Thursday, August 23, 2012

From Dead to Worse

Charlaine Harris
359 pages

Quinn is missing.  He hasn't been seen since the vampire summit. Hurricane Katrina has effected the balance of power in the werewolf and vampire communities.  Female werewolves start to be attacked, and Sookie is thrown into the middle of the chaos.  However, not everything is bad in Sookie's life; she does get to meet her great-grandfather.  Overall, this book was just not as enjoyable as others in the series have been.

All Together Dead

Charlaine Harris
323 pages

Sookie is hired by the vampire queen of Louisiana to use her mind reading abilities on the humans attending the upcoming vampire summit in Rhodes.  The queen is in a vulnerable position because Hurricane Katrina has caused major damage to her state and has taken a big hit on her pocket book.  The queen is also facing murder charges for her late husband, the king of Arkansas.  Quinn and Sookie are still in the beginning stages of a relationship, and the vampire summit is keeping both of them occupied.

This was definitely drama filled and packed full of action.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Uglies: Shay's Story" by Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson, and Steven Cummings

208 pages

In Uglies, Tally was led by her friend Shay to the Smoke, a place far outside the city where people stay Ugly instead of getting the operation that makes them not only Pretty but also dim-witted and compliant. This graphic novel tells the story from Shay's perspective: how she met the Crims, befriended Tally, and traveled to the Smoke.

As I was reading Uglies, I was really interested in Shay. I thought she was one of the most intriguing characters. I wanted to know how she developed her independent spirit while growing up in such an oppressive society. I didn't get as much of that background info that I wanted, but I did enjoy hearing her version of the story. I like the artwork and it seems to fit the story well. Overall, a nice addition to the Uglies series.

"Defending Jacob" by William Landay

421 pages

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts for more than twenty years. He is respected in the community and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob. Then a shocking crime rocks their small town: a fourteen-year-old boy has been stabbed to death on his way to school. Andy and Laurie are afraid for the safety of their son, just like all the other parents in the area. But when Jacob is charged with the murder, they are both completely astounded. For the first time, Andy finds himself on the other side--the defense--and he will stop at nothing to prove his son's innocence. 

This book does pretty much everything a good thriller is supposed to do. It kept me guessing. It freaked me out. It got my heart pounding. I really like the structure of the story. Throughout the book we get glimpses of the transcript from a future case, in which Andy is telling the story to a prosecutor but we're not exactly sure who's on trial, or for what. At the end--a very, very shocking conclusion that completely took me by surprise--it all comes together. In addition to the pure can't-put-it-down entertainment value, this book raises some moral dilemmas that are quite fascinating. How far can someone go to protect their child? Should our loyalties lie with the law or with our loved ones? How much of criminal behavior is nature as opposed to nurture? All interesting things to think about. I recommend this one for fans of John Grisham and other authors of legal thrillers...or any thrillers, for that matter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

Eloise Kelly, a modern-day grad student working on her thesis, searches for clues to the identity of her favorite early nineteenth century English spy, the Pink Carnation, as her reading of historical documents tells the tale of a young half-French, half-English woman's adventures when she runs off to France a few years after the Revolution in order to join her brother (and secretly look for her hero, the Purple Ventian, so she can join his league of spies, save England from French invasion, and restore the monarchy).  Nothing goes quite as either young woman has planned, of course, and they find they must continually adjust their opinions of the people around them as more and more of the truth is revealed.

I very much liked this semi-historical romance in the beginning, with its witty banter (always a sucker for witty banter, moi), original plotting, plucky historical heroine, and Scarlet Pimpernel references (I had a crush on that character for years and years, thanks both to Baroness Orczy and Anthony Andrews).  A little of the shiny rubbed off for me along the way, however, as boring, unlikely, and (it felt to me) out-of-character standard romance tropes and conventions began to intrude on what had been up till then a fun, engaging tale of romantic suspense.  I still enjoyed it overall, and will probably give the next few in the series a read, anyway, as this was the author's first published novel and I'd like to see if she gets better and more consistently good as she goes.  Besides, I do love me some historical espionage, derring-do, and romance all rolled together.

