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Sunday, August 8, 2004

The Bachelor's Cat: A Love Story by L. F. Hoffman

The Bachelor's Cat: A Love Story by L. F. Hoffman: the story of a struggling artist and how his life changes when he adopts a kitten.

The titular bachelor in this novel is a struggling artist with a gorgeous girlfriend. Unfortunately, she has left him time and time again for other men only to return when her interest in them wanes.

Shortly after his first gallery opening, the bachelor finds a tiny grey kitten on his front porch. He adopts her and their relationship, one built on mutual trust and love, develops. Presently he meets a woman that is very much unlike the women he usually dates (she's almost his age and is somewhat chubby). However, he has conversations with her that intrigue him and he finds himself gradually spending all his time with her. She's so different, though, from the girlfriend that he struggles with what he really wants and needs and can only decide with the help of his cat.

I wouldn't really classify this little tale as a romance novel, though there were definitely elements of that there. To me, this book was more about finding out who you are as a person and finding the person that makes you happy with what you and they are.

I finished it in under an hour, but it was so charming that I honestly wished it would have been longer though it probably didn't need to be. Well worth reading.

(Finished on August 8, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Bluebird Cafe by Carmel Bird

Bluebird Cafe by Carmel Bird: as much as I wanted to get through this short little book, I just couldn't. There was something about the writing stlye that just made it impossible for it to hold my interest.

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Felicia's Journey by William Trevor

Felicia's Journey by William Trevor: a strange little book about a pregnant Irish girl and the man that attempts to befriend her.

Felicia is seventeen and pregnant. Her lover, Johhny Lysaght, has returned to his job in England, so determined to find him even though the circumstances around her points to the fact that he doesn't want her any longer, Felicia follows him.

While searching the town that Johnny is supposed to work in, she meets Mr. Hilditch, an overweight canteen catering manager. Mr. Hilditch befriends young girls in need and we are left to wonder for what purpose he feels compelled to do this.

The first two thirds of the book I spent trying to determine Mr. Hilditch's motives. They seemed shady, but since nothing was ever definitely said, I was left wondering. Once his motives are made perfectly clear, however, I found myself not enjoying the book as much and by the last fifty pages, I really just wanted to be done with it. I also must admit that the twist revealed in the last chapter, I didn't see coming at all.

All in all, a decent read and at two hundred pages, probably worth the read.

(Finished on August 7, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Saturday, August 7, 2004

When Night Falls by Linda Anderson

When Night Falls by Linda Anderson: a thriller set deep in the mountains of North Carolina.

Lannie Sullivan lives alone, seculed in a hidden cabin atop a mountain. Two years earlier, her young daughter drowned in the swimming pool. Her ex-husband blamed her, and after their bitter divorce, she fled her life to live alone. Slowly, though, she has begun to seek out the company of others and meets Drummond Rutledge, a timber baron with secrets in his own past.

Drum and Lannie have an instant attraction for each other and begin a passionate affair. However, a convicted rapist has been let out of jail who is obsessed with Lannie and putting into place a plan to make her his.

For the most part, I didn't really like this book. It wasn't until I was on a plane and didn't have anything else to do that I even managed to finish it. The romance between Drum and Lannie seemed just too sudden. Jeb, the rapist obsessed with Lannie, also seemed like your typical run-of-the-mill crazy, though his ploy to get near Lannie was pretty ingenious. I did like the dark secret that Drum's past held and I found myself liking the book more by the time I got to the end. However, I would really only suggest this one if you've got absolutely nothing else around to read.

(Finished on August 1, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson: a novel about the life of Kate Reddy, a British working mother.

When we first meet Kate Reddy, she's in her kitchen at 1:37 a.m. distressing mince pies for her daughter's Christmas party at school so that they will look homemade. Kate is a hedge-fund manager, one of the best in her office. She's also the mother of two children, Emily and Ben, whom she hardly ever gets to see. She has a lovely husband, Richard, whom she also never sees.

Her days are measured by seconds and each one of them is used in the most efficient manner possible. She tries to be the best mother, wife, and employee, but things are starting to give.

I really enjoyed Allison Pearson's novel for many reasons. First of all, I liked Kate. I wanted her to be happy and spend some time on herself and have a peaceful life. Secondly, Pearson's writing style was just beautiful. It walked the line between funny and poignant while making us really care about Kate and her family. While I'm not a mother, I still sympathized with Kate and would highly recommend this one, especially to all the working mothers out there.

(Finished on July 17, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor)

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow (Editor) and Terri Windling (Editor): a collection of fairy tales written especially for adults.

Datlow and Windling are some of the best editors, especially in the horror and fantasy fields, that almost any book they put together is wonderful and this one is no exception. As Ellen Datlow herself says, there's nothing new in this collection in regards to the themes of the stories since in literary fairy tales, uniqueness and novelty are besides the point. However, even with nothing new, these stories are still amazing.

The stories themselves range from light fantasy to darkly horrific and are retellings of such well-known tales as "Beauty and the Beast," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Little Match Girl," "The Wizard of Oz," and more. Even though we may be familiar with these tales, the authors invariably give each one a bit of their own style or idea and it becomes something entirely different in most cases.

Personal favorites in this anthology included "The Beast," "Masterpiece," "Roach in Loafers," "Brother Bear," "The Real Princess," "The Huntsman's Story," "Match Girl," "Waking the Prince," "The Fox Wife," "The White Road," and "The Printer's Daughter."

(Finished on July 13, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin: a mystery involving the murder of a young couple in 1960.

In November of 1960, Richie Walters and Elaine Murray are brutally murdered. Roy Shindler, one of the detectives on the case, is convinced that two brothers, troublemakers and gang members, are behind the crimes. It becomes his life's mission to bring them to justice, no matter what the cost. In the process, the lives of several people are changed irrevocably, most of them not for the better.

Since the novel is done as a flashback, we know that Bobby Coolidge, one of the brothers was brought to trial. This, however, just makes the journey that much more interesting, in my opinion, and I definitely was surprised by how the book ended. I always appreciate a book that can lead me down one path and still surprise me that way. I also enjoyed the trial, especially the glimpse into some psychological beliefs of the era.

All in all, the book was solidly written, the characters very believable, and the plot really well done. Well worth a reading.

(Finished on July 8, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Trust No One by Harlen Coben

Trust No One by Harlen Coben: an intruging novel about a man who loses his wife only to find out that she might not really be gone after all.

Eight years ago, Dr. David Beck lost his wife Elizabeth when she was kidnapped from the cabin that they had gone to every year since they were teenagers. Ever since he’s been essentially just walking through his life in a daze, missing her every day and not moving on. Suddenly, out of the blue, he gets an e-mail containing references and phrases that only his wife would know. Who could send something like that? Could Elizabeth still be alive? If so, where has she been and why has she been hiding?

