Category Archives: Reading

I Like to Stay Up Past Midnight Reading…

Well, Fatty Gal readers, we know that one of my all time favorite things to do is read! It’s one of my top two hobbies, along with knitting, and I just love to settle in with a good book and get lost in the story and the characters and the scenery of it all. when I find a REALLY good book, and then find out that the main character(s) that I like so much are part of a series, man, oh man, that’s just the best.

Such was the case with a book that I just read, er, actually devoured, over this past weekend.  Last week, my bestest girlfriend, Carolyne, and I decided to start a book club.  Or, as my husband referred to it, just us hanging out and talking about books, which is what we do anyway:) We both enjoy good mysteries, supernatural stuff and historical books, and thought it would be fun to make a pointed effort to both read the same book and have a discussion. Since the inception of this idea last week, we’ve picked up two more members for the club, so that’s a bonus.

Carolyne chose the first book, The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.

Seriously, doesn’t the cover just look intriguing? If I was wandering the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble and had come across this, I would DEFINITELY have picked it up based solely on the cover.  The Restorer is the first book in The Graveyard Queen Series featuring Amelia Gray. This is the description from the back of the book:

“My name is Amelia Gray.  I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father.  But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore.  The clues to the killer –and to his other victims–lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret.  Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy.  To warn him would be to invite them into my life. Ive vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the rest.”

The description on the back of this book simply does NOT do this book justice. It is a Southern Gothic ghost story that takes place in old Charleston, where pre-Civil War history is colliding with the modern world.  This is already a huge plus for me, since I really enjoy reading about Southern history, with its ghosts and Gullah spirits and witchcraft, things that we just don’t have up North in Chicago where the city was rebuilt after a major fire. There’s a charm, for me at least, to the aura of the deep south, and I’ve always wanted to visit. The world that Stevens created for Amelia and Devlin, with its shadowy history and ghosts was just too intriguing.

Stevens also created compelling characters, who you want to get to know more. The author reveals just enough about the characters’ pasts to keep you flipping the pages, madly wanting more. The interplay between Amelia Gray and John Devlin, the haunted cop, is both believable and enticing.

At times, the world that Stevens created for her characters and her story got downright creepy, which is the hallmark of a good Southern Gothic ghost story.  No joke, at one point, I was reading the book late into the night long after my husband and dog were fast asleep and it was at a particularly scary point in the book and every single sound I heard in the house was creeping me out. Now. That’s a damn good book.

Since reading this book in less than two days over the weekend, I raced to the Chicago Public Library website to put the second and third books on hold so that I can read them. But dammit if somebody else hasn’t already checked all the copies out! I know I’ve found a good read when all I want to do after finishing one book is pick up the next in the series. If you like mysteries, ghost stories, and/or Southern Gothic novels, I highly suggest you pick this book up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

And Back to Tudor England We Go…

So, late last night I finished reading a book that I had been entranced by, Dissolution by C.J. Sansom.  This is the first in an historical English mystery series featuring attorney Matthew Shardlake, who is an appointed commissioner (read: investigator) on behalf of Lord Thomas Cromwell.  I had gotten wind of these books when I read a review for the fifth book in the series, Heartstone, and thought to myself “damn, I need to read this book!” Alas, when I learned it was part of a series I realized that I must go back and start at the beginning (that’s just how I am).

Dissolution follows Commissioner Shardlake in 1537 to the Scarnsea Monastery in the south of England, where there has been murder and many other ill-gotten things going on, much to the chagrin of Lord Cromwell, who led the reformation.  Initially, Shardlake is there to investigate the brutal murder of the previous Commissioner appointed by Cromwell to investigate the Abbey.  However, as the story progresses, additional murders and intrigue turn up that lead us even deeper into a mystery that has ties back to Anne Boleyn and the false charges levied against her by Cromwell.  I cannot say much more on the storyline, as I do not want to give anything away that could impact your enjoyment of this lovely story.

Ultimately, not only was the excellent mystery part of why I liked this book so much, but also the writing style.  Although the book takes place in the mid-1500’s, it was a breeze to read and fascinating. The storylines and characters were so tightly written and everything occurred for a reason.  I also enjoyed that I did NOT see who was coming as the killer.  I was pretty blown away at how well Sansom did the reveal and the wrap-up.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of this series, and if you’re looking for a good historical mystery, I highly suggest you check this out!

My Addiction to Serial Killer Books is Beginning to Worry Me….

Anyone who has been following along with my Feast of Pages blog has probably picked up on the fact that, of late, I have really been enjoying reading mysteries and serial killer books.  They are fast-paced, the good ones feature great characters whose storylines you become invested in, and are flat-out enjoyable. I’m not reading them because I think that they are great literature, a la James Joyce.  I KNOW they are not.  I read them because they are fun.  This is an odd concept for many people when reading.  I know quite a few people who are “judgey” about what they read — there are books they flat-out would not be caught reading in public, nor would they ever admit to reading them , ever.  And why? If you are reading anything, at least you are reading.  You are getting your fill through a wonderful medium, and a “low-brow” book is no different than watching E! television for an hour a day.  Or, the Charlie Sheen 20/20 Interview, which I may have watched with rapt attention last night.  So, whatever you choose to read, celebrate! You’re reading! Keep it up!  Now, on to the ongoing reviews of the books I’ve read in 2011, thus far:

Continue reading My Addiction to Serial Killer Books is Beginning to Worry Me….

