Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians has earned a lot of high praise from reviewers. It has been touted as a Harry Potter for grownups with students being secreted away to a magical college in upstate New York. Quentin, the main character has always loved the fictional Fillory books (which are obviously a thinly-veiled reference to the Chronicles of Narnia series), but has been dissatisfied with his life in Brooklyn. Quentin is a highly gifted student who loves magic tricks and fantasizes about escaping his life into the fictional world of Fillory. When he finds himself part of the Brakebills student body, he discovers that the world of magic isn't quite what he thought it would be.
I was really hoping that this one would be clean enough to enjoy. It's not. Lots of f-words and lots of sex, including at least one homosexual scene. Rated R.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles

I started reading this book about Natchez, Mississippi this morning while eating breakfast. Not a good idea considering the amount of violence in it!
Penn Cage is a former district attorney, a writer, a widower and a father, and for the last two years, the mayor of Natchez. He has been a proponent of the riverboat casino gambling that is so popular on the Mississippi but when his best friend, former addict and current employee of the Magnolia Queen, tells him what is really going on: sexual abuse, physical abuse, and dogfighting, and then is murdered, Penn knows that he needs to find out more about the men responsible.
Lots and lots of strong foul language (including a REAALLY awful word), violence, sex, abuse, all adds up to a book I couldn't finish and can't recommend. Rated NC-17 for that word and everything else.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is best known for her novel The Other Boleyn Girl. I read that one and enjoyed it but found it too sexual for my comfort zone. The White Queen isn't nearly as sexual but isn't nearly as good either.
The White Queen is a reference to Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV, which was during the Wars of the Roses, a time period I don't know enough about but am definitely interested in. She entrances him with her beauty, and if rumors are to be believed, her mother's witchcraft. Her family considers themselves to be descended from Melusina, a water goddess, and they seem to have certain powers through her. The book spans a couple of decades in which there is very little peace and the almost constant warring is devastating to everyone involved. I don't really want to give away any more than that in case you aren't aware of the history (I wasn't until I read the book). I would have liked there to be more facts, more meat so to speak, in the book and less romance and fantasy. It is loosely based in the time period but comes off as a light romance. I enjoyed reading it for the most part except for that disappointment in finding it to be lightweight. There were no obscenities to speak of, maybe a few but nothing really offensive. The sex wasn't overly descriptive but she always seem to be waiting for him to come home and say, "Bed, wife". At least they were married. There was an attempted rape at the beginning and lots of commentary on his constant whoring and also some violence. Hmm, either a PG-13 or PG-16 depending on how squeamish you are. For adults it is fine, for teens you may want to read it first.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Lara Lington is at the funeral of her great-aunt Sadie when she first sees the ghost, who happens to be her great-aunt Sadie looking for her favorite necklace. The ghost Sadie appears to be in her 20's in great contrast to the 105 year old who was about to be cremated. Apparently Lara is the only one who can see Sadie the ghost and so has to be the one to stop the funeral when the ghost becomes hysterical. Lara does so by claiming that her great-aunt was murdered, a ridiculous claim that she now must explain to the police. And so begins Lara's life with Sadie who is constantly pulling Lara out of her comfort zone to crash a business meeting in order to meet a cute guy, to wear authentic 20's flapper wear including a headband with a feather, and to break into her uncle's mansion in order to try to find her favorite necklace. All of this is completely out of character for Lara who is still pining over an old relationship and whose business is failing. In fact, all the craziness of Sadie helps Lara gain the confidence in herself that she was severely lacking. It was a fun quick book to read and I would have really enjoyed except for the language. Wayyy too many f-words! Rated R.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

L.A. in the late 1960's was place full of hippies and drugs and lots of things other than peace and love. Doc is a laid-back drug-using private investigator whose ex-girlfriend gets him involved in the investigation of a major crime ring. This book was very foul with an f-word or more on every page and lots of drugs, sex, and who knows what else? I didn't get too far into before I had to quit reading. Rated R.

Even Money by Dick Francis

Ned is the owner of a small bookie operation working the horse races in Great Britain. He inherited the business from his grandfather after learning the trade at his side. Ned's wife Sophie is bipolar and often in the hospital. His grandfather has been gone for several years and his grandmother has Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home. He never knew his parents who, he had been told, were killed in a car accident. One day after a race a man approached Ned and claimed to be his father. After some convincing, Ned believed him and spent an hour getting to know his father. Then in the parking lot they were attacked and Ned's father was left for dead. As he was dying, Ned's father told Ned to be wary of everyone. Ned spends the rest of the book trying to piece together why his father was attacked and trying to stay out of trouble himself.

Ned is a lonely, somewhat pathetic creature who doesn't seem to have much control over his life. He enjoys his work but has little ambition and seems content with just getting by. He would like to have children but his wife is too unstable. He doesn't really have any friends, just other bookies but they are more just acquaintances. Ned seems to come alive once his father is killed and he has a mystery to solve. I found the family's story much more interesting than the mystery. Ned's grandmother reveals some deep dark family secrets and his relationship with his mentally-ill wife is touching. The story line involving the mystery of his father's death and the bad guys that keep plaguing Ned lags and becomes stale at times.

The language wasn't too bad except for an f-word or two which appeared about halfway through. Up to that point I was thinking that it was pretty clean. Of course in Great Britain it would be considered to have a lot more swear words, words that those of us in the U.S. don't consider bad at all. Rated R for the swear words.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vanished by Joseph Finder

If you are trying to find an action-packed novel that keeps you wondering what is going to happed next and doesn't contain lots of profanity, you may think that it doesn't exist anymore. It seems that they always have to use that "street language" stuff, don't know why other than maybe they (the authors, editors, publishers and whoever else may be involved) think it makes it sound authentic. I'm perfectly fine reading a book that is a little less authentic just so I am not cringing constantly.
Vanished is just that sort of book. It is a fun fast book to read that keeps you guessing. Roger Heller has gone missing and his estranged brother Nick is just the man to find him. Nick is a former special ops agent who now works as a private eye and he is determined to find his brother. There is very little profanity and no sex to speak of, just the usual violence in this book. I enjoyed reading it even though the plot got a little too convoluted at times. It was just so refreshing to find a clean action novel. Rated PG-13 for the violence.

The Apostle by Brad Thor

With a new administration in the White House and a different way of handling terrorism, Scot Horvath has lost his special ops job until the current president and his staunchest supporter comes to ask his help. Julia Gallo, a doctor with CARE in Afghanistan and daughter of the president's closest ally, has been kidnapped and is being held in order to exchange her with a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda who has been captured by the Afghanistan government. Scot, with all his experience, gets called on to help them secretly aid the Al Qaeda operative to escape.

I started out liking this book but the language just got to be too much for me. Lots of obscenities made it difficult to read. Rated R.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Defector by Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon is an art restorer, and a wonderful artist in his own right, but that is not his real occupation. Gabriel Allon is an Israeli spy for "The Office", the nickname given to their intelligence agency. When a Russian defector named Gregori Bulganov, who had saved Gabriel's life just 6 months earlier, went missing, Gabriel knows that he has to do something about it. Unfortunately, this means getting involved with Ivan Kharkov, a very wealthy and ruthless Russian arms dealer.
I thought that this thriller was interesting and quite well done. It isn't necessary to read the earlier books in the series to enjoy this one but it might be worth it. The was one f-word but the rest of it was rather clean except for violence. I don't know how clean the earlier books are but, if you go by this one they could be fairly clean. Rated R for that one word.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

Jack McEvoy is a journalist for the L.A. Times, or he is for another two weeks anyway. He has been given the dreaded pink slip and decides to go out with a bang. He has an idea for an article that he hopes is Pulitzer-worthy. A sixteen-year-old boy, Alonzo Winslow has confessed to murdering a young woman and dumping her body. Jack has decided to write an article that gets into the mind of a young killer. The problem is that the boy's confession does not ring true to Jack. He ends up trying to find the real killer instead.
This book was so profanity-laden that it was impossible to read. Ugh, it was awful! Rated R.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

I think that I have reviewed enough of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series to know what to expect from her: bad writing and lots of profanity. I won't be reading any of her books any more. I know that a lot of people love her books, but even those reviewers who were her fans said that this book is bad and that the series has deteriorated in the last few books. Rated R for profanity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

I hadn't read any of the Jack Reacher novels before reading this one so the character of Jack Reacher was an enigma to me and really still is. I think he's fascinating but I don't understand why he chooses to be homeless and why he chooses to involve himself so fully in the case of Susan Marks other than he feels somewhat guilty. I kind of like that though. I enjoyed having to figure things out about Jack in bits and pieces instead of having it all spelled out for me.
The book starts out with Jack riding the subway in NY late one night. He notices a woman who fits the profile of a terrorist. In his mind he goes down the 11 (for women) point list and mentally checks each one off (I love the symmetry when he does this for himself near the end of the book!). He decides at that point to intervene and starts to talk to the woman, hoping to stop her. What she does then is surprising and launches Jack into a deadly and deeply secret attempt to find a very incriminating photograph which pits him against the NYPD, the FBI, and a group of criminals from Turkmenistan.
This was one of those stay-up-all-night, can't-put-it-down-until-I'm-done kind of books. Jack is Jack Baueresque in his reactions, usually quick and almost without thought but doing what he thinks is right at the time. I thought it was very well written and deeply interesting and well worth the time to read. I even recommended it to my husband who doesn't have much time for reading usually so I only recommend the books I really enjoy. There was a little bit of sex, a little bit of profanity but not too bad, and a whole lot of violence. Rated PG-16 for the violence.

Bad Moon Rising by Sherrilyn Kenyon

It should be called Bad Book Falling, hopefully into the trash can. Don't bother with this one! It's another vampire/werewolf/were-lots of other animals book that seems to be so popular these days. I am quite sure there are better series than this one, out of all the ones I have read I liked the Patricia Briggs series the best. The plot was so convoluted and confusing that I can't even summarize it well, other than Fang the wolfwere and Aimee the bearwere fall in love despite there being a major taboo against it. Lots of demons and daimons and other strange creatures are involved, lots of fighting and sex too, oh and lots of swearing. Really really bad. Rated R.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fire and Ice by J. A. Jance

J. A. Jance has two separate series with terrific protagonists: Joanna Brady and J. P. Beaumont. Each of them has had a successful series on their own and Fire and Ice is the 2nd book featuring them together. Beaumont is in Seattle and works for a special homicide unit under the direction of the State Attorney General, Brady is the sheriff for Cochise County Arizona.
What brings them together this time is a series of unsolved murders in Washington state. The connection is made to a Mexican mafia group which has ties in Arizona and to a murder at an ATV park.
I really liked both Beaumont and Brady and the secondary characters that surround them but felt that it was almost too much for one novel and the plot suffered as result. In order to keep the book at a reasonable length and focus more on the plot some of the parts of the book that had nothing to do with advancing the plot would need to go, such as the part with the neglected elderly patients (although I felt like this was important to the author and she really wanted to make a statement with it). The ending went out with a whimper instead of the bang that I was expecting.
All in all, I enjoyed the book and found it to be relatively clean despite the unfortunate acronym for Beaumont's team. There was some violence that was rather disturbing as well. Rated PG-16 for the violence.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Connie is a doctoral candidate at Harvard when she is asked by her mother to ready her grandmother's cottage for sale. She spends the summer in the cottage cleaning it up and also trying to find an appropriate subject for her doctoral dissertation in colonial history. Her advisor suggests that she find an original primary source but she finds herself drawn to learning about Deliverance Dane, a woman whose name she discovers hidden inside a key that was hidden in an old family bible. She becomes obsessed with Deliverance and her receipt book and learns a lot about herself, her family, and the community along the way.

The setting switches from modern day Massachusetts to colonial Massachusetts and back throughout the book. I really liked learning more about that time period with all their superstitions and I wish that she had focused a bit more on the history, the Salem Witch trials especially. About halfway through the book, it becomes more of a fantasy than historical fiction. The magic that happens at the end was kind of a letdown. I would have preferred that things were solved using realistic means. I also found her attempt to phonetically spell the colonial accent to be distracting.

All in all, I enjoyed the story. It was fun to read and really quite clean with just some mild swear words and an occasion when they sleep together but she doesn't share the details of that. There is an incident where some colonial women were trying to prove that Deliverance Dane was a witch and they searched her body for a witch's "teat" that wouldn't be appropriate for children. Some people may also object to the witchcraft but I thought it was interesting. It was a very good first novel by Katherine Howe and I look forward to reading more of her books! I think that this would be a good book for book clubs. Discussion questions can be found here. Rated PG-13.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

When I read the description of this new bestseller, I didn't even bother trying to read it. It just sounds pornographic.
This is the description from the publisher:

MacKayla Lane lies naked on the cold stone floor of a church, at the mercy of the erotic Fae master she once swore to kill. Far from home, unable to control her sexual hungers, MacKayla is now fully under the Lord Master’s spell.…In New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning’s stunning new novel, the walls between human and Fae worlds have come crashing down. And as Mac fights for survival on Dublin’s battle-scarred streets, she will embark on the darkest—and most erotically charged—adventure of her life.He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister’s murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac’s every thought—and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust. As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V’lane vie for her body and soul, as cryptic entries from her sister’s diary mysteriously appear and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac’s greatest enemy delivers a final challenge.…It’s an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-to-face with a soul-shattering truth—about herself and her sister, about Jericho Barrons…and about the world she thought she knew.
Gross, huh! I know there are women who like these types of graphic romance novels but I think that they are just awful soft-porn. Anyone looking for a clean read should avoid these like the plague! Rated R.