Sunday, December 20, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Silent Night Catherine is in New York City with her two sons, Brian and Michael, on Christmas Eve. Her husband is in the hospital being treated for cancer. She and the two boys decide to pass some time seeing the Christmas sights but she accidentally drops her wallet. Brian, the younger son, sees the wallet fall and be picked up by another woman. He knows it contains the St. Christopher medal which they are taking to Dad the next morning which he knows will guarantee Dad's recovery. He follows the woman to try and retrieve the wallet and the medal. Cally had picked up the wallet without thinking. She is desperately poor and thinks the rich woman who dropped it will probably never miss it. Unfortunately, her escaped convict brother is waiting when she arrives home, sees Brian, and decides to use him as a hostage. The rest of the story deals with how Cally and Catherine deal with their circumstances and the police investigation. It is really a story about the power of faith and prayer. While it is sappy, it is still a good read for the Christmas season.
All Through the Night This story features a couple Higgins has written about before, Willy and Alvirah. A young woman gives birth in her hotel room and leaves the infant with a note at the front door of St Clement's church. However, at the same time, a man is stealing money and a silver chalice from the church, sees the baby pram and uses it to help him make his getaway. He is surprised to find the baby inside and takes her home to his great aunt. Seven years later, the man is planning to take his "daughter" to Mexico; and the woman is searching for her child. Willie and Alvirah see her visiting several times at the church and take her under their wing. At the same time, a friend has been disinherited by her sister; and Alvirah is sure the will has been created under shady circumstances. This story is even sappier than the first, but Willy and Alvirah are such fun characters that it makes the drippy ending more bearable.
I doubt if these two tales will become standard holiday reading at my home, but they are short and filled with Christmas spirit; so I will probably read them again in the future.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I would call 13 1/2 a psychological thriller rather than a mystery. There are flashbacks in the lives of the two main characters: Dylan, who is sent to prison at the age of 11 for killing his parents and baby sister, and Polly, who runs away from her abusive mother after her stepfather attempts to sexually abuse her. The details of the family murder are pretty brutal and so is Polly's life before she leaves home. Of course, the book has a twist. I figured that part out quite quickly, but I'm not sure that the author was trying to keep it a big mystery. The true suspense comes form wondering if the characters in the book will figure everything out before history repeats itself. Barr does an incredible job in keeping the reader on the edge of her seat as the final drama unfolds.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Eventually I began to enjoy the religious issues that Picoult presents because she lets the reader draw her own conclusions. I've heard very little about the Gnostic Gospels and found that information very interesting. I felt that she did carry the Messianic comparisons a little far, but she also capably portrayed the polarizing effects of religion; something mankind has yet to find a way to overcome. I like the use of four narrators as it allows you to get to know those characters so well as they unfold the story. Picoult's research into so many different topics never fails to astound and impress me. I always learn something when I read her books. It's always good to see other viewpoints. Even though I struggled with this book at first, I ended up liking it very much. Except for the epilogue; that was over the top.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
7. The Last Battle In this book, Scrubb and Poole return to Narnia where many years have passed since their last visit. An ape has convinced many Narnians that a donkey wearing a lion skin is really Aslan and commands them to do things in Aslan's name. In this way, he slowly gives Narnia over to its enemies. Tirian is the king and along with his friends makes a last stand against the Calorenes and evil. While I know there is a lot of Biblical allegory in all the books, it is certainly the strongest in this one, which may explain why I didn't like it as well. In the others, I could enjoy the adventures and the fantasy; but Battle is so Biblically heavy-handed that the story suffered for me. Or maybe I just got tired of the whole series. Or I'm not into stories about Armageddon. Whatever. Not only that, but I really hated what happens to Susan. Sorry, can't tell you more. Rating: 3.25
Monday, October 26, 2009
