Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sink the Bismarck! Review

Sink the Bismarck! by C.S. Forester

Hitler sends out the Bismarck, the fastest battleship afloat.  Its mission is to cut the lifeline of British shipping and win the war.  When it breaks out into the Atlantic the Royal Navy must track it down and stop it before it is too late.

This is an approximation of what happened with the Bismarck.  The conversations and speeches are what the author imagines they would have been.  And the little disclaimer in the front says some of the characters never actually existed even if people very much like them did.  It’s only a short story but Forester manages to pack it full of suspense and tension.  Even though the outcome is already known.  There is a lot of people looking at maps and pointing while saying ‘THERE’.  It is probably more dramatic in the movie when you can see them slam their finger down on the map but the effect isn’t that great in the book.  It is just a little piece of history but full of heroism and action and strategy.  It won’t take you long to read and you will not want to put it down until you finish.  Forester knows how to tell a good story and how to write compelling characters and it will keep you riveted until the very end.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Island of Lost Maps Review

The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey

When Gilbert Bland was caught stealing a map from a rare library book it was discovered that he had been stealing maps for some time from a whole list of different libraries.  Miles Harvey tries to follow Bland’s path of crime to see how and why he did it.  The search took Harvey not just through Bland’s history but the history of cartography too.

The Island of Lost Maps is sort of a true crime story.  But not really.  What got the author started down this road was the theft of maps from various libraries by Gilbert Bland.  The author becomes fascinated with the story and ends up on a rather broader journey than expected.  Harvey does go into the details of Bland's crimes and the history of the man himself (he also does some supposing about why Bland did what he did) but the book is not just about Bland.  I wouldn't even say it is mostly about Bland.  It isn't even just about maps.  There is a lot of interesting (at least to me) information here about the history of mapmaking and the history of map thievery.  It goes into the politics of maps and why they were so well guarded through history.  It talks about why people today have such an interest in old maps and why people feel the need to collect them.  It goes into the issues that libraries have with making rare books available to the public without making them vulnerable to theft and vandalism and how libraries can keep the books together and whole when there are no funds.  Harvey's quest to find Bland led him all over the place and you have to be prepared to follow him there.  Even when he goes on little detours.  The book does tend to meander around a bit and follows Harvey's movements instead of having some, maybe, more cohesive style.  I didn't mind because I found all his detours and musings interesting.  Just beware that this book covers almost as much ground as the maps he's talking about

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just Gone Review

Just Gone by William Kowalski

(from the back of the book)

When Jamal and his sister Chantay arrive at Mother Angelique’s inner city homeless shelter, they are hungry and scared. Their mother is dead and they are on their own. Angelique is fascinated by Jamal’s stories of a man named Jacky Wacky, who protects the abandoned children of the city – and punishes those who harm them. A God-fearing woman, Angelique doesn’t believe the stories at first. But strange things happen whenever Jamal is around, and she is ultimately forced to admit that the world may contain stranger truths than her faith can explain.

Just Gone is a Rapid Reads novel and true to its name it won't take you long to read. It is only a hundred pages or so and the print is nice and big. But the story spans several decades. And I think the large time span coupled with the short length limits the depths of the characters to some extent. You get to know the narrator, Mother Angelique, best because she is, obviously, a constant in the story. But the two children we are introduced to that she is trying to help we only see in little snapshots. We see them as little children and then we get to see them after they have had to survive in the world for years on their own. You get the idea of what happened in the intervening years but no details. So you don't really get to know them that well. The story does a good job of giving the reader a feeling for the despair and hardship of poverty and living in the streets. But it does so without leaving the reader without any hope of better things to come. It has the feeling of an urban legend to me. (Which is appropriate considering the plot.) It’s like a story told over and over until some of the details have been lost and some things have become rather vague. Everyone has heard it but no one can remember how it started and you are almost sure if you hear it again it will not be exactly the same. The concept is good and the narrator interesting so the book is a good way to spend an hour or so but if it had been any longer I think I would have lost interest.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Friday 56 (July 26th)


*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ereader.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link it to Freda's Voice.
*Add your (url) post to Linky on Freda’s post

This week the book is A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire. It is the second book in the October Daye urban fantasy series.

