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Medical Mystery Madness Challenge Wrap-up

>> Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Medical Mystery Madness Challenge was a fun one hosted by Twiga that I just couldn’t resist. I love mysteries and I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few medical mysteries. Twiga made this one simple – 2 or more medical mystery thrillers between June 1 and November 1. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to read some new authors.

I chose 4 books for this challenge:
Privileged Information by Stephen White
Final Diagnosis by Gary Birken
Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle
The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

The best book: The Surgeon by Tess Gerritson. I can’t wait to read more of her books. I’ll also be reading more by Stephen White and possibly Joshua Spanogle

What book could I have done without? Final Diagnosis was just not good enough to make me seek out any more books by the author.

Any new authors? All were new authors for me.

Books I did not finish: I finished read all that I planned

What did I learn? I learned that I should have started reading Tess Gerritsen several years ago. I also learned from reading other challenge participants blogs that I need to read something by Michael Palmer soon.

All in all, I enjoyed the majority of the books I read for this challenge. Thanks to Twiga for hosting this one – It was fun.


can you see me now?

>> Friday, September 28, 2007

made a few template adjustments today, so please let me know if anything looks out of place or strange.



The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

>> Thursday, September 27, 2007

Published: 2001
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 350
Challenges: Medical Mystery Madness Challenge #4, Unread Authors Challenge #1

Dr. Catherine Cordell is a trauma surgeon working in Boston. She moved there two years ago to restart her life after she became the final attempted victim of a horrific serial killer in Savannah, Georgia. She managed to kill him before he killed her.

Detective Thomas Moore is still mourning his wife’s death from a brain aneurism two years ago. His nickname at work is “Saint Thomas Moore” because he’s always the good guy.

Detective Jane Rizzoli is an all business cop who struggles with the fact that her family doesn’t see her job as important because she’s ‘just a girl’. She’s also battling the ‘just a girl’ label at work, where she’s the only female detective in the homicide division.

These three people’s lives become entwined when a brutal serial killer begins killing women in Boston. The crimes are eerily like those of the killer who nearly made Dr. Cordell one of his victims. As Moore and Rizzoli investigate, they soon discover that the criminal they’re looking for seems to have a connection to and may in fact be stalking Dr. Cordell.

This was my first book by Tess Gerritsen and it will definitely not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this combination of police procedural, medical procedural and thriller. The twists and turns were sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising. The characters are interesting and intelligent. This one grabbed my attention right from the start and was hard to put down.

It was exactly what I needed because I felt like I’d been slogging through my last few books.


Non-Fiction Five Challenge Wrap Up

>> Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Okay - for some of us it was the Non-Fiction Nine . . .

The Non-Fiction Five Challenge sponsored by my friend Joy was one that I wasn’t sure about, but finally decided to make a list and join. The goal was to to read five Non-Fiction books in five months (May through September). When I started looking for five books to read for this challenge, I ended up listing at least 11 that I wanted to read. I broke that list down to five that I would read and an additional five potential bonus reads.

I kind of overachieved on this one and ended up reading 9 of my original list of 11.

My completed challenge books are:
The Original Five -
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
The Colony by John Tayman
Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural by Ronald C. White
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts

Bonus Reads -
Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust by Sarah Olgivie and Scott Miller
Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado
The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr
The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins by Dean Jensen

The best book: Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado

What book could I have done without? No Shortcuts to the Top was the biggest disappointment.

Any new authors? All but Edmund Morris were new authors for me.

Books I did not finish: I finished reading all that I started, but No Shortcuts to the Top was almost a DNF.

What did I learn? The books were on such a variety of subjects that I learned a lot along the way. The biographies of Teddy Roosevelt and the Hilton Twins were both biographies but such very different subjects that it didn’t feel like they were the same genre. Two of the books were very much about the research process as part of the story (Refuge Denied and The Lost Painting). Lansing’s story of the Shackleton expedition was a story I hadn’t encountered before. Although the book wasn’t fabulous, it did make me want to learn more about this expedition.

All in all, I enjoyed the majority of the books I read for this challenge. Thanks to my friend, Joy for inspiring me to read these.


No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts

>> Monday, September 24, 2007

Published: 2006
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 323
Non-Fiction Five #5

From the inside cover:

For eighteen years Ed Viesturs pursued climbing's holy grail: to stand atop the world's fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, without the aid of bottled oxygen. But No Shortcuts to the Top is as much about the man who would become the first American to achieve that goal as it is about his stunning quest. As Viesturs recounts the stories of his most harrowing climbs, he reveals a man torn between the flat, safe world he and his loved ones share and the majestic and deadly places where only he can go.

A preternaturally cautious climber who once turned back 300 feet from the top of Everest but who would not shrink from a peak (Annapurna) known to claim the life of one climber for every two who reached its summit, Viesturs lives by an unyielding motto, "Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory." It is with this philosophy that he vividly describes fatal errors in judgement made by his fellow climbers as well as few of his own close calls and gallant rescues. And, for the first time, he details his own pivotal and heroic role in the 1996 Everest disaster made famous in Jan Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

In addition to the raw excitement of Viesturs's odyssey, No Shortcuts to the Top is leavened with many funny moments revealing the camaraderie between climbers. It is more than the first full account of one of the staggering accomplishments of our time; it is a portrait of a brave and devoted family man and his beliefs that shaped this most perilous and magnificent pursuit.

Well, not exactly. I wanted to love this book. I loved Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and from the reviews had expected this to be as compelling and interesting. It wasn’t close. The basic facts and information about Ed Viesturs’ initial interest in and eventual pursuit of mountain climbing as a career are fine, but when he actually gets into the meat of the story, which is his pursuit of summiting the 14 highest mountains in the world, the book loses its way. This could have used either a different co-author or a better editor or both. The story is told in a non-linear format. I was expecting to read about his climbing adventures in a first to last time line format. Unfortunately, he jumps around and jumps back and forth and between expeditions in a way that didn’t work for me.

Viesturs is clearly a highly qualified and careful mountain climber who has achieved something that few others have or ever will. That doesn’t mean that he’s good at writing and relating the story of that achievement. I’d like to read more about his adventures when they are written by someone else in a third person narrative. I read the whole thing, but won’t bother putting it on The Hubster’s “you need to read these” pile.


Five Mile House by Karen Novak

>> Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Published 2000
Genre: Ghost story
Pages: 228

Leslie Stone is a New York detective who snaps and kills the suspect in the brutal murder of a child during the initial interview process. After a stint in a mental hospital she and her family head to the small town of Wellington for a fresh start. Leslie’s husband is hired to do the restoration of the historic Five Mile House. It was where, over a hundred years ago, that Eleanor Bly killed her children and then herself by jumping from the tower window . . . or did she?

This is a combination of ghost/haunted house story and traditional mystery. The town of Wellington is full of secrets from the past and present. It’s a town with a mysterious house, a coven of Wiccans, and a history that includes a mass poisoning at a brothel. When Leslie discovers that she looks almost exactly like the long deceased Eleanor Bly, she starts looking into the deaths of Eleanor and her children and the history of Five Mile House. Eleanor’s ghost tells her story interspersed with the telling of Leslie’s story of the present time.

This book was an interesting mix of detective story and ghost story with a coven of witches and an ancient manuscript tossed in for good measure. The tension builds as the two parallel stories head to their conclusion. The last 50 pages or so are real page turners.

I have to say that Leslie is not a wholly likeable character, and some of the supporting characters are a bit wooden. It’s a short book, though, so there aren’t a lot of pages to develop both the characters and the many mysteries. The author has since written more books with Leslie as the main character, so I might check those out.


2nds Challenge

>> Sunday, September 16, 2007

A wonderful challenge sponsored by my friend Joy.

Between October 1st and November 30th read 3 books by authors that you have only read one other.

I’ve tried so many new-to-me authors over the past year that I’ve added tons of second or additional books to my TBR list. Now I’ve got the perfect kick start to read a few of those second books. Thanks Joy! I’m looking forward to this one.

Books I’ve scheduled for this challenge:


Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

>> Friday, September 14, 2007

Published 2007
Genre: Mystery/Humor/Romance
Pages: 310

Yes, this series has become predictable and formulaic, but I continue to enjoy it because it’s quick and not much of a time commitment. In this one, Stephanie’s ex – Dickie Orr has disappeared and Stephanie is under suspicion for his murder. Cars are destroyed, Lula’s wardrobe and attitude are both outrageous, Connie is still one of my favorite characters, Joe and Ranger almost get along, the FTAs Stephanie is after are freaks. About the only thing different is that we find out Tank’s real name.

