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, March 31, 2013

You Don't Have to Love Cats to Love this Story

Dewey the Library Cat:  A True Story by Vicki Myron

Memoir/Biography

I did not expect to love this book.  I expected it to be cheesy and silly and trite.  But it was not and I loved every word of it.  As good as any dog book I've ever read.

That's saying something seeing as how I am not a cat person.  I don't particularly like cats.  I mean, I have one, but we are not what you would call bosom buddies.  He seems to be more a taker and I'm more a give, so it's an unbalanced relationship.  Unless, of course, he wants something.  Then, he's all over me but I can tell he's just using me.  Dewey reminds me a lot of my cat.

In this sweet story, we meet Dewey who was a small kitten left in the book drop of a small-town Iowa library and rescued by the librarian on the coldest night of the year.  What follows is the story of how one little puffball of a kitten captured the hearts of the librarian and the entire town.  Dewey was a hit that soon turned into a phenomenon that hit newspapers, magazines, and TV news around the world.  It seems so implausible in this litigious age that a library would even be allowed to keep a cat!  Of course, all the best stories start off with the implausible and impossible made real. 

This is a cat with a great deal of charisma and a story so endearing and so hopeful.  A story of the little library that could--how a town and a kitten and a woman all helped one another, if only for a little while.

You do not have to be a cat lover or a book lover to love this book.  A streak of sentimentality and a hope for the goodness of mankind is essential, though.  I am not ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby for the last half of the book.  I especially loved the descriptions of combined biblio- and cat-therapy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Misadventure

The Journey Back by Priscilla Cummings

(Adolescent Fiction)

I decided to read this because I loved the first one so much (The Red Kayak).  I was hoping it was going to be the continuing story of Brady.  He was so captivating as a character.  I hate it when authors try to capitalize on an earlier success rather than telling a story that needs to be told.  This one just felt forced.

For some reason, the author chose the least likable and most static character in The Red Kayak to write about.  This is the after story of Digger, or Michael, after he was convicted of manslaughter.  I couldn't care less about what happened to Digger and now here's his whole story?  I was bored before I even really got started.

Digger has been sent to a youth detention center and almost promptly decides to escape to somehow protect his mother and siblings from his abusive father.  He doesn't really work out the 'hows' of this plan because he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  During his brilliant escape (sarcasm), he stumbles into a camp with a bunch of homeless families and decides to stay to protect a small child there.  Digger feels guilty about his family but just stays anyway. 

The whole book, and plot and storyline, just felt so purposeless and unfocused.  I suppose the readers are supposed to be touched by Digger's growth process and all the ways he's learning, but it seemed very staged and faked.  I never felt as if he were anything more than words on a page.  I hope the author lets this series die.  She has such genius, such poetry, in her writing.

Dear authors, it's okay not to make EVERY book a series.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Tis the Season for a Good Tale

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

(Classic Murder Mystery)

(This book was originally titled "Murder for Christmas", which I like better.)

If you're looking for a sentimental holiday read....this isn't it!  If you're looking for a murder mystery that will have you scratching your head and gasping at the end, you're in the right place.

The story focuses on the murder of patriarch Simeon Lee, a bitter and hateful old man who traumatizes his children and is brutally murdered in a locked room.  This has all the other classic markers of a Christie tale:  unlikeable victim that many people would want to kill; murder in a selaed room; family that hate one another; secret siblings and offspring; family secrets; secret family treasure, etc.  World-famous detective Hercule Poirot is on the case, but acts much different than his usual modus operandi.  He holds all the cards close to his chest and gives us, the readers, very little to go on.  The ending was complete shock.  While I had plenty of guesses, none of them even came close.

I loved the way this book starts.  It opens with an unknown character and the reader watches and watches for him/her to return and tries to figure out how all these pieces fit together.  I am not one of those really smart readers who keep track of all the clues and try to solve the mystery.  For most mysteries, I'm just in it for the ride and this one is no exception.  What a thrill ride from beginning to end!  The Dame does it again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Red Flag

Red Is an Attitude by Kathy Lynn Hall

Cozy Mystery

This is the 2nd one in the 'Red Mojo Mama' series.  You really should probably read these in order.  I didn't and the entire plot, and all the characters, seemed so absolutely and utterly ridiculous that surely the first one would have caused this red hot mess to make better sense.

This book has some serious reality issues.  Red's late husband has been reincarnated as her Great Dane puppy that she then takes on a romantic vacation with her current beau.  Does anybody else find that super creepy? 

First of all, a puppy on a cruise?  That they then leave for long stretches for time in a small cabin?  Then, when they get tired of him, they have the steward walk him?  While that is really stretching the limits of what I will believe as a reader, when Red and Joe get intimate in front of the dog (who they ALL know is Red's late husband), shivers of pure grossness ran up and down my arms.  Ick!

On this cruise, Red finds herself in some sort of quasi-mystery when she comes across a philandering husband and his mistress, who has something up her sleeve.  Red takes pity on the jilted wife (who is also on the cruise) and brings the woman home to the trailer park that Red runs.  I'm not sure if that even counts as a quasi-mystery.  And, there is some type of ghost aunt.  Very random.

I found the characters to be stiff and ridiculous and Red, absolutely exhausting.  I hope to never meet anyone remotely like her in real life.

And, so, my review probably sounds like I hated the book, but I didn't.  I just didn't like it very much.  The cover was pretty, though. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Not My Favorite Piccoult

Keeping Faith by Jodi Piccoult

Adult Fiction

This was not my favorite Piccoult.  It was quite religious in nature and, at times, made me uncomfortable.  I think to really enjoy this book you should probably be a Christian but I can also see how many parts could be offensive to some traditional Christians.

And, this is exactly why Piccoult is such a great author!  She takes uncomfortable topics and makes them more uncomfortable and makes you really think about it.  Not an author to take to the beach!

Mariah is a very weak and dependent wife and mother who discovers her husband is having an affair-again.  So, she emotionally abandons her young daughter-again.  This time, though, her husband doesn't want her back and Mariah is catatonic.  Around this time, Mariah's eight-year old daughter Faith starts having visions of God.  At first, everyone thinks this is just a grab for attention until Faith starts showing signs of stigmata.  Doctors get involved to disprove the stigmata, but can't.  It appears to  be real, which makes her a media darling.  Then, she brings her own grandmother back from the dead gets the attention of TV journalist and atheist Ian Fletcher.  Is any of this real or is Mariah hurting her own daughter just to get the attentions of her husband? 

It is only with the introduction of Fletcher that I actually started to like this book, not that Fletcher is a likable character.  He isn't but Mariah was so loathsome to me as a wife and mother that it was a relief to have someone else to root for.  The romance that springs up between the two of them was realistic and that seemed to be the only thing that caused Mariah to come out of her cardboard spell and start acting like a real woman. 

It was an unlikeable book with unlikeable characters but one that will definitely make you think--and that's the only thing that saved it for me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Cozy, Southern Mystery

Mama Does Time (A Mace Bauer Mystery #1) by Deborah Sharp

Cozy Mystery

This is a really good beach read.  You can sit in the sun and doze and not worry that anything too exciting or detailed is going to happen in your absence.

The story centers around Mama, and her three daughters: Mace, Marty, and Maddie.  Mama is the quintessential Southern polyester-bell, a Bible-thumping, sweet-tea-sweating matriarch of three very different sisters.  When Mama gets arrested for murder (cops find a dead body of a gangster in her car), Mace seps in to cleanse her mother's name.  Mace won't have an easy time of it.  New detective-in-town Martinez seems determined to keep Mama behind bars. While there are definitely some romantic sparks between Mace and Martinez, Mace has to balance that with her feelins for her ex-boyfirend, who seems to be her biggest suspect for the crime.

