Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Favorite Authors

A bit of a follow up from our monthly booklists... I thought I'd include a list of my favorite authors, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. If you have some time, take a look at what they've written - pretty much across the board!!!

I didn't dig back into the classics, just the authors I've been reading lo, these past several years!

Richard Bach
JK Rowling
Ayn Rand
Lisa Gardner
Dean Koontz
Greg Iles
Philip Margolin
Jodi Picoult
Karen Robards
Iris Johansen
Tami Hoag
Luanne Rice
Linda Howard
Jeffery Deaver
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
JoAnn Ross
Kathy Reich
Kay Hooper
Sean Hannity
Mark Levin
Sandra Brown
Tess Gerritsen
Cherry Adair
Carly Phillips
Ann Coulter
Lori Foster
Anita Shreve
Patricia Cornwell (the Kay Scarpetta series)
Joy Fielding
James Patterson
Steve Martini
Robin Cook
Mitch Albom
Lolly Winston
Karen Rose
Brad Meltzer
Linda Howard
Alex Berenson
Harlan Coben
Chelsea Cain
Richard North Patterson
Richard Castle
David Baldacci
Michael Palmer

Middle Sister's June Reads

I was able to read a lot this month, for several reasons: a longish plane trip, which gave me a good 7-9 hours of solid reading time each way; the deliberate decision to back off some of the mindless television I was watching and read on my new toy (Fred the Kindle); and knowing that come July, I need to concentrate on revamping my lecture notes for the class I'm teaching in the fall, which will cut into evening reading time. Besides, several were short stories that took no time at all to read, so the time investment is not as great as it might appear from the length of the list. So, here go my books and impressions:

