VictoriaPL's 11-11 thread (part 3)

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VictoriaPL's 11-11 thread (part 3)

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Edited: Sep 19, 2011, 8:56am


Reading from Jan - Dec 2011.

I love to read along with other people - that's why I'm on LT, right? If you see something you'd like to read with me, drop me a note and let's pick a date!

Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:23am

I: Audiobooks

1. Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger ♫ (1.24.2011)
2. Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger ♫ (2.2.2011)
3. Boundary Waters by William Kent Krueger ♫ (4.22.2011)
4. Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger ♫ (4.29.2011)
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness ♫ (6.9.2011)
6. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness ♫ (6.23.2011)
7. Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger ♫ (6.28.2011)
8. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness ♫ (7.20.2011)
9. Copper River by William Kent Krueger ♫ (7.26.2011)
10. Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann ♫ (8.27.2011)
11. Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger ♫ (9.26.2011)

♫ audiobook

Edited: Nov 20, 2011, 7:13pm

III: Talk to the Hand
'owned' books I've been ignoring for too long

1. Bone Voyage: A Journey in Forensic Anthropology by Stanley Rhine (1.13.2011)
2. Last Shot by Gregg Hurwitz (1.17.2011)
3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2.9.2011) w/11-11 Group
4. Strange Saint by Andrew Beahrs (4.28.2011)
5. Listen Listen by Kate Wilhelm (6.24.2011)
6. Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters (6.26.2011)
7. I'd Kill for That by Marcia Talley (7.19.2011)
8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming (7.22.2011)
9. Orchestrated Death by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (9.9.2011)
10. The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski (10.10.2011)
11. Murder Duet by Batya Gur (11.20.2011)

Edited: Nov 22, 2011, 8:50pm

IV: My Precious
We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.
These are books by my current author-crushes

1. The Song is You by Megan Abbott w/RidgewayGirl (1.3.2011)
2. The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig w/ christina_reads (2.2.2011)
3. The Night Season by Chelsea Cain w/RidgewayGirl, jonesli (3.23.2011)
4. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (3.30.2011)
5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson w/ RidgewayGirl (4.11.2011)
6. Fallen: a Novel by Karin Slaughter w/jonesli (5.13.2011)
7. Everfound (the Skinjacker trilogy) by Neal Shusterman (6.7.2011)
8. The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum (7.25.2011)
9. Illyria by Elizabeth Hand (8.8.2011)
10. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson ♫ (9.13.2011)
11. This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (10.3.2011)

♫ audiobook

Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:24am

V: Cinematheque Victoria
books discovered through film or TV

1. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay Dexter w/ jonesli (1.9.2011)
2. The Cooler by George Markstein The Prisoner (1.21.2011)
3. Goldfinger by Ian Fleming Goldfinger (1.29.2011)
4. Naked Heat by Richard Castle Castle 11-11 group (3.8.2011)
5. Angel of Vengeance by Trevor Munson Moonlight (4.30.2011)
6. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay Dexter w/ jonesli (5.11.2011)
7. The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia Repo Men (5.22.2011)
8. Tapping the Source by Ken Nunn Pointbreak (6.9.2011)
9. The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian The Eiger Sanction (6.16.2011)
10. One Day by David NichollsOne Day (7.15.2011)
11. Dances With Wolves by Michael Blake Dances With Wolves (10.8.2011)


Edited: Nov 24, 2011, 8:18pm

VI: Re-Reads

1. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (5.14.2011)
2. The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne (5.25.2011)
3. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (6.25.2011)
4. Down River by John Hart w/ 11-11 group (7.5.2011)
5. Broken by Karin Slaughter (8.29.2011)
6. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (9.17.2011)
7. The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas (10.16.2011)
8. The Stand: Complete & Uncut Edition by Stephen King (11.2.2011)
9. Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly (11.4.2011)
10. Doubloon by Jay Amberg (11.6.2011)
11. Outlander by Diana Galbadon (11.24.2011)

Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:29am

VII: Bride of the Monster Mash
my annual creep through the dark side - three years running!

1. The Bride of Frankenstein by Elizabeth Hand (1.20.2011)
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith (1.22.2011)
3. The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (5.14.2011)
4. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey (6.15.2011)
5. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (6.18.2011)
6. Incarnadine: The True Memoirs of Count Dracula by R.H. Greene (7.30.2011)
7. Frankenstein: Lost Souls by Dean Koontz (8.11.2011)
8. World War Z by Max Brooks ♫ (8.19.2011)
9. Horns by Joe Hill ♫ (9.5.2011)
10. Fallen by Lauren Kate ♫ (9.7.2011)
11. Graveminder by Melissa Marr ♫ (10.26.2011)


Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:30am

VIII: The Magic 8-Ball
whatever shows up on my murky horizon

1. In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming ♫ (1.10.2011)
2. Triptych by Karin Slaughter (1.15.2011)
3. Body Trauma: a writer's guide to wounds and injuries by David W. Page (1.23.2011)
4. A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2.4.2011)
5. Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2.11.2011)
6. To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2.23.2011)
7. All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2.27.2011)
8. I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming (3.2.2011)
9. One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming (3.14.2011)
10. The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr (7.7.2011)
11. Surrender On Demand by Varian Fry (7.30.2011)


Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:31am

IX: The Watercooler
suggestions from other members

1. Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt (1.10.2011)
2 The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (2.19.2011)
3. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff ♫ (2.21.2011)
4. Build My Gallows High by Geoffry Homes w/pamelad (3.3.2011)
5. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer ♫ (5.6.2011)
6. Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont (5.21.2011)
7. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ♫ (6.1.2011)
8. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin ♫ (6.17.2011)
9. The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen (7.31.2011)
10. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer ♫ (8.18.2011)
11. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (8.21.2011)


Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 8:32am

X: Children & Young Adult

1. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith (1.5.2011)
2. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle (2.18.2011)
3. Close Kin: Book II The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy by Clare B. Dunkle (2.22.2011)
4. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld w/11-11 group (4.14.2011)
5. Wake by Lisa McMann ♫ (5.10.2011)
6. The Maze Runner by James Dashner ♫ (5.19.2011)
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ♫ (5.25.2011)
8. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ♫ (6.4.2011)
9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ♫ (7.1.2011)
10. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare ♫ (7.8.2011)
11. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (9.25.2011)


Edited: Oct 13, 2011, 7:36am

XI: Hello There...
new-to-me authors

1. Spade and Archer by Joe Gores w/jonesli (1.26.2011)
2. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen w/RidgewayGirl (1.30.2011)
3. Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky w/jonesli, RidgewayGirl (2.2.2011)
4. A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava w/jonesli (3.4.2011)
5. The Mullah's Storm by Thomas W. Young (5.7.2011)
6. Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace (5.8.2011)
7. Beneath Gray Skies by Hugh Ashton (7.17.2011)
8. Legend by Marie Lu (8.2.2011)
9. The Judas Kiss by Norman Katkov (8.19.2011)
10. The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman (9.14.2011)
11. The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy Hoobler (10.12.2011)

Edited: Dec 12, 2011, 8:22am

Sep 19, 2011, 1:12pm


Sep 19, 2011, 4:57pm

Congrats on being in the home stretch! I look forward to seeing you cross the finish line. :)

Sep 19, 2011, 7:23pm

Thanks Christina!

Sep 20, 2011, 8:40am

I don't know if any of you have played with the "if you like..." feature that LT released yesterday, but nearly all of my top-rated authors are bringing up Laura Lippman, whose acquaintance I have yet to make. Which of hers should I start with? Suggestions, please.

cross posting this in the 12-12 too

Sep 20, 2011, 12:16pm

Hi Victoria: Laura Lippman is one of my favorites! There is the Tess Monaghan series which begins with Baltimore Blues and there are quite a few stand alones also.

I took a look at my ratings and rated What the Dead Know higher than the other stand alones that I read.

Sep 20, 2011, 4:07pm

Hey Lisa! Thanks, I should have known you would know her - our reading tastes are so similar. It would probably be less dangerous for me to pick a stand alone, my new-author selection for the 12-12 is already out of control. Although, you hooking me on a Lippman series would rightly pay me back for Spencer-Fleming, right?

Edited: Sep 20, 2011, 4:15pm

I've read Baltimore Blues too and liked it. I have #2 in the series slated for next year. I haven't tried one of her stand-alones yet, but if you don't want to get sucked into another series.... giggling behind hand...

ETA: wrong bracket- duh

Sep 20, 2011, 4:31pm

#19 Hah, yes Victoria, the Spencer-Fleming was out of control, in a good way of course! I couldn't read them fast enough.

I'm off to peek at your 12-12 again, I haven't looked at it in a while.

Sep 20, 2011, 5:11pm

Hi Victoria, another one chiming in on Laura Lippman. I started her Tess Monaghan series last year and have read two so far, and definitely plan on reading more. I have only read one of her stand alones so far, but I liked that as well. I think you will enjoy her books.

Sep 20, 2011, 5:18pm

I like Lippman's stand alones more than the series, but I've only read one of the Tess Monahan mysteries. I've enjoyed all of them.

You are almost done!

I'm almost done The Ballad of Tom Dooley. I am unable to leave it alone. And there's not one single good guy. I do like Pauline, in all her unpleasant, vindictive glory.

Sep 20, 2011, 5:49pm

Well, with those endorsements, I think Lippman and I have a date next year!

RidgewayGirl, I'm about 2/3rds through Dooley and you're right, not one character is someone I would care to know as a friend. Pauline does have a delicious "Monte Cristo" vibe going, doesn't she?

Edited: Sep 23, 2011, 7:41am

I read a bunch from the middle of Lippman's Tess Monaghan series (ones the library had) a while back and enjoyed them. Now I'm going back to the beginning of the series. I read Baltimore Blues and liked it, too. I'm currently on the second, Charm City, and liking it a lot now that I'm into it. I could follow the story in the later ones OK without having read the early ones, but wish I'd read these ones first.

BTW, I love your categories and their illustrations!

Sep 23, 2011, 8:02am

Thanks tymfos!

Sep 26, 2011, 9:25am

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Category: YA
3 stars

While working in her family's hat shop, Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste. She wanders around, trying to figure out what to do about it and encounters the Wizard Howl's enchanted castle. Howl has a reputation for consuming young girls' hearts. How fortunate for Sophie that the Witch made her appear as an old lady. Sophie climbs aboard and soon falls in with Howl, his apprentice, Michael, and the resident fire demon, Calcifer.

Howl's Moving Castle had to have been one of the first animes I ever laid eyes on and it really made an impression on me. I wanted to love this book but I didn't. I was glad for the opportunity to finally read it and I did think several parts were very creative but I didn't adore it and I'm not even sure I'll want to re-read it. I might read the sequel, not sure yet.

This concludes my YA category!

Sep 26, 2011, 12:22pm

I have that one lined up for October, but I don't know how I'll squeeze it in (I must have a dozen lined up for October). Sorry you weren't thrilled, but congrats on finishing a category.

