June 30, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you gotten Glue yet? If so, how do you like it? Do you follow Glue Genie on Twitter? Won anything in their quizzes? I try do do my best keeping up with posting to my blog...but I have a very demanding job so I think I do pretty well at posting regularly. That demanding job though does not allow me time enough to investigate all the new social tools available on the Internet. I did take a look at the Glue plugin and it sounds very interesting and fun but I am reluctant to add it to my browser...I like the idea of staying anonymous in my Internet browsing. I do not subscribe to Twitter and I have no plans to at this time...so I will not be following Glue Genie or participating in their quizzes.
I know it may seem contradictory to be posting to a blog and not want to be more sociable on the Internet but my blog is a place for my ideas and opinions and firstly for myself and then for anyone else who wants to stop by. Its a place I can organize all my reviews and show appreciation for things I find appealing or worthwhile. So I'm going to keep the status quo for now and not join Twitter or plug into Glue.

June 27, 2009

The Angel by Carla Neggers

The Angel by Carla Neggers is the latest in a loosely connected series of romantic suspense novels, which I would venture to say are mostly twisty murder mysteries and very little romance. Themes of The Angel revolve around the existence of evil, deliberate mischief and an elusive Celtic stone angel. This is a story of good and evil, love and anguish knotted together with secrets and lies.
Detective Abigail Browning from The Widow is a main character in the story. The other main character is Keira Sullivan, a folklorist who tells stories and paints the mythical...and finds a man mysteriously drowned in a few inches of water in a public garden near where her art opening is in Boston. Abigail and Keira's uncle Detective Bob O'Reilly investigate the death of the man, Victor Sarakis. Keira has rented a cottage in Ireland for six weeks and has promised her friend Patsy McCarthy to delve more into her tale of three Irish brothers, a stone angel and the summer solstice while in Ireland. During her investigation of a ruined stone cottage she thinks she sees the stone angel but is then trapped among its collapse. Not hearing from his niece at the planned time Detective O'Reilly becomes concerned and calls upon FBI agent and FastRescue volunteer Simon Cahill to investigate. Simon rescues Keira and they return to Boston only to discover the gruesome murder of Patsy McCarthy.
Carla Neggers expands upon the eccentricities of each character. They all have secrets and reasons for withholding those secrets. There is the perplexing fable of the stone angel and three brothers...which was used as a major plot element but did not make much sense to me as the discovery of the stone angel was too simplistic, its disappearances and re-appearances too convenient. The book does convey a sense of hidden meanings and supernatural events but then most were given explanations. The Angel ends with many plot lines and questions unanswered, paving the way for the next book in the series called The Mist featuring Will Davenport and Lizzie Rush released in hardcover June 30, 2009.
My Rating: 3.5
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June 26, 2009

My Kind of Book!

In my most recent Shelf Awareness Newsletter I noticed a flash banner at the top about this upcoming new release. My kind of book...a book about books, being obsessed with books to the point of stealing them, solving the thefts of books and the methods behind the crimes. Was there ever a book you wanted so much you thought about stealing it? Has your love of books ever led you to behave in an extreme manner? The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett - Hardcover September 17, 2009 John Charles Gilkey is an obsessed, unrepentant book thief who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books from book fairs, stories, and libraries around the country. Ken Sanders is the self-appointed "bibliodick" (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch him. Journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett befriended both eccentric characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes and how Sanders ultimately caught him, but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, Bartlett looks at the history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages, to examine the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love. GoodReads has a giveaway to win a copy of the book although it is only open to U.S. residents and ends on June 29, 2009. To Answer My Questions Above: I have never thought about stealing a book but I have thought about seriously maiming someone who has borrowed one of my books and not returned it. Now I never loan out my books to anyone...period. I am very attached and very obsessive about the books I do own and I try to keep my collections the same size. It pissed me off when tall paperback format was introduced...99% of the time I refuse to buy the tall paperback...the publishing industry should have thought about this one more. I catologue all the books I own or wish to own using Bookpedia. I have spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to complete various author collections. Now that I have revealed all my secrets what are yours?

