Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And now a note about some books I won't be reviewing

I am not going to review every book I read. Or rather, some books, for one reason or another, are going to get the one or two sentence review. (Just a reminder of what my stars mean.)

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis: It's Narnia. What is there to say? I enjoyed it. Four stars.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: It's Catcher in the Rye. I very seriously doubt that I could come up with anything to say about it that hasn't been said a hundred times before. Four stars.

Portrait in Death by J.D. Robb: Formulaic, futuristic police fiction. But a fun read now and again. This story was one of the better ones. Four stars.

Book Review: The Monster of Florence

I have had this book on my shelf and in my TBR pile for a couple of years. I was drawn to it because the author, Douglas Preston, is part of my favorite writing duo, teaming up with Lincoln Child to write a series of excellent books, mostly featuring FBI agent Pendergast, as well as several other thrillers.

 I'm glad that I finally pulled it off the shelf.

In 2000, Preston moved with his family to Italy to write. He quickly became interested in the story of a serial killer  known as The Monster of Florence. The first, more historical part of the book about the killings and the initial investigations into the murders was fascinating. The crimes were laid out. Suspects were introduced. Investigations were undertaken.

The second part, focusing more on the workings--or lack thereof--of the Italian justice system was infuriating and rather tedious. I'm sure that, as it was going on and Preston was in fear of being imprisoned in Italy, it was far from tedious, but that part of the book got long.

It was an interesting read. Not bad. Just not as good as his fiction. Three stars.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adding a late challenge

I noticed a hole in my challenges today. I love historical fiction, but I know that if I don't have a challenge for reading it, I may not read much this year. And I need to read it. So I went searching and found a challenge that I didn't run across back in December.

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge .

UPDATE: Upping the level to Renaissance Reader, which is 10 books.
I think that I am going for the Victorian Reader level, which is five books, but I may up that. We shall see.

I will list the books here as I read them.

1. Embers by Sandor Marai (1/28/2014)
2 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2/7/2014)
3. Belle Cora by Phillip Marguiles (2/11/2014)
4. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson (marginal) (3/ 9/2014)
5. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin (3/29/2014)
6. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran (4/7/2014)
7. My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner (5/19/2014)
8. Luvvy and the Girls by Natalie Savage Carlson (6/12/2014)
9. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (10/27/2014)
10. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (11/13/2014)

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I decided that I had better do some reviews before I forget what I read.

Allegiant was the third book in a teen dystopian trilogy. The first book was really good. It made me look forward to the second. The second was okay; I still planned to read the third, but not with as much excitement.

The third redeemed the second.

I am having trouble writing a review for this without just parroting what my friend Scott said about it on Goodreads, because he was really right on.  In fact, using the fact that I recently had dental surgery--and houseguests for five straight days--and I still do not totally have my wits about me, I am going to quote Scott:
Written in alternating perspective between Tris and Tobias, the characters deal not only with the groups of people and their city and all the dynamics therein (and out!), but also with profound personal and social matters.

Philosophical and existential issues are wrestled with in the thoughts of the characters. Things like religion sparked by viewing creation, the impact of things like nature and nurture and personal choices in the development of people, racism in the metaphor of "genetic purity," the plans and schemes of governments and those who would govern, evil, freedom, and many other things. --Scott Schreiber
 I really liked the way the characters came up against the fact that humans are born with the capacity for evil. Original sin, while not named as such, was grappled with in the realization that characters just aren't all good or all bad. This book was far more nuanced than most teen fiction is.

And, of course, I always love a nice cheery dystopia. Four stars.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Review: Murder on Monday by Ann Purser

You know how it is when you finish a book one day and you don't remember all that much about it the next? Yeah. That.

This book is a mystery of the cozy variety, set in an English village, with an amateur sleuth. (This one is a cleaning lady for several houses in the village.) There were a number of things that kept this book from being an intro to a new repeat-read author for me. The story was very slow. It seemed like the book could easily have been about 2/3 the length that it was. There were lots of not-all-that-likeable characters. And unfortunately, the protagonist was chief among them. (She had a bad attitude and was, arguably, not a great parent.)

I sensed the solution about halfway through the book, but felt like the windup was almost too fast, especially given the slowness of the rest of the book.

The book wasn't awful. The writing was fine. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Three stars.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

S. is one of those books that it takes a while to recover from reading.

"A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown."

There are several stories in S. There is the story being told in The Ship of Theseus, the book in question. There is the story of the author and his contemporaries. There is the story of the two people writing notes back and forth. And there are hints of other stories,

This book gets five stars for the experience, for the total lost-in-a-book feeling that it invoked. There are a number of ways that this book can be read, and I may try one of the others when I read it again, but, now that I have finished, I am glad that I read it the way that I did. I took it as it came: Page upon page, notes of all colors, ephemera, and all. I may read better stories this year, but I don't know that I will get as much sheer enjoyment out of reading a book for a long time.

***Note: If you are someone who needs loose ends to be neatly tied up and questions to be answered, you may not want to read this book.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

What a lovely book!
Subtitled "A Culinary Reflection," this little book, written by an Episcopal priest, takes us through four meals made from one leg of lamb. In the process he addresses many kinds of food and many aspects of cooking and eating.

I love the confluence of food and eating and theology. I checked the book out from the library, but have decided that I need to have my own copy. There are so many delicious quotes that I will want to revisit, as well as a nice collection of recipes and instructions.
Five Stars.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

I hate it when I series that I've enjoyed goes bad. And this one has gone really bad. The writing was iffy. The story was convoluted. Goldy has lost her charm. I didn't even find the menus or recipes interesting. Mostly I just didn't care.
Two stars. Barely.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Recap, Hello 2014!

I am really excited about my challenges and the books I plan to read for 2014, but before I finish the first of those, I figure that I need to wrap up 2013.

I took part in 12 reading challenges this year.

1.  A Little Help From My Friends (completed 12/15)
2.  What's in a Name (completed 11/27)
3. Vintage Mystery (completed 9/19)
4. Nerdy Non-fiction (completed 8/13)
5. TBR Pile Challenge (FAILED UTTERLY)
6. Genre Variety Challenge (completed 4/16)
7. Historical Fiction Challenge (completed 12/23)
8.  Read-a-Latte (completed 11/3)
9.  Back to the Classics (completed 11/27)
10. Tea and Books (completed 6/8)
11. Library Challenge (completed 9/14)
12. Reading Challenge Addicts (Failed, because of 5)

So, I managed to complete 10 of 12 challenges, while reading 114 books. I read quite a number of books that I would not have read if it hadn't been for these challenges.  It is interesting to me that the one challenge I failed is the one that required me to read books that I have purchased but not read. It seems to be one of the features of my particular ADD that I am extremely moody about books. What looks so exciting one day can look completely uninteresting the next. This is part of the reason that I have been making much better use of the library.

Overall, even though I didn't finish two of my challenges--one of which was simply a challenge to finish the others--I consider this a successful year in reading.