Friday, April 30, 2010

33. God of the Hive

By Laurie King
Rated 4.4

I stayed up very late to finish God of the Hives. I HAD to finish it. It may well be my favorite of the series so far because the mystery was a real page turner. Russell only had a couple of Brat moments and there was one scene that made me laugh out loud. From time to time King attempts to write chaos (usually the same pursuit scene over and over) but this is the first time she has, IMO, really succeeded in pulling it off.

Publisher Summary:

A conclusion to the best-selling The Language of Bees finds Mary Russell picking up a mysterious friend while making her way back to London. Sherlock Holmes is busy investigating questions about a ruthless villain while hiding a wounded son, and murderous adversaries setting a deadly trap.

While Sherlock Holmes desperately seeks medical help for his gravely wounded son, Damien Adler, Mary Russell tries to protect Damien's daughter, Estelle, from the ruthless enemy pursuing all of them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

32. Other Family

BY: Joanna Trollope
>Rated 4 Stars
From: Library

For the most part liked it. I would have rated it a little higher except that the character Chrissie annoyed me. Seemed to me that if anyone had a legitimate gripe it was Barbara, not her. Still, I enjoyed it.


After Richie Rossiter, a pianist and songwriter, dies suddenly, his companion, Chrissie, with whom he had three daughters, and the wife he left behind, with whom he had a son, are left to deal with each other and the unexpected terms of his will.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

31. Confessions of a Pagan Nun

By: Kate Horsley
Rated 4 Stars
From: Library

This moving and subtle tale both embodies and confirms the enduring power of language. Gwynneve (Gwi-NEEV) is raised in a village of fishermen and pigkeepers at the height of Ireland's transition from Paganism to Christianity. All around her the new doctrines of Patrick and the "tonsured men" are inexorably driving out the old Druid ways. When Gwynneve loses the two figures she loved the most—her mother succumbing to disease, her outspoken Druid teacher abducted by his enemies—she leaves her village and finally takes refuge in the convent of Saint Brigit. Of her past life and loves she retains only intangibles: her mother's love of nature and independent mind, her teacher's gift of literacy and addiction to truth. Clinging to the one constant and comforting force in her life—the power of words, and their offer of immortality to those who set them down—she records her memories surreptitiously, interrupting her assigned tasks of transcribing Patrick and Augustine. But disturbing events from the present keep intervening. Finally, her headstrong ways and growing criticism of the monastery's new abbot lead to the accusation that she consorts with demons. The story's tragic conclusion confirms both Gwynneve's fears and her powers: centuries after she and her tormentors sink back into the Irish earth, her words remain to haunt and inspire us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

30. A Rose for the Crown

By: Anne Easter Smith
Rated 4.5 Stars
From: Library

This book got mixed reviews on amazon and so I turned to Jani to see if she had reviewed it and sure enough she had. Jani is almost always the final word with me when it comes to historical fiction. The reviews on amazon are losing more and more credibility with me. If reviewers are not complaining about the Kindle prices then they are complaining that a book of fiction is {GASP} Fiction. Oh well . . . .


Inspired by the historical record of Richard III's bastard children, Smith invents a spirited, "tawny-eyed" mistress for the 15th-century king in her sweeping debut. Kate Bywood is plucked from her peasant life at the age of 11 to join the household of her mother's noble cousins, the Hautes, as companion to her timid cousin, Anne. A brief, unwilling marriage to an older, wealthy merchant leaves Kate a young widow with a considerable fortune. A second marriage to George, an opportunistic Haute cousin who prefers the stable boy to Kate, leaves her yearning for love. In a chance encounter, she meets Richard of Gloucester, and the ensuing secret romance is filled with the passion and intimacy her marriage lacks. George is killed during an attack in the forest, and Kate bears Richard three children. The narrative flies when the lovers are together, but once Richard marries Anne Neville, and he and Kate are separated for long stretches, the story loses its spark.

