Thursday, April 30, 2009

Equal Rites

by Terry Pratchett

I have so thoroughly enjoyed my dips into the fantasy of Discworld. This one was especially fun. When the father and an old wizard call to the midwife to bring the new baby to them, they were expecting the eighth son of an eighth son, as was predicted by the wizard. The wizard took a hold of the infant's arm and pulled the wee hand from under the blanket. He then held the staff close by so the baby could grasp it and thus become a wizard. The baby took hold of the staff with firmness. The midwife, a respected witch, kept trying to tell them but they wouldn't listen that the baby was not a boy but a girl.

Mort still remains my favorite of the Disworld books, but Equal Rites is a very close second. Brilliantly written - I could have put a bookdart on just about every page there were so many clever phrases. Sometimes I will mark a phrase just because it catches my fancy and I want to reread it. Othere times the phrase will hold meaning or wisdom. I'm listing quite a few quotes so when I come back to this review I can reread them. Please, don't feel like you need to read any or all of them.
"You're a little young for this but as you grow older you'll find that most people don't set foot outside their own heads much."

"He told me there's no women allowed in the University!"
"He's wrong."
"No, I could tell he was telling the truth. You know, Granny, you can tell how--"
"Foolish child. All you could tell was that he thought he was telling the truth."

She knew what she meant. The idea was right up there in the front of her mind. But she didn't know how to say it in words, even to herself. It was a horrible feeling to find things in your head and not know how they fitted.

"They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half as bad as a lot of ignorance."

Animal minds are simple, and therefore sharp. Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits they've missed. Your normal animal, in fact, never tries to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The average human, oth the other hand, thinks about all sorts of things around the clock, on all sorts of levels, with interruptions from dozens of biological calendars and timepieces. There's thoughts about to be said, and private thoughts, and real thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts, and a whole gamut of subconscious thoughts. To a telepath the human head is a din. It is a railway terminus with all the Tannoys talking at once. It is a complete FM waveband - and some of those stations aren't reputable, they're outlawed pirates on forbinned seas who play late-night records with limbic lyrics.

In the Ramtops witches were accorded a status similar to that which other cultures gave to nuns, or tax collectors, or cesspit cleaners. That is to say, they were respected, sometimes admired, generally applauded for doing a job which logically had to be done, but people never felt quite comfortable in the same room with them.

She gazed out across the rooftops of Ankh-Morportk and reasoned like this: witing was only the words that people said, squeezed between layers of papper until they were fossilized. And the words people said were just shadows of real things. But some things were too big to be really trapped in words, and even the words were too powerful to be completely tamed by writing.

I like to refer to the Discworld reading guide. This reference shows the starter novels for each group, i.e Wizards, Witches, Death, etc. I have printed out the Microsoft Excel version and added numbers to the book titles that show the order the books were published (check the bottom of the page). When it comes to reading the novels, Pratchett wrote them all as stand-alones except for The Coulour of Magic which is followed by The Light Fantastic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Divine Justice

by David Baldacci

The Oliver Stone series is a favorite of mine. I was lucky that Divine Justice had already been released because when I finished Stone Cold in March, I'd been holding my breath to see what would happen to Stone. Of course, I knew he would live - how else could there be a whole other novel - but I did wonder how he would survive and what would happen to him next.

This book wasn't nearly as compelling but I still enjoyed it. I have grown to like all the Camel Club members, even Annabelle. And it's always nice to touch bases with them again.

I highly recommend this series. If you want to learn more about the Camel Club check out Baldacci website.

The book order for this series: Click Here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Among the Mad

by Jacqueline Winspear

I became a fan of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries with the first book. This series is gently and intelligently written with close attention to the time period just after WWI.

Winspear has developed a likable character with the young Maisie. She's strong, independent and yet, ladylike and down-to-earth.

In my opinion, Among the Mad, is the best one yet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Angry Smile

by Nicholas James Long, Jody E. Long, and Signe Whitson

I'm not an avid reader of self-help books at this stage of my life. Which is to say I devoured many of them in earlier years. There have been several helpful ones and several that I felt were bunk. Among the helpful were Psychocybernetics, The Magic of Believing and, with that, my mind goes blank. One that follows that same vein, but that I felt was bunk is The Secret.

So with that introduction let me present a helpful self-help book, The Angry Smile. I have heard the term 'passive-aggressive' tossed around, but I really didn't know that much about it. That's why I picked up The Angry Smile.

As I started reading the descriptions, I thought, "Good grief! We're all passive aggressive." A dismal thought. Soon the dismals exploded when I was equipped with a definition of the disorder: "The essential feature is a pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance." The key word is pervasive. All of us do some of the behaviors some of the time, but it isn't habitual. "These individuals habitually resent, oppose, and resist demands to function at a level expected by others. The resistance is expressed by procrastination, forgetfulness, stubbornness, and intentional inefficiency, especially in response to tasks assigned by authority figures."

The book discusses the major causes of passive-aggressive behavior, such as a reaction to early, prolonged and excessive parental abuse. There are 3 other pathways (causes).

One chapter talks about why people use passive-aggressive behaviors. Another reviews the five levels of passive-aggressive behavior.

Part 2 of the book helps identify the 5 different behaviors at home, at school, in marriage and in the workplace.

Part 3 provides helps for changing this detrimental behavior. I learned how to respond to my daughter who always responds pleasantly that she will do the task I ask her to, but then she never ever gets to it. (In her case, I don't think the behavior is passive-aggressive because I don't think she is angry at me as an authoritative figure, rather I think she's lazy. In the past when she says I'll do it in a minute or when I finish this other activity, I haven't followed through.

There is much to be gleaned from this book.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Artemis Fowl Book 1

by Eoin Colfer

I hope I know what I'm doing starting a series that already has seven or books. I am starting them, though, because I've heard they were fun fantasies.

The main character is Artemis Fowl, a child-genius who is pompous and full of himself. Artemis decides he wants the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He's still young enough to believe in it and he's smart enough to figure out how to succeed. He tricks an old fairy and gets his hands on the fairy instruction manual. From that he learns enough to capture a fairy named Holly.

A group consisting of fellow fairies, trolls and dwarfs set out to rescue Holly. It's really a fun romp with quite a bit of humor.

I will definitely be reading Book 2.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns

by Elizabeth Leiknes

From the author's website: "Eleven-year-old Lucy Burns writes and mails a letter to “Whom it may concern” to save her sister’s life. Overnight, the sister miraculously recovers, and “He” comes to collect. Nineteen years later, Lucy has had all she can take of doing the Devil’s dirty work--luring evil people to their demise. She’s granted wishes every birthday--beauty and agelessness, among them--but never the one’s she really wants: a normal life, friends, love, and a family of her own.

Lucy wants out of her seemingly binding contract, and, oddly enough, her long-time musical idol, Teddy Nightingale, helps her figure out how she can do just that. But it’s not easy, and a lot of things hang in the balance. If she does what she needs to get out of her deal with the Devil, she’ll be able to have a real loving relationship, live her life in the open instead of in hiding, and see her sister and family--but there are bad consequences tied to that decision as well. Lucy must decide what is evil and what is good, what is right and what is wrong, and if, in the end, there’s ever any way to truly know."

I wanted to like this quirky book with a devilish, but likeable main character, but in the end, I really didn't care for it.

There was a big stumbling block for me early on in the book - I just couldn't buy into the main concept. A young, albeit mischievous, girl writes a pleading letter in behalf of her dying sister and who answers it but the devil, Himself. I realize the book is suppose to be light and humorous and not a treatise on good vs. evil, but still . . . I needed the protagonist to 'know' what she was doing. I guess that did come a little later in the book when she tried to turn the Devil down and her sister was hit by a truck and at death's door again. By then she really didn't have a choice. I guess what bothers me the most is that the devil could take possession of the soul of someone so young, innocent and unknowing.

The other problem I had was the crudeness. I know the title should have warned me, but the write-up made it sound like a sweet, naive girl was going to wrangle her way out of a contract with the devil. (Okay, so I'm the naive one!)

I do need to say that I think most people would really enjoy this book. I think the problem is with me more than with the book. I did like that even though Lucy enjoyed her yearly birthday gifts from the Devil of a drop-dead gorgeous body, agelessness, energy, etc. that over time she realized that these did not bring happiness. It was her desire for love, lasting friendships, family and a 'normal' life that caused her to look for a loop-hole in her contract with the Devil. And it cheers the heart to know that she won. A lesson for the rest of us that we can beat the Devil, too.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

DNF - State of Fear

by Michael Crichton

I've read several books by this author and enjoyed them, but I just wasn't getting into this one. I'll probably try it again some other time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Sentences

by Laura Lippman

Life Sentences is the perfect title of this book about an author who has wrote her life into sentences in two memoirs, one about her growing up in Baltimore as a white girl with four black friends and her father's remarriage to a black woman, the other about her two failed marriages.

Her memoirs became bestsellers, but her 3rd book - a novel, does not stand up well. Cassandra decides to return to writing nonfiction when she is reminded of a quiet childhood acquaintance who was charged with murdering her infant son. The friend never said a word during the trial, she served a 7-yr sentence in prison and when she was released she still wouldn't speak of what really happened. Cassandra sets out to find Caliope in hopes of learning the truth. In the process she interviews and reconnects to her childhood friends that were included in first memoir.

"A memory can be fragile, fleeting and not all together reliable, but it also can have the power to sustain a life commitment. Several people can experience the same event at the exact time, yet each have a different interpretation."

A wonderful told story that I enjoyed immensely. I've even order two more of Lippman's books because I was so impressed with her writing. I wish I would have marked more passages - there were several that I would like to reread again and again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Belong to Me

by Marisa De Los Santos

I first heard about this lovely book from Lesley's Book Nook. She gave it lots of positive raves and, since she's never recommended a book I didn't like I quickly added it to my TBR list. All these months later (or maybe it's been over a year) I finally took the chance to enjoy it myself.

I loved the different views from the various main characters. It proved a very effective means of getting to know each character and empathizing with them. Each had concerns and flaws. I was surprised that one of my least favorite characters during the first part of the book could elicit feelings of compassion from me later on.

This is a masterfully written story of relationships. There are secrets that are uncovered, crisis to overcome, friendships made and challenged, marriages weakened and/or strengthened, ties between children and parents tested, and a major illness. Written out like this it sounds like it might be a hard book to read, maybe too sad; but it's really not. It's an immensely interesting and enjoyable story.

My favorite characters were Dev, a 'genius' 13-yr-old and Cornelia, a young married wife of a handsome, charming, down-to-earth doctor. These two tell the story from their points of view, along with the 'Stetford-type wife', Piper.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

You've Been Warned

by James Patterson

I'm not going to spend time coming up with my own review for this psychological thriller. I enjoyed it, but it's nothing to get too excited about. Here's the write up from James Patterson's web site.

Kristin Burns has lived her life by the philosophy "Don't think, just shoot" – pictures, that is. Struggling to make ends meet, she works full-time as the nanny for the fabulously wealthy Turnbull family, looking after their two wonderful children and waiting for her glamorous life as a New York photographer to begin. When her photographs are considered by an elite Manhattan art gallery, it seems she might finally get the chance that will start her career.

But Kristin has a major distraction: forbidden love. The man of her dreams is almost hers for keeps. Breathless with an inexhaustible passion and the excitement of being within reach of her goals, Kristen ignores all signs of catastrophe brewing.

Fear exists for a reason. And Kristin can only dismiss the warnings for so long. Searching desperately for the truth through the lens of her camera, she can only hope that it's not too late.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Whittaker Family Reunion

by Shirley A. Roe

The Whittaker family has known their share of heartache that the reader finds out about in increments at the same time as we start to suspect more trouble on the horizon. Two of the brothers are making their way home to St. Louis, one from England, the other from the Mississippi. The year is 1881. The 3rd brother lives outside St. Louis on a farm with his wife and children. The mother and father live in St. Louis.

Much about the opening chapters imbue the read with pastoral, languid feelings, of days gone by. The parents worry about their youngest child, Anna, but I think they are just a bit over anxious. The thread of a trouble past begins to take root.

As the book progresses I begin to worry about that wayward daughter, especially when a mysterious man shows up in the area. The man makes himself known only to the children, who are comfortable with him. As the family gathers for the mother's 40th birthday and the reunion, bad things begin to occur.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its undertones and suspicions. All the dangling threads were brought together in a satisfying, chilling conclusion. There will be a sequel this book, Back to Whitterkarville, that will released lated this year. The Whittaker Family Reunion is actually book 2 in the series. The first book, which I did not read is Of Dreams and Nightmares. I feel like starting with the 2nd didn't hinder me at all in understanding and enjoying the story. At first I had a challenge keeping all the character straight, but I made up a simple pedigree chart and then I was fine.