I tend to steer clear of these types of books becasue they are very light on crime and very heavy on syrupy sweetness, kind of like a literary-twinkie, and this was no exception.  It did have some endearing parts.  It's funny with some tongue-in-cheek silliness. I did love the setting of southern Florida.  And, I like the romance with Martinez.  Overall, though, it was just too hokey and some of the characters are unlikeable.  I won't be following this series.  It's not a bad read but just okay.  It does have a couple of plot twists that show promise for future plot developments so if I'm wrong, somebody please let me know!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Classically Dull

My Friend, the Murderer by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Classic Fiction

Sigh.  It's not a Sherlock Holmes story and none of Doyle's other works quite measure up to that genius. Certainly, not this one.

Mercifully, though, it's short.

The setting of the story is in an Australian prison.  A doctor at the prison is told that he should go listen to the amazing story of one of the inmates.  The prisoner's name is Maloney and it's questionable if he is crazy or just really paranoid.  Maloney was part of a gang of robbers and privateers who were captured.  In order to make his own sentence lighter, he turned evidence against his mates.  Now, he has no homeland and no friends.  His enemies are all around, both inside the prison and out, both within the law and without, and he has to rely on the police and prison guards to keep him safe. 

Maloney leads a very lonely and miserable existence, but that doesn't make him any kinder or remorseful.  Instead, he is sour and bitter to everyone, blaming others for the situation he now finds himself in.  He repeatedly escapes, only to be recaptured by criminals and then has no choice but to voluntarily go back to prison, the same one he started from.

The narrator is so not interest in anything that is going on, showing no more emotion that a wall.  In that, we were alike with this story.  So miserable all the way through.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Better Than I Expected

Nocturnal:  The Noctalis Chronicles, Book One by Chelsea Cameron

Paranormal Romance

I wasn't expecting much when I started this book.  It was a cheap read for Kindle and my book experience is, you pretty much get what you pay for.  This, however, was a pleasant departure from that mantra.

The basic plot?  A girl falls into doomed love with a paranormal creature.  Yada, yada, yada.  But, this book is so much more than a paranormal romance.  What makes is so different is that the romance seems almost to come into second place to....characterization and plot!  Gasp!  There's a new concept.  Ava Claire's life is enough drama to carry the whole story without a vampire thrown in here or there.  Her mother is dying from cancer; she doesn't really get along with her father; and, for some reason, she's keeping all this a secret from her best friend and the only person she can trust.

The voice of Ava Claire is so beautiful and real--fraught with real-life feelings and angst.  This is a strong female lead character you an really sink your teeth into (no pun intended).  Ava escapes to a graveyard to meditate (hey, it is quiet!) and is saved from a savage attack by a strange young man named Peter.

She can't get Peter out of her mind and returns to the graveyard....where Peter is waiting for her.

Thus starts a strange and doomed relationship.  These two work very hard at not falling for each other.

I love most everything about this book.  I love what makes this a doomed love.  Peter must promise never to love anyone more than his master and not love Ava at all.  How in the world is this going to work out?  I can't wait to see!

And, the cover is beautiful.  I know you shouldn't judge a book by it but I do sometimes and this one was breathtaking.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ice-Fell in Love with This One

Icefall by Matthew Kirby

Adolescent Fantasy

This is my second book by Matthew Kirby.  I loathed his first one but am so glad I took another chance on this author because I loved this one!  I felt right away as if the main character really existed, as if I were the main character.  She trapped me in her viewpoint, in her story, and wouldn't let me go!

Solveig and her siblings are the children and heirs of a very powerful Viking king.  When the king goes to war, he decides to hide his children in a frozen wasteland so the enemy will never find them.  The conditions are harsh and brutal, but if they aren't rescued before the winter season, the sea will freeze over.  Then, the harsh conditions will turn deadly with starvation and frigid temperatures for months. 

Solveig has other problems, though, as the middle child and second daughter of a king.  Her older sister is beautiful and many vie to claim her hand. Solveig's younger brother will be king one day.  Solveig feels plain and unimportant until the court skald (storyteller) awakens in her a passion for stories.

And, on top of all that, there seems to be a traitor who is sabotaging their effort to survive.

I loved everything about this book-the adventure, the mystery, but, most of all, the haunting bravery of Solveig.  What a beautiful treatment of the empowerment of young women.  I loved Solveig.....and I miss her.  I am hopeful there might be another story about her one day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Keeps Getting Deader

Sookie Stackhouse #5:  Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Paranormal/Romance

These books just keep getting deader; but, in a series like this, that's a compliment!

Sookie and Jason knew it was coming after Jason was bitten by a werepanther last month.  They hoped it might not be true, but Jason is starting to show the tell-tale (tail?) signs and they're both scared to death.  Sookie turns to the only one who can help,a werepanther named Calvin who has the serious hots for her (who doesn't?).  Sookie hopes this isn't too big of a favor. She doesn't really need one more man-creature in her life. 

The next morning, several creatures are discovered murdered.  Is it a coincidence that this was Jason's first night as a paranormal?  Sookie hopes so.

Alcide Hervaeux is back and need her help, or is he really just interested in Sookie?  Sookie can't really tell and isn't exactly happy about the way he treats her.  Sookie's transgressions (okay, murder) from the last book come back to root in this one and not even her vampire friends can help her.  Or, are they the ones trying to do her in?

Bill is on the far edge of her universe (please leave altogether).  And, Eric is a new problem for Sookie.  I both liked and disliked Eric's return to normalcy.  The last book was so hot but the anticipation to the next one is going to kill me.

I loved this one, but I'll admit it wasn't as captivating as #4. This one was full of political moves in her small town and breaking social mores and had less of that romance and sexual tension that make these so fun to read.  It was not my favorite Sookie by any stretch, but I guess every girl needs a break from a life as dangerous and exciting as Sookie's! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

History and Mystery

Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

History

The book is really about 70% history of the great Chicago Worlds' Fair and Exposition and 30% crime novel so if you're looking for the straight crime thrill, you'll probably be disappointed.  But, if you love history, this book is for you.  You'll like both parts.

This book marries the amazing Chicago Fair and Exposition of 1893 (dubbed the White City) and the tale of one of the most prolific serial killers in US history (Herman Webster Mudgett/H.H. Holmes). 

While I was completely amazed by the history of this book, I wished there had been more information about Holmes/Mudgett.  I am not a literary rubber-necker but his brief history did not satiate my curiosity about this little-known man.  In all, though, this was a fascinating book and completely captured the magic and hope of the time, a period of time when Chicago came into its own as a city. It's hard to imagine it was ever second-class.  Some other things hard to imagine?

So many momentous things came from the fair--it was the first time moving pictures were shown; Nikolas Tesla displayed his lightning coils; the first zipper was showcased; the first electric kitchen was debuted, with an automatic dishwasher; Aunt Jemima's Pancake mix was introduced as well as Shredded Wheat, Pabst 'Blue Ribbon' beer and the Dewey Decimal System.  What's more, Walt Disney's father helped to build the darn thing; L. Frank Baum visited; Columbus Day was instituted and AC current was used for the first time.  Can you imagine a world without any of those things?

The author is a true master of his work, weaving between the two story lines and showing how this serial killer could not have become the monster he was without the Chicago Exposition, a fair that showcased all of what was brilliant and evil about man.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It Left MeEmpty

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Dystopian/Futuristic Fiction

I  really like other works by this author, but this was just awful.  Not her usual gripping work at all. 

The 'empty' in the title refers to the nation's coffers of gas storage-they're empty.  Gas is exorbitant and only the wealthy can afford it.  Society is starting to unravel.  The book centers around a group of teenagers trying to make various hook-ups while running out of gas.  So tragic.

It is a completely forgettable book, meaning I read it a couple of weeks ago and I could truly not remember one detail until I re-read the summary.  The author seems to very much dislike all of her characters and who can blame her?  They are vapid, petty and stupid. Actually, they are more like caricatures of vapid, petty and stupid teenagers.

