Sunday, June 29, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming was originally published in 2002. My paperback copy has 358 pages. This was an ok mystery but I found the characters annoying so at about pg. 80 I skipped to the end to see "who dunnit." We'll see... this may be an indication that I have had my fill of mysteries for awhile.

At Amazon From Publishers Weekly:
In this debut novel, a riveting page-turner from start to finish, born-and-bred Virginian Clare Ferguson, newly ordained priest of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in the small upstate New York town of Millers Kill, is faced with not only an early December snowstorm and the bitter cold of her first Northern winter but also a conservative vestry, who apparently expended all their daring on hiring her, a female priest. When a baby is left on the church doorstep with a note designating that he be given to two of her parishioners, Clare calls in police chief Russ Van Alstyne. The foundling case quickly becomes an investigation into murder that will shatter the lives of members of her congregation, challenge her own feelings and faith and threaten her life. With her background as an army helicopter pilot, Clare is not a typical priest. Smart, courageous and tough, she is also caring, kindhearted and blessed with a refreshing personality. Likewise, the other characters are equally well developed and believable, except for the young pediatrician, who speaks more like a hip teenager than a professional. It is a cast readers will hope to meet again, while a fast-paced plot keeps the guess work going until the very end. Along the way, there is an exceptionally spine-chilling confrontation. The vivid setting descriptions will bring plenty of shivers, but the real strength of this stellar first is the focus on the mystery, which will delight traditional fans.

"It was one hell of a night to throw away a baby." first sentence

"The priest at St. Alban's found the little guy bundled up at the door of the church." pg. 2

"A woman priest in the army. What next? She parachute out of planes dropping bibles?" pg. 14

"In other words....will the quality families we want to attract stay away because we've filled our landmark Eighteen-fifty Gothic Revival sanctuary with Daisy Mae and Queen Latisha!" pg. 28

Friday, June 27, 2008

Blood Money

Blood Money by Thomas Perry was originally published in 1999. My paperback copy is 371 pages. The following review summarizes the plot nicely. There were times it was very exciting and other places that is was excruciatingly slow.

At Amazon, From Publishers Weekly:
Jane Whitefield, first introduced in Perry's Vanishing Act, makes her fifth appearance as a ghostmaker, someone who provides new identities for people in trouble. In this fast-paced thriller, Jane, a one-woman witness protection program, is semiretired, married to a doctor and living a quiet life until a teenage girl, Rita Shelford, comes to her door seeking help. The girl is being hunted, having witnessed a mob shakedown at the Florida house she was employed to clean. Protecting the girl propels Jane into a series of adventures involving Bernie the Elephant, an old man with a photographic memory who has kept Mafia financial records in his head for decades. With Jane's help, Bernie steals billions of dollars from the Mafia accounts and donates the money to charity. Not happy, the mobsters use every trick to capture Jane and Rita. The two women cross the U.S. several times, barely staying one step ahead of their pursuers. While there are many exciting moments, the story bogs down in several places while the mobsters speculate, rehashing information the reader already knows. Perry's writing style and vocabulary are easy and simplistic, and Jane sometimes seems too cool, and too smart, for her own good. The Mafia characters are numerous and interchangeable, and the story ends limply, with four unnecessary closing chapters. This is far from Perry's best, but it's still a quick, easy read with a few thrills. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"There were still moments when the old life seemed to be on the verge of returning - there would be something out of place near the vanishing point of her sight or in the periphery." pg. 1

"She makes people disappear....Someone in Florida told me about her...." pg. 26

"We've told you what we're going to do. What you're going to do hasn't changed. You're going to a place far away where you can pass as a different person" pg. 67

"This doesn't do anything for you except help build a deeper cover....I have other things like that too. They don't have any legal status, but everybody has a few: auto club membership, library card, and so on. You carry them around in your wallet, and it helps make Peter Moore a real person, not a flat picture of a person." pg. 84-85

"Identity is a slippery concept. We think that any time anyone sees our faces, they know us. They'll be able to pick us out of a crowd forever. Sometimes that's true, but other times it's not. The person who sees you forms a picture of you in his memory." pg. 103

"I don't have maternal instincts, I'm a lawyer." pg. 311

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Perry was originally published in 1992. My paperback copy is 308 pages. The writing is surprisingly good, however, I became rather tired of all the killing by the end of the book and wanted Butcher's Boy, the anti-hero, to get caught. I have one more book by Perry I'll be reading next. So far the mysteries have been nice, mindless summer reading and I can easily whip through a book a day, if I have nothing going on that night. The minute I start to tire of them I'll switch back to my own stack of books TBR.

Synopsis from back cover:
"He came to England to rest. He calls himself Michael Schaeffer, says he's a retired American businessman. He goes to the races, dates a kinky aristocrat, and sleeps with dozens of weapons. Ten years ago it was different. Then, he was the Butcher's Boy, the highly skilled mob hit man who pulled a slaughter job on some double-crossing clients and started a mob war. Ever since, there's been a price on his head.

