Monday, August 13, 2012

A Case of Curiosities

A Case of Curiosities by Allen Kurzweil
Historical Fiction
Claude Page is growing up in the French Pyrenees in Pre-revolutionary France. His father was a watchmaker but had died while in Turkey. His mother is a herbalist. Claude is apprenticed to a local disenfranchised cleric.

He first learns to enamel, making some bawdy pieces the abbe can sell to cover his debts. Then Claude learns about watchmaking. Claude is a whiz at anything mechanical.

Eventually Claude leaves the abbe to travel to Paris. He loves mechanical things and wishes to make a talking head.

I found this book intriguing regarding the inventions and the period but thought it lacked any great plot. It was a very slow start and maybe this is what kept me from fully liking the book.

First Line: "The case of curiosities came into my possession at a Paris auction in the spring of 1983."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lost by Gregory Maguire

Lost by Gregory Maguire

Winnie Rudge is a writer with massive writers block. She flies out to visit her cousin John in London, England with the hopes that her trip will spark something in her to help her start writing again. When she arrives, John is no where to be found but there are contractors in his flat removing walls to build access to the roof. Winnie tries to find John but also has to deal with the contractors who are convinced the place is haunted. Hammering happens and nails trying to be removed retract back in to the wall. Perhaps this is the ghost of Winnie's great grandfather, whom Scrooge may or may not have been modeled after.

As I'm sure you can tell from the description, there's a lot going on in this book. Too much. Winnie and her writer's block, there's also obviously something about her past that she's hiding, where is John, is there a ghost in his apartment, and what's the story with her great grandfather. Maguire simply can't tackle all of these items and the story just falls apart because of it. Things that you think the book will focus on (the ghosts and the great grandfather) it doesn't, and then the book takes an odd turn and you wonder what you missed.

To add to all this, the characters are glossed over and it was hard to understand their attitudes. John was very rude to Winnie and it Winnie had an attitude problem as well. Maguire didn't give enough away at the beginning of the book to explain this which frustrated me and by the time I got to the end I didn't care enough.

If I hadn't heard such good things about Wicked, I don't think I'd ever pick up another Maguire book. I will give Wicked a try though and make my decision after that.

First Line: "Somebody else in the vehicle said the attorney-type into his cell phone."


Dead in the Family

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
Urban fantasy
Sookie Stackhouse, a small town barmaid, has survived the fairy wars but just.  She had been tortured and seen a good friend, Bill Compton, almost killed.  Sookie now is afraid and needs to heal physically and emotionally.

Sookie tries very hard to find out how to cure Bill of silver poisoning.  All it really takes is one little e-mail.  WHAT???

Also the fairy wars may be over but there are still some fairies left on earth and that includes Dermot, a look-alike to Sookie's brother Jason.  Dermot is supposed to be crazed and not at all on Sookie's side.

Eric's maker, an ancient Roman makes his appearance with his boy toy and life is not easy  Which is an understatement as Eric is also concerned with the vamp who represents the King of Louisiana, Victor who it seems also wants Sookie gone.

This book left me flat.  Sookie has lost her edge and frankly it is a little boring.  I felt some of the story lines were a little too much.  Although Eric was yummy he also seems to me to be too ego-centric for Sookie.   I personally think Sam should be her man.

First Line: "I feel bad that I'm leaving you like this, Amelia said."

Dead and Gone

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
Urban Fantasy
The Weres have finally come out.  Behind Merlotte's Bar where Sookie Stackhouse works a young were-panther is found crucified.  The victim is Jason's, Sookie's brother, pregnant ex.  Sookie wants to find how who is responsible and prove it wasn't Jason.

The fairies are having a civil war because of Sookie. Niall, her Fae grandfather may just get Sookie killed.  The reader finds out a bit more about the fae world and Sookie and her relationship to the fairies.

Also former friend, Arlene turned Vamp and Supe hater has a hatred for Sookie and her supe boyfriends.  Arlene wouldn't do something to Sookie, or would she?

This book seemed to be a bit 'darker' than the previous in the series.  There was also a lot more violence.  It would be nice to see Sookie find some peace but then that would not be as interesting to read about.

First Line: "Caucasian vampires should never wear white, the Television announcer intoned."

Monday, August 06, 2012

From Dead to Worse

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
Urban Fantasy
Sookie Stackhouse, a small town barmaid, comes back from the Vampire Convention in Rhodes.  The convention and the bombing of the hotel and hurricane Katrina have left the Louisiana vamps hurting and missing some of their members (figuratively and literally).

This is a book where all sorts of loose ends are cleaned up.  There are a bunch of supes wars and, of course, Sookie is right smack dab in the middle of them.  A vamp war for control of Louisiana and a were war for Leadership.  This eliminates quite a few of the minor characters, some of whom I will miss.

On the relationship front, Quinn has not been seen since the bombing and hasn't even been in touch.  He can't even speed dial on his cell?  Gimme a break.  BUT Sookie isn't exactly MissGoodyTwoShoes.  The way she treats Quinn is terrible.  Guess this might clear the decks for Eric.

I am in a love-hate relationship with Sookie.  I love how brave and straight forward she is but sometimes hate how she treats people.

First Line: "If this was Lord of the Rings and I had a smart British voice like Cate Blanchett, I could tell you the backgrounds of the events of that fall in a really suspenseful way."

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Why Dogs Chase Cars

Why Dogs Chase Cars by George Singleton
Short Stories
  This is a set of short stories as told by Mendal Dawes. Dawes is growing up in the tiny Southern town of Forty-Five, South Carolina. His father is just plum crazy. He buries things like signs saying they will become valuable. He disguises his yard as a toxic waste dump to discourage development.

Mendal wants out of town but first he gets to do some unpaid jobs like helping out at the nursing home and helping the only black girl in his class to read.

I am not a fan of short stories and these were just plain weird. Maybe this Northerner just doesn't get it.

First Line: "I had to assume that my mother took photographs of me standing near the alligator pit."

All Together Dead

All Together Dead  by Charlaine Harris
Urban Fantasy
Sookie Stackhouse, a small town barmaid, is going to accompany Vampire Queen of Louisiana Sophie-Anne Leclerq to the vampire convention near Chicago.  Leclerq is accused of killing her husband, the Vampire King of Arkansas and Sookie will testify on her behalf.  Also Sookie's telepathic abilities will be put to use by Leclerq in other business dealings.

Sookie meets up with another telepathic, Barry the Bellhop once again and this time they use their powers together to save some of the vamps from the bombing of the convention hotel.

In this installment, Sookie is given no choice but to suck up some more of Eric's blood creating an even tighter bond between the two.  Quinn her current weretiger boyfriend is of course upset but he seems to be mostly working in this book.

I find these books entertaining and addictive.


I do enjoy these reads but I just do not understand Sookie at times.  She and Barry help to find survivors in the ruins by using their telepathy.  Then they decide to run away in order that the government will not use them.  I can sort of understand this but also not.  In these types of situations why not?  First, they could control these as they just won't give help in other situations.  Sookie is always worried about money, wouldn't this help her big time?  Also as a humanitarian effort how could one turn one's back?

First Line: "The Shreveport Vampire Bar would be opening late tonight."

Friday, August 03, 2012

Purity in Death by J.D. Robb

Purity in Death by J.D. Robb

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called by a young cop she's been mentoring, Trueheart, after he responds off-duty to a call for help and ends up killing a man. When Dallas arrives, she has two dead men, a severely injured woman and a shell shocked colleague. The computer of the attacker reads "Absolutely Purity Achieved". Dallas brings this back to the office for the electronics department to check out while trying to help Trueheart clear through internal investigations.

While looking at the computer, one of the electronics guys starts exhibiting the same symptoms as the attacker, stuns a few colleagues and takes his boss hostage. That's when Dallas realize she's dealing with an electronic virus that has the potential to kill.

Soon, an organization comes out taking responsibility for spreading the virus to people who have slipped through the judicial cracks that put children in danger. Dallas and her team must catch them before they kill anyone else.

This is one of the better books in the In Death series. The idea of a virus that can kill people over the computer is quite interesting. There are also a lot of debates about ethics and morality. Is it ok to kill someone who has done horrible things to others? Eve's stubbornness rather annoyed me in this book. I don't think I'd be able to hand working for her and her attitude of always being right. I'm not sure how her husband handles her sometimes. However it was still a great book.

First Line: "The heat was murder."


Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Alexandria Link

The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry
Cotton Malone, retired U.S. operative, becomes forcibly involved in another intrigue after his son is kidnapped and his rare book store in Copenhagen is burned. The Order of the Golden Fleece, a network of politically powerful European business men and women, seeks the lost library of Alexandria. They want to destabilize the Middle East and create more economic power for the Order.

Cotton helped to protect and hide a man who was one of the few men on earth with the knowledge of the lost library's whereabouts. The Guardians of the library invite only the elite intelligentsia to come and visit.

Cotton must now help the 'bad guys' find the Library. However, the Israelis and the Saudis do not want the information the library contains to be made public knowledge so they send agents after Cotton and Pam,Cotton's ex.

This book again contains a number of Biblical hypotheses, which are interesting to read about. I wanted to throttle Pam. Here is a lawyer that is so dumb.... Suffice it to say she is the main reason Cotton got into some of the worse of the situations. I loved the intrigue, the back-stabbing and the concept of the Library of Alexandria still existing.

First Line: "George Haddad's patience ended as he glared at the man bound to the chair."

The Stupidest Angel

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
  Back in Pine Cove, CA again with its wealth of crazy characters, Moore writes about a Christmas wish. A child sees a store Santa whacked over the head with a shovel and wishes to have Santa brought back to life. An angel, Raziel heeds the wish and the entire cemetery full of dead are now zombies.

While Raziel is in town he is run over by the police officer Theo Crowe, who is back to smoking dope. Only Raziel doesn't die and Theo is confused as to why he wasn't hurt. Meanwhile his wife, Molly is off her meds in order to save for Theo's Christmas gift. Inserted into this list of zany characters is also Roberto, the sunshade wearing fruit bat.

This is a crazy funny book. Moore definitely writes stories from a completely different viewpoint. I especially loved the dead in the cemetery talking amongst themselves.

First Line: "Christmas crept into Pine Cover like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe."

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
IIt is post WWII in London and British author Juliet Ashton is searching for her next writing project. She has lost her house and possessions in the bombings. Juliet receives a letter from a man inquiring about Charles Lamb's books. He had found her name and address in a book he had bought about Charles Lamb. The letter is from the Isle of Guernsey.

What follows is an interesting collection of letters, telegrams and notes. Guernsey was occupied by the Germans during the war. A group of friends on the Isle formed a book club in order to be able to meet together. Though this correspondence Juliet is able to forge new friendships and soon finds herself going to Guernsey to write about the occupation.

I enjoyed the book very much. The characters are vibrant and almost quaint and the setting is one I will have to put on my wishlist to visit. Beware though, those who do not enjoy a sappy love story will not fall in love with the book like myself.

First Line: "Susan Scott is a wonder. Rating: