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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

This is the 2nd book I have reviewed by Charlaine Harris. Unlike the last book, I actually read all of this one. There wasn't quite as much profanity, although there was some strong language towards the end.
I still find the book kind of confusing because there are so many characters and so many references to previous books that it is difficult to keep everything straight although I was able to follow most of what was going on. I can't say that there was a central plot to the book. There was a murder that was being investigated and the were's (-wolves, -tigers, -panthers, etc.) came out to the human world for the first time and there were problems with the fairy world that came to a climax at the end. There was just a lot going on and so there really wasn't any character development or anything like that, just action and dialogue. It seemed a bit disjointed. Several of the reviews I read said that they preferred the earlier books in the series. It is an interesting concept and if you are interested, the first book in the series is Dead Until Dark. There is also an HBO series based on the books called True Blood. If you do read the books, you should be aware that there is a lot of sex, some strong profanity, and a fair amount of violence, at least in this book. Rated R.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe is a traditionally built woman, a polite way of saying that she is overweight. She and her assistant, Mma Makutsi run the #1 Ladies Detective Agency, the only such agency in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe is asked by the owner of a football team to discover why his team keeps losing. Mma Makutsi is having problems with her fiance who has hired her nemesis to work at his furniture store. They manage to solve both problems and along the way we get to learn more about the culture and life in Botswana.
I have heard about these books for quite awhile now but this is the first that I have read. This book is the 10th in the series which starts with The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I found myself intrigued by the culture of Botswana and the personalities of Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi. It managed to be a gentle story without being cloyingly sweet and short enough that it could be read in an afternoon. There was no profanity or really anything very objectionable other than the woman who had 3 husbands and couldn't figure out how to tell them. There were a few other situations that would be considered more adult but it really was quite clean. Rated PG.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

I am not sure what to say about this book. It is almost unreadable, very very odd. Here's an example from the first chapter: "Iron fist of operative me, could be, flash fire explode, pow-bang. Burst bullet glass. Striking Cobra Quick Kill maneuver so collapse passport man windpipe. Render instant quick dead."
The entire book is written like that.
Several young adults from a totalitarian state are sent to the U.S. as exchange students but they are to infiltrate the society and wreak havoc.
Very violent with an especially bad episode of sexual violence, very profane. I wasn't able to read very much of it. Rated a very strong R. Yuck.

The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

I thought at first that writing books about Sherlock Holmes and his much-younger wife was gimmicky but that opinion changed pretty quickly. The Language of Bees is a well-written book that isn't just riding on the coat-tails of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books. This book is the 9th in the series. The first is the Beekeeper's Apprentice and I would suggest starting there although I enjoyed this book without having read the others.
Mary Russell and her partner Sherlock Holmes have just returned to England after several months abroad. As they approach their home, there is someone waiting outside to speak to them who turns out to Holmes' son Damian whom they haven't seen for 5 years. His wife and daughter have disappeared and he is asking for their help to find them.
It turns out that Mary Russell is just as tenacious and dedicated an investigator as her husband. She gets herself into some very interesting situations and manages to deftly get back out.
I really enjoyed this book despite the ending (to be continued...). I thought the characters were interesting and the plot was intriguing. There was very little profanity and only a little discussion about sex but it was definitely an adult novel with the plot revolving a religious cult that uses human sacrifice. Rated PG-13.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux

Jocelyn Minton is the only child of a wealthy socialite mother and a handyman father. Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried a woman with twin daughters. Jocelyn, or Joce as she is known, never really felt like she belonged in her family. Edi Harcourt is an elderly woman who moved to Joce's street and she befriends the young girl. Edi becomes like a grandmother to Joce and when she dies, she leaves her everything, including an old historic home in her hometown of Edilean, Virginia. By this time Joce is an adult and teaches part time at a nearby college but she gives that up to go to Edilean.
In Edilean, Joce immediately meets 2 intriguing men: Luke the gardner and Ramsey the lawyer who are cousins. Miss Edi had said that Ramsey would be perfect for Joce and the whole town seems to agree, but she finds herself attracted to Luke also. She begins to discover the secrets in Miss Edi's past and learns some things about herself as well.
It was a fun book to read if you are looking for something light and romantic that you could read in a day or two. It is the first in a series and I am already looking forward to the next book.
There was a little profanity in the book but not much and some talk about sex, but not too much. There was just enough talk about her neighbor and her boyfriend to push it into PG-13 territory.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old amateur sleuth and chemistry whiz living in 1950's England. She is the youngest of three girls with a widower father who is quite often inattentive. When a murder occurs in her backyard and her father is arrested for the crime, Flavia goes all out to solve the crime.
This may seem like a children's book because of Flavia's age but it really isn't. Teens may like this book but it would be too advanced for most children.
Flavia and her family, including the housekeeper and gardner, are interesting and flawed characters. Her father is still grieving for his wife, who disappeared while on a mountaineering expedition. Her older sisters can be cruel to Flavia and are obsessed with music and literature. Dogger, the gardner, suffered terribly in the war and has "episodes". He teaches Flavia interesting things like picking locks. Flavia seems much older than 11. She knows too much about chemistry and Shakespeare to be really believable, but if you can set belief aside she is a fun character that I look forward to reading more about as this is just the first of a series.
There was very little profanity, no sex, and just a little violence. Rated PG.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The 8th Confession by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

I have been doing this blog since January and this is the 4th book by James Patterson that I have reviewed. All but one of them have had co-authors. Makes you wonder just how much of the writing he is actually doing! This book followed the pattern of the others with very short chapters and a whole lot of wasted space.
The 8th Confession is, obviously, the 8th installment of the Women's Murder Club series. I have not read the series but know that it has been quite popular. It is a little difficult to summarize because there were several story lines involved, some of which came together at the end but not all. The characters, women who meet to solve murders, seem interesting. They include a reporter, assistant district attorney, police officer, and a medical examiner.
The book starts with an explosion that kills several people. The explosion takes place in a van on a street of San Fransisco. Other story lines include the murder of a homeless man, the trial of a beauty queen who allegedly killed her father, and the murder of several of society's elite. We know who kills the elite from very early on, no mystery there but the murder of the homeless man and the explosion eventually get solved.
I found it distracting to have so many story lines, including a few romances as well as the murders. That, along with the extremely and unnecessarily short chapters which sometimes ended in the middle of a conversation, made the book annoying to read. I liked the characters but would have preferred that the authors concentrated on fewer stories and fill them out more.
There was some sex and several strong obscenities making this book rated R.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Long Lost by Harlan Coben

Myron Bolitar is an ex-pro athlete, and a sports-and-everything-else rep who somehow manages to get caught up in an international terrorist plot when he flies to meet an ex-lover in Paris. Terese, the ex-lover, has a secret past and an ex-husband who gets murdered when his investigative reporter's skills take him where he shouldn't go.
Filled with humor and interesting characters, Long Lost was a quick, entertaining read. The characters of Myron, Win (his best friend), and Esperanza (his business partner), have been with him through several books, the first being Deal Breaker.
As far as language goes, there was profanity but not the worst kind and not as much as I would have expected for a book of this type. There was a lot of talk about sex but not many descriptive details about it, mostly there was joking about it, kind of locker room talk I guess. There was violence as well. I'm having a hard time rating this one but I don't think it quite warrants an R rating. I guess it's a PG-16 for the locker room humor and sex talk.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Second After by William Forstchen

