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

#53 - Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris

After reading the first Mr & Mrs Darcy mystery by Carrie Bebris, I jumped right in and read the 2nd one! Suspense and Sensibility was an enjoyable story overall.

The Darcys decide to give Elizabeth's younger sister Kitty a season in London, in the hopes she will find a suitable husband. She meets Harry Dashwood, and they become engaged. But soon after the engagement, things go mysteriously wrong.

If you read the books as a lighthearted mix of mystery and a homage to Pride & Prejudice, this book series is an enjoyable read. But don't look for realistic plots, or for the characters to behave exactly as you would expect from P&P. Bebris adds in the mystery, and the characters' actions change accordingly.

All in all, a very enjoyable, quick read. :)

50 Book Challenge 2007: 33/50