Stephanie says it best herself:
"It's my life," I said to him. "It's complicated."

I can’t help myself. Ranger just gets me all twitterpated.


A Piece of Heaven by Barbara Samuel

>> Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Published: 2003
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance?
Pages: 322
TBR Challenge #9

From the inside front cover:
In the sun-baked hills of New Mexico, Luna McGraw has lived a lifetime of regrets, struggling to conquer the demons that destroyed her marriage and caused her to lose custody of her beloved daughter. But as Luna fights to rebuild a relationship with the troubled teenager, she remains haunted by images of her own childhood and the father she barely knew.

Strong and resilient as the houses he builds, Thomas Coyote comes into Luna’s life one extraordinary night when his grandmother nearly dies while conjuring a fiery brew of spiritual enchantment. Luna does not need a man --especially one with a needy ex-wife --to complicate her fragile dreams of the future. Their attraction pushes them both beyond reason into a place where there is only possibility. Yet it will take more than passion to recover the tattered pieces of Luna’s soul, more than time to forgive the sins of an offending husband, and more than promises to mend the broken heart of a child.

I read Barbara Samuel’s first book (No Place Like Home) with a book group several years ago. I liked that one enough at the time to put the rest of her books on my TBR list. Although it’s not my favorite type of book, it was a good one to throw in the mix of what I’m reading this month.

It seems that everyone in this book is damaged or wounded and dealing with trauma from their past. Sometimes it seems like all the plotlines from a whole season of a nighttime TV drama are included somewhere along the way. Some of it doesn’t work (the diary entries of a friend of Luna’s daughter are an interruption and awkward), but most of it does. This probably could have been improved with the excision of a couple of characters and plotlines. Nevertheless, I liked the book, and will read more of Samuel’s work. The many familial relationships and friendships are interesting and most have some realistic and genuine feeling dialog along the way. With a few less characters and plotlines, it would have been better, though.


Audiobook – Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M. C. Beaton

>> Monday, September 10, 2007

Published: 1997
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Book on Tape Read by Donada Peters

I’ve enjoyed this series for drive time listening, but after this one, I think I’m done with the series. This one was extremely disappointing. I only finished listening to it because it was so short (only 4 tapes). Agatha Raisin has always been a mixture of independent and needy. A bit of bluster and self confidence combined with a bit of endearing naivete. In this sixth installment in the series, she’s pretty much just needy and has lost her self confidence and independence that made her a successful businesswoman. She lets herself be treated horribly by not only her ex fiancée James – who is so completely unlikeable in this book that I was hoping he’d end up being the murder victim, but also another occasional character from the series who makes a reappearance. The story takes place in Cyprus, so there’s none of the other charming characters from Agatha’s village to temper the unpleasantness.



Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

>> Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Published: 2006
Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Horror
Pages: 290
Challenge: RIP II #1

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine; there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s the best of all for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.

But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you’ll dump on old man Prickett’s porch or the hairy-ape costume you’ll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.

But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.

One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.

At that time, James Nightshade of 97 Oak Street was thirteen years, eleven months, twenty-three days old. Next door, William Halloway was thirteen years, eleven months and twenty-four days old. Both touched toward fourteen; it almost trembled in their hands.

And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young any more . . .
I can’t believe I’ve never read this book before, and I’m glad that Carl’s RIP II Challenge inspired me to do so. What a thrill ride. That prologue sucked me in and put me in the mindset of a 13-14 year old kid whose life revolves around school and play, but the sense of foreboding about what was to come began to simmer.

A small sleepy town, two young boys, best friends yet opposites in many ways, a mysterious carnival arrives in the middle of the night and things just get spookier and spookier.

I’m not going to say much about the plot because I know that many other folks will be reading this in the next few weeks for the RIP II challenge. I hope those who do will enjoy it as much as I did. I had a hard time at first getting involved in the story, but that was a timing issue. For several days in a row I only had a few minutes here and there to read. It wasn’t until I got some good chunks of time and could sit down and let the story and its atmosphere envelop me that I really began to enjoy the story. The writing creates some scary and at times bizarre imagery. Relationships are tested – not only the two boys, but also Will and his Father have to come to terms with themselves and their relationships to each other. It’s a coming of age story, a thriller, and a story of dark magic and suspense. The tension really builds in the second half, so if you’re reading it now or soon, be prepared and hang on!


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