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The characters were interesting (from his best friend - a lesbian fashion model who’s his sister’s domestic partner - to one of his patient’s drug dealing fater), the mystery puzzling, and the book was just generally well written, as you would expect from an Edgar winning author. I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

(Finished on July 7, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Monday, March 1, 2004

Parting Gifts by Charlotte Vale Allen

Parting Gifts by Charlotte Vale Allen: a touching look at the relationships between people and their families.

The novel starts off with Kyra, daughter to a well-know director father and actress mother, learning that her husband Gary has died in a freak accident. A few days later, while coming home from Gary's funeral, Kyra is confronted by a teenage mother that insists that Kyra is her own mother and that she must now watch her son whom she plans to leave with social services if Kyra won't comply. Kyra is confused to how this girl could think she's her mother (she was born with a birth defect that left her sterile, so it's an impossibility), but agrees to accept the neglected boy since she always wanted children. The rest of the book deals with Kyra and Jesse learning to live together and Kyra coming to terms with her family until an important decision that Jesse must make changes life for everyone.

I haven't read any of Charlotte Vale Allen's books before, but I must confess that at first I didn't think I was going to like it. The book seemed to start off a little stilted and while we're reading about Kyra's family as she comes to grips with Gary's death, I thought it was going to go right off into the land of caricature (which, in retrospect, is probably the point). Fortunately, as soon as Jesse was introduced, this proved not to be the case.

Ultimately, I found the novel to be really touching - I even cried towards the end. The characters were very real and believable and while some of it was pretty predictable, it was still very enjoyable.

(Finished on March 1, 2004 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

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Friday, November 14, 2003

The 6 Messiahs by Mark Frost

The Six Messiahs by Mark Frost: the sequel to Frost's adventurous The List of 7.

Ten years after the events of The List of 7 we find Arthur Conan Doyle a celebrated writer. He has been made famous by the creation of Sherlock Holmes, loosely modeled on Jack Sparks, his old friend who died pursuing his evil brother, Alexander.

Doyle is getting ready to embark to America for a book tour and taking his younger brother Innes with him to serve as his secretary. While on board their American-bound ship, Doyle becomes embroiled in a plot to steal a priceless religious book. This leads him to once again put his life on the line to help stop a terrible event from occurring.

The 6 Messiahs follows the same kind of formula as The List of 7, but I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed it for the same reasons I enjoyed the other book - lots of adventure and wonderful characters. I found this one easier to get into and also thought that it resolved some of the abruptness of the ending of The List of 7.

If you're looking for rollicking good fun and an entertaining read, look no further.

(Finished on November 14, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The List of 7 by Mark Frost

The List of 7 by Mark Frost: a mix of adventure and occultism with a tiny bit of romance thrown in for good measure in Victorian England makes for quite an interesting book.

Arthur Conan Doyle is a physician of modest stature in the late 1880s in England. He has a few patients and submit manuscripts to local publishing houses. He also has a keen interest in the occult and spends a fair amount of time investigating spiritualists and mediums trying to find the real thing.

All this is abruptly thrown into disarray when he finds himself the target of a group of seven people that wish him dead before he can disrupt their plot - one he has unwittingly stumbled into.

At first, while I liked the book, I found it really hard to get into. It wasn't until page 60 or so that I really started to enjoy the book and the direction it was taking. I was eager to see what would happen next and what the fates of various players in the book would be.

My only real complaint with the book is that at times it the prose was a bit windy. Also, while the book was set in Victorian England, I myself don't know all their terms and slang. It would have been nice to have had some translations. The only reason that I knew that an alienist is, basically, a psychiatrist, is because of the excellent book by Caleb Carr The Alienist.

All in all, the novel contained quite the adventure and I look forward to reading the next book in the series The 6 Messiahs.

(Finished on November 11, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, November 6, 2003

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong: an absolutely stunning book that grabs you and never lets you go.

Elena, the world's only female werewolf, is looking into the possibility that a human knows that werewolves exist and aren't merely myth. She then discovers that it's not only werewolves that aren't myths but also vampires, demons, witches, and more. While trying to deal with this, she's captured by an egomaniacal billionaire and ends up in his own supernatural menagerie.

I had enjoyed the first book in this series, Bitten, so I was prepared to like this one. However, I was surprised by how exciting it was and how much I loved it. I literally could not put this book down and stayed up reading way later than I should have.

From page one this book starts out with a deadly hunt and never lets up on the tension and excitement until the book is over especially, once Elena is kidnapped. Her fury and fear are so real that I could only begin to imagine how it would feel to be in somone's personal zoo.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Bitten was good, but Stolen is one of the most exhilarating novels I've read all year. It really sinks its teeth into you, if you'll pardon the pun.

(Finished on November 5, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, November 3, 2003

Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds by Nancy Martin

Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds by Nancy Martin: the second book in the Blackbird Sisters mystery series, picking up where How to Murder a Millionaire left off.

Nora Blackbird is dealing with her pregnant sister Libby and her on-then-off boyfriend Michael "The Mick" Abruzzo when one of her acquaintances, the wife of her old college boyfriend, ends up dead. At first it looks like suicide, but soon both her and the husband, Flan, end up as suspects. To clear their names, Nora begins an investigation into the murder which leads to jewel theft, intriuge, and the lies covered by high society.

When I read the first book in the series, How to Murder a Millionaire, I thought that while the book wasn't all that great, it could definitely work itself into a pretty decent series. This book, however, was almost a carbon copy of the first and I found it almost a little too frothy for a murder mystery. I keep wanting more from both the characters and the story and I'm not sure if that's going to happen.

While the book makes for quick, easy reading, it's still not as good as one of Janet Evanovich’s or Carolyn Haines’s female mystery series. I guess the best I can say about this book is that it's okay and I'm not sure if that's enough to continue through the series.

(Finished on November 3, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Swagbelly: A Novel for Today's Gentleman by David Levin

Swagbelly: A Novel for Today's Gentleman by David Levin: a tale of a pornographer and the events and memories that make up his life.

Elliot Grubman is an extremely wealthy publisher of Swagbelly - a pornographic magazine who's quality is below Playboy but above the crude, typical magazine that dominate the industry. Newly divorced, Elliot's life is slowly falling apart despite the fact that he is worth over $100 million. He tries to put his life back together by dating models from his magazine, learning polo, and other measures, but what really is it that he needs and wants?

I find it hard to really describe this book. I guess it's a "Day in the Life" kind of novel, even if that life does involve lots of money and models. It would be hard for most to like a man who uses women, intimidates people, and deals in the sex industry, but Elliot is a surprisingly rich character who I really liked. I wanted things to go well for him.

