Thursday, June 30, 2011

The City & The City by China Mieville

From the publisher: When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel's equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman's secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

First line: I could not see the street or much of the estate.

My thoughts: Having read a couple of this author's books before, I thought I knew what I was getting into. Not so. Apparently this author's imagination knows no bounds, has no limits. This is essentially a great mystery, a gritty police procedural that will keep you guessing till the end. What makes it uniquely Mieville's is the setting. The two cities, sharing one space set in the present reality of our world was.......quite intriguing. The way the citizens lived, unseeing and unhearing the other city and its population was made real by the way it was written. I have seen the term "Weird Fiction" applied to Mieville's writing and that is perfect. It is weird. And it draws me in each time. Loved it. My only complaint would be that I would have liked to know Dhatt and Borlu better.

This novel won the World Fantasy Award for best novel, The Hugo Award for best novel, and The BSFA Award for best novel.

Rating: A

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Quotable Rogue edited by Matt Lewis

My thoughts: I chose to read and review this book from Thomas Nealson Publishers because Sarah Palin intrests me. I thought what better way to learn about her than through her own words? If you like her or if you don't, I think Sarah is here to stay and this short book illustrates where she stands on many subjects. Matt Lewis collected these quotes, which span the time period from 2006 to 2010, and placed them in chapters organized by subjects such as Economics, Crime, Education and Foreign Policy to name a few. My favorite quotes as a whole were found in the chapters called "On Being Sarah" ("I don't like to shop") and "On Family" ("The toughest thing has been the shots taken against the kids, against the family. They're Kids. The mama grizzly bear in me comes out....") The chapter called "On Tina Fey" was just fun. Sarah is not shy about her faith, so I wish there had been more in that chapter.

While no two people can agree on every thing I found I do agree with her thoughts on many things. Reading these quotes I came to feel that she is a down to earth, real type person, one I might enjoy meeting. Some of these quotes made me laugh, made me think and shake my head in wonder. It is a quick read at about 180 pages and one I will recommend.

From the Publisher: Inspiring, impactful, and revealing words from political and cultural icon Sarah Palin.

Many a pundit has tried to define Sarah Palin, but this is one woman who chooses not to wear labels imposed by others but instead to define herself by her own words and actions. Today she is one of the most sought after speakers and commentators and is poised to help to frame the issues in the 2010 election and beyond. The Quotable Rogue encapsulates Palin’s thoughts on such salient issues as health care, taxes, and government spending, the right to life, climate change, what it means for a politician to serve the people, and more.

“We need to spend more time lifting up America instead of apologizing for the greatest country on earth.”
“How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for you?”
“My dad always says, ‘Don’t retreat, just reload.’ Don’t let anybody tell you to sit down and shut up.”

Rating: C
Quote: pg 37 "Sarah Palin: I like running alone, and having the Secret Service with me added a little bit of pressure. I'm thinking I gotta have good form and can't be hyperventilating and can't be showing too much pain, and that adds a little more pressure on you as you're trying to be out there enjoying your run. Then I fell coming down a hill and was so stinkin` embarassed that a golf cart full of Secret Service guys had to pull up beside me...In the debate you could see a big, fat, ugly Band-Aid on my right hand. I have a nice war wound now as a reminder of that fall in the palm of my right hand. For much of the campaign, shaking hands was a little bit painful.

Runner's World: I don't remember news reports about it.
Sarah Palin: Heck no! I made those guys swear to secrecy."

 (This one made me laugh. How hard is it choosing a quote from a book full of quotes?)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

About the book: This is the story of Vivienne de la Mare and how she lives her life during the German occupation of  her home, the small Channel Island of Guernsey. She is left alone to care for her two young daughters and mother-in-law while her husband is away at war. As the times grow tougher, the food and other resources scarcer, the horrors of war closer, Vivienne finds comfort in the one place she never thought she would: with one of the German soldiers who moved into the house next door.

First line: 'Once upon a time there were twelve princesses...' My voice surprises me."

My thoughts: I quite enjoyed this low key, gentle, thought provoking historical novel. The sense of time and place, the Guernsey occupation, was wonderfully written. The prose at times was beautiful. I was drawn into the everyday lives of these people as they tried to maintain normalcy in the face of deprivation, horror and the need for self-preservation. My favorite character has to be Millie, the youngest daughter. She is a smart, playful child with a big heart. Vivienne's struggle with survival was compelling. The picture drawn, of the prisoners and their treatment, while not a big part of the novel, was horrific.

