Monday, December 27, 2010

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

Deep in the Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest– nearly one million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. Even in this modern age, much of it remains undiscovered and uncharted. From the heart of this old forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she can give no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past. . . . Until recently, Dr. Julia Cates was one of the preeminent child psychiatrists in the country, but a scandal shattered her confidence, ruined her career, and made her a media target. When she gets a desperate call from her estranged sister, Ellie, a police chief in their small western Washington hometown, she jumps at the chance to escape. In Rain Valley, nothing much ever happens–until a girl emerges from the deep woods and walks into town. She is a victim unlike any Julia has ever seen: a child locked in a world of unimaginable fear and isolation. When word spreads of the “wild child” and the infamous doctor who is treating her, the media descend on Julia and once again her competence is challenged. State and federal authorities want to lock the girl away in an institution until an identification can be made. But to Julia, who has come to doubt her own ability, nothing is more important than saving the girl she now calls Alice. To heal this child, Julia will have to understand that she cannot work alone and must look to others–the people in the town she left long ago, the sister she barely knows, and Dr. Max Cerrasin, a handsome, private man with secrets of his own. Then a shocking revelation forces Julia to risk everything to discover the truth about Alice. The ordeal that follows will test the limits of Julia’s faith, forgiveness, and love, as she struggles to ascertain where Alice ultimately belongs. In her most ambitious novel to date, Kristin Hannah delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the mysterious places in the heart where love lies waiting.

Took me an incredibly long time to read even though it's not that long. I keep not being impressed by her books but I keep reading them. The whole interaction with Alice and trying to get her to speak kept reminding me of the old Tarzan movies my dad made me watch. I think that was the reason I had such a hard time finishing it.

3 stars

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Favorite by Karen McQuestion

On my eleventh birthday, my mother disappeared. That morning my mom drove Jason and me to school. When we arrived, she helped me carry in a large Tupperware container full of cupcakes, made small talk with my teacher, told me to have a good day and kissed me good-bye. I never saw her again. Five years have passed since Angie Favorite’s mother, Laura, disappeared without a trace, and Angie still hasn’t recovered. Sure, things look normal on the surface—she goes to school, works her summer job, and argues with her older brother Jason—but she can’t shake the feeling that Laura didn’t leave by choice. Angie’s dad does the best he can, but his work as a musician keeps him on the road and away from home, where it’s up to Angie’s grandmother to keep an eye on the kids. She can’t be with them all the time, though, and she can’t help Angie when she is snatched from a mall parking lot by Scott Bittner. The girl narrowly escapes, and Bittner is arrested, but he takes his life in jail before he can offer an explanation for his crime. When his mother contacts Angie, begging forgiveness on her son’s behalf, the girl agrees to meet with her in hopes of finding answers to the seemingly random attack. But when she arrives at the massive Bittner estate, she is overcome by an unshakable sense of foreboding… Part thriller, part coming-of-age tale, Favorite is an engrossing young adult novel in which nothing—and no one—is as it seems.

Very predictable, but something about it kept me reading even when I knew everything that was going to happen. Good YA book, but I wouldn't rave about it to others.

2 stars

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Grove by John Rector

Dexter McCoy wakes up after a blackout with no recollection of what happened the night before. He finds out from the town sheriff that he got into an argument with his estranged with the night before and threatened to kill her. Later that day when he goes out into his grove, he finds the dead body of a teenage girl from town. For some reason he decides to leave the body there and try to find out what happened to her. Then the dead girl starts showing up and speaking to him herself.

This was so bizarre. I am not even sure what the whole point was. Did Dexter do it? Do you really care? It is a fast read, only took me a couple of hours, but it is just so completely out there I have already forgotten most of the plot.

2 stars

Monday, December 6, 2010

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable...
So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives. From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness. Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . . For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.
Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

OK, so I totally didn't write that summary. I read this over a week ago and don't really remember much of the plot. This was my first book by Hannah and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I was on vacation and needed something easy to read and this was perfect. The characters are kind of one dimensional and the ending was a bit contrived, but it was a good read none the less.

4 stars

Monday, November 22, 2010

How Many Have You Read?

How Many of These Books Have You Read?

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Bold those books you've read in their entirety. Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt. Please comment on what you have read. Feel free to post on your blog, just please link back.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Caroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

Dr. Mark Albright, Beverly Hills vet to the star's pets, finds after the passing of his father documents that show he was adopted. He goes to Declare, OK looking for his birth mother only to find out that she was murdered when he was a few months old and he disappeared at the time and was presumed to be dead also. His return to Declare causes all kinds of emotions that were repressed for over 25 years in the town to come back to the surface. Meanwhile, he is trying to find out who killed his mother and who his birth father is and starts to fall in love.

The mystery wasn't really a mystery to me, the love story was nonexistent, but I couldn't help but love this book. The town, the characters, I fell in love with all of it. Great book to lose yourself in without requiring much thought; just sit back and enjoy.

4 stars

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver is back. After fighting off the demon that was terrorizing his hometown in Wells' first book, I Am Not A Serial Killer (freaking awesome book by the way), sixteen year old John is trying to ignore his sociopathic tendencies and try to live a "normal" life. He still lives with his mom above the family mortuary, still goes to high school with his best friend (if a sociopath can have a best friend) Max, and is trying to work through the strange feelings he is having for his longtime neighbor and fellow classmate, Brooke. When bodies start turning up in the town again, John starts to become obsessed once again. No organs are missing from these bodies, but there are obvious signs of torture, burn marks, cuts that were made with screwdrivers, scissors, knives, etc. While John is trying to keep his excitement over this turn of events to himself, he comes to realize that the bodies seem to be showing up to draw his attention to them. It's kind of like someone is saying "I know what you did, I know what you are, come and get me". John must try to figure out who the perpetrator is while trying to protect his family and Brooke, and trying to keep Mr. Monster inside and not let him out. Because he is there, and lurking, and this time he may not be able to force him down deep because his urges are getting stronger, and sometimes it's easier just to give in.

Not as good as the first one. I liked it, and will be reading the third in the series when it comes out, but I didn't enjoy this one as much. Maybe because there wasn't that initial surprise when you find out about the demons. That was completely unexpected in the first one, but in the this installment it is just taken for granted. This also bothered me a lot more than the first one. It seemed a lot more graphic, and the details about embalming bodies and the killer's "toys" and how he tortures them was almost too much for me at times. All in all, worth the read though. Ends with a lead in that makes you have to read the third and final installment. I just hope Wells' doesn't take this too far and loose me because I really like John.

4 stars

Friday, November 12, 2010

Follow Friday

It's time for Follow Friday, a weekly meme hosted by Today's question is what is your book budget?

Well, I don't really have one. I get most of my books at yard sales, flea markets, and garage sales where they are $.50 at the most, so I never spend that much money on a book. The only time I pay full price is if it is something I have been waiting for and must have. I have a rule when I go into those big chain bookstores, you know which ones I mean, that I will not pay full price for a book unless it is of considerable length. I cannot justify paying $20 and upwards on a book that is a couple of hundred pages.
What about you?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion

Free spirit Skyla Plinka is enjoying her normal day to day life with her husband Thomas and daughter Nora, a stark contrast from her childhood which she spent moving from place to place with her dad after her mother died. A new family moves on to their block, and Skyla becomes instant friends with the mother, Roxanne. They get together daily, much to her husband's chagrin, and it is the first true friendship Skyla has ever had. When a tragedy strikes Roxanne's family, Skyla must chose to finally open herself up and let others in.

I don't really know what else to say about this book. This review is terrible, along with the previous one, I guess because the books were completely pointless to me. It kept me reading, which is why it gets on star higher than The Friday Night Knitting Club, but I kept waiting for something to happen that never did.

2 stars

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

A group of women from different backgrounds and different professions in New York City gather every Friday night to knit and talk about their lives. When something unexpected happens, they will all have to come together to get through it.

Boring. Basically Steel Magnolia's in NYC. Not my kind of thing, I flipped to the end just to see what ended up happening so I could move on to something else. Only good thing I got from it is I may start knitting.

1 star

Top 5 Sunday's = Favorite TV Shows That Got Cancelled

Hosted by Larissa's Bookish Life; I just had to participate in this one becuase every time I fall in love with a show it gets cancelled :-(

Friday, November 5, 2010

My First Follow Friday!!!

It's Follow Friday, my first, hosted by Please leave a note if you stop by!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by @BreakingtheSpine about what book you are eagerly awaiting the release of this week.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Release Date: November 9, 2010
A letter posted in 1941 finally reaches its destination in 1992 with powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a London book editor, in this enthralling romantic thriller from Australian author Morton (The Forgotten Garden). At crumbling Milderhurst Castle live elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three eccentric spinster daughters of the late Raymond Blythe, author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic Edie adores. Juniper addressed the letter to Meredith, Edie's mother, then a young teen evacuated to Milderhurst during the Blitz. Edie, who's later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond's masterpiece, visits the seedily alluring castle in search of answers. Why was her mother so shattered by the contents of a letter sent 51 years earlier? And what happened to soldier Thomas Cavill, Juniper's long-missing fiancé and Meredith's former teacher? Despite the many competing narratives, the answers will stun readers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books That Made You Cry!

This is my first time participating in this. I am trying to blog more often and get some more followers. Don't know if I will be able to come up with 10, but lets see what happens:

Top Ten Books That Made You Cry

1. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

2. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

3. Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson

4. Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank

5. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder

6. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

7. The Book Thief by Makus Zusak

8. Shelter Dogs by Traer Scott

9. The Histroy of Love by Nicole Krauss

10. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

15 year old Kafka Tamura runs away from home to become "the toughest 15 year old on the planet. Whether he is trying to leave behind the oedipal prophesy his father constantly told him about or to start a new life he isn't sure. Taking a journey on his own is Nakata, a man in his 60's who suffered a wartime affliction that left him "dumb". Nakata embarks on a trip to find the entrance stone and open it, and is drawn toward Kafka without knowing why. A mind bending story where fish and leeches fall from the sky, cats can talk, and spirits float between this world and the next to make love or kill.

I can't really summarize this any better without giving anything away and I have been thinking about it since last night. Very surreal, its like an acid trip most of the time, but I loved it. The story is so bizarre I couldn't stop reading it. Although much of what happened I did not understand at all, I think if I read it again I might understand more. Nakata is one of the most lovable characters I have ever read, I just wanted to give him a hug. I wouldn't say this is for everybody, but it was not what I expected and I was very surprised in a good way.

4 stars

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This is a fictional account of the girl who inspired one of Vermeer's most famous paintings. I don't really have much to say about it because I'm not too sure what the point of this book was. I read the whole thing, I made time so I could finish it, but it left me thinking "OK, what was the whole point of that?" Engaging story, but I just didn't get it.

2 stars

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Long Walk by Stephen King

Ray Garraty is participating in this year's Long Walk. One hundred men under the age of 30 participate every year. You walk, without stopping, hundreds and hundreds of miles, until there are only 2 people left, and the winner wins the big Prize. Everyone knows the rules, you get 3 warnings, and after that you get your ticket. But what does getting your ticket really mean? Ray and the friends he makes along the walk are about to find out the hard way.

King is extremely hit or miss for me, more misses than hits. I picked this up at a yard sale Saturday and finished it last night. It was so hard to read, and so disturbing, but I couldn't put it down, I had to see the outcome. Sometimes I had to stop for a few minutes it was so disturbing and sad. But I loved it. The whole story reminded me of several other books like Lord of the Flies and the Hunger Games. Almost in tears as the fate of Ray's friends are handed down on the last leg of the Long Walk, this is one that will stay with me.

4 stars

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Machiavelli Covenant by Allan Folsom

Expatriate and former LAPD detective Nicholas Marten returns to the United States at a long time friend's request who is in the hospital dying. What she tells him when he gets there, that her illness is no accident, but was purposefully injected into her and is in relation to the death of their son and husband a few months earlier, leads Marten to take a closer look at the deaths of all 3 of them. What he ends up uncovering is a plan for mass genocide in the Middle East, the assassination of 2 leading political leaders, and a centuries old group, based on the lost writings of Machiavelli, who practice blood sacrifice and human torture to further their place in the world. His digging leads him to Europe, where he pairs up with journalist Demi Picard, who is on a very private search of her own, and President John Henry Harris, who uncovers a plot so horrendous he doesn't know who his enemies are and forces him to escape from his political advisers and Secret Service detail and team up with Marten and Picard. While trying to stop a massive plot against the human race, and save their own lives, all 3 are faced with a force far greater than any of them believed possible.

My mom has told me for years that I need to read Folsom. It was the weekend and the books I brought home sucked, so I picked this one up - and had to force myself to go to bed. Great characters, true heroes and villains, reading this book was like watching an episode of 24 when it was still exciting. Secret government plots, cults, cover ups, betrayal, murder, suicide, and high treason make for an excellent book. I cannot wait to read more by Folsom. Just have to make sure its when I am on vacation and it doesn't matter if I stay up all night reading.

5 stars

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell

When the naked, mutilated body of a man is discovered in a Notting Hill graveyard, the police, led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster are forced to call upon the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes for help. Two more bodies show up, also mutilated, and to solve the case Barnes, along with the help of Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins, must figure out what the mysterious clue left on the bodies means. Their research brings to light a serial killer from 1897, and the man who was falsely accused and executed for the crimes. As the clock keeps ticking, the police try to stay one step ahead of the killer to prevent another killing, while using the victim's family trees to figure out why they are the chosen victim's and who will be next. History is beginning to repeat itself.

Great book. A true mystery, fast read, likable characters and an interesting take on the thriller genre. Really piqued my interest in genealogy and I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

5 stars

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse

After the suicide of his uncle, a successful art dealer, Lucas Heathfield inherits Stoneborough Manor. He thinks of it as a place where he and his tight knit group of friends can spend some time away from the bustle of London. He risks his friendship with Jo, professing his love to her on New Years Eve, delighting all of his friends and Jo. But she begins to see the house in a different way. It's affect on all of them, especially Lucas, is strange. he quits his job as a lawyer and moves to Stoneborough permanently with one of their other friends, Danny, a wild child who takes no responsibility for his actions. After moving to the house full time, Lucas finds some old family movies that he becomes obsessed with, movies that show a small group of friends eerily similar to their own. As the movies play out, they reveal a startling revelation to Lucas about his own family and everything he thought to be true. Caught up in obsession, passion, and jealousy, the group meets up for one final party at the house, with consequences no one could have seen coming, consequences that will change all of their lives forever.

Very intense, very creepy, the house itself is a character, possibly the biggest one. I felt like a member of the group relegated to the corner to sit and watch the tragedy of their loves, lives and friendships consume and destroy them all. This one will keep you up many nights to see how the story plays out. If you are looking for a book that ends with the whole story all wrapped up completely, this is not it. I usually want my books that very way, but this ending was satisfying nonetheless.

5 stars

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Honor of Halloween...

OK I am totally not a Halloween person. I think it is a huge waste of a holiday, but mainly because I am too old to trick or treat anymore. And the fact that I get scared very easily. But since October is my birthday month also, I wanted to ask the readers: What is your favorite scary book? Besides anything by Stephen King. His books just don't scare me and I think he has diarrhea of the mouth for the most part. Plus his books are the standard answer for this kind of question. Off the top of my head, the scariest books I have ever read are:

Come Closer by Sara Gran
Ghosts by Ed McBain
A Haunting in Connecticut can't remember the authors name

I will post more as I remember them, but I would like to know what books freaked you out. Depending on the responses I may start posting random questions like this. Let me know what you think.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Juliet by Anna Fortier

After the death of the aunt who raised her and her twin sister, and finding out that the will was changed at the last minute leaving her nothing, Juliet Jacobs heads to Italy after reading a note left for her by her aunt. In the note she finds out that there is something in a safe deposit box there that once belonged to Juliet and Janice's mother, who was killed in a car crash in Italy when they were toddlers. Juliet heads off in search of it after finding out that her name isn't really Juliet Jacobs, but Giulietta Tolomei, her twin sisters being Gianozza Tolomei. Her aunt changed their names after she brought them to American fro their own safety. After arriving in Sienna, Giulietta is befriended by Eva Maria Salimbini, a member of a family that was the Tolomei's enemies years ago. As Giulietta struggles to figure out what her mother left behind she starts to unearth secrets about her only families past in the middle ages, and how they are tied to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Eventually working with Alessandro, Eva Maria's godson, her family in Sienna, a Maestro that swears Romeo still comes to visit him at night, and her twin who shows up unexpectedly, Giulietta starts to unravel the truth about her parents untimely death and her personal connection with one of literature's most haunting love stories. Alternating between the present day and Sienna in the Middle Ages, you sit back and watch as Giulietta's own story heads to an expected climax.

Sounds good doesn't it? Not so much. Giulietta is so incredibly naive I had to refrain from throwing the book across the room at times. Her twin is absolutely unbearable, Alessandro is a poorly written character, and there are so many minor players I was forgetting who was who. The transition between present day and the Middle Ages didn't flow that smoothly as to not be confusing. A novel packed full of superstition, secrets, lies and betrayals, I did not care what happened to one of the characters. The parts set in 1340 I loved, especially the story of the Palio in 1340, which gave me chills as I read it. But as a whole, I found it very disappointing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey: The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

After losing the Bull Moose election, former president Theodore Roosevelt was looking for something exciting to do. He always liked a challenge, and when his old friend, Father Zahm, proposed a trip to the Amazon he was ready to go. After getting backing from the American History Museum, Roosevelt, his son Kermit, and others head down the Amazon on a river that had never been mapped before, The River of Doubt. What ensued was beyond what any of them could imagine; Indians lurking in the jungle waiting to kill them, rapids and falls they didn't know where there until they were upon them, running out of provisions, losing some of their boats in the rapids, mosquitoes and insects that could and would give they malaria and other diseases, and murder and suicide among their group.Roosevelt's wish to map this dangerous, uncharted river became a fight for the lives of everyone on the mission.

This starts out pretty slow, but once everyone gets to South America, it really picks up. I couldn't help but love Roosevelt even though I haven't ever read anything about him before. He treats everyone as his equal, and had courage beyond anything I can imagine. A very interesting true life adventure story.

4 stars

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fragile by Lisa Unger

Maggie and Jones, psychiatrist and small town detective, seem like your every day small town couple. But through secrets kept from each other there is always a tension among them. Especially when it comes to their 17 year old son, Rick. He is into the Goth scene, in a band, doesn't want to go to college even though his grades are good and he has great SAT scores, and he is dating a girl, Charlene, that Maggie and Jones feel is nothing but trouble. When Charlene disappears one night after a fight with her mother all of those secrets kept over two decades start to bubble to the surface. Every one is remembering a time when Jones and Maggie were in high school and another girl disappeared only to be found dead a few days later. Everyone who was around at the time of the disappearance see striking similarities between the two vanishings, even though it is purported that Charlene ran away. Now Maggie and Jones must face the demons of their past if they are to help Charlene.

This book was so completely pointless. There is no mystery, which is fine, but there is nothing to keep you reading. I finished and was not happy about the time I wasted reading this book. You know what is going to happen, who is involved, and how everything is going to play out, and the Hallmark inspired ending didn't help the story at all. None of the characters were sympathetic, they were all self absorbed and I had to force myself to finish this.

2 stars

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

32 year old Annie O'Sullivan was just about to end the open house she was running on the day she was kidnapped. As she headed out to her car, a van pulled up with a friendly guy inside, asking if he could look around real quick. Annie agrees, and later finds herself tied up in the back of the van. After her capture, she lives in a cabin in the mountains of Canada with her captor for over a year. Here she endures physical and psychological abuse and is raped nightly. The book is told by Annie, as she finally goes to therapy for what she had been through and finally tells her story, and how it affected her and everyone she thought she knew and loved.

Good story, very hard to read at times, and incredibly disturbing. The things this character went through were almost too much to read about at some points. However, when the mystery of Annie's capture is unravelled it is just too much to believe. The book was moving at a great speed, but a side note of something happened made me figure out what was going on as soon as I read it and the conclusion was just way too bizarre for me. I can't imagine it being plausible in any kind of circumstances.

4 stars

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Don't really have anything to say about this one. Plot and characters were boring and I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could move on to something else. Will not be reading anymore of her books.

1 star

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

20year old Violet Hayes has just come home from finishing school to find out that her father is set to remarry and the mother she had been told was ill and in a sanatorium is actually alive and well in Chicago, and has just formally divorced her father. Under the pretense of seeing the Chicago World's Fair, Violet talks her father into letting her spend a month in Chicago so she can look for her mother. While there she will stay with her grandmother, who knows the secret about Violet's mother and refuses to tell her and has secrets of her own, her Aunt Matilda, or Aunt Matt, who is involved in the suffragist movement, her Aunt Agnes, who puts all of the lessons Violet learned in finishing school to use courting her around the city to visit all of her well-to-do friends and hoping to find Violet a husband and her Aunt Birdie, who's husband died in the Civil War but she thinks he is still alive and fighting it. Violet's search for her mother and the truth is sidetracked when she begins being courted by different men, from different walks of life, for different reasons. There is Herman Beckett, who is from her hometown, bores Violet silly, and has no imagination whatsoever; Nelson Kent, heir to a banking empire who Violet likes but doesn't get the love story feelings she has always read about that she longs for; Louis Decker, an evangelist who works Violet's grandmother in helping the poor and immigrant families in the slums of Chicago and believes everything is God's will and part of God's plan; and Silas McClure, a stranger Violet meets on her train ride to Chicago who is everything she has dreamed of, but is he a thief? Through all of this Violet works diligently to answer burring questions about her family, find her mother, see the Chicago World's Fair in all its magnificent glory, and hopefully, fall in love.

I loved this book. Violet is a very likable character, her aunts are too funny, Aunt Birdie had me laughing out loud at some points, and the story is very engaging and keeps you reading. I slowed down my pace during the last 3/4 of the book because I didn't want it to end. I found out after I had read this that it is Christian fiction, which I never, ever read, but I loved this. It wasn't preachy, didn't shove God down your throat, and was incredibly enjoyable. This is the first book in a long time where I was rooting for some characters, and wincing at others. One of the best I have read in quite awhile.

5 stars

Friday, July 16, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Mirror twins Julia and Valentina Poole inherit the flat in London belonging to their aunt, who is their mother's twin, after her death. The stipulation is that they both move to London and live in the flat for a year before anything can be sold or any other changes made. Living in the building is Robert Fanshaw, their aunt Elspeth's lover, and Martin, a man who's wife has left him and suffers from OCD and cannot leave the building. The building itself backs up to Highgate Cemetery, where Robert works as a tour guide. After the twins move in strange things start to happen and they realize they are being haunted by the ghost of their dead aunt. Each trying to create a life for themselves in London, one of the twins longs for being free of her twin sister. They do everything together and she wants to break free of this routine that she feels is blocking her life and what she wants to do. Through conversations with their dead aunt through a Ouija board and automatic writing, one of the twins comes up with a plan that will give her a life of her own, but the cost is one that she never could have imagined.

This was very weird, very creepy, very Gothic. Reminded me a little of The Virgin Suicides. It kept me reading, but when certain secrets were revealed I had to reread them about 4 times and I am still not sure I understand what happened. The ending I did not understand at all, but I was pulled through this book by the story of these twins, and was just waiting for the tragedy to hit them that I felt was inevitable, and the betrayal that I did not see coming and would change every one's lives forever. Valentina is an incredibly likable character, her sister Julia is very annoying, and the ghost of her aunt Elspeth made me cringe when I realized what was going to happen. More character driven than anything else, this is one story that will stay with you, haunt you, for quite awhile.

4 stars

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

15 year old John Wayne Cleaver feels he is predestined to become a serial killer. His parents named him John Wayne after the iconic actor, but he sees it as being named after John Wayne Gacy. His last name, Cleaver, is a murder weapon. And his father's name is Sam, making him, the Son of Sam. Then their is his obsession with serial killers. It doesn't help matters that his mom and sister run a funeral home, where he gets to help prepare bodies for their final resting place, embalming, etc. His mother is worried about his preoccupation with serial killers, especially after for a school project, he does an in depth report on Jeffrey Dahmer so disturbing his teacher calls his mom and it puts him in therapy, where he is diagnosed as being a sociopath, unable to feel empathy. Then his dream comes true, a serial killer starts to stalk the residents of his small town. He tries to keep himself under control, but he sees patterns the police and FBI don't and unravels the mystery of who is committing these violent acts. But in that knowledge comes the problem of deciding what to do about it. He has watched this person kill 4 people without trying to stop it. He can't talk to his family, and the authorities won't believe him if he did tell them. All the while The Monster inside him that he has kept locked up for a long time by following strict set of rules he set for himself is begging to be let out finally. All of this culminates into an outstanding debut, and the first in a trilogy of books that will leave you begging for more.

I have been in a major book funk, and this has to be one the most incredible stories I have ever read. As disturbing and creepy as John Wayne is, you can't help but root for him, to stop the murders and to save himself. Fast paced plot that reveals the murderer early on in the book, but that just adds to the grab you by the throat tension of it. I cannot wait for the other books to come out to see what happens. Strong character study, beautifully written, and grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go until the final breathless page.

5 stars

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

This is the story of Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula. In this novel, she tells her side of the story as to what happened involving the Count and defines the role she played. Dark, Gothic, and sexual, the story leads you from London, where Mina is a teacher at a School of Accomplishment for Girls, to an insane asylum where women are committed for their sexual desires and "treated" in ways that cause their death. From mist filled cemeteries to stories from her childhood in Ireland, Mina is forced to make a decision that she has been avoiding for centuries.

I finished this yesterday and have been trying to figure out how I feel about this book. The story didn't hold my attention, the first 250 to 300 pages were very boring to me and I didn't really see where the story was going. It picked up from there but was so highly sexual and erotic that I didn't enjoy it. The last 50 pages or so seemed incredibly rushed, and the story was wrapped up so quickly it left me feeling nothing for any of the characters. At times while reading I was thinking of the Phantom of the Opera, just for Dracula's obsession with Mina, how they are tied together, and their fate. But this story held none of the splendour that Phantom of the Opera has captivated me with for years. Maybe if I had read Dracula more recently than 18 years ago, I would have appreciated the story more, but it jumped all over the place and at times made no sense to me whatsoever. If you like romance, especially the dark, erotic, Gothic kind, than this is for you. I enjoy Gothic stories, but that is where it ended. I spent my weekend reading this when realistically it should have taken me a day and a half. I had to force myself to finish it. I appreciate what the author was trying to do, but I was not impressed.

2 stars
Release date August 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Nineteen year old Ed Kennedy doesn't have much going for him. He drives a taxi, is in love with a girl who doesn't love him, spends his spare time playing cards with friends and is bad at sex. After stopping a robbery at a bank he and his friends were in, he starts receiving playing cards in the mail. Aces to be exact, and written on each card is three things. Three tasks he must complete, messages he must deliver, and in each of these tasks he finds that maybe he isn't so useless after all.

Not as good as The Book Thief. Some of the places he had to go and messages he had to deliver were pretty hard to read about, but the book is written in a way that keeps you reading to see what happens and how everything is going to play out. It was a 5 star book until the end. It totally confused me and I had to reread it a couple of times. I'm still not too sure I understood it.

4 stars

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

Sarah Wingate is found brutally murdered in her aunt's home and Dobson, New York in 1905 and police detective Simon Zeile is called in to investigate. No one saw anything, but everyone reports hearing the same blood curdling scream at the exact time Sarah was killed. In the early stages of the investigation, Zeile is contacted by Alistair Sinclair, a professor at Columbia University and founder of a group of criminologists at the school. He believes he knows who killed Sarah, but as the investigation proceeds, every clue eludes Zeile, Sinclair and his team. Why was Sarah Wingate killed and what is her connection to the person Sinclair believes killed her? And are Sinclair's motives truly in the best interest of the investigation? Zeile must discover this and come to his own conclusions if he hopes to solve a brutal murder that is not as simple as it seems.

Pretty good story. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars was because of all the corrupt political sidelines that seemed to be thrown in for no reason. The book ends with some questions unanswered and leaves it wide open to a sequel, which I hope does happen because this has a lot of potential. Good thriller. Check it out.

4 stars

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Two very different men from very different backgrounds, try to fulfill their dreams and destiny in the banking/hotel world and along the way develop a hate for each other that may cause them both to lose it all.

William Kane, son of a wealthy banker, follows in his father's footsteps, attending Harvard and going into the family banking business. Abel Rosnovski, of Polish descent, survives Russian war camps and a journey to the "New World", America, to make a better life for himself. Kane continues in his father's footsteps where Abel eventually ends up running a hotel empire. However through one misunderstood event, they cannot get past the deep seated hatred they have for each other as each tries to ruin the other. All of their choices and misconceptions come to a head when Abel's daughter falls in love with Kane's son, neither having any idea of what the truth really is anymore.

5 stars

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Author Sarah Vowell has a morbid fascination with Presidential assassinations. In her book, Assassination Vacation, she explores three that interest her the most, President's Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. From following the path John Wilkes Booth took after fleeing the Ford Theater that fateful night, to going on a tour of the city of Oneida, where in the 1800's the members practiced a kind of "free love" way before its time, she takes you along on the trip.

The very long, boring trip. If you are into history then I think you would really enjoy this book. It had me laughing out loud at some parts, but it is mostly about presidential history, and history was never my big interest. I did find out about a website to check out from reading this book: And there were some funny anecdotes that I will be using, but I am glad I didn't buy it.

2 stars

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Last Child by John Hart

Johnny Merrimon's life was turned upside down when his twin sister vanished without a trace on her way home from school. His mother blamed his father, who was supposed to pick her up, causing him to leave, his mother became addicted to pills and alcohol thanks to the supposed family "friend", Ken, who was all too eager to take over her life when her husband left and owns most of the town, they lost their home, and are living in a home Ken gave them, and can take away whenever he feels like it.

Johnny has never been able to stop looking for his sister, even though the police have. While out one day by the town creek, he sees a man run off the bridge by a car, and the man's final word's are "I found her. I found the girl. Run", which Johnny does. He is convinced the man was talking about his long missing sister, even though when he returns home he finds out that another girl has been snatched in broad daylight. As the police try to find the girl, Johnny takes on his own search, to find the missing girl who will hopefully lead him to his sister's whereabouts. He takes to his bike where he checks up on pedophiles, and any other avenue he can think of. But when the truth is finally revealed, it is far from anything Johnny could ever imagine.

This was so much better than Down River. Even though I figured out who it was, it was still a great book. A little unbelievable that a 13 year old kid is riding around on his bike checking up on the town perverts, but still suspenseful. If you like a good thriller, check this one out.

4 stars

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

As a toddler, Nobody Owens escapes from the man who murdered his parents and sister and is taken in and raised by the ghosts of a graveyard. Under the teaching and stories of its inhabitants, his adopted "parents" and his guardian, Silas, he earns the Freedom of the Graveyard, learns how to do the same things as ghosts, such as how to Fade and Haunt, and gradually learns the fate of his original family and why his keepers and guardian are so protective of him.

This was pretty weird but entertaining. I love the chapter Danse Macabre, I kept picturing the Thriller video, and it is a quick easy read. Pretty bizarre, but amusing enough to keep you reading.

4 stars

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie

Virginia Kate Carey goes home to the hills of West Virginia after her mother passes away to confront her past. Going through her mother's things brings back memories of her childhood, of the mother who gave her and her two brothers to their father with no qualms and no desire to see them again,who would rather drink than take care of her family, and the secrets every member of the Carey family tried to keep carefully hidden. Is it possible to to confront your past without it consuming you? Virginia Kate is about to find out.

This was an amazing book. I didn't have much hope for it since it was free on the Kindle, I figured that was because it wasn't too great but I was so wrong. Great story about families, siblings, secrets, and betrayal. Deeply moving, a bit supernatural sometimes but not enough to notice, and at times had me shaking my head at the things these characters went through. Virginia Kate and her family will stay with me for quite awhile.

5 stars

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

The story of Claude Monet and the love of his life Camille Doncieux. Camille comes from a high class family and is already engaged, but she and Monet are drawn together over the time Monet spends painting her. She leaves her fiance for him, and they try to build a life together, but getting his art recognized in Paris is more trouble than he thought it would be. Monet and his artist friends, which include Renoir and Manet, put themselves and their livelihoods on the line for the sake of their art. Constantly moving to escape their debts, and owing large sums of money where ever they go, Claude and Camille push their way through, even though it is not an easy road. For Camille has secrets of her own, and them coming to light will change everything Monet thought he knew.

Not usually the kind of book I would read but I really enjoyed it. Artistic without being hard to understand. Nice look into the life of Monet and his struggle to become famous. Definitely not the life I myself could ever lead, no matter how passionate I was about it. If you are looking for a beautiful book to lose yourself in, this is the way to go. Will be reading more by this author.

4 stars

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

In the sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomkvist and his magazine, Millenium, get an offer from a freelance journalist to run an article and later publish the book on his story about sex trafficking in Sweden. Before it can be published the freelancer and his g/f, who worked with him and is using the work as her dissertation are shot in cold blood execution style in their apart, where they are discovered by Mikael. The police find the murder weapon and the fingerprints belong to Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist is convinced of her innocence and believes their deaths are related to the work they were doing regarding the sex trafficking and its players and johns. As a full on manhunt looks for Lisbeth, Blomkvist tries to figure out what really happened, what the cryptic name "Zala" that keeps popping up in the research means, and to help Lisbeth before the police get ahold of her.
A lot of back story for Lisbeth in this book. It once again started with a pretty big event that was never mentioned again throughout the rest of the book. There were so many characters in this one I had to keep stopping to remember who was who. I liked this one much better than the first one. Faster paced story and answers some questions, but still leaves a lot unanswered. Like the first one I liked it, but wasn't blown away by it like everyone else. I will read the third one when it comes out though.

4 stars

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Bloomkvist, a Swedish financial reporter, has just been convicted of libel concerning a story he did on a corporate CEO when is asked to go to Hedestad and meet with Henrik Vanger, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation. With nothing else to do since the conviction he agrees. Henrik explains to him that he wants to hire him for one year, and in that year he wants him to ghost write Henrik's autobiography and try to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Henrik's niece, Harriet, in 1966. The disappearance has obsessed Henrik for the past 40 years and since he is getting older, he would like closer as to what happened. he is convinced Harriet was murdered, and wants Bloomkvist to see what he can find out. Bloomkvist agrees, for an outrageous payout at the end of the year and a little bit of sliver lining. Henrik can give Mikael Hans-Erik Wennestrom on a platter and help him clear his name after the libel conviction. As he starts his research for the autobiography and his attempt at figuring out what happened to Harriet Vanger, he is faced with the pure dysfunction that is the Vanger family for the past generations. Wife beaters, Nazi's and perverts make up most of the family and the closer Mikael gets to the truth, the more he gets sucked in to the family secrets that Henrik is hellbent on exposing. Once Mikael finds some things the police overlooked in the case of Harriet's disappearance, he requests the help of a researcher, who Henrik would approve of, to assist him with all of the sources he needs to check out. Bloomkvist goes to Dirch Frode, Henrik's longtime lawyer, friend and confidante, and in return gets a name of someone that can help him: Lisbeth Salander.

Salander is a 24 year old hacker who works freelance for a private investigation company. She was hired by Frode prior to Henrik hiring Mikael to run his background and provide a report on him. A product of the system, she accepts the job and goes up to Hedestad to help Mikael.

From then on the secrets start to split wide open about the Vanger family. Together they uncover what happened to Harriet in 1966, sexual abuse, incest and murder all in the family tree which brings forward someone who does not want the truth to get out and will stop the 2 of them at any cost.

I finished this yesterday but have had a hard time deciding what to write. The mystery plays out well through the whole book, but the constant financial secondary story was distracting. The first 50 - 100 pages concerning the lawsuit against Mikael went directly over my head. The answer to the mystery was pretty sick and twisted, but not so shocking that I didn't have a feeling where the story was going, even though there were a few surprises in particular that had me setting down the book for a few minutes.. A thing at the very beginning of the book that I thought would play a key roll in the whole story is just explained at the end as an aside. On the other hand, I loved the characters of Bloomkvist and Salander, who reminded me a bit of myself, and I am going to Walgreens this morning in the pouring down rain just so I can get the sequel and start reading it today.

4 stars

Monday, April 19, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Evangeline was sent to St. Rose convent at the age of 12 by her father after her mother was kidnapped and murdered. She has led a quiet life inside the cloister, not questioning anything she has ever been told. When she receives a letter asking for access to the convent's archives from an art historian, she at once refuses, writing out the convent's usual response to such requests. But something about this one strikes her as odd; the man is looking for lost correspondence between the former abbess of St. Rose and Abigail Rockefeller in the 1940's, right before the original convent burned to the ground. In their search for the letters, Evangeline realizes that nothing in her life is as it seems and that she is a small piece of a greater puzzle. A group of angelologists, who's sole purpose is to hide the lyre of Orpheus from the Nephilim, a group of men who were born to human and angels and posses both powers. The Nephilim are intent on getting the lyre so they can release their ancestors, The Watchers, from a cave where they have been chained for centuries for disobedience. Also after the lyre is Percival Grigori, a descendant of The Watchers, the man who hired the art historian and someone with a connection to the whole mystery that is almost as deep as Sr. Evangeline's, who is slowly dying from a medical condition only the lyre can help stop.

I didn't like this too much. Some parts I loved, but the story as a whole was long, drawn out, and a bit of a DaVinci Code knock off. If I wouldn't have been house sitting and had been at home with something else to read I wouldn't have even finished it.

3 stars

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

In 1986, Henry Lee is among a group of people standing outside the Panama Hotel when it reopens, revealing an abundance of belongings of the Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. The discovery causes Henry to remember his best friend and first love, a Japanese girl he went to school with during his childhood in the 1940's. They formed a strong bond of friendship and loyalty that they both hoped would last through the war years. Now it's 40 years later and the past is coming back to life, in old photo albums, sketchbooks, and a record recording that many music aficionados don't believe exist. Henry's search through everything found in the basement of the hotel takes him on a journey back in time, to the world he grew up in, his relationship with his parents, and his love for a girl that he let go.

I know everyone loved this book. As usual I am the exception. I thought it was drawn out and overall pretty depressing. The only character I really enjoyed was Sheldon. But I am not one for love stories so maybe that is why. For such a short book it took me almost a week to read it because I just wasn't that interested.

2 stars

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid by Dr. Denis Leary

Leary explains to all who read his book why other countries hate Americans, how people are raising their kids wrong, and how relationships work all from personal experience. From Michael Vick to how men interact with other men and the women in their life to America's fascination with train wrecks like Brittany Spears and Lindsey Lohan to his own version of the 10 Commandments that somehow end up including Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston, Leary is on a major tirade interspersed with hilarious stories from his childhood, his marriage to his wife Ann, and a lot of things I think a lot of people feel but would never say aloud.

Funny enough, laugh out loud funny sometimes, but I wouldn't buy it. Get it from your library instead.

3 stars

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks went to John Hopkins Hospital in the 1950's for abnormal bleeding she was having. The gynecologist diagnosed her as having cervical cancer and ordered a biopsy. While having the procedure, the doctor took part of her cervix and sent it to Dr. George Gey. Dr. Gey was performing tests on cells to see if he could make them grow. Henrietta's cells had a life of their own. After years of testing and failing, Dr. Gey finally had a group of cells that stayed alive and continued multiplying, allowing him and others in his field, to use them in different medical tests. Henrietta's cells were called HeLa, based on the first 2 initials of her first and last name. Through the use of tests run using HeLa the vaccine for polio was developed, along with many other medical advances. No one thought anything of it, and the scientists were thrilled to have this breakthrough. The only thing was, they never got Henrietta or anyone in her family's permission to take that sample during surgery. In fact, the family didn't know anything about it.

I was not sure what to expect with this book but it definitely was not the amazing story I have been consumed with for the past 5 days. At times funny, heartbreaking, and astounding, Skloot takes you to Baltimore, where she attempts to speak to Henrietta's family for her book, to the basement of John Hopkins Hospital, to a mental institute where Henrietta's one daughter died. It is astounding to me that these cells were taken without any one's permission, scientists have made numerous medical advances and money working with them, while Henrietta's own children and grandchildren could not afford an education or health insurance. The trials this family has been through will always stay with me.

The one point that really made me fall into this book, was that race did not come into it. Henrietta was a black woman. The scientists for the most part were white men. But her daughter, Deborah, who is one of the focal points of this amazing story, understands that what her family went through has nothing to do with black or white, even though her brothers think at times think otherwise. It has to do with doctors thinking they know what is best, and us, as patients, going along with what they say because we feel they really do know best. It has to do with family and the ties that bind and some times break. Deborah is 50 years old and has no memory of her mother whatsoever because she was an infant when the cancer took her life. All people ever want to ask her and talk to her about are HeLa cells; and she just wants to know what her mom smelled like, what was she like as a person? I wish I could give this amazing story more than 5 stars. Every time I have any test done now I will wonder, are they running tests on my cells as well? And do they have the right to do that at all?

5 stars

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dorian Gray is a young man so obsessed with his own youth and good looks that after a painting of him is done, makes a pact with the devil. The pact is that Gray gives his soul, and he stays young forever, his portrait aging.

I think if I could have focused on this more I would have enjoyed it better. Lord Henry is so very winded at times and goes on and on, but what he says is very interesting. I just couldn't focus on it enough to enjoy it.

3 stars

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

They Never Die Quietly by D.M. Annechino

Detective Sami Rizzo and her partner are called in to investigate a series of murders. Women and there small children are being abducted, the mother found 3 days later crucified on a cross outside of a church with their hearts removed, the children sropped off in public places where they will be easily found, unharmed.

Not at all entertaining for me. Very contrived. You know who the killer is, why he is doing it, and how the book is going to end about 1/4 of the way through. I kept reading waiting for a big twist that never came. Waste of time.

2 stars

Monday, March 15, 2010

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow has just been released from prison and is on his way home to rebuild his life with his wife Laura. A Few days before his release however, he is called into the warden's office and finds out that his wife and best friend, who had a job waiting for Shadow, are both dead, victims of a car crash. Shadow receives early release so he can attend to matters. On the plane ride to the funeral, Shadow is seated next to a man who goes by the name of Wednesday, and who offer Shadow a job that seems too good to be true. Shadow is not interested, but Wednesday keeps showing up where he shouldn't be, and Shadow finally relents. What ensues is a war among the gods of old, brought from their home countries to America by immigrants, and the gods of the new age, Technology, Media, etc, who are trying to take over. As Shadow and Wednesday go all over the US trying to recruit the gods of old to fight for their cause, the gods of the new age are following their every move, and every one waits for the storm to hit.

Not usually my kind of book but I loved this! Great story, great characters, I found myself slowing down at the end because I didn't want it to end. I wish there would have been more detail about the gods of old, but a highly satisfying read. If Stephen King wrote a book without his unnecessary, self-indulgent rambling, this would be it. Excellent.

5 stars

Monday, March 8, 2010

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew has a pretty ordinary life. Works as an accountant, is engaged to be married, and lives his new life in London after moving from Scotland to take a job offer. All of that is turned inside out when he is walking with his fiance to have dinner with her important boss and an injured girls appears out of nowhere in the street in front of him. Against his fiance's wishes he takes the girl, Door, to his apartment to care for her. She insists on him not calling for an ambulance or police and asks him do do her a favor. Richard sets across London with her directions in hand to find the marquis de Carabas. After she leaves he tries to resume his old life but finds that he can't. No one can see him, seriously. The only people who can are the homeless of London. He then sets off on a journey to find Door to try and get his life back. This trip takes him through London Underground, where the people who have fallen through the cracks live. It is an adventure like no other, nothing Richard can quite believe, but then he has no choice if he wants his old life back.
Very....interesting. This is my first Gaiman book. It was kind of bizarre, but had a lot of colorful characters (Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, Islington, the marquis, Hunter, Old Bailey, etc). Even though it was so incredibly strange, after awhile I didn't even stop to think to myself "this is ridiculous". It drew me in and I just accepted everything I was reading. I hated some characters, and loved others. I would really like to see a sequel to this, or a story about Islington and what happened to the city of Atlantis. I will be reading more by Mr. Gaiman. It's kind of fun to lose yourself in a bizarre world sometimes.

5 stars

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

George and Lenny are childhood friends going through California doing work on ranch's to make some money. George is the brains of the pair, quick thinking, always looking out for Lenny, who has the mind of a child. When they go to work at their most recent ranch, George warns Lenny not to get into any trouble, to stay quiet and just do his work. George has painted a picture for he and Lenny: a ranch of their own, with chickens and pigs, alfalfa and rabbits that Lenny will be in charge of caring for. But the ranch owners son hones in on Lenny's lack of wits right off and seems to have it out for him, then there is the ranch owners young wife, who seems to hang around all the men and try to stir up trouble. Lenny tries to do what George asks of him, but things get out of control for him, and George has to make the ultimate decision on what do do about Lenny.
How depressing!! I am sure every one has read this book but me. I loved what a great amazing story East of Eden was, so I thought I would try this one out too. I felt sorry for Lenny, he didn't know any better, but I can see why George felt he had to do something before things got any worse, but I never thought he would do what he did. Lots of symbolism here, but I won't go into it in case someone hasn't read it. Strange book...

3 stars

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Dr. Andrew Marlowe receives a patient recommendation from a friend of his on a painter named Robert Oliver. Oliver was recently arrested for trying to stab a painting entitled The Swan Thieves. Oliver speaks to Marlowe only once, upon his first admittance to the psych hospital where he will be treated and refuses to speak again. Marlowe goes above and beyond, talking to Oliver's ex-wife, ex-lover, ex-colleagues and ex-acquaintances to try to get to the root of his problems. In the meantime, Oliver stays in his room at the hospital, being the perfect patient, painting the same woman over and over and over again. Who is this woman? Why does she have such a profound affect on Robert? And is she what drove him to the attack on the painting? Marlowe goes off in search of all of these answers to help his troubled patient, and the answers are not at all what he expected.

I listened to the audio version of this. I found the story a little hard to follow. The narrators of the letters from Paris in the late 1800's reminded me so much of Antonio Banderas' voice I would giggle when they came on. The reading was very well done; Treat Williams as the lead Andrew Marlowe. However the narration and performance of one of the characters was so poignant, so strong, and so heartbreaking, that it garnered this review another star. Anne Heche as the voice of Kate Oliver, Robert's ex-wife. Her appearance is fairly brief, but her reading was the icing on the cake for me. I was almost in tears by the end of her section. I think if I would have read the book instead of listening to it I would not have finished it.

3 stars

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner

Melanie Stokes is found when she is 9 years old in an emergency room, drugged and with no recollection of who she is or where she came from. She is adopted by a well off family whose own daughter was murdered. At the same time in Texas, a child killer by the name of Russell Lee Holmes is executed for the brutal murder of 6 little girls. Larry Digger, a Houston Reporter who covered Holmes, shows up in Melanie's new life making accusations that she is actually the daughter of Russell Lee Holmes and that her perfect Beacon Street family are not at all what they seem to be.

This was ok, not great but it kept me reading. I like twists and turns but not so many that I don't even know what is going on in the story anymore.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hide by Lisa Gardner

Annabelle Granger has spent her life on the run. Beginning when she was a child her family has packed up and moved to a different place every year or so, adopting new names and a new city. She never knew why they were running, or who they were running from, but now at the age of 32 and with both parents dead, it is about to become a little too clear.
Homicide detective Bobby Dodge gets a phone call from his former officer and lover, D.D. Warren to come to the grounds of the abandoned State Mental Hospital, where a mass grave has just been discovered. In the grave is the mummified remains of 6 female children. It bears a striking resemblance to a case that changed Bobby's life before, nearly killing him. However the perpetrator of that case was murdered by his victim. Is this a copy cat, or is something more sinister at play?
Great mystery, when it all came together I was a little confused, but Gardner spends the final chapter explaining everything. I really enjoyed this one. I have tried a few other of her books and they were hit or miss for me, glad this one was a hit. It will keep you up reading late into the night.

I was so upset when her dog got stabbed I almost quit reading even though the book was almost over. I hate it when authors hurt animals. I tried to start Gardner's The Next Accident last night, but the dream Rannie had about the baby elephant almost had me in tears! Glad the dog in Hide lived, but that's why it only got 4 stars. Unnecessary.

4 stars

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Beautiful book about a young girl in WWII Germany, her loves, her losses, her friendships, a country at war, and how she became The Book Thief. Told from the point of view of Death, who is collecting souls all over the country.

For a long book, it only took me 2 days to read this. One of the best I have read in a very long time.

5 stars

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Sarah Carrier Chapman tells her story of living through the Salem Witch Trials that took place in 1692. Her mother was Martha Carrier, known as the Queen of Hell". The story is about the trials themselves and the consequences but also about the relationships of families, mothers and daughters, and the ties that bind that are sometimes stretched to breaking.

This is the first book regarding the trials I had ever read and I am still astounded. That a group of girls could put on an act and make grown adults believe that innocent people are witches is amazing to me. These girls and others sent these poor people to their deaths. The jail where they were imprisoned was so horrendous it is hard to comprehend something like that happening in America. I didn't really pay attention when I was in school so I don't know much history of the trials, but the author herself is a descendant of Martha Carrier and she brought these characters to life marvelously. I felt what these characters felt. I felt their dread, their fear. The fact that a public apology was later made is of no consequence. It was too late for the twenty people who were killed over these lies, and their families. Great book, looking forward to the authors next one about Thomas Carrier, Sarah's father and Martha's husband, and his history fighting under Cromwell that was alluded to in The Heretic's Daughter.

4 stars

Monday, January 25, 2010

Prima Donna by Megan Chance

Sabine Conrad is a young Prima Donna in 19th century New York. She is taken under the wing of the man who ultimately becomes her manager and lover, Gideon Price. Her every move is controlled by him, and, in her attempt to escape, her plan goes awry so that she flees and leaves a murder in her wake.

Four years later she is living out her life as Marguerite Olsen in Seattle, working in a box house, running whores, and desperately hiding her secrets from everyone around her. But when past returns offering a life she thought she could never return to again, she must decide what path she will choose.

This took me so long to read and it's not because I didn't enjoy it. Sabine/Marguerite is a true Prima Donna in every way and she was so unbearable at times I couldn't even read the book anymore for awhile. Spoiled, arrogant and thinking sex will get her everything she wants is a major factor in both aspects of her life. However, the story picks up tremendously when her past comes back to haunt her, and by then end of the book I was cheering for her, although I didn't agree with some of the decisions she made. The constant pace from her current life in Seattle is wonderfully interspersed with journal entries from when she was the Prima Donna of the country before everything went bad.

4 stars

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tethered by Amy Mackinnon

Clara Marsh spends her days among the dead, preparing them for their final resting place on this earth. She finds solace in her loneliness, her garden, and the couple who own the funeral home where she works as a mortician who treat her as their own daughter. But when a young girl shows up at the funeral home, Clara's life begins to unravel. It is obvious the girl is neglected, but Clara really doesn't want to get involved; it reminds her of her own childhood. However when clues arrive that this little girl has a connection to a murdered child Clara prepared 4 years ago, her carefully constructed walls start to fall down as people around her are revealed to be who they truly are and she herself has to decide between continued isolation, or to help a child who's own past, like Clara's is steeped in mystery.

I picked this up on a whim at Target the other day and read it in one day. Completely blown away. There wasn't really a great mystery for me, I kind of figured out who the killer was, but the story of Clara. Her voice throughout this whole book really got to me. She reminded me of myself in many many ways, to the point that I thought I was going to have to stop reading the book for awhile. This is the first time I have ever so identified with a character. Wonderful way to start the new year.

4 stars