Friday, December 30, 2011

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: The Movie

I finally got out to see this movie last night. This might be the first time I ever was meh about a book but really wanted to see the movie. It might have something to do with Daniel Craig.

My main issues with the book were the sexual violence which did get toned down in the movie, although not by much, and the slow moving, too detail oriented pace. My thought with the movie was that they would have to remove a lot of the details that I felt moved way too slow in the book. And they did! While the movie wasn't a fast paced movie (it felt like forever before the characters met up, but less forever than the book felt) it moved along quite nicely.

Craig and Mara were excellent in their roles. Although I admit to just enjoying Daniel Craig pretty much no matter what, he was a really good Mikael and Rooney Mara was a great Lisbeth.

I think in the case of this series, I'll forgo the rest of the books and just wait on the movies. I've already added the Swedish versions to my Netflix queue to see how those are in comparison.

On a side note, seeing as how the movie is set in Sweden in the winter, I was loving the knitted hats and scarves. I particularly liked Lisbeth's slouchy gray hat. Setting off to find the pattern ....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

While I love Bones, the TV show, I much prefer the Temperance Brennan books. She's not nearly as socially awkward in the books even though she's just as intelligent.

This was an almost 9 hour audiobook (the last 2 hours entertained me while deep cleaning my bathroom and bedroom - thanks audiobooks!) that is based in Charlotte, and centers around NASCAR racing. I didn't know this going in which is good. I'm not a NASCAR fan but this book kept the mystery interesting with only a bit of NASCAR related info.

A body turns up in the landfill behind the speedway, encased in asphalt in a barrel. People come out of the woodwork with speculation on who it could be: Cindy Gamble or her boyfriend Kale Levett, who went missing in the 90's. Could it be an Atlanta guy, Raines, who was supposed to be at the speedway and disappeared off the face of the earth? Add in idiot right-wing Patriot Posse members, the FBI and NASCAR fanatics and you got a mighty fine book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A lovely audiobook read by Mr. Gaiman himself. I really enjoy it when he reads his own books, he just has that way about him.

Published in 1998, this is a good little story about fairies and regular folk. The audiobook was about 6 hours long so it seemed like a short little book. The village people of Wall guard their wall and the only gap in it very sternly because on the other side of Wall is the land of Faerie. Every nine years, faerie folk come and set up a market right outside of Wall and the villagers get to mingle with the faeries, who they otherwise ignore.

A villager and a faerie got together (*cough*) and a baby was born, named Tristran. He does not know the circumstances of his birth, being raised inside Wall with regular family. He falls in love with Victoria and as they are walking to her house they see a falling star. Desperate for any sign of affection from Victoria, Tristran offers to fetch her the star if she will give him anything he desires. She agrees. He goes off, through the gap in the wall and past the guards.

Tristran does find the star, and a slew of other faerie folk who keep the story moving along pretty quickly.

Another great book by Gaiman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Best of Books

I attempted to read 50 books this year but as of today I'm at 44. BUT it turns out I've listened to a boatload more podcasts so in some ways I consider myself even.

Here are the best books I read in 2011:

Two Stephen King books top my year and one was so old I read it when I lived with my parents. Bag of Bones was a re-read and a wonderful one at that. The story changes when you age about 13 years. 11/22/63 was King's new book this year and caused me to sit for hours on end just absorbed in the story.

I really enjoyed the A Song of Fire and Ice series (first 2 books) more than I thought I would, although I think that was helped along by the HBO Game of Thrones series (NEEEEEEDDDD!)

The newest Dresden novel, Ghost Story, also topped my list this year but again, the anticipation for it helped a lot. This is really an excellent series by Jim Butcher and I encourage anyone to give it a try.

On a non-fiction note, I 100% recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The HeLa cells that have helped with chemotherapy and to cure polio came from a poor black woman named Henrietta. It's an amazing story that just needs to be heard.

Mary Roach always rocks my world and her Packing for Mars book gave more more tidbits and facts I need to gross out my friends and coworkers. Thanks Mary!

If you want to try Tina Fey's Bossypants, I suggest listening to the audiobook. Fey reads it and adds a lot to the experience. I realized I love that woman.

Looks like it was the year of non-fiction because Bill Bryson tops my lists with A Short History of Nearly Everything. Facts were my THING this year and entertaining facts are Bryson's specialty.

Jane Goodall wrote a wonderful book that helped me change my eating habits (or at least look at things more carefully). Harvest for Hope is a great book to start with if you want to learn where your food comes from and how to eat better for yourself and the environment (and no, she doesn't lecture about becoming a vegetarian).

Another series... sorry, but Kim Harrison's The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series is really really good. For A Few Demons More was the last one I read and I need to get back to it. They keep getting better as you keep reading.

Getting back to basics, I recommend checking out and downloading some classics. I re-read the Wonderful Wizard of Oz this year and remembered how much I love that story.

Maybe my goals for next year should include more fiction that isn't part of a series?

Here's to happy reading in 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bag of Bones : The Movie

The book is a favorite of mine, so I was was warily excited to see it brought to life even if it was a TV miniseries. Wary because I can count 2 King adaptations that are GOOD. Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption. My gut feeling is that these 2 are so good because they were based off of short stories. Bag of Bones is a huge book (although not King's biggest book) and I knew stuff would be cut.

First, I do love Pierce Brosnan. I do! But he is too old for this role! He's 58 and Mike Noonan, I think, was in his late 30's/early 40s. Pierce is still quite handsome, but just wasn't right. His acting was good but the maniacal cackling was a little ... campy. And excessive.

While I was expecting stuff to be cut, I didn't expect so much to be changed. It felt like it was changed to be shocking to the viewer instead of heartbreaking as it was in the book. Jo didn't get hit by a bus (really????). She died of an unexpected aneurysm while running to help victims of a car accident.