While the tale of an extremely rich pornographer may sound like an off-putting idea for a novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to see more of Levin's work.

(Finished on October 29, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, October 27, 2003

Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown

Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown: a short story collection from an Australian author that never quite lived up to its potential.

These stories, set in a not-to-distant future, almost all revolved around biochips planted in people's brains and their relationships with other humans, machines and animals.

For the most part, I didn't really enjoy too many of the stories. I wanted to know more about the time and place that they happened in. Kind of like with William Gibson's Neuromancer, I felt that I was missing key elements as to why people did the things that they did. I just never really felt myself drawn into the story.

Saying that, however, I did enjoy a few of them. They were "The Mind's Eye," "The Final Machine," "Brother Stripes," "Rain From the New God," and "The Truth in Advertising," a clever little co-written piece that made reading the book worth it. Not really recommended, but fans of anthologies may find enough gems in here to make mining the book worth it.

(Finished on October 27, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Saturday, October 25, 2003

A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones

A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones: a surprisingly good novel that deals with Chinese history, art fraud, and romance with a deft hand.

Lia Frank, a deaf porcelain art export, has been called to China to check the authenticity of twenty expensive, rare pots. When she arrives there, she finds out that it's not twenty pots she's checking, but rather 800. At this point, the mystery of where the pots came from begins since a collection of this magnitude is a rarity and valued at almost $200 million.

Lia is almost a mnemonist and is able to recall every pot that she's ever looked and every catalog or book that she's read dealing with porcelain. This allows her to relive Chinese history in trying to track the pots and I found these interludes some of the most interesting in the whole book.

While in China Lia also meets an American staying in the same place and they immediately click. Since she's only in China for a short while, it leads to questions about whether she should get involved with him or not.

On a side note, while I know you should never judge a book by its cover, the cover on this novel is absolutely stunning. The colors are beyond lovely and it actually seems to glow. The subtle Chinese characters repeated throughout the background and the beautiful picture of a cup is so perfect - very hoi moon.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely. It seemed almost like poetry as opposed to prose. The flashbacks to ancient China were amazing and the rich details of the porcelian pieces made me want to immediately visit a museum to see the type of perfection that she was describing. Mones is an extremely talented writer and I look forward to reading her first novel, Lost in Translation, and any others that she writes.

(Finished on October 25, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, October 20, 2003

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham: this is science fiction at its best, relevant and enjoyable still even though it was published almost fifty years ago.

David Strorm lives in a community where genetic mutations are an every day part of life. Whenever these mutations occur (ranging from small differences like an extra toe or finger to the extreme like a two-headed calf), they are rooted out. In the case of livestock and crops they are destroyed and for those humans unlucky enough to deviate from the Divine Image of God, they are cast out of the community and sent to live in The Fringes.

David has the ability to communicate via telepathy, something he's been able to hide for most of his life. However, as he gets older and the risks are more serious, it becomes inevitable that his secret will be found out.

I completely devoured this book, enjoying every minute of it. Despite that it was written almost fifty years ago, the language and people of the book were as fresh as if their stories had just been conceived.

I wish that Wyndham would have written a sequel to this book so that I could see how everyone's lives played out and if information about The Tribulation was ever discovered (my money's on nuclear war).

Great book and at just 200 pages, a perfect, quick read. Recommended for all, especially sci-fi fans.

(Finished on October 18, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland: an incredibly powerful and hypnotic novel that pulled me in immediately.

In the beginning of the novel, Richard and Karen have sex for the first time on top of a snowy mountain. A few hours later, after giving Richard a note that she warns him not to read since she wants it back unopened, Karen inexplicably lapses into a coma. Her coma changes everything in the life of her friends and family and sets into motion unexpected outcomes. I won't mention anything more (and I suggest not reading the reviews on Amazon since they contain a fair amount of spoilers. Best to just read this one and let you take you where it goes.

From the start, I could not put this book down. I found Coupland's voice to be engaging and his characters so real. I could not wait to see what was going to happen next.

Almost the entire novel was a surprise - I could not predict what was going to happen next and where it would end up. Saying that, I felt that the ending was weak. It seemed to just kind of end. The last thirty pages or so were very disappointing in light of how much I enjoyed the book, but I would still highly recommend this one to others.

(Finished on October 18, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding

Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding: a very enjoyable book from the offer of Bridget Jones's Diary despite the fact that it takes place in famine-stricken Africa.

Rosie Richardson works in publishing and is quite shocked to find herself girlfriend to one of television's stars. However, the relationship is terribly flawed and emotionally abusive, helping lead to her decision to move to Nambula, Africa to help run a refugee camp. Four years later, a famine of epic proportions is threatening to destroy all that she has helped build, so she returns to London to enlist the help of the celebrities she used to know in raising funds and food for the camp.

The first part of the book is done in flashbacks of Rosie's life before Africa while continuing to tell what is currently happening with her. I enjoyed both timelines and was almost disappointed when the book caught up with "real time" and became linear.

I found Rosie to be a wonderful character - strong without realizing it and willing to help others despite the risk to herself. While I suppose you could predict where the entire book was going, I nevertheless liked it quite a lot. Fans of Fielding and other chick lit authors should be quite pleased with this one.

(Finished on October 16, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: while I have always heard about this book, I had never actually read it. So, when a bookring was started for it at BookCrossing, I jumped at the chance to read this classic children's novel that chronicles the adventures of Rat, Mole, Frog, and Badger as they live their lives by the river near Wild Wood.

At the start of the book, Mr. Mole is doing a bit of spring cleaning when he suddenly decides that he must be out in the lovely day. He begins to wander when he finds himself near the river. Never having seen such a thing as a river, he becomes immediately entranced and soon makes a friend of Mr. Rat, a water rat living right on the bank. Mr. Mole is soon introduced to Mr. Toad and, eventually, to Mr. Badger, the other key characters in this delightful book.

I very much enjoyed reading The Wind in the Willows and only wish I would have come upon it when I was younger. For some reason, the concept of the animals having things like motor-cars bugged me since I could not see how a toad could fit behind the wheel of a car to drive. I could readily ignore that, however, since the book itself was so charming. I particularly loved the relationships between all of the friends and how much they cared for one another.

Recommended for children of all ages, especially the younger ones who would probably most enjoy the concept of a toad driving a car.

(Finished on October 14, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, October 13, 2003

The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel

The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel: an absolute delight for several of the senses - seeing and hearing.

