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marsap's Book Lists
100+ Book Challenge 2014 (105 titles)

100+ book challenge 2013 (53 titles)

Book challenge 2011-2012 (62 titles)


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Cover ArtThe phantom tollbooth
by Juster, Norton, 1929-
The Phantom Tollbooth is a children's novel by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Milo, a bored young boy, unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon. Because he has nothing better to do, he decides to drive through it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he acquires two faithful companions (a “watch” dog named Tock and Humbug, and the three of them goes on a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom—Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason—from the castle in the air. A sweet book for bored children with wonderful word and number play, plenty of puns and the illustrations are wonderful. This book has been described a kind of Alice in Wonderland—but I really thought it more a Wizard of Oz—because in the end there really is no place like home. 4.5 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 19, 2014 at 2:07PM

Cover ArtThe book stops here [electronic resource]
Israel Armstrong is a vegetarian librarian from London who finds himself in rural Ireland running a rundown bookmobile. However, this is not the job Israel had envisioned for himself. An opportunity to attend a bookmobile conference in London may be his way out (and give him a chance to enjoy his favorite indulgences, visit his family and see his girlfriend). When mobile librarian Israel Armstrong's library-on-wheels is stolen at the convention, he sets out with his fellow librarian Ted Carson to find it. Their search leads them to a suspicious convoy of New Age travelers. I found the plot pointless and silly, the characters hard to warm to and the ending did not connect with the rest of the book. I think I will pass on any further books in this series. 1 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 18, 2014 at 2:09PM

Cover ArtCurse of the Jade Lily
by Housewright, David, 1955-
Curse of the Jade Lily is the latest Rushmore (Mac) McKenzie’s case. The case involves a stolen gem with a tragic history, a curse, a million dollar ransom, corrupt museum board members, Slavic mass murderers, and rightful owners.. Several years ago, McKenzie, former police officer, became an unexpected millionaire and set about doing not much of anything. Now, showing up at his doorstep is the insurance company that paid the settlement that made him rich—and they want a favor. Someone has stolen a very expensive gem (a jade) from a local art museum and is willing to ransom it back. The only condition is that McKenzie has to be the go between. No ordinary gem—it is a jade with a history going back to the Qing Dynasty and a reputed curse that stories claim has ruined or killed everyone who has ever owned it. McKenzie agrees to help but what starts out as a simple ransom quickly becomes complicated. An enjoyable read--fun great character in Rushmore Mackenzie--lots of twin city references—and nice twists. 3.5 stars out of 5.   posted Sep 18, 2014 at 12:02PM

Cover ArtBasil of Baker Street
Basil of Baker Street is a children’s book based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Basil—a famous sleuth of mousedom--lives in the cellar of Sherlock Holmes' house. A great admirer of the Holmes, Basil has learned his craft by listening at the feet of Holmes himself. The Mystery of the Missing Twins was one of the strangest cases in Basil's career. He had only a few crumbs of clues with which to find solutions to such baffling questions as: Who had masterminded the plot? Where were the twins, Angela and Agatha, being kept? Using the deductive reasoning he has learned from Holmes he is able to solve the mystery just in time. A great book for those that want to introduce a young child to Holmes—fun and easy read. Illustration were also quite nice. A 3.5 stars out of 5.   posted Sep 17, 2014 at 11:43AM

Cover ArtThe fall of the house of Usher.
by Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849
"The Fall of the House of Usher" recounts the terrible events that befall the last remaining members of the once-illustrious Usher clan—narrated by the boyhood friend of Roderick Usher. It is a gothic horror story and a great example of how an author such as Poe gets straight to the point. It is a quick read—but the fear and the horror grow with sentence. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 17, 2014 at 11:22AM

Cover ArtBring up the bodies : a novel
by Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
The sequel to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies explores the marriage and downfall of Anne Boleyn, and the role that Thomas Cromwell played in it. No love is lost between Anne and Cromwell. Each has an agenda to please the King. They become pitted against each other, as Cromwell seeks to find a legitimate excuse to expel her from the King's court. Cromwell, always the master politician, uses Anne's fall from grace as a chance to settle scores with old enemies. In addition, there is the quiet and demure Jane Seymour, who has now caught the King’s eye. The politics of the English court come vividly to life in this sequel. I found that the first part of the book was a bit slow (similar to my reaction to Wolf Hall), and it was difficult to keep all the characters straight, but in the end I found it a fascinating look at a chaotic time in history. One other difficulty I had was the almost stream-of-consciousness style the Mantel uses for the portions of the Cromwell narration. She does puts us inside Cromwell's legal mind, always strategizing, always remembering his butcher's son status among the gentry—but at times I found it difficult to always tell who and what was being discussed. All in all a good read. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 2, 2014 at 4:03PM

Cover ArtElmer Gantry
by Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951.
The novel (amazingly, it was published in 1927) tells the journey of Elmer Gantry, a narcissistic, insincere, bigoted, unethical, womanizing, hypocritical student who abandons his ambition to become a lawyer to become a “preacher of the faith.” His journey leads Elmer from ordained Baptist minister, a "New Thought" evangelist, traveling salesman and eventually Methodist minister of a large prestigious church. Along the way Elmer contributes to the downfall, physical injury, mental harm and even death of key people around him, including a genuine minister, Frank Shallard. If you are expecting redemption here—you will not find it! This is a satire, funny, biting, infuriating and downright frightening (Elmer comes up with a plan to control/legislate the morals/values of the US—now where have I seen that before??). Not only do we see the hypocrisy and falseness of Elmer—but it is evident in those around him (even "Scotty" the golf pro is not an actual Scot, but a fraud who learned his false accent from a Irishman!) I was so surprised how relevant this novel was—despite the fact that it was written in the 20s. The characters are vivid, the issues presented complex and still true today (I wondered at the end if this book had been read by the Christian Coalition--to get ideas for their campaign!). A 5 out of 5 stars—a must read!   posted Aug 12, 2014 at 2:20PM

Cover ArtThe fire
by Neville, Katherine, 1945-
The Fire is the sequel to the Eight, a novel that featured two intertwined stories set in the 1790s and the 1970s, both revolving around the Monteglane Service. The Fire takes place about 30 years later. The focus continues to be this bejeweled chess set, a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, which holds great power and some additional secrets and powers that were not revealed In the first novel. The Fire finds Alexandra Solarin, a former child chess prodigy who gave up the game after her father’s murder, summoned to her mother’s (Cat Valis the protagonist from the Eight) home in Colorado. Her mother is missing, but carefully encoded clues, and the arrival of several other people place her smack dab in the middle of the Game’s newest round, forcing her to decipher both the rules and the roles of others as she goes. The action moves to Washington, DC, Jackson Hole, Kamchatka, and back in time to France, the Sahara, and the Greek islands where we find Lord Byron and Tallyrand, among others, involved in the intrigue. Similar to the Eight, the novel intertwines this plot with one involving a young girl in 1822 named Haidee, faced with a parallel challenge involving the great English poet Lord Byron and the Black Queen chess piece from the Monteglane Services. One problem that I had with reading this sequel was that it had been a year since I had read the Eight and I had a hard time remembering all the history/plot from that novel that impacted this sequel. As with the Eight I found this book to be difficult to read and had a hard time keeping track of all the players (even more so than last time)—again, it would have been helpful to have some additional appendixes to keep track of characters, historical time frame and some scientific history. Also I found it difficult to believe some of the plot twists, and the final “reveal” was really disappointing. All in all it was an interesting but difficult read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2014 at 3:19PM

Cover ArtDeath angel
by Fairstein, Linda A.
In the newest Alex Cooper mystery, the body of a young woman is discovered in Central Park. Is the body found in the lake, by the Bethesda angel, the first victim of a deranged psychopath, or is the case connected to other missing girls and women in years past whose remains have never been found? Just as Alex, Mike and Mercer get their first lead, the investigation is almost derailed when Mike and Alex become embroiled in a scandal (following Mike’s indiscretion with a mentally unstable judge). Working to identify the woman and to determine whether a serial killer is on the loose, the trio must search Central Park’s vast reaches, with its many hidden lakes, waterfalls, and caves. The mystery takes some interesting turns, including carrying several different story lines: the homeless, a missing child, murder, stalkers, a bit of romance, the history and geography of Central Park and the iconic Dakota apartment building. I have read many of the Alex Cooper mystery and as always, my favorite part is history lesson that Fairstein gives about the main locations/sites of the book, in this case Central Park and the Dakota. I have been to Central Park a number of times and it was fun to know exactly where in the Park the action was taking. I am unsure where the series is going now that Fairstein has introduced a romance between the main characters of Alex and Mike—it felt a little forced. All in all a good read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2014 at 2:34PM

Cover ArtQuiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking
by Cain, Susan
In non-fiction novel Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we undervalue introvert personality type and how much we lose by doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert type (the culture of personality) throughout the 20th century and explores how deeply it has come to be the “ideal” our culture. The Extrovert Ideal, Cain believes, is so pervasive that influences our work performance, educational policies, political choices, and even the country's financial health. But the main focus of "Quiet" is to expose the myths and misunderstandings that were born when we as a culture embraced the Extrovert Ideal and turned introversion into a malady needs to be avoided. Ms. Cain traces both the biological and cultural basis for introversion and extroversion and their role as evolutionary survival strategies in animals and humans. The insights gleaned from these studies can help introverts take advantage of their special traits and thrive on their own terms in an extroverted world. Amid the research and the advice, Ms. Cain calls attention to those introverts who have made a difference in the world like Rosa Parks and Ghandi. They showed that empathy, thoughtfulness, persistence, compassion, focus and conscientiousness, all characteristics ascribed to introversion, are leadership attributes too. As a life-long introvert (I spent most social functions as a child in a chair reading a book) I really enjoyed this book—easy to read but at the same time well researched and thorough. The book is not an “introverts are superior” rant but rather an explanation of how we can leverage personality types most effectively. There is no right or best personality type but like life in general, we need to understand each other for more harmonious relationships. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 19, 2014 at 11:19AM

Cover ArtThe technologists : a novel
by Pearl, Matthew.
Matthew Pearl's The Technologists is the fictional story of several students of the inaugural class of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as they race to stop a mad man from destroying Boston. The novel opens with the events of a mysterious harbor disaster as boat crew mates and sailors find their compasses going haywire. Shortly after, another unexplainable catastrophe occurs; all the glass within the financial district of Boston inexplicably melts, disfiguring many and killing a young actress. The police are at a loss of just what is happening. Enter the “Technologists”--Marcus Mansfield, Robert (Bob) Richards, Edwin Hoyt, members of the inaugural class of MIT who take it upon themselves to discover what is causing these acts of terror—hopefully saving their city and their beloved MIT. Pearl introduces the reader to the public’s feeling about science and the Industrial Age, the education of women, the aftermath of the Civil War and rivalry between Harvard and MIT. I have enjoyed Pearl’s previous novels that have included historical figures into the narrative (Longfellow, Poe, Dickens) and looked forward to reading his newest. However, I came away disappointed. Despite being classified as a thriller, I found this novel to be slow and plodding, and almost had to force myself to finish. 1 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 16, 2014 at 11:26AM

Cover ArtThe namesake
by Lahiri, Jhumpa.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their traditional life in Calcutta through their and their children’s (specifically their son Gogol) transformation into Americans. The novel moves back and forth from the perspective of the parents to those of the son. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him relies on Indian tradition, with Ashoke and Ashima waiting for a name to be chosen by her mother who is still back in India. When the name doesn't arrive, the two new parents quickly choose the name Gogol, in tribute to one of Ashoke's favorite Russian author (and a significant character in Ashoke’s past). But Gogol hates his name, and the Bengali traditions that are forced on him since childhood. The reader follows him through adolescence into adulthood where his history and his family affect his relationships with others particularly his parents and of course women. This novel presents an exploration of the immigrant experience, but the lessons are universal... Anyone who has ever been ashamed of their parents, felt the guilty pull of duty, questioned their own identity, or fallen in love, will identify with these intermingling lives. I found this book to be beautifully written without being pretentious or overly self-aware. I found myself not wanting it to end. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 12, 2014 at 3:52PM

Cover ArtNeverwhere
by Gaiman, Neil
Under the streets of London there's a place, really another city. A city of monsters, saints, murderers, angels, knights in armor and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of those who have fallen between the cracks. This is the premise of the Neil Gaiman book Neverwhere. Richard Mayhew, an ordinary young man working in London, with a fiance, Jessica, a small apartment and a rather boring life, finds himself there—because of a single act of kindness. After he helps a girl, Door, Richard finds that no one can see him or hear him, they've removed his desk at work and are renting out his apartment while he's in the bath. Jessica can't remember his name. The only thing left for him to do is seek out Door in London Below and somehow get his life back. Along the way Richard gets caught up in Door’s mission to find out why her family was murdered and who wants her dead. I found that this book to be a modern day, darker version of “Alice in Wonderland.” A perfectly normal person dealing with complete strangeness all around him—and really all he wanted was to get his life back. Great fantasy, wonderful sense of humor, full of adventure, horror and a little romance. Not my favorite Neil Gaiman (that is still the Graveyard Book), but still a joy to read. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 11, 2014 at 9:21AM

Cover ArtThe chocolate war
by Cormier, Robert
The Chocolate Wars is the story of a Catholic school for boys which embarks on a massive chocolate sale. Jerry is ordered by the Vigils (a gang of students who make cruel assignments for the other students to carry out) to refuse to sell. He does so for the ten days that the Vigils command him to refuse, but then he continues to say no. The school turns against him in a brutal but clever usage of power by the Vigils. Ultimately he asks himself--Do I dare disturb the universe? I had read this book a few years ago with dissatisfaction—so decided to read it again to see if I felt differently—unfortunately the answer is no! This book is one of the saddest, “cruelest” novels I have ever read. The horror of what some people will do to each other left me feeling bleak, anxious and depressed. There is no redemption, no pretty package that gets all tied up in a neat little bow to remind us that it's all going to be ok. It is violent and dark and scary. In the end, the bad guys win, life can be bleak and sometimes just surviving is all we can expect. This is not the way I want to spend my reading time. 1 star out of 5.   posted May 14, 2014 at 3:37PM

Cover ArtThe last word
by Lutz, Lisa.
The 6th (and maybe last!) novel of the Spellman series, finds everyone in the Spellman clan is in an uproar because of Isabel’s hostile takeover of Spellman investigations. Izzy’s parents are showing up to work in their pajamas, her sister Rae has created a side business for herself and Izzy’s niece Sydney is terrorizing everyone. Meanwhile, Izzy is helping client Edward Slayter hide his Alzheimer’s, but it’s clear someone is determined to get him kicked out as CEO, and that someone is trying to frame Izzy for embezzlement as part of the scheme. There is an air of sadness around this book, there are many changes that coming to the Spellman family. The novel is also about characters moving on—including Henry, Rae and Isabel. As always, some of the bests parts of the novel are Izzy’s office memos and footnotes. 4 out of 5 stars (mainly because I love this family!)   posted May 2, 2014 at 2:03PM

Cover ArtThe serpent's tale
by Franklin, Ariana.
The Serpent’s Tale is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series set in Medieval England during the reign of King Henry II featuring Adelia Aguilar, a female physician from Italy. Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of the King, has died an agonizing death by poison-and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is probably the first move in Eleanor's plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king and his new Bishop Rowley Picot (and Adelia’s lover and father of her child Allie) must once again summon Adelia to uncover the truth. Adelia and Rowley travel to the Rosamund’s home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth. However they become trapped inside a nearby nunnery by the snow and cold. Soon dead bodies begin piling up and Adelia realizes that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is plunged into civil war. I again enjoyed this character of Adelia—a feminist in a time when women only have indirect power. I was a little disappointed that Rowley was only in a small portion of the book—the relationship and give and take between he and Adelia in the first book was something that I missed. 3 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 28, 2014 at 11:04AM

Cover ArtMy brother Sam is dead
by Collier, James Lincoln, 1928-
This novel is told from the view point of Tim, a 12 year old living in New England during the Revolutionary war. It is a tragic story of how politics and war can destroy a family. Tim’s family and the town that he lives in are loyalist to Great Britain. When Tim’s older boy, Sam, runs away and joins the revolutionaries Tim is left behind to help his parents eke out a living in the war-starved economy. Tim doesn't understand what all the fighting is about, and why his father is so angry at Sam. As the war drags on Tim questions his own loyalties and whether the price of freedom is worth all the ravages of war. This book is aimed at 8-12 year old reader. The novel is violent, dark and depressing at times, though is does a good job of presenting the complex issues of war. I do enjoy historical novels and children literature—but I didn’t find myself thrilled with this novel—it was a little too basic for me and it became a chore just to finish it. 2 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 24, 2014 at 2:25PM

Cover ArtJuliet : a novel
by Fortier, Anne, 1971-
This book is modern day re-telling of the story of Romeo and Juliet, complete with warring families, a look at Italian history, a family curse and, of course, love. The story follows Julie Jacobs (aka Giulietta Tolomei), following the death of her beloved Aunt Rose, when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister Janice. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy. This sets the stage for Julie's trip to Siena to follow clues in search of her family's great secret and possibly a great treasure. The text alternates between Julie's modern day discoveries in Italy and the historical background of the story of Romeo and Juliet (who Julie may be directly descended from). I think this book could be described as historical fiction as well as a thriller, though I felt it was a little thin as a romance. The historical retelling of the Romeo and Juliet was the more interesting part of the novel—some of the modern characters were just a little too silly or obnoxious—leaving the novel somewhat uneven. A 3 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 7, 2014 at 11:19AM

Cover ArtBefore I go to sleep : a novel
by Watson, S. J.
Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep—the result of a car accident and a severe head trauma. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he must explain to her their life together on a daily basis. With the encouragement of a new doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory and so that some of her memories will be retained. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? Can Christine herself be trusted to be telling the truth? I loved the first-person narrative and the often conflicting episodes of memory resurrections. The ending was a surprise—though I had some suspicion of what was coming about 2/3 into the book. A fast paced book with a compelling plot. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 4, 2014 at 3:23PM

Cover ArtThe last werewolf
by Duncan, Glen, 1965-
Jake Marlowe is reported to be the last werewolf. Over 200 years old, healthy, Jake has slipped into a deep depression, considers taking his own life and ending the werewolf legend An anti-occult group has vowed to destroy him for sport and a group of vampires want to keep him alive for selfish reasons (a werewolf bite allows them to go out into the light.) But something happens—Jake may not be the only living werewolf after all. I wanted to like The Last Werewolf. It’s an intriguing premise for a story. However after the first 100 pages I could hardly tolerate the pretentious writing style. Jake as a character was just a bit too pompous and I found after a while I really disliked him as a narrator (frankly I would have been happy if he had just ended things). I kept plodding on and did finish the novel. The ending, when a new character is introduced redeemed the novel slightly for me. However, I really have no interest in reading the 2 remaining books of this trilogy. 1 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 28, 2014 at 3:24PM

Cover ArtI am the messenger [sound recording]
by Zusak, Markus.
A young adult novel, I am the Messenger tells the tale of 19-year-old Ed Kennedy an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. After accidentally preventing a bank robber from escaping, Ed receives his first playing card with three addresses written on it. He understands that he needs to deliver a message to each of these places, but the card offers no further instructions. Relying on his intuition alone, Ed starts touching people’s lives and trying to understand what he has to do. The messages vary from simple (buying someone a ice cream cone) to horribly complex and painful (saving an abused wife and daughter). The final question to be answered is who is sending Ed the messages. I found this book a wonderful example of how anyone is capable of making a difference in another’s life—whether through a small gesture or a large one. I found myself truly engaged in this book—and found the premise clever and the writing sweet, sad and humorous all at the same time. A 4 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 10, 2014 at 10:38AM

Cover ArtThe body in the piazza
by Page, Katherine Hall.
The 21st Faith Fairchild mystery, Faith and Tom are on an anniversary trip to Italy to see the sites, art and of course enjoy the food. After, a weekend in Rome, they are to travel to Tuscany, where Faith's former assistant Francesca has opened a cooking school. However, on their first night in Rome, the Fairchilds stumble upon a dying man in the Piazza Farnese—Freddy a travel writer they have just spent the evening with. When they leave Rome for the cooking school, the mystery follows them, many of the guests at the school are not who they seem, and somebody is intent on sabotaging Francesca's new business. As always, Faith will need to use her skills to determine the truth and find the culprit. I have always enjoyed this series—particularly our heroine Faith and the wonderful recipes at the end of the book. The descriptions of Italy and the food were enticing—making me wanting to take a trip to Italy by the end! However the “mystery” was a little wanting and felt convoluted and rushed at the end. A 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 6, 2014 at 11:22AM

Cover ArtGreat expectations
by Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
A classic by Dickens, Great Expectations is the story of Pip. He is an orphan who, due to a mysterious benefactor, comes into a goodly sum of money or his “expectations”. This is written in first person and is told by an older Pip, a Pip who is not only older but wiser. It may be a rags-to-riches story, but it's not necessarily a happy story. It is a story about Pip, his harsh and cruel sister Mrs. Joe and her kind and fatherly husband Joe, an escaped convict Magwich, a beautiful but cruel girl Estella, and the corpse-like jilted bride Miss Havisham. The story centers around Pip and how, when he comes into his expectation, he becomes snobbish and unlikeable, looking down on Joe and his childhood friend, Biddy. He puts social position and class, etiquette and learning, gentility and leisure, above his friends. Eventually circumstances change (as they always do), and Pip learns a variety of lessons. I found the beginning of this novel a bit slow—though I am not sure why (maybe it was getting use to the dated language)—however I loved the last third of the novel—exciting, surprising & bittersweet. Particularly enjoyed being surprised by some of the characters—Magwich, Wemmick & Miss Havisham specifically. A 4 out of 5 stars   posted Feb 24, 2014 at 2:39PM

Cover ArtLove saves the day
by Cooper, Gwen, 1971-
The novel is told primarily through the eyes of Prudence, a young cat rescued from a construction site in Manhattan by Sarah. After three years together, one day Sarah doesn’t come home. Prudence is then taken to live with Sarah’s estranged daughter Laura and her husband Josh. Prudence continues to hope that someday Sarah will return for her. The history between Laura and Sarah becomes known by the chapters narrated by two of them—which I enjoyed more than the chapters by Prudence. What I particularly enjoyed were the descriptions of the Lower East Side in the 1970s, from the drugs, to the homeless people to the music scene to the beginnings of gentrification. The final events of what took place in this area were heartbreaking. The one criticism I have of the book is that the author did not fully commit to writing the Prudence chapters as a cat—with a cat’s understanding of the human world. At times Prudence doesn't understand the workings of the human world—then in the next paragraph she will use a word like saran wrap—if you are going to use the technique of writing as an animal you have to fully commit to it. For an excellent example of this read the Art of Racing in the Rain—a book I loved. All in all, I enjoyed the last part of the book and it was, in the end, a sweet read. A 2 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 24, 2014 at 11:35AM

Cover ArtThe bone yard
by Bass, Jefferson.
Number 6 in the Body Farm series finds Dr. Bill Brockton's in the panhandle of Florida—consulting on two different cases. One involving a student’s, Angie St Clair, sister’s apparent suicide. The second, two skulls found in the woods by a wandering dog. The investigation of the skulls eventually lead Dr. Brockton to the ruins of the North Florida Boys' Reformatory, a notorious juvenile detention facility burned to the ground forty years before. Guided by the discovery of a diary kept by one of the school's "students," Brockton's team finds a cluster of shallow graves, all of them containing the bones of boys who suffered violent deaths. The graves confirm one of the diary's grim claims: that one wrong move could land a boy in the Bone Yard. The novel is based on real events and real characters at the Florida School for Boys. As with the other Bone yard books I enjoyed the technical, detailed descriptions of the forensic techniques used, as well as the interesting characters and detailed description of the environment—this time the panhandle of Florida. One disappointment was that Miranda, Brockton’s graduate assistant was not very involved in this case. This novel is not for the faint of heart, the description of the violence is quite graphic and disturbing. A 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 10, 2014 at 3:05PM

Cover ArtThe cuckoo's calling
by Galbraith, Robert
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. He has only to one client left, and he owes money everywhere. To make matter worse, he just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. He can’t even afford his new temporary assistant Robin. Then John Bristow, a former childhood friend, wants to hire him. His sister, supermodel Lula Landry (also known as Cuckoo) apparently committed suicide jumping to her death a few months earlier. John doesn’t believe it, and wants Strike to investigate. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers. I loved this new character—he is clever, sharp stubborn character with demons I am sure we haven’t fully discovered. I particularly liked his ebb and flow relationship with his quick witted sidekick secretary Robin. The novel is fast paced, the characters interesting and it has an ending that I did not see coming. Can’t wait for the next outing. 4 ½ out of 5.   posted Feb 6, 2014 at 3:52PM

Cover ArtThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Shaffer, Mary Ann.
It's 1946, WWII has ended, and Juliet Ashton is on a book tour around England for her recently published book. A surprise letter from a complete stranger from one of the Channel Islands, Guernsey, begins a friendship with the letter writer and Juliet, as well as a friendship with members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Through this series of letters, we learn of the occupation of the island (for 5 years of the war) and the treatment of its citizens by the Germans (some god—and some terrible), the resiliency and stories of the islanders and of course the joys of reading. I would highly recommend this book. The story and its characters are charming, funny, sweet, and thoughtful. 4 ½ stars out of 5.   posted Feb 3, 2014 at 3:12PM

Cover ArtDeath of a king
by Vanderwal, Andrew H.
The Death of a King is the second in what I assume is a series—it is the sequel to Battle of Duncragglin. In this novel 12 year old Alex and his friends travel back in time (again) to 13th century Scotland to get to the bottom of his parents' disappearance. Death of a King explores chaos and turbulence resulting from the death of King Alexander without leaving an heir to the throne. While on his adventure, Alex helps William Wallace win the Battle of Sterling Bridge, escapes death multiple times at the hands of villagers, and befriends some important people of the time. I was provided a gratis copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. Death of a King had a lot going for it from the start. I love time travel, Scotland and medieval history. Despite all of this I struggled to finish this book. It could be partly from the fact that I had not read the first novel—making it difficult to follow some of the plot and understand who the characters where. The other problem was the time traveling aspect of the book—most of it never made any sense. The characters seem to go back and forth in time—without any regard to who they might meet, how they might impact the future—and they keep telling everyone they are from the future. I was surprised they weren’t hung as witches! 1 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Jan 20, 2014 at 2:11PM

Cover ArtSpeaking from among the bones
by Bradley, C. Alan, 1938-
The lastest installment of the Flavia de Luce series, Speaking from Among the Bones finds Flavia involved in the opening of the tomb of St. Tancred, during the 500th anniversary of his death. During the opening Flavia stumbles upon the dead body of the church organist on top of the crypt. On the way to the solution, Flavia learns more about hidden passages, secrets of many in her beloved Bishop’s Lacey, a powerful diamond, lead poisoning, her father and about her long gone mother Harriet. The book closes with a truly dramatic cliff-hanger. With a series that is now in its fifth installment I wasn’t expecting a lot—but this one was just as entertaining as the first. Flavia continues to be one of my favorite “detectives”. She is a genius in her chemistry and science; and in her skill of detection, but we are often reminded that she is still indeed a child, not yet twelve. A 4 ½ stars out of 5.   posted Jan 20, 2014 at 11:27AM

Cover ArtMurder in the Marais
by Black, Cara, 1951-
This book is the first novel in a series about Aimee Leduc a French private investigator who takes over her father's agency after he's killed in a terrorist attack. For the most part she is a computer investigator, but when asked by Jewish survivor of the Holocaust she agrees to look into look into a “decoding job” on behalf of a woman in his synagogue (in the Paris neighborhood of the Marais—the historic Jewish quarter). When Aimee drops off her findings, she finds the old woman strangled, a swastika carved on her forehead. With the help of her partner, René, Aimée sets out to solve this crime—and soon finds herself immersed in WWII deportation of Jews, French collaborators, and neo-Nazis. The book is a run of the mill mystery—nothing too surprising. You would think in the first of the series it would give a little more background on the main characters—but I have very little knowledge of Aimee or her partner Rene. The author does give a nice overview of Paris—particularly of the Marais neighborhood—which I did enjoy. I am not sure this is a series that I will stick with. A 2 out of 5 stars   posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:49PM

Cover ArtThe death of Ivan Ilyich and other stories
by Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910
The story begins with three friends and colleagues of a man named Ivan Ilych learning of his death. No one seems deeply affected by this, but one of them, Peter Ivanovich, goes to the wake at Ivan's house that night out of a sense of obligation. From there Tolstoy allows us to view Ilych’s life and his subsequent death, a wasted and meaningless life. In addition we become witness to the hypocrisy and the pointlessness of the lives of those around him—except for his young butler—who has an understanding of life and death that Ilych does not. What is particular tragic about this novella is the loneliness and isolation and the feeling that the life that Ilych has lived was meaningless—worse than death. This book allows us to explore how we live our lives, what is important in that life—and what is a “good life.” 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jan 3, 2014 at 3:34PM

Cover ArtOne corpse too many : the second chronicle of Brother Cadfael
by Peters, Ellis, 1913-1995.
One Corpse Too Many is the second novel in the Brother Cadfael series. The castle at Shrewsbury, sworn to the cause of the Empress Maud, is taken by the forces of King Stephen, her cousin and usurper of the throne of England. The captured forces are put to death, and Brother Cadfael is put in charge of giving rites to and laying to rest the 94 unfortunates. However, he discovers a 95th among them, a young man who was clearly not among the castle's defenders, and yet has somehow been dumped in with them. He is allowed by King Stephen to discover who the man was, and who killed him and used the mass execution as a cover. Although technically the second book in the series, this book introduces many of the regular features and characters in the series, including Hugh Beringar who serves as a partner in Cadfael’s many investigations. For those who love a good mystery, with an interesting protagonist—and a little history thrown in, this would be a fun read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Dec 31, 2013 at 11:38AM

Cover ArtThree men in a boat : to say nothing of the dog! & Three men on the bummel
by Jerome, Jerome K. 1859-1927
This 19th century novel is the story of three men, accompanied by a dog, as they travel in a boat up the Thames River. The trip is taken by George and Harris and the narrator J., along with his rat terrier, Montmorency. After a few false starts in the preparations, the three men leave on their journey in a rented rowboat. As they pass each town and village along the way, J. provides brief, humorous histories of the area and the various monarchs and other notable figures associated with it, or side stories of his friends, himself or his dog (and even an uncle who has great difficulty hanging a picture). What starts out as a travel novel ends up being a comedy about the hilarious misadventures of this troublesome group plus one dog in a boat. The book is silly, but great fun, with a few rather poignant moments. One of my favorite was the description of being in the dark woods with the night stars. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Dec 16, 2013 at 2:34PM

Cover ArtNeuromancer [sound recording]
by Gibson, William, 1948-
Neuromancer tells the story of Case, once a hot “cyberspace” cowboy who could infiltrate and rip off corporate databases. But he stole from his employer, who took revenge by crippling Case's nervous system, rendering him unable to hack. Case is then scooped off the street and given a second chance by a shadowy group of people who have big plans. In exchange for curing Case, they want him to help them infiltrate the core of a huge and powerful AI (artificial intelligence) called Wintermute. What was amazing about this novel was that it was written in 1984—but the concepts discussed are things that we now experience in our reality—cyberspace, the matrix (the Web), artificial intelligence, use of technology to treat disease/aging & DNA modification. As interesting as the concept was for this book, I found the book difficult to read—it is densely written, filled with a lot of jargon (it would have helpful to have a dictionary of the terms), with many characters who were difficult to keep track of. I think that if you are a computer enthusiast or gamer—this might be the book for you. For me I am glad I finished it, but frankly I was happy to leave Gibson’s future world. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Dec 5, 2013 at 2:57PM

Cover ArtGone girl
by Flynn, Gillian, 1971-
On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife Amy disappears. There are signs of struggle in the house and Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect. It doesn't help that Nick hasn't been completely honest with the police and, as Amy's case drags more and more evidence appears against him. Nick, however, maintains his innocence. The novel is told alternating points of view between Nick and Amy. In addition, an annual anniversary treasure hunt put together by Amy before her disappearance, pulls Nick into directions he never expected. As revelation after revelation unfolds, the truth is far darker, more twisted, and creepier than one can imagine. I loved this book. I was taken by surprise (which doesn’t happen to me often) by the many twists and turns and totally surprising developments. I can’t say I was happy by the ending— but it did make sense with these characters. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 20, 2013 at 3:43PM

Cover ArtSaving fish from drowning
by Tan, Amy
The title of the book is derived from the practice of Myanmar fishermen who "scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving the fish from drowning. Unfortunately... the fish do not recover," Bibi Chen, San Francisco socialite and art vendor, plans to lead a trip to China and Burma for 12 friends. Unfortunately, Bibi dies, in very strange circumstances, before the tour begins. Despite Bibi’s death, the group decides to proceed with her plans. Bibi, as the ghost narrator of the story, tells the tale of how her friends disappear while during their visit to Burma. What started as a vacation turns into an “unaware” kidnapping by a tribe, who recognize their savior among these tourists. We will learn things about Burma and its struggle for independence as well as the daily fight of its tribes for survival. However, while I have enjoyed Amy Tam’s books in the past, this book was not one of my favorites. The characters bordered on cartoonish, sections of the novel were unnecessary making the book too long and some of the plot twists just silly. 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 18, 2013 at 3:14PM

Cover ArtThe Amulet of Samarkand
by Stroud, Jonathan
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. In this parallel, modern-day Britian, Parliament is ruled of a group of magicians. Nathaniel is little more than 10 years old when everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him. Nathaniel vows revenge and spends a full year preparing his plan. For this, he needs to enslave a powerful spirit: enter Bartimaeus, a 5,000 year old witty, djinni (genie), summoned to steal an artifact currently in Lovelace’s possession – the Amulet of Samarkand. The theft of the Amulet sets in motions a series of unexpected events that find Nathaniel and Bartimaeus in situations more deadly than they could have imagined. The novel switches back and forth from Bartimaeus's first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. The Bartimaeus's chapters are the highlights of this book: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with his dry sarcastic, irreverent asides. A funny, suspenseful and fast moving novel—perfect for the YA reader. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 30, 2013 at 3:19PM

Cover ArtThe heart is a lonely hunter
by McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
This novel is set in a small Georgia mill town in the late 1930s. At the center, is John Singer, a deaf man, who rents a room in the Kelly house after his fellow deaf companion, Spiros Antonapoulos, is sent away to an asylum. Singer becomes the confidant for four of the town's misfits—Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a trained musician; Benedict Mady Copeland, the town's black doctor; Jake Blount, an alcoholic socialist; and Biff Brannon, the owner of the local café. Each of these four characters regularly visits Singer, telling him about the injustices and pain in their lives. Each outcast believes that only Singer can understand his or her loneliness, although Singer reveals little of himself to them. What is so heartbreaking in this book is that each of these characters is so self absorbed, they fail to discover that Singer listens, but he doesn’t understand, nor do they realize that he, too, is lonely and isolated — or why. The theme of social and spiritual isolation is overwhelming in this book. Issues of race relations and poverty are also presented. I found the book beautifully written, yet incredibly heartbreaking. One caution I would make is that some of the language is of the time and may be offensive to some. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 21, 2013 at 3:34PM

Cover ArtThe warlock
by Scott, Michael, 1959-
This book is the fifth book in a series about the adventures of Nicholas Flamel and others in his world. The characters in this book either want to save the ancient city of Danu Talis, which would mean the destruction of what is the current world, while others want the city to fall as it did in the past in order to save the present world. The Warlock begins, where the 4th book ended, Josh (the gold twin), John Dee, and Virginia Dare are fleeing from Dee's burning office. Josh feels Sophie has betrayed him. in his eyes, by whipping a creature he had just brought into the world. Sophie thinks Josh has been corrupted by Dee and Josh feels Sophie has been deceived by the Flamels. The majority of our heroes are in Danu Talis, trying to ensure that it falls as it is meant to. This second to the last book in the series moves along quickly, with a lot of action, history, mythology and tension. The only disappointment is that the Twins are separated and this changes the tone of the books considerably. I can’t wait to get to the 6th and last book the Enchantress. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 14, 2013 at 2:27PM

