn is the best adolescent ghost writer there is, and maybe ever was!  Her stories are always creepy, spooky and spine-chilling.  In other words, near perfect.

Florence is an orphan and is being sent to a new home, the house of a distant relative--her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall.  She hopes to find a better home or at least a small bit of affection but finds neither.  Instead she finds an emotionally distant but pleasant uncle, a hateful scolding aunt and an invalid cousin.  All of them seem to revolve around the absence of Sophia, a cousin who resembles Florence and who died a very grisly death.  Sophia was the center of the family before her death and she tries to use Florence to regain that power.

I am a huge Hahn fan this one certainly didn't disappoint.  It was very creepy and thrilling and made me want to sleep with my night light on.  Which I did.  And, I'm 42 years old if that tells you how creepy her stories are.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Movie Was Better

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Classic Fiction

I don't think I've ever said this before, but........the movie version was so much better than the story!  (I'm scowling as I type because I never thought such words would come out of me.)

Here's why the movie was better:  it actually explored the characters and invested in them as real people.  This short story only had caricatures of people at different ages in their lives.  At the time, the idea was perhaps clever in its focus on exaggeration but is so overdone now.  It does help to know that Fitzgerald himself was not overly pleased with the story, lamenting it was little more than an idea he roughed out. 

The main character, Benjamin, was loathsome to me.  He was not sensitive to anything in his life or even aware of his plight so much as just self-involved and willing to exploit those around him for his own personal amusement. 

The most affective characters were the minor ones--the poor, socialite wife who fell in love with an older man, sacrificed her whole life for him and then was abandoned with SHE got old.  Discarded like a scruffy pair of old slippers. 

While I tremendously admire and respect and love Fitzgerald's work, I will attempt to remember this story as the movie version rather than this rough sketch of an ugly life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

More Wicked than Lovely

Ink Exchange:  Wicked Lovely #2 by Melissa Marr

Fantasy

This is the second book in the Wicked Lovely series but there are new main characters and everything is so different that it probably wouldn't matter if you read this one first.  Which, is a problem for me since I liked the first one so much.  This one, not so much.

For those who are reading these in order, Summer King and Winter Queen are still around, but only as secondary characters.  Winter Queen's best friend is the main character in this installment (Leslie).  Leslie is a much more tragic character than Aislynn was.  Leslie's home life is full of alcoholism, abuse and even a rape by her brother who sold her for drugs.  She is on a spiral and sees getting inked as a way to salvage her sanity and control her own life.  A fey of the court, Irial, falls for her her and she can't escape his evil clutches, especially since her new ink ties to his emotional psyche.

I liked this one, just not as much as the first in the series.  It's darker and, well, a bit weird.  Kind of like an inked acid trip (I'm guessing this as I have never been inked nor on acid.) The book is very sensual and seductive but not really in a good way.  While the first in the series was more 'Lovely', this one was more 'Wicked'.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Forgettable

Intruders by Olive Peart

Adolescent Dystopian Fiction

Six teens in NYC decide to explore a cave in their neighborhood (there are caves in NYC--who knew?) and, upon entering find themselves transported in time to a future city.  When they get to the future, they can't figure out how to get back.

That's pretty much it for plot.  I honestly can't even remember the names of one of the characters.

This is a forgettable book, thankfully.  I really didn't like anything about the book.  It felt like an amateurish effort.  The apocalyptic future is never explained.  None of the characters seemed real, very cardboard attempts.  Their motivations and actions seemed stiff.  Their reactions and speech bordered on the absurd.  This was a book I couldn't wait to have finished.  It didn't even feel like a 'real' book to me, more like a rough draft. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

James Bond, In Training

Crocodile Tears: Alex Rider #8  by Anthony Horowitz

Spy/Thriller

Alex is growing up, getting both wiser and more cynical.  This book starts the same way they all start-Alex is hopeful that MI6 won't use him anymore and he can finally be a normal teenager.  After all, they promised.  Again!  This time around, though, Alex has to seek their help when an over-zealous reporter threatens to blow his cover as super-spy.  Alex is turning into a young man and his relationships are growing and changing and seeing this new aspect of him is a great lead into the next book in the series.

