Monday, December 31, 2007

2nds Challenge


New month, new challenge! For this challenge, hosted by Joy, the goal is to read a second book by a new-found author. Between October and December 2007, I will read the following books:

Darkspell by Katharine Kerr

First sentence:

"Back in the eleventh century, when the far-flung kingdom of Deverry lay sparse and tentative across the lands men claimed in the king's name, Eldidd province was one of the most sparsely settled areas of all."

Description:

"On the long roads of Deverry ride two mercenaries whose fates like hidden deep in that of their own land. But Lord Rhodry, exiled from the dragon court of Aberwyn, has yet to discover his true parentage, and his swordmaster-lover, Jill, has barely glimpsed her awesome powers. Meanwhile, the ancient sorcerer Nevyn, held back by his vows from boldly intervening in their lives, can only watch and wait as Rhodry and Jill move ever closer to danger. For as the two struggle to recover the Great Stone, the mystic jewel that guides the conscience of the kingship of Deverry, malevolent dark masters are weaving terrifying spells against them--and displacing messengers of death.

Katharine Kerr has extensively rewritten Darkspell, incorporating major changes in the text, making this her definitive edition. Here the epic saga that began with the Daggerspell continues--a tale of might and magic, lust and glory, dark danger and poignant desires that echo from Deverry's sapphire waters to its secret mountain caverns. It's a spellbinding story destined to please fantasy lovers everywhere."

My thoughts:

This was a good fantasy with magic, battles and an old herbman named Nevyn who watches as the souls of those he loved are reincarnated again and again. I liked both storylines - one featuring Gweniver, Dannyn and Ricyn and the other, Jill, Rhodry and Cullyn. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Bristling Wood.

Date read: 12/31/2007
Book #: 116
Challenge: 2nds Challenge
Series: Deverry, #2
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0553568884
ISBN-13: 9780553568882
Publisher: Spectra
Year: 1994
# of Pages: 406
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Design for Murder by Carolyn G. Hart

First sentence:

"The typist nodded."

Description:

"When mystery bookstore owner Annie Laurance is invited to stage a Mystery Night for the annual antebellum house tour of the Historical Preservation Society of Chastain, South Carolina, she instead finds herself the leading lady in a flesh-and-blood drama. The play's the thing wherein the curtain falls on mean-spirited grande dame Corinne Webster. While jeweled fingers point, accusing Annie of murder, the perpetrator lurks within the genteel cast of Murder-Most-Make-Believe...and the murder weapon is one of the props.

In the tight-laced society of Chastain, Annie is guilty until proven innocent. With her fiance, Max Darling, Annie pieces together evidence to clear her name- until her chief witness is murdered. Now it will take all her sleuthing skills to discover the evil in the heart of Chastain's Beautiful People."

My thoughts:

This was a good mystery featuring bookstore owner Annie Laurence and her fiance Max Darling. There were lots of suspects and clues which Annie and Max had to sift through to find the killer. I liked the references to other mystery authors and stories sprinkled throughout the book.

Date read: 12/31/2007
Book #: 115
Challenge: 2nds Challenge
Series: Death on Demand, #2
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0553265628
ISBN-13: 9780553265620
Publisher: Crimeline
Year: 1988
# of Pages: 311
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, December 30, 2007

TBR Challenge - 2007

I just joined MizB's TBR Challenge for 2007. The rules are to pick 12 books which have been collecting dust on the shelf for at least six months and read them during the year.



Here are my 12 books (in no particular order):

  1. Jim Crace. Arcadia -- finished 1/10/2007
  2. Ed McBain. The Mugger -- finished 2/7/2007
  3. Jane Smiley. A Thousand Acres -- finished 3/21/2007
  4. Ken Follett. Jackdaws -- finished 4/14/2007
  5. Jack Dann, ed. Future War -- finished 5/21/2007 [substitute for The Other]
  6. Robert Silverberg. Sorcerers of Majipoor -- finished 6/21/2007
  7. Derek Lundy. Godforsaken Sea: Racing the World's Most Dangerous Waters -- finished 7/4/2007
  8. Dean Koontz. Sole Survivor -- finished 8/12/2007
  9. Lisa Gardner. The Next Accident -- finished 8/29/2007
  10. Louis L'Amour. The Haunted Mesa -- finished 11/13/2007
  11. Roger Zelazny. The Courts of Chaos -- finished 12/26/2007 [substitute for Knight of the Black Rose]
  12. Ken Follett. The Man from St. Petersburg -- finished 12/29/2007

The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett

First sentence:

"It was a slow Sunday afternoon, the kind Walden loved."

Description:

"His name was Feliks. He came to London to commit a murder that would change history. A master manipulator, he had many weapons at his command, but against him were ranged the whole of the English police, a brilliant and powerful lord, and the young Winston Churchill himself. These odds would have stopped any man in the world-except the man from St. Petersburg..."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of historical fiction and thriller set in the months leading up to World War I. Though the characters at times seemed two-dimensional, the relationships and events made them come alive now and again.

Date read: 12/29/2007
Book #: 114
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0451163516
ISBN-13: 9780451163516
Publisher: Signet
Year: 1983
# of Pages: 342
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

First sentence:

"Amber: high and bright atop Kolvir in the middle of the day."

