Monday, December 31, 2012

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

There's not a lot to say about the Stephanie Plum series except they are your tiny cupcakes in life. The little fluff you need and want to make your day better. Nineteen was a good one, read in the span of one day.

Evanovich really knows her audience and what we want. And she always delivers.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

I can't guarantee no spoilers here.... be warned

Harry Dresden is BACK! From the dead! Oh, thank goodness. I didn't like ghost Dresden at all.

So Dresden ended up making a deal with Mab, the Winter Queen, in order to come back to the land of the living. She helped make sure he lived and was being "cared for" on the island of Demonreach after he was shot and killed. Now, Dresden is the Winter Knight. Oh, Dresden.

He awakens in Mab's world, getting a form of physical therapy, which includes being nearly killed in creative ways every day by Mab. Keeps him on his toes, ya know. Mab sends Harry back to Chicago with his first order: kill Maeve, Mab's daughter, the Winter Lady. Except...she's immortal.

There is so much action going on in this book it was a little hard to follow. True, Harry has his order, but he also has assassins after him, coming back to his friends and family (who think he's dead), Demonreach (it's a jail for evil evil things) about to explode, The Wild Hunt, meeting Mother Winter and Mother Summer (whoa), the war on the outer edges of NeverNever, the Nemesis, Outsiders..... The list is endless.

All in all, this was a great Dresden book with a whole lot going on. Exactly what I come to expect from Jim Butcher. BUT.... the ending was a game changer. Completely unexpected (at least to me!) and points us and the characters in a whole new direction.

Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I can't help loving this man. I can't believe I'm saying that about an astrophysicist but he's just awesome.

That said, I wasn't as impressed with this book. I really liked some of his others, his writing style is incredibly conversational and he's full of fun facts to show and tell. But this book felt very jumpy to me, like he was talking to me but rapid fire and changing trains of thought too fast.

That's not to say I didn't learn anything from this book. I learned that America is doomed. (Just kidding, kinda). He's saying what I already know: America is falling behind and losing the traction that we once had. For whatever reason, the high and mighty people don't think we need to explore space anymore. That the STEM studies aren't as important.(Science Technology Engineering Math). Tyson has the perfect counterpoint to the argument "We need to take care of the people on Earth first". When that asteroid comes barreling towards Earth? You'll wish we had invested time and money into space.....

He included lots of Tweets of space facts into the book which were (almost) redundant. I follow him on Twitter anyways so I've seen a lot of them.

Read the book because it's Tyson and because it's NASA, but be sure to read his other books too.

Julia Child by Laura Shapiro

This was a fairly short (5.7 hours) audiobook from the library. I had listened to a podcast on Julia from The History Chicks and was intrigued enough to dig around for more on her. I think everyone knows who she is, but there was more to her than her famous voice and TV series.

Ah, the lady loved food. And wine. How can you not love someone so enthusiastic about being happy?

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
Julia Child

I don't know where this book lies in the best of the best, since it was the first one I picked up about her, but it was pretty good. We get to travel from being a young, privileged woman in Pasadena, to travel in the Foreign Services for the war, to meeting Paul Child and becoming a strong team of two. The relationship between her and Paul just makes you believe that good things can happen and that there are people out there without tremendous egos that want you to be happy.

I was a little (a lot) unhappy about Julia's prejudices against homosexuality, but I try to remember the era that she was raised in. It makes it worse that the book describes her dad's prejudices and how she abhorred them because she clearly though her views were fine. It took the AIDS epidemic and losing several dear friends to make her come around.

I don't think any of the Food Network "stars" have the power that Julia did. How the world created such an optimistic and enthusiastic person, I will never know.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Purchased through my account (ok, so it's not a *total* book diet), this has been on my list to read for a while. I just finished it and literally am torn on what I thought of it.

On one hand, Walls describes a self-induced poverty, with parents who never wanted to act like parents, who let the kids raise them. Some of the acts of the parents were pretty heinous and made me angry, such as when the dad, Rex, stole money from the kids for liquor and cigarettes. When the family moved to West Virginia, it was the kids who found jobs and the parents who wanted to do whatever they wanted and that never included work. They lived in squalor and poverty.

On the other hand, it's clear from the book that the parents loved their children. When they couldn't afford Christmas gifts, the dad would take the kids out into the desert backyard and tell them they could each have a star. Whichever star they wanted out of the sky. Jeannette chose Venus. Clearly, something in the raising of the kids went ok, because they moved on, went to college and got careers.

The parents chose to be homeless in New York while the kids were there working and attending school - just so they could still be a family.

I think the most frustrating part, for me, was finding out that the mom had property in Texas worth millions. If they had compromised just a little, the Walls family would not have been subjected to the poverty they lived in. But who knows how that would have changed the kids.

A complicated but very good book. How do you second guess the life that made you who you are?

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox

I can't for the life of me remember where I heard about this book, but I apparently put it on hold at the library as soon as I heard about it. When the email came that it was in, I was a little confused. But I gamely went and got it and started reading.

Side note: people really shouldn't wait so long past the library due date to bring books back. It confuses the next people in line who forgot they requested it.

Lynne Cox was born in 1957 and has been swimming pretty much all her life. She discovered when she was younger that she loved swimming "in the wild" when she was swimming in an outdoor pool during a storm. One of the parents of another student was amazed she was out there and proclaimed that Lynne would swim the English Channel someday. That idea stuck.

Fast forward a bit, but not too much, and Lynne is swimming the English Channel and breaking world age 15. What did YOU do at age 15?

Not content with just that, Lynne moved on to other projects, each more challenging than the next. She paired up with some research doctors in college to help them understand cold water swimming and its affects.