  • Death of a Valentine, by M. C. Beaton  One of the few people I do occasionally lend books to is M, as we both love mysteries, but as she's a librarian, she is generally way ahead of me reading new books. But these Hamish MacBeth mysteries are such rapid reads that she read it in a weekend, gave it to me, and I read it in a weekend. Same old Hamish, still dithering and hamstrung by his inability to make a decision because a decision will mean things will change. But this cosy series is still charming, with quirky characters and beautiful scenery.
  • Raining Cats and Dogs, by Laurien Berenson Melanie Travis is newly married in this entry in the mystery series, and the book focuses in part on her new family situation, especially on her search for a larger house to accommodate the new husband and his dogs. Yup, that's why I read this series, mystery-solving dog-owner--even if she does show poodles. This one centered on Melanie and Faith, her black Standard Poodle, becoming a therapy dog team and visiting a local retirement community. Since K and I used to visit at an assisted living facility, you can understand the instant interest on my part. The murder wasn't exceptionally mysterious, although the twist at the denouement with the showdown was fun, and the author was a little vague regarding real therapy dogs (e.g., the dogs in the story are not part of any organized therapy dog group, and no mention is made of insurance and the need for liability coverage, but I'm probably more knowledgeable than the average reader just because I do this kind of volunteer work), but an easy summer read. Melanie continues to be a likeable character the reader will enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee.
  • The Bird and Insect's Post Office by Robert Bloomfield  An OOP children's book with the adorable premise that animals send each other little missives through the mail. Unfortunately, Project Gutenberg either doesn't have the illustrations referenced in the text or they don't download from PG, and I sorely missed seeing them. Very enjoyable for children who love animals (and grown-ups who believed in the worlds of Beatrix Potter and the Wind in the Willows). Very fast read.
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome Recommended in the 'favorite public domain books' thread on the Amazon Kindle forum, this humorous book relays the adventures of three late Victorian or early Edwardian men who decide to take a camping trip down the Thames despite their complete ineptness with regard to anything having to do with camping, boating, cooking, or navigating. Very funny, and only dated in a few places where references are made to carriages or shaving razors and things along those lines. The description of the men trying to erect a tent is surely the same experienced by lots of people this summer, as are other funny anecdotes about the preparation for the trip, what to bring, hiking along the tow path, cooking while camping, and other camping related activities that have changed very little over one hundred years. 
  • The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn I should like these Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, I really should. They take place in a time period I like (the 1920s), in a place I like (England), but I just don't. They just let me down every time I read one. This one is better than the other admittedly few entries in the series I've read, and from a totally persoanl standpoint that's because this deals with the Tower of London and includes a lot of facts and descriptions about the physical setting and modern use of the Tower, and because there's a map in it. I'm always inclined to like a book that starts off with a map. But the mysteries in this series, to put it bluntly, are boring and poorly thought out, and Daisy is becoming a little too prissy and perfect for me.
  • My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner Delightful ruminations on a vegetable garden over the course of the summer, from the selection and planting of seeds through early frosts.Relevant today given the resurgence of urban homesteading, Mr. Warner discusses how even in the early twentieth century, the tomato you grow costs far more than the tomato you buy, but his essays help define why growing your own is so much more satisfying and rewarding. Another OOP you'll have to track down on Project Gutenberg, Archives, or Amazon (free for the Kindle).
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events No. 1, The Bad Beginning, or Orphans! and No. 2, The Reptile Room, by Lemony Snicket  I know, I'm jumping on the bandwagon with these children's books a decade after everyone else. Very enjoyable. I enjoy the elaborate writing style and how the children never succumb to adversity, but instead assume they will figure a way out, no matter how dire things appear. The interpretation of Sunny's nonverbal communication got old after a while, but a child probably won't tire of it. And really, how could the adults still not believe the children when they try to explain how mean Cousin Otto is after all his dastardly deeds of the past, but then, there wouldn't be a series if they did believe the children. I think I find Otto even creepier as an adult than I would have as a child. And I like how the author hasn't sugarcoated that bad thing happen even to children.
  • The Secret of the Silver Car by Wyndham Martyn  A perfect example of why I love my Kindle. This exciting mystery has long been out of print, and because there's no sex, extreme violence (although there are some flying fisticuffs, gun shots, and general scary menacing), or technogadgets, it's unlikely to see print again. But it's a fast action thriller, with our hero, a Master Criminal, putting himself in danger to retrieve documents that could end the career and ruin the reputation of the father of the woman he loves. Excellent and recommended.
  • Four Max Carrados Mysteries by Ernest Bramah The Max Carrados detective stories were contemporary with Sherlock Holmes (and even published in The Strand), but are unknown today. Their twist lies in that Max Carrados, our detective, is blind, and therefore relies on his own heightened senses and other people's impressions to solve the mysteries. The quality between these four short stories varies, but all are fast reads and worth the investment for mystery fans.
  • The Serpent in the Crown by Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody. Need I say more? You either love or hate these, and I love them. Ms. Peters is winding down the series, with Amelia and her husband growing older (gray hair and a less active role in the mystery for Amelia) and her son Ramses and his cohort taking on the more active roles, such as midnight chases around the Valley of the Dead in Egypt. I'll be sorry to see them go. Perhaps not the strongest entry in the series, but still very well written, with an excellent and factually correct representation of early 20th century archaeology in Egypt, with real archaeologists making cameo appearances (e.g., Howard Carter).
  • Walking by Henry David Thoreau A short essay extolling Thoreau's love of walking for it's own sake. Read to inspire me during my marathon training.
  • Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon Another 'favorite public domain books' recommendation. When it was compared to The Prisoner of Zenda, one of my all time favorite movies, I had to read it. This is Book 1 of 6, and introduces us to the fictional principality of Graustark, somewhere in eastern Europe. A bit slow moving, and frankly I got a bit tired of the hero's constant pining for the Princess (c'mon, he has one very brief conversation and falls instantly in love? Yea, I do believe in love at first sight, but I also know you don't really know the person at first sight, as the hero seems to think he does despite all evidence to the contrary). A little less pining and a bit more action would have been good. But interesting enough that I will eventually read the next 3 novels, which are already on my Kindle.
  • Death of a Trophy Wife by Laura Levine How did I miss this funny mystery series? No new ground in the genre broken, no chilling mystery, but a sympathetic and funny main character with whom I instantly identified. The side story provided by the email correspondence with her parents was very funny, and I hope I meet her parents as characters in another story. Definitely a series I will pursue.
  • The Twelve Sacred Traditions of Magnificent Mothers-in-Law by Haywood Smith  I know, I know, I an not a mother-in-law nor do I have one. But the author get great reviews online, and I thought a humorous little book could not be a waste of time. Despite not having anything in common with the premise, I don't feel I wasted half an hour reading this because I walked away determined to apply one precept to my life today: "Just for today, I will not criticize. No, not one bit." And the book ends with the uplifting advice that "the secret is to keep trying and to keep laughing." Good advice for all.
  • Letters From a Cat by Helen Hunt Jackson An OOP short story with a cute premise that fails in execution. The author should never have told the reader what ultimately happened to the cat in the introduction. Totally ruined it for me. Yea, I'm a sap.
  • First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal Charming short story from the Tor imprint this month, this time traveling fantasy has a grandmother traveling back in time to witness the Wright brothers and the first airplane flight. The time travel premise--you can only travel back as far as the year you were born--was an interesting and novel twist to the time travel genre. Very enjoyable.

Big Sister's June Reads

I beat you, Middle Sis???!!!

Here we go...

Spoken from the Heart, by Laura Bush - I enjoyed this autobiography and it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm registered as a Republican! (LOL!) It was an easy read, and I loved reading about her childhood, her courtship, her marriage, her daughters, and every once in a while, for fun, she threw in some commentary about newsworthy political events. It was very interesting to hear her side of 9/11, her side of her daughter's underage drinking, her view of her daughter's wedding on the ranch, her view of some of the dignitaries who've come to the White House for state dinners, her view of the White House itself... I gave the book to my mom to read. I think she'll enjoy it.

Return to Sender, by Fern Michaels - I haven't read a Fern Michaels book in many, many years. I was a fan when I first started reading romances, but have moved away from her books lo, these past 15 or 20 years! I can't say it captured me from page one, and I don't really think I ever really got hooked on any of the characters. So Lin got pregnant at 17 and raised her child alone; her letters to the boy's father were ignored for 17 years. She makes good and becomes a frugal millionaire; she can never forget having to count every penny. Coincidentally, when her son goes college and Lin takes him to the Big City, who's the very first person she sees at a benefit dinner? The daddy. And Lin decides to make him feel the pinch, like she did, of not having money when you need it. And the Daddy is diagnosed with leukemia... It was just a bunch of fluff, not one of my recent favorites, that's for sure...

Lego, A Love Story, by Jonathan Bender - I read this because I had to work with a couple of the people mentioned in the book; my company published it and they were buying the book for some author events. It was interesting, and I'm glad I read it, although admittedly it's not a book I'd normally have chosen. Bender describes how he became a Lego fan as an adult, and how he got swept up into the Lego culture, attending conferences, building mosaics and self-portraits and airplanes and the Sears Tower... The book includes some history of the Lego Company itself, which I enjoyed learning.

The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen - My niece gave me this to read a looooong time ago and again, I never got around to it. It's a piece of fiction based on the Holocaust. Hannah's grandfather spends a lot of his time "ranting and raving" about the Nazis, and he talks all the time about the death camps and the Germans and the Jews... One year, during her Passover Seder, Hannah goes to open the door to Elijah and is transported back in time to Poland in the 1940s. She "lives" through the death camps, and experiences it all. The book ends with Hannah returning to "now" with a new-found appreciation for all her family has suffered through and a new respect for those family members who lived through the Holocaust. I loved this book and I'm sorry it took me so long to read it.

Death Echo, by Elizabeth Lowell - I'm a fan of Ms. Lowell, but this wasn't one of my favorites. It is the 5th in the St. Kilda Consulting series but somehow I just never got to like the main characters. It was nice to see the Consulting group again, in their "cameo" appearances, but Emma and Mac? Egh, just never really fell for either one of them. I finished the book just because I don't like to NOT finish a book...

The Burning Wire, by Jeffery Deaver - Oh, yea! Another Lincoln Rhyme novel, and this one was a good one! I do think there was a bit of tweaking needed on the subplot that took place in Mexico; it didn't seem as well crafted as the main plot taking place in NYC, but since it is crucial to the entire story and you don't find out why until the last couple of pages, I think, looking back, that it just needed a bit more attention, perhaps on my part. Maybe I was concentrating so much on the main story that I didn't pay enough attention to what was going on in Mexico, since I wanted to get back to Lincoln and Amelia in NYC...

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert - This is another of those books that got so much publicity that I really never planned on reading it until I saw that Julia Roberts was going to star in the movie version. Then I decided to read it. And I like it. The author is married, not wanting a baby, divorced and then searching for herself in Italy, then in India, and finally in Bali. It's one of those fuzzy, warm, soul-searching books, wrapped around food, meditation and finding love again. They got me at the food and the love, so I read it, and I liked it.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - I made some comments on my blog (http://krysworld.blogspot.com/2010/06/help-by-kathryn-stockett.html) so all I'll say here is: I loved it! And I didn't expect to because again, it's one of those books that "everyone" was talking about when it came out and really, do I need to say it again? I'm not much for what "everyone else" says is good... But this one was. I had no idea going into it that it was based in and around the civil rights movement and that it was written in a number of voices, including the black maids who were working for the white women of Jackson, Mississippi in 1962... I came to love Aibileen and Minny, and I felt a special empathy for Skeeter Phelan. I cried when her mom got so sick, even though the mom wasn't too nice a person at first... I was pleasantly surprised by this book and really enjoyed every page!

And now, I'm reading Whiplash, by Catherine Coulter - This is the 14th Savich/Sherlock book. I like the whole paranormal FBI thing and I hope this one is as good a fluffy mystery thriller as the last 13 have been! Erin is a ballet teacher/private investigator, and I think she's going to wind up hooking up with Bowie Richards; she's babysitting his daughter Georgie who happes to be her dance class student, too... She is also the "small woman" who broke into the big, bad pharmaceutical company's CEO's office and Bowie doesn't know that yet. Thrown together on the same case, even though she know it and he doesn't (at least not yet!), you sort of know they're going to wind up together...

