2009 Past Reads

Mommywood by Tori Spelling  (audio book)  8/18/09
Some time ago I tried to read Tori Spelling’s first book. I has been watching her reality show on Oxygen and really enjoyed it, so I thought her book would be good too. Not so much. I ended up ditching the book without finishing it. During the last season of Tori & Dean, there was footage of Tori recording excerpts of her new book. The excerpts sounded pretty good, and since I was getting into the audio book thing, I picked up Mommywood to listen to on my latest trip to the state capital for training. And guess what? It was pretty good! I don’t know if I Tori’s writing just improved or I just enjoy listening to her rather than reading her, but I found myself laughing at several points and feeling badly for her in others. She even used the word snarky!

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Urrea  8/14/09
This book was an okay read. I found the Spanish dialogue a little irritating because I don’t know Spanish and didn’t want to look up the phrases, but I was still able to get the gist of the conversations that were written in Spanish. A girl and her friends decide to travel from their small village in Mexico to the USA to round up Mexican soldiers and policemen to come back with them and vanquish the drug gangsters terrorizing the village. The book left me feeling it was unfinished.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart (audio book)  8/10/09
This was just something I just picked up with no knowledge of what it was about or anything about the author. I was pleasantly surprised. This mystery begins when a young man unearths a head in an Irish bog. The bog has preserved the head even though it could be centuries old. As the mystery of the head unravels, events lead to a current day mystery that is tied to the centuries old one.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay (audio book)  8/2/09
This book got mixed reviews on Amazon, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit (which makes me think that I just didn’t really like The Heretic’s Daughter). Someone described the book as a “booky book.” Maybe that is why I liked it – I am a bit of a bookworm myself. The story follows Rosemary Savage as she travels from her homeland of Tasmania to New York City and begins working in a bookstore staffed by a group of oddballs.

Sorrow Wood by Raymond Atkins  8/2/09
Another book with a witchy theme. This time the book is set in modern day and a self-proclaimed witch has been killed. The story goes back and forth between the early 1940’s and the present day which is 1985 as Wendell Blackmon attempts to find out who killed the witch. This was a pretty good book and I did not have the murder figured out until the end when it was laid out for the reader.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent (audio book)  7/24/09
I have to wonder if I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it rather than listened to the audio book since it can be hard at times to drive and listen to a story. In any case, this was another book that was just okay for me. The story is told from the perspective of an accused witch during the Salem Witch Trials which is a topic I would ordinarily be interested in, so again, I am not 100% sure if my feelings towards the story were because it was in audio format or because the story just didn’t pique my interest the way I thought it would.

The Blue Notebook by James Levine  7/24/09
This book was okay. It was written as the diary of an Indian girl sold into prostitution by her father. It was a heartbreaking situation all around because her father did care for her, but did not see another option in order to provide for his family, so he sold one of his children to a brothel.  It was a true depiction of what could be, and unfortunately, it is a reality of life for children all over the world. It didn’t really “grip” me, though.

LT’s Theory of Pets by Stephen King (audio book)  7/6/09
This was a short story by Stephen King that I received for Christmas, but did not listen to until now. Two thumbs up on this one for being by King and for being about pets. I agreed with LT on all accounts!

My Abandonment by Peter Rock  7/2/09
Coincidentally, just as I begin my job as a child protection assessor, I read this book about a girl who is living on the run with her father from the people he calls “followers.” Social services picks them up at one point, but once they are reunited, the are on the go again. The book never gives a clear answer to what is going on in this odd situation, but you know something is not quite right. The story is based on the true story of a thirteen girl year old and is written as she would narrate it. The next book I am reading again deals with child welfare – The Blue Notebook.

Drop City by T.C. Boyle  7/18/09
I don’t remember why I picked up this particular book, but I wouldn’t recommend others do the same. It was okay, but moved fairly slow and was a book that made me think, “what was the point of that?” at the end. The book is set in 1970 and follows a group of hippies as they are pushed off the land they are living on in California and their move to Alaska. Meh.

Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell  7/2/09
I did a post about this one on my main blog. Read it here.

Security by Stephen Amidon  6/27/09
This was a nice change after reading The Last Secret. This book was a little slow to get into the meat of the story, but I enjoyed it. The story focuses around a small college town and the secrets going on behind the scenes. The ending was a little disappointing because I didn’t feel the author wrapped things up enough, but that is my opinion, and it didn’t spoil the book for me.

The Last Secret by Mary McGarry Morris  6/21/09
This one was a bit of a disappoint. Several times through I wanted to just quit reading it, but hate to quit a book I’ve started. I kept hoping it would get better, but it just didn’t. The book seemed to slosh around and it often took a couple paragraphs to know what perspective the author had switched to in each section. The book is about Nora who finds out her husband has been having a four year “relationship” with his high school sweetheart. Nora had not a clue, but it seems everyone else, including their two children, knew. Nora is also haunted by memories from her youth when an old boyfriend shows up unexpectedly. Pretty predictable to the reader; Nora seems to be pretty dimwitted when it comes to her own family. I knew what the “last secret” was well before it was revealed.

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon  6/17/09
I’ve been picking some good ones lately! This was a great read – fast paced and really held my interest. The book is about a little girl who was abducted by a large white rabbit. Rhonda sees it all happen and does nothing. In the course of trying to find the little girl, Rhonda is wrapped up in events from her past that could be connected to the recent abduction. Twice I thought I figured out who took the girl and what had happened in the past and on both accounts was wrong.

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen 6/15/09
Probably one of my favorites out of the books I’ve read recently. This book is reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, but set in Boston during 1830 and the present. Julia, recently divorced, buys a rundown home. While digging in her garden she finds a skeleton and thus opens up a mystery centuries old. I will likely be putting more of Gerritsen’s books on my reading list.

Go With Me by Castle Freeman  6/12/09
This was a quick and kind of quirky little read. Humorous at times, albeit, dark humor, the book tells the story of a spirited girl who refuses to back down from the town bully who has been stalking her and killed her cat. The sheriff won’t help, so she enlists the aid of some guys who spend the day chatting it up at the old mill.

The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan  6/5/09
This book is a naked view into the life of a child growing up around addiction. It is a bit hard to read at times because it is in first person narrative and Kerrie-Ann, the main character, has a Nottingham accent and it is very apparent from the way the book is written. Not one of the best I’ve read lately, but not too bad.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
I really liked this book! The story is weaved between different locations and time periods to tell the story of how Nell was raised by adoptive parents in Australia when she was born in England. Nell sets off to find out who her parents were and why she ended up in Australia and passes away before she completely solves her mystery. Her granddaughter then picks up where Nell left off and follows the clues to the end.

The Bell Witch: An American Haunting by Brent Monahan
I decided to read this book after seeing the movie. It seems it has happened more and more that way lately – I see a movie, find out it’s based on a book and then read the book. In this case, I’m glad I saw the movie first because it made the book a bit easier to follow. The book was okay, but for this one, I would recommend just seeing the movie.

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li  4/26/09
An interesting read. This novel interlinks several people around the events after the execution of a counterrevolutionary woman during the Cultural Revolution in China during the late 1970’s. Set in the town of Muddy River, the reader learns how the execution affects people from all walks of life: the five year old school boy, a nineteen year old idler, a prestigious news announcer, the elderly parents of the woman, and others.

Our local library is discussing The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng on May 11th.
Okay, I ended up skipping the book discussion because M. took me out of town for my birthday on the 11th. The book was okay, but probably not one I would have picked up if not for my plan to attend the book discussion. The book jumps back and forth in time as a man tells his story of WWII Japanese occupation of the island he lives on and his role in helping the Japanese. It was interesting, just not the best thing I’ve read lately.

M. and I recently took a trip to our main library downtown. I had materials to return and M. wanted to check out a movie about Vietnam. (War history is his newest craze.) After finding the movie he wanted, he decided he also wanted some books to begin reading up on the Vietnam War and WWII. We headed upstairs to the nonfiction section. While he browsed war history, I also browsed and came away with three nonfiction books – two were chosen because I read The White Mary by Kira Salak and loved it. Two of these books are her true accounts of her voyages.