This book starts with a bang in the very first chapter.  It grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very last chapter.  I love this series!  I have since the very first one and I'm so glad I've stuck around because they keep getting better and better.  While you don't have to read these books in order, you don't want to start with this one.  There's too much water under the bridge so to truly appreciate the story and Alex's reactions, go back to the first one and start a new adventure.  You wont' be sorry.

These book aren't 'kiddie' in any way.  They have very mature plots, situations, decision and yet they are not inappropriate for younger readers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Short Interlude in a Great Series

Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas:  A Lost Story from the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

Fantasy

This is a short read in the series Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, a series that must be read in order.  Don't start with this one--it just won't make sense!

This series is one of my very favorites and these small snippets are so delightful.  They keep me sated whilst impatiently waiting for the next full installment.  Of course, there's that other part of me that wants to yell at Scott to quit teasing me with this stuff and get back to work on the full series!

Scathach, an ancient creature, and Billy the Kid, an immortal, team up, very reluctantly, to deliver Pandora's box to Scatty's arch enemy.  This enemy is also her greatest love lost--and the leader of the succubuths in Las Vegas.  Billy the Kid and Scathach are my favorite characters and watching them together in this story was a real hoot.  Sparks were definitely flying.  I loved the tension bwetween these two and see so many possibilities.....

Although it was very short, it was full of the very best of the series and good enough to be its own full-lenght story.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fun Fantasy Mystery!

Aunt Dimity and The Village Witch by Nancy Atherton

Paranormal Mystery

It's hard to believe this is the 17th book in a series I've never even heard of!  Where have you been all my life, Aunt Dimity?  And, why is your snoozy little English village so full of murder and mayhem?

I love English mysteries and this one is in my very favorite setting--the Cotswolds.  I've never been there but have read so much about it.  Mostly in mysteries which makes me wonder what it really is like.....definitely on my to-visit list.

For the plot:  To an outsider, Lori's life must look completely normal.  She is mother to twins; her husband is a local attorney; she drinks afternoon tea and hangs out with the vicar's wife.  Yet no one knows that at night she cozies up to a book--and communicates with her dead 'aunt'!  That was quite a surprise and quite a unique twist. 

A new neighbor is moving in and all the village gossips are atwitter.  Someone discovers she is a famous artist and hiding her identity becomes very important, especially when the town discovers the new neighbor is there to solve a very old mystery.

Even though it was the 17th installment with Aunt Dimity, a diary-writing ghost, I didn't feel lost.  I felt like part of the village right away.  Now, I can't wait to travel back and start at number one and get to know the village properly.  This fun and cozy mystery was well-written and quirky; not a gripping detective novel.  Overall, though, a new series (at least for me!) and one I will be investigating further.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hard to Review

Blood on the Tracks by Cecelia Holland

Nonfiction

I don't know how to review this because I don't exactly know what it is about...some type of union or labor uprising that involved trains.  And, I hate that because I love uprisings and overthrow of 'the man', especially when it is based on a true story!

Really, I'm sure this was based on an important topics and I don't mean to be so blithely shrugging away the death of innocent people but the writing and details were so convoluted that I felt like I was caught in a downpour of word drops without an umbrella. 

I was attracted to this Kindle single because of the topic of history.  This story concerns The Great Railroad Strike of 1877.  I actually had to go back and look things up ON THE INTERNET (gasp!) because I learned so little from this book.  Apparently, during the depression, the owners of the four biggest railroads in NY state cut workers' salaries by 10% and tried to break the unions while raking in huge profits.  Sound similar to today?  History does have a way of repeating itself.

I think this is an important topic but felt absolutely no connection to the story and just couldn't wait for it to be over.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bloody Interesting

Bloody Times:  The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Manhunt of Jefferson Davis by James L. Swanson

Nonfiction

This is the sequel to Swanson' first book, Manhunt.

In school,  we learned about the Civil War and then Reconstruction BUT what happened between those two never came up.  "Why not?" is what I want to know because it was so fascinating.  I distinctly remember memorizing random facts of battles I had no interest in.  Had this book been around then, I think my love for history would have popped up much sooner.  My absolute favorite part was the section on Lincoln's funeral--haunting and sobering.  I don't think I've ever seen photos or read information quite like that.

Just like the first one, the facts in this book are absolutely amazing!  Why isn't this stuff more well-known and thanks, Mr. Swanson, for letting me know this stuff.  With that being said, I didn't like this one quite as well as Manhunt. This one dragged a bit in places and I would really have liked to have known more about the manhunt for J. Davis.  It seems as if more enthusiasm should have been shown for the capture of Davis (and more written about the cross-dressing story!).  This will be a harder read for young people who didn't already have the knowledge about this time period in history. 

P.S.  If you're a teacher, this would be a great Compare/Contrast lesson-comparing the manhunt of J. Davis and A. Lincoln. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Horror

A Predator Priest by David Margolick

Adult Nonfiction

This selection was a 'single'-- a short read and is an expose of some families whose lives were destroyed by a priest through sexual abuse, rape and sodomy.  What is so absolutely shocking about the book isn't the abuse by a priest (anyone who hasn't been living in a box is aware that sexual predators in the clergy are rampant) but that these sexual predators seemed to have flocked to a career in the church.  Why?  Because they knew they would be hidden.

This book makes it shockingly apparent how complicit the church hierarchy was.  They not only knew about the abuse for years, but supported it.  I just don't understand why only the priests get vilified.  Why doesn't the entire Catholic church accept their involvement rather than sweeping such things under the rug? 

This story follows the career of a priest from the seminary to retirement and all the lives he destroyed along the way.  This is NOT a motivational story, by any means.  It is a ripping off the cover from an emotional band-aid that went hidden for too many years.  An important, and horrifying, read.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Perfect Title for a Great Story

Primal by D.A. Serra

Adult Thriller

Alison is so normal so practically oozes Betty Crocker and plaid skirts.  She's a teacher with a small son, married to a man she loves.  When the family vacation at a fishing camp goes wrong, she suddenly turns into someone even she doesn't recognize.  Her husband and son are taken hostage and Alison realizes it is up to her to save them.  She goes to every length possible-physical and emotional-to save the ones she loves.  No one believes her when she says the evil isn't over yet.  She, and the reader along with everyone in the story, begins to question her only sanity and rationale.

This is such a good story and so scary.  But, not in a typical horror-story kind of way.  It's a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning and doesn't let you go until you exhale in relief at the very end.  The title is perfect!  Primal is exactly the level Alison goes to-raw, urgent, fixated on survival!  You only usually see this level or raw emotion in male characters so seeing this level of physical and calculating engagement in a female character was so different.  The angst of the main character is so primal, so visceral--great stories don't need 'special effects'; the artwork of writing and crafting a good yarn is in perfect example here. 

At the end of the story, you're left with the question....What would anyone do in this situation?  What would I do?  It will leave you puzzling for awhile.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Perfect for Halloween!

Vermin by Allison M. Dickson

Horror Short Story

This short horror story is the perfect read during this time of year (fall)--cool temperatures that make you snuggle by a fire, evenings where it is dark much too soon and haunted houses popping up on every corner.  Have you really noticed the abandoned house a few doors down?  Maybe you should!

Someone from out of town has purchased the Martindale mansion.  It's been vacant for years and  weird stories surround its past.  To get the home ready for its new owners, a pest management company is hired to do removal and fumigation.  That's when the horror starts!

Just what would happen to a house left vacant for years and bugs have been left to take over?  Your imagination won't take you as far as this story goes.

