Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rage, by Jonathan Kellerman

Have listened to a couple of Jonathan Kellerman novels, most recently one called Rage, which is something I feel I know a little bit about.

The crimes are horrifying.
I like Milo Sturgis, the second main character.
Interesting to have a psychologist as the main character.
I usually can't figure out the mystery.

The main guy is named "Alex Delaware"
The idea that someone named "Alex Delaware" would be attractive to two women at the same time--or any woman, at all, ever.
Having to hear Alex Delaware's perceptions of what other people look like. The books are set in L.A., and I just think the character has been driven crazy by all the plastic surgery and obsession with looks. Kellerman's descriptions are merciless and detailed and obsessive. He is also partial to partial sentences, which drives me crazy. Here's a descriptive passage from Therapy:

A pretty young girl in low-riding, skintight jeans that looked oiled and a black midriff blouse exposing a flat, tan abdomen stood in the doorway. Two belly-button pieces, one studded with turquoise. [N.B. THAT IS NOT A SENTENCE.] Over her shoulder was a black silk bag embroidered with silk flowers. She wore too much makeup, had a beak nose and a strong chin. Her hair was long, straight, the color of new hay. The blouse revealed luminous cleavage. [QUERY: WHAT IS LUMINOUS CLEAVAGE?] A big gold "K" rested in the cleft.

His love for detail extends to clothing. Here is Alex Delaware describing the clothing of a woman he's with:
When I reached Allison's office building, she was waiting out on the sidewalk, dressed in a sky-blue cashmere cowl neck sweater and a long, wine-colored skirt, drinking something from a cardboard cup and kicking the heel of one boot. Her black hair was tied back with a clip.

This man can identify cashmere on sight. This man knows what a cowl neck is. This man should be working in fashion, not delving into murder cases.

One more, because I just can't stop:

A blonde, a brunette, both in their late thirties. Big hair, heavy in the hips and bust. The blonde wore a black tank top over epidermal jeans. [QUERY: WTF] The brunette's tank was red. Backless high-heeled sandals gave them both a mincing, butt-jiggling walk. Alcohol added some wobble.

Faces that had once been pretty had been paved over by bad decisions.

I have made fun of/been terrified by these descriptions, but I will say that the crazy characters and situations make these books fun to listen to; I've enjoyed them even if they make me a little bit giddy and unhinged.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
ISBN 978-0-385-34230-8
Delacorte Press

Rating (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best)
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Final: 5

Comments: Perfection.
In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father, a man raising his three daughters alone, is seized, accused of murder. And in a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school’s tower thirty years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse . . .

Listen to author Alan Bradley talk about the main character, Flavia de Luce:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin'
by Janet Evanovich
ISBN 0-312-98536-3
St. Martin's Press

Rating (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best)
Plot: 2
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Final: 2.66

Comments: This was not a wise choice on my part--I picked it up because I was too impatient to wait for the new title in the Stephanie Plum numbers series. This was just too silly for me (the regular Plum series is about as silly as I can take). Since I haven't read any other books in the "Between the Numbers" series I can't tell you how this one compares, but I'd guess that if you like the others, you're likely to enjoy this one, too.
Mysterious men have a way of showing up in Stephanie Plum's apartment. When the shadowy Diesel appears, he has a task for Stephanie-and he's not taking no for an answer. Annie Hart is a "relationship expert" who is wanted for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Stephanie needs to find her, fast. Diesel knows where she is. So they make a deal: he'll help her get Annie if Stephanie plays matchmaker to several of Annie's most difficult clients. But someone wants to find Annie even more than Diesel and Stephanie. Someone with a nasty temper. And someone with "unmentionable" skills. Does Diesel know more than he's saying about Annie Hart? Does Diesel have secrets he's keeping about Stephanie and the two men in her life-Ranger and Morelli? With Stephanie Plum in over her head, things are sure to get a little dicey and a little explosive, Jersey style!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Most Important Feature in an eReader

If I had to choose just one feature as the most important in an eReader . . .

Would it be a logically and thoughtfully designed interface? Or ease of purchase (aka Project Don't Make Jana Get Out of Bed)? Or a large quantity of available content? Or price? All of these matter to me.

But I'm going to have to go with a logically and thoughtfully designed interface. I keep trying to give my Kindle (v1) a try, but the clunkiness of the object itself combined with the rotten navigation scheme keep sending me back to my iPod Touch.

Of course, having "the whole B&N ebook catalog at my fingertips" wouldn't hurt, either.

This post is part of a contest through BBAW (sponsored by IREX) to win an IREX eReader.

BBAW Interview: Florinda from The 3 R's Blog

I'm participating in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week interview swap. I was paired with Florinda from The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness (It's Not Just a Title, It's a Mission Statement) and we conducted our interviews via email. I edited these answers very slightly, and mostly just added some links.

Florinda posts frequently and has a very relatable style, so pay her a visit--you're bound to find something you like. In addition to her blog, you can find Florinda on Twitter and LibraryThing.

What is the history of your blog? When and why did you get started?
My first blog post was March 16, 2007. For several months, I had been using an online organizing program to keep a record of what I was reading, but as it started to get more detailed, I thought maybe a blog would be a better way to do it. My first few posts were summary reading lists with short descriptions of each book and a few comments, but after a couple of months I began doing individual posts after each book I finished.
Has your blog evolved over time?
I realized pretty quickly that my blog probably wouldn't be just about books. Most of the blogs I read early on weren't book blogs--it actually took me some time to start finding those. But I'd find things to think and write about on other blogs, and sometimes I'd even write about things that happened in my life. That mix is still there, and that's the third R (the "randomness").

I participated in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) during November 2007, which got me into the posting-every-day habit--and I liked it. I still post five or six times a week (most of the time). I have a loose editorial calendar in which certain types of posts appear on specific days. And I think my book reviews have improved a lot :-).
It looks like you are much better than I am at having recurring features on your blog. What's your secret? Do you think this is more work for you or does it seem to make it easier?
I actually think it's easier. It helps give my blogging some structure (I'm an accountant--my brain operates better with structure). I also try to write most of my posts at least a few days in advance. The two features that probably look the most work-intensive--the TBIF book-related round-up on Fridays, and the Weekend Review linkfest on Saturdays--really aren't, since they're basically works in progress all week. (Google Docs is my very good friend.)
What is your favorite blogger meme/game and why?
I don't do a lot of memes, and I try to concentrate them into just one or two posts a week, even though that means some of the daily ones don't go up on their "official" day of the week. I've most consistently participated in Booking Through Thursday, and I like doing the Friday Fill-ins just because they're fun. But my favorite one may be Tuesday Thingers, because it's really helped me learn more about using LibraryThing.
What is your all-time favorite book (feel free to list more than one if you'd like)?
I usually avoid this question like the plague, because it's JUST TOO HARD! And since I've gotten out of the habit of re-reading, it's become even harder. But here are three that rank very, very high on the list (and that I've read more than once):
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Cloth, paper, or ebook? Have your book buying habits changed over time?
I probably buy more books now than ever :-) --nearly always trade paperbacks. I rarely buy hardcovers. I got a Kindle a couple of months ago, and I like it much better than I ever expected to, but it's not going to replace books on paper for me. However, it does give me a way to get new books sooner--I don't have to wait for the paperback, and they're cheaper, too!
What are some of your favorite blogs/websites?
Again, it's just too hard to play favorites :-)! I maintain three separate blogrolls--one for book blogs, one for blogs by authors, and one that's a hodgepodge of all the other types of blogs I read. But since it's Book Blogger Appreciation Week, here are a few book blogs I really like:

Devourer of Books
Everyday I Write the Book
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Rebecca Reads
She Is Too Fond of Books
Sophisticated Dorkiness
The Betty and Boo Chronicles
The Boston Bibliophile
And, to steal from you, ask and answer any one question that you wish I had asked.
Q: What time of day do you do most of your reading?

A: I nearly always read at breakfast, and again before I go to sleep, although I don't really get through many pages in the morning, and the amount I read at night depends on how long I can stay awake! My favorite reading time, though, is the weekend mornings when I take myself and my book out to Starbucks.
Thanks, Florinda!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever
by Jennifer Weiner
Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

Rating (scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best)
Plot: 2.5
Characters: 4
Writing: 3.5
Final: 3.33

Comments: The beginning of this felt very much like a Jodi Picoult book to me--like there was going to be some big twist ending. Maybe that threw me off because I never really got into the story. The characters, though, were very believable.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bones of Betrayal by Jefferson Bass

Bones of Betrayal
by Jefferson Bass
cloth (borrowed from my mom)
ISBN: 9780061284748

Rating (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 best)
Plot: 3.5
Characters: 3.5
Writing: 3
Final: 3.33

Comments: My favorite thing about the Body Farm novels is all of the scientific detail you get about skeletons and the process of putrefaction.

Dr. Bill Brockton is in the middle of a nuclear-terrorism disaster drill when he receives an urgent call from the nearby town of Oak Ridge—better known as Atomic City, home of the Bomb, and the key site for the Manhattan Project during World War II. Although more than sixty years have passed, could repercussions from that dangerous time still be felt today?

With his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady, Brockton hastens to the death scene, where they find a body frozen facedown in a swimming pool behind a historic, crumbling hotel. The forensic detectives identify the victim as Dr. Leonard Novak, a renowned physicist and designer of a plutonium reactor integral to the Manhattan Project. They also discover that he didn't drown: he died from a searing dose of radioactivity.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

Finger Lickin' Fifteen
by Janet Evanovich
ISBN: 0312383282
St. Martin's Press

Rating (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best)
Plot: 2.5
Characters: 4
Writing: 3.5
Final: 3.33

Comments: Good, silly fun. Not the best in the Stephanie Plum series, but not the worst.
Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, A.K.A. Ranger, during the day. Can Stephanie hunt down two killers, a traitor, five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, solve Ranger’s problems and not jump his bones?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review: The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

I just listened to the audio version of The Lost City of Z,by David Grann, which is read by Mark Deakins. I really liked it. Because I am lame, I will provide the summary (not written by me) from Barnes and Noble:
Percy Harrison Fawcett (he went by "Colonel," although he was only a lieutenant colonel) was among the last of the gentleman explorers, the generalists who set out with machete and sketchbook to fill in the blank spots on the globe. Born in 1867, Fawcett, a wiry teetotalling Englishman who seemed immune to malaria, did this work better and faster than anyone believed was possible: in 1906–7 he mapped the border between Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, an inhospitable jungle river; in the seven years that followed he was all over the Amazon, sometimes following rivers, sometimes hacking his way overland, always with only a small party to help him. His surveying trips won him a medal from the Royal Geographical Society and a certain amount of fame (although never any money); but the expedition for which he is best known is the one he undertook in 1925, accompanied only by his son Jack and Raleigh Rimmell, Jack's boyhood friend. They were looking for a legendary city, which Fawcett referred to in his notes as "Z." None of them ever returned.

So, we have Victorian/Edwardian explorers combined with the burgeoning field of anthropology; the background for all of this is the sordid history of British imperialism and the Spanish conquistadors. Can anyone really see the Amazon at all given this history of oppression and conquest? Why do we persist in lionizing such imperialists/conquerors as heroes? This book starts to provide some interesting answers to such questions. Fawcett was, to be sure, a madman, but he was an intriguing one, and he actually developed, in his own way (the book shows), a method of approaching/negotiating with the indigenous peoples he encountered that was less horrible and disgusting than that of many of his peers. Does he get rewards for that? Probably not. It's worthwhile, however, to consider the psychology of the explorer, and the obsession/madness that leads him to act as he does.

I really enjoyed this book. The physical/mental privations of being an explorer are simply incredible, and it's fascinating and horrifying to see how these folks portrayed the Amazon and surrounding areas, even as it's equally annoying to see their attitudes. I suppose it is fitting that in the end, Fawcett was probably killed by the same people he was obsessed with--but very sad that he took along his son and his son's friend for the ride.

The author does a great job of paralleling his own obsession with the Amazon with Fawcett's, and I really enjoyed hearing about the emerging field of anthropology and the decline of the "amateur" explorers like Fawcett. Fawcett was a fascinating train wreck of an individual; he did, however, serve nobly in World War I and it obviously also took huge courage to do the exploration work he did. He was part huckster, part serious lover of the Amazon; I thought this book did a really nice job of sketching out the complexity of his character.

Mark Deakins is a good reader and I listened almost compulsively to this book--it really kept me engaged.