Monday, January 30, 2012

John Adams by David McCullough

 About the book: In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the most moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale -- a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

First line: "In the cold nearly colorless light of a New England winter, two men on horseback traveled the coast road below Boston, heading north."

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of our second president. It kept me interested from start to finish and was very readable, almost like reading a novel. My memory of Adams from history classes was sketchy at best so reading this  biography reminded me of what a  great leader he was and showed me he was also a humble man. I enjoyed the sence of time and place that came through in the author's writing giving a great look at the period in which Adams worked. It brought Adams and others of the time to life.

I especially liked the use of quotes from actual correspondance by Adams, Abigail, Jefferson and others to illustrate portions of the book. I highly recommend John Adams.

Quote: "The more Adams thought about the future of his country, the more convinced he became that it rested on education. Before any great things are accomplished, he wrote to a correspondent, a memorable change must be made in the system of education and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many.”

5x4 Personal Reading Challenge (Presidents section)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Hard Day's Fright by Casey Daniels

About the book: What happened to a teenager named Lucy one night in 1966 after a Beatles concert? She rushed the stage, kissed Paul, started home with her friends, and was never seen again-until cemetery guide and unintentional PI to the dead Pepper Martin sees her as a ghost. Lucy’s spirit can’t rest in peace until her body is found and buried. But how will Pepper track down a missing corpse after forty-five years?

First line: Here's the thing people didn't get about Lucy Pasternak, I mean people who never net her: Lucy sparkled.

My thoughts: This is the 7th book in the Pepper Martin series and the 7th one I've read. I've really enjoyed these paranormal cozyish reads and this one was no exception. It was a quick, fun read. The characters are likable and engaging, the setting is unique  and the love interest is coming along.

What's In A Name 5

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

About the book: Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.

As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
First line: She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.
My thoughts: As good as I thought the first one was I think this one may have been a little better. It was a top of the line thriller that grabbed me from the start and didn't let up. Which is good since it is a long book. The story line was different from the first book touching on social issues such as human trafficking, and the abuse authority figures can wield over those in their "care" to name a couple. 
I enjoyed "visiting" Sweden through the characters and was surprised at some of the commonalities such as McDonalds mentioned in the book. I did have trouble with names of people and places, but I found that keeping a little list of the secondary players and their roles helped a lot and kept me on track.  I can't wait to get to the next one and regret that it will be the last.
100+ 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

About the book: For nearly three decades, Terry Pratchett has enthralled millions of fans worldwide with his irreverent, wonderfully funny satires set in the fabulously imaginative Discworld, a universe remarkably similar to our own. From sports to religion, politics to education, science to capitalism, and everything in between, Pratchett has skewered sacred cows with both laughter and wisdom, and exposed our warts, foibles, and eccentricities in a unique, entertaining, and ultimately serious way.

At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.

Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.
My Thoughts: Snuff is the 39th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I've read many of them and intend to keep on reading them. I swear this man's creative writing and story telling is the best. Snuff centers around Sam Vines, uh I mean His Grace, The duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Sam doesn't like the high tone sound of all that but can't seem to escape it, especially since his marriage to the Lady Sybil in a previous book.
This one had me chuckling from nearly the first page which is one of the main reasons I love this series. The story is well paced, the mystery keeps you guessing, and I love the creatures that inhabit the Discworld. Even though Sam had to deal with a dark, disturbing problem the overall story is highly entertaining, it grabbed me and I couldn't put it down.

Quote: Vimes blinked. Things were looking up! Usually Sybil considered it her wifely duty to see to it that her husband lived forever, and was convinced that this happy state of affairs could be achieved by feeding him bowel-scouring nuts and grains and yogurt, which to Vimes's mind was a type of cheese that wasn't trying hard enough. Then there was the sad adulteration of his mid-morning bacon, lettuce and tomato snack. It was amazing but true that in this matter the watchmen were prepared to obey the boss's wife to the letter and, if the boss yelled and stamped, which was perfectly understandable, nay forgivable, when a man was forbidden his mid-morning lump of charred pig, would refer him to the instructions given to them by ins wife, in the certain knowledge that all threats of sacking were hollow and if carried out would be immediately rescinded.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Legacies by F. Paul Wilson

From the back: Repairman Jack isn't your average appliance repairman--he fixes situations for people, often risking his own life. Jack has no last name, no social security number, works only for cash, and has no qualms when it comes to seeing that the job gets done.

Dr. Alicia Clayton, a pediatrician who treats children with AIDS, is full of secrets, and she has just inherited a house that holds another. Haunted by painful memories, Alicia wants the house destroyed--but somehow everyone she enlists to help ends up violently killed. The house holds a powerful secret, and Alicia's charmless brother Thomas seems willing to do anything to get his hands on that secret himself.

