The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons

It's my final review of 2009! Fittingly, it is the last book of a series that I just finished reading on New Year's Eve! The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons closes out the Hyperion Cantos has a very satisfying end. I have to admit that this book was much harder to get through than the first three books of the series because it was much more descriptive and verbose than the previous three books. Simmons does write in intricate detail what things looked like and Raul's experiences while 'casting. It got a little bit tedious to read and I ended up putting the book down for about a month because I was tired of reading about Raul's adventures in the sky. Little did I know that if I had just pressed on for about another 20 pages, the book picked up the pace.

For all you fans of the first three books, you will understand the Void Which Binds, Aenea's purpose, farcasting/freecasting, the Technocore, and any other questions that may be lingering. I really felt that if you only wanted to read Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion that it was sufficient to just read those two. After reading The Rise of Endymion I feel like I have a better understanding of the inner workings of the Core and The Void Which Binds. It was a beautifully written book with characters that I cared a great deal about. In the limited time I have read science fiction, it is my favorite series. It was masterfully written despite the sometimes overly descriptive writing. I do feel like Simmons could have shortened the book by 100-200 pages and it would have been fantastic, but I am still quite satisfied with the book overall. I also liked that the end of the book was a true ending without any questions left over. I highly recommend it for any fans of science fiction or even those that like space opera films like Star Wars or Star Trek.

I am so excited to continue reviewing books and start my 2010 challenges! It has been so much fun to become a member of the book blogging community. I hope everyone has a great last night of 2009 and Happy New Year to you all!

City of Shadows - Ariana Franklin

Time has really gotten away from this last week. With Christmas and the New Year coming up, I got busy and didn't have time to write my last reviews of the year! So, here I am on New Year's Eve writing the last two reviews of 2009. How exciting!

I picked up City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin on a whim at the library a few weeks ago. I was sucked in by the look of the spine on the shelves and when I saw what it was about, I decided to check it out. The story is set in post-WWI Germany where Hitler has begun to gain popularity. Many Russians have fled the Bolsheviks in their country and have taken up residence in Berlin. The main character, Esther, is a Russian Jew and has fled the country after a pogrom. She is beautiful except for a large scar that she has on her face. She also is multilingual and uses her skills to work as a translator for a shady businessman. While she is at work one night, an intruder comes in and tries to attack her and a young woman that Esther's boss thinks is the missing Princess Anastasia. The man gets away, but a string of murders continues in Berlin and threatens Esther, the troubled young woman that might be the princess, and others that Esther knows and cares for.

The first few pages of the book were really interesting and sucked me into the story. However, there was a lull for a good 50-70 pages that made it a little difficult to sit and read for an extended period of time. Once the story got going though, I didn't want to stop reading. It had everything I like...mystery, thrills, and a little historical information on the Romanovs. I did enjoy the book and found it fairly engrossing. If you do read this, keep in mind that she wrote the book when Anastasia was still technically missing. I did a bit of reading on Wikipedia and it said that the missing bodies of the Romanov children were found and identities confirmed in 2007. Ariana Franklin wrote this book in 2006 so some of the information may be somewhat amiss because of it. It was still a fun read and the Romanovs are still as interesting as they ever were.

New Poll Posted

70% of the people (seven of you--hehe) answered that you preferred Fiction over Non-Fiction so I decided to post a new poll to break that down into genres. I won't leave the poll up as long this time so be sure to vote!

If you answer "Other," please post a comment here telling me what your favorite genre is! Please also post any books you recommend and ways I can improve my blog!

It looks like some of you are choosing "Other" for your favorite genre of fiction. Be sure to post a comment and tell me what is your favorite genre of fiction!

My Best Books of 2009

For the first time ever, I was able to read at least 50 books in a year. It was a huge accomplishment for me! A few things I learned about myself in 2009:

  • I read a lot of books I consider "grocery store reads" and really enjoyed some of them.
  • I liked some of the books people recommended to me that I would not have otherwise read (namely The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Bitten by Kelley Armstrong).
  • I realized that I was a book snob before and opening myself up to new things helped me have great conversations in groups on Shelfari and also helped me find forums that I felt comfortable posting in. I did not have any fun in a forum that discussed a different classic book every month--they were too book snobby for me!
  • Joining Shelfari was great! I met a lot of people in the Anne McCaffrey and All of Her Worlds group that I share a lot in common with bookwise!
My Favorite Books of 2009
  1. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  2. Hyperion - Dan Simmons
  3. The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons
  4. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
  6. A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin
  7. Heaven's Net is Wide - Lian Hearn
  8. The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman
  9. The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton
  10. Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery - Janet F. Kitz
  11. In the Woods - Tana French
I am definitely looking forward to reading in 2010. I plan on continuing to read more things that people recommend, and I'm really excited about the reading challenges I've added. I am definitely a goal oriented person so I hope having the little meter under the challenges will really motivate me.

What are your goals (reading or otherwise) for 2010? What were your favorite books of 2009?

Where to Find Reading Challenges

A few people have asked me where to find the reading challenges I've posted about. Here are a few places that I've found with good challenges:

I am contemplating the Filling in the Gaps Challenge that was posted by Kristi from Passion for the Page and I am definitely looking for a Fantasy/Science Fiction Challenge that fits my needs. I may try the one from Royal Reviews, but I'm not sure. I read a lot of Fantasy and some Science Fiction so it'd be nice to add one.

If you have a challenge on your blog that you'd like to add to my list, please post a comment and I'll put it on my list!

In the Woods - Tana French

In small town Knocknaree, Ireland, a young girl has been found dead in the woods. She has carefully been placed on an old, stone altar. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox get assigned to investigate the case. Some years before, two young children disappeared from these same woods. Are the cases related? 

Tana French's debut novel is brilliant. The book took me in so many different directions that I was never sure who was the murderer. Detective Rob Ryan has a link to the older disappearances--he was the third child that was in the woods that day and was found standing in blood soaked shoes. The mystery deepens because he cannot remember what happened in the woods that day. His past haunts him as he struggles to remember. 

I have read a few thrillers this year and this was definitely one of the better ones. There were so many suspects and the crime scene was only half found so I never knew what was going to happen next in the book. I found myself reading at night with my Mighty Bright light in bed and I'd look up and see the clock beaming 4:00 am. While I don't like the insomnia that it's caused, I love books that engage me so much I am unaware of time passing. 

I never like to give away too much when I read thrillers or mysteries because I don't want to ruin the story. I will say that this book kept me guessing and was really well written. If you are looking for a book with a complicated plot that isn't scary, you should give this book a try. I will definitely be picking up the followup, The Likeness for my Thriller and Suspense Challenge in 2010. 

Challenges 2010 - Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge 2010

I am adding one more reading challenge for this upcoming year. It is hosted by Book Chick City. I haven't chosen my books yet, but I really enjoyed reading in the Thriller genre this last year so I am looking forward to this challenge! I will post a link to my ongoing list when I start my first book!

Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010


• You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.

• If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the links I have set up below with the buttons to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.

• If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.

• You can join anytime between now and the later part of next year.

• There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.

Raved About Reads Challenge

I know that I've already posted about the RYOB Challenge, but I found another challenge on MizB's blog. It's call the Raved About Reads Challenge and is a perpetual challenge for books that have been recommended to you, but you haven't gotten around to reading yet. 

Here are the rules:

Create – and read! – a list of books that you’ve always heard others rave about, and thought you should read yourself… but always put off reading “until later”.
* You can choose books that you’ve recently heard of IF a bunch of people are raving about how good they are and how everyone should read them.
* Your list has to have at least 3 books on it. Of course, you can make it much longer than just 3 books. But, you could also just read 3. That’s up to you.
* Yes, your list of books can overlap with other challenges.
* There are no limitations on genre… books can be fiction, nonfiction, religious, secular, etc.
* Audiobooks and E-books are allowed.
* This is a PERPETUAL challenge, meaning it is ongoing ~ there is no time limit.

Here is my list so far:

  • Against a Dark Background - Iain M. Banks
  • All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  • Dust to Dust - Tami Hoag
  • Kill the Messenger - Tami Hoag
  • Prior Bad Acts - Tami Hoag
  • Enchantment - Orson Scott Card
  • Magic Street - Orson Scott Card
  • Pastwatch - Orson Scott Card
  • The Memory of Earth - Orson Scott Card
  • Evermore - Alison Noel
  • First They Killed My Father - Loung Ung
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Behrendt
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn: Book 1) - Brandon Sanderson
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
  • Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
  • The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
  • Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth: Book 1) - Terry Goodkind
  • Stolen - Kelley Armstrong
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore w/ Lynn Vincent

Challenges 2010 - Read Your Own Books

I've been looking at a few other book blogs and found that some people are very active in reading challenges. They look like so much fun that I'm going to try at least one this year. This one is hosted by MizB and her blog can be found at It's the Read Your Own Books Challenge and goes from January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010.

Here is the info:

The rules are simple:
  • Pick a number of books you’d like to read in one year
  • Choose those books from your OWN collection
  • Read them between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010
And, that’s it!
Some other guidelines for this challenge:
  • Re-Reads are NOT allowed (the challenge is to get more of your own books read that have been sitting there waiting!)
  • Audiobooks & e-books ARE allowed
  • You do NOT need a blog to participate — you can leave comments on this post with your progress
She is going to post a Mr. Linky to sign up for the challenge on January 1, 2010. If you are interested, please visit her blog and sign up! It looks like a lot of fun!

I will post another blog entry with my list of books toward the end of the year which is coming up soon! Be sure to check back to see my list. If you are entering the challenge as well, make sure you post a comment with a link to your blog so that I can look at your list too!

Anne McCaffrey BotM - Dragonflight

I joined Shelfari a few months ago and got an invite to join an Anne McCaffrey group soon after I signed up. It is my FAVORITE group on Shelfari. We have great conversations about Ms. McCaffrey's books and about lots of off-topic subjects too! Last month, we started reading a Book of the Month and the book was the first Dragonriders of Pern novel - Dragonflight. It had been over 15 years since I last read the book which I remember enjoying a lot as a kid. It was published in 1967 or 1968 and was Anne McCaffrey's first novel about Pern if I am remembering correctly.

A few observations that I definitely did not pick up on as a child:

  • The Masterweaver in the novel is named Zurg so the whole time I was reading it I was thinking of the Evil Emperor Zurg from Toy Story (which most definitely did not exist when I was a kid)
  • The Weyrleader F'lar shook Weyrwoman Lessa a lot which we all agreed in the group would probably not happen if she wrote the book in more contemporary times.
  • I found Lessa to be more petulant as an adult than I did as a child. I still love her though!
It was such a treat to be able to pick up the book again after so many years. While time may have changed and some of the behavior in the book is a little archaic (like F'lar's behavior toward Lessa), I still enjoyed the book just as much as I did when I was younger. I loved how reacquainting myself with the Lessa's story--how she grew up as a drudge in Ruatha after Fax came and invaded the Hold, and her move to Benden Weyr where she Impresses a gold dragon named Ramoth that is about as strong willed as she is. It has also been many years since Thread has fallen and F'lar is trying to get the few dragons that remain ready to fight it.

When I was in Powell's books a few years ago, one of the employees said that, "No one does dragons better than Anne McCaffrey." It's true. I love her description of them and the special bond they have with their riders. I love the way she makes them such an integral part of the story and how they have such individual personalities. Rereading this book reminds me why I dreamed of living on Pern as a kid and even today I still feel that if I could live on a fictional planet, Pern would be my choice. I am so connected with all the characters since they each have their own stories in different books that in a strange way they are family to me. Dragonflight was just as special to read the second time around. I loved it and the Pern books will always be on my favorite list!

Marked - P.C. Cast

You know the term, "Never judge a book by its cover?" Well, Marked by P.C. Cast was one of these books. I saw this book online and in the bookstore and thought it looked good because it had a nice cover and was about vampires (which for some odd reason I have come to really enjoy in the last year). I was wrong. I actually struggled to get through this book.

I have never read a book that was written in teenspeak before so I was shocked at how horrible the writing was.  The story is told from the perspective of Zoey, a teenage girl who has been marked to become a vampyre. Not only does the reader have to read all about her teen angst relating to her clothes, hair, and friends/family, we have to read it in a like totally awesome way. Yes, that's right. She writes like a valley girl from the 80s at times, has special teen names for her adversaries, and of course has the obligatory drunk football playing ex-boyfriend.

Zoey also has problems with her fundamentalist Christian step-father who is constantly starting prayer trees and controls her mother to the point where she has become a shell of a mother. Then there's the rituals at her new school, House of Night. I felt like the description of them lasted far longer than they should have. It really detracted from the story for me and ended up feeling like there wasn't a whole lot of story until the last 30 pages or so. I think for me, the religious (including the rituals worshiping the goddess Nix) portion of the book overshadowed the plot, and I got tired of reading about it.