Yak Butter and Black Tea: A Journey into Tibet by Wade  Brackenbury  5/28/09
If you enjoy reading non-fiction, you will enjoy this book. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve liked all the book on this page. Brackenbury’s book was a nice peak inside forbidden China/Tibet.

Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu by Kira Salak  4/23/09
Another good read by Salak! I love how truthfully she writes about her travel experiences. She blatantly shares her fears and doubts about what she is doing and what she might gain out of these dangerous trips. In this book, Salak shares her kayak adventure on the Niger River. She paddles 600 miles from Old Segou to Timbuktu meeting and staying with local people along the way. There are amazing photos of Salak’s journies and articles she’s written on her website at www.kirasalak.com.

Four Corners: One Woman’s Solo Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak  4/18/09
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this book was wonderful. Salak’s details of her journey through PNG were vivid and she explains her emotions so well that you feel you are right there with her, experiencing everything. The most amazing thing to me was that Salak did not have an assignment to go to PNG, she didn’t even really know why she was going, just that she’d had a dream since childhood to go to PNG and she did it – alone.

The Boleyn Inheritance 4/11/09
NOTE: I read the three Tudor tale books on this page last year, and at that time I was not recording the date I completed the book. That is why this book has a completion date beside it and the others do not. This book took the perspective of three different ladies: Anne of Cleves, Jane Boleyn (George Boleyn’s widow), and Katherine Howard. The book also spans the marriage of Henry the VII to Anne of Cleves, their divorce, and the marriage of Henry and Katherine Howard, and her beheading. It’s interesting because you hear so much about Anne Boleyn, but not so much about Anne of Cleves. I like that Gregory does research and then writes her books, so even though they are fiction, the books are historical fiction. Another good book about the Tudors!

The Queen’s Fool
Excellent book about Henry VIII’s daughters and their climb to the throne. The story is told from the perspective of Hannah, a girl fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Hannah becomes a holy fool in the court of Queen Mary and also serves Elizabeth. After reading this book, I am really looking forward to the two other books by Philippa Gregory I have in my book bag!

The Other Boleyn Girl
Another great read. I read the book after viewing the movie, but liked both equally, and for different reasons. This book follows Anne Boleyn’s seduction of Henry VIII and her ousting of Queen Katherine from the perspective of Anne’s sister, Mary. I am really enjoying Gregory’s writing style and her combination of historical fact and a fictitious story.

The Constant Princess
I totally read these three books in the wrong order, at least if going by historical record. But, even though they follow a historical time line, they can also stand as stories on their own, so really can be read in any order. This story follows Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon from her childhood in Spain as the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, her marriage to Henry’s older brother, Arthur, and her eventual court appearance to defend her marriage to Henry.  I was first acquainted with Katherine from the 1st and 2nd seasons of Showtime’s The Tudors. In the show, Katherine defends to the end her virginity at the time she married Henry, saying her marriage to Arthur was never consummated. Because the show really gives no feel for how long Arthur and Katherine were married, a viewer may find themselves on Katherine’s side, believing her defense. Gregory takes a different stand in the book: that Katherine told a great lie to fulfill her destiny to be Queen of England. This seems more likely and still makes for a great tale.

Poe’s Children: The New Horror by various authors; edited by Peter Straub  4/5/09
I am a fan of horror and mystery, but not such a big fan of short stories. I always feel like the story needed something more. I need to know more about the characters; the story often feels incomplete to me. That was how I felt about almost all the stories in this book. I found it difficult to determine why some of the stories were included in an anthology of horror stories. My favorites out of the book were: The Two Sams (Glen Hirshberg), Gardener of the Heart (Bradford Morrow), The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (Stephen King), and 20th Century Ghost (Joe Hill).

The White Mary by Kira Salak  3/28/09
This was a great read! This was Salak’s first novel. Previously, she has written non-fiction accounts of her travels. She was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea and those experiences have been incorporated into this novel. The main character, Marika, is a writer who takes dangerous foreign assignments. Marika’s decision to be a writer came from her reading the works of Robert Lewis. It was reported that Lewis committed suicide, but then Marika gets some evidence he might be alive in Papua New Guinea and travels there to see if it is true and if she can find him. How her travels affect Marika and others in her life are profound and the book was very exciting.