This novel starts out in Mexico as the conquistadors are obliterating the Aztecs. After a brief interlude with a conquistador and an Aztec princess, we are in Mexico City still, but far in the future. We immediately meet Azucena, an astroanalyst, who with the help of a gaurdian angel help people put the karma of their past lives into balance. She is going to meet her twin soul and true love, Rodrigo. Soon after meeting him, however, she loses him and begins a journey through many lifetimes to help all the people of the world learn the Law of Love.

At first, going from ancient Mexico to futuristic Mexico threw me off. I also felt a bit lost since the book starts talking about Azucena being an astroanalyst, but I wasn't sure what that was. I quickly picked up on everything and enjoyed the story quite a bit. The occasional chapters from both a gaurdian angel and a demon always interrupted me from the story - they would always jolt me to reality.

There were several interesting concepts in this book that I found both entertaining and enjoyable. Whenever Azucena wanted to regress to a past life, she would listen to her CD player. A CD with the same tracks that she listened to was included so that the reader could hear what she was hearing. The past lives were also done in wonderful color illustrations by Spanish artist Miguelano Prado showing exactly what she was experiencing.

While the New Age talk may throw some people off, I found the book very entertaining and enjoyable. I would recommend this to anyone looking for something a little bit different to read.

(Finished on October 12, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: better than average "serial killer stalks victim" novel that I enjoyed quite a bit.

A series of serial killings in Boston have the police baffled. Women are bound with duct tape, have their stomaches cut open and their uterus removed, and then killed by having their throats slit.

The police are at a standstill until it's discovered that similiar killings happened in Savannah, though he was shot and killed by his last victim, Dr. Catherine Cordell. Questioning Cordell it begins to become obvious that the murders have something to do with her, but why and what?

I enjoyed this book for several reasons - the biggest being the story itself and the characters. I truly liked Cordell, Moore, and Rizzoli and wanted to see what was going to happen to each of them. I also enjoyed the plot and figuring out who the killer was and how he was choosing his victims.

Highly recommended for fans of the thriller/mystery genres and for anyone else that wants to get their blood pumping. Can't wait to read the rest of Gerritsen's work.

(Finished on October 8, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, October 9, 2003

The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert

The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert: a science fiction novel by one of the best in the field that seemed to hold more promise than was ever delivered.

In Santaroga, a valley town in California, everything appears to be normal - until you look closely, that is. No one ever moves away for long, there's no business in the town that aren't local, and outsiders aren't welcome.

Gilbert Dasein is hired by a group of corporate marketers to visit Santaroga and discover its secrets. Since Gil once dated and is still in love with a local girl named Jenny, it's hoped that he'll have more luck than the previous researchers, all of whom died in a series of accidents.

This book had a very strong Twilight Zone feel to it, but I ultimately felt that it never really delivered on its promise of being a scary, intriguing sci-fi novel. It's not that it was bad, but it just wasn't as good as I had hoped. I felt that it lacked a strong resolution of what the mysterious Jaspers was and how it came to be in the town.

Also, the book was first written in 1968 and I felt that it seemed a little dated to me. Nothing huge, but some of the issues of race and the like didn't quite feel right. If you're a sci-fi fan, this one may still be up your alley, but I don't strongly recommended.

(Finished on October 6, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Wake Up by Tim Pears

Wake Up by Tim Pears: surreal novel that never could hold my interest as much as I would have hoped it would.

The novel starts out with John, co-owner of a very successful potato company in England, driving out to see his brother (and business partner) to tell him about two fatalities that occured in an experiment to give people vaccines administered by genetically altered potatoes. John is frightened to what these deaths are going to mean to his company and he can't quite get himself to take the exit he's supposed to. Almost all of this short novel takes place on that Monday in John's car as he thinks to himself about his life and what is going to happen now.

John's thoughts wander all over the place and he frequently changes them ("Did I say (I met my wife this way, etc.) earlier? Oh no, that's not what happened at all; it was like this..."), which kept annoying me.

Listening to John prattle on about his life never quite could get me as interested in him as I wanted to be, so the book's events never really mattered much to me. I will admit, however, that I wasn't expecting the surprise revealed at the end of the book.

Would I recommend this book to others? Probably not. I didn't really like it and ultimately, that's what I read for - enjoyment. No enjoyment out of the book means it wasn't worth my time. Good thing it was short.

(Finished on October 1, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray: a wonderful feel-good type of book that probably most people could easily relate to.

Ruth, a housewife in Minneapolis, loves to bake cakes. Baking a cake is her form of both relaxation and therapy, something that she's going to need a lot of in her near future.

Ruth lives with her husband Sam, her difficult teenage daughter Camille, and her mother Hollis who moved in after her house was robbed. To complicate things even further, Sam loses his job and Ruth's father Guy, whom she hardly even sees and her mother hates, has a serious accident and has to move in. Needless to say, tension in the household increases and Ruth begins baking even more cakes.

In reality, this book was pretty easy to predict what was going to happen next, but I loved reading every word of it. Ray's voice is soothing and funny and very easy to get sucked into. I enjoyed her characters, especially Ruth, Hollis, and Guy, and the interaction among the family was a joy to experience.

Like a piece of cake, Eat Cake was both light and enjoyable - perfect summer reading or to just take a break from every day life.

(Finished on September 24, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges

An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges: a quirky novel by the author of What's Eating Gilbert Grape that turned out to be a quick, but wonderful, reading experience.

At the beginning of An Ocean in Iowa Scotty Ocean announces to his mother, Joan, that "Seven is going to be my year." Turning seven does bring about many changes for Scotty, including his alcoholic mother's decision to leave her family and try to live on her own.

The novel is set in the late sixties when the war in Vietnam raged and when man had yet to walk on the moon. Scotty experiences most of these things on the periphery since his main focus in life is his mother and how to get her to come back home.

While I enjoyed the book very much, after finishing it, I thought about how really it was quite a melancholy novel - most of the book is just life and picking up the pieces after major changes. However, Scotty's character was so engaging (it was interesting to see a book take place through the eyes of a young child) and I wanted things to work out for him that I was compelled to read it in just a day or so.

All in all, not a very cheery book, but one that I would still suggest reading.

(Finished on September 23, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, September 22, 2003

The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg

The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg: a suspenseful, genuinely creepy horror novel that has to be one of the best in the genre that I've read in years.

At the very beginning of the novel, Gordie Raglan is brutally murdered in the smokehouse that sits on Hawthorne, the property he owns on Burnley Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts. The murder is so savage and strange that no one - police, forensics experts, or even the media - can begin to figure out what has happened.

Nemo, the oldest of Gordie's kids, is called home by Brooke, his sister who was at Hawthone at the time, and Bruno, his brother. Brooke, understandably, is acting odd, but Bruno and Nemo begin to wonder if maybe she has become completely unhinged by their father's slaughter.

