Thursday, August 27, 2009

Week 34 - Book 35

Week 34 - Book 35

Today is the start of Week 34 in the quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks and should have you starting book # 35. We are two-thirds of the way through the year and towards our goal of reading 52 books for the year.

Interested in another challenge that will take you beyond, to other worlds, places and beyond the end of this year. Mish of Stage and Canvas is hosting a Sci-Fi Reading Challenge from August 28, 2009 through August 8, 2010

"Through the years I’ve found myself reading more and more science-fiction, with and without intention. When I read Margaret Atwood’s futuristic Handmaid’s Tale and the alternate history created by Steven Barnes in Lion’s Blood I wasn’t thinking of sci-fi or speculative fiction, but just recommended reading. By the way, they’re both fantastic. It seems like what turns a lot of people off from the genre is the stigma that it’s all aliens, robots, outer space, scientific terminology, and Star Trek, but it’s much much more than that. Sci-fi is a literature of ideas and infinite possibilities that may include the past or future, a completely different timeline, utopias or dystopias, science and technology like time travel, or an invasion of body snatchers. I love sci-fi because of its study, commentary, and exploration of humanity and technology. From cyberpunks to super-humans and beyond, it spans tastes and the sky’s the limit- good thing it’s a very vast sky."

The rules are:

1. Read 3.14 or 8 books (or audio books) of the science-fiction genre. (Mish provides suggestions)

2. You may join at any time.

3. Each time you read a book, please link to your reviews. If you don’t do reviews, no biggie.

4. Making a list of chosen books is optional and it can change at any time. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

Head on over to Mish's, check out her list of suggestions and sign up if you are interested.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Water Witch


Deborah LeBlanc

Back Cover: "Dunny knew from an early age what it meant to be an outsider. Her special abilities earned her many names, like freak and water witch. So she vowed to keep her powers a secret. But now her talents may be the only hope of two missing children. A young boy and girl have vanished, feared lost in the mysterious bayous of Louisiana. But they didn't just disappear; they were taken. And amid the ghosts and spirits of the swamp, there is a danger worse than any other, one with very special plans for the children--and for anyone who dares to interfere."

I have to say "Water Witch" captured me from the moment I started reading it. It is told from the first person perspective of Dunny. However, the rest of the character's thoughts are in 3rd person point of view including the demented kidnapper, the children and Poochie who is her brother in law's grandmother.

Olm's father has died and Olm tries to recreate an ancient pawnee indian ceremony to get the attention of the spirits and obtain power and knowledge.

"As legend had it, in order for a son to acquire the knowledge of all the leaders in his ancestral line, he had to offer his father's body to the elements at the time of his passing. When only the bleached bones remained, the father's spirit would then be released, and all a son had to do was call upon what was rightfully his. To Olm, acquiring that knowledge mean ultimate power." (pg 2)

Taking the old stories his grandfather had told him which included annual sacrifices, Olm adapted the ritual to suit his needs. Remember the old adage "close enough for government work." Well, during the ritual Olm manages to release all kinds of malevolent spirits and the only way he could think to get rid of them is more rituals and sacrifices. He starts out with small animals and it escalates to people.

Dunny's sister Angelle calls her in a panic, asking her to come to Louisiana. She wants her to use her "special powers" to help find the children. Once Dunny gets to her sister's house, she discovers weird stuff is going on. Angelle lives in a backwater town on the bayou with a cast of real characters. Everyone has their secrets.

Trying to keep her "special ability" (no, I'm not going to say what it is) a secret, Dunny and Angelle, along with the help of Angelle's supposedly senile grandmother in law Poochie, who has more upstairs than anyone realizes, set out to try and find the children. Poochie provides a humorous element to the story which interspersed with the gruesome thoughts and actions of Olm, the terror of the two kids, the tension of the two sisters, and the supernatural elements makes for an excellent story.

Excerpt: Poochie pursed her lips again, then added for good measure, 'and if you got a little extra time, could you let me know what de hell's goin on wit' de shoes on de purgatory side of my prayer tree? Dem shoes up and disappeared just like dem chil'ren, and it's makin' me cuckoo tryin' to figure out how come. So, if you would give me de answer to dat, too, I'd appreciate it. Now I'm done. Thank you."

Satisfied that she'd covered all the bases, Poochie opened her eyes, prepared to sit for a while and simply listen in case God decided to quicken His response time. That's when she saw them...

Three long, dark gray shapes, floating only inches from the gorund, coming from the bayoe toward the house. Although the forms weren't clearly defined, she could make out heads, arms, and what looked like very skiiny stick-shaped legs. By the time she got to her feet, they'd already reached the house and were making their way inside by seeping through the bricks.

Poochie grabbed her walker and made a sign of the cross. God wasn't farting around this time. He was obviously giving her some of the answers she'd asked for. The only problem was from the looks of those things headed into the house, she wished she'd kept her damn mouth shut for once." (pg 99-100)

A huge thank you to Anna of FSB Associates for providing me with a copy of Water Witch. I hadn't read anything by Deborah LeBlanc before and have to say she's earned a new fan. It was interesting to discover Leblanc is, among other things, a licensed death scene investigator, part of a paranormal investigative team, and President of the Horror Writer's Association. She also created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge in 2004 to encourage people to read and founded Literacy Inc., to fight illiteracy in America. Interesting woman.

Pages: 290
Publisher: Leisure Books
Released: September 2008
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Other Thoughts about the book: (beware contain spoilers about her "special ability." So, if you don't want to know....

Clothilde of
In a LeBlanc novel, you can always expect lots of action, suspense, evil that expands the boundaries of horror and plenty of paranormal elements. “Water Witch” is no different and will keep readers up at night until the eerie conclusion. But like LeBlanc’s four previous novels, “Water Witch” contains various storytelling elements and isn’t easily labeled."

Cheryls Book Nook:
"Water Witch is the first book I have read by this author. Readers may not realize it but location or background setting does help play a part in telling a story. In the case of this book, the location of Louisiana really set the mood for this story."

Clayton of The Deepening:
"Water Witch is a realistic look into madness and what makes us individuals. It’s also a solid and entertaining horror story. The horror was understated and presented in a believable way. I could see all of the scenes clearly in my mind’s eye. I also identified with the characters, even the tortured soul who was the villain."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 33 - Book 34

Week 33 - Book 34

Today is the start of Week 33 in the quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks and should have you starting book # 34. We are two-thirds of the way through the year and towards our goal of reading 52 books for the year.


These days there are awards for every different genre and category of book. The award for excellence in science fiction and fantasy is the Hugo Award. The 2009 Winner for the best novel is a book I'm sure most of us have heard of or read by now.

Neil Gaiman's - The Graveyard Book

His competition was Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother," Neal Stephenson's "Anathem," Charles Stross's "Saturn's Children," and John Scalzi's "Zoe's Tale." The only one I've read is Gaiman's so I have some catching up to do.

The very first Hugo awards were awarded in 1953 and the toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. The best novel award went to Alfred Bester for "The Demolished Man."

Ever heard of it. I haven't and it does sound really interesting so added it to my wishlist. Surprisingly, even though I grew up on a diet of science fiction and fantasy, there were many on the list I had never heard of. Including this one from the year I was born, written in 1959 by James Blish

Here's what Amazon has to say about it:

"The citizens of the planet Lithia are some of the most ethical sentient beings Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez has ever encountered. True, they have no literature, no fine arts, and don't understand the concept of recreation, but neither do they understand the concepts of greed, envy, lust, or any of the sins and vices that plague humankind. Their world seems darned near perfect. And that is just what disturbs the good Father.

First published in 1959, James Blish's Hugo Award-winning A Case of Conscience is science fiction at its very best: a fast-paced, intelligent story that offers plenty of action while at the same time explores complex questions of values and ethics. In this case, Blish has taken on the age-old battle of good vs. evil. Lithia poses a theological question that lies at the heart of this book: is God necessary for a moral society? The Lithians are nothing if not moral. Not only do they lack the seven deadly sins, they also lack original sin. And without any sort of religious framework, they have created the Christian ideal world, one that humans would be eager to study and emulate. But is it too perfect? Is it in fact, as Father Ruiz-Sanchez suspects, the work of The Adversary? And what role does Egtverchi, the young Lithian raised on Earth, play? Is he an innocent victim of circumstance, or will he bring about the Dies Irae, the day of the wrath of God, upon the earth? The fate of two worlds hinges on the answers to these questions, and will lead to an ancient earth heresy that shakes the Jesuit priest's beliefs to their very core.

A Case of Conscience is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and it packs a lot into a scant 242 pages. Most readers will probably finish the book in one sitting, unable to stop until the spectacular denouement. But the questions posed by this little-known gem will stay with you for days afterward. --P.M. Atterberry "
Intriguing! I think I feel a challenge coming on.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weeks 30, 31, 32

Sorry about posting at the same time. I hadn't realized I hadn't posted for so long.