Beautiful Darkness, OTSC Book #6

If ever a book deserved a blentry all to itself, it is Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia.  This book is the sequel to the tween hit Beautiful Creatures, that took us deep into the gothic South (Georgia, to be exact). I would not say that I am an avid fan of young adult fiction, but there are certain books in the genre that I have read that I have truly enjoyed and this series falls smack dab into the middle of that category. The books, while geared toward the young adult genre, truly could pass muster in the world of adult fiction.

The story follows Lena, a sixteen year old girl with unique abilities who comes to a small Georgia town to live with her uncle, Macon Ravenwood, and Ethan Waite, the local goodboy, who falls hard for Lena. The relationship between Lena and Ethan, their families’ tangled history, and the deadly decision that Lena must make are the focus of Beautiful Creatures. Seriously, run out to your local bookstore and buy it.  NOW.  What follows, is going to contain spoilers from the second book….read at your own risk!

Continue reading Beautiful Darkness, OTSC Book #6

Serial Killers? Check! Books I Own? Check! Off the Shelf Challenge? You got it!

Oh, fair readers, I am so sorry to have abandoned you for a while, in my failure to not post about the fascinating books I’ve been reading. I know for so many of you (all 3 who read this blog, if I’m including Patrick, that is) live for my posts, looking to them for guidance and wit.  I have no excuses, other than I’ve been busy (reading), hanging out (as always), and drinking coffee. But alas, I am back with a vengeance.

As you all know, this year has been the year of my “Off the Shelf” Challenge, where I am endeavoring to read books that I owned at the start of 2011, and/or had been loaned to me by the start of 2011, all of which were taking up plenty of room on my shelves.  For the most part, the challenge is going quite well, with a few library books peppered in, and a new purchase (or 3) but hey, variety is the spice of life. Now, to the really good stuff, the reviews:

Off the Shelf Challenge, Book #4, Vanish by Tess Gerritsen. This book is the 5th in Gerritsen’s series featuring Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles. In some instances, it’s okay to read series books out of order, but that is not the case with Gerritsen. From the first book, her characters’ lives and relationships build and become entangled, giving a great history and background that moves the B and C plots in her books, and oftentimes makes appearances in the main story.

Vanish starts with the arrival of a Jane Doe corpse at the Boston ME’s office. Dr. Isles, working late, goes back into the fridge to check on another cadaver, and realizes that Jane Doe is alive. From that moment on, the book is a fast-paced run to find out who this woman is, how she ended up presumed dead in the morgue, and why numerous dangerous (and high up) people are after her. And if that wasn’t enough action for you, dear reader, Detective Rizzoli has just had her first baby (a little girl), and she and her FBI agent husband are leading the charge into the investigation of Jane Doe. I read this book in about 2 1/2 days, and couldn’t put it down. It was a fast-paced thriller (though Gerritsen’s books usually are) and I immediately loaned it out to my bestie during the February snowmageddon that hit Chicago. Yes, that is how good this book is, that I braved going outside into the snowstorm to meet my friend and hand off this book.

Off the Shelf Challenge Book #5, The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I enjoy a certain theme with many of my books these days — serial killers, strong female characters, and fast-paced (but excellent) reads.

The Mephisto Club (TMC) is the 6th book in the Rizzoli/Isles series. The book opens on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve (ironically, I read this during the snowstorm), when a woman is found viciously murdered and dismembered in her home. The police are quickly able to identify her, but have a little bit more trouble with the symbols left at the murder scene. The action quickly introduces us to The Mephisto Club, a group of elite, eccentric scholars dedicated to the belief that evil in truly exists in this world, and presumably fighting it. As the story unfolds, Maura gets drawn deeper into the world of TMC and ultimately becomes the target of the killer. I personally found the mix of an academic club that traced the origins and historical associations of “evil” to be a great component to the book.  It kept me turning the pages and the ending proved to be fascinating. I can only hope that Gerritsen, in future books, heads back to this story to do some more exploring with it. Yes. It was THAT good.

If you haven’t read Gerritsen yet, start with The Surgeon and keep going. You will not regret it!

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!

Oh Barbara Kingsolver….you’re my new Babs!

After preparing a lengthy review of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna the other day, I hit the “save draft” button, walked away to make myself some dinner, and was going to come back to it so that I could finish my edits. When I returned to my post, lo and behold, damn WordPress ate my entire thing, except for the first sentence, despite having both the “auto save” feature AND my having clicked “safe draft.” I will admit, I was quite upset about this technological turn of events, but now that I have grieved for my lost post, I feel comfortable attempting to reconstruct the review, to the best of my ability.

I must also apologize for not having posted anything for a while on this blog. Now, this is not simply because I have started another blog that has been getting attention, Fat Girl No More. Rather, it actually took me about 2 weeks to read The Lacuna! Shocking, I know, for someone who usually polishes off 2 books per week and listens to a book a week in the car while commuting. Anywho, my review shall now commence! Continue reading Oh Barbara Kingsolver….you’re my new Babs!