Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Phineas Finn

The second Palliser novel, Trollope returns to London and the Houses of Parliament tracing the successes of young Mr. Finn of Ireland and his exploits in that esteemed body. It does make me wonder if our government would improve if we didn't pay our legislators a salary. I only regret that the novel failed to give me more of the characters introduced in Can You Forgive Her, but I look forward to revisiting Phineas in Book 4.

Soul Identity

I got this book free from Amazon. It was pleasant enough, but not so much that I think I'll seek out the follow-up novel. Despite the ancient almost Dan Brown-like mysteries/conspiracies the characters and plotting in the book didn't hook my interest enough to return to see what happens to this Templar-light organization.

Wolf Hall

I don't understand how this book won a prize, but it certainly does not recommend any of the runners up. This read like the scripts from the first two seasons of Showtime's The Tudors, but much more dull. And why the book is named after a place that never figures into the story is a mystery to me still, but not one I intend to waste any more time on trying to figure out. This book was yuck!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big 5-Oh!

I got this book for free on the Kindle and you get what you pay for. This book was so predictable, so diabetes inducing sweet it was torture finishing it. And it committed major crime in my book by completely failing to understand how hurricanes and hurricane season works. You dumb author there are no hurricanes on the west coast of Florida in the winter; if there is it's name isn't Millicent, and if there is they don't show up without any warning, nor does the power company manage to restore power in under 24 hours only with the storm planning to hit again. This level of lack of attention to detail just about sent me over the edge. Maybe I'm just terribly cynical, but this is not my type of book and for this type of book this was terrible.

Killer View

The second Walt Fleming Sun Valley mystery. This was even better than the first novel, and best of all ended without petering out like the first one did. The fleshing out of Sherif Walt was needed and appreciated. The main story was interesting and peppered with enough twists and turns to keep the story moving. While I won't run out and read Killer Summer right away, I do look forward to it.

Ape House

Sara Gruen's novel Water for Elephants was a great read. Ape House was not. They are very different novels, Elephants being essentially historical fiction and Ape being satire. With Ape House I just didn't care much about the characters, most of which were caricatures rather than actual characters, and the action continually devolved from the potentially serious to the ridiculous. Ultimately harmless, but not meaty and satisfying the way Elephants was.

Strip Jack

The 4th Rebus novel returns to Edinburgh and introduces us to The Pack, a very interesting and entertaining group of school friends from Fife and their foibles. Rankin does a great job of giving us just enough personal information about Rebus and those he works with and the mystery of the week. Another enjoyable read, and I look forward to the next.


Meg Cabot and Vampires. Well, I'm not a big vampire fan, but I really like Meg Cabot. Unfortunately it was a little too much vampire and too little Meg Cabot humor until about page 200 for me to have truly enjoyed this book. And given the ending and the possibility of turning this into a series, for me at least, I have been sated by Insatiable and won't read this any further.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Service Included

As a devoted viewer of Top Chef and a lover of good meals, this insider's guide the opening and reviewing of Thomas Keller's New York restaurant Per Se was an enjoyable read. The only downside to the book was that the author herself and her non-Per Se time was not that relatable or interesting. I would have preferred to spend even more time in the restaurant than the book did. I cannot imagine a 17-course meal, but now I have at least a jumping off point to imagine one.

Mini Shopaholic

Nothing like Becky Bloomwood Brandon to brighten your day. While the series is starting to get a little thin, I still enjoyed the latest Shopaholic book and look forward to the next. Exactly what you would expect and want from Chick Lit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Another new mystery series for me. These center around Martin Beck, a Stockholm based detective. I found these in the wake of the Millenium series also set in Sweden. This book started very slowly, but by page 30 I couldn't stop reading. I'll definitely keep Martin Beck in my crime fiction rotation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lady of the Snakes

Thank goodness there was at least a little something interesting in the academic pursuit of the heroine as she looked into the life of the wife of a writer, because her own life followed the most textbook soap operatic twists and turns visible miles ahead to anyone but the heroine that you'd ever encounter in fiction. Meh.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I just love Ayn Rand books and this quick, quick read, especially compared to her other two novels is no exception. Unfortunately this book as well as her others probably suffer from being a little too much a product of their times. My 14-year-old niece had to read it this summer, and given her experience of communism, or rather lack thereof, I doubt it resonated with her as much as it did with me, much less with Rand's original audience. I wish though that we knew what became of this new Adam and Eve striking out boldly on their own. I have every hope that they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Killer Weekend

This is the first of Pearson's mysteries centered around Sun Valley and Sheriff Fleming. Having been to Sun Valley and Ketchum for my 5th anniversary I was intrigued to read a series set in a place I have such fond memories of. Unfortunately the setting was better than the overall plot and a particularly gaping plot hole near the end, but when I'm looking for another fluffy mystery, I'll pick up the rest of this series.


My first Kindle book. I had never read Frankenstein, but am of course influenced by all the movies and other pop culture take on Shelley's monster and his creator. It's really a very good book full of questions about creators and how they treat their creation as well as how the created may turn out without the ongoing influence of the creator. How people got from this book to mad scientist and a guy with bolts coming out of his neck, I don't know, so I'm glad I finally know what Mary Shelley intended her creatures to be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America

This was a slow start, but then I became utterly engrossed in the lives of Parrot and Olivier, though I often wished this was just Parrot's story -- what a life. Having never read de Toqueville I'm not sure if his trip to America and his writing about it was as vacuous and misjudged as Olivier's books almost certainly were. And while Parrot derides Olivier's ultimate conclusions about where democracy in America would lead, I fear 200 years later that Olivier's truths are being born out. Hopefully we as Americans can soon rise above the place we find ourselves these days with half the country merely trying to out yell the other half.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

By a Spider's Thread

Back to Tess Monaghan, though with a little Nancy Porter from the previous novel thrown in for good measure. This was a great page turner. Back and forth from Baltimore to the Midwest, from the present to the past. Only Tess's personal life was out of order in this novel, and hopefully that will resolve in the next.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


And so it ends. This third book in the trilogy was brutal. Not that the others weren't, but given what was happening to our beloved Katniss, Peeta and the rest Mockingjay took the brutality to a whole new level. I found myself both wanting and not wanting to read the book because the things that happened were on the whole so grim and because once I finished there would be no more Panem for me. But I'm glad I read the books and I'm satisfied with the ending.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Catching Fire

So winning The Hunger Games isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least not when President Snow hates you, the districts are restless and there's a Quarter Quell to be had. This starts a little slow, but ends on such a rush that I ran out to the library to pick up the 3rd and final book in the trilogy. I sure am glad I waited to read this series after all the books were out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tooth and Nail

Inspector Rebus goes to London in the 3rd novel. I'm still very much enjoying this series. I like Rebus and his family members and this novel does a great job of dislocating Rebus while he continues his usual task of solving murder mysteries. On to the 4th!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


This crime novel is written as a fictitious after the fact diary, an interesting conceit. But talk about your unreliable narrator. Nevertheless an interesting take on a crime and its affect on a family. I enjoy Denise Mina and will read more of her work. I especially liked how the story ended; not at all sappy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer

I ran out of books at the beach, so I picked up this from my son. It was pretty much what I expected in a John Grisham kid's book. Theo Boone is sort of a modern day Encyclopedia Brown, but I have a hard time seeing what kid really wants to read about courts and their procedures. It's a little too literal for my taste, and very predicatable. If this turns into a series I won't be following it.

Can You Forgive Her?

This book also is part of a continuing ed class. I had never read any Trollope, but I have read much of the Forsyte sage. This is much like that, though with much less horrid characters. Definitely a book of its time, but the humor in the book still rings true and I find this world a lovely one to escape into. As soon as my Kindle arrives I'm going to lead the rest of the series onto it as well as the Barcester series. I look forward to going back with Trollope.

The Hunger Games

Basically a version of Survivor in a post-apocalyptic United States where teenagers win by literally surviving as they try to kill one another in the arena for the amusement of the Capitol. This is the first book of a trilogy. I have No. 2 now and 3 will be out next week. I can't wait to see what happens next in District 12.

From Eden to Exile

This is the text of a continuing ed class being offered at my college that I was somewhat interested in. The idea is to look at what archeological evidence and other evidence is there to support of refute the Biblical account of the "historical" books of the Old Testament. This turned out to be a great disappointment though, mainly because there's much more lack of evidence of anything than proof of the truth or lack thereof of most accounts. I also disliked the authors assumption (unfounded to my thinking due to a lack of textual dating) that the writers of the Bible ripped off other traditions rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Namesake

I wish this woman would write more! As with her other works, this novel, though longer than her usual outing is no less a delicious bon bon to be unwrapped and savored. I don't know what it is about the immigrant Indian dislocated to Massachusetts story that so enraptures this girl whose family has lived in the South since the Revolutionary War, but I love to read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Every Secret Thing

Well I thought I was going to be returning to the Baltimore of Tess Monaghan, but no, this was a stand alone novel. Still set in Baltimore though Baltimore County, this story bounced back and forth from past to present for numerous characters ending in a satisfying twist and a heart-breaking one as well. Laura Lippman definitely proved she had more than one set of characters up her word processor.

Knots and Crosses, Hide and Seek

Another book I can attribute to Scotland. While in The Elephant House we saw Mr. Rankin mentioned and so looked him up upon our return. This is the first Inspector Rebus novel written in 1987. I enjoy reading about police work that's not loaded with DNA and cell phone records, so I very much enjoyed this and the next Rebus novel, Hide and Seek.

I look forward to following Inspector Rebus progress through the next couple of decades.

The Hill of the Red Fox

I found out about this book in Scotland. It's set on the Isle of Skye, Trotternish to be more specific. It's quite a good boy's adventure novel in the style of Stevenson. I enjoyed the book, but all in all because I enjoyed being reminded of where we had been and of the simpler times of the post-WWII era.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

The beginning of this book is pretty redundant, so I'm glad it had been a while since I finished The Girl Who Played With Fire. But oh how sad I am that this is the end. I hope the movies manage to do the books justice. I saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo all over the beach.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This has been on my to read list for a long time, and I finally found it at the library. It's always been checked out before. This was a super fast read because it's not that long and it's written in the form of letters (and telegrams and diary entries), but what a pleasure those few hours were. Set in the immediate aftermath of WWII, the novel relates the story of the occupation of the British Island of Guernsey by the Germans for the duration of the war. The characters are each unique and delightful and undaunted for the most part by the privations brought on by the war. It's nice to read a story that touches your heart, but doesn't have to resort to the salacious or overly graphic depiction to do it.

Love Over Scotland, The World According to Bertie, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

And thus concludes the 44 Scotland Street series, at least to date. I hope it's not the end because I still want to know what happens next to this lovely cast of characters and their unique town. Everyday life, well heightened everyday life, can be enjoyable to read about especially in the hand of a gifted character writer, and this series definitely delivers on that account.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

44 Scotland Street, Espresso Tales

Returning from Scotland I decided to re-read and read Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series. I read the first two books years ago, but didn't remember most of it. I really like the characters that inhabit this small section of the New Town of Edinburgh, even the ones I don't like (I'm looking at you Irene and Dr. Fairbairn).  Having finished this and the second novel I'm ready to return to Edinburgh any day now. In the meantime, I'm moving on to book 3.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Kidnapped was the other book I took to read in Scotland. I did start it there, but didn't finish it until after we returned home. I have to say that these sorts of boys adventure stories aren't really my favorites, and I think that Stevenson glossed over details of place and character that I generally enjoy. But the action was first rate even if the journey overland was a little rushed in my opinion. It was fun to get my map out and trace David Balfour's journey from Mull back to Edinburgh. We didn't go on quite the same route, but the places and sights were familiar enough to put me back in the scenery, and to commiserate with the conditions of such a journey. The Jacobite history listen we'd received also added a dimension to the story I wouldn't have appreciated as much before last week.


This was the book I read in Scotland finally finishing it the day before we left. Written by one of Scotland's leading sons as evidenced by the memorial in his honor in Edinburgh, I picked the book because it was all of his that I found at my local bookstore. Waverly or Rob Roy might have been a better choice given my surroundings since Ivanhoe takes place only in England, not in Scotland. But on the plus side, having now read Ivanhoe I want to seek out Waverly and Rob Roy and add them to the list of books I've read.

I'm not exactly sure why Scott named this book Ivanhoe as the title character is one of the more minor characters. The book was fascinating though, from it's descriptions of tournaments, to its assault of a castle to its surprise revelation of the identity of a veiled knight. The inclusion of Robin Hood and his merry band greatly surprised me, and I confess I couldn't help but picture them as the Walt Disney animal characters having recently watched that DVD with Sam.

I can see why people still read Ivanhoe. Despite the plethora of prose that often fills the page, the story with its tales of heroism, chivalry, chicanery and mayhem definitely stands up after all these years.

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

This was a cross between Arsenic and Old Lace and those Mitford books by Jan Karon. It also reminded me of a book that's set in a fictionalized Pine Mountain, Georgia whose name completely escapes me at the moment. I felt like this book needed a better editor. There are characters and their circumstances that are introduced only to have their stories a) change or b) be utterly irrelevant. Much of the wind-up is that unnecessary bluster of a relief pitcher who then commits a balk. The book might be worth a read if you like small town life and the foibles often associated with it, but as a general read this goes down as a failure in my book.

The Boggart and The Monster

In contrast to the prior book, The Boggart and The Monster was just what I was looking for. It took place entirely in Scotland and for the most part on Loch Ness, an area we were planning to visit. A delightful tale of the true nature of Nessie and his plight. This book I would recommend.

The Boggart

In preparation for our trip to Scotland I read The Boggart hoping it would be something Sam would read to get psyched up for the trip. He didn't. And since most of it took place in Toronto, it's not really a shame that he didn't. An okay read that I wouldn't recommend unless you're looking for a kid's story of Scottish mystical creatures.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Last Place

Back to Baltimore again. Very Tess focused. Less of the supporting cast. But a good story.

The Spellmans Strike Again

Book 4. For some reason, probably because I wasn't on vacation, I didn't drive through this as fast as I usually do. There wasn't quite as much humor either. Still the Spellmans are my favorite private detective family. I hope they strike again and again and again.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

South of Broad

Good grief this book was awful. I'm trying to figure out if Conroy has become a bad writer or I've become a cynical reader. The answer is probably in between, but really, this is the worst thing of Conroy's I've ever read.

This book actually has some beautiful parts. The paper route description could rank up there as one of the great piece of writings. But unfortunately you forget that after having to read some of the most tortured, cliched and saccharine dialogue in the history of the written or spoken word. And the fact the editors and all the readers listed in the acknowledgment failed to find two misuses of I instead of me, the first occurring in the prologue for goodness sake, further un-endeared this book to me.

The big problem though was the characters and their idealized interactions. It was like reading through rose-colored glasses or watching an Andy Hardy movie, but with economically and racially diverse kids putting on a show. And despite being "historical" at least in terms of the book taking place in the past, no one bothered to get the details of time and place right. When the lives of the characters at the end of the book intersected with one more historic event, I could not get through the last sixty pages fast enough. Needless to say, I'm not waiting to see if Mr. Conroy produces any more works. I wouldn't mind re-reading Lords of Discipline though.


And so the story ends for Maureen O'Donnell. And it ends satisfactorily with ends tied up, but not in a predictable, saccharine way, but rather with the twists and turns and danger and excitement a Novel of Crime should include. I'll miss Maureen and her Glasgow, but I'm looking forward to seeing what else Denise Mina has come up with.

Monday, April 12, 2010

His Excellency

First in war, First in Peace, First in the hearts of our country and last in terms of really knowing anything about the man.

Following our trip to Washington D.C. on Spring Break, I decided it was time to read some history, and where better to start than with George Washington himself. Thinking back on what I'd learned about him in school (that cherry tree story was a lie by the way) I determined I knew basically nothing about him -- Not how he got to be the leader of the Continental Army (that's where the title His Excellency comes from), not how he got drafted into being President, not why he decided to stop after two terms, not even how he ended up at Mount Vernon. But I do now.

Ellis' book does a very good job of blending the historical record, primarily many letters written by and about Washington, with a readable narrative. Washington was a man of good fortune, often in the right place at the right time and with the good sense to keep his mouth shut more than open. He had an amazing ability to surround himself with the best and brightest, and despite his lack of formal education used incredible judgement to sort through competing points of view. Especially interesting was the break between Washington (and Hamilton) from Jefferson and Madison. It's very reminiscent of the extreme partisanship we are once again experiencing today. And that gives me hope. If a group of people who against all odds could preserve the union in the nascent stages, hopefully we will be able to as well.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I picked up this book because I have the author's first book on a list of things I want to read. The library didn't have it, but it had this and the picture of Chaplin on the front was intriguing. Unfortunately, for me, this book did not live up to its cover. I think LOST has ruined me for a certain type of story-telling. At this point divergent stories that diverge (or converge) just don't intrigue me that much, at least not where the majority of the characters aren't compelling or worse like PFC Hugo Black just down right unlikable. And that was the main problem with this novel. In a way it's an interesting take on the WWI world and the beginnings of Hollywood and America and Americans finding their place in the broader world. But none of the storylines or characters gripped me, and so with only 100 pages left I still felt like I could walk away from the book and be just as satisfied as if I finished it. Unfortunately I was right.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In a Strange City

Back to Tess Monaghan and Baltimore. This was a really good one centering around Edgar Allen Poe and his Visitor. And Tess actually had healthy relationships. Yea Tess!

New Orleans Mourning

And yet another female detective mystery series, though in fairness, this is a female policewoman story. I love New Orleans and this was a fun read. Mardi Gras plus Blue Bloods makes for an enjoying read. And I learned how to pronounce Treme in time for the new HBO series.