Lynne's big goal was to swim the Bering Strait, from Alaska to Russia. This was during the time of Reagan and the Cold War and she needed permission from both sides in order to swim. Lynne saw this as a way to bring countries together and it did, amazingly enough. The Soviets agreed, after 11 years of trying, and Lynne did the swim in frigid waters (around 40 degrees F).

Another side note: reading this book made me cold. Cox swam around icebergs, in water so cold it was partially frozen. I was perpetually covered up with a blanket throughout this book.

As the title of the book implies, Lynne did a swim in Antarctica where the water temperature was around 32 degrees. There was no particular reason for this swim, except that it hadn't been done before.  She swam 1.2 miles in 25 minutes.

Her crew always contains doctors in case there are problems. With the last swim in the arctic, I had issues with what she described. She mentioned that she didn't know at the time that water that cold could kill nerve endings. She listed several things she didn't know "at that time". All the doctors that surrounded her, went with her, and wanted to help one mentioned this? Apparently it took quite some time for the feeling to get back to her extremities due to the nerve damage.

I'm not a swimmer, I just somewhat flail in the water, but this was an interesting read. Well written and engaging enough, that it was a pretty quick read as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie

Granted I can't afford the luxury that The House of Chanel sells, but I'm always fascinated by the lives of the glamorous people of the past. Unfortunately, today's "glamorous" people leave much to be desired.
In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
Coco Chanel

The audiobook was excellent to listen to and went through Chanel's life, from start to finish. Much of what is told is questionable as Coco was never one to tell the exact truth about herself to anyone. Everyone seemed to get a different version. What is known is that she was born into a poor family and her father was not around much at all. Her mother passed away with all the children in the room, which made an impression on Gabrielle (Coco was just a nickname). Her father showed up long enough to take her to a convent orphanage, where she stayed until she was 18.

Her rise to the top as the one and only Chanel is well written, including documenting all of Gabrielle's lovers (most were already married when Chanel got to them). Gabrielle herself never married nor had children and that seemed to bother her greatly at the end.

During the war (2), Chanel was investigated as helping the Germans. She had a "Comeback" couture collection at age 70. The list could really go on about her, and all of these things made her legendary.

The book did spend some time on Jackie Kennedy, simply because she was one of the most fashionable First Ladies and made the Chanel suit an icon. The beautiful pink Chanel suit that ended up covered in JFK's blood in Dallas.

I really did enjoy this book. In the end, Chanel was incredibly talented, iconic, and a grand dame of Parisian fashion. But, she was also a person, one who got lonely and got old.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mad River by John Sandford

This is the 6th in the Virgil Flowers series (with a smattering of Lucas Davenport). I do enjoy Flowers as much as I do Davenport but I'm going to make a bold statement and say -  Davenport isn't adding to the story at all anymore. He needs to go and let Flowers stand on his own. We're 6 books in, Virgil has shown what he's made of and people like it.  Phase out Lucas a bit and let Virgil run!

This book was interesting in that it's a crime spree spurred on by a crime ending in several crimes. All by different people. We start out a with a Bonnie and Clyde (and extra Clyde) group robbing a rich lady's home. Things go badly and one of the daughters is killed.

But did they go badly? Or was that how it was supposed to go?

B&C&eC are on the run and killing people left and right (crime spree spurred on by crime). Flowers is called in to get this under control, because at this point, at least 5 people are dead in a matter of days.

As he digs, Flowers realizes that it's probable that the daughter's estranged husband may be behind her death.

Nothing is concrete except for Bonnie and Clyde and extra Clyde (Becky, Jimmy and Tom) and that ends as well as the real Bonnie and Clyde did. A lot is actually left unresolved and it makes Flowers angry and the reader frustrated. But in real life, things don't neatly tie up and get a case closed stamp.

Good Flowers book, but not the best.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Here We Go Again by Betty White

She seems like a nice ol' lady.

This book is a supershort audiobook (about 3 hours) and is filled with highlights from Betty's television career. I had no idea she mostly got her fame through talk shows and game shows. Rock on, Betty.

Also, Betty is a Trekkie. Again...who knew?

This is such a short, lighthearted book with a little insight into the famous Ms. White.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Albert of Adelaide by Howard L Anderson

Maybe I should just let the Books on the Nightstand podcast tell me what to read from now on. This was another recommendation and this one is fantastic.

The premise is so odd that you feel the need to read it. Albert is a platypus who escapes from the Adelaide zoo in Australia. He's trying to make it Old Australia, the place where life is good and animals aren't locked behind bars. It's a tale animals tell each other in the zoos and sometimes, one gets daring and breaks out.

If you are thinking this is a going to be a funny animal story, think again.

Anderson humanizes the characters so well that when a paw or tail or other animal feature is mentioned, it snaps you back to "Oh right, these are animals". The tale of Albert is told well ( has a great audiobook) and has more than enough shoot 'em up action to keep you worried about everyone's safety. Yes. Animals have guns. Frightening, isn't it?

The part of this story that kept getting to me was the savagery in the animal attacks. Because of the way the animals interact, talk... be human like....I kept forgetting that what they do to each other isn't savagery. It's predator and prey and it's the norm in the animal world.

Albert ends up in the desert, not the place for a water dwelling platypus. He strikes up friendships with Jack the Wombat who is a bit of a pyromaniac and the bandicoots, Roger and Alvin. Please, if you don't know what a bandicoot is, look it up. I had to and it made it that much better listening to the story to picture the crazy bandicoots.

Just when I was thinking animals were better than people, we come across animals that mimic the worst of humankind.

I think this novel lands up there on my favorites. Would it have if the characters had been human? I don't think so.

Try it out with a sample

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Once again, book diet is intact as this was a library book and this is another great recommendation from Books On The Nightstand podcast.

This book starts out with "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." In the late 60s, James meets Gwen and they fall in love and have a daughter, Dana. Problem is, James was already married and had been for 10 years before he laid eyes on Gwen. He already had a daughter as well. Oh what tangled webs we weave....

This story is told, first, from the side of daughter #2 - Dana. James and her mother married, albeit illegally, and he's a part time dad to Dana. Both families live in the same town and James does his best to impress upon family #2 that they are the secret family. They can't be upsetting his regular family life. It does seem that he tries to be a good father and provides for Dana, but she's obviously second.

The second part of the book is told by Chaurisse, James' daughter #1. You feel for both girls because they end up meeting and becoming friends. Unfortunately, Dana knows all about Chaurisse but Chaurisse is clueless as to who Dana really is. It's a tangled mess of a man wanting the best of both worlds and wanting two families. It can't possibly stay calm and sweet for him, and them, and it doesn't. Everyone's hands are forced and choices are made.

I appreciate that this book was told from the perspective of the daughters, the truly innocent of this. They are both played as pawns by their mothers and their father.  Clearly, their parents played the game and they were the losers but one did "win" a full time dad, while the other loses.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

A book that came to me through (still on my book diet and doing well!) and it's a rather small book (198 pages) so obviously my brain went into "must read now" mode.

If you've read The Odyssey by Homer or if, like me, you know the myth behind it (with the help of The Simpsons), then this is a good little book to enhance it. This is the story of Odysseus but told from Penelope's point of view. Penelope is long dead and telling her story from Hades, in order to set some things straight.

We learn about why the 12 maids that were killed should not have been, how Helen started the War, how Penelope endured all the Suitors that descended on her castle when Odysseus failed to return from the Trojan War, etc.

The book is interspersed with "songs" and poems but I have to say I skipped those. The storytelling from Penelope was what I was after and it was very entertaining.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Listening to a Books on the Nightstand podcast, one of the hosts talked about girlchild.

Basically he said:
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman – This is a book that truly blew me away. Uncomfortable and unbearably sad at times, this story of young trailer park resident Rory Dawn Hendrix features writing unlike anything I’ve read before.

I 100% agree. I couldn't sit and read this in one go, no matter how much I liked it.

Let's start somewhere here:

1) This is the author's debut novel and I'm amazed and in awe. The writing was skillful but packed an emotional wallop. It was truly a messy book but put together so well. Kudos Tupelo!

2) The story of Rory Dawn Hendrix is heartbreaking. Because of her family she is described as one of the "third generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom". girlchild depicts a life in a trailer park outside of Reno and it's not a pretty life. It's not even an okay life. It's a sad, scary life that Rory Dawn tries to make sense of using the Girl Scout Handbook from the library.

The end is unresolved. You root for Rory Dawn but somehow you just aren't sure she's going to make it out of the life she was thrown in to.

Uncomfortable, heartbreaking, with an optimistic twist in there.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab

Once again, prompted to get a book based on an interview on The Daily Show ( Jon Stewart hasn't steered me wrong yet.

Saima was just a little girl in Afghanistan when the Russians were invading. She survived a bomb dropping on the room where she was sleeping, being hit by a bus, and being a woman in Afghanistan. Based on the book, she's an anomaly. Her dad was very progressive, so much so he had a radio show to encourage others to rebel. He was taken by the KGB and never returned. From there, the family went to the grandfather's village. The grandfather, or Baba, was another progressive soul who refused to treat the granddaughters in the fashion that other Afghan women were treated. The kids were sent on to America (Portland, OR) to live with uncles when they were young.

Saima obviously has a forceful personality, by her own admission, but she puts it to good use. Wanting to re-discover her father's country for herself, she signs up for a deployment with the US Army to be an interpreter. She then moves on to another job, still deployed in Afghanistan, still helping bridge the gap between the American soldiers and the Afghan people.

The way women are treated is heartbreaking. But it's encouraging that not all parents, not all families, treat the women this way. Saima had a great family that knew she was destined for greater things (When a son is born, fathers go out into the street to shoot guns. When Saima was born, her father went out and shot his gun. He thought she was going to do more than many sons.).

I got some interesting insight into a culture I just don't understand and also more empathy for the soldiers deployed over in a foreign land.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

Plucked from, this was a book? Let's call it a travel book. Non-fiction, this details Troost and his girlfriend, Sylvia's desire to just do something, get away and escape reality. Only in their 20s, going to a war-torn, desolate area for humanity work sounded good to them. Cue Tarawa.

I will admit I have never heard of Tarawa, let alone be able to point to it on the map. It's on the equator, which means it's HOT! (as Troost mentions many times) and it's a small little island that barely has a functioning plane, a runway where children and pigs play, no electricity, no running water and no discernible way to get rid of waste.

It's clearly not the island paradise Troost and Sylvia were expecting. But they stayed for 2 years while Sylvia worked to educate and help the natives. This is truly a book of misadventures as the city folk get used to life on a remote island (where dog-eat-dog has a whole new meaning and fish is your meal for every meal for years). There were many many laugh out loud moments and just as many moments where I found I was just smiling, which probably confused other drivers who passed me.

Yes, it's a travel book, but you get schooled in Tarawa history. I felt a little abashed that I didn't even know battles had been fought there, with many lives lost. Troost wasn't condescending but obviously felt that Americans should know this history, and he's right.

I would recommend listening to this book because the narrator, Simon Vance, did a wonderful job.

Aside: the title is a bit misleading although the history of the island is discussed and there are cannibals involved and apparently a close island to Tarawa is known for oral so misleading?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

I've put myself on a book diet so everything here on out should be from my stacks or borrowed from the library or other people.

This one is a library book. I have to say it makes me happy that my library lends ebooks. Just makes things so easy.

I like Gerritsen but I find I tend to skip over her books. This one was interesting and different than what I expected. In modern day, Julia is digging a garden in her new, rundown, backyard when she ends up striking a skull with her trowel. Cue dozens of medical examiners digging up her entire yard. We discover that the bones are old, approximately 1800s old. Julia meets up with a neighbor who is curious about the bones. They chat and part ways. An old man calls Julia, a cousin of the previous owner, and offers up documents that his cousin kept that might reveal who the bones belong to and Julia takes him up on his offer.

The real mystery is set in the 1800s and involves Oliver Wendell Holmes and the West End Reaper. It's interesting that the exciting part of the book, the mystery to solve, is set so far in the past.

There's a pretty good journey to discover owner of the bones (and we do) but that proved fairly insignificant compared to the other things we discover.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


I haven't read a book in a long time that caught me off guard like this one. I found out about it through the Books on the Nightstand podcast and was intrigued when they said you HAD to have someone to discuss this book with. They are right and I have no one :(

It starts out fairly tame. We have Nick and Amy, a seemingly "perfect" couple who are going through a rough patch but coming up on their 5th anniversary. The story is told alternating between Nick's current story and Amy's old diary. On the day of the anniversary, Nick heads to The Bar he owns with his twin sister and Amy goes missing, seemingly taken right out of her house.

The police are called and it's beginning to look pretty bad for Nick.

I cannot say anymore because I want you to happen upon the twists and turns. I want you to gasp and say "Oh HELL no" like I did. I want you to read this book in one day because you have to know what's happening. And then I want you to discuss it with me!


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

I have a love/hate relationship with Odd. Not him, in particular, just the books. Odd Hours, the predecessor, was good, if a little too wordy but the others I just didn't like as much. But, I'm nothing if not dedicated and loyal, so I bought the new Odd book.

It's been a few days since I finished it but I think I liked it. It strayed a bit from the formula, of Odd helping deceased spirits, and I wasn't sure I liked it because that was the one quality about Odd that I loved.

He still sees and helps a spirit (2, if you count the horse) but the rest of the novel is pure sci-fi/weirdness. Koontz has always had me believe his stories might be plausible. And this one is the same way....if a bit a of stretch.

I don't want to give too much away, but Odd and AnnaMaria (from Odd Hours) have found themselves drawn to Roseland, a little estate that is anything but ideal and rosy. It takes a bit to figure out HOW it's not right but once Odd does, well, it flies right into the weirdness and creepiness and doesn't stop until the end.

Oh yes, Odd gets in touch with a new famous spirit. It should lead to some great stories if the new spirit sticks around.

Final decision: this is a good Odd book. Not great, like the first one, but good and different.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I was curious about this Percy Jackson character so I checked this out from the library, knowing full well it's a YA book (and I got burned with Twilight).

Some spoilers lie here.....

My reaction to PJ is quite the opposite to Twilight, I'm happy to announce. This is clearly written aimed at a younger audience but I enjoyed the story of Percy finding out he's a demi-god with Poseidon as his dad. Percy never knew his dad and never knew why he always had trouble not getting kicked out of schools. Once he ends up at the summer camp for demi-gods, he finds his place and some new friends (Annabeth and Grover - love Grover!) along with some enemies. Every god has an enemy or more, right?

Because it looks like camp has been breached, when a hellhound comes after Percy, it's decided Percy must go on a quest with AnnaBeth and Grover. His mission is to find the lightning bolt that was stolen from Zeus, who believe Poseidon is behind the theft, allowing Percy to steal it. It's also thought that Hades took it to start a war on Olympus.

On their quest, the trio face monsters, monsters and more monsters. Then descend into the Underworld to meet Hades himself.

No more spoilers but their quest isn't over and Percy proves himself a worthy little god.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

This video, mentioned by and involving both Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton, made me request this from the library within seconds of seeing it. It's funnier than the BIBLE!

So I got this a few weeks ago and have to's funnier than the BIBLE.  It's subtitled as a Mostly True Memoir (no James Frey coverup here) and it's Jenny Lawson talking about her *cough*unusual*cough* childhood, struggling with mental illness and making her poor husband suffer (just kidding, although he does seem long-suffering).

I have to admit I thought my childhood was a little different but hers really takes the cake. I never got my arm stuck in cow's vagina and never had my dad make a puppet from a dead squirrel. And that's only 2 of the events that shaped her life.

This is not all knock out drag out funny. She is serious/funny in certain sections that require it. Yes, she pulls off serious/funny.

The video was not false advertising. I'm pretty happy I picked this one up

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cathedral by Nelson DeMille

This is actually the first DeMille book I've read and I really enjoyed it. Color me incredibly surprised when I saw that it was published in 1981. More on why in a second.....

Brian Flynn and his lover, Maureen Malone are soldiers with the IRA in Ireland. "Once in, Never Out". I would call them more like terrorists but that's just me. Malone gets out of the biz (as much as she can) and tries to get peace between Ireland and Britain. She ends up in America on Saint Patrick's Day working for her cause. She hasn't seen Flynn since their failed attempt to free her sister from a prison.