First line: "It's Okay!" Alicia shouted as the cab jerked to the left to swing around a NYNEX truck plodding up Madison Avenue. "I'm not in a rush!"
My Thoughts: This is my third Repairman Jack novel and I will be reading more. This one was an action packed page turner and a fun read.  The other two I read had a touch of the paranormal but this one was a straight action/thriller. Jack does not exist on paper so must work beyond the reach of the law, a sort of vigilante for hire with no qualms about killing those bad guys that need killing. Jack "repaired" three situations here in his own unique fashion. He is tough and ruthless when fighting the bad guys and has a soft heart for people in trouble.  His clients are usually people who have no chance of getting help from the authorities. Great escapism.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

About the book: The anchor of The O''Reilly Factor recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of incredibly bloody battles. President Abraham Lincoln''s generous terms for Robert E. Lee''s surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln''s dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. One man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.

In the midst of the patriotic celebrations in Washington, D.C., John Wilkes Booth—charismatic ladies'' man and impenitent racist—murders Abraham Lincoln at Ford''s Theater. A furious manhunt ensues and Booth immediately becomes the country''s most wanted fugitive. Lafayette C. Baker, a brilliant but enigmatic New York detective and former Union spy, unravels the string of clues leading to Booth, while federal forces track his accomplices. The thrilling chase ends in a fiery shootout and a series of court-ordered executions—including that of the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, Mary Surratt. With an unforgettable cast of characters, vivid historical detail, and page-turning action, Killing Lincoln is history that reads like a thriller.

First line: The man with six weeks to live is anxious.

My Thoughts: I found this to be a very engaging, interesting and  easy read. I've never read an account of this event so the timeline in the sub chapter headings was helpful. At the end the authors included a re-creation of the April 29, 1865 Harper's Weekly that was devoted to the death of Lincoln. The feelings of the people were very evident and brought the whole thing closer to home. At the end I found lists of books that were used by the authors to write this however they were not cited in the book. I plan to read another book on this subject.

Quote: page 295 America is a great country, but like every other nation on earth it is influenced by evil. John Wilkes Booth epitomizes the evil that can harm us, even as President Abraham Lincoln represents the good that can make us stronger.

100+ 2012
5x4 Reading Challenge (presidents portion)
Mount TBR Reading Challenge

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Casino Royale by ian Fleming (1953)

About the book: In the first of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, 007 declares war on Le Chiffre, French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH.

      The battle begins with a fifty-million-franc game of baccarat, gains momentum during Bond's fiery love affair with a sensuous lady spy, and reaches a chilling climax with fiendish torture at the hands of a master sadist. For incredible suspense, unexpected thrills, and extraordinary danger, nothing can beat James Bond in his inaugural adventure.

First line: The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.

My thoughts: Bond.....James Bond. I chose to read this, the first installment in the 007 series by Ian Fleming, for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge and enjoyed it. At 192 pages it is a very short book with little room for building characters or for a very deep story. The first half of the book at least is about Baccarat and the nearly silent battle between Bond and Le Chiffre at the Baccarat Table. It might not seem too exciting but Fleming does a great job of describing the game, characters feelings and building tension. The second half of the story seems to almost be another book. The action stems from the conclusion of the card game. The torture of Bond you saw in the movie is described in horrid detail here. The treachery of Vesper Lynd, if I hadn't seen the movie, may have been a twist or surprise. If you are used to the movies you will find that there is comparatively little action here.

This is for sure a product of its time with plenty of hard drinking and lots of smoking. This is also evident in Chapter 15 when Bond speaks against the feminist movement after Vesper is kidnapped.

I recommend this is you want to read a great vintage spy story.

Quote: This made me laugh so I had to use it. It is the only light moment I can remember from this book. (from Bond about CIA agent Felix Leiter) Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.

The Vesper Martini

3 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Vodka
0.5 oz (Kina) Lillet Blanc

100+ 2012
Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

Friday, January 13, 2012

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

About the book: Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new and spare condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is . . . well, something quite different.

First line: In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job.

My thoughts: This is my first Anne Tyler book and over all I found it....bland. The main character, Liam, was a benign, somewhat self-centered, clueless, detached, unremarkable character. I finally realized he was like this due to depression and that just saddened me. I could not understand how a man that spent so much time avoiding his own children and knew so little about his grandchild would choose to work as a zayde (grandfather) in a preschool. While the story and ultimately the end of the book left me flat the writing was beautiful. There were a couple of passages I had to reread just to hear the language.

Quote:Either she was admirably at ease anywhere or she suffered from a total lack of discrimination; Liam couldn't decide which.

100+ 2012
What's In A Name 5

Quinn by Iris Johansen

About the book: As a former Navy SEAL turned cop, Joe Quinn has seen the face of evil and knows just how deadly it can be. When he first met Eve Duncan, he never expected to fall in love with a woman whose life would be defined by her dual desires to bring home her missing daughter and discover the truth behind her disappearance---no matter how devastating. With the help of CIA agent Catherine Ling, they make a shocking discovery that sheds new light on young Bonnie’s abduction and puts Quinn squarely in the crosshairs of danger. Eve’s first love, John Gallo, a soldier supposedly killed in the line of duty, is very much alive---and very much a threat.

Emotionally charged, with one shock after another, Quinn reveals the electricity of Joe and Eve’s first connection, and how they fell in love in the midst of haunting tragedy. As their search takes them deeper and deeper into a web of murder and madness, Joe and Eve must confront their most primal fears . . . and test their resolve to uncover the ultimate bone-chilling truth.

First line: Stop me. Find me. Kill me.

My Thoughts: I've read a good many of the Eve duncan books and really looked forward to this (I assume) end of the series trilogy. The first book was Eve and it was a pretty good read through and through. This one, Quinn, was pretty much a filler bridging us to the final one. What action there was good and I liked the tidbits of information gleaned here. The way Eve treats Joe has alwayd bugged me and it did here as well. I'm glad I read it as a bridge to Bonnie.

100+ 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

About the book: The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents—among them a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager—the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. Soon, all those within its boundaries will be engulfed by a dark tide from which few have escaped.

Dean Koontz transcends all expectations as he takes readers on a gripping journey to a place where nightmare visions become real—and where a group of singular individuals hold the key to humanity’s destiny. Welcome to 77 Shadow Street.
First line: Bitter and drunk, Earl Blandon, a former United States senator, got home at 2:15 AM that Thursday with a new tattoo: a two-word obscenity in blue block letters between the knuckles of the middle finger of his right hand.
My Thoughts: I have read most of Dean Koontz' novels and have enjoyed them all to one degree or another. I was not disappointed with this one. There was a huge cast of characters, which usually keeps me confused but in this book that didn't happen. I contribute that to the fact that most characters were revisited quickly. I thought they were well developed and came to like them.....well most of them. The story was told in little vignetts moving from apartment to apartment, from person to person. This kept me wanting to know more, kept me turning pages. The monsters were drawn in words, I could just picture. The evil was a mixture of what I expected and something I didn't expect so that was fun. This was horror at its best.
One thing I found distracting was the robotic voice saying "Exterminate." "Exterminate." As a Dr. Who fan all I could picture were the evil Dalek's from the Dr. Who shows waving silly little arms rolling toward them. LOL
Quote: page 213 Overcome by abhorrence and detestation even in excess of what she had ever felt toward the Internal Revenue Service, martha was for a moment paralyzed. (This one had me laughing even in this serious moment. )

100+ Personal Reading Challenge

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Brave by Nicholas Evans

About the book: There's little love in eight-year-old Tom Bedford's life. His parents are old and remote and the boarding school they've sent him to bristles with bullies and sadistic staff. The only comfort he gets is from his fantasy world of Cowboys and Indians. But when his sister Diane, a rising star of stage and screen, falls in love with one of his idols, the suave TV cowboy Ray Montane, Tom's life is transformed. They move to Hollywood and all his dreams seem to have come true. Soon, however, the sinister side of Tinseltown casts its shadow and a shocking act of violence changes their lives forever.

What happened all those years ago remains a secret that corrodes Tom's life and wrecks his marriage. Only when his estranged son, a US Marine, is charged with murder do the events resurface, forcing him to confront his demons. As he struggles to save his son's life, he will learn the true meaning of bravery.

First line: The boy followed the guard along the corridor watching the sway of his wide backside and the belt with the handcuffs and baton and the big bunch of keys that jangled as he walked. 

My Thoughts: This story consisted of several subplots wound around to form the whole. As the book took me back and forth in time, from one character's back stort to another, I found myself wondering at times where I was. It seemed rather disjointed to me. The characters were well written, well fleshed out and I found myself caring about them. I enjoyed the look into 60s Hollywood.  There was much violence and heart break here, in all time lines so it might not be for the feint hearted. All in all it was a good read that I enjoyed and would recommend.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Big Four by Agatha Christie 1927

Original book blurb: Number One was a Chinaman - the greatest criminal brain of all time; Number Two was a multi-millionaire; Number Three was a beautiful Frenchwoman; and Number Four was 'the destroyer,' the ruthless murderer, with a genius for disguise, whose business it was to remove those who interfered with his masters' plans. These Four, working together, aimed at establishing a world dominion, and against them were ranged Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head, the green eyes and 'the little gray cells,' and his friend Hastings. It was Hercule Poirot's brain, the 'little gray cells,' which brought about the downfall of the Big Four, and led to their destruction in the cave in the Dolomites.

First line: I have met people who enjoy a channel crossing; men who sit calmly on their deck chairs and, on arrival, wait until the boat is moored, then gather their belongings together without fuss and disembark.

My thoughts: This was a pretty quick read. I didn't like it as much as I've liked others by this author though. It wasn't a who dun it so much as an international spy adventure. I found it to be choppy as Poirot followed clues from one murder to the next, demeaning Hastings many times and keeping him (and the reader) in the dark. If you like Christie you'll probably like this one. If you haven't read her I'd suggest you start with any other of her books.

Quote: Yes, but for my quick eyes, the eyes of a cat, Hercule Poirot might now be crushed out of existence - a terrible calamity for the world. And you, too, mon ami - though that would not be such a national catastrophe.

Personal 100+ Challenge
Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge
2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge