December 26th, 2009

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

A couple of days ago, I finished reading Tom Holt's historical novel Olympiad, which gives his odd and very human viewpoint of really how the first Olympic Games took place. I found it a fun and engrossing read.
blue shoes

47: Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

Book Forty-Seven

Title: Grave Goods
Author: Ariana Franklin
Page Count: 336
Genre: Historical Mystery

Synopsis/Thoughts: In the third installment of the Mistress of the Art of Death series, Adelia's quiet life is once again disturbed by King Henry II, who has another problem for her to solve. Glastonbury Abbey has burned to the ground, and two skeletons have been discovered. The monks claim that the remains belong to King Arthur and his queen, Guinevere. Since Henry is in the process of putting down a group of superstitious Welsh rebels who firmly believe that the Once and Future King is still alive and will come to their aid, having proof that he is dead would be immensely helpful. So he sends Adelia and company to examine the bones, in hopes that she will be able to identify them. But of course, when Adelia is involved, things are never as simple as they seem, and the identity of the two skeletons is not the only mystery lurking in Glastonbury.

I enjoyed this installment in the series, though not as much as the first or the second. I can't quite put my finger on why. It was a perfectly good story and I still had trouble putting it down, but it had a smidgen less of that special something the first two books had. I don't know, haha. Anyway, I still liked it a lot, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book, especially to see what happens between Adelia and Rowley. The solution proposed at the end of this book is less than satisfactory on all counts, and I'm hoping there will be some resolution later on in the series.

29 and 30 down

29. Push by Sapphire

Very raw, compelling story of a Harlem teenager who refuses to give up despite her horrific life circumstances. The narrative poetry helped me with the adolescent perspective.

Grade: A-

30. Lord Arthur Savile's Crime by Oscar WIlde

Wonderfully funny stories. I truly love Wilde's witty commentaries on social convention.

Grade: A

Next up: I am plodding through Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire. Not sure if I will make it by 2010. I am dreadfully behind my fifty goal.
blue shoes

48: Ocracoke by Carl Goerch

Book Forty-Eight

Title: Ocracoke
Author: Carl Goerch
Page Count: 224
Genre: Travel, Non-Fiction

Synopsis/Thoughts: This was a book I picked up on impulse while browsing at the library. I live in North Carolina, and the Outer Banks (including Ocracoke Island) are a favorite vacation spot of mine. So I was curious to see what this book (the edition I read having been published in the 1950s) had to say on the subject. It's written in a chatty, anecdotal manner, describing the island as it was at the time the book was published. Though these descriptions are now vastly outdated, they are no less charming. The author describes a place and a time the modern reader can hardly imagine, a place with no police officers, because they don't need them. Where nobody locks their doors because there are no criminals, where everybody knows each others and helps their neighbor when they are in need. Where the only entertainment is a weekly movie shown at a local hotel, and square dancing. We're told about the local legends of pirates and shipwrecks, as well as where the best fish chowder can be found.

This book made me smile, and made me wish I could go back in time to see Ocracoke Island as it was then.
topgear, redsharlach, ohcock

My deadline was Dec. 8, 2009

Didn't make it and I really though I would. I'm not even going to make it by the 31st.
Books 27-36
27. Title: Guilty Pleasure
By: Laurell K. Hamilton
Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law--as long as they don't get too nasty. Now someone's killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees--with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting--to help figure out who and why. Trust is a luxury Anita can't afford when her allies aren't human. The city's most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita's professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn't playing along--yet. This popular series has a wild energy and humor, and some very appealing characters--both dead and alive.

28. Bodies We've Buried: Inside the National Forensic Academy, the World's Top CSI Training School
Jarrett Hallcox
The latest authors to capitalize on the CSI craze are well situated to add something new to the literature. Hallcox and Welch run the National Forensic Academy, a state-of-the-art, hands-on crime scene investigation school for people in law enforcement, but those impressive credentials do not translate into a good read. Despite some interesting war stories, the bulk of the book is an overly technical, step-by-step description of the course of study given to academy students ("The problem, however, is that ninhydrin is not reliable when it comes to the zinc chloride process"), which is likely to glaze the eyes of all but the most die-hard fans of the genre. In addition, the authors' failed efforts at sardonic humor ("Though there are probably a few people we could think of to stick in front of a moving vehicle, our grant does not allow us to kill anybody"), and clunky, florid phrasing ("With the first lightning strike of a tree witnessed by man, he has forever been obsessed with this primordial heat") make what should have been a fascinating insider account a hard slog. B&w photos. (Jan. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

29. Title: Son of a Witch
By: Gregory Maguire
The long-anticipated sequel to the million-copy bestselling novel Wicked

Ten years after the publication of Wicked, beloved novelist Gregory Maguire returns at last to the land of Oz. There he introduces us to Liir, an adolescent boy last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully, Liir is shattered in spirit as well as in form. But he is tended at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by the silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts.

What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape -- but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison, Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz that, since the Wizard's departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?

For the countless fans who have been dazzled and entranced by Maguire's Oz, Son of a Witch is the rich reward they have awaited so long.

30. Title: Lucky
By: Alice Sebold
When Sebold, the author of the current bestseller The Lovely Bones, was a college freshman at Syracuse University, she was attacked and raped on the last night of school, forced onto the ground in a tunnel "among the dead leaves and broken beer bottles." In a ham-handed attempt to mollify her, a policeman later told her that a young woman had been murdered there and, by comparison, Sebold should consider herself lucky. That dubious "luck" is the focus of this fiercely observed memoir about how an incident of such profound violence can change the course of one's life. Sebold launches her memoir headlong into the rape itself, laying out its visceral physical as well as mental violence, and from there spins a narrative of her life before and after the incident, weaving memories of parental alcoholism together with her post-rape addiction to heroin. In the midst of each wrenching episode, from the initial attack to the ensuing courtroom drama, Sebold's wit is as powerful as her searing candor, as she describes her emotional denial, her addiction and even the rape (her first "real" sexual experience). She skillfully captures evocative moments, such as, during her girlhood, luring one of her family's basset hounds onto a blue silk sofa (strictly off-limits to both kids and pets) to nettle her father. Addressing rape as a larger social issue, Sebold's account reveals that there are clear emotional boundaries between those who have been victims of violence and those who have not, though the author attempts to blur these lines as much as possible to show that violence touches many more lives than solely the victim's.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

31. Mistress of Justice
By Jeffrey Deaver
A plethora of generally interesting asides make this lethargically paced mystery an easy, yet ultimately a somewhat frustrating read. As we follow the paralegal days and jazz-piano-playing nights of Ms. Taylor Lockwood, we glimpse the truth behind the dark-wood panels of the venerable law firm Hubbard, White & Willis. Taylor's initial assignment is to retrieve a stolen document that could cost the firm a case and an attractive young litigator his job. The theft proves to be merely a subtext as one ferocious partner pushes for a merger, two older partners firmly oppose it and the rest of the principal players scramble for position while sides are drawn up. Taylor finds coked-up associates with grievances, partners with financial problems, and granddaughters to raise, not to mention call girls. Offices (including her own lowly hole in the wall) are soon bugged, and after an interminable wait, murder makes its entrance. Edgar-nominated Deaver ( Manhattan Is My Beat ) whips up enough atmosphere for a whole series here: late-night music, copious jazz lore, performance-art interludes, man troubles aplenty--the plucky Taylor partakes of them all. She's a likely guide to both the legal and the late-night, but this expansive mystery doesn't have enough narrative gears to shift through. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc

32. The Tunnels
by Michelle Gagnon
Though formulaic, the debut novel from Gagnon is saved by smart, appealing lead characters FBI Special Agent Kelly Stone and her partner, Roger Morrow. A distinguished New England college is in turmoil after two female students, each the daughter of rich and powerful families, are found butchered in an old campus tunnel system, with strange Norse symbols painted around them. Joining the agents on the case is former FBI agent Jake Riley, who now works as head of security for one of the dead girls' fathers. As more bodies turn up—and a student goes missing—Kelly and her team find themselves in a race to stop the mysterious killer. While Gagnon doesn't bring much new to the standard serial-killer plot line, she keeps things moving with a brisk pace and likable leads. Kelly's interactions with Roger carry a nice blend of warmth, humor and professionalism, bringing a sense of the real to their partnership. Kelly and Jake's relationship is no less interesting, and Gagnon wisely avoids forcing a romance between them. Gagnon's characters hold promise for an enjoyable series; she just need to find some cases worthy of them. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

33. Almost Moon
By Alice Sebold
Sebold's disappointing second novel (after much-lauded The Lovely Bones) opens with the narrator's statement that she has killed her mother. Helen Knightly, herself the mother of two daughters and an art class model old enough to be the mother of the students who sketch her nude figure, is the dutiful but resentful caretaker for her senile 88-year-old mother, Clair. One day, traumatized by the stink of Clair's voided bowels and determined to bathe her, Helen succumbs to a life-long dream and smothers Clair, who had sucked the life out of [Helen] day by day, year by year. After dragging Clair's corpse into the cellar and phoning her ex-husband to confess her crime, Helen has sex with her best friend's 30-year-old blond-god doofus son. Jumping between past and present, Sebold reveals the family's fractured past (insane, agoraphobic mother; tormented father, dead by suicide) and creates a portrait of Clair that resembles Sebold's own mother as portrayed in her memoir, Lucky. While Helen has clearly suffered at her mother's hands, the matricide is woefully contrived, and Helen's handling of the body and her subsequent actions seem almost slapstick. Sebold can write, that's clear, but her sophomore effort is not in line with her talent. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

34. Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers
By Michael M.D. Baden amd Marion Roach
Baden, a leading forensic pathologist and host of HBO's Autopsy, and Roach (Another Name for Madness) are a dynamic pair, delving into delightfully creepy material that can potentially bring murderers to justice or free an innocent on death row. Baden is a methodical and ethical medical examiner and consummate scientist. Every page reveals another aspect of the forensic sciences, leading the reader into the Cimmerian world of autopsies, murder scenes, blood-splatter analysis, the life cycles of blowflies in carrion, DNA fingerprinting and the methods for identifying unknown victims by their skulls, teeth and bones. The authors also touch upon the obscure yet fruitful fields of forensic botany and climatology. The material is exhaustive, yet the journey is never less than fascinating. For the reader (with a strong stomach) interested in the juncture of crime, law and science, this book is chock-full of practical information about death by unnatural means. The account is replete with a cast of weird, amiable characters, historical insights (where else this year will readers learn that Paul Revere took the first step in forensic odontology?), and reverence for the scientific study of the dead. Baden and Roach invite the outsider into the laboratory with a gripping sense of immediacy, and conversely, they bring the usually hidden forensic sciences into the light of day. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

35. Devil's Bones
By Jefferson Bass
The lack of a strong central plot undercuts the third forensic thriller by bestseller Bass, the team of Dr. Bill Bass, founder of Tennessee's world-renowned Body Farm, and journalist Jon Jefferson (after 2007's Flesh and Bone). Two cases occupy Dr. Bass's fictional alter ego, Dr. Bill Brockton—the death of Mary Latham, a 47-year-old Knoxville native, whose charred remains were found in a burned-out car, and a disreputable Georgia crematorium that simply dumped bodies on its grounds. These probes soon take a backseat to a cat-and-mouse game with the doctor's arch nemesis, Garland Hamilton, who tried to frame him for murder in Flesh and Bone. When Hamilton escapes from incarceration before going to trial, Brockton must keep looking over his shoulder. While a smattering of Bass's trademark authentic forensic detail lifts this main narrative thread, a more focused look at a single case might have made the novel a better read. (Feb.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

36. That Takes Ovaries: Bold Females and their Brazen Acts
By Rivka Solomon
The expression "that takes balls" is often used to describe actions that are especially difficult or daring. Solomon has coined a female variation to characterize the stories of the 60-plus women of all ages and backgrounds who responded to her Internet request for personal accounts of events that demonstrated an uncommon dose of courage and strength. Some can be described with terms like bold, self-confident, and inspiring; others are just plain crazy. One woman outsmarted a Detroit pimp, one reduced a burglar to tears by appealing to his black pride, one high-schooler decided to face the world with hairy legs. When presented together these stories form an inspiring collage of strength and creativity. Because the stories are told in the contributors' own words, each carries the humor and passion of each individual. Framed by an analytical introduction and a call to action in support of women's rights, the tales gathered in That Takes Ovaries! make for an interesting addition to any women's studies collection. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Book 26

Nightlight:  A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon

This is a parody of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. It's about a girl named Belle Goose who falls for Edwart Mullen, an extremely nerdy boy. She becomes convinced that Edwart is a vampire after several suspicious events (such as saving her from a snowball) take place. In no time, Belle is completely smitten with Edwart, who in turn has no experience whatsoever with girls.

This book was written by a bunch of college kids, and although they are clearly intelligent, they should have done a better job of proofreading this book. There were many misspellings, typos, and grammar mistakes throughout the pages.

The humor itself was sometimes "laugh outloud funny" but at other times too obvious.

An easy read, pretty funny.


(no subject)

Breaking News: An attempted terrorist attack was stopped recently when Jasper Schuringa, a director from Amsterdam, tackled the would-be bomber to possibly save the lives of every person on the plane.

I think it is save to assume that this was not on Jasper's daily schedule.

This story goes hand in hand with a book that I just finished reading called [I]The Noticer [/I]by bestselling author Andy Andrews.

The book features a wandering prophet named simply Jones, who possesses a gift to help lost people regain their prospectives. In one chapter he helps an elderly woman, who is just living out her days to realize that she still has much to offer society.

Jones uses the accomplishment of Norman Bourlag, who is known as the father of the green revolution. Bourlag created a system for growing corn and wheat in arid climates. The Nobel committee, along with several other experts, concluded that this simple concept saved the lives of billions of people worldwide.

Jones then expands the "credit" to Henry Wallace, the Vice-President under FDR, who appointed Bourlag to the position.

Going back further Jones connects Wallace to the historic peanut innovator George Washington Carver. Carver was a student at Iowa St. while  Henry Wallace's father was a professor there. The six year Henry got much of  his inspiration about plants from the budding scientist

Going back even further Jones continues that Carver was saved by a white farmer who bought back the infant Carver after his mother was killed by white extremists.

Jones argues that without the series of small events that occured prior to Bourlag's discovery, billions may have perished needlessly.

Jasper and Norman have their place in history, will you be ready if and when your day comes?

There are many things we can do to improve our odds of making a difference. Giving to worthy charities, working with homeless shelters, or being a big brother or sister to a needy child.

Go out and make a difference in someone's life, you'll be amazed at how that will improve your own life.

life on mars

Books 135-136: The Redeemer and The Devil's Garden

Book 135: The Redeemer (Harry Hole Book 06)
Author: Jo Nesbø, 2005 Translated from the Swedish by Don Bartlett, 2009.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Trade Paperback 457 pages.

How do you stop a hit man who has nothing to lose?

Indeed! Although this is the sixth in the Harry Hole series, it is the fourth to be translated into English. In contrast to others in the series, the events of this novel take place over the course of a single week and it is written with a fast pace, which delivers an unrelenting sense of urgency.

One freezing night in Oslo Christmas shoppers gather to listen to a Salvation Army street concert. Suddenly a man in uniform falls to the ground, shot in the head at point-blank range. It is a shocking and seemingly motiveless crime but it soon becomes clear that a professional hitman was involved and that the dead man may not have been the intended target. Harry and his team swing into action to track down the killer. The hit man realises that he has shot the wrong man and with his resources severely limited and the police on his trail, he is increasingly desperate. Yet is determined to allow nothing to stop him fulfilling his contract.

Nesbø creates in his hitman an interesting and highly ambivalent character, providing flashbacks to his youth in Croatia where he gained the name of 'little redeemer'. Even with the fast pace, Nesbø delivers a plot with plenty of twists and turns and further develops the character of Harry Hole and supporting players. There were a lot of shocks in the final chapters that left me reeling and wanting more!

Book 136; The Devil's Garden
Author: Richard Montanari, 2009
Genre: Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback, 352 pages

I've very much enjoyed Montanari's Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne series of police procedurals, and so eagerly plucked this recent stand-alone novel from the library bookshelf. However, it just didn't grab me as strongly as those in the series.

The plot involves one Michael Roman, a rising star in the New York District Attorney's office. He has a lovely home, a beautiful wife and two adorable twin daughters. However, he has a dark secret which is that a few years previously he and his wife went through illegal channels to adopt the twins from Estonia. Their mother had been a young village soothsayer and died on the night of their birth. Their father, Aleksander Savisaar, was also a local man, who believes himself an immortal figure from Estonian folklore. He returns some time later and discovers the adoption; enraged, he vows to find his daughters and return them to Estonia

This very dangerous individual with shady underworld connections eventually finds his way to New York and begins closing in on Michael and his family. It is certainly quite a tense novel but I found it hard to cast Aleksander as 'the devil', even though he was a quite distributing character. He reminded me of Keyser Söze (The Usual Suspects) in his mythic status and savagery. In some ways I was more sympathetic to his quest in the early part of the book than I was to Michael and perhaps this was part of my problem with the book. Collapse )

Overall, it just didn't have for me the strength or overall darkness of his other books. Also, perhaps reading it just after the The Redeemer, in which Jo Nesbø was confident enough to create a complex adversary who challenged the reader's sympathies as to his nature, made this more marked.
hand, butterfly

Books 11 - 15

I'm ahead of schedule, woot!

11. Whispers, by Nichole Schulist
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythological

This is a novel my friend wrote, and sent to me after finishing her first draft. It's still in its rough stages, but I love the world and characters she created, and I can't wait til she writes the rest of the series. And, you know, polishes them all up. I'm not going to rate this one simply because it's not available on the market.

12. Hunted, by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Genre: Fantasy, Teen Lit

Virtually nothing happened. This seems to be more of a placeholder than a novel in and of itself, and I can only hope that Tempted is better. I doubt it will be, though. One thing that is absolutely driving me crazy is how much is repeated from book to book. Yes, some short summary is important in a series, even for faithful readers of the series, but the Casts bring this way too far. We don't really need a rehashing of the characters and their roles in every single book.

Rating: 2.5/5

13. Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare
Genre: Play, Comedy

I don't know why I try to read plays. They really are no fun. I like watching them and getting absorbed in the story, because that's how they are meant to be portrayed. You miss so much when you don't have those little stage directions and whatnot. I like the idea of the play, but without a running summary, I'd miss so much.

Rating: 3.5/5 (tainted by my dislike of plays, of course)

14. The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
Genre: Conspiracy Fiction

Just for the general record, after reading Stiff a couple months ago, I can say that some of the 'new' scientific things in this book are most certainly real and have been proven for quite some time. I'm not sure he even got his number right, because I don't have my copy of Stiff anymore. At any rate, it was an interesting book, and didn't follow Brown's typical pattern quite as strongly as it normally does. Still, very predictable in parts, and kind of a cheesy ending. It's certainly an interesting look at symbols and American myth and legend, and it's certainly no wonder it took him years to write the thing.

Rating: 4/5

15. Ground Zero, by F Paul Wilson
Genre: Supernatural Fiction

I have to say, I love Repairman Jack, and I've been waiting for what feels like forever to get my hands on this book. I was not let down. I love how FPW integrates modern day events into his novels now, especially considering the first book of the series was written way back in the 80's. I'm looking forward to the last two books of the series, and then I'm super interested to see what changes when he goes back and revises Nightworld.

Rating: 4.5/5
  • krinek

57, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Year: 2006
# of pages: 331
Date read: 11/18/2009
Rating: 4*/5 = great


"Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.Jacob was there because his luck had run out — orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act — in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival." -- from the publisher
My thoughts:
I enjoyed this book about circus life during the Great Depression. I especially like the way the author skillfully wove in historic facts such as an elephant not understanding English and the problem "jake leg" which was caused by tainted Jamaica ginger.