Now, after a decade, they've found him. The Butcher's Boy escapes back to the States with more reasons to kill. Until the odds turn terrifyingly against him . . . until the Mafia, the cops, the FBI, and the damn Justice Department want his hide . . . until he's locked into a cross-country odyssey of fear and death that could tear his world to pieces . . ."
"On August 14 at three in the afternoon, Michael Schaeffer noticed a small poster on a board inside the front window of a small teahouse. It said THE AMAZING POWERS OF THE INTELLECT in bold letters at the top, and this attracted his attention. He hoped that there were amazing powers in the intellect, although his dealings with others and many years of self-examination had revealed none that he thought much of." pg. 1

"Because lunatics are systematic thinkers. If they have a secret history of the world to put forward, they can't have other lunatics shouting, 'Then how do you account for the pyramids? What about Stonehenge? Easter Island?' They have to include these things." pg 4

"The man who had emerged from the Rolls-Royce looked familiar. Mario couldn't remember his name, but at home they would sure as hell remember. He was the hired specialist who had gone crazy years ago and whacked all those guys." pg. 16

"If they'd had to describe him to a policeman, one might have been perceptive enough to have judged that his coat was a good piece of English tailoring but not new, and that he was no longer in his twenties but wasn't yet wearing the strangely driven look that men acquired on their fiftieth birthdays." pg. 46

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dead Run

Dead Run by Erica Spindler was originally published in 2002. My paperback copy is 466 pages. This mystery by Spindler was better than the previous one, although the question of "who dunnit" was still predictable. Nice and easy summer read.

Synopsis from back cover:
"I'm in trouble, Liz. I've uncovered something . . . They're watching . . ."

That panicked message on her answering machine is the last time Liz Ames hears from her sister Rachel, pastor of Paradise Christian Church in Key West, Florida.

Compelled to uncover the truth about her sister's disappearance, she heads to Key West. Within hours of her arrival a successful banker jumps to his death. Then a teenage girl whom Rachel was counseling is found brutally
murdered. The ritualistic style of the killing is hauntingly similar to that used by the notorious "New Testament" serial killer - now on death row.

Could the teen's murder be related to Rachel's disappearance? Is a copycat killer at work? And why do the police refuse to help?

For answers, Liz turns to Rick Wells, a former Miami cop who worked the fringes of the "New Testament" investigation. Together they peel away layers of deception to reveal a terrifying adversary - and the unspeakable evil at the heart of this island paradise.

"She shrank back from the ground-floor window, retreating to the absolute darkness of the room once more. She didn't wan them, the ones who watched, to suspect what she was up to. They were coming for her" pg. 11

"Your sister has disappeared, Ms. Ames. We'd hoped you might be able to offer us a clue as to her whereabouts." pg. 18

"The older wives get, the less of a sense of humor they have" pg. 31

"As she shut the door and turned, her gaze landed on a sheet of folded paper on the floor by her feet....A simple message had been typed on the first line of the notebook paper:
They know. You're in danger here. Go before it's too late." pg. 105

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bone Cold

Bone Cold by Erica Spindler was originally published in 2001. My paperback copy is 506 pages. This is an easy to read, enjoyable, predictable mystery.

Synopsis from book cover:

She thought the nightmare was over...
Twenty-three years ago, Anna North survived a living nightmare. A madman kidnapped her, cut off her pinkie, then vanished. Today Anna lives in New Orleans, writing dark thrillers under another name. She finally feels safe.
But it was only just beginning.
Suddenly Anna's quiet life takes a frightening turn. Letters start to arrive from a disturbed fan. Anna is followed, her apartment broken into. Then a close friend disappears.
Anna turns to homicide detective Quentin Malone, but Malone's more concerned with the recent murders of two women in the French Quarter. But after a third victim is found—a redhead like Anna, her pinkie severed—Malone is forced to acknowledge that Anna is his link to the killer...and could be the next target.
Now Anna must face the horrifying truth—her past has caught up with her. The nightmare has begun again.

"Terror held thirteen-year-old Harlow Anastasia Grail in a death grip." pg. 1

"She was safe. In her own apartment. Except for her parents, she'd cut all ties to her past. None of her friends or business associates knew who she was. Not even her publisher or literary agent. She was Anna North now." pg. 16

"The scene resembled dozens of others Quentin had worked over the years. The seasons changed, the location, the number dead and amount of blood. The aura of tragedy did not." pg. 50

"Anna's heart began to thunder; she felt ill. In one fell swoop her mother had revealed not only her occupation but her city of residence as well." pg. 73

"You know, Detective Malone, after meeting you it doesn't surprise me that there are so many famous unsolved crimes." pg. 99

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Undercurrents by Ridley Pearson was originally published in 1988. My peperback copy has 435 pages. After several pages, I figured out that I had already read this novel about detective Lou Boldt's search for a serial killer years ago. I tried to reread it but just couldn't. I still don't really care for Pearson's writing style -100 pages is as far as I could force myself to read.

"The killings had started again; that was all that mattered." pg. 1

"He, better than most, understood the importance of the crime scene and the need to get there quickly. Any disturbance at the crime scene could throw him off." pg. 2

"At the ore of his uneasiness with the job was the uncovering of people's private lives. Murder has a way, he thought, of unwrapping the package and leaving exposed all those private nuances and secrets people spend a lifetime hiding. With no time to bury these secrets, a murder victim is left unmasked, horribly vulnerable, and all too human." pg. 13

Friday, June 20, 2008


Liar by Jan Burke was originally published in 1998. My paperback copy is 388 pages. This is number 6 in the Irene Kelly Series. (Goodnight Irene was number 1.) This later mystery in the series was better than the first.

A note about these mystery series: Since all the mysteries I will be reading for awhile this summer were given to me, I won't necessarily be reading a whole series. Unless something is truly extraordinarily good, I'm not planning to purchase any missing books of any one series. However, I will try to read the books in the order in which they were published. While I enjoy mysteries as casual reading, I wouldn't call myself a huge mystery fan.

Synopsis from back cover:

Investigative reporting has its hazards, but trouble hits home for Irene Kelly when her estranged aunt is murdered--and Irene becomes the leading suspect. With the police hot on her trail, Irene sets out to find cousin Travis, her dead aunt's son, convinced he's the next target.
But when Irene finds Travis, a camper-driving children's storyteller with suspiciously deep pockets, things blow up--literally. It takes several brushes with death, staying one step ahead of the law, and a few not-so-sweet reunions for Irene to untangle a complex web of family secrets and long-held grudges, and discover just who is killing off the Kelly clan--and why.


"I don't want to give the impression that my sister, Barbara, is a liar. I will admit that I have long thought that her flair for melodrama has been wasted on her usual audience, a family that has more often called for the hook than begged for an encore." pg. 1

"I've never felt what some people feel when they visit graves - what Barbara feels. She feels closer to my mother when she's here." pg. 9

"For most of the weekend, I said, "I've been doing whatever someone else wanted me to do. The results have not been great. Childish though it undoubtedly is, right now I just want to have a really good pout." pg. 68

"I was as much a Maguire as I was a Kelly. It was time to stop letting my father's prejudices ruin any chance of getting closer to my cousin." pg. 127

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Goodnight, Irene

Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke was originally published in 1993. My paperback copy has 351 pages. It's an ok mystery. I'm just beginning to work my way through a huge stack of mysteries passed along to me by my father-in-law after he read them. Most of them will likely be ok, so I'm dropping the rating system for them unless something is very bad or very good.

Synopsis from back cover:
"For thirty-five years the identity of the dismembered woman found under the Las Piernas pier has remained a mystery. What secret did she take to her grave? Southern California reporter Irene Kelly has uncovered a maze of forensic records and confidential files that suggest a motive far more sinister than anyone imagined. The discovery has brought her close to Detective Frank Harriman, and closer still to exposing a killer who will resort to anything to keep his secrets buried -- and Irene silenced forever."


"He loved to watch fat women dance. I guess O'Connor's last night on the planet was a happy one because that night he had an eyeful of the full-figured." pg. 1, opening

"I sometimes heard about people knowing right away that someone they loved has died, that they feel the dead person's spirit leave or something. O'Connor stuck around." pg. 5

"I figure the intended target of the bombing may have been O'Connor himself or his son. Any other possibilities became a lot less likely this afternoon when those shots blasted through your window." pg. 27

"Maybe he has a lot to lose....And maybe he got worried about people who might be persistent enough to figure it out, like O'Connor. You know he never would have let it rest. Well I won't either. Maybe he knows that." pg. 203

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6 quirks

Jane tagged me to list 6 quirks that I have.
Here are the rules:
Link the person who tagged you.
Mention the rules in your blog.
Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
Tag a new set of six bloggers by linking them
Six quirks about me....

1. I have a weird little sway or rock back and forth, side to side, when I'm standing and talking/listening, in person or on the phone. I also rock back and forth , front to back, when sitting on my desk chair. It's like I'm keeping time to the music in my head that no one else can hear. I think it's actually considered an autistic trait.... In certain settings or groups it could help you fit right in.

2. I have to have white noise when I sleep, either a fan or air purifier.

3. I bounce/wiggle my foot when sitting down reading, watching tv, at my desk... (I'm sounding very spastic and twitchy for a relatively calm person.)

4. I like to make lists of things. I love post-it notes.

5. I like to have my feet sticking out when I sleep (unless it's very cold).

6. I'm going to give my last quirk to Just Me because she'll need more than six.

If you want to list your quirks, consider yourself tagged!

High Five

High Five by Janet Evanovich was originally published in 1999. My paperback copy is 317 pages.
Synopsis from the back cover:
" In her fifth high-octane thriller, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum sets out to find her missing uncle - and along the way smacks slam-bang into: a dead body, a nasty bookie, her stun-gun-toting grandmother, two very sexy men, and angry little man who won't leave her apartment, and a Mafia wedding...Jersey's favorite bounty hunter has never been better! With high hair, street smarts and plenty of attitude, Steph's sure to nail this case - or risk her life and spandex-clad limb trying..."


"When I was a little girl I used to dress Barbie up without underpants. On the outside, she'd look like the perfect lady. Tasteful plastic heels, tailored suit. But underneath, she was naked." pg. 1

"Isn't this a pip?" Grandma said."I bet he was beamed up by aliens." pg. 9

"Certain proprieties were observed in the Burg. No matter that your husband was kidnapped by aliens, visitors were offered coffee cake." pg. 11

"The man's been a philandered all his life. I don't know how Mabel put up with it."
"Booze," Grandma said. pg. 19

"My mother always irons during times of disaster. Some people drink, some take drugs. My mother irons." pg.'s 305

Monday, June 16, 2008

Four to Score

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich was originally published in 1998. My paperback copy is 313 pages. This next Stephanie Plum mystery was better than the last one. Oh, there's still entirely too much swearing and crud humor, but Evanovich actually had me laughing out loud a couple times. Entertaining summer reading. Rating: 2.9
Stephanie Plum, the trash-talking New Jersey bail bondswoman of this popular series, is tracking Maxine Nowicki, who's wanted for skipping out on a car-theft charge lodged by her ex-boyfriend. Now the ex-boyfriend's very interested in getting back the love letters he supposedly wrote to Maxine. But what he's really looking for is the secret on which Evanovich hangs her screwball cast of colorful minor characters, including Sally Sweet, a cross-dressing drag queen; Lula, the 250-pound ex-hooker who works for Steph's boss; Cousin Vinnie, the bail bondsman; Grandma Mazur, who packs a Glock and is always looking for a little action; and Joyce, a wannabe bounty hunter who's been cramping Steph's style since she played pass the salami with Steph's ex-husband. The action doesn't get much farther from Trenton than the Jersey Shore, but when Steph's apartment and car are blown up by the others on Maxine's trail and she moves in with Joe Morelli, the handsome, arrogant cop she's been hung up on since high school, it gets hotter than the craps table in Atlantic City. Plum's fans won't be disappointed in this fourth outing in the series, and they're likely to be even more interested in the snappy patter and sexy shenanigans than in the mystery that holds it all together. --Jane Adams
"Living in Trenton in July is like living inside a big pizza oven. Hot, airless, aromatic." pg. 1

"I slunk back to my car and decided that my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a doughnut." pg. 13

"Mr. Landowsky was eighty-two and somehow his chest had shrunk over the years, and now he was forced to hike his pants up under his armpits." pg. 16

"I hoped he didn't have a tongue stud. I had to struggle not to make guttural animal sounds when I talked to people wearing tongue studs." pg. 30

"Their hands remained clasped and their bodies jerked in rigid struggle. The morons were arm wrestling.
'That does it,' I said. 'I'm getting my gun. And I'm going to shoot the winner.' " pg. 68

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three to Get Deadly

Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich was originally released in 1998. My paperback copy has 321 pages. This is an easy, enjoyable read full of one liners. This is one of three novels by Evanovich that were given to me. I can see where I could grow weary of the glib dialogue, crude humor, swearing, and oneliners, but we'll see. I'll start the next one. It's ok, but not quite up to recommended. Rating: 2.9

Synopsis from cover:
"A 'saintly' old candy-store owner is on the lam-and bounty hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum is on the case. As the body count rises, Stephanie finds herself dealing with dead drug dealers and slippery fugitives on the chase of her life. And with the help of eccentric friends and family, Steph must see to it that this case doesn't end up being her last..."


" 'You've been a bounty hunter for five...months. What's the big deal?'
'This is Uncle Mo....I can't apprehend Uncle Mo. Everyone will hate me. My mother will hate me. My best friend will hate me.'
'Mo jumped bail. That makes him a slimeball. That's all that counts." pg. 1

"Moses Bedemeir is a solid burg citizen. Over time, Mo and his linoleum have aged, so that both have some pieces chipped at the corners the burg Uncle Mo's is as close as we come to a historic treasure." pg. 2

"Adaptation is one of the great advantages to being born and bred in Jersey. We're simply not bested by bad hair or tainted water. We're like catfish with lungs. Take us out of our environment and we can grow whatever body parts we need to survive. After Jersey the rest of the country's a piece of cake. You want to send someone into a fallout zone? Get him from Jersey. He'll be fine." pg. 14

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Blindsight by Peter Watts was originally published in 2006. My paperback copy is 384 pages. Because Blindsight was a Hugo Award finalist, I had high hopes for it; regrettably it did not live up to my expectations. First, I enjoy hard science fiction and Blindsight wasn't quite hard enough for me or rather the focus of the science didn't correspond with my interests. Second, it seemed that Watts wasn't quite as concerned with the development of characters, and a clear narrative to push the plot forward as he should have been. The whole vampire thing was silly. There were, however, some neat ideas introduced. Blindsight was an OK book. I'm rating it a 3.

Amazon; From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Watts (Starfish) explores the nature of consciousness in this stimulating hard SF novel, which combines riveting action with a fascinating alien environment. In the late 21st century, when something alien is discovered beyond the edge of the solar system, the spaceship Theseus sets out to make contact. Led by an enigmatic AI and a genetically engineered vampire, the crew includes a biologist who's more machine than human, a linguist with surgically induced multiple personality disorder, a professional soldier who's a pacifist, and Siri Keeton, a man with only half a brain. Keeton is virtually incapable of empathy, but he has a savant's ability to model and predict the actions of others without understanding them. Once the Theseus arrives at the gigantic and hideously dangerous alien artifact (which has tellingly self-named itself Rorschach), the crew must deal with beings who speak English fluently but who may, paradoxically, not even be sentient, at least as we understand the term. Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information

"Pack animals always tear apart the weaklings in their midst. Every child knows that much instinctively." pg. 14

"So I survived that and a million other childhood experiences. I grew up and I got along. I learned to fit in. I observed, recorded, derived the algorithms and mimicked appropriate behaviors." pg. 17

"But that, that distance - that chronic sense of being an alien among your own kind - it's not entirely a bad thing.
It came in especially handy when the real aliens came calling." pg. 18

"The whole world had been caught with its pants down in panoramic composite freeze-frame. We'd been surveyed - whether as a prelude to formal introductions or outright invasion was anyone's guess." pg. 38

"They [Historians] didn't have too many thought on the probable prevalence of intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrials, but if there are any, they said, they're not just going to be smart. They're going to be mean." pg. 79

"The blind spot's moving....It's....tracking us." pg 94

"That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." Trevor Goodchild pg. 268

Friday, June 13, 2008

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel was originally published in 2001. My paperback copy is 401 pages. Life of Pi is definitely worthy of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. When Life of Pi was originally published and rave reviews started to come pouring in, I dismissed them because I thought that the idea of a story about a boy and tiger in a boat seemed silly. Life of Pi is about so much more. I need to go on record saying I loved this book and recommend it very highly with a rating of 5.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one opens with Pi Patel's youth in Pondicherry, India, where his father serves as the keeper of the town's zoo. It is in this first part that we learn many important facts that will come into play later. Although the pace might seem slow to some, I found it quite interesting. It is in the first part that we learn of Pi's fascination with religion. Much to the bemusement of his parents, he becomes a practitioner of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. With a passionate belief in one God, Pi has a disdain for agnostics.

In part two, which makes up most of the book, the ship transporting Pi's family and many of the zoo animals to Canada sinks. Pi survives on a lifeboat that also contains an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Most of the book involves Pi's survival at sea for 227 days in a lifeboat with a deadly Bengal tiger. The Tiger can either just be a tiger or it can symbolize many things to different readers.

Part three is a very abbreviated, humorous section involving Pi's questioning at the hands of two Japanese Ministry of Transport officials looking for the cause of the ship's sinking. Their complete disbelief at his first account of surviving with the tiger leads him to tell them a second more brutal account of his survival. In the end Life of Pi does not tell us which account is true. It is left for the reader to decide which account to believe. I think Life of Pi sets up the ultimate question and struggle of faith versus reason. Pi's first story is incredible, fantastic, but hard to believe despite all the evidence that it occurred exactly as he described it (just as some Biblical stories are hard to believe). Pi's second account is brutal, but more believable in some ways even though it dismisses evidence to the contrary.


"My majors were religious studies and zoology." pg. 3

"Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students - muddled agnostics who didn't know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fool's gold for the bright - reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God." pg. 5

"I love Canada...It is a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos." pg. 7

"To chose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation." pg. 36

"All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it no species would survive." pg. 51

"Hediger (1950) says, 'When two creatures meet, the one that is able to intimidate its opponent is recognized as socially superior, so that a social decision does not always depend on a fight; and encounter in some circumstances may be enough.' " pg. 55

"We are all born like Catholics, aren't we - in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God? After that meeting the matter ends for most of us." pg. 58

"There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people will walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, 'Business as usual.' But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.
These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves....The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defence, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush." pg. 89-90

"...I discovered at that moment that I have a fierce will to live. It's not something evident, in my experience. Some of us give up on life with only a resigned sigh. Others fight a little, then lose hope. Still others - and I am one of those - never give up. We fight and fight and fight." pg. 186

"The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving." pg. 264

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Plague Year

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson was originally published in August, 2007. My paperback copy is 292 pages. First, let's just make it clear right from the git go that this ain't any of that there fine litter-chure. I'm not going to bother rating it. I firmly believe that a reader should be allowed to read simply for the escapism, much like others might watch a bad movie... for the third time. I don't read romance novels, but give me some hard science fiction or a little action/adventure novel and I'm good to go. And you know what, Plague Year is ok for what it is. Overlook a few throw away gratuitous sex scenes, and don't look at the science backing all the actions the characters make too closely, and this is another good summer read. If you happened to misplace it at the beach or in the airport, it won't break your heart. You also aren't going to lament a little sand in the pages or drips from an ice cold beverage hitting the book. For those of you who decide to give it a go, look for future summer reading from Carlson. His Plague War is being released this July 29 and the third part of this trilogy, Mind Plague, is expected in the summer of 2009. These are released right to paperback for your summer reading pleasure.

In Plague Year, created nanotechs, nano-machines, have killed off most of the world's population. Only those who have managed to get to and live at 10,000 feet have survived since the nanotechs can not survive at that elevation. Plague Year follows two groups of survivors. One is a small group in the Sierra Mountains of California. The other group includes a nanotech researcher who was aboard the international space station and manages to land near what is left of the U. S. government in Leadville, Colorado.


"They ate Jorgensen first." pg. 1

"The high California Sierra, east of whatever remained of Sacramento, consisted of surprisingly straight lines. Ravines and drainages formed slashing V shapes." pg. 2

Every person on this mountain had left family and friends behind in the first mad scramble to get above the invisible sea of nanotech." pg. 6

"Of the few known facts, it was certain that the machine plague first got loose in northern California - San Jose, Cal Berkeley, someone's garage - and there hadn't been time for much warning." pg. 8

"The machine as they knew it seemed to be only a prototype, with room left for additional programming. The damned thing was biotech, organic, built to fool the human immune system." pg. 36

"It was a very human phenomenon, making a fear real by taking action intended to be preventative. They had created a problem that otherwise might not have arisen for years, if ever." pg. 161

Beautiful girls grew up differently than everyone else. The way they were adored had a distinct formative effect, turning many of them into show-offs of one kind or another." pg. 167

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Woman goes on Murderous Rampage

When surrounded by home invaders at eight different entry points today, Lori, a local woman, took action and viciously fought back. Just Me, Lori's daughter, alerted her to the planned home invasion when Just Me saw the intruders swarming through her windows. Armed only with her bare hands, a paper towel, ant spray, and sheer determination, Lori fought a vicious battle with hoards of winged ants who were pouring into eight different windows in the house. For awhile it looked like it would be easier to leave the house to the ants and flee, but after doggedly standing her ground and inhaling enough ant killer to cause her serious future health concerns, it appears that she has once again successfully stopped the intruders from taking over. When spoken to later, Lori said, "After the plumber fiasco this morning was followed the ant invasion this afternoon, I think it is time to leave the little house in the big woods and move." Later that evening the dog threw up... four times. Lori has settled into reading a plague book, always a grim sign.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Ruins

The Ruins by Scott Smith was originally published in 2006. My hardcover copy is 319 pages. The plot is basic: tourists get lost in horrific jungle.
Jeff, Amy, Eric and Stacy, two American couples just out of college, have impulsively decided to take a beach vacation in Mexico. They befriend German tourist Mathias, as well as three Greek tourists. They decide to accompany Mathias, along with one of the Greeks (who calls himself Pablo) after they learn that Mathias is going to an archaeological dig at some Mayan ruins in search of his brother, who has headed to these ruins looking for a girl he met. The Ruins tells what happened to these tourists. There is a movie now, which I haven't seen.
I liked The Ruins and recommend it. No, it's not fine literature, but that's not exactly what I was looking for when I picked this book up. It's great escapism. It was scary enough to hold my attention. This would be a great summer vacation book, but not if you are headed to any jungles... or even any lush, verdant areas... with vines. Rating: 3.9


"They were visiting Mexico for three weeks. It was August, a foolish time to travel to the Yucatan. The weather was too hot, too humid." pg. 4

"He told her that she didn't have to go, that she could spend the day alone on the beach if she liked, and she just stared at him. They both knew who she was, how she'd rather be with the group, doing something she didn't like, than alone, doing something she enjoyed." pg. 11

"A tree on her left seemed to call her name. Stacy, it whispered, so clearly that she actually turned her head, a goose-bump feeling running up and down her back." pg. 45

"But Jeff was staring at the vines, the isolated island, knowing already what it was, knowing it deep, without quite being conscious of this knowledge." pg. 57

"That the vine could grow so quickly seemed extraordinary, an important development, and yet what did it mean?" pg. 127

"When he stood up, he had the knife in his hand. He was just starting for the tent, when he stopped suddenly, staring toward Amy, toward her feet, toward the ground beyond them. Stacy, too, turned to look, and - instantly - went equally still. Their faces shared an identical expression, a mix of horror and incomprehension, and even before Amy spun to see what it was, she felt her heart begin to accelerate, adrenaline rushing through her body. She didn't want to see, but that was over, the not seeing; that wasn't an option any longer. There was movement behind her, a shuffling sound, and Stacy lifted her right hand, covered her mouth, wide-eyed." pg. 138

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews was originally published in 2004. My hardcover copy has 246 pages. This is the story of an emotionally wounded, disenchanted, embittered, rebellious teen, Nomi, who manages to survive while dealing with the bleak reality of living with her father in the legalistic Mennonite town her sister and mother have fled. It is a coming-of-age novel with a touch of despair mixed in with sarcastic humor. Nomi is an anti-hero. She is not exhibiting heroic behavior in the face of adversity; she's a young woman spinning out of control.

While Toews talent is evident in the honest insights and sensitivities revealed in A Complicated Kindness, there are a few moments when Nomi and her town can become slightly tiresome. This is a novel that must be finished to be fully appreciated. Rather than an action packed adventure, A Complicated Kindness slowly moves along, revealing new clues explaining why Nomi's mother and sister left, and why her father stays. This novel is different, darker, edgier than Toews' A Boy of Good Breeding. Highly recommend with a rating of 4.

Synopsis from cover:
Welcome to the world of Nomi Nickel, a tough, wry young woman trapped in a small Mennonite town that seeks to set her on the path to righteousness and smother her at the same time. In this work of fierce originality and brilliance, Miriam Toews explores the intricate binds of family, and the forces that tear them apart.

"Half our family, the better-looking half, is missing,'" Nomi tells us at the beginning of A Complicated Kindness. Left alone with her father Ray, her days are spent piecing together the reasons her mother, Trudie, and her sister, Natasha, have gone missing, and trying to figure out what she can do to avoid a career at Happy Family Farms, a chicken abattoir on the outskirts of East Village - not the neighborhood in Manhattan where Nomi most wants to live, but the small town in southern Manitoba. Boasting such attractions as a Main Street that goes nowhere and a replica pioneer village that harkens back to the days when life was simple, and citizens who didn't live by the book were routinely shunned East Village is ministered by the fiercely pious Hans, or as Nomi calls her uncle, The Mouth.

As Nomi gets to the bottom of the truth behind her mother's and sister's disappearances, she finds herself on a direct collision course with her uncle and the only community she has ever known. But one startling act of defiance brings the novel to its shattering conclusion, and Miriam Toews reveals herself as a master of story telling at the height of her powers.

"I have assignments to complete. That's the word, complete. I've got a problem with endings. Mr. Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer's control." pg. 1

"People here just can't wait to die, it seems. It's the main event. The only reason we're not all snuffed at birth is because that would reduce our suffering by a lifetime." pg. 5

"Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking, temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock 'n' roll, ...swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o'clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno. pg. 5

"The place Trudie travelled to most often was the church basement. The women have to spent a lot of time there. If they don't want to go to hell." pg. 9

"Tash and I exchanged looks that meant something like: Is our mother crazy in a cool, fun way or has she stepped over the line into disturbing crazy that we'd like to see stop?" pg. 12

"Good Mennonites don't technically celebrate the arrival of another year of being imprisioned in this world. It's a frustrating night for them." pg. 22

"When we were little, Tash and I would sit in the darkened dining room of my grandmother's farmhouse, listening to the funeral announcements. They came on after supper, on the local radio station we were allowed to listen to because the elders knew it was better for little children to listen to the names of dead people being read out in a terrifying monotone than the Beatles singing all we need is love." pg. 39

"I had an imaginary friend then who hated me and was trying to kill me. The night walks with Trudie helped me to forget my problems." pg. 87

"I had to go to a farmer's field with my history class and pick rocks. It was supposed to help us appreciate how excellent our current lives were. " pg.98

"When I got to school I told my teacher I was on cloud nine. I told her I was so happy I thought I could fly. I told her I felt so great I wanted to dance like Fred Astaire.
She said life was not a dream. And dancing was a sin. Now get off it and sit back down." pg. 209

