Sunday, May 7, 2017

Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

Twenty-third (duh) in the Stephanie Plum series opens with a dead man in an ice cream truck dipped in chocolate and nuts. What?

So the Bogart Ice Cream company is having some troubles, even if you don't count the dead ice cream covered guy. Ranger gets Stephanie to work undercover at the Bogart factory to see what she can find out but Stephanie sucks at undercover. Actually, I'm still amazed Stephanie has a job, but she manages to scrape through every chaotic (sometimes Lula-induced) situation that comes her way.

If you've read the previous book, we're in the same situation: Stephanie, Morelli (engaged to be engaged??) and Ranger. Lula and Connie add to the comic elements and there's plenty of chase scenes and action. For some reason, perhaps it's the ice cream element, I found #23 to be a particularly good book.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Twenty-seventh in the Prey series and I'm still loving Lucas Davenport! I can't say that about to many series. I tore through this one and, towards the end, was reading at break-neck speed and ignoring all adult responsibilities. Thank goodness I don't have children.

Davenport is now a US Marshal, thanks to his actions in the previous book. He saved the life of Presidential candidate, Michaela Bowden, and she re-paid him with a cush job and no one to answer to. Naturally, his fellow Marshals don't care for him much but, Davenport himself is starting to feel at loose ends. He's a small fish in a giant pond and he needs someone to chase.

Enter Garvin Poole. A redneck hick with a mean killer streak, he's on the most wanted list and, with the help of his friend Sturgill Darling, just knocked over a drug cartel's counting house. After killing everyone inside, including a 6 year old girl, Poole and Darling walked away with millions in cash. The Federal Government isn't happy and neither is the cartel. Davenport takes on the case of hunting down Poole but he's competing with cartel killers, Soto and Kort. Davenport picks up two US Marshals, Bob and Rae, to assist after a near deadly shootout with Soto and Kort. We're flying, literally, over the southern and southwestern US with Davenport and co. and it's truly at mind-boggling speed.

There are a few moments when Davenport has an "ah ha" moment that speeds us along and you have to question his ability to consistently come up with these things. But then again, you don't, because it's Davenport, dammit! And he's just that good.


Friday, April 14, 2017

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I had no particular reason for picking this up at the library except that it sounded good as I browsed the shelves. This is a book of short stories all focusing on immigrants.

The stories capture the people who fled to America and lost family along the way, who are now haunted by the ghosts of the dead. The ones who are sponsored and end up living in San Francisco with two gay men. The elderly professor who is battling, and losing, dementia and keeps calling his wife by the name of an old lover. And so on.

There are no heroic battles or anything spectacular with these stories, but they are solid and examine a snippet of the life of a refugee. Being forced to leave your country and land in another, very alien, country and try to survive takes courage.

All in all, a very good little book of short stories


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hugo Award Finalists Announced!

You can go here to see the list.

I always like book lists. Just more to add to my to-read pile! I'm slowly starting to get more into sci-fi so this seems like a good list to start from. Interestingly enough, I went to a talk by Charlie Jean Anders at Butler University recently. More on that to come......

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I had finished reading Outlander back in December 2015 and, as much as I adored it, never got around to continuing the series. I watched the first season of the show (SWOON) and let season 2 pile up while I tackled Dragonfly in Amber. These are TOMES. I could hurl this book at a person's head and quite possibly knock them out cold. Dragonfly clocks in at about 740 pages.

 I ended up putting the actual book away and grabbed the audiobook, read by Davina Porter (fantastically read by, I might add), because I went a little crazy at the local library and checked out too many books. At least listening to Dragonfly kept me moving right along. I started reading this in February 2017 and, quite literally, just finished the book. I was thisclose to tearing into Voyager, the next book in the series, but stopped myself so I can finish my last library book. My goodness this is a fantastic series. To catch you up, here is my review of the first in the series, Outlander.

Dragonfly in Amber starts in a very unexpected way: Claire is back in her century, showing up on Roger Wakefield's doorstep in Invermess, in 1968. Roger, remember, was the little boy that Reverend Wakefield had adopted, whom we met in Outlander. Roger is quite grown up now and Claire arrives with her daughter, Brianna, a vibrant 20 year old red head. Start doing the math here, folks. Claire asks Roger to help research the fates of the clansman who fought at Culloden. In 1745, the Jacobites fight, and lose terribly, at Culloden, to try and put Charles Stuart back on the throne. It's a terrible battle that nearly wipes out the Scots and Claire wants closure, it seems, on the people that she knew and spent so many years with in 18th-century Scotland.

While researching, Roger, Brianna, and Claire seek out a cemetery and come across James Fraser's gravestone marked as the "Beloved Husband of Claire". That sparks the telling of her adventures to Brianna and Roger, including the telling of Brianna's true father, Jamie.

Part II takes us immediately to 1744, France, and Claire vomiting from morning sickness. Jamie and Claire are in "high society" France to do what they can to stop Charles Stuart from waging his war to gain the throne, using the Scots as pawns in his battle. A great deal happens on so many levels in Paris that I can't recount them all and, frankly, I wouldn't want to. This is a great story told by a great writer and it's worth the travel with Claire and Jamie.

We do end up back in Scotland, with many deaths, many upsets and many nail-biting moments. Claire, as we already know, ends up going back through the stones into her century and giving birth to Jamie's daughter, Brianna. The last bit of the book turned out to be more of a twisted path and left us with a shocking bit of revelation.

The audio book is approximately 38 hours long and the last, oh, 10 hours or so I devoured in 3 days. I really wished that I didn't have to sleep at that point...or work... but alas.

I highly recommend this series. It's daunting in size, but so very worth the time.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Choose my next book!

Or rather... choose my classic tome of 2017! 

Click to vote!

Voting is for one more week and you are choosing between:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


Tolstoy's epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirees alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed. 

The prodigious cast of characters, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy's portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them.

Roots by Alex Haley

When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley's grandmother used to tell him stories about their family—stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called "the African." She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the "Kamby Bolongo" and had been out in the forest one day chopping wood to make a drum when he was set upon by four men, beaten, chained and dragged aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.

Still vividly remembering the stories after he grew up and became a writer, Haley began to search for documentation that might authenticate the narrative. It took ten years and a half a million miles of travel across three continents to find it, but finally, in an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered not only the name of "the African"--Kunta Kinte—but the precise location of Juffure, the very village in The Gambia, West Africa, from which he was abducted in 1767 at the age of sixteen and taken on the Lord Ligonier to Maryland and sold to a Virginia planter.

Haley has talked in Juffure with his own African sixth cousins. On September 29, 1967, he stood on the dock in Annapolis where his great-great-great-great-grandfather was taken ashore on September 29, 1767. Now he has written the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him—slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workers and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects—and one author.

But Haley has done more than recapture the history of his own family. As the first black American writer to trace his origins back to their roots, he has told the story of 25,000,000 Americans of African descent. He has rediscovered for an entire people a rich cultural heritage that slavery took away from them, along with their names and their identities. But Roots speaks, finally, not just to blacks, or to whites, but to all people and all races everywhere, for the story it tells is one of the most eloquent testimonials ever written to the indomitability of the human spirit.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

'Call me Ishmael.' 

So begins Herman Melville's masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. As Ishmael is drawn into Captain Ahab's obsessive quest to slay the white whale Moby-Dick, he finds himself engaged in a metaphysical struggle between good and evil. More than just a novel of adventure, more than an paean to whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting social commentary, populated by some of the most enduring characters in literature; the crew of the Pequod, from stern, Quaker First Mate Starbuck, to the tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, are a vision of the world in microcosm, the pinnacle of Melville's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is a profound, poetic inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.
Herman Melville is now regarded as one of America's greatest novelists. Much of the material for his novels was drawn from his own experience as a seaman aboard whaling ships. He wrote his masterpiece Moby-Dick in 1851, and died in 1891.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo


Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.


Vote! Vote! Vote!

I want to read all of them but can only tackle one this year. Help me decide!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

I've heard of Scalzi, but I've never read anything by him. I assumed that, since I never cared for sci-fi growing up, I'm not going to ever enjoy sci-fi. Something neat must happen as you age because I enjoyed the HELL out of this book. What else have I missed? Who else do I need to start reading? I feel like I've lost a lot of time here!

I only meant to go renew my library card. My library is so smart, they place the new arrivals right as you walk in the door. You can't get to the front desk without seeing all those new, fresh, ready-to-be-read books. Scalzi was right up there and I thought "I've heard good things, maybe I should give it a try." So he went home with me,

I need to work on wrapping my head around sci-fi concepts of interplanetary living and space travel. But Scalzi's writing is so fantastic I didn't even care if some of the "light travel" concepts confused me. The Collapsing Empire is the first book in a new series (yay! now I get to wait for book 2!). Reading sci-fi is like working out, I think, the more I do it, the better I'll be at it. That's my theory anyways.

The Flow is an extradimensional field that people use to travel from planet to planet. You can't travel faster than light (physics!) so The Flow is necessary to trade at distant planets. The Earth is gone and new planets are inhabited by humans. It's good to know that ruling class still stands and humans are still out to make the most money and rule over the poorer people. Hub is the beginning and end of many of the Flow streams, hence...Hub, and the ruling house of Wu is the richest house while also being the Emperox of the entire planetary system. Several other houses, Lagos and Nohamapetan, want Wu's spot and they are willing to do whatever they need to in order to get it.

The Flow is disappearing. A Flow physicist who lives on End has been researching this for years, paid for by the previous Emperox. If the Flow to a planet disappears, that planet ceases to exist. The people of the planet are left on their own to die out over several years. Depressing, yes? The House of Nohamapetan gets similar information, except they are told the Flow streams are shifting and everything will move away from Hub and shift to End. Underhanded people that they are, they have a plan to rule End so when the shift happens, they will be the top dog.

Nothing goes to plan and it's entertaining to watch. I do adore that Lady Kiva from House Lagos swears like a sailor with Tourette's Syndrome. She's seriously my kind of girl.  I'm very ready for the next book to see where we go and I'm going to have to check out more of Scalzi's work. I'm in love!