The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper  3/24/09
This book and the next one I am reading were not on any list I headed to the library with (and I do make lists of books I want to read and which are available before I head out to the library). These were just “happened to see on the shelf” selections. And this first one turned out to be a good pick. I love it when that happens! The Killing Circle uses an interesting flow of time from 2007 to 2003 and then back to 2007 in Patrick Rush’s life. Patrick is a news writer who wants to write a book, but doesn’t think he has anything book-worthy to write. He ends up joining a writer’s circle to help get the juices flowing and then the weird stuff starts happening. The book had both expected and unexpected elements. Pyper has three previously published novels and I may have to check those out too.

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale  3/23/09
Definitely a different book. Written from the perspective of 9 year old Lawrence, this book follows him, his sister, and mother as they move from London to Rome for a brief time. The book is interesting in that you really feel like a child wrote it (replete with misspellings). This might put some people off to this book, but it’s not very long, and it was nice to read from a child’s view point for a bit.

The King of Swords by Nick Stone  3/21/2009
The second Max Mingus thriller is a prequel to the first, Mr. Clarinet. I read the first novel a little while ago and really enjoyed it. In Stone’s second novel we learn more about events that were hinted at in the first novel. Max has not yet become a private detective, he is still a cop in Miami. People begin sh0wing up dead with a strange concoction in their stomachs which includes a very rare tarot card. As Max and his partner investigate the murders, they find a connection to a Solomon Boukman, however they will need to determine if Solomon is a real man or just a myth.

I enjoyed this book, but almost liked the first novel a bit better. I am hoping Stone follows this one up with another Mingus thriller which fills in the still missing details between the second and first books. I will be watching for more from Stone.

Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron  3/17/09
My mother-in-law gave me this book for Christmas last year. She asked M. before giving it to me because we’d just lost our 9 year old cat, Clyde in early December. M. told her it would be okay to give it to me, and I was happy to receive it. I did put off reading it with the excuse that I had too many library books to get through first (which was true), but I think I probably also put it off because Clyde’s passing was still fresh. We did adopt a 2 year old cat who looked a lot like Clyde (and, incidentally, Clyde and Clover look a lot like Dewey), but the loss of Clyde was still an acute pain.

So, I finished the library books and before checking out more, I pulled out Dewey. It didn’t take long to read and I think it is a must read for cat-lovers. This book reminded me so much of my Clyde, but also Oliver (whom we’d lost the year before Clyde), and our spunky 2 year olds, Luigi and Clover. I related so much to the author and the town’s love of Dewey and the pain when he passed.

Dewey has an amazing story and I loved reading it.

Meridon 3/15/09
In my opinion, this was the best book of the three. The story of Meridon, Julia Lacey’s daughter, was more exciting to read than the first two Lacey women. Meridon begins her life living a traveling life with a gambler stepfather. She has dreams of a place she calls “Wide,” but has no idea what kind of legacy her true heritage holds.

The Favored Child 2/18/09
The second book in this series was much better than the first! The story flowed better and was an easier read. The book follow’s Beatrice’s daughter, Julia, as she fights Beatrice’s ghost and learns her place on Wideacre. Of course, Julia’s cousin, is there to add drama and attempts to destroy all Julia has worked for. The end was a pretty good cliff hanger, so I am looking forward to the third book.

Wideacre 1/10/09
While I am not enjoying this book as much as the others I have read about Gregory, I am still liking it. It reminds me a bit of the books by V.C. Andrews I enjoyed in high school. The book is a bit long, but I am determined to finish it and find out what the main character, Beatrice, will do to remain on and hold control of her family’s ancestor land, Wideacre. So far, she has plotted to kill her father (later regretted), and has slept with her own brother since he is the rightful master of Wideacre as the only son.

Finished the book. While I did like it and will move on to the next book in the series, the book was a bit long and it took me longer to read than a book of that size typically would. Some spots drug on, but overall, I enjoyed the story. I am curious to see how Gregory continues the story since most of the players from the first book died in the end.

Bluegrass: A True Story of Murder in Kentucky by William Van Meter  3/13/2009
Interesting, but reading true crime is often like reading a very long news report.

Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone  3/9/09
Now this was more like it! Stone is definitely a good mystery writer. Max Mingus, an ex-cop turned private detective, has just gotten out of jail. He is immediately contacted by a rich family in Haiti asking that he help find their son who has now been missing for three years. Despite reservations, Mingus travels to Haiti and is on the case. He gets tied up in organized crime, drug trade, and voodoo. All make for a very interesting story! I plan to pick up the prequel, King of Swords, once I get through the books I currently have checked out.

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino  3/6/09
I had read a book by Kirino some time ago, Out, and liked it enough that I wanted to pick up another book by this Japanese author. Grotesque
was okay. I could identify some of my own thoughts and feelings of these characters, especially when they were in high school. But there didn’t seem to be an overall point to the book. The story is told from the journals and viewpoints of several different characters and is about two prostitutes who are murdered, probably by the same man. The story didn’t play out like a mystery thriller, like I had hoped, and had no real conclusion.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova  3/1/09
Such a good book! It has a Da Vinci Code feel to it, but it relates to Dracula and his history. I am a vampire and occult fan, so this book spoke right to my interests. It is a long book, but I was able to read right through because the story kept me interested. The story goes back and forth between daughter and father as they tell their stories of how a mysterious book with a dragon woodcut inspires their search for Dracula’s final resting place and their quest to find out if the fiend is still roaming the earth. This is Kostova’s first novel, but I will be looking for more from her.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory  2/22/09
Philippa Gregory is fast becoming a favorite author for me! I enjoy her historical fiction about the Tudors best, but this book was a good one. Gregory takes a turn and writes from the viewpoint of a male main character in this book, John Tradescant, a renown gardener in 17th century England. The book follows John through the lost of his first, beloved master, to owning his own land and gardens. The story continues in Virgin Earth, so I will have top pick that up on my next trip to the library.

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike   2/7/09
I’ve seen the movie version of this book several times. You know, the one starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I enjoyed the movie, so I thought I’d try the book too. Didn’t enjoy the book as much as the movie. The movie made it seem the three women didn’t realize their witchy powers until the devil showed up in town. The book, however, says the women had their powers since losing their husbands and they knew how to use those powers. The book also didn’t make Darryl Van Horne (Nicholson’s character in the movie) seem very devilish. He was more oafish. The book was also written in several very, very long paragraphs. I find very, very long paragraphs one after another hard to read. I have Updike’s other Eastwick book, The Widows of Eastwick, my reading list, but after reading Witches, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll pick it up.

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe
1/29/09 Again, not a book I really enjoyed. I’ve read some good science fiction, but this wasn’t one I liked. Perhaps if I’d read more of Wolfe’s books before this one I would understand more of his futuristic concepts (even though this is supposed to be a stand alone book). In any case, when I was done reading, I didn’t know the purpose of the story or even what really happened.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
1/26/09 The main reason I picked up this book was because Kate Winslet (have loved her since seeing her in Titanic) is starring in the movie version and the book’s description sounded interesting. The book isn’t too long, which is a good thing because I didn’t really like it. The story is told in first person by the main character and he jumps around too much in time for me. He will be talking about the past and the present and I found it hard to follow. Also, I didn’t feel the book was descriptive enough and I did not identify with any of the characters. It’s hard to identify with someone who admits to crimes they didn’t commit just to cover the fact they can’t read.

Good People by Marcus Sakey
1/22/09 An interesting crime novel – this was an easy and pretty quick read for me. I enjoyed it. What would you do if your downstairs tenant, the one you really don’t know and don’t speak to, dies expectantly and while putting out a fire cause by unattended coffee you find $400,000? Anna and Tom Reed are about to find out. This is kind of a “when good people go bad” story. The Reeds have been struggling with debt due to infertility issues and see a way out when they find the money. But what they didn’t know is that their tenant was a bad man connected to a recent crime in which two people died. The Reeds will get to meet some of their tenant’s associates soon…

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