Debh2010's Blog

Books and Knitting – go figure

Stephanie Plum Marathon Week

I’m just now getting ready to read Sizzlin’ Sixteen, by Janet Evanovich.  I have already sent in my suggestion for the title of the seventeenth novel and I’m excited to be able to read the sixteenth.  This past week I have read all of the Stephanie Plum series from #5 through #15.  I’ve had a blast.  Not sure what I’m going to read next week, but this has been fun.  I’m not going to go all out with a synopsis and so forth.  If you haven’t picked up the first one, the rest of the stories won’t make sense.  I read these for fun, pure and simple.  Great summer reading – action and spice and plenty of humor.  These are some of the funniest things I’ve read on a regular basis.  I’ve probably read the series ten times – seems I re-read them when I’m ready to read the new one.  I do that.  I don’t care if it’s weird, LOL.

Just read.  It’s good for you and will make you grow taller and stronger.  I know.  I’m about as tall and strong as you can get.  Have a good one!

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August 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A week’s worth in books

So, I have this nice shiny new job and I’m too tired when I get home to do much on this old time-waster-box.  It hasn’t slowed me down in the reading department, but I haven’t taken the time to blog much.  Seems to me we last left off at The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum.  We pick up a little after that.  I’m just doing quick synopses today, no lengthy analysis.  If you see something you like, I’ll be glad to talk to you about it later.  Here  we go.

After a month of thinking that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling,  was gone forever, I found it misfiled with other hardback books.  This is the one where Harry meets his godfather, Sirius Black and gets to know Remus Lupin and ride on a hippogriff.  Most excellent installment.  Oh, and Hermione figures big in this one too.  I will be proceeding on, but I have been taking books to work and I don’t like to leave a hardback book in the car in this heat, so I’ll save those for home reading only.

Next up was the first two of the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.  Vampire Academy came out in 2007 followed by Frostbite in 2008.  There are more in this series now, but I haven’t had the money to just go get them.  I’m also tardy in taking another trip to the used book store, and if I weren’t such a wastrel, I could probably find what I like at the library, but we are not going there.  I don’t like to give them back.  There I said it.  And, since I’m not big on stealing from the public library, I just won’t borrow from them at all.  Might sound stupid, but I mean it.  The Vampire Academy series is about teenage vampires and their protectors.  It has more mythology and specific terminology and is somewhat different from other vampire stories.  The characters are very engaging and the story lines are pretty good.  I like this series a lot.

Moving on:  I have already read the first four of the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series:  One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly and Four to Score.  I am about to crack open the fifth installment, so I figured I’d better get these ones catalogued before I was buried in loose books.  If you are new to the Stephanie Plum series and really enjoy reading funny stories about snappy, quirky, sweet and crazy people, along with a generous smattering of violent crime and general disgustingness, the Stephanie Plum series could be right up your alley.  I have really enjoyed reading them, and this is probably my sixth or seventh journey.  She’s up to Sizzling Sixteen now, but I haven’t read that one.  I’ve been waiting for it to come out in paperback and then I will add it to my collection.  I would love to see movies made out of these books.  The potential for them to be hugely popular and very good is vast, but it would seriously depend on the casting.  I think I’d want Emma Roberts for the lead, but beyond that I’m at a loss.  I just don’t know enough of the twenty-something-aged actors these days to know who would be good to pick.  I do think that Emma Roberts could manage the role of Stephanie very well.

Okay, that was my reading journey for last week and we are rolling on…

Happy Reading, Everybody!

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp, by John Irving.  In hindsight, I remembered the movie of this story starring Robin Williams better than I remembered reading the story.  Turns out, I have been lugging this book around for years and years, but I haven’t read it since 1984.  I know that because I found, tucked into the back of the book, four meal cards from the hospital where my sister spent a number of days when she was fourteen-years-old recovering from something that I can’t really remember, though I think it was contagious because there were several other kids from her school all hospitalized at the same time.  Weird the things you save.  Anyway, the thing I most remember about this book was that it was published in paperback with several different colored metallic covers, and since it intrigued me, I don’t think I’d noticed many other paperback books being published that way.