Malone and a British ambassador are asked to stand on the steps of the St. Patrick Cathedral for a bit during the parade, as proof that Britain and Ireland can get along, apparently. One thing leads to another and is Flynn and his new "army" taking over the Cathedral. Malone, Baxter (the British guy), a priest and the Cardinal are all taken hostage.

The inspector who comes thisclose to getting to the Cathedral before the takeover, and therefore has a huge part in the book, is also Irish. Everyone in this book is facing down demons (with the exception of the Cardinal...possibly). The entire book is the takeover, the battle and barely any aftermath. In short, a hugely exciting read.

My surprise at the date of the book is because I was thinking of 9/11 throughout the book. It amazed me this was written so many years before the attack when it sounded so familiar.

I think I'll be adding DeMille to my list of authors to read.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Oh, how I loved this book!

Hoff uses dialog with Pooh and friends to explain Western Taoism. I'm no expert, but Taoism is basically living simply, living naturally and basically going with the flow. Much like Winnie the Pooh does.

This is a very small book (about 176 pages) but it is really packed with good information on how to embrace your inner Winnie. Hoff uses Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Piglet and Eeyore to explain how Pooh embodies the Taoist mindset while others basically try too hard. Rabbit tries to be clever and often fails, Eeyore is a downer, Owl tries to be knowledgeable and often fails.....  Poor other critters.

For a little dose of living simply and happily, this is a good book to read and re-read.

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Going on a beach vacation always makes me take random paperbacks. They are usually destroyed within moments of hitting the beach and this was no exception.

Reading the synopsis made me interested in this book:

"When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she’s in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident—in a Mercedes no less—Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she’s about to find out just how much things have changed."

I failed to realize it was a chick lit book. It was entertaining enough following Lexi on her quest for memory and it was pretty funny in spots. But it just wasn't my cup of tea. I finished it and placed it in the hotel laundry room for another guest to enjoy. It was gone within an hour.

Mile 81 by Stephen King

I've had a super hard time concentrating lately so this little Kindle single was up my alley.

So a quick little review:

Real quick read - short story SK style. I kind of wondered when the King part would come in and ... it did. Ew.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Evolution is fact. Proven repeatedly by science. I don't need to be convinced of evolution, I was already there. This is an incredible read, detailing several facts and paths of evolution with enough evidence to shush the naysayers....if they read this book.

Dawkins examines living proof of evolution and natural selection in insects and birds. He explains living clocks (trees and radioactive dating). He runs us through mammals and the giant land mass on Earth before the awesome continental drift (which he also explains). He also provides alarming detail on the amount of folks who only believe in Creationism.

This is a heavy book. I'm only disappointed in the fact I chose to listen to an audiobook version. Not that it wasn't well done. It was. But this was a book I needed to read at my own speed and go back and re-read. Plus, I didn't get to see all the many pictures it referenced. I think I'll be buying this in paperback and re-reading. Even if you don't fully believe in evolution, this book is an interesting and thought provoking read.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shock Wave by John Sandford

I feel so ashamed that I missed that this came out and I didn't read it right away. I'm losing my touch.

Another f*ckin' Flowers book. Virgil is really holding his own now. Davenport was barely in here at all. Flowers is growing into his own and really impressing me.

PyeMart is being built in Butternut, MN and it's making lots of people angry. We start off with a bomb exploding at the headquarters of PyeMart in MI, with the apparent attempt to take out the board of directors. Instead, it ends up killing a secretary.

Another bomb happens at the construction site in Butternut and instead of killing anyone "important", the poor sap who is heading the construction is killed.

Now is the point you are pissed at the bomber. These people are every day folks working their jobs, not the head guy making the decisions. Flowers is called in, towing along his boat (just in case he gets time to fish) and starts making headway.  Mr. Pye comes into town, all blustery and having his assistant take exact notes for his book, and starts throwing around money (has that ever helped??).

More bombs. Virgil loses someone dear to him. More bombs. More deaths. And eureka! Really?? That was the bomber all along? Didn't see that one.

Thank you, f*ckin' Flowers.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

The two most beautiful words in any language are: I forgive

This Dark Tower book is labeled as #4.5, it should fall between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla but, as King lets you know in the forward, you can read this as a stand alone book if you've never ventured into the Dark Tower series. So, non-DT fans, feel safe to grab this excellent story-within-a-story-within-a-story novel.

I really love how this book is set up. We start off with Roland and his ka-tet of Eddie, Jake, Susannah and the billy-bumbler, Oy. They are still traveling to the Dark Tower but they all notice Oy acting peculiarly. Roland is sure he knows why but can't grasp the thought (he's been through quite a lot by this point). An old man named Bix is the one to inform them that billy-bumblers detect Starkblasts, terrible freezing storms that appear out of nowhere, unless you have a billy-bumbler to detect them. Our crew hurries to the nearest stone building to take shelter from the starkblast.

Which leads us to the new story.....

To while away the night and storm, Roland tells the story of his young self and fellow gunslinger, Jaime, who are sent to a small town in search of a skin-man. A skin-man might be described as a were in modern times,  a human that changes shape into an animal. Except the skin-man can become any animal and can rip the arms from people and beat them to death with their own arms (the story gets a bit gruesome - a la King).

Which leads us to the new story......

While trying to calm a young survivor of the latest skin-man attack, young Roland tells the story of Tim Stoutheart, a young boy who is very brave (and foolish) and goes on a quest to help his mother. He encounters dragons, plantpeople, mages, and many more scary and fascinating creatures.

Which winds us back to....

The young gunslingers and the skin-man

Which winds us back to....

The ka-tet finishing out the Starkblast on their way to the Dark Tower.

This was a book to take to your recliner with your cup of tea and a blanket. While the storms rage around you, you have a good place to go...with Roland the Gunslinger and his stories.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Heat Rises by Richard Castle

I found this one at the library even though I was determined to not get any more library books since I have so many books at home to read.

My willpower, she is weak.

This was a pretty darn good book. Nikki Heat catches the case of a priest who is murdered in a bondage dungeon. Things get weird (that wasn't weird enough) as her Captain, Charles Montrose, is acting strangely and keeps her from fully investigating this murder. It turns out that the dead priest is just the tip of an iceberg that reaches back to Monstrose's patrol days.

Short review because I don't want to give anything away, but this is a rather excellent mystery.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Phantom of The Opera by Gaston Leroux

Part of my goals for myself this year was to read more classics. I started off by listening to Phantom of the Opera. I've never seen the play, the musical, what have you. All I knew was the gist.

And the gist is this: a scary opera ghost (referred to as OG often in the book) is haunting an opera house in Paris. He terrorizes a singer.

What the book really is: a great story told from the perspective of the author as the person investigating the claims of the opera ghost and of the disappearance of Christine Daae. The opera ghost, according to the author, is really Erik. A person, although a deformed person. And a crazy person.

Filling in the blanks from the gist I had was entertaining. I would recommend the audiobook simply because of all the French, it just sounds better than what I could have read in my head.

1 classic down....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer

This was a pretty interesting and entertaining book about the art of remembering. Foer, as a journalist, was covering the Memory Championships and, while interviewing some of the contenders, believes he needs to try to become a contender as well.

Remembering is an art. Back in the day (WAY back in the day), everything pertinent to life was memorized. Now days, we don't remember anything because we have computers, cell phones, etc. Honestly, who remembers phone numbers now? You just look up the person's name on your phone and there you go.

Ed Cookie, one of the mental athletes, takes to coaching Foer. We learn how to create memory palaces to remember pretty much everything. We learn tricks to memorizing a deck of cards (hence the title of the book). But really, this book isn't a how-to on improving your memory. It's a trip, through history, through interviews with savants, amnesiacs and Rainman, into why your memory is so important.

Our memories are intricately linked to who we are. It contains our life, our autobiography, everything we are.

I think the best piece of advice Foer offered up was that to remember you need to be present. You need to be mindful of what's going on around you. When you meet that new person, really pay attention to that person. Don't think about yourself and what you plan on saying or doing next. Be in the moment. In the end, Foer learned that the tricks were cool but he really learned to be here, in the now. And that's what helped the most.

How zen.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I have no idea what took me so long to read this. It was probably terror at reading a YA book that could end up being like Twilight. Since the movie is now out and I have issues with seeing movies based on books without reading the books, I had to break down and read The Hunger Games.

And read it I did. Within 24 hours. What a book!

North America seems to be....pretty messed up. We now have Panem, with a Capital that is surrounded by 12 Districts. The people of the Capital seem to be horrible and keep a tight rule on the outlying districts by forcing each district to "volunteer" one boy and one girl into the Hunger Games. The Games are televised live for the enjoyment of everything (Am I the only one who thinks we are not far off from this with all the reality crap we have on TV now??)

On the Reaping Day, Prim Everdeen is called as a tribute. She's just a kid so her sister, Katniss, volunteers to take her place. Katniss and Peeta are then tributes for District 12.

They head into the Games with the other tributes from the other 11 districts and it's a fight to the death.

For a YA book, this was pretty well written and exciting. I've heard that I need to stop reading after the 2nd book, Catching Fire, as the 3rd book isn't so good. We'll see. I'm sure I'll read them all to form my own opinion but I'm not rushing to the 2nd book. Now, I just need to see the movie.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

So i finally got an audible account and this was the first book I downloaded. I felt it necessary to hear Jackie in her own voice and own words. For someone who did not live through this era, this was very interesting and somewhat boring.

I'll get the boring out of the way, and it's not much but still.... Arthur Schlesinger, Jr and Jackie talked about JFK and his legacy. There was considerable talk about certain members who were either in government or the press or just around the president. I will admit that my history knowledge is not nearly good enough to know who all of these people were. So therefore, I got a little bored. That was it. No more boring.

Hearing Jackie speaking was awesome until the times you realized what she just said (Did she really say THAT?). You could tell she was doing her best to preserve JFK's legacy, perhaps even build it up, but she was also very candid. While I'm sure JFK had flaws, although no one seems to admit it, you will not know it from these tapes. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with the tapes but I think they seem a bit....I don't know. It's tough to put my finger on.

Jackie had very candid opinions about everyone, including MLK, Jr. (Who knew he liked orgies??) and she has been blasted in the news since this book came about about being so candid. On that note, I need to say: everyone has opinions. At this point, she was removing herself from the public eye and why shouldn't she be allowed to speak her mind? Especially since these tapes were not to be released til after her death. I don't fault her for this at all. In her mind at the time, it seems she did not consider herself valuable to the public and was working on helping JFK's legacy, not her own.

This is well worth the listen, I think, if only to hear a little piece of history. I'm sure folks who lived through this time will appreciate it even more. And for the record, thank goodness Jackie's opinions on "a woman's place" changed as she got older. I cringed at some of the antiquated ideas of how a woman should be/act/live.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman

I enjoyed Klosterman's other books, like Fargo Rock City, but I wasn't sure how I would like a fiction novel from him. Turns out.... I really liked this.

The Visible Man is written in the form of a manuscript and transcripts of sessions by therapist Victoria Vick for the patient Y___. Interesting way to set up the novel and it works really well, telling the complete story. Y___ calls up Vick and asks for phone therapy, no face to face, and Vick agrees. He seems quite a bit arrogant and quite intellectual. Both in equal doses. But honestly, I wanted to punch him just through the phone calls.

Anyways, Y___ lets Vick know that he's created a suit and cream that make him virtually invisible. And that while he goes about his social experiments in the invisible suit, he feels like he should have guilt and that is why he is talking to a therapist.

Y___'s social experiments are just plain creepy. While invisible he creeps in to people's houses to observe them, to find out how people are really their true selves when alone. But he hardly remains an observer, despite his protests that he does. Things get overly involved between patient and therapist and quickly get out of hand.

This is a really good, original story that kind of gave me the creeps.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison

Have I mentioned that I really like this series?

Rachel Morgan, a witch, is back with Ivy, a living vampire, and Jenks, a pixy. They make up Vampiric Charms. Last we knew Rachel had forgotten everything about Kisten's death (Kisten being her vampire boyfriend) because Jenks doused her with a forget spell to keep her from getting killed.

A few witches and demons from past books come along for some rides in this one. But we do get a new demon that we've not encountered before: a banshee! Those are some nasty little demons. Al returns with his usual flair. The church has a ghost. And in the end, Rachel DOES remember what happened to Kisten.

This one was a really entertaining book. They seem to keep getting better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Naked Heat by Richard Castle

This is the first book I've read by the fictional Richard Castle. I love the show Castle, mainly because I adore Nathan Fillion. I honestly had no idea that Castle's books were being published at the same time. The more you know....

I listened to this audiobook and I feel like I should give Castle another chance. I really had issues with the reader. His voices were sometimes just over the top and took me out of the plot. I think the next Castle book I try, I'll read.

Nikki Heat is trying to solve the murder of a notorious gossip columnist Cassidy Towne. Unfortunately, Jameson Rook (the fictionalized writer of the fictionalized Castle - got that?) was already at the scene of the murder when Heat gets there. Apparently this is the 2nd book and picks up from the first, Heat Wave. I missed that. But this proves you don't need to read the books in order.

Lots of high profile celebrities and a fired limo driver just complicate matters. This isn't stellar writing, but it's entertaining and I enjoyed it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

I realized as I was reading this that I didn't read #17. Ah well. If anything, this is a series that can be easily read out of order without missing a beat. Essentially it IS the same story over and over again but I got to say.... I really enjoyed this one.

Stephanie Plum just gets home from a trip to Hawaii and everything is confused and complicated. We eventually get the story pieced together and, not surprisingly, it involves Ranger and Morelli. Throw in a dead guy in a trash can, a photo that appeared in Stephanie's messenger bag and Lula with a rocket launcher and this is one of the better books in the series.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton

The newest Anita Blake, vampire hunter, book. I've long since given up buying these when Hamilton seemed to taking this down a different path *cough*softcheesyporn*cough* but I checked this out from the library because I'm a damn optimistic.

I was really happy with this one...until I got really confused. We start out with Anita and Edward, fulfilling their U.S. Marshal duties by tracking a serial killer of weres. I think Anita and Edward work really well together and we know (I hope) that she won't suddenly start having sex with him so we're practically guaranteed a good action-y story. And that's what we got for a while. Fast paced and entertaining.

Then comes Anita's "sweeties". WHY?? It was going so well. Then we have almost 2 pages just describing the HAIR of her sweeties. Seriously? Olaf and Bernardo are back. Bernardo I like, Olaf needs to be gone. For a psychopathic serial killer turned Marshal, he's just boring.

The sex was much less this go around (yay) but the lingering descriptions of all these idiots surrounding Anita were plentiful (boo). The end was so abrupt and odd that I was concerned that I had really missed something. A big buildup leading to a little pfffft. (Almost like Breaking Dawn).

I think I'm disappointed with this one.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell

This one confused me. I had to check it out from the library twice with a gap in between but as I started it I was pretty excited that this seemed like it was going to be a great Scarpetta book. I used to really love this series but it just seemed to veer off track somewhere and I no longer buy the books.

I think this turned in to an okay Scarpetta book. Good but I'll honestly probably forget the plot within a month. This one is basically a continuation of the last book, where all sorts of murders were happening and Jack Fielding, someone Kay was mentoring for years, turned into a very strange, dead man. That book confused me too.

Anyways, this started out with a lot of potential but almost 200 pages in I was still waiting for something to happen. It finally did, with a somewhat main character being killed off, and a 9 year old murder case being brought back into the fold. But....I'm not sure, this just felt a little slapped together at the end. It's possible I'm thinking back to the earlier stuff like The Body Farm and my expectations are too high, but I wasn't happy nor was I unhappy. It just was.

I've never really paid attention, I guess, but it seems like Kay talks A LOT. Constantly. And it seemed odd as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Simon entertains me through movies and tv. I wasn't as entertained by the book but I really didn't expect to be. Sometimes I think it's difficult for really funny people to be really funny in writing.

This is a memoir for Pegg (they keep getting younger - writing their memoirs) but he interspersed a pretty great piece of fiction with himself as the suave, handsome hero. The fiction story was more entertaining than the non-fiction.

Pegg is a nerd. Was a nerd. Probably will always be a nerd. He had a good concept of presenting how the nerdliness from his younger years morphed into work as an actor.

If you like Pegg, you will probably enjoy the book. I recommend the audio book though because his storytelling (of the fiction story) is quite .... enthusiastic.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Thank goodness for the Daily Show introducing me to all these new books. I don't watch The Office but Mindy was a good interview on TDS that I ended up borrowing her book from the library. Kaling is a writer for the Office and appears on it sometimes as Kelly.

This isn't a memoir or anything. It's basically just some funny essays about growing up and getting into show business. The beginning of the book is pretty funny but I'm not sure what happened towards the end. Although I do firmly agree with Kaling on the need to date MEN vs dating BOYS. Her list of differences between the two? Yep, agreed fully with.

Fun, light read. Laugh out loud moments (not as much towards the end. Boo)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This novel was more beautiful than I thought it would be. I heard about it through the New York Times Book Review and Oprah's magazine and was impressed that a first time novelist, at age 26, made such an impact. A well deserved impact.

I think what I liked best was the style she wrote in, how she left so many things unwritten and really did leave us without a lot of "facts". Everything feels like it's general except for the stories. I'm not sure that made sense....

Somewhere in the Balkans, we have no idea where, a doctor and her grandfather are introduced to us. From there, we follow both their paths via stories told to us from the past. The doctor, Natalia, explains to us how her grandfather always took her to the zoo to see the tigers. We end up back in her grandfather's village as he's growing up and learn about the Tiger's wife, a deaf-mute who has a special bond with a tiger that escaped from the zoo during the war. From there we travel with Natalia to another place where she is providing vaccinations to orphans and trying to find the place her grandfather died to get his belongings. The back to stories of her grandfather's encounter with the "deathless man" who Natalia is sure she is going to meet as well.

As jumbled as my telling of this is, trust me that the book weaves everything together in to one seamless, beautiful story of doctors, death and tigers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The plot of this book intrigued me. What if something, Rapture-like, has taken millions of people one day? What happens to those who are left to deal with the chaos and bewilderment? This book isn't Left Behind. It's not religious and it doesn't even say it was the Rapture, just a day where millions of people vanished, all religious types, all beliefs, nothing to join anyone together.

First, what you get is very angry Christians who believe they should have been taken as well, and since they weren't, they make it their mission to unearth every deep nasty secret about those who were taken to prove that the phenomenon wasn't the Rapture. You get people who try to ignore the whole thing happened. You get people who lose their entire families in a split second and have to figure out how to survive. You get people who join cults to try and make sense of what happened.

This book is a story, of ordinary people living through something extraordinary, and not doing such a great job at it. We follow the Garvey family: Kevin, Laurie, Tom and Jill, who survived the event intact but end up broken apart. We also meet Nora, who lost her husband and 2 small kids and realizes that she is broken beyond help, no matter how hard she fakes it.

The ending gives some hope but the entire book is a sad read of people just struggling to live their ordinary lives that somehow fell off the tracks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I've rediscovered the library, if only because they now offer ebooks and audiobooks. This is my first ebook loan and I devoured it. I heard about this book on the NY Times book review podcast and it piqued my interest.

The subtitle of this book is Love, Terror and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin. This book doesn't focus so much on Hitler as it does the Dodd family who ends up in Berlin as a result of the father's ambassadorship from President Roosevelt. It's amazing to think now, but thank goodness back then people kept diaries and wrote actual letters that could be saved. We just don't do that now. I mean, besides everyone and their brother posting stuff on the internet.

Dodd was an academic, his daughter Martha was apparently a bit of a slut for the times (we know this by her diary and letters). Dodd tried to be a good ambassador for the US, but once he and his family arrived in Berlin it became clear how bad things were, even if it took Martha a little longer to not celebrate with the Nazis. The US seemed to only be focused on Germany's repayment of debt and not caring about how Hitler was running things.

Most people, hopefully, know from history class about Germany and the start of WWII. You don't get a huge history lesson with this book even though it describes quite a bit of the disturbing events leading up to WWII and Germany's invasion of Poland. What you get is a regular person's account of living in this horrible place under the rule of Hitler. You get Dodd's depression at what he sees as his failure to be a good ambassador, even though he really did do what he could. You also see everyone else's complete lack of regard to the situation. It appalls me how many people in the US government turned their head to what Dodd reported, instead merely asking about the money.

It appalls me how easily Hitler gained power, how after his first "purge" of undesirable people (using the excuse of treason), Americans in Berlin commented in letters how "exciting" it was. Hundreds, if not more, people were pulled from their homes and shot in the back and it's "exciting"?? This is how evil triumphs. When good people fail to do anything. When good people turn their head and believe that since it's not THEM who is persecuted, it's ok. At some point, Dodd even notes that Jewish people are happy with Hitler, when he executed General Rohm.

It's easy to look back on what is done and wonder why things went the way they did. In a way, not a lot has changed with humans. We still have a tendency to look the other way when it's not us being harmed. We have a tendency to gang up on a particular group of people just because everyone else is (illegal immigrants is our new phase). And we still have a tendency to let evil triumph, all because we were just standing still.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison

Another Rachel Morgan/Hollows book, 6th in the series.

Rachel is a witch, who lives in a sanctified church with Ivy, a vampire and Jenks, a pixy. The formed the business Vampiric Charms to help capture demons and to deal with magical problems. But they have more than their share of problems of their own.

In the last book, Rachel lost her vampire boyfriend, Kisten, to a murderer and we still don't know who. She's still dealing with it when Marshall appears. He's a witch who helped Rachel out before and is looking for a job in Cincy. Possible romance? Maybe.

In this book, Al, the demon, is being summoned by someone to kill Rachel. She's determined to find out who it is and to stop Al from coming after her and her family. We get to meet Rachel's mom in this book and I hope she shows up in the other books too.

Fast paced and still entertaining. I really think this series gets better with each book.