The "Once for yes, twice for no"? Oh so creepy and awesome in the book, happened WAY too soon in the movie and not in the right places. They lost the oomph that the phrase had. The history of the cabin was left out, as well as the name (Sara Laughs). It never even said where the story was set which I thought was weird. I watched this with my family and my sister's friend had to ask questions that should have been answered by the show. Heck, I was confused and I read the book several times.

The book was published in 1998 and the movie makers decided to update that by putting iPads and iPhones in nearly every scene. It irritated me to see that simply because I wouldn't think someone going away to a cabin in Maine and being haunted by ghosts of his dead wife and a dead singer from the 30's is going to worry that much about new technology.

The racism issues were completely erased. Along with the bonding scenes between Noonan and Maddie and the kid. Those were needed, in some shape, because it made no sense that the kid would just adore this old guy after meeting him once for less than 2 minutes.

And finally.... the kid's mom had her head blown apart by a bullet and less than 24 hours later watches this strange man murder another lady, and yet, the kid and Noonan go off hand in hand to go frickin' canoeing. WTF?

If you think it would be easier and less time consuming to just watch the show, delete it from your DVR now and go read the book. The book is a beautiful piece of literature that deserves the attention that you give it. It doesn't try to hit you with a bus or spurt blood all over your carpet. It takes your hand, gently guides you through a haunted and stunning love story. Please, trust me. You won't end the book wishing for those hours of your life back.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

For someone who is so well known, there is really not much known about Shakespeare. You'd be hard pressed to find a person who didn't know of Shakespeare, which is pretty impressive for a guy who lived in the 1500s.

Bryson is such a good writer when it comes to fleshing out facts into something that is entertaining and memorable. Even he concedes that this is a very short book because if we're going on fact, there isn't much to go on. Shakespeare led a life off the papers, showing up only sometimes in court documents. We know he married young, had children and went to London for the theatre and wrote fantastically brilliant plays. Little else is known but much else is speculated.

Bryson tries to weed fact from fiction in this book and, when laid out as such, it's amazing to me how much is just guessed at about Shakespeare's life.

This is an interesting little book if you like the bard but you won't really learn a lot. But if it's facts you're after, they are here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Front by Patricia Cornwell

I only got this because it was in the bargain bin. I really should have saved my $5.

This is an extremely small book (about 180+ pages) and contain none of Cornwell's characters that I normally care about. The plot was awful, the characters were awful and made me want to punch them. In short, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Books into Movies!

Although I didn't get the hype of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I didn't think it was a terrible book. I just didn't think it was as great as what most people proclaimed.

Well, the new US movie trailer is convincing me to give it a chance as a film (Daniel Craig!). For me, this might be another case where the movie turns out to be better than the book. Limitless turned out that way. So we'll see. In the meantime, the trailer:

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Finally finished this audiobook today. I'm not saying that in a way that is derogatory towards the book, but in a way of "I had time to finally finish!!"

Firstly, the audiobook was well done and I really enjoyed the reader.

Secondly, what an interesting book. Not so much in plot but in layout. Because it was an audiobook I couldn't flip back and forth to get things straight, so it might be easier in a real, hold-in-your-hands book. This isn't a complicated book either. What it really does is follow 2 characters, Sasha and Bennie. Bennie is a record exec who longs for the old punk rock days and Sasha is his assistant.

It sounds simple enough but the way Egan laid out their storylines was the most intriguing part of the book. Many places I was left wondering how we got to point C from point A but it usually became clear fairly quickly.

This review is sounding as confusing. Basically, we're introduced to Bennie and Sasha's lives through a series of, I'm going to say, short stories of other people's lives. These new characters somehow always connect back to Bennie or Sasha and managed to not only introduce a new character (that will show up later) but provide a substantial portion of Bennie or Sasha's life. It works amazingly well.

The characters themselves may not be amazing, some are even whiny and kind of annoying, but how the book was laid out and unfolded for the reader was worth it.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

It's amazing how less monstrous books seem when they are on the Kindle.

Time is a funny thing. While reading this book, I kept remembering something I said to my mom, when she lamented about wishing her father (who died when she was just a small kid) was still alive. I said that would have changed everything, for one person to be alive when they weren't supposed to be. My grandpa was my grandma's first husband. It took my grandma's 3rd husband's stepson to introduce my mom to my dad. If my grandpa had lived? I, for one, believe things would be worse (I wouldn't be here....duh).

In 11/22/63, a time portal is found in a diner. The diner's owner was using the portal pretty frequently and made a decision that he had to save JFK from assassination. His logic was all well and good and he was rife with good intentions, but he didn't get the deed done before getting to old and ill to carry it out. So he passed it on to Jake Epping, a newly divorced high school English teacher.

The time portal always starts out on 9/9/1958. Always. For as long as the traveler is in the past, it only appears they are gone from the present for 2 minutes. In order to save Kennedy, the traveler would have to stay in the past for over 5 years (and age five years - this isn't magic). Which is exactly what Jake does.

I'll try not to give away spoilers but I'm putting this book on par with Bag of Bones. King has somehow turned from a scary horror writer into an epic storyteller. I'm not sure where the transition happened, although I'm thinking it was around The Green Mile.

Clearly a lot of research went into this, because it felt like authentic 1950's/60's. But how would I know? I'm eager for my mom to read this and let me know what she thinks.

You'll learn a lot about the butterfly effect in this novel, something I've always been intrigued by. The tiniest change or action by one can cause a huge chain of events somewhere else. A good time travel book expounds on this theory and King didn't disappoint.

Now, that I'm finished with the book, the only thing I keep thinking is "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Was it really a good idea to try and save Kennedy? What kind of President would he have been? Clearly people assumed he would have been a great one. He's still talked about in awed tones. But no one knows. And frankly, it's probably best left unknown.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

This is my second read of this book, the first being when it came out in 1998. Upstairs in my parents house, reading at night, scaring the bejeezus out of myself in the dark. My second read is me in my home, with tears in my eyes, seeing the love story for what it is. This is not just a ghost story, it's a haunted love story. Age apparently brings wisdom.