Ristorante Paradiso

by Natsume Ono, 172 pages

Young Nicoletta flies off to Rome to make something of herself and to track down and confront her mother, who left her with her grandparents years ago in order to marry a man who doesn't know Nicoletta exists.  But when she shows up at her mother and step-father's out-of-the-way restaurant, her mother begs her to keep the secret till she's ready to reveal it herself.  Nicoletta struggles to balance her urge for justice with her longing to finally have her mother in her life, and as she gets to know the colorful, friendly staff (consisting, per her mother's fetishist request, of mostly older gentlemen in glasses), her indulgent step-father, and her now older and (somewhat) wiser mother, she finds her desire to shake things up waning.

A nice slice-of-life tale, this, as Nicoletta grows a little, forgives her mother, and starts to fall for one of the staff.  We get a few little glimpses into some of the restaurant employees' home lives and histories, too, and the result is gentle, touching, and fun.  Ono has a unique, distinctive style that I fell in love with a few pages into the first book of hers I read.  I'm always up for more of her, so I look forward to starting Gente, the sequel series to this one-shot, as it delves more into the personal lives of the Casetta dell'Orso's staff.

(BTW, the anime adaptation is nice, too.)

All My Darling Daughters

by Fumi Yoshinaga, 206 pages

Headstrong Yukiko and her mother Mari have lived together ever since Yukiko's father died when she was a little girl.  Now about to turn thirty, Yukiko finds her world turned on its side when, following a serious illness, Mari suddenly informs her daughter she has a man three years younger than her daughter.  To say that Yukiko is less than thrilled at this announcement would be something of an understatement.

Aw, the first tale in this collection of stories orbiting Yukiko and her friends and family made my eyes weepy.  The mother-daughter dynamic is subtle and funny and heartwarming, and Ken, Yukiko's new "dad," quickly earns the reader's trust along with Yukiko's as her suspicions turn to grudging acknowledgment of his good nature, good intentions, and good influence on her careworn mother.  The other sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always unpredictable stories link back to Yukiko and her mom and Ken over food as characters drop by for dinner or meet at a bar or sit together at a funeral meal and share their current worries and joys and gossip (bonding over food shows up often in Yoshinaga's work).  The art is graceful and classy and clean-lined, the characters quirky and engaging, and the stories fun, original, and thought-provoking, all of which just further justifies my Yoshinaga love and admiration and makes me want to get my hands on more of her books.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

All Creatures Great and Small

by James Herriot  442 p.

             I loved this book. It reads like fiction, but is nonfiction. It is the first couple years James Herriot, a Scottish veterinarian, spends in his first job which is in Yorkshire England in the late 30s.
         It had chapters that made me cry, the next made me laugh, and grossed me out. It confirmed I made the right decision in not becoming a vet, but he does have some great moments with animals. Read this book! I look forward to watching the series that was on PBS in the 70s.

The Lilies of the Field

by William E. Barrett  127 p.

   This is the story that the Sidney Poitier movie by the same title is based on, but I haven't seen the movie. I plan on doing so. This is a novella about a man who is traveling around in the 1950s I think after he serves in the military. His name is Homer (so fitting he's a bit of a nomadic soldier-type) and he is driving in the western US to check out it out. He is originally from the South. He sees some women working at a small farm in the desert and offers his services as a paid worker. They turn out to be nuns from Germany. The mother superior believes Homer is sent from God to build their chapel. She is bossy and that often irks Homer. Homer thinks she's a bit nuts, because he has never built a church. Something draws him to building the church even though it is not his denomination.

   This book had some touching and inspiring moments, but I felt the descriptions of Homer by the author are questionable at times.

Definitely Dead

Charlaine Harris
324 pages

Debbie Pelt's family is still actively looking for Debbie and are pestering Sookie about her whereabouts.  In the meantime, Sookie is starting a relationship with were-tiger Quinn, but supernatural beings seem to be interfering at every turn.  Sookie's cousin Hadley, a former drug addict was turned into a vampire.  Unfortunately, she didn't last very long as a vampire and was killed.  Louisiana's vampire queen has summoned Sookie to New Orleans to settle her cousin's affairs as her next of kin.  Hadley has left some nasty surprises waiting for Sookie in her apartment.  Sookie also finds out a horrible secret about Bill.  On top of that, Sookie gets caught in the middle of a terrible vampire political battle.

This novel had a slightly different feel.  A new character was introduced, who may become a new ally/friend for Sookie in future novels.  I am rooting for Quinn to be Sookie's new boy.  He seems safer for her than her vampire interests of the past, but I don't know if that will work out or not.