I've said it before so I'll say it again. Armand Gamache is one of the best crime solvers in the fiction world. Here's a description from the book that illustrates him and Penny's fine writing. As a segueway, Penny has just described Gamache's two associates: "And Gamache? He knew he was neither the hound nor the hunter. Armand Gamache was the explorer. He went ahead of all the rest, into territoy unknown and uncharted. He was drawn to the edge of things. To the places old mariners knew, and warned, "Beyond here be monsters." That's where Chief Inspector Gamache could be found. He stepped into the beyond, and found the monsters hidden deep inside all the reasonable, gentle, laughing people. He went where even they were afraid to go. Armand Gamache followed slimy trails, deep into a person's psyche, and there, huddled and barely human, he found the murderer." This man is one of fiction's great characters. Penny also develops fantastic supporting characters. In this book, the Morrow family (the chief suspects) are far from likeable, but always interesting. The staff at the Manoir Bellechasse where the murder occurs are also drawn well. One of the things I really liked about Rule was the delving into Gamache's history with his father, coinciding so well with the family dynamics of the Morrows. The mystery was not easy to solve, I didn't have a clue; but at the conclusion, I thought it made sense and small clues had been thrown into the story. Here's another quote from a character counting his blessings that I really want to remember: "We're all blessed and we're all blighted. Every day each of us does our sums. The questions is, what do we count?" This book is a keeper and I am anxiously awaiting the paperback publication of Penny's next one.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
This book follows Arthur Bryant and John May in 1973 as their experimental unit, the Pecular Crimues Unit, or PCU, moves to a new location. PCU and the two detectives quickly become the focus of attention as a bizarre set of murders take place targeting an old English watch-making family. May is a urbane and GQ kind of guy while Bryant is rumpled and eccentric. They think differently which has always led to their impressive crime-solving success. But these particular crimes may be the undoing of the unit as there seems to be little pattern or reason for such wildly odd, almost Victorian murders. The family's attorney dies with a snake bite, one brother is killed by an exploding watch while the other has his throat slit by a substitute barber, the sister dies from poisoned face powder. The extended family is gathered together but are critical of the police effort and not cooperative at all. Through it all, May and Bryant rush around London trying to find clues in outlandish ways while keeping their tempers when dealing with the Whitstable clan. I really enjoyed the characters of Bryant and May. Their sarcasm and sensitivity blend so well. Also, Fowler writes with a great deal of humor which I always enjoy in a mystery. The description of the watchmaking guild as well as other London locales I've never heard of added to my interest. I found the whole book to be an engrossing thriller, keeping me involved from start to finish. My only complaint is that the solution to the crimes is quite outlandish, bordering on Jules Verne type science fiction. Even so, Fowler wrote it so that it made sense; it just wasn't something I could have figured out on my own. I just found out my sister has several more in this series so I'll probably be borrowing on in the future.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
The Rest Falls Away I struggled with the first book. I found Victoria to be self-centered and pig-headed. In fact, that weren't a lot of characters I really liked. Sebastian comes across as a dirty old man, Max is dark and arrogant; and Lillith is just creepy. Well, creepy is fitting for a vampire but still. I just found the whole concept of vampires being created after Satan claims Judas Iscariot's soul to be too disturbing. I did like how Gleason creates an atmosphere of suspense and I liked the historical setting. Also, it was good to see the vampires cast as truly evil beings even though they seem to entice the unwary into their grasp by their hypnotic and sensual gaze. Rating: 3.25
Rises the Night The Venators convene in Rome to fight a horrible threat from a vampire hoping to become more powerful than Lillith. Victoria puts herself in danger because of her bull-headedness and pride. Max has his own agenda and hasn't shared his plans. We do learn that, far from being a dirty, old man, Sebastian is actually extremely attractive, especially to Victoria. In fact, the sex in this book lowers my rating. It was over the top. And Victoria is a bit of a sleaze. There is more staking of vampires which can get old after a while; but the main conflict was very gripping and I was completely taken by surprise by some of the outcomes. Rating: 3
The Bleeding Dusk I almost didn't continue with this series because the first two books didn't appeal that much to me. I'm glad I kept on with it, because this book captured my attention. Maybe it's because Sebastian and Max became more real to me and I started to understand their motives. Victoria is also starting to grow up and act more like the leader she needs to be. I found the introduction of demons, Satan's other army and mortal enemies of the vampires, to be a bit silly but at least the fighting changes. You don't kill demons by staking them. I was able to recognize the sex scenes earlier and skip them so I wasn't bothered with that. Whatever, I enjoyed this book and was eager to follow the action in the next installment.
