16 December 2013

Reading Challenge for 2014

All right, so I know that I haven't been keeping this up very well the last few months. Things came up, life... you know how it is. There just hasn't been enough time to read and that has upset me. More accurately, its annoyed me. I just haven't been able to keep my attention on a book for too terribly long.

This up coming year, I have decided to read at least thirty books. Ambitious, but not too difficult. My GoodReads account says that I have fallen short of my goal for the 2013 year. They do not count re-reads and I do. "Doesn't matter that you've read Girl, Interrupted ten times before, it still only counts the one time". I say its a legitimate read!

Anyway, here is my list of books for 2014. I'm also indicating which (if any) reading challenge they pertain to, as well as which shelf they're from.

The Soloist by Steven Lopez   -- non-fiction

The Postman by David Brin -- fantasy

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell -- fantasy -- 1001 Books To Read Before You Die

Eragon by Christopher Paolini -- teen/fantasy

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson --mystery

The Third Rail  by Michael Harvey --mystery

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach -- non fiction- Gilmore Girls Challenge

Frozen Heat by Richard Castle --mystery

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block -- mystery

Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell --mystery

Candide by Voltaire --classics - 1001 and Gilmore Challenges

 Un Lun Dun by China Mieville  -teen/fantasy

ALTERNATES:

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone --classics

Dog Gone It! by Spencer Quinn --mystery


So here we go, half way through December and the next year's reading list is all ready. Let's enjoy the ride!

27 September 2013

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness -1 Star

I hereby declare this the year of the dud! I swear, I have had more disappointing novels this year then any other in recent memory. Blindness has been sitting on my shelf for years and I  was rather looking forward to it, but sadly it did not reach my elevated expectations.

A mysterious illness is effecting various people, they go completely blind for no known reason. Instead of darkness, they see only white. The blindness comes upon every victim suddenly, even between the changing of a traffic light.

I was intrigued by the story, it sounded rather interesting. Yet, I could not get into the book, mostly because the author had a complete lack of punctuation. It was nearly impossible to keep track of the dialog. Eventually, I just gave up because the frustration wasn't worth the "reward".  Oh well, everyone has to deal with a lousy book from time to time.

28 August 2013

Current Reads

Oh my... Its been a while since I posted a review. You'd think that loosing a job would mean that I'd have more time to read, but I've been so busy lately. No excuse! Read more, do "whatever" less.

Currently, I'm reading four books. All right, that means the books are in various stages of reading and are all sitting on my nightstand. I'm about one hundred pages into Blindness by Jose Saramago. Not a fan of it, to be honest. The author's lack of punctuation is testing my patience. Next, is One the Road by Jack Kerouac. I love his writing, but am having a hard time getting into this one. Maybe I'll sit still long enough to get a few chapters into the story. Then there's the dirty little secret, Inferno by Dan Brown. I read about half of it in one day. Brown isn't really a literary genius, but its my dirty little secret, my little indulgence, like a vegetarian that can't pass up the odd burger now and then. Finally, I'm a chapter into The Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I love a good mystery and Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite detectives. Between he and Hercule Poirot, I've been a hard core murder fan most of my life. 

I blame both my book addiction and my detectives on my mother, she's the one that introduced me to both Holmes and Poirot.

I promise I'll have something posted by way of a review soon. Until then... happy reading!

12 July 2013

Angels and Demons Special Illustrated Edition by Dan Brown

Angels and Demons- Special Illustrated Edition -5stars

I've read this once before and enjoyed the intrigue. Its a whirlwind run throughout Rome as Robert Langdon tries to find the Church of Illumination and save not only the four favoured cardinals but also all the ones gathered at St. Peter's Square during Conclave, the vote for a new pope.

I have always had a soft spot for novels that use art and history as clues to the end game. Brown is a master at this style. The joy, though, of the illustrated edition is that you can see photographs of the very clues that Langdon is using to stop a Hassassin. It brings the story to life, it makes you want to take the same path and see if you could have figured it out on your own.

Yes, I know its a work of fiction, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be fun to see Bernini's sculptures in the churches throughout Rome and the Vatican. The questions are intriguing: Was Bernini really an Illuminatus? Was there really a Path of Illumination? Did the early members of the Illuminati have a Church of Illumination? It could be... but then it could also have been just a figment of Brown's imagination. That's part of the fun, we may never know. 

28 June 2013

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell

Beat the Reaper --3 Stars

This was an average novel because I got rather annoyed rather quickly with the constant f*** this or f*** that. Tedious and distracting from the better parts of the novel.

We meet Dr Peter Brown on his rounds at a hospital that every one hates severely, but he doesn't mind because no one has heard of Bearclaw Brnwa either. In another life, he was a hitman with a heart of gold for the mafia. He had rules, only taking out the kind of guys that no one would miss, that would actually make the world better for their not breathing the same air as decent people.

One day he has to run for it and right into the Witness Protection Programme. All is well, for a while. He's become a doctor, of all things, and is doing his best to set the scales straight. Its all find and dandy until some one recognizes him and then its all bets off.

Now I like a good redemption tale, a guy who wants to pay back his due of good to the world before the Reaper catches up to him. Who doesn't? There is a fair amount of gallows humour in this novel, something I'm also a sucker for. However the shear amount of poor language takes away from the greatness of this book.

I don't regret reading it, I just regret the fact that writers feel the need to add such vernacular to the lexicon. 

22 June 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club 5 stars

This was a book that an online book club I belong to was reading a few months ago. I had to wait for a copy to become available at the library, so I missed the chance to read it with The Book Addicts on GoodReads. I'm glad though that I did read it, even if I did get an odd comment from one of my managers at work. He thought it was a zombie book.

The author and his family learn that their matriarch has cancer, not just any kind but pancreatic cancer. Basically its a death sentence. Nearly everyone dies of pancreatic cancer, the point is to make the most of the time that you have left. Mary Anne Schwalbe is a brave woman, no matter how many times she tells you the contrary. She has survived many trips to the Middle East and Africa in her efforts to help women and refugees. Her last triumph was to have a library built near Kabul (forgive me if I am incorrect here, but I am sure it was in Afghanistan or Pakistan...). She gave so much of herself that at the end of her life it was hard to allow others to give to her.

It started in a waiting room for chemotherapy. Her son, Will, asks that one question that every reader loves to hear, "What are you reading?" And so began The End of Your Life Book Club. They spent almost two years sharing books, re-reading old favourites and discovering new authors. They used the books to help each other through an incredibly difficult time, they laughed, loved and read their way through the worst thing any one can imagine, the death of a loved one. Through it all Mary Anne and Will maintained their love for reading and each other by diving into a venture that they would never have the chance to do again.

I think what I loved most about this book was that it wasn't a eulogy, not really. Sure, Will misses his mother, loved her deeply, wanted the world to know the amazing woman that had given him life. What Will Schwalbe did was to show us that love doesn't end, it grows stronger. Take the time to show, to tell the people you love that you do care about them. Listen to them. Celebrate the fact that they have been and always will be a part of your life.

My mother has degenerative disc disease and is in constant pain, though she never really shows it. This book made me stop and think of how fortunate I am to be her daughter. She imparted to me the same gift that Mary Anne did to her children, especially Will, she gave me the love of reading, of human thought, of creativity. I am proud to be part of her life, and I hope... no I know she feels the same. She tells me all the time, along with the famous "If I can draw a smiley face in the dust on your dresser, you need to clean!"

I would love to have a chat with Mr Schwalbe, and let him know how much I appreciated a book that made me love my own mother more, that made me cry (which doesn't happen often) and that made me think how grand it is to have a woman we call Mom who shows us the incredible gift of reading.

16 June 2013

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help 2Stars

I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to enjoy it as much as I had To Kill a Mockingbird because they have similar themes. Being black in the south was (and still is in some places) almost a death sentence, your life is crammed into a box of prejudice and there isn't a way out. I was hoping for a book that would show how a group of women made there way to a brighter future, instead I was handed the one thing I fear about books with female leads... I was given boredom. I rarely have good fortune with woman as protagonists. They always do the insipid pitty party and it annoys me.

Female leads always lean toward depressive episodes, emotional fits of tears, gossip mongering, and salacious deeds of misconduct. As a woman, it ticks me off! In The Help, we have two black women who work for white women, they do everything except wipe their pearly back-sides. The women do what they can to not try and rise above their "station" as servants. Enter the white girl outside town. She wants to make her way out of her role as a female, she doesn't want to marry and have kids. She wants to write, which endeared her to me, but only slightly. I felt she used these women to excel herself, pushing them into saying and doing things they normally wouldn't have.

Maybe its just that I was insanely bored by this little novel, but I didn't care to read it when it came out, fearing the massive amount of estrogen contained therein. I really did want to enjoy this book, but alas, it was literary algae. It looked great, but had no substance.

06 June 2013

Lowell/Sheridan Series by Chelsea Cain

Lowell/Sheridan Series --5Stars

This series starts out with a serial killer kidnapping the lead of the task force assigned to catch them, well to catch her. That's right, you heard me, the serial killer is a woman. Statistically, women only account for about 15% of serial killers, its mostly a male thing. Anyway, she kidnaps him and holds him for ten days, torturing him in all the ways that she did her other victims. He's special though, she wants to make it last.

Archie Sheridan is the lead detective of the Beauty Killer Task Force. It has taken him ten years to figure out who she is and that information just may kill him in the end. Gretchen Lowell is the beautiful woman with a psychotic flair. She has no pattern and no similarities, save one. She carve the shape of a heart into all her victims. By the time she is done with Archie, he's completely damaged goods. Somehow he manages to push forward and at least look normal.

These novels are not for the feint of heart. Gretchen is one heck of a crazy bitch and will not stop unless there is a bullet in her brain. They are gruesome and  terrifying in nearly every way. Even through the page, Gretchen has the ability to mess with your head. Chelsea Cain wrote a fantastic character, and I fear to be in the same room with that author without Mase.

Honestly, I love the fact that I can be carried so quickly into that world of fear and lust, blood and passion and still come begging for more.
Oh my... people are going to start to think that I forgot about my blog. Wait... Does anyone even read this in the first place? I'm not sure, I don't know. Either way, I've been neglecting my reading and focusing on my writing for a little bit. Nothing much has come of it, but I suppose that isn't the point is it?

I did read a couple of books but I have read them once before. The first three books in the Lowell/Sheridan series by Chelsea Cain. I wanted to read them again in preparation for the fourth book. Maybe I'll review them any way.

Either way, just wanted to tell anyone who cares that I'm sorry for not posting any new reviews. Thanks for reading.

21 March 2013

The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen

The Keepsake  -4Stars

I admit it, I have a... problem, an addiction, for which there is no cure. I am attracted to novels of murder and serial killers the way a Frat boy is attracted to large breasts and beer. I love the science of it, the mystery of it. The dialog of catching a criminal in a lie. I can't help but be entertained. My attention is held from opening word to last punctuation and few do it better then Tess Gerritsen.

The story starts innocently enough with the CT scan of a mummy found in the basement of a run down museum. Madame X is perfectly preserved and the exam is gather information from under the wrappings without disturbing the mummy itself. Imagine the surprise of every one present when a modern bullet fragment is found in her femur! And thus starts a whirlwind hunt to find the killer before he strikes again.

There are so many delicious twists and turns in this book! I love when I'm not quite sure what will happen next, but my guesses are correct anyway. Is he who he says he is? Was he really where everyone says he was at the time? Its great, like a mini adrenalin rush! My only problem with the whole story is Maura Isles. A brilliant woman is hopelessly infatuated with a man she can never truly have. The fact that she continues to pine after him annoys me to the end of my patience! Blessedly, she has a minor role in this episode from the series.

Nothing ticks me off more then a woman who longs for a man and does everything to prove that she is his best match. If it wasn't for that junk, I would have given it Five stars. 

20 March 2013

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading 0 Stars

I was terribly disappointed in this. I expected it to be a book about a woman and her love of reading. Instead, I was given this load of crap that featured nothing but lengthy monolog on the Second Feminist Movement. Of course, I was unaware of there being more then just the one. You know, 1960's, people burning bras and draft cards. I'm not a feminist, just a girl who reads and works (preferably in that order). Being told that a woman enduring years of torment from a man is classified as an "extreme-adventure" really ticks me off! I swear, it was like reading the commentary of a Lifetime Special.

Sure there are many strong female rolls in fiction, I've featured many here in my blog. What I don't like is seeing a woman in an emotionally taxing roll in which she has to survive beating after beating, affair after affair and just accept it as the way the world works that she has to simply accept it. I've read countless books in which the female lead is strong, emotionally and physically. She takes care of herself and others, while maintaining her dignity.

Honestly, I'm surprised that I managed to read it at all without throwing it against the wall. I felt incredibly let down. She promised so much and delivered next to nothing.

14 March 2013

The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski

The Muse Asylum --5 stars

I managed to receive this novel for free, hence why I read it. Who can pass up a free book? I wasn't disappointed and am eagerly awaiting the author's new novel.

We start with the lead character, Jake Burnett, a jaded reporter living in New York City. He gets this idea to hunt down his favourite author, Horace Jacob Little, who has never given an interview and is famous for being a recluse. No one have ever seen him, no one has ever taken his photograph. He has no identification of any kind, no DMV record, not even a traffic ticket. By all accounts, Horace Jacob Little does not exist. Yet his writing proves otherwise.

Jake is curious, as many scholars are, why in the middle of his career, Horace Jacob Little takes his writing onto a completely different plane. Our reporter wants to find out what happened and who his author really is. Enter an old class mate from college. Andrew Wallace had a break down trying to find that same answer by analyzing the story that marked the change in Little's work. Is the story just that, a story? Or maybe it is the truth behind everything...

For a first time author, David Czuchlewski has created a set of circumstances that pulls the reader into his world and isn't about to let them go. His narrative is haunting and amazing. A splendid mix of sanity and schizophrenia, we are pulled into a world where nothing is what it seems and everything is a dream. I'm sure that this story will be carried with me for some time. And I'm glad of it. Everyone needs a story that makes them question reality, makes them question everything simply because the book forces you to look at things in a way that you never thought possible.

01 March 2013

Alexandria Link by Steve Berry

Alexandria Link 2stars

Action, adventure, kidnappings, killings, and a ticked off ex-wife! What more could you want? Not much, personally... until the author started to say that nothing in the Bible can be proved with history. Of course it can, several things can be, but that is not how Mr Berry wanted to write. He writes fiction, so allowances must be made, but not too many. Personally, I was rather offended and that is not an easy thing to do. I did try to read past his calling God a liar but I had such a hard time trying to ignore it, the core of the story, that it was best I not read further.

The premise is that the Link directly intersects with the nation of Israel,both modern and ancient. You see, the Bible is a lie and therefore voids any and all claims to land that the Israelites have. I'm not Jewish, but that was offensive. This is one of those rare books that I had to fight an urge to throw across the room. Usually, Mr Berry provides a grand reading experience with tons of twists and turns mixed with a healthy amount of mystery and gun fire. Not this time. I'm sorry but this is just not a good book and I was rather disappointed to have a two in a row that failed to live up to expectations.

The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

The Sinner 3stars

One of the few books I've read on my Nook, The Sinner was a fast read. Jane Rizzoli is called to a convent to solve the murder of two nuns one bitter winter's morning. The crime is horrifying in its cruelty and barbarity. Both women's heads are bashed in within the walls of a building that should have been a sanctuary from the evils of the world, but evil will find a way in anyplace.

There are more twists and sex in this then a James Bond film. I think that is what ultimately took away from the story. I don't care who you're having a romp with, get to the story! Who is Jane Doe, what's the connection?! Who's the killer? In the end it was a good book that kept my attention even if I did have to fast forward through a few places.Usually I do enjoy Gerritsen's books, there have been a few duds along the way, but I expect that. I'm just not a fan of too much sex in a book, I understand the biology, I don't need a description. Just get to the crime solving please and thank you.

21 February 2013

Waiter Rant: Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by The Waiter

Waiter Rant 5 Stars

Anyone who has ever worked retail, or even with the public will know exactly what The Waiter is going through and what motivates his actions. Everyone has had at least one customer that has royally ticked us off and we all want to react to that person and destroy them in some way. Personally, I have always harboured the dream of throwing cold water in their face and make them shut up.

When his life gets turned up-side down, The Waiter takes the first job that comes along. You guessed it... waiting tables in a restaurant. He starts off in the worst place possible and gets fired rather quickly, mostly because he won't pay the manager for shifts. Eventually, he lands a job as head waiter in a high end restaurant, serving the rich and entitled of New York.

His escapades make us feel for him, understand him. He started off as a guy that didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up but now its become a career that he never wanted. We read as he gets irate customers to either calm down or get out, as he helps a couple enjoy a meal they probably can't afford but hey its Valentine's, and we see how he treats his coworkers and customers.

As a retailer, I could identify with the Waiter, I could understand why he does what he does. I can completely understand the frustration that he fights so hard to keep in check. I don't drink or smoke, so I can't walk away and take a bit of alcohol or nicotine to take the edge off. I applaud his taking his frustrations and making them into a blog and finally a book. Thanks, Waiter, for giving me a laugh.

15 February 2013

Julie and Julie by Julie Powell

Julie and Julia -- 4 Stars

What do you do if you are about to turn thirty, have a boring job, a syndrome that makes having children difficult, and oh... did I mention you're turning THIRTY? How do you find a purpose in your life? What are you going to do?

If you're Julie Powell, you take down the recipe book you snatched from you mother and make the decision to cook every single thing in it, no matter what. Of course, the cook book is none other than Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. With over five hundred recipes, its a challenge in and of itself, but to say you're going to do this in a year? Yep, Julie is crazy, no doubt about it. She wanted to put some excitement, some meaning into her life and she cooked her way through a year to do it.

You might think that it would be boring to read about a woman cooking for a year. In reality, its a riot! No... its a catastrophe! Between trying to find beef bone with the marrow intact or getting the courage to cook a live lobster, its amazing the woman's apartment was still standing. Heck, I'm surprised her marriage lasted! There really are no words to describe what this book is. Its a biography, a self help, a cook book... kinda. Its such a wonderful mix that it defies definition, which I find completely endearing. Honestly, I love the chutzpah that Julie has, even in the face of aspic!

In the end, its not all about Julie Powell or Julia Child, its about finding the joy in life, grasping it with both hands and enjoying the wild ride... mistakes, disasters, and all.
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