The World According to Garp is a strange sort of story.  If you’re a  fan of John Irving’s, and I am, you know that strange is part and parcel of the whole package.  It’s hilarious and it’s tragic.  In fact, at one point I realized that there is so much tragedy involved that I stopped getting affected by it overly, and just started anticipating what would happen next.  And it is funny.  So funny.  I do know why I most likely waited so long to read it again, but it wasn’t for a really bad reason.  I love the characters Mr. Irving created for this story.  That was a good enough reason to put off reading it over and over.

Here’s the back of the book, though it won’t tell you much:  “Journey through four generations, across two continents with the astonishing family of T.S. Garp — the famous bastard son of a belligerent mother — who loves, lusts, labors, and triumphs in a world of assassins, wrestlers, rapists, feminist fanatics, transsexual football players, tantalizing teen-age babysitters, adoring children, and a wayward wife.  His life is comic, tragic, violent, tender.  His world is totally outrageous.  And as real as your own.”

I have read Mr. Irving’s other popular offerings:  The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, and A Prayer for Owen Meany.  I know he’s written lots of other things that I haven’t read, but when I’m next in the market for funny with a heavy dollop of tragedy, I would be glad to look for him at the used book store.

This is from the author’s own website:  “This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields–a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes–even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with “lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries–with more than ten million copies in print–this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

The World According to Garp is a comic and compassionate coming-of-age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers of his generation. A worldwide bestseller since its publication in 1978, Irving’s classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, novelist and bastard son of Jenny Fields–a feminist leader ahead of her time. Beyond that, The World According to Garp virtually defies synopsis.”

It is well worth reading, at least once, and maybe once again with a 25 year break in the middle. 

***1/2 stars, maybe ***3/4.  Good enough for government work, considerably better than other efforts.

Happy Reading, even if it’s the back of the cereal box.

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lightning

Lightning, by Dean R. Koontz.  I am pretty sure that this was the first book by Mr. Koontz that I ever read.  I know that it is my favorite.  The actual physical book in my possession is not in very good shape.  It’s been about loved to death, plus the bottom edge of the spine is missing where a precious, long-ago and now departed puppy Penny Wen chewed it.  I’d keep it and love it for that alone, even if I didn’t like the story.

Here’s the back of the book:  “A storm struck on the night that Laura Shane was born, and there was a strangeness about the weather that people would remember for years.  But even more mysterious was the blond-haired stranger who appeared out of nowhere — the man who saved Laura from a fatal delivery.  Years later — another bolt of lightning — and the stranger returned, again to save Laura from tragedy.  Was he her guardian angel he seemed?  The devil in disguise?  Or the master of a haunting destiny beyond time and space?  Bestselling author Dean R. Koontz presents his most brilliantly thrilling novel of suspense.  A thundering masterpiece of imagination… LIGHTNING.”

It’s a good story.  You know I won’t read a book if it’s not at least decent, and if it sucks I tell you so.  This doesn’t suck at all.  Having re-read it just today, I can tell you that it’s not as fresh as it was the first time I read it.  The story feels a little dated, but the cool parts are really truly cool.

***3/4 out of five.  It is worthy, and certainly worth reading if you haven’t ever read it. 

Happy Reading everybody!

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Someone Like You

Someone Like You, by Sarah Dessen.  Sarah Dessen has one of those special voices that can capture what it’s really like to be a teenager.  This particular story is pre-cell phone, pre-texting, pre- a lot of the normal stuff that happens with today’s teens, yet is still as pertinent as can be.  This is a good story for anyone to read, not just teens.  It’s about friendship.

Here’s the back of the book:  “Halley and Scarlett have been best friends ever since they met.  Halley has always been the quiet one, Scarlett braver and more outgoing.  Halley has always turned to Scarlett when things get rough, and Scarlett has always known just what to do.  It’s the perfect setup.  But everything changes at the beginning of their junior year.  Scarlett’s boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident; then Scarlett finds out that she is carrying his baby.  For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley.  Now Halley has to learn how to be strong for Scarlett.  It won’ t be easy, but Halley knows that she can’t let Scarlett down.  Because a true friend is a promise you keep forever.”

***1/2 stars.  Good story.  Reads really fast.  Easy to re-read at a later date, as I’ve obviously done here.  I like some of Ms. Dessen’s other stories better, but this one is well worth a read.\

Happy Reading!

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum.  Well, wow.  I love these spy books.  Actually, I can admit to kind of loving lots of spy books, though I’m fairly particular which ones I pick.  Of course, my first love in spies is James Bond — the real one, written by Ian Fleming — not the movies as much.  Of course, like a lot of people, I first got interested in Jason Bourne when they made a movie out of this book.  I had a sneaking suspicion that they’d have to change the story, and of course they did.  The books is a better story, but I do still like the movie.  Might have something to do with Matt Damon.  Just do not ask me about the second movie, which sucked.  Seriously.

OK, here’s the back of the book:  “Jason Bourne.  He has no past.  And he may have no future.  His memory is a blank.  His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea.  His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip.  Even his name is a mystery.  Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators — led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin.  Who is Jason Bourne?  The answer may kill him.”

Really a very engaging story.  It kind of grabs you by the collar and drags you in.  From the first page, you want to know what’s going to happen to the guy dying by inches in the ocean.  It’s good.

**** Four Stars out of five.  It’s a series, but I’ve already read them all.

Happy reading!

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer.  Took a break from Fiction by the Inch to finish this series that was previously interrupted by a missing book, since I found a copy of Eclipse and could therefore soldier on. 

In my humble opinion, this series might well be the very best in summer fiction.  It’s nowhere near literature, but it’s engaging and compelling to read, and appropriate for all age levels except for Breaking Dawn, which might need to be PG-13 for some of the content which would be just a bit much for younger readers.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire series and recommend it wholeheartedly.

Series Rating:  **** Four Stars out of five, and pleased to give them.  The basic premise is a pretty ordinary love story with a few supernatural twists.  I’m not going to  provide a summary of the story, since if you haven’t got the basics of The Twilight Saga by now, you might want to come out from under your rock or wherever else you’ve been hiding.  Seriously.

I’m not a huge fan of the movies made from the stories so far, but that’s only because each of the four parts of this series are huge books, and the movies have been regular movie-sized.  You have to leave a lot out to get it to fit into a 2, 2 1/2 hour program.  Leaves much to be desired.  I am looking forward to Breaking Dawn, the movie, since they’re going to break it into two movies.  They might actually have a chance to more fully represent that story as it was written. 

Even though I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of the movies, I will confess to having watched parts of the first one many times over.  It’s a fantastic movie to sleep to, for those who sleep to a television, and it’s one that I turn to frequently.  It’s audio is evenly modulated, and very restful.

Okay, I’ll stop yammering, but if you want something good to read, I’m recommending The Twilight Saga and you won’t regret it.

Happy Reading everybody!

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shogun

Shogun, A Novel of Japan, by James Clavell.  This is another from the Fiction by the Inch group, and another ***** FIVE star offering.  To this point, I didn’ t know very much about Japan, and certainly none of its history.  This is a very historical story.  It’s huge, weighing in at 1 7/8 inches and fully 1152 pages.  I don’t remember what I paid for it since my original book, bought in 1990, was loved absolutely to death and at some point I bought a replacement copy.  This one is from 1986, and I bought it at Target, apparently, for $5.99.  Not sure why I’m so interested in how much things cost 20 years ago, but it amazes me that the prices were so low.  Especially for a masterpiece like Shogun.

Here’s the back-of-the-book: nope.  Just a photo of the late Mr. Clavell shot by the financially beleagured Annie Lebovitz.  Sigh.  I will try and give you a thumbnail sketch, but it will not do it justice. 

Okay, okay.  I cheated and got this from Wikipedia.  It’s  a long summary, but what do you expect with such a long book?  Here we go:  ”

John Blackthorne, an English pilot serving on the Dutch warship Erasmus, is shipwrecked on the coast of Japan. He and the few survivors of his Dutch crew are taken captive under the direction of the local samurai Kasigi Omi and confined to a pit for a few days, until, in the eyes of their captors, they begin to act like “civilized men,” that is, when they stop complaining, demanding their freedom, shouting, etc. Omi’s daimyo, Kasigi Yabu, arrives and executes a randomly-chosen sailor by having him boiled alive. At Omi’s suggestion, Yabu plans to keep the guns and money recovered from Blackthorne’s ship to increase his own influence, but he is betrayed by a samurai who has informed Yabu’s later lord, Toranaga, of the ship’s arrival; and Yabu is obligated to turn Blackthorne, the ship, and its contents over to him.

While in the household, Blackthorne is given the title Anjin, meaning “pilot,” by the Japanese because they can’t pronounce his name. Blackthorne insists that Omi-san apply the honorary suffix -san as if he were a samurai worthy of respect, and so Blackthorne is henceforth known as Anjin-san. (In actual history, William Adams was called Anjin-sama, a higher honorific.)

Blackthorne is interviewed by Toranaga, with a Jesuit priest serving as translator. Blackthorne, as an Englishman and a Protestant, attempts to turn Toranaga against the Jesuits. In doing so, he reveals to a surprised Toranaga that the Christian faith is divided and that other European countries intend to sail the Asian waters because the Spanish Armada has been defeated. The interview ends when Toranaga’s principal rival, Ishido, enters, curious about the ‘barbarian’ Blackthorne. Toranaga has Blackthorne thrown in prison for piracy to keep him from Ishido. In prison, Blackthorne is befriended by a Franciscan monk, who reveals further details about Jesuit conquests and the “Black Ship” trade. Japan needs Chinese silk, but cannot deal with the Chinese directly. The Portuguese act as an intermediary, shipping the merchandise in their Black Ship at great profit.

With the priest’s help, Blackthorne begins to learn basic Japanese. After four days of captivity, Blackthorne is taken out of prison by Ishido’s men, but Toranaga intervenes, “capturing” Blackthorne from his rival’s men. In their next interview, Toranaga has a different translator, the Lady Mariko, a convert to Christianity who is torn between her new faith and her loyalty to being a samurai’s wife and to Toranaga.

As this is going on, the regent Toranaga is threatened with forced seppuku by the council of regents. To escape the order, he must get out of Osaka Castle, which he does by taking the place of a woman in a litter with a train of travelers leaving the castle. Blackthorne inadvertently spots the exchange and, when Ishido shows up at the gate of the castle and nearly discovers Toranaga, Blackthorne saves Toranaga by creating a diversion. In this way, he gradually gains the trust of and enters the service of Toranaga, a powerful feudal warlord who rules over the “Kwanto” (the real-life Kantō region) plain, the site Edo and of modern-day Tokyo.

Despite a rocky start, Blackthorne slowly builds his Japanese-language skills and gains an understanding of the Japanese people and their culture, eventually learning to respect it deeply. The Japanese, in turn, are torn over Blackthorne’s presence; he is an outsider, a leader of a disgracefully filthy and uncouth rabble (his ship’s crew); but he is also a formidable sailor and navigator. As such, he is both beneath their contempt and incalculably valuable. A turning point in this perception is Blackthorne’s attempt at seppuku to redress an insult. He demonstrates his willingness to commit suicide with honour, which deeply impresses the Japanese, but is stopped as he is far more valuable alive than dead. The Japanese grow to respect the “barbarian” in turn, and he is eventually granted the status of samurai and hatamoto. As they spend more time together, Blackthorne comes to deeply admire Mariko.

Blackthorne is torn between his growing affection for Mariko (who is married to a powerful and dangerous samurai, Buntaro), his increasing loyalty to Toranaga, and his desire to return to the open seas aboard Erasmus to capture the Black Ship. Eventually, he visits the survivors of his original crew, and is so astonished at how far he has ventured from the standard European way of life (personally filthy, dirty, ignorant meat-eaters) and is disgusted by them. Blackthorne’s plans to attack the Black Ship are complicated by his respect and friendship for that vessel’s Portuguese pilot, Rodrigues.

In parallel with this plot, the novel also details the intense power struggle between Toranaga and Ishido, and the political maneuvering of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the Jesuits. There is also conflict between Christian daimyos (who are motivated in part by a desire to preserve and expand their Church’s power) and the daimyos who oppose the Christians in favor of the native Shinto, Buddhist, and other faiths.

Ishido is holding numerous family members of other daimyos as hostages in Osaka, referring to them as guests. As long as he has these hostages, the other daimyos, including Toranaga, do not dare to attack him. Ishido hopes to lure or force Toranaga into the Castle and, when all the regents are present, obtain an order for Toranaga to commit suicide. To extricate Toranaga from this situation, Mariko volunteers to go to what will be her likely death at Osaka Castle to face down Ishido and obtain the hostages’ release. On the lengthy trip to Osaka, Blackthorne and Mariko become lovers.

When at the castle, Mariko (in response to Toranaga’s order for her to leave to meet him against Ishido’s wishes) defies Ishido and forces him to either dishonor himself by dishonoring Mariko, a lady of the first rank, or to back down. When Mariko tries to leave the castle, a battle ensues between Ishido’s samurai and her escort until she is forced to give up. However, she states that since she cannot obey an order from her liege lord, Toranaga, she is disgraced and will commit suicide. As she is about to do so, Ishido gives her the papers to leave the castle the next day. That night, a group of ninjas Ishido has hired slips into Toranaga’s section of the castle to kidnap Mariko, with the help of Toranaga’s vassal, Yabu. However, she and Blackthorne (who accompanied her but was not aware of Mariko’s plot) and the other ladies of Toranaga escape into a locked room. As the ninjas blow the door down, Mariko stands against the door and declares that this is her act of honorable suicide, and implicates Ishido “in this shameful act.”

Mariko is killed and Blackthorne injured, but Ishido is forced to let Blackthorne and all the other ladies leave the castle, seriously reducing his influence. Blackthorne discovers that his ship has been burned, ruining his chances of attacking the Black Ship, gaining riches, and sailing home to England. However, Toranaga gives him money and men to start building a new ship. Toranaga orders Yabu to commit suicide for his treachery.

A recurring motif in the book is Toranaga engaging in falconry. He compares his various birds to his vassals and mulls over his handling of them, flinging them at targets, giving them morsels to bring them back to his fist, and re-hooding them. The last scene involves Toranaga letting his prize peregrine fly free as he reveals his inner monologue: he himself had ordered Blackthorne’s ship burned as a way to placate the Christian daimyos, save Blackthorne’s life from them, and bring them to his side against Ishido; he then encourages Blackthorne to build another one, and then will have that one burned too. It is Blackthorne’s karma to never leave Japan, Mariko’s karma to die for her lord, and his own karma, his true purpose, to become Shogun, the ruling daimyo superseding the Taiko’s heir. In the brief epilogue after the final battle of Sekigahara, Ishido is disgracefully captured alive, and Toranaga has him buried up to his neck in the untouchables’ village. In fulfilment of a prophecy from earlier in the book (that Ishido would die an old man with his feet firmly planted, the most famous man in the land), passers-by are offered the opportunity to “saw at the most famous neck in the realm with a bamboo saw,” and “Ishido lingered three days and died very old.”

The book is divided into six, the third section being the longest. It contains intricate plots and counter-plots and straddles the line between historical drama (tinged with romance, sex, courage, and duty) and political drama.”

The rest of the Wikipedia article is very interesting to read.  Mr. Clavell based his stories on historical events.  Shogun is the first in a series of six novels known as The Asian Saga.  I managed to read the first three and enjoy them, but the fourth one takes place in 1945, and for some reason the story lost its magic for me.  Not sure why.  Of course, it’s been 20 years, I might do better with it now.  Not sure.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of Fiction by the Inch.  LOL.  Funny what happens when you judge a book not by the cover – but by the thickness.  Stranger things have happened.

Happy Reading one and all!

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher.  This book came to me in the summer of 1990.  In order to have you understand its significance to me, I’m going to have to tell you a bit of a story.  It’s personal, so if you can’t take a little confession, you can just skip this one.

To mend a broken heart, I had taken a job in West Virginia.  That got me away from my home and family, but more especially away from the source of my self-imposed pain.  I had, not inconsiderately, fallen deeply in love with a wonderful young man.  That was the entire problem.  Though I was only six years older than him, it was those six years and the timing of when they fell that led me back to heartbreak.  I had come to believe that I was forever going to fall in love with individuals I could not have.  So it was with him.  Though I was only 24, I’d already been through some of the passages toward adulthood, and having not had such a good time in spots, I had no desire to go through them again.  He needed to go through them in his own way.  Having me there as a guidepost and facilitator wouldn’t have been the same.  I hope he understands, now.

I spent a year working in a big regional hospital in West Virginia.  Hard work, not what I’d expected.  I’m still not sure what I really did expect from it, but I learned a great deal.  Unfortunately, that was a year when the prescribed trivalent flu vaccine did not cover the most virulent strain of influenza and I got really sick.  Though I was never hospitalized, I did have to go into the emergency department twice to receive IV fluids, and I didn’t seem to be able to shake it off.  The weeks dragged past, and at the two month mark, my physician ran me through such a battery of tests, barely to be believed, just trying to figure out what was wrong.  The good news was that I didn’ t have a slew of cancers, no AIDS, no ulcerative colitis, no obvious anything, but I wouldn’t get well.  The doctor asked if I had family in the area and I gave him a watered down version of why I was there.  Yes, I had friends, and I lived with a dear couple, but they were not family.  The doctor had run out of ideas, I think, and he suggested that I move home and be in the company of people who loved me, and who, if need be, could help to care for me.  I had nothing holding me there, so I worked out a notice and moved home.  It was not ideal.

With my mother’s help, I found and rented a small apartment.  I found a job and started working.  Turns out my immune system was shot, and going to work in a retirement home with a ruined immune system is a dicey proposition.  Within two weeks I’d come down sick again, this time with a frightening respiratory ailment.  I was so scared that I didn’t wait to see a physician – and for those of you in health care, you know that means I was really worried.  I was diagnosed with Non-Legionnaire’s legionella pneumophila.  All these years later, I’m still confused how I could have Legionnaire’s disease, but not have it.  And of course, the facility that I was at denied that I could have contracted it there, but magically, they drained and sanitized all their water systems and changed and sanitized all their air filtering equipment.  Oh, and I never got a bill for any of the medical care that I had to have.  But I digress.

I had to be off work for a month, and I had to take these horrible strong antibiotic/anti-infective medications, including Rifampin.  If I ever die of liver failure, you can be sure the Rifampin probably contributed.  Seems I shouldn’t have taken it without also taking Vitamin B6.  Who knew?  I seem to want to get off the path today, eh?  Anyway….

Toward the end of my confinement, I was feeling a little better physically, but I was getting very poor with no income, and very bored.  I had read everything I owned at least twice, or so it seemed.  I still wasn’t supposed to be around a lot of people, so I would go do my little bit of shopping in the wee hours of the night at Kroger’s downtown.  They had a fairly marvelous book section – lots of paperbacks, lots of sale books – and I could browse without arousing the suspicions of the management. 

I read really fast.  I always have, and I have actually only gotten faster as I ‘ve gotten older.  It’s a wonderful skill, but it can make for a very expensive hobby when buying books.  For my pitiable budget at the time, it was all but impossible.  It was in the Kroger book section late one night that inspiration struck:  I would buy a new book, once a week when I could, spending the least money for the most story I could find, regardless of subject or cover.  It would be called Fiction by the Inch.

The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher was the very first book I bought with this new system.  I’d never heard of Ms. Pilcher, but her book was 1 5/8 thick, had small type and 582 pages.  I resisted the urge to read the back of the book and knowing full well that I wasn’t usually drawn to books with floral covers and might be wasting a precious $5 bill (remember, this was 1990), I bought it.  I read it straight through the first time – up the rest of the night and a good bit of the next day and fell down exhausted.  Once rested, I started reading it over again, vowing to do only one chapter a day so that I could be certain that it was as impossibly good as I thought it was.  Of course, I didn’ t manage that – I devoured it again, though I did sleep the second time through.

Read this book.  You will be illuminated for your troubles.  It’s beautiful.

Here’s the back of the book, though it doesn’t tell you much:  “THE SHELL SEEKERS is a novel of connection:  of one family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations.  THE SHELL SEEKERS is filled with real people — mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers — inspired with real values.  THE SHELL SEEKERS centers on Penelope Keeling — a woman you’ll always remember in a world you’ll never forget.  THE SHELL SEEKERS is a magical novel, the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while.”

***** FIVE STARS and no need for justification.  Ms. Pilcher has other stories out there, but they all pale next to this one.  Strangely, and I don’t know if you need to know this, but I do not keep her on my “go-to” shelf.  I keep this book, and the others from the Fiction by the Inch club on a back shelf, behind other less worthy tomes, to keep them safe I think.  I don’t go there often, but it is a good place to go.

Happy Reading!

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards.  I don’t know what else Kim Edwards has published since this novel came out in 2005, and to tell you the truth, I’m a little hesitant to seek her other stories out.  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is Ms. Edwards’ first published novel, and I’m kind of sad for her, or maybe a little chagrined – not sure, but I can’t imagine her ever writing another word any better than what she’s already done.

In music there are a ton of one-hit-wonders.  How do I hope for this woman to have continued success when she’s already parted the waters of perfection?  Mayhap, I’m just waxing eloquent because I feel like it and this book stirs something in me.  It does stir something in me.

From the back of the book:  “This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins.  His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down’s syndrome.  For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever.  He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution.  Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own.  Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets and the redemptive power of love.”

***** FIVE stars.  I seem to be in the mood to revisit some of my favorite five star stories lately.  We shall see if this trend continues.

In other reading news, this past week I also re-read Nora Roberts’ fantastic Circle Trilogy consisting of Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence.  It’s a classic tale of good versus evil and if you can appreciate magic and the supernatural, you may well be very interested in looking into these stories.  They’re good.  Very good.  Overall, having read this entire series at least three times, I’m sure it’s at least a **** Four star series.

Here’s the back of the boxed set:  “As a storm rages, the tale begins…of a powerful vampire’s lust for destruction — and of the circle of six charged by the goddess Morrigan to stop her.  Morrigan’s Cross:  One of the chosen is a medieval sorceror whose quest will take him through time — and into the arms of a woman courageous enough to link her destiny to his own.  Dance of the Gods:  As the circle becomes stronger, a modern-day demon hunter must let down her guard — and open her heart to a centuries-old shape-shifter.  Valley of Silence:  A vampire’s love for the scholarly queen of Geall will complete the circle of six — and change the face of eternity.”

Reading it listed out like that makes it sound a little silly, but it’s not.  There is really good character and plot development and it’s very engaging and interesting.  I love a good vampire story, but it’s not just about vampires.  Well worth reading, and several times if it appeals.

Happy Reading Everyone!

July 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment