Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Shinest Jewel by Marian Henley

At 49, cartoonist Marian Henley hasn't committed to marrying the man with whom she has been dating for seven years. But as the Big 5-0 looms, she realizes that above all else she wants a child. Her story follows the heartbreaking ups and downs of going through the international adoption process; deciding when it's time to grow up and maybe even get married; and in the end, it's the story of a daughter's relationship with her father, and how becoming a mother finally led her to understand him. The Shiniest Jewel is a touching narrative, accompanied by Marian's winsome drawings, that beautifully weaves together her realizations about the joy, and sometimes heartbreak, of building a family.

This was the first time I'd read a graphic memoir or novel, and while I liked it, I don't know that I will read another one. The story didn't disappoint, and I really enjoyed the artwork, but there seemed to be so much more to the story that you miss by reading it in this seemingly abridged format. To me, it felt like the story skimmed along the surface without the details. For example, I wanted to know more about how she found her adoption agency, more about international adoption procedures and what she thought of Russia beyond the poverty.

I really enjoyed the artwork though. I thought the illustrations were full of emotion and very descriptive. You really got to know the characters through their facial expressions, and I found myself laughing more than once.

The Shiniest Jewel is a heartfelt and heartwarming story, but the format wasn't my cup of tea. Even so, the story is compelling enough that I hope a follow up book is published so that I can see how William, Marian and Rick are getting along! 3.5 stars

Pre Order The Shiniest Jewel from Amazon

Booking Through Thursday...

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?

I guess I'd never really thought about it that way, but I do agree. You can have the greatest characters ever, but if nothing ever happens, what's the point in reading about them? I will take character interaction over descriptive passages any day, but the action in the story is really what keeps things moving. If you don't care about what happens next in the story there really isn't any reason for you to keep turning pages!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Today's topic: LibraryThing authors. Who are your LibraryThing authors? What books of theirs do you have? Do you ever comment on an author's LT page? Have you received any comments from an author on your LT account?

My LT authors are Janice Erlbaum, Sandra Gulland, Doreen Orion, Michelle Richmond, Marisa del los Santos, and Lisa Unger. I have at least one book from each author, but may not have read them yet!

I have had Janice Erlbaum's Have You Found Her for a few months, but just recently got Girlbomb from BM. I am a stickler for reading books in order, so now that I have both of them, I hope to get to them soon.

Sandra Gulland's Josephine Bonaparte Collection was a recent find at a FOL sale that I couldn't resist. I love historical fiction, and once again, hope to get to them soon.

I heard about Doreen Orion's Queen of the Road on LT and knew I had to read it! I love memoirs and can't resist a travel memoir of any kind. I recently mooched this one and am taking it with me on vacation this weekend.

I read The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond earlier this year and loved it! I also have an ARC of No One You Know to read soon so I can pass it on in a book ring.

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos is another book that hasn't made it to the top of Mt TBR yet. I have heard wonderful things about it and Belong To Me though.

I read Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger some time back and loved it! The second in the series, Sliver of Truth, got some lukewarm reviews from friends so I put off reading it. I recently got Black Out, which I have heard good things about, and hope to get caught up on the series soon.

I have received comments from Lisa Unger and recently a comment from D.J. Murphy who also lives in Colorado. His book A Thousand Veils looks really good! I love the fact that there are authors among us on LT! The author chats are a wonderful way to learn more about an author you love or to discover a new favorite.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine — who was also his faithful assistant for twenty years — learns that the family he claimed to have lost in a tragic accident is very much alive and well. Sabine is left to unravel his secrets, and the adventure she embarks upon, from sunny Los Angeles to the bitter windswept plains of Nebraska, will work its own magic on her. Sabine's extraordinary tale will capture the heart of its readers just as Sabine herself is captured by her quest.

I love Ann Patchett's writing! It is wonderfully descriptive, but it doesn't bog the story down. For the most part, I enjoy character's interactions over flowery descriptions of the scenery, but Patchett manages beautifully to keep the story moving, and give vivid detail of the setting.

I enjoyed all the characters in this book, but I think my favorite was Phan. I loved his role in the book, and thought it was absolutely perfect, but at the same time, also wish we got to know him better. Parsifal is also a bit of a mystery, but by the end of the story his motivations are more understandable. Still, I would love to ask him some questions. 4 stars

Order The Magician's Assistant from Amazon

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

In The Third Angel, Alice Hoffman weaves a magical and stunningly original story that charts the lives of three women in love with the wrong men: Headstrong Madeleine Heller finds herself hopelessly attracted to her sister’s fiance. Frieda Lewis, a doctor’s daughter and a runaway, becomes the muse of an ill-fated rock star. And beautiful Bryn Evans is set to marry an Englishman while secretly obsessed with her ex-husband. At the heart of the novel is Lucy Green, who blames herself for a tragic accident she witnessed at the age of twelve, and who spends four decades searching for the Third Angel–the angel on earth who will renew her faith. Brilliantly evoking London’s King’s Road, Knightsbridge, and Kensington while moving effortlessly back in time, The Third Angel is a work of startling beauty about the unique, alchemical nature of love.

I picked this book up because it was Alice Hoffman's, not because I knew what it was about. I actually didn't read a synopsis of it until after I'd finished the book. The book is set in 3 times periods, all revolving around the same London hotel, Lion Park, and ill-fated love. The first story is set in roughly present time, and when I had finished the first piece I wasn't all that impressed. It was an OK story, but nothing really special for me. The characters didn't have the depth that I was used to from Hoffman.

The second piece is set in the 60's. Since I hadn't read the synopsis, and didn't know what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was Paul's mother's story. Paul was the fiance in the first piece. Here the story starts to wind around and really get interesting. I found the characters a lot more engaging, and the story more intriguing.

The third piece, set in the 50's was by far my favorite. I don't know if I was more sympathetic to the character since she was a child, or if I liked the way all 3 pieces of the story were being woven together. The main character in the third piece was Allie's mother, from the first part. The three pieces of the story were very neatly tied together, but I got the feeling that the character's in the first piece were there mostly as a way to bring the parent's stories together.

While all of the stories focused on love gone wrong in some way, I was surprised the book didn't feel darker than it did. The darkness was still there, but there was also a feeling of hope and redemption that ran throughout the book. This was another book that I found myself flipping back through to re-read some parts after I had finished it. The stories are so tightly woven together that dialogue in the first part had so much more meaning after finishing the book. 4.5 stars

Order The Third Angel from Amazon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Today's question: LT and RL (real life)- do you have friends in real life that you met through LibraryThing? Have you attended any LT meet-ups in your area? Would you be open to attending meet-ups or is LT strictly an online thing for you?

LT is pretty much an online thing for me. I live at least a couple of hours from Denver, which I would guess to be the closest meet up spot, and don't make it that way very often. I have chatted briefly with other LTers and participate some in the forums, but don't think I would spend the time to go to a real life meeting. I am happy with my online friends staying online!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace-not only personally and professionally, but geographically. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues-including Pete Marino and her niece, Lucy-offer expert crime-scene investigation and autopsies to communities that lack local access to competent death investigation and modern technology.

It seems like an ideal situation, until the new battles start-with local politicians, with entrenched interests, with someone whose covert attempts at sabotage are clearly meant to run her out of town. And that's even before the murders and other violent deaths begin.

A young man from a well-known family jumps off a water tower. A woman is found ritualistically murdered in her multi-million-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is discovered dumped in a desolate marsh. Meanwhile, in distant New England, problems with a prominent patient at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital begin to hint at interconnections that are as hard to imagine as they are horrible.

This used to be one of my favorite series, but it has been lacking for quite a while now. I found the writing to be choppy, disjointed, and repetitive in this book. Also, I don't find any of the characters, except Lucy, even remotely likeable anymore. I keep reading the series, hoping it will get back to its level of greatness, but I think it may be time to give up on it. If I didn't have so much time and energy invested in these characters I would have given up 3 or 4 books ago. If you are new to the series, stick with the early books. They are hard to beat. 2.5 stars

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide--for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life--and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete--and her time on earth will be finished.

This book took me a while to finish, not because it wasn't good, but because I loved it. It is one of those rare books that you can't wait to finish because you have to know what happens, while at the same time, you can't bear to see it end. I found myself reading slower and slower over the last 100 pages, just to have the experience last a little longer.

I loved how this story winds back on itself. There were a few times I would wonder about the sequence of events or how a situation really fit into the story, but, more often than not, they were neatly tied together in the end. My one complaint was that the focal point would switch during flashbacks and Marianne would be telling the story instead of the narrator. The narrator told us this would happen, and yet, almost every time I would have to back track a bit to see who was talking. Maybe it was just my bad luck that I seemed to set the book down at these voice shifts.

The one aspect of the story that I really wondered about was how Marianne found the narrator, and how she knew that this was her long lost love. She tells him throughout the book how their stories intertwine and how she knows he is the one, but she never says how she comes to find him in the first place.

I have never read Inferno and wonder if I missed out on some of the more subtle connections between the two stories. Even without having read it, the basic story line of Inferno is well enough known that I still recognized the setting, and hope I didn't miss out on too much.

One word of warning, some of the descriptions of the narrators burns and their treatment were fairly graphic, and could be disturbing to some.

This story, with it's unanswerable questions, will be rolling around in my head for quite a while. The characters made a lasting impression, and I found myself flipping back through the book to re-read sections, which I rarely do. This is one of the best books I have read in quite a while and is a wonderful first novel. 5 stars

Order The Gargoyle from Amazon

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Favorite bookstores. What's your favorite bookstore? Is it an online store or a bricks-and-mortar store? How often do you go book shopping? Is your favorite bookstore (or bookstores) listed as a favorite in LT? Do you attend events at local bookstores? Do you use LT to find events?

I really don't have a favorite bookstore, but can't resist a Borders or Barnes & Noble if I'm out shopping. I don't usually buy, but will rarely pass up the chance to browse. I get probably 95% of my books from PBS or BM, and will only buy from a bookstore if I have a gift card or there is a sale I can't resist. When I do buy from a book store I am more likely to buy online.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Laurel Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother make sure the literal family skeleton stays in the closet or turning scraps of fabric into nationally acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister Thalia, an impoverished Actress with a capital A, is her polar opposite, priding herself on exposing the lurid truth lurking behind middle class niceties. While Laurel's life seems neatly on track--a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, and a lovely home in suburban Victorianna--everything she holds dear is suddenly thrown into question the night she is visited by the ghost of a her 13-year old neighbor Molly Dufresne.

The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is inexplicable--an unseemly mystery Laurel knows no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Only her wayward, unpredictable sister is right for the task, but calling in a favor from Thalia is like walking straight into a frying pan protected only by Crisco. Enlisting Thalia's help, Laurel sets out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about her family's guarded past, the true state of her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

Until recently I have not been a fan of audio books at all. I found that my mind would wander and I would have no idea what had just happened in the book. This audio, though, had me captivated right from the start. The book is narrated by the author and I loved her voices for all the characters, except for Laurel's father. Yes, he was supposed to have a nasal voice, but it still bugged me a bit. At least he was a fairly minor character.

One thing I found interesting with this book was how my feelings toward Thalia would swing between loving how wild and unbridled she was, to being completely fed up and angry with her for meddling in Laurel's life. Usually I either like a character or don't, and with Thalia I still can't decide. Actually, now that I sit down to write this, there are a few characters that I have conflicted feelings about. I think Joshilyn Jackson did a wonderful job of leaving each characters actions open to interpretation. She never said a characters actions were right or wrong, she just presented the story and let each reader's own experiences color the characters.

This is the fist book I "read" by Jackson, but it won't be the last. Whether in book or audio format I will definitely be checking out her other books. 4.5 stars.

Order from Amazon

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dry Ice by Stephen White

Stephen White's debut novel, Privileged Information, introduced Boulder, Colo., psychologist Alan Gregory and the clever but deadly Michael McClelland, a former meteorologist turned killer, whose rampage almost cost Gregory and his wife, Lauren, their lives.

In this sequel, while Lauren, a local prosecutor, is absorbed in a sensitive grand jury probe that represents her best chance to demonstrate that she can function despite her MS, Gregory learns that McClelland has escaped from custody and has devised a devious, multi-layered revenge scheme against everyone he holds responsible for his incarceration. Almost overnight, Gregory finds his routine existence turned into a Hitchcockian nightmare. Suspected of several murders, he can trust no one.

I picked up this series years ago as I live in Colorado, grew up near Boulder, and thought it would be fun to read a series in a setting I know well. Since then, though, this has become one of my favorites. I love Dr Gregory. He is a smart man, but still compassionate and caring. He also gets into some wonderful scrapes. Sam, Dr Gregory's police detective friend, is a very entertaining character too. I don't feel as much of a connection to Lauren though. She always seems a little flat to me.

This book had me frustrated though. Dr Gregory lost a patient in an earlier book, and is still struggling with the after effects of that trauma. There were points in this book that Dr Gregory was so slow and dim witted that I was mad that he wasn't catching on to anything. In the end, it came together and I wasn't as frustrated, but this wasn't my favorite in the series. I am hoping the next in the series, Dead Time, is better. 3.5 stars

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Today's question is only marginally about LibraryThing but I thought it might be a fun question anyway. It's more about blogging. Everyone who participates in Tuesday Thingers has a blog- some have a book blog, some have several, some have blogs that are more personal, etc.- and we've all chosen to participate in this particular way of networking to build traffic, get to know each other, etc. So my question is: what other weekly memes or round robins do you participate in? Is this the only one? Why Tuesday Thingers and not some other weekly Tuesday meme? Or do you do more than one?

Right now the only one I participate in is Tuesday Thingers. I have looked at Booking Through Thursday, and want to start doing this one as well, but my last few Thursdays have been crazy. I think I even missed doing Tuesday Thingers last week!

I do Tuesday Thingers because I love the LT bloggers! I get great recommendations, sign up for wonderful contests, and generally just love the community. I think Tuesday Thingers is a great way for us all to stay connected!