"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
(from inside flap)
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years--from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding--that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives--the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness--are inextricable from the history playing out around them. Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, and unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love--a stunning accomplishment.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful book, I couldn't put it down. I was so intrigued by all the lives in this story. Mariam, who is born out of wedlock, and a shame to her family. Mariam is wed to a man 3 times older than her, more or less against her will. But Mariam makes the best of her life with Rasheed. Laila, her whole family is killed during a rocket attack. She is taken in my Mariam and Rasheed. But Rasheed wants her for his second wife. Laila agrees knowing she is already pregnant with Tariq's child. To keep her child from being born a bastard she agrees to the marriage to Rasheed. Aziza is born and is raised at Rasheed's child, but he knows she isn't his child and threatends Laila with abandoning her to the streets. Laila becomes pregnant again and a son is born, Zalmai. Which makes Rasheed very happy. As the years go along Mariam and Laila become friends out of necessity. To protect each other from Rasheed's increasing brutality.
There is so much conflict in this book, things that we as women take for granted. Freedom to dress, work, go to school, raise a family. These things that are an everyday thing for us can sometimes lead to a beating or worse for the women here. Very heart-wrenching book!!


"E is for Evidence" by Sue Grafton
(from the inside flap)
It was the silly season and a Monday at that, and Kinsey Millhone was bogged down in a preliminary report on a fire claim. Something was nagging at her, but she couldn't pin it. The last thing she needed in the morning mail was a letter from her bank recording an erroneous $5,000 deposit in her account. Kinsey had never believed in Santa Claus and she wasn't about to change her mind now. Resigning herself to a morning of frustration, she phoned the bank and, assaulted by canned carols, waited on hold for an officer to clear up the snafu.
It was with something less than Christmas cheer that Kinsey faced off only minutes later with California Fidelity's Mac Voorhies. Voorhies was smart, humorless, stingy with praise, and totally fair. He was frowning now. "I got a phone call this morning," he said, his frown deepening. "Somebody says you're on the take." Suddenly the $5,000 deposit clicked into place. It wasn't a mistake. It was a setup.

MY THOUGHTS: Kinsey on the take, I don't believe it! Kinsey takes herself on as a client to find out what the $5,000 is about. It has something to do with the Warren/Woods fire she is investigating, but she can't quite put her finger on. As she starts digging, an old case comes into light, of a supposed suicide of an employee of Warren/Woods. Where all the forensic's gathered came up missing. Then the person who wrote the policy for Warren/Woods comes up missing a well. Where did he go and what does he know about all this? An explosion that kills a woman and puts Kinsey in the hospital leaves lots more questions. And to top it all off Kinsey's ex-husband shows up asking for forgiveness. So are all these occurrences connected or just coincidences? You will have to read the book! Sorry can't say anything else without giving it away.


"The Narrows" by Michael Connelly
(from the inside flap)

FBI agent Rachel Walling gets the call she's dreaded for years: the Poet has returned. Years earlier she tracked the serial killer who wove verses into his crimes. Rachel has never forgotten the Poet--and he has not forgotten her. Former LAPD detective Harry Bosch gets a call, too: from the wife of a friend who has recently died. The death appeared natural, but ties to the Poet make Harry dig deep. So begins the most frightening and masterful novel Michale Connelly has ever written. Bosch finds himself teamed with Walling, at odds with the FBI and in the path of a ruthless murderer. What follows is a taut mystery that swerves from the vistas of the Nevada desert to the Las Vegas strip to the corners of Los Angeles. Through it all, Bosch works at his new found life as a father, balancing his deep love and sense of mission with his profound awareness of evil.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the 3rd or 4th book I have read from Michael Connelly. He is an awesome writer. He doesn't leave out clues, they are all there and if you are following the story, you will most likely figure them out. But he always leaves a few that you won't get until the very end. And the end of the books are always wrapped up so there are no questions, which I really like! So if you want to read a good murder mystery with some good evidence to lead you this is the book for you. If you have never read a book by Michael Connelly, you should!! You don't know what your missing!!

The Divorce Party by Laura Dave

The Divorce Party


Laura Dave

Back cover: "Gwyn Huntington knows how to throw a party. And Hunt Hall, her postcard perfect Victorian home in Montauk, is no stranger to celebrations. But on the morning of her thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, she's putting finishing touches on the last party she'll host there: A party to celebrate her divorce.

Just over one hundred miles away, Gwyn's future daughter in law, Maggie Mackenzie, sits on the floor of her Brooklyn apartment attempting to organize her new life. She's in love with a wonderful man, and today she is meeting his family for the first time.

The Divorce Party takes us into the lives of these two women at opposite ends of marriage. For all the differences between them -- distance, priviledge, age-- Gwyn and Maggie have one thing in common. Each has found herself at the crossroads, facing the same question: How hard should you work to stay with the person you love?"

When Anna of FSB Associates asked if I was interesting in reviewing "The Divorce Party," I have to say I was intrigued. A party to celebrate divorce - couldn't imagine it. The story is told from Maggie and Gwyn's perspective and alternates every chapter.

Gwyn and Thomas are getting a divorce because he has told everyone he wants to become a Buddhist and has been taking a lot of trips to retreats. He no longer wants to be married because it doesn't fit in with his new lifestyle. Their adult children are trying to be understanding but having difficulties when it seems their mother is angry and hurt. They think something else is going on. Why is Gwyn going to so much trouble to make Thomas's favorite red velvet cake and have a bottle of 1945 chateau Mouton-Rothschild flown in by private jet from Europe. There are many questions that Gwyn refuses to answer until the right moment.

Maggie and Nate are struggling to open a restaurant and Nate has refused all monetary assistance from his rich parents. She is nervous about meeting his family. And when she does, she discovers several things about Nate after arriving in Montauk that make her doubt him, question her love for him.

As each woman struggles with the truth, they discover the strength within themselves to believe in themselves and do what's right for them. The story is well told and the characters engaging. Thank you, Anna for sending me the book.

Pages: 256
Publisher: Viking
Released: May 2008

Other thoughts:

Luanne of A Bookworm's World:
"When I picked up Laura Dave's second novel, I thought it would be a chick lit read based on the cover. I hesitate to label it as there was so much more to it. it was by turns funny, sad, poignant and hopeful. A fairy tale - no, but a definite page turner. You'll find yourself re reading some of the passages on relationships and thinking about your own."

Tina of BookShipper
"This is definitely a book written from a woman's point of view and it is extremely touching (and I HATE to cry when I am reading)."

Jeanette Stingley of BellaOnline:
"Dave is a very gifted story teller. She keeps you hanging at the end of every chapter. You do have to read chapter in succession because they build upon each other. Dave makes you feel as if you are right there at the side of each character watching the story unfold. It is the way these 2 women analyze their lives(past, present and future) that makes the reader get sucked in."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper

Blood Dreams


Kay Hooper

Back Cover: "Dani Justice knows all about monsters. They haunt her dreams--and her life. But she never expected to find herself on the trail of a real flesh and blood predator so cunning, he's eluded the best law enforcement could send against him; so deadly, he doesn't hesitate to kill even a senator's daughter. Or a cop. Dani doesn't want to hunt this killer. But she doesn't have a choice. She alone commands a weapon powerful enough to stop him. And she knows something even Bishop of the FBI's Special Crimes Unit doesn't know. Dani knows how the hunt ends. It ends in fire. And Blood. And death. What she doesn't know is who will survive."

I picked this book up as part of the Take A Chance Challenge hosted by Jenners. #1 of the challenge is random book selection in which you choose a section in the library or in my bookstore, following predetermined directions such as 3rd shelf over, 4 shelf down, 10 book over and see what book you find. My random book find was "Blood Dreams" and a very good find indeed. I've read a couple books by Kay Hooper in the past and liked them, so couldn't go wrong.

Blood Dreams is the first in a new Bishops Special Crimes Unit trilogy with the 2nd book Blood Sins already out in hard bound and the paperback to be released at the end of December.

Dani can predict the future through her dreams and lately she's been dreaming the same scene every night - a warehouse on fire and they are searching for the killer and someone he has trapped. As the story progress, the dream alters slightly and Dani isn't quite sure what it means. She and her sister Paris share a twin connection and Dani's abilities are stronger when they are together. They are part of the psychic team that makes up Haven, a special crimes unit that operates without interference from the government or the police. The story follows the perspective of several characters including the killer's who kidnaps, tortures and kills women. Other members of Haven are introduced as well and their stories will be told in the remaining books of the trilogy.

Pages: 352
Publisher: Bamtam
Released: November 2008
Genre: Suspense

Other thoughts:

Robert of Fantasy Book Critic:
Regarding the story, I have to admit that “Blood Dreams” surprised me a bit. You see, based on what little I had read about the novel, I thought it was going to be a standard suspense thriller—serial killer on the loose, a manhunt, some police procedural thrown into the mix and so on. What I didn’t expect was the Special Crimes Unit to be a team of psychics! I know that psychic abilities in police work is nothing new to literature, film or television, but I just wasn’t expecting it with this particular book, so I was caught off guard, but in a good way :)"

Jane of Dear Author:
"The best part of the story is the suspense. The serial killer was super creepy (and for readers who have a low tolerance for violence, this book is not for them). Dani was so convinced something terrible was going to happen and that sense of foreboding was well conveyed to the reader. Dani’s dream vision is told more than once and I never found it to be repetitive which is something I feared. The ending was a surprise and didn’t cheat Dani’s visions."

BoneMan's Daughter by Ted Dekker

Boneman's Daughter


Ted Dekker

Front Flap: "Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?"

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who's abducted six young women. He's the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die. Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan's estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own. But the FBI see it differently. New evidence points to the suspicios that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand."

As everyone knows, Ted Dekker is one of my favorite writers. His thrillers are all well writen, unique and some can be very chilling and creepy.
His books generally evoke a personal response, make you think. "BoneMan's Daughter" had me cringing and gritting my teeth throughout. It is rather violent, gruesome, and dark. I didn't like the decisions made by the characters and I really, really, really hated the ending. Yes, the story is well written and I would recommend Ted Dekker to those who like thrillers. Just be warned - this one is graphic and creepy.

Pages: 416
Publisher: Center Street
Released: April 14, 2009
Genre: Christian Thriller

Other Thoughts:

Amy of My Friend Amy:
I sort of enjoyed BoneMan's Daughters as well, but it's a pretty gruesome read. I can't say that it's my favorite of his books. I do enjoy suspense books centered around serial killers, but I got really queasy reading this one!"

Luanne of A Bookworms World:
"On one level this is simply a story of a father fighting for his daughter's love and life. And on that level, it's a heck of a good tale, keeping me turning pages late into the night. It's a well written, suspenseful thriller, with a great twist at the end.

But in a bigger sense, BoneMan is a battle between good and evil. It is also a story of needing to be wanted, needing the love of a parent. For even though the BoneMan is disturbing, despicable and horrendous in his actions, the impetus for his actions is the desire to be loved."

Jennifer of The Literate Housewife Review:
"This novel was more than just a good read. It is a story the reader experiences through almost every sense. I saw the words upon the page, felt the Boneman’s cool and smooth, smelled the ever present scent of Noxema, and heard the popping sound of breaking bones. Having almost my entire body engaged in a novel added to the suspense and the thrill."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Presidents - one at a time

I figured I'd chime in after the post today about the U.S. President's Reading Project.
I decided to start this year so in June I began, logically, with a biography of George Washington. I read Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by Richard Norton Smith.

It only covered his years as president and I realized I wanted to know more about his life before and during the Revolution. It was certainly interesting reading about the presidency. Mainly, I learned that most of our Founding Fathers had differences with each other.

Jefferson and Hamilton were on very different wavelengths and Washington did a lot of intervention there. No one seemed to respect Adams much (or at least the author of the biography didn't have much to say about him). Washington did seem to consider setting precedent and trying to ride a line between setting a formal tone for the office without looking like he was trying to be royalty.

Now I am reading through John Adams by David McCullough. I am about half way through - the Revolution has been won and he is the representative to Great Britain. Obviously in this book Adams is a much more dynamic character with a lot of good traits and accomplishments. ;-) He even got along well with Jefferson when they served in Congress and in Paris together. In this book, it is Franklin who gets short shrift. To that end, I picked up a biography of Franklin to read when I finish John Adams. I'm also interested in reading about Samuel Adams based on some things I've read. John Jay also seems to be an interesting figure. The list goes on....

I am enjoying revisiting early American history. I read with a bit more discernment and enjoy following the links. I know others who are doing the President's project who are not going in chronological order. I can see benefits to that too, but so far I'm enjoying watching the progression through history.

I picked up a copy of Truman by David McCullough, we'll see how long it takes me to get there.

Week 32 - Book 33

Week 32 - Book 33

Today is the start of Week 32 in the quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks and should have you starting book # 33. We are more than halfway through the year and halfway towards our goal of reading 52 books for the year.

I came across this wonderful project today started by Lezlie of Books and Border Collies. She created this website - U.S. Presidents Reading Project which has a list of all the presidents and links to suggested lists of books to read more about them. There is also a link on the site to the white house with mini biographies on each president.

The rules are easy:

1. Read at least one non-fiction book about each of the U.S. Presidents
2. Take as much time as you need
3. Have fun learning about U.S. history and its leaders

I had planned on doing a U.S. Presidents Unit Study with James for this year and this comes at an opportune time. It sound much more fun and interesting, we'll draw it out a bit, rather than condense the information and we'll turn into a family reading project, concentrating on one president at a time without a time limit. I am so stoked and looking forward to reading and learning more about the presidents.

Check out the U.S. Presidents Reading Project for yourself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

The Year of Living Biblically


A.J. Jacobs

Back cover: "Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of Faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the bible literaly as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten string harp; to stone adulterers. The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irrevernet, personal and universal, and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes. The Year of Living Biblically will charm readers both secular and religious. It is part CliffsNotes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thous shalt not be able to put it down."

"The Year of Living Biblically" is one of the books I chose to read for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge and also the last book, so this completes the challenge. A.J. Jacobs is a writer for Esquire magazine and Jewish. He is also agnostic. When he decided to take on this project, he read as many bibles as possible, talked to as many religious advisers and followed the old testament for the first 8 months, then the new testament for the remaining 4 months. Following the Hebrew bible, he wrote down the 100's of rules and tried to follow them literally.

He journeyed to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum founded by Answers in Genesis - believers in a young earth and that dinosaurs roamed the earth at the time of Noah. He actually called up and invited a Jehovah's witness to come to his home to discuss their beliefs. He stuffed small pebbles in his pocket and went to central park to try and find an adulter who would allow him to throw pebbles at him and cross off his list that he stoned an adulter. He found that when he tried to follow the law of not touching a woman during that time of month, he found the woman in his office more than willing to share the dates with him.

"A small but surprisingly vocal minority of Julie's friends have volunteered detailed information about their biological cycles. The photo editor at Esquire took the considerate step of emailing me her schedule. Did I perhaps want an excel chart as well, she wondered?" pg 49

Jacob's story of his year trying to literally follow the rules is humorous, enlightening, and entertaining. It is not offensive in any way shape or form. Highly recommended.

Pages: 416
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Released: September 2008

Other thoughts:

Devourer of Books:
“The Year of Living Biblically” is fun and spiritual, with irreverant reverance and reverant irreverance. I think this could be enjoyed by all, religious or not."

Melissa of Book Nut:
It's an ambitious project, as Jacobs soon finds out; he's attempting to do in one year what most people don't accomplish in a lifetime. But he's game, almost naively so, to give it a try. And the result is a funny, fascinating, enlightening book."

Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness:
"Jacobs does a good job of balancing his incredulousness at some of the rules and, rather than just dismissing them outright, trying to find an explanation for why the passage was written or interpreted as we now know it. In that sense, I think Jacobs does a good job of taking his quest seriously and writing in a way that points out the inconsistencies in literal interpretation of the Bible without mocking those who practice religion in that way. It’s a hard line to walk, and I admire how well Jacobs manages to balance."

The Rapture by Liz Jensen

The Rapture


Liz Jensen

Back cover: With gothic intensity, Liz Jensen conjures the unnerving relationship between Gabrielle, a physically and emotionally damaged therapist, and her patient, sixteen year old Bethany, who is incarcerated in a British psychiatric hospital for the brutal murder of her mother. Delving deep into the psyche of her fascinating, manipulative patient, Gabrielle is confronted by alarming coincidences between the girl's paranoid disaster fantasies and actual incidents of geological and meteorological upheaval--coincidences her professionalism tells her to ignore but that her heart cannot. As Bethany's warnings continue to prove accurate beyond fluke and she begins to offer scientifically precise hints of a final, world-altering cataclysm, Gabrielle is confronted with a series of devastating choices, only to discover that in a world on the brink of apocalypse, belief is as precious-- and as dangerous--as life itself."

I received "The Rapture" by Liz Jensen courtesy of Shelf Awareness and didn't know anything about the author or the story. When I first started reading the book, wasn't entirely sure I was going to finish it. However, I pushed on and found the storyline to be addictive more than anything. I wanted to know what was going to happened. Not only to Gabrielle, but Bethany in particular. If anyone would ever get through to this child or believe her. The story is written in the first person perspective of the therapist, Gabrielle. It is a dark tale, filled with ecological disasters and threats of apocalyptic origins, and tales about the beginning of the end - the rapture.

Bethany has been subjected to every type of therapy possibly imaged, but nothing seems to work except Electro shock therapy. She's out of control most of the time, a very foul mouthed, young woman who had been raised by fundamentalist christian minister. Her parents had abused her most of her life, convinced her bad behavior was caused by the devil. She ended up brutally killing her mother and being incarcerated for life in the mental home. Due to the shock therapy, Bethany believes it has opened her mind and she is aware of what's happening ecologically out in the world. She draws or paints pictures and predicts disasters just before they occur to the exact date and almost exact time. Gabrielle and other scientists risk their reputations to try and help her when she predicts the world will end in an apocalyptic fashion.

"The Rapture" is unusual and you're never quite sure what direction the story is going to take. The writing is very descriptive, the mood dark and the subject matter difficult. It is not a light read.

Excerpt: Chapter one - page one, paragraph one.

"That summer, the summer all the rules began to change, June seemed to last for a thousand years. The temperature was merciless: ninety-eight, ninety-nine, then a hundred in the shade. It was heat to die in to nuts or to spawn in. Olk folk collapsed, dogs were cooked alive in cars, lovers couldn't keep their hands off each other. The sky pressed down like a furnace lid, shrinking the subsoil, cracking concrete, killing shrubs from the roots up. In the parched suburbs, ice cream trucks plinked their baby tunes into streets that sweated tar. Down at the harbor, the sea reflected the sun in tiny, barbaric mirrors. Asphysiated, you longed for rain. It didn't come."
Available as of today. Thank you to Shelf Awareness and Doubleday for providing me with a copy of the book.

Pages: 304
Publisher: Doubleday
Released: August 11, 2009
Genre: thriller

Other thoughts:

Caitlin of Chaotic Compendiums:
The heartbeat of this book is the narration of Gabrielle Fox who is trying to do her job, to live her life, & to sort out what being paraplegic is going to mean for how she lives. She is intelligent & ironic & self-pitying & often very funny. Thrust into a wheelchair, her dealings with Bethany & her predictions combine with her daily struggles to create a narrative that is both moving & entertaining."

Corinne of The Book Nest:
"The idea that Bethany may be more than just a violent loony kept me reading. Gabrielle's unique struggles struck a cord, although her attitude, for me, kept her from being a particularly sympathetic main character. And the truth of the matter is, the language in this book, mainly Bethany's, really turned me off. "Strong" language doesn't even do it justice - both the actual words used and the sexual content. So while the plot kept me reading until the end, I cannot recommend it without that warning."

Irvine Walsh of The Guardian:
It takes a considerable degree of writing skill to draw personalities that we care about, and yet keep the storyline in satisfactory transit. Liz Jensen does an excellent job here, while mapping out a generally convincing and scary environmental disaster in the not-too-distant future. I tend to be a bit cavalier on such issues, but was moved to think about them more earnestly after this book."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

Benny and Shrimp


Katarina Mazetti

Front Flap: "It started in a cemetary, where they begrudgingly share a bench. "Shrimp," the childless young widow and librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order, meets Benny, the gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village's Old Bachelor. Both driven by an enormous longing and loudly ticking biological clocks, they can't escape the powerful attraction between them.

But how will she learn to accept that he falls asleep at the opera and has a house full of his mother's cross stitch? And how could he ever feel at home in her minimalist apartment, bare as the dentist's waiting room?"

"Benny and Shrimp" is a quirky love story between two middle age people who are as set in their ways as anyone could possibly be. The story is written in first person from each of the characters perspective. Desiree aka Shrimp notices Benny one day sitting on the bench in front of her late husband Orjan's grave. While Orjan's gravesite is completely barren with no plants to be seen anywhere, the gravesite next to her is covered with plants of all sorts.

"Next to Orjan's stone there's a really tasteless gravestone, an absolute monstrosity. White marble with swirly gold lettering, angels, roses, birds, words on garlands of ribbon, even a salutary little skull and scythe. The grave itself is as covered with plants as a garden center. On the headstone are a man's name and a woman's name with similiar dates of birth, so it must be a child honoring his father and mother in that overlavish way.

A few weeks ago I saw the bereaved by the monstrosity for the first time. He was a man of about my age, in a loud, quilted jack and a padded cap with earflaps. Its peak went up at the front, American style and had a logo saying Forest Owners Alliance. He was eagerly raking and digging his little plot." pg 4

Benny notices her but doesn't like her at first. Her appearance annoys him

"I like a woman's appearance to say: look at me, see what I've got to offer! It makes me feel sort of flattered. She should have shiny lipstick and little shoes with straps and pointed toes, and her breasts boosted up under your nose. It doesn't matter if her lipstick's a bit smudged, or her dress pulls tight over her spare tire, or there's hardly room for all her huge artificial pearls--not everybody can have good taste; it's making the effort that counts. I always fall a little bit in love when I see a woman who's not all that young any more but who's invested half a day's work in getting noticed, especially is she's got long, false nails, hair permed to extinction, and teetering high heels. It makes me want to hold her and cuddle her and pay her compliments." pg 6

So, you are probably asking yourself - how on earth did these two manage to get together. She smiled at him one day and he smiled back and it changed everything. Finally a love story for those of us who aren't perfect. He isn't an alpha male and she isn't a femme fatale with legs up to there. They are two ordinary people, as different as night and day who try to make a go of it. Their story is interesting and humorous and well worth reading. A big thank you to Caitlin of FSB Associates for providing me with a copy of the book. It is greatly appreciated.

Pages: 224
Publisher: Penguin
Released: July 28, 2009
Genre: Fiction

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Mistborn Trilogy

I interrupted my TBR pile to spend a week with a really interesting trilogy. I have always like fantasy, which so often comes in series. So when Orson Scott Card recommended these books by Brandon Sanderson I jumped over to the library site to check them out.

The first book is The Final Empire and it shows a ragtag band of misfits and thieves plotting to remove the immortal ruler of the Final Empire. Lots of humor, good character development, an interesting bit of "magic", and some secrets. Just as it looks like all is lost, they actually pull it off. But was that tyrant actually saving the world from something worse?

Well of Ascension, the second book, starts a year later and there have been some changes. For one thing, there are armies gathering to take back the city, plus there are some creatures rampaging about. The main characters are having some communication issues, including typical young love concerns. But they persevere and once again do the impossible. And again, it might have made things much worse.

The final book is The Hero of Ages. We've collected quite a few characters that we're interested in and the ones who are still alive get plenty of good development in this volume. For example, Spook looks like he's going the wrong direction, and we wonder how it will turn out for him and the others in the city he's trying to save. The creatures that the immortal ruler had made seem to hold some clue to saving the world. There isn't much to save at this point, but everyone puts up a really good fight.

The ending is very interesting. The one man searching so hard for a god to believe in finds him.

Really interesting, although an investment of time at 1500 pages total. I always enjoy seeing how someone else creates a universe and the rules they come up with.

Week 31 - Book 32

Today is the start of Week 31 in the quest to read 52 books in 52 weeks and should have you starting book # 32. We are more than halfway through the year and halfway towards our goal of reading 52 books for the year.

September 14 to 18, 2009

What is it all about?

Book Blogger Appreciation was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.

The first Book Blogger Appreciation was observed in the fall of 2008 and occurs every September. The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities. Book Bloggers are encouraged to register their participation for inclusion in a database of book bloggers.

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!

WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.

WHEN September 14-18, 2009

WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)

WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

Spread the word!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Can See You by Karen Rose

I Can See You


Karen Rose

Front Flap: "Eve Wilson's face was once scarred by a vicious assault. Terrified and ashamed, she escaped to the online realm, where she could choose the face she allowed people to see. Years later, her outer scars faded and inner scars buried, Eve has fought her way back to the real world and is determined to help others do the same. Now a graduate student moonlighting as a bartender, Eve researches the addictive powers of online communities. When her test subjects begin turning up dead as a result of apparent suicides, she doesn't know where to turn. Homicide detective Noah Webster is one of the few people who believe the victims are connected murders. Eve becomes Noah's online guide and realizes that the handsome detective may have secret scars as painful as her own. As Eve and Noah chase a killer who is always one step ahead of them, together they try to overcome the tragedies of their pasts and learn to trust again, but they soon discover that danger is much closer than they think."

Excellent, excellent, excellent. Karen Rose is one of my favorite authors and I have to say that once again she has hit the ball out of the ballpark with this one. Once I started reading "I Can See You" I couldn't put it down. The story is very well done and just when I thought I had figured out who the killer was, the story sent me in another direction. Someone is constantly watching Eve and following Noah and his partner. Then there are watchers watching the watchers and you really don't know who to trust. Convoluted enough for you. The killer's viewpoint is chilling, creepy and he uses his victims worst fears against them. He's a truly diabolical character. Eve and Noah are truly dynamic characters, very complex and 3 dimensional and will have you routing for them throughout the story, hoping they will trust not only themselves, but each other enough to get together.

"I Can See You" is truly a romantic suspense thriller which I highly recommend. Thank you to Miriam from Hachette books for providing me with a review copy. And guess what! The book is available as of TODAY! So run out and get your copy or order it from Amazon. Just don't start reading it before you go to bed.

Pages: 496
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: August 5, 2009
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Other thoughts:

Gaby of Starting Fresh:
"Karen Rose builds the tension steadily so that as you get anxious, you can't bear to put the book down. I found that the computer and internet angle helped the book. The action/thriller side helped the romance while the romance helped build the tension. This is my first Karen Rose novel, and I'm off to look for her earlier books!"

Antonia of You Gotta Read Reviews
What do you say about a book that has everything you want in a romantic suspense? First, it keeps you entertained from beginning to end. The pace of the book keeps you turning the pages and trying to figure out who the killer is to the last chapter."

Ave of The Review Broads:
"This novel is complex, with many fascinating twists and turns, and I couldn’t put it down."