Complicating everything, is memories that Nemo has of playing The Dark Game with his brother and sister in the same smokehouse where their father was murdered. One must never play The Dark Game after night has fallen, but the three of them did just that once. Nemo has to try and put the pieces that is slowly surfacing of his and his sibling's lives to determine who really is the murder and what secrets have been buried long enough.

The book had me wondering about the outcome for almost its entire length. I figured out one important plot twist (as I think most people will), but it still didn't lessen the impact of the Raglan family truth or of the novel itself.

Very well written, highly enjoyable, and even reminiscent of Stephen King's earlier works. Recommended for those that love their scares with more psychological nuances than straight out gore.

(Finished on September 20, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore

Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore: the first United States publication of Dunmore, winner of the Orange Prize (for debuting women novelists), that deals with the hidden secrets that can tear a family apart.

Nina has come to spend time with her sister Isabel after the birth of Isabel’s first child, Anthony, is much more difficult than expected. In the isolated cottage where Isabel lives is Edward (one of Isabel’s friends), Susan (the nanny), and Ricard, Isabel’s husband who’s usually away on business trips.

It’s almost difficult to describe what this book is really about without giving away the major plot details. Suffice to say, the heart of the novel is the relationship between Isabel and Nina and what is true and what is simply manipulated in the events that entwine them.

I wish now that I had gone back and read both the beginning and the ending before sending it to the person who was to read it after me. I would like to take them both in again and see if my conclusions and thoughts were the same.

Ultimately, it’s a very quick read and Dunmore’s voice is both strong and mesmerizing. I enjoyed the novel and would like to read other things by her in the future.

(Finished on September 19, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: exquisitely written first novel that crosses so many genres that it is almost impossible to categorize.

Most novels do not start out with telling you both who has been murdered (Bunny Corcoran) and who has murdered him (Richard, Henry, Francis, Charles, and Camilla) since usually the point of a novel containing a murder is to figure out who did it. However, in the case of this novel, it only made me want to know even more why Bunny was turned on by his friends - what could motivate such a betrayal?

The novel is set is a small, very exclusive Vermont college. Richard, a freshman from California who studied ancient Greek, is enamored with the five elite Greek students taught by a professor, Julian, who refuses to take more than a handful of pupils into his class. Most of the novel focuses on Richard's increasing interaction and the inevitable murder that it leads to.

While I wouldn't call this novel slow, it definitely is not a quick read, but I think I liked it more for its slower, more stately pace. It's a fairly large book (just over 500 pages), but I never did feel that it was too long or needed to speed up even throughout the first two hundred pages or so it's impossible for one to imagine how things are ever going to end up with a murder.

I enjoyed the book greatly and while I'm not sure it's for everyone, I would recommend reading it and seeing why Bunny's death was an eventuality that was almost impossible for the group to avoid.

(Finished on September 16, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn

Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn: a retelling of Charlotte Bronte's classic story Jane Eyre in a very different time and setting - far in the far in outer space.

Jenna Starborn is a woman who was created in the gen-tanks of planet Baldus for a woman who could not conceive. A few months after Jenna was "born," a scientific break-through was achieved and Jenna's "aunt" could now carry her own baby. Thus, Jenna became an unwanted half-citizen loved nor cared for by anyone.

Since the story is a basic retelling of Jane Eyre, it was never hard to tell exactly what was going to happen next since I'd read the book years ago. However, Shinn has created a very believable future and characters that I could sympathize with. I really liked Jenna and wanted to see good things happen to her, though I knew some very painful experiences awaited her future.

All in all, it was a very satisfying read and I enjoyed my time in Jenna's world. Incidentally, this novel is classified as science fiction, but that's mostly due to it taking place in the future in outer space.

(Finished on September 10, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, September 1, 2003

The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne

The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne: an amazing first novel set in 1950s Turkey.

Twenty-two year old Nurdane is the center of this book - indeed, she is the virgin who ties the titular knots. Crippled with polio when she was six, her father taught her to weave so that she could travel places without her legs. Normally, this would be a skill taught by women, but sadly Nurdane's mother died in childbirth. Since she is considered less of a woman by men, Nurdane's virgin status allows her to create prayer rugs and matrimonial dowry rugs that are believed to heal the sick and bring good fortune for any lucky enough to possess them. Most of the novel is about Nurdane's life, but we are also introduced to John Hennessey, a physical anthropologist, and Adam, Nurdane's doctor along with people from her village.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel until the last fifty pages or so. I found the ending to be very out of character for what I thought would have happened. After thinking about it, I can see why it was that way, but I felt that the book would have been stronger with a different ending. It altered the intricately woven narrative with a dream-like quality into almost a totally different novel. Still, the book alone is worth reading simply to experience Nurdane's life.

(Finished on September 1, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Sunday, August 31, 2003

The Trials of Tiffany Trott by Isabel Wolff

The Trials of Tiffany Trott by Isabel Wolff: another British chick lit book that I found to be occasionally uneven and ultimately a bit disappointing.

We first find Tiffany Trott on the even of her thirty-seventh birthday getting ready for her party. She's in a good mood since she's got a wonderful boyfriend and she's convinced that he's going to be asking her to marry him any minute now. Unfortunately for Tiffany, by the end of the party she receives the dreaded "we need to talk" call and Alex dumps her.

The rest of the novel is about Tiffany trying to find the right guy. She uses lonely hearts ads. She tries dating agencies. She even tries Eat 'N Greet single matches. She does find one eligible guy, but the fact that he's married and looking for a part-time girlfriend, really isn't what Tiffany is looking for.

For the most part I enjoyed the book, but I never found myself dying to get back to it and find out what was going to happen next. I definitely found the ending annoying, but I do wonder what Tiffany's going to do about the events that unfold in the last ten pages or so.

All in all, not the worst chick lit book that I've ever read, but definitely not the best. It does have some good, dry British humor, though, so that's always a plus.

(Finished on August 31, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Fluke Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

Fluke Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore: another wonderful book by the author of Island of the Sequined Love Nun and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story.

In Christopher Moore's newest book, Nate Quinn, a marine behavioral biologist is consumed with the question of why whales sing. Until the day, that is, that while out observing the whales he sees one with "Bite Me" written on its tail.

So begins Nate quest to find out exactly what the hell is going on. During this adventure, we meet characters that only Moore could bring to life this well - Clay, Nate's partner in Maui Whale; Amy, the luscious, brilliant research assistant that Nate has a thing for; Kona, the dreadlock-wearing, pot smoking white boy from New Jersey who speaks Rastafarian; Elizabeth (AKA The Old Broad) who supports the researchers. There are also the assorted people - like Nate's ex-wife and other biologists - that lets you know that you are definitely reading a Christopher Moore novel.

I always love reading one of Moore's books. No where else can you find a sentence like "Quinn felt like he'd just smacked a bag of kittens against a truck bumper" or learn a phrase like "action nerd." A hell of a funny book with a really interesting premise that's well worth reading.

(Finished on August 28, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, August 25, 2003

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III: one of Oprah's Book Club picks (though I didn't know if when at the time) and one of the most captivating books I've read all year.

The story centers around two main characters - Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani and Kathy Nicolo. Kathy is a former cocaine addict trying to recover from her husband leaving her eight months earlier. Due to a bureaucratic error, Kathy's house, left to her by her father, is seized and put up for auction. Behrani, who fled Iran four years earlier and is having a tough time finding a good job, takes the last of his family's money and purchases the house for a very low price. This is when the real trouble begins.

Kathy, naturally, wants her house back. Behrani sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to get his family's fortunes back on track and refuses to sale without at least tripling his money. Meanwhile, Kathy has become involved with a married police officer, Les Burdon, complicating both her life and his.

Immediately, this book grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I felt sympathy for both sides in this struggle and couldn't imagine any way that this would work out well for anyone. I wanted everyone to get what they wanted, though that obviously couldn't be. I worried about all involved- epsecially Mrs. Behrani and Kathy - and feared what would happen to these wonderfully vivid characters.

Not giving anything away, I totally felt that the book had an inevitable conclusion once it began moving. I was completely drawn in and recommended this book heartily.

(Finished on August 25, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Saturday, August 23, 2003

The Snow Garden by Christopher Rice

The Snow Garden by Christopher Rice: one of the most boring books that I've had the displeasure of reading in quite some time.

Set at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, the book revolves around two freshmen, their friend, and the college professor that one of them is sleeping with. Since the college professor is married, the fact that he's sleeping with a student isn't a good thing, especially since it's a male student. The professor's wife ends up dead causing all kinds of suspicion to fall on him. The college was also the scene of a young woman's drowning twenty years earlier causing one to wonder what the parallels may be.

The Snow Garden is supposed to be this great psychological thriller and horror story, but I couldn't ever get into it. I found all of the characters either downright unlikable or uninteresting. Also found the way that people's past secrets were hinted about for over half the novel very annoying. By about page three hundred or so, the novel started picking up, but since the book is only four hundred pages long, that's quite a lot of pages to have to slosh through to get to any kind of interesting material.

(Finished on August 23, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies by Robert Bloch

Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies by Robert Bloch: the first posthumous collection of his work since Bloch died in 1994. These stories are from the late 1930s through the early 1960s. Many of them have not been anthologized before, so this is a chance to see one of the masters of the genre from his early days.

I've always enjoyed Robert Bloch's work (he's probably best well-known for being the author of Psycho and the story Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper) and was delighted to get this anthology of his early work. For the most part, I enjoyed the stories, though some of them seemed fairly obvious in their ending. Seventy years ago, though, I bet they really packed a punch.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good short story both for the excellent writing and the novelty of seeing older stories that influenced many of today's writers.

My particular favorites from this collection included Death is an Elephant, Question of Identity, Death Has Five Guesses, The Bottomless Pool, Flowers From the Moon, He Waits Beneath the Sea, Be Yourself, Black Bargain, A Bottle of Gin, Soul Proprietor, Satan's Phonograph, The Man Who Told the Truth, and The Night They Crashed the Party.

(Finished on August 20, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, August 18, 2003

Splintered Bones by Carolyn Haines

Splintered Bones by Carolyn Haines: the third book in the Mystery from the Mississippi Delta series and the best one yet.

We find ourselves again in Zinnia, Mississippi at Dahlia House, home of Sarah Booth Delaney, falled Daddy's Girl. Sarah Booth doesn't have a husband (the horror!). However, she does have a thriving private investigator business and a red tic hound called Sweetie Pie and a ghost from her great-great-grandmother's time to keep her company along with quite a cast of friends.

In this book, Sarah Booth needs to find out who really killed the husband of one of her old friends, Lee McBride. Was it Lee's daughter, Kip? Was it Lee herself (after all, she did confess)? Was it the handsome trainer Bud? The suspects are many since Kemper, the husband, was a real bastard and deserved to die.

I just love these books and devour them as soon as I get them. The people are so wonderful (how could you not love Jitty, Tinkie, Cece, and Harold?) and the book just so Southern. It makes me wish that I liked Jack Daniels and had a porch to sit on while sipping it. I really do highly recommend these books to lovers of both mysteries and the South. I just can't wait for the next one to come out in paperback.

(Finished on August 18, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Friday, August 15, 2003

To the Nines by Janet Evanovich

To the Nines by Janet Evanovich: the tenth in the Stephanie Plum series (you have to count Visions of Sugar Plums as part of the series).

If you're not familiar with who Stephanie Plum is, the answer is that she's probably New Jersey's least inept bounty hunter. She regularly blows up cars, her captures always include some element of mayhem, and she has some serious man issues in her life. She's also endearing, funny, tough, and a delight to read every time.

To the Nines finds Stephanie on the trail of Samuel Singh who's skipped out on a work visa. The clues to where he might be are few and far between and usually end up with someone getting killed. Stephanie's manged to pick up another psycho stalker as well. She's got to try and figure out how all these strange clues add up before this becomes her last job.

After I finished this book, I thought how "typically Plum" it was. I also thought how typical is not a bad thing when it comes to a Plum book. There was lots of love and sex with Joe. Ranger made quite a few appearances, so the sexual tension was pretty heavy throughout the book. Lula, a ho in a former life, was there in spandex and sequins, loud and lovable as always. Stephanie's family even managed to get more unbalanced.

These books are always good fun and the characters are wonderful. If you haven't read this series, I would recommend them as a great way to pass some time.

(Finished on August 15, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2003

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: when I was in high school I read the most amazing short story ever that was about a murdered angel. It was in this great little anthology that I somehow misplaced and was never able to find again. About five years ago I came across the short story again in one of the ever-excellent Years Best Fantasy and Horror collections. Over the years the story has stayed with me, though never the name or the author. Imagine my delight when, while coming to the end of this amazing collection, I find it contained within.

Neil Gaiman has always been a favorite of mine through both his short stories and his novels (especially American Gods), so I can't describe how happy it made me that he wrote one of the best short stories that I have ever read (the title, by the way, is Murder Mysteries).

I simply can not recommend Gaiman, especially this collection, highly enough. Everything that he writes is pure magic. There's heartbreak, there's happiness, there's sorrow, and there's joy, but the most important this is that his stories always ring true.