While this was a short tale, it was just the perfect length for this creepy read.  This story makes you actually feel as if things are crawling all over you and will leave you itching and twitching.  It's hard to do horror, a really good horror.  It's hard to compete with all the ideas that have been done a million times plus I think it's hard to just legitimately scare people anymore.  Most people want blood and gore instead of the good old-fashioned creeps.  This story is the good, old-fashioned creepy kind of story!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Not As Good As I Expected

Under the Tuscan Sun:  At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes

Travel/Foodie-Logue

This is the food memoir that started it all!  But................I didn't like it as well as I have liked some others in the genre.  It wasn't much of an adventure,but more a slow discovery of a vacation turned into a half-life.  Plus, most of those recipes looked HARD (I'm whining here!).  Most of them have ingredients you couldn't easily find in the US and can't make.

Mayes and her partner purchased a home in Tuscany and spend half the year there, fixing it up and, well, mostly eating!

The descriptions of rural Italian life were amazing and I, more than once, wanted to chuck my hum-drum existence and light out for Tuscany.  The descriptions of the countryside and towns are lush and often hilarious.  I found it hard to connect with the book, though.  It seemed to distant to me, too unrealistic and I feel the author didn't try very hard to connect with the reader.  In the end, it seemed more life an illusive dream or a peep at a lifestyle rather than biting into something with full flavor.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Second Verse as Good as the First

Living Dead in Dallas:  Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood, Book 2 by Charlaine Harris

Vampire Thriller

The second installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series was as good as the first and maybe even better.

Sookie is still in love with Bill the vampire but a new vampire on the scene, Eric, is causing her to have some very uncomfortable physical reactions.  I, personally, am delighted with that because I really don't like Bill.  He is the most unsexy vampire ever (maybe it's his name?).  We do get to know a little more about him and that part of the story is really intriguing. 

In this story, Lafayette Reynolds, a cook at the bar where Sookie works and her friend, is found murdered.  While Sookie tries to clear another friend of the murder charge, she stumbles into a local sex party ring and is almost killed my a maenad (think Medusa mixed with a zombie)  If that isn't enough trouble, Sookie is also summoned to go to Dallas to meet and work on another case.  Bill's plane trip is hilarious!

I really do like this series and I look forward to each new one coming out!  The author is taking her time and letting the stories of all the characters develop--it feels a bit like a twisted Louisiana-Mayberryish town.  So much fun!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not a Believer

The Lost Stones by Paul Rimmasch

Adult Fiction/Adventure

It's hard to decide if this book is mostly adventure or mostly at attempt to convert unbelievers to the Latter Day Saint Faith.  Definitely a good mix of both. 

Ammon is an ex-solider and current college student who has never really been secure in his LDS faith.  That changes when his new college professor tells him the story of some magical lost stones that are apparently important in Mormon history (I am guessing this might be part of the faith as I am not a believer in it.)  Ammon enlists the help of another professor and his daughter, whom he promptly falls in love with.  Together they try and recover the stones that somehow prove beyond a shadow of a doubt their faith's history.

What follows is a hardly believable adventure with a thinly veiled history lesson on Mormon doctrine.  If this story had stuck to just the adventure, it would have been great and I would have liked it.  As it is, I was mostly irritated by the constant reminders of LDS doctrine, especially since I knew nothing about it.  If you're not part of the LDS faith, you probably won't enjoy this. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weird and Increasingly Weirder

Fragile Things:  Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Short Stories/Poetry Collection

I am not a huge Gaiman fan so this fact is probably skewing my review.  I have only liked one of his books (The Graveyard Book) and even that one was a stretch for me.  This work was odd and unsettling--pretty much like all Gaiman's work.  Only a few of these have been published previously.

