Monthly Archives: January 2011

I am Katherine of Aragon, Infanta of Spain, Queen of England….a/k/a Off the Shelf Book #3

I’ve always been fascinated by England, all things British and the royalty too. Those who know me are probably already geeked for the party I will be throwing for Kate and Will’s wedding, with full on finger sandwiches and Princess Di memorabilia.  Of late, Patrick and I have been watching “The Tudors,” using our lack of cable television as an opportunity to get caught up on all the shows we didn’t watch while we were watching stupid shit like The Amazing Race.  Which, of course, led me to my third book in the “Off the Shelf” challenge, The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory.

Now, before all my history buff readers get their panties in a knot (CK, this means you), I KNOW that these are not historically accurate books, but I just LOVE them. Gregory has the ability to write a fictional accounting of history that weaves in enough of what actually happened to satisfy the historically curious in me, while adding in just enough fiction to keep me up late at night reading. Not only that, she portrayed Katherine of Aragon for who she really was–a total badass, a woman far ahead of her time, whose intelligence and machinations kept her alive in an era when she could easily have been tossed aside in a matter of seconds.

If you’re at all interested in the Tudors and the first of Henry’s 6 wives, from a “fictional” accounting, of course, I suggest picking up The Constant Princess.

Off the Shelf, Part Deux

What was better than Hot Shots? Why, Hot Shots Part Deux. Sometimes, a sequel or series of books can be horrible. And other times, you come to enjoy the characters. They become like old friends to you. You know their habits, their likes, their dislikes, and the little quirks that make them who they are.  Such is the case with the second book of my 2011 “Off the Shelf” Challenge book, Hex and the City by Simon R. Green.

I started reading the Nightside series by Green in early 2010, after it was recommended to me by my best friend, Carolyne. They are in the science fiction genre, which would normally have steered me fast in the other direction, but I had been looking to expand beyond biography, history and general “literature”.  I picked up the first book in the series, Something from the Nightside, and was hooked.

The protagonist, John Taylor, is a human with certain mystical capabilities that lives and works in the Nightside, the seedy, dark magical underbelly of London.  All types of horrible creatures, monsters and the like live together, often in states of distress, in the Nightside, and Taylor works among them as a private investigator for anyone willing to pay.  Taylor is a likeable character, a man whose alcoholic father drank himself into an early grave, who did not know his mother, other than that she was the cause of his father’s emotional distress upon learning of her “true nature” and a vendetta against everyone and everything that moves. While some may say the foregoing combination is a blueprint for a jackass character, there is just something about Taylor that is endearing and makes you want to keep reading.

Hex and the City, the fourth book in the series by Green, has us following Taylor as he is hired by Lady Luck, one of the ethereal beings in the Nightside, to find the true origins of the Nightside and who created it. Her payment? The long-awaited reveal of just who (and what) Taylor’s mother is, a secret he had been searching after nearly his entire life. From the very start, everyone who is anyone in the Nightside is trying to prevent Taylor from moving forward with his case. With the help of some truly dark powers, The Sinner, The Madman, and Pretty Poison, he continues to the end with his case, finds the origins and more importantly, learns just who, and what, his mother is.

The reveal of Taylor’s lineage left me wanting to know more, which is always the sign of a good cliffhanger and a beloved character. How will this new information affect Taylor’s life? Will he stay in the Nightside now that he knows the truth? Will he ally himself with his mother and her cause, or will he forge his own path? I have my guesses, which I am keeping to myself for now (don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who may go out and read the books), but I can say this….the fifth book in the Nightside series will be making its appearance on this “read” list in very short order!

Off the Shelf Challenge, Book One…

Just days ago I decided to participate in the “Off the Shelf” reading challenge for 2011, wherein I will endeavour to read more of the books that I already own, as opposed to only the new book that I buy or library books.  Thus far, the challenge has been a SMASHING SUCCESS! Yes, that is right, since I have announced my participation in the challenge, I’ve only read books that I own….er, mostly because I have only read 1 book in the 4 days since I started this.  Thus, I give you….

Off the Shelf Challenge, Book Uno….Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs.

The cover of the book can be a *little* scary when you catch a glance of it in the middle of the night after staying up WAY too late reading about serial killers.  However, it was an excellent read, which will become apparent as you continue to read this review.

