June 2nd, 2010

Caleb- snug as a bug!

Books read in May 2010

28. The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (my review)
29. Pretty Little Liars, Pretty Little Liars #1 by Sara Shepard (my review)
30. Dead in the Family, Southern Vampire Series #10 by (my review)
31. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (my review)

*Best read of the month: I would have to say that the first Pretty Little Liars book was my favorite read of this month. I can't wait to watch the show!

*Worst read of the month: The Magician's Assistant. Too bad it is our book club book pick for this past month haha!
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14. The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

Winter Queen
Title: The Winter Queen
Author: Boris Akunin
Year: 2004
# of pages: 242
Date read: 2/26/2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"Set in 1870s Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London, The Winter Queen introduces to American readers Boris Akunin's internationally celebrated sleuth, Erast Fandorin, who investigates the suicide of a wealthy student in Moscow's Alexander Gardens and discovers that it is not an open-and-shut case but evidence of a vast conspiracy with the deadliest of implications." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this first book in the Erast Fandorin series. I liked how Fandorin noticed inconsistencies and how he interacted with his boss and with the suspects. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Turkish Gambit.
Jazzy Looking Around the Corner

May Reads

42.  Ford County by John Grisham  In this collection of short stories from John Grisham set in Ford County you meet various characters from this southern county.  You see different slices of life in this county.  He has a good representation of life in Ford County with his short stories.  The last story in the book shows how ignorant we were about AIDS in the late eighties and the prejudice of the people in this southern county against homosexuals.  When the gay son from a local prominent family comes home to die from AIDS he is sent to live in one of his family's rental homes in the black side of town with an old African American spinister.
43.  What Doesn't Kill You by Virginia Grant and Donna DeBerry This book follows the self discovery of Tee that women from all backgrounds can identify with.  She wakes up the morning after her daughter's wedding in the bed of the best man, Ron who is younger than she is and a mechanic.  She has paid quite a bit of money for the wedding and had lost her long time job the week before the wedding.  Her free spending days are over and she is forced to face the reality of her financial situation but she doesn't let her friends and family know the truth about her situation since she feels that it is none of her business.  During this period of trial and tribulation she is forced to downgrade her home and car plus she finds out who her true friends are.  She discovers that the man that she has been seeing for twelve years has been divorced from his wife plus plans to marry again while seeing her.  She finds out the truth about Ron's background and more about herself and her talents.  I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
44.  I Promise by Robin Jones Gunn  In this book both Christy and Todd are preparing for their upcoming wedding shortly after their college graduation.  The two of them learn more about each other as they prepare for their upcoming wedding.  Their friends Doug and Tracy are expecting their first child and Tracy is wondering if she will go back to work after the baby is born though you don't see her answer by the end of the book.  Christy is daydreaming about both her wedding and marriage to Todd since she has been writing letters to her future husband ever since she was a teenager.  This is a book for teenagers in a conservative community where early marriage is expected and it is not realistic where Christy marries a man that she met when  she was fourteen years old visiting her aunt.  Not every young couple has wealthy relatives who can pay for their wedding and can help them out financially when needed.  I think that this is a cute ending to the story even though it isn't realistic to expect that everyone will get married by the time that they are 30 years old.  Its suprising that Todd is willing to enter into a large committment such as marriage at a young age since his own parents divorced when he was young and his mother is not active in his life.  Christy has supportive parents and grandparents who have been married for a long time that she plans on modeling her marriage after.  Its refreshing to see a young man from such a background willing to take the plunge into marriage when today you have young men who do not want to get married at such a young age.   Christy and Todd do not expect a free apartment given to them from their church demoniation in order to enter into marriage mentoring as a bribe to marry young.
45.  600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster  This book is about 25 days in the life of a grown man with Asperger's Syndrome.  He only communicates with his father through his lawyer though he does have dinner with his parents once a month in order to check up on him.  He starts to let other people into his life during this 25 day period and he tells the experience about it.  I won this book through the LibraryThing Member Giveaway.
46.  Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster  Jen had the perfect job, boyfriend and apartment until one day due to a corporate merger she loses her job.  Even though she does keep her boyfriend she does have to move to a less expensive apartment in a less desirable neighborhood than her old one.  You see her journey while unemployed in the book though at the beginning you are introduced to her "perfect" life.  She is forced to learn what really is important and that paying for necessities is more important than paying for luxeries in her life.  She learns the difference between luxeries and needs.
47.  Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness edited by Diane Mapes This is a good book in showing the different viewpoint of different single women or women who had married later in life writing about their single years.  You see different viewpoints of singleness other than the rush to find a mate before you are unable to have children.  Some of the women write about being childfree so they do not have to worry about their biological clock or choose to be a single mother.  Some of the women do live with their boyfriends and one is married though living about from her husband due to her own choice not due to circumstance.  I would recommend this book to any single woman.
48.  Loving Bella by Renee Ryan  This book from Love Inspired's Historical line is about an opera singer from London who flees to her brother in Colorado after the man that she has been seeing makes a shocking offer and gives a shocking revelation.  In Colorado, she is introduced to Dr. Shane and his work with the Charity House providing medical care for prostitutes and their children.  She has to decide between returning to the stage or staying in America and continue her work with Dr. Shane.
49.  Blue Ridge Brides by Tamela Hancock Murray, Lynn A. Coleman, and Lauralee Bliss This is a good collection of three novellas about three women from three different time periods in North Carolina who fall in love without any of the smut that you sometimes see in romance novels.  These are Christian fiction novellas so there is a Christian message in each of the stories.  These are good wholesome books to read and to share with others.  The only critisim that I have about these books is that the second story is set in Charlotte, NC in 1830 which is not in the Blue Ridge Mountains though it was interesting to see how small the large city of Charlotte was in 1830.  The third book is about a woman who is asked to sing around the southeast on tour and record an album of the moutain music of her hometown.  Her record company was based in Raleigh, NC and not in Nashville which is where we are used to country music being based in.
50.  Freshman Blues by Wendy Lee Nentwig This is a good book about a young Christian woman who is attending college for the first time away from her friends since her best friend's financial aid fell through and is unable to attend college with her this year.  She faces some tough choices that test her faith.  She meets a guy in her orientation group that she thinks is a Christian and she learns that there is more to Christianity than going to church on Sundays.  She also wants to prove to her older brother who is attending the same collge as her that she is a responsible adult. She is dismayed when her older brother, Ryan starts to date her roomate, Cooper.  This book was written over ten years ago when email was still relatively new since Emily doesn't use email or Facebook or Twitter to keep up with her friend.  Cooper does use email to communicate with her best friend.
51.  Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani  This is a book about a thirty three year old Italian American woman whose family expects her to marry and have children though she has different plans for her life.  She enjoys her job in making wedding shoes for her family's business and is content with her life when she meets chef Roman with whom she starts a relationship with.  While on a trip with her grandmother to Italy she learns that it is never too late for love and the kind of work that a relationship needs especially her relationship with Roman.  She learns about the sacrifaces that she would need to make in order to make her relationship with Roman work and the type of wife that he needs.

Stargate cake

3 more books

25. Myers, Tamar "Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth" pb crime, my copy, 248 pages (6,920pgs)

A Pennsylvania-Dutch mystery with recipes. Yes, after every few chapters there is a recipe (chapter 10 is for Buckwheat Pancakes). This is the second Penn-Dutch mystery I've read, and once more I wouldn't make most of the recipes. In fact, I wouldn't even try the ones I like because they're in a novel, not a recipe book and I forget their existence once I've put the book away.

Magdalena Yoder runs an Amish B&B, where guests can experience the Amish life-style. This time her guests include vegetarians/vegans who won't eat the hearty Amish meat contaminated fare. They also happen to be animal rights activists who are there to protest one of the other guest's, an arrogant congressman, deer hunting proclivites. First one guest falls down the stairs, then another guest is found dead. Magdalena solves the crimes in her own inimitable style.

There are quite a few books in this series, so given the number of dead bodies that adds up to, I'd be wary about staying there! I also really don't need the recipes cluttering up the pages. Magdalena is like no other character I've read and I'm definitely keeping an eye out for other titles in the series.

26. Cordell, Cleo "Juliet Rising" pb erotica, my copy, 240 pages (7,160 pgs)

I never seem to have much to say about this genre. The picture on the cover in no way resembles any of the characters as she's a modern girl and the setting is an eigtheenth century school for girls, of a somewhat exclusive type. I will say this time the gardener does not end up marrying above his class, but he does leave the school to be Juliet's 'gardener', as he can fulfil certain needs her new submissive husband won't be able to. Just average. (3/6)

27.Weinberg, Robert A Modern Magician pb fantasy, my copy, 232 pages (7,392 pgs)
This was 10 cents in a throw-out pile so I said what the heck and bought it. Best 10c I've spent in ages. It was written in 1993. Merlin needs a modern hero to conquer the latest forces of evil. Just before he gets kidnapped, he selects mathematician Jack Collins, who happens to love fantasy fiction, to be that hero. I really enjoyed this. It has dated, thanks to a 486DX, 33 megahertz, latest thing in computers being the equivalent of St George's lance. (4/6)

Books 23-25

#23: Julie and Julia - Julie Powell (2005, 307 pages)

Just before turning 30, Julie Powell found herself stressed out with life. Not only is she being pressured to start a family due to a medical condition, but her dream to become an actress has remained just that, a dream. So, she decides to take on a challenge deemed insane by her family: cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Cooking the 524 recipes contained in Child's masterpiece seems easy, but it is far more challenging than Powell anticipated. Powell is not a trained chef and is often working with various foods for the first time. But it is her journey and growth that make the experience worthwhile.

I really enjoyed this film, so I decided to give the book a try. And while I enjoyed Powell's prose, I sometimes had a hard time moving through the book, instead finding it to be a bit slow. Because of that, it's hard to say that I really loved the book, but I also didn't hate it. I just feel kind of ambivalent toward it. I guess, it just wasn't really for me, which is why I have to give it two and a half out of five recettes.

#24: Under the Dome - Stephen King (2009, 1,074 pages)

My absolute favorite author in the entire world is back with a bang.

Under the Dome is a horrific, yet fascinating, look at life under the lens (in this case literally) when a town is cut off from the world. A dome of unknown origin is lowered over the Castle County town of Chesters Mill, killing a few of the residents and passers-by, either through the act of lowering as it acts as an invisible guillotine or by the fact that an invisible barrier harder than any known substance is circling the town, including its highways.

The town is thrown into disarray, and several people step forward trying to sort out the situation. There is the former Iraqi War veteran Dale Barbara, who is trying to work with the military to remove the dome. Then, there is the corrupt Second Selectman Jim Rennie, who is content to bask in any glory and blame the situation on Barbara, an out-of-towner, who beat up Rennie's son Junior in a bar fight. The town chooses sides, but Rennie's methods of setting up Barbara as a scapegoat draws the line on his side. Rennie is methodically evil, and combined with out-of-control temporary cops and mob mentality, the town erupts into chaos.

The character study that King presents is one of his best ever. Combined with high tension and fast pacing, it is hard to imagine anyone not finding themselves immersed in this book. What should have taken me a week to read only took me three days, as I had to know how the book was going to end. In his acknowledgments, King thanks his editor for constantly encouraging him to speed things up, and I have to thank her as well. This is easily one of the best books King has written in years, probably even more than a decade, which is why he deserves a perfect five out of five invisible barriers.

#25: The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri (2003, 291 pages)

Gogol Ganguli was a symbol of his father's second chance at life, a fact he would not realize until after he had decided to change his name. Gogol's father, Ashoke, had sought out a bride and a life in America after a near-fatal train accident.

Named after the author whose book Ashoke was reading at the time of the wreck, Gogol does not see the joy in his name. Instead, he relates to the pain the author felt in trying to pave his own way, as Gogol tries his best to move away from his Indian roots. Gogol experiences love, sorry, joy and pain, all the way trying to carve his own path.

Lahiri brings about the struggle of adapting to a new country and culture in a natural and honest way. Her characters are realistic, and it is easy to understand their pain, even if you have never experienced it yourself. Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, and I must say that it is incredibly well-deserved. She is a beautiful writer with simple, yet elegant, prose, and this novel, her first, is wonderful. She deserves the strong four and a half out of five lives lived to their fullest I give this book.

Total Books Read: 25 / 50 (50 percent)
Total Pages Read: 9,124 / 15,000 (61 percent)
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