Cover ArtA game of thrones [sound recording]
by Martin, George R. R.
In this epic fantasy novel, Martin creates a world that bears a familiarity to the Middle Ages. Winter is coming. Winter in this world means a sort of mini ice age that will last for seven years before receding. In the North, races of nonhuman beings (the Others) are gathering to advance to the South—though the Wall and Men of the Night's Watch are trying to keep them at bay. At the same time in the South, political infighting for the Iron Throne has begun. Overseas, the daughter of the dispossessed former King is maneuvering forces of her own for a bid for the throne. All this is told through the various stories of a variety of multiple characters' points of view, each giving us a glimpse of this vast saga on an intimate, up-close scale. The main characters of this first novel (and told from their POV) are the Starks (Ned, Catelyn, Sansa, Jon, Bran) the Lannisters (Tyrion), and the Targaryens (Daenerys). The many plots steadfastly go where you least expect. Heroes die and villains turn out to be not so bad after all. Unlike many fantasy novels, Martin’s characters and their motivations are fully fleshed out—my favorites were Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister. One drawback is that this is the first novel in a grand Epic series and so there is no real resolution at the end. This is a graphic, viciously unsentimental novel and a joy to read. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 3, 2013 at 3:51PM

Cover ArtThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Gaiman, Neil
In the newest Neil Gaiman novel, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a remarkable family, the Hempstocks—Lettie (a 11 year old or is she??), her mother and grandmother. Though he hasn’t thought of them for years, as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) the past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. His death put in motion a series of events that put the boy and the Hempstock family in danger. The novel explores themes of sacrifice, boundaries, bravery, things remembered and how monsters are not always who or what they seem. I have loved the other Gaiman books that I have read and this was no exception. The book is magical, horrifying, haunting and beautiful all at the same time. Though it is described as an adult novel—I would say it is closer to YA. I found similar themes in Gaiman’s book the Graveyard Book (which I enjoyed a little more than this one). 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 17, 2013 at 2:16PM

Cover ArtPerfume : the story of a murderer
by Suskind, Patrick.
In the slums of 18th century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with two “gifts”: an absolute sense of smell, as well no odor of his own. As a boy, he apprentices himself to a prominent Parisian perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. One day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him to create the "ultimate perfume"—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. The premise of the story seemed interesting enough, however the character of Grenouille was difficult to understand—he is a sociopath with no redeeming value. The plot is gruesome and grisly and I felt had no ultimate point. I felt that part of my life had been stolen from me by reading this book! 1 out of 5 stars (maybe it should really be a 0!)   posted Sep 10, 2013 at 11:11AM

Cover ArtMidwives
by Bohjalian, Chris, 1960-
The novel tells the story of Sibyl Danforth, a midwife put on trial for the death of one of her clients. On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont. Sibyl takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of a stroke. However, what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead--and Sibyl inadvertently killed her? As recounted by Sibyl's 14 year-old daughter, Connie, the ensuing trial is supposed to be about the death of a single woman but turns into a battle between science and nature as the right of a woman to choose home birth is debated. The biggest issue that I had with this book was that I never really cared about any of the characters, particularly Sibyl. I found her to be a little too “Earth Mother,” and her descriptions of pregnancy and birth were too ethereal for me. I had no real emotional attachment to any of the characters. The story had a good start, but it began meandering and never recovered. It wasn't awful, but I would have a hard time recommending it to others. 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 4, 2013 at 3:36PM

Cover ArtWolf Hall [sound recording] : [a novel]
by Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography documenting the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More. Born to a working-class family, Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Wolsey and eventually the powerful adviser to the King. He oversaw Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church's break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel's novel offers an alternative to that characterization of Cromwell as well as that of Thomas More. Cromwell is presented as a pragmatic and talented man who cares deeply for his “family”, whereas, More is presented as an arrogant hypocritical religious fanatic. The novel ends with the execution of Thomas More, bringing Cromwell to the height of his power and influence. The first part of the book was a bit slow, and it was difficult to keep all the characters straight, but in the end I found it a fascinating look at a chaotic time in history. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 26, 2013 at 10:28AM

Cover ArtCatching fire
by Collins, Suzanne
Catching Fire picks up right where Hunger Games left off. Victors from the 74th Hunger games Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are on the victory tour to all the districts. Prior to the tour Katniss is visited by President Snow, who explains that he is angry with her for breaking the rules at the end of the last Hunger Games. Snow informs Katniss that when she defied the Capitol, she inspired rebellion in the districts. He tells her that she must convince the entire country of Panem that what she did was not an act of defiance, but that she was too in love with Peeta that she wasn't thinking straight. They then learn that for the next Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, former champions are to be the competitors once again. Katniss and Peeta are going back into the arena. Catching Fire is everything The Hunger Games was and more. More of the story takes place outside the arena than within, and though there is plenty of action-packed combat, there is more on the power and politics of the Capital and the topics of sacrifice, morality and oppression. A 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 20, 2013 at 9:56AM

Cover ArtDracula
by Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912
Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Dr. Van Helsing. The novel is told as a series of letters, diary entries, ships' log entries, and so forth. The main writers of these items are also the novel's protagonists, including Jonathan Harker (who has direct contact with the Count), his wife Mina and Dr. Steward a psychiatrist. The story is occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings that relate events not directly witnessed by the story's characters. I would say this is not your Twilight vampire, no romance or beautiful people here. Dracula is pure evil and all that entails. The novel, though written in 1897, is surprisingly modern; themes of sexuality, women’s role in society, evil in society and its effect on the soul are all found here. One of the great surprises was the inclusion of a strong female character, Mina Harker who is critical to the development of the story and drives the plot with her intelligence and resourcefulness. A solid 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 2, 2013 at 3:21PM

Cover ArtInkheart
by Funke, Cornelia Caroline
Meggie has been raised by her father Mortimer (Mo), a bookbinder, a lover of all books--a trait he has passed on to Meggie. Soon she discovers that her father has the ability to read things and even characters out of books. Unfortunately, nine years before Mo brought out characters from a book called Inkheart, and in particular, a dangerous, heartless character known as Capricorn. In addition, Meggie learns that Mo’s ability is how she lost her mother many years ago. Capricorn is now searching for Mo, and plans to force Mo to use his ability for his own advantage. To save all, Meggie, Mo and their friends and family travel to find the author of Inkheart and defeat Capricorn and his henchmen. The characters in Inkheart are very original and I particularly liked the character of Meggie, a brave, intelligent heroine. It also gives an interesting perspective on how we feel and think about books. A fantasy novel that I think that would be appropriate for both older children (there are some violent scenes) and adults. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 1, 2013 at 11:09AM

Cover ArtIn cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
by Capote, Truman, 1924-1984.
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime. Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. Though I felt that the book was well written I found it difficult to read. I don’t understand why such beautiful prose and recognition should be given to two sociopaths who show no remorse and at times feel almost justified in killing an entire family (that they had never met) and changing the lives of so many. When did our society change so that we now shine the spotlight on those that are so unworthy and unrepentant! 1 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 22, 2013 at 10:36AM

Cover ArtThe magicians : a novel
by Grossman, Lev.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable—a familiar place to be as a teenager. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Unexpectedly, he finds himself admitted to a very secret, exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft. Still Quentin remains miserable. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real—but much darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined. I loved this novel—and can’t wait to read the next book The Magician Kings. This book could be described as combination Harry Porter and the chronicles of Narnia—but it is so much more. This is a fantasy with the insertion of real life and complicated issues of young adulthood-- friendship, love, sex, booze, boredom, disappointment and loss. 4.5 stars out of 5.   posted Jul 16, 2013 at 3:20PM

Cover ArtThe night circus : a novel
by Morgenstern, Erin
The circus arrives without warning—thus begins the story of the Night Circus. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their dueling instructors. What they and everyone is unaware of is that, this is a game that is played to the death. The Night Circus is a story of an ancient dual between two schools of magical knowledge: old and new. During the course of the deadly game, two young illusionists fall in love, forever changing their lives and the lives of the performers and the guests of the night circus. I loved this book—while reading it I felt like I could see the contents of the tents, feel the fluffiness of the cloud maze, smell the caramel in the air. Morgenstern makes her creation real and believable—despite the fact that this is fantasy. Completely original, never boring,romantic and thrilling at the same time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 5, 2013 at 11:34AM

Cover ArtShunning Sarah [sound recording]
by Kramer, Julie.
Shunning Sarah is the fifth book in this series featuring television reporter Riley Spartz. Riley thinks she's going to report on a basic boy-in-a-sinkhole story near her parents' farm in rural Minnesota, but it turns into a lot more. When the young boy is rescued, a woman's body is found at the bottom of the sinkhole. The woman's body at the bottom of the sinkhole turns out to be an 18 year old Amish girl named Sarah Yoder. Riley then becomes involved in investigating the Amish community and their culture—as well as bear research?? Although I enjoyed this series in the past, this one was a bit too much—particularly as the twists, turns and addition of more plot points (sexual harassment, bear research etc) became of improbable and difficult to believe. 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 5, 2013 at 11:14AM

Cover ArtThe anatomist's apprentice
by Harris, Tessa
Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an anatomist and pioneering forensic detective, arrived in England to study to study under its foremost surgeon. The murder of Sir Edward Crick, brings Edward’s sister Lydia to Dr. Silkstone to investigate his death. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine Edward's corpse. He must determine both the cause and motive of this suspicious death, despite the skepticism he faces. I was really hoping to like this book—a murder mystery with a historical setting—what could be better. I found it slow going, with unbelievable twists and turns that did nothing to enhance the book. 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2013 at 2:18PM

Cover ArtKilling Kate : a novel
by Kramer, Julie.
The 4th in the Riley Spartz series, finds Riley dealing with a serial killer drawing chalk outlines shaped like angels around the bodies of his victims. With this she unearths an eerie legend dating back nearly a century. Tracking clues to an Iowa cemetery, Riley finds an infamous Black Angel monument that may be connected to homicides. In addition Riley also gets the scoop on a dog left locked in a hot car. Noreen her pet-loving news director is crazy about this story, but the dog owner goes crazy, too. Is he now stalking Riley? A light read, fasted paced and memorable characters, make this novel a good summer read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2013 at 11:05AM

Cover ArtTrail of the Spellmans : document #5
by Lutz, Lisa.
The fifth in the Spellman family series, finds private investigator Izzy Spellman and her quirky family of sleuths, engaged in a lot of weird activities—even for them. Mom has taken on an outrageous assortment of extracurricular activities. Dad has a secret. Her brother and sister are at war, but neither will reveal the source of the conflict. There is one source of sanity in the Spellman household: Demetrius Merriweather, employee of the month for eighteen months straight. On top of everything Grandma Spellman has come to live with the family. On top of all the family craziness, various members of Spellman Investigation are hired to follow a variety of people—that slowly begin to overlap. I love this series. Though the mysteries are not always complicated—the family is a joy. This one did take on a few more serious changes in the relationships of the family—which I found sad but understandable. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2013 at 9:54AM

Cover ArtThe alchemist
by Coelho, Paulo
An allegorical novel, The Alchemist follows the journey of a shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to a gypsy in a nearby town to discover its meaning. She tells him that there is a treasure in the Pyramids in Egypt. Early into his journey, he meets an old king, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. He adds that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". This is the core theme of the book. Along the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns about himself and the ways of the world. I am not really sure how I feel about this book. I found it a little contrived—though I know it is really a fable about personal destiny and following your dream. What I took from the book is that the journey is your treasure not gold or jewels you find in the end. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 2, 2013 at 11:03AM

Cover ArtSherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace murders : from the American Chronicles of Joh
by Millett, Larry, 1947-
In 1896, while visiting Chicago, Sherlock Holmes receives a letter from James J. Hill, asking the detective to come to St. Paul to investigate the disappearance of Jonathan Upton on the eve of the man's wedding. Holmes, accompanied by Dr. Watson, travels to Minnesota where the Twin City is hosting its annual winter carnival. However, instead of finding a missing person, Jonathan's severed head is found amidst the ice sculptures. Soon, Holmes, Watson and local bartender Shadwell Rafferty attempt to solve the case, taking both of them to the highest levels of local power, the frozen Mississippi river and the Winter Carnival ice palace. A fun read, as a Twin Cities resident I particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the city of St. Paul, the politics of the city at the time and the tradition of the Winter Carnival. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 2, 2013 at 10:07AM

Cover ArtThe art of racing in the rain : a novel
by Stein, Garth
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed as a race car driver; the unexpected loss of Denny's wife; the three-year custody battle with his in-laws over their daughter, Zoe. What is different about Enzo is that he is a dog with the soul of a human. His goal is to become a human in his next life (based on a Tibetian myth) based on his what he has learned in this life. And he has learned plenty—about being a compassionate soul, how our mood effects our environment, about seeking joy and many other lessons. I loved this book. I kept thinking about Enzo and his journey for days after finishing this novel. A 4.5 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 1, 2013 at 11:08AM

Cover ArtArtemis Fowl
by Colfer, Eoin.
The first book in the Artemis Fowl series, this YA novel follows the adventures of Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, as he kidnaps a fairy, Cpt. Holly Short (part of the fairy police) for a large ransom of gold. He needs the gold to replenish the family fortune (which was depleted by his criminal mastermind father). Frankly I found this book a disappointment—though I am usually a fan of fantasy. I found that the characters were not well written and I found that it was difficult to enjoy or care about any of them—particularly Artemis. He really had few redeeming characteristics. 1 star out of 5.   posted Jun 20, 2013 at 3:07PM

Cover ArtBlack Irish
by Talty, Stephan.
Absalom “Abbie” Kearney grew up an outsider in her hometown, Buffalo NY—south side, “the County.” She is the adopted daughter of an Irish American cop. Back in the city after a Harvard education and a stint in a Florida police department, Abby is not just taking care of her senile father but is following in his footsteps as a local detective. When a killer begins targeting members of a semi-secret Irish society, Abby is put in charge. Her usual rational cool begins to crumble when the murders hit close to home and evidence begins to point directly at her. This novel is a solid psychological thriller--murder mystery built over a police procedural core. The bleakness and coldness (emotional and environmental) of the setting, the plotting, and the characters work together to create a chilling, fast moving debut novel. I found the character of Absalom intriguing, but found a few of the plot twists a little hard to believe. A solid 3 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 13, 2013 at 10:37AM

Cover ArtGoing bovine [sound recording]
by Bray, Libba.
Cameron's main goal in life is to coast through high school and life. Then Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and so begins the YA novel Going Bovine. While in the hospital Cameron meets Dulcie, a cute winged punk angel, who presents him with a quest to save the world and his own life . With nothing to lose, Cameron heads out on the ultimate of road trips. He is joined on his adventure by Gonzo, a hypochondriac little person, and Balder, a Norse god trapped in the form of a yard gnome. Along the way issues of time travel, life and death, love, sex, commercialism, happiness and existence versus living are brought front and center in a satirical, sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, and often absurd way. Is this novel a book of Cameron’s hallucination or a journey into a parallel universe doesn’t really matter in the end. I loved this quirky little book—I kept thinking about it days after I finished the last page. A 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 10, 2013 at 1:58PM

Cover ArtThe wolves in the walls
by Gaiman, Neil
Lucy hears sounds in her house and is certain that the "sneaking, creeping” noises coming from inside the walls are wolves. No one in her family believes that there are any wolves—but you know that “if the wolves come out-, it's all over.” This book, though written for children, is particularly creepy and strange—and the accompanying illustrations just add to that “creepy” feeling. I love the work of Neil Gaiman—and this book was no exception. Not for the young child—maybe for those over the age of 8-10. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 10, 2013 at 10:45AM

Cover ArtThe eight : a novel
by Neville, Katherine, 1945-
The Eight features two intertwined stories set in the 1790s and the 1970s, both revolving around the Monteglane Service. This bejeweled chess set, a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, holds great power and has been buried in an obscure abbey in the French countryside and later scattered throughout Europe to keep it out of the wrong hands. The first story takes place in 1972 and follows computer expert Cat Velis as she is sent to Algeria for a special assignment. The second is set in 1790 and revolves around Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey. The fates of both characters are intertwined as they try to unravel the mystery, power and potential formula behind the Montglane Service. The Eight is combination of historical references, conspiracy theory and action/thriller novel. This book can be difficult to read and keep track of all the players—it would have been helpful to have some additional appendixes to keep track of characters, historical time frame and some scientific history. Also I found it difficult to believe some of the plot twists, as well the number of real historical characters met by Mireille (she started to remind me of Forest Gump). All in all it was an interesting but difficult read. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 3, 2013 at 3:46PM

Cover ArtInferno : a novel
by Brown, Dan, 1964-
In the 4th installment of the adventures of symbology professor Robert Langdon, the reader finds him waking up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with a wound to his head and no recollection of how he got there. However, there’s no time to rest because dangerous people will stop at nothing to kill him. With the help of the doctor treating him – a mysterious woman with a past – Langdon tries to outrun his captors in order to find answers. An object sewn into his jacket offers clues related to Dante and his famous work the Divine Comedy. It soon becomes clear that if Langdon can’t crack the codes the world will be headed for the gruesome hell that Dante envisioned. The issues of genetic engineering, population control, politics and of course the city of Florence are front and center. I found this book exciting and a nonstop read (I finished it in 3 days). However, I found that I was a little disappointed that there was not as much puzzle solving (which has always been my favorite part of this series) as there has been in previous books. But as with all his books it has wanted me to explore further—particularly the city of Florence and Dante’s Divine Comedy. A solid 4 out of 5 stars.   posted May 29, 2013 at 3:50PM

Cover ArtA traveller in time [electronic resource]
This is the story of Penelope Taberner who goes to stay in a country farmhouse, Thackers, a manor house once inhabited by the Babington family of 1582. The Babingtons were supporters of Mary Queen of Scots and wanted her restored to the throne. Penelope finds she is able to slip back in time to the Elizabethan era and becomes involved with inhabitants of the manor house and the plot to liberate Mary Queen of Scots from the nearby Wingfield Manor. She slips effortlessly between the past and the present. It is a bittersweet story because Penelope is aware of the fate of both the Queen and the Babington family and that she will not be able to change the future. The book is written for children but it was written in the 1930’s and the language is very formal and somewhat old fashioned—I don’t think this is a book that would be enjoyed by younger children or even teens. Even I had a hard time finishing the book though I found the topic intriguing. A 2.5 out of 5 stars.   posted May 14, 2013 at 3:42PM

Cover ArtThe physick book of Deliverance Dane
by Howe, Katherine
Set in Cambridge and Marblehead, Mass , this novel alternates between Connie Goodwin, a 20th century PhD candidate in history searching for an original primary source, and the story of a group of 17th-century outcast women who are accused of witchcraft (which may or may not be true). After moving into her grandmother's house to get it in shape for sale, Connie comes across a small key and piece of paper reading only Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact: a physick book or “receipt book” which may really be a witch’s shadow book. The novel gives an interesting look at not only the Salem witch trials, but the process of research and discovery.. Similar to another book I read recently, Ghostwalk, this novel was much better written, well told, fast paced, engrossing, and interesting. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted May 9, 2013 at 3:48PM

Cover ArtThe girl who played with fire
by Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004
The second book of the Millennium Trilogy—the book is set 2 years after the Wennerström affair and Lisbeth Salander is enjoying the benefits of her “acquisition” of wealth, traveling, purchasing an apartment and changing her appearance. She returns to Stockholm and soon becomes embroiled and framed in the murder of two writers working with Mikael Blomkvist (her former lover) and her guardian Nils Bjurman. The investigation leads Lisbeth to confront her violent childhood and the resulting tragedies. I enjoyed the fast paced action of this novel—though I enjoyed the first book more. The one thing that I didn’t like as well in this novel was the lack of real interaction between Bloomquist and Salander—which was one of my favorite parts of the first novel. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted May 6, 2013 at 2:47PM

Cover ArtShadow of night
by Harkness, Deborah E., 1965-
Shadow of the Night is the second book of the All Souls Trilogy. It continues the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and witch, her love, a vampire, Matthew Clairmont and the mystery of a book, Ashmole 782. Beginning where Discovery of Witches left off, Diana and Matthew have time travelled to Elizabethan England in search of Ashmole 782 and someone to teach Diana the skills of being a witch. Along the way, we meet many of Matthew’s friends, including Marlowe, Raleigh, as well as the head of the Clairmont family, Phillipe. The novel also leads us to 16th century France and Prague. During the course of the novel Diana discovers her true talent as a “weaver.” As with the first book I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the characters—and also the way “time and setting” affect the characters of Diana and Matthew. Deborah Harkness brings Elizabethan England to life using her professional knowledge and extensive and detailed descriptions. Only one caveat—because there had been sometime between reading the first and second book I found myself returning to the first book to refresh my memory. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted May 1, 2013 at 3:27PM

Cover ArtThe Eyre affair : a novel
by Fforde, Jasper.
The Eyre Affair opens in an alternative universe--Great Britain in 1985, where England has been at war with Russia over the Crimea for 130 years, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality and literature is taken very seriously. Acheron Hades, Third Most Wanted Man In the World, steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! Enter Thursday Next. She's the Special Ops literary detective, who pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters. Thursday is put in charge of the investigation, but soon Jane Eyre and Rochester are also involved in the adventure—literally! Usually I love the alternative history, time travel and fantasy genres—but I found this novel to drag on. So much of the book deals with the “set up” of Thursday’s world that I felt that the plot was somewhat thin. However, the end of the book does move along more quickly—and is more satisfying. A 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 17, 2013 at 11:45AM

Cover ArtWhite Fang [compact disc]
by London, Jack, 1876-1916
A classic by Jack London, White Fang could be considered the companion to London’s Call of the Wild, except in reserve. Whereas Buck from Call of the Wild finds his wild nature—White Fang finds his human love and is able to integrate into domestic life. White Fang is born in the wild to a wolf father and a half wolf mother. When he is made captive by humans, he is outcast from the other dogs because of his wildness. He learns to fight for his life. Finally, he has an opportunity to experience a new life away from the violence and savagery—but will he learn to embrace it is the question. I loved this book despite the violence and the brutality of the life led by White Fang—and the cruelty of the humans he encounters. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 29, 2013 at 11:02AM

Cover ArtThe cost of hope : a memoir
by Bennett, Amanda.
When Amanda Bennett meets Terence Foley while on assignment in China, the last thing she expects is to marry him. Their marriage brings with it great passion, deep love and respect, two children, and a life together over two decades. Then comes a terrible illness, and the fight to win a longer life for Terence. This memoir chronicles the extraordinary measures Amanda and Terence take to preserve not only to save Terence's life but also the life of their family as well as their ongoing hope for life. After his death, Bennett uses her skills as investigative reporter to determine the cost of their mission of hope. What she discovers raises important questions many people face, and vital issues about the intricacies of America's healthcare system. At first I was reluctant to read this memoir—anticipating a deep sadness, but at times I found it surprisingly joyful. I believe that this memoir along with the Times article on the cost of heathcare by Steven Brill will help readers understand the complexity of our healthcare system both financially and emotionally. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 26, 2013 at 10:43AM

Cover ArtMistress of the art of death
by Franklin, Ariana.
In 12th century England, Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a female doctor and forensics expert with a strong sense of herself, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders which the town has accused the Jews of committing (and preventing Henry from receiving his taxes from his biggest contributors). Adelia is accompanied by Simon, a Jewish investigator, and Mansur, a Muslim eunuch who is her bodyguard. It becomes clear that one of the pilgrim's they traveled with is the likely murderer, and as they close in on the killer, the chase takes some unexpected twists and turns, including a budding romance for Adelia with the King’s tax collector Sir Rowley Picot. The story combines, crusader knights, questionable nuns, suspicious monks, and a sly King Henry II. In addition, the book offers well researched period details not only about twelfth century England and way of life of the crusaders, but also Henry’s relationship with the church and the establishment of common law. The book is a well written, highly satisfying historical mystery. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 21, 2013 at 3:38PM

Cover ArtThe inquisitor's key
by Bass, Jefferson.
The Inquisitor's Key, the seventh entry in the Body Farm series, finds Dr. Bill Brockton and his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady not only investigating ancient bones, but dealing with ancient relics, church and art history and the South of France. In the Palace of the Popes, a stone chest is discovered, inscribed with the crest of Jesus of Nazareth. Could the bones found inside possibly be the remains of Christ himself? How do the bones relate to the Shroud of Turin? These are the questions that Bill and Miranda try to answer, despite being hampered by relic collectors and the Church itself. The chapters bounce between medieval and present day Avignon—which helped enhance the understanding of the present. I have really enjoyed others of this series—and this one was no exception. Fast paced, full of twists and turns—a really great read. A definite 4 ½ out of 5.   posted Mar 18, 2013 at 11:41AM

Cover ArtThe thin man
by Hammett, Dashiell, 1894-1961.
The last of Dashiell Hammett's novels, it centers on Nick (a former PI) and Nora Charles who are reluctantly pulled into a case involving an old client who appears to have shot his assistant. The Thin Man is a hard-boiled noir mystery classic—with heavy drinking, casual adultery, parties, speakeasies and hard-nosed cops and crooks. I loved the 1940s Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy—but I found the book somewhat dated and “politically incorrect”. 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 27, 2013 at 7:37PM

Cover ArtJourney to the center of the earth
by Verne, Jules, 1828-1905.
A classic novel by the father of science fiction Jules Vernon. Written in 1864, the eccentric scientist Professor Hardwigg finds directions to the center of the earth in an old book and sets out, with his nephew Henry and the guide Hans, to Iceland where they find the mountain and the shaft that allows them access to the depths of the earth. There they find an expansive ocean, huge creatures, giant mushrooms and insects, a herd of mastodons, prehistoric humans and more. This was a fun read--I was expecting it to be somewhat dated because of its age, but was pleasantly surprised how contemporary it felt. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 26, 2013 at 9:23PM

Cover ArtThe ruby in the smoke [compact disc]
by Pullman, Philip, 1946-
This young adult novel, opens with 16 year old Sally Lockhart visiting her deceased father’s shipping firm and accidentally causing one of his associates to die of a heart-attack when she ask him if he knows of the Seven Blessings. The phrase was on a piece of paper dictated by her father before his death and sent to her in secret. Believing that her life is in danger, Sally seeks to determine why her father died, who would like to see her dead, and where to find a mysterious ruby. The novel is set in Victorian London, and quickly Sally becomes entangled in a web of mystery involving murder, illegal opium trading, and a stolen ruby. She also meets a variety of characters along the way--both good and bad--including Frederick and his sister Rosa ( photographer and actress respectively) and Jim, a plucky office boy. Sally is a wonderful character--brave, smart, realistic and pragmatic. Lots of twists and turns keep the reader wanting more. 4 1/2 out of 4 stars.   posted Feb 19, 2013 at 6:13PM

Cover ArtGhostwalk : a novel
by Stott, Rebecca
A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand and thus begins the novel Ghostwalk. Her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book on Isaac Newton and his early involvement in alchemy at Trinity College. Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house. Lydia is soon entrenched and entangled in the deaths of five people in the late 1660s that may or may not be connected with several modern-day murders that have taken place; as well as an animal-rights group, who may or may not be killing animals in and around Cambridge. Ghostwalk has all the elements of a modern gothic mystery novel: murders, secrets, passion rekindled, and ghosts. However, after a promising beginning I simply had a difficult time sustaining my interest in the various storylines. This is one novel I would have a difficultly recommending—1 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 8, 2013 at 9:07PM

Cover ArtThe adventures of Pinocchio
by Collodi, Carlo, 1826-1890.
The Adventures of Pinocchio is a novel for children by Italian author Carlo Collodi. It is about the mischievous adventures of Pinocchio a marionette; and his poor father, a woodcarver named Geppetto. Pinocchio was created as a wooden puppet but dreamed of becoming a real boy. Its main theme is that of a naughty child who must learn to be good, not just for his own sake but for the sake of others around him too. The thing to keep in mind is that this is not your Disney’s Pinocchio. This classic flirts with death and disasters that Pinocchio can’t seem to stay away from. At various points in the story Pinocchio is hung from a tree until he dies, he bites a cat's paw off, his leg is caught in a bear trap, he gets arrested and he is turned into a donkey. Oh My! Despite this and the moral lessons being “taught”—the adventures are really quite fun. Despite some of moralizing and the gruesomeness of the story I found myself really liking this tale. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 8, 2013 at 2:46PM

Cover ArtOn beauty
by Smith, Zadie.
On Beauty is about two families on opposing sides of the culture war: The atheist, liberal Belseys on one side and the ultra-religious, ultra-conservative Kipps' on the other. It's also about race and racial identity: black versus white, academic life and intellectualism and the hypocrisy of those the "firm ideals". Though I found the book well written I found it difficult to like many of the main characters, particularly Howard and Zora. These two characters show the hypocrisy of their lives and beliefs and their lack of real emotional intelligence or empathy. The characters I was able to connect with were Kiki, Levi and Carlene--who show real growth and understanding of their lives. They were the real redemption of this novel. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 1, 2013 at 3:45PM

Cover ArtThe Devil's bones
by Bass, Jefferson.
The Devil’s Bones is the third novel in the Body Farm forensics series. This time Dr. Bill Brockton is involved in a number of plots that involve remains, bones and fire including charred remains found in a burned-out car, and a disreputable Georgia crematorium that simply dumped bodies on its grounds. I enjoyed this novel (I have read several others of the series) though I found the flow somewhat disjointed because there appeared to be little real connection between the different plots. It was interesting to learn about the science about how fire consumes flesh and bone. In addition to these mysteries, Dr. Brockton is also dealing with his nemesis Garland Hamilton who has escaped from prison. Though I have enjoyed others in this series more, the Devil’s Bones was still a good read--3 1/2 out of 5.   posted Feb 1, 2013 at 3:41PM

Cover ArtThe Secret history
by Tartt, Donna.
The Secret History is the story of a closely knit group of six classics students at a small Vermont college, involved in the murder of one of their own. This is not a spoiler—we know this from the beginning, the question becomes why. The majority of the novel explores the circumstances and lasting effects of Bunny's death on the group, particularly the narrator Richard—more an observer than a member of the group. I found this book interesting yet very disturbing at the same time. These characters are not very likeable—though you do feel sorry for both Francis and Richard is some ways—but they do expose some of the flaws of being human. Some parts of the novel do drag on a bit—but worth the effort. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jan 15, 2013 at 11:00AM

Cover ArtThe girl with the dragon tattoo
by Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004
Forty years ago Harriet Vanger, a member of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden disappeared and her uncle Henrik wants to know the truth about what he believes was her murder. Henrik hires a disgraced Mikael Blomkvist to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance. Along the way Mikael is aided by Lisbeth Salander a tattooed genius hacker to get to the truth. The novel moves along quickly weaving together many plots and themes, including the disappearance of Harriet, Nazism in Sweden, abuse of women and wealth and fraud. I had seen the movie prior to reading the book--which I enjoyed--but really found the book much more satisfying. Would strongly recommend this novel. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 30, 2012 at 3:01PM

Cover ArtThe spy who came in from the cold
by Le Carre, John, 1931-
A 1960s Cold War spy novel John le Carré, this book introduces us to Alec Leamas, a British spy who is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect, but in fact is there to spread disinformation about his nemesis Mundt. In the end however he learns that we are all just part of the game. This is not really my type of "mystery"--it is much more a thriller--though I found it slow going. I would give it a 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 13, 2012 at 1:28PM

Cover ArtCodex
by Grossman, Lev.
Edward Wozny, young investment banker, is sent to help one of his firm's most important clients. His task is to search their library for a medieval codex, a book kept sealed away many reasons. Edward meets Margaret Napier,an academic, who he enlists to help him to solve the mystery of the codex-to understand its significance to his clients, and to decipher the seeming parallels between the legend of the codex and an obsessive role-playing computer game, MOMBUS, that has absorbed Edward's time and mind. I found the plot intriguing and the history of the book collection fascinating. Still unsure of the ending--in someways it was a surprise, and at the same time somewhat disappointing. Still I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 4, 2012 at 11:29AM

Cover ArtThe bean trees [sound recording]
by Kingsolver, Barbara.
In Barbara Kingsolver’s debut novel, she presents us with a unique heroine Taylor Greer, a young woman from Kentucky determined to avoid becoming a pregnant teen. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular. But when a Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. Taylor names her "Turtle," because she clings with an unrelenting grip. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson with two flat tires and decides to stay. Here she meet a wonderful cast of characters, Maddie the owner of tire store, Lou Ann a divorced mother of a young boy and two undocumented workers from Guatemala. The novel presents issues of motherhood and parenting and friendship. Interestingly, though the book was written 20 years ago—the issues of undocumented people remain the same. A wonderful book—4 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 2, 2012 at 9:30AM

Cover ArtBehind the scenes at the museum
by Atkinson, Kate.
Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life at the moment of conception, and from there takes us on a whirlwind tour of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of an English girl determined to learn about her family and its secrets. Ruby investigates the lives of the men and women in her family starting with her great grandmother in pre-WWI England and ending with her and her sisters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book--dispite the dysfunction in her family (and there is plenty)--Ruby survives and thrives. The book does bounce back in forth in time--but I thought this was done in an effective manner(through "footnote chapters"). I would strongly recommend this book--4 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 13, 2012 at 7:24PM

Cover ArtOlive Kitteridge
by Strout, Elizabeth.
Described as a novel of stories (13 in fact), this winner of the Pulitzer Prize tells the stories of some of the inhabitants of Crosby Maine. The character of Olive Kitteridge is woven into each of these stories, sometimes as the main character, sometimes a minor one. Olive, a retired teacher, is not a likeable woman. She is strong, rude, bossy, resolute, set in her views. Olive is also capable of great gentleness. She can touch lives with a heart that proves to be extremely kind, and although she brutally honest with herself and others, aging is making her see things differently. The book explores the topics of loneliness, the lack of understanding between people, how behavior can damage relationships and chase people away, aging and life and death. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this novel, but the character of Olive grew on me, to the point where I admired the damaged broken Olive. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 17, 2012 at 9:57PM

Cover ArtSuite francaise
by Nemirovsky, Irene, 1903-1942
I just couldn't finish this book--I found it boring. So following the Nancy Pearl rule of 50 I decided to put it aside for now--maybe another day or maybe never!   posted Sep 11, 2012 at 3:48PM

Cover ArtTo kill a mockingbird
by Lee, Harper.
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Through Scout's eyes and story telling the issues of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up are explored. What I love about this story is how the Lee shows that everyone is human and multi-faceted. Mrs Dubose, a bigot who screams insults at the Finches, is also a courageous woman who kicks her morphine addict and dies “beholden to nothing and nobody”, Miss Caroline Fisher who has compassion for the Jews of Europe but none for blacks of her own community--even Scout herself who can't understand why they shouldn't play games involving Boo Radley. The language of this book may not be appropriate for younger children--but it is a must read for all. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 24, 2012 at 11:41AM

Cover ArtThe help
by Stockett, Kathryn
The Help is about a young white woman in the early 1960s in Mississippi who becomes interested in the plight of the black ladies' maids that every family has working for them. She writes their stories about mistreatment, abuse and heartbreaks of working in white families' homes, all just before the Civil Rights revolution. Each chapter is narrated by the three principal characters...Minny and Aibileen, two black maids, and Miss Skeeter, a young, white woman newly graduated from college. Though the book deals with race and the South, I think the book was more about each of the main characters finding their own voice. Engaging and enjoyable--3 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 14, 2012 at 11:25AM

Cover ArtAnansi boys
by Gaiman, Neil
As he is preparing for his upcoming wedding, Fat Charlie Nancy’s father passes away. When Fat Charlie reluctantly attends his father’s funeral he discovers that his father is Anansi, the Spider god of Africa. Anansi is also a god of telling stories and naming things, something he happened to steal from another ancient African god, Tiger. Charlie also discovers that he has a brother Spider, who has inherited their father’s godly abilities and magic. Fat Charlie life begins to spin out of control as Spider comes to stay with him to get to know him better. A series of events send the brothers on a series of adventures that change both their lives. This is a wonderful book—another winner by Neil Gaiman. He has created a complex family story—in the environment of fantasy, mythology and comedy. Five stars out of five.   posted Jul 6, 2012 at 8:59PM

