Dec 31, 2009
Author: James Patterson with Maxine Paetro
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company (2008)
Genre: Fiction, Suspense
Book Source: Review copy provided by Hachette Book Group.
In 7th Heaven, which is set in California, there are two mysteries being investigated by the protagonist Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner. One case involves deadly fires being set at the mansions of very wealthy middle aged couples. Each time a book with Latin writing inside is left at the crime scene; tying together the fires and making it clear that they were no accident. This investigation ends up affecting both detectives in a personal way.
The other case explored in this suspense novel is an old one that involves a missing teenage boy who's parents are public figures. It is a high profile case that has a lot of media attention. When a new lead surfaces and a suspect is taken to trial, it is the lack of physical evidence that works against the prosecutor.
This was a fairly fast paced suspense novel that is seventh in the women's murder club series. I had not read the others and so the characters did not seem very well developed to me. I assume that if I had read the other 6 books in order I would feel like I knew Detective Boxer and her associates in more detail. In my reading I focused on the actual cases but I still found only mild enjoyment from this novel. The two story lines were necessary, because neither case was very detailed in terms of clues. In addition to solving the cases there was also some minor drama going on in the personal life of the detective. She finds herself attracted to her partner even though she is already in a relationship. Overall, I didn't enjoy 7th Heaven because there was just not enough substance to it to get me thinking.
Dec 29, 2009
Author: Colleen Coble
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Romance
Book Source: Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.
Set at the turn of the century on a lavish estate in Mercy Falls, California, The Lightkeeper's Daughter is a story about finding family, finding true love, and finding oneself. Addie Sullivan grew up in poverty as the only child of a husband / wife team lighthouse keeper in a remote location. Though she loved the beauty of the harsh environment she always felt lonely. When she is suddenly transplanted to Eaton Hall by a wealthy relative and discovers her true family heritage she thinks that she is on the brink of the fulfillment of all her dreams. It soon becomes apparent that she is in the middle of a dangerous mystery that began decades before.
This was a light and easy story that had enough going on to keep my interest. The romance element did not appeal to me as much as the mystery in the family and the psychological detail of Addie's search for her identity The protagonist Addie was fairly well developed and endearing. The plot was a little bit predictable, so it did not require much thought. Sometimes this is just what a reader is looking for. The themes worked quite well together and all the elements of the story resolved together at the end. I would recommend it to people who normally like these types of romance or mystery novels.
Quote: She'd thought leaving the lighthouse would be exciting, romantic. Now she longed for the roar of the waves outside her window and the cry of a seagull diving for a fish. The familiar held more appeal than she'd every imagined." (p.66)
Dec 28, 2009
I will also be keeping up with my literary destinations posts. They are not as frequent though, due to my own travel constraints. I have a couple of destinations still to feature that are within easy driving distance to where I live. So I am eager to get to them soon. The library buildings should complement the literary destinations nicely.
Author: Dawn Menge
Illustrator: Bobbi Switzer
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2009)
Genre: Children's illustrated fiction - (6-8 years)
Book Source: Review copy sent to me by the author.
Queen Venita invites her twelve friends to visit with her at the Blue Ice Mountains where "There would be so many new and exciting things to do."(p.2) Each of her twelve friends take turns in visiting Queen Venita for each month of the year. During each month and each visitor there is a different focus - for example in January the visitor learns all about crabs, February - Sea Otters, March - glaciers etc. During each monthly visit the days of the week are listed with what was done on that day. This is kind of confusing because the visitor stays all month, but the activities are only described for one weeks worth.
As to my opinion of this children's book - unfortunately I cannot think of many positive comments. The book seems to suffer from an identity crisis. It is sort of a cross between an educational tool and a work of creative fiction. The character of Queen Vernita was not developed at all. We know nothing about her; she is merely a tool to convey information. The plot is non-existent. There is no problem/resolution or issue being explored. It is barely more than a list of dry educational facts. The illustrations did not appeal to me and the setting is described in a back-handed way through those lists of facts. It is not portrayed creatively through imagery. The language and writing style did not have the things that I always appreciate in children's books. No rhythm, no smooth flow or alliteration. This made the book rather boring to read out loud. Sadly, Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains is not a book that I would recommend.
Quote: "On Sunday, they learned that many seals were becoming endangered. This means that many seals are going to be gone forever. This made Queen Vernita and Rose very sad. So, on the thirty-first day of October, they created a sanctuary for the seals." (p.22)
P.S. There are no page numbers in the book so I counted them myself to identify the location of the quotes.
Dec 27, 2009
Dec 24, 2009
Dec 16, 2009
Jane is my Co-Pilot: The Fine Art of Making Sense and Sensibility Totally Ridiculous
By Ben H. Winters,
Authors of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Since writing Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I've gotten a ton of feedback about how nice it is that I've made Jane Austen appealing to certain readers -- meaning readers who previously suffered a persistent allergy to The Classics. I am complimented for taking the prim and decorous Jane Austen and making her, A) really violent, and B) really funny.
The first compliment I will gladly accept. Over the decades since Sense and Sensibility first appeared, it has been noted by scholars and casual readers alike that the book is sorely lacking in shipwrecks, shark attacks, and vividly described decapitations. I believe it was the poet and critic Thomas Chatterton who admired the novel's careful plotting and social critique, but lamented the total absence of vengeful ghost pirates.
But I can't take credit for making Jane Austen funny. As is well known by passionate fans of Austen -- I have yet to meet any other kind -- the old girl has always been funny. Take for example Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, a set of secondary characters in Sense and Sensibility. The periodic appearances of the Palmers comprise what any comedy writer will recognize as a running gag. Mrs. Palmer is chatty and trivial, while Mr. Palmer (a delightful Hugh Laurie in the Ang Lee version) is gruff and unaffectionate. What Mrs. Palmer labels "droll," the reader -- along with Elinor, our sensible heroine -- recognizes as plain distaste for his wife, her friends, and everybody else in the universe. Every time those Palmers show up, we know we're in for the next variation on the same great gag.
Note that Austen doesn't do to the Palmers what Charles Dickens would: Exaggerate their core traits to the point of absurdity. (Also, she doesn't name them something like Mr. and Mrs. Featherwit). The Palmers are funny, but they're plausible, and their primary function in the book is to provide not laughs, but a corrective to Marianne's rosy ideal of married life. So Austen makes them funny, but not ridiculous.
Making them ridiculous was my job. When the Palmers appear in my monsterfied Sensibility, I give Mr. Palmer's drollery a murky, weird-tales back story, part of the preposterously elaborate foreshadowing of my H.P. Lovecraft-inspired denouement.
I play the same game, of comically amplifying what's already there, in varying ways throughout the book. Colonel Brandon, stiff and formal and middle-aged, becomes a stiff and formal and middle-aged man-monster. Genial Sir John becomes genial adventurer/explorer Sir John. Had Austen made all her characters ridiculous in that Dickensian way, if she had been the kind of writer who is forever winking at her readers, my book would be (as they say in improv comedy) a hat on a hat. But because Sense and Sensibility is so eloquent and restrained, Sea Monsters gets to go way over the top.
This is true even on the simple level of vocabulary. Austen's precise early-19th century diction is the textual equivalent of Eustace Tilly, the top-hatted, monocled figure from the cover of the New Yorker: Her writing simply oozes good taste. The trick was to appropriate that ever-so-tasteful and old-timey Austenian style to describe things she never would have:
In the profound silence that followed, their ears were filled with a low thrashing sound, as the corpse of the bosun's mate was noisily consumed by devil fish. At length the captain drew upon his pipe, and spoke again. "Let us only pray that this is the worst such abomination you encounter in this benighted land; for such is but a minnow, when compared to the Devonshire Fang-Beast."
"The . . . what?"
Even more fun to play with than Austen's eloquent vocabulary is her universe of enforced emotional rectitude. The Dashwood sisters live in a world where one's feelings are not blurted out -- or, at least, they're not meant to be, as sensible Elinor is continually reminding sensitive Marianne. It's a constant struggle to keep one's emotions hidden beneath the surface; all I did was literalize that metaphor in the most preposterous way, by adding deadly and dangerous monsters which appear literally from beneath the surface.
There was one factor above all that made Sense and Sensibility such a fun comic foil, and that is the place the book holds in the cultural firmament. One question I've heard a lot (or read a lot, as it's the sort of thing that comes up on blog comment-threads), is "Why didn't you do Persuasion? That's the Austen book that actually takes place on the water!"
The answer is simply that Persuasion, unlike Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, may be a great book, but it is not a Great Book. It has not gathered around itself the unmistakable stink of importance.
Sense and Sensibility, on the other hand, stands in the literary tradition as Margaret Dumont stands before Groucho Marx, as the Chairman of the Reception Committee in Duck Soup: Prim and proper and radiating worthiness -- just waiting, in other words, for someone to hit it with a pie.
©2009 Ben H. Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Authors: Jane Austen & Ben Winters
Publisher: Quirk Books (2009)
Book Source: I was provided a free review copy from FSB Associates
The classic Austen social commentary about two sisters and their different approaches to love has been turned into a comic and imaginative science fiction novel. With every conceivable sea creature turned against humanity in a violent struggle for supremacy, the usual methods of courtship have been slightly altered. Rather than being attracted to a pretty face or a witty intellect, a single man in possession of a good fortune is now on the lookout for a woman with a strong pair of lungs.
The original storyline is the same - sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars only to discover that he is secretly engaged to someone else, while romantic Marianne falls in love with the dashing Willoughby. When Willoughby is revealed to have been stringing her along while actually intending to marry a wealthy girl, Marianne succumbs to a dangerous illness brought on by her love sick state. Meanwhile Colonel Brandon (afflicted with tentacles attached to his face) patiently loves and waits for Marianne. In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters it is all set against the backdrop of England in the grip of constant sea monster attacks.
It was the little details that made this book so hilarious. The familiar characters and plot placed in such outlandish circumstances made for quite a unique read. It is often the elegance of Regency England that attracts Austen's female readership. Don't expect to find it in this novel! Anything elegant has been turned into all things nautical. Where Marianne originally quoted poetry and played music, she now reads the journals of shipwrecked sailors and sings sea shanties. Practical Elinor memorizes "...the species and genus of every fish and marine mammal, learning to heart their speeds and points of vulnerability, and which bore spiny exoskeletons, which bore fangs, and which tusks."(p.11) There are also some interesting pencil drawn illustrations interspersed throughout the book. They usually depict the violent monster attacks and most outlandish events of the story. I recommend Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters to anyone who feels that they can appreciate the humor and enjoy the novel for what it is.
Dec 15, 2009
I have never really read any specifically Christmas themed books before. I guess these type of books didn't appeal to me because it seemed like they would be corny and predictable. I could be wrong though. I could be missing out on some great books ...
Do you guys like or dislike them? Do you have any favorites that I should try? I have avoided them so far this season, but today I have succumbed and started reading Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby. I kind of have to read it because I received it for free with a review expected. The audience for this one is 8-12 year olds. So a review should be forthcoming soon. Are any of you reading Christmas themed books this December?
Dec 9, 2009
Author: Charlotte Greig
Publisher: Other Press (2009)
Book Source: My Own Copy
A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy is a story about a young woman named Susannah who is a college sophomore studying philosophy. It is set in the 1970's at Sussex University. It details Susannah's faltering steps toward adulthood and her desire to apply philosophy to her own life choices. The main choices that she struggles with are to do with her relationships. Should she be with her older boyfriend Jason who is set up financially or should she pursue a relationship with Rob, a young philosophy student in her classes. Unable to make her choice, she lets matters go along aimlessly until she falls pregnant. This new, more serious dilemma forces Susannah to turn to the philosophers for help in her predicament.
Personally, I didn't like this book. As someone who is interested in philosophy I was expecting to really enjoy it. Susannah was a realistically drawn character, but not a very compelling one. She seemed to be quite emotionally detached throughout most of the novel. I did not find myself caring very much about her life. The setting was not drawn in much detail either. It did not feel like the 70's to me. I was able to picture some specific places, such as the boyfriends apartments, but not the overall atmosphere of the time and place. A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy was in some ways an interesting and insightful look at the application of philosophy to modern life, particularly the problems facing females, but it just seemed like the chick lit type relationship dramas didn't mix very well with the heavy philosophers. Unfortunately, the ending was not completely satisfactory either.
Dec 8, 2009
Dec 5, 2009
Author: Paula Morris
Publisher: Point (2009)
Genre: YA paranormal fiction
Book Source: Review copy won from Publisher
When Rebecca Brown is unexpectedly sent to live in New Orleans while her father travels in China, she is very unhappy about leaving her New York life behind. She has a hard time fitting into her new private school because she is looked down on and treated like an outsider by all the daughters of the wealthy old New Orleans families. The home that Rebecca is staying in with her aunt is opposite a cemetery and it is not long before she befriends a ghost named Lisette who is awaiting restitution for her murder years ago. As pieces of Rebecca's past and her connection to New Orleans are gradually unfolded she find herself in the middle of a life-and-death style mystery. She doesn't know who to trust and she doesn't know if her efforts to solve the mystery are actually contributing to her own dire future.
This young adult novel moved along at a steady pace and had an interesting plot. The setting and atmosphere of the book were very intriguing and vivid. While it is set in current day New Orleans, Paula Morris has included historical details that really added depth and believability to the ghost tale. Ruined is a book that is sensitive to the current day concerns of rebuilding post-Katrina New Orleans, while also tying in to the historical concerns that faced the city. Paula Morris touches on racial and socioeconomic themes in her novel and the characters demonstrate how these themes have influenced both the past and present.
Author Info: Paula Morris is a New Zealander who currently resides in New Orleans. Ruined (2009) is her first YA novel, though she has previously written other novels: Queen of Beauty (2003), Hibiscus Coast (2005), Trendy But Casual (2005) and Forbidden Cities (2008). Paula Morris write a blog: http://trendybutcasual.typepad.com/