The Twilight Burns The vampires are becoming cagier, creating more problems for Victoria, Max and Sebastian. There were some surprises in this book and interesting developments with Victoria. Again, I liked this book and was quite engrossed. Rating: 4
As Shadows Fall If this is the last book in the series, there are a lot of unanswered questions. What really happens to Sebastian? What about the potion recipe that was given to Lillith? What is the future of the Venators? I don't like unanswered questions, so I'm hoping for a sequel. By this time, Max and Sebastian have grown on me, Victoria, maybe a bit. I really like her maid though. Great comic relief amidst all the fangs and stakes. Rating: 3.75
Overall, I would recommend the series, especially if you like vampire romance books. I don't love romance novels and probably would have liked these books better with a little less romance and more intrigue. Except I got to where I enjoyed Sebestian's flirting with Victoria. It's just her response to him that struck an odd note with me.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The action is intricate and exuberant. After a spectacular bit of con artistry, Amram and Zelikman receive a windfall: They ride away with an adolescent “stripling,” Filaq, who happens to be in line for the throne of a legendary Jewish kingdom now controlled by a wicked warlord. Fierce of spirit and itchy of foot, young Filaq longs for his home and throne but hides a secret that may keep them out of reach. He also shows a flair for startling escapes and for raising small armies.
With their purse in Filaq’s hands and their fates increasingly linked to his, the gentlemen fling themselves into new exploits. They tangle with a cyclopean mahout, a hired killer, hordes of rampaging Northmen and an elephant of many talents, not the least of which is a gift for drama. Amram, Zelikman and Filaq are regularly parted and reunited, sometimes wounded and even pleasured. The stripling’s secret is duly revealed, and after Filaq endures a last horrible assault, they all steal into the Khazarian stronghold for a suitably bloody climax.
A hillside fortress burns “zealously, sending up rolling shafts of black smoke veined at their root with fire and moaning like the mouth of a cave.” An invalid Northerner, “white as a fish belly,” is dragged from his hiding place and “slashed open like a gushing sack of wine.” On a rare break from the riotous action, Zelikman comes to rest on a “carpet that smelled like rutting sheep, in the cramped gloom of a circular dog tent constructed, as far as he could tell, from equal quantities of rancid felt, dung smoke and the acrid shadow cast by a naphtha lamp.”
Review by Susann Chokal in the New York Times, Octobe 28, 2007
I listened to this short novel on my trip to Provo and back this weekend and really enjoyed it. I decided to use someone else's review because it's a hard book for me to describe and I had no idea how to spell anyone's name. There is a lot going on this adventure and the two 10-century conmen are right in the middle of it all. Amran and Zelikman are fantastic characters and made me laugh several times. It was a fun book to listen to, especially with the author's afterword describing why he wrote an adventure story involving Jews when adventure is not a big part of his real life.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Many of you have seen the movie that was based on this book, orginally named Rocket Boys. I loved the movie and usually don't like to read books tied to movies because I'm usually disappointed. October Sky proved to be a wonderful exception. First of all, the movie and the book are quite similar with just a few less important things left out of the movie like Homer, Jr's (Sonny) crushes and romances. I don't remember the hostility between Sonny and his brother, Jim. I don't remember a number of things and I think I'll just watch the movie again. (I love Jake Gyllenhall). First and foremost, this is a story about following your dream. "Sometimes one dream is enough to light up the whole sky." I really appreciated how following their dream with the support they received changed the lives of these five boys, all of whom went on to graduate from college. (A rarity in this corner of West Virginia in the 1950's) But you also learn about the different types of love and caring that exist: within a family, within a group of friends, between students and teacher; within a community. The support that Sonny and his friends received from the hard-pressed mining community was phenomenal. Another think I missed in the movie was the love that Sonny had for his home. This book doesn't sugar coat the remoteness of Sonny's town or the fact that it revolves around the coal mine; but it also paints a beautiful picture of the West Virginia mountains. I've driven through West Virginia and found it fascinating but can't imagine those kids traveling on a bus in the middle of winter up and down three or four mountains and around sharp curves with abrupt drops into gaping chasms. The book also gave me a glimpse into what the U.S. was like during this Cold War era with the Russians reaching space first. Hickam didn't sugar coat the difficulties of his community or within his own family and certainly was more than fair concerning his own shortcomings. But he told a gripping and heart warming story that I think anyone would enjoy.