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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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


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


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


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!