Description:

"A universe of many universes united by magical threads, Amber faces final destruction from the world beyond the Shadow world.

The cosmic Pattern that sustains the world of Amber lies in shreds' reality itself is on the verge of disintegration; and Corwin, heroic madman, uncrowned prince of the perfect realm, must face shapeshifting assassins, an alluring woman, and the multi-dimensional terrors of Shadow in his pulse-racing quest to save the kingdom.

Here at last is the crowning finale to the incredible Amber saga, an action-charged adventure that plunges from realm to realm to unlock the mysteries of a breathtakingly imagined world."

My thoughts:

Although it's been a while since I read the Chronicles of Amber, I enjoyed Corwin's adventure as he discovered courage within himself to create a new pattern and to help his family fend off the forces of Chaos.

Date read: 12/26/2007
Book #: 113
Series: Chronicles of Amber, #5
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0380471752
ISBN-13: 9780380471751
Publisher: Avon
Year: 1979
# of Pages: 142
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blame it on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History by Laura Lee

First sentence:

"For years Russia has been home to a secret weapon, more powerful than the nuclear warheads that made it a world superpower."

Description:

"An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world.

Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping cultural change. She also delights us with a plethora of fascinating weather-related facts (Did you know that more Britons die of sunburn every year than Australians?), while offering readers a hilarious overview of humankind's many absurd attempts to control the elements.

  • If a weather-produced blight hadn't severely damaged French vineyards, there might never have been a California wine industry. . . .

  • What weather phenomenon was responsible for the sound of the Stradivarius?

  • If there had been a late autumn in Russia, Hitler could have won World War II. . . .

  • Did weather play a part in Truman's victory over Dewey?

Eye-opening, edifying, and totally unexpected, Blame It on the Rain is a fascinating appreciation of the destiny-altering vagaries of mother nature—and it's even more fun than watching the Weather Channel!"

My thoughts:

This was an interesting book of historic weather events around the world. The parts that will stay with me include the chapters about various invasions of Russia, the desert battle of Hattin during the Crusades, and how an El Nino contributed to Robert Falcon Scott's demise in Antarctica.

Date read: 12/24/2007
Book #: 112
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Nonfiction - Science/History

ISBN-10: 0060839821
ISBN-13: 9780060839826
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 297
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, December 24, 2007

Psycho Shop by Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny

First sentence:

"I was looking around desperately when my boss, Jerry Egan, poked his head into my office and in his soft Virginia voice asked, 'May I come in, Alf?'"


Description:

"The Black Place of the Soul-Changer was doing business in Rome six centuries before Christ. It will probably be there on the last day of the cosmos. You might call it a pawnshop, but its sign has three gold infinity symbols instead of the usual balls, and its Latin motto, Res Ullus, translates as "anything." This is the Psychoshop, where you can dump any unwanted aspect of your spirit as long as you exchange it for something else — arcane knowledge, a change of luck, or a sixth sense. Just remember: All sales are final.

In this genuinely mind-boggling novel, two of the most unfettered talents in speculative fiction envision a commercial establishment that attracts customers from Edgar Allan Poe to a sorcerer intent on fabricating the Beast of Revelations. Brimming with wit and imaginative bravado, scandalously sexy, and fabulously strange, Psychoshop is the first-ever collaboration between two winners of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grandmaster Award."

My thoughts:

Quirky and a bit funny at times, this book reminded me of Twilight Zone episodes "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium" and "The Mind of Simon Foster." I liked the interactions between Glory, Alf, Adam and the patrons - especially the one whose vocal inflections inspired Beethoven to compose his fifth symphony.

Date read: 12/23/2007
Book #: 111
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0679767827
ISBN-13: 9780679767824
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 1998
# of Pages: 207
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley

First sentence:

"A cold wind was whipping the torches into fiery tails."

Description:

"She was Eilan, the daughter of a Druidic warleader and gifted with visions. In a land struggling to survive both Roman conquerors and her own people's enemies, surely fate had marked her to become a priestess of the Forest House. But first Eilan had chosen a different, forbidden path - to love Gaius, a soldier of mixed blood among the legions sent to subdue her country. And so, she must hide a terrible secret when she is anointed as the new High Priestess. With mighty enemies poised to usurp the wealth of magic the Forest House sheltered, Eilan could only trust in the power of the great Goddess to find her destiny amidst the treacherous labyrinth in which fate had placed her."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of historical fiction and fantasy. I liked learning about the effects of Roman occupation in the British Isles and how local leaders either fought or tried to maintain some tentative peace. Gaius and Eilan's forbidden romance made a good backdrop to the Roman/Briton tensions at the time. I look forward to reading the first book in the series, The Mists of Avalon.

Date read: 12/20/2007
Book #: 110
Series: Avalon, #2
Challenge: 2nds Challenge
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Historical Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0451454243
ISBN-13: 9780451454249
Publisher: Roc Trade
Year: 1995
# of Pages: 417
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Unread Authors Challenge

I decided to participate in the Unread Authors Challenge which runs from September 2007 to February 2008. The challenge is to read six (or more!) books by authors I haven't read before.

Here's my list:

Fall Into Reading Challenge

Time for another seasonal challenge! Fall into Reading Challenge, created by Callapidder Days, runs from September 23rd to December 21st. The goal? Read or finish any number of books that you choose. So...here's my list (in no particular order):

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

First sentence:

"Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth."