Cover ArtA discovery of witches
by Harkness, Deborah E., 1965-
I loved this book and can't wait for the second one to come out. In the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, Diana Bishop calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Diana is descended from a distinguished line of witches, but Diana wants nothing to do with magic; so she banishes the book back to the stacks. But her discovery has already set things into motion--and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only one who can break its spell. A combination of fantasy, historical fiction, romance and thriller--this is definitely one to read. 5 out of 5.   posted Jul 2, 2012 at 10:39AM

Cover ArtThe bone thief
by Bass, Jefferson.
The fifth installment of the Body Farm series, Dr. Bill Brockton has been called in on a routine case, to exhume a body and obtain a bone sample for a DNA paternity test. But when the coffin is opened, Brockton is stunned to see that the corpse is missing some of its bones. Soon Brockton finds himself drawn into the dangerous business of black market body parts when the FBI recruits him to bring down the postmortem chop shop-using corpses from the Body Farm as bait in an undercover sting operation. In addition, Brockton struggles to help his friend Eddie Garcia deal with the loss of his hands due to his exposure a near-lethal dose of radioactivity. I found the plot interesting--though it had much more medical detail than previous installments. I did however feel that the Gracia secondary plot was extended a bit too long. I found the Bones of Betrayal a better read. 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.   posted Jun 19, 2012 at 3:04PM

Cover ArtAnimal farm
by Orwell, George, 1903-1950.
The novel Animal Farm is a satire/fable of the Russian revolution and Stalin, and generally any totalitarian society. The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders but also how greed, indifference, and ignorance corrupt the revolution. The novel highlights the reality of what can happen when absolute power is placed in the hands of a few. ultimately we learn that "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." 4 out of 5 stars   posted May 24, 2012 at 3:19PM

Cover ArtPudd'nhead Wilson ; and, Those extraordinary twins
by Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
Pudd'nhead Wilson can be described as Mark Twain's attack on racial prejudice in the guise of a mystery. The novel begins with a young slave woman, fearing for her infant's son's life, exchanging her light-skinned child with her master's. From this rather simple premise Mark Twain has created an entertaining, funny, yet biting novel. On its surface, Pudd'nhead Wilson possesses all the elements of a mystery: reversed identities, a horrible crime, an eccentric detective, a suspenseful courtroom drama, and a surprising solution. Yet it is not a mystery novel. This book reveals the real criminal--society, and racial prejudice and slavery are the crimes. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted May 23, 2012 at 10:49AM

Cover ArtThe graveyard book
by Gaiman, Neil
The winner of the 2009 Newberry award, this book tells the tale of Nobody Owens, a young boy, who, after his family is murdered, is adopted and raised by the occupants of a graveyard. I loved this fantasy filled with memorable characters - living and dead. Humor helps soften the bittersweet exploration of life and family. The tension ratchets up as Bod's opponents track him down and all the threads weave together to a wonderful resolution.The scariest parts aren't the ghosts and ghouls in the graveyard, but the dangers that lurk outside the gates. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone younger than middle-school age. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted May 21, 2012 at 11:33AM

Cover ArtThe seven-per-cent solution : being a reprint from the reminiscences of John H.
by Meyer, Nicholas, 1945-
In this discovery of an "unpublished" Holmes adventure, we find Sigmund Freud attempting to cure Sherlock Holmes of his cocaine addiction, forcing him to deal with his issues regarding Professor Moriarty, and Freud getting involved in Holmes' case of a young woman with amnesia, complete with battle on the roof of a train. What more could you ask for? 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted May 17, 2012 at 2:03PM

Cover ArtA red herring without mustard : a Flavia de Luce mystery
by Bradley, C. Alan, 1938-
Flavia de Luce returns in her third mystery, investigating a long-ago missing child, the brutal attack on a gypsy fortune-teller, and a murdered local thug. Flavia continues to use her chemistry knowledge and sleuthing skills to discover the truth behind all of the mysteries presented. What I especially like about this book is that you get more of the inner story of Flavia. What you discover is a young girl who who misses and grieves for her mother, is hurt by her sister’s hatred towards her, and really needs a young friend (besides Dugger). I loved this book and can't wait to pick star reading the next one in the series. A definite 5 out of 5.   posted May 1, 2012 at 1:26PM

Cover ArtAl Capone shines my shoes
by Choldenko, Gennifer, 1957-
A children's novel about a family who lives on Alcatraz at the time when gangster Al Capone was a prisoner there. A sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts, Capone wants a favor in return for the help that he secretly gave Moose in that book. I would recommend this book for children 8 to 12 years old or for families to enjoy together. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Apr 12, 2012 at 10:06PM

Cover ArtDeath comes for the archbishop
by Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.
The story of a French priest who goes to New Mexico and with another priest and "wins" the Southwest for the Catholic Church. After forty years, he dies -- the Archbishop of Santa Fe. I found this book very contemporary even though it was written in 1927. Issues that we continue to deal with today, the environment, diverse cultures, issues of power, the Church both good and bad all find their way into this wonderful book. A definite 5 out of 5.   posted Apr 8, 2012 at 4:25PM

Cover ArtThe Yiddish policemen's union : a novel
by Chabon, Michael.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a detective novel that takes place in an alternative history setting. The novel’s protagonist, Meyer Landsman, is a detective who has lost his way. In this world, America has provided the Jews with a temporary settlement in Sitka, Alaska, in 1940. Jews who settled in Israel after World War Two, lost the Arab-Israeli War. Now Sitka is to be returned to the US and the Jews of Sitka must again find new homes. Within this landscape a man has been murdered in Landsman's seedy hotel home. He is told to let it go--but that is not something he can do. This book combines sci-fi/fantasy, with 40s detective genre with religion and the nature of redemption. And guess what--it works! The book was funny, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking. Worth the read--4 1/2 out of 5.   posted Apr 4, 2012 at 9:22PM

Cover ArtThus was Adonis murdered
by Caudwell, Sarah.
The first mystery in Caudwell's series featuring amateur investigator Hilary Tamar and a cast of young London lawyers. When a young man is found dead in Julia Larwood's bed, her lawyer friends are the only ones who can uncover the truth of this murder. What I found most interesting about this book is that we are never really at the murder scene--only through a series of letters do we get clues. I would give this book 3.5 out of 5.   posted Apr 2, 2012 at 4:14PM

Cover ArtThe book thief
by Zusak, Markus.
How do the characters of Death, a book thief and her foster parents, a boxing Jew and young German boy who wants to be Jessie Owens make a wonderful reading experience—I am not really sure but they do. When I began to read this book I wasn’t sure I would enjoy Death as the narrator in the setting of World War II, but somehow it works. Death tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a 13-year old girl and “book thief” who has lost her family in the early stages of World War II. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. I loved the characters, I adored the way the book was written and the plot was brilliantly conceived—5 out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 20, 2012 at 9:29PM

Cover ArtCleopatra : a life
by Schiff, Stacy.
With all the press and attention this book has received, I was hoping to really, really like it. However, I really, really did not. By chapter 3, I decided to close it up for good. The writing style is affected, distracting and frequently flippant. I decided to take the Nancy Pearl's “rule of fifty,” and stopped the boring endeavor!I really can't give this book any stars!   posted Mar 8, 2012 at 2:53PM

Cover ArtThe necromancer
by Scott, Michael, 1959-
This is the fourth book of Michael Scott's series "The secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel". As with the first three books, the Necromancer is fast-paced and filled with a variety of different story-lines and even more famous historical immortals are introduced to the reader. Continues the story of Sophie and Josh and their journey of saving the world from the Dark Elders, though now there is friction between the twins, and their belief in the Flamels. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Mar 2, 2012 at 2:21PM

Cover ArtThe year of magical thinking
by Didion, Joan.
"Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant." Joan Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack, just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying in a coma. This book is a memoir of Dunne's death, Quintana's illness, and Didion's efforts to make sense of a time when nothing makes sense. I found this book profound in its description of death, grief and ultimately love. At times a little detached, but definitely a compelling read. 4.5 out of 5.   posted Mar 2, 2012 at 1:49PM

Cover ArtThe body in the library : a Miss Marple mystery
by Christie, Agatha, 1890-1976
The body of a young blonde is found in the library of Colonel and Mrs. Bantry. The Bantry's call in their old friend, Miss Marple, to investigate the crime and Miss Marple is her brillant, shrewd self. It is discovered that the murdered girl was a young dancer at the resort in Danemouth. The cast of characters included a family with a tragic past, the tennis pro and a partying film producer. Only Miss Marple, with her knowledge of human nature and her suspicion of all, is able to sort it out. Even though this book was written in 1924, it felt fresh, fun and full of surprises. A great read; 4.5 out of 5.   posted Feb 22, 2012 at 8:31PM

Cover ArtA morbid taste for bones
by Peters, Ellis, 1913-1995.
A Morbid Taste for Bones is the first Brother Cadfael mystery. When a fellow monk by the name of Brother Columbanus falls ill, he’s taken in a pilgrimage to St Winifred’s Well in North Wales and returns cured. The cure is attributed to St Winifred. Prior Robert, Cadfael (needed to translate) and a small party travel to the village of Gwytherin in Wales to claim the saint’s relics; against the will of the local community. Tempers rise, and murder is the result. It’s up to Brother Cadfael and to Sioned, a local young woman, to find out what really happened. This book is a fun read--things move along quickly. 3.5 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 20, 2012 at 9:50AM

Cover ArtThe Hunger Games
by Collins, Suzanne
A young adult novel, The Hunger Games presents a post-apocalyptic vision of the future of North America, now the nation of Panem. In Panem,—The Capitol—rules mercilessly over 12 outlying districts. Each year, The Capitol requires that each district select two teenagers by lottery—one boy and one girl—to represent the district at the annual Hunger Games, as “tributes”. The Games are a cross between the reality show Survivor and the Roman Colosseum: the 24 teens must fight to the death on live national television in a huge outdoor arena. The Capitol stages the Hunger Games as a continuing reminder of the districts’ subservience, and as a brutal warning about how rebellion is dealt with. Katniss Everdeen—heroine of the novel—becomes one of the tributes from District 12, the poorest of the districts, along with Peeta Mellark. The bulk of the book features Katniss and Peeta’s violent struggle for their survival, and their interactions with other tributes, citizens of The Capitol and with each other. I found this book well written and fascinating. I think it explores our fascination with "reality TV", celebrity and violence. Though it is a YA novel--it is extremely violent so I would not recommended it for the young teen. 4.5 out of 5 stars.   posted Feb 14, 2012 at 12:44PM

Cover ArtThe diviner's tale
by Morrow, Bradford, 1951-
While divining (searching for water) in upstate New York, Cassandra Brooks discovers the body of a young girl hanging from a tree. When she returns with with the authorities, the body is gone. However, when she returns the following day with the sheriff, another girl emerges from the woods, unhurt. I expected from the description of this book that this novel would be a sort of spiritual mystery. I was disappointed. It really is more about the diviner's self exploration--with a little mystery thrown in. The last third of the book could have been edited significantly. I would this novel a 2.5 out of 5.   posted Feb 13, 2012 at 3:10PM

Cover ArtGoing Home : Finding Peace When Pets Die
by Katz, Jon
Written by Jon Katz, the author of the Bedlam Farm stories--this book deals with the loss of a pet, through his personal experiences of loss. What I particularly liked was his discussion of not just the loss but planning for the loss--so that when the time comes, which it will, there will be a plan. This could almost be an advanced planning or end of life planning for our pets. The stories are sweet and sad, and the advice well thought out. 4 1/2 out 5 stars.   posted Feb 4, 2012 at 1:29PM

Cover ArtBones of betrayal
by Bass, Jefferson.
A novel featuring forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton looking into an unusual death. A man’s body is pulled out of a swimming pool in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The autopsy reveals that he appears to have died after ingesting a highly radioactive pellet. Brockton discovers that the victim was a key player in the Manhattan Project—he realizes that to solve the crime, he must dig into the secret history of the Manhattan Project itself. I found this book fascinating--lot of twists and turns. No one is really who they seem. Highly recommended. 5 out of 5.   posted Jan 20, 2012 at 11:54AM

Cover ArtThe sisters who would be queen : Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey : a Tudor t
by De Lisle, Leanda
This is a non-fiction account of the story of Lady Jane Grey and her lesser known sisters, Katherine and Mary. All I can say is that I can't believe that I finished the book. I found parts of this book boring, confusing and too many characters were introduced without explanation or any real comment. Unless you are a real Tudor history nerd I wouldn't recommend this book. 1 out of 5 stars.   posted Jan 12, 2012 at 1:53PM

Cover ArtTheir eyes were watching God : a novel
by Hurston, Zora Neale.
This novel is the story of fair-skinned Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, racism, discrimination and loss. I found the novel interesting and enjoyed the character of Janie. What a resilient woman. I would give this a 4.5 stars out of 5.   posted Jan 3, 2012 at 2:16PM

Cover ArtThe weed that strings the hangman's bag
by Bradley, C. Alan, 1938-
Flavia de Luce, eleven-year-old "chemist" and amateur sleuth, is back again in the second book of this series. Flavia sets out to solve the murder of a beloved puppeteer--though she finds out that he was not as beloved as let on. This eventually leads her to previous death in the village and the tie the binds these two deaths. Again Flavia is a charmer--the book is a fun and fast read. Highly recommended.   posted Dec 7, 2011 at 4:29PM

Cover ArtThe body in the gazebo : a Faith Fairchild mystery
by Page, Katherine Hall.
A fun cozy mystery, featuring Faith Fairchild a minister’s wife, caterer, and amateur sleuth. In this book Faith is dealing with secrets in all forms, both from the past and the present. As Faith must help her friend Ursula "solve" a mystery from the Depression, she also feels a need to expose an embezzler who has framed her husband. I have read a number of books from this series and find them an easy fun read--this book was no exception. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 28, 2011 at 10:29AM

Cover ArtThe sign of four /
by Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir, 1859-1930
The story is set in 1887. The Sign of Four has a complex plot involving service in East India Company, India, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a stolen treasure, and a secret pact among four convicts and two corrupt prison guards. The "mystery" was interesting, but what I really enjoyed about this book is watching Holmes use his powers of deduction--always a pleasure! Highly recommended-4 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 21, 2011 at 9:53AM

Cover ArtThe midwife's apprentice
by Cushman, Karen.
A Newberry Award winner, this book tells the tale of Alyce (Dung) with no name, no home, and no family. Curled in a dung heap, the village midwife finds her there and takes her in as a helper and an apprentice. Alyce begins to learn skills of midwifery, begins to make friends and finds her self worth. However, one day, when Alyce is summoned to deliver a baby, she fails and runs away, believing she is too stupid to become a midwife. Alyce must then learn to value herself again. A 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 21, 2011 at 9:38AM

Cover ArtThe daughter of time
by Tey, Josephine, 1896 or 7-1952.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating in the hospital, becomes fascinated with the portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the evil hunchback, murderer of the young princes. Could such a noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains -- one who would murder children to secure the crown? Or was Richard really the victim--slandered by others. Grant determines to find out once and for all, what kind of man Richard III was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower. This was a fascinating twist on the historical mystery--a definite 5 out of 5.   posted Nov 13, 2011 at 3:57PM

Cover ArtThe railway children [sound recording]
by Nesbit, E. 1858-1924.
A wonderful children's book, written more than 100 years ago. It is the story of 3 siblings Roberta (Bobbi), Peter & Phyllis who must move to a small cottage in a little town when their father is mysteriously taken away. They meet many of the town's folk; including Perks the railway Porter and the Old Gentleman, a rider on the train. While their mother writes stories to support them, they go off and have many wonderful adventures. What I especially enjoyed about this book is how real these children were; they argue, fight, make up and behave like "regular" siblings. I would recommend this book for children 8 to 12 years old or for families to enjoy together. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 9, 2011 at 8:19PM

Cover ArtIron Lake : a Cork O'Connor mystery
by Krueger, William Kent.
The first in the Cork O'Connor mystery series, Cork is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota (part of Northern Minnesota), and separated from his wife. Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, he has lost his job as sheriff because of a previous tragic incident. When a young Indian boy goes missing at the same time a local judge appears to take his own life, Cork finds himself right in the middle of an investigation. I enjoyed this book, particularly the Northern Mnnesota setting, being for the state myself and the references to the Anishinaabe culture. The mystery had a number of twists and turns and kept me interested until the end. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Nov 9, 2011 at 2:46PM

Cover ArtThe hundred penny box
by Mathis, Sharon Bell.
A lovely book about the relationship between a young boy and his 100 year old great aunt. She shares the history of her life with him through her 100 penny box-one penny for each year of her life. The illustrations are beautiful "sepia toned" watercolors. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 31, 2011 at 11:39AM

Cover ArtThe ritual bath : a novel
by Kellerman, Faye.
The first of Kellerman's Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus series this book involves the investigation of a rape at closed Jewish community and school in California outside the mikvah, the bathhouse where women perform their cleansing ritual. Detective Peter Decker of the LAPD is called upon to investigate with the help of a young widow Rina Lazarus. She helps guide him through the religious laws that hinder him from finding the truth. Though the investigation was interesting, the best part was exploration of the Orthodox Judiasm and its impact on the case. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 21, 2011 at 2:07PM

Cover ArtRoll of thunder, hear my cry
by Taylor, Mildred D.
This fictional novel is based on an African-American family, the Logans, struggling in Mississippi during the 1930s. The narrator of the story is Cassie, their only daughter, who is outspoken and self-confident. The portrait of racism, bigotry is stark, realistic and at times shocking. This is also the story of Cassie learning the "ways of the world" but still maintaining her dignity despite the humilitation she has to endure. I think that is what makes it a great novel. Meant for young readers I would say that this is really a young adult novel and would recommend it for the older reader (13+). 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 19, 2011 at 4:10PM

Cover ArtThe death instinct
by Rubenfeld, Jed, 1959-
The more things change the more they stay the same. This novel deals with a bombing in New York--in 1920! There are themes with hatred of immigrants, PSTD following war & the use of attacks on our soil to initiate war against another country--I suppose it could be the present decade. Though I thought the there were interesting elements to this book--I felt there were too many plots to deal with in one book. At times the book just dragged. I had enjoyed Interpretation of a Murder so I was excited by this new book--somewhat of a disappointment! 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Oct 5, 2011 at 11:52AM

Cover ArtEsperanza rising
by Ryan, Pam Munoz
Inspired by the author's grandmother, this young reader's novel tells the story of Esperanza, child of a wealthy landowner in Mexico, who with her mother must start over in the fields of California during the depression. A wonderful book, that looks at the issue of immigration, change and starting over, poverty and hope, and connecting to your roots. I would give this 5 out of 5 stars, perfect for the young reader.   posted Sep 29, 2011 at 9:30AM

Cover ArtA light in the attic
by Silverstein, Shel.
Wonderful Shel Silverstein. We meet many of the inhabitants of his wonderful imagination. Entertaining for both child and adult. 5 out of 5 stars.   posted Sep 20, 2011 at 2:01PM

Cover ArtThe zookeeper's wife : a war story
by Ackerman, Diane.
This non-fiction book tells the story of the Antonina and Jan Zabinski, keepers of the Warsaw Zoo and their actions in using the zoo to hide their Jewish neighbors. At times a little bit too detailed (I really didn't need to read in detail about a beetle collection), all in all a very fascinating book about the people of Poland, the Polish underground, and the effects of war on the Polish citizens. I would give this book 3 1/2 stars out of 5.   posted Aug 29, 2011 at 3:40PM

Cover ArtThe book of names
by Gregory, Jill.
Reviews had listed this book as another DaVinci Code. Not quite. Some interesting content/mystery based on the Kabala, but a pretty start forward mystery. Does have a pretty fast pace. 2 1/2 stars out of 5.   posted Aug 24, 2011 at 3:03PM

Cover ArtJacob have I loved
by Paterson, Katherine.
A Newbery award winner--telling the tale of two twins and angst of being the twin in the shadow. Generally I enjoyed the book--but did think that the resolution came too quickly. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 24, 2011 at 11:52AM

Cover ArtDeath dance
by Fairstein, Linda A.
3.5 stars out of 5   posted Aug 4, 2011 at 3:37PM

Cover ArtCat sitter among the pigeons : a Dixie Hemingway mystery
by Clement, Blaize
I have read all of the Cat Sitter's series and have enjoyed all. Lots of humor a little romance and lots of animals and a little mystery. What more could you want. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 4, 2011 at 3:36PM

Cover ArtThe book without words : a fable of medieval magic
by Avi, 1937-
2.5 stars out of 5   posted Aug 4, 2011 at 3:33PM

Cover ArtHeresy : a thriller
by Parris, S. J., 1974-
Based loosely on the life of Giordano Bruno, this mystery is set in the time of Queen Elizabeth in the setting of Oxford University. Though the premise is somewhat interesting, the killing of members of community, based on the deaths of saints, I found the pace very slow. I would give it 2 out of 5 stars.   posted Aug 4, 2011 at 3:30PM

Cover ArtNumber the stars
by Lowry, Lois.
Great book for the young reader, 8-12. Tells the tale of a young girl Annemarie who lives in Denmark, who is indirectly & directly affected by WWII. Shows the effects of war, the heroism of people during dangerous times & the cruelty of man against others. It is written in a way that lets young readers understand the times without providing the gruesome details. Highly recommended.   posted Aug 3, 2011 at 2:59PM

Cover ArtSilent mercy
by Fairstein, Linda A.
This is a typical Alex Cooper mystery. The "mystery" plot is a little thin, but as in all of this series the best part is history and the involvement of locations in New York City. This time it is some of the religious buidlings found in the City. I would give this one 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 20, 2011 at 11:03AM

Cover ArtEnter three witches : a story of Macbeth
by Cooney, Caroline B.
Interesting book for 8-12 year old readers. Basically retells the story of MacBeth from the view point of a young woman in the castle. Many of the chapters center around the lines of the play.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:50AM

Cover ArtBossypants
by Fey, Tina, 1970-
Love Tina Fey--highly recommend this book. Though not quite a memoir--it is very funny and reveals alot about what is like for a woman to work in an environment that is usually reserved for men.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:44AM

Cover ArtHeads you lose
by Lutz, Lisa.
Loved this book. I have enjoyed the Spellman series so thought I might enjoy this. The main "plot" is a series of murders that take place in a small California town--and 2 pot growing siblings (brother and sister)who get tangled up in the investigation of the murders. Though the main plot was interesting the best part was the interaction between the two authors. This book was a collaberation between Lisa Lutz and former boyfriend David Hayward. The comments that they make on each others chapters are hilarious--as well as their reaction to the comments in their writing of their chapters. Highly recommended.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:41AM

Cover ArtAbraham Lincoln : vampire hunter
by Grahame-Smith, Seth.
A little bit of history (sort of) and a lot of gory sci-fi. It was a fun read--great summer read.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:35AM

Cover ArtThe strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894.
I hadn't read this book in many years but decided to read it again this year. I read it in one afternoon--it was fantastic. Highly recommend it for those who love both sci-fi and mystery.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:33AM

Cover ArtThe last days of Ptolemy Grey
by Mosley, Walter
As some one currently dealing with family members in their own journey with dementia I found this book a wonderful gift.   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:28AM

Cover ArtA lonely death
by Todd, Charles.
I have not read any of the Inspector Rutledge books in the past but after reading this book I plan to start the series from the beginning. I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. I loved the character of Rutledge--as well as the description of his torment of his experience in the war. I think that part of the book, especially in light of our current wars, made it most relevant to me. The book finds the Inspector investigating a series of killings in a small Sussex village. In nine days, three men have been garrotted. As interesting as the "mystery" was, the part I found most interesting was Rutledge dealing with the impact of the war on two friends. How war can push men over the edge in so many ways was fascinating. The only thing that I would have changed is the subplot of the Stonehege murder. I don't think that it added anything to the story and was somewhat convoluted. All in all I would highly recommend this book   posted Jul 7, 2011 at 10:25AM


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