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VictoriaPL's 999

999 Challenge

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Edited: Jun 20, 2009, 10:18pm Top

Wow! A whole thread to myself. I was too intimidated to attempt the 888 challenge but after tallying how many books I've read in 2008, I feel bold enough to tackle the 999.

I can hear Alex Trebek's voice in my head "Let's unveil the categories..."

Edited: Aug 5, 2009, 3:24pm Top

Authors That Are New to Me

1. Loon by A.W. Plumstead (8.4.2009)
2. The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case by George Baxt (7.3.2009)
3. Play Dirty by Sandra Brown (1/6/2009)
4. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (6.28.2009)
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (3/1/2009)
6. In the Woods by Tana French (4/20/2009)
7. The Sin Eaters by Andrew Beahrs (4/5/2009)
8.The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne (4.27.2009)
9. The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart by Lawrence Block (5.24.2009)


Edited: Jul 13, 2009, 8:09am Top

Favorite Author's Books That I Haven't Read Before

1. Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell (3/10/2009)
2. The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig (2/15/2009)
3. The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig (7.12.2009)
4. Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand (6/20/2009)
5. The Last Child by John Hart (7.1.2009)
6. Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain (1/16/2009)
7. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (1/1/2009)
8. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult (4/1/2009)
9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (6.13.2009)


Edited: Aug 3, 2009, 12:42pm Top

The Monster Mash

1. Agyar by Steven Brust (3/17/2009)
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (8.2.2009)
3. Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (1/13/2009)
4. Heart of Stone by C.E. Murphy (1/11/2009)
5. Monster Island by David Wellington (3/24/2009)
6. Monster Nation by David Wellington (4.26.2009)
7. Vampire Zero: A Gruesome Vampire Tale by David Wellington (7.16.2009)
8. The Golden by Lucius Shepard (6.21.2009)
9. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2/28/2009)


Edited: Aug 25, 2009, 1:59pm Top

Children / YA

1. Peak by Roland Smith (7.3.2009)
2. The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman (8.12.2009)
3. Downsiders by Neal Shusterman (3/21/2009)
4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (3/28/2009)
5. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (8.23.2009)
6. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (8.23.2009)
7. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (8.25.2009)
8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (7.4.2009)
9. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (3/20/2009)


Edited: Aug 30, 2009, 2:21pm Top

Hardboiled / Noir

1. Playback by Raymond Chandler (3/2/2009)
2. Suicide Squeeze by Victor Gischler (1/4/2009)
3. Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett (8.30.2009)
4. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: a Centennial Celebration by various (8.28.2009)
5. Garnethill by Denise Mina (5/2/2009)
6. Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis (2/18/2009)
7. The Remake:As Time Goes By by Stephen Humphrey Bogart (7.7.2009)
8. The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing (3/11/2009)
9. We'll Always Have Murder: A Humphrey Bogart mystery by Bill Crider (6.16.2009)


Edited: Aug 26, 2009, 8:27am Top

books by Joanne Harris

1. Holy Fools (8.16.2009)
2. Gentlemen and Players (6.27.2009)
3. Jigs and Reels (8.25.2009)
4. Coastliners (5/16/2009)
5.Chocolat (4/3/2009)
6. The Girl With No Shadow (4/11/2009)
7. The Evil Seed (1/30/2009)
8. Runemarks (7.11.2009)
9. My French Kitchen (7.20.2009)


Edited: Aug 31, 2009, 11:05pm Top


1. Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore (8/31/2009)
2. Writing Past Dark by Bonnie Friedman (2/20/2009)
3. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
4. Mark My Words by Mark Twain (6.27.2009)
5. One Month to Live by Kerry Shook (1/8/2009)
6. Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey (1/29/2009)
7. The Science of Sexy by Bradley Bayou (5.19.2009)
8. Leslie Sansone: Eat Smart, Walk Strong by Leslie Sansone (7.16.2009)
9. Eat This, Not That by David Zinczenko (1.26.2009)


Edited: Aug 12, 2009, 3:25pm Top

Speculative Fiction

1.Jennifer Government by Max Barry (8.9.2009)
2. Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg(3/2/2009)
3. Children of Men by P.D. James (3/05/2009)
4. Logan's Run by William F Nolan (2.11.2009)
5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (4.25.2009)
6. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (5/2/2009)
7. V: The Second Generation by Kenneth Johnson (5/9/2009)
8. Regenesis by C J Cherryh (3/26/2009)
9. The Prestige by Christopher Priest (7/19/2009)


Edited: Aug 5, 2009, 7:47pm Top


1. Alone by Richard E. Byrd (1/20/2009)
2. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee (6.15.2009)
3. Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen (5/21/2009)
4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (7.5.2009)
5. Japanland by Karin Muller (4/7/2009)
6. Ambassador to the Penguins by Eleanor Mathews 1/3/2009
7. American Pie:Slices of Life from America's Back Roads by Pascal Le Draoulec (8.5.2009)
8. America's Best BBQ by Artie A. Davis
9. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (7.21.2009)


Sep 30, 2008, 3:48pm Top

The Fortune Cookie book sounds good.

Oct 1, 2008, 1:59am Top

I really like your first two categories - hope you don't mind if I use them, too?

Oct 1, 2008, 7:29am Top

Not at all, I borrowed one of those from someone else myself!

Oct 4, 2008, 9:01am Top

Your category five: Noir. I have probably read this word hundreds of times and have never looked it up before.

Actually, my dictionary which is usually very good does not contain this word. I looked it up on Dictionary.com.

Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings. Humphrey Bogart and Chandler spring to mind.

Sounds rather grim! But if that floats your boat! Enjoy!


Oct 15, 2008, 4:17pm Top

Oh, your second category is such a good one!

Oct 15, 2008, 8:40pm Top

I think the Noir category sounds fascinating - I hope you will make comments about each book as you finish them - I'll be watching!

Oct 16, 2008, 8:24am Top

Thanks! I will.

Oct 22, 2008, 4:35pm Top

Ooh, the categories sound much more interesting than I thought they'd be. Maybe I will try it...

As for the noir category, would you consider reading Henning Mankell, king of Scandinavian Noir? Or Denise Mina, an excellent Scottish author who writes exceedingly dark mysteries, of which Garnethill is the first?

Oct 22, 2008, 4:39pm Top

Resistance is futile. Join us!

I'll have to check into those two. Thanks for the suggestions!

Dec 3, 2008, 2:19pm Top

Making a few changes....

Nix'd the writing group, put those books in with Self-Improvement.
Broke out the vampire & zombie books from speculative fiction into their own category, The Monster Mash. This leaves more room for sci-fi books, which I was low on this year.

Nix'd the NaNoWriMo research group. Felt like I wasn't being fair to my other favorite authors by top-loading the category with Joanne Harris, so I pulled her out by herself.

Dec 3, 2008, 2:36pm Top

The story "A Study in Emerald" in Gaimen's Fragile Things is one of my favorite short stories ever. Holmes meets Lovecraft. Brilliant.

Dec 3, 2008, 2:39pm Top

>21 seanelavelle:, Good, I'm looking forward to it. I was planning on reading it this month (not for the challenge) but my husband got a hold of it before I did!

Edited: Dec 3, 2008, 3:58pm Top

I'm also reading Fragile Things as part of my challenge. I read a couple of the stories a while back and had to get my own copy of the book. I'm not familiar with many of the books in your YA category though I have also got Inkdeath in my challenge and am looking forward to seeing how the trilogy ends - you've suggested on my thread a while back about reading Inkdeath together, when did you have in mind as I wanted to read it early in the year.

Edited: Dec 3, 2008, 4:07pm Top

>23 avatiakh: Inkdeath would be great anytime except February.

Dec 3, 2008, 10:39pm Top

I need to get a ticker going too. I couldn't decide on one I liked.

Dec 21, 2008, 10:49pm Top

I like your speculative fiction category - it's one of my favorite genres. I don't know too many of the books that you have selected in that category, so I'll be interested to know what you think! I read Never Let Me Go this year and I thought it was fantastic. It's a book that has really stayed with me long after I finished it.

Dec 22, 2008, 8:35am Top

Thanks Lisa - I'm going to write reviews. That's one reason I took this challenge. Even though reviews are not required, I need to work on getting better at writing them. I'm going to read Never Let Me Go before or after my Philip K Dick book. From what I've seen, they should go well together.

Dec 28, 2008, 2:51pm Top

So have you started yet?

Dec 28, 2008, 7:06pm Top

Nope. I tried! The two books I read just didn't fit my categories. So I'm reading other books in my TBR, holding out until the 1st to officially start. I know what the first book will be: The Sugar Queen. I picked it up from the library yesterday.

Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 4:35pm Top

Finished The Sugar Queen
Short review on LT, full review here: http://the999challenge.blogspot.com/2009/01/sugar-queen-by-sarah-addison-allen-1...

Favorite quotes:

"Ice queens didn't break, after all. They melted. And Marco didn't have enough warmth for that."

"He was seated at the bar, surrounded by women, women who existed only at night, thin sheets of steel, all sharp edges and shine, undulating and unsteady."

"She felt him getting nearer, felt it like a pull in the pit of her stomach. It felt like hunger but deeper, heavier. Like the best kind of expectation. Ice cream expectation. Chocolate expectation."

Jan 2, 2009, 9:06pm Top

Wow. Not only have you finished your first book, but you've written a review and replied to all commentary regarding same.

What's your next one?

Jan 2, 2009, 9:29pm Top

Yeah, well, it was an easy read and a slow day at work. I'm going to keep going with my cold weather books. First up is Ambassador to the Penguins and then Alone.

Jan 4, 2009, 6:23pm Top

Hi, thanks for your comment. I noticed Jodi Picoult is one of your fav authors. I have Second Chance, have you read that? Would you recommend it?

Jan 4, 2009, 7:50pm Top

I haven't read it in awhile so I'm kind of fuzzy on it. But i do remember liking it, so I would recommend it to you.

Jan 5, 2009, 8:54pm Top

Love your Speculative Fiction category, some great titles. I might put some Philip K. Dick on my list.

I hope you love David Sedaris as much as I do!

Jan 5, 2009, 10:16pm Top

I hope so. I think I'm going to save him until after I read the Brothers K. I'll need the humor!

Jan 6, 2009, 10:59am Top

Haha! Great idea! I've heard that Sedaris' talking books are even funnier because he reads them himself.

Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 4:36pm Top

Jan 11, 2009, 3:33pm Top

finished One Month to Live: 30 days to a No-Regrets Life.
short review on LT. Full review here: http://the999challenge.blogspot.com/2009/01/one-month-to-live-by-kerry-chris-sho...

Jan 14, 2009, 8:05pm Top

Heart of Stone sounds really good! Too bad I can't fit it into any of my challenge categories, heh. I guess I'll have to put it on my fast growing TBR-after-999-books list!

Jan 15, 2009, 12:40am Top

44> You should definitely give it a try... not often you get gargoyles in paranormal fiction!

Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 11:52am Top

finished Sweetheart.
Short review on LT. Full review here: http://the999challenge.blogspot.com/2009/01/sweetheart-by-chelsea-cain-881.html

favorite quotes:

"That's always the one you remember. First cigarette. First kiss. First corpse in a park."

"A master's degree in creative writing. Five years of newspaper journalism. And still, the only question she could manage was 'What's going on?'"

"The other coffee was black. He handed her the black one. 'Dark and bitter, right?' he said."

"You have to turn back," he said to Henry, motioning back down the mountain.
Henry pointed to the siren on the hood. "Portland PD," he said.
"Have you come to arrest the fire?" the ranger asked.

Jan 17, 2009, 8:49pm Top

Not quite my style, I have to say. A little too violent, it sounds.

Jan 17, 2009, 8:50pm Top

And I still love the picture in Message 1!

Jan 17, 2009, 9:23pm Top

Thanks! We had fun taking it.

Jan 21, 2009, 2:33am Top

finished Alone.
Short review on LT. Full review here: http://the999challenge.blogspot.com/2009/01/alone-classic-polar-adventure-by.htm...

favorite quotes:

"The horizon line was a long slash of crimson, brighter than blood; and over this welled a straw-yellow ocean whose shores were the boundless blue of night. I watched the sky a long time, concluding that such beauty was reserved for distant, dangerous places, and that nature has good reason for exacting her own special sacrifices from those determined to witness them."

"Cold does queer things... Below -60 degrees... If there is the slightest breeze, you can hear your breath freeze as it floats away, making a sound like that of Chinese firecrackers."

"There is something extravagantly insensate about an Antarctic blizzard at night. Its vindictiveness cannot be measured on an anemometer sheet. It is more than just wind: it is a solid wall of snow moving a gale force, pounding like surf. The whole malevolent rush is concentrated upon you as a personal enemy. In the senseless explosion of sound you are reduced to a crawling thing on the margin of a disintegrating world; you can't see, you can't hear, you can hardly move. The lungs gasp after the air sucked out of them, and the brain is shaken. Nothing in the world will so quickly isolate a man."

"April 7th. The six months' day is slowing dying, and the darkness is descending very gently. Even at midday the sun is only several times its diameter above the horizon. It is cold and dull. At its brightest it scarcely gives light enough to throw a shadow. A funereal gloom hangs in the twilight sky. This is the period between life and death. This is the way the world will look to the last man when it dies."

Jan 30, 2009, 9:06pm Top

finished Curly Girl. Review posted on LT.

Edited: Feb 9, 2009, 9:56pm Top

Wow, just finished Gargoyle and it was an excellent read! Still need to read the third C.E. Murphy, Hands of Flame (The Negotiator, Book 3) do you plan to read the entire trilogy?

Feb 10, 2009, 8:42am Top

53> I do want to read the rest of the negotiator trilogy. I just don't know when I'll get around to it. So many books, so little time! I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on it when you finish it. Glad you enjoyed Gargoyle! It was one of the best books I read last year.

Feb 10, 2009, 9:13am Top

hi victoria, some great books in your lists, this is always the problem when I see other people's challenge lists and categories I'm always tempted to change my own!
you've offered me some good recommendations so allow me to return the favour, I see you have a gap in your Joanne Harris category, I'd recommend blackberry wine, the second in her food trilogy after chocolat. I actually read that one first and thought it was great.
I see you've also got a noir category, after a trip to the bookshop yesterday (and more revisions upcoming I think for my 999 challenge list) I bought the big book of pulps which I can't put down, a collection of some of the earlier pulp detective stories (mainly from Black Mask magazine). a must for any 'noir' fan! :)

Feb 10, 2009, 9:24am Top

Hi Yosarian,
I've already read Blackberry Wine and absolutely loved it.
Is there any particular author in the noir pulp book that is 'wowing' you?

Feb 10, 2009, 1:30pm Top

ah ... thought you might have read it already, oh well I'll just have to try harder next time :)
to be honest I've not read many yet, I've been trying to limit myself so it doesn't interfere too much with my challenge, so far it's just been new stories from authors I've read before, raymond chandler, dashiell hammett, eric stanley gardener etc but a couple of new guys I'd not read before, like paul cain. the introductions are interesting though, the history and development of the pulp detective, the editor otto penzler is a sincere fan. I'm going to try and tease the stories out as long as I can and read only a couple a week ... if I can! :)

Feb 17, 2009, 8:16pm Top

finished The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig. It was my Valentine's Day read and I absolutely loved it. I've read that many of our group prefer reviews to be in our threads, so I'm starting to list my reviews here.

This is the fourth book in the Pink Carnation series and so far it's my favorite. I don't read a lot of 'romance' books per se, but I will continue to read anything Ms. Willig puts to paper. I picked up her first novel while browsing in our branch library because the cover art and the title intrigued me. What a fortuitous meeting that turned out to be. If I had not read Carnation I would have never read this gem.
I have to say that I love the way Willig writes her male characters. All of them.
The other novels were good, but I never truly melded with the female protagonist. I usually felt a bond with Eloise, but I think that's only natural because she's a modern American female. There were so many places in this book that I wanted to be Mary. Definitely when she was with Lord Vaughn in his Chinese Room... but also when she was in Hyde Park and then again when she made her discovery backstage at the play.
My only disappointment with the novel is that I figured out the identity of The Black Tulip very early on. And I usually don't do that at all. I'm the type that needs an unveiling.
I give it 4 stars.

Favorite quotes:

"There was nothing like a bit of the Bard to add depth and grandeur to one's petty peccadilloes."

"Plots and counterplots, alliances and betrayals had all left their mark on his form. They were written on the thin, flexible line of his lips, designed to laugh or sneer as the occasion required; the hooded lids that shielded his eyes from scrutiny more effectively than any number of hats; the lean swordsman's body disguised beneath an incongruous armor of lace and jewels. Vaughn, Mary thought, would have made an excellent Caeser, raw power clothed in deadly pomp."

Feb 18, 2009, 9:12am Top

Ooh, that sounds perfect for a rainy day like today.

Feb 18, 2009, 1:55pm Top

I noticed that The Lace Reader is on your list for your new authors category. I just finished it and loved it enough to read it again right away. I'll be interested to hear what you think. I'll also be following your Joanne Harris category. I have several of her books, but I've only read Chocolat.

Edited: Feb 18, 2009, 8:56pm Top

finished Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis, another entry for my Hardboiled/Noir category. I first came across Goodis while watching the Bogart/Bacall film Dark Passage. I like the movie and I decided to research more about the writer. Chandler, Hammett, how could I have not read any of Goodis before now? My library didn't have a copy of the novel Dark Passage, so I settled on this little book. I say little because it's only 158 pages. Goodis was a pulp man after all.

I thought I knew what I was getting into with this story. A man on the run, bleeding, stumbles into some dive and has a quick word with the piano man before the thugs come in after him... if you've read one noir, you've read them all, right? Wrong. This one is different. You see, Eddie is not just some piano player, he has a past. Well, everyone in a noir story has a past, don't they? But Eddie has an illustrious past. Eddie played Carnegie Hall. Eddie cut albums and went on tour. So why is he playing an upright in a gin joint?

The telling of Eddie's story ripped my gut out. Seriously, I was in awe. But it's not all doom and gloom. The scene in the Buick with Feather and Morris (the aforementioned thugs) had me laughing so hard I had tears running down my face. Goodis definitely knew how to craft a tale. All of his characters were well-formed in my mind. Most of the women were able to stand on their own, and gave as good as they got. And one more thing I like about it - Goodis told a gritty tale without resorting to foul language. I love Charlie Huston's stories but the sheer quantity of profanity in his stuff wears on me sometimes. Yes, I will definitely be reading more of Goodis. 4 stars.

favorite quotes:

"You want it all for free, don't you? But the thing is, you can't get it for free. You wanna learn about a person, it costs you. And the more you learn, the more it costs. Like digging a well, the deeper you go, the more expenses you got. And sometimes it's a helluva lot more than you can afford."

"Like proving he still had it, the power, the importance the stuff and the drive, and whatever it takes to make a woman say yes. What he got from the waitress was a cold, silent no."

Feb 19, 2009, 9:02am Top

Looks good. I've added it to my wishlist.

Edited: Feb 21, 2009, 4:15pm Top

finished Writing Past Dark by Bonnie Friedman.
category: Self Improvement

I had trouble staying with this book and almost didn't finish it at all. It failed to engage me and at times I struggled to remember what topic the chapters were written about. I've tried to pin down exactly what bothered me and have failed to express it adequately. When it comes down to it, I was looking to be inspired, maybe learn a little, and this book did neither for me. I would recommend Stephen King's On Writing instead.
(one star)

The only paragraph that resonated with me:

"To gain the book one must give up all hope for the book. It is the only way the book can get written. While one writes one cannot simultaneously be gazing up at a glorious, abstract painting of what the book should be, a painting that is all golden glow and admirable wordless heft conveying a sense of a book like a bible, like your very own bible, penned by you - and at the same time expect to be advancing into the body of this particular earthy book. It won't work. You may gaze and gaze, but you may be sure that when you begin to write, that gorgeous ineffable volume will not coalesce on the page. Something else will appear. And then you have a choice. You can accept it, and get on with your writing, or you can throw it away, and pine for the painting. It is so beautiful! When you're not actually writing, you have the feeling it would be so simple to get it down on paper. Yet when the time comes, your sentences tangle you. They knot and seethe, grasping like desperate children, hampering you and making you fall so that the beautiful book, the infinite book, is forever out of reach."

Feb 22, 2009, 9:59am Top

Writing is such an abstract activity. So it makes sense that it would be difficult to write about it. I've read some inspirational books that make me want to sit down and get writing (like the Stephen King book) and many more that I either didn't finish or that just weren't what I needed (a kick in the seat of the pants!).

Feb 23, 2009, 10:57pm Top

I definitely recommend Nightmare Town. It really showcases Hammett's ability to take on a wide range of characters. Classic. You'll have to let me know what you think of it!

I'll be keeping an eye on your Noir section too. You've already convinced me to add Shoot the Piano Player to my own list!


Feb 24, 2009, 2:13pm Top

Thanks for your note on how to star threads.

Great noir category - love the quotes from "The Sugar Queen". (Not in that category I know, but v. noir-y quotes nontheless. :)

Feb 24, 2009, 2:18pm Top

Thanks for stopping by madhatter. I didn't think about the quotes that way, but you're correct!

Feb 28, 2009, 1:28pm Top

finished Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
C2007 374pages 4 stars
Category: The Monster Mash

Aging rock star Judas Coyne finds himself pursued by a particularly nasty ghost after being tricked into purchasing the dead man’s suit. Now Jude must fight to keep both himself and those he loves alive while investigating why the spirit is after his blood.

A few months ago I heard a lot about this book. I was not familiar with Joe Hill so I looked up his author page on LT. The face I saw looked awful familiar to me... was it....Stephen King’s son?! My, my, my. I like Stephen King but I am a huge fan of his wife, Tabitha King. So I read this book out of good old-fashioned curiosity. I had to know... were the writing genes passed down to Junior? The answer is an unequivocal Yes. This book is creepy. It didn’t keep me awake at night or give me nightmares but it stayed in my thoughts constantly in my waking hours. And I think that’s exactly what Hill and his father are particularly gifted with. They write about scary things but in an everyday manner so that when you’re going about your day - walking down a hall, feeding your dog, riding in a car, etc - you’re thinking about their stories. I really enjoyed Hill’s writing style, perhaps a bit edgier than his dad’s. I’ll be reading more from him.

Feb 28, 2009, 2:02pm Top

Nice review VictoriaPL - I have that book at home, and will move closer to the top of the pile. I like how you described the way Stephen King's books get to you and it's nice to know it's a trait he and his son share.

Mar 1, 2009, 4:08pm Top

finished The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
1880 920pages 3stars
David McDuff translation
Category: Authors New to Me

“Here however, we have not a simple murder, but a parricide! That impresses....”

I had heard that The Brothers Karamazov was one of the best books ever written. A book that every Reader must accomplish at some point in their lifetime. So when I came upon a group of pilgrims tossing around the idea of approaching it, I got onboard. Quite frankly, I wanted their companionship for the voyage. This book is quite a bit meatier than my standard fare. I wanted to read it and was afraid of it all at the same time. Afraid that I would get lost in the patronymics, that I would give up in the first 200 pages, that it would be completely over my head. First I must say that it was much more approachable, and readable, than I feared it would be. The patronymics did not give me much trouble at all. When I reached Book Two I almost gave up. This book was the epitome of what I didn’t want to read. But I endured, I skimmed a little and hoped for the best. Book Three was my salvation. And so it was, throughout the rest of tome. Some parts uphill, a test of my fortitude and some parts like a sled ride downhill, heart pounding away. The monologues on socialism, the church, etc, were hard to endure. For me, the book works best as a murder mystery, a courtroom drama. In fact, if all the philosophy were cut and the plot elements were pulled out into a ‘good parts’ version, I would have a copy on my shelves. But I must remember the time period this book was written in. I fear I am too much of a modern reader. I am glad that I read it, I did enjoy the story, but it’s not a keeper for me.

Favorite quotes:

“Very well then - tell me the truth, squash me like a cockroach.”

“In schools children are a tribe without mercy.”

“I have, as it were, torn my soul in half before you, and you have taken advantage of it and are rummaging with your fingers in both halves along the torn place...O God!”

Mar 2, 2009, 1:04pm Top

finished Playback by Raymond Chandler
C1958 166pages 3stars
Category: Hardboiled / Noir

One thing I love about our 999 Challenge is when fellow LTers recommend books to me. Playback was a recommendation from jonesli and we agreed to read it in tandem. I am a huge fan of The Big Sleep, Chandler’s first novel, so I thought it was a nice bookend to read his last novel.

In Playback we find Marlowe tailing a redhead. A mysterious woman who seems to go by many names, the most common being Betty Mayfield. All he knows is that Betty’s being blackmailed though she won’t tell him what for. Being Marlowe, he is compelled to help her out of a jam. It’s a standard hardboiled tale - along the way there’s a few fisticuffs, a body here and there and of course, one of Chandler’s badly written love scenes. I don’t believe it is his best work, it seems too choppy for my tastes. I’ve read The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler and to me, Playback seems like those fragments, a bit unpolished. As if he neglected to go over his rough draft one last time. I am glad to have read it, because I do eventually plan to finish out all of Chandler’s body of work.

favorite quotes:

"Guns never solve anything," I said. "They are just a fast curtain to a bad second act."

"Well, what do you know," she drawled. "A dick with scruples. Tell it to the seagulls, buster. On me it's just confetti."

Mar 2, 2009, 4:40pm Top

I'm utterly astonished that you didn't include the "wenches" quote in your Brothers Karamazov review!

I'm almost done and enjoying it -- now that that Zosima guy is dead (and well rotted) it should be clear sailing to the end.

Edited: Mar 2, 2009, 11:46pm Top

finished Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg
C1990 339pages 4stars
Category: Speculative Fiction

Kalgash, a planet with six suns. A prophecy from an ancient text states that every two thousand years the world will be plunged into Nightfall and the cities will burn, retribution from the gods for the wickedness of man. But the scientists scoff, knowing it to be just some religious hocus-pocus. Until two of their own make disturbing discoveries based in fact. Beenay, the astronomer, finds that a rare event will soon happen: a conjunction of five of the suns, combined with an eclipse of the sixth. And Siferra, the archeologist, uncovers a dig site which proves that their civilization has existed seven times previous, and it has burned every two thousand years.
What will happen when an entire society unaccustomed to night is plunged into complete Darkness? What will happen when starcrazed people burn their cities, desperate for light? Who will control what remains when the suns come up?

Some time ago I had read that the working title for the film Pitch Black had been Nightfall. And furthermore, that the germ of the idea behind the movie had been from a story by the same name. I didn't think much of it until browsing one day at a Friends of the Library sale when I came upon the book by Asimov & Silverberg, apparently an expansion of the short story written by Asimov back in 1941. Now, I'm not a 'hard' sci-fi reader by any means. I had attempted one of Asimov's Robot books in the past and had cast it aside knowing that Asimov was not for me. But my curiosity took over. Did Asimov write a creature-feature? Well, no, he did not - that was pure Hollywood. But he did write about the chaos that ensues after Nightfall.
I found this book utterly captivating and I read it all in one sitting. I remember the Y2K frenzy and I think that helped me to get into the correct mindset. The battle between Religion and Science is one we see almost everyday in the news. To see it here played out against a backdrop of Darkness, both physical and mental, is fascinating.
Other reviews I have read claim the addition of the section Daybreak weakens the original story. I have not read the original short piece but I don't agree with that statement. We are told early on that the civilization has previously survived The Darkness. I think it's natural to explore what that is like.
An excellent book. If there is more Asimov like this than I am onboard!

Mar 3, 2009, 12:02am Top

I never heard of this one. I will have to take a look and see what I think. Thanks!

Mar 4, 2009, 5:37pm Top

I' going to look into this too. Your review was very captivating. Makes you stop and think.

Mar 5, 2009, 7:08am Top

74,75 I hope you enjoy it!
I'm sensing a trend. My last read Nightfall and current read Children of Men both are "end of the world as we know it" kind of stories.

Mar 5, 2009, 1:18pm Top

VictoriaPL, your review of The Brothers Karamazov was EXACTLY how I felt about Anna Karenina. When the book focused on the story and the characters, I could speed right through, but all the monologues about religion, agriculture, social class, etc. did get me bogged down. It's interesting that both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky wrote this way. I think it's what makes the novels so, well, Russian. Now I guess I'll have to add Brothers to the "must be read" list, but definitely not this year. One's enough!!

If you'd like to try a more modern Russian author, read Lolita or anything by Nabokov. I read it last year and was completely blown away.

I was also fascinated by your review of Joe Hill's book. One presumes that's a pseudonym so that his writing would stand on its own rather than as a subset of Stephen King. I haven't read anything by King except On Writing in many years, but I used to love his books. I stopped because the whole genre just wasn't for me anymore. But I'll pick up the Hill book. It will be fascinating by way of comparison.

Do you still read Stephen King? If so, which of his more recent books would you recommend?

Sorry for the LOOOOONG post... :-)

Edited: Mar 5, 2009, 1:37pm Top

>77 jhedlund: Don't apologize, I like company!

I haven't read very much of King's recent work. (So many books to read, so little time!) My brother-in-law gave me a pop-up book of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon but I don't think that counts! I think the last one I read was Everything's Eventual. Like any collection, I enjoyed some stories better than others. I think I shall have to revisit King during next year's challenge (yes, I'm already planning it).

edited to fix a touchstone (I am so OCD about those!)

Edited: Mar 5, 2009, 10:05pm Top

finished Children of Men by P.D. James.
C1992 241pages 5stars
Category: Speculative Fiction

Theo has just turned fifty. Looking back over his failed marriage, his years teaching history at Oxford and the place he gave up on The Council, Theo finds he is just as disillusioned, despondent and depressed as the rest of England. One day Theo is contacted by a group of rebels named The Five Fishes. They want him to approach his cousin, Xan, the most powerful man in England, about changing certain regulations. Theo knows it's a lost cause but he brings their requests to Xan anyway. Seeing his willingness to help, Julian entrusts Theo with the Fishes' most valuable secret: she is pregnant. The only pregnant woman in England; the only pregnant woman in the world. Her child will be the first born in 25 years. Julian fears that Xan will do anything to obtain her baby. Theo knows Julian is right but does he have the will and the strength to oppose Xan? How much can one man do? How much does one baby mean?

Just over a week ago I was reading a thread in Talk and found mention of a book and movie named Children of Men. I had not heard of it before but I decided to Netflix it. While there were things I disliked about it, the film was moving and its themes interested me. I started the book three days ago and have been in its thrall ever since. I simply cannot express how much I have enjoyed it. Every page. This book has so much to take in and digest. It is one of the best books I have ever read. I want to read it again right now. And then maybe read it once every single year. I am overwhelmed by it.

finally got James' touchstone to work!

Mar 6, 2009, 8:01pm Top

>78 VictoriaPL: a pop-up of the book? How interesting! I have the regular book, read about a third of it many years ago and just have never gotten back to it. But I liked it well enough, maybe I'll pull it out again soon. And then I'll have to ask you what was featured in the pop-up :)

Mar 6, 2009, 10:19pm Top

>80 detailmuse: I know, when I unwrapped it I couldn't believe someone had made a pop-up out of Stephen King! Amazon has some pictures of it:


Mar 8, 2009, 12:09pm Top

>81 VictoriaPL: good pics, love the concept! I've ordered it through inter-library loan and will add the regular book to my challenge. With the Red Sox tie-in, it's good timing to opening day coming up!

Mar 8, 2009, 3:02pm Top

The pop-up was very spiffy - and I thought cute. It does cover a rather good summary of the book - even the little snippits of the game that come through are good.

It made me wish that the Pop-Up Book store (the Pop-Up Palace) they made up for an episode of Pushing Daisies was real.

Okay, goofy geek moment over... ;)

Edited: Mar 11, 2009, 9:31pm Top

I'm handing out stars! I really enjoyed the two books I just finished so I'm giving them both 5 stars. I'm such a pushover.

Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell
Category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2008 340pages 5stars

Twenty years ago Oren Hobbs went into the woods with his brother, Josh, but came out alone. Now Josh has returned to the family's porch, bone by bone. The case is reopened, and so too are the wounds of the entire town. Will any of them be at peace when the facts are known?

It is intricate and compelling, as expected from O'Connell. She proves again that she knows how to work the scene; she knows exactly how to twist the knife. This is small-town drama at it's best, along the lines of her other works Judas Child and Stone Angel.

I have never been timid about my fangirl crush on Carol O'Connell. I think I've personally recommended her to at least a third of the members on LT. So why do I enjoy her work so much? I think it's the way her characters are connected and the details of those relationships. Some are so poignant and others sharp and edgy. My heart is bleeding and I'm high on adrenaline all at the same time. More please.


The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
Category: Noir/Hardboiled
C1946 175pages 5 stars

Pauline Delos is dead. But who killed her? The man spotted in the alley beside her building, or the one seen entering her apartment later that same night? The Big Clock is about a man hunt. Or more precisely, two men hunting each other. But they're not strangers. They know each other, even work together. They both know which one of them did the deed. The only question is who will take the blame.

This little noir is a fast read, a real page-turner. The clock motif really helps with pacing; you feel the walls closing in on our protagonist(s). It's not a who-did-it but rather a how-did-they-get-away-with-it. It does feel dated, but truthfully, that's something you live with when you read in this genre. I am rather peeved at the Introduction, which gives away quite a bit of the story. I don't understand why they put that type of material in the front and not afterwards.

I picked this book because I read that it was the basis of the movie No Way Out. There was another, earlier, film made off of it too. I can see why they keep coming back to it, it's very clever. It reminds me of the movies The Fugitive and Out of Time and of Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying, which was one of my favorite books last year.

favorite quotes:

"The awfulness of Monday morning is the world's great common denominator. To the millionaire and the coolie it is the same, because there can be nothing worse."

"It came to me again that a child drinking milk has the same vacant, contented expression of the well-fed cow who originally gave it. There is a real spiritual kinship there."

Mar 11, 2009, 9:22pm Top

Ooh Victoria: The Big Clock looks really good. You know I have to read everything that you recommend in this category lol. I must now get a hold of it!

Mar 11, 2009, 9:27pm Top

Go for it, Lisa! But don't read the Introduction until after you finish.

Mar 12, 2009, 8:40am Top

>84 VictoriaPL: I'm handing out stars!
what a rush to read a couple terrific books one after the other, I feel it!

Mar 12, 2009, 8:42am Top

Never read the introduction first! They just put it there instead of at the back, labeled "afterword", because no one reads those. Except me. I also read end notes, you know, the ones mainly saying things like "ibid".

I'm seriously considering a hard-boiled category next year, based on the ones you've mentioned here.

Mar 12, 2009, 8:53am Top

>87 detailmuse: I'm definitely on a 5star (reading) high. I want to read every book in the world RIGHT NOW!

>88 RidgewayGirl: You should do it! I'll have a noir category next year too, no doubt about that. I love this genre. What does that say about me?

Mar 12, 2009, 5:39pm Top

I hate those spoiler introductions! And I had one kid's book I totally loved, the big mystery was completely given away by the cover. If I had been the author, I would have made them change it.

Mar 12, 2009, 5:45pm Top

Your love of noir says you are normal and optimistic. Everybody knows serial killers prefer true crime books, also known as study guides.

Have you read My Dark Places by James Ellroy? He wrote a lot of noir that I didn't love (like The Black Dahlia) but this one is a sort of memoir of his mother who was murdered and is fantastic.

Mar 12, 2009, 6:35pm Top

I didn't like The Black Dahlia either - wow, we agree on one! - so I'll have to check that out.

Mar 13, 2009, 1:30am Top

Hi - I noticed that you were starting Inkdeath for the second time. I was going to read it with you and can probably start it tomorrow. I know that I found it difficult to get into the second book last year - couldn't remember who was who and I'd forgotten the storyline. I'm sure it will be the same with this one.

Mar 13, 2009, 7:21am Top

>93 avatiakh: exactly what I'm going through! I'd love company if you want to join in. I'm about 60 pages in.

Mar 14, 2009, 5:22pm Top

After about 90 pages of Inkdeath the story is starting to make sense. There are just so many characters, whose motives I'm still trying to work out though. I miss Dustfinger and I hope he can get back into the story and would like to see more of Meggie in the action as well at this stage.
Anyway I suppose we can't discuss in too much detail or there will be spoilers.

Edited: Mar 14, 2009, 8:44pm Top

95> I'm missing Dustfinger too. But I think that's the point. It's kind of odd, but I'm really liking Fenoglio this time around. I didn't care for him in the first two books.

Mar 18, 2009, 2:54pm Top

finished Agyar by Steven Brust
Category: The Monster Mash
c1993 254pg 4stars

Here we have a record of the days of Jack Agyar. He fills us in on his new residence, his roommate, his seduction of several local girls and his numerous half-cups of coffee. Oh, and also the ways his previous lover, Laura, is framing him for murder. Did I mention that Jack is a vampire? No? Well, you see the book doesn't specifically mention that either. And that's what is so very clever about it.

I really enjoyed this book. I had read that the v-word wasn't used anywhere in it and I wondered how Brust would pull that off. Now I know and I think that he did an excellent job. The character Agyar has a great voice. He is at times profound but also very witty and quite funny. As the story becomes more complicated the pace really picks up and I have to say, it ended before I wanted it to.

favorite quotes

"All I had to do was tell her - let her know. Hand her a silvered mirror and say, 'What is wrong with this picture?'"

"I am feeling well and fit, as if the trials of a week ago had not occurred, save for the wounds of experience, which bring strength, not weakness."

Mar 21, 2009, 8:14am Top

finished Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
C2008 683pages 4stars
Category: Children / YA
Read in tandem with avatiakh

Inkdeath is the third book in the Inkheart trilogy. As it is a conclusion, I'm having difficulty writing a summary of it that doesn't give away a spoiler so I'm not going to. This book is a massive tapestry, there is so much going on. It's been awhile since I read Inkspell and for the first 100 pages I struggled to remember who several characters were and what most of them were doing when we left off. I wish I had known there was a glossary in the back. But having enjoyed Funke's previous novels, I persevered and was rewarded. After the long climb up, the rollarcoaster took off and I was grasping the grab bar and holding my breath. It is a pageturner and I began to resent interuptions like work and sleep. When people on LT ask me why I bother reading YA, invariably Funke's name comes up. She is such a wonderful storyteller. The details she includes really help you to become invested in the characters. I identified with so many, but curiously, not Meggie this time. I felt that Funke let Meggie fall by the wayside. Fenoglio was probably my favorite. At one point he asks "Were tourist visas (for his story) being handed out these days?" and I laughed so hard at that. I enjoyed both his awe and disdain at the world he had created, and how others were mucking with it. Inkdeath was more of an adult tale this time around and it was much darker than the other two. Not that the others didn't have serious things in them but I felt this one was particularly black. I guess it's similar to the Potter books in that way. I enjoyed it at least as much as Inkheart (maybe more, I'll have to do another reread) and definitely more than Inkspell. I felt it was a satisfying end but if Funke ever wants to write another Ink episode, you won't hear any complaints from me!

Mar 21, 2009, 8:25am Top

I have now completed a book in each category!

Edited: Mar 21, 2009, 4:05pm Top

finished Downsiders by Neal Shusterman
Category: Children / YA
C1999 246pages 4stars

Talon Angler breaks all the rules when he ventures Topside to obtain the medicine needed to save his sister's life. But he is soon discovered by Lindsay Matthias, a girl who finds him and his world as captivating as he finds her. Can Lindsay help Talon when The Great Shaft Disaster changes the Downside forever?

Shusterman's Everlost was one of the books that helped me to decide to continue reading YA fiction. So for my category this year it was a no-brainer for me to pick another Shusterman book. Like Everlost, Downsiders takes place in New York. Here we have the boy from the tunnels meeting the girl from the city. Sort of a YA Beauty and the Beast, for those of you my age who remember the television show. And when Lindsay goes Downside with Talon, you cannot help but think of Alice in that rabbit hole, a fact which Shusterman acknowledges by calling it as such. That's just the kind of tale it is. Shusterman has done a masterful job at bringing the Downside to life. It is so thoughtfully and beautifully detailed. At one point he writes "A world, regardless of which one it happens to be, is rather ordinary to the souls who inhabit it... It is human nature to take the most magical of worlds for granted, turning each one into a blank canvas upon which to paint the lives of those who would live there. Only an outsider can see a world's wonders for what they really are." And that is so true. That's why most protagonists are outsiders. So the author can build the world they're in and make you care about it. And I did care about the Downside. So when the Disaster came I was curious to see how Talon and Lindsay would handle it. Because like most YA fiction, I knew there was some growing-up to do. Shusterman didn't let me down, so I'll be reading more from him.

Mar 21, 2009, 5:16pm Top

I agree with your review of Inkdeath - it is a great read with lots of threads going on which could baffle a child reader. Funke does create wonderful worlds, I've read & enjoyed all her books. I left my impressions on my 999 thread.

I've been thinking of reading Neal Shusterman's Unwind so it was good to read your favourable review of his Downsiders.Now I'll have to get hold of both books. I've read his Dreadlocks which is based on the story of Medusa - a fairly creepy story.

Mar 21, 2009, 6:33pm Top

>101 avatiakh: I was thinking of reading Unwind for my next Shusterman! I sense another tandem read....

Mar 21, 2009, 10:21pm Top

It would have to be in the next couple of weeks as I have a deadline for reviewing science/technology themed children's fiction. I've just requested Unwind from the library. It won't be part of my 999 challenge but will go towards my 75 & 100 book challenges.

Mar 21, 2009, 10:55pm Top

>103 avatiakh: No problem! I've just requested a copy from our branch. I'm #1 for it so I should have it within a week.

Mar 21, 2009, 11:05pm Top

Hi, Victoria! I haven't fallen into a black hole, though some might think my apartment is itself a black hole of sorts, since I am constantly looking for stuff like keys, glasses, books, wallet, checkbook. How have you been doing?

Agyar by Steven Brust sounds really good. It's going right on my TBR list.

Mar 21, 2009, 11:13pm Top

>105 Storeetllr: Hey Mary! I have been wondering about you. Hope you enjoy Agyar. I think I know which character you'll like the best. Drop me a note when you've finished with it and we'll see if I'm correct.

Mar 24, 2009, 6:30pm Top

finished Monster Island: A Zombie Novel by David Wellington
category: The Monster Mash
C2006 282pages 4.5stars

Gary, being a medical student, was fully aware of what was happening to New York City when the Epidemic hit. In his desperation to survive he performs an experiment on himself. Now Gary is the only zombie in New York capable of rational thought and curiously, he also has the ability to control his fellow undead. Gary's zombie army is organized and purposeful and ready to do his bidding. Can the few humans who are left bring Gary down? is there any hope for Monster Island?

I don't believe I've ever read a zombie book before. If I have, it didn't leave an impression in my braaainnn (sorry). I bought this book because last year I read the first two books in Wellington's vampire series and he blew me away with his originality. I was betting that he could do the same with the zombie milieu. Turns out luck was on my side.
It's hard to write why I liked the book without giving away spoilers. But let me just say that what Wellington has written is dead on... um, spot on. This book is like everything you love about a zombie film but more. So much more. It's modern and smart and funny and it also has heart. I can't wait to read the second one. Pass the popcorn.

Mar 24, 2009, 10:10pm Top

Sounds like Wellington's going on my authors TBR list. I've never read a zombie novel either, except where they are peripheral to the main story (like the Anita Blake novels), but I confess I'm getting a little bored with vampire novels, at least for awhile, so this one might just be what I need to end my ennui. :)

Mar 26, 2009, 1:04am Top

I'm also intrigued by Monster Island and will have to look out for a copy - it will be my first zombie novel as well.

Mar 27, 2009, 2:22pm Top

finished Regenesis by C J Cherryh
category: Speculative Fiction
C2009 592pages 4 stars

18-year-old Ari 2 works hard to take on the mantle of the original Ariane Emory, studying under the tutelage of Justin Warrick and learning from Ari 1’s personal journals. When Justin’s original, Jordan, returns from exile the question of who actually murdered the first Ari reemerges, but at a difficult time. The Council of Nine is undergoing a brutal power struggle and Ari must decide if she should take control. And she can’t afford any mistakes or she’ll follow her genemother to the grave. This is the sequel to Cherryh’s Hugo Award-winning novel, Cyteen.

This story is interwoven between the original persons and their clones (often with the same name) so that it’s almost like playing chess with extra pieces. Or, maybe it’s like the 3-D chess from Star Trek. With such a large cast, it’s quite an effort to keep everybody straight and also to remember how they relate to one another. It’s certainly a very rich book and you can’t breeze through it. The political machinations are very complex as well. So, if I’m not a ‘hard’ sci-fi reader and I don’t enjoy politics, why did I bother with Regenesis? Because I enjoyed Cyteen and I was curious to find out who off’d Ari 1, in a Who-Shot-JR kind of way. The only reason I am able to tolerate the political nature of Cherryh’s work is because the way she writes interpersonal relationships is fascinating. Most of the major players are either politicians and/or scientists working on pyschsets – so these people are adept at working each other over. And this culture of who is manipulating who and for what purpose is dizzying. Honestly, if this is anything like what real politicians live with, I pity them. The claustrophobia and paranoia come through well in Cherryh’s writing and when the battle for dominance came to a head, I was ready for the resolution. The book felt long at times, but not so badly that I walked away from it. It’s an excellent sequel. It feels just like Cyteen and that’s saying something considering they were written 20 years apart.

Edited: Mar 29, 2009, 8:01pm Top

finished Unwind by Neal Shusterman
category: Children / YA
C2007 335pages 3.5 stars
read in tandem with avatiakh

The Bill of Life, written after the Second Civil War, changed how Americans dealt with their offspring. When the pro-life and pro-choice factions finished drafting the amendments, several things were put down in black and white. Like the rules involving Storking and the timeframe when a child can be Unwound. Even with the agreement, life continued to be very gray. One thing was for certain, whether you're a Tithe like Levi, or just a castoff, like Conner and Risa, Happy Jack Harvest Camp is the end of the line. A place where you enter as an individual and leave as a score of individual pieces, fodder for the organ and tissue market. When these three make a desperate bid for freedom they find that there is a place for Unwinds to go. But is it really any safer?

This may be a YA novel but it centered around some very heavy themes. Does every person have the right to live? How exactly do you define living? Is there more to a person than just their physical self? Do our tissues retain our memories once they're no longer part of our body? Can we increase the amount of organs and tissue available for those in need?
As I expected, Shusterman very creatively worked these ideas into the plot. I think it's a difficult task to work serious themes into a story without weighing it down, making it so black that the reader feels too much pathos and tunes out. He did a good job there. I kept reading, in fact, I read the book all in one sitting. That said, I did not enjoy this one as much as the previous two Shusterman novels I read, Everlost and Downsiders. Maybe I didn't fully swallow the Unwind process as something a pro-life faction would ever agree to. Or a society where parents would willingly put their child through that, no matter how badly they got along or how strongly they felt the pull of societal pressure. To the positive, I did really enjoy the way he handled tissue memory. That is something that has always intrigued me and I thought it was the bright spot in the story. So, all in all, not the cream of the crop for Shusterman but not the worst either. Worth a read and definitely worth pondering the issues raised.

Mar 29, 2009, 8:15pm Top

We really don't respond to the same books do we? I love reading your reviews, especially since I will never, ever read the books mentioned! Although I am thoroughly enjoying The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It's such a pleasant interlude in the middle of a whole slew of gloomy books.

Mar 29, 2009, 8:23pm Top

RG, I'm so glad you like Carnation. I keep looking out the window trying to spot one of those flying pigs!

Mar 31, 2009, 6:42am Top

I just finished Unwind and like you found that it raises a lot of ethical questions, was a real pageturner, but ultimately a little unsatisfying. Just can't imagine a world where a society could come to terms with harvesting humans like this. Could there ever be parents like this?? You wrote a great review. Have you read Nancy Farmer's The house of the Scorpion? The other book I read recently that deals with similar ethical issues at the YA level was The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

Mar 31, 2009, 6:53am Top

Hi Kerry! I've wondered about Scorpion, Amazon has recommended it to me several times. I'll put it on the list for next year (yes, I already have one).

Apr 1, 2009, 7:05am Top

Enjoying your noir reviews Victoria. Also planning to keep an eye out for Carol O'Connell.

Apr 1, 2009, 8:40am Top

Thanks Pamela. Let me know what you think of O'Connell.

Apr 1, 2009, 8:30pm Top

finished Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2009 477pages 3stars

Willow has ostogenesis imperfecta. Her bones break when she turns over in her sleep, when she sits down awkwardly, or even when she sneezes. Her parents, Sean and Charlotte, are buried in medical bills. So Charlotte takes the only course of action she can see.... she sues her OB/GYN. She stands up in court and says that had she been informed of Willow's condition, she would have terminated the pregnancy. But as the lawsuit progresses, Charlotte learns it's not just Willow that she has to handle with care. Her other relationships are fragile too.

I was so looking forward to this book. Reading the description on Amazon it sounded similar to My Sister's Keeper (which was the very first Picoult I read, and remains my favorite, the standard by which I judge all the others). The book, like its siblings, is told in alternating chapters from different viewpoints. Quite frankly, I didn't really care about any of these people. I didn't connect with them. Maybe I'm just getting too accustomed to Picoult's formula. I have read every one of her novels (more than once). When I read Handle With Care, all I saw was the formula. I knew exactly what was going to happen to each character at the end. And it did. Marin, check. Charlotte and Sean, check. Amelia, check. Even little Willow. I was so disappointed. So, strike one. Even the MVP's have a bad game once in awhile. Next time, I'm hoping Picoult hits it out of the ballpark.

Apr 2, 2009, 11:50am Top

Great review of Handle with Care. I may skip that one. Perhaps she is starting to write too fast. It seems like Change of Heart just came out and all of a sudden there is a new book. Also, I know she has assistants who do a lot of her research now, so maybe she is more removed from the characters and their feelings than she was in the beginning. I also think that becoming with her "formula" as you call it, detracts from the reading experience in that you almost know what's coming next.

Here's hoping she gets back on track! She's one of my favorite authors.

Apr 2, 2009, 3:49pm Top

Thanks so much for pointing out the sequel to Chocolat. I don't read a whole lot of fiction, except for mysteries, and so I had no clue about this.

I definitely have to pick this one up.

Apr 2, 2009, 4:01pm Top

Hey Linda! After you finish The Girl With No Shadow please drop back by and let me know what you thought of it.

Apr 2, 2009, 4:17pm Top

Will do. I was browsing around on Amazon and had no idea that Harris has so many food-related novels. This is great. I was thinking of adding a food category for next year, though I'd surely want to read the sequel sooner than that.

Apr 2, 2009, 4:19pm Top

The first of her novels that I read was Five Quarters of the Orange which I just devoured. I also enjoyed Blackberry Wine. Reading the Series information, I've done it all in the wrong order. Chocolat is supposed to be first, not last! Oh well.

Apr 2, 2009, 5:18pm Top

lindapanzo, if you're looking for food-related fiction, I can highly recommend A Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester, which also happens to be the story of a murder.

Apr 2, 2009, 5:22pm Top

Thanks, RidgewayGirl. That is one of my longest-standing TBRs. It gets moved around a lot in my house but never quite gets read.

Edited: Apr 3, 2009, 11:50pm Top

finished Chocolat by Joanne Harris
category: Books by Joanne Harris
C1999 242pages 4stars

When I was a child, I used to listen in terror to the story of the gingerbread house, of the witch who tempted little children in and ate them. I look at her shop, all wrapped in shining paper like a present waiting to be unwrapped, and I wonder how many people, how many souls, she has already tempted beyond redemption.

Father Reynaud first spotted Vianne Rocher during the carnival celebration and when their eyes met he had a feeling that she was trouble. He began to worry when Vianne settled her Chocolaterie directly across from his church. Seeing the shop open on Sunday mornings, he fears her wares are tempting his flock to break their dutiful fasts. So Reynaud denounces Vianne's sweets directly from the pulpit. He makes his own diet more stringent, as an example to the devout, even though he secretly dreams of her dark confections. But his plan backfires. Instead of closing down, Vianne announces a Grand Festival du Chocolate to be held on Easter Sunday morning and Reynaud knows he must now take matters into his own hands.

When I started this novel, I did not realize that the Lenten season played such a big role in it. I actually gave up chocolate for Lent a few years ago, and the memory of that experience, I am sure, heightened my appreciation of Chocolat.
They say that every story has two sides and I really enjoyed reading the alternating passages from Vianne's and Reynaud's perspectives. Even though they are not labeled as such, I could tell immediately which character was speaking, and that, in my mind, meant that Harris did a good job of giving each a distinct voice.
I read the book in one day and I have to say that it felt perfectly self contained - it was neither too short nor excessively drawn out. I've been reading some longish books recently so I appreciated such a succinct story.
I am not really one to expound on themes and motifs, because I'm not really good at that, but I could not help but notice how much the color red appeared throughout the text. Not just on Vianne and Anouk but gradually on all her regular customers. Red scarfs, red coats, red dresses. It was utterly pervasive. I took it to mean that they were all awakening to life, to passion and vitality. But that's my own opinion, make of it what you will.
Very enjoyable. I will never look at an Easter Basket the same way again! Now, onto the sequel!


Yesterday Toinette Arnauld was eating - eating! - in the confessional. I could smell the sweetness on her breath, but I had to pretend to maintain anonymity.
"Blesh me, mon pere , I have shinned." I could hear her chewing, hear the flat little sucking sounds she made against her teeth. I listened in growing rage as she confessed to a list of trifling sins that I barely even heard, the smell of chocolate growing even more pungent in the enclosed space by the second. Her voice was thick with it, and I felt my own mouth moisten in sympathy. Finally I could not bear it any longer.

A hundred children will awaken to the sound of Easter bells, and their first thought will not be, He is risen! but Chocolates! Easter Chocolates!

Apr 5, 2009, 11:52am Top

Wonderful comments -- I saw the movie but haven't felt unduly drawn to the book, until now! Might even try to fit it in this week...

Edited: Apr 7, 2009, 3:35pm Top

finished The Sin Eaters by Andrew Beahrs
Category: Authors That Are New To Me
C2008 238pages 5stars

Bill is a unfortunate lad. Made an orphan by plague and tricked into the practice of sin-eating, he is now an outcast. Sarah, fleeing from her village, discovers Bill and finds herself unable to pass him by. Sarah knows what it is to harbor the weight of sin and she is compelled to help Bill, perhaps as only she is capable of doing. Faced with the first act of human charity in many days, Bill agrees to travel with Sarah, unaware of who or what she is fleeing from, but hopeful that she possesses the ability to set him free.

I found this ARC at a Friends of the Library sale. It is a small, unassuming thing but it caught my eye. I put it in my basket thinking, if nothing else, it will serve a place in my BookMooch inventory. It has sat on my shelf for five months and I haven't given it a thought since then. But yesterday it called to me and I've been hard pressed to set it down.
This book is so full of beautifully descriptive and evocative phrases. Mr Beahrs is truly a wordsmith. I could visualize each scene so easily, there was no work, no effort to ground myself in this story. I was there. And these people! I was drawn to them all. More than just the titular sin-eater, each character was a fine study on how every act sets others in motion. How our sins weigh on us, how they drive us, bring us close, tear us apart. This is a fine tale - it will be one of my favorite books for this year.


"The clothes are warm she says. They are for a girl and I will not wear them and I fold these hands before me and cross my legs. I do not care that my yard flops free. I think to myself that I have enough girl inside me already. I have eaten the sins of more than one. Were they to sing, there are enough to make a chorus."

"There is no greater crime than setting a fire... It gorges on anything that men can build. It makes men's labors into dust, and their dreams into nonsense. Fire is a treason to all - those scorched, but also those spared...Men's greatest hopes turn cinder-black. Their faith chars."

"Mothers and daughters speak to each other without words, using a tongue made up of history, and wrongs done and favors owed and wounds well known."

"The world teems with life and the living, so richly that it sometimes seems impossible for any life to be lost. But all are. To save some bit of life, if only for a while, to offer breath and blood to another, if only for a little time...that is such a gift!"

Apr 7, 2009, 11:13am Top

I loved your review of Chocolat. I read the book awhile ago (and before I saw the movie). I have The Girl with No Shadow on my shelf right now, so let me know when you're going to read it and maybe we can read in tandem (although I think you read faster than I do!).

Apr 7, 2009, 11:22am Top

Hi Julie! Thanks for stopping by. I'm starting Girl tonight. I think a few of us maybe reading it this week (or soon) so I've started a thread for it. Love to have you join in!

Edited: Apr 7, 2009, 11:00pm Top

finished Japanland by Karin Muller
Category: Travelogue
C2005 307pgs 3.5stars

Lately my Netflix queue has been full to the brim with anime and J-Horror movies. I find myself with an insatiable curiosity about most things Japanese (if it's small, fuzzy and saccharine sweet I can usually resist). I dream of packing my bags and heading off to the island 'someday'. So when Amazon recommended this book to me, I felt it was the perfect venue for some armchair travel. And indeed, Muller does give you a good sense of what being an outsider, a Gaijin, is like: at the home of her host family, at the market, asking directions on the street, in the public baths, etc.
Japanland, as described by Muller, is "an alternate reality", "the mask Japan wears in public". She spent a year documenting various Japanese citizens: monks, sumo wrestlers, drummers, judo practitioners, sword makers, business men, immigrants, geisha, even the homeless, with the purpose of assimilating their true culture. The marketing blurb on the front flap says the book has 'broad scope' and I do agree with that. But it also feels quite shallow, as if Muller never penetrated the 'mask' she speaks of. It's a light, easy read but ultimately I was left somewhat unsatisfied with it and will probably look for another book on the same subject.

Apr 8, 2009, 2:55pm Top

#131 - I'm actually contemplating a trip to Japan this fall!!! Japanland sounds interesting but let me know if you come across something better! :)

Apr 8, 2009, 2:57pm Top

Lisa - I am SO jealous!!

Apr 21, 2009, 10:55am Top

finished In The Woods by Tana French
category: Authors That Are New To Me
C2008 464 pages 3stars

sorry this is so brief, I'm getting a little burnt out on reviews but I did want to post something.