Pick this up as soon as you can. It is not to be missed. Forgive me if this review seems a bit disjointed, but I am so excited that the title of that missing anthology was mentioned and I have been able to find it again.

Favorite stories of mine from this collection are Chivalry, The Price, Don't Ask Jack, The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, Queen of Knives, Shoggoth's Old Peculiar, Bay Wolf, Mouse, Desert Wind, Babycakes, the aforementioned Murder Mysteries, and Snow, Glass, Apples.

(Finished on August 14, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

How to be Good by Nick Hornby

How to be Good by Nick Hornby: Hornby is one of my friend's favorite writers, so when I found this at a half price book store I picked it up. I'm certainly glad I did.

Apparently, this is one of Hornby's more depressing and less fun books, but I found myself enthralled nonetheless. Katie, a GP who likes to think of herself as a good person despite having an affair, is married to David, the Angriest Man in Holloway (that's actually the title of the column he writes).

Pretty soon into the book, David has a spiritual experience and decides to live his life the right way, the good way. He talks his neighbors into housing homeless children, he plans on how to redistribute wealth to those in need, he even talks his children into giving their toys away to those less fortunate.

The real story is Katie's struggle with how this makes her feel. Sure, she's against homelessness and for helping others, but why do all these good works make her hate David even more than she did? What he's doing is good - why's it driving her insane?

I was fascinated with how this book was going to end and what was going to happen to the people involved. It's definitely not a cheery, light-hearted book at all, but I enjoyed it anyway. Hornby's got a very easy to read style and his characters are very much real. Good book and highly recommended.

(Finished on August 12, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, August 7, 2003

Red by Jack Ketchum

Red by Jack Ketchum: justice is meted out by a wronged pet owner in this novel.

Jack Ketchum is know for his graphic and disturbing novels. I've only read one other of his novels - The Lost - and I definitely found it to be disturbing. Nothing positive happened in that book at all. With Red, however, I found it not to be nearly as heavy and really enjoyed reading it.

The Red in the title is Av Ludlow's old dog. While out fishing with Red, three boys come along and try to rob Av. When he doesn't have any money on him, they kill Red. The rest of the novel is about Av's quest for justice for Red's murder and the escalating violence that this leads to.

I certainly couldn't recommed this for all readers. It's definitely not a light book and the subject matter could be upsetting to a lot of readers. If you like horror novels, though, it's a damn good one. There's also a novella included called "The Passenger", about a kidnapped defense attorney, that I really enjoyed as well.

(Finished on August 7, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: what a wonderful book this was! It was very short (I read it in one day), but absolutely engrossing from the start. A fabulous mixture of love, romance, fairy tale, and recipes.

The book tells the story of Mama Elena and her three daughters - Rosaura, Gertrudis, and Tita, the youngest. When Tita turns fifteen she wishes to be married, but family tradition dictates that the youngest daughter must never marry and look after her mother until the day she dies. Pedro, the boy in love with Tita, in turn marries Rosaura so he can be near the woman he loves. This leads to all sorts of complications and events that no one could predict.

The novel has the same sort of feel as Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic. For example, the sadness of that Tita feels while cooking causes an entire wedding party to experience longing and unhappiness simply by eating her food.

I also enjoyed that included in each chapter was a recipe for the dish that was being prepared. I'm not a cook, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

Simply put, this is a fairy tale of life in Mexico that anyone can relate to. It's simply delicious and should be read by all.

(Finished on August 5, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, August 4, 2003

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin: the first book in a new detective series featuring the BlackBird sisters.

When this novel starts out, we find that the Blackbird sisters - Nora (our heroine), Emma, and Libby - have been left the family estate, art, and furniture collections, respectively, by their parents who have skipped off to a nice sunny land to avoid paying back money they've borrowed.

This has left Nora with a $2 million estate tax (though why her parents didn't just let her live there while they were on "vacation" bothered me from the get-go), so the solicialite is forced to take a job at the local paper as a society column writer. Unfortunately, the family friend who owns the paper and got her the job, ends up dead pretty quickly. Nora decides to do some investigating of her own along with the handsome reputed mobster who bought some of her land.

For the most part I found the book a little far-fetched, but I still enjoyed it. I never really got into the characters as much as I would have like to, but I could see how over another book or two I could probably get into them more.

The book's definitely not as good as one of Janet Evanovich's or Carolyn Haines's female mystery series, but it was a pretty fun read. If you're looking for a breezy beach book that has the potential to work itself into a good series, this is perfect for you.

(Finished on August 4, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates: normally I love anthologies and enjoy reading them greatly, but this one was an exception.

I've mentioned before that while I don't mind "vague" stories - stories where you don't really know what's going on, who the people are, or why they're there - full books of them always are tedious for me to make my way through. Unfortunately, most of the stories is The Collector of Hearts were of the vague kind, so I didn't really enjoy the book and couldn't wait for it to be over.

There were some good stories in it - notably "The Sky Blue Ball," "Death Mother," "Schroeder's Stepfather," "The Sepulchre," "The Sons of Angus Macelster," "The Affliction," "Unprintable," "Valentine," and "The Crossing." Mostly these stories had less of a vagueness to them and I felt it easier to connect to the characters.

All in all, not a bad book, but not really recommended unless you're a fan of the short story or of her.

(Finished on June 27, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J. K. Rowling: the fifth, and longest, installment in the Harry Potter series.

This book was very different from the previous books in the series. Lots of moodiness from Harry (of course he is a fifteen year old boy; which of them are not moody?), far more injustices and horror than the previous books, and a general darkness that the other books just did not have.

Despite all of this (and the death of a major character, though I won't say whom), I still enjoyed this book and would come home from work and just read for a while.

Lots of readers have said, however, that they don't feel that this book was on par with the rest of the series and I do agree. Lots of the "magic" (pun intended) that the other books have really wasn't here - almost like Rowling's writing style had changed in between books. I think a lot of it had to do with the subject matter and the darkness of this book compared to the previous, but I did miss that certain something.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book simply because by this point, I am so wrapped up in the characters that there is no way I simply cannot find out what is going on with them in their world.

(Finished on June 27, 2003 for Zuly’s Reading Room.)

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Monday, July 28, 2003

Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines

Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines: another Delta mystery that's just as good as the first.

Once again we're back into Sarah Boothe's Souther world, but this time she's trying to solve the murder of one of Zinnia's most wonderful men - Lawrence Ambrose, an author who's secrets lead directly to his demise.

Once again, we have Jitty the ghost haunting both Sarah Boothe and Dahlia House, but it a good motherly way. We also have the convoluted relationship between Harold and Sarah Boothe that seems to never be able to decide which way to go. Tinkie and Chablis are even back and more fiesty than ever.

