Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Historical Fiction

Lady Jane Grey's life is a tragic one. She is the great grand-daughter of King Henry VII and at the time of King Henry VIII's death is fifth in line to become the Queen of England. Jane, however, has no desire for the royal life. She is highly educated for a girl of the time and devoted to her Protestant faith. Her mother (Frances Brandon) and father pay little attention to her except to criticize her or determine how they can use Jane to launch themselves higher in social standing.

When Katherine Parr is made the final wife of King Henry VIII, Jane's mother becomes a lady-in-waiting, Frances presents Jane to Katherine in hopes of winning favour. Katherine becomes interested in advancing Jane's education and her status to Edward once King Henry VIII dies and Edward becomes King. All of Jane's elders are working towards her becoming Queen regardless of the fact that she has no interest in it.

I've watched and read a fair amount about the Tudor era recently and this book picked up nicely by explaining what happened between King Edward VI and Queen Mary. Even though you know what is going to happen you can't help but get wrapped up in the story and hope that the ending will somehow change!

At times I got a bit caught up in the narrating characters changing but eventually got used to it and this became quite the page turner. By the end of the book you can't help but be enraged at Jane's parents and the other councilors that made her the innocent traitor this book is so aptly named.

First Line: "It is over."



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Bet

Best Bet by Laura Pedersen
Women's Fiction

Hallie Palmer is all set to graduate college in graphic arts. She has a job in the city and she plans to move there with her boyfriend, Craig. As she is packing up to leave, she receives a call to report to the dean's office. Evidently her old college advisor steered her wrong and she is a few credits short for a degree. The college will pay any expenses but she has to earn her degree.

An opportunity to travel the world and earn those pesky credits is offered. She will be helping a professor by dropping wallets with money in them to see what the citizens of various countries do. It fulfills her sociology requirement and on the trip is Josh, a major heart throb.

Hallie decides to go and Craig suggests they start to see other people. Hallie is on the road with an eclectic band of cohorts. At the end of the trip, Hallie finally sees that what is at home is the best and she is in love with Craig, but is it too late??

This is the fourth book about Hallie but is a stand-alone. Pedersen writes a story interwoven with very quirky characters. There are a number of very unusual situations which are amusing. Evidently a lot of these events have truly happened which makes for interesting suppositions about what really took place. This is a book about family, friends and fitting in. It also explores the 'jitters' one gets when making those big decisions about relationships. Pedersen writes in a light breezy style which is easy to read and enjoyable.

First Line: "The good news is that I've had only one roommate this past semester."

Buy this Book


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Corn Flakes with John Lennon by Robert Hilburn

Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock'n'Roll Life by Robert Hilburn

Robert Hilburn is a famous music critic that worked at the Los Angeles Times for many years, writing reviews of albums and concerts and discussing rock and similarly-inspired music. This book takes a look at Hilburn's career and the many stars he has interviewed and befriended. It shows who Hilburn was inspired by and the artists he inspired.

Hilburn shares stories from all rock legends that have become household names within the past 40 years. His focuses are on Elvis, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and U2 but he also touches on other influences in the industry like Elton John, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Ice Cube, Willie Nelson, and Jack White. Subjects range from drugs and addition to song writing to sneaking chocolate.

Not having grown up in the LA area, I hadn't heard of Hilburn before I read this book. I also grew up after most of these artists had already become legends. You don't need to be a rock history buff to enjoy this book though. I'm just a general fan of rock and really enjoyed the little facts and sound bytes from the most celebrated men and women of the genre.

Hilburn also keeps his work relevant by expanding his musical repertoire to include rap music, which he seems to appreciate even though it feels like he's surprised that he does. Reading Hilburn's thoughts on the similarities between rock and late 80s/early 90s rap was quite interesting.

Despite the fact that Hilburn, by all rights, should be bragging about the friends he has made and the influence he has had, Hilburn never comes across as a music snob. Rather, in his most poignant point, he hopes that everyone can find music that inspires them in the same way rock and country has inspired him.