There was a brutal matter-of-factness to her tone. She was the Countess of a County balanced on the edge of disaster, and this was just the way things worked.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Owl Service Review

The Owl Service by Alan Garner

(from the back of the book)
The valley of myth and power where magic made a woman out of flowers, where a doomed warrior won vengeance from beyond the grave, where the power of sorcery built and built and sought release.

Then Alison found plates with owl patterns that vanished; Roger felt screams near an ancient stone, and Gwyn touched the force of a tragic Celtic legend – unknowing, they broke the seals that bound the sorcery.

Mythic forces, of love and damnation, lived again.  The magic was loose…

This is an odd little book.  I kept waiting for the moment when things would start to fall into place.  Unfortunately they never really did.  Maybe if I was familiar with the myth the book is based on I would have had a chance of following along.  As it was I had trouble understanding what was going on most of the time.  It did have a creepy feel to it that I think it was going for and made you want to know why things were happening and how it would turn out.  But I never found out.  It never made it clear why the characters were caught in this loop, or what the owl pattern plates were about or anything.  And the ending was just confusing and didn’t explain anything.  It was interesting to read but disappointing in the end because it never came together and ended up being a series of odd, unexplained events that happened for no apparent reason.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Wall Review

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

One day a woman wakes up to find an invisible wall has cut her off from the rest of the world and everyone and everything on the other side is dead.  Now she has to find a way to go on with just a few animals the only other living things left.

In the beginning this book is interesting.  One woman, whose name you never learn, is cut off from the world by an invisible wall.  She is the only one left.  Just her and a couple of animals.  Everything and everyone outside the wall is dead and lost to her.  The concept caught my attention.  And the book did get me thinking about what I would do if I found myself in her situation.  I don't know how I would handle being all alone in the world.  Would I get up every morning?  Would I continue with the work that needed to be done?  Would I keep going, taking care of the animals and the crops?  Or would I give up?  Would I go insane?  I don't know.  But watching our narrator go through it makes me wonder.  And it is interesting to watch how she handles her new life: what becomes important to her, what she misses most, what she thinks about when she isn't busy, what she finds to fill her days.  Unfortunately my interest waned long before the book was over.  There is only so long I can watch someone pick berries and plant beans and milk cows before I don't care anymore.  The monotony of her life is part of the story I guess but reading about monotony isn't fun.  I was waiting for something to happen but after the wall appears the whole book is her going on and on about hay and potatoes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Friday 56 (July 19th)


*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ereader.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link it to Freda's Voice.
*Add your (url) post to Linky on Freda’s post

This week the book it Sink the Bismarck! By C.S. Forester.  It is, of course, the story of battleship Bismarck and the Royal Navy’s attempt to sink her.  Forester does a good job of packing a story full of suspense and tension into 118 pages.

“The decision I have to take – the next words I say – can change the history of the world, can decide the fate of nations, can settle the destiny of Germany and of National Socialism and of our Fuhrer.  Ten thousand – twenty thousand – fifty thousand lives can be cut short by my next order.”

Talk about dramatic.  Forester knows how to tell a good story.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WWW Wednesdays (July 17th)

To play along just answer the following three (3) questions...

*What are you currently reading?
*What did you recently finish reading?
*What do you think you’ll read next?

Leave a link to your post (or the answers themselves if you do not have a blog) in the comments of Should Be Reading.

What are you currently reading?

Little travel stories.  Some of them might be slightly dated but I like Cahill’s style.

What did you recently finish reading?

No Footprints in the Bush by Arthur Upfield
Detective fiction that takes place in Australia.  It was an interesting change from most of the mysteries I’ve read.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Thunderball by Ian Fleming
I’m in the mood for some James Bond.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Black Friday Review

Black Friday by James Patterson

Terrorists have blown up Wall Street, no demands, no negotiations and no clues as to who is responsible.  Archer Carroll of the NYPD and Caitlin Dillion are tasked with stopping them before they bring about the financial collapse of the US.  The only problem is no one knows who they are or what they want.

It is a well-paced novel so it is quick reading.  There is enough character development that all the people feel real and you care about what happens to them.  It is a little dated now but not to the point that it is no longer interesting.  I wouldn’t call it heavy reading but it is entertaining.  It has action, suspense and even some romance.  There was a plot point added towards the end of the book that made the whole thing less believable to me but by then I was interested in knowing what was going to happen.  There was also some weird use of italics.  It put emphasis in some strange places and I didn’t know what the point of them was.  But even with the few not so great points it is a fun read to pass a day or two.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Electrified Sheep Review

Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese

(from the book jacket)
Benjamin Franklin was a pioneering scientist, leader of the Enlightenment, and a founding father of the United States.  But perhaps less well known is that he was also the first person to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on an electric-shock victim.  Odder still, it was actually mouth-to-beak resuscitation on a hen that he himself had shocked.

Welcome to some of the weirdest and most wonderful experiments ever conducted in the name of science.  Filled with stories of science gone strange, Electrified Sheep is packed with eccentric characters, irrational obsessions, and extreme experiments.  Watch as scientists attempt to nuke the moon, wince at the doctor who performs a self-appendectomy, and catch the faint whiff of singed wool from electrified sheep.

Boese collects some very interesting experiments here.  And some that are less interesting than gross.  I liked the book and I found it fascinating in places but I squirmed a little in places too.  The experiments are grouped together in chapters so the similar ones are together but there are short little stories with headings every few pages or so, so it is a good book to sit down and read for a while or if you only have a few minutes at a time.  Everything here was done in the name of science and it seemed like the scientists truly had good intentions but their methods can get kind of rough.  Animals were hurt in the process here.  And you will see some dedicated scientists operate on themselves and expose themselves to disease (including eating vomit of fever victims).  It is interesting to see the scientific process as the men try to work out the unknown.  And it is interesting to see how thin the line between dedication and crazy is.  I learned about a lot of things I had never of heard of before and had a great time doing it.  But, like I said, it can get unpleasant at times so think carefully before you read this, especially if you are an animal lover or have a weak stomach.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Pig,The Prince and the Unicorn Review

The Pig, the Prince, and the Unicorn by Karen A. Brush

(from the back of the book)

Behind the Gate lurks chaos, carnage, horror vast and evil unimaginable. And the Gate must be locked every hundred years, or the world will be plunged into darkness.

The Key Bearer must be fearsome enough to fight Pitch Fiends, wage war against the Water Demons, defy Death Wings and master the Manslayers.

The Key Bearer is chosen by the key itself. And this century it has chosen an unlikely hero. Instead of awesome, he’s winsome. Instead of beheading his enemies, he befriends them. Instead of a war-hungry sword, he has a curly tail. He’s bigger than a bread box, but barely…

A young little piglet is chosen to save the world and along the way finds that he is stronger than he imagined and that when faced with great responsibility knowing who to believe is sometimes the hardest part. It's a cute little story. An unlikely hero who faces great danger and manages to get places simply because he is cute and loveable. He's naive and not yet jaded with the world and sees things differently than those around him. Not set in his ways like everyone else he questions what others have taken on faith all their lives. So there are some good themes and some fun stuff in here. But there are some odd things too. Half the book takes place under water and you have someone washing and drying off while in the water, or you have a pig running while holding a jar in his hooves and you are not sure how the author meant for those things to work out in this world she created. And the ending is rather too neat and easy to be quite believable. It’s a goofy, cute little story. An easy fun way to kill a few hours but there isn’t very much depth here in characters, plot or setting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties Review

The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau

(from the back of the book)
Fourteen-year-old Jamie will never forget the summer of 1976.  It’s the summer when she has her first boyfriend, cute surfer Flip Jenkins; it’s the summer when her two best friends get serious about sex, cigarettes, and tanning; it’s the summer when her parents throw, yes, naked swim parties, leaving Jamie flushed with embarrassment.  And it’s the summer that forever changes the way Jamie sees the things that matter: family, friendship, love, and herself.

This book is okay. Just okay. And those are always books I find hardest to review. There was nothing very good or very bad about it. It had its moments. There was some humor and some serious parts. I liked the complicated relationship between the sisters, it felt very real. It did a good job of making you feel the awkward, embarrassing moments. And it made it okay to be different from your friends and everyone else you know and it let you know that you are not the only one who feels apart from everyone else. But was there a lot of sex, drugs and drinking for a bunch of 14 year olds? I think so. And if I had a daughter I don't think I would want her to read this. There was something lacking in the characters here too. I couldn't care as much about them as I think I was supposed to. There was nothing here that I can point at and say 'that is what is wrong with this book'. Nor can I pick anything out that I loved. It turns out I just don't want to read about 14 year olds having sex with boys 3 and 4 years older than them or about what happens to various naked body parts when people are swimming and jumping on diving boards.

WWW Wednesday (June 19th)

To play along just answer the following three (3) questions...

*What are you currently reading?
*What did you recently finish reading?
*What do you think you’ll read next?

Leave a link to your post (or the answers themselves if you do not have a blog) in the comments of Should Be Reading.

What are you currently reading?

Decked by Carol Higgins Clark
I wanted a light easy read and I thought this would fit the bill.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer
The book does make you think but unfortunately I wanted to be done with long before it was over.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m thinking about Endurance by Alfred Lansing. But I also need a Y title for my A to Z challenge so I’m also thinking about The Year of the Monkey by Carole Berry.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Win Loads of Books!

Live to Read is having a big Summer book giveaway.  Over 150 books will be given away. 50 books will be given away to 2 people.  But there is also going to be a new giveaway for every day in June and July.  I know that we've missed a few.  But don't worry you can still enter all the June ones too. 

There are a bunch of ways to enter to go on over there and get some books!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Passage Review

The Passage by Justin Cronin

(from the book jacket)
First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment.  Then, the unspeakable:  a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered.  All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear – of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary.  FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty.  Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse.  Wolgast is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors, but for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey – spanning miles and decades – toward the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

I like vampire books and had heard good things about this one so I had high hopes. Maybe that was the problem. I should have gone in blind. But I still don't think I would have loved this one. If you are going to have a book this long and expect people to come back for more it better be really good. And I just don't think it was good enough to carry all that length. There were some characters that I really liked (most of who died on me) and then some I really didn't even find interesting. There were parts of the plot that were great and then some odd little things that were thrown in there that didn't make sense and just seemed to muddle things and then were never cleared up. There were parts that made me want to keep reading when I should be sleeping and others that put me to sleep. On the whole the book was just okay. But it was slow and long and if I am going to invest this much of my time in a book I want it to be better than okay.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Every Boy Should Have a Man Review

Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L. Allen

(from the book jacket)

In a post-human world, a boy oaf comes home from school and finds a female man wrapped up in red ribbon. A note around her neck reads: Every boy should have a man. You’re a fine son. Love, Dad.

Preston L. Allen takes readers on a journey into uncharted territory. He traces the story of the boy and the “mans’ he loves as pets: Brown Skin who is not his, the tragic Red Sleeves who has no voice and her quick-witted daughter Red Locks whose fierceness leads her out of backbreaking drudgery in the mines into the perils of the battlefield to the savagery of cannibalism.

This is rather a hard book to review. Partly because it doesn't really fit into any category that I can name and partly because I'm not really sure how I felt about it. It is part fairy tale, part myth, part dystopian fiction and a few other parts too. It explores themes of slavery, cannibalism, war, environmentalism and other big issues. And it spans several generations. It does all this in a relatively short story. It does read quickly and it is interesting how it starts you in a world you don't recognize and works in pieces of a story every child knows. I do like how you are uncertain if this is the future of the human race or its past or happening right now. It is an interesting story and told in a deceptively simple tone so the impact of it kind of creeps up on you. But in a way that was also why I think I didn't connect with it very much. It is told like a fable. Names aren't used and although it follows particular characters they are more examples to make a point than they are individuals and left me with no one I could relate to. Which would have been fine in a fable of a couple of pages or so but in a novel left me feeling unconnected. A lot of the concepts and plotting are interesting but in the end it was more interesting than enjoyable to read.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Books That Need Your Help To Be Born

I am a firm believer that there can never be too many books.

Kickstarter is a place many people go to get money to get their project off the ground.  Many of them are authors who need a little help making their books a reality.

Ares The God of War: Rise of a Fallen God by Aris needs $10,000 by May 8th.

The Heart of Asia by Tribes Forgotten needs $12,000 by May 11th.

The Iron Poet - An Ironworker's Poems Inspired by Ground Zero by Donald Reith needs $5,000 by May 12th.

Sinjid - A Cutting Edge Science Fiction Novel by David Keesling needs $800 by May 15th.

Lucy and the Anvil by Adam Kline needs $30,000 by May 16th.

Blue Hope - An Ocean Book for the World by Sylvia Earle needs $50,000 by May 19th.

The Case Files of Harlan Falk by I Dreams Inc needs $8,000 by May 29th.

Fiddler in the Darkness by David Gutterman needs $6,000 by June 15th.

All of these projects could use your help.  These are just a few that I picked basically at random.  There are many more if none of these strike you.  They would all love any help you can give.  I can't afford to help them all but I would love to see all of them funded so these stories can be told (and maybe read be me!)

P.S. I am also a firm believer that there can never be too many sweet treats so check these out too.

Malvi: Redefining the Marshmallow Sandwich

Custom Made Cheesecakes

Fudge U

The Old Fox Deceiv'd Review

The Old Fox Deceiv’d by Martha Grimes

(from the back of the book)
There was murder in the quaint North Sea village of Rackmoor.  The body of a mysterious woman in a mummer’s costume lay sprawled on a backwater street.  Half her face had been painted black, the other half white, and the blood on her satin blouse had already turned a deep, dark red.

Who was she?  Who had killed her?  Inspector Richard Jury of Scotland Yard drank a pint with the local Yorkshire lads in a cozy pub to get some startling answers.  And he would have to join the landed gentry on a deadly ride to the hounds of he wanted to track down a very foxy killer.

It's a nice little mystery. I can't find too much to say about it. I enjoyed reading it but I didn't feel like I had to go find the rest of the series. If I happen upon them I will read them but I won't go out of my way. This has the prerequisite plot twists and red herrings and the whole whodunit thing going and it manages to throw in some humor. Not laugh out loud humor, but little smile humor. The characters are interesting enough that you wouldn't mind seeing them again. It doesn't exactly read quickly but it doesn't bog down nor is it so light and fluffy that you lose interest. It was nice while it lasted but it was nothing I would get too excited about.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bookin' Giveaways

Booking With Bingo is giving away some books.  You should go check them out.

For Oak and Dagger by Dorothy St. James go here. Ends April 24th.

For Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka go here.  Ends April 24th.

For That Old Flame of Mine by J.J. Cook go here.  Ends April 24th.

For The Smart One by Jennifer Close go here.  Ends April 24th.

For That Night on Thistle Lane by Carla Neggers go here.  Ends April 24th.

For the audio book Stallion by Starlight by Mary Pope Osborne go here.  Ends April 24th.

For Under Currents by Pamela Beason go here.  Ends April 30th.

For Beach House No. 9 by Christie Ridgway go here.  Ends April 30th.

For The Abundance by Amit Majmudar go here.  Ends April 30th.

All giveaways ends at 6 PM EST on the date given.  They are all open to the US only.  No PO boxes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

Snow White and the Huntsman with Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart

A retelling of the classic fairy tale.

So… this movie has action, fights, cool monsters and a cute huntsman.  But it still managed to be rather a bust.  It pretty much lost me before I even got through the rather lengthy introduction to the story and then never really did anything to get me back.  The people weren’t interesting enough and the plot not compelling enough to get me to really care about anyone.  Snow White is locked up all her life but within hours of getting out is sword fighting with the best of them.  And I don’t know whose idea it was for Charlize Theron to do whatever she was doing with her voice but it was not a good idea.  I don’t know what it was supposed to be and I just found it annoying and distracting.  And the big climatic scene at the end wasn’t climatic and the big dramatic line that was delivered wasn’t dramatic and left me waiting for something else that just never came.  Not one of my favorites.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ninja Review

(from the back of the book)
The medieval equivalent if the Special Forces, the ninjas were the original men in black, elite “shadow warriors” with nearly mystical powers.  Spies, assassins, saboteurs, and secret agents, ninjas have become the subject of countless legends that continue to enthrall us in modern movies, video games, and comics, and their arts are practiced by dedicated acolytes who study their techniques today.

Though they were not blessed with gifts of flight or invisibility as commonly mythologized, ninjas were superbly trained warriors with remarkable skills in combat, climbing, deception, disguise, and camouflage.  In Ninja, John Man goes in search of the true history of these mythological fighters.  Join him on a fascinating journey from their birth in fifteenth-century Japan during a civil war to the modern day, where a self-declared “last ninja” surfaces at the month-long ninja festival in Iga.

A meticulously researched, entertaining blend of mythology, anthropology, travelogue, and history, Ninja is a thrilling ride, as colorful and intriguing as the warriors it so vividly brings to life.

Like all history books that pull out one aspect of history to talk about, I think you could get more out of it if you are familiar with the general history of the time and place.  But it isn’t really necessary.  It is interesting to see how and why the ninja came about.  Everyone has heard of ninjas and knows the myths but to me the real history is actually more interesting even if it doesn’t make for as action packed a movie as the stories.  I liked learning about how they were farmers and how they had their own code to live by.  There is some general information and some very interesting stories about specific ninja actions. It starts at the very beginning, before the word ninja was used, right up to the present where you can see how people are trying to keep the ninja traditions alive.  There were parts that I was less interested in because he starts talking about his own personal journey or the James Bond ninja connection.   And sometimes it does go a little vague because the history just isn’t known.  There were also times when I wasn’t sure we were talking about ninjas anymore because I was having trouble following the line that connected the story being related back to the subject at hand.  I found the book interesting in general but there were times when I felt a little lost trying to put the stories in some sort of historical context because there were just so many names and so much time involved.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Friday 56 (March 15th)


*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ereader.
*Find any sentence (or a few) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link it to Freda's Voice.
*Add your (url) post to Linky on Freda’s post

This week my book is Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw.  Poor Jim was forcibly brought back to life after about 60 years of peaceful death and now all he wants is to get that peaceful death back.
"Aw, crap, Slippery John's spine is powderized," came a voice from somewhere around floor level, with the nonchalant tone of someone discovering a hangnail.
"Oh dear," I said, then felt pretty stupid about it,  "Do you need any help?"
And, yes, the first one talking there is Slippery John.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Into Thin Air Review

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer was on Mount Everest in May of 1996 when disaster struck his team and many others on the mountain that year.  This is his personal account of what happened on the mountain that year along with the research and interviews that he did in the time following the disaster.

Krakauer starts his story well before he gets on the mountain.  He gives you the background on the mountain: the people who have climbed it in the past, or failed to, the politics of who can climb and which side they could climb, a small background on all the people on the mountain with him.  I liked having a context to put his story into.  And it is easier to care about the people you are reading about if you know something about them.  Of course, in this case, that might not be a good thing.  You follow all these people as they climb and face all of the perils along the way.  There are some gut wrenching moments when you feel the dread of the moment.  When you feel the pull of the circumstances that they feel powerless to change.  In many ways it is a horrible story because you know it does not end well but it pulls you in and gets you involved and you can’t look away.  There are a lot of people on the mountain, all with different groups, and Krakauer can’t leave anyone out but it took me a while to sort everyone out and remember who was who.  And even though he talked to the other people after the fact you do get a feel that it is a one sided story, you don’t get the point of view of the other people involved but you also never feel that Krakauer is being untruthful or deceitful in any way to make himself look better or excuse decisions that were made.  I have never had any desire to climb a mountain myself but I kind of understand why someone would.  They were pitting themselves against nature, proving something, accomplishing something.  But after having heard this story, told so well it sometimes made me sick to my stomach, I really don’t have any idea why someone would put themselves in that position.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Scarlet Pimpernel Review

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

(from the back of the book)
It is 1792 and France is in the grip of a seething, bloody revolution.  Mobs roam the Paris streets hunting down royalists, barricades block any chance of escape, and every day hundreds die under the blade of Madame Guillotine.  But in the hearts of the condemned nobility there remains one last vestige of hope: rescue by the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.  Renowned for both his unparalleled bravery and his clever disguises, the Pimpernel’s identity remains as much a mystery to his sworn enemy, the ruthless French agent Chauvelin, as to his devoted admirer, the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeney.

I am a fan of the masked hero type. Zorro and Batman and the like. So you might want to take what I say with a grain of salt because I think I was predisposed to like this novel. And I did like it. There are less of the heroic adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel here than you may expect. You hear about his breathless, selfless rescues more than you actually get to see them. A lot of the book is told from the point of view of Lady Blakeney so the reader stays in England with her instead of getting to go to France with the Scarlet Pimpernel. But you still get to hear how he fools the French and does all sorts of heroic things. I think the events hold more surprises for the characters than they do for the reader but I don't think that hurts the story. Sometimes the 'I just want to be able to die beside my beloved' emotion of Lady Blakeney gets to be a bit much. And I have to admit that I was getting tired of being told that she was ever so clever, even though at times she didn't act like it. Over all I really liked it. It is fun and exciting with some suspense and romance.

WWW Wednesday (March 6th)

To play along just answer the following three (3) questions...

*What are you currently reading?
*What did you recently finish reading?
*What do you think you’ll read next?

Leave a link to your post (or the answers themselves if you do not have a blog) in the comments of Should Be Reading.

What are you currently reading?

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
I just started this so I don’t have much to say about it yet.

What did you recently finish reading?

Death in the Long Grass by Peter Capstick
Death is right.  Everyone is getting chewed on, gored, and smashed to paste. 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Lavender-Green Magic by Andre Norton
I have had this on my shelf for a long time and since I have a color reading challenge going on I think it’s about time I got to it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays (March 5th)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I just barely kept myself from stomping across the room and herding Edward’s teeth from his face with my fist.  Not only did he have some sort of bet going as to my brother’s ignorance, he was kissing up to the old Englishman by cutting down Americans.

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays (February 26th)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The spear seemed entirely savage, but once my hand closed on the polished wood I did feel rather fierce.  This was the first real weapon I’d possessed since losing my rifle in Tripoli, and fortified my confidence the way a primitive might have felt when going up against one of Jefferson’s woolly mammoths.

The Emerald Storm by William Dietrich

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Death Relic Review

The Death Relic by Chris Kuzneski

(from the back of the book)
After being vanquished by the Spanish empire, little remains the Aztec and Mayan civilizations.  From the ashes of their cities emerged a unified legend: Their conquerors possessed a mysterious artifact so powerful – so deadly – that it was universally known as the “Death Relic.”  Despite its infamy, little else is known about it.  Like the lives of the men who carried it, the object was lost long ago.  Or was it?

When archaeologist Maria Pelati’s research team disappears in the rugged terrain of the Yucatan Peninsula, she contacts Jonathan Payne and David Jones to help track them down.  Following the clues left behind, the duo discovers a link between the research team’s work and their recent disappearance.

As Payne and Jones embark on a perilous mission to find the lost archaeologist, they realize that Maria’s research may be the key to solving one of the darkest mysteries of the New World.  But their quest may end up costing them their lives as they unearth the secret of the Death Relic.

Maybe if I had some history with the characters I might have enjoyed this more.  As it was I didn’t connect with them much.  I liked the idea of the long standing relationship between the two friends with all sorts of history that leads to friendly banter.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.  The banter was odd and forced and sounded awkward and ended up taking away from the story instead of adding to it.  And unfortunately there were long passages of it.  There is some good action and mystery with people who are not who they seem, plots and schemes, fire fights and ancient puzzles.  And you get to learn something about the Maya.  But after all the action and mystery, just when it seems to really be picking up, it just sort of ends.  Abruptly.  It felt like the book was leading us somewhere and then decided at the last moment not to go there.  And I was left feeling that the ending didn’t really deliver what the rest of the book promised.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Big Snake Review

Big Snake by Robert Twigger

(from the book jacket) 

Scanning the internet for poetry prizes, Robert Twigger discovers the Roosevelt prize for capturing a live snake longer than thirty feet. The $50,000 prize has been unclaimed since 1912. About to be married, Twigger sets off for the Far East, making sure his last adventure as a bachelor is a big one.

Part travelogue, part classic adventure, Big Snake grapples with the mythic symbolic status of one of the world’s most fascinating creatures. Along the way, Twigger hunts for reticulated pythons in the sewers of Kuala Lumpur, survives on greasy civet cat in the jungle, attempts to date the most beautiful woman in the world, encounters the cobweb hunters of Buru and evaluates the legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace (‘the true discoverer of evolution’). After a few close shaves with snakes of all sizes, Twigger eventually comes face to face with the big one – but the final capture is not quite what he had in mind.

Big Snake is both moving and comic – a poetic quest and a real adventure, which paints a portrait of the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos seldom even suspected.

This book is part memoir, part travelogue, and part adventure story. Twigger, who knows nothing about snakes or the jungle, decides that it would be a good idea to try to win a $50,000 prize by catching a snake over 30 feet long. Along the way he learns a lot about snakes and so do we, like why you want to carry snuff into the jungle with you. But even though there is a lot of information here he kinds of sneaks it in a little at a time and you don't always even realize that you are learning something because it fits in so well with the flow of the story. And in his quest he enlists the help of some very colorful characters who are eager to help even if they don't understand what it is he is doing. And as he introduces you to all the people he meets along the way you learn about their culture and their land. You also get a look into his own life and stories about his grandfather that make the story more personal. At turns informative, funny and exciting it is worth a look if you like stories about adventure and exploration, even if you don't care that much about snakes. The ending did seem a bit abrupt though so it was slightly unsatisfying.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crimson Joy Review

Crimson Joy by Robert B. Parker

(from the back of the book)
Spenser is back on his home turf: a Boston of sleaze and surprises, dangerous days and deadly nights.  A serial killer is on the loose in Beantown and the cops can’t catch him.  Called the “Red Rose Killer” because he leaves a long-stemmed red rose on each woman he slays, he’s terrifying every female who has to go out after dark.  But once Spenser joins the chase, the murderer’s trail turns toward home when a rose is left for Spenser’s own Susan Silverman.

I like Spenser and I like Hawk which is what makes these books work for me.  I like the quips and the sarcasm.  Unfortunately I think there was less of that in this one.  A lot of the book took place between Spenser and Susan.  There is a lot of them working out why their relationship works so well and how they can both can do their jobs, even when they happen to intersect, and still keep their personal relationship strong.  At times it seemed to be the focus of the book even more than the serial killer and, for me, it took up a little too much of the book.  I still liked the book and I always find Spenser books to be fun quick reads.  Spenser fans will read all of the books anyway so what I say won’t make a difference to them but for people who aren’t fans yet I would suggest starting with a different one and working your way around to this one if you find you like the others.