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The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais

>> Monday, January 28, 2008

Series: # 1 in the Elvis Cole Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 201
What’s in a Name Challenge #2 (Animal), A-Z Reading #7 (M Title)

This was my first book by Robert Crais and although I’ve heard that his later books are better, I wasn’t disappointed in this one at all. For a first novel, it was good enough to keep me thoroughly entertained and to want to read more of the series. Thanks go to
Literary Feline because it was her review of this one that made me add it to my TBR list.

Elvis Cole is a private detective in L.A. He’s my favorite type of mystery series protagonist – smart, sarcastic, with no patience for authority figures, and loyal as can be to his friends no matter how frightening (Joe Pike) they may be. The fact that he has a cat who likes beer is a bonus – our late sainted gray ball of fur used to drink beer, but she only liked the good microbrews.

The story begins with Ellen Lang and her friend seeking Elvis Cole’s help to find Ellen’s missing husband and son. Of course it ends up being way more complicated than a missing person and possible abducted child. Elvis and his mysterious partner Joe Pike end up in a near urban war involving drugs, the mafia and a retired bullfighter. Bloody, but fun, and I’m adding the rest of this series to my TBR list.


Heart of a Child Challenge

>> Saturday, January 26, 2008

I don’t read a lot of Young Adult and kids books, so it’s easy for me to pass up challenges that focus on those. This one, however, caught my eye. Becky is hosting The Heart of a Child Challenge.

How many? Read 3 to 6 books
When? from February 1, 2008 to July 14, 2008
What? Books and authors that you discovered, loved, or adored as a child. How am I defining "child"--I'll be generous. Anything and everything that you read through the age of 18 would qualify.
Why? Because sometimes it's fun to reread books and see if they still hold the same "magic."

More details can be found at the link above.

This is perfect for me – because even though I don’t read much of the new stuff in this genre, I have seen reviews from other bloggers participating in The Newbery Challenge of books I did adore as a kid and it’s made me want to pick them up again.

This challenge will let me do that, so I’ll be re-reading these books that I remember most from my school days:

Thanks Becky – I’m looking forward to these.


The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

>> Friday, January 25, 2008

Genre: Humor
Publication Date: 1923
Pages: 226
Decades 08 #2 (1920’s), A-Z Reading #6 (I Title)

Delightful! Simply delightful. First of all a great big THANK YOU to
Framed & Booked whose review of Jeeves in the Morning convinced me to put this book on my list for the Decades challenge. I will definitely be reading more of the Jeeves series.

Jeeves is the very proper valet of Bertie Wooster. Bertie is aristocratic, well enough off to have no apparent occupation, and somewhat prone to getting himself into situations. Luckily Jeeves usually manages to help things work out for the best.

This book is more like a related series of vignettes than one continuous story. There are a couple of recurring themes in the stories – one of which is Jeeves’ disapproval of various wardrobe items that Bertie wants to wear. Bertie’s friend Bingo Little is hilarious – he falls immediately and madly in love with just about every woman he meets. Bertie’s Aunt Agatha is overbearing, but a hoot and I think I really would have liked Uncle Henry:

My late Uncle Henry, you see, was by way of being the blot on the Wooster escutcheon. An extremely decent chappie personally, and one who had always endeared himself to me by tipping me with considerable lavishness when I was at school, but there’s no doubt he did at times do rather rummy things, notably keeping eleven pet rabbits in his bedroom; and I suppose a purist might have considered him more or less off his onion. In fact, to be perfectly frank, he wound up his career, happy to the last and completely surrounded by rabbits, in some sort of home.
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself smiling and giggling at humor that was written in the 1920’s. There is, of course, some dated material, but much of it has stood the test of time.

Although letters of introduction aren’t commonplace, the rest of this particular passage could be out of a modern comedy routine (except for the fact that a modern comedian probably couldn’t pull it off without a string of foul language).

You know, the longer I live, the more clearly I see that half the trouble in this bally world is caused by the light-hearted and thoughtless way in which chappies dash off letters of introduction and hand them to other chappies to deliver to chappies of the third part. It’s one of those things that make you wish you were living in the Stone Age. What I mean to say is, if a fellow in those days wanted to give anyone a letter of introduction, he had to spend a month or so carving it on a large-sized boulder and the chances were that the other chappie got so sick of lugging the thing round in the hot sun that he dropped it after the first mile. But nowadays it’s so easy to write letters of introduction that everybody does it without a second thought, with the result that some perfectly harmless cove like myself gets in the soup.


Aunt Dimity’s Good Deed by Nancy Atherton

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Series: # 3 in the Aunt Dimity Series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 276
Challenges: A-Z Reading #5 (A Title), TBR 2008 Alternate #1

After finishing Doctor Zhivago, I was having a bit of a reading hangover. Doctor Zhivago was still percolating in my brain so I needed something light, fun, short and completely different. This was the perfect time for me to pick up the next book in Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series. I’d enjoyed the first book in the series, but had been disappointed in the second which was an odd out of sequence prequel that didn’t even have the main character from the first book. This third one is back to what I expected. Lori Shepherd is back and so is the charming and ever so dead Aunt Dimity.

Lori Shepherd’s young marriage may be in trouble – her husband is a workaholic and when she schedules a visit to her English cottage as a second honeymoon, he bails at the last minute for work. Lori still makes the trip to England, but instead of her husband, her traveling companion is her Father-in-Law. Trying to make the best of the situation Lori enjoys spending time with her neighbors whom she adores. That is, until her Father-in-Law disappears leaving only a cryptic note.

Soon, Lori is off in search of Mr. Willis with her neighbors’ 12 year old daughter Nell as a traveling companion. Nell is a fun character – she’s 12 going on 28. At times she’s more sophisticated and worldly than Lori, but at other times very much a 12 year old. She and Lori are kindred spirits and Nell’s stuffed bear Bertie is a good match for Lori’s long loved flannel rabbit, Reginald. It turns into not only a search for Mr. Willis, but also a search for the answer to and possible resolution of a three hundred year old family feud.

This is a light enjoyable cozy series with some charming characters and a friendly ‘ghost’ in Aunt Dimity, who communicates with Lori via writing that appears in her blank journal. Don’t look for anything logical in that premise, just enjoy the fun.


Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

>> Saturday, January 19, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1958 (English translation)
Pages: 519
Challenges: Russian Reading #1, Decades 08 #1 (1950’s), Chunkster Challenge 2008 #2, A-Z Reading #4 (P Author)

This is one of those books that I’ve thought about reading for years, but never picked up. I’ve never seen the Omar Sharif / Julie Christie movie and although I have a recent TV miniseries version on tape, I’ve delayed watching it till I read the book. After all, we all know the book is always better. When I first learned about the Russian Reading Challenge, this is the first book I put on my list.

Although not as long as I’d always thought it was, it was still a big sweeping saga. Typical of a big Russian novel, there are almost as many characters as pages and most of them are referred to by several names and nicknames throughout the book. I read the first 50 or so pages twice just to make sure I was clear on who was who and the relationships up to that point. It got easier, but is never a quick reading story.

It’s the perfect time of year to read this – the cold weather outside just fits the atmosphere throughout the book. The writing is wonderful – even in translation the images and descriptions are vivid and wonderfully told. The contrast between the scenes that are described in detail to the quick glossing over major events and time periods makes it seem like more of a series of separate events than one linear story. The way Zhivago, Lara and the other main characters meet, separate, meet again; only to be separated once more gives a sense of them being caught up in larger events and circumstances beyond their control.

The story begins before the broad societal and governmental transformations and turmoil that World War I, The Russian Revolution and Civil War brought to all the citizens of Russia. No class was spared hardship and loss. The personal and philosophical impact is so wonderfully depicted.

This book has it all – love, loss, war, emotional and political upheaval, wonderful writing, a complex story and one well worth reading.


Audiobook – Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

>> Friday, January 18, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Read by: Jim Dale

This all started because I heard about a series of prequels to Peter Pan written jointly by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Having heard that the audio versions of those were good, I decided that should probably read Peter Pan itself. Yes – that’s right - I never read Peter Pan. Frankly I can’t remember seeing the Disney movie either. I do vaguely remember seeing a black and white television version of the Mary Martin stage production way back when I was a child (shortly after the earth cooled). I also vaguely remember that I was somewhat of a rebel child and refused to clap for Tinkerbell.

So anyway – I got the audio version of Peter Pan from the library and loaded it onto my ipod for some car listening. I’d heard from friends that Jim Dale is a great audio book reader, but I’d never listened to a book he’d read until now. Wow – he is great. I’m glad that the Barry/Pearson books are read by him.

Oh, right – this is about Peter Pan. As I listened to this book I recalled bits and pieces as I heard them, but this is the first time I can say I actually ‘read’ (listened to) the book as a whole. It was much darker than I’d expected. Lots of killing. Lots and lots of killing. I’m not sure I’d read this to a child. As an adult, however it was kind of a fun adventure. I was a bit surprised to find that I didn’t like the character of Peter Pan that much. He’s not very nice. Tinkerbell’s jealousy and brattiness kind of amused me and I think I liked her better as an adult than I did as a kid – she kind of tells it like it is to Peter when other characters can’t or wont.

I think for me this book was similar to some of the Disney/Pixar movies that have come out in recent years. You know the ones – you sit in the theater and sometimes all the kids and none of the adults are laughing and in a few minutes that is reversed. Parts of Peter Pan seem to be written for and appeal to the kids and other parts are written for and appeal to adults. Some of the asides (particularly as read in the audio version) made me laugh out loud, but would probably not be funny to a younger audience.

All in all I’m glad I read this and I’m looking forward to listening to Peter and the Starcatchers, but I ended up coming away with mixed feelings about Peter Pan. I enjoyed the adventure, but didn’t enjoy parts of the story.


The Royalty Rules Reading Challenge

>> Friday, January 11, 2008

I thought I was done with adding challenges for a while. I was, until I ran across this one at The Magic of Ink.

From February 1st – April 30th, 2008 –
The Royalty Rules Reading Challenge
Rules: Read two, three, or four books of whatever genre you choose (fiction or non-fiction), whether you want to read about historical kings, modern queens, or fairytale princesses. The only parameter is that the books are about a royal personage, although not necessarily as the main character. It’s perfectly all right if you want to read a book about, say, the queen’s lady-in-waiting, as long as the story incorporates the rise and/or fall of a crowned head, or a sovereign’s entire life.Crossover with other challenges if you like.Young adult or children’s titles are encouraged, but not required.

Once again, it’s a challenge I can add without adding any books to my reading list. There are 3 books I’m reading for other challenges that qualify for this one.

Besides – the challenge logos are just cool.

These are the books I’ve got planned already that qualify for this challenge:
  • Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie (Non-fiction - Peter I of Russia)
  • The Diamond by Julie Baumgold (Fiction - Various French Kings and Napoleon)
  • The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander (Fiction - Nicholas II of Russia and Family)

I’m also looking for a good biography of Queen Victoria, but may not get it selected and read before the end of this challenge.


Leavin’ Trunk Blues by Ace Atkins

>> Thursday, January 10, 2008

Series: # 2 in the Nick Travers Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 322
What’s in a Name Challenge #1 (Color), A-Z Reading #3 (A Author)

From the back cover:

In the music clubs on the South Side of Chicago, the blues - once as strong as the backs of the neighborhood's working class - has lost its hope and its voice. Seventy miles away, locked in a scarred prison cell, waits Ruby Walker. More than forty years ago, she boarded the Illinois Central from Mississippi to what she believed was her Promised Land. She became one of the greatest blues singers the city has ever known, but she lost it all after being convicted of murdering her lover and producer, Billy Lyons, in September 1959.

Decades later, a flickering hope emerges to Walker in the form of letters from a Tulane University blues historian named Nick Travers. She agrees to an interview only in exchange for him checking out what she calls the truth behind Lyons's last hours.

After arriving at Union Station, Travers learns there are those who still want the details surrounding Lyons's death to remain hidden in the rubble of the blighted neighborhoods-and that Walker's fate may be the key to finding out who really murdered Lyons.

I’d thoroughly enjoyed Atkins’ first book, Crossroad Blues and once again, I found myself engulfed in the moodiness and atmosphere Atkins creates. The whole time I was reading I could almost feel the music in my bones. This time he takes his Southern Noir style away from the Mississippi Delta and on the road to the South Side of Chicago. He visits both the rich blues history of its past and the danger of its present.

There was a different feel to a Chicago blues lounge compared to a Delta juke joint. The Delta was a quart of Colt 45 and a tin roof where the sound of a harmonica would rattle through your bones. Chicago was the red lipstick on a woman’s cigarette, a double bourbon in a clean glass, saxophones, and driving guitars. So much the same but born from different needs.
I like the Nick Travers character and his love for the music and the masters of the blues is wrapped tightly around a mystery that is at times brutal. This one is dark, moody and leaves you wanting to sit back in a room with the lights turned down low and lose yourself in the music.


Faithless by Karin Slaughter

>> Monday, January 7, 2008

Series: # 5 in the Grant County Series
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 549
Themed Reading Challenge #1, TBR 2008 #1, Chunkster Challenge 2008 #1, A-Z Reading #2 (F Title)

In this fifth book in Slaughter’s Grant County series, Pediatrician/ medical examiner Sara Linton and her ex-husband, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver continue their teamwork in investigating brutal crimes in small town Georgia.

This one opens with the discovery of the body of a young woman. She’d been buried alive in a coffinlike box in the woods and then killed in a horrible manner. Jeffrey and Sara set out to find out who killed her and why. The story is just a little bit less gruesome than some of Slaughter’s earlier books (something I was happy to see), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a brutal and tension filled thriller. The story involves a farm collective/ religious group run by the family of the young victim and the typical complex small town connections between the regular characters of the series and those introduced in this book.

The storyline with series regular Lena, continues to be my least favorite part. I know she’s not written to be likeable, but I continue to think that her back and side stories are the weakest part of this series.

Once again, Karin Slaughter has written a mystery/ thriller that kept me turning the pages as the story built to its conclusion despite the cringeworthy aspects of the story. Not for the faint of heart, but an excellent series, nonetheless.


The Chunkster Challenge 2008

>> Thursday, January 3, 2008

What’s better than a new challenge? A new challenge I can join without adding any more books to my reading list. I’ve already got 6 books planned for 2008 that qualify for this one.

Dana is hosting THE CHUNKSTER CHALLENGE 2008

Here are the guidelines:
    • To qualify the book must be 450 pps regular type OR 750 pps large text.
    • You must read FOUR chunksters (one each quarter), you OBVIOUSLY may read more
    • The Challenge will run Jan 7th, 2008 - Dec 20th, 2008 . . . BUT any chunkster started after Jan 1 qualifies.

Since I tend to read quite a few longer books, I’m going to limit mine to books that are 500 pages or more.

These are the books I’ve got planned already that qualify for this challenge (and I may add more before the year is out).

  1. Faithless by Karin Slaughter
  2. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  3. Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie
  4. Black Wind by Clive Cussler
  5. The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone
  6. Trinity by Leon Uris

Thanks Dana – and thanks for making this an easy one for me to add.


74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber

>> Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Series: # 7 in the Cedar Cove Series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 403
A-Z Reading -- M Author

By book number 7, the inhabitants of Cedar Cove, Washington are like old friends. This series is light, and enjoyable. The cast of characters grows a bit with each book, but established characters are still there among the many ongoing storylines. This series has a certain sappy charm for me and I enjoy the feeling of stopping by for a cup of tea and catching up with what’s new in Cedar Cove. It’s a little bit of drama, a little bit of romance, a high dose of predictability, lots of small town charm, and an interesting mix of characters and storylines.

I picked it up as a nice light break between challenge books, but because Joy came along and made me do the A-Z challenge, I can count it for the M author for that one.


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