Description:

"Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none -- not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.

Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger.

While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger -- and more consuming -- by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon -- and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes..."

My thoughts:

I have to admit I was nervous about approaching this book again. I had started reading it years ago, but didn't get far. This time, I kept going, and I'm glad I did. Perdido Street Station is a intensely descriptive book filled with so much detail about New Crobuzon and its inhabitants. Woven throughout is the story of Isaac and his quest to help Yagharek fly and what that quest ultimately leads to. It'll be a while before the images of this book leave me and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Scar.

Date read: 12/20/2007
Book #: 109
Challenges: Unread Authors Challenge; Fall into Reading Challenge; Book Awards Challenge
Series: New Crobuzon, #1
Awards: Arthur C. Clark Award (2001); British Fantasy Society (2001)
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0345459407
ISBN-13: 9780345459404
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 623
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

First sentence:

"Never fails."

Description:

"Following the tremendous success of Cross Bones, Kathy Reichs explores another high-profile topic in Break No Bones -- a case that lands forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan in the middle of a gruesome international scheme.

Summoned to South Carolina to fill in for a negligent colleague, Tempe is stuck teaching a lackluster archaeology field school in the ruins of a Native American burial ground on the Charleston shore. But when Tempe stumbles upon a fresh skeleton among the ancient bones, her old friend Emma Rousseau, the local coroner, persuades her to stay on and help with the investigation. When Emma reveals a disturbing secret, it becomes more important than ever for Tempe to help her friend close the case.

The body count begins to climb. An unidentified man is found hanging from a tree deep in the woods. Another corpse shows up in a barrel. There are mysterious nicks on bones in several bodies, and signs of strangulation. Tempe follows the trail to a free street clinic with a belligerent staff, a suspicious doctor, and a donor who is a charismatic televangelist. Clues abound in the most unlikely places as Tempe uses her unique knowledge and skills to build her case, even as the local sheriff remains dubious and her own life is threatened.

Tempe's love life is also complicated. Ryan, her current flame, has come down to visit her from Montreal, and Pete, her former husband, is investigating the disappearance of a local woman -- and he and Tempe are staying in the same borrowed beach house. Ryan and Pete compete for her attentions, and Tempe finds herself more distracted by her feelings for both men than she expected."

My thoughts:

This was a good forensic mystery set in Charleston, South Carolina. I liked how Tempe eventually solved the murders by following the smallest detail no matter where it led.

Date read: 12/15/2007
Book #: 108
Series: Tempe Brennan, #9
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0743453034
ISBN-13: 9780743453035
Publisher: Pocket
Year: 2007
# of Pages: 439
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book to Movie Challenge

For this challenge, hosted by SMS Book Reviews, I will read four books that were made into movies:

Update - December 10, 2007:

Well, while I read all the books, I didn't finish the challenge in time. I enjoyed doing the challenge, and will someday watch the movies that are based on these books.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

First sentence:

"The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born--we weren't even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg."

Description:

"'The first of my father's illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.'

So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they "dream on" in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Son of the Circus and A Prayer for Owen Meany."

My thoughts:

Like other Irving books I've read, this one was both funny and sad as well as quirky at times. The story kept me engaged as I wanted to find out what happens next to Franny, John, Frank, Lilly, Egg, etc.

Date read: 12/2/2007
Book #: 107
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 034540047X
ISBN-13: 9780345400475
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 1995
# of Pages: 419
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

First sentence:

"Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripty--Good."

Description:

"'We need a place,' she said, 'just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.' She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. 'It might be a whole secret country, and you and I would be the rulers of it.'

It was Leslie's idea to create Terabithia, their secret kingdom in the woods where she and Jess reigned as queen and king. There no enemy -- not their teacher, 'Monster Mouth' Meyers, their bullying schoolmates, Jess's four sisters, or even Jess's own fears and Leslie's imaginary foes -- could defeat them. Jess's friendship with Leslie and the worlds of imagination and learning that she opens up to him change him forever and enable him to cope with the unexpected tragedy that touches them all."

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written book on friendship, imagination, and courage as both Jess and Leslie learn to take risks. I felt I got to know the characters well in a short amount of time.

Date read: 12/2/2007
Book #: 106
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Children's Literature

ISBN-10: 0590132008
ISBN-13: 978-0590132008
Publisher: Scholastic
Year: 1995
# of Pages: 128
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein

First sentence:

"Were they truly intelligent?"

Description:

"Earth was being invaded by aliens and the top security agencies were helpless: the aliens were controlling the mind of every person they encountered. So it was up to Sam Cavanaugh, secret agent for a powerful and deadly spy network, to find a way to stop them--which meant he had to be invaded himself!"

My thoughts:

This was a good story featuring alien invasion mixed with espionage. I liked the characters Sam, Mary and the Old Man.

Date read: 12/1/2007
Book #: 105
Chalenges: Book to Movie Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0345330145
ISBN-13: 9780345330147
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 1986
# of Pages: 347
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Children of the Company by Kage Baker


First sentence:

"The man has an air of authority."