I started reading this again in anticipation of the TV movie with Pierce Bronsan. I had a few hundred pages left to read tonight and decided to read a chapter or so once I got home from work. Which turned into me grabbing another mug of hot tea and reading some more. Which turned into me curling up under a blanket and forgetting I had homework and laundry to do. Which turned into....well, hello night time, where did you come from?? But I finished it. And laundry be damned.

Mike and Jo Noonan are a couple in love when Jo dies rather abruptly in the beginning of this book. Running across a parking lot towards an accident, an undiagnosed aneurysm bursts. We follow Mike through his grief, through his writer's block (he's V.C. Andrews with a prick) and back to his cabin at Dark Score Lake, Sara Laughs.

Sara Tidwell was a traveling musician who played at Dark Score back in the early 1900s. Untimely deaths were the rage then and the ghost of Sara continues her revenge on the residents of Dark Score.

Mike meets up with Mattie, a young widowed mother, and Kyra, her cute 3 year old daughter. And from there, we just spiral into a world of centuries of murder and ghostly vengeance.

I believe this is truly one of King's best novels. I don't say that lightly, as I rank several of his books among my top favorites. But this, this is a work of art.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

A memoir published in 2007, I'm just now getting around to hearing it. Ah, audiobooks read by the author. Martin even sings in it.

I'm an eh fan of Martin. I have never seen The Jerk, loved The Three Amigos and really like his books. So I'm not sure exactly where I stand with him, I guess. Either way, this book is about his rise to fame in the stand up comedy world and it doesn't go much further than The Jerk.

Martin delves back to his life growing up in Waco, moving to California and getting his first job at DisneyLand. I had no idea that he was a magician (having learned the tricks at Disney's magic shop) and really never paid any attention to his stand up act (before my time). As he describes his time trying to become famous and what his act consisted of, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have found it funny. But for some reason, having listened to him telling me his story, I find him more likable and endearing. Go figure.

I'm not sure how the book would read on its own but I would highly recommend the audiobook just for the singing and banjo playing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Diane: A Signature Life by Diane von Furstenberg

I love reading memoirs, mainly because memoirs are not bios, but the stories the author wants to tell. Naturally, memoirs are usually happier endings, better memories and more outrageous stories.

This one is by Diane von Furstenberg. Her wrap dress and shirt dress made her a fashion icon and she details how she got to live out the American dream. She was born in Belgium in 1946 (same year as my mom!) and she is the daughter of an Holocaust survivor. Her parents split and she ended up spending time in Paris but longing to come to America. After marrying Prince von Furstenberg, she did just that, bringing with her samples of her wrap dress and shirt dress.

She is the "immigrant-done-good" story to a T, even if she was a Princess. Diane describes her rise to the top of the fashion world, but does go into how she fell out of it and ended up selling off her name in the form of licenses. She made some bad (naive) decisions but clearly she came back pretty well.

There's quite a bit of name dropping in this book as well as detailed travel trips. You really never feel sorry for her, even when things start going badly, because her version of bad is definitely not mine. When things are bad for me, I can't jet off to Bali and pick up a man. Or, at least, I haven't tried that....

Fun background for any reader who likes their fashion stories.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

I actually forget where I heard about this book, but any book about food usually ranks high on my list. The subtitle of this book is "The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise" and that's exactly what it is.

Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for 6 years and she went through various incarnations of herself to get in and out of restaurants without being noticed. Notice I said incarnations of herself vs disguises. As you read how Reichl (with help from her friends) puts together the disguises, she really embodies each person and finds that each person is really a part of her (some are kind of mean though).

As much as I love reading about food, I love eating it. My health problems cause me to have to avoid a lot of foods that sound wonderful so I live vicariously through food books. Reichl is a great writer with the ability to bring you right down at the table with her. It helps she includes several of her favorite recipes as well.

Better than reading about food is cooking it. Thanks to my dad, I can cook and bake pretty well and spend a lot of time in my kitchen. With the thoughts of the food from Garlic and Sapphires, I'm adjourning to the kitchen to come up with another great meal.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Borders up and died and I basically got this paperback for almost nothing. I never had any interest in this series (trilogy, I think) not because it's blockbuster bestseller but because it's a blockbuster bestseller. Make sense? The masses aren't always right (Hello Twilight).

I still don't think the masses are right. I read the entire book but I just didn't get the appeal for the majority of it. It seemed very slow going and didn't seem to find it's speed until near the end, but it was a good enough story that I kept reading.

The original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women and boy howdy, that's an accurate title. Are all Swedish books this horribly violent?

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who is on trial and convicted of Libel against a bigshot financial guy. He didn't defend himself and takes the fine and jail time. In another place, Lisbeth Salander is a strange woman who is an excellent researcher and runs profiles for a security company. Lisbeth has issues but for the majority of the book, I didn't think she was likable. Maybe she wasn't supposed to be but I do kind of want characters to root for or something. Anyways, Blomkvist is hired by Henrick Vanger to spend a year out in the country and write the Vanger family history....oh and to unravel the mystery of the missing Harriett Vanger.

It was a decent enough story that really exploded towards the end. There's a serious debate going on in my head about whether to read the remaining books. To be decided....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Limitless by Alan Glynn

This was originally titled The Dark Fields but was re-titled and re-covered with the movie stuff, which is a pet peeve.

I think I can sum this book up in one sentence: Kids, drugs are bad for you.

Actually, this was a pretty good book and I would even admit to wanting to try out the MDT-48 drug, if only to have a clean house and a banging career. But without the nasty side effects. Eddie Spinola is a massively down on his luck copywriter in New York. He ends up running into his ex brother-in-law on the street and is offered a little pill, the MDT-48, that Vernon swears will help Eddie out with all his problems. Apparently being a former drug addict makes it easy for people to just swallow random pills to see what happens. Which Eddie does and becomes hyper alert and scary smart.

Vernon is murdered and Eddie steals the rest of the MDT-48 stash from his apartment and proceeds to become a junkie all over again, albeit a wealthy, brilliant, stockbroker junkie. We know how this ends, everything has to come crashing down. And crash down it does, in a rather magnificent way.

Withdrawal from MDT-48 means death, so there's no illusions as to Eddie's fate. But perhaps the creepiest part of this story is when Eddie sees the the President of the United States on TV and sees the "alert, gorged MDT expression in his eyes". Well, we're all freaking doomed then.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I hope it keeps fairly well to the book but clears up some of Eddie's boneheaded decisions because for someone supersmart, he really is a moron sometimes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Highly recommend everyone to read this book. I listened to it on audiobook (12+ hours) and it drew me in each time.

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman born in Virginia who unknowingly gave her cancer cells to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Back in the '50s it wasn't necessary, or even thought of, to ask patients for tissue samples for research. It was just done. When Lacks went to Johns Hopkins for cervical cancer treatments, the doctors took samples of the tumors and sent them to George Gey to work with. Gey had been trying to find ways to get human cells to live in a lab, with very little success. Lacks' cells turned the tide (and became known as HeLa cells) and are still living today.

This book has 2 sides: the good that the HeLa cells have done (the polio vaccine to name one very important discovery) and the Lacks family, who didn't know that their mother/wife had cells taken from her without anyone's permission. The Lacks family never received any money or any information about the HeLa cells and Skloot was determined to get the story out.

The whole research issue is an interesting one. The book brought up the case of John Moore, who found that his tissue was being used in research that would net the doctor a lot of money. He sued and was told he had no rights to his tissues and therefore could get nothing from it. This is based on the fact that millions of people, every day, leave behind tissue and cells at hospitals and doctor's offices and that tissue is what helps science proceed. As someone who has left behind a colon, thyroid and who knows what else after leaving a hospital, this amazes me. I always assumed tissue was incinerated but that happens rarely. Mostly it's stored and/or used in scientific research.

This is truly an amazing book and it's spurred me into looking at tissue research a little more in depth.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I'm slowly trucking along with this series and am pretty happy that book two is done before the 2nd season of Game of Thrones starts. Once again, this is an old book so these aren't spoilers....

But I'll still give you time to go away.....

The beginning of this was....not boring, but maybe a tad slow for my tastes. Once I got midway through, things started picking up so fast I was forced to forgo my laundry and just sit and read to finish the book last night. Dany's story arc didn't do much for me, so I'll not talk about it.

Great battles are brewing as everyone and their brother (literally) are proclaiming themselves King. Everyone and their brother still hates King Joffrey and who can blame them. Tyrion is now dispatched to Joffrey's side as Hand of the King (formerly occupied by Ned Stark - he of no head). I have to admit that I am fully rooting for Tyrion at this point. Wits and brains are incredibly more impressive than brawn. It got him pretty far in this book, but notably, at the end of the book, Tyrion, fights in battle. Brave little man, whose men turned against him and tried to kill him.

Arya is another favorite. She is Ned's daughter who managed to escape King's Landing before it was shut down. Yoren, of the Night Watch, was trying to get her out of town to the Wall. Unfortunately, bad stuff happens and Yoren dies, leaving Arya and a few buddies to fend for themselves...and get captured and sent to Harrenhal as slaves. Spunky little girl ends up kicking some ass and escaping again.

Winterfell falls to Theon Greyjoy (who stupidly feels up his own sister without realizing who she is). Then falls again to Ramsay Snow of the Bolton house. Bran and Rickon are thought dead by everyone but turns out they're not. Which is good. Sansa is no longer Joffrey's betrothed but still a hostage at King's Landing and hello, is Cersei just really crazy?? Yes, I think so. Incest will do that to you.

Stannis mounts a battle against his brother Renly for the rightful title of King but Renly is killed by a "shadow" (this is where my distaste for fantasy stuff comes in) so Stannis tries against King's Landing only to have to pull back in defeat. There's another case of killer shadows coming from the crotch of the sorceress Melisandre. Sorry, but give me a break.

So we're left with plot lines moved forward, but quite a bit in most cases. People dead, some we actually liked. People gravely wounded and some just gone into the ether of "read the next book" fog.

And now I shall read the next book.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

I don't know why but I've never liked Utopian stories, they always severely rub me the wrong way. This little book is only 166 pages, and Utopian/hippie vibe aside, was pretty charming. On the surface it seems like a communal, hippie place where the narrator (no name given) goes about his days "writing" (or planting seeds, napping and walking) but the story ends up going deeper into human nature. Love and betrayal. And lots of whiskey and trout. With singing tigers.

Even for the far out, probably pot-induced, setting, everything comes back down to human nature and our wonderful ability to really hurt the people around us.

Utopia will never work as long as people are involved. Maybe that's my problem with it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

I can't even pretend to write this review without revealing spoilers so be warned now:

Well, hell's bells. I was really really put off by this book at first. For some reason, I have no problem with magic and it's hijinx but I have issues with ghosts and heaven/hell stuff. Since Harry died in Changes, we know he's a ghost now. Fairly obvious by the title of the book. As Harry works his way through the "system", he's sent back to earth as a spirit to help his friends fight another helluva battle. Six months have passed since his death and bad things are overtaking Chicago since lunatic wizard Dresden is dead. (Important to note that his body was never found). After the entire Red Court was destroyed in the previous book, thanks to Harry, there's a big void to fill for evil.

Getting past the learning curve of the ghost world, this really started taking off as another great Dresden book. His magic comes back and he gets to lead another army to army of spirits but hey, they fight well.

I ended up being pretty satisfied with this book and was even able to be surprised at the identity of Harry's killer. And SPOILER.....Harry's back from the dead! Thank goodness the ghosty stuff only lasted one book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

A nice little series of short stories featuring Harry Dresden. The new Dresden book comes out Tuesday so this made an excellent bridge between now and Tuesday.

All of the stories were good, some even told from Thomas' point of view, but the last novella, Aftermath, was the best. Told from Murphy's point of view, it takes place a few hours after the ending in Changes, where Harry died. It was a fitting story of the troops soldiering on despite the loss of their friend.

Short review, short stories. It was all good.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

After watching the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO, I had to dive into the books. Seeing as how I refuse to read fantasy type books, this was a leap of faith. And it was a good one.

GoT isn't the regular fantasy series that I despise. This is incredibly well-written and focuses heavily on the characters. I get the dragons, kings, castles, and all that. But it was the people that made me want to read the books. Ned, Dany, The Lannisters, they are all such good characters that you cannot possibly be ambivalent about any of them. You either love or hate them.

Several things were different between book and TV show, but I really really liked reading this and getting all the extras that couldn't have been done on TV.

Since the books are so old, these can't count as spoilers. Book one ends with Ned beheaded (and millions of people wanting to kill Joffrey), Winterfell at war and a Lannister captured. And lest we forget my favorite, Dany and her dragons.

Really looking forward to the next one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail

I wanted to do a garden this year, but stopped short because I also seem to ruin them. I did a bit of container gardening and only got basil in return. I found this book and just wanted to see if I could get gardening figured out.

This is labeled as a punk rock gardening book, but I think that's a stupid label for anything. It actually had a lot of great information about gardening, if you have a big yard or just a rooftop or fire escape. There is a lot of info about plants, what is good where, edible pretties, soil and much more.

I've dogeared this book to pieces already and am happily planning a real garden next year.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Devil's Cloth by Michel Pastoureau

I think this could have been a really great book but I felt that it fell a little short. It's a very small book, only about 90 pages, and it's lacking in pictures or illustrations that would have really demonstrated the points the author was trying to make.

He goes into depth about the history of the stripe. He does explain in pretty good detail how the stripe was seen as repugnant, only to be worn by outcasts of society (convicts, servants, prostitutes, etc). The book traces the path of the stripe throughout history and finally into its acceptance (with the help of America and her flag). The stripe soon became patriotic and even romantic.

The author seems to jump to some wild conclusions without answering his own questions ("Oh well, I guess we'll never know" type of writing). He also seems to contradict himself, or at least stretch a little, like putting children in stripes in the same vein as

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Is there any other author who is so willing to throw themselves into their research as Mary Roach? The woman drank recycled URINE for this book, for goodness sake.

As always, Roach's book left me with facts to horrify my friends and family. This is why I love her so. Packing for Mars looks into the space program, and all the very unattractive things the prospective astronauts have to go through in order to be launched into space.

Heroes, yes, they are. Awe-inspiring, yes, they are. Even more so now that I know all the trouble they have to go through just to poop in space. A lot of money is spent researching how astronauts use the restroom, how they eat, down the to tiniest thing. Now I also know that astronauts get steak and eggs on launch day - because those foods are almost 94% digested, which leaves little to be....released later.

Someday, NASA wants to plan a trip to Mars, our closest planet. Which is still millions of miles away. We've landed unmanned vehicles on Mars, but they want a manned mission. Initially, it seems to be a one way trip, which there are volunteers for. Now they are trying to figure out how to get enough food to Mars so that the astronauts can come home. It's incredibly interesting to read.

And I still have plenty of fun facts to scare friends and family.

Friday, June 10, 2011

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

I've read other reviews of this book and have been amused at the people who are offended that Guiliano is being superior and calling Americans fat. News flash, Americans. We're fat. Instead of getting offended, I jumped right into this book. It's helpful that I've always loved all things French.

Guiliano didn't pen a diet book. She simply tells us what French women do differently and then gives us advice on how to incorporate it into our lives. Everyone who has ever crashed dieted knows that it's short term and doesn't really work (and potentially does more harm later on). The whole restricting everything lifestyle change rarely works either. Very few people can stick to that for long. What Guiliano suggests is making moderate changes and still being able to indulge in the food that you love.

Her first suggestion is to keep a food diary for 3 weeks, no calorie counting, just writing down everything you eat and drink. Then you analyze your weak points, where you eat out of control portions or just plain overeat. Then for 3 months you start pulling back. Make portions smaller (actually, for America, that basically means just eating NORMAL portions and not our steakhouse portions that we're used to).

Guiliano includes several recipes that sound great. I've already started the food diary and managed to increase my water intake by a few glasses a day. I really do feel perkier.

With all my health problems, I was looking for ways to be healthier. I may not be able to change genetics but I can control what I ingest. And if I lose a few pounds with it, I won't complain.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I ignored the fact this guy wrote Men Who Stare at Goats, because that was a book I just couldn't finish. His interview on the Daily Show sealed the deal for me and I got this book. HIGHLY entertaining look at psychopaths and other mental illnesses. Which sounds weird, I know.

One of the theories that Ronson worked with here is that higher ups in the business and political worlds are psychopaths. He wasn't able to fully validate that theory but I have no doubt it's true. Bob Hare came out with a Psychopath Test. A checklist of sorts that allows people to determine who is a psychopath. But like all psychology, it's not that black and white. Almost all of us could tick off some of those traits that make a psychopath and there's no real threshold to determine who "fails".

Ronson also covers the fact that children are being diagnosed with disorders that technically are not mental disorders that children should have and he explains (accurately, I think) how drug companies are taking advantage of this and becoming drug pushers to parents.

I ended up reading this in just a few days, it was really that engrossing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin

An audiobook read by Kathy herself this was less funny than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this, and I really like Kathy's comedy but this book kind of proves she's a real person. Weird, right?

This is a little memoir (6 hours+) and I'm left with "Wow, she works hard" and "She's ballsy and just doesn't give a shit what people think" and "She was married? And he kinda sounds like a loser". I've only sometimes watched her show Life on the D List but I have a feeling I'll be watching more. She traces growing up, her family issues, her marital issues, issues with her weight and body image, and well, everything. She truly holds nothing back.

Not AS funny as I thought it would be but still a pretty good book, so go listen to it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Buried Prey by John Sandford

I. Love. Lucas. Davenport.

Buried Prey is the 21st Davenport book and it took a different turn than the others. We start off with the recovery of 2 somewhat old corpses of little girls. Marcy Sherrill is the head cop in charge but it turns out this case was Davenport's way back in the day, when he was a patrolman.

When Davenport "remembers" the case, we get a large portion of the book being set back in the Davenport early years. It was a nice touch to see how Lucas started and to see he was kind of a douchebag (he still IS a little but we like him more). Pre-money, pre-stable relationship, pre-detective.

The book does come into the present day to track the killer. There are some very "all-choked-up" moments in this book which really made it an excellent addition to the Davenport series.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dark Horse by Tami Hoag

Another book I just found in my bookcase. I swear my bookcases are like my own secret bookstore.

Good little mystery set in the horse world. Who knew that world was so backstabbing, strife with jealousy and murder? It is in Hoag's version (and perhaps the real one). Elena Estes is a cop who was severely injured on the job. Her actions cost the life of another cop and she has since retreated into misery and suicidal thoughts. While staying with a friend and taking care of his horses, Estes is approached by Molly, a little girl who is worried that her sister Erin has been hurt. After some indecision, Estes takes the case to search for Erin and ends up with more than she bargained for (to take a cliched phrase).

Pretty fun book to read with a surprising ending.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

Another Librivox recording.

You think you know the Wizard of Oz? You don't. I read this long ago when I was young and was amazed at the difference between this book and the movie. Listening to it again makes me wonder why more of the book wasn't adapted into the movie. Such great scenes that would have added a lot.

The basic premise is still the same. Dorothy and Toto are flung away from Kansas in a tornado/cyclone and end up in Munchinland, crushing the Wicked Witch of the East. Her travels are much the same with the scarecrow, the tin woodsman, and the lion. What I like about the book is while each character still wants their heart, brain and courage, the plot makes it very obvious that they already have what they need. The movie seemed to make them needier and less....great than the book.

They have lots of adventures including a land of hammerheads and a land of nothing but china figures.

The book is worth reading just to get what the Wonderful World of Oz is supposed to be.

Oh, and the slippers weren't ruby slippers. They were silver.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Beat Cop's Guide to Chicago Eats

By Sgt. David Haynes and blogger Christopher Garlington.

Part of the Librarything's Early Reviewers deal, this was such a quick read that it only cost me a few hours and a glass of wine. And having finished reading it....I'm hungry.

Hungry for things I don't normally eat, like hot dogs and Polish sausages. Hungry for Mexican food served from a window and Italian food that transports you to Naples. Hungry for Caribbean food and soul food. And hungry for breakfast at greasy spoon diners. Indianapolis has some pretty good places to eat at for little money but just based on this book, it sounds like Chicago is the place to be.

The book has coupons for some of the places they talk about, so really, you're getting a pretty good deal.

And I'm still hungry.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Since I've only listened to Tina reading the book, I'm going to encourage everyone to just listen to the audiobook. She's hilarious, it's hilarious and even includes the audio to her Palin SNL sketches.

This is an autobiographical book but really really really funny. Covering her childhood, touching briefly on the scar on her face, her time at Second City to SNL and 30 Rock.

Did I mention this is funny??

Read it. Or rather, listen to it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fierce by Kelly Osbourne

A very short and sweet audiobook gets a short and sweet review. Kelly reads the book and instead of just reading it, it really sounds like she's hanging out having a conversation with the listener, even crying when talking about her dad's accident that left him in a coma for 14 days.

Kelly gives advice on a little bit of everything and doesn't completely sound like a little rich girl giving advice to poor people. I have a soft spot for Kelly so of course I like this little book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

It's been a long time since an audiobook made me laugh so much. Moore is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

In Bloodsucking Fiends, Jody, a pretty redhead living in San Francisco, is attacked and turned into a vampire. Her attacker leaves her under a dumpster with a boatload of cash and Jody has to figure things out on her own. She realizes that she needs someone to help her during the day. Enter Indiana boy, C. Thomas Flood.

When bodies start turning up everywhere Jody and Tommy go, the police get involved and things get hairy - in a very comical way.

Thankfully, there are no sparkling vampires in this world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

I haven't read any medical/suspense books in ages. My treadmill is next to a bookcase and I just pulled this out and started reading. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction so this was a great distraction. And we know how much I like my medical lingo.

Gravity leads us into the world of NASA as we watch Emma Watson and her team preparing to be sent into space to stay for 4 months on the ISS (International Space Station). Watson is a physician who is in the middle of a ugly divorce from her husband, fellow physician Jack. We can still see the hearts around them when they talk though...angry hearts but hearts nonetheless.

Circumstances occur that cause Emma to be sent into space earlier, with another team. Once there, it's routing space station stuff, until experiments start going wrong. What happens next is an outbreak of "something" that is killing astronauts very quickly and very gruesomely. Everything is fast paced and we learn what this killer bug is at a breakneck speed.

Pretty exciting and fun book to read.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

What a great book for a nerd. Bryson really does try to cover nealy everything in this book, from The Big Bang theory to dinosaurs to human origins and human cells and DNA. This is definitely not an in-depth book on any of these subjects but it gives you enough of a peek into a everything that you can be prodded into doing more research on your own.

Science is a favorite subject for me to read about. There wasn't much of this book that didn't make me a happy camper (except finding out that if you've owned your pillow for more than 6 years, 1/10 of it's weight is live mites, dead mites and mite poop. Guh.). It's written for the layperson, you don't need to be a nerd to appreciate it.

As always, Bryson is a fun writer, making even DNA fun and exciting to read about.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Subtitled as 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done In Less Time, this was a pretty short (2:40 audiobook) book that basically outlines how to get off your duff and get a move on, in work and your personal life.

Is it The Word? Probably not, but most of it did seem like common sense. I did use some of the suggestions already such as starting your day (or ending your night) by making a list of tasks that need to be done that day (or the next day). I know how necessary this is, but sometimes once I get to work, all hell breaks loose and there's no time. As Tracy says, MAKE TIME. I started doing this this week and it really did help focus me on what needed to be done. Tracy expounds on the fact that only 1-3 of your daily tasks are essential to your work/job. Working to identify those tasks and only doing those tasks is ideal but I couldn't see me trying this at my job.

I'm not going to continually tell myself I'm awesome, like he suggests, but I can tell myself that this little book was well worth reading and actually using.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

As an audiobook, I enjoyed this much more than her other books (as of late). The annoying characters (Marino, Lucy and Benton) didn't seem quite as annoying. Although I still don't care for any of them.

Scarpetta is working in Dover, fulfilling her obligation for accepting a military scholarship for college. Scarpetta is called back to the CFC when Lucy and Marino fly in to get her because a body in her morgue has suddenly started bleeding. What starts as something innocuous and simple turns into a drama-filled mess with Jack Fielding, her deputy in chief, the FBI and the government.

The book is fairly fast paced and only spans a day or 2 in Scarpetta's life. Although I have been disappointed in the last few Scarpetta novels, this one cheers me and makes me hope we're back on the right path.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twelve Red Herrings by Jeffrey Archer

Sometimes all I need are short stories. Archer created 12 stories that throw a twist (or red herring) into the mix. One Man's Meat... even includes 4 alternate endings. I somehow always choose the sad sack ending.

Do Not Pass Go was quite a good story about an Iraqi man just trying to fly home from Turkey. Cheap at Half the Price was a little....ballsy for a woman but also made me cheer for her. Never Stop on the Motorway has been told before, many many times.

There were only a couple of stories that caused me to go Meh, but the rest made up for those.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Doctor Who: The Jade Pyramid by Martin Day

This was an incredibly short story yet I'm counting it as a book! I've only recently learned of and fell for Doctor Who and discovered the books out there as well. I grabbed this one as a first try.

Read by the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, I think this went fast because the good Doctor was hyped up on something. He seriously talks FAST. Nonetheless, excellent little story about Doctor and Amy landing in medieval Japan in response to a faint distress signal. The come across a pretty kind and trusting man who shows them the Jade Pyramid kept at a shrine.

Chaos ensues, as it always seems to, with ninjas and samurai and robotic monsters. That 11th Doctor is certainly enthusiastic, eh?

Off to find more Doctor Who stories....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

As an audiobook read by Bourdain, he really puts some feeling into this. Which, makes sense since this book is ALL about naming names of the restaurant industry. While it doesn't seem that he holds back at all, sometimes it felt like he crossed over from edgy and provocative to douchebag (of which he has a chapter on who he considers douchebags).

He redeems himself some by following up on some of the anger and spitefulness from Kitchen Confidential by admitting his anger was misplaced or unexplainable. Although he still doesn't like Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee (no argument from me there).

Some chapters got a little tedious. I'm sure David Chang is awesome but I didn't care to know that much about him. I did really like the chapter on the fish butcher from Eric Ripert's restaurant having just read Ripert's book on his restaurant.

Even though I was making the universal "hurry up" sign through some of the book, I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who already likes Bourdain.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On The Line by Eric Ripert

This book is a fairytale type of book for someone like me. I would love to one day travel to New York and eat at Le Bernardin. Will that ever happen? Unlikely. But in the meantime, I have this book. Filled with gorgeous photos of food and recipes that I could probably never recreate (although I am going to try the sweet corn sorbet in the summer), this book takes you behind the scenes of an incredibly successful Michelin restaurant.

We get the details of the kitchen, including all the positions, the stations, how each station works and each person who is the key to that station. We meet the executive pastry chef, the Chef de Cuisine (second in command to Ripert - the Executive Chef), and everyone who makes up Le Bernardin, including the waiters and maitre de. Everyone in the restaurant is clearly important to the success and Ripert gives everyone equal credit.

All of the details of the costs of running the restaurant, the charity work, everything is touched on in this book. Did I mention the gorgeous pictures of the food??

Friday, January 21, 2011

For A Few Demons More by Kim Harrison

The fifth book in the Rachel Morgan series is probably the best. Beware of spoilers, they be ahead.

Rachel is a 20-something Earth witch who has been working ley line magic and dabbling in demon spells. Granted the demon spells were to save her friends, but demon spells leave smut and Rachel's aura is coated it in. Word has also gotten around that she is a demon practitioner. Weres are being murdered in this book and it's discovered that The Focus can actually turn people into werewolves. David, her alpha, has been sleeping with quite a few ladies and they've all been turned.

Trying to figure out how to deal with the Focus, Al the demon, Newt the crazy demon, Ivy's desperate need to have Rachel, blood and body, plus Trent's wedding almost proves too much for Rachel. With a lot of screw ups, we have to remember she is only in her 20s, she does manage to bring some peace to the fighting were packs and still have some good birthday sex with her boyfriend, vampire Kiston. (Wow...that scene.)

Things turn very very ugly and Harrison hints at the unthinkable....then does it. Main characters are actually killed off in book 5! We, as readers, had 4 books to really get to know these people and wow....good on you, Harrison

Already downloaded book 6 to read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall

I fully expected to encounter a preachy Goodall telling me that I was a murderer, carcass-eater, and all the other niceties that vegetarians seem to call people who eat meat. But Goodall is smarter than the average vegetarian. She understands that people are different and that being preachy and judgmental isn't the way to save the world.

Instead, Goodall lays out the facts, bit by bit, and leaves it up to you to decide what to do. The facts are many and they are scary. I found myself unconsciously eating less meat while reading this book. She starts off the book with a celebration of food. Why we love it, why we need it and how the different cultures celebrate with it.

Then we get into some dire facts. I honestly had no idea of the extent of the plight of the farmer, no idea about genetically modified foods or how cows, chickens, pigs, etc are "harvested" for their meat. I already knew about the obesity issue in Americans, everyone knows this. But with some helpful suggestions from Goodall, it seems like something that is fixable. She has a chapter on becoming a vegetarian but she repeatedly states throughout the book to just eat LESS meat. The amount of energy, grain and water that is needed to support the meat industry is staggering and if everyone just ate less, it would make a huge difference.

Obviously becoming vegetarian would be helpful, but she says that even becoming semi-vegetarian is helpful. Eating meat only occasionally and eating meat that is organic and free-range shows your support to the farmers who are trying to make a living and make a difference in the world. Going to farmer's markets, buying local produces, buying organic, forgoing bottled water (apparently tests have shown that bottled water has some pretty nasty toxins in it simply because this area isn't regulated like regular tap (public) water is) and growing your own food are just a few ways to help keep the world healthy for the future generations.

The United Nations released a study showing that if we don't stop the degradation of the land, pollution, and overfishing of the seas, we would literally run out of food for the world's population by 2050.

Just reading the book is enough to spur people into action, to take the small steps necessary to protect the earth's food supply for many many more generations. This is a really motivating book.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This quick read is a romantic fable centered around a traditional Mexican family. Fables are generally great exaggerations that are meant to tell how things come to be. This is no exception.

Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, is destined to never marry and to take care of her mother until she dies. This is the tradition of the family. Tita ends up finding love in Pedro, but is forbidden to marry him. Pedro instead marries Tita's older sister so he can stay close. A complicated mess, but somehow it works out.

Tita is a gifted cook and, through some fable-y magic, imbues her moods into her cooking. When she is happy and passionate, her food makes everyone passionate. When she is sad, everyone eating her food ends up crying and upset.

This isn't the type of book I normally enjoy and while it was entertaining, it's not in my top books. I appreciate the recipes given but they appeared right in the middle of the stories and just seemed odd.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

A gift card for Christmas brought this book into my home. I had recently sworn not to buy Koontz books until they got a little better, but my excitement over this won out.

And yay, this one is so much better. Koontz managed to completely creep me out, make me question strange noises in my home and do double takes at shadows. The climax of the book occurred at work on my lunch hour and he made me come so close to taking an extended lunch just to finish. Kudos, Mr. Koontz!

John Calvino is a homicide detective and we land right has he is entering a state mental hospital to find out why a 14 year old boy just butchered his entire family. Right from the start, we get a feeling of "That was weird. Why did he do that?". We find out that John's family was also butchered by a madman 20 years prior. That madman, Alton Turner Blackwood, seems to be coming back from Hell to start his murder spree again. A Hell that Calvino sent him to.

I had some frustrations with the book, mostly with the overly creative language used. Koontz seems to be more into lengthy descriptions of late, instead of straightforward writing, but I let it pass because the plot moved along pretty quick. Thankfully, unlike some of the Odd Thomas books, we don't have pages describing one object. My other frustrations came with the characters but as I kept reading, I saw that those problems were actually part of the plot and it made more sense.

I'm pretty glad I bought this book, I'm almost a believer again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I'm not a romantic type of person. I don't read romance novels, swooning and clutching my bosom and wishing for Prince Charming. Which is why I never really read Jane Austen. Life isn't a happily-ever-after and I don't enjoy reading that it is.

I gave Pride and Prejudice a try a year or so ago and it was ok. Austen IS a good writer and her characters do have some serious flaws, even the characters you are supposed to be rooting for/swooning over. While listening to a CraftLit podcast, the podcaster announced we'd be listening to Persuasion. Ugh, I almost passed them all by.

While there is swooning and happily-ever-after, Persuasion turned out to be incredibly good and interesting and, might I say, exciting. Persuasion was Austen's last novel, published after her death. The main character, Anne Elliot, is a girl from a desired family, wealth and all. But she isn't a horrid person. In fact, she is much maligned and ignored by her own father and sisters, unless they needed something from her. She spent a good deal of time in the shadows, being helpful and ignored.

She was persuaded by her stand-in mother, Lady Russell, to not marry a certain Mr. Wentworth because his status would bring hers down. Years later, when she is 27 years old, she meets up with the now Captain Wentworth and finds she is still in love.

Drama drama drama and happy ending. But still in all, an excellent story with a heroine who is kinda normal for the times.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Universe in a Single Atom by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I will admit it took me a long time to read this. Even though I'm a science geek, a lot of the concepts do go over my head. It doesn't make it less interesting, it just takes me longer to try and grasp the concept or just give up and move on.

HHDL takes some of the concepts of science and compares and contrasts them to Buddhist practices. If you are interested in either, then this is probably a good book for you. We're taken through the Big Bang vs the Buddhist beginningless universe, Quantum physics and relativity vs Buddhist emptiness, evolution vs karma, several chapters on sentient consciousness vs neurobiology and finally into genetics vs the entire human race.

In the concepts I did grasp and make notes on, HHDL makes excellent parallels between the scientific world and the spiritual world, something that the majority of religions maintain cannot happen. HHDL is all to happy to point out the similarities and encourage scientific progress, but with warnings of keeping the human compassion and ethics along for the ride.

HHDL has often said that every human on this earth is the same, and should all be treated with compassion. He was essentially proven right when the human genome was finally sequenced.

In his own way, he implores (nicely and gently) for society to get better educated about science so that we don't fear it and so that we do not cross a line. "We must be willing to be revolted when science - or for that matter any human activity - crosses the line of human decency, and we must fight to retain the sensitivity that is otherwise so easily eroded."