I have some good ones stacked up for next month, but that's it for June!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday's Book Quote

On the day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
- from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, Ch. 22

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lalecka

I didn't post on the anniversary of the day Lana came to live in The Zoo because because it's bittersweet--it's the day she was mauled and would have died had I not taken her to the emergency room. That was May 29. However, June 6 or 8 is the day she was finally released from the hospital, and could be celebrated as her Homecoming Day, but I missed that day, too. Regardless, here is a photo to celebrate her. Lalecka means little doll in Polish and is her nickname, and it suits her perfectly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book Quote of the Day

We were faring forth on a long road; and, though we had some idea what would be at the end of it, there was enough glamour of the unknown about it to lend a wonderful charm to our speculations concerning it.

The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big Sister's May Reads

This was a light month in terms of quantity of books, but as we all know, it's quality that counts, not quantity. (AKA Size doesn't matter.) Here you go...

Reckless, by Andrew Gross - Although Andrew Gross s well-known for his collaborative titles with James Patterson, the only thing Reckless has in common with those books is the quick pace. There's very much Gross' own feel to the book, it's not just a Patterson clone. In fact, on amazon.com, in an author interview, Gross is quick to mention he learned a lot on the job with Patterson, but that aside from technique and some literary elements, he's his own man. And I agree. This is a good read, suspenseful from page one when there's a home-invasion-gone-deadly-wrong scene, to the last page, when it's all tied up in a neat little package. I didn't feel short-changed by the wrap-up; I felt the story was finished.

Hannah, by Debbie Macomber - Every time I spend some money on a hardcover by Debbie Macomber I think to myself I should be waiting until the paperback, it's a quick read, more fluff and romance than hard core fiction, and yet I buy them. And I enjoy them. And when I'm done, I donate them to the library to ease my conscience. (It's not really wasting money when I'm donating to the library...) In Hannah, pediatrician Michael Everett has lost his wife to ovarian cancer and she wrote him a letter he knew nothing about, a letter delivered by her brother to Michael on the one-year anniversary of her death. In the letter she suggests that it's time for her grieving husband to move on with his life, to find another wife. Michael's suitably shocked, and even more shocked to find that his wife has named names! She includes the names of 3 candidates for the position of Mrs. Everett #2. From the start, based on the author's description, I guessed which would win that lottery, and I was right. That wasn't the part that was a bit of a disappointment. I would have preferred a bit more interaction between the 2 runner-ups and Michael, not just one date that went nowhere... I wasn't disappointed in the book, but I was left wanting more.

Fever Dream, by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston - I can't say enough about this series of suspenseful thrillers. There's always a little somethin'-somethin' I didn't expect! A surprise in the character development, a shock in the outcome, an excerpt that is so visual in its creation that you really do see it in your mind's eye long after you've moved on to another chapter! In this book we learn about Pendergast's wife (gasp!), Helen, and her tragic and deadly mawling by a crazed lion in wilds of Africa 12 years past. And who'd have thought it would be directly related to a lost painting by John James Audubon! And then there's the sub-plot of Constance, Pendergast's ward (sort of). I really wish that had been either (a) more fully engaged in the story, or (b) saved for another book where it could shine! She's a fascinating character, and although she really had nothing to do with the story, I was left wanting more development of that storyline, or perhaps it should have been left out, as an amazon.com reviewer suggested (although they just plain didn't like it!). I LOVE this series of stories; they're a combination of suspense and horror and shock and awe!

I'm also in the midst of reading Spoken from the Heart, by former First Lady Laura Bush. It's a truly engaging autobiography, without any political undercurrent at all. It is what it is, and it was what it was. "Just the facts, ma'am." Mrs. Bush clearly loves her husband and her daughters. This book is not too in-your-face for Bush-bashers. She's a wife who loves and supports her husband because she loves him, not for personal political gain. There were a few snippets that I found fascinating: the description of their ranch in Crawford, the family's take on the fake i.d. scandal, G-Dub's drinking, the accident that had such an influence on Mrs. Bush's life, the threat by a Yale teaching assistant to NOT give daughter Barbara an "A" in a class until/unless her father did not go to war... These small glimpses into a life we perceive as glamorous and in the public eye - nope, not so much. There is an awful lot of private time we are privy to in this book and although admittedly I'm a Bush supporter, I was happy to be truly drawn to the non-political side of the man, the father, the son, the husband. I'm really looking forward to finishing this book and would happily recommend it to anyone who wants to read about a genuinely nice woman and her place in our history.