Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: A Year In Review

10. Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly ~ This was a funny suspenseful thriller that had me up reading into the wee hours of the morning. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found the main character to be an interesting one.

9. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ~ This true crime novel, frequently toted as the first of its kind, is beautifully written. Mr. Capote was able to produce empathy for the murderers in the way he told their stories, although not taking away the desire for the reader to see them to face the consequences of their actions.

8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie ~ A delightful mystery! Agatha Christie was my designated favorite mystery writer when I was growing up and she is still among my favorites.

7. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse ~ I found the story mesmerizing, full of suspense as well as drama. I loved the historical aspect of the novel most of all.

6. Tales From the Child of the Enemy by Ursula Duba ~ Although simple in its presentation (in poetry form), Ms. Duba’s book is thought provoking and conscious raising.

5. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder ~ Books that balance historical events with the present seem to be among my favorites most often, I've discovered. This novel offered that and so much more. It was one of the best suspense/thriller novels I've read.

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho ~ Stealing a line directly from my review: Upon finishing the book, I understand what the publisher Harper Collins meant when it referred to the book as being like “getting up at dawn and seeing the sun rise while the rest of the world sleeps.” That’s truly what it feels like.

The race for 1st place was very close. After much thought and several one-sided debates with Anjin (who just listened because he hadn't read any of the books--it's amazing what he puts up with when it comes to me!) and a last minute rearraging because I still couldn't make up my mind, I finally settled on an order I think I can live with. Drum roll please . . .

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ~ Admittingly, having just finished The Thirteenth Tale, it is the most fresh in my mind and perhaps that is part of the reason I was so tempted to put it in the top spot. Alas, two other books consumed me just a little more and so The Thirteenth Tale finds its place as #3 on my list. It was well written, intriguing, and spoke to me, sometimes the voice sounding a little like mine.

2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova ~ I was lost in the prose as soon as I began reading and held in suspense with each chapter. I was transported directly into Kostova's world as I read, held captive even when I was not reading the book.

1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See ~ Snow Flower and The Secret Fan left a deep impression on me. I started blogging several months after I read this particular book, and so no review is posted. Straight from my notes:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005)
See, Lisa (Fiction) (258 pgs)
Completed: 04/09/2006
Rating: Excellent

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story about the lives of two special friends in nineteenth-century China. The two girls are matched as laotongs, a rare friendship that is established between two girls specially chosen to be lifelong friends. They communicate through a secret language called nu shu.

The descriptions and writing style of Lisa See, the author, brought to mind Arthur Golden with
Memoirs of a Geisha. I found the historical and cultural aspects of the novel intriguing: the foot binding process, the role of women in society and within the family, for example. The chapter and description of the foot binding process was difficult to read at times. Foot binding was a big part of the Chinese culture during that time period and a reflection on the place of women in society. It was believed that foot binding was proof of personal discipline and an ability to endure the pain of child birth as well as whatever other misfortunes might come. Small feet were a sign of beauty. The smaller the feet, the better the wife. Lisa See painted a disturbing portrait of women’s roles in those days, where only having male offspring made a woman valuable and women were the property of their husband’s family. While this idea still exists today in one form or another in some cultures, it was even more widespread back then.

The friendship and misunderstandings between Snow Flower and Lily brought to mind Hassan and Amir from Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Like it did for Amir, my heart ached for Lily and the poor choices she made, which ultimately caused a riff in her friendship with Snow Flower.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a powerful novel, not one that I will easily forget, and is by far the best novel I’ve read so far this year.

Longest Book Read In 2006 ~ The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (676 pgs)

Shortest Book Read In 2006 ~ Tales From A Child of the Enemy by Ursula Duba (155 pgs)

Best Series In Which I Am Caught Up ~ Jim Butcher's Dresden Files

Best Nonfiction ~ Tales From A Child of the Enemy by Ursula Duba

Favorite Comfort Read ~ Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series

New To Me Authors Most Likely To Become Long-Term Favorites ~
Mario Acevedo
Mark Billingham
Paulo Coelho
Yasmina Khadra
Fannie Flagg
Mo Hayder
T. Jefferson Parker
Ian Sansom
Diane Setterfield
Daniel Silva
Minette Walters

Funniest Narrator ~ Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich)

Characters I'd Like To Hang With ~
Sookie Stackhouse (Charlaine Harris)
Mma Ramotswe (Alexander McCall Smith)
Kitty Norville (Carrie Vaughn)
Joanna Brady (J.A. Jance)
Ruth Jamison (Fannie Flagg)
Noah Jordain (M.J. Rose)
Grandma Mazur (Janet Evanovich)
Mina Harker (Bram Stoker)
Dr. Clifton (Diane Setterfield)

Detectives I would Like On My Case ~
JP Beaumont (J.A. Jance)
Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)

As Back-Up ~
Carson Ryder & Harry Nautilis (Jack Kerley)
Alex Cross (James Patterson)

Characters I Would Like To Have At My Side If Danger Comes Knocking At My Door ~
Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher)
Clay Danvers (Kelley Armstrong)
Gabriel Allon (Daniel Silva)
Micah Dalton (David Stone)

Therapist Whose Couch I Would Be Most Comfortable On ~ Frank Clevenger (Keith Ablow)

Lawyer I Would Hire If I Was In a Jam On the Right Side Of the Law ~ Alexandra Cooper (Linda Fairstein)

Lawyer I Would Hire In a Jam If I Wasn't ~ Michael Haller (Michael Connelly)

Fantasy World I Wouldn't Mind Stepping Into ~ Kyralia (The Black Magician Trilogy, Trudi Cananvan)

2006 Reading Trends ~

Total Books Read - 115

Books Read by Genre -
35 Mysteries
27 Suspense/Thrillers
22 Fantasy
23 Fiction
4 Nonfiction
3 Horror
1 Romance

Authors Read by Gender -
41 Females
32 Males

Books Read by Authors' Gender -
69 Females
44 Males

Average Books Read per Author (by Gender) -
1.69 Females
1.38 Males

Books Read by Rating -
12 Excellent
6 Very Good +
33 Very Good
27 Good +
29 Good
5 Fair +
3 Fair

Total Books I was Unable to Read to Completion: 1

Book Size -
4 Pint Size Books (200 pgs and Under)
51 Intermediate Books (201-350 pgs)
53 Substantial Books (351-500 pgs)
7 Chunkster Books (501+ pgs)

Books Read by Type -
29 Hardback Books
39 Trade Paperback Books (9 Advanced Reader's Editions, ARE)
46 Paperback Boooks
1 Manuscript Copy (1 ARE)

Books Read by Year of Publication -
93 in the 2000's (39 in 2006 alone)
16 in the 1990's
3 in the 1980's
1 each in 1965, 1926, and 1897

That sums up my reading year. It was a great year overall, and I am looking forward to seeing where my books take me in 2007.

Have a very Happy New Year everyone!
Best wishes in the New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books Read in 2006

January 2006
1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965) - Nonfiction - 343 pgs - Rating: Excellent
2. Lying in Wait by J.A. Jance (1994) - Mystery - 386 pgs - Rating: Good
3. Name Withheld by J.A. Jance (1996) - Mystery - 392 pgs - Rating: Good +
4. Breach of Duty by J.A. Jance (1999) - Mystery - 358 pgs - Rating: Very Good
5. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926) - Mystery - 241 pgs - Rating: Excellent
6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005) - Nonfiction/Memoir - 288 pgs - Rating: Good +
7. Maybe Baby edited by Lori Leibovich (2006ARE) - Nonfiction - 263 pgs - Rating: Very Good
8. The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo (2006ARE) - Fantasy - 354 pgs-Rating: Good +
9. Dead to Rights by J.A. Jance (1996) - Mystery - 374 pgs - Rating: Good
10. Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance (1997) - Mystery - 371 pgs - Rating: Good +
11. Rattlesnake Crossing by J.A. Jance (1998) - Mystery - 374 pgs - Rating: Good +

February 2006
12. Outlaw Mountain by J.A. Jance (1999) - Mystery - 368 pgs - Rating: Good
13. Devil's Claw by J.A. Jance (2000) - Mystery - 387 pgs - Rating: Good
14. Paradise Lost by J.A. Jance (2001) - Mystery - 256 pgs - Rating: Good +
15. Birds of Prey by J.A. Jance (2001) - Mystery - 388 pgs - Rating: Good
16. Partner in Crime by J.A. Jance (2002) - Mystery - 386 pgs - Rating - Good
17. Exit Wounds by J.A. Jance (2003) - Mystery - 390 pgs - Rating: Very Good
18. Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance (2005) - Mystery - 339 pgs - Rating: Very Good +
19. The People's Republic of Desire by Annie Wang (2006ARE) - Fiction - 445 pgs - Rating: Good
20. Edge of Evil by J.A. Jance (2006) - Mystery - 374 pgs - Rating: Good +
21. Hour of the Hunter by J.A. Jance (1991) - Suspense/Thriller - 407 pgs - Rating: Very Good
22. Kiss of the Bees by J.A. Jance (2000) - Suspense/Thriller - 454 pgs - Rating: Good
23. Day of the Dead by J.A. Jance (2004) - Suspense/Thriller - 395 pgs - Rating: Very Good

March 2006
24. Likely to Die by Linda Fairstein (1997) - Mystery - 418 pgs - Rating: Good
25. Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton (2006) - Fantasy - 245 pgs - Rating: Good
26. Cold Hit by Linda Fairstein (1999) - Mystery - 450 pgs - Rating: Good +
27. Deadly Housewives edited by Christine Matthews (2006ARE) - Mystery - 286 pgs - Rating: Good
28. The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein (2001) - Mystery - 495 pgs - Rating: Good +
29. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith (2001) - Fiction - 227 pgs - Rating: Very Good
30. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (2002) - Fiction - 191 pgs - Rating: Good

April 2006
31. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult (2000) - Fiction - 405 pgs - Rating: Excellent
32. The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein (2003) - Mystery - 506 pgs - Rating: Very Good +
33. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (2005) - Fiction - 258 pgs - Rating: Excellent
34. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 404 pgs - Rating: Excellent
35. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (2003) - YA Fantasy - 534 pgs - Rating: Fair +
36. The Kills by Linda Fairstein (2004) - Mystery - 463 pgs - Rating: Very Good
37. Entombed by Linda Fairstein (2005) - Mystery - 400 pgs - Rating: Very Good
38. Death Dance by Linda Fairstein (2006) - Mystery - 340 pgs - Rating: Good +

May 2006
39. Broken by Kelley Armstrong (2006) - Fantasy - 444 pgs - Rating: Good
40. Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker (1985) - Mystery - 322 pgs - Rating: Very Good
41. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris (2006) - Fantasy - 324 pgs - Rating: Very Good
42. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult (2001) - Fiction - 434 pgs - Rating: Excellent
43. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (2002) - Fiction - 291 pgs - Rating: Good
44. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith (2003) - Mystery - 198 pgs - Rating: Good +
45. Cell by Stephen King (2006) - Horror - 350 pgs - Rating: Good
46. Bad Twin by Gary Troup (2006) - Mystery - 258 pgs - Rating: Very Good
47. Single White Vampire by Lynsay Sands (2003) - Romance - 369 pgs - Rating: Fair +
48. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (2004) - Mystery -233pgs - Rating: Very Good
49. Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith (2006) - Mystery - 227 pgs - Rating: Good +
50. Gone by Jonathan Kellerman (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 365 pgs - Rating: Good +

June 2006
51. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher(2001) - Fantasy - 342 pgs - Rating: Very Good
52. The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop (2000) - Fantasy - 398 pgs - Rating: Very Good
53. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (2001) - Fantasy - 378 pgs - Rating: Good +
54. The Novice by Trudi Canavan (2001) - Fantasy - 465 pgs - Rating: Good
55. The High Lord by Trudi Canavan (2003) - Fantasy - 531 pgs - Rating: Good +
56. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (2002) - Fantasy - 371 pgs - Rating: Very Good
57. Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop(2005) - Fantasy - 439 pgs - Rating: Very Good
58. Death Masks by Jim Butcher (2003) - Fantasy - 374 pgs - Rating: Good +
59. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich (2006) - Mystery - 310 pgs - Rating: Good +
60. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (2004) - Fantasy - 372 pgs - Rating: Very Good
61. Derik's Bane by MaryJanice Davidson (2005) - Fantasy - 292 pgs - Rating: Fair +
62. Dead and Loving It by MaryJanice Davidson (2006) - Fantasy - 305 pgs - Rating: Good
63. Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson (2006) - Fantasy - 257 pgs - Rating: Good
64. Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (2005) - Fantasy - 424 pgs - Rating: Very Good +

July 2006
65. Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton (2006) - Fantasy - 483 pgs - Rating: Fair +
66. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (2003) - Fiction - 397 pgs - Rating: Very Good +
67. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 513 pgs - Rating: Excellent
68. Lifeless by Mark Billingham (2006ARE) - Mystery - 386 pgs - Rating: Good +
69. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (2001) -Fiction - 664 pgs - Rating: Good
70. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander (2003) - Fiction - 229 pgs - Rating: Very Good
71. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho(1993) - Fiction - 167 pgs - Rating: Excellent
72. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard (1984) - Fiction - 279 pgs - Rating: Good +
73. The Attack by Yasmina Khadra (2005) - Fiction - 274 pgs - Rating - Very Good +
74. Bombay Time by Thrity Umrigar (2001) - Fiction - 274 pgs - Rating: Very Good
75. Tales From a Child of the Enemy by Ursula Duba (1995) - Nonfiction - 155 pgs - Rating: Excellent
76. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat (1994) - Fiction - 236 pgs - Rating: Good +
77. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn (2006) - Fantasy - 339 pgs -Rating: Very Good
78. Targets of Affection by RG Willems (2006) - Mystery - 261 pgs - Rating: Good +
79. Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore (1992) - Horror - 243 pgs - Rating: Good

August 2006
80. The Finishing School by Michele Martinez (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 387 pgs - Rating: Very Good
81. The Shattered Blue Line by Patrick A. Davis (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 406 pgs-Rating: Good
82. The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 372 pgs - Rating: Very Good
83. The Strength of the Sun by Catherine Chidgey (2000) -Fiction-270pgs - Rating: Very Good
84. The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren (2006)-Suspense/Thriller (Christian) - 384 pgs -Rating: Good
85. Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (2006) - Fantasy - 404 pgs - Rating: Very Good

September 2006
86. Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 311 pgs - Rating: Good +
87. The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters (2006ARE) - Suspense/Thriller - 343 pgs - Rating: Very Good +
88. Projection by Keith Ablow (1999) - Suspense/Thriller - 337 pgs - Rating: Good
89. Compulsion by Keith Ablow (2002) - Suspense/Thriller - 321 pgs - Rating: Good
90. Psychopath by Keith Ablow (2003) - Suspense/Thriller - 342 pgs - Rating: Very Good
91. Murder Suicide by Keith Ablow (2004) - Suspense/Thriller - 305 pgs - Rating: Fair +
92. Unconfessed by Yvette Christiansë (2006ARE) - Fiction - 347 pgs - Rating: Good +
93. Scenes From the Blanket by Ted Torres (2006) - Fiction - 250 pgs - Rating: Fair
94. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder (2004)-Suspense/Thriller - 471 pgs - Rating: Excellent

October 2006
95. Red Sky Lament by Edward Wright (2006) - Mystery - 278 pgs - Rating: Good
96. The Thoughtful Spot by Eric R. Weule (2004) - Fiction - 203 pgs - Rating: Very Good
97. Baked Alaskan by William Scarborough (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 276pgs - Rating: Good +
98. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (1987) - Fiction - 403 pgs - Rating: Very Good
99. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) - Horror - 454 pgs - Rating: Very Good
100. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005) - Fiction - 676 pgs - Rating: Excellent
101. Bone Valley by Claire Matturro (2006ARE) - Mystery - 316 pgs - Rating: Good

November 2006
102. The Hunt by Allison Brennan (2006, manuscript) - Suspense/Thriller - 473 pgs - Rating: Good
103. The Messenger by Daniel Silva (2006ARE) - Suspense/Thriller - 338 pgs - Rating: Very Good
104. I, Tutus: The Son of Heaven by Don Phillips (2005) - Fiction - 263 pgs - Rating: Fair
105. Lost to Them by Gaytri Saggar (2006) - Fiction - 311 pgs - Rating: Fair

December 2006
106. Forgetfulness by Ward Just (2006) - Fiction - 258 pgs - Rating: Good +
107. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2003) - YA Fantasy - 509 pgs - Rating: Good +
108. Cat & Mouse by James Patterson (1997) - Suspense/Thriller - 451 pgs - Rating: Good +
109. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 292 pgs - Rating: Very Good
110. The Death Collectors by Jack Kerley (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 382 pgs - Rating: Very Good
111. The Echelon Vendetta by David Stone (2006ARE) - Suspense/Thriller - 420 pgs - Rating: Very Good
112. The Architect by Keith Ablow (2005) - Suspense/Thriller - 289 pgs - Rating: Good
113. The Delilah Complex by M.J. Rose (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 371 pgs -Rating: Good
114. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006) - Fiction - 406 pgs - Rating: Excellent
115. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom (2005ARE) - Mystery - 329 pgs - Rating: Very Good

Review of The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

2005, Harper
329 pgs
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: No. No, no, no, no, no.

Reason for Reading: This was a Harper Collins First Look selection I put my name in for a chance to preview. Who am I to resist a book involving books? And a mystery at that!

Comments: Ian Sansom’s Mobile Library Mystery series is finally coming to the United States. The first book in the series, The Case of the Missing Books, is a witty and charming cozy-like mystery. The perfect book to end the year with.

The novel opens with the protagonist, Israel Armstrong, a Jewish and half Irish vegetarian from England, standing outside the library where he was supposed to begin his new job. Much to his dismay, the sign on the door delcares that the library is closed. For good. Worn out, down on his luck and extremely irratiable, Israel soon discovers that it was decided that the public would be better served with a mobile library instead of a more permanent, stay in place structure. Nothing is what he expected—or wanted. Against his better judgement, Israel agrees to stay and help get the mobile library off the ground before returning to England and his old life.

As the Tumdrum librarian it is up to Israel to uncover the mystery of the whereabouts of the missing 15,000 library books, which have apparently gone missing. Even though the books most likely disappeared before his arrival, he faces the blame if they are not recovered. Israel is an unlikely detective, not only brand new to a town where he does not feel welcom but also a victim to bumbling misteps, which offer laughs and chuckles at every turn. Poor Israel!

Although the author, Ian Sansom, does not spend a lot of time on character development other than Israel’s character, the style of writing and pace of the story make up for it. It’s full of humor, run on sentences that somehow seem to work well for the atmosphere of the story, and a genuine attraction to the eccentic characters in the novel. I had not expected to enjoy this book as much as I did, to be honest. I look forward to the next book in the series, which fortunately is slated to come out in May of 2007.

Note: Although I personally would classify this novel as being cozy-like there is strong language from time to time.

Favorite Part: There is one scene in which Israel is unpacking his clothes from his suitcase, “ . . . it was books mostly, some clean underwear, and then more books, and books and books and books, the ratio of books to underwear being bout 20:1, books being really the great constant and companion in Israel’s life; the were always there for you, books . . . “ [pgs 115-116]

And my favorite scene of all takes place during the early stages of Israel’s investigation into the missing books. He parks the mobile library near the town square and all of a sudden “ . . . a queue had formed at the back of the mobile library, a dozen middle-aged and elderly women with carrier bags waiting to get in.” [pg 138]

The characters of Reverend Roberts and Pearce Pyper were my favorites of the eccentric cast in the novel. Both share my love for mysteries, which may have been the cause for the instant connection.

Miscellaneous: I can hardly believe the end of the year is here. This time of year always seems to fly by. This will be my last book of the year. I begin the Chunkster, Winter Classics and TBR Challenges on Monday and am looking forward to the experience. Anna Karenina, here I come!

My posts will most likely slow down once the New Year comes and life returns to a more normal schedule.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Reading Goals for 2007

The New Year is fast approaching and the promise of a new start. I suppose it's really more of a continuation of life, each year just building on the last, but somehow it always feels like a new start and a great time to set new goals, and, if a person dares, resolutions he or she may or may not intend to keep.

I know better than to beat myself up if I don't quite meet a particular goal (think of how black and blue I'd be if I did that!). I enjoy the challenge and feel an extra sense of pride if I succeed, but the fun and real reward is in the process.

First, let's review my 2006 Reading Goals:
1) Buy less, read more of the books I already own ~ A goal I strive to achieve every year and have yet to meet. Maybe in 2007.
2) Get caught up in the series I have already started ~ I made good progress and am satisfied with what I did accomplish. I definitely plan to continue with this goal into the next year.
3) Read more books than I read last year ~ The goal I did achieve, and then some. Last year I read 78 books. This year I managed to fit in 114 (closing in on 115 hopefully by the end of the year). I'm still not sure how I did it. I'm in shock. And I don't anticipate doing it again any time soon.

My 2007 Reading Goals:
1) Buy less, read more of the books I already own (you really didn't think I'd leave this one off, did you? I can do it this time, I know I can!)
2) Catch up on my series reading. (This could go one for years . . . )
3) Successfully complete the Winter Classics Challenge, The Chunkster Challenge, and the 2007 TBR Challenge (and any other challenges I decide to undertake this year).

Are you sitting on the edge of your seat, just waiting to see my Top Ten list? It's coming soon!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Review of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

2006, Atria
406 pgs
Rating: * (Outstanding)

First Sentence: It was November.

Reason for Reading: Several booklovers from online reading groups I belong to have been talking about this book since it came out and comments like, “best of the year” made the novel even more irresistible. My resolve not to buy books in hardback (with exceptions) made me hesitate in picking up a copy of The Thirteenth Tale. Fortunately, my husband was listening when I mentioned my interest in this gem of a book, and I found it under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.

From the Publisher: A compelling emotional mystery in the timeless vein of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, about family secrets and the magic of books and storytelling.

Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of them invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.

Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorkshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline.

Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.

Comments: When the buzz around a book grows louder and louder, I generally have one of two reactions. I turn and run in the other direction or I run right up to the book and dive right in. It took me a long time to come around to reading The Kite Runner and the Harry Potter novels, all of which I could kick myself for taking so long to get to. However, I could hardly wait to dive into Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and had Christmas not been right around the corner, my husband’s concern about my buying books for myself obvious, I fought the strong desire to do just that.

Still, once I had the book in hand, it was with some reluctance that I chose to read it almost immediately. I expected great things from The Thirteenth Tale and this alone caused me concern. I try not to raise my expectations for any book. The higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment can be.

As much as I would like to place the blame on my husband and a couple of fellow bloggers (Carl V and Heather) who encouraged me to take the plunge, in truth, it didn’t take much prodding at all. I was eager to read this book, to see if it held the magic that it had for so many others whose opinions I have come value.

And a magical experience it was! I lost myself immediately inside the pages of this intriguing and fascinating tale. Diane Setterfield is an amazing storyteller. The novel held me captive right from the beginning and kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning to reach the end. The book is very quotable and I think many voracious readers will find themselves identifying with Margaret Lea and her love for books. One of my favorite parts is when Margaret Lea talks about needing to make sure she is in a secure position before settling in to read or else the book will sweep her away into another world and she’ll forget where she is. She recounts how once, as a child, she fell down the stairs after losing herself in a book. How many of us have similar tales we could share about the way books draw us in so completely?

Margaret Lea is the guide that leads us through the many stories that fill the pages of The Thirteenth Tale. Although much of the focus is on best selling author Vida Winters’ own story, a story she has held close to her vest all her life, Margaret Lea’s story is just as significant. The two stories were similar in many ways, and different in just as many others.

Margaret Lea has gone through life as background, blending in and trying not be seen for so many years. She likes to bring to life the stories of the long forgotten, not wanting to draw attention to her own story.

Vida Winters, best selling author, has spent all of her adult life lost in her writing, surrounded by her characters, creating her own past when pressed about it, while at the same time suppressing the truth, separating herself from who she used to be.

At one point during the novel, Ms. Winters points out, “Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.” [pg 58] And the same applies to who we become; our pasts and our families are a part of us, with us, no matter how much we try to push them away or separate ourselves from them.

There is so much I could say about this novel, so many details I want to reveal . . . However, this is a novel that is better experienced by reading it. I ate up the references to Jane Eyre, one of my favorite novels, which are woven throughout the book. It is a complex story, full of surprising twists; and yet as the truth is revealed, piece by piece, there were several “Ah ha” moments in which I found myself going back over what I knew so far and realizing it was all there to see—it all made sense, each of the puzzle pieces falling into place.

Favorite Part: There were so many parts of this book I could list as my favorites. Two I mentioned above in my review.

There were the little joys: the prescription Dr. Clifton gave Margaret Lea. And Aurelius’ visit and the birthday cake.

Another is when Vida is describing to Margaret Lea how real her characters are to her, how much of their lives she sees and experiences: “My study throngs with characters waiting to be written. Imaginary people, anxious for a life, who tug at my sleeve, crying, ‘Me next! Go on! My turn!’” [pg 113]

“’When one is nothing, one invents. It fills a void.’” [pg 115] - Spoken by Vida Winters about her writing.

“A storyteller. A fabulist.” [pgs123] – Although not outwardly significant, this one caught my attention because of the word “fabulist", a favorite word of mine.

“’Miss Lea, it doesn’t do to get attached to these secondary characters. It’s not their story. They come, they go, and when they go, they’re gone for good. That’s all there is to it.’” [pgs 191-192] – How many times am I guilty of getting caught up in the lives of the secondary characters?

“All my unsaid words went back to wherever they had been all of these years.” [pg 221] – I love this sentence.

“Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes—characters even—caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.” [pgs 290-291] - A wonderful quote and a feeling I've experienced many times.

“I pushed my pile of papers to one side, stroked Shadow and stared into the fire, longing for the comfort of a story where everything had been planned well in advance, where the confusion of the middle was invented only for my enjoyment, and where I could measure how far away the solution was by feeling the thickness of pages still to come.” [pg 306] - There are times when I seek out this kind of comfort from the books I select to read too.

Miscellaneous: I joined the Yahoo Group, BookiesToo because I heard the group was reading and discussing The Thirteenth Tale the beginning of January. There I’ll be able to talk about the book to my heart’s content! To top it off, I've found myself in the position of leading the group discussion. How did that happen??

It slipped my attention until recently that another Yahoo Group I belong to, On The Porch Swing, is also discussing the book in January, beginning January 15th. It will be interesting to see how each group takes to the book.

Head on over if you want to join in. Both are friendly and enjoyable groups. The more the merrier!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Look Into the Past

I began keeping a reading journal in the fall of 2003, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane being the first book I reviewed. My reading journal has never been more than a Word document (each year, a different document) where I jot down my thoughts about a book once I finish reading it, along with the usual stats and a rating. In July of this year, I added to my format (what you see now), adding more to it. I am sure it will be an ever evolving process.

I like to go back and look over past journals this time of year, remembering what my favorite books were in years past. I have never been good at selecting just one favorite for any given year--so many touch me, reach me, fill a need in me, each in their own way.

In 2003, Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney won my heart. Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner stole the year in 2004, although I was really impressed with the witty The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Both novels are among my all time favorites to this day.

Two thousand five proved to be a terrific year for me in books. I am hardpressed to name one favorite among so many great novels. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was a reread for me--a book that I found even more rewarding the second time around. Me and Emma by Elizabeth Flock was a heartwrenching novel that stayed with me long after. And then there was Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex for which I most loved the history woven into the main plot. Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated made me laugh as well as cry. Empire Falls by Richard Russo and The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar moved me, the characters lives becoming a part of me as I lost myself in the stories. I loved the intensity and darkness of Christopher Rice's A Density of Souls. It was a wonderful year in books.

This year I read more books than I imagined possible. Perhaps it was the type of books I read or the amount of time I was able to dedicate to reading, much more than I had in the past. And like in years past, I read some marvelous books that took me outside of my own world and opened doors into the unfamilar. Some were comforting and others thought provoking. There were many in between. Most of all, I had fun on my reading adventures.

Stay tuned for my Top Ten List for the year.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2006

    Review of The Delilah Complex by M.J. Rose

    2006, Mira
    371 pgs
    Rating: * (Good)

    First Sentence: Warm, engulfing, darkness surrounded him.

    Reason for Reading: Another forward movement towards my goal to catch up with my series reading.

    From the Publisher: As one of New York's top sex therapists, Dr. Morgan Snow sees everything from the abused to the depraved. The Butterfield Institute is the sanctuary where she tries to heal these battered souls.

    The Scarlet Society is a secret club of twelve powerful and sexually adventurous women. But when a photograph of the body of one of the men they're recruited to dominate--strapped to a gurney, the number 1 inked on the sole of his foot-- is sent to the New York Times, they are shocked and frightened. Unable to cope with the tragedy, the women turn to Dr. Morgan Snow. But what starts out as grief counseling quickly becomes a murder investigation, with any one of the twelve women a potential suspect.

    The case leads Detective Noah Jordain -- a man with whom Morgan has shared a brief, intense connection--to her office. He fears the number on the man's foot hints that the killings have just begun. With her hands tied by her professional duty, Morgan is dangerously close to the demons in her own mind-- and the flesh-and-blood killer.

    Comments: Trouble seems to come to Dr. Morgan Snow in M.J. Rose’s second novel starring the well-respected sex therapist. I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Halo Effect. A sex therapist certainly is an interesting choice for a protagonist, and I was curious to see where author M.J. Rose would go with the next novel in the series.

    Morgan is good at what she does, but her insecurities on the home front sometimes get the better of her. She’s a divorced mother trying to raise a soon-to-be teenage daughter, struggling to be supportive of her daughter’s choices, although not quite agreeing with them. Meanwhile, she is fighting her attraction to the lead investigator, Noah Jordain, who is quite the catch. All of this seemed to play a big part in the novel. Amidst all that, Morgan cannot help but be curious about the connection between her new clients and the disappearances of several of their male associates. In The Delilah Complex, Morgan does not really take any sort of lead in the investigation; she just sort of stumbles on certain aspects that help lead to the conclusion. It was an interesting approach that did not deter from my enjoyment of the novel.

    As an aside, I did pretty much figure out how it would all turn out early on in the book, however, I think M.J. Rose did a good job trying to obfuscate what was to come.

    Favorite Part: One name: Noah Jordain. Need I say more?

    What I Am Reading Now

    I received the one book I most wanted the Chirstmas yesterday (Thanks, Anjin!), Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. As my eyes were drooping and ready to close whether I was ready or not last night, I at least did make it through the first chapter. I have to remind myself not to let my expectations get too high with this one least I end up disappointed. So many people have raved about this book.

    I admit that I almost decided against reading this or any other possible contender for my favorite of the year list (that expectation creeping in again!) this week. As I reasoned with Anjin, there's a reason I haven't posted my list yet--there is always room for change. And too, I do not know when I will get the opportunity to read Setterfield's novel once I begin the 2007 Winter Classics Challenge. Do I want to wait two months before picking up The Thirteenth Tale? Not really, no. Of course, it could end up that I finish the book after the start of the new year, which means it goes onto next year's list . . . I can already tell this isn't a book I want to rush through, but one I want to savor.

    Monday, December 25, 2006

    Happy Holidays!

    Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May your day be filled with laughter, joy and the making of many happy memories. Remember to be safe and have a slice of pie for me or a piece of birthday cake for me.

    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    My Library at

    MizBooks introduced me to Library Thing last month. I have long shunned the idea of using any sort of web-based site or software program designed to help me catolog my personal library. My simple excel spreadsheet listing all of the TBR books I own was enough for me. Somehow though, I let her talk me into giving Library Thing a try. It helped that my husband even seemed enthusiastic about the prospect. This would be the excuse I needed to finally catalog all the books one, the other or both of us have read as well.

    I have to say that going through the majority of the books in the house was a very worthwhile experience. There were only a couple of books that I turned to my husband and asked, "Is this yours?" And when he'd reply in the negative, I'd shrug, not remembering them as being mine either. What was most fun was going through my TBR books (and finding more TBR books among my husband's books). It was like visiting a bookstore and browsing the shelves at my leisure. Obviously most of my TBR books would not be TBR books if I did not want to read them, however, as I went through each one, my desire to read each of them was renewed and in some cases intensified. There is no way under the sun or moon I could read all of the books this next year, but perhaps if I can hold onto that feeling, I will at least be able to carry out my annual goal of buying less and reading more of the books I already own.

    Now that I've got the majority of the books logged, I can concentrate on tagging and adding details. If you're curious, please check out My Library at

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Thoughts About David Stone's The Echelon Vendetta

    ARE (2006, Putnam)
    420 pgs
    Rating: * (Very Good)

    First Sentence: At six minutes after midnight everything changed: Runciman sensed it, even in his drunken sleep.

    Reason for Reading: I came across this title on the list of books waiting to be reviewed for the site and decided it sounded interesting enough to try. It was one of three that somehow was tied into the spy novel theme I was in the mood for when I was selecting my last batch of review books.

    Comments: The Echelon Vendetta is due to hit stores this coming February. Out of a wide selection of books to choose from the review for Curled Up With a Good Book, this was one of the ones that interested me. It was one of three spy-related novels I decided to try in recent months, each one of them being very different from the other. There was Daniel Silva's The Messenger, which is probably more typical of an espionage novel, followed by Ward Just's novel, Forgetfulness, which seemed to be more about grief and coming to terms with the tragic death of his wife at the hands of terrorists. The Echelon Vendetta was less of a spy novel and more of a thriller, the kind involving the hunt for a serial killer. In David Stone's novel, the serial killer is targetting CIA and contracted agents who had been involved in the Echelon assignment. CIA cleaner, Micah Dalton is assigned to the job.

    I am unable to post my full review here because it has not yet been published on the Curled Up With a Good Book website ( That probably won't be until closer to the release date of the book in February. I will post a link to the review once it is up for those interested.
    I will say that I enjoyed the book, although I admit that I wasn't quite sure I would at first. It proved to be an entertaining story that kept me engrossed until the very last page.

    Favorite Part: This may sound odd, but my favorite part of the book is actually the part that had me doubting I would like it at first. Having completed the book, I am impressed by the author’s ability to put me right into the main character’s hallucinations and delusions. While I suspected that what was happening was a drug or alcohol reaction of some sort, it still left me feeling a bit dazed and hazy, which I’m sure was just how Micah Dalton was feeling when it was happening to him.

    I liked several of the characters in the novel. I was not too sure of the main character, Micah, at first, but the more I got to know him, the more I really liked him. Another of my favorites was the Italian Intelligence Officer Brancati. I was impressed most by how sharp he was and the way commanded respect. And then there was Fremont whose plea for Irene cemented my affection for the character.

    Miscellaneous: Christmas is just a couple of days away. I love this time of year. I have been driving my husband crazy with Christmas carols, and probably my coworkers yesterday too. They are a great bunch though and tolerate me fairly well.

    The wind is howling and bending trees. Tumbleweed and other assorted items are sailing by the house on air. It must be winter. I'll need to start watching what I touch. I collect static on days like this and what a shock that can be!

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Review of Forgetfulness by Ward Just

    2006, Houghton Mifflin
    258 pgs
    Rating: * (Good +)

    First Sentence: The way down was hard, the trail winding and slick underfoot, insecure.

    Reason for Reading: The synopsis of the book interested me. It fit with the mood I was in when I was looking over the choices of books I could review for

    Comments: While her husband visits with his two American friends after dinner, Florette decides to take a walk along one of her favorite paths in the Pyrenees Mountains near their home. She suddenly finds herself at the mercy of four unknown travelers when she falls and breaks her ankle. Although very reluctant to offer aid, the men put her on stretcher and begin their journey again. As the bitter cold and rough terrain make the trip even more uncomfortable, Florette recalls her life before and after meeting Thomas. She thinks of the dreams she never achieved and of the happiness she has found in life. Unfortunately for Florette, her rescuers turn out to be her murderers.

    Thomas Railles, a painter who at one time gathered information for the CIA, is devastated by the loss of his wife. Thomas wanders through the house, trying just to survive and keep hold of his memories of Florette. He does not want to let go. He does not want to forget. And in his remembering, memories of his life become more vivid: his final meeting with the Spaniard, his games of billiards with his English neighbor, his childhood, the start of his career in New York, his first love, and his life with Florette. He blames himself for his wife’s murder, wondering if he could have prevented her death had he noticed she’d left and not returned sooner. Thomas is ambiguous about pursuing the investigation into his wife’s murder, but the two Americans, friends since childhood, will not let go of it so easily, especially Bernhard.

    It is Bernhard who convinces Thomas to attend the interrogation of the men who murdered Florette, despite Thomas’ mixed feelings. When confronted with the man who killed his wife, Thomas is not sure what to do or what to think. A part of him only wants to forget, there is the part feels anger and wants revenge and yet another part feels some relief at knowing something of the truth as to what happened.

    Forgetfulness is a novel about one man’s journey through the grief after his wife’s tragic death. Thomas seemed numb through most the book. His love for Florette was clear and the impact of her death took a heavy toll on him just the same. His art seemed to seep up the passion he was unable to release. He felt angry, sad and yet he rarely expressed himself. His two childhood friends, Russ and Bernhard, were less closed with their emotions, Russ going through his own family tragedy and Bernhard holding onto his passion for his work, the only thing that really seemed to have value in his life.

    Author Ward Just’s descriptions and use of language flow beautifully across the pages. Like his main character, Mr. Just is an artist, painting a portrait of Thomas and of Florette. In the background, Ward Just subtly brings up the topic of the Americans’ war on terror and the impact it has on the world, including the French, the society in which expatriate Thomas Railles has settled. The four men who were with Florette in her final hours are believed to be terrorists of sorts, although the novel is not really about that at all. Forgetfulness was not quite what I expected when I first picked it up to read; it was so much more. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2006

    Favorite Part: It is about “Lebenslüge, the lie that makes life bearable.” The whole concept of Lebenslüge, I found interesting and so true: the idea that people lie to themselves and to others to make their own lives easier to live, less painful.

    I most loved the way Ward Just told the story, bringing his characters to life through their memories. He did so in such a real and beautiful way. I was most fascinated by Granger’s character and wish I could have gotten to know him better, learned more about his secrets. Still, keeping them hidden was part of the success of the book, I think.

    Miscellaneous: The holiday decorations went up the first weekend of December and most of the gifts are sitting in the TBR room all wrapped and ready to be opened. As hubby and I were putting up the tree, the cat had already staked out his branch, climbing right in. It’s going to be a nice Christmas this year.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Review of The Architect by Keith Ablow

    2005, St. Martin’s Press
    289 pgs
    Rating: *

    First Sentence: He was barefoot, in a white linen tunic and nothing else, as prescribed by Scripture.

    Reason for Reading: I felt I had put enough time between me and the last Ablow novel I read, which I had found disappointing. It was time to revisit the series and check another series off my catch-up list before the end of the year.

    Comments: One of the qualities I like most about Keith Ablow is his ability to humanize even the most disturbing of villains. It’s more than just an analysis of the characters from a psychosocial perspective. Ablow puts readers right into the characters minds. Likewise, the author does the same with his continuing characters, including forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger and his adopted son Billy. In The Architect, Billy and Frank’s personal side story mirrors in some respects the main plot in the story, that of West Crosse, a well-respected and highly desired architect. Crosse uses his talents to offer his clients a chance to restructure their lives in a way he believes is for the best, while at the same time taking lives to serve that same purpose. Meanwhile, Billy continues to struggle between doing what is right and going down the wrong path, and Frank must decide how best to handle it all.

    After reading Murder Suicide, I seriously gave some thought to discontinuing with this series, despite how much I like the way Frank Clevenger thinks and as well as his approach to his profession. The Architect was worth reading and redeemed the series for me. Although I may not race out to read the next book in the series when it comes out in hardback (if there is to be one, that is), I do plan on visiting with Frank, North and hopefully Billy sometime in the future.

    Favorite Part: My favorite character in the book is probably West Crosse. He is not a character that inspires warm and fuzzy feelings, and I cannot say I particularly liked him nor in any way condoned his actions or agreed with his philosophy on life, however, I found him fascinating and thought the author did a great job of developing his character. I sure wouldn’t want to meet him in person!

    Miscellaneous: Today was my unit’s breakfast at Mimi’s Café for the holidays. We had a nice time. I ate way too much (and to top it off it, the office Morale Committee hosted a dessert afternoon! How dare they?!). I locked my keys in my car (thank goodness for AAA) and my skin is so dry because of the biting cold weather that my hands are cracking and bleeding. At least the day was mostly good.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Bookfool's Chunkster Challenge

    On my drive to work each morning, I am graced with a perfect view of the sunrise. Today's was especially colorful with the way the reflections played off the scattered clouds. Blues, purples, pinks, reds and oranges. All in a variety of shades. It's a shame I had to go inside, but then sunrises do not last very long do they?

    Anyhow, onto the subject of books!

    I was very adamant with myself that I would stick to the 2007 Winter Classics Challenge hosted by Booklogged and the 2007 TBR Challenge, which is hosted by MizBooks, and leave it at that. I did not want to over do it. Every where I turned people were talking about Bookfool's Chunkster Challenge. I blame the peer pressure. Not really, of course, but it sounds like a good excuse, doesn't it? Just a little good?

    Bookfool did not make it easy to stay away from this challenge by making the rules so flexible. She took away my excuses for not jumping in the ring! While the challenge lasts six months beginning on January 1st, I can chose however many books I want to read during that time, can read them in whatever order I want, and can have alternates to my heart's content. Some people have chosen to read one book and others six, one for each month.

    Before even deciding to throw my hat into the ring on the Chunkster Challenge, I made a list of all of my chunkster books (which I decided to categorize as those being over 500 pages). I have a lot, and I will leave it at that. Then the real dilemma had to be faced. Which ones and how many? Did I want to read six chunster books within six months? Would I be taking too much on?

    I came very close to deciding to read three 800+ page books in alternating months and filling in the in between months with 500+ page books that I knew would be relatively quick reads. For the sake of the challenge though, I'm taking the easy road and will only commit myself to reading three chunksters in six months. I think it's the most reasonable plan for me and will allow me some wiggle room to continue reading other books I want to read in between or along side the 800+ paged tomes. This I came to as I drove to work this morning admiring the sunrise.

    Chunkster Challenge Book List
    1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (817 pgs) (Crossover for the Winter Classics Challenge) [read]
    2. The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald (820 pgs) [read]
    3. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (894 pgs) [read]

    Review of The Death Collectors by Jack Kerley

    2005, Signet
    382 pgs
    Rating: * (Very Good)

    First Sentence: Detective Jacob Willow dodged a sign proclaiming DIE YOU DAM MURDRER, ducked another saying REPENT SINNER!

    Reason for Reading: I wanted to knock off another of my series book, and this one sounded like a good one to read. I had enjoyed the first book in Kerley’s series, The Hundredth Man, and had decided it was a series I wanted to follow-up on.

    From the Publisher: In 1972, on the day of his sentencing, renowned artist and serial killer Marden Hexcamp is shot dead in the courtroom. Members of his Mansonesque band of followers are imprisoned or simply disappear.

    Fast-forward more than thirty years: A suspected prostitute is found murdered in a candlelit motel room, the first in a series of horrors suggesting Hexcamp's art remains alive and treacherous. Following a trail of beautiful - and profoundly disturbing - artwork, homicide detectives Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus descend into the shocking world of the Death Collectors, people who spend vast sums to collect serial-killer memorabilia. As Ryder and Nautilus race to solve a thirty-year conspiracy, it becomes sadly evident that at the intersection of art and madness, death is beauty, tragedy a memento, and suffering suitable for framing.

    Comments: I had not expected to read this book in just over a day. While I enjoyed The Hundredth Man and saw it as a promising start to a new mystery series, I was even more impressed with Jack Kerley’s The Death Collectors. I was swept away in the story, which was entertaining, at times morbid, and always interesting.

    Carson Ryder by himself would probably get on my nerves after awhile, but the addition of his faithful partner, Harry Nautilis, who deserves a starring credit all his own, takes off the edge of Carson’s personality, which borders on arrogant and reckless at times. They make a great team. There was a lot less bureaucratic politics in this novel than in the last, with the plot line staying close the mystery itself. The mystery builds on itself throughout the book, taking the story into unexpected directions, becoming more and more involved as it went. Readers are taken a little bit deeper into Carson’s past as his brother, Jeremy, is pulled into the investigation for help, adding that extra personal touch. Readers also get a taste of the morbid world "death collectors," a world I gladly am not a part of.

    After finishing The Death Collectors, it is taking a lot of energy out of me not to rush out and pick up a copy of the latest Jack Kerley novel, which is out in hardback at the moment.

    Favorite Part: I wasn’t too keen on DeeDee Dansbury at first, but she grew on me after awhile. Harry Nautilus is probably my favorite character in the series. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and keeps Carson Ryder in check. I wish he could have played a bigger part in the novel this time around.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Review of Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

    2005, Vintage Crime
    292 pgs
    Rating: * (Very Good)

    First Sentence: It's that moon again, slung so fat and low in the tropical night, calling out across a curdled sky and into the quivering ears of that dear old voice in the shadows, the Dark Passenger, nestled snug in the backseat of the Dodge K-car of Dexter's hypothetical soul.

    Reason for Reading: This is one of the four books I had selected to read after finishing Eragon. It was calling my name, and it helps that it’s another series I can say I’m all caught up with before the end of the year.

    Comments: Dearly Devoted Dexter is the second book in this unusual series. The main character and narrator of these darkly humorous but at times gruesome novels is Dexter Morgan, a blood splatter expert for the Miami Police Department, who also just happens to be a serial killer. Raised and mentored by his police officer foster father, Dexter only targets “deserving” victims, other predators who prey on the innocent.

    This time around, Dexter’s patience is put to the ultimate test when he has to suppress his killing urges and lead as normal a life as possible. His archenemy, Sergeant Doakes, is determined to catch Dexter red handed and so begins to follow him around, watching his every move. Just when Dexter begins to believe he’ll have to settle into his role as a beer drinking coach potato, a mutilated body is discovered. Dexter’s curiosity at the cleanliness and uniqueness of the crime is peaked instantly. When his sister is assigned to work the case with Chutsky, a Fed working for an unknown agency in Washington D.C., Dexter has the perfect in to learn more about the crime and perhaps even go on a little hunt of his own.

    Do I dare admit that there were several moments during my reading of Dearly Devoted Dexter when I was laughing out loud? The novel is full of dark humor, however, the subject matter can be disturbing at times. Jeff Lindsay’s character Dexter Morgan is witty and charming. Dexter is a likeable character who can easily spark empathy in the reader, although it should never be forgotten how dangerous he is. He is a ruthless and methodical killer. Jeff Lindsay makes sure the reader does not forget that.

    Dexter’s sister, Deborah offers Dexter balance in many respects. She’s sort of his conscience, helping to keep him on track, which she has to do many times in this particular novel. And then there is Rita, Dexter’s girlfriend, and her children, Cody and Astor. The family seems to adore Dexter and he is peculiarly drawn to them, especially the children.

    Dearly Devoted Dexter hit the spot. It seemed to be the perfect reading choice for this moment in time. I eagerly await the third installment in the series, Dexter in the Dark, which is scheduled for release in August of next year.

    Favorite Part: I just love Jeff Lindsay’s dark humor. Dexter’s quite a character. My favorite scene in the novel was when Dexter caves in and drinks the beer his girlfriend Rita offers him. He doesn’t just stop with one and what follows was a comical scene.

    Least Favorite Part: There were two very clear parts of this novel that I did not care for, although, after much thought, I think it goes along with my earlier point that the author does not want readers to forget who—and what—Dexter is. Because I don’t want to spoil the book, I will not actually say what those two parts are. I’m such a tease, aren’t I?

    Miscellaneous: Showtime is running a TV series based on the Dexter character, of which I’ve seen the first episode. I do not subscribe to Showtime, I’m afraid and so haven’t seen any episodes beyond that.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Review of Cat & Mouse by James Patterson

    1997, Warner Books
    451 pgs
    Rating: * (Good +)

    First Sentence: The Cross house was twenty paces away and the proximity and sight of it made Gary Soneji's skin prickle.

    Reason for Reading: I wanted the comfort of a series read (and to at least make an effort towards my catch-up goal before the end of the year). I set four books in front of me, each one pretty much the same type of book. I posted on a yahoo book group I belong to my choices and overwhelmingly the response was to read the James Patterson novel. Even my husband cast a vote for it. Now, it could be that that was only because Cat & Mouse was the only book among the four that most everyone is familiar with. Regardless, I knew this was the time to re-visit my old friend Alex Cross and see what dangers he faced this time.

    Synopsis by That monstrous villain Gary Soneji is back in Cat & Mouse, the fourth book in James Patterson's series about Alex Cross, a police forensic psychologist, but he's not alone. In seeming support of the premise that you can never have too much of a bad thing, Patterson has thrown a second serial killer into the mix: Mr. Smith, a mysterious killer terrorizing Europe while Soneji practices his own brand of evil along the Eastern Seaboard. With two killers to track, Cross has his hands full--and Patterson has another hit.

    Comments: It has been a long while since I last read an Alex Cross novel, much less a James Patterson novel. I knew that I could count on his novel to be suspenseful and thrilling right up to the very end. With an occasional slow down for Alex to try and fit in his family and love interest, Cat & Mouse was the fast paced thriller I expected. In two seemingly independent cases, Patterson brings them together in a way the reader will more than likely not anticipate. Alex is at the top of his game, putting his psychology and law enforcement backgrounds to good use as he tracks down two vicious killers who seem to have engaged him in a game of cat and mouse, which puts not only him, but also is family in the gravest of danger.

    Favorite Part: I loved all the author and book references throughout the novel. I’m a book junkie, what can I say?

    I have always been a big fan of Alex’s family. It is no wonder Alex finds so much comfort and peace with his family.

    Miscellaneous: With just five pages to go, I heard a loud crash as two vehicles slammed into one another not too far outside my house. I ran to the window to see what had happened, and Hubby reached for the flashlight to offer assistance redirecting traffic. I watched as neighbors flocked out of their houses and down the street to see the action. It reminded me of a much more gruesome scene from Cat & Mouse that I’d read earlier today, about how the hundred's of people all came out to watch the authorities comb Parc de Montsouris in France for a dead and most likely mutilated body at 2 a.m. in the morning.

    One other thing: I know, I know. I am not supposed to try and figure out part of the whodunit, but I did. Immediately. Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who is disappointed by a book just because I figure it out early on.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Review of Eragon by Christopher Paolini

    2003, Alfred A. Knopf
    509 pgs
    YA Fantasy
    Rating: * (Good +)

    First Sentence: Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.

    Reason for Reading: When Eragon first hit bookstores and the online discussions more often than not sang the praises of this young writer’s epic fantasy novel, I had to get in on it. With so much else to read around me, it’s taken me a while to get to it, but with the movie being released this month, I didn’t want to put reading Eragon off any longer.

    Synopsis from Eragon, a young farm boy, finds a marvelous blue stone in a mystical mountain place. Before he can trade it for food to get his family through the hard winter, it hatches a beautiful sapphire-blue dragon, a race thought to be extinct. Eragon bonds with the dragon, and when his family is killed by the marauding Ra'zac, he discovers that he is the last of the Dragon Riders, fated to play a decisive part in the coming war between the human but hidden Varden, dwarves, elves, the diabolical Shades and their Neanderthal Urgalls, all pitted against and allied with each other and the evil King Galbatorix. Eragon and his dragon Saphira set out to find their role, growing in magic power and understanding of the complex political situation as they endure perilous travels and sudden battles, dire wounds, capture and escape.

    Comments: It never fails that when I lose myself in a fantasy novel like this one, I wonder why I don’t read more of this genre. I love being swept up into another world, meeting mythical and fantastical people and creatures not found on this earth. Fantasy is the ultimate flight for the imagination for it takes a reader outside of what is known and familiar and into a time and place that is neither here nor now. I don’t mean urban or paranormal fantasy, which plays on the world as we know it, distorting our reality. I am talking about the more traditional quest-type fantasy (like Tolkien, for example), the stories about magic, dragons, elves, dwarves, epic sagas of those types. Although I do like the other too.

    Eragon is the first book in the Inheritance Trilogy. The author was a teenager when he wrote and first published the novel, which proved to be a good marketing strategy for the publisher as many readers scrambled to see just how good this kid was. Perhaps that is part of what made me hesitate so long before pulling Eragon off my shelf. I could not help but stop and wonder if the book was good or if it was just because of who the author was. I am not naturally drawn to young adult novels, and after having been disappointed by the popular Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, I was a little gun shy. Lemony Snicket’s series was cute but repetitive and so obviously geared toward a younger crowd. J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter series, at that point, seemed to be a fluke. Maybe her series would be the only young adult novels I would find worth my time to read. While one book does not make a trilogy, Eragon is a promising start, and Christopher Paolini has my attention. It is no wonder the book has a readership of all ages.

    The story is inspiring and the characters interesting. While Eragon was slow at times, the story moved forward at a rapid rate. The novel holds the hallmarks of many traditional fantasy novels; it’s a coming of age story about your average farm boy whose talents and destiny are unknown until that fateful day when his life is irreversibly changed and he must chose his path. Suddenly he finds himself a hero, or on the road to being one at least, and it’s a fight between good and evil. While typical in that way, the fun is in getting to know the characters, caring about them, seeing them grow both in success and failure, and living their adventures with them.

    Favorite Part: Is it fair to say everything? Probably not, but Eragon was a fun book to read. I enjoyed sailing through the skies with Saphira and Eragon, lessons with Brom, traversing the Hadarac Desert, and walking the halls of Tronjheim. I guess if I had to pick a favorite part it would be the scenes with Angela and Solembum. Or maybe Arya with her grace and swiftness. But then there’s the magic, which always draws me in.

    Miscellaneous: I have read mixed reviews about the second book in the trilogy, and a part of me wonders if the criticism has anything to do with the fact that The Eldest is the middle book, which means it’s the bridge between the first and final book. I am not sure I am ready to jump back into Eragon’s world just quite yet.

    Read what Jeane had to say about this book:
    Dog Ear Diary

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Booklogged's 2007 Winter Classics Challenge

    I do not often go through reading slumps. While I do have slow downs in the amount of time I spend reading, I generally chalk it up as a normal part of life. It gives me the opportunity to do some of the things I have been neglecting because I am trying to sneak in "a little more" reading.

    I am enjoying the book I currently am reading, and yet I find myself avoiding picking it up through no fault of the book. I think it is the time of year. So much else has my attention.

    I dedicated this evening to updating my blog. Putting together some of the ideas that had been percolating in my mind for the last couple of months. I added the list of books that I have read so far this year, updated my links, and decided to join in another challenge.

    I stumbled on the 2007 Winter Classics Challenge quite by accident. Recently I have felt tied to reading books outside of what "felt" right in the moment and so it was with some reluctance that I decided to take on this great challenge. I think it will be worth it though. The classic novels I have selected are ones I have been wanting to read for quite a while now. I own all of them already and therefore this is just another added way of getting more TBR books off my shelves. That should make hubby happy.

    The 2007 Winter Classics Challenge involves reading five classics during the months of January and February. My selections are as follows:
    1. Emma by Jane Austen [finished 02/11/2007]
    2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [finished 01/13/2007]
    3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett [finished 02/18/2007]
    4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller [finished 01/29/2007]
    5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy [finished 01/12/2007]

    Emma is a crossover from the 2007 TBR Challenge I will be starting in January. I figured one duplicate would be okay in the long run.

    The coming year is promising to be a good one reading wise! I am looking forward to the many adventures that await me.