Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Envanovich (2010)

I used to think the titles had something to do with the content of the book, but at this point it is just keeping count of Stephanie Plum's adventures. This time it is cousin Vinnie that has been kidnapped for major gambling debts. Stephanie saves the day with the help of Lula and Connie and Morelli and Ranger, of course. I was glad to see Connie play a bigger role this time. Hobbit con-goers added extra color. Don't want to read too many of these, but once in a while, especially on trips, they work.

Kindered in Death by J.D. Robb (2009)

One more thrilling ride with Lt. Eve Dallas, Roarke and company. This time the first murder victim is the 16 year old daughter of the police captain MacMasters.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (2010)

This book really grew on me. Major Pettigrew is a somewhat pompous English widower, with a new generation son and his fiance. The Major enjoys talking to a shopkeeper of Pakistani descent, Jasmina Ali, who is not accepted in his circles. Very interesting to watch their friendship grow and his strength to stand up to his circle of friends.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999)

I thought I was done with Neil Gaiman for a while, but he reappeared in my reading life. As I was cleaning my house, I came upon a bag of audio books I had lent a friend. As I was putting the books away, I discovered two books my friend had added to share with me. One was this one.

I love fairy tales written for adults, and Neil Gaiman again comes up with these unique ideas. What if the land of fairy was just on the other side of wall outside of the town of Wall, and no one was allowed to pass through the gap in the wall, except once every nine (or was it seven) years, when the fairy folk came and set up a fair. And then, what if a falling star was not just a lump of metal, but a girl. And what if a half human, half fairy boy decides to go after the fallen star. Anyway, lots of great characters, lots of recognizable fairy tale elements, with unique twists and turns. I don't think I have ever heard in a fairy tale that the many descendants of a monarch killed each other off for the throne till only one was standing.

I found out that a movie had been made of this book, so I rented that last night and thoroughly enjoyed it, with all its deviations from the book. I missed the part where the heart was no longer useful to the witches, as it was given to someone else in love. (I left this cryptic, as it is a spoiler.) I liked Neil Gaiman explaining how he felt guilty when he just dreamed up the flying ship (captained by a great Robert De Niro) and then watched a huge create the ship as a set.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fantasy in Death by JD Robb (2010)

I knew I needed something to keep me awake in some of the long stretches of my trip, so I chose one of the latest JD Robb books. Roberts again amazes me at getting into another world - this time of gamers and their cons (conferences.) Maybe a real gamer would tell me this was all bogus but it seemed quite realistic.

One of four partners in an up and coming gaming company - YouPlay - is killed while playing one of the games they are developing. Though Lt. Eve Dallas and detective Peabody are the main investigators, this time the tech department with Mc Nabb and Feeney and of course involving Roarke, is the focus. Psychologist Mira comes in briefly as does (past death doctor) Morris. There is one social event - Nadine First's book party, where we briefly see Mavis, Leonardo and the hair and make-up artist. Dallas is almost on time for this one.

The pace was different. Usually I can count on 3 murders. There was only one and one attempt. All good to keep one guessing.

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The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell (2010)

Fascinating. This book doesn't follow the standard patterns. It starts with a man visiting a small village in northern Sweden and finding everyone murdered. Then we see judge Brigita Roselund realizing her mother's adoptive parents lived in this small village and since she has just been told to take some time off for high blood pressure, so she goes up to check out hte village. She becomes the main character that ties this disparate world wide story all together.

I somehow can't imagine an American novel talking about idealistic youth days when they were all entralled with China's communism and Mao, some even officially joining the communists. This feels very European or Scandinavian. Brigita's friend Karin became so enamored of the Chinese, that she made her life's work out of studying China and attends a conference in Beijing during the novel with Brigit.

This story manages to traverse four continents and teach me something about each. I still know so little about China. This book provided Mankell the opportunity to speculate about conversations happening at the top levels of the Chinese government about the many poor in the rural disctricts, the corruption as money flowed into the country surrounding the Olympics. The different approaches - more traditional Maoist and others with the goal of helping all and the new capitalism. I guess I have heard that the Chinese have developed relationships with Africa, but are they really planning to send massive numbers of Chinese to populate fertile, underdeveloped areas in Africa? Mozambique  and Zambia were visited and we saw a different take on Mugabe.  I should learn more.

Most facinating was the historical flash back to the ancestors of two of the main Chinese characters Hung Cho and Ja Roo, who were forced to flee their rural homes, were dragged to America and put to work on building the railroad across the continent under horibble conditions. The ancestors traveled across America, then to England and then back to China. They befriended some Swedish missionaries and we even get a glimpse into this strange phenomenon of bringing Christianity to China. I felt there were strong parallels to the way they were prostelizing to some other parts of the book - to the early zealousness of the Swedish communists.

I learned a bit more about the criminal courts in Sweden. I also kept wishing for a map, but I now really get how close southern Sweden is to Denmark & Copenjhagen, and that Helsingborg is some place down there.

Brigit was an interesting character - middle aged, grown children, distancing relationship with husband, likes her job though it gets stressful. And then she gets involved in the mass murder story, not realizing she is the one putting it all together. She is not really being the detective, though she does a bit of sleuthing in the beginning and passes it on to not very receptive police.

I know this is a very disjointed review, but these are impressions about the book I scribbled down in the car after listening to it. I think I don't want to give the plot away, by even indicating the connections, but it was a fascinating romp through Sweden, China, US, and Africa mostly in the present, but going back 150 years or so.