Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Books I've Read in February 2011

1) The Gift (Witch and Wizard, Book 2) by James Patterson...completed 2/01/2011
In Witch & Wizard (Little, Brown, 2009), Whit and Wisty Allgood were taken from their family in the middle of the night, accused of witchcraft, and imprisoned by the corrupt government. This sequel picks up as Whit manages to save his captured sister from public execution. On the run from "The One Who Is The One" (the evil ruler of this apocalyptic world), the siblings' recently discovered magical powers are their only hope of finding their rebel cohorts and escaping capture and certain death. Once safe for the moment, Whit becomes preoccupied with finding his murdered girlfriend in the Shadowlands and jotting poetry/spells in his magic journal. Wisty practices her power of controlling fire while dabbling in an occasional musical performance and exploring a budding romance with the drummer of a popular rebel rock band. There is no real safe haven for these siblings, though, and they find themselves imprisoned once again by "The One" with only a would-be traitor holding their key to escape. The action is relentless and there are too many close calls to count in this supernatural suspense thriller. The narration alternates between brother and sister, which, particularly in these very short chapters, can be confusing. Patterson's trademark mastery of gruesome and terrifying imagery makes this otherwise dull tale come alive a bit as readers are whisked at breakneck speed toward a culmination with no resolution.

2) Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage,by Elizabeth Gilbert...completed 2/7/2011
How does an author follow up a smash international bestseller that has catapulted her from obscurity into fame and riches she never dreamed of? Very carefully. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elizabeth Gilbert's first book since the multimillion-selling Eat, Pray, Love, was written so carefully that it's actually her second attempt (she scrapped the first one after she decided the voice was wrong). The good news is her voice is clear and winning. The bad news is the structure doesn't work. Part history, part travelogue, Committed often makes for a jumpy read. Still, Gilbert remains the spirited storyteller she was in EPL, and her central question is a good one—how can a divorce-scarred feminist make a case for marriage?EPL ended in Bali with Gilbert falling in love with Felipe, a hot, older Brazilian divorcĂ©. Book clubs across the country passionately debated her message: Is Gilbert saying I need a man to be happy?; What if I go to Bali and don't meet the love of my life?; and How did a woman who didn't want children land the only Latino hottie with a vasectomy in all of Indonesia? In the year following their meeting, Felipe and Gilbert cobbled together a long-distance relationship; he would stay with her in the U.S. for 90-day jaunts, and the rest of the time they'd live apart or travel the world. One day in the spring of 2006, they returned to the Dallas Airport and Felipe was detained at the border. A customs agent said he could not enter the country again unless he married Gilbert.Gilbert spent the next year in exile with Felipe—straining the relationship—and did a lot of reading about marriage. In jaunty, ever-curious prose she tells us that today's Hmong women in Vietnam don't expect their husbands to be their best friends; that in modern Iran young couples can marry for a day; and that early Christians were actually against marriage, seeing it as antireligious. It's all fascinating stuff, but ultimately Gilbert is more interested in the history of divorce than marriage. The reader can feel both her excitement when she tells us that in medieval Germany there were two kinds of marriages, one more casual than the other, and her rage when she recounts the ill effects of the Church on divorce as it turned marriage into a life sentence.For all of its academic ambition, the juiciest bits of Committed are the personal ones, when she tells us stories about her family. There's a great scene involving the way her grandfather scattered her grandmother's ashes, and a painfully funny story of a fight Gilbert and Felipe had on a 12-hour bus ride in Laos. The bus is bumpy, the travelers exhausted, and both feel the frustration of not being able to make a home together. They bicker, and she tries and fails at a couples-therapy technique, and a heated silence went on for a long time. Later in the story, when she is hemming and hawing about the Meaning of It All, he says, When are you going to understand? As soon as we secure this bloody visa and get ourselves safely married back in America, we can do whatever the hell we want. I am happy for Gilbert that she did a lot of research before tying the knot again, but she already did the most important thing a gun-shy bride can do: choose the right mate.

3) The Ninth Judgment (Women's Murder Club), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro...completed 2/7/11
The most personal

A young mother and her infant child are ruthlessly gunned down while returning to their car in the garage of a shopping mall. There are no witnesses, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is left with only one shred of evidence: a cryptic message scrawled across the windshield in bloodred lipstick.

The most dangerous

The same night, the wife of A-list actor Marcus Dowling is woken by a cat burglar who is about to steal millions of dollars' worth of precious jewels. In just seconds there is a nearly empty safe, a lifeless body, and another mystery that throws San Francisco into hysteria.

The most exciting Women's Murder Club novel ever

Lindsay spends every waking hour working with her partner, Rich--and her desire for him threatens to tear apart both her engagement and the Women's Murder Club. Before Lindsay and her friends can piece together either case, one of the killers forces Lindsay to put her own life on the line--but is it enough to save the city? With unparalleled danger and explosive action, The 9th Judgment is James Patterson at his compelling, unstoppable best!


4) A Twisted Faith, by Gregg Olsen...completed 2/10/2011
On December 26, 1997, near the affluent community of Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle, a house went up in flames. In it was the shy, beloved minister’s wife Dawn Hacheney. When the fire was extinguished, investigators found only her charred remains. Her husband Nick was visibly devastated by the loss. What investigators failed to note, however, was that Dawn’s lungs didn’t contain smoke. Was she dead before the fire began?

So begins this true crime story that’s unlike any other. It investigates Nick Hacheney, a philandering minister who had been carrying on with several women in the months before and just after his wife’s death. He would be convicted for the murder five years to the day after the crime.

From one of the foremost names in true crime, this is a gripping and truly unforgettable story of a man whose charisma and desire rocked an entire community.

5) Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls....completed 2/20/11
For the first 10 years of her life, Lily Casey Smith, the narrator of this true-life novel by her granddaughter, Walls, lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas. Walls, whose megaselling memoir, The Glass Castle, recalled her own upbringing, writes in what she recalls as Lily's plainspoken voice, whose recital provides plenty of drama and suspense as she ricochets from one challenge to another. Having been educated in fits and starts because of her parents' penury, Lily becomes a teacher at age 15 in a remote frontier town she reaches after a solo 28-day ride. Marriage to a bigamist almost saps her spirit, but later she weds a rancher with whom she shares two children and a strain of plucky resilience. (They sell bootleg liquor during Prohibition, hiding the bottles under a baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice, a rodeo rider and fearless breaker of horses, and a ruthless poker player. Assailed by flash floods, tornados and droughts, Lily never gets far from hardscrabble drudgery in several states—New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois—but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience.

6) Sizzling Sixteen (A Stephanie Plum novel), by Janet Evanovich...completed 2/20/11
In this tepid Stephanie Plum adventure from Evanovich (Finger Lickin' Fifteen, etc.), a personal case distracts the Trenton, N.J., bondswoman from tracking the usual group of eccentric skips--the kidnapping of her cousin, Vinnie, who's being held for ransom in the high six figures. As Stephanie, sidekick Lula, and office manager Connie soon realize, Vincent Plum Bail Bonds is seriously in the red due to Vinnie's gambling. Vinnie's also gotten caught up with local mobster Bobby Sunflower in a complicated scheme. Even though her sleazy cousin isn't her favorite person and chasing oddball felons isn't her ideal career, Stephanie knows family loyalty counts for something, plus she owes him for giving her a job all those years ago. So with Lula and Connie in tow--and romantic interests Morelli and Ranger lurking in the background-- Stephanie must save the day once again. Evanovich is at her best spinning the bizarre subplots involving Stephanie's bail jumpers, but the larger story simply recycles elements from previous installments.

7) Cake Boss: Stories And Recipes From Mia Famiglia, by Buddy Valastro...completed 2/28/11
Best known on TLC cable as the Cake Boss, Valastro shares recipes and a sometimes treacly tale of family, tradition, and ambition. A fourth-generation baker born in Hoboken, N.J., Buddy honors his Sicilian father, who taught him his craft, while marking his own rise from apprentice to master baker. His is the American dream told in flashbacks; like his show, the book plays on charm and the idea that to know Buddy is to like his work. Still, the book offers hard-won baking know-how. It conveys the dramatic sweep of Buddy's accomplishments as bolstered by his traditional values and family. For drama, it depicts, as mini-crises, the elaborate challenges and difficult designs that proliferate as Buddy's clientele expands to include Modern Bride and Britney Spears. However, despite great technical descriptions, including his bakery's cannoli recipe and photos of his spectacular cakes, Buddy's tale of immigrant success proves too familiar.

YTD total: 11

2 comments:

  1. I've got the first book on my wish list, but I haven't gotten around to read the sample yet :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a really great series...I think you'll enjoy it!!

    ReplyDelete

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