First Line: "John Lennon raced into Yoko Ono's home office in the mammoth old Dakota building with a copy of Donna Summer's new single, 'The Wanderer'. "

Buy this book



Friday, December 04, 2009

Gone for Good

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

Will Klein's older brother Ken was suspected of killing his girlfriend and then disappearing 12 years ago. His family always believed that he was murdered also.

When Will's mother on her deathbed reveals that Ken is still alive, Will starts to delve into what really happened. He starts investigating Ken and all of Ken's high school gang at the time. Then Will's girlfriend disappears and the FBI come calling, telling him that her fingerprints are at the scene of a double murder in Santa Fe. That is when things keep on getting more 'darker' and more macabre.

This is one of the books with the most twists I have ever read. As suggested by the previous reviewer the writing is choppy but so consistent with my own curt style that it just seemed to fit this mystery.

First Line: "Three days before her death, my mother told me - these weren't her last words, but they were pretty close - that my brother was still alive."



Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Christmas Secret

The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere
Women's Fiction

Christine Eisley is a single mother of two small children. She works as a waitress trying to make ends meet as her ex provides little child support. Her ex is not above making her life difficult with his demands to see his children when he wants to use them against her.

When an elderly woman suffers a heart attack at the end of Christine's driveway, Christine helps her and makes sure she is okay before going to work late once again. The inconsistency of baby sitters and this latest incidence causes her boss to fire her and it is just before Christmas. Later that day her landlord decides Christine will never make good on what is owed and tells her to vacate by the end of January. Christine's world just keeps getting worse and worse.

Jason has been down-sized as an accountant and with the holidays right around the corner firms are just not interviewing. He goes back to his small hometown to work with his grandfather who owns Wilson's department store. Jason feels the job is far beneath him and his grandfather sets out to try to teach him the department store is all about the people who work there. The elderly lady Christine (Christy) saved happens to be Jason's grandfather's assistant. One of the tasks is for Jason to find the Christy who helped but she has vanished.

Christine gets a job at Betty's Bakery and be-friends all the local customers. They all help each other and they are the ones that end up giving Christine the greatest gift of all.

I enjoyed reading this very up-lifting book. This is a book of friendship, loyalty, love and hope with a generous dash of miracle thrown in.

First Line: "I didn't know my father; it's how my mother wanted it or maybe what he wanted."

The Christmas Secret at Chapters


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This charming story is told from the perception of Enzo, a dog who has a human-like soul, loves watching TV to learn things, is obsessed with opposable thumbs, and most of all loves his family. When he is taken home by Denny as a pup, he quickly becomes Denny's best friend in shares in Denny's joy of race car driving. Enzo accepts Eve when Denny becomes married but doesn't love her until Eve gives birth to Zoe and asks Enzo to protect her always. Once Enzo understands his role in the family, he truly accepts and loves Eve.

Enzo notices a decaying smell coming from Eve's head but he can't communicate to her that there's a problem. This is a great quirk of the book. Enzo shows his love or displeasure in the only ways dogs can. Yet the reader learns of Enzo's thoughts and understands Enzo as a person.

Despite the fact that this book is narrated by a dog, it isn't difficult to get in to. You immediately fall in love with Enzo and understand his bond with Denny. Car racing plays a big factor in the book, including being used as a teaser for what's to come. It got to the point where I was so involved with what was going to happen in the next chapter that I almost skimmed through the racing analogies so I could see what happens. To think if dogs really did think like this!

I rarely get emotional over a book, but I shed a tear at the end of this one. It is such a sweet story and a must read for dog lovers.

First Line: "Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature."



Monday, November 23, 2009

Out at Night

Out at Night by Susan Arnout Smith

Grace Descanso has gone on vacation with her daughter and her daughter's father who has just recently found out about his daughter. Grace is feeling very conflicted over the relationship with him and over the budding relationship between him and her daughter.

In the middle of all this, a professor is found murdered in a field of genetically modified (GM) soybeans. He has been shot with a crossbow bolt and on his cellphone is the start of a text message to Grace. Grace is a former doctor now working with the crime lab. The FBI and specifically her uncle feels no remorse in pulling her from her vacation to help them. Grace's uncle is the FBI agent in charge of the murder investigation and in charge of keeping control of the extremists at the conference.

Is Professor Bartholomew's murder simply that or is it the start of some terrorist plot?? The world is converging for a agricultural conference and the extremists are out in full force.

This book is a sequel to The Timer Game and I wish I had read that first as there were times I just got lost in Grace's personal life. I don't know whether it was because I hadn't read the first book or because there was too much going on in Grace's life. I felt I didn't 'bond' with Grace.

I found the mystery part of this story gripping and extremely interesting. The information about GM crops was both frightening and fascinating.

First Line: "She'll call the police if I don't come home."



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

Will Klein's family was left in shambles when his older brother Ken was suspected of murdering Will's high school love, and then disappearing. The family suspects that Ken was actually murdered as well and had nothing to do with Julie's murder. It's been 12 years since Will saw Ken, when his mother becomes sick and on her death bed tells Will that Ken is still alive.

Will starts trying to find where his brother is when his girlfriend suddenly leaves and the FBI visits asking about her. Her fingerprints were found at a double murder in New Mexico. With this help of his friend Squares, Will digs deep into his brother's past to determine what has happened and why he left all those years ago.

This book was full of suspense and made for quite a page turner. It involves mafia, murder, FBI, and cover ups. There were so twists at the end that I sort of saw coming. I do find Coben's writing pretty choppy though. He writes in very short sentences which makes the writing come off almost amateurish despite the fact that the plot lines are intricate and complicated.

First Line: "Three days before her death, my mother told me - these weren't her last words, but they were pretty close - that my brother was still alive."



Sunday, November 15, 2009

City of Bones

City of Bones by Michael Connelly

This is #8 in the Harry Bosch series and they just keep on getting better and better.

Harry is investigating a bone that a dog has found in the Hollywood Hills. It ends up being human from a cold case 20 years previously. The case becomes intense for Harry as his childhood keeps on being dredged up.

Harry in his typical persistent dogged manner starts digging through police records, hospital records and missing people reports. He just won't let it go. Bosch finds a family is disarray because of their missing child. Following a trail of meager proportions he continues, sometimes alone by choice, until all hell breaks loose and the police have a live case to solve.

Harry also gets involved with a rookie cop which although short has disastrous results.

Harry's character is the cop we all love to see. One who follows a case and solves it on crumbs of clues. Can't wait to read the next in the series.

First Line: "The old lady had changed her mind about dying but by then it was too late."



Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This book is a saga about the Sawtelles and their exceptional dogs. Dogs not of a particular breed but bred for their qualities of obedience, loyalty and intelligence. Edgar was born to Trudy and Gar,as a mute. He learned sign language to communicate but he has grown up with the dogs and little outside contact. His father gives him his own litter to raise and train.

When Gar brings his brother, Claude into his home after his release from prison, the family is changed. Gar and Claude start to argue a lot and Edgar doesn't understand why. When Gar dies, Edgar knows he must learn everything that his grandfather and father knew about the dogs. But Claude is insinuating himself more and more into Edgar's and Trudy's lives. When Edgar tries to prove that Claude killed his father everything backfires and Edgar runs away.

This is a coming-of-age, a mystery, an animal and family story. The scenes from the wilderness that the author portrays are so very real. By far my favourite part of the book is the narration by Almondine, Edgar's faithful companion dog. These chapters are poignant and beautifully written.

First Line: "After dark the rain began to fall again, but he had already made up his mind to go and anyway it had been raining for weeks."