June 24, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: What areas of Library Thing do you find confusing or frustrating? The team at LT seem to be continually updating things at the site. Is there anything in particular that you would like to see updated or changed? Hmm...I think the new Collections feature is frustrating because I cannot change the collections of multiple books at once. I hope LT updates this new tool to allow this and if anyone figures out how to do it let me know please! I like the idea of Collections though...because now you can make collections of DVDs and AudioBooks, etc., which was a previous pet peeve of mine...not being able to distinguish between them. But the tab on the menu should now be changed to "Your library" instead of "Your books" to better reflect the added functionality.
I'm not fond of the AddBooks page...and then having to choose book, wait for the update and then edit book...I'd much rather search for a book and add then edit the book from the book's main page. I like to look at the tags on the book's main page before I add my own tags so the quick edit tags field is useless to me.
I'm a bit confused about Groups. I have not used Groups much yet...I have used this feature for the EarlyReviewers program and 50 Book Challenge but I'm not sure how you get updates and emails from groups or if you need to officially "join" a group in some way to get emails from group posts (as per GoodReads). Its a whole can of worms I do not want to open and time, brain power I'm not yet ready to expend.
I wish I could see my whole review when I edit a book rather than having to scroll through the box...sometimes I delete text I did not mean to...I preferred it the way it was. That's all my gripes!!! But I love the look of the site now and I always look forward to reading the State of the Thing Newsletter.

Living Beauty by Bobbi Brown

I won a copy of Bobbi Brown’s Living Beauty from a contest by Wendi at Wendi’s Book Corner. When I read a summary of the book I realized it was targeted to women 40 and over and since I am still in my 30s I asked my wonderful Mom to read it and give us her viewpoint. Here are her comments: I was impressed by the detail Bobbi goes into to bring knowledge and insight to women over 40. It is refreshing to see the improvements that can be achieved by experience and care. I enjoyed the makeover pictures and all the information on conditions of my skin that I am experiencing but did not know there was a solution for. I have started an exfoliating regime and moisturizing face and body. I have also enjoyed the info about lipstick and gloss for older women. Another thing I knew but had not read it quite like Bobbi puts it, was diet and meditation, how they work together to inspire energy (very interesting) and you are what you think and eat. Another section that informed me was the section on midlife pregnancy, a topic never a concern in my past or future, but it opened up my eyes to what younger women are dealing with, in fact I believe having babies at an older age is the key to staying younger because good health is critical for a safe delivery. I still have the second half of the book to read. It has commentaries from individual women; I look forward to their comments. THANK YOU FOR THE KNOWLEDGE. So my Mom’s job leaves her little time to spend extra care on her appearance and health…a common story for a lot of women. She has to get up early in the morning to get ready and travel into work before 6:00 PM and returns home sometime after 2:00 PM, usually exhausted from spending all day on her feet…then into bed at 8:00 PM. Not much time left for all the little niceties she would like to indulge in. We recently spent a 3 day mother-daughter weekend together in a scenic mountain village setting and though it started our shaky (two-hour detour to plug up leaking coolant and first speeding ticket EVER) our weekend was also incredibly relaxing and enjoyable (browsing great art galleries, golfing on pristine course near river, massage from hot guy). During our weekend together I helped colour my Mom’s hair from gray blonde to golden blonde, though this required two attempts as the first looked patchy (oops), and then gave her Living Beauty to look through, hoping to jump start a fresh perspective on her own beauty. I admired how BB ‘kept it real’ with explaining a bit of her own missteps in living beauty and then providing a mantra of how she views her own beauty now. There is an abundance of before and after comparisons of makeovers of women over 40…some of them are quite dramatic and show just what a little bit of under eye concealer, highlighter and lipstick can do. The book also has sections on skin treatments, hair makeovers, menopause and nutrition. A great guide for women over 40 who want bring their health and beauty up a notch or two.
My Rating: 4.0

June 19, 2009

Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb

J.D. Robb's latest paperback release Salvation in Death was a bit of a disappointment for me. I thought the storyline was rushed and not as well-rounded as past efforts in the series. Holy communion spells death for Fr. Miguel Flores, a popular Catholic priest in New York City's Spanish Harlem, after he swallows wine laced with cyanide during a funeral in bestseller Robb's unusually introspective 27th crime thriller to feature Lt. Eve Dallas (after Strangers in Death). The ensuing homicide investigation suggests that Flores could actually be Lino Martinez, a former member of a disbanded gang, the Soldados, suspected of two bombings before he disappeared. The death by cyanide of another religious figure, Jimmy Jay Jenkins, founder of the Church of Eternal Light, complicates matters. Are the two murders connected? Sussing out the answer to that question involves some serious digging. Dallas's husband, Roarke, and fun sidekick, Det. Delia Peabody, lend support. Robb offers a multilayered solution to several crimes that serves as yet another reminder that wolves sometimes hide in sheep's (or priest's) clothing, but justice, like faith, has no expiration date. Robb often picks elements to further Roarke and Eve's character development, in this case their POV of religion or faith, as well as how gray the line of responsibility. A large portion of the book was focused on these elements at the sacrifice of the development of Eve's friendships...we only get quick glimpses of Mavis, Mira, and Nadine and nothing of Louise & Charles (I was expecting more storyline on their wedding shower that was only briefly mentioned). Sometimes the dialogue and intimacy scenes between Roarke and Eve frustrate me because the writing style is very choppy and abrupt. I wish Robb could spend a bit more time making these more realistic. Roarke's voice sometimes seems Irish and sometimes not...would like more consistency. The story proceeds over a handful of days, although this is usually normal. The concept of a con artist and gang member masquerading as a priest and being murdered during communion in front of his congregation was interesting to me but the killer was not difficult to figure out, not very interesting and the side story of Jimmy Jenkins seemed like filler.
Next in the series, Promises in Death, sounds more promising and was released in hardcover February 24, 2009. Mass market paperback to be released July 28, 2009.
My Rating: 3.0
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June 18, 2009

HarperCollins AuthorTracker

I recently signed up to follow James Rollins on AuthorTracker. I think AuthorTracker is a very clever idea from HarperCollins Publishers. I highly recommend signing up for your favourite authors. Below is a summary of the program: AuthorTracker is a service provided by HarperCollins Publishers that helps you stay on top of the latest news about your favorite authors. As an AuthorTracker subscriber, you'll be among the first to know about new books, events, and special promotions—with e-mail messages tailored to your author preferences. Other benefits of being an AuthorTracker subscriber might include: periodic messages from the author(s) you select and alerts when special material is made available, such as early excerpts that you can read online for free in Browse Inside. I received my first newsletter from James Rollins today and it was all about his new book The Doomsday Key (another Sigma Force novel) set to be released in hardcover June 23. Here is the summary from HCP: At Princeton University, a famed geneticist dies inside a biohazard lab. In Rome, a Vatican archaeologist is found dead in St. Peter's Basilica. In Africa, a U.S. senator's son is slain outside a Red Cross camp. The three murders on three continents bear a horrifying connection: all the victims are marked by a Druidic pagan cross burned into their flesh. The bizarre murders thrust Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force into a race against time to solve a riddle going back centuries, to a ghastly crime against humanity hidden within a cryptic medieval codex. The first clue is discovered inside a mummified corpse buried in an English peat bog—a gruesome secret that threatens America and the world. Aided by two women from his past—one his exlover, the other his new partner—Gray must piece together the horrifying truth. But the revelations come at a high cost, and to save the future, Gray will have to sacrifice one of the women at his side. That alone might not be enough, as the true path to salvation is revealed in a dark prophecy of doom. Sigma Force confronts humankind's greatest threat in an adventure that races from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings. The ultimate nightmare is locked within a talisman buried by a dead saint—an ancient artifact known as the Doomsday Key. Sounds way better than Dan Brown's novels right?!! Here is a quote from my James Rollins AuthorTracker Newsletter: "As to the science in this story, I'll be delving into the genetic engineering of the world's food. What is really going on with this industry? Should we be disturbed? And on a totally different subject matter, I'll also be tackling another disturbing question: what is REALLY going on with the disappearance of the world's honeybees? There is an answer in The Doomsday Key. And the most frightening of all: it's true."

June 17, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you explored the new Collections feature? Do you plan to use the new Collections? Are you going to add any special collections? If so, what are they? I have not explored the new collections feature but I am going to right now! Ok this is a cool tool and probably long past due since I know in GoodReads you can already assign different collections/tags this way but there are a couple features that bug me. It is hard to tell that you have assigned the book to a collection...there is a cursor that flashes a couple times and then I guess the book is then added to the collection you have chosen in the menu (menu pops up by clicking on briefcase). It would be nice to mass change books...since I have 359 books its going to take more effort and time than I would like to use to change over my books to their related collections. There is an Edit Collections choice in the main All Collections menu (drop down menu 'All Collections' top-left of your library) but there is not the funtionality to mass edit collections. They need to create check boxes by the books that you can tick off and then add to collection. Since I already have 60 books in my To read collection I think they are pulling permutations of to read or tbr from Tags. I will be using this feature but will not be rushing into changing books already added to my library...just too much work and not a valuable use of my time...hoping they add multiple book changes in the future. Doubt I will add any special collections...thinking you could add collections Music and Video and add these products to your library though.

June 14, 2009

The Eight by Katherine Neville

The Eight by Katherine Neville is a dazzlingly complex novel about the search for the legendary and mysterious Charlemange chess set called The Montglane Service reputed to give the owner untold power...the power to end Kings. There are two stories that run parallel to each other...that of Catherine Velis, New York, 1972, a computer expert working in a male dominated law firm who is sent to Algeria to consult for OPEC and Mireille de Remy, France, 1970, a novice of the Montglane Abbey who has been given a secret mission by the Abbess to conceal a number of the chess pieces of the service. Those who are in the hunt to acquire the chess service and the power it contains are said to be in The Game.
Neville pulls into the story a very broad spectrum of ideas and philosophies...from the meaning of the zodiac, planets and elements to mathematics of the Fibonacci numbers and infinity to the significance and history of cultures and religious customs. Additional themes were absolute power or dictatorship versus freedom of choice or democracy...that the many can be more powerful than the one. I think it would take an entire essay to examine all the different themes within the novel. The Eight is a very long novel at just under 600 pages of small type on paperback format. It took me many sessions to read and I often had to set the book down to ponder clues and events. The book is about fifty-fifty the story of Catherine Velis versus Mireille de Remy. At the beginning of each chapter there is a quote or abstract about chess and/or life that represents the meaning of each chapter.
In the book chess is defined as the ultimate game of strategy. Katherine Neville 'strategically' wrote and divided the plot of The Eight as a chess game. There are layers within layers of meaning about some of the ideas presented in the story...and games within games. There are very clever, intricate plot threads that eventually come back to their beginning (deliberate of Neville emphasizing infinity, eight, opposite yet parallel). The storyline at times was wildly dramatic although I found this appealing and often very imaginative, which kept me interested in reading the voluminous amount of pages.
I had a handful of issues with the novel. One aspect that never made sense to me was why Valentine was given a chess piece to protect though she was the youngest, most immature, impressionable and vulnerable novice and not even central to the storyline. A woman named Catherine Grand was mentioned as the one who started The Game in the historical storyline but it was never clarified how or why and it did not make sense to me.
The Eight is an amazing accomplishment of a novel. If you want an engrossing, complex, fascinating read look no further. The sequel, The Fire, was released in hardcover October 2008 and the trade paperback is being released August 25, 2009.
My Rating: 4.5

June 9, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Today's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: How often do you find yourself struggling through a book (if you HAD to estimate)? How far will you read before you stop and consider it a DNF (Did not finish)? Will you skim ahead and see if it gets any better? Once you put it down, do you still write a quick review? What do you do with the book when you are done?
I struggle through a book about one out of fifty times. I'm really careful in the first place which books I read because I'm one of those picky people...and I usually cycle between romance, historical fiction and action/adventure or thriller. I do get bored easily and sometimes even with books. If I have to put the book down multiple times or its taking me too long to finish I often just leave it until I become interested again and then will finish it. I also go through periods where I need to take a break.  Sometimes its hard to fit reading into everything else going on in life...but I always have a book in my bag for the ride home on the bus after work.
I'll read four or five longish chapters  but under half the book before I decide not to finish.  If the book is terrible and I do not want to continue on I will skim through the rest of the book.  I will often search out reviews of the book on Chapters, Amazon, LibaryThing and blogs to see if it was a DNF by others to justify my decision. So far I have one glaring DNF on LibraryThing and that was an EarlyReviewers ARC of Lori Handeland's Any Given Doomsday. I did do a quick review and then I traded in the book at a used bookstore. Besides this one I cannot remember my last DNF.

