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Circles of Confusion by April Henry

>> Friday, November 30, 2007

Published: 1999
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 333
Unread Authors #4, Hometown #1

This one was added to my list when I was looking for Portland authors and settings for the Hometown Challenge. Since it’s also a new author, I’m substituting it in for the Unread Authors Challenge too.

Claire Montrose is leading a predictable life in Portland, Oregon. Although her job is unusual (approving or rejecting vanity license place applications for the Dept. of Motor Vehicles) she's been there long enough to be bored with it. When Claire's Aunt Cady dies and leaves everything to Claire, things become less predictable.

Aunt Cady didn't have much more than a trailer filled with junk, but under the bed, Claire finds an old suitcase containing a bracelet, her aunt's diary, some pamphlets from Nazi Germany and a small painting that takes her breath away. Claire's boyfriend is sure the painting is junk, but her roommate (an elderly survivor of Dachau) and a local antiques dealer are not so sure.

When Claire decides to take the painting to New York to research it's history and how her aunt came to possess it, she soon finds herself in the middle of a mystery and apparently in some serious danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a light cozy style mystery, but one that kept me entertained and turning the pages. I will most definitely be looking for and reading more of April Henry's Claire Montrose series.


More Challenges (and a couple of adjustments)

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I’ve got a few more challenges I want to join for 2008, so I’m trying to be strategic in planning what books I can read that will qualify for more than one challenge. I’m also trying to wrap up as many of my current challenges as I can before the end of December.

Part of it is a compulsion to finish what I can by the end of 2007 and make the 2008 challenges list a whole new spreadsheet page (yes I’m a spreadsheet dork). The other part is to keep myself sane and have time for non-challenge books when I want to read them.

So – look for upcoming posts about
The Decades 08 Challenge, The TBR 2008 Challenge, and the What’s in a Name Challenge.

In the meantime, I’m modifying my list for the
Unread Authors Challenge to include the two books I’m going to read for The Hometown Challenge. By doing this I can finish up both of those in December.


Wives and Sisters by Natalie R. Collins

>> Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Published: 2004
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 321
From the Stacks #3

From the back cover:

Decades ago, young Allison Jensen and her best friend Cindy were separated in the woods. Cindy disappeared forever. Allison survived amid a web of small-town secrets and lies that greeted every anguished question she asked about that fateful afternoon.Years later, Allison has come home to the bedroom community of Farmington, Utah-back to the devout tyranny of her father, back to the close-knit society she rejected, and back to the conspiracy of silence that has plagued her with nightmares of guilt and loss. Out of her patchwork memory, the truth is emerging. So is Allison's rage-and her hunger for justice. Now, in a courageous and terrifying voyage of self-discovery, it's up to Allison to avenge the guilty...
This was a fast paced book that I read in just a couple of days. The author is clearly anti-Mormon – I need to say that up front. Personally, I feel that the same story could have been told with any small town fundamentalist, patriarchal background, but the author’s history led her to use the LDS church.
The mystery of what happened to Cindy and the shattered family life of Allison and her siblings is hard to read at times because of some clearly abusive family behavior, it was definitely an emotional story. The villain is a twisted and dangerous stalker. The people who seem to be helping Allison may or may not be the good guys.
It’s hard for me to say whether or not I liked this book. I enjoyed the mystery/suspense part of the story, but the heavy handed anti-Mormon agenda of the author overwhelmed it.


Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler

>> Monday, November 26, 2007

Published: 2000
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 463
Challenge: From the Stacks #2

Clive Cussler’s books are formulaic nearly comic book adventure type stuff and just darn fun. Don’t pick up a Cussler book expecting anything more than that.

This one has all the usual elements – lots of techno diving and underwater stuff, a megalomaniac who wants to take over the world, a beautiful woman or two, death defying rescues by Dirk Pitt and his sidekick Al Giordino, excruciating detail about Pitt’s classic car collection, . . . you get the idea. Oh, and guess what -- Dirk Pitt saves humanity yet again.


Running Blind by Lee Child

>> Thursday, November 15, 2007

Published: 2000
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Pages: 486
From the Stacks #1

From the back cover:

Across the country women are being murdered, victims of an extraordinarily disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. Even the elite team of FBI agents assigned to the case is baffled by the ingenuity of these perfect crimes. But who’s committing them? Why? And how? So far, there’s only one connection: each victim knew Jack Reacher. And this time, even he’s running blind.
This is the fourth book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher Series and I’m pleased to say that I’m still enjoying the heck out of it. Jack is a great hero who gets better with every book. A former military policeman, who is happiest when he’s living without attachments or roots, Jack can’t seem to keep himself from intervening to help an underdog.

As the book opens Jack gets himself involved in helping out a restaurant owner who is being shaken down by a pair of mob goons. Next thing he knows he’s hauled in by the FBI because he fits their profile in an investigation into a serial killer. It turns out that the killers victims are all women who Jack knew when he was in the military. I really don’t want to say more about the plot because Child is great at doling out the clues, information and red herrings as the story progresses.

Another well constructed mystery with a likeable, but flawed hero. I need to go buy the next book in the series!


A Trouble of Fools by Linda Barnes

>> Friday, November 9, 2007

Published: 1987
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 203
Unread Authors Challenge #3

Carlotta Carlyle is a 6’ 1” tall redheaded former Boston cabdriver and ex-cop turned private investigator. Business has been slow, so when the elderly Margaret Devens shows up wanting someone to find her missing brother, Carlotta decides to take the case. When two thugs beat up Margaret and Carlotta finds out there’s a hidden pile of cash involved, it’s clear that this isn’t a run of the mill missing persons case.

It’s not that I’m scared. I can take care of myself. I grew up in Detroit and compared to the kids of the Motor City, most of the punks around here don’t know what tough means. I’m not scared of the streets. Maybe I’m afraid of the great I-Told-You-So. You know how it goes: “Gee, Carlotta, none of this would have happened if you’d had the sense to stay indoors.”
Carlotta is a fun character and I look forward to reading more of this series. This first book introduces us to characters from both of Carlotta’s former jobs – the cab company and the Boston police. There’s also a bit of a side story involving a young girl that Carlotta mentors through the “Big Brothers/Big Sisters” organization. It’s a quick and fun read.


Russian Reading Challenge

>> Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sharon at ExLibris is hosting yet another challenge that I cannot resist. The Russian Reading Challenge runs from January through December 2008. She’s actually made this challenge very flexible.

This challenge is a twelve month challenge, but the minimum number of books to read is only four. Why? Many Russian novels are quite lengthy, so it may take more than one month to read one book. Also, it keeps the burden to a minimum if you are, like me, participating in several reading challenges. You are welcome to read more, though!

Both fiction and non-fiction are acceptable here, as well as short stories and poetry. Authors read should either be authors who wrote (write) in Russian or authors who wrote (write) about Russia and Russians. The challenge begins January 1, 2008 and ends December 31, 2008, so you have plenty of time to be thinking about your book list. Oh, yes, there may even be some prizes in store throughout the year!

I’m planning on reading these four books:

1/9/08 - editing to adjust my book list. I'm taking The Kitchen Boy out of the list for this challenge (I'm still going to read it, but not for the challenge). I decided that I wanted to stick with fiction by Russian authors and non-fiction about real Russians. The book I'm adding is by a contemporary Russian author:


Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

>> Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Published: 1997
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 348
TBR Challenge #11, 2nds Challenge #2

From the inside cover:

Once upon a time, in far-off England, there was a small village surrounded by a mighty forest, where a dark stranger, one Francis Fairfax, arrived to build a stately home. Fairfax Manor was renowned throughout the land for its feudal pleasures, its visit from the Queen, and the mysterious beauty of Lady Fairfax, who one day cursed the Fairfax name and vanished into the forest, never to be seen again except in a ghostly haze.
Fast-forward to 1960...Over the centuries the forest has been destroyed, and the Fairfaxes have dwindled, too; now they are the local grocers to their suburb of Glebelands, a family as disintegrated as its ancestral home. It is here that young Isobel Fairfax awakens on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, a day that will change everything she knows and understands about her past and her future.
Helping celebrate (if one could call it that) are the members of her strange and distracted family: There is Vinny, Maiden Aunt from Hell; Gordon, Isobel's father, who disappeared for seven years; and Charles, her elder brother, who divides his time between searching for aliens and waiting for the return of their long-gone mother, Eliza.
And back again...As her day progresses, Isobel is pulled into brief time warps and extended periods of omniscience, from the days of the first Fairfax to the roaring twenties to World War II, through which she learns the truth about her family and about her mother, whose disappearance is part of the secret that remains at the heart of the forest.
I kept trying to think of a word to describe this book and I just kept coming back to the words “odd” and “quirky”. This book has moments of humor (both light and quite dark), moments of mystery, moments of heartbreak, and moments of downright strangeness.

The story is intentionally disjointed. The narrative goes back and forth between the present and the past and eventually the reader is completely unsure of which is which. The main character also has a tendency to jump around in time and periodically finds herself in the past which contributes to the sense of time confusion for the reader.

The first ¾ of the book was quirky, but interesting, but the last part turned into something that felt like it came out of a David Lynch movie and just didn’t hold up as well as it could have.


Themed Reading Challenge

>> Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wendy at Caribousmom has given us a challenge within a challenge – come up with your own theme. The Themed Reading Challenge runs from January through June 2008. Participants must choose at least 4 books that share a theme and you get to pick your own theme.

There are many creative themes that folks are coming up with for this one. Check out the participants list on Wendy’s blog to find some great book lists.

I pondered my TBR list and came up with and tossed out several different themes before deciding on mine. My theme for this challenge is Books that have One Word Titles. I’m planning on reading these four books:

I’m not nearly as creative as some of the other participants, but I think my theme will provide a fun variety of books to read.

Thanks Wendy!


Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt

>> Thursday, November 1, 2007

Published 2005
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 305

This is the fourth book in the Andy Carpenter series and just as enjoyable as the others have been. I just love books that combine a satisfying mystery story with humor and interesting characters. Andy is still a wise cracking guy who pulls courtroom theatrics. The cast of regulars are there, but don’t overwhelm the new mystery story.

This time around Andy is called to a police stand-off where NY Giants running back Kenny Schilling is armed and holed up in his house refusing to cooperate with the police who want to question him in the disappearance of NY Jets wide receiver Troy Preston. When Preston’s body is found, Kenny finds himself on trial for murder and Andy finds himself with a client he’s not quite sure is innocent.

The story takes some twists and turns, there are a couple of side stories that keep the action rolling in addition to the murder trial itself, but it’s a quick and fun read. Will the real killer be identified?, Will Pete Stanton ever stop finding ways to spend Andy’s money? Will Laurie leave Andy and move to Wisconsin?, Will Edna ever really do any secretarial work? Will Marcus ever utter a complete sentence?

The one question I can answer is that Tara is still the best dog EVER!

I’m beginning to think that my favorite book of all time would be to have Harlan Coben and David Rosenfelt get together and have Myron Bolitar and Andy Carpenter work together on a case or two. Now, THAT would be fun.


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