Edited: Sep 26, 2011, 2:01pm

Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger
Category: audiobook
3 stars

Cork O'Connor takes on a case at the request of his good friend, Henry Meloux. Meloux, who twice saved Cork's life and acted as a father figure for much of their shared history, wants Cork to find his son, whose existence he had never mentioned before. Meloux can offer no description or much information but he's sure that if anyone can pull it off, Cork can.

This is the second book in a row that has taken place outside of Aurora. I noticed that Krueger switched the tense from third- to first-person and I wondered if this change in style was to mark Cork's move from sheriff to private investigator. A large section of the book is from Meloux's POV, not Cork's. Also, after seven books, the audiobook changed narrators and that took some getting used to. So, this book threw me a few curves. It's nice to see that Krueger's not afraid to take some risks and, even though it won't be a favorite entry in the series, I enjoyed how he has added to the depth of these two characters.

This finishes off my Audiobook category!

Sep 26, 2011, 4:13pm

It was a shame you didn't like Howl's in book form as much as the movie. Maybe your expectations were tainted too much by the film.

Sep 26, 2011, 4:21pm

Wolfy, that might be the case.

Sep 26, 2011, 10:51pm

I really want to read more of that Cork O'Connor series. I enjoyed the first one that I read.

Sep 27, 2011, 8:12am

Thanks for dropping by tymfos! I'm glad to hear that. Krueger's series was a dependable constant for me this year and I'm only halfway through so I can keep it going next year too.

Sep 28, 2011, 7:26pm

You're nearly finished! I've only read two William Kent Krueger books and enjoyed both. He's local for me. I should stick a book of his in my mystery section! But yes, he does like killing off people you've become attached to.

Sep 28, 2011, 9:31pm

cammykitty, Krueger is local to you? I'm so jealous! I keep checking out his tour schedule and it doesn't look like he comes South at all.

Sep 29, 2011, 11:19am

I'm looking forward to reading my first William Kent Krueger book, hopefully next month.

Sep 29, 2011, 9:18pm

He doesn't make that many appearances locally either. He's in a group of 4 mystery writers that sometimes do appearances together. Ellen Hart is one of them, and I took a class with her. We've got a ton of writers around here, so yes, cause to be jealous. :)

Oct 2, 2011, 6:02am

Dammit Victoria, you're making some swift progress! Soon finished! Interesting to read your lukewarm review of Howl's moving castle. I'll get to it very soon I think (I try to go for paperbacks these days, as they are easier to read while holding a sleeping baby...), and despite loving Miyazaki, I haven't seen the film. Will be interesting what impression it makes on my "untainted" mind :)

Edited: Oct 3, 2011, 8:42am

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
Category: My Precious
2.5 stars

Chip, like everyone on Earth, is controlled by Uni, the universal computer. Everyone eats the same food, wears the same clothes, takes the same monthly shots. Uni decides when they sleep, where they go, what tasks they do, who they love and if they are to have children. Everything is kept steady - there are no surprises, no disturbances and it's all thanks to Uni. And then one day Chip is contacted by a woman who doesn't take the shot. Without the tranquilizers and hormones, she's learned to express her own will and desire. Even though it means going into hiding, Chip finds this small bit of individual expression means everything to him.

Over the past few years I have really enjoyed Levin's knack for taking a 'normal' situation and twisting it ever so slightly. Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil all show his mastery of the off-kilter. I was surprised to find out that Levin had written a dystopian sci-fi tale although I shouldn't have been, as in retrospect I realize most of his books have that leaning. If you're familiar with the genre (i.e. Dune, The Matrix, etc) then the plot will not surprise you. And I wish I could say that Levin put his own special hallmark on it, but I didn't find anything particularly outstanding. I did like it better than Zamyatin's We though, for what it's worth.

This completes the My Precious (favorite authors) category!

Oct 3, 2011, 3:53pm

Oh, I like We, but it does sound like Levin's dystopia has been done by others as well, which surprises me. The only book of his I've read is A Kiss Before Dying which has an ending scene that seems written for the movies, but it certainly isn't a "done before" novel. Done since, yes. An author of his caliber gathers imitators.

Oct 3, 2011, 4:54pm

cammykitty, A Kiss Before Dying introduced me to Levin and I really do believe it to be one of the best mysteries written.

Oct 4, 2011, 5:52pm

It is a really good mystery. I remember thinking "What kind of mystery is this? We know who did it. It's him," while I was in the first section. As I started the second section, I realized how clever he had been to tell us all about "him" without giving us a name.

Oct 6, 2011, 6:38pm

Oooh hooo, getting close to finishing!

Edited: Oct 7, 2011, 3:33pm

The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë edited by C.W. Hatfield
Category: Brontëana
3 stars

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a great reader of poetry. Dickenson, Frost and every so often a brief Longfellow and I’m good. But when I saw this volume of Emily Brontë’s poems at a library sale, I snatched it up. Some of my favorite passages in Wuthering Heights are very lyrical and it’s clear that Emily had a fondness for phrasing. Her poems reflect her temperament and her favored society of nature and animals.

I found the introduction to be quite interesting reading all on its own. Hatfield discusses all the previous attempts to collect Emily’s poems. Sometimes they were mistaken for Anne’s work. Charlotte added titles to many of them and to some she even added a stanza here and there. By studying the different handwritings, experts were able to determine who wrote what, corrected that, added this, etc.

I didn’t realize until reading the introduction that most of these are Gondal poems (Gondal being the imaginary land Emily and Anne wrote about together). The large majority of these are untitled or they have only initials as titles, so there’s nothing to help you anticipate context or setting.

My favorite is titled “D.G.C. to J.A.” and was written October 2, 1844. It’s obviously a lament between a Romeo-Juliet pair of lovers. “Nor would we shrink from our fathers' cause/Nor dread Death more because the hand that gives it may be dear.” I wish that I could know the fate of these two and whether they were able to escape together. It would have been a wonderful idea to read Anne’s Gondal poems simultaneously – wish I had thought of that earlier!

There is one poem that I think captures Emily perfectly. I am not sure if it’s meant to be a personal statement or a Gondal episode or what, it has no title (dated March 1, 1841).

Riches I hold in light esteem
And Love I laugh to scorn
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn –

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is – “Leave the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty.”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal
‘Tis all that I implore –
Through life and death, a chainless soul
With courage to endure!

So, even though these poems are well written, only a few really caught my eye. Some of them I had to read a few times because I kept losing the thought or was just plain, outright bored. This won’t become a treasured volume but I am glad I took the time to read them.

This completes my Brontëana category!
10 books to go to finish my challenge...

Oct 8, 2011, 5:43pm

Wasn't it just like Charlotte to add stanzas to someone else's poems. Seriously, she needed one of her sisters to wack her over the head.

Oct 8, 2011, 6:02pm

Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
Category: Cinematheque Victoria
4 stars

Lieutenant John J. Dunbar is posted to Fort Sedgewick but arrives to find it empty and abandoned. Deciding to obey his orders, Dunbar makes himself as useful as possible while waiting for his situation to change. He spends his days and nights doing chores alone except for the company of a wolf that occasionally stops by to watch. Then one day Dunbar spies an Indian scout. Convinced that he is about to be raided, he buries the Fort's weapons, intent that the only bounty the natives will gain is his own death. A party does come back for Dunbar and takes him to their camp, wanting to learn the white man's weaknesses from him. Dunbar, eventually renamed Dances With Wolves, becomes completely assimilated into the tribe and with them his deep loneliness is cured. Army or not, he is Comanche now.

Like most families from Appalachia, mine has Cherokee blood on both sides, and I've always had a fascination for films and books with Native American characters (especially in their interactions with Caucasians). But while I do enjoy the genre, it's always difficult for me not to feel, even in the smallest measure, the guilt of being part of the culture who assaulted the Great Plains and the Native American people. While reading this book I had the sensation that Blake feels a little of that too. The story of Dunbar falling in love with the Comanches and their way of life mirrors something similar in Blake. His passion and great admiration make this a very engaging read - it goes very quickly and it left me wanting more.

This completes the Cinematheque Victoria category!
Nine books to go to complete the Challenge...

Oct 8, 2011, 6:36pm

I'm glad you enjoyed Dances With Wolves Victoria. I am hoping to read the sequel, The Holy Road for the 12 in 12 Chalenge next year.

Edited: Oct 8, 2011, 6:42pm

DeltaQueen50, I just discovered the sequel when I posted my review! Would you consider letting me tag-along whenever you decide to read The Holy Road?

Edited: Oct 8, 2011, 6:50pm

I completely agree with RidgewayGirl - Charlotte was such a bully!

Overall, I ended up really enjoying the poems and I'm going to have to try to get my hands on a copy of my own soon. I wish, I wish, I wish the Gondal saga was all written down and published. I want to know more about the adventures of A.G.A. and her people. My favorite poems, in general, were the ones that had to to with Lord Alexander Elbe dying by the lake with his head in her lap. Nothing like romantic moonlit death scenes!

ETA: Are Anne's poems available? Out there, published, somewhere?

Oct 8, 2011, 6:50pm

I was the only person in Sweden not to see the film when it came. It was such a massive hit, but it's stangely forgotten today. The book was sold in Sweden with a butt-ugly movie poster cover. I often wonder about that: is it really important to the people who wants to read the book after seeing the film to have Kevin Costner on the cover?

Oct 8, 2011, 6:51pm

Absolutely, I'll make a note about it, I have been thinking that I would read The Holy Road sometime in the first three months of 2012. I'll get back to you on it, Victoria.

Edited: Oct 11, 2011, 9:42am

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski
Category: Talk to the Hand
3 stars

Two dead bank robbers, a mute wheelman and $650,000 formerly belonging to Wachovia Bank (now missing). A children's museum, Russian thugs, a pregnant girlfriend, a dirty cop and the Italian mafia. Sit tight, 'cause we're just getting started.

All-in-all it wasn't my favorite of his works (that would be The Blonde), but in my opinion, no one writes modern noir quite like Swierczynski (whose name I just love to practice saying). Swierczynski. I always enjoy his strong female characters but know not to get attached to anybody because there are no sacred cows with Swierczynski - everybody is fair game. He likes twists and he doesn't like to spoon feed the reader, so keep up. At certain points I had to take stock of who some characters were again and who was dead and who was alive. Yes, there's a lot going on here and quite the body count too, but that's par for the course. Enjoy.

Oct 11, 2011, 9:36am

I'm a bad Philly girl, I have never read any of Swiercynksi's books! I will have to check him out!

Oct 11, 2011, 9:43am

Yes, I think you would enjoy him, Lisa.

Oct 12, 2011, 6:42pm

Wow, you're closing in on the end of this challenge! Good reviews of interesting choices.

Edited: Oct 14, 2011, 1:00pm

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy Hoobler
Category: Hello There
4 stars

L to R: John Polidori, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley

"At the heart of the book
(Frankenstein) is the mystery of creativity and its consequences, something that concerned - even, at times, tormented - all five of the people at Villa Diodati. In their outsized passions, their remarkable talents, their distorted personal lives, their never-satisfied yearning for love - they were all monsters."

Most people have heard of that dark, stormy summer night at Lake Geneva when Lord Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Claire (Mary’s stepsister, pregnant by Byron) and Polidori (Byron’s doctor) listened to ghost stories told by candlelight. The group also exchanged news of the most interesting scientific and medical discoveries of their day. All five came away inspired to write, though of the resulting efforts, only Mary’s Frankenstein achieved lasting success.

The Monsters, though obviously favoring Mary, is a communal, corporate biography of these individuals, who would remain linked after they left the cottage. Using letters and journals Hoobler weaves a tapestry that gives a fascinating portrait of their life together. I didn’t know much about any of these individuals before I started in and I was completely unable to stop reading about them.

John Polidori was the outsider of the group, so naturally his role is small, but still interesting. He only studied medicine at his father’s insistence but had aspirations of being an author. Polly Dolly (as Byron named him) apparently gave himself license to pursue his passion after finding himself in such literary company. When published, his gothic novel, The Vampyre, was rumored to be penned by Byron. I think Polidori learned well from his former employer. By allowing the controversy he knew sales would increase and the notoriety would make him famous.

Lord Byron’s reputation keeps him popular but I never understood how much of a rockstar he was in his day. His behavior certainly kept me shaking my head, it seems celebrities have not changed much. Hoobler helped me to understand that overcompensating for his self-esteem issues resulted in some wild antics, and the attention he got as a result then fed into his vanity. Byron seems to me like a line of toppling dominos, a complete mess but fun to watch. I’m convinced that being a true friend to him would have been a tough exercise and was really the only admirable thing I found in Percy.

The train wreck of Claire Clairmont’s life was completely her own doing and I found myself largely apathetic to her situation. And even angry, at times, at how her actions affected Mary and Percy. It’s like that old nail-horseshoe-horse-war proverb. Had not Claire solicited Byron, she would not have fallen pregnant by him, she would not have introduced him to Percy, Percy might not have embraced sailing and he might not have drowned, etc. I also did not care for her behavior with Percy and the strain she put on his marriage. But then again, had Percy been a man of morals or had Mary put her foot down, Claire wouldn’t have been able to do so. So, it’s really the what-ifs that make me dislike Claire.

The Monsters vividly paints the tragedy of Mary Shelley’s whole existence. Her father gave her her own mother’s name after the woman expired from the birth. Of course, Mary also had her father’s name until she was (finally) wed to Percy and took his name. She went where Percy went. Whatever schedule Percy kept, she kept. She even lost most of her children (only one lived to adulthood). So Mary never really had much to call her own, until Frankenstein. Hoobler really focuses in on that in the novel and how Mary expressed her own feelings and desires through it. I gained a new appreciation for Frankenstein while reading about Mary.

And Percy. I don’t like Percy. His unconventionalness ruffles my conventionalness and that’s really the heart of it. Byron’s actions, though not any more moral, didn’t seem to bother me as much as Percy’s and I don’t understand that yet. But I didn’t find any affection (of my own) for Percy in these pages.

The Monsters was a page-turner for me and I’m not a huge biography reader, so I think those that like biographies will really enjoy it. I also think it works well as a travelogue. It would make a fabulous tandem read alongside Frankenstein even though it’s not gothic in nature. But don’t let that keep you from cuddling up with it on a dark and stormy night…

This concludes my Hello There category!

Oct 14, 2011, 1:07pm

Taking stock: 7 books left... One off my aging TBR pile, One horror read and Five re-reads. I tried to keep my categories even but the re-read category was a late addition to my challenge so it's natural for it to lag behind. I don't think I'll complete the challenge this month, probably looking at November.

Oct 14, 2011, 1:35pm

Great review, Victoria. And only seven to go!

Oct 14, 2011, 4:44pm

An excellent review as always! I've got Polidori's Vampyre on tap for the read-a-thon next weekend, so this book sounds especially good to me. And you're almost finished - Wahoo!

Oct 14, 2011, 6:59pm

Congrats on having only 7 left!

Oct 14, 2011, 8:04pm

Great review of The Monsters. I like the book a little less than you did, but you summed up a lot of my feelings about the various parties involved.

Byron seems to me like a line of toppling dominos, a complete mess but fun to watch.
Love that line!

Oct 15, 2011, 4:30am

Thanks everyone!
LauraBrook, How timely! I look forward to your thoughts on The Vampyre.

Oct 16, 2011, 10:33am

Yes. Great review. "Rockstar" is right.

Edited: Oct 19, 2011, 2:44pm

The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas
Category: Re-reads
4 stars

With all the buzz floating around about the new Three Musketeers movie, I started craving a little Dumas fix. That happens every now and again and when it does, I turn to my little copy of The Corsican Brothers. The Brothers was actually my first introduction to Dumas. I was young, probably a pre-teen, when I saw a Hallmark Hall of Fame version. Of course, the filmmakers took a little artistic license (not nearly as much as Cheech and Chong, of course) but I was immediately smitten with the tale.

Told from Dumas' point of view, the short travelogue begins as he's on horseback in Corsica and asks to be put up for the evening in the de Franchi household. He soon meets Lucien de Franchi, who regales him with the story of the ten-years vendetta between the Orlandi and the Colona families. Nine people have lost their lives due to the fighting, all over a 'ten-sous' hen that wandered into the wrong yard. Lucien invites Dumas to be a witness to the arbitration the next day at the village church. Dumas also learns that Lucien has a twin brother, Louis, who studies law in Paris. After Dumas returns home, he hand-delivers a letter to Louis. The two men attend a ball and a late dinner, at which Louis finds himself forced to defend the honor of a married woman. The next day Louis fights a duel at which Dumas is his second. Mortally wounded, Louis begs Dumas not to let his family find out the manner of his death for he fears it will offend their honor. Dumas sends off a letter to Corsica but is surprised to find Lucien at his door. Even more shocking, he knows his brother has died from violent means. For though the doctor attending their birth had severed the skin that connected them, the brothers retained a psychic bond. Louis was right, Lucien's deep sense of honor has been bruised and he has brought the fearsome Corsican vengeance to Paris.

The Corsican Brothers is so short that it doesn't have time for all the political layering and gilding that are in Dumas' more famous works, yet it still retains his flavor. It's like an infant cousin to The Count of Monte Cristo. I love the dialogue - the man certainly knew how to write some zingers. Ah Dumas, c'est bon!

Oct 19, 2011, 2:05pm

My next Dumas will most likely be The Three Musketeers but I guess I can add The Corsican Brothers to the wishlist as well.

Oct 19, 2011, 10:17pm

I've never read Dumas before, and Corsican sounds like a good place to start. I'm always so intimidated by their size so this sounds more manageable.

Edited: Oct 27, 2011, 3:22pm

Graveminder by Melissa Marr
Category: Bride of the Monster Mash
3.5 stars

Caring for the dead has always been a specialized occupation, and cultures all over the world have their own unique burial practices, but in Claysville the positions of Undertaker and Graveminder are so important they are handed down contractually within family lines. Raised in the business, Byron Montgomery and Rebekkah Barrow have fought their destinies, and their feelings for each other, all of their lives. They flee to opposite parts of the country but as long as their feet are away from home soil, a niggling restlessness prevents them from having any kind of peace. When the current Graveminder is savagely killed, Byron and Bek must work together to keep the dead from walking Claysville, the only place either of them can truly call home.

I’m sure I just lost half of you with mention of ‘walking’ and ‘dead’ and ‘destiny’. I don’t go for many paranormal romances these days but the blurb for Graveminder caught my eye. I enjoy angsty, small-town tales but blurbs will only get you so far and the story has to carry the rest. I was really impressed with Marr’s creative take on zombies. It’s very different and I enjoyed having some fresh meat, if you will. I’ll also admit that I have a huge weak spot for troubled soulmates (Buffy + Angel 4ever!) and Byron and Bek deliver on that front too.

Graveminder is billed as Marr’s ‘first adult novel’ but honestly, it feels YA to me. Even though Byron and Bek are adults, the fluctuation of their relationship and inheriting the responsibility for the town gives the whole story a ‘growing up’ vibe. That’s not in any way a problem for me, I enjoy YA books, but I thought I would mention it.

This was my Halloween read and it completes my 'Bride of the Monster Mash' category!

Oct 27, 2011, 7:28pm

Really? Only five books to go?

Oct 28, 2011, 2:00pm

Can't believe you're almost done! Congratulations!

Nov 1, 2011, 11:35pm

I agree. Graveminder sounds YA, and I'm sure the teens will find it if it's any good. Especially the teens who are *too cool* to read books marketed for teens. Your description is reminding me about that early Italian horror film Rupert Everret made where he kept shooting the dead in his graveyard, but the same chick kept coming back for him. Cemetery Man.

Nov 2, 2011, 7:46am

cammykitty, I'll have to look that one up!

Nov 7, 2011, 8:11am

Behind on my reviews, but the writing mojo has abandoned me. So I'm reading.... two books left!

Nov 8, 2011, 4:46pm

two books left!

Almost there! Congrats on being so close to the finish line!

Nov 9, 2011, 7:50am

Thanks tymfos! I feel this weird disparity between finishing as quickly as possible and also taking my time and enjoying the last few.

Edited: Nov 18, 2011, 7:37am

Real Life is just kicking my butt. I'm trying to catch up on some old reviews... bear with me.

Doubloon by Jay Amberg
Category: Re-Reads
3 stars

Holding the coin between his forefinger and thumb, he turned it so that the light reflected from it. This was my father’s obsession, he thought, the thing that uprooted him, yanked him away from his wife… finally cost him his life. Here’s the dream – treasure. Pulling his eyes from the coin, which seemed to him as though it were in mint condition, he asked, “A piece of eight?”
“A doubloon, Jack,” she answered, her voice low. “Nick only found three of ‘em, but he was betting there are thousands more.”

The rift between Nick and Jack Gallagher started twenty years ago. Jack felt that any man who left his young son and wife to go off treasure hunting in the Keys wasn’t worth knowing. But when Nick dies in a boating accident, Jack finds that he’s inherited a huge mess. Nick had been closing in on the final resting place of the Santa Maria Magdalena but the funds and the salvage licenses are close to expiring. Jack doesn’t exactly like working with his half-brother, his father’s second wife and their loyal rag-tag crew, but they seem less threatening than his father’s bitter ex-partner and his new backers. There’s a beautiful journalist who seems to honestly like Jack but it’s difficult for him to know who to trust. And then there’s Brenda, the hurricane hovering over the waters where the Magdalena rests. Perhaps the gold is cursed after all.

I grew up on the coast of Florida, watching Cousteau movies and loving the ocean. As a girl I wanted to be a marine biologist but after learning about Mel Fisher’s Atocha find, I started telling people I wanted to be a marine archeologist. But I didn’t have what marine salvage takes and the dream died. Books like Doubloon let me dabble in the dream again. It’s hard to say whether my fondness for the subject matter causes me to look at the material with rose-colored glasses, but I honestly think that if you read early Crichton or Preston/Child then you would enjoy Doubloon too.

Nov 16, 2011, 4:37pm

Great review, the book sounds really interesting. Marine Archaeology always was an interest of mine, I'll have to add this to my TBR pile. Hope real life stops kicking your butt ASAP!

Nov 17, 2011, 6:24am

Thanks Laura, I hope you enjoy it! I'm considering reading another of Amberg's next year called Deep Gold.

Nov 17, 2011, 7:37am

You're kidding me! Only two books to go!

Edited: Nov 18, 2011, 7:37am

I know. If only I can get through them. I thought I would be finished by now! Here's another catch-up.

The Stand: the Complete and Un-Cut Edition by Stephen King
Category: Re-Reads
3.5 stars

Back in August of this year I started on The Stand, Stephen King’s epic dark fantasy. A book with a scope almost as large as its cast of characters, especially as I had chosen the Complete and Uncut Edition – a full 1153 pages. I’m not going to do a plot synopsis, I just wanted to capture some of my feelings over the three months I spent reading it.

The Stand is nearly as old as I am and I can’t remember the first time I read it but it was certainly before I ever heard of SARS or bird-flu on the nightly news. When I think about a global pandemic now, my impression has been, and likely always will be, the “Captain Trips” that King has portrayed here.

Dated? Some. But I also found The Stand remarkably relevant. I heard a story on NPR just this morning about bird-flu and simian flu being cross-bred in a lab, just to see how bad bad could get. The reforming of society is something I hear people talking about with the Occupy movement – do we have to stick with the establishment, can we change it? Certainly the us-against-them feeling throughout the last third of the book felt like our post-9/11 position in the world today. And then there’s the overarching theme of a higher authority. The Stand has a lot to say about belief and faith. The need we have to put our trust in something other than ourselves, be that God or other people we live with. Of believing we have somewhere to go and something to do, some way to fit into the cosmic plan.

Some people claim you can read the first 200 pages and last 200 pages of The Stand and catch all you need to know. Maybe. I don’t know which pages were cut and added back in. The first third of the book is my favorite. King excels at introducing characters. Even those needed only for a scene are sometimes memorable for the words he chooses to describe them with, the dialogue he gives them. I don’t regret reading the extended edition because sometimes it was in the quiet material, the introspective monologues where King really showed his genius. I’ll admit, the length did get to me at times. Especially the middle section, setting up the infrastructure in Boulder; the committee minutes were just blah, blah, blah. And yet during the ending I felt a little rushed. Even being a Christian, the “Hand of God” just felt a bit of a cop-out, a Deus ex Machina, a cheat.

After all was said and done, I tried to figure who was my favorite character. I was surprised to find that it was Larry and not Stu. Larry Underwood, the drugged out one-hit wonder, who found courage and faith and redeemed himself into a heck of a leader. His arc certainly impresses.

When I first read The Stand I did not know what ‘dystopian’ was. Perhaps it contributed to my love of the genre today. It was good to revisit and I’m sure this will not be the last time.

Nov 17, 2011, 5:13pm

If you chose equally long books for your last two, I may well catch up.

Nov 23, 2011, 1:23pm

Murder Duet: A Musical Case by Batya Gur
Category: Talk to the Hand
3 stars

When he finds an abandoned baby on his doorstep and decides to keep her, police officer Michael Ohayon asks a neighbor for assistance. Nita is single with an infant of her own to care for and in order to seem more stable to the Child Welfare Bureau, the two decided to spread the rumor that they are a couple. When Nita’s brother Gabriel, a violinist, is garroted just off-stage during a rehearsal, Michael is assigned to investigate due to his well-known love of classical music and his familiarity with the people involved. Why was Gabi acting so mysteriously before he was killed and why can’t Nita, a cellist, remember where she was at the time? Can Michael put in the hours necessary to solve the case and still convince his case worker that he can parent a young infant?

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m finding it difficult to rate and review this one. I like musical mysteries. I’ve even read another musical mystery with the same murder weapon. But I wanted to read this one because I thought the location (Israel) would make it distinctive. It didn’t, really. I did enjoy the musical setting, the trivia and theory and history that was thrown in for color - that was interesting to me. In some scenes I felt the pacing was really good and the dialogue flowed well but in others I would become confused about what was happening or what was being implied. It soon became predictable that if a certain character was present then I would have to reread the scene to digest it – so I know it was the way the author was stylizing the character. The author really invested heavily in a certain red herring and then just let it fade off into nothingness… there was no pay off for it. I felt cheated. Also, the baby situation felt like its own story – not an integrated part of this one. I probably will not be reading any others in this series.

Nov 24, 2011, 5:53pm

>79 VictoriaPL: Haven't read King since my early teens, when I devoured a lot of his - including The Stand. Then came a period of literary snobbism and I lost King, and haven't found him again. Your review makes me ponder a reread of this one.

Nov 24, 2011, 8:13pm

Hey Anders - I know what you mean and I've had similar feelings.

Just popped in to say that I finished Outlander tonight, so I'm done with my Challenge! Yay!

Nov 24, 2011, 8:17pm

Yay! Congratulations! Well done! Now you have an entire month to read whatever you want!

Nov 24, 2011, 8:37pm

Congratulations! Good timing too!

Nov 24, 2011, 8:55pm

Woo hoo! Congratulations!!!

Nov 24, 2011, 9:29pm

Congratulations on completing your challenge!

Nov 24, 2011, 10:26pm

Congratulations, Victoria! Enjoy your month of 'free' reading!

Nov 24, 2011, 10:27pm

Yay! Congrats on finishing!

Nov 24, 2011, 10:58pm

Congratulations on completing your challenge!

Nov 25, 2011, 3:34am

Congratulations, Victoria!

Nov 25, 2011, 8:31am

Thanks! I plan to stick around until January with bonus reads... I love our challenge group and wouldn't be anywhere else!