29. Quiet Please

By: Scott Douglas
Rated 4 Stars
From: Library


For most of us, librarians are the quiet people behind the desk, who, apart from the occasional “shush,” vanish into the background. But in Quiet, Please, McSweeney’s contributor Scott Douglas puts the quirky caretakers of our literature front and center. With a keen eye for the absurd and a Kesey-esque cast of characters (witness the librarian who is sure Thomas Pynchon is Julia Roberts’s latest flame), Douglas takes us where few readers have gone before. Punctuated by his own highly subjective research into library history-from Andrew Carnegie’s Gilded Age to today’s Afghanistan-Douglas gives us a surprising (and sometimes hilarious) look at the lives which make up the social institution that is his library.

28. Bless This House

By: Nora Lofts
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

From time to time I started getting caught up in the stories of the inhabitants of the house and started to become annoyed when the story moved on. I had to remind myself that this was the story of the house and it's inhabitants were secondary to the story. When I kept that in mind I did fine with it.


This is a book to be savored by those who enjoy historical fiction. Beautifully written by a master storyteller, it centers around a beautiful house, Merravay, which was built during the Elizabethan era, and the lives of those who lived in it throughout the passing centuries.

It is a rich melange of personalities, conflicts, loves, and everyday twists that meld into the foundation of the house whose inhabitants have seen so much personal and historical strife. Filled with memorable characters throughout the ages, this thoroughly engrossing book will keep the reader entertained until the very last page is turned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

27. The Mapping of Love and Death

By: Jacqueline Winspear
Rated 4.5 Stars
From: Library

I think this is my favorite book in the series thus far.    The mystery plots in this series have always been excellent and carried a heroine that I wasn't always sympathetic with.  She could come across cold and way, way too uptight.  Sometimes I wanted to shout "for heaven's sake girl, lighten up!" at the book.

I have read so many books both fiction and non fiction that were set in this time period that I took as a given that men who had served in the war would go through a period of depression or would have been changed forever by there experiences.  I had never thought to apply the same behaviors to the women who had been through  many of the same experiences.  So now I am wondering if the author is becoming more comfortable with her characters or has done a very clever job of aging her characters.  Maisie has indeed "lightened up" as this series has progressed.

It took her a long time to get over Simon and I sincerely hope her relationship with James will survive the future.  With WWII looming and the broad hints thrown out about future demands from the Foreign Office it looks like busy times are ahead for everyone.


The sixth Maisie Dobbs mystery, set in England between the wars, is based on a true story about the discovery of a collapsed dugout from World War I containing the bodies of a cartography team and their equipment. The American parents of the dead cartographer hire Maisie to find "the English Nurse," the young man's mysterious lover—and possibly his killer, as the autopsy evidence points to his having been murdered shortly before the dugout collapsed. Only a few hours after having hired Maisie, the Americans are attacked and badly beaten, prompting Maisie to take it upon herself to discover their attacker. Maisie and her assistant, Billy, take on the case in their usual careful and contemplative style, even as difficulties in Maisie's personal life challenge her concentration. Readers who preferred the earlier novels in the series will be pleased with this entry and those waiting for Maisie to finally find a love interest will have something to cheer about.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

26. The Street of a Thousand Blossums

By: Gail Tsukiyama
Rated: 5 Stars
From Library

Thank you Connie for bringing this book to my attention. It was, as they say, right up my alley.


“Just remember,” Yoshio said quietly to his grandsons. “Every day of your lives, you must always be sure what you’re fighting for.”

It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hard-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater.

Across town, a renowned sumo master, Sho Tanaka, lives with his wife and their two young daughters: the delicate, daydreaming Aki and her independent sister, Haru. Life seems full of promise as Kenji begins an informal apprenticeship with the most famous mask-maker in Japan and Hiroshi receives a coveted invitation to train with Tanaka. But then Pearl Harbor changes everything. As the ripples of war spread to both families’ quiet neighborhoods, all of the generations must put their dreams on hold---and then find their way in a new Japan.

In an exquisitely moving story that spans almost thirty years, Gail Tsukiyama draws us irresistibly into the world of the brothers and the women who love them. It is a world of tradition and change, of heartbreaking loss and surprising hope, and of the impact of events beyond their control on ordinary, decent men and women.

25. Brooklyn

By: Colm Toibin
Rated 3.5 Stars
From Library

This book was a very quick read - took me less than a day. :-0 It was OK, It was very well written but there wasn't a lot of story to it and what there was was superficial. I had the niggling feeling that Ellis was so uptight and locked into doing what was expected of her that she would never have had the courage to give Tony the time of day had his hair been dark and his eyes blue no matter how much she was attracted to him.

And then the way it ended was pretty much a moral lesson "see what happens if you dare to step outside the nice safe little box."


Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

24. Blackout

By:  Connie Willis
Rated: 4 Stars
From:  Library

If I had not read several of Connie Willis's books before I would have given up on this book within the first 50 pages.  It got off to a very slow start.  There was way to much dithering about the preparations for the characters drop into war time England. But once the story moved on it started sucking me in.  It bothered me a little that there was so much confusion and inefficiency concerning the characters inability to communicate with the agency who were responsible for their safety but then I remembered that they were dealing with a bureaucracy and I decided that it wasn't as implausible as I first thought. *sigh*

The actual adventures of the characters were exciting and believable and Willis did a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere of war time london and some excellent secondary characters. My only serious criticism is that it's the first part of a 2 part novel.  My advice is that if you intend to read this book wait until October because the second part will be released in November 2010.

Three young historians travel from 2060 to early 1940s Britain for firsthand research. As Eileen handles a measles outbreak during the children's evacuation and Polly struggles to work as a London shopgirl, hints of trouble with the time-travel equipment barely register on their radar. Historians aren't supposed to be able to change the course of history, but Mike's actions at Dunkirk may disrupt both the past and the future. Willis uses detail and period language exquisitely well, creating an engaging, exciting tale that cuts off abruptly on the last page. Readers allergic to cliffhangers may want to wait until the second volume comes out in November 2010.

Friday, April 2, 2010

23. One Amazing Thing

by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni.
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library


When an earthquake hits, nine men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds are trapped in an Indian consulate. Cameron, an African American Vietnam vet, takes charge, striving to keep them safe. College student Uma, who brought along The Canterbury Tales to read while waiting for clerk Malathi and her boss Mangalam to process her papers, suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives. Their tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and riveting as Divakaruni takes fresh measure of the transcendent power of stories and the pilgrimage tradition. True, the nine, including an older couple, a young Muslim man, and a Chinese Indian grandmother and her granddaughter, are captives of a disaster, but they are also pilgrims of the spirit, seeking “one amazing thing” affirming that life, for all its pain, is miraculous. A storyteller of exquisite lyricism and compassion, Divakaruni weaves a suspenseful, astute, and unforgettable

Thursday, April 1, 2010

22. Mornings on Horseback

The Story of an Extraordinary Family, and the Unique Child who Became Theodore Roosevelt

By:David McCullough
Rated 4.5


I didn't know much about Theodore Roosevelt but was inclined to admire him because of his love of natural history and his foresight in establishing the National Parks system and thereby saving a lot of beautiful places from developers.  Now after listening to this bio I think he was an upright, moral person, very much a product of his upbringing by an upper class NY family. The Civil war was a defining event during his childhood. His Father was an attorney who worked with the family firm, an abolitionist and social reformer. His Mother, a daughter of slave owning Georgia plantation owners and a Southern sympathizer. In spite of that his family a loving one. Oh, and Theodore suffered from asthma as a child and became something of a physical fitness nut in an effort to overcome this. I admire him and found the bio very interesting.

Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 1982 National Book Award for Biography, Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece, it is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and nearly fatal attacks of asthma, and his struggle to manhood.His father, the first Theodore Roosevelt, "Greatheart", is a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. His mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and celebrated beauty. Mornings on Horseback spans 17 years, from 1869 when little "Teedie" is 10, to 1886 when he returns from the West a "real life cowboy" to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and begin anew, a grown man, whole in body and spirit. This is a tale about family love and family loyalty; about courtship, childbirth and death, fathers and sons; about gutter politics and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884; about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and "blessed" mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands.