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Showing posts from 2010

Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherman

You've heard of the artist formerly known as Prince who is now known as Prince (again).  Well, this is the novel formerly published as The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.  Its title (which I quite like a lot better than its current incarnation) was shortened to Charlie St. Cloud when it was adapted as a major motion picture.  I have not yet seen the film, and I thought I should read the book before I see the film.  And I'm glad I did.  Charlie St. Cloud (the character) is a six-foot-three, twenty eight year old man played by Zach Efron who is neither six-foot-three nor twenty eight years old.  I'm not sure how I feel about the younger, shorter St. Cloud because, let's face it, Efron can't pull off a twenty eight year old man yet.  I'm trying to reserve judgment until I see the movie, but still there are already mixed feelings about the casting choice for the lead character.

When Charlie's fifteen and his brother, Sam, twelve, the boys' are in a hor…

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

I did some reading over the holiday weekend that in the run up to the holiday I hadn't had as much time to do.  I read two and a half books and am halfway through another.  Reviews to follow on those.  This review is for Deanna Raybourn's The Dead Travel Fast-- a rare stand alone novel for the author, who has the Lady Grey mystery series to keep her busy.  I wish she had more stand alone novels because I really liked this one, and currently I'm avoiding getting sucked into another series or author to follow.  There are too many authors/series that I already follow, and sometimes it is agony waiting for the next release or installment to drop--AGONY!

I could easily turn this post into one that obsesses over the new books that I'm waiting for (im)patiently to drop in 2011, but I won't.  It'll be hard, but I will restrain myself and return to the title at hand: The Dead Travel Fast.  Now.  As an aside: with most books you can see why they are titled what they are…

Dead Connection by Charlie Price

Dead Connection is the debut Young Adult fiction novel from Charlie Price.  In a blurb on the book jacket the author Christ Crutcher calls Dead Connection witty and humorous or maybe he used the word funny.  Witty I agree with but I'm not sure I would use humorous or funny to describe this novel.  Considering its subject matter, it's not particularly serious or dark, but I wouldn't call it funny.  It is well written, well plotted, and always suspenseful--nail-bitingly so in some parts.  Its mystery is twisty and just when you think everything's been figured out, a wrench gets thrown into the works.  There is a subtle supernatural element that is integral to the plot that is done well, too.  The novel tells its story in rotating third person point of view that helps develop the story from multiple perspectives that serves to heighten the thrilling suspense.  Sometimes the device of rotating point of view annoys me because usually just when things really start happening …

A Thief In The House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones

A Thief In The House of Memory is a Young Adult fiction novel by Tim  Wynne-Jones, and it's quite a fast read--I read it in about four hours.  It's a well written, well crafted mystery for younger readers.

When Declan discovers the corpse of a would be burglar in the vacant, old mansion that's been in his family for generations, it unleashes a flood of memories of his long gone mother.  The memories are so vivid and tangible they're like visions being played out before his eyes.  These long dormant memories spur Declan to think about his mother and her abandonment of their family more than he has in a long time.  Soon Declan is unraveling the long buried, serpentine mystery of his mother's disappearance.  However, he's blocked at several turns by an emotionally distant father who lives hundreds of years in the past and who resists Declan's every attempt to talk about his mother.  Declan struggles to fill in the blank spot in his memories that surrounds the …

Bad Blood by John Sandford

This is the fourth Virgil Flowers novel by John Sandford, and it's called Bad Blood.  When I got to page 179 I found a nasty surprise: half of that page was missing.  And the wait list for the book still had eight people on it.  I finally just broke down and read around the part that was missing and continued on with the book.  I couldn't wait for months until it came in to finish it--patience is not one of my virtues.

This is Flowers' biggest case since the bodies that were dumped at various veterans' memorials, and this case is much bigger and much nastier.  A county sheriff calls Flowers in to investigate the suicide of a teen boy being held in her jail for the murder of a middle aged farmer, who, upon closer inspection, turns out to be far from the upstanding citizen most people thought he was.  When the correctional officer on duty at the time of the boy's suicide also turns up dead, it becomes clear this case is bigger than a single murder.  Flowers' inve…

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay is Gayle Forman's first novel.  I first read a review about it in BookPage a while ago.  Then I was at a book sale over the summer and was surprised to find it there because it was such a recent release.  It was the find of that particular book sale (which was not really impressive as far as book sales go).  I finally got around to reading it recently.  It's a short, fast read.

Seventeen year old Mia has a perfect life: she loves her family, her best friend and her boyfriend.  Her music studies as a talented and gifted cellist are going so well that it's probable she'll be accepted at Juilliard to further her studies in music.

One day while out for a drive with her parents and younger brother, their car is broadsided by a truck.  The crash is horrific and gruesome and her parents are killed instantly while the fate of her brother is unknown.  Mia is hanging on to life by a thread.  By now she has realized she's having an out of body experience and once …

Rough Country by John Sandford

Rough Country is the third installment in the adventures of Virgil Flowers, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension super agent. The series is written by John Sandford.

Flowers, the BCA's go to guy for cases that are especially difficult or in need of a quick turn around, is on a much needed vacation in the wake of the events that closed the previous Flowers novel.  (This shouldn't deter one from jumping in feet first mid-series; although it's smart to start at the beginning anyway because you'll go back to the beginning to read the ones you missed.)  Those events have also made Flowers a minor celebrity due to a New York Times Magazine article series the wannabe writer wrote about the investigation that was subsequently picked up and run by every local paper in Minnesota, and Flowers isn't sure he likes being a minor celebrity.

Flowers' vacation is interrupted by a phone call from his boss who pulls him off vacation to investigate a murder nearby in a county…

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker is only available in county in large print.  I normally avoid the large print editions because I don't like them.  But I didn't feel like requesting it through ILL, so I just read one of the large print copies in the county.  It's one of those books that once you pick it up and it's in your hands and you're reading it--well, it's hard to put down because it draws you in to its pages.  But it's also the kind of book that once you put it down for whatever reason before you've finished it, you realize it's hard to pick up again because you dread what might be coming next for the characters.  Is anybody else like that--do you avoid reading a book (no matter how good) because you dread the outcome for the characters and the travails they might have to suffer before the end of the book?  I've found myself having these feelings with more than one book.  It's hard to put down, but it's also hard to pick up again…

Heat Lightning by John Sandford

I'd previously read John Sandford's first Virgil Flowers novel, Dark of the Moon, a few years back and found it to be a quick, well written read.  Recently I discovered he has since written three more Flowers titles and decided to start with the second title and read through to the fourth and most recent one.  Heat Lightning is the second Flowers installment.  The darkness of the crimes committed that must be solved in the novel are leavened by the lighter presentation of Flowers and the story.  It works well together--a dark crime doesn't always need dark prose to back it up.

Virgil Flowers is Lucas Davenport's go to man in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension when there's a sensitive, tough or otherwise puzzling case to solve.  Flowers has a high clearance rate and can often turn around a case in about a week.  This  particular case is especially perplexing with quite a few red herrings thrown into the mix to throw everyone--Flowers and the reader includ…

Daily Scoldings by Beryl Barclay

Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost three coins.  Distressed, he searched for his missing money.  He came upon a girl who was delighted because she had found three coins.  [He] told her what he had lost.  The girl's joy quickly faded as she handed her coins to the boy.  Seeing how sad she was, the boy could feel no happiness.  He said, "I cannot say for certain these coins belong to me.  Let's ask the wise owl what to do."  The boy and girl explained it to the owl.  The owl reached into his own pocket and produced a coin.  He gave two coins to the boy and two coins to the girl.  He said, "Today we each have lost a coin."  The children were content.  Never did they consider the peculiar, creepy implausibility of a talking owl with pocket change.  Be alert.from March 5
Daily Scoldings: A Bracing Tonic of Criticism, Rebuke, and Punitive Inspiration for Better Living by Beryl Barclay was recently mailed to this blog for review.  I'm not sure how I fee…

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I'm always on the lookout for good young adult fiction because some YA fic is just as good or better than some adult fiction I read.  I've reviewed quite a few YA titles in the past.  Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz is the latest young adult fiction title that I've read and it is a quick read with short chapters (my favorite) of rotating narrators.  We see the story unfold from multiple viewpoints, and while this can be quite effective in some novels, it seems to hinder the story development in this one.  This is a spooky, but not scary, eerie read.  The teenage voices of the narrators are differentiated between the various teens, but Stolarz fails to create distinctive, unique voices and when the chapters are right next to each other, it's easy to tell that it's the same person writing all the voices.  The rotating narrators detract also from the atmosphere of what could easily be a wickedly terrifying night in a damaged and condemned state asylum that clearly …

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

It's been a long, long wait for Tess Gerritsen's latest, Ice Cold.  Throughout my wait I've been obsessing about the massive spoiler revealed in the jacket blurb.  Is it for real or will it turn out to be a fake out because who puts that kind of major development involving a character upon which the series focuses on the book jacket instead of saving it for the mother of all shocking story lines for the unsuspecting reader?  That is the conundrum I've been pondering for several months ever since Amazon posted the blurb on the book's page.

The first few chapters seem off to a slow start that's compounded by the slight awkwardness of the diction in the first chapters describing what is surely (one way or another) the end of the affair for Dr. Maura Isles and her beloved Father Daniel Brophy (a Catholic priest with whom she's been having an affair for over a year!).  Then the story and the suspense crank up into a scary, thrilling page turner that's hard …

Faithful Place by Tana French

This is Tana French's third novel.  You can always count on French to turn in a spectacularly written and plotted novel.  I've read all of her novels thus far and I've never been disappointed.  Faithful Place follows Frank Mackey, who made his first appearance as Detective Cassie Maddox's old undercover boss who pulls her back in for one more undercover operation that ends in disaster.  Just where Faithful Place's story is in the chronology in relation to The Likeness and In the Woods, I'm not sure--there aren't any clues that give it away and none of the other characters from previous novels make any cameos in this one.  If there were clues in The Likeness that hinted at the placement of Faithful's chronology, well, I read that one over a year ago and I don't remember them anymore.  Right now is about the time I start wondering and digging around for clues as to what French's next novel will entail.  Will it be about an entirely new character?…

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice is the first novel for Rebecca James, who lives in Australia.  It wasn't until I was about halfway through the book that I realized that while the author is Australian, the book takes place in the United States.  I suppose I let the confusion of place setting bother me more that it really should have.  Ultimately, it took a lot longer to read this book than it normally would have (I was reading another one: thank you Food For The Dead) and also if I'm honest, I was afraid.  You can tell right from the first lines that something bad--really bad--is going to happen to the narrator, and knowing this wasn't conducive to reading.  It's like if I don't read it--it's not gonna happen to the characters and they'll be just fine!  Yes.  I know the characters aren't real people, but sometimes they feel real.

From the very beginning of the very first lines, one feels as if they are on a one way trip on a speeding train that is quickly picking up ev…

Food For The Dead: On The Trail of New England's Vampires by Michael E. Bell

Food For The Dead: On The Trail of New England's Vampires is written by Rhode Island folklorist Michael E. Bell; it was published about ten years ago--way before the current vampire craze spawned by Twilight and True Blood and their compatriots.  The author spent two decades tracing the origin of the legends of New England's vampires, and the New England legend is not your stereotypical, Hollywood vampire.

Bell uses interviews, newspaper and other published accounts, as well as town records to research various local, Rhode Island vampire legends.  He also utilizes genealogical research to trace the origin of several vampire legends back to a single Rhode Island family.  Bell paints an intriguing, fascinating and, at times, puzzling picture of Rhode Island's own vampire legend.

In eighteenth and nineteenth century America a bloody, deadly and mysterious ghoul was stalking its citizens, indeed, entire families in some instances: this was the ever dreaded disease consumption,…

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb is a spooky ghost story.  Spooky.  Creepy.

One day out of the blue Hallie James receives a bewildering and shocking missive from an attorney on Grand Manitou Island, Michigan, that shatters everything she ever knew about her past and about her father.  The letter claims that Hallie's mother, Madlyn Crane, a famous photographer, has not been dead for thirty years as her father, who refused to speak of her mother, maintained.  What's more the lawyer says Crane has only recently died and he needs to speak to Hallie regarding her mother's will.  Hallie finds that not only did her mother, Annie, not die in a house fire three decades ago, but that wasn't even her name--and Hallie and her father have been living under assumed names all these years.  Unfortunately her father's unable to shed light on why he fled the island all those years ago and faked their deaths because he's deep in the weeds of early onset Alzheimer's.


Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

I just finished Spider Bones--the latest release in Kathy Reichs' Dr. Temperance Brennan series.  It was on my own personal list of (in some cases very highly) anticipated summer blockbuster book releases.  I look forward to some book releases with a higher degree of trepidation, anticipation and excitement than I do most movie releases.  In some cases (this means you Karin Slaughter, S.J. Bolton, John Connolly and this summer, Tess Gerritsen), I'm nearly beside myself with obsessing over what the next book will be about and what will happen to the characters (this is especially true for the series I read).

This summer was an especially busy summer of book releases.  It began in May with Brunonia Barry's The Map of True Places, her follow up to The Lace Reader (which in the end didn't live up to her debut but was still good nonetheless).  Then came Broken by Karin Slaughter--it did not disappoint.  Karin Slaughter never disappoints.  John Connolly's The Whisperer…

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Then all of a sudden there's a flash of white in front of the car.  Lindsay yells something--words I can't make out ... suddenly the car is flipping off the road and into the black mouth of the woods.  I hear a horrible, screeching sound--metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two--and smell fire.  I have time to wonder whether Lindsay had put out her cigarette--And then--That's when it happens.  The moment of death is full of heat and sound and pain bigger than anything, a funnel of burning heat splitting me in two, something searing and scorching and tearing, and if screaming were a feeling it would be this.
from page 80
Before I Fall is the heart wrenching debut novel by Lauren Oliver.  I first read about it in BookPage, and then looked it up on Amazon for more information.  Recently one of the county libraries acquired a copy and I put a reserve in for it and was surprised at the thickness of the book when it arrived.  It has some heft to it.

Samantha has it …

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is being adapted into a film for release in the next year or so.  The film has quite a bit of critical buzz flying around it even though no one's seen it yet.  The book itself was critically acclaimed as is most of Ishiguro's work apparently.   One reviewer called it a "gothic tour de force."  Now I'm reading this book and I'm thinking, this isn't gothic.  Because when I think gothic I think horror and supernatural and evil.  And I also think I should know because I took a class in Gothic and Horror Literature in college.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I remembered what gothic means in literature and art: the natural order of things in the world is twisted and reversed and turned upside down.  Now.  By that definition, Never Let Go is indeed gothic because things in its world are majorly and sadly twisted.

Kathy H. has been a carer for the past twelve years and she's tired--she's ready to begin th…

Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

Nobody knows who Sam's father is except for Blind Beezy and she's not telling. I know it wasn't Carl Bell. (Thank the Lord. I've seen pictures of him. The man looked like he got dropped off a bridge at dawn and nobody bothered picking him up 'til dusk.)
from page 113
This is the second novel I've read by Lesley Kagen, the previous one, Whistling In The Dark, was previously reviewed on this blog. There were others between Whistling and Tomorrow River, but I haven't read them. It seems Kagen has found a niche in the use of the child or child-like narrator for her novels. In some ways this can provide for entertaining and lively writing because sometimes only a child can believably and colorfully make certain observations and tell it like it is. In other ways it's frustrating because many times the reader can make so many more leaps in piecing the story together and ends up knowing so much more than the narrator due to the observations and accounts s…

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Before I begin the formal review there are a few things I need to get off my chest in the wake of finishing this book; I'll do so without giving away too many (or any) spoilers.
The OUTRAGE!: the identity of Detective Lena Adams' new beau; the low depths to which Grant County's interim chief has sunk and brought the police force down with him; agent Will Trent's wife, Angie's, sixth sense/nasty habit of reappearing in his life just when he's slipping away from her. Thank God for small miracles though because while Angie was certainly referred to during the book, the broad didn't make an appearance. One sign that I've become way too invested in these characters is that I'd like to employ John Connolly's odd pair of assassins, Louis and Angel, to contract out a hit on Angie; do you think Karin Slaughter and John Connolly could work out a special cross over?
Hallelujah: Dr. Sara Linton and agent Will Trent are both back. There is no hallelujah for…

A Treasury of Royal Scandals by Michael Farquhar

The title of Michael Farquhar's A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes and Emperors pretty much says all you need to know about this entertaining little tome. The stories related about different monarchs and popes are wicked, wild, shocking, salacious, sometimes amusing, and other times disturbing. Some categories of chapters seem heavily weighted towards representation of the English monarchy. This read is entertaining and only enhanced by the conversational, colorful writing style. People who enjoy stories starring royalty or are avid royal watchers will love this book.

Blood Harvest by S. J. Bolton

Blood Harvest is S.J. Bolton's third release; she has another upcoming but just when it's coming out in the UK and then how long it takes to get to the States, I don't yet know. I haven't investigated that yet (and believe me I will...), but I have discovered her blog in which there are hints about the upcoming book and upcoming, possibly returning, characters. I can't wait. It'll be hard, but I'll survive. I just started Karin Slaughter's latest release, and I'm still waiting (somewhat apprehensively I might add) for Tess Gerritsen's newest title to come in on reserve.
Blood Harvest differs slightly from her previous titles, Sacrificeand Awakening, in that it has a third person narrator as opposed to a first person narrator. There are similarities, though; for example, one of main characters suffers from a physical handicap that leads to insecurity or reclusion, but since it's a third person narrator the reader doesn't have as much …


Occasionally I also review movies on this blog and, lately, it appears the books have taken over because it's been a long, long time since I've reviewed a movie. Recently I sat through the movie/musical Nine; I'm not sure why I sat through the entire movie because that's two hours of my life I'll never get back. I was hoping that the end would explain a couple things and that would make the whole two hours worth it. It didn't and it wasn't.
Nine is the latest movie musical directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago fame; he had a huge, critically acclaimed hit with that one. Not so much of either with Nine. Nine is based on a Broadway play, and it stars Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Oscar winners all, but even they couldn't save it. The immensely talented cast, specifically and especially the women, are disappointingly and sadly wasted, and they all deserve better than this.
Guido Contini, an unlikeable …

The Whisperers by John Connolly

If there was one thing Jimmy didn't care for, it was competition, ... There were some exceptions to that rule: he was rumored to have a sweet deal with the Mexicans, but he wasn't about to try to reason with the Dominicans, or the Columbians, or the bikers, or even the Mohawks. If they wanted to avail themselves of his services, as they sometimes did, that was fine, but if Jimmy Jewel started questioning their right to move product he and Earle would end up tied to chairs in the [bar] with pieces of themselves scattered by their feet, assuming their feet weren't among the scattered pieces, while the bar burned down around their ears, assuming they still had ears.from page 86
The Whisperers is John Connolly's newest Charlie Parker installment in which some beloved characters reappear and in which previous characters from another Parker installment reappear to shed further light on the big baddie that may or may not be coming for Parker in the future. This newest instal…

Awakening by S.J. Bolton

It's official: I'm now a hardcore S.J. Bolton fan after reading her second novel, Awakening. It may not be as terrifying as her first, Sacrifice, but what it lacks in terrifying, it makes up for in creepiness--literally and figuratively. It is equally as hard to put down; when I was away from it, I was seriously wishing I was home reading it. I have her third novel at home waiting for me after I finish John Connolly's latest Charlie Parker installment (another equally gripping read). The only disheartening thing is that after Blood Harvest, Bolton's next book, I'll have to wait, impatiently, for her fourth release.
Like Bolton's first book the setting plays an important role in the fabric of the story; it is set in a tiny village in Dorset County, England, which has seen its snake population increase seemingly exponentially and inexplicably.
Clara's a wildlife veterinarian and a near recluse who seeks the quiet solitude of an extremely low key and low pro…

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

The Broken Teaglass is Emily Arenault's debut novel and it features a rather unique mystery that needs some good, old fashioned sleuthing to solve.
Billy's a recent college graduate who is hired as a lexicographer in training at the Samuelson Company, home of America's premiere and most prestigious dictionary. Samuelson is home to a rather odd work atmosphere fueled by the academic, intellectual, sometimes socially awkward staff. At work Billy meets Mona, another junior editor, hired about a year ago. Together they stumble upon two mysterious citations that come from a book that doesn't exist, written by an author who doesn't exist, published by a company that never existed.
It appears the citations themselves were written in 1985 by another junior editor. Billy's extremely reluctantly dragged into this office intrigue and mystery by Mona, who craves an adventure amidst the monotony of the Samuelson office. Mona's determined to track down the identity …

Contest Video! Keith Richards, Please Have Sympathy for America's Public Libraries!

In recent weeks the Matthews Public Library has begun a campaign to bring Keith Richards to a special reception to be held at the library to celebrate the release of his upcoming memoir. The official campaign central is located at the following Facebook page: Keith Richards, Please Have Sympathy For America's Public Libraries! Visit the page to become a member of the group today--it's a prerequisite to entering the YouTube contest!
To help spread the word we've opened a contest on YouTube at the following link Contest Video! Keith Richards, Please Have Sympathy For America's Public Libraries! Here are the details: How many Jagger/Richards songs do the librarians (and the puppets) refer to in the video? Just the number is needed to win, not the song titles. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, August 15, 2010, and will receive a $50 gift certificate to Please add your answer to the comment bar below the video. The winner must also be a member of the Fa…

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Some stories don't get told. Some stories you hold on to. To stand and watch and hold it in your arms was not cowardice. To look straight at the beast and feel its breath on your flanks and not to turn--one could carry the world that way. from page 309
I recently read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake; it was a long wait before it came in. I have mixed feelings about it... It's beautifully written, enough so that I'm thinking about looking up other Blake books, however, I'm not so sure there's a point because I feel as if nothing happened in this one when clearly things have happened. Maybe it's due to the ending which was a kind of non-ending for me; I felt as if it wrapped right before the end of the story and now it's like, what was the point of all that?
It's 1940 and the second world war is underway in Europe while America watches and listens and holds her breath, uncertain of the future and unwilling to send her boys over to die in a fight that i…