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Boy of Good Breeding

A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews was originally published in 1998. My paperback copy is 237 pages. It was the winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year award. A Boy of Good Breeding is a delightful, funny little story set in a small Canadian town of quirky characters. This is a book that leaves you with a good feeling. Toews could be favorably compared to a Canadian Garrison Keillor or Fannie Flagg. A Boy of Good Breeding is the perfect book for light summer reading. I am looking forward to reading Toews' A Complicated Kindness next. The right book at the right time makes it highly recommended with a rating of 4.
One thousand five hundred, that's the magic number. At least, it is for Mayor Hosea Funk when it comes to his town, Algren, Manitoba. Algren's claim to fame is its rank as Canada's smallest town, a title that incites both pride and constant angst for its eccentric mayor. Motivated by the Prime Minister's pledge to visit the smallest Canadian town, Hosea Funk tallies births, deaths and all other arrivals and departures to make sure the population hovers at 1,500 -- less than that and the town becomes a village, more and the town might lose its title. Enter Knute Corea-McCloud. A single mom returning home to Algren from the big city, Knute takes a job in the mayor's office and soon finds herself entangled in his schemes. But keeping the population at an even 1,500 is easier said than done, especially when citizens threaten to leave, the father of Knute's daughter threatens to move back, and Hosea's lady friend pressures him to commit. Then there's the rumour that a local woman might give birth to triplets, and it looks like Mayor Hosea's plan is on the verge of turning into a shamble. A sweet, funny story about finding out where one belongs, A Boy of Good Breeding is Miriam Toews's second novel. First published by Stoddart in 1998, it was revised and released in paperback in Canada by Vintage in 2005.


"Algren was Canada's smallest town. It really was. Canada's Smallest Town. It said so on a big old billboard right outside the town limits and Knute had checked with one of those government offices in the blue pages and they said fifteen hundred is what you need for a town. And that's what Algren had." pg. 1

"So Knute worried, from time to time, about S.F. bursting into flames for no apparent reason. And that was the type of concern she couldn't really explain to people, even close friends, without having them asking her if she needed a nap or what she'd been reading lately or just plain laughing at her." pg. 2

"Anyway, it was a lot better than pumping gas. The one time Knute tried that she accidently filled up a motor home with gas - not the gas tank, but the interior of the motor home itself. She had accidently stuck the nozzle into the water-spout hole instead of the gas tank hole." pg. 5

"So Veronica says seeing how she went to so much work to have these three babies, she should at least be able to name one of them. Makes sense to me, right, but you know Gord her husband always does the naming, he's that kind of guy. And he likes names like Ed and Chuck and Dirk and Todd, you know, names that sound like farts." pg. 99

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Puttermesser Papers

The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick was originally published in 1997. My paperback copy is 236 pages. First, this is not a novel. It is a collection of sharp and witty short stories featuring the character Ruth Puttermesser. Ozick has a unique style of writing which can be enjoyable, but the stories themselves tend to be rather depressing. Normally I'm not a great fan of short stories and I found several of these difficult to slog through. This is one of those collections that you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy. Apparently I wasn't there. If I were to rate this compilation as a whole right now, it would receive a so-so rating of 2, although some parts were brilliant and could receive a 4.5. Because of this, it's best to not rate The Puttermesser Papers.

Fans of Cynthia Ozick are likely already familiar with Ruth Puttermesser, whose highly educated, unlucky-in-love but rather mystical existence as a Jewish woman in New York City has been chronicled in previously published stories appearing occasionally through the years. The Puttermesser Papers collects the old stories, along with several new ones, combined to create a funny and surreal picaresque narrative, touching upon Puttermesser's job at a blueblood law firm, her creation and intellectual sparring with the golem she makes out of soil from her flowerpots, her term as mayor of New York, her own death by murder, and beyond.


"It was not that she intended to remember everything: situations - it was her tendency to call intellectual problems 'situations' - slipped into her mind like butter into a bottle." pg. 4

"There, at any rate, Puttermesser would sit, in Eden, under a middle-sized tree....And there Puttermesser would, as she imagined it, take in. Ready to her left hand, the box of fudge....; ready to her right hand, a borrowed steeple of library books: for into Eden the Crotona Park Branch has ascended intact, sans librarians and fines, but with its delectable terrestrial binding-glue fragrances unevaporated." pg. 13

"She lived now surrounded by auditors - literal-minded men." pg. 35

"People get stuck. Brains are no guarantee. Hope is slim." pg. 107

"You could feel it under your soles right through the carpeting. The building was a nervous organism; its familiar soughings ricocheted from cranny to cranny." pg. 110

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

If you came over to my house

You would see:
Walking through the front door you would see a clean house. You're walking into the livingroom with 3 large double bookcases to the left on one whole wall. A hall on the left leads to bedrooms. As you walked in further, to the right you'd see a dining room (really just a part of the LR) with a bucket on the floor to catch drips from a leak in the roof. Looking to your right would be a kitchen. Straight ahead is a small landing with stairs leading up to the master, a door to the right leading to the garage, and to the left is the entrance to the den/family room, with more bookcases.
We’d probably feed you:
Do we have to feed you? Are you here for a meal? We would offer you something to drink right away. Coffee? Ice tea? Water? If we have to feed you, currently we'd offer you home made bread and salad. We'd offer to grill something for you, probably chicken. We'd very likely ask you what you'd like.
We’d undoubtedly ask if you’d read:
If you enjoy reading, we probably wouldn't need to ask you anything. You'll be drawn to the bookcases like a fly to honey. You'll be browsing like you are in a library. You'll be asking us about books. We will try to answer your questions.

We’d want to play this music for you:
It's very likely some kind of world music would already be playing. We could ask you what country's music you'd like to listen too and Just Me could accommodate your wishes. We could also do jazz, blues, and classical.

We’d want to tell you the latest about:
What's new with us; what has happened recently. We might talk about the bucket in the diningroom, and summer school.
We’d probably suggest a game of:
Something on the Wii, or the game cube, or the computer, or...
We might show off:
I might mention the talents of Wonder Boy and Just Me. You might notice part of our rock collection. Just Me would want you to see her CD collection, organized by country and type of music. The Wonder Boy would likely not show off at all.
We might get on the computer and show you:
The current weather radar.
If it was a long enough visit, we might watch:
Oh, you are staying here for a long visit then, huh? Over night? Do I need to find beds for you? Well, since you are here for awhile, we'd let you browse our DVD collection and pick something. It mainly features old science fiction movies or old classics. Perhaps if you're up to it we could do a Doris Day marathon? Or an giant creature marathon?
What would a visit to your house be like?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The American Plague

The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby was originally published in November 2006. My hardcover copy, including the text to the index is 308 pages. I've had The American Plague on my wish list since it was originally published and it was with great relish that I started this nonfiction book. You know how I am about plague books... Crosby's book lived up to my expectations. It is by no means an exhaustive look at yellow fever over the years, however, it really is a concise introductory account of yellow fever. The information was very nicely researched, compiled, and presented. Crosby also has included an epilogue, an exhaustive section of notes, a bibliography, and index. This is a very highly recommended book. Rating: 4.5 Now, I must research how one becomes an epidemic psychologist.

Book Description from Publisher:
The American Plague delves into America's not-so-distant past to recount one of the greatest epidemics of our time. It tells the story of the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee-one that would cost more lives than the Chicago fire, San Francisco earthquake and Johnstown flood combined-and, it is a narrative journey into Cuba and West Africa, where a handful of doctors would change medical history.

Yellow fever, a virus born of the slave trade, struck 500,000 Americans over two centuries touching every state from Texas to Massachusetts. It paralyzed governments, halted commerce, quarantined cities and altered the outcome of wars. It was not only the gruesome symptoms of the disease-much like those of Ebola today-but the long-term, crippling effect on a place and its people that made it such a dreaded disease and one that the federal government could not ignore.

In 1900, the United States sent three doctors led by Walter Reed to Cuba to discover how this disease was spread. Camped on sprawling farmland just outside of Havana, they launched one of history's most controversial human studies. Two of the doctors would be infected; one would die. Two-dozen men-veterans of the Spanish-American War-would volunteer to be test subjects.

Tragic and terrifying, The American Plague beautifully depicts the story of yellow fever, and its reign in this country. A story that, in the end, is as much about the nature of human beings as it is the nature of disease.

Quotes (not for the weak stomached):

"It hit suddenly in the form of a piercing headache and painful sensitivity to light, like looking into a white sun. At that point the patient could still hope that it was not yellow fever, maybe just a headache from the heat. But then the pain worsened, crippling movement and burning the skin. The fever rose to 104 maybe 105 degrees, and bones felt as though they had been cracked. The kidneys stopped functioning, poisoning the body. Abdominal cramps began in the final days of illness as the patient vomited black blood brought on by internal hemorrhaging. The victim became a palate of hideous color: Red blood ran from the eyes, gums and nose. The tongue swelled, turning purple. Black vomit roiled. And the skin grew a deep gold, the whites of the eyes turning brilliant yellow." pg. 2

"Yellow fever is what is known as a flavivirus, a group of viruses spread by mosquitoes that include West Nile, dengue and Japanese encephalitis." pg 9

"...but 100 years later, scientists would link El Nino to most major outbreaks of yellow fever." pg. 13

"And the tale of the Flying Dutchman is thought to be the story of a yellow-fever-infected ship repeatedly denied port until all on board perished of the fever, and the ship was forced to sail endlessly, manned by a ghost crew..." pg. 40

"When a scourge of this magnitude strikes, the minds of people, against all rational thought, look for a reason. Modern-day epidemic psychologists have described a total collapse of conventional order- fear pervades..." pg. 53

"In modern times it's hard to understand the mentality that would lead a soldier into knowingly risking his life for the purpose of medicine....From the time of the American Revolution through World War I, a soldier knew his odds of dying from dysentery, cholera, typhoid, smallpox, influenza, or yellow fever were greater than those on the battlefield, so volunteering for human experiments might not seem as much of a psychological departure as it would today." pg. 173

"Yellow fever is listed among the pathogens that might be used during a bioterrorist attack." pg. 234

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Home to Holly Springs

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon was originally published in 2007. My hardcover copy has 356 pages. Technically this doesn't matter since I read to about page 150, skimmed ahead to see what exactly happened, and then set the book aside with great relief. I enjoyed Karon's Mitford series as light summer reading, but found this book almost painfully boring and tedious. Sorry Mitford fans but this books gets a rating of 0. I was unable to finish it (in a conventional way.)

From Publishers Weekly At Amazon:
Karon.... introduces a new series featuring Father Tim. The beloved Episcopal priest returns to his childhood town of Holly Springs, Miss., where he reconnects with old friends and battles some old demons. The novel is thick with Father Tim's past, as Karon uses flashbacks to shed light on his early adulthood, especially his transition to seminary.....Yet the book is far from perfect. Development of the quirky locals in Holly Springs is thin, and the end is a tad abrupt. Most frustratingly, the central drama of the novel falls flat: Father Tim discovers a long-buried family secret, but he doesn't grapple deeply enough with the emotional consequences of his discovery, nor does Karon fully explore the ways in which the secret plunges us into the Southern quagmire of race. Still, Mitford fans will enjoy this newest visit with wise, winsome, lovable Father Tim. (Oct. 30) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.