Nov 25, 2011, 8:50am

Good! I'd hate to be left alone here! I'm excited about the 12 in 12, but plan on staying here until 2012.

Nov 25, 2011, 1:00pm

Hi Victoria, congratulations on finishing and now that I've caught up with your thread and added several books to my 'little' list of interesting books to look out for I'll should pick up a book and try to finish off my own's in sight.

Nov 25, 2011, 1:26pm


Nov 25, 2011, 2:13pm

Congratulations on finishing!! If you do decide to try Batya Gur again, I'd suggest Bethlehem Road Murder or Murder in Jerusalem. Unfortunately Murder Duet was the weakest one in the series with a lot of yabbering about babies - there's none of that in the others. :)

Nov 25, 2011, 3:09pm

Thanks Bookaholic - I'll keep that in mind.

Nov 25, 2011, 3:10pm

Congratulations, Victoria. Enjoy your "free" reading time. I was thinking of starting the 12 in 12 on Dec 12th, but I've decided to go with the month of free reading as well, even so, I am beginning to get really excited about starting the new challenge.

Nov 25, 2011, 5:58pm

Yeah!! Good for you! I'm hanging around too - but Christmas baking has already started to cut into my reading time. Enjoy your bonus reads.

Nov 29, 2011, 11:04pm

Congratulations on finishing the challenge! Great work!

I'm trying to finish my last 3 (all started) by Dec. 12 so I can start next year's challenge then. Should be easy enough, but I'm feeling sort of pressured.

Dec 14, 2011, 1:59pm

Well, it's been awhile since I posted. Guess I let all the freedom go to my head! I finished up the Cork O'Connor series by William Kent Krueger. The books remaining were Red Knife, Heaven's Keep, Vermilion Drift & Northwest Angle. I'm such a completest - it's something I struggle with all the time - but I just had to see it through. There has been such a tremendous character arc throughout the series but to be honest, I haven't loved the last four books like I did the first four. Considering what happened with Jo and also the children's increased involvement in Cork's cases, it felt more cozy than hard-boiled. Well, as cozy as Krueger can be. I imagine there will be future books in the Cork series but I've reached my line in the sand. I am planning to read one of Krueger's stand-alones for the 12-12 though and I'm excited about that.

Dec 14, 2011, 9:48pm

Really? So if you come across a new Cork O'Connor at the library, you'll just walk on by?

Dec 14, 2011, 10:01pm

Yep. Just like that!

Edited: Dec 16, 2011, 2:32pm

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas by Lauren Willig
3 stars

There had been the Marquise de Montval who had invited him for what he believed to be a coffee and a spot of assignation and then presented him with a pistol and three French slugs… all because she mistakenly took him for the Pink Carnation. It was enough to put a chap right off dalliance. And coffee.

While dropping off a Christmas hamper, Turnip Fitzhugh stumbles upon Arabella Dempsey, a teacher at his sister’s school. In the ensuing pudding debacle, the two become aware of a list that will unmask the English spies currently in France and determine that they must stop it from falling into the wrong hands. Along the way there is a lively pageant, a Yule tree hunt, cider and the heart-pounding bloom of true love. It’s a light, airy romp – a Victorian Christmas as only Willig can write it. Most of the Carnation crew put in an appearance. Willig even includes Miss Austen, making it clear that Turnip and Arabella are the Darcy and Lizzy of the Carnation universe. It is so delightful to see Turnip finally get his place in the spotlight.

Edited: Dec 16, 2011, 3:07pm

A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter
3 stars

Pediatrician-turned-Medical Examiner, Sara Linton, investigates several maybe-not suicides at a local college. Sara's ex-husband-but-still-lover, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, divides his time between that investigation and looking after one of his former investigators who is recovering from a brutal assault.

So I recently bit the bullet and read one of Slaughter's "pre-Will Trent" books. What do I have to say about it? I miss that man! Jeffrey isn't even half as interesting as Will is. And as my first exposure to Slaughter was on down the line, chronologically speaking, I know things about Jeffrey that made it hard for me to take him seriously. Thankfully the book has Slaughter's snappy edge to it - that's what got me through. The lady certainly has style. I do still plan on reading the other books in the Grant County series, just to get the background on all the characters I've read about in the Will Trent series. It will provide more clarity into their standing with each other. I'll just have to grit my teeth until Summer 2012, when the next Will book is published.

Dec 16, 2011, 6:40pm

Victoria: you don't like Jeffrey? Well, yes he can be a piece of work, but I hope you finish reading the rest in the series at some point.

I won't spoil it for you, but as you mentioned, it's a good way to get background on some of the characters, especially Lena.

Dec 19, 2011, 1:12pm

Belated congratulations on finishing (yes, I'm THAT behind on threads...)!

I'm such a completest - it's something I struggle with all the time God, I know about that. To drop out of a series gone stale, to stop buying albums by bands long past their heyday (and even the two decades after said heyday) - or even to get rid of bad books by authors who have also written good ones is very very hard.

Dec 23, 2011, 7:51pm

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season, Victoria. I'll look forward to catching up with you in Janaury over on the 12 in 12 Challenge.

Dec 24, 2011, 7:12am

Happy holidays. I'm looking forward to seeing you over in the 1212 group.

Dec 24, 2011, 6:34pm

Merry Christmas, Victoria!

Dec 25, 2011, 9:45am

Merry Christmas! I'm writing from my kindle fire!

Dec 26, 2011, 12:46am

Merry Xmas & Congrats!!! See you in 2012 of course. P.S. so what secrets about Jeffrey make him a bit ridiculous???

Dec 28, 2011, 7:27am

I was traveling without the laptop - so sorry to miss all your messages. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may I also wish you all a very Happy New Year!