Friday, July 04, 2008

#102 - North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

North by Northanger is another in a series of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries by Carrie Bebris.
Sometimes Bebris' characterizations of Austen's characters seemed a bit harsh, or forced. Darcy seems a bit mean-spirited at times, and Elizabeth comes off as weak-willed and scared of Darcy's family. I really didn't enjoy this book, although I did enjoy the 2 earlier books. Bebris' Darcy mysteries have always pushed a bit past the line of believability when it comes to the P&P characters, and it was just a bit too far this time.
It's not a bad read, if you can stop yourself from constantly wondering if the characters would actually behave the way they do in the story. Just a bit too contrived, in my opinion.

#101 - Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon is the 2nd book in the Dresden Files series. Business is still slow for the Chicago based wizard, until a string of incredibly gruesome murders has Dresden helping out the Chicago policeforce.
Could a werewolf be loose in the city??
I enjoy Butcher's books so much! Totally entertaining! It's like Sam Spade + magic = Dresden. Just fun to read!! The television show (short-lived, Thank God!) was hard to watch -- but the books are awesome!
Butcher's stories are a great mix of the old PI style, fantasy and mystery. Definitely worth reading!

#100 - A Charmed Death by Madelyn Alt

This is the 2nd book in this series. Maggie O'Neill is still working at Enchantments, the mysterious and mystical local antique shop. She is just starting to try out her powers as a new witch when a teenager is murdered after visiting the shop.
Maggie uses her powers and intuition to solve the crime.
This is another fun, cozy read by Alt. It's a fun mix of humor and mystery, with a dash of creepy thrown in for extra fun.
This is a light, fun read -- great for a day at the pool or beach!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

#99 - Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Imagine the days when the Circus came into town with a big parade and everyone gathered to watch the elephants put up the big tent. This book really gives the reader the feel of the old-time circus. The good feelings -- kids having fun, popcorn, and the excitement of the performances....and the bad side....neglected or mistreated animals, roughnecks, thieves, and the challenges and danger of being a performer.

Gruen's writing pulls you into the circus world and the life of the main character, Jacob Jankowski. Jacob joins the circus after having to leave college without completing his veterinary degree. He's put in charge of the circus menagerie and finds it challenging, especially one elephant named Rosie who just resists being trained to perform.

Most of the time I find myself disappointed when I read a book that came out with as much hype as this one. But, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

Let yourself escape to the Big Top -- read this book!!

Gruen has also written another book about relationships with animals called "Riding Lessons and Flying Changes.''

# 98 - Death Match by Matt Forbeck

This is the 3rd book in the Blood Bowl series by Matt Forbeck. It's based on a Games Workshop fantasy football game, which we enjoy playing with our friends.

In this book, Dirk 'Dunk' Hoffnung and the rest of the Bad Bay Hackers are playing the game of their lives to prevent the destruction of of their kingdom. It's rough, it's riotous, it's downright dangerous --- it's definitely Blood Bowl!!!

Forbeck delivers another great Blood Bowl story in this book! There's also a 4th book that has come out: Rumble in the Jungle! I haven't read it yet -- but I definitely will!

#95-#97 - The Plantagenet Series 1-3 by Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. The Plantagenet Series has 14 books. These are the first 3 books, spanning the time from Eleanor of Acquitane's marriage to the King of France through the death of Richard the Lionheart.
Plaidy takes history and makes it come alive by portraying her characters as the flawed people that they were. Larger than life historical figures like Eleanor of Acquitane and King Richard often are portrayed as larger than life, rather than as human beings. Plaidy doesn't hide their flaws....she relates their stories without prejudice.
I'm reading Book 4 right now which delves into the treachery of Prince's another enjoyable read!!

# 95 - Pemberly by Emma Tennant

All I can really say about this continuation of Pride and Prejudice is that is was ok.

Tennant tries to stay true to Austen's characterizations, but the plot pretty much falls flat. The story starts a year after Elizabeth marries Fitzwilliam Darcy. Darcy is upset because they don't have a child yet, and the two families are still grousing over the marriage.

The plot just re-hashed the same problems from the original novel and seemed a bit like a forced sequel.

I've read several continuations of Pride and Prejudice and have yet to find one that I really like, and that seems to be a good re-visit to Austen's characters.

I think my conclusion is really leaning towards the fact that P&P really doesn't need a sequel, and that nobody can really write like Jane Austen.

Some stories just aren't meant to have a Part 2.

#94 - A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton

This is the 4th book in a series by Maggie Sefton. I enjoyed the first 3, and the 4th was no exception! It's definitely a light cozy mystery, but I love to knit so it's an enjoyable romp for me!
Kelly Flynn and the other citizens of Fort Conner, Co are preparing for Christmas when a local alpaca rancher is murdered. There's plenty of knitting thrown in with the sleuthing, plus a pattern and a couple recipes tossed in as well.
There are two more books in this series: Dyer Consequences (just published in June 2008), and Fleece Navidad (coming out in September 2008).

#93 - Will Storr versus the Supernatural by Will Storr

This is Will Storr's first book. I tried to enjoy it.....I really did. But I found his writing, and the stories in this book, to be....well.......boring.

Basically, Storr did research on ghost stories and legends, and approached his story telling from a neutral stance. But, the stories themselves just aren't really that interesting.

The cover art was great.....but the rest.....ho hum.

If you like ghost stories, then pass on this one. Just my opinion.....

#92 - Seaside Spectres (NC Haunted Hundred) by Daniel Barefoot

This book is a collection of ghost stories from the coast of North Carolina. I really enjoyed this book because it was neat to read legends and ghost stories from towns and places I recognize.
From civil war history to closer to present day, Daniel Barefoot does a great job of recounting ghostly tales from the coastal counties of NC.
The stories are nothing new, but it's an enjoyable afternoon light read.

#91 - Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman

This book was such an enjoyable read! Herman romps through 500 years of royal mistresses, arranged marriages, illegitimate children, greed, lust, jealousy and ambition.

Many famous mistresses such as Madame du Pompadour and Nell Gwynn are listed by name, with information about how they become a royal mistress and how they kept (or didn't keep) their positions. She also talks about what was expected of a royal mistress, and how pride and ambition helped and hurt them.

Being the king's mistress definitely involved a lot of political power, and the lengths the women were willing to go to retain their position were really surprising.

If you're interested in royal history, scandals and "behind the scenes'' drama, this is definitely a fun read!

#83 - #90 - Temperance Brennan Series 1-8 by Kathy Reichs

Can you tell that I really like this series of books?? :)
Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist who works in Charlotte NC and in Ontario Canada. And the main character in her book series (Temperance Brennan) does exactly the same thing! And yes, the television series Bones is an off-shoot of this book series.
I started reading Reichs' books after seeing the television show. But, the character on television and in the books are very different. They share the same name and are both forensic anthropologists, but they have very little else in common.
I like Reichs' writing style, and her plots are quite suspenseful. The science is definitely there as well since Reichs is definitely writing what she knows.
I enjoyed all of these first 8 books in the series. Grave Secrets was probably my least favorite since it had to do with investigating mass graves and genocide. It isn't that it wasn't well-written, it was just a tough subject to read about. Very graphic and disturbing!
There are 3 more books in this series: Break No Bones (9), Bones to Ashes (10) and coming out in August 2008 will be Devil's Bones (11).
This is definitely a great mystery/forensics/crime series!! If you like Bones, you will love this series!

#82 - Ghosts Among Us - by Leslie Rule

I've read several ghost story books by Leslie Rule, but I really didn't care for this one.

There was nothing new or different in it. Mostly it was about her visits to supposed haunted places around the country with "first hand account'' stories. Most were really just repackaged ghost stories that we have all heard before, with a bit of a travel channel feel thrown in for good measure.

I love ghost stories, and these just fell flat for me. There are some great black and white photographs in the book though.

Worth a read if you like ghost stories, but don't expect it to be anything new.

#81 - The Trouble With Magic by Madelyn Alt

This is the first book in a series by Madelyn Alt. The main character, Maggie O'Neill, takes a new job in an antique store, only to discover that her employer is involved in witchcraft.

Magical trouble ensues, of course! The book is an enjoyable mix of mystery and humor. On Maggie's first day of work, her boss Felicity becomes a suspect in the murder of her own sister. Because her shop sells witchcraft related items, everyone in town seems to believe Felicity is a murderer. It's up to Maggie to prove them all wrong!

This is such a fun, enjoyable series. If you need a book to read at the beach, or on a long car trip, this series would definitely be a good choice! Light and fun!

There are 3 other books in this series: A charmed Death, Hex Marks the Spot, and No Rest for the Wiccan.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

#80 - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I just couldn't get into this book. To me, it seemed to forced and contrived. I felt like I was reading a book, rather than being immersed in the story.

I know it's listed on several "great books'' lists, but I personally didn't really care for it.

The story line is dark -- the main character is the daughter of a antique books dealer. She is invited to interview a famous author who is a mysterious recluse. Both women have to face their past and the truth about family secrets.

Setterfield's writing is very good. I just didn't really like the story. But lots and lots of other people have enjoyed this book. It's definitely worth a read so that you can form your own opinion.

#79 - Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu by Lee Goldberg

Yes, you can enjoy the OCD antics of Adrian Monk off the television screen. :) Now there are novels, too!
I really enjoy the Monk television series, and I enjoyed this book as well.
The body of a jogger is discovered in a dog park, missing her left shoe. Soon other murders San Francisco dealing with a serial killer?? Add in the fact that the SFPD officers are out on strike, leaving Monk and a crew of mostly crazy former officers to investigate the case.
This was definitely a fun read, with all of the humor of the television show. :)
50 Book Challenge 2007: 59/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#78 - Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson

Talk about having a bad week. Betsy Taylor gets laid off from her job. She can't get a date. Her stepmother is a pain. And her cat hates her.
Then she gets run over by a car and dies.
The end, right?
Turns out, the group of thugs that mugged her a couple weeks before were....vampires. You guessed it.....Betsy Taylor is Undead and Unwed. Not only that -- she drags herself home from the funeral parlor to find her stepmother has taken all her designer shoes.
Just imagine the look on her Stepmother's face when Betsy shows up to get her shoes back.......
This is the first book in Davidson's Undead series. I loved this book! Humorous and fun, with a splash of the macabre. Very cool! Something fun and different!!
I will definitely be reading more of this series!
50 Book Challenge 2007: 58/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#77 - Bound for Murder by Laura Childs

The third book in Laura Child's Scrapbooking cozy series was just as enjoyable as the first two.

In this 3rd story, Carmela Bartrand is planning a big wedding party for a friend. Things go astray when the bridegroom is murdered. The bride asks Bertrand to solve the case, so once again she's sleuthing, at the risk of her own life.

Definitely another good book with that New Orleans feel to it. Her husband's family is still portrayed as the totally snobbish, rude wealthy sort. But in this book, Childs' main character finally starts standing up for herself, at least a little bit. I'm looking forward to reading the next book just to see if Carmela gets more bold.

If you like cozy mysteries, this series is definitely enjoyable.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 57/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#76 - Photo Finished by Laura Childs

This is the second book in Laura Childs Scrapbooking cozy series.
Carmela Bertrand is hosting a "Crop til you Drop'' all night scrapbooking session at her store in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The night is cut short when a nearby store owner is discovered dead in the alley behind Bertrand's shop. He's been stabbed by a scissors (kinda melodramatic isn't it?? Carmela has to act fast to find out who the killer is....could it be one of her own customers??
This book was an enjoyable read. It's nice to sip hot tea on a crisp fall evening and read a good cozy mystery. No gore. Nothing too scary. Just a murder with some sort of kitsch thrown in for good measure. :)
I still have a real problem with the way the main character lets her estranged husband's family walk all over her. It's like she has great strength for solving murder cases, but she doesn't have enough backbone to stand up to really mean people??? Doesn't make much sense to me...but other than that I'm enjoying this series.
50 Book Challenge 2007: 56/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#75 - Keepsake Crimes by Laura Childs

Carmela Bertrand owns a popular scrapbook shop in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Recently separated from her upper class husband, she moves into an apartment behind a tourist-trap voodoo shop and busies herself with running her shop. But, of course, her plans are interupted by a murder.
Laura Childs injects this story with a healthy dose of New Orleans spice -- mardi gras, the French quarter, southern hospitality, and southern-style murder.
I enjoyed this book for the most part. Some of the plot points seemed a bit over melodramatic though. For instance, Carmela is a very outspoken, independent woman....but she allows her husband's family to be completely over-the-top rude and nasty to her. At times, it seemed like one of those melodramas where you Boo and Hiss the bad guys and wait for them to tie the poor heroine to the train tracks. To me, someone of Carmela's personality would tell her estranged husband's family to shut their pie
50 Book Challenge 2007: 55/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#74 - Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke

This is the third book in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson cozy murder mystery series.

As usual, the book is a fun cozy to read, and also includes several yummy recipes.

In this 3rd book, a rude and obnoxious cooking show host is murdered in Hannah's shop. One of Hannah's close friends is the number one suspect in the case, so Hannah jumps in to clear her friend's name.

This is an enjoyable cozy mystery, but I hope that something happens to enhance the character development in subsequent books in this series. Something exciting has to happen soon, or the books are going to start getting a little stale. Hannah needs to choose between her two love interests, or there needs to be some excitement/changes within the main characters of the stories, or the mystery and the cookie recipes just aren't going to carry along the sweetness of this series any longer. But, that's just my opinion....

50 Book Challenge 2007: 54/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#73 - Ghost of a Chance by Yasmine Galenorn

This is the first book in Yasmine Galenorn's Chintz n' China cozy series. The main character, Emerald O'Brien, owns a tea room where she serves up tea and tarot readings for her customers. She can communicate with the dead, and ends up being a Private Eye for the Dead.
In this first book, the ghost of an acquaintance shows up at her bedside in the middle of the night asking for help in solving her own murder.
For me, this book was a really cool twist on the cozy genre. I enjoyed the story. The supernatural aspects made it interesting.
I will definitely be reading other books in this series.
50 Book Challenge 2007: 53/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#72 - South Carolina Ghosts from the Coast to the Mountains by Nancy Roberts

This was another late night read that I really enjoyed. We live about 30 minutes from the SC border, so there were tales in this book from places I know. Kinda cool! :)

This collection by Roberts is a mix of ghost stories and historical lore. It was a light read, and very enjoyable. Nothing really unpredictable....pretty much variations on classic stories, but a fun read!

50 Book Challenge 2007: 52/50 -- Over My Goal!!

#71 - The Cold Cold Hand by James Burchill

Fall is the perfect season for reading Ghost stories! I curled up with this book on a cold October night with a cup of hot tea, and enjoyed some southern-style ghost stories. :)
The stories were really nothing new....but classic ghost tales never grow old, do they??
Definitely an enjoyable read for anyone who likes a scary ghostie yarn!
50 Book Challenge 2007: 51/50 -- Over My Goal!!

1001 Books to Read Before You Die -- 2008 Challenge

I surpassed my goal to read 50 books this year by quite a few -- I still have multiple reviews to post before I know the exact total. I'm wayyy behind on posting! But I have until Dec 31st to finalize the 2007 list....still have some time to get it done.

For 2008, my goal is to read books from Dr. Peter Boxall's list "1001 Books to read before you die''. Here's a link to the list.

So far, from the list I've read a few:

93. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (reviewed on this blog)
180. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
241. Contact by Carl Sagan
274. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
293. The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
303. The World According to Garp - John Irving
312. The Shining - Stephen King
320. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice
379. The Godfather - Mario Puzo
408. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
456. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
464. Henderson The Rain King - Saul Bellow
494. Lord of the Rings Triology - JRR Tolkein
496. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokav
508. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
520. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
521. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemmingway
522. I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
547. Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
564. Animal Farm - George Orwell
603. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
610. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkein
619. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
695. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
699. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
704. Billy Budd, Foretopman - Herman Melville
781. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arther Conan Doyle
789. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
790. War of the Worlds - HG Wells
791. The Invisible Man - HG Wells
794. Dracula - Bram Stoker
820. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
821. The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy
825. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
829. The Death of Ivan Ilych - Leo Tolstoy
831. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
853. Middlemarch - George Eliot
863. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
890. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
895. The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne
896. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
897. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
898. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
902. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
904. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
911. The Pit and the Pendulum - Edgar Allan Poe
913. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
916. The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe
918. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
931. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
933. Persuasion - Jane Austen
936. Emma - Jane Austen
937. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
938. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
940. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
983. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
987. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
991. The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
992. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
1001. Aesop's Fables

And a few I have on my bookshelf waiting to be read:

19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
72. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
236. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
667. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
767. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
880. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
979. Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded - Samuel Richardson

Monday, November 12, 2007

#70 - The Accidental Florist by Jill Churchill

This is the 16th book in the Jane Jeffry series by Jill Churchill. I was really looking forward to reading this book as I have enjoyed the rest of the series. But, this book was a disappointment.

The mystery element in this book was nearly non-existent. The writing was poor quality, and the story seemed contrived and trite.

It's almost like Jill Churchill didn't even write this book.

The main portion of the story is about Jane finally marrying her long time fiance, Mel Van Dyne. The mystery takes a back seat to wedding planning, and Jane taking a women's safety course. The story included strangely melodramatic tension with her future MIL, and weird discourses on safety and even a page dedicated to clumping cat litter and how to clean out a cat "bin.''

A very strange, odd and disappointing end (??) to an otherwise great mystery series.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 50/50

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

#69 - The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert

Brian Herbert is the son of famous Dune Author Frank Herbert. After Frank Herbert's death, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson took the story notes and outlines that he had left behind and began to write prequels to the Dune series.
The Machine Crusade is the 2nd book in the Legends of Dune trilogy. The human race is fighting a Jihad against a race of thinking machines that have taken over the known universe, led by a computer evermind called Omnius. This trilogy also gives the beginning background of the major families in the Dune saga, and the development of certain key planets like Arrakis and Corrin.
There are those who don't like Brian Herbert's Dune books because his writing style differs from his father, but I disagree. I like the background information that comes from these prequel books, and I'm eager to read the 3rd book to find out the ultimate fate of some of the key characters. The writing style is different, but I don't mind it. I find Brian Herbert's writing much less tedious than his father's, and the storyline is much less convoluted than the core Dune books.
Following this Jihad Trilogy is another trilogy of Prequel books, the House Trilogy, which gives the history and background of the 3 major families in the Dune Saga: House Atredies, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino. The House trilogy was also written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
50 Book Challenge 2007: 49/50

#68 - Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward

Lover Eternal is the 2nd book in J.R. Ward's vampire romance series. The books are well written, but as for subject matter.....well, this is a series that you just have to say, "It is what it is.''

To me, there isn't much that's romantic about vampires. Monsters that attack and suck blood from humans, or even other monsters, aren't exactly at the top of my list of dateable people. But Ward's main characters appear sexy, athletic and available....but they still get into hellacious fights with vampire hunters, kill people, and drink blood.

The sex scenes are graphic. The fight scenes are graphic. The concepts of blood lust, vampirism, erotic torture, etc., are graphic. This book is just.....well, graphic. If you are faint of heart, or one who is easily scared by horror stories, then don't read any of the books in this series when you are home alone, or just before bed.

If you like romance novels, and want to try something just a bit on the edge, then this series would be an enjoyable read for you. I don't usually read romance novels, but since it's October, I felt like reading a good vampire story. Ward didn't let me down. :)

50 Book Challenge 2007: 48/50

Friday, October 05, 2007

#67 - Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of NC by Randy Russell

This book really contains more stories involving Cherokee Indian Legends than it does Ghost stories. It was still a very interesting read though.

I live right in the area this book is about. Several places mentioned in the book are just minutes from my house -- Rutherfordton, Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, Hickory Nut Gorge. For me, that made the stories more enjoyable because I knew the area it was talking about. But the legends would be interesting even to someone who isn't familiar with Western North Carolina.

The book has 18 short stories, and is well written. But I was a bit disappointed that nearly all of the stories were indian legends when the book title says "Mountain Ghost Stories''. I think a better title would have been Western NC Mountain Legends and Ghost Stories, not the other way around. :)

50 Book Challenge 2007: 47/50

#66 - Yucatan Deep by Tom Morrissey

If you have any interest in Scuba diving, or Cave diving, or just like a good adventure story -- then you'll love this book!

Mike Bryant is a deep diver -- meaning he scuba dives to depths that are dangerous. One mistake can mean death. And he also enjoys cave diving, one of the most dangerous sports. Bryant wants to set a deep dive record by diving to the bottom of a very deep sinkhole (or cenote), but someone doesn't want him to be successful. Equipment is sabotaged, a diver dies, and things seem to constantly be going wrong. Why is someone so against Bryant seeing what lies on the bottom of the cenote??

I really enjoyed the diving sequences in this book. Morrissey writes very well, and obviously knows about scuba diving and deep water dives. Add in the extra adventure of sabotage and murder, and this is a really enjoyable book. It reminded me a bit of a Clive Cussler novel.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 46/50

#65 - Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

This is the 2nd book in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen Mystery Series. The First book in the series "Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder'' is also reviewed on this website.

I'm really enjoying this series. It's lighthearted, contains some yummy recipes, and I like the main character.

Hannah Swensen owns a bakery. In between baking cookies and making coffee, she gets tangled up in some interesting investigations. In "Strawberry Shortcake Murder'', one of the judges for a cooking contest is murdered. The police immediately suspect the man's wife, who happens to be a close friend of Hannah's. So, in order to help her friend, Hannah starts investigating the killing.

There are 7 dessert recipes included in the book, but the one dish mentioned in the story that I really am curious about isn't included because it's not a dessert recipe. Hannah and a friend go to a restaurant and the owner makes a spicy chicken dish that has chocolate in the sauce. It sounds really good!!! I was much more interested in the chicken recipe than the cookie recipes included in the book! I will have to research and find a similar dish and try it out on my family. I won't tell them that there's chocolate in the sauce until after they eat it. :)

This is a fun series! And I'm looking forward to reading the next book "Blueberry Muffin Murder''

50 Book Challenge 2007: 45/50

Monday, October 01, 2007

#64 - One Night Stands with American History by Richard Shenkman

I enjoy historical anecdotes, especially when they are about little things I was taught were true, that actually aren't. Richard Shenkman has written several collections of historical tidbits, and I really enjoyed this one.

This version of the book has been updated to contain some anecdotes from the last 30 years, including the fact that former President Carter once appalled the British Queen Mother by kissing her on the lips instead of the cheek. It also has a few little bits about the first President Bush and President Clinton, but mostly deals with American history from the 1700's to the 1960's.

Not all of the historical accounts in this book are about politics though. One non-political tidbit is: The ice cream soda was invented by accident in 1874 when Robert M. Green ran out of sweet cream and substituted vanilla ice cream in sodas he was selling at the semicentennial celebration of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And, the average life expectancy of Americans in 1876 was about 40.

Of course, there are plenty of political anecdotes as well. While president, Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse carriage. The first black man elected to congress was Hiram Nevels from Mississippi. Prior to Nevels, the seat was held by Jefferson Davis.

This book was an enjoyable, quick read.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 44/50

Sunday, September 30, 2007

#63 - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front is the first book in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. There are seven books in the series so far.

And believe me, the books are SO much better than the recent television series.

If you like old style detective novels and sci-fi/fantasy, you would really enjoy this series.

The main character, Harry Dresden, is a Wizard for Hire. He works with the local police department helping solve bizarre cases, and also takes on private clients dealing with supernatural problems.

I really enjoyed the mixing of fantasy/supernatural and crime novel in this book. Although I do like Simon Green's Nightside series better, Storm Front was an enjoyable read. I have the first four books in the series. Hopefully I like the next 3 as well as I liked this first book.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 43/50

Thursday, September 27, 2007

# 62 - Loch by Paul Zindel

This book was a disappointment for me. I found the plot boring, and the writing was bad. Yes, on the one hand, this is a Young Adult book....but I've read some wonderful YA books. This one fell flat. Not at all what I expected from Paul Zindel.

The basic plot revolves around a scientific team doing research at a remove Virginia lake after reported sightings of a lake creature, not unlike the famous Loch Ness Monster. But, suddenly the team is in peril, when the monster decides to start attacking and killing/eating/maiming nearly everyone in sight. This book reminded me of a bad Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie. I could imagine it coming on late at night "Attack of the Lake Monster'' with a really corny plot and terrible CGI monster special effects.

The writing was bad. The plot was just unintelligent, and boring. I was surprised to find out that this book was recommended in 1995 by the NYC library on its List for the Teen Age.

Ugh. Surely there were better books in 1995 to recommend than this one.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 42/50

#61 - The Queen's Man by Sharon Ann Penman

The year is 1193. A merchant is murdered on the road to London, while carrying an important letter for the Queen of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The murder is witnessed by Justin de Quincy. de Quincey takes the letter, and its news of the fate of King Richard, to the queen himself. He is untimately hired by the queen to solve the murder and to discover if the King of France was involved in the plot to intercept the news of her eldest son's fate.

That's the basic storyline for "The Queen's Man'', the first in a series of medieval mystery novels by Sharon Kay Penman.

I really enjoyed this book. The medieval setting made this a new approach to a mystery novel for me. Definitely an escape from formula plots!

There are 4 books in this series: The Queens Man, Cruel as the Grave, Dragon's Lair, and Prince of Darkness. Penman has also written several other novels set in the medieval period.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 41/50

#60 - Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs

Fatal Voyage is the 4th book in the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. I found out about the book series after watching the television series Bones, which is loosely based on this series. And, when I found out that Reichs is a forensic anthropologist in Charlotte, near where I live, I was even more interested in reading this series.

I have enjoyed the first four books. But, the Brennan character in the books, and on the television show might have the same name, but they have very little else in common. I don't mind it though.....television characters are never the same as in the books they are based on.

Reichs mixes her medical knowledge and her writing skills very well. Her style isn't so bogged down in scientific terminology that it drowns the story. And her storylines aren't trite, like some medical/crime/mystery series can become.

Fatal Voyage centers around an airline crash in NC. Brennan discovers something strange at the accident scene, and suddenly someone is out to ruin her career to get her to stop investigating. The plot is fast paced and quite good!

Definitely another good installment in this series! I've already started book 5 in the series "Grave Secrets''

50 Book Challenge 2007: 40/50

#59 - Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of World History

This book was so interesting!! I love history, and I was amazed at how much I thought was true that isn't, and how much I thought I knew that I didn't. :)

If you like anecdotes about history, you would enjoy this book by Richard Shenkman.

Just a few tidbits from the book:

Winston Churchill's famous WWII speech that talks about "our finest hour'' was not actually broadcast by Churchill himself. A radio actor, Norman Shelley, was hired as a standin. That's Shelley's voice on that famous recording we've all heard a thousand times, not Churchill at all.

Columbus did not discover that the world was round. That myth was started by Washington Irving.

Marie Antoinette did not actually ever say "Let them eat cake.''

I really enjoyed this book! :)

50 Book Challenge 2007: 39/50

#58 - Nightingale's Lament by Simon Green

Nightingale's Lament is the 3rd book in the Nightside series by Simon Green. The first two books are reviewed on this blog. :) I really like this series! It mixes together mystery, sci-fi, horror and humor. Fans of the Dresden books, or the old Nightstalker television show, would love this book series!

In this book, John Taylor is investigating a singer known as the Nightingale. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, but it causes those around her to commit suicide. The story line was faced paced and interesting. Definitely a good read!

So far there are 8 books in this series: Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, Nightingale's Lament, Hex and the City, Paths not Taken, Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth, Hell to Pay, and The One and Only Unnatural Inquirer.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 38/50

# 57 - Letters from Pemberly by Jane Dawkins

This book is another continuation of the Pride and Prejudice story by Jane Austen. The book is in letter format. The storyline develops as you read letters written by Jane and Elizabeth Bennett in the year following their marriages.

For me, this book was a bit of a disappointment. The letters gave a bit of insight into the continuing lives of the P & P characters, but so much was left out. I think it was the letter format of the book that I really didn't care for. But, even so, I did enjoy reading it. I just wanted more details. :)

There is a 2nd book by the same author, Jane Dawkins, titled "More Letters from Pemberly.'' I haven't read it yet, so maybe that will answer some of the questions I still had about some of the characters.

I did like some of the plot in Dawkins book - Jane and Elizabeth both have had to send money to help their sister Lydia, Bingley's sister is still a snake, and Mrs. Bennett is still complaining about her nerves. :)

The book is a good read for P&P fans! :)

50 Book Challenge 2007: 37/50

#56 - Presumption by Julia Barrett

Presumption by Julia Barrett is a continuation of the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. There are many such books, and Barrett's is the first that I read.

All in all, it was an enjoyable story, mostly focusing on Georgiana Darcy finding a husband. I thought Barrett changed a bit too much about a few characters, such as Mary Bennett. In P&P Mary is decidedly different from her other sisters, and doesn't enjoy social gatherings like Balls at all. In Presumption, Mary seems very excited about the social scene, while the P&P Mary seemed more content quoting Fordyce's Sermons or singing badly.

And, quite often, the characters mention people from Austen's other books. After about the 3rd time, this got a bit tedious. It just seemed a bit forced for the P&P characters to meet or mention the Dashwoods from Sense and Sensibility, or some of the main characters from Emma and Persuasion.

But, those two things really weren't a big deal. The book was still an enjoyable read! I definitely recommend it to P&P fans!

50 Book Challenge 2007: 36/50

#55 - North Carolina Ghosts and Legends by Nancy Roberts

Nancy Roberts has written several books of ghost stories from the South. North Carolina Ghost and Legends is a collection of tales encompassing everything from Blackbeard to civil war legends.
This was a quick and interesting read. Quite a few of the stories were legends from NC history, so the book wasn't exactly what I expected. But it was still enjoyable.
Roberts has written several other similiar books including: Georgia Ghosts, Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends and Blackbeard and Other Pirates of the Atlantic Coast.
50 Book Challenge 2007: 35/50

#54 - Haints of the Hills by Daniel W. Barefoot

I really enjoy a good ghost story. And if they come from my neck of the woods (western NC), even better!! This book is part of a 3-book collection of ghost stories and tales from each of NC's 100 counties. Haints of the Hills includes tales from the 28 mountain region counties.

Some of the stories seemed to be a re-working of popular urban legends, but that's seems every state has some place that boasts of a disappearing hitchhiker and the like.

This was a very entertaining, light read. The stories aren't that scary....just scary enough to be enjoyable. :) And I loved reading legends from places I'm familiar with here in NC.

Definitely a fun read if you like ghost stories!

50 Book Challenge 2007: 34/50