December 30th, 2009

Books Read

Books 41-43: The Demon King, Run for Your Life, & Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Here are books forty-one to forty-three from my Book List 2009. The links lead to more detailed reviews in my journal.

41. Title: The Demon King
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Pages: 506
Thoughts: Link
Review in five words or less: Captivating, fascinating realm; dangerous adventures.
Personal Rating: «««« out of five.

I greatly enjoyed Cinda Williams Chima's Heirs trilogy, so I was really looking forward to reading this first book in her newest trilogy. Once again Chima manages to craft a fascinating fantasy realm. This story revolves around the politics of running the Queendom of the Fells and the delicate balance of power between royals, wizards, and warriors.

One thousand years ago during the time of the Demon King, a new order was created to keep the peace and balance the power to prevent war. As the centuries have passed, people have forgotten why these strictures were put into place and there are those who are ruthless enough to want more power for themselves. There is much discontent within the queendom and they are in danger of going to war with neighboring realms.

This story focuses on Han, a reformed thief who has mysterious pair of unremovable silver cuffs on wrists and Raisa, the rebelious princess heir of the Fells. After a confrontation with three wizards, Han comes to possess an amulet of great power. His life is now in danger because they will stop at nothing to get it back. Raisa is viewed as the pretty stepping stone to the power, but her enemies underestimate her abilities.

This was an amazing start to the trilogy. The story is complex with many unexpected twists and turns. I am looking forward reading the second book. Highly recommended if you like YA fantasy.

42. Title: Run for Your Life
Author: James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Pages: 373
Thoughts: Link
Review in five words or less: Complex villain; breakneck pace.
Personal Rating: «««¾ out of five.

This is the second book in the series. I didn't read the first, but aside from not having a little more background information, this did not affect my enjoyment of the story. I'm a fan of Patterson's Alex Cross series, and this joint effort with another author is very typical of Patterson's style.

The story races along, effortlessly switching POVs from the Teacher (villain) to Michael the police officer (main character) to other supporting characters. The Teacher is furious and wants to teach those who offend a lesson. The murders begin with high-profile professionals and the Teacher marches up the food chain. As the body count mounts, Michael is charged with solving the crimes.

Despite the sparse details, the story feels complete and satisfying. I was able to guess who the villain was early on, but that did not diminish my enjoyment. It was interesting to see why the Teacher felt compelled to act and put the pieces together for the complete picture. Highly recommended to Patterson fans.

43. Title: Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Author: Avi
Pages: 262
Thoughts: Link
Review in five words or less: Simply told, but great story.
Personal Rating: «««¾ out of five.

This Newbery award winning story takes place in England in the year 1377. Asta, a poor peasant woman in the village of Stromford has just died, and her thirteen-year-old son is now alone. He has lived his entire life in the village and is known as Asta's son, rather than his own name.

Shortly after the death, Asta's son is accused of a crime he did not commit and declared a "wolf's head." This means that anyone may kill him on sight. Forced to flee the village, Asta's son slowly begins to unravel the mystery of his existence and why he is being tirelessly pursued. He is befriended by a man with his own agenda who teaches and encourages him to think for himself.

This was a simple, but engaging story of courage and discovery. It was very predictable, but entertaining and well worth the read.


43 / 50 books. 86% done!


15,307 / 15000 pages. Goal achieved!

Though I didn't achieve my fifty book goal, I am quite satisfied with the forty-three books I read in 2009. As usual, December was insanely busy, and the little free time I had was mostly spent on writing and relaxing. I reached the 15000 pages goal which was great. I will have the same reading goals for 2010. Behind the cut is the rest of my 2009 book list.

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Start: 12/20/09
End: 12/19/10

1. Into the Path of Gods by Kathleen Cunningham-Guler. 4/5
2. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. 4/5
3. The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton. [In Progress]
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I figure I should finish this up NOW, before the deluge of year-end postings when we're all scrolling down thinking "Don't I have any FRIENDS that post?". The good news is that I made it to my secondary goal of reading 100 books in a year again (I did it last year too). The less good news is the REAL goal was to do a bit more, maybe 105, and that's not going to happen. So, here we go.

I read The Damnation Game by Clive Barker. It has to do with, oh, selling of souls. It's the story of a guy who gets let out of prison to go work for another guy and it becomes slowly clearer that the employer is very very afraid of something. Mr. Barker is really good at coming up with really disturbing images (zombie puppies?) and that, of course, is the whole point of his books. They're HORROR books, they're meant to be horrific. That I didn't like it because it was disturbing shows a flaw in my character, not in the book.

After that was The Clocks of Iraz by L. Sprague DeCamp, which I liked very much. It's the second book in his Reluctant King trilogy, and the second remains as amusing as the first. In this one, our poor king who was living quite well in hiding as a surveyor, is pulled out of hiding by his wizard friend who has a plan to help the king to rescue the one of his five wives that he really loved. It is, again, a Conan-ish sort of world with a very un-Conan sort of hero. There's magic, but the magic doesn't ever really work. There are gods, but they're not very useful. It's a great deal of fun.

After THAT was a book called Panic! which I'd picked up at random because of the cover (two terrified looking people running in a desert) and which turned out to be about two terrified people running in a desert. The plot was a little thin (drifter witnesses murder, runs away chased by professional killers, meets Pretty Lady who then has to run away too) the writing was decent, but I really wouldn't recommend it, mostly because it wasn't a very good book but also because of a very irritating scene Collapse )

Then I read Cluster by Piers Anthony who, generally I hate. It turns out, though, that his science fiction, when he's not trying to fit as many puns as possible into a paragraph, is quite good. In this there's some sort of threat and Earth has to send a young man's mind out to parlay with various alien races. It's too expensive to send him bodily, so they send his consciousness into alien host bodies. Mr. Anthony comes up with a few very imaginative alien worlds. The ending was a little weak but, it turns out, it's the first in a series, so perhaps it wasn't meant to stand alone.

For Christmas my father, finally catching on, got me Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum, which I finished, I think, before we even moved from the stockings to the tree. I think, actually, that it would have been a lot funnier had it not been trying to tell a story. Some of the haiku stood alone rather nicely but I didn't notice because I was focused on the story. The story itself wasn't very good.

He also gave me Stupid History by Leland Gregory, a book that details general misconceptions about historical events and throws in a few stupid things that happened. It irritated me at first but I found, as I got further in, that here and there were some actual gems. Thanks to my father for giving me two relatively short and easy books, giving me that necessary boost to the finish line.

This is long, more later.

97/100
Reading Under Tree

Books #119-122

119) SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Non-fiction/Economics, 320 pages)
I really like pop-economics books. They allow me to drag up from the dregs of my brain the little tidbits I learned back in my econ classes. Levitt and Dubner focus on microeconomics and behavioral economics to explain why certain things are they way they are.
This book has a different feel than Freakonomics - I think because they based this largely on blog entries. I still found it extremely interesting. The global warming chapter had me rethinking a lot of things I've held true, and I will probably be rereading it in the near future to fully digest it. The epilogue was worth the price of admission alone. I was in stitches at the thought of monkey prostitution! 4/5

120) The Gates by John Connolly (Young Adult Fantasy, 304 pages)
Really really fun. I didn't like this as much as The Book of Lost Things but still very good. It reminded me a lot of Good Omens, only less complex. I read this in one sitting at the bookstore -- I started it to see if I would like it and looked up four hours later after finishing the last page. 4/5

121) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (Humor, 166 pages)
I liked the first story the best, and after that, I was kind of ambivalent to the rest of the book. The humor seemed mean-spirited at times, too. Sedaris was recommended highly to me by a number of people, but I really should remember I don't "get" humor writing. Interesting collection, though, even if I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny. 3/5

122) Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis (Fantasy&SF/Short Stories, 336 pages)
I don't normally like short stories and it is very rare that I find an anthology I enjoy. With that in mind, this book was a delight. I liked every single story in here and would heartily recommend the anthology for a speculative fiction holiday read. 4/5
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#50 - The Fixer Upper

#50 - The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews (2009, 422 pages) 

Dempsey Jo Killebrew is a woman on the way down. She just found out her boss and one of his most important clients are being investigated by the FBI and that she has been implicated as well. Fired from her job as the crap hits the fan, she takes up her father's suggestion to flip a house he just inherited in Guthrie, GA, as a way to keep herself busy until things blow over. But Dempsey didn't realize she'd also have to care for the cantankerous old cousin squatting in the house, along with the cousin's equally terrorsome dog, Shorty.

Dempsey comes to face her problems head on, and it's something that I have really come to enjoy about Andrews' books. Her characters are put through pretty crappy situations and through their sheer determination, come out on top. In this particular case, it's especially fun to see how Dempsey gets even with her former boss, the man who put her in this situation in the first place.

I love all of Andrews' books, and she always includes a little bonus that helps endear her to me - recipies that were mentioned throughout the book. She not only finds her way into your heart, but into your stomach, which is why I give this book a great four out of five dinners.

Total Books Read: 50 / 50 (100 percent)
Total Pages Read:
14,663 / 15,000 (98 percent)
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#23-45 ratings & short reviews

I didn't start my challenge until April, but I was hoping to finish up by the end of the calendar year. I came really close -- but the ~2 months I was without my Kindle did me in.

Oh well, quick reviews of the last half of the books I read below the cut.

Ratings:
***** CHANGED MY LIFE OMFG READ THIS BOOK NOW
**** A+; will read again
*** it was better than most of the stuff on fanfiction.net
** at least i'm not dumber for having read it
* my brain has been devoured by the stupid of this book.

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Good luck in 2010 everyone! 
anemone
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Book 65 for 2009

The Outward Urge by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes

A "history" of space exploration written in 1959, and detailing several incidents in the conquest of space by humans via the adventurous Troon family.

Not one of Wyndham's greatest, but a decent read.

Parkes was apparently on board as scientific advisor. We wondered why he didn't point out what a bad idea it was to smoke in spacecraft as many of the characters habitually do - the health risks may not have been known back then, but the idea of having a source of combustion inside a spaceship should have been anathema even so...

This will likely be my last book for the year, and I'm pleased to note I've read five more this year than in 2008.

final post for 2009

Total for year 75 (but I have four books on the go, and might finish one in the next 28 hours).

My reading (well, book-reading) has dropped dramatically since I started work -- proofreading e-books, non-fiction, fabulous job but means I am much less inclined to read for fun in the evenings. I'm getting to read snippets of some really interesting stuff though!

Shall aim for 50 again next year, but may cut the reviews shorter, as it's becoming a chore (which is simply due to less time).

What I've read since, er, September I think: *s out of 5, links to reviews on my LJ.

2009/65: The Time-Traveller's Wife -- Audrey Niffenegger (reread: spoilery notes rather than a proper review) *****, SF, romance

2009/66: Halting State -- Charles Stross ***** SF, humour

2009/67: The End of Mr Y -- Scarlett Thomas ***** SF, existentialism, Big Mysterious Book

2009/68: Boating for Beginners -- Jeanette Winterson *** humour

2009/69: The Light Ages -- Ian MacLeod *** SF / alt hist, not as good as Song of Time

2009/70: Lavinia -- Ursula Le Guin ***** Feminist version of the Aenead, ha.

2009/71: Measuring the World -- Daniel Kehlmann **** Historical / travel / science

2009/72: Song of Kali -- Dan Simmons ** Supernatural horror

2009/73: The Demon's Lexicon -- Sarah Rees Brennan ***** Horror / YA: great fun

2009/74: Kindred -- Octavia E. Butler *** race, historical, SF. Powerful, disturbing.

2009/75: The Minotaur -- Barbara Vine

Last post of '09

Summaries taken from back of books.

19. The Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Summary: The story of Abelard and Heloise remains one of the world's most dramatic and well-known love affairs. It is told through the letters of French philosopher Peter Abelard and his gifted pupil Heloise. Through their impassioned writings unfolds the story of a romance, from its reckless, ecstatic beginnings to the public scandal, enforced secret marriage, and devastating consequences that followed. These eloquent and intimate letters express a vast range of emotions from adoration and devotion to reproach, indignation, and grief, and offer a fascinating insight into religious life in the Middle Ages.

Genre: Medieval, Letters

Thoughts: Hmm, I don't know what to think about this one. I liked it. Heloise's letters were far better than Abelard's The story itself is very interesting which is pretty much summed up in Letter 1: Historia calamitatum. As far as recommendations if you're into Medieval history specifically Medieval religion than it's a solid read. For me, it's still all about Chaucer.

Rating: 3 out of 5.



20. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Summary: With his face swaddled in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, and his hands covered even indoors, Griffin—the new guest at the Coach and Horses—is at first assumed to be a shy accident victim. But the true reason for his disguise is far more chilling: he has developed a process that has made him invisible and is locked in a struggle to discover the antidote. Forced from the village and driven to murder, he seeks the aid of an old friend, Kemp. The horror of his fate has affected his mind, however, and when Kemp refuses to help, he resolves to wreak his revenge.

Genre: Science Fiction

Thoughts: Again this book left me a little bit underwhelmed. I liked it but I wasn't crazy about it. For me, it falls more in the vein of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde where I feel no sympathy for Dr. Jekyl rather than Frankenstein where the monster is so sympathetic and his story is just so tragic and compelling. When Griffin was telling his story to Kemp I just couldn't muster up much sympathy. Yes, I did feel bad in the end but at the same time I wasn't surprised by the ending. Seeing what Griffin had become I don't think the story could of ended any differently.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


21. Fireside by Susan Wiggs

Summary: Baseball hopeful Bo Crutcher is about to get his shot at the majors. That is, until life throws him a curveball. When AJ, the son he's never met, lands on his doorstep, Bo's life becomes a whole new ball game. He needs help—fast.
Enter Kimberly van Dorn. Hired to smooth Bo's rough exterior for the media, she expects the kind of shallow pro athlete she's used to handling. But Bo is willing to sacrifice everything for his vulnerable son. Kim can train him to hit a home run with the press, but over a breathtaking winter on frozen Willow Lake, she realizes he has far more to teach her about the game of life…and putting love first.


Genre: Romance

Thoughts I can't say I was disappointed with this book because I went into with very low expectations. I wanted a fast read, set in the winter (I know I'm a dork, let's move on). The love story between Bo and Kimberely...average. There was some sparks but nothing where I couldn't wait to see them finally get together. Sandra Brown's Adam's Fall was waaay better in that respect. The only saving grace of the story was A.J. His story was soo well done. Actually, let me clarify A.J. emotional story was fascinating. A young teenager going through losing his mother and finding a father he didn't know anything about. The rebellion. Nothing original but I think A.J. was by far the most interesting character in the book.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.


Well that's it for me and 2009. 21 books read. For next year's challenge I'm not setting a number just to read as much as I can and surpass this years number.

Have a Happy New Year!
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Matchless Snowman Lickin'; Perdida Wore Out

Matchless, by Gregory Maguire
This was charming, and I liked the illos (by the author himself) especially - but I had somehow tricked myself into expecting a big, adult, incredibly elaborate retelling a la Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Wicked, etc. And I got a short 3 chapter children's story. Albeit one I would happily read to children. Still. I am in a state of yearning for the Matchless I thought I was getting.
(255/275)

The History of the Snowman, by Bob Eckstein
Funny and kept my interest, but boy could it have used a more thorough fact-checking / typo-edit. But it was interesting enough that I'd recommend it anyway, just don't get irritated when the same numerical fact is restated 2 or 3 times with a different number used each time on the same page. Or you know, distract yourself from your irritation by cooing at the many many fascinating historical illustrations - that's what I did.
(256/275)

Finger Lickin' Fifteen, by Janet Evanovich
Meh. This was a "B"-lister, not an "A"-lister, for this series. It was still fun and all, but I felt like Grandma and Lula were not up to their usual levels of hilarity - and since the book focused on them to an unprecedented degree, this was a problem. Plus the Ranger/Morelli thing was awfully by-the-numbers. And Stephanie spent too much time explaining stuff I already knew about. Who on earth would be starting the series with the fifteenth book and needing all these explanations?
(257/275)

Love, Loss, and What I Wore, by Ilene Beckerman
Surprisingly poignant little book that was nonetheless fluffy enough to keep company at a VERY LOUD Red Robin where I couldn't concentrate on any of my "real" books. I know just the person I will be purchasing a copy of this for, though. Nifty and copiously illustrated series of recollections about the outfits worn at various times in the author's life (starting in the 1940s). The recollections are quite short and matter-of-fact; the poignancy sneaks in sideways.
(259/275)

The Way Out, by Craig Childs
I was not as in love with this as I was with The Animal Dialogues, but it was still very good. At times it was just too lyrical for me; I had trouble keeping up with the author's train of thought. But there is a strong narrative through-line (well, actually a few of them) that pulled me past the bogged-in parts. If you're interested in survivalist hiking/climbing, dysfunctional families, and Denver cops, it's definitely worth a read. Or if you just really really like people waxing rhapsodic about rock formations.
(260/275)

La Perdida, by Jessica Abel
Bought this because Sherman Alexie said it was "funny, politically astute, and heartbreaking" and I can't really put it better than that myself. Got silly amounts of pleasure from not needing the English subtitles in the subtitled parts, but even without that I would have found this totally absorbing. At times the plot is kind of obvious but I felt like the reader was supposed to feel tension about the main character not having seen these blindingly obvious things yet, so I didn't mind.
(261/275)
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Books 22-47 Patterson, Diana Wynne Jones, Charlaine Harris, Butcher, Michelle Sagara, Vincent

22) When the Wind Blows by James Patterson
-Mystery, suspense, action (416 pages)
-After the mysterious death of her husband several years before, Frannie retreated to an isolated life in her Colorado practice. But a series of bizarre events suddenly disrupts her lonely routine. She is shaken by her new tenant--Kit Harrison. Kit's too handsome and too friendly. He's also recovering from a devastating personal tragedy, and, as Frannie eventually learns, he's really an FBI agent using his vacation to follow a crucial lead. But Kit isn't the one that's got Frannie concerned. As she says after stopping her Suburban one night to check out something on the side of the road a girl with wings. The girl is Max, and the mystery of her wings leads Frannie and Kit into a massive conspiracy involving secret genetic research and the scientific manipulation of the human species. - amazon
- It's been a good 5-6 years since I've read this and I still like it. (2.5/5)

23) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- fantasy, magic, adventure, fairytale (448 pages)
-Sophie Hatter reads a great deal and soon realizes that as the eldest of three daughters she is doomed to an uninteresting future. She resigns herself to making a living as a hatter and helping her younger sisters prepare to make their fortunes. But adventure seeks her out in the shop where she sits alone, dreaming over her hats. The wicked Witch of the Waste turns her into a old woman, so she seeks refuge inside the strange moving castle of the wizard Howl. Howl, advertised by his apprentice as an eater of souls, lives a mad, frantic life trying to escape the curse the witch has placed on him, find the perfect girl of his dreams and end the contract he and his fire demon have entered. Sophie, against her best instincts and at first unaware of her own powers, falls in love. So goes this intricate, humorous and puzzling tale of fantasy and adventure which should both challenge and involve readers. - amazon
- I watched the movie last week and decided to read the book. I LOVED it. Fun quick imaginative -great read (5/5)

24 - 33) Southern Vampire Series, True Blood series, Books 1-9 by Charlaine Harris
- vampires, romance, paranormal (292, 291, 258, 320, 320, 342, 336, 336, 312 pages)
-The series is narrated in first person perspective by Sookie Stackhouse. She is a barmaid and telepath in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. In this world there are vampires, shape shifters, and all other magic creatures.
- Watched a episode of True Blood and decided to check out the first book. Then I quickly read the next 8. I really enjoyed all of them. (4/5)

34 - 38) Dresden Files books 3-8 by Jim Butcher
Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, Turn Coat
-Urban Fantasy (352, 371, 378, 372, 448, 496, 480, 560, 432 pages)
-Harry Dresden--Wizard
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.
- I read the first two last year and just got back to reading the series. Dresden = Love. Stalled after reading 5 in a row, but great series (4/5 overall)

39 - 43) The Chronicles of Elantra 1-5 by Michelle Sagara
-Sci Fiction, Fantasy, urban, mystery, magic (512, 512, 528, 490, 464 pages)
- Epic fantasy meets fast-paced supernatural novel where law enforcer Kaylin Neya investigates crime armed with magic and a sharp wit. (horrid summery)
- First 4 are re-reads the 5th just came out :-) Definitely worth the wait. (5/5)

44 - 47) Stray, Rouge, Pride, Prey by Rachel Vincent
- Fiction, urban paranormal (624, 400, 400, 400 pages)
-Faythe Sanders is a Texas grad student with a secret: she's a shape-shifting werecat. After she's attacked by a Stray—a werecat without ties to any pride—Faythe's father, the Pride Alpha, orders her to return to the family compound. As it turns out, two other werecat tabbies have gone missing, indicating an organized effort by the formerly go-it-alone Strays. -amazon
- The last just came out and I loved it. I wasn't sure after the first or the second book if it was really worth it to keep reading. I'm really glad I did. Warning about Prey - there is a character death. It was one of my favorites in the book, but the death really moved the plot. I can't wait for the next in the series. (3.5/5)
rennaisance

Books 144-146: Three Jonathan Argyll Art History Mysteries

There are seven short novels in this series of mysteries by art historian turned novelist Iain Pears written between 1990 and 2000. Although titled the 'Jonathan Argyll Mysteries' they as easily could be titled the Flavia di Stefano Mysteries for she plays a leading role in the stories as a member of Rome's Art Theft Squad. I tackled these out of order, as although I own all books I had access to these three on audio via the library, which assisted me as I am currently having problems with my vision.

Book 144: The Raphael Affair (Book 1).
Author: Iain Pears, 1990.
Genre: Art History. Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 208 pages. Unabridged audio book, Length: 6 hrs 15 mins. Read by Daniel Philpott.

The first in the series introduces Flavia and her boss General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad. Jonathan Argyll is a young Englishman in Rome finishing up his degree in art history. He believes that he may have discovered a lost work of Raphael concealed under a painting by Mantini in a failed attempt to smuggle the Raphael out of Italy during the 18th century. This claim sets off a chain of events including a shocking act of vandalism and murder.

In many ways this is a gentle old-fashioned mystery with Jonathan, Flavia and Bottando making a charming trio of characters and served as a promising opener for the series. Philpott does an excellent job with the voices of main and supporting characters including the gentle inflections of the guileless and sweet-natured Argyll.

Book 145: The Titan Committee (Book 2)
Author:
Iain Pears, 1991.
Genre: Art History. Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 248 pages. Unabridged audio book, Length: 6 hrs 20 mins. Read by Daniel Philpott.

A member of the famous research group, the Titian Committee, is found stabbed to death in a Venetian public garden. Flavia is sent by her boss to help the local carabinieri with the case though he doesn't expect she'll be doing more there than filling in her expense claims. At first the woman's death is thought to be a simple mugging but Flavia believes there is more going on. Jonathan Argyll is also in Venice seeking to buy some paintings for an English art dealer and the two team up when another member of the committee turns up dead.

Despite its short length Pears packs in quite a lot of plot and again the book is peppered with references to Italian art.

Book 146: The Immaculate Deception (Book 7)
Author: Iain Pears, 2000.
Genre: Art History. Mystery
Other Details: Paperback. 288 pages. Unabridged audio book, Length: 7 hours, 25 mins. Read by Daniel Philpott.

In the final book, Flavia is now Acting Chief of the Art Theft Squad while General Bottando is reassigned pending his upcoming retirement. When a famous painting on loan from the Louvre is stolen, the Italian Prime Minister leans hard on Flavia to get the painting back quickly and quietly before it becomes an international incident. Coupled with this Jonathan Argyll is undertaking an investigation of his own into the provenance of a small painting, an Immaculate Conception, owned by Bottando. He wants to present his findings as a gift for the General's retirement. However, both investigations led to the uncovering of a series of astonishing secrets and yes of course there is a murder too.

I do plan on reading the four other books in the series and I didn't feel particularly spoiled by knowing the final outcome for the three protagonists. Overall I found it a charming series with very likeable characters and a thread of warm humour. The relationship between Flavia and Jonathan is nicely developed and though I know its conclusion I do look forward to seeing how they got there. Certainly a series that is a delight for lovers of art history.
E&S

2009 Book List

As I doubt that I will finish my book by midnight tomorrow, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and post my 2009 book list.

It was a slower year reading wise. I usually read between 60-70 books in the last few years that I have been participating in these reading challenges. However, I do have a few books that are not something I would normally read and some took longer to get through then others.

Most Surprising Read: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. This one was recommended to me by a friend. I didn't expect to like it but I did and I can't wait to have a free moment to keep reading the second and third parts.

Favourite Reads: I had a pretty good year reading wise. If I had to pick a few favourites, they would be: The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown and The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans.

Worst Reads: Sleepless Nights by Sarah Bilston, 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares.

Anyways, here is my reading list for 2009.

1. Daddy's Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark
2. The Prenup by Beth Kendrick
3. Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark
4. Dead Sleep by Greg Iles
5. Good Luck by Whitney Gaskell
6. Second Chance by Jane Green
7. Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
8. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
9. One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
10. The Associate by John Grisham
11. Born to Run by James Grippando
12. Run For Your Life by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
13. While My Sister Sleeps by Barbara Delinsky
14. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
15. Don't Look Twice by Andrew Gross
16. 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares
17. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
18. Still Life by Joy Fielding
19. Pursuit by Karen Robards
20. Marked by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
21. Betrayed by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
22. Chosen by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
23. Untamed by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
24. Hunted by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
25. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin

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Books 92 and 93

92. Peril and End House, by Agatha Christie. I've seen the David Suchet video version of this story twice, so it was interesting reading the book and picking up on all the little clues along the way. Without giving away too many spoilers, there's even a clue Hastings picks up early on -- and Poirot disregards. Heh! Christie is the mistress of the surprise endings and red herrings and I admit I did not see the ending coming the first time I watched the video.
In this story, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is faced with an unusual task -- he has to prevent the murder of a young, naive woman who has had a few too many "accidents" of late. The Belgian detective finds his "little gray cells" going into overtime as he tries to figure out a motive behind the attacks and who is responsible.

93. Cleveland's Greatest Disasters, by John Stark Bellamy II. This is a collection of 16 disaster tales, told from Bellamy's other considerable books on famous (and infamous) Cleveland-area events. This is a noce collection for local history buffs to have on hand. Bellamy had a narrative writing style that is easy to follow, filled with a dry wit and a no-holds barred attitude when reflecting on what went wrong. That is the tragedy in so many of these cases -- isn't that usually the case though? There were usually hints that something bad could happen, and they could have been prevented. The hardest story to read was the 1908 Collinwood Fire tragedy, where 172 died in a schoolhouse fire. Another heartbreaker was the 1916 waterworks collapse, and the story of arguably the biggest hero, inventor Garrett A. Morgan, whose invention -- the gas mask -- allowed the possibility for any rescue at all.