Description:


"Take a ride through time with the devil. In the sixth book of the Company series, we meet Executive Facilitator General Labienus. Hes used his immortal centuries to plot a complete takeover of the world since he was a young god-figure in Sumeria. In a meditative mood, he reviews his interesting career. He muses on his subversion of the Company black project ADONAI. He considers also Aegeus, his despised rival for power, who has discovered and captured a useful race of mortals known as Homo sapiens umbratilis. Their unique talents may enable him to seize ultimate power. Labienus plans a double cross that will kill two birds with one stone: he will woo away Aegeus promising protege, the Facilitator Victor, and at the same time dispose of a ghost from his own past who has become inconvenient."

My thoughts:

While a bit long a times, this was a fascinating look at the Company through the eyes of Labineus and Victor. I especially liked the sections featuring Victor in San Francisco just before the 1906 earthquake and the one featuring Kalugin in the sunken ship telling his story to a worm.

Date read: 11/24/2007
Book #: 104
Rating: 3* = good
Series: The Company, #6
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 076531455X
ISBN-13: 9780765314550
Publisher: Tor Books
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 304
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

First sentence:

"My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly."

Description:

"WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming."

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written book - both disturbing and poignant. The character Camille certainly made me think as she discovers the truth about herself and her family.

Date read: 11/22/2007
Book #: 103
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0307341542
ISBN-13: 9780307341549
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 252
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

First sentence:

"Charlie Asher walked the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface to be sucked to the depths below."

Description:

"Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He's what's known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant -- you know, the one who's always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.

But Charlie's been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Francisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He's married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.

Yes, Charlie's doing okay for a Beta. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie -- exhausted from the birth -- turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel's hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird. . . .

People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary one: Death. It's a dirty job. But hey, somebody's gotta do it."

My thoughts:

This was a funny and poignant novel about finding life in death. I liked the characters Charlie Asher, Sophie, Minty Fresh, and the Emperor of San Francisco. I especially liked how Charlie finds courage to face his fears as he both confronts the "sewer harpies" and learns how to be a good father to Sophie.

Date read: 11/19/2007
Book #: 102
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0060590270
ISBN-13: 978-0060590277
Publisher: William Morrow
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Shakespeare's Counselor by Charlaine Harris

First sentence:

"I connected with a hard blow to the nose, rolled on top of him, gripped his neck, and started to squeeze."

Description:

"Welcome back to the sleepy little town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, where secrets "come to hide.

Lily Bard has joined a group therapy session, determined finally to face her past. It sounds positively enlightening, until the murder of a fellow member sends a warning. But who was the message meant for? Why? And who's next to fall victim to a killer's head games?"

My thoughts:

This was another good mystery featuring housecleaner/karate expert Lily Bard. I liked how she and Jack worked together as private investigators to figure out the mystery stalker/murderer.

Date read: 11/17/2007
Book #: 101
Series: Lily Bard, #5
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0425201147
ISBN-13: 978-0425201145
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 243
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

First sentence:

"Amy called the whale punkin."

Description:

"Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me.

Trouble is, Nate's beginning to wonder if he hasn't spent just a little too much time in the sun. `Cause no one else on his team saw a thing—not his longtime partner, Clay Demodocus; not their saucy young research assistant; not even the spliff-puffing white-boy Rastaman Kona (né Preston Applebaum). But later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot—and his research facility is trashed—Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on."

My thoughts:

This was a very funny and sometimes poignant book about whales, friendship, loyalty and discovering wonder in unexpected places. I liked the characters Nate, Amy, Kona, Clay and the Old Broad.

Date read: 11/15/2007
Book #: 100
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 006056668X
ISBN-13: 9780060566685
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 311
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shakespeare's Trollop by Charlaine Harris

First sentence:

"By the time I opened my eyes and yawned that morning, she had been sitting in the car in the woods for seven hours."

Description:

"Shakespeare, Arkansas, is home to endless back roads, historic buildings, colorful residents--and the occasional murder. It is also home to Lily Bard, the local karate expert/cleaning woman with a particular knack for finding skeletons in closets.

But when the local woman of ill repute is found murdered, being familiar with her dirty laundry could make Lily the next Shakespearean to die."

My thoughts:

This was a good mystery. I liked Lily's observations about various townspeople and how she comes to terms with her preconceived notions about the victim. There was also a nice twist at the end as not everything is as it seems.

Date read: 11/13/2007
Book #: 99
Series: Lily Bard, #4
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0425196992
ISBN-13: 9780425196991
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 194
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, November 16, 2007

Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge




That's right - another challenge! This one is hosted by "A Life in Books" and it's called The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge. It runs from July - December 2007, and the goal is to read six books in which location is a central part of the book.




Here are my books:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour

First sentence:

"It was night, and he was alone upon the desert."

Description:

"The Navajo called them the Anasazi: an enigmatic race of southwestern cliff dwellers. For centuries, the sudden disappearance of this proud and noble people has baffled historians. Summoned to a dark desert plateau by a desperate letter form an old friend, renowned investigator Mike Raglan is drawn into a world of mystery, violence, and explosive revaltion. Crossing the border beyond the laws of man and nature, he will learn the astonishing legacy of the Anasazi -- but not without a price. Set in the contemporary Southwest, The Haunted Mesa draws on Louis L'Amour's extensive knowledge of Indian lore and mysticism. In this extraordinary book L'Amour tells a tale of epic adventure that takes his readers across the most extraordinary frontier they have ever encountered."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of western and science fiction as it looked at southwest Native American culture and offered a parallel world explanation on the disappearance of the Anasazi people. I liked the characters and the story, but I sometimes found the plot repetitive, especially Mike's indecision about what he should do. I also would have liked more storyline set in the other world.

Date read: 11/13/2007
Book #: 98
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Western/SF

ISBN-10: 0553051822
ISBN-13: 978-0553051827
Publisher: Bantam
Year: 1987
# of Pages: 357
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

First sentence:

"The sun poked out briefly, evidence of a universe above them, of infinite knowledge--and just as suddenly it retreated behind the clouds."

Description:

"Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced–the 1918 flu epidemic–Thomas Mullen’s powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.

Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’s founder, it is a haven in another sense–as the first place in his life he’s had a loving family to call his own.

And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities.

When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired–and apparently ill–soldier presents himself at the town’s doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value–love, patriotism, community, family, friendship–not to mention the town’s very survival, is imperiled.

Inspired by a little-known historical footnote regarding towns that quarantined themselves during the 1918 epidemic, The Last Town on Earth is a remarkably moving and accomplished debut."

My thoughts:

It's days later, and I'm still thinking about this book. Choices people make, even with the best intentions, don't always work in the long run. This book is a compelling look at how an epidemic during wartime affects a small town in early 20th century America in ways both large and small.

Date read: 11/8/2007
Book #: 97
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN-10: 1400065208
ISBN-13: 9781400065202
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 387
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

First sentence:

"A dark-skinned human with four arms walks toward me across the floor of the club, clad only in a belt strung with human skulls."

Description:

"When Robin wakes up in a clinic with most of his memories missing, it doesn't take him long to discover that someone's trying to kill him. It's the twenty-seventh century, when interstellar travel is by teleport gate and conflicts are fought by network worms that censor refugees' personalities-including Robin's earlier self.

On the run from unknown enemies, he volunteers to participate in a unique experimental polity, the Glasshouse, constructed to simulate a preaccelerated culture. Participants are assigned anonymized identities: it looks like the ideal hiding place for a posthuman on the run. But in this escape-proof environment, Robin will undergo an even more radical change, placing him at the mercy of the experimenters-and at the mercy of his own unbalanced psyche."

My thoughts:

While this book was sometimes difficult to read, it was a fascinating look at identity and society - what makes you "you" - if one's in a different body, is one a different person? Robin/Reeve and friends discover the truth about the "Glasshouse" in very interesting ways.

Date read: 11/6/2007
Book #: 96
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0441014038
ISBN-13: 9780441014033
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 335
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Riptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

First sentence:

"On an afternoon in June 1790, a Maine cod fisherman named Simon Rutter became caught in a storm and a strong riptide."

Description:

"For generations, treasure hunters have tried to unlock the deadly puzzle known as the Water Pit: a labyrinth of shafts and tunnels that honeycombs the heart of a small island off the coast of Maine. Reputed to be the hiding place of pirate treasure, the Water Pit possesses an inexplicable ability to kill those who venture into it, from professionals to innocent explorers. But now one man has made a startling discovery: The Water Pit is actually a carefully designed fortress, conceived for pirates by a renowned seventeenth-century architect who hid his plans in code. Unlocking the code will break the curse of the Water Pit. Or will it? The most comprehensive, high-tech expedition ever assembled has come to Maine and to Dr. Malin Hatch, owner of the island. While the treasure hunters have their reasons for mounting this assault--$2 billion in gold--Hatch has his own motives to join them. For Hatch, whose brother died on Ragged Island thirty years before, the only escape from the curse is through the black swirling waters and bloodstained chambers of the Pit. With more computing power than a small university, the recovery team slowly chips away at the mystery. But as the seekers try to conquer the Pit, men begin to die. Hatch is confronted with his childhood memories of the tragedy even as he is drawn into a complex relationship with a beautiful French diver. All the while, the last, secret chamber of the Pit waits to unleash the most lethal mystery of all. . . ."

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this thriller set off the coast of Maine. It had pirate lore, secret codes, booby traps - and a sense of impending doom as both the weather and the dangers of the pit's contents become more dangerous by the day.

Date read: 10/28/2007
Book #: 95
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0446607177
ISBN-13: 9780446607179
Publisher: Warner Books
Year: 1999
# of Pages: 496
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

First sentence:

"I present to you, Your Honor and Gentlemen of the Jury, the truth about this man's death and my life."

Description:

"Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.

As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin–in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.

In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe’s."

My thoughts:

This book had a good attention to detail as I learned a lot about Baltimore and Paris in the late 1840s-1850s. I did find that the plot sometimes dragged a bit as Quentin's personal fate overshadowed the mystery of Poe's death, but it was nicely wrapped up at the end. I also liked Pearl's notes at the end as he explains how he used actual newspaper quotes and letters throughout the narrative.

Date read: 10/24/2007
Book #: 94
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

ISBN-10: 1400061032
ISBN-13: 9781400061037
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dragonne's Eg by Mary Brown

First sentence:

"'Please, Miss! Ern's 'avin' a fit again...'"