June 3, 2009

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

James Rollins' latest paperback The Last Oracle was released on May 11 and I even managed to get my gleeful hands on a copy a couple days before.  I waited eagerly for the mass market to come out, as budget is of concern to me and I only buy mm or trade paperback...and I rarely get the time to visit the library nowadays. I'm loving the sparkly fire on the front cover too. This is the fifth book in the Sigma Force series.
So with all the historical fiction I write reviews on why, do you ask, am I such a fan of James Rollins, when he writes action/adventure/thriller fiction?? WELL first of all, I'm a bit if a nerd and excelled in science and computer classes in my high school and university education (I have a B.Sc. degree in psychology). I love karate and action or science fiction films even prefer them over romantic comedies...I'm all for over the top special effects and I prefer to watch movies on IMAX screens. Plus I need to mix up the historical fiction with something else.
I am a dedicated follower of Rollins and own and have read most of his books (excepting Indiana Jones and Jake Ransom).  Did you know Rollins' The Judas Strain won the Harper Collins March Madness competition out of 60 different titles at the start???  As you can see here there was some very stiff competition. What I love about his novels besides the fast-paced action is that he really develops his characters and relationships between characters...he always weaves his plot around scientific theories, which can sometimes be bizarre or obscure, and controversial topics.  He always includes elements of emotional drama, humor, romance and edge of your seat thrills.
In Washington, D.C., a homeless man takes an assassin's bullet and dies in Commander Gray Pierce's arms. A bloody coin clutched in the dead man's hand—an ancient relic that can be traced back to the Greek Oracle of Delphi—is the key to a conspiracy that dates back to the Cold War and threatens the very foundation of humanity. For what if it were possible to bioengineer the next great prophet—a new Buddha, Muhammad, or even Jesus? Would this Second Coming be a boon . . . or would it initiate a chain reaction that would result in the extinction of humankind?
Vital seconds are ticking rapidly away as Pierce races across the globe in search of answers, one step ahead of ruthless killers determined to reclaim the priceless artifact. Suddenly the future of all things is balanced on the brink between heaven and hell—and salvation or destruction rests in the hands of remarkable children.
I thought The Last Oracle ventured into a new emotionalism from Rollins, which was especially chilling at times. Autistic savant children have been augmented to enhance their abilities and exploit them in the service of a Russian scientific research team to bring about a new Russian Renaissance. The children have significant roles in the narrative and you cannot help but feel a strong sympathy for them...and there is one particular climax where I sobbed my heart out. A character who has been in most of the books in the series we find out may not be dead after all, although we were given this clue at the end of The Judas Strain, and with his life being stolen from him and no memory of who he was, he strives to save the children from an inescapable fate. The main team of characters, Painter Crowe, Lisa Cummings, Kat Bryant, Gray Pierce and Joe Kowalski, are more emotionally vulnerable and complex, they are given additional facets to their personalities, so that the individual is emphasized just as much now as the Sigma team.
The novel starts in A.D. 398 at The Temple of Delphi. We are given a quick glimpse into the significance of the temple, which was a particularly effective way of beginning the book. This is not Rollins' usual style - including a historical POV  - and just shows how he has grown as an author, really broadening the scope of his writing.  Rollins balances very well the historical elements, scientific details and ethical discourse. The only few things that stuck out as odd to me was a question posed by Gray Pierce, which I though since he was supposed to be a genius he should already know but these questions are used as a tool by Rollins to explain in more detail scientific theory. There is a spelling mistake on page 451 that is kind of funny...did you catch it??
James Rollins' next book, The Doomsday Key, to be released in hardcover on June 23, 2009.
My Rating: 4.5
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Tuesday Thingers

Today's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Do you Tweet? If so, what do you like best about Twitter? What do you like the least? Do you have any Twitter applications or extras that you use frequently (TweetDeck, TwitterFeed, etc)? Do you belong to any of the Twitter groups on LT? Who hasn't heard of Twitter now...I know its popular but I refuse to Tweat. I barely manage to post to my blog on a regular basis, keep up with friends on Facebook and look at all my feeds in Google Reader. I think Twitter is a great tool for a business, celebrity, news organization, or interesting, succinct, witty person. I'm not talented with the quip so I will leave it happily to those who are. I have no news I would want to broadcast in this way and when I do have something to say it ususally take more than 100 characters. I have only joined a couple groups on LibraryThing so far, so I do not imagine I would join the Twitter group.