Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Middle Sister's September Reads

Interesting mix of nonfiction, fiction, and fictionalized biography this month.

Improbable Women by William Woods Cotterman Interesting concept--compare five of the women who explored the Near East in the nineteenth ad early twentieth centuries,  all of whom the author asserts were influenced by the legend of Zenobia. Unfortunately, he doesn't demonstrate an interest in Zenobia on the part of the two twentieth-century explorers, but the book would have worked fine without this hook. The book does well by the first three women, Lady Hester Stanhope, Lady Jane Digby el Mesrab, and Isabel Burton, with interesting biographical information and excerpts from their memoirs and letters and others recollections to breathe life into these women. The book falters when it discusses the two more recent explorers, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark, although Ms. Bell's life is more fully fleshed out than Ms. Stark's. This is a bit incongruous, as there is an excellent recent biography of Gertrude Bell and previous biographies of Freya Stark that could have been used to flesh out the women.  Nonetheless, if you enjoy biographies and travelogues, this book will keep you entertained. (Net Galley)

Richard III by Annette Carson A distillation of Ms. Carson's recent biography of Richard III (on my Amazon wish list, buy the way), the short book focuses on what she calls the Great Debate, the accuracy of his reputation as it has come down through 500 years. Nice summary of the actual facts as known, what is not known, where the popular factoids originated, and the players in the complicated War of the Roses. And it gladdened my heart to read "history is written by the winners" and the reader being urged to consider the sources and mull that facts herself before coming to a conclusion. (Net Galley)

Murder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo Nifty little twist on the country house murder mystery of classic novels, with a group of mystery conference attendees, organizers, and speakers marooned on a train ride in the Florida Everglades while a fierce storm rages around them, nasty enormous snakes threaten them, and someone is killed. Honestly, the snake incident totally grossed me out. But the main character, Maggy, is likeable, the action moves along at a fair clip, and the revelation of whodunnit, while not completely surprising, included enough red herrings to please cosy mystery lovers.  (Net Galley)

A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses by Susan Wittig Albert Ms. Albert and I seem to have loved the same children's authors: first she wrote about Beatrix Potter, and now Laura Ingalls Wilder. This ficitonalized account of the collaboration between Rose Wilder Land and Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House books addresses aspects the recent biography of Rose Wilder Lane has made famous--namely, that Rose edited, in come places, extensively, her mother's books to make them more professional. I have no problem with that concept, but when that recent bio was published, the vitriol directed at the author was stunning. Apparently there are a lot of Little House lovers out there who are convinced that a frontier woman with a grade school education didn't ever need the services of an editor, and anyone who says otherwise is the devil. While the shifting POV is not my favorite literary device, I enjoyed the book. And have not had my fond memories of the Little House books forever tainted.

St. Peter's Bones by Thomas Craughwell Interesting short nonfiction book on twentieth century archaeology beneath St. Peter's Basilica that may have identified the bones of St. Peter himself. Good summary of the archaeology completely marred by the author's personal diatribe against the reforms of Vatican II at the very end of the book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Big Sis' August 2013 Reads

The Dominant, Tara Sue Me - 50 Shades of Gray started this whole mommy porn trilogy trend.  I used to read a lot of books by "anonymous" when I was in my 20s, books that were really explicit and indecent.  I admit it; I used to exchange them with a friend (those of us who don't, read about it, you know?!?!).  So these mommy porn stories aren't new to me, but at least, please, have a storyline!  In this series, Nathaniel is a playboy businessman, and Abby is a submissive.  She applies to be his submissive.  (Uh-huh, see why this just makes my skin crawl?)  But they come to care about each other, and he realizes she means more to him than any of his previous submissives... 

The Silver Chain, Primula Bond - This is the first in yet another trilogy of mommy porn.  I won't be bothering with books 2 and 3.  I get it, 50 Shades of Gray was semi-okay; they're not going to win any Pulitzers or any other book awards, for that matter, but they were semi-well written, whether I liked the characters or the stories or not.  But The Dominant?  Eh.  Actually, "eh" is better than I thought the book was...  I was disappointed in it, in the main characters Serena and Gustav, in the storyline I had a hard time following...  I admit, I only skimmed this book, that's how not so good I thought it was...

Tell Me, Lisa Jackson (galley) - Nicki is engaged to Pierce. She's a reporter, he's a detective.  She starts investigating a 20-year-old murder, one that she has personal ties to, and eventually, of course, it becomes all too real and menacing.

Mistress, James Patterson and David Ellis - Ben is obsessed with Diana, and when she is found murdered, he begins to investigate her murder.  He soon finds Diana wasn't who he thought she was, that she was involved in illicit affairs, etc. 

Three Little Words, Susan Mallery - Believe it or not, this is the 12TH in the Fool's Gold series and I'm loving each and every one!  Isabel comes home to run her family's bridal shop, and everyone knows it's only temporary.  But Ford is home, too - does he remember all the letters she wrote him when she was a kid and her sister had broken his heart?  Lots has happened since then - he joined the military and stayed away for years, her sister married and had kids with the real love of her life, and Isabel still loves Ford, although he has no idea...  And really, she doesn't realize it at first, either...

The Longings of Wayward Girls, Karen Brown (galley) -

Maggie's Man, Alicia Scott (Lisa Gardner) -

Big Sis' July 2013 Reads

Under the Dome, Stephen King (Kindle edition) - Okay, I caved.  I got so caught up in this mini-series I didn't want to wait to get to the bookstore to buy the book, so I caved into that immediate gratification that is e-books and ordered it for my Kindle.  I had it in 30 seconds.  And I started reading it in 31 seconds.  LOVED it!  I haven't read a King book in, oh, it has to be 25 years.  The disappointment is that the book was so good that the series now seems a bit lacking - "Why didn't they...?"  "In the book she wasn't..."  "But that didn't happen in the book..."  Chester's Mill is enclosed by a giant dome.  We don't know where it came from, we don't know how it works, we don't know how to get rid of it.  People die, planes crash, there's all sorts of political drama and criminal trespassing and murders and crazy people...  Fun!!!

The Marriage Merger #4:  Marriage to a Billionaire, Jennifer Probst (Kindle edition from - Yea, okay, fluff.  Nothing but fluff.  A trashy romance with tension between our hero and heroine, a mom who arranges for them to marry 'cause after all, Mother knows best!  The fun part was it took place in Italy!

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries (Kindle edition) - I'm reading this a chapter at a time.  It's a business book, recommended by my new manager, so of course I bought it and am trying to get through it.  I see what he wants me to learn from it, but I have to say, it's not the kind of read I prefer.

The Returned, Jason Mott (Kindle edition from either or Harlequin) - This book got a LOT of buzz at BEA this year.  When I saw a chance to read this, I jumped at it.  The premise was pretty nifty:  people who have died, years ago or yesterday, are all coming back at the same age they were when they died, but in countries all over the globe, unaware of what happened, how they got there, how they could get home...  I was hooked on page one.  And I was disappointed in the quick ending, once I got to it.  Not that the ending was bad, per se, but it wrapped up just a little too quickly for my taste.

Thunderhead, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist,
receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at the discovery of  the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Nora is chose to lead an expedition into Utah's canyons. Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. but what she unearths will be the newest of horrors...