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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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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not My Favorite Carlin

When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin

Adult Humor

This was Carlin's third book and while it is terribly funny, this was also biting.  I winced in several spots instead of laughing.  Carlin is clearly not a fan of organized religion so if you're the least bit religious, you might just get offended.  Of course, if you're reading Carlin, that's probably just an expectation!

My favorite sections are always his euphemisms and he doesn't fail to deliver here.  This book, though, had a different tone. The focus was less on being funny and more on observing our demented American lifestyle.  It wasn't like some of Carlin's other books that felt like a running comedy routine that you could just pick up and and devour in one sitting.  This one is more like a sharp cheese that you have to nibble on a little at a time.

Still, if you're a Carlin fan, you'll like this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fun Trivia

Why Can't Elephants Jump? and 113 Other Tantalizing Science Questions Answered by Mick O'Hare

Trivia

This is the third book in a series by the editors at New Scientist magazine.  The magazine is divided into sections and is answered by a variety of people--some questions have many answers and it's almost like following blog posts on the computer.

It is unclear who is answering some of the questions---researchers, scientists or general readers.  It seems more like random readers of their blog so I'm not sure how much credibility I can give to their answers and many answers seem to even contradict one another.

Anyone who reads trivia bokks (and this is just one trivia tidbit after another) know the pitfalls and pleasures of reading this genre.  It is a book to read over time, not one to read at one sitting.  Pick it up and put it down at your leisure.  Overall, interesting scientific questions; questionable answers.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Not Loving It

Eat, Pray, Love:  One Woman's Search for Everything in Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Memoir

The book is divided equally into thirds:  1/3 is eating in Italy; 1/3 is praying in India; 1/3 is loving in Indonesia.  The first third was my favorite by far! I love the kinds of books that involve travel and are also a recipe-logue.  I delude myself that I might walk in these same footsteps and have the same culinary adventures.  I take notes about the foods to eat and the best places to visit.  Oh, to live vicariously through another!

And, then I stopped living vicariously.  The second third of the book was an absolute drudge.  I do consider myself a spiritual person and I do believe in the power of meditation but way too much time was spent on this and, as a reader, I didn't get anything out of it.

The last third of the book was an improvement.  Although it is only in the last third that the author mention 'love', this is really the underlying theme of the whole story.  The entire book was the author's journey through a bad divorce and debilitating rebound romance so finding that love awaited her at the end was a nice closure.

It's really hard to picture this as a movie and really, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.  I did like it overall, but I'm not getting the build-up and hype.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Older, Wiser Vlad

Eleventh Grade Burns:  The Chronicles of Vlad Tod by Heather Brewer

Paranormal

If you haven't read this series before, don't start here.  These books must be read in order!  In this 4th installment of the series, Vlad is in the 11th grade.  While most boys his age are looking forward to dating and driving, Vlad is withdrawing more and more from those around him.  The other books were filled with adventure and humor and some terror, but this feels mostly filled with despair.  Vlad, and this book, are much more somber and serious as the curse draws to a close.

Vlad has lost so much already--hi parents have died, his circle of friends and family have whittled down to just a few and he was forced to break up with the love of his life.  How many more things can he afford to let go of?  To make matters worse, his es-best friend and arch enemy is back and thirsting for vengeance and hooks up with Vlad's ex-girlfriend.  The only person he can count on, Uncle Otis, is on trial and might be sentenced to death.

And yet, Vlad's biggest problem seems to be the new vampire on the block, a youth named Dorian who gets exactly what he wants.  Unfortunately, the thing he most wants is a big bite of Vlad!

This series just gets better and better--more thrilling, more mysterious, more deadly.  It is climbing to that ultimate climax and last book.  Gulp!  I have so many hopes for Vlad--mostly that his story continues and he goes to college!  I just don't want it to end.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Different Kind of Grisham

The Appeal by John Grisham

Adult Legal Thriller

This is a classic case of big corporation versus the little guy.  Since I am always fighting for the underdog, I had high hopes for this book.  But, it wasn't a typical Grisham.  It seemed to be more introspective, more reflective, more sad.  It was almost as if the outcome of the story was a foregone conclusion.  He seemed defeatist from the get-go.

For the plot, a husband and wife lawyer-team take on an unwinnable case:  a small-town woman whose son and husband died from cancer.  They take on the company accused of dumping chemicals illegally in a nearby creek from which the whole town gets its water supply.  The two lawyers have gambled everything for this case, and lost so much already before the book begins, because the implications of the verdict could change legislation statewide.

It is really also the story of a town that is dying and the consequences of corporate greed on a community. 

This is not one to read if you are looking for a typical legal thriller.  It is thrilling and legal but not Grisham's usual pace.  It's a slow, afternoon ride as opposed to a race to the finish.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Best of the Bunch

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Classic Mystery

My favorite of all the Sherlock Holmes stories!  Also, one of the longest but those two things might be connected. 

Is there any setting more creepy, more perfect, more mysterious than those English moors?  And, even better is a ghost tale of a haunted hound from hell!   Combine Sherlock Holmes with an unnaturally large wild canine with glowing red eyes and you have the perfect mystery.

When Lord Baskerville is found dead and the only clue is a large set of dog prints. Holmes is consulted so that a similar fate doesn't await the new heir of Baskerville Hall.  Unfortunately, Holmes is on a prior case and cannot go with Watson to the moors. Watson has to be the eyes of the story and relays information through letters and posts.  Holmes is only in the story briefly at the beginning and end--so how is he still the main character????  Only a master could pull that off.

This is classic Holmes at his very best--secretive, ill-tempered, rude-and genius!  The ending was a complete surprise--a real shocker.  I had the same clues as Watson so why couldn't I solve it?  I ask myself that time and again with Holmes's stories.  Alas, I will never be a detective but with writing this good, it feels like I'm on the case anyway!

Jolly good show!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Mystery

The Hermitage House Miracle by Malcolm Ater

Adolescent Mystery

Jamie has always felt as if his life were a little odd.  His mother doesn't seem to like him very much; his family moves every few months; he isn't allowed to have friends and even when he manages to make some, they never return his letters; he doesn't even know his father; and, strangest of all, he can't remember anything that happened to him before he was six years old.

When Jamie's mother dies unexpectedly, he has no other family and must go to an orphanage, Hermitage House, that is on its last legs and about to close its doors.  Once there, Jamies starts having strange out-of-body dreams and experiences that point him towards solving the mystery of his own past.

Adolescent boys will like this book.  While I knew the mystery right away, I think the pacing of clues is perfect for young readers and the video game subplot was a neat addition.  It is a very clean book, so parents don't have to wonder about anything inappropriate.  A good read.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Fun Read

How They Met:  Fateful Encounters of Famous Lovers, Rivals, Partners, and Other Strange Bedfellows by Joey Green

Nonfiction

What a fun read!  This book is divided up by famous pairs without any kind of rhyme or reason to the placement--there are no sections, just fun stories.  I was familiar with only a few of the stories and loved reading how famous people hooked up.  Some examples include:  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; Binney and Smith (the crayon dudes); Bill Gates and Paul Allen; Hall and Oates; etc. etc.  Some of the people were unknown to me but probably because I don't watch lots of TV or live like a Kardashian.  I most liked the historical pairings and most disliked the stories of famous actresses/actors and celebrities.  Does anyone really care how or why Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold hooked up?  No and I suspect neither do Roseanne or Tom themselves.

However, overall, I really enjoyed the book.  It is fully bits of trivia so if you're into that sort of thing, you'll like it.  It should be read over time, a story or two at a time so they don't all run together.  It would make a great gift book for a TV or movie lover or someone who like popular culture.

Monday, September 10, 2012

You Can't Beat the Heat

Heat Wave:  Nikki Heat #1 by Robert Castle

Adult Police Mystery

This first book is the series has already hooked me!

Nikki Heat is an NYPD homicide detective.  She is very focused on her job and being the best professional she can be in a very male-dominated career.  When the commissioner assigns her to 'babysit' journalist Jameson Rook for some ride-alongs for an article he's writing, she's livid.  This wasn't exactly the hard-hitting crime work she's used to.  When she is called to investigate a murder and art heist, she knows he'll slow her down and maybe blow the whole case.

I loved the characters of both Heat and Rook!  Rook is so charming and so maddening at the same time and he so frustrates Nikki that it's hilarious.  She is about to go insane or murder him herself yet she can't show any emotion because that's just what Rook wants.

I love that the female character has all the power in this book--and she keeps it.  Usually, when romantic tension is involved, the female character usually becomes silly and bumbling and starts focusing on the man.  Not Nikki-she keeps Rook is his place and her eyes on the prize. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Too Much History, Not Enough Mystery

Odyssey of the Gods:  The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece by Erich von Daniken

Nonfiction

To read Daniken's books, you have to be aware that Daniken not only believes in aliens but propounds that an ancient race of aliens created humans.  According to Daniken, our history is alive with proof if only we can shrug off centuries of teaching and see things in a new light.

I have read many of Daniken's books and have been a fan of his for years, but this is one book I just didn't enjoy.  Much of the book is devoted to very lengthy interpretations of various Greek myths, such as Minotaurs and other fabled creatures and Jason and the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.   Really lengthy interpretations--pages and pages and pages.  I lost interest after that first 'pages'. 

What's really different about this book is that Daniken just tells in this book without really showing.  His connections were unconvincing and not the careful work of the meticulous researcher he usually is.  It felt more like a rough draft of some thoughts rather than a careful, finished examination of evidence.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What's All the Excitment About?

The Constantine Codex by Paul Maier

Christian Mystery

You really have to be a Biblical scholar to see why the story in this book was a big deal.

Harvard professor Jon Weber and his wife Shannon are poking through old church basements and files when they discover the lost ending of Mark and some 'lost' works of Paul that is possibly Bible-worthy.  Really?  They just happen to discover one of the oldest Christian manuscripts byaccident-- the lost ending to Mark, 2nd Acts AND Pauls' body?  Heck, why didn't they keep looking a little longer and maybe they could have found the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail while they were at it.

The story just isn't credible.  Everyone, from the Pope to lifetime Biblical scholars, just so easily believe in the accidental discovery with scant research.  Something that tremendous would take years, not the few days it takes to unleash the news to the world.  I really disliked the part about the world-wide TV title-bout between an Islamic scholar and Jon.  It was so simplistic and insulting.  In addition to the unbelievable pot, the writing was very amateurish.  They were very little emotion and the conversations were stilted and artificial.

Not much to enjoy or sink your teeth into here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No Strain for the Brain--Just Fun

High Rhymes and Misdemeanors:  A Poetic Death Mystery by Dana Killian

Romantic Mystery

Grace Hollister wanted nothing more than a fun, literary vacation in England's Lake District, the favorite stomping grounds of her favorite Romantic authors.  During a leisurely walk in the woods, Grace discovers the body of a man in a stream.  The body turns out to be alive-very alive-and Grace seems unable to leave Peter Fox, the body, alone.  When the men who tried to kill Peter attack and kidnap Grace, the two decide (Peter somewhat reluctantly) to team up and figure out what the kidnappers want.

This book has a lot going for it-a fun, smart main character who loves English poets; a sexy love interest who can cook and is into antiques; a quirky mystery.  All it in all, it was a delightful romp--but very easy on the brain.  I can see this being a successful series with two sets of romantic detectives.  If you're into real sleuthing, skip this altogether.  But, if you want a fun, easy read, this was a pleasant diversion. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hit Me Again

Body of Evidence:  Kay Scarpetta #2 by Patricia Cornwell

Adult Mystery

This was so so different from the first one!  I expected the same basic plot, as is the case with most mystery series, and I would have been fine with that because I loved the first one.  But Cornwell really threw me for a surprise in this second installment.  For a woman (Kay Scarpetta) who is so obviously a control freak, she is really pushing her own comfort boundary to solve this case as a DE of Virginia. 

Scarpetta is called in to investigate the death of a young novelist.  As she begins on what seems to be a clear cut case, she is soon trapped in  a sticky web of deceit that involves abuse, love triangles, secret manuscripts and a family secret that is murky and tragic.  Scarpetta leaves Virgina to chase down the truth and I like the break in the routine.  The ending and plot twists are full of surprises the whole way through and I didn't know what to expect from one chapter to another.

I can tell this isn't going to be a regular murder mystery series but a series about a complex woman using her brain to solve a murder.  Unique!  I have a feeling Scarpetta and I are going to become great friends.  I can't wait to read the next one and get to know her better.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Daniken, Always an Interesting Read

Twilight of the Gods: The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials by Erich van Daniken

Nonfiction

To read Daniken's book, you have to be aware that Daniken not only believes in aliens but propounds that aliens created humans.  I have read many of Daniken's books and have always found him to be fascinating.

Yet, this book wasn't one of my favorites.  I felt the title mostly capitalized on the upcoming Mayan prophecy without really fully explaining it.  I wanted a clear explanation for December 23, 2012 but felt this book didn't do any better of a job than any of the documentaries or articles I've already read.  Could that be because it's all a bunch of bunk?  Probably.  But, fun bunk.

The author does make a very clear and believable argument that Mayan culture was so technologically and culturally advanced that some other ancient alien culture must have been involved.  One thing I really like about Daniken as a researcher is that he actually goes into the field to examine the evidence and doesn't just rely on others' works and hearsay.  This book also provides photographic evidence so the reader can 'see' for him or herself.

It is a really fast, really fun read and a good introduction to Daniken and his theories.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Best Book Ever Written

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Classic Fiction

I get asked all the time which book is my favorite of all.  When you've read as many books as I have, that should be a hard question to answer.  But, it isn't.  Because no book even comes close to this one.  This one is my favorite, each and every time I read it.  And, every time I read it I see some new gem that sparkles like a literary diamond.

The story is set in 1930's Alabama and the setting and characters are portrayed with razor-sharp clarity.  It doesn't depict the South; it is Southernness.  The story centers around a young girl named Scout, her brother Jem and their father Atticus (whom I am madly in love with).  Atticus is the town's defense attorney and has been tasked with defending a black man accused of raping a local white girl.  Atticus is bound to do his duty he does it the best he can, certain the young black father is innocent.

This book shows the very worst and best of every human emotion-love, hate, ignorance, oppression, bigotry, hope, despair-all without apology.  After the roller coaster emotional ride, it finally leaves the reader feeling like a bandage was just ripped from the heart.

Read it again and again.  And, just when you think it has no more lessons to teach you; read it one more time.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Jack the Ripper That Jumps the Pond

Fatal Incision by WR Park

History Mystery

Matt Ward and Jimmie Black are two unlikely partners on the London Police Force.  Both are tough cops--one in intelligence and outspokenness, the other in good, old-fashioned brute force and a quick mouth.  They are teamed up to capture Jack the Ripper when the trail goes suddenly dead in England.  Very quickly, though, similar cases are piling up in New York.  Could it be the same killer?  Ward and Black are sent across the pond to find out.

I really liked this book!  Everything about it was so authentic-the details of the crimes, the setting, even the variety of vernaculars rang true.  The mystery was brisk, fast-paced and quite surprising.  The author's take on who Jack the Ripper really was is a very unique twist.  Even the secondary characters are sharply written and intriguing.  The romantic subplot was a nice twist, as well.

The ending totally leads the way into a new series with great possibilities.  I'll be following along on the next adventure!