Friday, October 31, 2008

174 - Virgin River; Robyn Carr

About Virgin River..........Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against the backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal-clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.

When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving: the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she's made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning. But a tiny baby, abandoned on a front porch, changes her plans…and a former marine cements them into place. Melinda Monroe may have come to Virgin River looking for escape, but instead she finds her home.

While, I almost never read a romance novel, I decided to give this book a chance as several of my book group buddies have raved about the Virgin River series. I was not disappointed. I immediately fell in love with the town of Virgin River. I could visualize the small town charm, the run down shack etc. I was immediately drawn into the story, the town, and the characters.

The author does a beautiful job developing the characters, just everyday people, with everyday problems. Although I never imagined I could be happy living in a town of 600 people, this author made me see how satisfying a simple life in a little town might be. I cannot wait to continue this series. DO NOT MISS THIS ONE!

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/31/08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

173 - When You are Engulfed in Flames; David Sedaris

Well, I guess I've been on a bit of a David Sedaris kick lately, as I just finished Holidays on Ice, and now When You are Engulfed In Flames. This time I listened to the audio book read by the author.

If you have never read or listened to Sedaris before, you are missing out big-time. His witty sarcasm, as he tells a variety of stories about his family, his neighbors, his attempts to quit smoking, flying on a plane and so many more were just quite funny. He is an amazing writer who is able to convey stories about life with humor. I do have to admit some of the stories in this compilation left me a bit flat. My favorite Sedaris audio collection is still: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

Okay I have had enough of David S's writing for a while, so I'm off to more serious stuff.

RATING - 3.5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/28/08

Sunday, October 26, 2008

172 - Holidays on Ice; David Sedaris

I have always enjoyed David Sedaris' humor, and although I generally listen to his audio books (read by him), this time I picked up the printed version, just under 200 pages. The Holidays on Ice title was originally released in 1997. This 2008 release contains some of the same stories and several new ones as well. Featured are:
  • Santa Land Diaries
  • Seasons Greetings to our Family and Friends
  • Front Row Center With Thaddeus Bristol
  • Based Upon a True Story
  • Christmas Means Giving
  • Dinah, the Christmas Whore
  • Jesus Shaves
  • Us and Them
  • Let it Snow
  • Six to Eight Black Men
  • The Monster Mash
  • The Cow and the Turkey
One of the funniest for me was: "Dinah, the Christmas Whore" an essay describing the dysfunctional world of David Sedaris. He tells how his sister Lisa brought her friend Dinah home four days before Christmas. He describes the humorous way in which his family reacts to her, and the questions they ask her about her interesting life in prison and about her experiences as a prostitute.

Sarcasm and cynicism fill this collection of short stories. You will be laughing your way through each story. If you are looking for something to cheer you up during the stressful holiday times, pick up this little book. It would make a fun gift for your family and friends who might need some cheering up this holiday season as well.

Although I really did enjoy this book, I am still a bigger fan of the audio books read by this author. In fact, I'm in the process of listening to his latest book: When You are Engulfed in Flames right now, and it's terrific.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/26/08

171- Grace; Richard Paul Evans

I have always seemed to enjoy Richard Evans' holiday books, and this years book, Grace, was no exception. It was just a wonderful story, beautifully narrated, a story that deals with family dysfunction, and mature subject matter.

The narrator recalls his first love in 1962 at the age of fourteen..........

"My memory, like my eyesight, has waned with age and I pray I can get the story right. Still, there are things that become clearer to me as I grow older. This much I know: too many things were kept secret in those days. Things that never should have been hidden. And things that should have.

Who was she? She was my first love. My first kiss. She was a little match girl who could see the future in the flame of a candle. She was a runaway who taught me more about life than anyone has before or since. And when she was gone my innocence left with her".

This is one book that you will want to start and finish in one sitting. Also, if certain books tend to bring a tear to your eyes, I recommend you have the tissues handy.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/25/08

Friday, October 24, 2008

170 - Sweetheart; Chelsea Cain

Chelsea Cain's earlier book Heartsick, introduced us to the pill popping, Portland cop Archie Sheridan, and serial killer Gretchen Lowell, who murdered over 200 people. Her latest book, Sweetheart, continues the characters created in the first book. This review is based on the audio version which has a great reader.

This story, #2 of what I suspect will be a trilogy, takes place two months after the last story ended. Archie Sheridan, is still a physical and mental mess. He finds his marriage and family life on the rocks, and he is back investigating what could be a new serial killer, with 3 bodies found in a local park.

In this book we learn how Gretchen and Archie’s relationship began. There are a few sub-plots within the serial killer story, however, the author does a good job of blending the stories.

Sweetheart is fast paced and has the same characters as the previous book and a few new ones. The author does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed in case they have not read the first book. This book can be read alone, but I would recommend reading Heartsick first. A word of should beware of the fact that there is a lot of graphic violence and profanity in both of these books.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/24/08

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

169 - Too Close To Home; Linwood Barclay

When I learned Linwood Barclay had a new book out I couldn't wait to read it, as his last book, No Time for Goodbye, was excellent. His latest book, Too Close To Home, gives the reader one roller coaster of a ride.

In this book we are introduced to the Cutter family, whose next door neighbors, the Langleys, are gunned down in their own home one hot August night. A night when the Cutter's son Derek happened to be hiding in the Langley's basement, waiting for the family to leave for the weekend. Derek was planning on using the vacant home to entertain his girlfriend. While he is waiting for his girlfriend Penny to arrive, the Langleys return unexpectedly as Mrs Langley is ill, and the trip gets canceled. Unable to get out of the house in time, Derek hides in a crawl space in the basement waiting for the family to go to bed so he can escape. Instead intruders arrive and shoot and kill Mr and Mrs Langley and their son Adam, a friend of Dereks, while he is still in the basement.

Why did something like this happen? The town of Promise Falls in upstate New York is a sleepy place. The Cutters try to console themselves by saying that this had to be a random act, but did the killers perhaps go to the wrong house? Little by little, it seems everyone has something to hide. Don't miss this book if you enjoy a good thriller.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/22/08

Sunday, October 19, 2008

168 - Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World; Vickie Myron with Bret Witter

As a cat lover and a library lover, I could not wait to read about Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. I was not disappointed. This book is a beautiful tribute to one lucky and special cat, who touched the lives of so many people.

Abandoned as a kitten in the Spencer Public Library's book return box one cold January night in 1988, Dewey was adopted by librarians and named by the town in a write in contest. Dewey was named after the Dewey Decimal System used by libraries to catalog books. He quickly became well known in Spencer, Iowa, a farm town of about 11,000 people. As the tale of his rescue spread soon journalists from all over the world began traveling to this small Iowa town to write about him.

In the book, Myron intertwines the story of her life, which included divorce from an alcoholic husband and single motherhood, with Dewey's tale, throwing in some of the politics and gossip of small-town Iowa as well.

As for Dewey, he lived happily ever after at the library, sleeping in the stacks (he liked Westerns), riding the book cart, frequenting the staff lunch room for laps of yogurt, leaping from fluorescent light fixtures and sitting on patron's laps. In 2006, a stomach tumor was discovered, and Dewey died on Nov. 29, 2006, at age 19.

For me, this book was as poignant as Marley and Me, a memoir about a lovable lab. Be sure to have a tissue handy at the end.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/19/2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

167 - Death Angel; Linda Howard

For me, Linda Howard has been a hit or miss author. Her latest romantic suspense novel Death Angel, really held my interest.

Drea Rousseau, young, beautiful and sexy is a kept woman by Rafael Salinas, a notorious crime lord. One day Salinas hires an" Assassin" who wants to have sex with Drea as payment for the job. Salinas agrees to this, and when Drea learns about this she is outraged. She takes the jewelry that Salinas gave her, accesses his bank account, and transfers two million dollars to her account before fleeing. Infuriated by this betrayal, Salinas hires the Assassin to kill Drea.

While being pursued Drea has a car accident, and is left for dead, but after being dead for an hour she returns to life. She becomes a changed woman in the process. To say any more would mean "spoilers". Although some of this book (after Drea comes back to life) is a bit corny, this book was still a fun read. Recommended for romantic suspense fans.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/17/08

166 - Exit Wounds; J.A. Jance

Exit Wounds, by J.A. Jance, is my second Joanna Brady mystery. This review is based on the audio version. The reader, Debra Monk, was a little annoying. Everything she said was pretty monotone, and as a result this book took me over a week to finish.

This story started off really well, and caught my interest immediately. Carol Mossman, a loner, is found shot to death in her mobile home. Carol's seventeen dogs, were trapped inside her mobile home, and all except a puppy are found dead from the Arizona heat.

What follows after this was several subplots: Joanna's unexpected pregnancy, every minute detail about her home life and her job, and another subplot about illegal immigrants. None of these subplots were needed, in my opinion, as I felt it just made the plot drag, until we find out what really happened to Carol Mossman.

This was my second Joanna Brady, Jance novel in the past month, and at least for now, I plan to pass on this author.

RATING - 2/5 - COMPLETED - 10/16/08

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

165 - Purple Hibiscus; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus, is a wonderful piece of literary fiction. It is a coming of age story, a story of domestic violence, and a look at freedom. The characters are well-developed.

Fifteen year old Kambili, lives a life of privilege in with her parents, and her brother Jaja in Nigeria. The father, Eugene is a wealthy businessman, a religious fanatic, and a strict disciplinarian. His family is the recipient of his cruel and unusual forms of punishment. The book opens on Palm Sunday, with the father, Eugene, throwing a prayer book across the room, trying to hit his son for his refusal to taken communion at mass earlier in the day. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Later in the story Kambili and Jaja spend some time away from home at their Aunty Ifeoma’s home. At this home there is laughter, love, few rules and much freedom. Later, the mother also spends some time there, and soon they begin to question the strict rules Eugene makes them adhere to. What follows changes their lives forever.

This book was an amazing debut novel. I had both the written version and the audio version (the reader was excellent). It was not necessary to have the written copy to enjoy this book however, I was curious about some of the names and phrases so the written form was helpful. I definitely plan to read more by this author.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/15/08

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

164 - The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment that Transformed Their Lives; Jarvis

The Necklace is an inspiring story about a $37,000 diamond necklace that became greater than the sum of its links. It is a story about thirteen ordinary women who understood the power of possibility, who touched the lives of a community, and who together created one extraordinary experience.

Why would a group of baby boomer generation women split the purchase price of an ostentatious diamond necklace? Why would these same women name the necklace, and set up a system for sharing it. What was their goal? For each woman, it was something different, but for each of them "the necklace" transformed a symbol of privilege into an experiment in humanity.

I really enjoyed this true story. I found myself reflecting on what Patti, the shopper, in this book had said: ------"When I was younger, if the object I wanted was a 'good deal', I'd buy two. The book got me thinking for the first time about the excess in my life. What I've concluded is there's nothing I need anymore. I have too much already. I don't wear what I have. Somethings I shouldn't have bought in the first place".

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/14/08

Monday, October 13, 2008

163 - At Home With Books: How Book Lovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries; Ellis, Seebohm, and Sykes

At Home With Books: How Book Lovers Live and Care for Their Libraries, is a book about books, and book lovers --forty of them. Featured in this book are the diverse libraries created for the passion they all share. This book includes interviews with these bibliophiles. A common trait reveals that the majority of book lovers had an early love of books, that grew as they got older.

This book features beautiful illustrations of many many personal libraries (some far too rich for my taste), but simply spectacular. There is also a lot of practical information on how to arrange and store books, integrate new books into your collection, how to thin out collections, and how to create a comfortable place to read with the right shelving, lighting and furniture.

I really enjoyed flipping the pages, studying the photos, and reading about others with serious book addictions. It gave me some great ideas and made me feel better about my book obsession as well.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/13/08

Sunday, October 12, 2008

162 - Do Dead People Watch You Shower?: And Other Questions You've Been All But Dying to Ask a Medium; Concetta Bertoldi

Do Dead People Watch You Shower? and the answer is: Yes they do! I feel like I've been on a bit of a spiritual ride lately, having also finished The Ghosts Among Us; Van Praagh a few days ago. I enjoyed both of these books, but this one was much more fun to read.

The author, Concetta Bertoldi, has seen and talked to dead people since she was child. She lives in New Jersey and has a private practice which has a 2-year wait for a reading. Some of her clients include Britain's Royal family, actors, politicians etc.

I loved this book; it was so interesting, yet fun. The book was in Question and Answer format, and she covered an amazing amount of questions about life on the other side, and the kinds of topics that come through from the dead when she does readings. I found this book comforting and, the author has a great way of injecting humor where you'd least expect it. At least 2/3 of the book consisted of questions that I, myself have always wondered about. She answered those questions and touched on other topics as well. I do not believe 100% of what I read in this book, and as I read Q/A's to my husband, skeptic that he is, he disputed all of it, so I stopped reading to him, as he was spoiling my fun time. LOL

If you enjoy books about life after death; DO NOT MISS this one. I thought it was great, but of course, I'm sure, like me, you will take some of what you read in this book with a grain of salt.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/12/08

Saturday, October 11, 2008

161 - The Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers From the Past; C.S. Lambert

The Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers From the Past, caught my eye while searching Amazon's books for something a bit different. An avid beach lover, I enjoy walking the beaches nearby, as well as other beaches while vacationing within the US and/or other countries. I've always had a passion for unusual treasures from the calming sea.

This book is so so beautiful, and was written by an artisan. The illustrations are gorgeous and so very captivating. All photos were captured by a professional photographer. The true stories about the origins of some of the unusual pieces featured, made for great reading. This is not a reference book that will tell you where to find the best sea glass, so if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

If you are looking for a beautiful coffee table book with gorgeous photos and a history to tell as well, this one will not disappoint. This book would make a great gift for most beach lovers or sea glass collectors.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/11/08

Friday, October 10, 2008

160 - Ghosts Among Us; James Van Praagh

I have never watched the author's show "The Ghost Whisper", but I recall enjoying his earlier book: "Talking To Heaven", when it came out in 1997.
I waited several months to get this book from the library, as the holds list was rather lengthy, but finally it got to read it.

There were parts of this book that I really really loved, and parts that I was uninterested in, such as when the author talks about other galaxies etc. Parts of this book were very comforting. What I found so interesting was the descriptions of the types of ghosts, spirits and angels that walk among us and how to recognize and protect ourselves from those ghosts who do not have our best interests in mind. He spends time teaching us the practice of meditation and offers several meditations we can use to protect us and keep us safe.

There was a section when Van Praagh talks about how spirits try to let us know they are close by, and things to look for. I have had a few experiences when I felt that my parents, who died over 20 years ago were right in the house with me. One incident was on All Souls Day, a portrait of my parents that had hung on the wall for several years, just fell off the wall for no reason ( I was in another room, and no one else was around or home at the time). Other incidents of the television going on and off for no reason. These incidents did not scare me, but made me feel comforted.

In summary, this book was enjoyable, however, there was nothing scientific to substantiate some of what the author stated. I want to believe some of what he says is true, but only time will tell.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/9/08

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

159 - Goldengrove; Francine Prose

I love coming of age stories, so when I heard about Goldengrove, I could not wait to read it. Francine Prose is also an author who is new to me, and I am always anxious to try new authors.

begins at a lake with two sisters, Nico and Margaret out in a row boat. The first few pages give the reader some foreshadowing with what is about to happen. The older sister Margaret who is in high school, dives into the lake and drowns. Nico, age 13 is left to narrates Goldengrove, this coming of age story, by sharing with the reader the events that transpired one tragic summer. As Nico's parents begin to grow apart after the tragedy, Nico is sad, confused, and soon she is sought out by her dead sister's boyfriend, Aaron, who is also mourning the loss of Margaret.

While the writing is just beautiful in this book, and I enjoyed the story a lot, I have a few complaints. The tragedy happens right away, but the story took a while to get going. Because the writing was so beautiful, this was only a minor complaint. The bigger issue for me was that the narrator, 13-y/old Nico, never sounded like a 13-y/old. This was unfortunate! For example, on page 42, Nico says: " every empty second was an invitation to gaze into the abyss and think how sweet it would be to jump". ---This was just one of many age-inappropriate examples.

Despite this, I am happy that I read this book, and I hope to read more books by this author.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/7/08

Monday, October 6, 2008

158 - Hot Mahogany; Stuart Woods

I have been a Stuart Woods fan for years, especially the Stone Barrington series. In his most recent release: HOT MAHOGANY (as in HOT reproductions of antiques), this book drifts from NYC to the New England countryside. This book has a little bit of everything: old familiar characters, a few new ones, add a touch of amnesia and some undercover work looking for valuable reproductions and there you have it...HOT MAHOGANY. Honestly, this book left me flat.

