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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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dystopian Thriller

Ark by Charles McCarry
(Dystopian Thriller)

As soon as I started reading this book, I hated it.  I chose it because I was ready for another end-of-this-world apocalyptic thriller.  Soon, though, I was swayed and courted by the characters and the story.  I started to see this wasn't a book about the apocalypse at all--it was a book about people that the apocalyse just happened to.

And, before I knew it, I loved this book!

The main character is a writer who has been contracted by a scientific genius zillionaire, Henry, to be in his think tank.  He tells her that life on Earth will be ending soon and he is gathering various people to help him work through his rough draft of human survival.  The main character is puzzled by what Henry sees in her but they seem to be drawn to one another like magnets.

There were a few weird plot happenings (why the brutal red-headed giant?) that keeps this book from being great.  Still, it's a good read with danger, thrills, romance and enough twists and turns that should please most dystopian readers.

To see more about the author and his works, check out his information on the Open Road Publisher Page:

Open Road Media: Ark by Charles McCarry

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Hardened Hero with A Soft Spot

The Monkey's Raincoat:  Elvis Cole #1 by Robert Crais
Adult Mystery/Thriller

Elvis is a private eye with a history as a soldier.  When a woman comes to his office asking for his help in locating her missing husband and son, he assumes it is just a case of domestic disturbance and everything will resolve itself in a couple of days.  After a little digging, Elivs learns the hubby was mixed up in drugs and gangs and a dangerous Hollywood double life.  Evlis falls for his client, but not necessarily romantically, more in a protective way.  Soon, he is pulling out all the stops to find her missing son by bringing in his friend Joe to help out.  Joe is a reallllllly scary dude but I am excited to see that he actually has his own series (expect a review on this one soon!).

This book is so deceptive.  Elvis is a very unreliable narrator and continuously downplays his own genius and lethalness.  It is only through the insights of others, mostly Joe, that the reader sees Elvis is one bad guy to know and an even worse one to cross.  In spite of all that, I fell in love with Elvis almost immediately.  He is hilarious--very witty with a drier sense of humor that a desert.  Not everyone in the book got his humor (I know how that feels) and as the reader, I felt as if Elvis and I were communicating and not letting anyone else in on our private jokes.

In all, I loved this first installment and cannot wait to read more!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Very Peculiar

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
(Adolescent Fantasy)

This was definitely a book that threw me for a loop.  I bought it because I expected an eerie and strange tale, one that was scary and would creep me out (those are my favorite types of books).  What I got was more of a fantastic mystery.

The story revolves around a boy named Jacob and his grandfather.  As Jacob was growing up, his grandfather told him tales of his own childhood growing up around peculiar childhood friends at an orphanage in Wales.  When I say peculiar, I don't mean kids who talk to themselves or pick their scabs or whatever, but rather children who can float and fly and other, well, peculiar things.  Jacob never really believed the tales until his grandfather is brutally murdered and Jacob glimpses a monster responsible.  Yep, a real monster.  When a pychiatrist can't help Jacob cope, Jacob's parents relent to his demands and allow him to go to Wales to settle the matter of the tales and the monster once and for all. 

Once there, Jacob finds the orphanage, a creepy abandoned building, and almost gives up.  He is becoming convinced his grandfather must have been crazy after all.  And that's when the tale turns really peculiar with flashbacks, flashforwards, monsters, peculiar children and all.  In a strange twist, Jacob something stumbles into the exact world and role of his grandfather.

The ending is definitely an opening for another book in a series. 

I'm not sure how I feel about the story--it was a disappointment in a way because I wanted it to be eerie and scary and it started out that way.  The real pictures in the book add to the feeling and I felt a bit cheated that the book turned out to be so different.  I feel that the advertising and title and cover lends itself to a creepy factor and the book isn't that at all.  As a fantasy, it was creative and interesting but still......just a little peculiar.  All in all, I won't be picking up the sequel.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Starts Off With a Bang, Ends With a Whimper

Blood Island:  A Matt Royal Mystery by H. Terrell Griffin
(Adult Murder Mystery)

Matt Royal is a retired lawyer living the easy life in Florida.  One day, his ex-wife (and love of his life) shows up and asks Matt to help find her stepdaughter, who has disappeared.

So, I'm hooked.  At first, this book is a great read.  Matt is funny and intelligent.  The mystery is easy to follow but important enough to keep my interest.  I found myself drifting pleasantly along. 

Then, bam!  About 2/3 of the way in, the book changed completely, almost as if a separate author (one not nearly as good) took over and finished it off quickly and badly.  Being a budding writer myself, I know that, like gymnastics, the endings are the hardest to land but this ending borders on the bizarre.  It involves a rescus mission that is so implausible it's actually insulting to read.  There are Spec. Ops, doomsday bombs, religious cults taking over the world, terrorism, the President cowtowing to Matt's demands......WHAT is going on?

Turns out, a whole bunch of nothing.  This book was a huge waste of time.  Avoid it at all costs!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Perfect for Reluctant Readers

I Survived:  I Survived Hurrican Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis
(Middle School Boys)

In this third installment in the series, Tarshis focuses on a tragedy closer to home and closer to now.  Barry is an adolescent boy, living in the 9th ward in New Orleans.  He's just a regular boy, at home with his family when THE STORM hits.  Usually, there is a build-up to the action, but in these books, the disaster just happens.  In this book, chapter 2!  Barry and his family try to flee from the hurricane, but his baby sister gets a bad case of the flu and the family is forced to go home and ride the storm out.  Their situation is one true for so many unfortunate families and Tarshis pulls no punches.  After his house floods, Barry and his father hack through the attic roof for survival.  Barry is swept into the deluge by the wind.  While the books are all called I Survived, the how and when is the part that is so gripping to the reader.

These books are excellent for low and reluctant readers, especially boys.  The sentences are short, clipped and full of action and adventure.  The book itself is also very short and is focuses on the action sequences of survival. If you have a boy in your home ages 8 and up or a teen who doesn't like reading, this one is a sure hit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Double the Fun!

Body Double (Jane Rizzoli Book Four) by Tess Gerritsen
(Adult Murder Mystery)

This selection is the fourth one in the Rizzoli and Isles series.  It was my first dip in the series but it won't be my last!  Honestly, I was hooked by the book jacket.  As an avid reader, I've read thousands of those jacket blurbs but this one was definitely unique.  A new plot?  One I've never read before in another guise?  Sign me up!

In this installment, Laura Rizzoli is very pregnant and gets called to investigate a murder at her friend's house, Dr. Maura Isles.  Upon arriving, she sees Dr. Isles shot dead in her car in front of the home. 

Except, Dr. Isles is just returning from a Paris work vacation to find this mayhem on her front lawn.  Who exactly is this exact replica of herself and why is this women shot dead in front of her house?  She discovers that the body is actually an identical twin sister, both of whom were given up at birth.  And, lest you think I'm spoiling the plot, that's just where the story begins!

Both women will have to question their friendship, test their own mettle and face monsters and demons before this crime is solved.  What fun--I was enthralled all the way through and am so delighted to be on the case of a new series!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning the ABC's has never been so fun

The Kinsey Milhone Alphabet Mystery Series:  A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Adult Mystery

This book is the first one is a series of 26 the author is writing about featured detective Kinsey Milhone.  While Gfaton is nearing the end of the alphabet, I thought it was high time I jumped into the excitement.

Kinsey is a no-nonsense chick. Part insurance claim detective and part private investigator, she lives in a pole barn garage and likes to drink beer.  She is a very masculine female detective and while these types usually turn me off, for some reason, I found I really liked her style.

A woman just out of prison hires Kinsey to find out who murdered her husband, a crime the woman was convicted of and imprisoned for.  While working the case, Kinsey soon encounters another murder and is on the case of a client whom she doesn't really know is guilty or not.  During her investigation, Kinsey gets involved with a man who just might turn into a suspect.  While it's against her moral code to mix business with pleasure, she can't seem to stop the attraction.

There is plenty of mystery and turns for any reader to sink his or her teeth into and it's easy to see why this series has prospered for so long.  On to the B's!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spoiling the Secret

Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
British Mystery

I can see why this book was free because, quite frankly, you'd have to pay me to read it again. 

Tuppence and Timothy, two friends who are very poor, hatch a plan over lunch to get some fast cash, even if that means doing something illegal.  Somehow, they stumble into the midst of an international espionage ring, trying a find a secret message that could topple governments and start world wars.

Sounds exciting and, yet, it just wasn't.  This isn't a traditional mystery because there's really nothing for the reader to  do--no brain cells required for this.  Just sit quietly and read.  This book was so long.  It took forever for the thin plot to get going anywhere and most of the story just seemed so pointless.  It finally starting picking up the pace a little more than halfway in and can honestly say I enjoyed that part.  Alas, though, it was too brief of a moment to save my interest.

Dame Christie, I'll just catch another series.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Twice as Nice

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by MC Beaton
(Mystery)

This second installment in the Agatha Raisin series was twice as nice as the first one!

Agatha is settling into Cotswold life and is hot for her neighbor, James.  She is alternating between luring him into her clutches and turning him off in revulsion.  When a new veterinarian comes to town, Agatha trades the objects of her affections for this new man-prey.  When the vet turns up dead, Agatha uses it as an excuse to spend more time with James.  Now, they're both on the case of the killer.

I absolutely love the character of Agatha.  She is rude, crude and brassy--my type of gal.  She says just what she thinks and revels in her own selfishness.  This is one of the most original and life-like characters I've ever read about and I just devour these books.  The mystery didn't disappoint either, although much of the action is the tension between James and Agatha waiting and watching for their killer.  Agatha's detective skills are keen and I love the weird relationship with Detective Bill Wong.

Let's hope Number 3 is just as good.  What am I talking about?  Third time must be a charm in this series!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An Old Series But a Timeless Story

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
(Classic Fiction)

I admit that I only picked this up to read because of the Spielberg movie but I'm not sorry that I did.  It was surprisingly and refreshingly old-fashioned and a reader just needs that every once in awhile.

Joey is a farm horse and has a real connection with his owner, young Albert.  Albert's drunken father sells Joey to keep the family farm.  Joey suddenly goes from being a gently worked farm horse to a true war horse, being used to pull carts and artillery during heavy fighting.  His horror and surprise are evident in every sentence during the entire book and it doesn't take horse sense to see the absolute brutality man can inflict on both beast and human.  Joey's only friend is another horse, Tophorn, and he never gives up hope he might see Albert again one day.

The story is told from the point of view of Joey and the sentences are written very short and terse.  Much of the book skips over entire periods of time but perhaps this is how horses think and talk?  The ending is a bit predictable but is still very sweet and a tear-jerker.  (Okay, I weeped at the end, I'll admit it.)

This is apparently the first in a series.  It also makes a great companion piece to Black Beauty.  I am intrigued by the idea of a classroom lesson: have the boys read War Horse and the girls read Black Beauty to discuss the stories from a gender point of view.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Morbidly Funny

Everything is Going to Kill Everybody:  The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead by Robert Brockway
(Adult Nonfiction)

I think the introduction says it all with this quote:  "intense fear mongering and creative swearing". 

In the book, the author discusses the myriad ways that life on Earth might end-contagions, weather, genetic manipulation-even robotic overthrow and does so in a manner that is hilarious.  Any idea for destruction of our planet was taken to the nth degree.  Brockway seems to revel in the fear mongering and the bona-fide research set aside the ridiculous notions by actually including the research data and an impressive bibliography.  The bibliography was perhaps the scariest thing of all. 

I am so delighted to be introduced to this author.  What an absolutely wicked sens of humor--dark and freaky! I found myself guffawing out loud on several occasions.  Surely, this is a book that will scare you to death, no matter what you fear and just when you think that it is the worst possible scenario, Brockway comes up with something even worse.  Horrifyingly funny.  I can't wait to read more.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blurs the Line Between Poetry and Prose

Fall of the Birds by Bradford Morrow
Novella

The difference between poetry and prose thins in this book to almost nothingness.  This story is written in a masterful style, flowing along so easily, so beautifully, that one almost forgets that one is reading.

The narrator of the book is an insurance adjuster and is being called out to examine scenes of massive bird deaths.  He cannot explain it but seems drawn to the carnage and takes along with him his stepdaughter Caitlin, both of them orphans of loss without their magnet, the narrator's wife and Caitlin's mother.  The incidents, while horrifying, are drawing the two lost souls closer together.  Caitlin is an avid birder and turns to her stepfather to explain the events.  It isn't hard to picture the two characters in the story as two birds themselves, batting against the cage doors of their loss.  Ultimately, the story is more about the two people than about the mystery of the fall of the birds, how they will manage their lives and how they can even bear to go on.

It is a novella, a very quick read and I found that is was over before I even realized it.  I wanted the story to keep going--it is one of those tales that leaves the reader wondering about these people and this mystery that is never quite solved.  Beautiful and haunting and a book that will stay with you long after you've closed the pages.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Bit Cold For My Tastes

Nordic Nights:  The Alix Thorssen Mysteries by Lise McClendon
(Adult Mystery Thriller)

Alix Thorssen is an art gallery owner.  How that translates into being a detective is lost to me but is perhaps described in an early book.  Her mother and stepfather are visiting for a town festival called 'Nordic Nights' that celebrates the town's Nordic heritage.  Alix's gallery is hosting a showing for a famous Norwegian artist and her stepfather is rebuilding some type of sailboat for the festival.  When the Norwegian artist turns up dead, Alix has to clear her stepfather's name, if only for her mother's sake.

This one is not the first in the series and I felt very lost for quite some time.  Obviously I had missed something very important about the main character in the first book and the second never really fully explains her character or motivations.

I didn't really enjoy the book.  The main character is, well, boring.  If Alix Thorssen were to ever call me for a lunch date, I would lie and make up some excuse.  She has absolutely no personality at all.  The author seems to blame her lack of spirit on her Norwegian ancestry but I hate to think of an entire culture as being so boring.  However, almost every motivation and decision in the book is attributed to the 'Norwegian' in Alix.  I just can't believe it, though.  Weren't the Vikings Norwegian?  They certainly don't seem so cold and colorless. 

I did enjoy the scene with Bjarne, though, and the mystery was engaging.  Overall, just too cold for my tastes.