It is a very unusual gathering of 30 poems and stories.  I felt like I had bought a $1 bag at a yard sale.....or perhaps delved into Gaiman's recycling bin on his computer.  Of all the stories, the only really interesting part was the descriptions of how each story and poem came to be.  I did like the Sherlock Holmes story, though.  It was very Doyle-ish!  I also really liked the story of the circus gone wrong.  That one reminded me of the Cirque Du Freak series--very creepy and weird.  Which made me think--did I actually like the stories themselves or only their resemblance to these other favorite books?

If you like Gaiman, you'll probably like this.  If you don't know him, don't start with this one!  You'll be scared off for good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Fall at the End

Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

Adult Fiction

Of all the trilogy, I liked this one the least.

Now that Ana and Christian are married, life should be great.  Except '50' still has issues and there 's his ex-girlfriends to deal with (doms, whatever) and Jack, who is a clearly deranged stalker.  Yes, that's a lot for any newlyweds' plates but........

It felt as if Christian Grey was being neutered in the book.  It was his brokenness that made him so tragic and alluring.  The attempt to 'fix' him felt so wrong for me, and confusing.  Honestly, even Christian himself seemed confused by his ending.  I hated the plot twist!  It just seemed so out of character for both characters.  The characters also felt different this time around and the plot felt forced, almost as if the author were arranging things just so before she left for a long trip.

I wish I hadn't read this one.  I just needed the '50' fix and was hopeful such a tragic character would get the story he deserved.  Alas, he did not.  If you are solely reading this for the eroticism, fear not.  It is in full force.  The author doesn't push any more boundaries here either, which I had come to expect.  In all, a disappointing finish to the whole story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And Sometimes You Just Don't Like a Book

The Hollows:  Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Adult Paranormal

My interest in this book ended way before the book itself.  It was much too long!  And, not enough paranormal stuff happened and it felt as if I were walking in on the middle and was there a book before this one---whew!  My dislikes are wearing me out.

Rachel Moran is a witch and a bounty hunter.  It's her job to track down paranormal criminals in Cincinnati.  When Rachel gets tired of her employer's rules, she quits....and makes herself a marked target.  Only Ivy, a powerful bounty hunter and vampire, can protect her.

More dislikes.  Sigh.  The main character wasn't very likable.  I didn't connect with her or understand her motivations at all and she certainly didn't try to explain herself to the reader.  The sexual tension between Ivy and Rachel was......weird.  Is Ivy gay?  Is Rachel?  I don't particularly care either way but TELL ME!

Still, I will probably read the second in the series just to see if the attempt is better.  Plus, I did like Ivy.  (I have a thing for vampires and she has some promise.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sometimes you just love a book.....

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Elen Valent

Adolescent and Up Fiction

This is a beautifully written and haunting story of the pains of growing up and doing the right thing when it seems as if all the adults, your supposed role models, are doing the wrong things.  Really wrong things.

Jessilynn Lassiter's 13th birthday party should have been a moment of fun in her life, full of new beginnings, but instead ushers in a season of heartache and hatred.  When her BFF Gemma loses her parents in a house fire, the Lassiters take her into their home.  They knew it might raise some eyebrows. After all, Gemma is black and the year is 1932--well before the Civil Rights act comes into being.  The Lassiters are not prepared for the Ku Klux Klan involvement and a barrage of hate crimes with fatal consequences.  In addition to all that, Jessilyn is having trouble just turning into a young woman--first crushes and new dresses and high heels are just as difficult to maneuver at that age as social injustice.  At least, it seems that way to Jessilyn.  The setting is my favorite--full of oozy Southern drawls and heat just dripping off the page.

This one won the 2010 Christy Award and it is well-deserved!  This book had a very To Kill a Mockingbird feel to it (one of my favorite books of all time).  It is a coming of age story for any age.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Short and Creepy

Freaks:  Rizzoli and Isles 8.5 by Tess Gerritsen

Adult Thriller

This one is labeled a .5 because it isn't a full novel, but more of a short story.  However, it's so short it should be a .25 or a .10.  A super-fast read!

Rizzoli and Isles are called to an abandoned church on Halloween where they find an emaciated woman with bite marks on her neck.  Does this sound too trite, too cheesy, for the power duo? Ah, well, as in most of Gerritsen's stories, all is not as it seems at first glance.  Leave it to Rizzoli and Isles to find a perfectly rational, plausible explanation for what appears to be an unsolvable crime.

This is a fun story, especially around Halloween time.  This story is just for fun and a far departure from the usually gritty and gruesome detective stories you might be expecting. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Darker, The Better

Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

Adult Romance

I love books like this.  I love that feeling of giving in to my addiction and delving into a story headfirst with utter abandon.  Losing all sense of time and place.  Knowing that I must keep reading, must keep going, must know how this story ends and I don't care to eat, sleep or converse until it's finished.  Appointments for the day cancelled or forgotten.  It's like getting lost in a portal of some sort and so rare to find those books that do that for me.

In this second installment of the trilogy, Christian and Ana continue their relationship, though without signing 'the document' that will spell out her complete submission to him--mind, body and soul.  Ana seems willing to but wants to haggle over the details.  Christian just can't seem to wait.

This book was darker than the first one, as the title suggest--the darker side of addiction, the darker side of lust and a realization, for Ana, that loving Christian will mean accepting his past as their present reality.  Is Christian too damaged for redemption, too broken for repair?

I truly liked this one even better than the first.  It was filled with more delicious surprises.  I can hardly wait to inhale that last book!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A New Riordan to Love

The Kane Chronicles #1:  The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Adolescent Fantasy

Carter Kane and his sister Sadie only have one thing in common:  they have the same parents....that, and they are fiercely jealous of one another.

They have so many differences:  Carter resembles his African-American father; Sadie, their white mother.  Carter is careful and thoughtful; Sadie, impulsive and outspoken.  Carter lives with his father, flying all over the world on wild archaeological digs; Sadie, in London with her grandparents and only sees her father and brother one day a year.

Combine all that with a family mystery steeped in ancient Egyptain myth and you have a brand new series full of fun.

Like all Riordan's teen novels, this one focuses on mythology but Egyptian mythology rather than Greek or Roman.  I found the mythology fascinating but much more intricate and harder to understand (that, or I am clueless about this brand of mythology).  This series has all the earmarks of other good Riordan reads--adventures, mystery, teens who must save the world with their own wit and bravery.

What's not to love?  I can't wait for the next installment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Good for Other Places

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

Adult Fiction

I am not ashamed to inhale books like this.  I inhaled Twilight. There, I said it.  And, I did the same with this series.  Some books are good for the brain.....and some books are good for other places. 

I was actually hesitant to read this series because of all the bad reviews and word-of-mouth reviews that focuses on the 'dirtiness' of it.  After all, I'm a girl who like a good story. So, the question was....was it a good story?  The answer--in abundance.

The plot (yes, there is one):  Ana Steele is a senior in college and is coerced into interviewing Christian Grey, a beautiful bachelor billionaire.  What's not to love about this guy?  Sparks fly right away but then....okay, so what makes this different from every other typical romance saga?  Well, Christian has some, um, issues.  Sexual issues with domination which, surprisingly, doesn't freak out the virginal Ana.  She rather enjoys those issues.

I read this book like I was getting paid by the letter and I was booking for overtime.  I loved it.  Everything about it.  Book snobs can keep to Charles Dickens but if you like a good story, you got one here.  I found the plot and characters to be highly addictive.  I totally read all 500+ pages in one day and wanted to go to a 24-hour bookstore to get the next installment.  A book drug or druglike book--so addictive.  A guilty pleasure and I'm fine with the addiction. 

I, too, rather enjoy issues like that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Weird Adventure

Beneath the Dark Ice by Greig Beck

Adult Thriller

When a plane crashes into Antarctica, a search team in sent in.  When they also disappear without a trace, Alex Hunter, super soldier, is sent in with a team of scientists and commandos to find out what is going on and to retrieve any survivors.  The scientists, who are along for experimentation, and the commandos have a very different agenda and the tension within the group adds to the tension of the plot.