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Forensic anthropologist Temperance “Tempe” Brennan of the Laboratoire de Medicine Legale in Montreal makes a triumphant second appearance in Reichs’s powerful followup to her bestselling debut, Deja Dead. The novel opens atmospherically in a frigid church graveyard as Tempe labors to exhume the century-old remains of a nun so that the Church can posthumously declare her a saint. But the bones aren’t where they’re supposed to be according to the graveyard map, and there’s something suspicious about them when they do turn up. Tempe’s caseload multiplies as a house fire proves to be a horrific instance of arson and a university teaching assistant who’s recently joined a cult goes missing. The three seemingly individual events begin to braid together, as the doings with the doomsday cult draw Tempe to North Carolina. As in Deja Dead, Reichs, herself a forensic anthropologist, renders comprehensively and believably the cool, tense intelligence of her heroine. A North Carolina native who consults in Montreal only a few months of the year, Tempe still hasn’t acclimated to the bone-chilling Northern cold, and if she’s come to expect the misogynist attitudes of some of the Canadian officials, she still bristles at them. Also well presented are Tempe’s refreshing compassion in the face of relentless autopsies, her ability to describe a corpse with judiciously graphic detail and her penchant for revealing the art behind the science on such matters as the preservation of a corpse’s teeth. Reichs’s first novel, which won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel of 1997, was compared justifiably to the Kay Scarpetta novels of Patricia Cornwell. Soon, Cornwell’s novels may be compared to Reichs’s. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

My synopsis — This is the second book in the Dr. Temperance Brennan series.  I was first introduced to this character via Emily Deschanael and the TV show, Bones. The books, though, are completely different from the television series, so if you are worried about crossover, don’t. As expected in most mysteries, Tempe is confronted with multiple homicides within the first few chapters of the book.  Reichs adds in some spice, danger, cults, multi-national crime sprees, a nun dead more than 100 years, and the beginning of what I am hoping is a torrid love affair with a fellow police investigator in later books. Honestly, if I said anything more, I’d be giving away too much plot. So much of the enjoyment of this book was how everything unfolded and meshed together.

My biggest complaint about Reichs’ first book in the series, Deja Dead, was that she was far too heavy on the forensic and anthropological explanations of things (I’m talking pages upon pages, at times) and I found myself skimming those.  In this book, she seems to have reached a good compromise between including just the right amount of forensic information and anthropological history to enable the reader to follow where Tempe is going and how her mind is piecing together the evidence.

The story in this book also moved at a fast pace and kept me on the hook.  I stayed up way past my self-imposed bedtime on at least two occasions reading this book and trying to figure out what was going on.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the third book in the series, which I already own, and can include in the Off the Shelf Challenge.

If you are looking for a new mystery series, I highly suggest picking up a Kathy Reichs book and giving it a whirl. Her books are well-thought out and have compelling characters that keep you drawn in.

My 2011 Book Challenge….

Do you have a bookshelf somewhere in your home that looks like this? (Please note, this is not my bookshelf, but belongs to some stranger who posted it onto the internet.)

Each year, I try to give myself a little “challenge” with respect to my reading.  One year, it was to read at least 15 books from the Modern Library’s Top 100 Books. Another year, it was to read 52 books, one for each week.  Last year (2010), it was to hit 60 books in the year, and try some new authors and genres that I didn’t previously read a ton of.

This year, I’m going to participate in the BA Reading Challenge “Off the Shelf” Challenge, as suggested to me by a friend, Ranae, whose lovely blog you can read right here! For anybody who knows me and has seen our home, I have TONS of books. I buy them with the best of intentions, but so often I do not read them right away and they end up sitting on the shelf, looking sad, wishing and hoping that they would get read and then passed along to another person who will enjoy them. Well, kids, this is the year. 2011, I’m dedicating you as the year of clearing off my bookshelves by reading the books that I already have.  The rules are simply and easy to follow, especially if you have as many books as I do:

1.  Grab a book that you already own, whether it’s on the shelf, nightstand, or by the door.

2.  Start reading!

Challenge Levels

  1. Tempted–  Choose 5 books to read
  2. Trying – Choose 15 books to read
  3. Making A Dint – Choose 30 books to read
  4. On A Roll – Choose 50 books to read
  5. Flying Off – Choose 75 books to read

For extra hard challenges

  1. Hoarder – Choose 76-125 books to read
  2. Buried – Choose 126-200 books to read

I’m going to aim to be a level 3 reader, “making a dint” in my collection.  I figure if I read 84 books in 2010, and in 2011, I can keep up even a moderate pace of 60 books read, then half will be books that I already own and hopefully it will be even more. Feel free to join along in the challenge and clear off your own bookshelves — FOR MORE BOOKS!