Monthly Archives: August 2010

Booking Through Thursday — Give Up?

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If you’re not enjoying a book, will you stop mid-way? Or do you push through to the end? What makes you decide to stop?

It depends on the book. If I’ve made it halfway, I’ll often figure I’m interested enough to come this far and I may as well keep on going. Or if the book has multiple plot threads, I may skim the ones that don’t interest me and pay closer attention to the ones that do.

And then there are the times I “cheat” and if the book isn’t doing it for me but I’m curious to see how it ends, I’ll look it up on Wikipedia or skim reviews on the various book social networking sites.


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“The Sculptress” by Minette Walters

The SculptressMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you read a lot of books, it can sometimes be difficult to recall which books you’ve read and which you haven’t. At least that’s the case in the time before social networking sites for books. (How did we ever survive?!?)

That’s what happened with “The Sculptress.” I’d thought I’d read it before based on the novel’s description and the opening chapters felt vaguely familiar. But for some odd reason I couldn’t recall the twists, turns and the solution to the mystery at the center of the book. (This is fairly unusual for a mystery novel and one of the caliber of Minette Walters’ works.)

Years before, Olive Martin confessed to the horrific crime of killing her mother and sister and then trying to dissect them in time to hide the evidence from her father. She wasn’t able to get the job of dissecting them done in time, called the police and confessed to the crime. Martin won’t pursue a plea of insanity and now sits in prison. Morbidly obese, Martin has a violent temper and mood swings and has earned the nickname “The Sculptress” for the figurines she carves out of whatever she can find.

Enter into the story, Roz Leigh, a former best-selling author in need of a book to keep her publishing career alive. She’s assigned the true-crime story of Olive in an attempt to salvage her career and publishing contract. At first, Roz is skeptical she can find a story to tell when it comes to Olive, but upon meeting her and talking to her, Roz begins to think Olive is innocent and may be covering up for someone else.

Roz also has some issues of her own–she’s suffering from depression.

The story delves into both mysteries over the course of the novel. We see some parallels between Olive and Roz–both are fleeing from a past they don’t want to accept because of pain associated with it. But neither are really living either, just marking time in the world. Both are in a prison–it’s just Olive’s that is a physical one.

Walters keeps the clues to what’s occurred flowing at a good rate. She doesn’t give away the entire game in the first few chapters, but she does plant the seeds. Readers will realize there’s something more to Roz than within the first few chapters and Walters shows and doesn’t tell what’s occurred to audience. It makes for a fascinating story and an intriguing mystery.

As does what really happened that fateful day in Olive’s kitchen.

One of the early works by Walters, “The Sculptress” shows the mystery writer on the top of her game. One of her best stories.

I’m still not sure why I don’t remember reading it the first time…

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“After the Fall” by Kylie Ladd

After the FallMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

“After the Fall” tells the story on an affair from rotating first-person perspectives from each of the players involved in the story. It’s an interesting hook and conceit for the story and it almost feels a bit voyeuristic as we get inside the heads of each person involved in the affair.

Luke and Kate are married to other people–Cressida and Cary. The two couples maintain a friendship, hanging out together, taking vacations together, etc. Luke and Kate are extremely outgoing while Cressida and Cary are a bit more introverted. It’s a case of opposites attracting for each of the married couples, but when Luke and Kate flirt at a wedding, something develops between the two of them. The two eventually begin to have an affair.

“After the Fall” examines the lead-up to, the events of and the fall-out from the affair. Each side of the story is told in short, first-person accounts of what’s happened and it’s a fascinating “Roshomon”-like device to see the events unfold from the various perspectives. Ladd gets inside the mind of each character to try and reveal motivations, thoughts, feelings, justifications, etc for the affair.

At some points, the story follows the standard, predictable path but at others it pulls out a few unexpected twists and turns. Finding out who stays with who and why in the aftermath of things is interesting and a bit unexpected.

Overall, it’s not a great piece of literature, but it’s an enjoyable enough guilty pleasure type of read.

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Booking Through Thursday — Wanna Take a Survey?

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I got this from Lorette‘s blog and couldn’t resist adopting it for all of you.

1. Favorite childhood book?
Ramona, the Pest (really the entire series and anything by Beverly Cleary)

2. What are you reading right now?
Hyperion by Dan Simmons

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Far too many to list here, but here’s a few: Mountains beyond Mountains, The Ice Princess, Still Missing, Reversal, Wishful Drinking, Zero History, Packing for Mars.  Let’s just say I keep my local library in business.

4. Bad book habit?
Star Trek tie-in novels

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
The Siege, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Judas Kiss (audio) and Sharp Objects.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Usually about two at a time.  Sometimes three if I’m listening to an audio novel.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Acacia by David Anthony Durham

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Horns by Joe Hill

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Whenever I find something that interests me outside of the zone.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Science-fiction and mysteries.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes…assuming I’m not driving it, of course. 🙂

14. Favorite place to read?
Anywhere I can sneak in a few pages is great.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Don’t break the spine if it’s paperback, return in about the same condition I gave it to you.  Return it in a timely fashion.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
That’s what booksmarks are for, thank you.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No, no, no!

18.  Not even with text books?
I highlight, but don’t write in text books.  That’s what taking notes is for.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

20. What makes you love a book?
Good story, engaging characters, well written.   Surprising me is a good thing.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I really enjoyed it and think that someone else will too.  Or if it’s an author I think others need to discover.

22. Favorite genre?
Science fiction or mystery.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
I rarely read romance novels, but I don’t really wish I did.  LOL

Favorite biography?
It Only Hurts When I Laugh by Stan Freberg

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

26. Favorite cookbook?
Fix It and Forget It

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Re-reading Blue Like Jazz for Sunday School.  Man, that book is great.

28. Favorite reading snack?

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Sometimes, I do yes.  I will admit I tend to gravitate toward critics who I know have a similar taste I do.  If they like it, I will generally consider picking it up.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If they’re honest and you’ve can back-up your criticisms, I think it’s valid.   Just out and out ripping a book for no reason isn’t a good idea.  Nor is ripping or condemning a book you haven’t read.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Greek (I’d love to read the Bible in the original Greek)

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
For a sheer page count, I recall being really intimidated by the size of It when I read it as a teenager.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
For a long time, it was Hyperion because everyone tells me how great it is and I should read it.  But I’m reading it now, so I guess the next one would be the Pillars of Earth because everyone raves about it and it’s a huge book.

35. Favorite Poet?
Garrison Keillor

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
At least a half dozen.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
It happens, especially if a book is in high demand.

38. Favorite fictional character?
The Doctor

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Hannibal Lecter

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Something that’s been in my TBR pile a while.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
A week.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Memnoch, The Devil by Anne Rice.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Loud noises

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
To Kill a Mockingbird

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Pet Semetary

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Far, far too much.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Rarely, if ever.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Boredom, lack of interest.  I will give books 100 pages to hook me and if they aren’t doing it after that I will make a decision to keep going or give up.  Sometimes I will skim the next couple of pages, chapter to see if things pick up or skim to the end.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
In a system that makes sense only to me…

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I trade them at a local used book store so I can get more books.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Not really, no.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The Twilight saga makes me angry.   Not just the fact that Bella is a terrible role model for women but the fact that some people reading nothing but these same four books over and over again.  Come on!  There are tons of other books out there!  Give something new a try!

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
My Antonia by Willa Cather

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Timeline by Michael Crichton

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Peter David’s New Frontier novels.


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Judge a Book By Its Cover

Here’s an interesting quiz.  Can you name the book by seeing a snippet of the cover?  The quiz is HERE.

I got 22 of 24.

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Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily DisastersMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the same vein as the “Wimpy Kid” novels, “Justin Case” follows the school year exploits of Justin K during third grade.

The year doesn’t start of well with his younger sister Elizabeth going into kindergarten and getting Justin’s favorite teacher. Then Justin is moved from the class with the new, cute teacher Ms. Burns and his best friends into another one that has strict rules and where Justin doesn’t know anyone.

In some ways, Justin reminds me of Greg from the “Wimpy Kid” novels, though Justin seems to have a bit more going for him. Justin repeatedly gets into situations (such as his campaign for student council) because of his worrying too much about the daily disasters of his life and not paying attention enough. But the results are humorous and a bit more grounded than what we get in “Wimpy Kid” and, in the end, Justin feels a lot more realistic and more grounded than Greg Hefney does.

That’s not to say that one book or series is better than the other. Each works well in their own right and within their own universe. It’s just that as I left “Justin Case” I found myself liking him and some of his family and classmates more as characters.

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Booking Through Thursday — Time Marches On

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Have your reading choices changed over the years? Or pretty much stayed the same? (And yes, from childhood to adulthood we usually read different things, but some people stick to basically the same kind of book their entire lives, so…)

While I don’t read “See Spot Run” anymore (though it is a classic of modern literature), I think my reading choices have remained fairly constant.  I will admit I don’t read as many tie-in novels as I did growing up (I consumed Doctor Who and Star Trek tie-ins in my pre-teen and teenage years), but other than that I would say I’m still fairly consistent.  I’ve added to my rotation of favorite authors or authors I look forward to their next offering, but the top spot still belongs to Stephen King.  And probably will even if his next novel, short story, novella, laundry list, etc. isn’t up to snuff. The man is so prolific and nine times out of ten, I enjoy at least some portion of what he’s written.


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“I Am Number Four” by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John Smith looks like your average teenager, but he’s hiding a deep secret. He’s one of nine survivors from the alien world, Lorien, who fled to Earth and who are being hunted down. Thanks to a curse, the nine survivors have to be hunted down and killed in a certain order. If not, they’re virtually invulnerable.

Smith (his assumed name for the book) is the fourth in line. The previous three have been killed. John knows this because of a scar on his leg that appears whenever one of the three before him dies. John and his Chepan, Henri, are on the run from their tormentors who can appear as anyone and can appear at any time. Henri spends his time scouring the Internet and the news for any indications the invaders are closing in. John spends him time training to develop his Legacies, powers that come to his planet’s people to protect them from alien invasion.

He also attends a local high school and tries to have a normal teenage life. But those two worlds are about to collide in a big way.

If it sounds a lot like the plot for a summer action blockbuster, it’s because it soon will be. Before the book hit stores, director Michael Bay had signed on to direct the big-screen version of “I Am Number Four.” And while the books is entertaining at times, there are times when the novel feels like it’s just an outline for the screenplay. John becomes friends with Sam, the local outcast who has an interest in alien invasions and enters into a relationship with Sarah, the cute former cheerleader and ex-girlfriend of the high school’s star quarterback. This leads to several conflicts along the way and a twist in the novel’s final quarter that is fairly well set up but is a bit too transparent by the mid-point of the novel.

“I Am Number Four” is a narrative driven story, full of twists, turns and danger for John and Henri. And while that keeps the pages turning, the story lacks any really fleshed out or interesting supporting characters for John. Sam is the misunderstood best-friend, Sarah the cute girl that John can’t quite believe likes him and Henri is the sworn protector, leaving behind his life and family to look after John. There are some teasing possibilities for the characters to be something more but the novel doesn’t delve much into them. Perhaps we’ll get more in the sequel (the novel ends on a set-up for book two). After all, the “Harry Potter” novels started out slow with a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of world-building and universe-creation being done in the first entry before settling down into something richer with later installments. Hopefully the “Lorien Legacies” will do the same.

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I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I'd Know You AnywhereMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the summer of 1985, Elizabeth Lerner spent 39 days held hostage by Walter Bowman.

Years later, she’s changed her name, married and built out a life for herself as Eliza Benedict. But all of that is about to change when a letter from Walter shows up at her house. Walter was tried and convicted of the death of a victim he took while he held Eliza captive and is facing execution in a few weeks. The letter came as the result of Eliza’s photograph appearing in the society section of a local magazine that Walter read in prison.

Laura Lippman’s latest novel is another stand-alone novel. While it would be easily classify it as a mystery story, “I’d Know You Anywhere” is something richer, deeper and far more satisfying than your standard “who done it?” mystery novel. Continuing a theme from many of her standalone works, Lippman explores the impact a crime has upon the characters in the story.

Lippman carefully crafts the story, expertly weaving in the events unfolding in the current time line as well as supplying information and flashbacks on what happened during Walter and Eliza’s time together. Walter took Elizabeth captive when she stumbles across him burying his last victim (she doesn’t see anything, just a man in the woods) and the two spend 39 days on the road together before Walter kidnapped and killed his final victim.

“I’d Know You Anywhere” asks the question of whether Eliza was a victim or an unwitting accomplice to Walter’s crimes. The relationship between the two is fascinating as are the reasons that Eliza fears trying to leave Walter and what his retribution might be.

Also of interest is how the crime affects Elizabeth in the years following the events. As we meet the modern day Eliza, we see that the crime and those weeks have had an impact on her family, her friends and her relationships. Eliza’s pre-teen daughter begins showing signs of rebellion and the struggle of what to tell her children and how much of what happened is a fascinating struggle.

If you’ve heard the buzz surrounding Laura Lippman and are curious as to why so many of us look forward to her latest offering, devouring it within hours of picking it up, “I’d Know You Anywhere” is a great starting point to discover the woman who could be your next favorite writer.

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Booking Through Thursday: Feels Like the First Time

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What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that made you really love reading?

According to my mom, I was an eager reader. I knew how to read from the age of three and I can’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t know ho to read.

The first book I recall reading was “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Suess. I recall that my mom recorded several books onto cassette for me to listen to and I wanted to record myself on tape reading “Fox.” Needless to say, I wasn’t anywhere as good at reading aloud as my mom and the plan didn’t work out.

And while it’s not reading, I also had a book on cassette back in the early days of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. It was from Disney and I must have listened to it a million or so times. It was a gift when I had heart surgery at age three and my mom recalls that I listened to it a lot in the hospital before and after the surgery. I don’t recall that, but I do recall hearing it a lot at an early age. I guess you could say that book is one that got me excited about reading and began my love of reading.

There were two other series that got me excited about reading early on. One was the Hardy Boys because the TV show was airing. The other was the Beverly Cleary Romana series. I practically wore out my copies of those books and vividly recall a lot of the scenes from them, especially Romana waiting for the present on his first day of school and the mix-up in directions going to the mall to get Beezus’ hair cut.


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