When I say that Alex is a super soldier, that isn't an exaggeration.  He has somehow been mutated and has super keen hearing, sight and reflexes.  Weird.  The book would have been just as good with a regular soldier.

And yet, I loved it!  Weirdness and all.  The time in to Antarctica and a possible Atlantis and ancient South American civilization was right up my alley and will be right up the alley of any conspiracy theorist or lost-world aficionado.

The book had just the right mixture of scary, thriller and gross with an open ending for a future series--which I will have to buy!  The setting and otherworldy/supernatural elements in the book did, at times, suspend belief a bit much but it was a fun suspension.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You Can't Trust Anything Here!

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Adult Thriller

This book will give you a very creepy feeling.  You are reading this book with a narrator that you're not sure you can trust, who also doesn't even trust herself!  As a reader, you have no idea what is real and what isn't.  You're not sure what's important in the book, what's a clue, what's a red herring.  After awhile, you can understand the madness of the narrator......or is she mad??? 

Is she reliable???  That is the question that will haunt you all the way through.

Christine wakes up every day as if it is her first day and her last day-because it is!  Years ago, she was the victim of an accident or crime and she suffers from a form of amnesia.  She only remembers her present day.  As soon as she goes to sleep, everything is erased and she wakes up with a blank-slate mind.

She soon finds a journal that her psychologist has asked her to keep.  In the journal, she finds a note that days, 'Don't trust Ben'.  Ben?  Her husband and biggest supporter?  What is going on?  Christine has to work at finding out if this note is reliable and if her mind is reliable and if her memories, such as they are, are reliable.  As a reader, you're working just as hard as she is to figure the whole thing out.

I absolutely loved this book!  I could not put it down.  I loved that I found out everything right along with the main character.  It's like a ball of yarn unraveling....right into the cat's mouth!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

Three to Get Deadly:  Stephanie Plum #3 by Janet Evanovitch

Adult Mystery

Third time's a charm in this third installment of the Stephanie Plum series. 

Joe Morelli is still around but he's just not that into Stephanie--his interest has really waned since the last book and she's a bit peeved about that.  What's he up to?

In this caper, Stephanie goes from hero to villain when she takes on the bounty-hunting case of a local candy shop owner gone missing.  As she investigates, more than candy cigarettes starts turning up.  Dead bodies are piling higher than a triple-stack cone and Stephanie isn't sure if the bad guys or nosy neighbors are trying to bump her off to protect 'Uncle Mo'.  With Morelli keeping his distance, Stephanie has to rely more on Ranger, who just oozes 'bad boy' in a very good way.  I love the triangle setting up!

These books just keep getting better and better.  Reading them is as addictive as a favorite treat although this one is much darker and scarier than the first two.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Last in the Series

Last Survivors #3:  This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Dystopian Fiction

It's always hard to say goodbye to a  series and this one is no exception.  This 3rd book completes the trilogy of Last Survivors.

Miranda and her family are still surviving, just barely, and they are starting to realize that life as they knew it is truly gone and ain't coming back.  This isn't a temporary situation--it's permanent and that makes it more scary.  Some of the family seems to accept it before others.  Miranda's brother 'marries' a girl he only just met, realizing that their new life is too transitory for a long relationship.  Their home situation is getting worse and soon their very survival will depend on the youngest of them.

To make matters worse, Miranda's father returns with his new family and Alex, the main character from book 2 who is on his quest to find safety for his baby sister.

This last book was better than the second one, which I didn't love as much as the first one.  Miranda's voice is back but it is much more despairing and hopeless.  The love development between the Alex and Miranda didn't feel real--it felt very artificial and forced.  But, since Alex is literally the only boy around, maybe Miranda didn't feel like she had much choice.

I do like this series and while the second and third books didn't capture the intensity of the first one, it was still a great ride.