Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Big Sis' May 2013 Books

So I feel as if things are getting back to normal.  I read 6 books this month - not my best month, but certainly closer to par than recent months...

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (Kindle edition) - I'm not going to bother summarizing the story; you've either read it or seen the recent movie (if not the original version).  What I will say is that I wasn't impressed.  I never had to read it in school, or perhaps I should say, if I was supposed to have read it in school, I never did.  The story?  Meh.  The style?  Yea, okay, I can dig it.  It was a very visual story, the images were bright and colorful and F. Scott's words really made you "see" the story.  Not one of my favorite classics, though...

Step Back from the Baggage Claim, Jason Barger - I bought this book after seeing it reviewed on a blog I read, but I'll be damned if I can remember who it was that arecommended it.  I bought it.  I put it on a shelf.  I never read it - until a couple of weeks ago.  I had run out of things to read, so I pulled it off the shelf and started to read.  The premise:  the author "spent seven straight days flying 6,548 miles to seven different cities living only in the airports the entire time. He studied 10,000 minutes of observations at all four corners of the U.S. and reflected on how our airport experiences can teach us about our lives TODAY."  It was a neat concept, neater in theory than in actuality, but his observations were sort of cool.  He talked about how we all RUSH off the plane, pushing and shoving, getting up before the door is even open, then RUN through the terminal, only to arrive at baggage claim and WAIT.  And wait some more.  Couldn't we have calmly and quietly deplaned and strolled through the airport and arrived just in time to pick up our suitcases as they moved past us on the conveyor belt?  That rush, that speed - we see it in other aspects of our life, don't we? This book, just in case you're wondering, had nothing to do with the movie The Terminal, with Tom Hanks.

Wind Chime Point, Sheryl Woods - Unemployed and pregant, Gabrielle Castle returns home.  Wade Johnson had fallen for her months before she got pregnant, but since she apparently had a boyfriend, nothing ever happened between them when she visited her grandmother.  But now she's home, possibly for good, with her life in termoil.  And things now DO happen between her and Wade.  They become friends, and Gabi learns that being friends is a great basis for more...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (Kindle edition) - Another book I won't be summarizing here; if you don't recognize the HP series by now, crawl out from under your rock!  I'm just in the mood to read them again, so I am, this time on my Kindle.  I bought them all for my Kindle because they're books I can read again and again, and the 7 of them will most definitely give me something to read when I'm traveling and don't feel like carrying multiple books in my luggage.  HP3 is not my favorite, but I did enjoy it!

12th of Never, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Kindle edition) - I don't normally buy Kindle editions of James Patterson books, but I was craving something to read so I did!  This is the most recent of the Women's Murder Club series. Lindsay's beautiful baby girl is born, a woman dies, her corpse goes missing from the morgue, and then the baby gets extremely sick.  The whodunnit part wasn't a big mystery this time, but it was a good story.

Inferno, Dan Brown (Kindle edition) - I went out to buy this book and thought to myself, "I wonder if I bought this in Kindle format?"  So I checked, and sure enough, I had!  EXCELLENT book, as usual, Mr. Brown!  I kept picturing Tom Hanks in the story, which again takes place in Italy.  There were some other strong characters, a plot twist I didn't see coming (wow!), and the usual art and history lessons made so much more palatable by Dan's writing!  This one revolved around Dante's Inferno, in case you couldn't figure that out, and I learned so much about it - GREAT story!  And it will be a great movie, too!!!  I can't wait!

Big Sister's April 2013 Books

(Yes, posted in June - so sue me!!!)

Six Years, by Harlan Coben - This started out with an awesome twist.  Jake watched Natalie marry another man.  Turn the page.  Years pass.  Jake sees the other man's obituary online and decides that despite Natalie's request he stay away from her, he's going to the funeral.  So he does.  And sure enough, the other man is dead but his grieving wife is NOT Natalie!  I got hooked on these mysteries a few years ago, when I was going on a cruise.  I bought 8 Coben paperbacks and read each and every one of them on that cruise!  He is from NJ so some of them take place there and it's sort of cool to recognize towns and landmarks.  Not all of his books take place there, but the ones with Myron Bolitar as the main character do.

Taking Eve, Iris Johansen - Another in the Eve series, and I really thought to myself a couple of books ago, "What can she do now that they found Bonnie?"  But the stories continue, and they're still good!  Eve is drawn into another missing persons mystery, but this time, Jim Doane, who appears to be a normal, loving, grieving day, well, let's just say he isn't.  Normal.

Fallen Masters, John Edward - Yes, a fictional book written by John Edward.  The psychic, not the fallen politician.  This was a cool story, about evil taking over the earth, based around the faith and strength of key people, all of whom appear to be random and unrelated, but wind up connected in tremendous ways.  Good does triumph in the end, with a touch of psychic phenomena, if you believe...

Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater - I had this ARC (advance reading copy) for years already.  It's a YA novel, about werewolves, and I really thought to myself, "I don't think so."  But after hearing a book review by a YouTube-r I follow, I gave it a shot.  And I can't wait to read Linger and Forever, the 2nd and 3rd in the trilogy!  It's a quick read, with appealing characters, a couple of werewolf-related plot twists I didn't see coming, and sure, it requires you step out of your "Yea, sure, this could never happen" box, but for crying out loud!  It's fiction!  Suspend belief! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Middle Sister's May 2013 Books

May was a good month for books, at least with respect to numbers, because I downloaded several audiobooks to listen to while engaging in an excruciatingly mind-numbing task at work that required absolutely no attention at all to accomplish. Hooray for mixed media!

Grey Expectations by Cleo Simon (2012, No. 4 Dulcie Schwartz series) I love cats, I love gray cats especially (oh, how I still miss you, my sweet George), so when I saw a book that advertised one of the main characters was a big, grey cat owned by a graduate student amateur detective, well, naturally, I had to read it. I even overlooked the little fact that this was a big, grey, dead cat that talks to its owner, thinking that here might be a good way for me to sample the large paranormal mystery genre (extremely popular right now, and growing by leaps and bounds and full of vampires and witches and ghosts and every sort of paranormal activity one can imagine), which I had always secretly thought was stupid and a waste of shelf space and paper. Guess what? I was right. Oh my gosh, how insipid a main character Dulcie is--her friend is asked a few questions by the police and the amateur detective jumps to the conclusion that her friend is being accused of murder--even though there's no dead body. She hems and haws, she's not a good researcher  (based on my 9 years of graduate school which resulted in two graduate degrees), she gets mad when her dead cat talks to her boyfriend and not her, she works herself up into such stupid tizzies over nothing that she can't even walk past the police station for fear that she'll be arrested (because she's convinced that the cops are gunning for her, too). It got so bad, there were such inconsistencies, I started writing them down so I wouldn't throw my Nano out into the desert in sheer frustration. Don't worry, I won't recite them here. Just listen to me when I write: avoid this book. (Audiobook)

Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers I had to cleanse my brain from the previous book, and what better way to do so than to listen to a digital version of an older audiobook by one of the masters of mystery, Dorothy Sayers? The differences between Sayers and Simon? Writing ability to start with, ability to create and sustain a mystery and its ambiance, style, and despite being 90 years old (yes, that's right, 90--originally published in 1923), Sayers is timeless and reads just as fresh today as then. Check out this classic by a writer from the Golden Age of Mysteries is you've never met her protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey. Highly recommended. (Audiobook)

And Be A Villain by Rex Stout I toyed with the idea, late last year, of reading all the Nero Wolfe mysteries in order in 2013. I've read a couple, and enjoyed them tremendously, but ultimately decided that access to some of the older titles might be difficult and thus to not undertake what would have been a very fun reading marathon. And Be a Villain is pretty early in the Wolfe canon (number 13, I think), but Stout had Nero, Archie, and the assorted detectives that swirl around Wolfe's brownstone well characterized by this book. Originally published in 1946, this is another classic that stands the test of time--someone murders a man on the air, during a radio talk show. Everyone on the set is keeping the same secret--why? Except for a few phrases and descriptions, this could have been written within the past few years. Highly recommended. (1996 audiobook, digitally remastered)

Trouble Follows Me by Ross Macdonald I remember shelving these titles from my time at the bookstore, and so when the title was set for re-release, I decided it would be good for me to check out this prolific author; maybe I'd find a new author to enjoy. The book, originally published in 1946, opens with a bang in Honolulu during World War II, has some promising gambits, but generally proceeds to stall and become flat by the end of the book. Too many coincidences are used to move the plot forward, although the journey on the train and the night in Tijuana are described very well and are very evocative. The murderer is very obvious, and this always disappoints me as I try deliberately to not figure out whodunnit. Still, the physical descriptions are good, and if you can overlook some distasteful jargon and stereotypical female characterizations of that era, as well as a nasty and brutal fight at the end, this might be a good summer read for you. (Net Galley ARC)

Beyond the Blue Horizon by Brian Fagan (2012) It was time for some nonfiction, and Fagan is adept at taking a theme and covering its many manifestations around the globe, over thousands of years. This time, Fagan ponders the question: what drove humans to explore the vast oceans of the world? How and why did man leave the safety of coastal fishing to venture out into the vast depths, without compasses, maps, or any certainty of landfall? Fagan is an old world archaeologist, so he spends a lot of time on the Lapita of the southern Pacific, Greek and other Mediterranean cultures, but gives very short shrift to the New World cultures (scant pages on the Maya, and barely paragraphs on the Andean cultures). Fun and fast, and I learned a lot of sailing vocabulary. Recommended. (Kindle)

The Last Days of Richard III and the Fare of His DNA by John Ashdown-Hill An updated second edition of the book that inspired Phillipa Langley to get the money and resources to test Ashdown-Hill's theory of where Richard III was buried--successfully relocated last summer. An easy read, with succinct data presented chronologically from contemporary written sources about what the king was doing in the last few months of his reign. Some familiarity with the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and their history helps. This edition includes a discussion of Ashdown-Hill's efforts to successfully trace the mitochondrial DNA of Richard's sister to the present day. Recommended. (Kindle)

Curly Girl, the Handbook (second edition) by Lorraine Massey and Michele Bender Massey single-handedly revolutionized the way curly hair is taken care of and cut with the first edition, published ten years ago. This edition updates and expands the first, with more curl categories, lots more photographs of gorgeous curls, and her trademark product recipes. Massey takes on some of the information that others have spread through the online curly world (baking soda rinses, final clarifying shampoos, etc.), but her message remains simple--love your curls and take care of them. Highly recommended to other curly tops. And I so want the cut on the model on the cover! (Trade paper)

Lace One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant Possibly my favorite Story knitting publication reviewed to date! Gorgeous lace projects, the usual outstanding layout with lots of crisp, clean, photographs, written and charted patterns, and even a couple of crocheted and Broomstick lace patterns. As usual, a variety of patterns for every skill level. There are at least 20 patterns in this book I want to make. To be published later this year, so if any of you sisters want to buy this for me for Christmas....