In a nutshell... underwhelming.
Being an Edgar award-winner and having solid reviews, I had my hopes up for this book but it let me down. I didn't like the protagonist at all. In fact, I didn't find myself attached to any of the main characters. They were wooden. Not cardboard, they did have substance, it was just... stiff, contrived. Also, I figured out the Big Bad early on and it seemed to take forever for the detectives to catch up. So I found myself a little annoyed, wondering how many pages French was going to chew up getting to the point. But my main complaint (and this might be a SPOILER, so continue reading at your own risk) is that French does not provide all the answers. There are two murder mysteries in this novel and only one is solved conclusively. I'm not sure if I'll read the sequel or not, I'm ready to wash my hands of French and move on.

Apr 21, 2009, 12:39pm Top

How disappointing! Now I'm not sure if I want to read it or not.

Apr 22, 2009, 10:32am Top

Yikes! That is disappointing. I hate when all of the answers aren't revealed in a mystery. This was one I had planned on reading for my 999 challenge, but I might have to rethink it. Thanks for the honest review.

Edited: Apr 26, 2009, 7:56pm Top

finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
category: Speculative Fiction
C2005 288pages 2.5stars

Kathy and Ruth and Tommy are Hailsham graduates. Hailsham grads all share a common destiny. They are special. They are dedicated. And they give all for their country. But one day Ruth begs Kathy to stop the process for Tommy. Will Kathy find a way?

I did not enjoy this book. i wanted to. I expected to, having heard good things about it. I patiently kept on reading, waiting for it to get good. But it didn't. In fact, it was so boring. I guess it just wasn't the kind of speculative fiction I am used to. It's so understated. So reserved. Stoic. British. I think that's it. Like the stories you hear about the British citizens on the Titanic who dutifully queued up while the Americans pushed and shoved their way to the lifeboats. These characters were too sedate. I wanted pushing and shoving. I wanted passion and action and vitality. When Kathy and Tommy were in the car I just wanted to scream 'take the car and run, you stupid sheep!' Oh well.

Edited: Apr 26, 2009, 9:38pm Top

finished Monster Nation: a zombie novel by David Wellington
category: The Monster Mash
C2004 285pages 3stars

Nilla can't remember much. She took her name from the box of cookies someone was nice enough to give her. But those are all gone now. She's just so terribly hungry.The one thing she does remember is waking up in a puddle of her own blood with a wound on her shoulder, as if someone had gnawed on her. And something strange is happening all over California. Dead people wake up, and walk, and bite. Doomsday is here. There are those who want to stop it, and those who want to revel in it. Unfortunately for Nilla, both factions believe she's the key to it all.

I loved Monster Island, the first book in the series, so I was anxious to read this second installment. I'm a firm believer that second books in trilogies are always a little awkward. There were a few moments that recaptured the brilliance of the first novel but I didn't particularly enjoy it. If I want to read an apocalyptic road trip across the USA, I'm going to stick with Stephen King's The Stand.

Apr 26, 2009, 10:41pm Top

Sounds like you've had a couple of washouts in a row. I hope your next book is a good one!

Apr 26, 2009, 10:57pm Top

I'm also hoping you move on to some better reads. Looking through your categories, I haven't come across most of the books on your list so I can only suggest you tackle Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, which is also on my 999 list. I'm happy to do a tandem read of it alongside my other reading. I read a couple of the stories when it first came out and they were good.

Apr 27, 2009, 1:59am Top

Hi, Thanks for your message! I enjoyed Gentlemen and Players quite a bit. I don't know anything about Harris other than this book so I can't say if it's like any of her others. It's kind of a mystery/social commentary/bildungsroman. I actually read it in less than 24 hours, which I don't usually do, but I guess that qualifies it as a page-turner. Really liked the characters, or maybe I should say the characterization. Good luck!

Apr 28, 2009, 1:32pm Top

finished The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne
category: Authors That Are New to Me
C2009 5stars

"Life just happened to my mother...She lived in suspended animation, waiting for something better. Killing herself was the only real choice she ever made."

It's been a decade since Alex, affectionately known as Cat, has returned to the Rucker farm. Wounded by the emotional and physical damage dealt to her in childhood, and carrying baggage of her own creation, Cat is disintegrating into a pool of destructive vices. Now her mother is gone and her father won't live much longer. Can she find the courage to heal the relationships she needs the most?
I received this book through LT's Early Reviewer program. Last night while my husband prepared dinner, I thought I would read the first chapter. Three hours later I closed the back cover.
Coyne excels at capturing the heightened emotions often present around dysfunctional families: the hate, the shame and yes, the love. Being from a dysfunctional family myself, parts of this book were painful for me to read but at the same time that made it easier for me to identify with these characters and embrace them.
The marketers of this novel have made comparisons to Jodi Picoult's work and several reviews have picked up on that. I have read every Picoult novel and while both women are adept at writing family dramas, each has their own voice and style. I personally believe this novel to be better than Picoult's last few offerings and I am very excited to see what Ms. Coyne does next.

Apr 29, 2009, 12:33am Top

You're review is very similar to mine. Although I didn't read it in one sitting, it only took me two days. With two young kids in the house, that's speedy for me!

May 3, 2009, 8:01pm Top

finished Garnethill by Denise Mina
category: Hardboiled / Noir
C1998 349pages 3.5 stars
read in tandem with RidgewayGirl

another shortie review. Forgive me, I'm not feeling very verbose right now

This is my second exposure to Irish mystery and I enjoyed this one much better than the first that I read. I'm starting to get a handle on the slang but some words still send me scrambling for my keyboard and the nearest Google search bar.
The only thing that annoyed me with this book was the whole McDetective thing: McAskill, McEwan, McMummb. Couldn't one of them be named O'Donnell or something?
This one has all the hallmarks needed for a well done Noir: countless cigarettes, hard liquor, familial failings, redshirts and red herrings. A satisfying conclusion - it has stuck with me.

May 3, 2009, 8:03pm Top

What did you think of Fragile Things?

Edited: May 4, 2009, 8:55am Top

finished Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
category: Speculative Fiction
2.5 stars

Once upon a time I was in love with Neil Gaiman. I happily devoured Neverwhere, Stardust and Smoke and Mirrors. Then our relationship hit a rough patch. I hated Good Omens, Anansi Boys and American Gods. So when I started to hear the buzz around Fragile Things I didn't rush out a get a copy. I was a little reluctant to try it. I guess I considered it the last bridge of the relationship, once you cross it there's no going back. The beginning of the book got off to a great start. I really enjoyed October in the Chair and A Study in Emerald (if only Gaiman wrote more Sherlock Holmes!) Now for the bad news... nothing else in the book appealed to me. I fear the relationship is over.

May 4, 2009, 3:21pm Top

I ended up enjoying Fragile Things. I can see you probably don't want to read more of his work but I could suggest you look at his two children's books - Coraline and The Graveyard Book (which came from October in the Chair).
Anyway I hope your next read hits a high note.

May 4, 2009, 7:31pm Top

I wasn't super crazy about it either. I liked the two stories you mentioned, plus a couple more, and all the poems, but the ones I didn't like, I really didn't like.

May 11, 2009, 1:26pm Top

finished V: The Second Generation by Kenneth Johnson
category: Speculative Fiction
C2008 448pages 4 stars

I was ecstatic when I found out that Kenneth Johnson had produced another V book, having been quite a fan of the series in my younger years. During the first few chapters of The Second Generation I was slightly disoriented because I did not realize that it is a direct sequel to the original V and completely disregards V: The Final Battle (and all subsequent V books). Events that happened in that installment have not occurred and there are some major changes to assimilate. Once I got my bearings I really started to enjoy it.
The parallels between V and WWII were always obvious but as a kid I really only appreciated V for the alien-invasion aspect of it. Now that I'm older and I've read several books concerning the occupation of Paris and the French Resistance, the whole occupier/occupied dynamic really came to the foreground of the story.
This book feels exactly like a class reunion: meeting up with old friends 20 years later to see who's fat and bald and who has kids. I enjoyed what Johnson did with the material and I will always welcome another frolic in the V saga.

Edited: May 18, 2009, 11:18am Top

finished Coastliners by Joanne Harris
category: Joanne Harris
read in tandem with Pamelad
C2002 368 pages 3.5stars

Mado returns to her island home after the death of her mother. It's been 10 years since she has lived in her father's house and she's dismayed to find the village in such a shabby state. The few remaining inhabitants find themselves constrained by their own self-serving natures and by Mother Nature herself. Mado works to untangle family secrets and shared history. She's also curious about Flynn, the solitary outsider who has recently taken on odd jobs around the village. Can Mado pull the threads of the net together and change things for the better?

The entire time I was reading this book I felt that it was the same story as Chocolat, without the food. The prodigal comes to the village, becomes the catalyst for change, and finds love with an outsider. Another book that I kept flashing on while reading was Wuthering Heights. I'm sure some of that happened to be due to the stormy weather - substitute the moors for the sea, and there you are.
Now that I've read several of Harris' books I'm beginning to see her formula. Also, while in Five Quarters of the Orange and Chocolat I found the insertion of french words charming, this time around I found them annoying. Only time will tell if that is just my particular chemistry with this one book or an omen of things to come with the rest of her books. I did enjoy it. It wasn't at the top of the barrel, but it was certainly wasn't at the bottom either. A solid entry in the Harris canon.

May 18, 2009, 1:11pm Top

I find that sometimes I have to put some space between books I read by the same author. That way, their style/formula feels more like visiting with an old friend instead of the 'same old, same old' feeling. It's happening to me right now. Years ago I read and loved The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Recently I was lucky enough to get his "new" book (new to the U.S. market) The Angel's Game through the early reviewer's program. It is very similar in style and feel to "Shadow," but that's okay because it's like "coming back home" to this author.

Edited: May 19, 2009, 11:25am Top

finished The Science of Sexy by Bradley Bayou
category: Self Improvement
C2006 304 pages 2.5stars

Bayou took the female form, postulated forty-eight different body shapes and then devoted four pages to dressing each type. I am so very glad that I borrowed this book from the library because I would have been very disappointed to have paid money for nearly two hundred pages that did not have any relevance to me. I agree with other reviewers in that I don't believe this book is geared towards looking sexy necessarily, but rather towards assisting you to look your best in any situation. It's pretty obvious to me that 'sexy' was put in the title simply as alliteration and as a selling point. One thing I found interesting was that Bayou warns petites away from knee boots as they "cut" a third off your height. I have previously read Trinny and Suzannah's books and they are very complimentary of boots and do not mention the petite angle at all. I guess that old axiom is true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we all have our own opinion. Bayou did earn an extra half star because of his color chart. I've have always been clueless about color charts. Am I a summer? A winter? I never knew. I just tried to wear what I liked on me. About a year ago I began receiving a lot of compliments when I wore a teal tshirt so I started buying more teal and received more compliments. Well, I looked at Bayou's color chart (which is nothing more than height and weight) and my color was.... wait for it... light teal. How did he do that?

I have now read 41 books - I am HALFWAY through the challenge!

May 19, 2009, 12:18pm Top

Way to go, VictoriaPL!!! You're turning the corner and in the homestretch, now.

May 19, 2009, 12:20pm Top

Nice job! And ahead of schedule, too!

May 19, 2009, 1:38pm Top

Halfway through! I will have to read faster and choose shorter books to catch up. May I suggest The Corrections, A Suitable Boy and Remembrance of Things Past as great books for your challenge this year?

May 19, 2009, 4:05pm Top

Thanks! I'm feeling a little behind-the-times with all these 999X2 threads popping up. It was nice to hit a benchmark!

RG - ahhhh! I still haven't finished the other recommendations you gave me at the sale. I'll put them on my list. Although I'm not sure about the Proust. I'd feel like I was cheating on Monsieur Dumas, who has the lion's share of my french lit shelf.

May 19, 2009, 8:42pm Top

Victoria, congratulations on hitting the half-way mark. Since we had a similar, luke-warm response to Coastliners, I'll be interested to hear how you like Gentlemen and Players, which I enjoyed more.

May 22, 2009, 3:09pm Top

finished Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen
category: Travelogue
C2000 288 pages 2.5stars

I assume LT recommended this book to me because I own (and adored) The Orchid Thief. And I must admit that my first impression upon seeing the book cover was that this book was a rip off of the other. Well, I was wrong. Both books stand firmly on their own territory.
Orchid Fever is a nice travelogue, with a variety of locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
I did not find the characters in this book to be as engaging as the ones we meet in The Orchid Thief. For me the book only really came alive during the chapter on fox testicle orchid ice cream (I kid you not) and the chapter on The Orchid Highway.
Many chapters focused on the trouble with conserving orchids and CITES law. To be frank, these chapters put me to sleep. Literally. I could not read two pages without dozing off - which is good as a cure for my insomnia but not so good for getting through the book. I had to go back and review those passages because I could not remember what I had read. Obviously it was not captivating enough to keep my attention.
This hasn't totally put me off Hansen. If I do another travelogue category in the future, I would consider giving one of his other books a go.

May 22, 2009, 5:40pm Top

I will have to examine the flavors closely next time I visit Baskin-Robbins.


May 23, 2009, 10:53am Top

Eric Hansen has some fairly exciting adventure travel books out there. Sorry this was not one of them! Still, I would try that ice cream, seeing as there are no actual testicles involved! Hard time explaining the name to my kids, though. They're at the age where that would cause a little too much giggling.

Edited: May 28, 2009, 2:10pm Top

finished The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart by Lawrence Block
category: Authors That Are New to Me
C1995 291pages 3stars

Of all the bookstores in all the towns in all the world, she walked into mine.

Bernie Rhodenbarr is a thief always on the lookout for opportunity. For his cover, he runs a respectable bookstore and keeps Raffles, the store cat, company. One day a beautiful dame walks into Bernie's store and before he knows it they're sharing popcorn over a Bogart double-feature. But she's no angel and suddenly the plot lines of Bogie's films and Bernie's life seem to merge. All the usual suspects seem to be involved - can Bernie figure it out and keep his nose clean?

Bogart films are a particular passion of mine, I've watched 46 of them so far. A few weeks ago, in a particularly brilliant moment of LT kismet, this book title came up on my screen. Of course I saw the 'Bogart' part, but when I read 'bookstore', well, that sealed the deal. I had to read it immediately.

This book is a loving pastiche of the plots from Bogart films like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and The Big Sleep. Block did a good job of making it feel hardboiled without actually being hardboiled. He hits all the right notes and you understand immediately which character is meant to emulate a well-loved favorite.

It didn't earn 4 or 5 stars from me because it had a bit more politics in it than I care for. It's still a solid tale for any mystery reader, and an especially lovely romp for fans of Bogie.

May 28, 2009, 2:00pm Top

I've never read anything in this series by Lawrence Block and ought to add one to my list. I think there's one about Ted Williams so, since I love baseball, maybe that should be the one.

Jun 14, 2009, 6:57pm Top

finished Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2009 349pages 3.5stars

The dark place is where Libby Day goes whenever she remembers the night her brother Ben brutally killed her mother and two sisters. Now in her early thirties, Libby has exhausted the trust fund established by her well-wishers. Desperate for cash she makes an agreement with The Kill Club to research that fatal night and those involved in it. Will Libby find enough evidence to prove Ben's guilt to the Club or will she find that her memories were wrong?

Similar to Flynn's debut novel, Sharp Objects, Dark Places deals with a fractured family and shows how a daughter perceives her family while attempting to solve the mystery that surrounds them.
I didn't care for Libby in the first few chapters but by the middle of the book I was definitely feeling the protagonist-reader bond. I don't know what made me change my mind about her. That said, I didn't quite buy into her ability to succeed where the police failed. What kept me reading was Flynn's edgy style. I love her characterizations and her prose. This one didn't wow me as much as her first but it wasn't bad either. I'll keep watching Flynn.

Jun 15, 2009, 12:07am Top

I hadn't heard of this one, but it sounds similar to one I read this year, No Time for Goodbye. In that one, the main character has had her whole family - mother, father, brother - disappear one night. Then years later she tries to figure out what happened.

Jun 15, 2009, 4:32am Top

Victoria, I've read all the Bernie Rhodenbarr books I can find. Liked them all. You can ignore the politics when you're reading a US book in Australia. Probably the reverse is also true?

Jun 15, 2009, 10:55am Top

I'll have to put myself on the waiting list for the Flynn book at the library...

Jun 15, 2009, 8:07pm Top

finished: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee
category: Travelogue
C2008 308pages 4stars

On March 30, 2005, 110 people from all over the United States won the Powerball Lottery. Officials immediately began to fret over the possibility of fraud but soon a pattern emerged. It seemed the winning number had been inside of a Fortune Cookie. Jennifer Lee, an American-born Chinese, used the lottery story as an opportunity to delve into the mystery that is American Chinese food, one of her particular passions.

I'd estimate that in my household we eat Chinese take-out at least once a week. I love the stuff. So when this book appeared on my LT recommendations I went ahead and gave it a go. I am so glad that I did. This book is wonderfully entertaining and enlightening too. There were entire passages I read aloud to my husband because I found them so intriguing. This is not just a book about fortune cookies or the Powerball lottery. It's about the evolution of American Chinese food, about Chinese immigration and about the common denominator that food can be. I loved this book. But be warned - you will crave takeout the entire time you're reading it!

Jun 16, 2009, 3:21pm Top

I've added it to my wishlist. The cover art is perfect!

Jun 16, 2009, 3:22pm Top

I've added it to my wishlist. The cover art is perfect!

Edited: Jun 17, 2009, 2:30pm Top

finished We'll Always Have Murder: A Humphrey Bogart mystery by Bill Crider
category: Hardboiled /Noir
C2003 240pages 4.5stars

Private investigator Terry Scott isn't too surprised when Mr. Warner asks him to come to the studio lot. After all, he's helped Warner with trouble before. But Scott is taken aback when he recognizes the other person in the office as none other than Humphrey Bogart; a man with a reputation for taking care of himself. Seems someone is trying to blackmail Bogart and Mr. Warner wants Scott to make the problem go away. But whoever is after Bogart is also familiar with his movies, so the trouble doesn't stop at blackmail. Now there's a few bodies in the mix, a harrowing car accident and a mob boss who's rather annoyed. Is Scott up to the challenge or will Bogie have to show him how it's done?

Oh my, where to start? I simply have to say that I loved this book. If you're a Bogart fan like I am, this book is a fantastic adventure with one of your buddies along side of you. It's like eating a meal at the old hangout and swapping private jokes.

I really enjoyed how Crider wrote Bogart as Bogart - the toupee, the ruby ring, the portrait of Bacall above the fireplace; the little touches that made Bogie feel human and not like Marlowe or Spade. Even though Crider made up the dialogue, it's what you know Bogart would say if he were in the situation. Even the cadence of the speech seems authentic.

I had such a good time reading this one. It's supposed to be the first in a new series and I certainly hope that is the case!

edited to fix the typos that spellchecker didn't catch!

Jun 17, 2009, 6:19pm Top

Victoria, this last book and The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart both sound good. I love Bogie also, although I don't think I have seen nearly enough of his movies. Hmm off to Netflix now....

Jun 18, 2009, 7:11am Top

I've exhausted Netflix on Bogart films so I've started hunting for them by Interlibrary Loan. I found one that way this week and I have two more they're hunting for. It's a great resource. My total for Bogart movies watched should rise to 49 by the end of June. I'm trying for them all but I doubt if it will ever happen. Some of the early ones aren't on either VHS or DVD. You can see some online at sites like hulu.com too.

Another book I've requested: The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case by George Baxt. Can't wait!

Jun 19, 2009, 3:01pm Top

I've started a mini-challenge to help get me through the remaining books.


Edited: Jun 19, 2009, 7:17pm Top

Victoria, like your 6 degerees of separation, particularly Bill rhymes with Phil!

Loved Gentlemen and Players and thought Nightmare Town, which I know as Red Harvest was one of Hammet's best.

ETA No, it's not Red Harvest, it's a different book! But if it's Hammet it must be good.

Jun 20, 2009, 9:32pm Top

finished Generation Loss by Elisabeth Hand
category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2007 265pages 4stars

Thirty years ago Cassandra Neary was a brilliant photog, the 'it' girl, whose pictures of dead women were the newest fad. Now a washed-up addict, Cass is startled when given the opportunity to interview Aphrodite Kemestos, the woman whose art propelled her to first pick up a camera. Cass hastens to the Maine coast, hoping her muse can rekindle the flame she once possessed. But soon she finds that her arrival is no mere stroke of luck. Someone has remembered her obsession with the dead and they have an all too similar hobby.

Elizabeth Hand is an author I discovered several years ago. Her first few books just blew my mind but the last two or three have really disappointed me. Part of me wondered if I should just face the reality of her new mode and go my own way. But Hand is so hard for me to walk away from because I love her style. Her writing is so very evocative. It envelopes me like a fog and I am completely encased in her world. So, I picked up Generation Loss with hope.

I was not disappointed! This book reminded me very much of early Hand. But, as they say, you never step into the same river twice. It's definitely an evolution and that's good. The setting and the characters felt right. The book also has excellent energy, the movement of the story is at a good pace. I'm so very pleased and I'm ready for the next one!

Edited: Jun 24, 2009, 8:38pm Top

finished The Golden by Lucius Shepard
category: The Monster Mash
C1993 196pages 2 stars

The vampire clan has gathered at Castle Banat for the decanting of The Golden - a human whose blood not only tastes divine but also gives the drinker visions, etc. A decanting is a particularly special occasion as it takes a few hundred years to breed such an individual. Former chief inspector Michael Beheim, the current new kid on the block, finds himself particularly attracted to The Golden and can hardly contain himself in her presence. So it is no surprise that when The Golden turns up dead, the clan suspects him first. However, the Patriarch charges Michael with the task of hunting down the killer because Michael is really the only one qualified to do so.

I saw this book mentioned in a Talk thread and as I have a penchant for vampire books, I added it to my list. I think the vampire police officer holds an appeal to me; I still mourn the cancellation of Forever Knight. Perhaps I like the irony of an immoral creature, the vampire, who is a detective, someone who I expect to behave morally.

I went into the story with high expectations. The description of the castle and countryside were fantastic. If it were possible for Castle Banat to exist, it would be on my Bucket List to visit there. And some of the plot developments were interesting. I won't give any spoilers... The reason this book gets such a low mark from me is because of the execution of the writing. The blow-by-blow sex scenes are not even the worst of it. It's the purple prose. I get lost and I forget what's happening. For instance, there's a sentence in chapter fifteen that is a page and a half long: 694 words, 59 commas and 6 semicolons! Lost, I tell you. This book would bleed lilac if it were to get wet. Fair warning...

I added that sentence to CK. After reading it half a dozen times and typing it out, God help me, it's starting to grow on me!

Jun 24, 2009, 8:45pm Top

>This book would bleed lilac if it were to get wet. Fair warning...

That makes me smile! I'll have to pass on this one.

Jun 24, 2009, 9:30pm Top

finished America's Best BBQ: 100 recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses and Restaurants by Ardie A. Davis
category: Travelogue
C2009 224pages 4 stars

I was fortunate to have received this book as part of the LT Member Giveaway. And I've been horribly late in posting my review of it. But I had a good reason. I didn't just want to say it's a beautiful book full of pretty pictures (which it is). I actually wanted to cook some of the recipes. There are only two of us in my household so I wanted an occasion to invite family over to help us eat all this food; and also to form a well-rounded response.
As I mentioned, this is a beautiful book. Every page is in color and its glossy pages are filled with pictures. But don't get me wrong, it's not ostentatious. I think captures the BBQ culture very well.
It is a very comprehensive book, featuring information on how best to grill on either charcoal or gas and also what to look for when purchasing a grill (or grill accessories). It even has sage advice for those entertaining the notion of opening their own restaurant.
My husband and I read the entire book through twice before deciding which recipes to choose. In fact, my husband said the only thing wrong with the book was that "it was not Scratch-n-Sniff". He did have another complaint, though. Some recipes are not what we consider 'complete' recipes at all because they instruct you to purchase so-and-so's trademarked rub or sauce and slather it on the meat. Recipe over. To us, that's not a fair recipe, it's more like filler and that's why it did not earn a full five stars.
But this book certainly earned the four stars we gave it. We decided to fix the Pork Butt recipe on pages 57 and 58, which includes a homemade spice rub, a basting sauce and BBQ sauce. My husband commented "It seemed a bit involved with dust (rub), mop sauce, and finishing sauce; but I can't argue with the results!"
The Pork Butt will continue to be talked about at family gatherings for years to come. This, as they say, was fine eating!
The spice rub was called Magic Dust. My father-in-law said it was "aptly named. The rub is not too hot or too sweet, making an excellent preamble to the main sauce." And the BBQ sauce! I have made two batches of it so far and I think it's better than anything I've had - store bought or from a restaurant. My father-in-law said "the sauce is so good I'd eat it plain on chips or bread." My mother-in-law said "The barbeque sauce was a definite hit. The sweetness and smoky bacon flavors made the pork sing. I could eat the sauce on other meat it was so flavorful. I would recommend the sauce for any contest. It would win first place every time."
We also fixed the cole slaw (page 139) and apple pie (page 163). None of us cared for the cole slaw. It was not sweet enough for our tastes, even after I doubled the sugar. The apple pie was serviceable. My husband said "The pie filling tasted very good, yet the topping, while visually interesting was bland. Also needs some clearer instructions on apple size or measured volume." We had about a third of the apple-pie filling left over once our pie crust was full.
Our family thoroughly enjoyed cooking from this book. Thanks for the opportunity!

Jun 24, 2009, 11:39pm Top

Yum! I will have to look for that one.

Jun 25, 2009, 5:37am Top

That pork butt sounds wonderful. Good that it was such a hit with the MIL and FIL.

Jun 27, 2009, 9:09pm Top

finished Mark my Words: Mark Twain on Writing
category: Self-Improvement
C1996 150pages half star

I read a little of Mark Twain in school but I don't remember much except that I found him humorous and witty. I picked up this volume to learn what he had to say about wordcraft. I did not find anything that struck me as funny nor particularly witty. I was terribly disappointed by this volume. I'll look for a general Twain quote book in the future.

Jun 29, 2009, 12:43pm Top

finished The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
category: Authors That Are New To Me
C2008 400pages 4.5stars

The Whitney women have a reputation around Salem. No, they're not witches, they're lace readers. Towner Whitney returns to the city when her great-aunt Eva dies under suspicious circumstances. Towner is not fond of Salem. She can't remember clearly what happened to her there as a girl and she lives in California now, as far away from Salem as she can get. Officer John Rafferty finds himself assigned to the case, trying to untangle the threads of what happened both to Eva and Towner, for the lives of the Whitney women are as complex as the lace they weave.

Loved this one. Beautifully atmospheric yet fully grounded in the Salem culture. I was glued to this book.
And the ending… yeah, it got me. I had no idea it was coming. And it changed the whole story. For hours afterward I was thinking about the repercussions. A reread is a must.

Jun 29, 2009, 1:05pm Top

re The Lace Reader:

I loved it, too. I found myself cooking dinner one-handed because I couldn't put it down, and as soon as I finished it, I wanted to reread it.

Edited: Jun 29, 2009, 1:17pm Top

finished Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
category: Books by Joanne Harris
C2006 432pages 4stars

The story fluctuates between the past and the present but the location is the same: St. Oswald's School for Boys. Traditional. Aristocratic. Moneyed. Someone has infiltrated the school, someone the Ozzies embrace as their own. But this one doesn't want to be part of the school, not anymore at least. This time, there's another agenda.

Harris does so well at writing isolated communities, whether it be a school, a village, or an island. She gets the nuances and she plays them so well. This one was darker in tone than her others. She surprised me with that - there were a few times I thought she would pull the punch but she didn't. Not much magical realism in this one. She mentions 'the wind' bringing a change a few times which reminded of Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow where she used the same phrasing. In fact I was reminded of Girl a few times, I think it was the whole 'assumed identity' thing. I actually predicted the twist but talked myself out of it. Then it happened, Gah!

edited trying to get the touchstones to work!

Jun 29, 2009, 11:13pm Top

The Lace Reader sounds interesting, I'll have to check it out. I haven't read anything by Joanne Harris.

Jun 29, 2009, 11:49pm Top

I'm glad you liked The Lace Reader. Despite the necessity of reading books at lightning speed as a result of this challenge, I started the book over and re-read it immediately after finishing it. I couldn't help myself, and I definitely picked up much more the second time around. Honestly though, there are still pieces that nag at me that make me want to read it again. Maybe next year...

Jul 1, 2009, 9:09am Top

I recently traded for a copy of The Lace Reader, maybe I need to sub it into my challenge? I've been in a bit of a slump and you've all made it sound compelling!

Edited: Jul 2, 2009, 11:26am Top

finished The Last Child by John Hart
category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2009 384pages 3stars

Since thirteen-year-old Alyssa Merrimon's disappearance a year ago, her family has disintegrated. Her father has left the home. Her mother exists in a haze of pills and booze. And her twin brother, Johnny, systematically trolls the city looking for her. One day, in a bizarre incident, Johnny catches a lead and sacrifices everything to see it through.

Last year I read Down River, Hart's debut novel, and I was completely mesmerized by his storytelling. That book is amazing. This book however, is not. It feels stilted. You can see the machinery beneath the magic, like the ropes of the set at a theatre. For the first third of the book, I was plagued by comparisons to The Client by John Grisham, another lawyer-turned-author. You know, the feisty, street-smart kid with the incompetent mother who figures it all out for himself at great peril to his own life. The second third turned into some kind of buddy-cop, corruption-in-the-department, drama. The last part of the novel I just trudged through to get to the end. I am so disappointed by this outing. I don't know if Hart is just rushing through the process or what, but I really hope that his next offering will recapture the integrity he once had.

edited trying to get the touchstones to work

Jul 3, 2009, 9:30pm Top

finished Peak by Roland Smith
category: Children / YA
C2008 256pages 4stars

Peak Marcello has mountaineering in his blood. The only problem is that his mother and step-father live in New York City. So Peak gets his adrenaline fix the only way he can, he climbs skyscrapers. When he gets caught his mother agrees that Peak can go live with his father, Josh. But she doesn't realize that Josh intends to take Peak onto Mount Everest, where he is currently leading a team to the summit. And he has plans for Peak, who could be the youngest ever to make it to the top of the world.

I've read half-a-dozen mountaineering books, mostly fiction, so I wasn't surprised when this one popped up in my Recommendations. Like a lot of other YA books, the journey, the quest, is largely a vehicle for the protagonist to grow up, grow wiser, learn life's lessons.
I enjoyed it and I didn't predict the ending at all. I was very much reminded of Jeff Long's The Ascent throughout this story. Not just because it involves a summit push on Everest but also because of the politics with the Sherpas and the Chinese. I would definitely recommend this to teens looking for an adventure fix.

Jul 3, 2009, 10:25pm Top

Peak sounds intriguing. Maybe I'll get that for my 14 year old niece for her birthday.

Edited: Jul 4, 2009, 3:28am Top

Peak sounds great, I've asked my library to purchase it.

edit: touchstone

Jul 4, 2009, 9:17am Top

I hope you all enjoy it!

Jul 4, 2009, 12:31pm Top

finished Tuck Everlasing by Natalie Babbitt
category: Children's / YA
C1975 139pages 4stars

Earlier this year while browsing through a library sale a friend came across this book and showed it to me. I had seen the movie based on it years ago but didn't really remember much of it. So I decided to bring it home and reaquaint myself with the particulars.

This story is much in the same vein as Peter Pan. Like Wendy, Winnie is whisked away by magical people, The Tuck family. She likes them and she likes their home. But at the end of it she has a hard decision to make. This is a wonderful children's story, I highly recommend it.

Jul 6, 2009, 11:11am Top

finished A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
category: Travelogue
C1998 274pages 4 stars

Last year my husband and I took up hiking as a hobby we could do together. He has an aunt who is gradually hiking pieces of the Appalachian Trail. When I was looking for books to fill out my Travelogue category this one came up in my Recommendations and I thought it was very appropriate. I've read several reviews that say this book is hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny. I found a few humorous parts, but overall I wouldn't classify it as a hilarious book. There were several beautiful passages that I thought captured how I have felt when out in the great outdoors. And... there was a little more foul language than I care to read, which impeded my enjoyment of it a little. It did make me want to lace up my hiking boots, not to hike the AT, but to be outdoors in general.

Jul 13, 2009, 8:14am Top

I finished my first category!! Not surprising, it was my Favorite Author books. I'm behind on my reviews but that's because I'm concentrating on reading right now - I'm trying to finish by 9/9/09!

Jul 17, 2009, 9:20am Top

finished Vampire Zero: A Gruesome Vampire Tale by David Wellington
category: The Monster Mash
C2008 336pages 2.5stars

This third installment of David Wellington's vampire series resumes mere months after the events in 99 Coffins. Jameson Arkeley, our former hero, has broken the vow he made to Laura Caxton and has now fully embraced his existence as a vampire. Caxton has given up every semblance of a normal life in order to hunt him down. But can she outwit the one who taught her everything?

Let me preface by saying that I adored 99 Coffins. It is one of the best vampire books I have read and I was really excited to read the continuation of it. I even paid to have this book sent from another library.

It was really hard for me to come to terms with Arkeley as the Big Bad. He is perhaps my favorite character of the series and I liked him as the hero. Justinia Malvern plays a greatly reduced role in this episode. She was such a large fixture in the last book and it seems she is wasted here. I also thought that Wellington made Caxton very butch in this one. She's too Rambo for me. She's almost not human. Maybe that's the point. In hunting down the monster, you become one yourself? I'm sure I will pick up the fourth book but my hopes are not as high as they once were for this series.

Jul 17, 2009, 7:49pm Top

finished Eat Smart, Walk Strong by Leslie Sansone
category: Self Improvement
C2006 255pages 2 stars

I've really been enjoying Leslie Sansone's workout DVDs so I decided to give one of her books a read. Sadly, there's not any groundbreaking nutritional material here. If you've read a 'diet' book in the past five years you've heard about MUFAs, the reasons to quit caffeine, etc. I will say that I did learn something about portion sizing from this book. I have read/heard several times that your meat portion is to be about the size of a deck of cards but I have never heard any other analogies used for the other items on your plate. Leslie says that your vegetable serving should be the size of a tennis ball, starch (rice, potato or pasta) the size of a light bulb, any dressing or butter the size of a 9-volt battery and your dessert the size of a cassette tape. I find that very useful and I shall always remember that I learned it from Leslie!

Jul 17, 2009, 10:38pm Top

That is helpful! Thanks for sharing that.

Jul 20, 2009, 1:13pm Top

Have you read the Vampire Academy series? I almost picked up the first one yesterday but put it back, fearing it would be too cheesy.

Jul 20, 2009, 3:14pm Top

I have not read Vampire Academy. Let me know what you think of it!

Jul 20, 2009, 4:30pm Top

>199 jhedlund: Define "cheesy." Vampire Academy is not a romance like Twilight. It's geared towards young adults and most of it takes place at a boarding school. The characters and situations they get into are realistic. I liked it.

Jul 20, 2009, 5:40pm Top

Booklizard - now that you ask, I guess I meant any more ditsy than the Twilight series. Don't get me wrong, I read those and liked them, but they were about my limit on poor writing quality and swooning romance. If the VA series is more along the lines of a Harry Potter (i.e. with an actual plot), I'm pretty sure I would like them.

Jul 20, 2009, 10:08pm Top

finished My French Kitchen: a book of 120 treasured recipes by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde
category: Books by Joanne Harris
C2003 254pages 4 stars

"cooking is about as close to magic as modern society allows"

Late last year I discovered a writer who knows all about magic - Joanne Harris. I've slowly been devouring her books, trying to savor each one like treats from a candy tin that is almost empty. It came as no surprise to me when I found that she had co-authored a cookbook. Food is almost a character in many of her novels. When I was reading the fish section of this cookbook I felt a particular kinship with Coastliners and Five Quarters of the Orange. And because so many fans have asked for it, Harris included a coveted recipe from her most famous novel, Chocolat.
Upon scanning these recipes it is very obvious that this book lives up to its title. There's Coq au vin, Foie gras and fowl like squab, pheasant and quail. But let me assure you there's easier, more rustic country fare too. The book isn't too fancy or unapproachable. And it's a beautiful book! Full of color photographs which invoke what must be the height of spring or summer in the French countryside or on one of those quaint mediterranean isles.
I indulged and made a full meal: Filet Mignon with Tarragon (pg146), Gratin Dauphinois (pg 160), Zucchini with Lemon Butter (pg 171) and for dessert, Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolat (pg237)! The filet had a wonderfully complex pan sauce that just threw my tongue into rapture. Our filets must have been thicker than the one Harris used because we had to cook them a little longer. I can do medium but I cannot eat raw meat! The Gratin was excellent - comfort food at it's finest and much better than the box of dehydrated potatoes from the grocery store. The zucchini was not bad, but lemon is not a flavor I'm used to with squash. And the piece de resistance.... the hot chocolate. I was worried that the spice would be too hot and I wouldn't like it but that wasn't the case at all. It's very rich. I drank all of mine and half of my husbands too! It's very satisfying to know I had captured some of the magic for myself!

Edited: Jul 20, 2009, 10:31pm Top

>202 jhedlund: VA is definitely not as ditsy as Twilight (which I also really liked). It's more of a coming-of-age story. Rose has spent her whole life training to protect her best friend Lissa -- it's the only thing she knows -- and now she's learning her limits and beginning to question the old ways.

VictoriaPL, sorry for hijacking your thread!

Jul 21, 2009, 11:29am Top

Late last year I discovered a writer who knows all about magic - Joanne Harris

and every time you post a review, I think, "Gotta get me some Harris!" I think her whole backlist is now in my wishlist :) Your dinner sounds fabulous.

Jul 21, 2009, 11:54am Top

Yes, I just added the cookbook to my wishlist too. Sounds fabulous!

Jul 21, 2009, 12:04pm Top

>205 detailmuse:, 206 - thanks! Your kind words have been the best part of my day.

I am so behind on my reviews. I promise I'll do better with posting!

Jul 21, 2009, 1:16pm Top

finished The Prestige by Christopher Priest
category: Speculative Fiction
C2005 416 pages 4stars

When I finished watching the movie The Prestige I was in awe of the story. It is a well-crafted tale and I was curious to see what the source material was like. When I discovered that it was told in diary format I was a little disappointed. I've never done well with epistolary tales, like Dracula, for instance. But just as these two magicians are consumed by their rivalry, so too was I consumed with these pages. I didn't fix dinner, didn't exercise and didn't sleep. All I could do was turn the page. It's a riveting story. Of course, having seen the movie I knew "the secret" which helped a lot. It's hard for me to imagine what someone coming cold to the story would think upon reading certain passages. Maybe a little confused. But on a whole, the book is out there. If the movie is like leaping off a cliff then the book is like jumping off and doing air-ballet on the way down. I enjoyed the book very much but I must admit that the ending was somewhat of a disappointment. In the midst of a very dramatic moment it just ended and I felt short-changed.

Jul 21, 2009, 3:38pm Top

203- No fair, Victoria! Drooling is not good for my laptop! *wipes chin*

Jul 29, 2009, 12:41am Top

Do you know, I have never read a book by Joanne Harris? I've only seen the movie Chocolat, which I love. Yet I've seen so many people talking about her here on LT that I will have to give her a try. If only I could cook, I would be on the lookout for that cookbook, too.

Aug 5, 2009, 1:55pm Top

finished The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
Category: Travelogue
560pages 3stars

I've always been a little disenchanted with Twain and yet I want to like him. Maybe it makes me feel a little un-American to disparage him. So I continue to pick up his books in the hopes of becoming a fan. It didn't take but a few pages until I was hooked on this one. How envious I am of Twain's voyage. He hit nearly every spot on my bucket list. There were times he made me laugh: the caterwauling of the gondolier on the Grand Canal in Venice, his experience with French barbers and the mud of Turkish coffee. Times he made me grateful to live in the present age: the lack of soap in public (and private) baths and lack of candles to see by. Times he made me shake my head in disgust over human behavior: Seeing the ashes of St. John in more than one cathedral; the crown of thorns in several shrines and the pillar over the very dust that Adam was made from. I began to find myself very amused by his bravado, as in the time he broke quarantine and walked to the Parthanon by cover of moonlight; stealing grapes off the vine for a snack and being spooked by the faces of the statuary. And then there was the time when he allowed a street hawker to charm him into purchasing kid gloves that were too small for his hands because she was a pretty girl and she pandered to his vanity. How human he was to me then. This was definitely the book to bring one closer to Twain. I enjoyed being a tag-along on his journey. And if I ever make the trip myself, he's definitely coming along with me!


The guides deceive and defraud every American who goes to Paris for the first time and sees its sights alone or in company with others as little experienced as himself. I shall visit Paris again some day, and then let the guides beware! I shall go in my war-paint - I shall carry my tomahawk along.

They showed us a portrait of the Madonna which was painted by St Luke, and it did not look half as old and smoky as some of the pictures by Rubens. We could not help admiring the Apostle's modesty in never once mentioning in his writings that he could paint.

But perhaps the most poetical thing Pompeii has yielded to modern research, was that grand figure of a Roman soldier, clad in complete armor; who, true to his duty, true to his proud name of a soldier of Rome, and full of the stern courage which had given to the name its glory, stood to his post by the city gate, erect and unflinching, till the hell that raged around him burned out the dauntless spirit it could not conquer.

if you hire a man to sneeze for you, here (Nazareth), and another man chooses to help him, you have got to pay both. They do nothing whatever without pay. How it must have surprised these people to hear the way of salvation offered to them 'without money and without price'.

The citizens of Endor objected to our going in there, They do not mind dirt; they do not mind rags; they do not mind vermin; they do not mind barbarous ignorance and savagery; they do not mind a reasonable degree of starvation, but they do like to be pure and holy before their god, whoever he may be, and therefore they shudder and grow almost pale at the idea of Christian lips polluting a spring whose waters must descend into their sanctified gullets.

It is a singular circumstance that right under the roof of this same great church, and not far away from the illustrious column, Adam himself, the father of the human race, lies buried. There is no question that he is actually buried in the grave which is pointed out as his - there can be none - because it has never yet been proven that that is not the grave in which he is buried.
The tomb of Adam! How touching it was, here in the land of strangers, far away from home, and friends, and all who cared for me, thus to discover the grave of a blood relation, True, a distant one, but still a relation. The unerring instinct of nature thrilled its recognition. The fountain of my filial affection was stirred to its profoundest depths, and I gave way to tumultuous emotion. I leaned upon a pillar and burst into tears. I deem it no shame to have wept over the grave of my poor dead relative. Let him who would sneer at my emotion close this volume here, for he will find little to his taste in my journeyings through the Holy Land. Noble old man - he did not live to see his child. And I - I - alas did not live to see him. Weighed down by sorrow and disappointment, he died before I was born - six thousand brief summers before I was born. But let us try to bear it with fortitude.

The sights are too many, The swarm about you at every step; no single foot of ground in all Jerusalem or within its neighborhood seems to be without a stirring and important history of its own. It is a very relief to steal a walk of a hundred yards without a guide along to talk unceasingly about every stone you step upon and drag you back ages and ages to the very day when it achieved celebrity.

Travel and experience mar the grandest pictures and rob us of the most cherished traditions.

The Sphynx is grand in its loneliness; it is imposing in its magnitude; it is impressive in the mystery that hangs over its story. And there is that in the overshadowing majesty of this eternal figure of stone, with its accusing memory of the deeds of all ages, which reveals to one something of what he shall feel when he shall stand at last in the awful presence of God.

Edited: Aug 5, 2009, 2:28pm Top

finished Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Category: The Monster Mash
C2009 320pages 4stars

I've always been one to define my reading tastes as eclectic. I'm just as apt to open Jane Austen as Anne Rice. I will be honest and say that I enjoy Anne Rice more. Austen has always been a struggle for me. I was very amused when I started hearing the buzz around this book and the wait for it at my library branch was almost unbearable. By happy coincidence it came available just in time for my vacation. I giggled myself silly under the sun. It's unflinchingly irreverent and a darn good beach read. I will say that I thought the relationship with Charlotte and Mr. Collins was improved upon here, it was more endearing than the original material. I thoroughly enjoyed this 'mashup' and I'll be watching for more.

Edited: Aug 5, 2009, 3:26pm Top

finished Loon by A.W. Plumstead
Category: Authors That Are New to Me
C1992 331pages 4stars

Cathy Saltonstall is a young woman pulled between the wishes of her blueblood Boston family and her own passions. Her anthropology professor encourages her to conduct her dissertation research on The Ashwagane who live on the Sand Island Reserve in Canada. Cathy leaves behind her family and her fiance for a year in 'the bush', hoping that the natives will accept her and she'll be able to discover the missing pieces of the Ashwagane past. Cathy soon meets Conk Seguin, a 'bush' pilot, who ferries tourists back and forth. Conk may prefer to spend his time-off with the island's loon population, but he's never been one to ignore a skirt. Soon Cathy and Conk are a regular item and Cathy feels accepted by the Band. One day while visiting the loons, Cathy and Conk make a discovery that could change the course of the Ashwagane future forever.

I've read that the film That Beautiful Somewhere was made from this book. These are two very different stories. Not that one is better than the other, just that they seem unrelated. So, if you've seen the film and want to read the book (have fun tracking it down, I did), don't say you haven't been warned.

Aug 6, 2009, 3:54pm Top

212> Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will be out in September.

Aug 6, 2009, 4:25pm Top

214> That one is definitely on my list. I'm also looking forward to Mr Darcy, Vampyre too.

Aug 6, 2009, 6:43pm Top

It does look intriguing. I do wonder why only Austen has been singled out in this way; aren't we as familiar with, say, Jane Eyre or Huckleberry Finn?

Aug 6, 2009, 7:42pm Top

It seems like Jane Austen is just hot right now. I think about 5 adaptations have come out in the last year.

Aug 6, 2009, 11:00pm Top

Austen's novels are short, which makes them good for parodies.

I was trying to think what other creatures they could use for future Austen parodies. I decided Persuasion should have vampires since they're masters of persuasion. Maybe aliens for Northanger Abbey. Werewolves for Mansfield Park? Demons for Emma?

Aug 6, 2009, 11:19pm Top

I would stick the vampire in Northanger Abbey myself. The whole Gothic atmosphere would be great for bloodsucking fiends. And I'd love the werewolves to attack the folks in Mansfield Park.

Aug 6, 2009, 11:43pm Top

I'm more of a Bronte girl myself. Could you imagine vampires or werewolves in Wuthering Heights? With Cathy's ghostly appearance and the spooky vibe out on the moors. Or Jane Eyre?

Aug 6, 2009, 11:55pm Top

finished: American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads by Pascale Le Draoulec
Category: Travelogue
C2002 353pages 4stars

Oh to have the time and resources to drive through the nation sampling pie and chatting up folks for the recipes. I am so jealous. Truly, this book is everything you'd want in a travelogue. I felt that I had traveled the nation and that I had met new friends in every state. Just like pie, the stories were sweet and heart-warming. Even though the book contains several recipes, it is not a cookbook. I decided to make the Cherry Pie recipe (pg180) and *gulp* made my own pie crust from scratch. There were no directions at all for making the crust, just an ingredient list. Thank goodness as my husband was measuring the shortning from the can he noticed instructions for pie crust on there. The pie came out good though. I can't wait to have another slice for breakfast!


"Although doctors told him he could never mount a horse again, Bill has found an ingenious way to get back in the saddle. He shimmies himself up against the inside railing of the ring and has trained his beloved palomino, Sweetheart, to press herself against his legs, so that all he has to do is fall back into the seat. And if Bill can do that, anyone can make a crust."

"I"m no Freud. But, my guess is, it has something to do with pie's dual nature; the fact that pie is both sensuous and maternal. Sweet yet sensible. Pie just may be the Madonna-whore of the dessert world."

Aug 9, 2009, 9:15pm Top

finished Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Category: Speculative Fiction
C2003 320pgs 3stars

I'm not a fan of satire but this one resonated with me. Perhaps because I do work for a huge mega-corporation and I thought some of the things I read here could be plausible someday. I've seen my employer throw millions at an inconvenience to make it go away ASAP and I've thought, they don't even care about regulations or the laws. They just do what they want and throw money around to fix it. So it's not that big of a stretch to imagine a world without democracy, a world ruled by consumerism. And it's a little scary.
Although if you read the book as straight fiction, John Nike is one of those villains who is so bad you love him.


"Yes, some people died. But let's not pretend these are the first people to die in the interest of commerce. Let's not pretend there's a company in this room that hasn't put profit above human life at some point. We make cars we know some people will die in. We make medicine that carries a chance of a fatal reaction. We make guns. I mean, you want to expel someone here for murder, let's start with the Philip Morris Liaison. We have all, at some point, put a price tag on a human life and decided we can afford it."

"Look, I am not designing next year's ad campaign here, I'm getting rid of the Government, the greatest impediment to business in history. You don't do that without a downside. Yes, some people die. But look at the gain! Run a cost-benefit analysis! Maybe some of you have forgotten what companies really do. So let me remind you: they make as much money as possible. If they don't, investors go elsewhere. It's that simple. We're all cogs in wealth-creation machines. That's all.
I've given you a world without Government interference. There is now no advertising campaign, no intercompany deal, no promotion, no action you can't take. You want to pay kids to get the swoosh tattooed on their foreheads? Whose going to stop you?....You want the NRA to help you eliminate your competition? Then do it. Just do it."

Aug 12, 2009, 3:29pm Top

I've been doing some housekeeping with my lists. I had 11 books somehow in my "Self Improvement" category so I knocked a couple off. And then I made a few substitutions. I now have TEN BOOKS TO GO!

Aug 12, 2009, 3:52pm Top

222 - It sounds like a frightening book!

And nice job! You are so close!

Aug 12, 2009, 5:25pm Top

Are you going to have them all read by Sept. 9th, or will you relax and wander gently toward the end of the year?

Aug 12, 2009, 8:12pm Top

I'm aiming for the 9/9/09 date. And then I'm going to take a little vacation with Mr. Fleming and read those lovely 007 hardcovers I bought myself for Christmas. That should get me to NaNoWriMo, at which point I won't read anything at all. See, I've got a plan!

Aug 12, 2009, 8:27pm Top

finished The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
category: Children's/YA
C2004 228pages 5stars

Calvin Schwa has a problem. He's invisible. No, really. If you're not focusing your attention on him he will fade away. And if you're not intently thinking of him, you'll forget he's even there. One day on a dare, Calvin enters the apartment of Mr. Crawley, the neighborhood recluse. Even though he's unseen, Crawley manages to make his presence felt throughout the neighborhood. And Calvin decides he's ready for his presence to be felt too.

This is a fantastic story for the young and the young at heart. Because everyone knows what it's like to feel apart from the rest, whether or not it's our own doing. Shusterman continues to delight me.

Aug 13, 2009, 8:41pm Top

I liked Max Barry's Company, and have Jennifer Government in my TBRs. woohoo, I'd never have guessed that I read speculative fiction! :))

Aug 17, 2009, 10:28pm Top

Finished Holy Fools by Joanne Harris
category: Books by Joanne Harris
C2004 355pages 3stars

Sister Auguste has lived as a nun at Sainte-Marie-de-la-mer for the past five years. She watches with curiosity as the new Abbess and Father Confessor make their way onto the property. But then her curiosity turns to terror. Auguste recognizes the Father Confessor as LeMerle, her former lover. LeMerle once abandoned Auguste, or Juliette as she was known, when a scandal broke out in the town their traveling circus had visited. LeMerle is a master performer. Soon there's all kinds of hysteria in the abbey: spirits of the dead, demonic possession, water into blood, even mysterious deaths. Can Auguste find out what LeMerle is really up to?

Holy Fools once again shows all of the trademarks I come to expect from Harris: small, enclosed community and alternating viewpoints that spiral closer and closer until protagonist and antagonist meet. I really enjoyed LeMerle's passages. I could almost hear him speak them aloud. It's a solid story and it's interesting but it's not my favorite of her works. Maybe it's just too hard for me to relate to 17th century french nuns.


"There is a hunger in her that I'm sure you never saw, a part of her in which sin rubs against sanctity to form a single, bright blade. One day she'll be sharp enough to cut with, Monseigneur d'Evreux. Till then, beware."

"They say Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned. Paltry fellow that he must have been with his one fiddle. When my time comes I'll greet Monseigneur d'Evreux with a whole damn orchestra."

"Again he has opened a gulf inside of me, has opened the dark budget of possibility within my entrails."

Aug 20, 2009, 10:23am Top

Will this be your first NaNoWriMo? I'm thinking about it too...

Aug 20, 2009, 10:39am Top

Nope, this will be my third NaNo. I have loved every year.

Aug 24, 2009, 3:28pm Top

finished Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Category: Children / YA
C 2008 176pages 2.5stars

Lately Neil and I haven't been on the same vibe. I did not like Fragile Things and now I'm disappointed with Coraline. I didn't feel invested in the story and yet at the same time, it creeped me out. The other mother's hand still bothers me if I think about it. My favorite character was the cat. Neil has always done cats well. But even so, the cat is not enough to salvage this odd little book.

Aug 24, 2009, 8:26pm Top

Only six to go. Will you feel bereft when you are done? I guess there's always NaNo madness!

Aug 24, 2009, 8:30pm Top

Victoria, you are making such good progress! I am already looking to see what I will have left over from the 999 to carry forward to the 1010. Anna Karenina is just not going to get read, it seems like more of a January or February book, you know like our group read of the Brothers K.

Aug 25, 2009, 8:41am Top

>73 VictoriaPL: I really like your review of Nightfall - I really enjoyed reading this book as well, and exploring the psychological effects and mass hysteria that ensues upon a cataclysmic event.

Aug 25, 2009, 8:49am Top

Edited: Aug 26, 2009, 8:52am Top

finished Jigs and Reels: Stories by Joanne Harris
category: Books by Joanne Harris
C2006 304pages 4 stars

I have now read nine of Harris's books in nine months. It's as if Joanne and I have been on a road trip together. Like any two people who have spent too much time in shared company and close quarters, there were times I felt I needed a break from her. But I do feel as though I've gotten to know her well and we've shared many good times. I questioned my decision to reserve Jigs & Reels for last but in the end I'm glad I did. It was like rolling down the windows and feeling the breeze on my face. These stories were a wonderful change. Like any other author's collection, I gelled with some more than others. None of them are bad, in my opinion. My favorites were Faith and Hope Go Shopping (which centers around a pair of candy-apple red high heels) and Last Train to Dogtown (every scribbler should read this one).

Aug 26, 2009, 3:45pm Top

Only 4 to go!

Aug 26, 2009, 6:28pm Top

You're doing so well with your challenge. I'm beginning to feel a bit bogged down by it all and will have to think about changing some of my preselected books. So far this year I've read over 170 books and only 57 have been 999 challenge ones!

Neil Gaiman's Coraline - did you keep in mind that it is a story for children as you read? I try to base my feelings on children's books, not just on how I liked them, but also how children will receive them.

Aug 27, 2009, 8:25am Top

239> I thought Coraline made an excellent movie but the book just didn't draw me in. I read YA and children's books so I didn't think it was the adult/child perspective issue but perhaps it was written too young for me.

Aug 28, 2009, 9:51pm Top

finished Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe by various
Category: Hardboiled/Noir
C1988 370pages 3.5stars

This is a collection of twenty-four short stories featuring Raymond Chandler's famous shamus, Philip Marlowe. Each author has placed their story in a different year of Marlowe's life so that as you read through the book you can see the character change. Every writer in this volume has taken a solid shot at Marlowe. That's not to say that these are perfect stories. Even the one written by Chandler himself is not outstanding. But I very much enjoyed reading them and being back in Marlowe's world for a little while. I also appreciated that each author took the time to explain what Chandler meant to them because it helped to clarify what he means to me. The two stories I rank above the rest are Sad-Eyed Blonde by Dick Lochte and Essence D'Orient by Edward D. Hoch. I recommend this for any Chandler fan.

Aug 29, 2009, 5:56pm Top

finished On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Category: Self Improvement
C2001 308pages 5stars

When I first picked this book up the cover screamed at me "25th Anniversary Edition. More than 1 Million Copies Sold!" and I thought, great, it's a textbook. Curiously, it wasn't a textbook that any of my classes used. I had never heard of it, or of Mr. Zinsser, how good could it possibly be? The truth? It's excellent. This is the writing book I wish someone had been kind enough to give to me in high school. Or at least require me to read for one of my college courses. Or even just highly suggest it. Zinsser practices what he teaches. It's direct and it's clear and it's entertaining. It has earned it's five stars from me. The only thing I found wrong with this book was that I want to read all the books and authors he used as examples and now Mt. TBR has suffered an avalanche of catastrophic proportions.

Aug 29, 2009, 6:19pm Top

It sounds like a risky read!

Aug 30, 2009, 2:36pm Top

finished Nightmare Town: Stories by Dashiell Hammett
Category: Hardboiled / Noir
C1999 396pages 2.5stars

My first encounter with Hammett was The Maltese Falcon and I was excited to see that this volume contained other stories featuring the character Sam Spade. Unfortunately I was terribly bored with these pieces. During the first hundred pages I seriously considered putting the book aside. But I wanted to like it so I kept on reading and it did improve somewhat. But I never felt that I was enjoying it and I probably won't reread it.

Aug 31, 2009, 11:07pm Top

finished Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore

that makes 81! I've finished the challenge!

Aug 31, 2009, 11:12pm Top

Congrats, VictoriaPL. It's quite an accomplishment!!

Aug 31, 2009, 11:15pm Top

Hey, nicely done! Time to celebrate!

Edited: Sep 1, 2009, 8:59am Top

Now that I've had some sleep... I've been thinking about the Best Of list.

Authors That Are New to Me
The Last Bridge - Teri Coyne

Favorite Author's Books That I Haven't Read Before
it's a tie, I'm sorry, I can't choose!
Bone by Bone - Carol O'Connell
Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

The Monster Mash
Monster Island - David Wellington

Downsiders - Neal Shusterman

Hardboiled / Noir
Shoot the Piano Player - David Goodis

Books by Joanne Harris

Self Improvement
On Writing Well - William Zinsser

Speculative Fiction
The Children of Men - P D James

The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain

Sep 1, 2009, 12:17pm Top

Congratulations, Victoria!

Sep 1, 2009, 1:43pm Top


Edited: Sep 1, 2009, 2:17pm Top

Thanks everybody!!

My 999 #2 thread is here:


Sep 1, 2009, 3:02pm Top

Congratulations on finishing the challenge

Group: 999 Challenge

272 members

20,057 messages


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