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I love reading. It's one of my favorite activities. Three years ago I started writing little blurbs about the books I read, and posting 'reviews'. One of these days I'm going to go back and at least do a quick 'blurb review' of the stuff I read before, and one of these days I'm going to put them on BN.com, but those will take some time. For now, I have the last three year's here, listed alphabetically by author's last name. If you want to see more current reviews, and reviews of things other than books, please visit my Amazon Review Page.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Adams, Douglas

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
One of the finest books ever written! It’s funny, and edgy, and thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend it to everyone, though some people do not seem to enjoy the slightly dryer English humour. This is a re-read for me, as it does start off my very favorite five-book trilogy. And contains my all-time favorite quote: “Ford, you’re turning into a penguin – stop it!” Basically, the book begins with the destruction of the planet Earth and ends at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, with a lot of great adventure (and insight) in between. You really should read it, you’ll be glad you did. And if you don’t like it, well, you’re just a mutant…

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Okay, it’s a really weird book. That I will admit. But it’s also very funny and clever – especially the way everything does tie in together at the end (hence the “holistic” part). As always, Douglas Adam’s characters are witty, engaging, and just a bit off-center. A great read, as long as you are not unwilling to suspend some conventional beliefs… Though it never fully explains the mystery of the couch stuck in the stairwell…

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
The further adventures of Dirk Gently continue – this time it’s even weirder, but this book gives us more of a look into how Dirk’s mind works – which is rather dizzying, and a bit like the opening of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Arthur is plodding through the house and keeps thinking “yellow” and “bulldozer” in snippets before it dawns on him – but I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t read that book yet (though you should). The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is not, in my opinion, as good as the first, but it did make me laugh out loud and you really have to appreciate how all those seemingly inconsequential things really did tie in very nicely at the end. And we find out what humans are doing with the 9/10 of their brain they say we don’t really use…

Alexander, Bruce

Blind Justice
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book - not because the person who recommended it to me (like I might be wary of future recommendations from some people) but just because the plot, as summarized on the back, was just 'eh' to me. I didn't think I would become as wrapped up in the characters as I did. Indeed, the idea of them initially left me feeling flat, but the way they were written was very compelling. And I must admit the narrator character is excellent, if a bit over-done at times (mock humility and over reassurance now and then). They mystery was good and tidy, if not surprising in the end (I had guessed the ending quite from the start, actually, and the fact that I still enjoyed the book despite that is a testament to the writing - besides, there's more to enjoy than just the main storyline).

Albert, Susan Wittig

Thyme of Death
This one was a book club selection, and it was enjoyable, with plenty of twists and turns (though not all of them unexpected). The main character was likable enough, for an ex-lawyer. The one mystery I became absorbed with was not intended to be the focal point of the story. But I became obsessed with finding when the book was set. It was written in a very unspecific, late 20 th century setting. But towards the end, they make reference to a football game, and a score. A somewhat plausible one, even, if you start with the given time of 11:45, add in the ‘five minutes later‘s and some extra time for the action, and arrive at ‘middle of the first quarter.’ Teams (Packers and Cowboys) and a score (21-3, GB) are even given, though it is not mentioned if it is a home or away game. The copyright date of the book is 1992, so I set about looking for a plausible year (I researched back into the 70’s, anything further than that would not have fit because of the technology, etc). Green Bay and Dallas played each other twice in 1989 (Oct and Dec) and once in 1991 (Oct). Given that it was mentioned that the last days of summer were fading, and there was no mention of an impending Christmas holiday, I ruled the December game out. 1991 is out, because the final score was 20-17, Dallas, and in this game GB had already scored 21. In 1989 the game ended 13-31, GB, and that is a possible outcome of the given score. So I determined, given the facts, that this fiction story set in a fictional town took place the week of October 8, 1989.

Andrews, Mary Kay

Hissy Fit
I started out listening to this on CD, and the southern accent of the reader really pulled you into the story. It was a very cultured, soft southern accent, very pleasant to listen to. And then the CD started to skip, and skip, and skip, and skip – so I checked the book out instead, figuring it’s be safer than trying another audio version. If the print started to skip, I had bigger problems than not being able to finish the story.

So I got the book and finished the story, which was a little more than a typical modern-day romance. There was a mystery twist that kept me far more interested than the main characters dancing around their love interest. In fact, the male lead was a bit unbelievable in his infatuation with another character (who he was courting while ignoring the other main character who was, of course, his true love!) and that was a bit off-putting. But the mystery of the missing mother – even though you could see the ending coming a mile away – was well-done enough to keep me reading.

Andrews, Russell

Gideon
Okay, I don’t like politics in my books (yes, head in the sand – books are for my entertainment, they shouldn’t make me THINK!) and this one was… odd. For a very long time the author went out of his way to not make actually party affiliations (though the implications were obvious) but did, in the end. It was like he was trying so hard not to, and at the end had to give in and started throwing them around left and right. Went from nary a word to overboard in three pages! The story itself was trite - I think most people could see where it was going - and the characters were shallow. Definitely a case of trying too hard to make something unique and unusual, and ending up with something bland and uninspiring. Probably wouldn’t waste my time on it.

Asimov, Isaac

Murder at the ABA
This is an old book I picked up on a whim at Half-Price books – and it was well worth the $0.88! It was interestingly written, with Isaac Asimov not being the narrator – and introducing himself as a character! There are footnotes that will crack you up (the banter between Isaac and the “person” that is the narrator in the book is wonderful) and, best of all, a really great, twisted whodunit. The ending came together beautifully and unexpectedly, all written by a great (fantastic? J ) writer! I would highly recommend it, as well as his “Black Widower” short stories – if you can find them.

More Stories of the Black Widowers
Ah, another book of my favorite short mysteries! I found this one at Half-Price books and now my collection totals 3. These are definitely worth your time – if you can find them. They are short stories, each very independent of the others, so you can read as much or as little as you like. They are in the same vein as the “5 Minute Mystery” story, only much better written – it is Asimov, after all! And even though it is an exclusive male club, I still enjoy the characters. And this particular collection lets us know more about Henry, the butler, than ever before….

Return of the Black Widowers
This was one of my favorite series when I was younger, as I have a thing for short mysteries. The last of the Black Widowers books, this one was a good as any I’ve read. A must-have for any true Asimov or mystery fan.


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B

Barnes, Linda

Coyote
I like the main character, Carlotta, and the story was one of those intricately woven ones – where all the little pieces eventually come together.  If I say too much more I’ll ruin the ending, which even came as a little bit of a surprise to me.  Definitely a good read, especially if you like a little more action and suspense, but don’t want all-out procedurals or gore.  A step above a cozy, but still with a nice feel.  This is the second book by Linda Barnes that I’ve read, and I think I might look into reading a few more.  Definitely worth your time.

The Snake Tattoo
I wasn’t so sure about Carlotta when I read the first book, but she’s really starting to grow on me.  I’m not reading them in any particular order - which might be helpful, but isn’t really necessary because the focus of the book is really the mystery, not the side bits of fluff (though in this book, the side bits were really good).  Barnes creates great characters, good plot lines and a nice pace – pretty much all you can ask for in a mystery.  I would recommend her Carlotta Carlisle series to anyone who likes a laid back, good ole armchair mystery.

Barry, Dave

Big Trouble
I listened to this book on tape, so I’m sure there were bits I missed. But it was a bizarre, twisted ride through Florida that intertwined the lives of some very unlikely characters and kept me interested until the end. Let’s just say an embezzler, a few teenagers, some cops, some hit men, a loner, and a few average people get wrapped up in a seemingly harmless kid’s game, an assassination plot, and an arms deal gone awry. If that doesn’t peak your interest, I don’t know what will!

Tricky Business by Dave Barry
In the beginning it was a little difficult to keep the myriad storylines straight, but they all came together in a fabulous, funny, action-packed (if a bit raunchy) storyline that kept you on the edge of your seat. Barry created characters you love, hate, and love to hate. Not for the very young or the uptight, this book had me laughing and wondering the whole time.

Money Secrets, like: why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar?
It made me smile, listening to this as I cleaned and demolished my garage, and for that alone it’s worth it. If you like his newspaper columns you’ll like this book, because that’s the style it’s written in. Light and fluffy: if you’re looking for a bit of mindless humor this’ll hit the spot.

Dave Barry is not taking this sitting down
This is another compilation of columns, somewhat more disjointed than the money one I listened to last. It's great for listening to in a car, because there's really nothing - no plot - to keep track of, and you can just listen now and then. It's quirky and funny, that's about it. If you like the columns, obviously, this is something to listen to.

Baty, Chris

No Plot? No Problem!
Having undertaken NaNo, I thought perusing the unofficial handbook would be a good thing.  Plus, I really didn't have a plot.  The book is full of little stories, tips, etc, but like most "self-help" books, it doesn't really tell you anything you don't already know.  It's pretty well-written and humorous, though, so if you just want a book you can pick up and read a little for some cheerleading and fell-good "I can do this" vibes, it's worth it.  But don't expect it to really help you overcome any serious writing issues.

Bear, Gregory

Life: The Odds
A great statistics book this is not. A fun read, it is. It did make me giggle out loud a few times, and does instill a slight bit of statistical information, but mostly it’s just fun and silliness. And that can be a good thing sometimes. Don’t read it if you’re expecting hard-core math or great statistical studies, do read it if you want to take a lighter look at the various things that may or may not happen to you.

Beaton, M.C.

“Death of a…” Series
This series features Hammish Macbeth as a highland village booby, content with his station and fighting promotion despite his stunning detective abilities. He’s a likable character, though through the descriptions of him with his flaming red hair and mode of dress I find it hard to picture him as the good-looking man he is supposed to be. But he’s a likable character, and the picturesque “frozen in time” village really comes to life. In fact, when modern conveniences are mentioned, they almost see out of place. I would love to get the rest of the series to fill in the gaps that I’m missing. The ones I did read are: Death of a Snob, Death of a Charming Man, Death of a Gossip, Death of a Scriptwriter, Death of a Dentist, Death of a Cad, Death of a Celebrity, and A Highland Christmas.

Death of a Glutton
Another book in the Hammish series that I managed to procure at Half-Price Books (I'm collecting them slowly but surely!) I had a bit of a hard time "setting" this one in time.  Hammish and Pricilla have a long, on again, off again romance and it's sometimes hard to see right off where the book lands in that romantic roller coaster.  But aside from that (and of no consequence if you are reading them in order!) it was a great mystery for the "read and solve" crowd - a lot of bits to keep you guessing "whodunit!"

Agatha Raisin Series
I only picked up one of these, Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell. I disliked the main character, Agatha, almost immediately. This typically ruins the book, and it did in this case. The story was okay, nothing amazing, but Agatha’s (in my opinion) obnoxious personality kept cropping up and ruining any redeeming value the book might have had.

The Skeleton in the Closet
Not part of a series, this was a stand alone book that had some truly unbelievable (but not unlikable) characters that kept me interested enough to finish the book. It was not a solvable mystery (you’re not provided with enough of the details to really make the connections) but it was not so implausible you threw down the book in disgust.

Death of a Village
Once again it’s Hammish to the rescue. Though his situation is a little unbelievable (what with him dodging promotions in so many creative ways!), he’s an entertaining character. And his observations, as always, are on the mark. Though there is some very sad aspects to the story (I don’t want to spoil it for you) I still enjoyed the book a great deal and hope to round out my collection of Hammish books in the future!

Death of a Bore
Another day, another Hamish Macbeth Mystery...  I have not read these in chronological order, so on occasion I get a little confused as to the current state of his love-life.  But other than that, these mysteries stand on their own, and you can pick and choose which books in the series you want to read.  This one was a bit slow in the beginning, but picked up in the middle.  The end left me a bit...  wanting, I think, as it was all wrapped up quickly and neatly, but then the book continued on at some length, giving you more “Hamish” story than I’ve seen in the others.  And while this was interesting, giving you more character development, it really changed the tone of the story, and made the end drag a bit.  Overall, I’d still recommend this series as a whole, though it probably is much better read in chronological order.

Death of an Addict
Call me a Hammish-aholic, if you will, but I really like these books.  The characters are good, the plots compelling, and I really find myself getting into them.  I would, as usual, recommend this one to any mystery buff!

Death of a Perfect Wife
I was worried at the beginning of this book that I was going to like the person who I knew was going to die, but in the space of a paragraph I began to loathe her.  So all was well when she was murdered...  And the story was good; it had enough twists to keep it entertaining, but few enough to keep it from being obnoxiously overdone.  I would recommend the book, along with the rest of the series.  They’re fairly short, entertaining and engrossing – but definitely for the ‘cozy’ lover! 

Death of a Traveling Man
This was probably my least favorite of the series thus far. It was a little too pat, a little too contrived, and I really didn't like the overall feel of the characters. It seemed, well, a little out of character with the rest of the books. Though it does have some plot points that might be considered important to the continuity of the series (though I've been reading them out of order and gleaning the necessary information) I'd say this is one to skip. Unless you're a quick reader and have a few hours to kill. That's about all I think it's worth, especially compared to the others in the series.

Death of a Prankster
Another day, another death from poor Hammish MacBeth. I don’t ever seem to get tired of these books, and I’m not really sure why. I guess, despite my not really understanding him, I like the main character. And the plots and storylines are well put together, the writing decent. The peripheral characters are well done, adding a lot of life to the story. I would recommend this series to any cozy mystery lover.

Death of a Dreamer
As good as Hammish gets – the latest book in the series is as good as the older ones. I enjoy reading these because it almost feels like it’s set back in time, but then there are the modern reminders like computers and cell phones. It’s a nice mix that works in the setting, and the mysteries are always good and solid. And cozy lover would enjoy this series, I think.

Benson, Jessica

The Accidental Duchess
I was in the mood for something fluffy and romantic, and yet, I didn’t get as engrossed in it as I thought I would. The storyline was pretty standard romance fare, and the writing decent. But there was something slightly off about it, apart from the obnoxious chapter titles (they reminded me of sitcom titles that are the formulaic ‘The one where…’). I didn’t really connect with the characters and the story was a little slow and convoluted. And I didn’t buy the ending at all. It’s really hit or miss with romance novels, and I’d give this one a miss.

Berendt, John

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
This was for my mystery book club, and all I want to know is: Where's the mystery? It's basically a very long, drawn-out character study of some admittedly interesting people in Savannah, but it is slow, has very little plot, and is pretty boring. I had to force myself to finish reading it, because it was for the book club. Not one I would recommend.

Berenson, Laurien

A Pedigree to Die For
I was so happy to find a dog book (there are cats everywhere, but few authors do good dog books) but was soon disappointed. First, they were Poodles, one of my least favorite dogs. Second, it was about dogs shows, one of my least favorite ‘sports’ (and I use that term very loosely here) – MUTTS RULE! Adopt your next dog from the pound! And lastly, it really wasn’t all that well written. I didn’t like the characters, the plot was skimpy and uninteresting, and I really wasn’t drawn into the book at all. I will continue my search for a good dog series, and will almost certainly not read more of these.

Black, Holly and DiTerlizzi, Tony

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Book 1: The Field Guide
First, I love the artwork. Especially the map. I have a thing for maps. Secondly, I think they do a very good job of giving you a sense of character in a very easy-to-read format. The book really pulls you in, and you feel very attached to the characters. It’s got ‘scary’ things in it, but it’s not really a scary book. Though I don't know kids that well, I doubt many would be that frightened by it.

Book 2: The Seeing Stone
The second book wasn’t quite as good as the first, but still very enjoyable. There’s still a lot of connection with the characters (though I do wonder a bit about the Mother’s reaction to some of the things going on) and the plot moves nicely.

Book 3: Lucinda’s Secret
The story picks up again here, with the visit to Great-Aunt Lucinda. I just wish there were more of her – and her interaction with the children – in the book. But they’re very short books (108 pages apiece) so not as much room for details as I might like. RE-written and fleshed out, I think this would make a great adult series!

Book 4: The Ironwood Tree
Again, I wish this book had been longer. There’s so much of the story left unsaid! I can’t stop reading (though, since I don’t have book 5 I’ll have to!) and just want more.

The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 5: Wrath of the Mulgarth
So the epic conclusion to the series was a bit abrupt, and like all the books, I think they plot could have handled a more detailed, longer story very easily. But these are books for fairly young children, and I realize the importance of keeping it fairly short. It also gives your imagination a lot of leeway as far as filling in the gaps, which I applaud. Children need to exercise their imagination. Overall the series tied together well, had good writing and some cool illustrations. What more can you ask for?

Black, Michelle

Second Glass of Absinthe (a book club selection)
While the book kept me reading (I did finish it in one sitting) I have to say most of it was fairly anticlimactic. It seemed like there were a lot of social issues raised, then glossed over.  I'm not sure if it was the author's intent to make a point of them, or not. The crime almost seemed to take a backseat, and the way it was "solved..." The occult actually played a part, and I prefer my detective work based in solid science (hence the reason I don't watch CSI). I didn't particularly like most of the characters - it seemed they were a little too "odd" on purpose. Character quirks are one thing, but taken to the extreme they simply overwhelm the characters and are detrimental to the storyline. Over all, not a book I would recommend, though not the worst I've read, either.

Bova, Ben

Sam Gunn, Unlimited
I didn't think I would like this one, which is odd - I enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, but nothing about this book screamed "read me!" I only did because it was on my 'recommended list' - which I am determined to get through! If I haven't read your recommendation yet, I will get there. Anyway, while it didn't seem that interesting from the outside, once I started I did not want to put it down. He sets a great pace in this book, with the main character (and you, along side her) hunting for information. It's a style that very much draws you into the book and drags you along, and I loved it. You have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy the plot, but I found the style very engaging.

Bradbury, Ray

Fahrenheit 451
This is a book everyone should read. It’s not a long book, or a complicated one, but the ideas expressed are worthy of great philosophical discussion. It seems an almost surreal world that these people live in, and yet it could so easily be something into which our world could turn. In this book the brainless wife is obsessed with her “parlour family” – a very television-like scenario. In this I see the preponderance of “reality shows” peppering the airwaves and entrancing viewers in mindless activity. Before you start screaming at me, there is nothing wrong with a little mindless activity – it’s a good diversion from the stresses of daily life (I, myself, cannot stand reality TV, but watch a lot of sporting events as my “mindless drivel”). But when that mindless drivel becomes your life, it’s time to step back and reassess how you are living. When people stand around all day chattering about the latest developments on a reality TV show but are unable to even relate one current event, conflict, or idea – then we have a problem. And so many people find “Survivor” more fascinating that the fact that our country is at war (regardless of what side you are on, you’d think you’d have an opinion!) that I think we are starting to have a problem. So today, take a moment, read a book, express a though, or have a meaningful discussion (about anything) and cherish your ability to do so.

Brown, Dan

The DaVinci Code
This was, to me, a mildly good action-adventure book that took the “suspense” a little too far. After awhile, the “on the edge” excitement got wearing and it would have been nice to have a breather. The mini mysteries were fun, but most of the religious symbolism was lost on me. I wouldn’t say it was anything grand or amazing, but I don’t feel cheated out of those hours of my life, either.

Deception Point
I was supposed to read this for my book club, but I got about 50 pages in and flipped to the end to get the gist of the story. It was very political, and I just don't like that in my mysteries. If I want political, I'll watch C-Span. When I read, I want to be entertained, not annoyed. I didn't waste my time with it.

Brown, Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie

Wish You Were Here
Fluff in its purest form, this is definitely a cozy read.  And even though I did have it all figured out, it was still compelling enough for me to read because I liked the characters (though I admit my favorites were the animal characters).  Nothing earth-shattering or deep, but cute.  A good book to read when you really don’t want to have to think. 

Braun, Lillian Jackson

“The Cat Who…” Series
These I picked up during a garage sale, otherwise I would not have picked up books about cats - being a proper dog-loving person. I read 5 of these books, 4 of which featured the same two amazing cats, Koko and Yum Yum ( The Cat Who Played Brahms, The Cat Who Sniffed Glue, The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, and The Cat who Lived High). The other book, The Cat Who Had 14 Tales, was a compilation of short stories. I found all of these books highly unbelievable, I don’t think cats are psychic, brilliant animals who want to help humankind. When a cat leads a blind person, finds a lost child, sniffs out drugs or bombs, or helps a disabled person lead an independent life, well, THEN you can talk about how great they are. Dogs rule and cats drool!

Buffa, D.W.

The Judgment
I’ve rarely finished a book that was this hard to get into, but as it was for the book club, I plowed through it. The writing was dry and the characters terribly unbelievable – but it did manage to spark some interesting conversation, mostly about how there’s a difference between looking smart and being smart. The main character is a criminal trial lawyer, and one of the reasons given for his win rate was the way he spoke to the jury. He didn’t talk down to them, nor did he try to overload them with twenty-five cent words. And it occurred to me that the smartest people I know are some of the most plain-spoken. People often hid behind big words, trying to make themselves look smarter. Sure, there are people who love language and just like to use big words – we all have our favorites – but there’s a strained quality to those who use language to try to impress. Just because someone says “I walked my dog” instead of “I ambulated with my canine” doesn’t make them any less intelligent.

There’s also a good deal on mental illness in this book, most of which is incredibly annoying and preachy. The storyline was slow and thin, and oh so very, very, very predictable. I swear, the next book that surprises me will get its name in big sparkly letters!

Busch, Frederick

Girls
This was a book for my mystery book club, and I got all of 50 pages into it – and I only really read the first 20.  It was written in that overly formal (dare I say pretentious) style that may win you accolades from the literary community but leaves me completely disinterested.  Two thumbs way down.

Byerrum, Ellen

Hostile Makeover
Somehow the ‘amateur’ sleuth bit was a tad overdone and that annoyed me. Sure, in any armchair detective mystery there is the whole ‘this person just happens to stumble into trouble pretty often’ factor, but the stress this novel put on it was grating. Plus, I thought the characters were a little flat and unlikable. It is highly doubtful I will be reading any more of these in the future.


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C

Cain, James

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain -
This is exactly the reason I don't read "classics." I think I summed it up as 116 pages of WTF? It's a dated story, and while some books stand the test of time, and in this case it really shows. I didn't "buy" any of the storyline, the characters were undeveloped and shallow, the plot thin and full of holes, and the entire idea trite, tired, and badly executed. Well, except at the end, when he was... I would be very angry at the book club for making me read it except it did only take an hour. It's funny, I am a plot-driven person, and this book was nothing but plot (a marked lack of description kept it short, at least), however, I'm picky and would like a good plot. Bottom line: uck.

Calvino, Italo

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo
This is a tough book to review. In part because I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s one part interesting, one part dull, and one part vexing. Sadly, the first chapter was the absolute best, and the humor and fun found there is not carried throughout the rest of the book. It’s not that I mind the starting and stopping of numerous story snippets. The fact that those tales were not complete does not really bother me, though that may be because I only found one or two even remotely engaging, and several of them downright dull or just plain weird. Throughout the book you’re told about how these stories end at climactic moments, leaving you wanting more – but for the most part, I felt relief when those bits were over, because I felt they were but a brief interruption into the ‘main’ story. And I felt that the ‘main’ story was working towards something, until I got about 2/3 or the way through and it took a detour through Weirdsville from which it never returned. The ‘falsehoods’ and ‘lies’ bits and secret police upon secret police and the spy who might be her, but maybe not, but what does it matter... Oh, for god’s sake just tell a story! Get. To. The. Point. Oh, that’s right, there wasn’t one. -_- In the end, I have to say that the very last bit (about the only two ways a story could end, and ‘your’ abrupt decision) was cute, but certainly not the culmination I had hoped for. It never really tied itself up, or came to a coherent point. It just... ends.

If LJ had been around in Calvino’s time I would have said that this book was nothing more than a way he strung together a bunch of snippets written, perhaps, in response to writing group prompts that he was proud of, but didn’t really see how to develop. Then he gave all the bits titles that would work (that was, I admit, clever) and threw them into the middle of a story – a weird story – that waxed poetic about readers, writers, and counterfeiters.

Now, it wasn’t all bad. Very few books get that distinction, though I have read a few. The translator deserves a huge round of applause for making the text flow so very well. Unless, of course, the original story in Italian is about Zombie Armadillos that decimate the human species. Then I’d say he didn’t stay faithful in his translating (though I can’t say I might not have found Zombie Armadillos a touch more interesting). But the words were very... smooth and creamy; flowing very masterfully. And if that is what you like in a book, then by all means, this is a great book. If you love language more than the actual stories it tells, this is a book for you.

In reading this book, and reading about readers, I did realize a bit about myself. When I read (at least, when I read a good book), I am almost transported into the story. I like books I can really get into. While I’m reading, the text is flowing around me, creating a picture and a setting in my mind. In that sense, I’m not so much concentrating on the language as much as the meaning. My head transforms the words into my own little movie, and I become engrossed in it. So you can just tell me, “You’re in a meadow” and my mind creates a meadow. You do not need to go into beautiful flowing detail about all the flowers in the meadow. My mind puts them there, and I can ‘see’ them, when you say “meadow.” Move on to the point! This is a novel, a story, so tell it to me!

This is not to say I can’t appreciate beautiful prose. In a paragraph, a good turn of phrase, or something short and pretty, yes, I love it as much as the next person. But to create a novel of it... no, that doesn’t work for me. I need plot. If I don’t get plot, my mind wanders into a plot of my own and I lose interest in the book. Then I’m just daydreaming. :)

I think, sadly, I’ve wandered away from my own point here, but in my own great tradition I’ll likely not reread this before posting, so you get the full effect of my ramble. But, in one last attempt to summarize:

This book was not for me, but it was well written, in terms of the language used. The plot was sadly lacking, and because of the odd 2nd person POV used throughout a lot of the book, you don’t really get much of a sense of the characters. I would only recommend it to people who either 1) love language and the use of it more than the story or 2) think saying you read a book by Calvino would elevate you in literary status and make you look all smart-like. ;) I hesitate to say I’m sorry I read it, but I would never ever-ever read anything by him again, even though this is not supposed to be representative of his work...

Camp, Candice

No Other Love
I think I’m still a little burned out on the romance novels, but I wanted a light, fluffy read. And I definitely got it. Light, fluffy, predictable, shallow. Your typical mid-quality romance novel. Not the worst I’ve ever read, but nowhere near the best, either.

Campbell, Bruce

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor
I love Bruce Campbell, and I wanted to love this book from the very beginning. But the first part of the book, I have to admit, was rocky. It was a bit choppy and disorganized, and at times a bit confusing. I actually had to... *gasp* ...re-read paragraphs now and then. But somewhere along the way it smoothed out beautifully and I was eagerly turning page after page, reading the exploits of a fledgling actor (I particularly enjoyed the bits about filming the Evil Dead series - I bought the movie to watch after I read the book - hear that, Bruce?! Another $0.17 for you!). If you have any illusions about a glamorous life as an actor, this book will dash them to pieces. Very entertaining, very informative, and very fun. I even plan to buy a copy of his second book, though it is unrelated. (Hear that, Bruce? A whole 'nother $0.28 coming your way!).

Card, Orson Scott

Enchantment
I don’t think I’ve ever worked so long and hard to get through a fiction book. It’s not that it was a bad storyline; in fact, towards the end it was really quite engrossing. But to start off with it was very convoluted and slow. There was a lot of mythology and history, which would have been interesting if you weren’t also trying to keep track of the plot at the same time. And it’s considered a juvenile book! After all was said and done it was worth it, though, because it was an interesting story. I just don’t know – if this is indicative of all of his work – that I want to slog my way through another one of his books.

Ender’s Game
Far, far better than Enchantment, I do have to say that this is pretty heavy for a juvenile book. The ideas and concepts presented about war are interesting, and the ending is really amazingly well done. The “speaker for the dead” concept is different from what we hold to now (no one ever seems to saw anything bad about the dead, short of them being Hitler) but I think far better. I’m not sure if the second book can live up to the first, though I will read it as I am very curious to see how Ender’s life progresses. Not for the faint of heart, but a thoroughly thought-provoking book.

Speaker for the Dead
Initially I liked this one better than Ender’s Game, but the ending… well, it kind of petered out. It was a slower paced book, with a lot smaller and less impressive climax. By the end I was getting that “okay, okay, get on with it!” feeling. The concept of a “speaker for the dead” is very interesting and compelling, but that was explained at the end of Ender’s Game and so it lessened the impact it might have had in this book had it been the first mention of it. I had time between the books to think it over and draw a lot of my own conclusions. I did, however, like the character of Jane quite a bit, despite her small role. I guess the AI personality was just very intriguing as a evolutionary concept. I’d still highly rate this book, but I’m back to thinking Ender’s Game was the better story.

Xenocide
When they say ‘trilogy,’ you think that the end of the third book is, well, the end (except in the case of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, but that’s okay because I love Douglas Adams). Not to mention taking forever to listen to because it was less of a narration and more of a ‘show,’ so when a character was afflicted with a condition that made him speak slowly, they narrated veeeerrrrrryyyyyy sssslllllooooowwwwlllllyyyy. That was… annoying, to say the least. The downside of audio books, I guess. But, on to the story! It was a bit of a stretch, really, even for sci-fi. I think the series has gone way downhill since Ender’s Game (or perhaps that book was so good it was impossible to follow?), though curiosity will lead me to read (or listen to) the next book. There were two storylines at war here, and though he smooshed them together, I never felt they really fit. More a set of convenient plot devices than good storylines. And every thing seemed a bit much – a bit over-the-top, overdone, overdramatic. Not the good, suspenseful ‘what happens next’ drama of the previous books, but more like ‘reality TV’ fake drama – with a sitcom ending (at least, so far).

Carl, Joanna

The Chocolate Bear Burglary
This is book two in a series I started a long while ago, and was slightly indifferent about at the time.  There wasn’t anything about the first book that grabbed me and said I had to read more, but I didn’t recall it being abysmal, either.  And I found myself liking the second book more, though I still can’t really identify with the main character.  I like the idea of the story (the mystery flows well, good twists, etc) if not the actual telling of the story.  The ending was quite expected, but it takes quite a bit to surprise me these days...  It’s a nice, simple cozy, nothing fancy.

Colfer, Eoin

Artemis Fowl
Mixed reviews held me back from reading this book for quite some time, despite my recent foray into juvenile literature. I have to say I have mixed feelings as well, though not for a lot of the reasons I’ve read (okay, people who say a 12-year-old criminal mastermind is just ‘too farfetched’ of an idea… did you notice the fairies and dwarves and trolls and the centaur? Oh, a 12-year old genius is too much to handle, but all of the fantasy creatures… no problem? Fiction, people… it’s fiction. If I wanted ‘real world’ stuff I’d just leave the house!). Mostly I had a very hard time picturing a lot of the creatures (specifically the dirt-eating unhinged-jawed dwarf) and didn’t have a great handle on the setting/technology/magic being described. But the action was good, and I did like a lot of the characters. So it gets a pretty middle-of-the road review, though I will read more in the series.

Colgan, Jenny

Amanda's Wedding
I thought the storyline was very compelling, though not as humorous as some of the other books of this type I've recently read.  And I can't say I really identified with any of the characters - they were very over the top, a bit over done, really.  The little bit about the psychic at the end seemed overly contrived, and cheesy, but the ending was comfortably predictable.  It's a nice, fluffy read, but I would put it fairly far down the list of recommended books.

Conant, Susan

Dead and Doggone by Susan Conant
It’s so hard to find good dog books, and I did have hopes for this series. But bamboo under my fingernails couldn’t make me read more. The author uses the pretext of a story (with a flimsy plot at that) to preach at her audience about animal issues. And while some of these issues have validity, a work of fiction is not the place for them. Completely turned my off her books. Not to mention the snobby pure-bred elitism common in books about dog shows, etc. No, gimme a good ole mutt any day. This book was all-around horrible. I think I only finished it so I’d be good and riled to write the review, otherwise I might have stopped half-way through. The only good thing I can say about this book is that at least it was short.

Connelly, Michael

Angel’s Flight
This book took me a long time to get into, but once I did, it seemed to hum right along. The only problem I found was with the personal problems the main character was having. They seemed to be a bleed over from another book, perhaps? You weren’t really getting enough of the story for it to be part of this story, so it was annoying and distracting (I understand that the main character has to be somewhat distracted by personal problems, but for goodness sakes, EXPLAIN them well enough that we understand!). Also, at the end, there was a line that, to me, indicated that the story was not so “wrapped up” as the author would have you believe. I think there was more to it…. Not in a sequel sort of way, but in a “well, there could be more but we’re leaving it to your imagination” sort of way. If anyone wants to read it and let me know if they agree, they can borrow my copy (as a rule I don’t lend out books, I have “issues” with that, but it was a quarter at a garage sale, so I think I could part with it for a while!).

Coulter, Catherine

The Sherbrooke Twins
This is another example of a “family” of romance novels, one I got sucked into long ago. So, when I saw the latest book I just had to buy it. I enjoyed it, as far as a light, fluffy read goes – this one supposedly had a bit of a “mystery” to it, but it was pretty easy to figure out – especially if you know the cardinal rules of romance novels. All in all, a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

The Maze
This book is the first in the Sherlock/Savich series, and though I've read others, this was my first insight into how they met. I was really interested in the mystery/crime portion, however, the romance and character interactions left me cringing. I know the characters are better than that, I've read other books where those same characters were alive and 'real' - but here they just seem hollow and hookie. And though I did cringe through the love scenes and stupid conversations, I was interested enough in the meat of the story to plough through it. And it was worth it. This book had me second-guessing my second guesses! I wish the author would go back, now that there have been several books in this series, and rework the characters a bit. Then it would be a very, very good novel. For now, I might say I'd recommend listening to an abridged version, to cut down on the detritus.

Child, Lincoln

Death Match
This book really drew me in to begin with, but got a little stagnant towards the middle. The end was entirely predictable. It was an interesting plot, though predictable, and I’d say that if you read a lot, it’s probably worth it. But if you’re only going to read a handful of books this year, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was just okay.

Child, Lincoln and Preston, Douglas

The Ice Limit
Another book on tape, this was an abridged version. I know some was left out and some was missed, but I got the basic idea of the story. And the end (which incorporated the major plot point) was truly great. I think I would have been better off reading the actual book (this tape also contained some “sound effects,” which did not enhance the recording but detracted from it) and would recommend that anyone interested in the story read the book.

The Cabinet of Curiosities
These are the authors that brought you The Relic (recommended by my Mom previously) and this book is, in a few ways, even better. You know how you can always tell “Ensign Fodder” by the red shirt he’s wearing? Not so in this one. I was actually wrong about the fate of one of the characters! That hasn’t happened in a long while. And while the ending wasn’t exactly the way I would want it (if anybody else has read it or does read it, I’d love to hear what you think), it was still a great book.

The Codex
I don’t quite know how to sum up this book. It kept my attention, but it also annoyed me. Sally’s character could be quite annoying, though never enough to make you want to stop reading. The storyline, though a little odd, kept you interested until the very end. Most of the characters were good, if a little annoying and unrealistic from time to time. I would say it’s definitely worth the time it takes to read, as long as you don’t expect anything earth-shattering and soul-searching. It would make a great, shallow, action-adventure movie.

Brimstone
Another tale in the life of Special Agent Pendergast – and this time he’s gotten quite annoying. In this book he really comes off as snotty and condescending, and his attitude towards Sergeant D’Agasta is borderline reprehensible. The basic storyline, however, was intriguing – until they started to throw in a lot of “side-stories” with the Reverend that really amounted to nothing but a bit a filler fluff to draw out the tension in the main storyline. The book would have been much better (albeit shorter) without this inclusion. I did like the fact that the book kept you guessing as to whether supernatural forces were truly at work, and was gratified that the answer, while fantastic and unlikely possible, was rooted in reality, of a sort. This book would have been much better as a shorter, more streamlined version of itself, but nevertheless was worth the read.

Still Life with Crows
Another Pendergast book, and while he’s still getting on my nerves, this time the plot takes him out of his usual element and makes him slightly more bearable. The storyline is pretty good and moves along at a brisk pace. Also, the addition of a new “sidekick” really livens up the book. I found myself really rooting for her! There were some characters in the book that I initially misjudged, and I found the ending to be a little melodramatic and predictable, but it was still worth the read.

Dance of Death
The last book ( Brimstone) left you dangling, and this one picks up the thread.  Surprisingly, Special Agent Pendergast does a complete 180 in this story.  No longer the annoying, egotistical know-it-all, he turns into someone almost human.  There is a lot of action, even a slight touch of humor, but the overriding story is dark and fast paced.  A great plot with a *sigh* dangling end…  Now I’ll just have to wait for the next book , as these have turned into a true series!  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and suspense.

The Book of the Dead
This is book 3 in the 'Pendergast trilogy,' and you should read Brimstone and Dance of Death first. The whole series is full of interesting characters and bizarre situations, and while some plot points are utterly predictable, there are still enough things that keep you guessing. The action is well written and pulls you in wonderfully, and the narrator (I listened on tape) did an amazing job.

Childs, Laura

Death by Darjeeling
It took me awhile to get going in this one, honestly.  It wasn’t that I disliked anything in particular, it just didn’t grab my attention.  By halfway through, though, it started to pick up and I did read the last 1/3 straight through.  I don’t feel much of a compunction to rush out and buy the rest of the books in the series, mostly because I didn’t get much of a connection to any of the characters, and the mystery wasn’t quite good enough to support the slightly weak cast.  I could definitely see where this series might be one that develops and grows over time, so I might give it another shot sometime when I’m looking for something to read – but I wouldn’t “clear my schedule” for it. 

Christie, Agatha

The Body in the Library
This was for the “new” mystery club I was trying out, and it was a rather interesting, if dry, story. I was interested in the basic storyline, but the characters were utterly flat and did very little to peak my interest. I seemed to recall I used to like Agatha Christie, but that was a long time ago, back when I was…younger. I would say her story are okay for a quick, light read, but if you really want depth and good character development, steer clear.

Thirteen for Dinner
Short stories do not translate well onto tape. I listened to this book on tape, and it was very hard to keep up with all of the details packed into a short story. Where novels are really “watered-down” as far as plot is concerned (more dialog, details, etc), a short story packs a lot of information into a very small space – miss once sentence and you could be lost, especially in a mini mystery. And, once again, these stories starred my less-than-favorite sleuth, the haughty Miss Marple. But all of that aside, the storylines and mysteries were well written, cleverly constructed tales that will make you think, if you take the time to do so. Or you can just rush to the end and see “whodunit” and, more importantly, how and why! Agatha Christie remains a must for all mystery lovers, and these short stories are great for someone who doesn’t have enough time to read an entire novel at once.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Hercule Poirot strikes again!  The plucky little Belgian is in fine form in this old-fashioned whodunit, gleaning clues where there seem to be none.  Unlike other Agatha Christie mysteries, I’m not sure the reader is really given all of the information to be able to deduce the solution themselves.  You could guess, true, (though I did not) but there weren’t the concrete clues left lying about for the reader to grasp and assemble into a coherent scenario.  Still, it was an enjoyable old-fashioned mystery, and I would recommend the Poirot stories to all mystery fans (Miss Marple, on the other hand, grates on my nerves).

And Then There Were None
This book came free with the PC game of the same name (it was originally titled Ten Little Indians) and even though playing the game (specifically, playing the end trailer) does “give away” the mystery, it was still a good solid read.  Though you don’t see as much into each of the characters as you might expect, I don’t think story is hurt by it.  I hesitate to say that it’s not a character driven story, because in a way it really is, but the main focus is how the characters interact with one another – not... who they are on the inside, if that makes sense.  And though I disagree with a lot of the utterly sexist crap spouted in the book by the male characters, well, you have to remember that it’s a much older book!  Times have indeed changed.  I wouldn’t say this tops my list of Agatha Christie books, but it’s not bad. 

Murder in the Mews
Three short stories featuring Hercule Poirot, this compilation is pure mystery. Vintage mystery, if you will. It has a very old-fashioned feel (as most of Christie's work does) and is quite refreshing every now and then. There's not a lot of back story or sub-plots, everything revolved around the case. Simple and precise, and if you're the type that enjoys trying to figure out the mystery, this is the type of book for you. I like Agatha Christie (though Miss Marple is a rather annoying character) and the way she constructs the mysteries so that they are solvable by the reader is very unique. I'd recommend this to any mystery lover, and highly recommend it to mystery 'purists.'

Churchill, Jill

The Class Menagerie
Though I only have one of her books, it is subtitled “A Jane Jeffry Mystery” and I gather it is one of a series of books where an average, everyday person finds themselves continuously embroiled in the heart of murders, burglaries, and kidnappings…. Rather unbelievable as a series, but very nice for a single book. Also, for all of you Agatha Christie lovers, she sets all of the pertinent clues out for you to find – if you’re smart enough, you can solve the mystery right along with the main

From Here to Paternity
Definitely a fluffy, cozy mystery, this one has nothing to recommend it, though it also has nothing that screams “don’t waste your time!” It was a typical “housewife finds body, solves crime” book with decent characters and plot. The snowman was a nice, humorous touch and I don’t really mind the characters, though the relationship between the heroine and her boyfriend is a little tiring. You just want them to get on with it or call it quits, really. Overall, a good book for an afternoon of mindless reading.

Bell, Book, and Scandal
The more of her books I read, the less I like them. The character do see a little stiff and contrived, the dialogue just doesn’t quite flow… It’s like the author has fairly good ideas, but just can’t sculpt them together into a really pleasing book. I have to say I like the stories, not the writing.

A Quiche Before Dying
This book is almost decent... but it has one giant flaw.  It’s one of the earlier Jane Jeffries mysteries, and while I liked the main character more in this one, the mystery itself was kind of annoying.  There was a great set-up, a limited number of suspects, and a decent storyline, but then the end seemed hurried, rushed, and incomplete.  It was one of those books where you felt you should know more than you did – enough to really solve the mystery, but you didn’t.  It was short, though, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time.  It wouldn’t be high on my list of recommended books, but it’s not awful.

A Midsummer Night’s Scream
I have to admit to being rather ambivalent about Jill Churchill’s books.  They’re definitely light and fluffy, but perhaps a bit too fluffy.  And there is the irony that the main character, Jane, is supposed to be a grammar nazi, but the book itself had a few obvious grammatical mistakes (I should have written them down at the time, I can’t remember them now!).  The story was... okay... the writing was... okay.  Nothing special, nothing awful – it’s one of those books that if you read a few hundred books a year, it’s worth giving a quick read.  But if you read less than that, or if it’s going to take you more than a day to read it, I wouldn’t bother.  There are far better mystery novels out there.

Clarke, Carol Higgins

Jinxed
This was a cute story, but there seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies with the plot.  Okay, to be honest, there were some pretty sizable plot holes, particularly when it came to the fire...  and I have to admit that I did let those things distract me a bit, and take away from the story.  Otherwise it was a fun story, with some interesting (if occasionally annoying) characters.  I also thought the author overdid the foreshadowing just a tad...  It's not what I would classify as a mystery, really, but more of a lightly humorous suspense novel.  It had some good moments, but all in all, not a book I would strongly recommend unless you read a lot and are looking for a bit of fluff.

Collins, Suzanne

Gregor the Overlander
This is a little younger book than I’ve been reading, at least, it seemed a lot simpler than some of the other juvenile literature. I don’t think it has quite the broad appeal of, say, The City of Ember which translated better to an older audience, in my humble opinion. Still, despite feeling slightly talked down to, it was a decent story with good characters and a plot that moved along nicely. I would recommend it for kids, not so much for the adults.

Connor, Jill

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men: All the Men I Love are Either Married, Gay, or Dead
My friend recommended a SPQ book (I can’t remember which title she specifically mentioned, but the library had this one on tape and I was still looking for a pick-me-up) so I thought, why not? And I have to say I’m mixed about this one. The ‘field guide’ front portion was a little campy and flat, and the ending was blatantly smarmy, but the middle – where she was telling stories about her friends – was hilarious! I think a book more geared toward that aspect would be golden, but this mixed bag had too much of the other to be truly worth it.

Sweet Potato Queen’s Wedding Guide/Divorce Planner
Again, like the other one I listened to, this had its moments. It also had a lot of very serious, and very true, moments about unhappy marriages. (That would be the second half) Also, some recipes that look promising. This is something I would say is worth listening to on a car trip or while doing other work, I’m not sure I’d devote reading time to it. Unless, perhaps, I was getting a divorce and needed a pick-me-up (the song list alone is enough to bring a bit of a smile to your face!).

Cook, Thomas H.

The Chatham School Affair
I was torn about this book. I think the story was good, but I’m not sure I like the way it was told. The story starts years after the even with tiny flashes of the past, at first. As the story goes along these flashes get longer and longer until the story is finally revealed. My problem is that the teases at the beginning got tedious and almost annoying as they kept alluding to a story but never giving you enough detail to figure out what had happened. And after the first few chapters of that I had the, ‘enough already, GET ON WITH IT!’ feeling. It’s a style of storytelling that is designed, I think, to draw a reader in but just ended up annoying me.

Crais, Robert

The Monkey’s Raincoat
This was a book club selection, and like most of the book club selections, I wasn’t overly enamored with it. It was less of a mystery and more of a suspense novel. My biggest problem was, again, not liking the characters. The main character slept with every girl in the book and it just jarred with not only the characters, but the plot. It seemed that the author tried to cram too much into a single storyline, and came out with something jumbled, confused, and messy. It’s also a little dated at this point, but that wasn’t too bad. I did see shades of Miami Vice in the clothing, though… This book did not make me want to read further in the series, and I probably won’t.

Crichton, Michael

Congo
Though this was not my favorite Crichton book (that honor may have to go to A Case of Need), it is a very good one. Suspenseful and thrilling, it’s the kind of book you can’t put down. It cannot be stressed enough to AVOID THE MOVIE.

Cruise, Jennifer

Welcome to Temptation
It has a few “love scenes” that while appearing somewhat abridged, were somewhat embarrassing to listen too. I had long ago vowed to never listen to a romance novel on tape (again) but, well, I guess that’s buried with my vow to eat better, exercise more, and get into shape… Anyway, otherwise the book was a decently paced, neat whodunit with a dash of… while not “romance,” at least a relationship of sorts. But unless you can really overlook the omnipresent swearing and blatant sex (or if that’s what you look for in a book) I wouldn’t recommend it, as those things really take away from what could have been a not half-bad book.

Getting Rid of Bradley
This one was not nearly as raunchy as some of the others I’ve read by her (notably, Welcome to Temptation) and was vastly more enjoyable. Though the characters were a bit unbelievable and there were a few aspects of the story that seemed a stretch, the overall plot was pretty straightforward, and she even included enough clues that you could, at times, be “ahead of” the characters. Plus, how can you dislike a main character that loves dogs that much?!?

Tell me Lies
I couldn't sleep one night, and this was my entertainment from 11:30 pm to about 3:00 am. Lively, but shallow, this book was raunchy and outrageous. A lot of Cruisie's writing is a little on the crude side, so it's not for everyone. But it's a nice, fun, face-paced read if you're in the mood for some fluff with a little twist of mystery.

Bet on Me
I adored this book up until the very end, where it got a little uncomfortably raunchy. A lot of her books are a bit that way, but this one at least held off until the end. I very much liked the main character, and the writing and dialogue was clever and funny, and if she’d just lose some of the tackier, more crass elements of her books I’d rank her as one of the better authors in my book. Her sex scenes bump her down a notch to ‘read if you’re not easily offended,’ though.

Fast Women
There was a great deal of mystery in this novel, which helped take away from the aforementioned ‘tacky’ elements of her books. She even used some sex in a very humorous way, so I was impressed with that. Still too much of the smutty stuff for my liking, but the overall story was decent. I wasn’t as taken with the characters, either, as they seemed a bit over-the-top and extreme.


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D

Daily, Janet

Let’s Be Jolly
This was actually two harlequin-style romance novels in one book: Northern Magic and Bride of the Delta Queen. Both were incredibly short and shallow, completely unbelievable, and quite thin on plot. The first was utterly predictable. The second one I felt had something going for it, but then it just got a little too weird, and everything wrapped up far too nicely. All of the characters were too one-dimensional. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

Davidson, Diane Mott

Tough Cookie
Okay, I checked this one out because it had a picture of a “cutesy” chef (but with a scowl) cookie jar holding a gun on the cover. And, unlike choosing Nerd in Shining Armour by its title, this gamble wasn’t half bad. It was an enjoyable story with some decent characters, and every time you thought you really, really had it figured out there was a twist. It really kept you guessing – and listening!

Sticks and Scones
I wasn't sure if I would want to read (okay, listen to) another one of her books after Tough Cookie, which was okay, but nothing to write home about. But I found myself drawn back to the characters as I went searching for another book on tape. This one was pretty good, though there was that touch of the supernatural in it - not what I like in my standard mysteries. It does, after all, make them unsolvable! And what fun is it reading a mystery unless you can try to figure out whodunit?

Prime Cut
Listening to these out of order is proving a little disconcerting. Unlike the Mrs. Pollifax adventures, it's really hard to jump back and forth with Goldy and her catering woes - there are far too many other things that are tied to the story that run throughout the books. Even so, I found myself transfixed by another murder case (it's amazing how many people get killed around these armchair detectives - I think the murder rate in their towns must rival DC!) that Goldy has to use all of her sleuthing powers to solve. They are nice, fluffy ready, and I plan to try to start at the beginning and work my way through them in order. The problem is, I've found one of the narrators just grates on my nerves, so I'll have to see if I can find the books read by another person, or just actually read the book myself...

Dying for Chocolate
I finally decided to go back and listen to Goldy's story from the beginning, and it was strange to hear about the characters in their "before" stages, but it was engrossing enough that the weirdness wore off after awhile. I don't think the characters, at this point, are particularly well developed, and the peripheral characters are a little flat and rough about the edges, but then, I'm comparing it to her later books. I definitely think this is a story line that gets much better as it goes along. And you don't really have to start at the beginning and read them in sequence to enjoy the story.

The Grilling Season
Okay, this book finally got on my nerves. I've put up with the stories of Goldy's abusive ex, and his verbal threats in some of the other books, but this one was too much. I think she needs to sit Arch down and lay out the facts for him. He's acting like a whiny, spoiled kid and she just feels sorry for him! The boy needs to understand that his father BEAT his mother and he shouldn't expect her to forget or forgive that. I thought that whole situation just ruined the book, though without it, there would have been no real story, so... Plus, the whole "miracle herbal remedies beat the big, bad HMO" message was disturbing. People do die every day because they don't want to listen to sound medical advice, but seek out "herbal" cures that aren't even what they claim to be! The fact is, a lot of those "tablets" are so diluted there are NO molecules of the "herb" left in them! Enough of my bandwagon, though - my advice is, unless you enjoy gritting your teeth, skip this book and move on to the next one. You'll be glad you did.

Killer Pancake
While the “Spare the Hares” people were a little gruesome, I did like the underlying theme of “beauty without an expensive and time-consuming makeup regime” and the laissez-faire attitude Goldy takes with her appearance, while still being happy in her relationship! Oh, yeah – there was a mystery, too (sometimes I focus on the oddest things!). The mystery was farfetched and overreached a bit, but the colorful characters keep you interested and wondering until the very end. Also, being the beginning of the year, I did notice that these are not books you want to listen too while on a diet. She describes the food with far too much ‘relish!’

The Main Corpse
This one was a good, fast-paced story, if a little transparent and definitely unbelievable towards the end, Not her best work, it seemed a little disjointed and jerky, but still a reasonably enjoyable fluffy mystery.

Double Shot
*Groan*  Why do I keep reading this series?  The main character, Goldie, annoys the living crap out of me, especially by now.  For the first few books I read she was okay, but now she’s just so... whiny.  And the way she deals with her son...  ugh.  That aside, the mystery portion of the book was decent, if a little over done.  I’m not sure I buy a few of the “key elements” of the mystery, but, hey – it’s fiction.  I’ll suspend a little disbelief, I guess.  If you are a big fan of this series, I think you’d enjoy it.  If not...  this is not one of the books in the series that I would highly recommend.

Davidson, Mary Janice

Undead and Unwed
A vampire story with a comical twist!  Plus the requisite smidgen of romance…  The main character’s take on becoming a creature of the night was lighthearted, funny, and unique.  The characters were completely unbelievable, but in a fun way, and the storyline kept me reading.  There are portions that are a little raunchy, so parental guidance is suggested.  I would say that if you’re looking for a fun, fluffy tale to read, this is a good book to choose.  However, if you’re very into “real” vampire lore, I’d stay away from this book.  It doesn’t have the hard, gritty feel of your typical “horror” vampire story.

The Royal Treatment
A good story in theory, I guess, but I just didn’t buy it. It was almost decent, but something was lacking. I didn’t ‘feel’ the characters – they seemed a bit cardboard and unbelievable. And there wasn’t much to distinguish it from the droves of “common girl becomes royalty” stories short of the attempt at a unique setting (which was just so-so). Her other series (Undead and Unwed) is far better. I don’t think I’d recommend this one to anyone.

Delinski, Barbara

Twelve Across
I picked this audio book up on a whim at the library, listened to half of the first tape and gave up.  The writing was cliché and angsty, to the point it set my teeth on edge.  I couldn’t even stand to listen to it.  This is one for the “avoid at all costs” pile.

Dexter, Colin

The Third Mile
The unflappable Inspector Morse strikes again! I honestly don’t know how to feel about this book. It was twisted and weird, unrealistic but compelling. I think I would have liked to get to know the characters a little better - maybe to get inside Morse’s head a little more. The reader was definitely left on the outside as he made his brilliant connections and deductions, and we were left wondering. And the strangest thing – there was an abstract of each chapter before the beginning of it. I stopped reading those, as they were a bit confusing. I have to say I wouldn’t mind reading more, if only to find out Morse’s first name…

DiTerlizzi, Tony and Black, Holly

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Book 1: The Field Guide
First, I love the artwork. Especially the map. I have a thing for maps. Secondly, I think they do a very good job of giving you a sense of character in a very easy-to-read format. The book really pulls you in, and you feel very attached to the characters. It’s got ‘scary’ things in it, but it’s not really a scary book. Though I don't know kids that well, I doubt many would be that frightened by it.

Book 2: The Seeing Stone
The second book wasn’t quite as good as the first, but still very enjoyable. There’s still a lot of connection with the characters (though I do wonder a bit about the Mother’s reaction to some of the things going on) and the plot moves nicely.

Book 3: Lucinda’s Secret
The story picks up again here, with the visit to Great-Aunt Lucinda. I just wish there were more of her – and her interaction with the children – in the book. But they’re very short books (108 pages apiece) so not as much room for details as I might like. RE-written and fleshed out, I think this would make a great adult series!

Book 4: The Ironwood Tree
Again, I wish this book had been longer. There’s so much of the story left unsaid! I can’t stop reading (though, since I don’t have book 5 I’ll have to!) and just want more.

The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 5: Wrath of the Mulgarth
So the epic conclusion to the series was a bit abrupt, and like all the books, I think they plot could have handled a more detailed, longer story very easily. But these are books for fairly young children, and I realize the importance of keeping it fairly short. It also gives your imagination a lot of leeway as far as filling in the gaps, which I applaud. Children need to exercise their imagination. Overall the series tied together well, had good writing and some cool illustrations. What more can you ask for?

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

Hound of the Baskervilles
This one was for B&N, and I was surprised by my reaction to the book. I expected to find it a little dry, but overall likeable. Instead, I found the story a little too far to the supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes turned out to be one of the most unlikable characters I’ve read in a long time! I really felt for Watson, who did not come across as the dumb, stumbling sidekick. I had a hard time slogging through the book, and it didn’t make me want to pick up any more Holmes anytime soon. I guess I expected a little more “Basil of Baker Street” from The Great Mouse Detective.

DuPrau, Jeanne

City of Ember
So the plot is a little tiny bit obvious – it’s fun to actually be able to figure something out, even if it is a kid’s book. The characters are great, the society created it whole and richly done, and the plot moves nicely. Kept me glued to the book and eager to read the second in the series. Fun for kids and adults!

The People of Sparkes
I adored the first book in the series, but this one got a wee bit on the preachy side. The 'war is bad' message was hammered just a little too hard, taking away from the other elements of the book. It almost felt slightly... propaganda-ish. As enthused as I was after the first book, I am equally un-enthused after this one.


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Evanovich, Janet

Stephanie Plum Series
This was a series I couldn’t put down. Okay, after I read One for the Money there was a brief pause – then I got Two for the Dough, finished it, and immediately went out to get Three to Get Deadly – which the bookstore did not have. Oh, the agony! I ordered Three to Get Deadly, Four to Score, and High Five from Barnes and Noble.com. They arrived on a Friday, and Saturday we went to Borders and bought Hot Six, Seven Up, Hard Eight, and To the Nines. By Monday I was waiting for the next book in the series to come out in paperback… Basically, the story is about a woman in Jersey who, for lack of anything else to do, becomes a bounty hunter for her cousin’s bail bonds firm. Now, she’s not very good at it, and there are two love interests in her life who each try to keep her from getting killed, but somehow, (as it oft does in books) good triumphs over evil. The characters are very good and extremely likable, the storyline exciting and fast-paced, and the books keep you going from one to the other… Warning, they can be addictive…

Visions of Sugar Plums
This is a special holiday book in her Plum series that is quite unlike the rest of the books. Most of the characters do make an appearance, but while the other books are just a bit outlandish, this one crosses into unbelievable. Not a book for the hardcore mystery lover, or even the typical romance reader. You have to like and accept quite a bit of fantasy to be able to enjoy this book. And even I, a hardcore fantasy reader who can take just about anything in stride (after all, I do read Robert Aspirin and Terry Pratchett - if you can handle the premise that there is a flat world sitting on the backs of four elephants standing on the back of a giant space turtle floating through space, you can accept just about any book premise. This is not to say I believe in anything supernatural, but I take the term "fiction" to its most extreme!) had a hard time with this because of the rest of the series. It just doesn't FIT in with everything else. So, as a stand alone book it's okay. I like her attitude and troubles around Christmas, with the rushing and stress and all - I think we've all felt like that! As an actual part of the series, well, it just doesn't blend...

Full House
This one actually took my awhile to read. The main character is very different from Stephanie Plum, and I don't think I like her as much. Also, the storyline doesn't have near as much humor as the Plum series, so if you're looking for something to read while waiting for the next Plum book, I would suggest Maddy Hunter's Passport to Peril series!

Ten Big Ones
Couldn't wait for it to come out in paperback, I snagged this one on tape at the library (the waiting list for the book was over 100 people long!). I wasn't particularly fond of the narrator, but the story was good enough to carry me through. Brimming with wit and charm, this book has everything you've come to expect from a Plum book - including an ending that leaves you desperately wishing she was done with the next book!

Eleven on Top
You’d think that by book 11 a series would start to wear on you, and most of the time I’d say you’d be right.  But the Stephanie Plum series is still going, and while not as strong as it was in the beginning, it’s still an interesting read.  Our heroine, Stephanie, is once again plunged into a whirlwind of chaos that will make most of us feel much better about our lives.  She tries to give up sugar, quit the bounty hunter business, and settle down… but some things just aren’t meant to be.  The latest installment was not as fast paced as some of the earlier ones, and makes for a nice, enjoyable read.  I don’t think most Plum fans will be disappointed, and I would still recommend the series as a whole.  If you enjoy mystery with a touch of romance and a dollop of humor, this series is for you.

The Rocky Road to Romance
I believe this is one of her earlier works that has be resurrected, and it shows in the lack of personality and polish that is evident in her Plum books.  While I liked the main characters, they lacked the depth that she developed later in her writing.  It’s definitely a very superficially, fluffy read, and it is fun.  There are humorous bits and it’s a lively, entertaining book, but it really doesn’t leave you with much of an impression.  A nice rainy Sunday afternoon sort of book.

Manhunt
Like her other pre-Plum stories that are being re-released, this one is very light, very fluffy, and a bit racy. Not much in the way of a plot, and what it has is pretty unbelievable. A good Sunday afternoon (presuming there is not good sporting event on TV) read, but not much to recommend it. Stick to the Plum series.

Twelve Sharp
Brilliant, just brilliant. The series is still going strong, and I can’t wait for the next book!


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F

Feather, Jane

Bachelor’s List
Who doesn’t love a good romance novel? Action, intrigue, mystery, love… a good romance novel has them all. And while the plots might be a bit thin (since when does the girl NOT end up with the boy?) they are lighthearted, enjoyable, and good always seems to triumph. Escapism it may be, but we all need some if it some times. This was not my favorite book by Jane Feather, but overall, it was not bad. Since it involved sisters, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the rest of the bunch….

The Bride Hunt
I love romance novels, but while reading this one I was struck with a sense of reality that really lessened my enjoyment. Suddenly I was tired of the condescending way women were treated – never mind that the men “come around” and ultimately have a heart of gold. That aside (you have to learn to ignore that when reading historical romances), it was a good book – a bit of a mystery, a little drama, and I could actually see where the third book in the series would start (three sisters, three books – this one is a sequel to The Bachelor List)

The Wedding Game
Book three of the series, and it was about as good as the first two. I think I might be getting a little worn out on the romance novels (though I always expect romance in every book I read, and am surprised when there is none!). The characters were okay, the storyline was getting a bit thin (being the third book in the series), but all in all it was a pleasant little read. Just don’t expect anything amazing or earth-shattering!

Ferrars, Elizabeth

Skeleton in Search of a Cupboard
A pretty good mystery, though the ending does leave you hanging. I thought the writing, though a little dated, was pretty good, and the entire set-up, though overdone, was still effective. Basically it was a 'someone in the family' type murder, which gives you a nice, limited pool of suspects from which to draw. There were a few twists in the road, which kept it interesting, and overall I was really enjoying the book until the end. I think it left a little too much unresolved - okay, a lot too much unresolved - and for those of you who enjoy that type of story, I would highly recommend it. For those of you who can't stand it... stay away.

Fforde, Jasper

The Eyre Affair
Probably would have been helpful to have actually read Jane Eyre first, but even without I muddled through. A bit of a slow start, but it soon pulled me in. I think I was overcome by the hype on this one, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Still, a very decent read and a must for the literary types!

Lost in a Good Book
I don’t know why these take me so long to read. They’re good stories with engaging plots, but for some reason I feel like I have to slog through them. And I don’t know why. It is a good story, and I love the characters and all of the little background bits that are going on, and I would recommend them to anyone who loves literature and a good adventure story, I just wish I felt the pull that I do with other books. The ‘oh, my, I can’t put this down until I’m done!’ quality that, for me, seems to be missing. Still, excellently written, so I have to give it a good score, regardless. I will most likely continue on with the series.

Fforde, Kaite

Highland Fling
Romantic fluff at its finest!  Lovers of a 'cozy' romance (nothing too hot and heavy) should check this one out.  It had a wide variety of well developed - if not all lovable - characters, a decent plot, and some humorous writing.  A great book for a rainy Saturday or lazy Sunday.  Just don't expect anything profound or life-changing, this book is for relaxing, enjoying, and escaping!

Fluke, Joanna

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
Occasionally I will randomly pick a “book 1” of a series and give it a go, and this time it paid off. I really liked the main character, and appreciated the fact that she wasn’t perfect. It’s always nice to read about someone a little more “down to earth” and realistic, someone you could actually picture meeting. The plot was well-paced and interesting, and the first book got my interested enough to go out and buy further books in the series! And while I have not yet tried any of the recipes in the book, they do look like they would be delicious and fairly easy to make. The plot: Hannah owns and operates a bakery in Minnesota called, cutely enough, “The Cookie Jar.” One early morning the town’s favorite milk deliver man, Ron, is found shot in the alley behind her shop. “Unofficially” teamed with her brother-in-law and town policeman, Bill, Hannah sets out to find the killer – and uncovers a lot of other secrets in this sleepy town. Meanwhile, her socialite mother is bound and determined to get her wed as soon as possible – to the local dentist, the sweet and gentle (and boring, Hannah thinks) Norman. But Bill’s new handsome partner, Mike, catches Hannah’s eye… And as long as she can keep him from knowing she’s doing police work, that relationship has some merit…

Strawberry Shortcake Murder
Book two of the series, and it’s as good as the first - maybe even a little better. The character development is as good as before, and the mystery is a little more well-constructed. Hannah’s person life and the relationships with those around her are portrayed well, giving you a real sense of the setting and personalities involved in this small, sleepy tourist town. The plot: Hannah is a judge for a baking contest when a fellow judge (and the well-respected basketball coach at the local high school) is murdered. Suspicion is immediately cast upon his wife, who Hannah and Mike know was physically abused by her late husband. But Hannah is sure that she didn’t do it, and teamed with her sister, Andrea, they set out to clear their friend’s good name – and to catch the real killer, before the killer catches them! Meanwhile, Hannah’s beginning to think that good ‘ole Norman might not be so boring after all… And she still has to make sure that Mike doesn’t catch her in the act of investigating.

Blueberry Muffin Murder
Book three in the series, and I liked it for a different reason than the first two. The mystery was less intriguing, but the relationships between the characters really got my attention. Hannah is now dating both Norman and Mike (though she is rather old-fashioned, it doesn’t go beyond kissing!) and can’t decide between them. It’s the classic conundrum – every woman wants the dashing, exciting, handsome hero type (Mike) on occasion, but at the end of the day, it really is nice to curl up with the comfortable, familiar, easy-going type that can just make you laugh (Norman). She finds Mike very physically attractive, but he really irritates her with his chauvinist attitude. And Norman just makes her feel good, and his pudgy balding appearance is starting to grow on her… So which will she go for, a life of adventure and sparks, or a comfortable, happy (though perhaps less exciting) life? It’s got me interested enough to go out and buy some more books in the series. Still haven’t tried the recipes, though! The plot: National cooking super-star Connie McIntyre is coming to Lake Eden’s Winter Festival, but her fabulous cake is ruined in transit. So she borrows Hannah’s kitchen to back another one, and has the bad manners to get murdered there! The police lock Hannah out of her kitchen and she sets off to find the killer so she can get things back to normal. There are no lack of suspects, as Connie was not well liked, and Hannah and Andrea have to weed through all of them before they can uncover the real killer. But will even more town secrets, and a ghost, keep Hannah and her sister from uncovering who was behind this plot?

Lemon Meringue Murder
A nice little Cozy mystery (number 4 in the series).  Nothing amazing or wonderful, just...  a nice read.  The characters are good, the story line moves along nicely, and the author really gives you a lot of clues to solve it yourself.

Fudge Cupcake Murder
The is book 5 in the series, and the love triangle is starting to get pretty unbelievable.  But other than that, I still enjoy the characters and the mystery was good.  She definitely gives you the clues to solve it yourself this time, and you’ll find yourself yelling at the main character, “Gah!  Can’t you see?  It’s so obvious!”

The Sugar Cookie Murder
Warning: it looks like a regular sized paperback, but it’s not, because the entire second half of the book is recipes.  The story itself is only about 200 pages, and that really weakens it.  It’s too short, too pat, and - like an 80s sitcom - wraps up far too nicely.  Even though it falls into the series, you could probably give it a miss quite easily.  Of all of her books, I was very disappointed with this one!  I’ll still read the next in the series (heck, I’m hooked, I’ll admit it) but this one isn’t one I’d put on the recommended list.

Peach Cobbler Murder
Hannah is really getting on my nerves. I can see this series going down the same road as the Diane Mott Davidson series, where the main character becomes so annoying I won’t be able to read the book. Basically, the main character (Hannah) is dating two men. They all know about it and they are both trying to win her over – quite civilly. In this book, Hannah’s becoming increasingly sure the one of her men (Mike) is seeing an old friend of his – for more than just a friendly chat. Which throws her into fits, and all of her friends side with her – if he’s seeing someone else, she should dump him because that’s not right. But it’s perfectly okay for her to go on seeing Norman, sure! There’s one thing I hate more than stupidity, and that’s hypocrisy. Sadly, that is one of the central points to this story. The recipes are good, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach any more of the books – even though the mysteries aren’t half bad.

The Cherry Cheesecake Murder
The series, with the ‘two love interests’ core, is beginning to wear. The mysteries are still good, but when the characters annoy you the book is simply not as enjoyable. The recipes are still amazing, though. A decent fluff read if you’ve read everything else that’s good, but there are much better books of this genre out there.

Francis, Dick

Proof
A reasonably good mystery (read for the Barnes and Noble club) that was somewhat tempered by one annoying fact – the author had obviously never used plaster of paris before, or understood how it is to be used. This grated throughout what would have otherwise been a good book – a solid mystery with a bunch of different pieces that converge and fall into place quite nicely at the end. In the end, a small slip-up will probably cause me not to read any more of his books. It’s like the author of Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons put it – if you’re going to poison someone, make sure you do you homework. This should hold true for any method of murder…. Also, he mentioned the Elephant Child and the Limpopo River, and in reading that text, I’m not at all sure it actually had the implications he meant!

Frazier, Margaret

“The … Tale” Series
I picked up two of these at the garage sale, The Novice’s Tale and The Reeve’s Tale, both Dame Frevisse mysteries. These are evidently spaced fairly far apart in the series, but it didn’t seem to matter that a great deal of time had elapsed in between them. I think most of them would stand on their own, which is nice for a person who doesn’t want to get sucked too far into a series. I liked The Novice’s Tale better, probably because the weapon of choice was poison instead of bludgeoning. And that’s just more cultured and civilized…

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G

Gardner, Lisa

The Survivor’s Club
Okay, if you’re going to write a crime novel where the entire premise hangs on DNA evidence, don’t you think you should have a little bit of a clue about the stuff? One, their matching probabilities were way off. Two, I’m sorry, but yes, identical twins DO share the same DNA. Brush up on some junior high level science next time, hm? So-so writing does nothing to rescue this abomination from the depths of science hell, but after the last crop I’m feeling generous in my ratings.

George, Elizabeth

A Great Deliverance
This one was for the book club, or I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I didn’t like or understand any of the characters. Most of them were just too… much. Honestly, most people just don’t have that much personality! I’m not sure there was a single normal person in the lot. And Havers really got on my nerves. What started as indifference came to annoyance by tape #7. The grotesque descriptions of Roberta seemed unnecessary. And the most annoying character – the obnoxious tourist – was, of course, American. That sort of “ugly American” bashing may work in England, and for all I’m concerned, her books can stay there.

For the Sake of Elena
This book is part of a series featuring the police duo of Lynley and Havers teaming up to fight crime in England (hence the "s" in "immobilised"!).  I read the first in the series for another book club, and this one appears to be quite a ways down the line.  From some of the passages you can glean that a lot has happened in their personal lives, and I can't help but think I'm missing quite a bit by not having read the intervening books.  That being said, if you discount that part of the book, it was a really good story.  One of those that you can look back at bits (once you know the end) and go "ooooh!  I see..."  A very intricately woven story, full of red herrings and blind alleys.

However, that personal bit - the part about Lynley and Helen, in particular - was not at all good.  Not only because I didn't get all of it because I'd missed books, but the actually interplay between the characters...  it was just bad.  I mean, the conversations between them seemed more suited to 18th century England that the present day.  And that is one of the things that feels odd about the book - though it is placed in modern times, it somehow manages to feel very old and dated.  And I don't know how, or why, it just seems that way.

Also, I don't at all understand the English school system, featured heavily in this book

I'm torn on recommending it.  On one hand, it's a very well written book.  Not only is the storyline incredibly compelling, it's very well written.  But on the other hand...  it's a very easy book to put down, and almost feels like a bit of a chore to read.  And that's no fun.  No fun at all.

Genge, N.E.

Urban Legends
I picked this book up for research, and while it was fascinating (the tidbits of information scattered throughout were great) I found it a little convoluted and difficult to read. It was just that there was far too much stuff compressed into too little space. A lot of the stories seemed incomplete, and though you are warned that, unless otherwise noted, all of the stories were legends, it was hard to pick apart the pieces when the author seemed to be indicating that it was true…. By the end I was just skimming along madly in an attempt to finish the book. It had some good points, but over all I would not recommend it.

Goldberg, Leonard

Lethal Measures
This was a good ole terrorist, beat-the-bomb sort of thriller, and it did a pretty good job. The characters were a little two-dimensional and not as likable as I usually enjoy (the good guys, not the bad guys). They actually reminded me of other characters, or maybe I’ve read some of his other work. It’s hard to remember…. It’s a good action, down to the wire, suspenseful book, but there’s nothing to keep you guessing (no mystery or really bizarre plot twists). I’d recommend it if there’s not much else, but wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.

Gilman, Dorothy

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
Listening to this tape, I was surprised by how much of it really had a timeless quality. The book was set back a ways (there's a way to find out exactly when, having to do with a character's age and the print date of a book, but I've forgotten...) and there were clues to the fact that it was not a contemporary novel - the political setting and the level of technology - but the characters really could have been plucked out of any time period. And this made it very enjoyable to listen to because I could picture Mrs. Pollifax and it really was easy to like her and root for her. Though I figured out where the microfilm went about, oh, two tapes into the six, there was enough story around the central mystery to keep me interested. I would definitely recommend it as a wonderful book to listen to (or read, I'm sure). I believe I will try a few of the other Mrs. Pollifax books...

The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax
This is the second Mrs. Pollifax book I’ve listened to – I so enjoyed the first one (The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which is, luckily, the first in the series) I had to plunge headfirst into the series, even if I am doing it a little out of order. I love the character of Mrs. Pollifax – unlike Agatha Christie’s Ms. Marple, Mrs. Pollifax is a very likable, down-to earth old lady. In this adventure, her simple courier job for the CIA is turned into something far more complex and dangerous as she travels to the country of Bulgaria. And a chance meeting in an airport and some polite conversation turn out to be much more than she bargained for…

Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist
On to Jordan... One again, Mrs. Pollifax’s simple mission is turned on its head right from the start. This book again teaches us how coincidences, chance meetings and small talk can change our lives, as well as the importance of keeping an eye on our luggage. Know those announcements they make at the airports about unattended baggage? Well, they’re not just whistlin’ Dixie! 

A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax
The only thing I didn't understand about this book was its title, actually. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but have no idea where the "palm" comes in. Perhaps I am missing something. If anyone out there has read it and would like to enlighten me...

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station
Strangely, I found I was having a hard time keeping the characters straight. I would say that this has been my least favorite book in the series to this point, with the exception of the way Mrs. Pollifax eventually deals with Jenny and her hatred of the perky, happy Iris. Jenny thinks she's led an awful life, and Iris's upbeat, chipper attitude drives her insane. What she doesn't know (and Mrs. Pollifax enlightens her in the "buck up" speech) is that Iris's life has been very awful (far worse than Jenny's) and despite that, she's a very friendly, happy person. Good lesson is perspective and an interesting point in human relations, really.

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax
This is the first one I had actually read, though I could still hear Barbara Rosenblat's narration in my head. It is the second book in the series, and this time Mrs. Pollifax was called upon to rush off to Turkey to deliver a passport to an agent trying to flee the country. As usual, Mrs. Pollifax gets into a little more trouble than expected (it'd be a boring book if she didn't!) and, once again, chance encounters and conversations with strangers prove vital. It just goes to show that being a nice person (even to those you don't know) really can pay off...

Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha
Like the previous book in the series, this one had far more of the supernatural in it, almost as it the author was trying to make a case for ESP and whatnot, which I, personally, think is rubbish.  I guess if you were of that mindset that part of the book would not be so off-putting, but I found it destroyed a lot of my enjoyment of the book and hope that it does not crop up in further exploits for Mrs. Pollifax, as I do plan to continue to work my way through the series.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle
While this book still had more mysticism than I usually enjoy (though less than her other books set in Asia) I will grant that it had the best twists and turns, and a really surprising "whodunit" towards the end. She did a great job of misleading you and if you can figure out the end, I applaud you. This is a great book for those you want to solve it themselves - good luck!

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish
WARNING: this book is a spoiler for Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle. While most of her books can be read in any order, this one will take most of the fun out of its predecessor. So, that being said, it was a fun book. And a nice breather from some of her "deeper," more meaningful books that she had written recently. It was a throwback to the lighter, more "fun" era of spying, if you will.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer
This book is interesting, if frustrating, as Mrs. Pollifax is battling not only the “bad guys,” but a superstitious public. The story takes place in an obscure African country were people are still firmly rooted in mystical beliefs. But, once again, Gilman does a pretty good job of misdirection and “whodunit” and is pretty careful not to overdo the more fantastic aspects of the society.

The Tightrope Walker
This story is pretty dated, and it shows. It does impact the story, especially in regard to connecting with the characters. It was a different time, and one I never really experienced (the book was written and, I presume, set in the late 70s. While I was alive then, I wasn’t very old and don’t have much of a feel for the culture then. Now, the 80s… that’s a different story!). For a person a bit older than I it might be more believable. The ending was decent, but nothing amazing.

Goodman, Joel

Deadlocked
This book was set locally, which usually turns me off a book - I think it bugs me to have things I know described to me, and I feel like I'm wasting my time of something like that.  But this book really held my attention!  I started reading it, and didn't stop until I was done.  I don't know if I'd consider it too much of a mystery - more of a suspense novel - but it was certainly worth the time.  Good characters, a plot that moves well, and enjoyable writing make this a recommended read.

Graham, Heather

Haunted
I would say this book is suffering an identity crisis! Is it a romance? A ghost story? An old-fashioned whodunit? Overall, the book was pretty easy to read, and while most of the characters were a bit two-dimensional, the overall storyline was good. If you are a true connoisseur of romance novels, however, this may not be the best book for you. The characters were overly stereotypical, the “friction” between the two main characters a bit overdone. As for the mystery side, it was interesting enough to keep my attention, and even is you do not believe in the supernatural (like me) you’d still be able to enjoy this book as a work of fiction. (As a teaser, I can tell you I figured out who the criminal was, but not the victim!)

The Presence
A mystery-romance with a supernatural twist, this book felt a little flat to me. Perhaps because I do not like the supernatural portion (without which the book could not have been written, as it is integral to the plot) it soured me a little on the rest. Those of you who believe in mediums, however, will find this a very enjoyable read – the identity of the villain will keep you guessing (or, at least, it did for me!) and the story moves at an acceptable pace. A nice fluffy read if you can get past the psychic element.

Granger, Pip

Not All Tarts Are Apple
Stupid title and an ugly cover, but a surprisingly good book. Nice character development, a good time period, and a very realistic retelling make this one hard to put down. The author does an excellent job narrating as a young girl, giving you a believable perspective on the things going on around her. There’s not a huge ‘mystery’ even though it is listed as one, and I think real mystery fans might be a bit let down in that aspect if they go into it with that mindset. So don’t think of it as so much of a mystery as a good period story and it’s definitely worth the read!


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Haddon, Mark

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
I would never have picked up this book on my own, but it's on one of the book club lists, and as I'm shopping for a book club... It's written in an unusual style, ostensibly as an autistic 15 year old boy. The things the boy (Christopher) thinks are truly interesting - we all have those weird thoughts now and then (if the atoms in our bodies are constantly in motion, given an infinite universe and an infinite amount of time, someone is going to be unfortunate enough to have all of their atoms move outward simultaneously, therefore 'vaporizing' into nothing...) and it was neat to see an example of someone who had similar, strange, off-tangent thoughts. The story was easy to follow and interesting. The book was slightly depressing, though, because Christopher really didn't see the world the same way and it truly impeded his ability to function in society - despite the fact that he was a bright individual.

Hart, Caroline

Death of the Party
This story was a twist on the whole “sealed room” mystery, with the confrontation taking place several years after the initial incident, but with the original players (plus the detectives, of course!). There were a few times when I thought plausiblilty was stretched a little to make a plot point (there would have been better ways of creating the same scenario, I think, especially the deal with the ‘missing’ tape player) but there where also a lot of details that were worked into the story that came back later as “AHA!” points. Overall I thought it was a pretty good story, even though the main detective characters were not my favorite – I think I liked the other characters (including the villain) in the story more!

Henry, Sue

Murder on the Iditarod Trail
I picked this book up at a garage sale and didn’t expect much out of it, but I really enjoyed it.  It was a good ‘whodunit’ with a limited cast of characters, a good storyline, and a decently paced plot.  I’m not going to debate the merits of the race from an animal rights standpoint, though the book does go out of its way to say that most of the dogs are very well cared for, if this is an issue that will upset you it’s probably best to avoid this book.  There was also a touch of romance that was perhaps a bit overdone, but overall it was a pretty good book.  I’d stick it in the middle of the pack as far as recommended reading.

Hess, Joan

A Holly Jolly Murder
This is a book that will make you rethink having kids! Okay, so they’re not all bad, and in the end it’s a kid that redeems this book. The main storyline is just a little to weird and twisted (coming from a Hitchhiker’s lover, that’s saying something) and tries to rely on shock value that just isn’t there. However, the little side story is, sadly, believable and well done, with Caron (the main character’s daughter and a victim of the “creative name spelling” trend of late) taking good initiative and doing some top-notch work. Forget her mom and the overly dramatic relationship she has with her boyfriend – more good, down-to-earth detective work on a realistic problem by Caron would be a reason to read on!

Hiaasen, Carl

Sick Puppy
This was a mystery book club mystery, and all I’d like to say is, “Where was the mystery?!?” It had some interesting characters, but perhaps because it was not what I was expecting, I got to the end of the book and thought, “and so what?” I also found the constant harping on mankind’s evils to the environment to be grating. I realize the world is an awful place, however, I read to escape the realm of reality – perhaps that is why sci-fi fantasy is truly my favorite genre. I would not recommend it, unless you are keenly interesting in some bizarre characters.

Skinny Dip
I didn't give the first book I read by him the greatest marks, because I was expecting a mystery (it was one of the books for a former book club). Even at the time I realized that my opinion was biased. And, listening to this one with no preconceived notions, it was pretty good. A little weird, definitely some bizarre characters, but a good, compelling storyline that keeps you going. I will probably read (or listen to) more of his books - I just won't expect a mystery!

Tourist Season
Still not mysteries (we read this for my mystery book club) but an interesting read. His characters are a little over-the-top, and quite unbelievable, but still very well defined. The story, while outrageous, was fun and fast-paced. Definitely kept you on your toes. It’s hard to say who I would recommend this book to, because I think you’d either like it or hate it. There’s an odd sense of humor in there, and while I don’t agree with a lot of the author’s views on all things political and environmental, he still manages to skirt the edge of preachy.

Basket Case
I’ve read two different Hiassen books for my mystery book club, and neither were mysteries. This one I just picked up on my own and lo and behold – it’s actually a mystery! In this book he doesn’t tell the story from the bad guy’s perspective, so the reader is in the dark about what is happening. It was great, and I really enjoyed listening to it. It kept me guessing, had lots of humor and twists, and would have been great except… well, the relationships. I find them a bit hard to swallow, especially with some of the age differences. Pair that with his typical neurotic, over-the-top personalities and it knocks the book down a notch. But it’s still an excellent novel and I would recommend it to mystery and fiction fans.

Stormy Weather
His books are excellent at brining together a diverse cast of characters and managing to tie everyone together in a crazy storyline. This is no exception, and I think it’s well worth the read. Crazy people in bizarre circumstances will keep you reading just to see ‘what happens next?!’

Hopkins, Cathy

Dates, Mates, and Designer Divas
Got this one in a huge bagful at a garage sale, can’t say I knew it was a YA book. But, regardless, it was amusing in a youthful angst way. I’d say it’s a cross between the Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella and the Bridget Jones serries by Helen Fielding. Very light and amusing, with a slight undercurrent of meaning. My, it sounds like I’m describing a wine, doesn’t it? Seriously, it would be a good book for the 10-14 age range.

Howe, Deborah and James

Bunnicula
Ah, a book from my childhood. I’m always wary of re-reading things from so long ago, because, well, if it sucks, you’ve just ruined a childhood memory. Luckily, this book did not suck, and was quite an enjoyable read. Obviously it was quick, easy, and light – I mean, it is a kid’s book, and a very young kid’s book at that – but it was fun even for an adult. And it’s one of the very few series where the dog is soooo much better than the cat – in so many ways.

The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Another blast from the past, another fun read, and again, dogs rule and cats drool!. Great fun, nice story, a must for all kids and kids at heart.

Howliday Inn
A Bunnicula book, but without Bunnicula! This one focuses on Chester and Harold, and is a nice change – entertaining and fun, with a hint of mystery. I haven’t been disappointed reading any of the Bunnicula books, and this one is no exception.

Bunnicula Strikes Back
The last in the series, this book builds to a dramatic (and only slightly traumatic) finish. A little flimsier on the plot, it’s still a good read and children who can handle a bit of suspense will enjoy it.

Hunter, Maddy

Alpine for You
I went wandering in to "I Love a Mystery" bookstore one Saturday and as I ambled about I asked one of the proprietors her opinion of what I should buy. It's hard to find new authors that really fit your style any way other than hit and miss or suggestions, and the hit-and-miss version can have you spending quite a bundle on books you end up not even enjoying. Yes, there's the library, but I wrack up fines that rival bookstore prices because I do tend to be a bit scatterbrained about returning the books (yes, yes, and many other things, thank you!). So I told the lady that I enjoyed the likes of Janet Evanovich and M.C.Beaton's Hammish series, and that I really likes a bit of comedy and even a smidgen of romance in my mysteries, and she plucked Alpine For You off the shelf. It's the first in a series, and let me tell you - I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on the next book. I loved the main character (for you Evanovich fans, she has a lot in common with Stephanie Plum - down to the eccentric grandmother!) and the storyline was well done and kept you guessing. I laughed out loud several times through the book, and I'm hard pressed not to rush out and buy the rest of the series! But I promised I'd get through some of the two grocery sacks of books I have before I buy any more. :( They'll be on my Christmas list, though! One interesting note, though – part of the theme of the book – was that Iowans are particularly punctual people. My boss (Dave) in from Iowa, and we consider him timely if he makes a meeting in the same day it was scheduled. So I wonder if he’s an aberrant specimen or if her conclusions about Iowans are a little off the mark.

Top O’ the Mourning
Book two of the Passport to Peril series was just as good as the first, with slightly more romance involved. Throw in another quirky sidekick (a girl has to have backup!) and you have a wonderfully funny, action-packed book that will keep you reading – and guessing. Once again, at the end of this book, I was compelled to run out and get the next book in the series.

Pasta Imperfect
The only bad thing I can say about the third book in the series is that, for the time being, it’s the last one! And, of course, there is a huge cliff-anger ending. The thing I most loved about this book is that it showed than sometimes you jump to suspect things when there is no cause – and don’t notice a murder right under your nose! This one will keep you guessing until the very end, and in the case of Etienne – beyond! C’mon, book four!

Hula Done It
The 'cliffhanger' was terribly disappointing, I admit.  But the storyline was still good, with interesting characters and a good mystery.  I'm concerned that the romantic quality of the series is showing strain, but the individual mysteries and good characters make up for it.  Still worth reading, but nothing truly amazing (I still highly recommend the first three books, however).  I hope the next book is more in line with the first three, and is less like the slightly disappointing fourth.


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Isenberg, Jane

Midlife can be Murder
I had a hard time getting into this book – much like Faye Kellerman, it was very heavy into Judaism and fraught with deep meaning (the lessons in the Bible are still pertinent, etc). The mystery itself was a little thin, and while the detective work was grueling (nice to see it wasn’t easy or fraught with perils, just backbreaking!), it still lacked something. I didn’t have a feeling of connection with any of the characters. I probably won’t read any more books by this author.

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James, P.D

Devices and Desires
Now, despite its length this story did keep me interested, though there was an awful lot of unimportant side story telling going on.  You could strip away half the book and still have a serviceable mystery.  I am an incredibly plot-driven person, and too many details (a la Tolkien) make me lose interest.  And I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t lose interest in this story, despite the overwhelming character information, because it was good writing.  Even thought there were times when I was thinking, “okay, okay... and?!” I still wanted to hear more of the story.  The ending was... a bit of a letdown, considering all of the little bits that seem to have been thrown into the mix.  Still, since it was a decent plot and good writing, it was worth the time.

The Murder Room
Her books are incredibly slow getting started (a lot of background information on the characters) but they are very good mysteries. I won’t say I love the characters, but they are well-developed and fit the storylines. The plot is solid, the descriptions a bit over-done but bearable, and once you get into it the story progresses at a decent pace. This is the second book I’ve listened to, and will probably continue to read/listen to the rest of the series.

Johnson, Delores

Buttons and Foes
This book tried to be a bit Evanovich-y, but falls far short. The main character has a weird relationship with the police detective, a strange friendship with a newspaper reporter, and a budding and intriguing relationship with a PI. Overall, the story was farfetched, the characters a little shallow, and the main character oozed with false modesty I found a bit annoying.

Jones, Dianna Wynne

Howl’s Moving Castle
It was vastly different from the movie! Though I might have had a much harder time imagining it if I hadn’t seen the film, I’ll never know. Some of the characters were the same, mostly, but a few were very, very different. And the ending! Much different, and probably more well thought out and explained. I can’t say I enjoyed one over the other, but like I said, it’s probably because I saw the movie first. I’d say this book is a good read for children and adults.

Joyce, Lydia

The Veil of the Night
A dark, mysterious brooding duke and the unconventional spinster with a wicked streak – what more does a romance novel need? Ah, yes, a mysterious medical ailment! Chalk full of stereotypes and overdone angst, the mystery of the disease was really what kept me reading this book. And, sadly, while the duke’s unfortunate condition and symptoms are described, there is never any mention of the name of his disease. Some internet searching has led me to only one thing it could be, given that only the skin was affected and it was not a fatal condition. And it’s not even that glamorous of a condition, being (as far as I can tell) an allergic reaction to the sun, or “ Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE).” Not a book I’d recommend (especially now that I ruined the most exciting part!).

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Kauffman, Donna

Dear Prince Charming
Cheesy? Why yes! Happy ending? Of course! Can you tell what I was listening to when I checked this one out? Seriously – fluff made in heaven. A typical ‘two unlikely people fighting attraction but eventually giving in and living happily ever after’ tale. No more or less than that.

Keene, Carolyn

The Case of the Lost Song (a Nancy Drew mystery)
Okay, why do I have a Nancy Drew mystery? Well, I told you I’ve become a computer game addict, and one of the Nancy Drew “3D Interactive Mystery Games” came with a Nancy Drew book. Hey, don’t knock the Nancy Drew games until you’ve tried them. I enjoy them, as they are a little more simple and straightforward that some of the games on the market. So, since I had the book, and it was short, I read it. And it was really not bad. Simple, and fluffy, but not that bad. I think the ending was a little trite, but it was still entertaining. Definitely good for the younger bunch.

Nancy Drew Casebooks:
#63 – The Snowman Surprise, #65 Strike-Out Scare, and #67 The Singing Suspects
So I read these as ‘research’ for the story I’m writing (gee, god forbid I just make things up, eh?) and I was surprised at how very juvenile they were. I mean, I’ve been reading a lot of kid’s books, which I am enjoying, but it seems the kid’s books of today are much more grown up than the ‘classic’ kid’s books of my past. No wonder I started in on adult books so young! Honestly, the language seemed a bit stilted an odd, the plot was abominable, and the characters very flat. Even for a kid’s book.

Kellerman, Faye

The Ritual Bath
Another book club, another book selection. This one is about an assault in a Jewish community, and it really delves deeply into Jewish society. While this might have been interesting if enough of it had really been explained well to non-Jewish readers, a lot of it made me feel very left out of the story, and I didn't connect with the characters at all. The actual crime felt more like a sideline event to the struggle between the two main characters and their budding non-relationship, heavy overtones of how society is terribly cruel to the Jewish people, and religion. I found myself skimming large parts of the book and just rushing to get to the end to get it over with. I think if you are Jewish (or know a lot about the Jewish religion) and can understand a lot of what is really happening in the book it might be more interesting, otherwise I'd steer clear.

Kellerman, Jonathan

Billy Straight
I’ve read a few other books by this author, and while I enjoyed them (most notably The Murder Book) I was somewhat less than thrilled with this one. I didn’t like the characters, the storyline jumped about, and I don’t think it was his best writing. I would recommend his other books over this one.

King, Stephen

Autopsy Room 4
Setting aside the fact that the only way paramedics pronounce a person DOA is usually if there is brain matter present outside the head or the body is actually beginning to decay...And even given that he admits there is no such snake...And that any toxin that would paralyze the muscles of the body (and there are plenty, including the South American favorite, curare) would also paralyze the lungs (but not necessarily the heart - a person who has been given curare can be kept alive with artificial respiration until the toxin wears off...) thereby causing death by suffocation... I think a less expected end (though the arousal part added some good humor) would have been with him actually being dead - and living every moment up until the decomposition. Perhaps a story where two people die at the same time, the one who tells the story opts for a traditional burial and spends years - really, centuries - decaying fully, only to meet in the afterlife with the other person who died at the same time. There he discovers his friend, who opted for cremation, has been enjoying the afterlife all this time, from the time that their body was rendered "ashes to ashes." Probably some cliché about cleansing fires, even, but more importantly, the implication about mummies - how a culture that though preserving the bodies of the nobility would ... whatever they believed, save them?... actually condemned them to millennia of true hell... But I’m not the writer getting the big bucks, so what do I know? But it was interesting, and fun, and definitely worth the time it took to read it. But I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with any of the other stories I’ve read so far. They just seem to lack a little… something. Some spark, I don’t know.

Kinsella, Sophie

Shopoholic Ties the Knot
I had to check this one out twice to finish it. I had a very hard time getting through it – and not because it was badly written, or the story was uniteresting – it was just SO embarrassing… The main character is getting into all sorts of trouble and you can just SEE the train wreck about to happen… It’s a great book – a fun series – but will be hard to read for anyone who really empathises with the characters in books. I would still recommend it, just prepare yourself to cringe through half of the book.

The Undomestic Goddess
A biting commentary on today’s fast paced society, this is still an enjoyable book.  The characters are good (if a bit unbelievable) the plot moves along, and it’s infused with Kinsella’s usual wit, humor, and ‘oh my god this is so embarrassing I can’t read’ this bits. Definitely worth the read if you enjoy this genre.

Koontz, Dean

The Door to December
Thought this would be primarily considered a horror novel, there was a bit of a mystery. Unfortunately, although I almost immediately figured out who the “killer” was, my mind continued to search for a logical, realistic, natural answer. In that respect, it was a bit frustrating. I guess I’ve been reading too many mystery novels, and I wanted a solid (pardon the pun) culprit.

Christopher Snow novels
There were two of these, Fear Nothing and Seize the Night. Christopher Snow, the main character, is afflicted with xeroderma pigmentosa, which prohibits any contact with ultraviolet radiation. And because even the minuscule amounts he is exposed to cause damage because it is cumulative, I did spend a lot of the time restraining myself from shouting at the book “Step away from the light!” And Orson, his main mutt, was equally endearing (but then, I’m a dog person). The characters were good and well-defined, the storyline engaging, and overall I’d recommend it. And, if you wish, it can bring up a lot of deep, thoughtful points, such as musing on the poem that ends “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise” in reference to Orson and his troubles. Or it can be an action-pack medical thriller. Your choice.

Kraus, Nicola and McLaughlin, Emma

The Nanny Diaries
So this book really surprised me, as did Julia Robert’s narration job. Not too shabby. The only thing that drags this book down in the ratings are that I thought it was a little choppy (much like the other ‘diary’ type books) and the ending left me feeling a little… unfulfilled. And, you know, the whole book was about kids, which is not my favorite topic. But it was fun and light and very humorous – a good day at the beach (or pool) book.

Krentz, Jayne Ann

Witchcraft
Jayne Ann Krentz also writes as Amanda Quick, and I love her historical romances.  This book, however, was awful.  Overwritten, trite, cliché... you name it.  It was just plain bad.  It had all of the mistakes the rookie writers make, the most noticeable the fact that every time she talked about the male lead she had to say “emerald eyes” or some such nonsense.  It was very wearing.  The plot was silly, the characters shallow, and the writing... I’m sorry to say, abysmal.  I’ve read other things she’s written under the name “Jayne Ann Krentz,” and though I don’t think they are as good as her “Amanda Quick” books, I know they weren’t this bad.  And even worse that the main story were the two “shorts” in the back of the book.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse...  Bottom line: avoid this book.

 


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L’Amour, Louis

Under the Sweetwater Rim
Okay, I read a western. I told everyone else to keep an open mind, so I figured I should lead by example. And let me tell you, it shocked me. I enjoyed it. However, I am sure there are many men who will be deeply shocked by what I am about to say, so prepare yourselves… I enjoyed it because it was a romance novel. Granted, at 182 pages it was just the beginning of one, but all the key bits were there. Two people, drawn together though forces (i.e. parents) are trying to keep them apart as they embark upon an adventure that threatens their lives and tests their love…. That’s it. That it the basis of every romance novel written. Aside from stopping short of them “getting together” this was, in fact, exactly the same as dozens of romance novels I’ve read. So, surprisingly, I would recommend it!

Laymon, Richard

The Stake
Awesome book. Flat out loved it. Not because the writing was great (it was, to be honest, not the best writing I’ve read) and not because of the characters (they were good, but again, not the best) and not even because of the plot (which seemed a little contrived at times). It’s the way it all pulled together, the final twist, the blurred line of good and evil. It (as silly as this sounds) makes you think. Not the heavy, oppressive ‘I just read philosophy and must ponder the universe’ type thoughts, but the gentler ‘oh, wow… yeah, that’s interesting…’ thoughts. It was a fun, weird, hard-to-put-down ride that left me smiling.

Lindsey, Johanna

The Heir
About halfway through the book on tape I realized that I’d read this one before, but finished it out because it was a good story and it’d been awhile. Strictly a period romance novel, it’s a good red for anyone who likes those sorts.


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MacAlister, Katie

The Corset Diaries
This was written in the style of a “diary,” but was far more readable than the Bridget Jones series.  This is probably because the Jones series was written with a lot of abbreviations and shorthand, whereas this book was written in a first-person narrative style.  It was well written and humorous, and while I did really like the main character, there were some character features that I just didn’t think… gelled.  Case in point: she’s very self-conscious about her weight, and yet, in bed she’s a really wild woman.  I just couldn’t really see that, I guess.  But the story was lively and entertaining, and I kept reading – in one sitting – so I’d recommend it to anyone who likes romance and wouldn’t be offended by a little gratuitous… you know.

Macinnis, Peter

Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox to the Killer Bean of Calabar
This could have been a much better book if he’d picked a few topics and gone into great detail. Instead, he hoped about giving a tidbit here, a tidbit there and really pretty much leaving you hanging. There was a lot of interesting information, and the book got better as it went along, but overall it was poorly organized and executed. I think there are far better books on the topic, but this one had its amusing moments and I think someone very interested in the history of poison use would still find it worthwhile.

Margolis, Sue

Apocalipstick
I picked this up at a garage sale, just because the cover looked vaguely funny. I don’t know quite what I expected, but the book definitely drew me in. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down, even as it passed my bedtime… First off, it’s obviously written by someone English, or at least, someone emulating the English writing style You just have to love any book that talks about “snogging.” But the story was good, if a bit sexually explicit. I’d say it’s definitely an R-rated book! I really did like the main character, and thought she had a lot of personality. The only thing I didn’t like is that is was a very… happy book, when all was said and done. None of her wild, pessimistic views ever turned out to be true, and I just didn’t see that as realistic. But I don’t think that it was intended to be any sort of realistic story, so, taking it with a grain of salt I’d say it was a fluffy, entertaining read.

Marr, John S (M.D.) and Baldwin, John

The Eleventh Plague
Definitely abridged, this audio book was not the best medical thriller I’ve ever read (okay, listened to). I have a feeling that reading it in its long form, it would be a great story if they went into more medical detail. The basis of the story was truly interesting, and the connections to the biblical plagues was ingenious (Ironically, this probably wouldn’t have caught my interest quite as much if I hadn’t just watched “Rameses: Wrath of God, or Man?” on the Discovery Channel). But the abridged version left far too much out to really draw you into the story. I think it might be an okay book if you enjoy medical thrillers, though I hate being introduced to the “bad guy” right from the get-go.

Martin, Kat

The Bride’s Necklace
Ah, I was certainly in the mood for a romance novel! And this one fit the bill quite nicely. It had all of the classic elements of a romance novel (two unlikely people who are thrown together and eventually realize they are in love, after much scheming, lying, and drama) and it was executed nicely. And it made me want to read the rest of the series, so that’s definitely the sign of a good book. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes this type of romance novel (historical, regency).

The Devil’s Necklace
The second book in the series was not as good as the first, but still pretty decent. It had ships, and I do so love the ‘pirate-like’ stories. But I didn’t like the characters quite as much, and the background story was a little less engrossing – in fact, it was a bit annoying at times. Plus it was terribly predictable. Yes, I know it’s a romance novel, but that was the “romance-y” part, so it shouldn’t have been SO predictable. But it still kept me interested and reading, and I still wanted to read the last book in the trilogy. I’d still recommend it to romance fans.

The Handmaiden’s Necklace
I didn’t read the back of this one before I started, so I didn’t even know who the main characters were going to be. And I admit to being a little disappointed as to who the ‘leading lady’ ended up being. I was hoping for a ‘heal his wounds from relationships past’ book instead of a ‘rekindled romance that went wrong years ago.’ I think I dislike the latter because you never really get the ‘how they met’ and ‘how they fell in love’ story – at best you get a few flashbacks. But it’s just not the same. Still, once I got past that disappointment it was still a good book, well written with a decent (well, minus that one point) plot. I’d say you should definitely read it if you’ve read the other two and enjoyed them, but if you were on the fence about either of the others, you probably won’t like this one.

McBain, Ed

Sadie When She Died
It’s funny how I can easily read a book set hundreds of years ago, but have problems with books set in the 70s. Though that wasn’t the only problem with this crime drama (though the ‘detective’ work was funny, looking back – it’s like watching old episodes of Star Trek and laughing at their ‘technology,’ except in this case it was real and just is now hopelessly out of date, so I guess it’s nothing like it at all…). The characters were very cliché, and the dialogue stilted and unnatural – the entire time I was reading it my mind could not picture actual people speaking that way. I can’t even do a decent imitation of it – it was that bad. And the ending… ugh. Not worth the time or effort, I wouldn’t have finished it if it wasn’t for a book club!

McCrumb, Sharyn

Bimbos of the Death Sun
This is a seriously dated book, and I found myself rather exasperated by the overstating of the difficulty of understanding computers and role-playing.  If it was updated to reflect modern technology and people’s typical experience level, it would be a really fun little story.  A great setting (a fan convention) for a cast of unique characters.  Even with it being really dated, it was still an intriguing story line and good characters. 

McGuire, Gregory

Wicked
This was a twisted book. Somehow I didn’t expect quite so much… sex. Especially the *shudder* bit about the ‘Animals’ in that… what was it called… Pleasure Palace or whatever. Thank you, no. I will never look at Oz the same way again. Not that I look at it that often, not being fond of The Wizard of Oz at all. What I find most interesting about this book is that it is, in essence, fan fiction. That dreaded (by many) form of flattery or plagiarism, depending how you look at it. And yet – this is a mainstream, best-selling book! It wasn’t a bad book, but I can’t say I loved it. But that could be tempered by the fact that I don’t like The Wizard of Oz. I’d say if you’re an Oz fan and don’t mind ‘fan fiction’ then you’ll probably enjoy it.

McLaughlin, Emma and Kraus, Nicola

The Nanny Diaries
So this book really surprised me, as did Julia Robert’s narration job. Not too shabby. The only thing that drags this book down in the ratings are that I thought it was a little choppy (much like the other ‘diary’ type books) and the ending left me feeling a little… unfulfilled. And, you know, the whole book was about kids, which is not my favorite topic. But it was fun and light and very humorous – a good day at the beach (or pool) book.

Michaels, Kasey

Maggie Needs an Alibi
This book was recommended by a member of my Barnes and Noble book club, and it is truly a good mixture of mystery and romance (and I do mean just the romance – there is no torrid love affair, or, as Maggie would say “insert tab A into slot B” scenes). An extraordinarily far-fetched premise, but who cares? It had likable characters, lots of humor, and a nice whodunit all thrown together. There is only one drawback, and that is the book does not “end” per se – there is a sequel, and I guess I’m going to have to get it if I want to find out what happens…. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

The Kissing Game
Sometimes you're just in the mood for a good ole romance novel, and this one didn't disappoint. Cute but shallow characters, a flowing, adventurous but predictable plot, and a happy ending. A great fluffy little read when you need a pick-me-up.

The Butler Did It
I loved her “Maggie” series, but this one didn’t do much for me. In Maggie Needs an Alibi and Maggie By the Book there was an air of mystery that made the storyline very readable, dare I say “griping,” that was lacking in this stereotypical romance novel. It actually took me three days (THREE DAYS!) to wade through this book, when normally it would have taken closer to three hours… I just kept setting it down, and by the end my reaction was more “Ho, hum, that’s nice. Glad I’m done.” I think I’ve read so many romance novels that it has to be pretty special to be truly enjoyable.

Maggie Without a Clue
This is another series where the characters are strong, but the romance that has been alluded to is so muddled and understated that it might as well not exist.  And this particular mystery failed to grab me in a way that the previous books in the series had.  I'm afraid this series needs and injection of... something, or it needs to be allowed to die.

Morsi, Pamela

Doing Good
This book stuck me as a typical “Oprah-ish” book – mostly about people and the way they interact, rather than any real plotline. But I actually enjoyed the book, and it kept me reading. The main character was intriguing, and while there was a touch of the mysterious (perhaps supernatural), it wasn’t so much that the book couldn’t stand on a logical basis. The relationship between mother and daughter was very vexing, though, and that is an aspect of the book that probably should have been toned down (though I suppose such an over-the-top relationship dynamic might be plausible in this day and age) to be truly likable and believable. Overall, a decent character study, if nothing else, and it can be read either as fluff or substance, depending how you take it. And if we could all be motivated by the “seven levels” of giving and earning our “points,” well, that would be an improvement to society!

Moss, Jeff

Bones
This is a collection of poems mostly about dinosaur poems. It has some wonderfully cute illustrations, some questionable poetic style, and some bad science. But overall it was cute, and if you have kids I would recommend it as a fun way to introduce science.

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Niffenegger, Audrey

The Time Traveler’s Wife
I get to smack the next person that suggests a sad book, really I do. I don’t like sad books. I read romance novels people – the epitome of happy endings! Okay, but even though it was sad (though overall not as disturbing as Good Grief was) it was still a good story. Engrossing and well-told. And I even had a dream about time traveling after that. I dreamed about going back in time and making an LJ entry about my own death (though it’s unclear how I knew about it – maybe I had traveled forward in time) and then I was arrested for my own attempted murder. If you like a good drama and don’t mind sniffling your way through the end of a book, I’d say this is a good one for you.


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Perry, Anne

Face of a Stranger
This is one I read for the Barnes and Noble mystery book club, and I did like it – right up until the end. It had a very “sitcom” ending. Nothing in life really ties up that quickly and neatly! But the main character was good, the story had some good twists, and there were a few of the “bit” characters I really enjoyed.

Ponzini, Bill

Epitaphs
I’d not read any of the other “nameless detective” books, and I’m not sure I’m champing at the bit to read another. It was okay, but nothing really amazing. And the bit about the cockfighting was a little unsettling. The characters definitely had a deep ingrained history that I knew nothing about, and that may have led to me feeling a bit distanced from them. I can’t say I identified with any of them or really became deeply engrossed in the story. It had a slightly gritty edge, but overall was not too much more than mystery fluff. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t really impressed, either.

Preston, Douglas and Child, Lincoln

The Ice Limit
Another book on tape, this was an abridged version. I know some was left out and some was missed, but I got the basic idea of the story. And the end (which incorporated the major plot point) was truly great. I think I would have been better off reading the actual book (this tape also contained some “sound effects,” which did not enhance the recording but detracted from it) and would recommend that anyone interested in the story read the book.

The Cabinet of Curiosities
These are the authors that brought you The Relic (recommended by my Mom previously) and this book is, in a few ways, even better. You know how you can always tell “Ensign Fodder” by the red shirt he’s wearing? Not so in this one. I was actually wrong about the fate of one of the characters! That hasn’t happened in a long while. And while the ending wasn’t exactly the way I would want it (if anybody else has read it or does read it, I’d love to hear what you think), it was still a great book.

The Codex
I don’t quite know how to sum up this book. It kept my attention, but it also annoyed me. Sally’s character could be quite annoying, though never enough to make you want to stop reading. The storyline, though a little odd, kept you interested until the very end. Most of the characters were good, if a little annoying and unrealistic from time to time. I would say it’s definitely worth the time it takes to read, as long as you don’t expect anything earth-shattering and soul-searching. It would make a great, shallow, action-adventure movie.

Brimstone
Another tale in the life of Special Agent Pendergast – and this time he’s gotten quite annoying. In this book he really comes off as snotty and condescending, and his attitude towards Sergeant D’Agasta is borderline reprehensible. The basic storyline, however, was intriguing – until they started to throw in a lot of “side-stories” with the Reverend that really amounted to nothing but a bit a filler fluff to draw out the tension in the main storyline. The book would have been much better (albeit shorter) without this inclusion. I did like the fact that the book kept you guessing as to whether supernatural forces were truly at work, and was gratified that the answer, while fantastic and unlikely possible, was rooted in reality, of a sort. This book would have been much better as a shorter, more streamlined version of itself, but nevertheless was worth the read.

Still Life with Crows
Another Pendergast book, and while he’s still getting on my nerves, this time the plot takes him out of his usual element and makes him slightly more bearable. The storyline is pretty good and moves along at a brisk pace. Also, the addition of a new “sidekick” really livens up the book. I found myself really rooting for her! There were some characters in the book that I initially misjudged, and I found the ending to be a little melodramatic and predictable, but it was still worth the read.

Dance of Death
The last book ( Brimstone) left you dangling, and this one picks up the thread.  Surprisingly, Special Agent Pendergast does a complete 180 in this story.  No longer the annoying, egotistical know-it-all, he turns into someone almost human.  There is a lot of action, even a slight touch of humor, but the overriding story is dark and fast paced.  A great plot with a *sigh* dangling end…  Now I’ll just have to wait for the next book , as these have turned into a true series!  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and suspense.

The Book of the Dead
This is book 3 in the 'Pendergast trilogy,' and you should read Brimstone and Dance of Death first. The whole series is full of interesting characters and bizarre situations, and while some plot points are utterly predictable, there are still enough things that keep you guessing. The action is well written and pulls you in wonderfully, and the narrator (I listened on tape) did an amazing job.


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Queenan, Joe

Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler by Joe Queenan -
This is a book for serious movie fans and those not easily offended. Basically this book is a collection of short essays he wrote as a movie critic. And while there were times I snorted out loud reading it, there were also boring times and a lot - I mean a lot - of swearing. I'm not enough of a movie fan to really get the full depth of this book, having not seen over 75% of the movies he talks about, but for a true movie connoisseur you will either love (if you agree with him) or hate (if you disagree with him) this book. It was worth the $1 I paid for it from the Bargain Bin at Barnes and Noble, but I wouldn't say it's worth much more. It's also a book best read in small doses, and since they are just a collection of unrelated essays, that's easy enough to do. Reading it in one fell swoop gets tedious.

Quick, Amanda

Lie by Moonlight
I was a little disappointed in this book, truth be told. Perhaps I am once again becoming a little weary of the typical romance storyline and expect more. Perhaps it was the seeming cheesiness of the entire “Vanza” society (doesn’t that just sound phony?). Perhaps I just didn’t quite buy into the characters, though I really did like Ambrose. But Concordia was just a little too “modern,” and the whole idea of the hippie commune at that time seemed a bit of a stretch. All that being said, as far as romance novels go, it wasn’t that bad. There were a few lines that made me chuckle, and the story was interesting enough to keep me reading. I’d say it’s worth your time if you enjoy romance novels, just don’t go in expecting anything too deep and meaningful.

Wait Until Midnight
This one just missed the mark for me. Probably a little too much “supernatural” stuff. And while the main characters were mostly in the business of debunking those psychics, it still left a little too much wiggle room for me. I did like the characters, and it kept me reading – but I wouldn’t say it was her best work. I was a little disappointed, considering some of the other books I’ve read by her. Overall it was a good book with a decent plot – and if you like psychic shenanogens in your romance novels, this would be the book for you.

Quinn , Julia

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Books can be harder to track down than you think – so when the Library said they had this book, I scurried right over. Unfortunately, they did not, so I checked out The Viscount Who Loved Me (also by Julia Quinn). While checking out the “also by” section, I noticed a familiar title – How to Marry a Marquis, a book I own, have read, and very much enjoyed. On the way home I stopped by Half Price books where they had a copy of Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. That evening, I began reading The Viscount Who Loved Me and at 2 am when I finished Romancing Mr. Bridgerton I found myself wanting to read more – I just HAVE to know what happens with the rest of the Bridgerton gang! While I cannot say I did not thoroughly enjoy the recommended book (Julia Quinn is a very good author, her characters and humor on par with Julie Garwood) I would not say it was my favorite out of all of her books I have thus far read. Of the three, I would rank them: How to Marry a Marquis, The Viscount Who Loved Me, then Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. However, I would say that you would not go wrong reading any of Julia Quinn’s books – and I will surely read more, as soon as I catch up on my sleep….

The Duke and I
I told you I had to keep reading about the Bridgertons! This one, however, has been my least favorite so far. It seems a little more overdone, the characters a little hyper-emotional. Everything is a over dramatized – and I realize that happens a bit in every romance novel (they are fantasies) but this one seems to have to stretch a bit much. I still enjoyed the book, still read it in one sitting, but this is not a book I would recommend to anyone but a die-hard romance fan!

To Sir Philip, With Love
This is the latest Bridgerton adventure, and it ranks up near the top. Though we know how all romance novels eventually turn out, the storyline was not all roses and peaches – just the right amount of strife and suspense to keep it interesting without being overly melodramatic. I also enjoy any novel where the main characters are not perfect – physically, socially, or personality-wise. Nothing makes you feel better about life than reading about people more flawed than you that still have a happy ending, regardless!

When he was Wicked
This is the latest in her Bridgerton series, and has been one of my least favorite. Most notably because the main character is a widow, and there might be a wee bit much melodrama. Yes, I know, it’s a romance novel! I did enjoy the book, and if you’re entrapped by the series it’s best not to miss it – but it is doubtful it will ever make my “re-read” list.

Lady Whistledown Strikes Back (also Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins, and Mia Ryan)
This story tells four concurrant tales during the “reign” of Lady Whistledown from Julia Quinn’s popular series. The four stories intersect in points, but in these instances are told from oppsing viewpoints. It was very amusing to read a scene told from two very different viewpoints. And if these short stories are any indication of the other three author’s writing abilities, I think I will try out some of their books, as well. Even if you haven’t read the entire Whistledown series, I would recommend this book!

Brighter Than the Sun
While Julia's Bridgerton series definitely steals the show, this book does a fair job of holding its own. Since I have been reading more mysteries lately I was a little let down by the transparency of the plot, but for a romance novel it was pretty good. Decent characters, a few plot twists, and, of course - a happy ending!

It’s in His Kiss
Another Bridgerton book, written with an added “narrator voice” that really detracted from the book, if you ask me. I understand where it was supposed to add levity, but I found it distracting and annoying. The story, however, was really good (for a romance novel) and kept you going. There was less of a story outside of the main relationship storyline than in the other books, but it was but the main storyline was strong enough to hold its own - there wasn't really a need for a lot of outside distractions.  I think if she had included too much "side story" it would have detracted from the book as a whole.

Dancing at Midnight
Not up to snuff with her Bridgerton series, but this book’s not too bad. I think the melodramatic angst portion (the big bad secret, etc etc) was really overdone, but the characters were likable and the plot moved along at a decent pace. Pure fluff, to be sure, but it was fairly readable fluff. I would recommend the Bridgerton series over this one, though.

On the way to the Wedding
I've read all of the Bridgerton books, and this was the least interesting, in a way. I'm not sure if it was that I didn't like the characters as much, or the plot wasn't as good, or that I wasn't really in the mood for this genre. Or a combination of all three. Or maybe you just compare books to what you've read recently and I found it lacking - had I read it directly after The Lovely Bones it may have been the beset thing since sliced bread! That's the problem with reviews, they're so very subjective, no matter how hard you try. But the series itself is great, and anyone who likes romance will love it - start at the beginning (The Duka and I)and work you way through, it's worth it. Even if this book is one of the weaker links.


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Resnick, Michael

Kirinyaga
This is actually a collection of short stories that blend together into one long tale. I have mixed feelings about it. The idea is that these people are trying to create a utopia, but their belief is that utopia is an unchanging place of the past – and, in my opinion, not a wonderful past. It illustrates that utopia is different for everyone, and you can’t create a utopian world for everyone, past a civilization of one or maybe two people. So, do you repress and sacrifice a few for the sake of many? This utopia was also meant to be unchanging – but is all change bad? The argument that is you change, you are not like your ancestors. But can a society of people change, and still retain their identity? If not, why? This is a book that will make you think, and doesn’t offer up any easy answers. Not a book to be read on a dreary, depressing night… but definitely worth reading.

Rhodes, Richard

Deadly Feasts
This is a slightly older book (1998) so if you’re looking for the most up-to-date breakthroughs, this is not the book for you. However, it does an excellent job outlining the “emergence” of the disease we call “mad cow” and explains the links between it an its predecessors. It’s written in an enjoyable “story” fashion, though, so please don’t steer clear of it if you’re afraid it may be too technical!

Roach, Mary

Stiff (the curious life of cadavers)
I had read a lot of good reviews about this one on the internet, but can’t say I agree with all of them. It was an informative book (sometimes more so than you might like) but her well-touted “humor” seemed a bit thin and far-reaching at times. The facts and research in the book truly could have stood on their own, no need for so many bad puns! Definitely not a book for any member of PETA, it deals a little more with the animal research side of things than I would have liked, however, I would still recommend it to most people as a well-researched and very interesting book.

Rowling, J.K.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This long-awaited sixth book was, admittedly, a little slow getting started. And the storyline has become more grown-up, focusing more on the characters and their relationships. As far as being “really dark” and “a tear jerker” as I have read on some sites, well, that may be overstating it a bit. And it depends on your point of reference. For a ten-year old, yes, it might be considered very dark. For me, however, having read many contemporary crime novels, it seemed very mild in comparison. I can’t say too much without giving away any of the story, and I wouldn’t dream of revealing who dies, or how, or who the Half-Blood Prince is, but I look forward to hearing if other people are as let down by the sixth book as I was. Most series begin to peter out after three or four books, and I think this one was no exception.

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Sanders, Lawrence

First Deadly Sin
Didn't even finish this one. Even though it was for the book club, I got about 150 pages in and had to give up the ghost. I didn't like the characters, story, or style of writing, so I doubt I will read any other books by him.

Sayers, Dorothy L

Striding Folly (3 complete Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries)
The characters were very shallow, but obnoxiously quirky, but that’s not surprising - they were very short stories – but the mini mysteries were pretty good. Some better than others. I really enjoyed one, liked one well enough, and was rather disappointed in one. I would say anyone who enjoys the short mini-mysteries would like these well enough to spend the time on them.

Sebold, Alice

The Lovely Bones
Now, you may disagree with me and my opinion, and that's fine. Everyone has different taste in books. Do remember that this is only my opinion, and it doesn't really count for anything in the grand scheme of things. But any book that uses the phrase "She ordered coffee and toast, and buttered it with her tears" (or something very close to that, I was listening to it on tape) is far too emo and angsty for the likes of me. A book built on overwritten prose with a sad, rambling tale that really goes no where and left me very uncaring half-way through is not something I enjoy reading. And even though I was only half (okay, one-quarter) listening by the end (the only reason I finished was because I could do other things in the meantime) it was like pulling teeth. I grimaced. I winced. I writhed in agony.

Scott, Willard

Murder at Blue Skies (with Bill Crider)
This was a cute, light story (as light as murder can be) that was a reasonably quick read with decent characters that kept my attention. Nothing amazing, though the plot was a little… unusual for a murder mystery. I enjoyed the “twist” and would recommend this book to anyone who likes the, well, upbeat side of murder.

Scottoline, Lisa

Killer Smile
Usually books with underlying ideas like this one (how no one realizes the Italian-Americans were sent off to camps like the Japanese-Americans during WWII) come across as preachy and annoying.  But this book did not.  It dealt very well with a very prickly subject.  And while there are a few plot points that gave me pause, overall the characters were likeable and the storyline was compelling.  This is a book I would recommend to pure mystery enthusiasts.

Courting Trouble
I have to admit I really did like the characters, however, this book made it just a little too clear that there was something else going on.  Perhaps it was in the overly adamant way the characters told themselves they were right, I'm not sure.  But you knew - just knew - that something was off throughout the whole book, and that kind of ruined the 'surprising' ending.  Or maybe it was just me, but I wasn't terribly surprised.  It had good movement, a strong plot, but it was just a little transparent.  I'd say with some minor changes, this could be a fabulous book, but for now it's not even the best of hers that I've read. 

Smith, Alexander McCall

The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Billed as a mystery, this book falls far short of that mark. While the main character does solve many small mysteries in the telling of the story, one could hardly call it a mystery. Much of the book deals with her and her father’s earlier life, as well as the history and culture of Botswana. I have to say the book was a little preachy at times, about the “white man” and their evil ways, which I have to admit did turn me off the book just a tad. And while I can’t say the story really kept my attention (there were very few times when there was any sort of overriding plot that carried through the entire book, it was more like a series of short stories all strung together) I kept going just wondering what in the world was going to happen next and just where, exactly, the book was GOING. The ending was short, brutal (in a literary sense), and confusing and I did not care for that at all. It was really disappointing, to go through all of that just to come to such a strange ending. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Snickett, Lemony

The Lemony Snickett books – A Series of Unfortunate Events, books 4-11
I started off with book four, which is where the movie left off. I just had to know what happened next. In reading books 4-11 I realized (though their recollection of previous events) that the movie was far, far different from the first three books. So, after I had read through to the end, ‘ll have to go back and read the first three. The books, in general, are written for a younger audience. Still, I did not find them simplistic or boring, and could see a great deal of educational value in them for younger readers. For example, the author defines a lot of words that younger children may not be familiar with, but in a humorous way that allows the older readers to enjoy without feeling patronized (a word here which means “talked down to as if they were a young child that had not half a brain with which to reason). Okay, so I’m not as good at it. That’s why he’s making the big bucks. There are also several details about the “author’s” life that begin to pop up throughout the books, giving glimpses of a parallel storyline that could (especially with the way book number eleven ended) develop quite nicely alongside the tragic story of the children. And while the entire story is truly fantastic (what with all the bumbling adults never able to recognize Count Olaf and they amazing things the children, especially Sunny, do) if you set aside your disbelief and just enjoy the story for what it is – a story – you will find that they are quite enjoyable to read. Strongly recommended for ages 8-108.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril
I’ve had this book for some time but after my marathon reading jag where I polished off the first eleven books, I didn’t get back to this one after it was released. But I saw that 13 was coming out, and thought I should finish it before then. It was as good as the others, and I can’t wait until the end of the story. The entire series is well worth reading!

Snyder, Maria

Poison Study
Not at all what I expected by looking at the cover (yes, yes, I know, you can't judge a book by its cover, blah, blah). I expected something a little more weighty, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a fun and engrossing book. It does deal with a lot of fantasy elements, ads a dash of mystery, and even a smidgen of romance. The characters are a little less than believable, but likable. The story moved nicely, and the ending was... well, unfinished. There's a second book in the series, which is not out yet - and I plan to read it as soon as it is. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes a good fast-paced story and can stomach the fantasy aspect that's thrown in.

Stabenow, Dana

A Cold Day for Murder
This was for the mystery book club, and I found absolutely nothing to recommend this book. It was hard to get into, preachy, and fairly uninteresting. The characters where shallow and unlikable. In short, I really want those two hours of my life back…

Stephenson, Neal

Snow Crash
I read the first third of this book in interest, the second third with dogged determination, and the last third out of sheer tenacity. I would say that it really wasn’t my cup of tea (Earl Grey, sugar, milk). I did like the characters, and the writing style was fascinating – reminiscent of old TV detective/mystery shows (“The hazy sprawl is ringed and netted with glowing lines, like hot wires in a toaster.”). However, it went from jumping around a lot in the beginning (back and forth in time) to becoming very bogged down in a lot of detail. I have no idea if any of the detailed descriptions of history and religion were accurate, and it might be wonderful for a person truly interested in that, but I thought it got in the way of the story. And the end, well, left a lot unanswered. I think that if you enjoy this style of book, it was a wonderful example of what can be done with some great characters. If you’re like me and enjoy a light, breezy, happy read, stay clear.

Sykes, Plum

Bergdorf Blondes
Complete and utter fluff, but in a good way.  Though the “predicaments” some of the ultra-rich set find themselves in may set your teeth on edge the characters are still basically likeable, the plot predictable (so utterly predictable!) but humorous, and the storylines moves along nicely (granted, I was listening to an abridged audiotape).  I would recommend this for readers of romance and “girly” comedies.  Great for a drizzly Sunday afternoon pick-me-up.

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Temple, Lou Jane

A Stiff Risotto
This is one of her “Heaven Lee” series, a middle aged misfit who has done just about everything and settled down to run a fabulous restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri (from the description I gather it is supposed to be in Westport) called Café Heaven. This mystery took place mainly outside of KCMO, but there was enough of it thrown in to disenchant me. Who wants to read about the area where you actually live? Besides, then I knew little things that bothered me – like the Brookville Hotel being called the “middle of Kansas” and the “Salina area” – when it is in Abilene, a little less than a third of the way across Kansas. But it did move, maybe just after the book was published. Also, she throws recipes in the book – smack in the middle of the story – which could be a cute idea, but ends up being really annoying. I also have Bread on Arrival and The Cornbread Killer, which I may not even bother to read. I found Heaven Lee about as appealing as Agatha Raisin….

Thompson, Vicki Lewis

Nerd in Shining Armor
Okay, I bought this one solely for the title. It was, well, a little odd on a lot of levels. It was a romance novel, with too much and far too graphic “love” scenes (Tab A/Slot B) and truly unbelievable characters. It was as if she tried to put everything possible into the storyline and, in doing so, destroyed what redeeming qualities the book might have had. I would not recommend it, and doubt I will read the book previewed in the back… Hanging by a G-String. Gotta give it to her for creative titles, though!

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Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa

Playing with Boys
This was really three mini-stories in one.  Yes, the three characters had some interaction with one another, but I found the jumping from character to character a little annoying.  One story would just be getting interesting, and - bam – she switches narrators.  It probably didn’t help that I really only liked on of the characters, tolerated one of the others, and downright disliked the third.  I think if I had really liked all three, it wouldn’t have been so bad.  It was okay, but it wouldn’t top my recommended reading list.

Various

‘Wicked’ Women Whodunnit (four short stories)
Ten Little Idiots by Mary Janice Davidson
Single White Dead Guy by Amy Garvey
Fast Boys by Jennifer Apodaca
Three Men and a Body by Nancy J. Cohen
I could review each short story individually, but they’d all merit roughly the same response: pretty much crap.  They were raunchy and juvenile, reading as if they were thrown together in a weekend without any serious editing.  A fringe of mystery as an excuse for sex scenes, mostly, with shallow characters and weak, rushed plots.  Hardly worth the time it took to read.

The Plot Thickens (short stories by various authors)
This was basically a writing exercise compiled into a book of short stories: each story had to contain a thick steak, a thick fog, and a thick book.  It was fun seeing what all the authors did with the prompt, and watching for how they worked in the items. 

How Far it Could Go by Lawrence Block
This story lacked a decent ending, in my opinion.  Even my feeble imagination came up with far more interesting endings then the one given.  I liked the buildup, and the overall premise...  but the end was a huge letdown. 
Foolproof by Edna Buchanan
This was an interesting ethical dilemna, but... it seemed a little too coincidental and far-fetched for the type of story.  I think the “similarities” were taken too far to be cute, and it would have been better served to focus on the real issue of the uniqueness of fingerprints. 
The Man Next Door by Mary Higgins Clark
Good basic ‘horror’ tale: serial killers, the nagging clue, a lot of suspense and twisted minds...  It worked particularly well because you could ‘see’ the way to a good resolution, and you read it trying to ‘will’ the characters to see it, too. 
Too Many Cooks by Carol Higgins Clark
This story shouldn’t have been a short story.  It left too many questions basically unanswered, and used the patented “sitcom” mentality to wrap up and explain loose ends.  Great plot, but it needs an entire book to really flesh it out. 
Revenge and Rebellion by Nelson & Lauren DeMille
This story lost me at the “aspartame in Sweet N Low” snafu.  A small detail, but oh so wrong.  But besides that, the whole story left me with a “yeah, and so what?” feel. 
The Last Peep by Janet Evanovich
I’m not sure if it’s “cheating” that she used existing characters, but I love Stephanie Plum and she did a great job of compressing an adventure into a short story and still giving us the great Plum feel. 
Going Under by Linda Fairstein
This story really disturbed me, because it deals with dentistry gone horribly wrong.  It was pretty well done, but nothing spectacular, plot or character wise.  Just the really creepy dentist bit.  
Thick-Headed by Walter Mosley
I had to make myself skim through this one.  It didn’t capture my attention at all, and was hard to follow. 
Love's Cottage by Nancy Pickard
I didn’t like the format of the story (‘mental’ letters composed to a loved one) but the idea behind the story was interesting, though not full enough to be anything more than speculative fluff.  The Road Trip by Ann Rule
This story just confused me.  What was the point of the truck drivers?  They were following her long before the motel, so that makes no sense whatsoever.  I would rather they showed up for the first time at the motel, and it would have made sense.  And the smarmy speech by the truck driver at the end – disjointed and weird – took away even more of the story’s credibility.  It could have been a good story, but... it wasn’t. 
Take it Away by Donald E. Westlake
This story wasn’t bad at all – good character, simple, straightforward plot and some good wordplay. 

Chicks ‘n Chained Males edited by Esther Friesner
I checked out this book for the one story about the chain letter. I guess, yes, if I lived in a world where magic was commonplace (or, I should say, remotely plausible) then the ‘scare’ factor of the ‘forward this or else’ clause would be much higher. Because then it might actually be able to curse you, unlike here on Earth. Where it’s forwarding the chain letter that will get you cursed… at by everyone you send it to! But the book itself was adolescent and cliché and boring, something I might have read in middle school. In fact, it did seem very dated. One or two of the stories were cute, but mostly it wasn’t very good at all.


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Walters, Minette

The Breaker
I never would have picked this book up, let alone have finished it, if it wasn’t for the book club. I long for the day when I can say I loved a book I had to read for it, but this is not the month. The characters were insubstantial and confusing, the mystery obscure, and the premise was, overall, badly constructed. It was as if someone tried to condense and entire season of soap operas into a single novel.

Weisberg, Lauren

Everyone Worth Knowing
I never read The Devil Wears Prada, though I did see the movie. And from what I can tell this is just the same story wearing Jimmy Choos. Or whatever. It’s the same formula retold with slightly less believable characters. It was okay, but nothing new or exciting – definitely predictable, and not in a good way. I can only hope she breaks out of this mold if she writes another book, because it’s getting old fast.

Westlake, Donald

Bad News
Funny, and with more twists and turns than your average roller coaster, this book will keep you laughing on the edge of your seat. Okay, that sounds like a very cliche line that people would use to promote a book or movie, but in this case it happens to be true. It was a fun book to listen to, never a dull moment. I will definitely be looking into reading more by him! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of fluffy adventure. There’s no deep spiritual meaning, but great characters, a fun, fast-paced plot, and a lot of laughs.

The Road to Ruin
The second Dortmunder novel for me, and though I don't think it was as good as Bad News, it was still a good read. I thought the overall plot and execution of this one was a little more thinly stretched, and there were a few too many involved parties. At times (since I was listening to it instead of reading) it got a little confusing as to who was who. There are a lot of characters and a lot of things happening all the time, which makes for a nice, fast-paced novel - if you can keep it straight. I had a little problem with the mentality and reasoning at the end (the "all or nothing" bit) but overall, a good light mystery. I would recommend it for cozy fans - people who enjoy the hard-boiled crime probably wouldn't enjoy it as much.

Willis, Connie

Passage
It's an interesting story, filled with tons of medical jargon (which may or may not be correct, I skimmed over it, taking it as fiction and at face value), and in its own way a bit of a mystery - one of those books that drags you along as you pick up one puzzle piece after another. Much like I found the Sam Gunn book so entrancing, I didn't want to put this one down. The ending... ah, it was a let-down, honestly, but the rest of the book was worth the ride.

Wingate, Lisa

Texas Cooking
This book was one I set down, picked back up, set down… lather, rinse, repeat… more times than I could count.  There wasn’t anything in particular I can point out that was really bad (except the ending, we’ll get there) but, there was also nothing I can point to and say “that was good!”  The main characters are unbelievable and shallow and the plot is a bit on the thin side.  I didn’t buy it, didn’t like it, and was really turned off by the sanctimonious, preachy ending.  It was just “eh” until then, but the last 20 pages really turned me off.  I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Winston, Lolly

Good Grief
Talk about depressing! Where was the humor the back promised me? Where? Still, a very well-written and touching book. Not one I’d read if you are even vaguely depressed, though. Very, very thought provoking and, yes, there were the odd funny moments. But mostly it made me think, and not happy thoughts. Still, one of the best write-ups of the aftermath of death that I’ve ever read.

Woods, Stuart

Dead in the Water
This one started of preposterously, and went downhill from there. And to top it off, it was pretty raunchy. Come on, the main character’s name is Stone Barrington. What does that tell you? The story had one interesting (though probably not really redeeming) point – justice outside of the US is a very different ball game. Makes you a little nervous about traveling! Overall I would not recommend it, unless you like melodrama and seriously shallow characters.

The Short Forever
Yes, I get a lot of books at garage sales, which is why I had this one – I bought it before I read the other one. Funny, the story started out exactly – and I do mean exactly – the same way. How many times in a man’s life does his girlfriend up and announce she’s marrying another man in two weeks? Evidently this is par for the course for good ole Stone! Same overly melodramatic storyline and impossible characters as the other one I read. Not particularly recommended.

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