As I said about Them Bones, the characters are just so real and wonderful that you can't help but get sucked into the book. This one may be a bit more darker than the first, but it's still a great read and I can't wait to get the next book, Splintered Bones.

(Finished on July 9, 2003 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

.: 170 words at 04:47 PM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (1) :.

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Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

Them Bones by Carolyn Haines: another fabulous female detective series. You just can never have enough books like these.

I completely loved everything about this book from the hot, steamy men to the dead, but very much alive and kicking, ghosts. The characters were great and while I suspected at first that they were going to be very generalized Southern belles and tough but sensitive Southern men I was pleasently disappointed. The people in this book are just that - people. They seem real and like individuals that I could know.

Another wonderful thing about this book is its Southerness, perfectly expressed by how much Sarah Boothe cares for Dahlia House and for the traditions that her life encompasses.

Let's not ignore the fact that this is a mystery - and a pretty darn good one at that. I had no idea who was going to show up at the end of the book and was pretty surprised at what happened.

All in all, highly recommended period no matter what background you hail from.

(Finished on July 2, 2003 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

.: 184 words at 12:44 PM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (0) :.

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The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold: I tried to tell some friends who came over this weekend why exactly this book was so good, but it seems hard for most of the people to get past the fact that this books is by a girl who has just been raped and murdered by a family friend as she watches down on her family from Heaven. Of course, her heaven has the high school that she went to with the wonderful architecture that she loved so, but they never have to go to class and their textbooks are Vogue and Seventeen.

Susie watches her family try and come to grip with the sudden hole that she has left in their midst. She can't influence them, but she cannot tear herself away from them either.

What moved me most about this book was the way that the characters - from the boy who gave Susie her first kiss to her sister to her little brother to the girl who felt her soul leaving this earth to her killer - were intertwined. The story's biggest impact on me was simply the way that one must learn to let go - not forget, no - but let go when a tragedy like this has occurred.

Sebold writes with a clear voice that makes all of the people in her book incredible real and alive. I can't help but worry for her family as they try and stay together. I can't help buy worry about Ray, the boy who kissed her - will he be able to move past almost having her?

Oddly, though, George Harvey, the man who killed Susie was never much in my mind. I think it was because I loved her family so, that as long as he wasn't near them to do harm, he didn't really matter much to me.

Despite the morbid tone to the idea of this book, this book does not ever come close to being morbid. In fact I found it full of promises, light, and hope and I hope that everyone will take time to read this amazing novel.

(Finished on July 19, 2003 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

.: 366 words at 01:46 AM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (26) :.

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Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker

Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker: I hadn't reread any of Clive Barker's books in quite some time, so when a co-worker and I ended up discussing some of his short stories, I had to immediately re-purchase the Books of Blood and immerse myself back into Clive Barker's world.

These stories are extremely visceral and it's easy to see why the term "splatterpunk" was coined with this type of writing in mind. His stories are very graphic and seem to have an underlying theme behind them - even though something horrible may be incredible horrible (a pig that speaks with a dead boy's voice, for example), these events are still awe-inspiring in the truest since of the word and the way that the human mind reacts to them can be widely different than one would expect.

To me, Barker's stories herein (and in most of his other work), the world exists with a veil that can be drawn away at any time. When I got done watching The Matrix for the first time, I was struck with the similarities between that world and the worlds that Barker creates.

Truthfully, I didn't enjoy all of these stories as much as I did when I read them probably a little over ten years ago. However, many of them were still as strong and as moving as they were then. The best of these are "The Book of Blood," "The Midnight Meat Train," "In The Hills, The Cities" (probably my favorite story of his ever), "Dread," "Hell's Event," "Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will and Testament," "The Skins of the Fathers," "Son of Celluloid," and "Rawhead Rex."

If you like your stories strong and disturbing this collection is for you. If not, may be best that you skip, but you'll never know until you try.

(Finished on July 27, 2003 for Zuly's Reading Room.)

.: 315 words at 01:06 AM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (0) :.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: I was excited when I was able to borrow this book from a fellow Book Crossing member. I kept thinking, "Tragic, gothic romance. Should be right up my alley!" Unfortunately, I found it not to be.

I know that I've liked other books from this time period (Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary for example), but I found Wuthering Heights to be extremely difficult to get into. I also had a rough time keeping track of the characters and their relationships to one another as well.

To me, I think the biggest problem was that I didn't really like any of the characters. By having no particular character to root for, it became a laborious task to continue with the book. However, around page 200 or so, I finally found a character that I could sympathize with and like and I felt that the book picked up and managed to draw me in since I did want to see how it ended. I don't know, though, if slogging through the first part of the novel made it worthwhile.

(Finished on July 17, 2003.)

.: 188 words at 06:33 PM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (1) :: All the Voices Say... (6) :.

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Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromaner by William Gibson: rarely have I had a book disappoint me as much as this one has.

This book won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick - the first novel to ever win all three sci-fi awards. It coined the term cyberspace. And yet, I found it incredibly uninvolving.

I think my main problem with the book is that when it started out, I felt slightly lost - like I was in a country where they spoke English, but the English was a little different from my own. This made me try and fit it into stories I already knew creating an amalgamation of Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic (also written by Gibson), and The Matrix. I appreciate the fact that by not explaining the past or the present to the readers Gibson presents the novel like it is an accepted reality. I believe, though, this is why I never really was able to get into either the stories or the characters. Trying to get the simple, everyday concepts ("What the hell is a coffin? Why's he sleeping in it?") made it more of a task to read the book in turn making it harder to accept the characters and understand their motivations. I just desperately wanted it to end so I could move on to something else.

Let me say, however, that there is definitely wonderful stuff in this book - hell, the first line is great. It probably gets better with each read since more will make sense from the get-go, but my frustration and disappoint with the book will probably cause me never to give it another go.

.: 278 words at 06:32 PM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (7) :.

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Zuly's Reading Room

I forgot to mention it, but I joined Zuly's Reading Room a few weeks ago.

Basically, it's to keep track of how many books you read during the summer. I was going to do my reviews at BiblioBlog, but since I still have ten more books to review before I even get started on the five I've read already this summer, I thought I'd do them here and then post them over there as I catch up.

Anyway, the whole point of this rambling post is that you're going to see a book review (probably today) under the "Zuly's Reading Room" category, and I wanted to let everyone know what it is and encourage you to go sign up yourself!

.: 121 words at 03:58 PM in Zuly's Reading Room :: Link :: Pings (0) :: All the Voices Say... (1) :.

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Copyright © 2002 Kymberlie McGuire, All Rights Reserved.

The Neurotic Fishbowl

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