Friday, September 18, 2009

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore (1997)

The title sounded silly and fun, and the book was silly and fun, sexist, but in the end endearing. Partying pilot Tucker Chase totals his employer's pink jet, and takes a questionable job as a pilot for a doctor out on an island in Micronesia. I enjoyed the incredibility of the story - the typhoon, talking bat, ghost of a WWII pilot, sky goddess, shark people etc. Just fun.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger (2005)

I think I read that Niffenegger was coming out with a new book, so I just wanted to see what else she had published besides The Time Traveler's Wife and randomly asked for this one through interlibrary loan. Wow! Wasn't expecting this. This is a visual novel, as opposed to a graphic novel, that the author spent 14 years completing -each page spread has a large aquatint on one side and a few words of the story on the other - in neutral taupe tones, except for the long hair of the three sisters, which is yellow, blue and red. The story is definitely strange, but beguiling. Three sisters live alone, one falls in love with the lighthousekeeper's son... My favorite image is the last double spread.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Promises in Death by JD Robb (2009)

I guess I'm giving up on reading these in any kind of order. Missing too many of the recent ones. Nora Roberts writes more books than I can read of hers, so I will stop trying.

I like to keep track of life changes. Eve Dallas and Roark are in a comfortable place in their relationship. Mavis has a baby - and Eve reacts predictably freaked out by the kid. Peabody and McNabb ar living together. There seems to be a new female character from the prosecutors' office. The social thing Eve was avoiding most of the book was a shower for Jean(?), who is marrying Charles, who I remember from previous books as a licenced companion friend of Eve's. The party is a sleep-over at her place and inbetween solving her crime, Eve actually does enjoy herself.

The DB (dead body) is
Amarylis Coltraine, a recently transferred cop and love interest of Morris the ME. I thought I'd get bored of a formulaic approach to the Lt. Dallas mysteries, but this didn't follow patterns I remember. It wasn't a series of bodies, and there was no last fight where Eve almost gets killed and Roark saves her. It was good solid detective work, asking various team members to help out with different aspects, and the climax was actually in the interviewing room. (Maybe we have seen those so much on TV cop shows.)

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett (2008)

Signed copy from ALA. I enjoyed her Chasing Vermeer, a kids book incorporating art. It is obvious from the title that the artist involved is Alexander Calder. Three kids from Chicago go to a Calder exhibit, the kid named after Calder gets involved in playing the Calder Game, which is just to take five things - physical object or ideas and to balance them out into a mobile like structure. I guess the game concept did not draw me, but the story was OK. Calder goes with his dad to England, where they stay in a town where a Calder statue has been recently erected by an anonymous donor. Calder, the boy, disappears and his friends get flown over to help find him. We get a bit of a feel for an English town. I wasn't blown away by the story, but I still like the way she intertwines a kid story with art.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (2009)

I'd been waiting for the second of Larsson's books to come out in English. I don't know what it is about this crime novel, but it just feels different from others, and not just that it is set in Sweden. We see our "girl" Lisbeth Salander at the end of a year traveling around the world, the last months on a tropical island, returning to Stockholm, getting comfortable in a large fancy apartment, but then she ends up the prime suspect in a series of murders. Mikael Blomkvist, our journalist from Millenium magazine, tries to help. Loved the professional boxer that she used to spar with. The evil guys are really nasty, but with backgrounds that make them interesting. I should probably say a lot more about this book, but out of time, so I will just have to say, one of my favorites of the year. Just have to wait for the last one.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (2009)

Free uncorrected proof from ALA. Gaiman, the Newberry winner tells this tale of Odd, a crippled boy in Norway, who runs away with a fox an eagle and a bear, that turn out to be Norse gods bewitched by Frost Giants. You know the way of tales, the kid comes through, and all live happily ever after. It was interesting that Gaiman wove various mythical characters as well as history into his tale. Of course I knew Vikings went a raiding, but didn't think about the fact that they probably brought back prisoners - women and children, and that their blood would be mixed in the gene pool.

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant (2009)

Dunant really researches women in historical times, so this story is set in convent in Italy in 1570. It was difficult to read at times, when noble women had no choice, but to enter a convent, if there wasn't a sufficient dowry for them (usually only one daughter was married off.) But then again, it gave some women opportunities they would never have had outside the convent. One woman had learned medicine next to her father, and was able to continue to heal and experiment further while keeping the convent healthy, as much as possible in those times. Others devoted themselves to music or baking or transcribing books.

The other piece that I had a very hard time listening to were the dogmatic religious statements. I understand that was the understanding at the time, but it still drove me nuts to hear the warped explanations of what God expects of us, and how to become closer to him. I am glad the book started with a listing of the different hours and devotions held to in the convent. That too seemed over the edge to me, until I recently talked to a minister who found a spiritual home in a convent in Germany that continues similar devotional times and found that good for meditating.

The story is about Serafina, who has been put in the convent against her will, and who loves someone on the outside. She is defiant, and only Suora (sister in Italian?) Zuana, the apothocary-medic seems to get through to her.

Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline (2004)

This book was suggested to me because I really enjoyed learning about the Japanese internment camps. Did I know that Italians and Germans were interred too? No. So this is crime novel with the same humor as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, except Mary DiNunzio is a lawyer, and this happens across the river in Philly rather than Trenton. Mary is trying to clear a man's name who died in one of the internment camps in Montana, by going through archives and even visiting the historic camp site, interviewing a few who were still around at that time. Again a senseless incarceration of innocent people, and then later, taking away their assets. I liked the writing, fun mystery, with personal life thrown in - friends always setting Mary up for blind dates, etc. I liked Mary's character, so I may try more of Scottoline's books, when I am in that kind of mood.

First Ladies by Margaret Brown Klapthor (1979)

Discarded from Women's studies collection, probably meant for children. I really liked these one page biographies of all the first ladies, going though 200 years of US history through them. I didn't realize how many wives had died before or during the presidency or were ill, and then someone else, usually a relative, took over the social duties: Jefferson's daughter, Andrew Jackson's niece, Van Buren's daughter-in-law, and more. Buchannen never married, so his niece was hostess for him. Cleveland married in office - a woman 27 years younger and his partner's daugher for whom he was guardian. I can imagine how that would have played out today. Some wives had long lives after the death of their famous husbands. All fascinating.