I had a vague notion of what an EMP was before reading this book because it was used in a 24 episode but I had no idea just how destructive it could be. This book is a fictionalized account of what could happen if an EMP-an electromagnetic pulse bomb-was set off over the U.S. Granted, this is fiction and just one person's opinion, but the idea that anything remotely resembling what was in this book could happen is frightening. With a forward by Newt Gingrich and an afterword by Captain Bill Sanders of the U.S. Navy, One Second After is a frightening possibility.
While an EMP doesn't damage the human body at all, it causes immediate burnout and failure of electrical and electronic systems. Because it can be detonated at high altitudes, the effects can be felt over a very large area. If detonated over Kansas, one bomb could affect the entire continental United States.
The book details just how dependent we are on electronics, in ways that I had never considered. Most vehicles, including cars, trains, and planes, now use electronics to operate and would be disabled immediately. We would be thrust back to a much earlier time and would be absolutely unprepared to deal with it. My husband read this before I did and started thinking through our family's preparedness. We are going to be updated some things and stocking up.
Granted, this is a novel. How realistic is it? Not sure. But it sure does give me pause. If you want more information, check out www.onesecondafter.com
There were some obscenities but not too bad except for one particular character who had a foul mouth. That part is found on pages 135 to 144. That word is found one more time in the book but I am not sure exactly where. There is a lot of violence as the social order deteriorates and martial law is put into effect. Rated R.
Oh, one final criticism, there were lots of should of, could of, would of, instead of should have, could have, would have. It drove me crazy! Where was the editor?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker


Ryan Evans is a Naval Intelligence officer serving in Afghanistan. After an horrific experience, he sent back home, a place where he hasn't spent much time. Over the past 20 years he has spent very little time with his wife and daughter and they have felt abandoned by him. Consequently, his homecoming isn't quite what he expected. His wife files for divorce and his daughter will have nothing to do with him. When his daughter ends up being the latest victim of the Boneman, a serial killer who kidnaps would-be "daughters" and then kills them if they are not perfect, he does everything possible to save her but is believed by the authorities to be the Boneman himself. Ryan then has to evade the authorities while trying to find the Boneman, called such because of his method of killing by breaking his victim's bones, and his daughter.
I was grabbed in immediately by this story and found the part in Afghanistan quite good. I felt that the story fell apart in the middle a bit and then picked up at the end again. I was a little nervous about reading this book since I have 6 daughters. I thought it would really creep me out but I didn't think he played up the whole perfect daughter thing as much as he should have. Much more time was spent on Ryan than the Boneman. We never did know what the victims did made them less than perfect and so got them killed. Part of the ending was far-fetched and really unnecessary and there were times when Ryan did things that seemed completely out-of-character. However, I found the rest of it to be interesting and a good mystery with plenty of action.
This was the first mainstream book by a popular Christian author and so it was really very clean as far as sex and profanity go. I read some reviews of the book and found people complaining about the foul language and had to look up what upset them, which were words like pi** and a**. Those words were in the book about 4 times. Funny that I didn't read any complaints about the mother's affairs (which were not described graphically but we did know about) or about the violence of which there was quite a bit. Hmmm. Thought that was interesting.
Rated PG-13 for the violence and the creepiness (it does get creepy at the end).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


Bitter and Sweet are appropriate adjectives for this first novel by Jamie Ford. Henry is a first generation American whose parents don't speak English, living in Seattle during WWII. He is sent to an all-white elementary school by his parents to learn English but his father forces him to wear a button that reads, "I am Chinese" in order to distinguish him from the Japanese Americans in the city. He becomes friends with the only other non-white in the school, a Japanese American girl named Keiko. Her family ends up being sent to Idaho to live in an internment camp along with thousands of others. "Will he ever see her again?" is the question that is constantly on his mind as he fights off the prejudice of his family.
I loved the characters in this story even if Henry seems way too mature for 12. It is a sweet love story as well as the story of generational differences and difficult family relationships. It also gave us a little of an idea of what it must have felt like to be Japanese American during the war. There were a few anachronisms in the story but they aren't jarring enough to affect it. There was no profanity or sex and just a little violence. It would be a good book to share with younger teens and could start a discussion on prejudice. A reading guide is found at www.jamieford.com/reading-guide/
Rated PG for the little bit of violence and adult situations. Recommended!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Borderline by Nevada Barr


Anna Pigeon is a park ranger who has had a tough time lately. She seriously needs a vacation and decides to go with her husband to, where else, a state park. This one happens to be Big Bend National Park in Texas where Anna and Paul have booked a river trip. On the trip they discover a dying pregnant woman trapped in the weeds and rushes along the river. They manage to save the baby but not the woman. Soon afterward things fall completely apart.
I was enjoying this book despite its being completely improbable and thought it was relatively clean except for the violence, and it is quite violent, until about 3/4ths of the way through. There is one chapter which involves a couple of social workers where the language is just awful. Pretty much ruined the book for me. I did finish it and the language was better after that chapter but I ended up not liking the book all that much. This is the 14th or 15th book in the series so obviously a lot of people like the books but I found it just too unbelievable, and I really didn't appreciate the language in the one chapter I mentioned. Rated NC-17.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas


You know that a book is good when you finish and feel a little sad that you won't be spending time with those characters any more. Hennie Comfort is a woman that I could swear I have met before and actually I can think of women that I used to know that could be a model for her. One in particular was a woman who had been born in rural Alabama in the 1920's and lived a life without electricity and running water and some of the other niceties we expect to have. She told wonderful stories. I loved to just sit and listen to her. I guess that would make me Nit because I was a young mother at the time.
Hennie and Nit live in the mountains of Colorado, in a small mining town called Middle Swan. It is 1936, the heart of the depression and Nit is a newlywed and new to town. Hennie takes her under her wing, teaching Nit through her stories about the town and its people. The language is quaint and old-fashioned, it seems like a novel written a long time ago, but the stories are timeless. Through the stories, and the quilts that Hennie is always working on, we learn in bits and pieces about love, endurance, forgiveness, accepting others as they are, and just life in general. The title Prayers For Sale comes from Hennie's saying that she feels so happy that she has more prayers than she needs for herself, she may as well sell the extras.
I loved reading the book and getting to know Hennie and Nit and a little bit about a depression-era mining town. It was very clean, very little profanity or anything objectionable but some of the stories were about abuse and other adult subjects which would make it rated PG-13. Recommended!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline


Having a child kidnapped is every parent's nightmare, yet how often do we pay attention to those postcards of missing children that we get in the mail? Usually they get tossed in the trash without a second thought. Ellen Gleeson gets one that she nearly throws away, but when she takes a look she realizes that the missing child looks eerily like her own adopted son. She tries to ignore it but can't and uses her journalistic skills to investigate the possibility that her son is the missing child. She ends up in much more trouble than she ever envisioned.
If you can suspend belief for a bit, then you might enjoy this quick read. If you are looking for something with a little substance to it, you might want to find something else. The plot and some of the characters are just not believable.
I have to say though, what bothered me the most was that Ellen could even consider not telling the authorities if she thought that her son was the kidnapped boy.
There was some profanity and one night where she sleeps with someone although it isn't a detailed description. Rated PG-13

Storm From the Shadows by David Weber


The 14th book in the Honorverse series doesn't have much to do with Honor Harrington. Instead it seems to be a transitional book that takes the series from Honor Harrington to a new storyline. Many reviews that I read of this book didn't like it and specifically mentioned not starting with it, which is exactly what I did. If you like science fiction, I think that this series would be very interesting but you would need to begin with On Basilisk Station. The series, which I have seen called both military science fiction and space opera, seems to have a very large fan base and was well-written even though I was confused through most of it. There was some profanity and I thought it was very clean until right at the end there were a couple of f-words. I don't know what the earlier books were like. Rated R.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I am having surgery tomorrow and it's going to require a very long recovery period which means that I will have plenty of time to read! Although, because I will be taking percocet for awhile, I can't vouch for quality of the posts so I hope that you all will be lenient judges at least for the next few weeks!

One of the interesting things about doing this blog is that I pick up books that never ever have interested me. I really do go strictly by the New York Times bestseller list in deciding which books to review. It gives me plenty to read! Sometimes by the time I get the book from the library it is no longer on the list but I like to read them anyway. Someone must have liked the book!

Such is the case with Outcast which is a Star Wars book. It is the first of the Fate of the Jedi series. I liked the Star Wars movies, especially the original 3, but have never considered reading the books. It's just not something that would normally appeal to me. I actually kind of liked it though. There were times when it was confusing because there are many novels and series that come before Outcast and so the terms and people were unfamiliar but I wasn't put off too much by that.
The novel takes place 40 years after A New Hope (the first of the original movies). It begins with a Jedi knight being overcome by paranoia and lashing out at everyone and with Luke Skywalker being arrested and then being exiled with his son Ben. Luke tries to discover some secrets about the world he to which he is exiled and Han and Leia Solo try to save another small planet. There were many plots and subplots that were extensions of earlier novels. If you are interested in these books I would suggest starting with Path of Destruction. There is a website to help you with the order at http://www.starwarsselect.com/timeline.html . The book was quite clean. The only swearing was their own made up swear words. I have recommended these books to my 11 year old son and would be very comfortable with him reading them. Rated PG for some violence.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Don't Look Twice by Andrew Gross


Lieutenant Ty Hauck is a divorced man with a teenage daughter. He is with her at a gas station when a drive by shooting occurs, killing the man standing behind them in line. It seems to be a random act at first but as time goes on and the investigation deepens, a conspiracy unfolds. Annie Fletcher, a young woman who is struggling to run a restaurant, sees something one night that she shouldn't have and gets pulled into the danger.
Andrew Gross has written a few books with James Patterson and has followed in his footsteps and can't write without using a certain word constantly. The book is heavy on action and light on characterization, just like Patterson's. Since I don't like the way James Patterson writes, I didn't care much for Andrew Gross' book either. Rated R.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

James R. Osgood is a publisher in 1870's Boston. The publishing company is all set to publish Charles Dickens' last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and have published the first six installments, when they learn of Dickens' untimely death at the age of 28 years. Daniel Sand, a clerk, is killed while trying to get the next installment to Osgood. Osgood and one of his bookkeeper's, Rebecca Sand who is Daniel's sister, go to London to try to discover how Dickens intended the novel to be finished. They hope that the quest will save the floundering business and help them discover Daniel's killer. The journey is fraught with danger and mystery with false friends and enemies that turn out to be friendly.
It was unfortunate for the author that his book was published so soon after Dan Simmon's Drood. It is nowhere near as good as Drood which covers pretty much the same topic but in a much better way. There was much more detail in Drood and a more interesting plot. The Last Dickens suffered from too many distractions, such as the action in India, which interrupted the flow of the plot. It is still a worthy read especially if you like historical fiction and mysteries. There is some profanity but not too much. Rated PG.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

Captivated readers have followed Jessica through every step and misstep: from her life as a tormented, tart-tongued teenager to her years as a college grad stumbling toward adulthood. Now a young professional in her mid-twenties, Jess is off to a Caribbean wedding. As she rushes to her gate at the airport, she literally runs into her former boyfriend, Marcus Flutie. It's the first time she's seen him since she reluctantly turned down his marriage proposal three years earlier-and emotions run high.
Marcus and Jessica have both changed dramatically, yet their connection feels as familiar as ever. Is their reunion just a fluke or has fate orchestrated this collision of their lives once again?

This seemed like an interesting book, a sort of coming-of-age for 2 former lovers and wondering if they were ready for something more now. I liked how the main character thought and talked. She seemed very interesting but she also had a potty mouth. Way too many obscenities including that much-hated-often-used word that makes books rated R.

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Ella Varner is completely content with her life as an advice columnist living in Austin with her boyfriend Dane. With therapy she has been able to overcome much of the unhappiness of her childhood. She has not spoken to her mother or her sister Tara for a couple of years so when the phone rings one night, and she sees that her mother is calling, she is very reluctant to answer it. It turns out that her sister has had a baby and left him with their mother who is incapable of caring for the child. Ella, as usual, has to be the responsible one.
She leaves for Houston with Dane telling not to bring the baby to Austin. She ends up caring for the baby and staying in Houston until she finds the father and makes him do the right thing for the baby. She thinks that the wealthy Jack Travis is the father even though he denies it. When she discovers that he isn't the father, he helps her find the true father of the baby. They, of course, end up in a relationship. Tara, the mother, is in a spa-like institution, finally dealing with her childhood issues and her ambivalence toward motherhood.
Kleypas' writing style is breezy and easy to read and the plot is interesting although it is obvious from the beginning that Jack and Ella get together. I found their characterizations to be flat, Jack's more than Ella's but it was still enjoyable. Unfortunately there were some language problems and too many explicit sex scenes. Rated R.