Description:

"Life was hard for Sophie: tragically orphaned not so long ago, she eked out a living as a teacher in a poor-house school in a Dickensian London slum. Then her life was turned upside down when she was informed that a previously unsuspected uncle, now deceased, had left her a handsome legacy - which she could redeem only after fulfilling a Last Request: to return a dragon's egg to its rightful place in the uncharted wastes of Central Asia.

And so she begins her reverse quest, accompanied by a unicorn figurine that turns into a living, speaking know-it-all when no one is looking, a telepathic cat who wants nothing so much as three willing kisses from her sweet lips (so that he can, he says - but who would believe a tomcat on such a matter? - turn back into a prince), a feckless law clerk who doesn't want to be there, and an itinerant Irish would-be adventurer who should be anywhere else. On her journey, Sophie will learn that all of them, even the unicorn, will need more help then they can give - and that healing theme of their life's sorrows is as much part of the deal as dealing with that damned egg.

In the course of her journey, she will be betrayed by a treacherous guide, captured by fierce Mongols, caught in an avalanche, and lost in an underground maze, all while the clock keeps ticking toward a deadline, after which the egg will die, her heritage be lost, and the arduous journey, incredible hardships, and terrible danger will have been for nothing..."

My thoughts:

This was a good mix of historical fiction and fantasy set in the late 19th century. I liked the characters Sophie, Toby and Ky-Lin. The only downside was that I sometimes got annoyed at Sophie when she seemed to forget about the magic she learned and would think that she was dreaming. Now, to find the first three books of the Pigs Don't Fly series: The Unlikely Ones, Pigs Don't Fly and Master of Many Treasures.

Date read: 10/24/2007
Book #: 93
Series: Pigs Don't Fly #4
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0671578103
ISBN-13: 9780671578107
Publisher: Baen
Year: 1999
# of Pages: 339
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

First sentence:

"When the blind man arrived in the city, he claimed that he had traveled across a desert of living sand."

Description:


From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between.

The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this bittersweet book about memory, family, friends, life and death and how just knowing people - even from a distance - makes a difference. I also liked the alternating chapters between the events in the City and Laura Byrd's struggles in Antarctica.

Date read: 10/13/2007
Book #: 92
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 1400095956
ISBN-13: 978-1400095957
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2007
# of Pages: 272
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mother Aegypt and Other Stories by Kage Baker

First sentence:

"The young man opened his eyes."

Description:

A brand new short story collection from Kage Baker, including an original novella set in her ongoing series of The Company, "Mother Aegypt".

Contents:
  • Leaving His Cares Behind Him
  • The Briscian Saint
  • Desolation Rose
  • Miss Yahoo Has Her Say
  • What The Tyger Told Her
  • Nightmare Mountain
  • Merry Christmas from Navarro Lodge, 1928
  • Her Father's Eyes
  • Two Old Men
  • The Summer People
  • How They Tried to Talk Indian Tony Down
  • Pueblo, Colorado Has the Answers
  • Mother Aegypt
My thoughts:

I enjoyed this anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories. I especially liked "Nightmare Mountain" (myths of Eros and Psyche combined with an eccentric Californian), "Merry Christmas from Navarro Lodge, 1928" (changing the future from the past), and "Pueblo, Colorado Has the Answers" (alien manifestations and a time bubble).

Date read: 10/13/2007
Book #: 91
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy/SF

ISBN-10: 1597800570
ISBN-13: 9781597800570
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 249
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

First sentence:

"Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami."

Description:

"Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love. "

My thoughts:

A beautifully written book that's both moving and bittersweet. Hosseini shows the reader how the Soviet occupation, the tribal conflicts and the Taliban rule of Afghanistan affected the people on a daily level through the lives of Mariam and Laila.

Date read: 10/11/2007
Book #: 90
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0670064912
ISBN-13: 9780670064915
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Year: 2007
# of Pages: 367
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

First sentence:

"The night was quiet."

Description:

"In this exciting debut, author Keri Arthur explodes onto the supernatural scene with a sexy, sensuous tale of intrigue and suspense set in a world where legends walk and the shady paths of the underworld are far more sinister than anyone envisioned.

A rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, Riley Jenson and her twin brother, Rhoan, work for Melbourne’s Directorate of Other Races, an organization created to police the supernatural races–and protect humans from their depredations. While Rhoan is an exalted guardian, a.k.a. assassin, Riley is merely an office worker–until her brother goes missing on one of his missions. The timing couldn’t be worse. More werewolf than vampire, Riley is vulnerable to the moon heat, the weeklong period before the full moon, when her need to mate becomes all-consuming.…

Luckily Riley has two willing partners to satisfy her every need. But she will have to control her urges if she’s going to find her brother….Easier said than done as the city pulses with frenzied desire, and Riley is confronted with a very powerful–and delectably naked–vamp who raises her temperature like never before.

In matters carnal, Riley has met her match. But in matters criminal, she must follow her instincts not only to find her brother but to stop an unholy harvest. For someone is doing some shifty cloning in an attempt to produce the ultimate warrior–by tapping into the genome of nonhumans like Rhoan. Now Riley knows just how dangerous the world is for her kind–and just how much it needs her."

My thoughts:

This was a good mix of paranormal mystery and romance. At times I worried that Riley's urges would hinder her, but she was able to use them to her advantage or resist them when she needed to. I also liked many of the characters, specifically Riley, Quinn, Rhoan, Jack and Liander. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Kissing Sin.

Date read: 10/5/2007
Book #: 89
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Series: Riley Jenson, Guardian, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance

ISBN-10: 0553588451
ISBN-13: 9780553588453
Publisher: Dell
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 372
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters

First sentence:

"The events I am about to relate began on a December afternoon, when I had invited Lady Harold Carrington and certain of her friends to tea."

Description:

"The joys of home and hearth are about to drive Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson mad. While she and her husband, the renowned archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson, dutifully go about raising their young son Ramses, she dreams only of the dust and detritus of ancient civilizations. Providentially, a damsel in distress - coupled with a promising archaeological site - demands their immediate presence in Egypt.

The damsel is Lady Baskerville, and the site is a tomb in Luxor recently discovered by Sir Henry Baskerville - who promptly died under bizarre circumstances. The tabloids immediately scream "The Curse of the Pharaohs!"

Amelia and Radcliffe arrive to find the camp in disarray, the workers terrified, and a most eccentric group of guests. A ghost even appears. This is not at all what Amelia considers an atmosphere conducive to scientific discovery. Never one to deny others the benefit of her advice and example, the indomitable Victorian sets about bringing order to chaos and herself that much closer to danger. How Amelia triumphs over the forces of evil - and those who would stand between her and her beloved antiquities makes for a delightfully spirited adventure."

My thoughts:

This was a good historical mystery. I liked the interaction between Peabody and Emerson as they both try to solve the string of murders surrounding the archaeological dig. I look forward to reading third book in the series, The Mummy Case.

Date read: 10/2/2007
Book #: 88
Rating: 3* = good
Series: Amelia Peabody, #2
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0445406488
ISBN-13: 9780445406483
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Year: 1988
# of Pages: 285
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

First sentence:

"By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal."

Description:

"Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point.

By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one. It’s about real love and loyalty, about real music and musicians, about false glamour and true art. It will change the way you hear and see your own daily life."

My thoughts:

This is a beautifully written book that is both poetical and fantastical. liked the mix of music and magic. All the characters are well defined, and I especially liked Eddi, Willy and the phouka.

Date read: 9/29/2007
Book #: 87
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0765300346
ISBN-13: 9780765300348
Publisher: Orb Books
Year: 2001
# of Pages: 336
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, September 24, 2007

Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

First sentence:

"Midnight."

Description:

"RIDDING THE WORLD OF EVIL, ONE ALIEN AT A TIME: THAT'S MIA SNOW'S MISSION.

Snow is in the forecast.

In a time and place not too far away, Mia Snow is an alien huntress for the New Chicago Police Department. Heading up her expert team of Alien Investigation and Removal agents, Mia's unmatched at battling the elusive enemy among us, and she's the perfect girl for the job. She's seen her brother die at the hands of aliens. She's earned each of her scars. And she'll die before she cries. Now, a series of killings have Mia and her partner Dallas tracking alien suspects -- but a sudden blast of violence leaves Dallas fighting for his life.

They are ice and fire.

The chance to save Dallas appears in the form of a tall, erotic stranger. An alien. A murder suspect. Kyrin en Arr, of the deadly Arcadian species, holds the power to heal the injured agent but not without a price. For Mia Snow, that price is surrendering to Kyrin's forbidden seduction...and embracing their electric attraction. She's walking a knife's edge, risking her badge and even her life. The closer she gets to Kyrin, the more Mia learns about her own heart, her human needs -- and the shocking secret that will shatter everything she's ever believed."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of police procedural and science fiction. It had a futuristic setting featuring aliens alongside humans with a nice dash of romance. I liked learning Mia's history along with her as her powers are gradually revealed.

Date read: 9/22/2007
Book #: 86
Series: Alien Huntress, #1
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 074349749X
ISBN-13: 9780743497497
Publisher: Downtown Press
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 336
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Non-Fiction Five Challenge

Yep - another challenge! This one is hosted by "Thoughts of Joy" and the idea is to read five non-fiction books from May to September.

I have many non-fiction books on my TBR shelves, so it was hard to narrow them down and to find a good variety from true crime to history to adventure to exploration. So, here's my list (in no particular order!):


Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was by David Sinclair

First sentence:

"The new year of 1823 announced itself in violent fashion with a vicious storm that battered the east coast of Britain for a fortnight."

Description:

"Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country called Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization and culture and it was ruled by a brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, General Sir Gregor MacGregor, who had been made its cazique, or prince, of Poyais, after his many heroic exploits in the cause of South America's struggle to liberate itself from the Spanish empire.

In 1821, the Cazique of Poyais and his beautiful princess arrived in Britain to promote the virtues of their country and encourage immigration and investment. They rapidly became celebrities, honoured with an official welcome from the Lord Mayor of London, feted in the press, and enthusiastically sought after in the best social circles. Within a year, Sir Gregor MacGregor had persuaded thousands of people to subscribe to a £200,000 development loan he floated on the London stock market. More importantly, he had succeeded in attracting hundreds of would-be settlers, many from his native Scotland, who set off on the long and perilous journey to this promised land -- a journey from which the majority would never return.

It was not until some time later that the truth about Poyais and its prince began to emerge..."


My thoughts:

This was an informative account showing how one persuasive man with a well-written, descriptive document exploited people's greed and gullibility. Other major topics include the independence movements in Central and South America in the early 19th century and the eagerness of Europeans to help militarily and financially. Sinclair wraps up the book nicely in his analysis of how MacGregor started becoming caught up in his own fantasy towards the end.

Date read: 9/21/2007
Book #: 85
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Nonfiction - History/Biography

ISBN-10: 0755310799
ISBN-13: 9780755310791
Publisher: Headline Review
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub

First sentence:

"Nancy Underhill's death had been unexpected, abrupt -- a death like a slap in the face."

Description:

"A woman commits suicide for no apparent reason. A week later, her son– fifteen-year-old Mark Underhill–vanishes. His uncle, novelist Timothy Underhill, searches his hometown of Millhaven for clues that might help unravel this horrible dual mystery. He soon learns that a pedophilic murderer is on the loose in the vicinity, and that shortly before his mother’s suicide, Mark had become obsessed with an abandoned house where he imagined the killer might have taken refuge. No mere empty building, the house whispers from attic to basement with the echoes of a long-hidden true-life horror story, and Tim Underhill comes to fear that in investigating its unspeakable history, Mark stumbled across its last and greatest secret: a ghostly lost girl who may have coaxed the needy, suggestible boy into her mysterious domain."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of mystery and horror. I liked how the point of view switched from Mark while he was obsessed with the house and his uncle Tim trying to figure out what happened to his nephew.

Date read: 9/17/2007
Book #: 84
Genre: Horror/Mystery
Rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0449149919
ISBN-13: 9780449149911
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 368
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Book of Shadows by James Reese

First sentence:

"In 1812, I went to 'the Stone,' the holy house at C____, a village straddling the ill-drawn borders of Brittany and Normandy, dependent upon the grace of the Church."

Description:

"Alone among the young girls taught by nuns at a convent school in nineteenth-century France, orphaned Herculine has neither wealth nor social connections. When she's accused of being a witch, the shy student is locked up with no hope of escape ... until her rescue by a real witch, the beautiful, mysterious Sebastiana. Swept away to the witch's manor, Herculine will enter a fantastic, erotic world to discover her true nature -- and her destiny -- in this breathtaking, darkly sensual first novel. "

My thoughts:

This was a mixed book for me. It was beautifully written - at times evocative and at times poetic. I especially liked the description of the French Revolution as seen through the eyes of the witches and other characters. I also liked the characters Herculine, Madeleine, Father Louis and Sebastiana. While there were parts that dragged, especially chapters concerning the convent and Sebastiana's first coven meeting, the crossroads scene towards the end made the read worthwhile.

Date read: 9/12/2007
Book #: 82
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror

ISBN-10: 0066210151
ISBN-13: 978-0066210155
Publisher: William Morrow
Year: 2002
# of Pages: 480
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

First sentence:

"In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages."

Description:

"Once upon a time, in eighteenth-century France, there lived a human monster unlike anything mankind has ever known. Enter the world of an evil genius, a murderer so depraved that only the most hideous of crimes could satisfy his lust...a killer who lives to possess the essence of young virgins...a vampire of scent, whose bloody insane quest takes him beyond the boundaries of love...and death."

My thoughts:

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille - human or monster? Both? Just when I found myself feeling sympathetic to this young man who grew up without human kindness, the monster side of him would emerge and I could sense his scorn for people he fooled with his pretense of humanity. This was a beautifully written book about the importance of smell that we all take for granted and how one man with an incredible gift took advantage of people.

Date read: 9/9/2007
Book #: 82
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller

ISBN-10: 0671749609
ISBN-13: 9780671749606
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Year: 1991
# of Pages: 310
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, September 7, 2007

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak by Brian Lumley

First sentence:

"Christened Harry 'Snaith,' in Edinburgh, 1957, Harry is the son of a psychic-sensitive mother, Mary Keogh (who is herself the daughter of a 'gifted' expatriate Russian lady), and Gerald Smith, a banker."

Description:

"A new vampire stalks the earth, and only Harry Keogh can defeat him! The silence of the grave is not silent at all. In their millions, the dead are screaming....but no one can hear them! Atop a perilous cliff, deep in the Balkan mountains, rises the castle of the Ferenczy. Once it was a stronghold of the Vamphyri....and now it will be so again, for Janos Ferenczy, vampire and black magician, has risen from his ages-long sleep. Powerful and evil, Janos conjures dead men and women into a semblance of life and subjects them to fiendish tortures.But the shrieks of the dead do not satisfy Janos's lust for blood-- for that he needs living humans. His terrifying armies of the risen dead will soon overwhelm a helpless, defenseless mankind......Helpless and defenseless because a terrible battle against the vampires has destroyed Harry Keogh's deadspeak, leaving the Necroscope deaf to the teeming dead....and to their warnings of Janos's reign of terror. To save the world, Harry must join forces and link minds with the most powerful, and deadliest, vampire of all!"

My thoughts:

It's been a while since I read the Necroscope books which are a riveting blend of horror and espionage thriller. I liked the way the dead find ways to help Harry regain his powers in time to defeat the vampire Janos.

Date read: 9/6/2007
Book #: 81
Rating: 3* = good
Series: Necroscope, #4
Genre: Horror

ISBN-10: 0812530322
ISBN-13: 9780812530322
Publisher: Tor Books
Year: 1992
# of Pages: 496
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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