I would have liked to have known more about Gunther, I felt his character was rather flat as was the romance. The fear of discovery was a black cloud that hung over the whole story, yet the romance, the feelings of the two were not fleshed out.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction.

Rating: B

Quote"There is a hole in the wire," he says. "There are guards who will not notice if we leave the camp at night. They look in the other direction. If we are there for the morning roll-call, some of them turn a blind eye. there is little food in the camp. They give us only water with a bit of turnip in it."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

About the book: With this acclaimed work and its immortal query, "Who is John Galt?", Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence. Atlas Shrugged made Rand not only one of the most popular novelists of the century, but one of its most influential thinkers.

Ayn Rand's epochal novel, first published in 1957, has been a bestseller for more than four decades as well as an intellectual landmark. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world - and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who needed him most - and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world's motor - and the motive power of every man?

Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life - from the productive genius who becomes a worthless the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction... to the philosopher who becomes a the composer who gives up his career on the night of his the woman who runs a transcontinental the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels.

Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand's masterpiece. It is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.

First line: "Who is John Galt?"

My thoughts: Wow! This has been in my TBR pile for several years and I have been putting it off, I guess because of the size of the tome. Even though I found it a bit wordy at times I thought it was captivating and compelling, I had a hard time putting it down. It is a dystopian novel set in an alternate 5os era so the sci/fi, fantasy nature of the book appealed to me. The author has very strong philosophical beliefs which were the foundation of this novel and are the source of much controversy. Basically I put the philosophy to the back of my mind, I read it for the fiction. The main characters were larger than life and I couldn't help loving them. Rand herself said about them that "they are not man as he is, rather man as he should be." There were no shades of gray here, all black and white. The good characters were good and the bad were evil.Even though I like this book, there were a few things that I didn't like: For one the sex was rough with little or no love involved. The 70 page speech on one of the main character's vision of life was a bit much (Yawn). All the main characters fall for Dagney and she has no trouble moving on to the next guy. Rand's
treatment of her philosophy was preachy and heavy handed.

Rating: A

Quote: "She sat listening to the music. It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

About the book: Charlotte Bronte's impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine--one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved. Hailed by William Makepeace Thackeray as "the masterwork of great genius," Jane Eyre is still regarded, over a century later, as one of the finest novels in English literature.
First line: There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

My thoughts: I "had" to read Jane Eyre in school (many years ago) and so remembered nothing about it. I must say I really liked it! It was a great read and I never found it to be too wordy, preachy or stuffy. I especially enjoyed the sence of place and time. It has a little of everything one could want in a good read: romance, mystery, an intelligent & independent heroin, a dark, brooding love interest, and a huge, gloomy home. Jane was a wonderful, well developed character. Jane's statement "I know no medium" sums up her character. She is strong and moral. She will not let herself be anything less. I'm glad I reread this at this time in my life when I could truly appreciate it.


Quote: "No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?" "No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?"
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: "I must keep in good health and not die."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

About the book: The latest installment in the beloved, best-selling series is once again a beautiful blend of wit and wisdom, and a profoundly touching tale of the human heart.

At a remote cattle post south of Gaborone two cows have been killed, and Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s No. 1 Lady Detective, is asked to investigate by a rather frightened and furtive gentleman. It is an intriguing problem with plenty of suspects—including, surprisingly, her own client.

To complicate matters, Mma Ramotswe is haunted by a vision of her dear old white van, and Grace Makutsi witnesses it as well. Is it the ghost of her old friend, or has it risen from the junkyard? In the meantime, one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentices may have gotten a girl pregnant and, under pressure to marry her, has run away. Naturally, it is up to Precious to help sort things out. Add to the mix Violet Sephotho’s newly launched run for the Botswana Parliament and a pair of perfect wedding shoes—will wedding bells finally ring for Phuti Radiphuti and Grace Makutsi?—and we have a charming and delightful tale in the inimitable style of Alexander McCall Smith.

First line: Mma Ramotswe had by no means forgotten her late white van.My thoughts: The publishers blurb says it is a charming and delightful tale and I did find myself charmed, as I have by anything I've read by McCall Smith. By the reading of this, the 12th book in the series, I feel that Precious is a dear friend. I can anticipate how she will react to most any situation, and she never disappoints me. Her heart is as big as Africa. Her consideration for others, her common sense, and and love of the old ways was fully in evidence. I rejoiced with her in this book as she found that her beloved tiny white van was alive and well, my heart broke for the children she thought of, and I loved looking at Botswana through her eyes. The author does a great job of making you see and feel what the characters see and feel.
The main mystery, that of the cattle that have been killed, is not an easy one to investigate for Mma Ramotswe. She comes up with several suspects and as she sorts through them I was treated to a small glimpse into the past when Great Britain governed there. Finally, Grace and Phuti are getting married and of course there is a great deal of importance placed on shoes, Grace being an incurable shoe addict. Mma Potakwane, the lady who runs the orphan farm, did not receive an invitation and is a little hurt. But she is Mma Potakawane, a force to be reckoned with. You will love to she how she handles this and becomes a vital part of the celebration

I love the gentle humor, the way the gentle spirits of his characters are formed. The prose is beautiful and the dialogue fun to read. Mr. JLB Matekoni's kindness and integrity; and Grace's pride in a job well done, Mma Ramotswe's wisdom, and the apprentices youth just shine.

The only criticism I have of this book is that it is too short! It will be a whole year now till I can visit with these characters again. I can't wait to see how they deal with Violet and her run for Parliament. If you haven't read this series you should!

Rating: E

Quote: There were plenty of children who worked on farms, unofficially, and there were even some who worked in towns. Bobashi were children whose parents were dead, or who had run away from home and who survived by their wits. they tended to be found in the towns rather than in the country; she had even come across the one who lived in a storm-water drain, a scrap of a child with a face that had seemed so prematurely worldly-wise. She had tried to bring the child to the attention of Mma Potokwane, but when she had driven the matron to the place where she had spotted him, he was nowhere to be seen. "They move about," said Mma Potokwane, sadly. "One day they live in a drain, the next day they are up a tree. There is no telling with that sort of child."

The Crack In the Lens by Steve Hockensmith

Synopsis (from the publisher): In 1893, Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav, "Old Red" find themselves in a situation that they never expected. They have a bit of money and time to do something other than scramble. It's enough to confound even that most unconfoundable of men, their mutual inspiration, Sherlock Holmes.

So Old Red decides that it's time for the for the two of them to head off to the Texas Hill Country, to San Marcos, and deal with the greatest tragedy of Old Red's life. Five years ago, when Old Red was a cowpoke in San Marcos, he had a sweetheart—a fallen woman at the local house of ill repute. They had made plans but before they made their big move, his fiancée was murdered and the case swept under the rug by the local authorities. Now, Old Red is determined to find out what really happened and to finally find a measure of justice for his beloved. But Big Red and Old Red find themselves facing a wall of silence and in some of the worst situations of their lives: ensnared in a riot at the local cathouse, on the wrong end of a lynching party and perhaps worst of all—having to do the one thing you never want to do in the state of Texas: steal horses.

First lines: I suspect your asking yourself a number of questions right about now. For instance: "Who are these unlucky SOBs with the ropes around their necks?" And: "Where in God's name are they?" And: "Why would anyone want to string them up?" And: "Can they un-string themselves, somehow?"

And perhaps most important of all: "Do I give a crap?"

My thoughts: I'm so glad I found this series. This book was a great, fast read with plenty of laugh out loud moments even though it was the most serious of the series so far. In this one you get to know Old Red a little better and what makes him tick. The Crack in the Lens is a rreference to Sherlock Holmes (who in this world is a real person) whom the older brother, Old Red, tries to emulate. This is not simply a western, it is a mystery as well with lovable heroes you will enjoy getting to know. If you don't read westerns but love a funny book read it, if you like westerns and/or mysteries read it.

Rating: B

Quote: I awoke from my swoon on a jail cell bunk. You might think finding myself in the clink would be a mite discouraging but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, I took it as a sign that our luck was finally turning around.

Lucky break #1: I was alive.

The scent of Rain and Lightening by Nancy Pickard

From th back: One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news: The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.

Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share an exclusive sense of loss.

As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family’s tragic past. But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future—and maybe even love.

First Line:

My Thoughts: