Thursday, April 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Spring

Here's today's BTT question:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

My reading habits tend to change more in the summer than in Spring. I'm not into gardening books so that's never an issue. Since I live in California and have SurferGirl for a daughter, I tend to spend a lot of time in the summer on the beach. I tend to read paperback books on the beach because they are easier to carry and I don't care if they get sand in them. We also tend to do most of our traveling during the summer so, again, paperbacks are the way for me because I can get more books in my luggage. I also leave completed paperbacks behind in hotel rooms and rented condos for other people to find.

I will admit that my tastes get very lightweight and fluffy during the summer. I will admit that People magazine ends up in my beach bag a whole lot. For novels, I tend to stick to fiction that moves quickly. The Janet Evanovich books are a favorite beach read for me. I don't tend to read as much non-fiction. I can't explain it, but it doesn't appeal to me in the summer. My husband always says I don't have any taste in the summer and will read, or watch, just about anything.

I do tend to read some travel books and magazines in the spring, but they are always targeted to planning our summer vacation. This year it's the National Parks of southern Utah. Last year is was Maui and the Grand Canyon.

I'm always interested in summer beach read suggestions so bring them on!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

I read this one for the A to Z Challenge. It is the third book I've read in the Andy Carpenter series. For those of you who don't know, this is a series of books about millionaire lawyer Andy Carpenter and his beloved golden retriever Tara.

In this one, Andy uses the court system to save the life of a rescued golden retriever who turns out to be the dog of a man convicted of murdering his fiancee. The fact that the dog is alive causes Andy to fight to reopen the case. He wins a new trial and starts to investigate the fiancee's death with the help of the normal crew. The plot twists around mob and federal witness protection issues before it is over.

Strengths of Play Dead: I continue to love Andy Carpenter for his dry humor. I find myself laughing at many things that he says and does. I also like his dog, who wouldn't, and appreciate his love of dogs. Rosenfelt's writing is witty and breezy. The book is a very fun read.

Weaknesses of Play Dead: I could see the plot twists coming a mile away. The ending was fairly obvious.

Overall, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. I really enjoy these books. They are a fun, easy read with characters I enjoy spending time with. I'm hoping to read more in the series during my upcoming summer days at the beach.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No One Heard Her Scream by Jordan Dane

This is a book I received as an Advanced Reading Copy from the HarperCollins First Look program which is exciting because it's the first time I've gotten an ARC! It is a combination suspense and romance story. The book says it is an April 2008 release so it should be available now.

It's a very complicated story involving Rebecca Montgomery, a detective with the San Antonio police department, whose sister, Danielle, was kidnapped and murdered before the start of the story. Rebecca is forced out of the investigation of her sister's death and given an arson/murder case where a body was discovered. This body leads Rebecca to Hunter Cavanaugh, a nasty crime boss kind of guy, and one of his cohorts, Diego Calvin. Diego and Rebecca are instantly attracted to each other. The story of the arson/murder gets tied into the story of Danielle's kidnapping as we learn about Diego's true ties to Cavanaugh and the FBI.

Strengths of No One Heard Her Scream: The book is over 300 pages but didn't feel that long. Dane keeps the plot and action moving along. I really liked how all the separate plot lines tied together by the end of the story. Everything in the book happened for a reason, and I didn't feel like twists came at me out of midair. Rebecca is a good, strong character, though flawed and a bit blinded by her personal tragedy. That actually lead me to like her more since she was not a "super cop," but a more human figure. I really appreciated the fact that she wanted to bring closure to another family, even though hers didn't have that same chance. Cavanaugh and his henchman, Brogan, were great villains, quite slimy and capable of anything.

Weaknesses of No One Heard Her Scream: I had some trouble buying the immediate attraction between Diego and Rebecca. I don't tend to like romance novels and this felt a bit like that to me. There was also some sexual brutality in the book, which, while essential to the plot, was something I could have lived without. I'm not sure I needed the details, and probably could have drawn my own picture. While I liked the ending, it was a bit contrived to be "happily ever after." I did see the major twist coming about halfway through the story.

Overall, I'd give this 3 stars. It's very readable, and I think someone who enjoys romance novels might like it a bit more than I did.

Read what Literary Feline had to say about this one here!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Step on a Crack by James Patterson

I read this for the A to Z Challenge. I have read other books by Patterson, from the Alex Cross series, which I quite enjoyed. This one was reviewed on a few blogs so I thought I'd give it a try.

The main character is Michael Bennett a NYPD detective who, in a major subplot, has 10 adopted children and a wife dying of cancer. The main story revolves around the hostage-taking of a group of wealthy celebrities during the state funeral for a former first lady. Bennett is called in as a hostage negotiator. The story unfolds during the week before and during Christmas while Bennett's wife is in the last stages of cancer.

Strengths of Step on a Crack: I loved Bennett's character and especially enjoyed his interactions with his dying wife. Patterson was able to make me truly believe the love between these two people, even though this was a subplot to the story and wasn't given as much time in the story as the hostage drama. I also liked the tension created between Bennett and the main hostage taker "Jack." Jack was just crazy enough, in a cunning way, to pull the whole thing off so it left the reader really wondering what would happen. The celebrities, while obvious rip-offs of current celebrities, were amusing. I found myself thinking about how Oprah or Lindsey Lohan would have handled the hostage situation.

Weaknesses of Step on a Crack: I wanted more time with Bennett's kids and his wife. It took a great leap of faith to accept that Bennett would work this hostage crisis during Christmas and be away from his wife and kids. An au pair shows up in the story at just the right time to care for the kids. While Patterson does explain it, it, again, requires a leap of faith from the reader. There is a twist at the end of the hostage story when Bennett realizes that Jack had inside help and information. I thought this came out of the blue and that Patterson didn't set this up very well. The reader knew there was outside help, but it shouldn't have taken a former hostage to clue Bennett in. I found the whole ending to be rather weak.

Overall, I'd give this one 3 stars. It was fun and enjoyable, as long as you are willing to overlook some plot flaws. I would want to read another Bennett story because I enjoyed his family and want to learn more about them. If you've read this one, I'd love to know how you felt about the ending.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Fill In

1. The last time I lost my temper I had to take a step back and realize that girls tend to be really loud when they are in a group and to keep my temper in check, even though it was really tough!

2. Taxes is what I'm fed up with!

3. The next book I'd like to read is any of the ones on the huge pile beside my bed. I never can decide in advance what to read. It depends on my mood.

4. Summer vacation is what I'm looking forward to.

5. If you can't get rid of the skeleton[s] in your closet, dress them really well!

6. The best thing I got in the mail recently was an invitation to a 100th birthday party from two friends who are each turning 50.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to movie night with the family, tomorrow my plans include a very busy day including a memorial service for my great-uncle and a parent social at the school where I work and Sunday, I want to watch my church's youth group at an ice skating lesson!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Vocabulary

It's been awhile since I posted. I've been camping for two of the last three weekends and, on the other weekend, hosted by daughter's sleepover birthday party for 9 girls. I think I'm still catching up on my sleep, emails, and blogs.

Good thing this week's BTT is short and sweet:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

That's actually an easy one for me. If not knowing the meaning of the word or phrase affects my comprehension, then I'll either stop to look it up, or, more likely, yell out to my husband and hope he knows what it means:)

I can't remember a time, other than in college, when I'd write a word down to look up later. If I don't need to know the word to understand what is going on, I move on and hope I have the gist of the word through its context.

What about you?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Literature

Today's BTT question is a good one. It's one I've had to think about before answering.

  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
I think when I was younger, I would have responded with Shakespeare or Dante because that's what the professors in my college courses tended to assign as literature. To some extent, being an English Lit major was detrimental to my reading because it led to a "snobbish" view of more current books. Luckily, I took a Women's Literature class which expanded my view of literature to Virginia Woolf and a variety of really good women poets. The thing I've noticed is that the books that are deemed "literature" in college courses seem to have universal themes and are not always recently published. That may well be a disservice to new books because literature studies have to continue to evolve.

Now, I read a variety of things but don't really think about if they are literature or not. For example, I love many of the novels of Margaret Atwood and Isabel Allende. I would consider them literature because they are extremely well-written and deal with universal themes through amazing character and plot development. I also enjoy books by Janet Evanovich and Marcia Muller. Would I classify those as literature? I'm really not sure. For me, literature is so well-written that it helps to define something about the human condition. I really believe many of our current authors, including Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood, will continued to be called literature in 100 years.

I've read my share of "literature" during college. I would be surprised if anyone read The Inferno or Moby Dick for pleasure. I don't pick books because they are, or aren't, literary. I read books that entertain me. Sometimes I tend to read more serious, well-written stories, and other times I select more light-hearted fare. There are many works of literature that are among my favorite books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath. I think The Book Thief can easily join that list for its quality and humanity.

I'm very interested in what other people are saying about this one. Feel free to chime in and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

North of Montana by April Smith

I read this one for the A to Z Challenge. It seems to be the first in a newer series by a female writer about the FBI. I read about the latest one and decided to start from the beginning.

It is the story of Ana Grey, an FBI agent who reminds me a bit of Kinsey Milhone. She's an up and coming, young agent who makes a spectacular arrest during a bank robbery at the start of the book. Afterwards, she is given a high profile case concerning allegations that a renowned doctor supplied drugs for an aging Hollywood star, causing her addiction and subsequent treatment at the Betty Ford Center. Ana's personal life is also explored in her relationship with her Grandfather and the discovery of a long lost cousin, who has been murdered, and her two young children.

STRENGTHS OF NORTH OF MONTANA: I really enjoyed the main character. She is strong yet flawed and not too goody-goody which makes her interesting. Smith gave the character a rich, tragic yet still unresolved back story which added to the book for me. I found it to be an easy read, and I got really hooked on the plot. Smith was also very good at weaving the various plot lines together so that things in Ana's back story did contribute to the main story. Smith's portrayal of the aging star was quite amusing. Maybe it's living in California, but you tend to see people who really do fit the stereotypes that Smith used in the story. I also liked the fact that Smith did resolve the plot but left enough going on in Ana's life that she would be interesting to read about in another novel.

WEAKNESSES OF NORTH OF MONTANA: I found Ana to be a bit too "loose" for my taste. The way she feel into bed with coworkers bothered me and took away from the strength of the character. That's part of the reason that I have a mixed reaction to the ending. I truly liked the symbolism and spirituality that Smith used in the last chapter, but I didn't appreciate that Ana needed a man there to make it all better. If you've read the book, you probably know what I'm talking about. I really don't want to give it away because it is a major plot point.

Overall, I'd give the book 4 stars. It was a fun read, and I do plan on picking up other books in the series. My rating may be a bit high because I have a weakness for these types of books - female characters and authors in law enforcement type work. This book did remind me a bit of the early Jan Burke novels. If you've read this one, or another in the series, I'd love to hear your opinion.