I long for the good old Stone Barrington of days gone by.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 10/6/08

Sunday, October 5, 2008

157 - Fractured; Karin Slaughter

This is a first Karin Slaughter book for me, and only after I finished it did I realize that this was book #2 in a series (Triptych being the 1st). Honestly, I do not think it matters much whether you've read the first book. This one, alone, was enjoyable. The audio book reader was good.

The story starts out in an upper class neighborhood, a girl has been savagely murdered. In the hallway, her horrified mother stands in shattered glass, having just killed her daughter's attacker. But all is not as it appears on the surface. The body count mounting and the local community is in terror, as the killer is proving almost impossible to track down.

This book kept my interest and had some unexpected twists along the way. I plan to read more books by Slaughter in the future.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/4/08

Friday, October 3, 2008

156 - Perfect Family; Pam Lewis

I enjoyed Pam Lewis' first book, Speak Softly, She Can Hear You, so I was excited to see she had a new book recently released.

In this novel, Perfect Family , 24- year old Pony telephones her oldest brother William, to the family lake house in Vermont. The two siblings have a disagreement and William leaves. Later Pony is found dead, drowned in the lake, with her infant left nearby. Pony's father assumes it was an accident, but William is not so sure, and he sets out to find out what really happened.

The author did a good job of drawing the reader into the story. There were plenty of twists and turns to keep your interest. I did figure out how the story would end, but despite that, I'm still glad I read the book.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 10/3/08

Thursday, October 2, 2008

155 - The Numerati; Stephen Baker

Be afraid, be very afraid. In this informative book we are introduced to a new breed of mathematicians, "the numerati", who are responsible for gathering loads of private information individuals provide when they use a credit card, donate to a cause, surf the Internet, or even make a phone call. The book's chapters include:  
  1. Intro
  2. The Worker
  3. The Shopper
  4. The Voter
  5. The Blogger
  6. The Terrorist
  7. The Patient
  8. The Lover
  9. Conclusion
This book is so so interesting. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Shoppers and Bloggers. One firm in New York analyzes data from web searches, and gathers some 20 billion behavioral clues on internet users each day. I also learned about an interesting Blog search engine, how political consultants target particular voters, and so much more. This non fiction book is highly recommended. RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 10/1/08

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My October Stack

It's hard to believe October is here already. This month's stack should be interesting. I've been looking forward to reading all of the books pictured, (and a few others). Many are for my challenges, so hopefully, this month will accomplish two goals, (pleasure and purpose)......always a bonus. I know I will not finish all of these, but I can dream :)
  1. Ghosts Among Us; Van Praagh - (R.I.P. III) - 4/5
  2. Fractured; Slaughter - (R.I.P. III Challenge) and (Fall Into Reading Challenge) - 4/5
  3. Every Dead Thing; Connolly (R.I.P. III Challenge)
  4. Exit Wounds; JA Jance
  5. (not shown) Grace; Evans
  6. Perfect Family; Lewis - (Unknown Authors Challenge) - 4/5
  7. Goldengrove; Prose - (Fall Into Reading Challenge) - 4/5
  8. Death Angel - (Fall Into Reading Challenge)
  9. The Necklace; Jarvis - (Fall Into Reading Challenge) - 4/5
  10. House and Home; McCleary
  11. The Bible Salesman; Edgerton - (Fall Into Reading Challenge)
  12. Dewy: The Library Cat Who Touched the World; Myron (What An Animal Challenge)
  13. The Association; Little (R.I.P. III Challenge)
  14. (not shown) - Do Dead People Watch You Shower?; Bertoldi - 5/5
  15. (not shown)-The Numerati; Baker - (Fall Into Reading Challenge) - 5/5
  16. Black Swan Green; Mitchell (What an Animal Challenge)
  17. (not shown) - Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (What An Animal Challenge)
  18. Fleece Navidad; Sefton - (Fall Into Reading Challenge)
  19. The Seamstress; Peebles
  20. A Country Called Home; Barnes
  21. In Hovering Flight; Hinnenfeld
  22. Death With Interruptions; Saramago
  23. Virgin River; Carr (A-Z Challenge) and (Unknown Authors Challenge)
  24. (not shown) - Hot Mahogany; Stuart Woods - 3/5
  25. (not shown) - Purple Hibiscus; Adichie