I especially hated the preachy tone of the book. An author's opinion doesn't have to hit the reader over the head like a 2' by 4'.  Try subtlety.  I also really, really hated the 'news' articles that interrupted the flow of the book.  The articles are very slanted and poorly written.  They insulted my intelligence as a reader.  Teaching about a subject is far different than lecturing.  The story, also, was lame and ridiculous and the characters unlikeable.  Very thin writing so, in all, a good title.  The book is empty. Sigh.  I expected more from Weyn.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Blew Me Away

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Dystopian/Zombie Fiction

Wow!  The book blew me away!  It gripped me on the first page and just didn't let go.  This was one of those books I just wanted to go on and on.  I wasn't ready for it to end.  My only consolation with the book ending is that there are two more but, honestly, I almost cried when I knew the main character wasn't in them.

The story takes place in a futuristic world where a zombie-plague has decimated society.  The infected live behind enclosures and fences, constantly alert for a breach that might destroy them all.  Mary respects the fence but questions the overwhelming fear, until her own mother wanders too close.  Now, Mary is on her own in a world that has no place for an unclaimed female and orphan.  When zombies overrun the fence, Mary's village and entire way of life is destroyed in minutes and she is forced to flee into the Forest of Hands and Teeth (was there ever a scarier name for a forest?).  As she flees, Mary has to make some agonizing decision for survival, the most profound and heartbreaking that of choosing to be truly loved or choosing to love truly.

Ryan's writing style is haunting and beautiful.  It is so difficult to convey true horror to a reader but this was perfectly done.  Ryan has a writing style lush and rich enough to marinate in.  So addicting!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Unremarkable

The Alyx Rayer Chronicles #1:  Marked for Vengeance by S.J. Pierce

Fantasy

There are some things I like about this book.  I really liked the character of Alyx.  I found her to be approachable and realistic, even though she is some sort of paranormal creature.  She is a character I could follow and relate to.  I also really liked her fixation on the person she is supposed to be guarding.  She is completely captivated and obsessed with Isaac.  I loved this part of the book--the excitement building until they meet.

I also really liked the premise of the story.  The idea of a guardian angel having to work for salvation and then falling in love with their 'mark', those they are destined to shield and protect.

However, I pretty much hated everything else about this book.  The ending was one of the worst I've ever read.  The whole thing just stopped right in the middle of the action.  It felt more like part of a story, not just the first book in a series.

The plot also lost me about half-way through.  It turned very unbelievable and coincidental.  Alyx's 'human' best friend turns out to be another guardian angel assigned to watch Isaac's son and neither of them knew it.  What are the chances (even in fantasy)?  It was too much of a stretch for this reader. 

And, while I liked Alyx as a faker human, she only felt fake when it was time for her to show her true identity as a guardian angel.  She seemed shocked by the whole thing even though she's supposedly done it before.

In all, I won't be continuing the story.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dark and Delightful

Mercy Thompson #4:  Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Paranormal/Paranormal Romance

I just love this series!  It gets better and better with each book and each book contains everything necessary for a great read.

When Mercy's mentor Zee is arrested and framed for murder, Mercy is called in to sniff out some clues, literally.  Being a shape-shifting coyote does have certain advantages.  Mercy's stubbornness and meddling finally get her into trouble she can't get out off, with tragic results.  (Adventure, excitement, thrills.)

Mercy's love triangle with Sam and Adam is really heating up.  Sam is currently her roommate and there is clearly an attraction there, but Adam is under her skin and she just can't resist him anymore.  (Romance, unrequited love.)

This is one of the darkest books I think I've read.  I can't give away too much due to plot spoilers but I can say I was stunned and shocked and had to walk away from the book for awhile.  It bothered me deeply--the violence and horror and tragedy and aftermath.  And, this is the very thing that made this book the best one yet.  It's as if this event must happen to Mercy.  I truly can't see any other alternative to the story. Brilliant. (Emotional upheaval.)

The ending of this book makes me want to rush to the next one.  It has romance, sure, and adventure, sure, but for pure thrilling danger, this is one of the best I've read.  (Plot addiction)

Mercy is so stubborn and this new development leaves her vulnerable.  She is off-balance so I know the next book will be very interesting! (A cliff-hanger.)