The writing was by far the worst part of the book. Just because it is a YA book doesn't mean the author has to dumb down the language so that a teenager can understand (see J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series). I also got tired of the bad language in the book. I know teens swear, but I don't need to read it in a book. To me, it shows a lack of imagination with language. It also had numerous references to oral sex which I think is inappropriate subject matter for a young teenager (I never read about that as a teen and I had a fairly liberal upbringing with what I was allowed to listen, watch, and read). I am not a particularly conservative person, but if I had children under the age of 16, this is the first book that I think I'd have issues with them reading.

Overall, I'd give the writing 1/2 star and the story 1 1/2 stars for a total of 2 stars. The story itself ended ok, but there wasn't enough of it for me to be satisfied.

Adventures in Blogging

Last night I got the bright idea to try to update the look of my blog and get a template that was not designed by Blogger. Even they admit it, their "classic" looks are pretty boring. I thought that adding a nice little Christmas theme to my blog would spice it up a bit. The only spice I got for the last 24 hours was the stress it caused!

If you have looked at the blog before, I had some gadgets on the side that are now missing. Yup, those accidentally got deleted! After I finally got my blog set up again and typed in all the books I've read and rated this year (in a post rather than in the sidebar), someone from Shelfari generously told me that my comments weren't working (thank you Passionforthepage). my husband and I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to fix it. Not only did the comments not work on the new template, when I reverted to the old template that Blogger designed the comments still didn't work! He eventually found a site with some HTML code that I was able to insert and *poof*, it magically works now!

So, please enjoy my Christmas theme and make sure you visit Passionforthepage's blog at I really appreciated her input and absolutely LOVE her book blog! It's the most original I've seen!

2009 Books I've Read List

1.   New Moon - Stephanie Meyer                                        3.5 out of 5 stars
2.   Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer                                               4.0 out of 5 stars
3.   Breaking Dawn - Stephanie Meyer                                  3.0 out of 5 stars
4.   Complications - Atul Gawande                                        3.5 out of 5 stars
5.   Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling                          4.0 out of 5 stars
6.   Dragon's Fire - Anne and Todd McCaffrey                      3.0 out of 5 stars

7.   Heaven's Net is Wide - Lian Hearn                                  4.0 out of 5 stars 
8.   A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin                        4.0 out of 5 stars
9.   Eragon - Christopher Paolini                                            2.0 out of 5 stars
10. The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman                        4.5 out of 5 stars

11. Emma - Jane Austen                                                       3.0 out of 5 stars
12. Wicked - Gregory Maguire                                             4.0 out of 5 stars

13. Heartsick - Chelsea Cain                                                 4.5 out of 5 stars
14. Web of Debt - Ellen Hodgson Brown                              1.5 out of 5 stars
15. Empress Orchid - Anchee Min                                         4.0 out of 5 stars

16. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold                                      3.5 out of 5 stars
17. Dragon Harper - Anne and Todd Mccaffrey                      3.5 out of 5 stars
18. Atonement - Ian McEwan                                                 5.0 out of 5 stars
19. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield                               3.0 out of 5 stars
20. Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton                                      4.5 out of 5 stars

21. Cannery Row - John Steinbeck                                         4.0 out of 5 stars
22. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden                                4.0 out of 5 stars

23. Body of Lies - Iris Johansen                                              3.0 out of 5 stars
24. Hyperion - Dan Simmons                                                  5.0 out of 5 stars
25. The Dark Wind - Tony Hillerman                                      3.0 out of 5 stars
26. High Druid of Shanarra #1: Jarka Ruus - Terry Brooks      4.0 out of 5 stars

27. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert                                  3.0 out of 5 stars
28. Life of Pi - Yann Martel (reread)                                       5.0 out of 5 stars
29. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris                                    2.5 out of 5 stars
30. The Gunslinger - Stephen King                                          3.0 out of 5 stars
31. Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery - Janet F. Kitz   5.0 out of 5 stars
32. Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris                             3.0 out of 5 stars
33. Drawing of the Three - Stephen King                                 4.0 out of 5 stars

34. Club Dead - Charlaine Harris                                              3.5 out of 5 stars
35. The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan                       4.0 out of 5 stars
36. Bitten - Kelley Armstrong                                                   4.0 out of 5 stars
37. High Druid of Shanarra #2: Tanequil - Terry Brooks        3.5 out of 5 stars
38. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson              5.0 out of 5 stars
39. High Druid of Shanarra #3: Straken - Terry Brooks         4.0 out of 5 stars

40. The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons                                    5.0 out of 5 stars
41. Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis                                                3.0 out of 5 stars
42. Bloodsucking Fiends - Christopher Moore                      3.0 out of 5 stars
43. Endymion - Dan Simmons                                                    4.5 out of 5 stars
44. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein                                       5.0 out of 5 stars
45. Deja Dead - Kathy Reichs                                                   3.0 out of 5 stars

46. Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris                               3.0 out of 5 stars
47. The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons                            4.0 out of 5 stars
48. Night Sins - Tami Hoag                                                         4.0 out of 5 stars
49. One for the Money - Janet Evanovich                              3.0 out of 5 stars

50. Marked - P.C. Cast                                                              2.0 out of 5 stars
51. Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey                                      5.0 out of 5 stars
52. In the Woods - Tana French                                          5.0 out of 5 stars
53. City of Shadows - Ariana Franklin                                 5.0 out of 5 stars

    One for the Money - Janet Evanovich

    My first meeting with the Thrill Me Book Club was a lot fun, and I mistakenly thought that the next book meeting was going to be early this month so I picked up the next book which is One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. The story is about unemployed Stephanie Plum  who becomes a bounty hunter for a family member who is a bail bondsman. She is desperately in need of money so she takes the case worth the most money which is also the most dangerous.

    Stephanie Plum sets out to find a bail jumper that is accused of murdering an unarmed man. The man is a childhood acquaintance with whom she has a colored past. Her pursuit of him is humorous as well as harrowing as she tries to learn the business of bounty hunting. Plum finds out that the straightforward murder case is really more complicated than she once thought. Is the man she hunts really innocent?

    The leader of the book club said she likes books that are fun and light reads. One for the Money is definitely just that. I would recommend it as a beach or quick weekend read. It is fun, easy, and Stephanie Plum is an extremely likeable character. If you like thrills with laughs, One for the Money is the book for you.

    Night Sins - Tami Hoag

    I've been living in Austin for ten years now. In all that time, I realized that I haven't made much of an effort to make new friends. I know, I know. I shouldn't be admitting that I'm a shut in, but hey, I have a blog about books so it shouldn't be a huge surprise that I'm not the life of the party! As part of my effort to branch out what I read, I decided to join a book club that I found on Tami Hoag's book, Night Sins, was the first book I've read for the book club and we met on Wednesday night to discuss it.

    The book is about a young boy who disappears from outside a hockey rink while waiting for his mom to pick him up. A manhunt to find the kidnapper ensues in the small Minnesota town of Deer Lake. A new agent for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has just started her new job (and is the first female to be a field agent in the state of Minnesota) and she feels the need to prove herself as a good police officer. The chief of police is a man who has experienced losing his own son and wife in a reckless robbery by a drug addict. The two officers work tirelessly to figure out the clues the kidnapper continues to leave them. The parents of the little boy also have their own troubled marriage that threatens to break under the pressure of losing their son.

    Overall, the story is pretty formulaic which I am starting to admit is very typical in the thriller novels I have read. Still, some are better than others, and this was one of them. I did enjoy the story and the writing even if there were some things that I didn't like. There was an inevitable romance in the book which I felt could have been left out. Others in the book club really liked that portion of the book though, so if this book sounds like it might interest you, don't let that stop you from reading it.

    There is a sequel to the book called Guilty as Sin so keep that in mind when reading Night Sins. I had no idea there was a sequel and was a little unsatisfied with the ending. Needless to say, one of the members of the book club gave me the book because I did want to read it!

    Are there any thriller authors any of you can recommend to me? I am completely open to reading new things lately so let me know!

    Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris

    After reading Endymion and The Kite Runner, I decided to read a few fun and easy reads. Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series definitely falls into that category. Dead to the World picks up with Sookie and Bill's breakup. Bill has been called away to Peru so there is very little Bill in this book. I was actually kind of glad because I am a proud member of "Team Eric." I was not disappointed. This fourth installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series is all about Eric and Sookie.

    I know that Eric is a self-serving, narcissistic vampire, but I really like him. He is really funny and easy on the eyes (maybe I'm a little influenced by True Blood here...Eric is pretty easy on the eyes in the show) and is pretty a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated guy. He definitely is more exciting than boring Bill!

    This book featured some new supernatural beings. Were-panthers and witches made the book a pretty fun read. Just like in most books with witches, there are good ones and bad ones in Dead to the World. A neighboring town full of shape shifters (one of whom wants to court Sookie) coupled with Eric's amnesia in the story made the book a little mysterious too. One character who I really like but is somewhat minor is Pam, Eric's second in charge. She is equally straightforward and somewhat funny which I really enjoy. She's a strong woman who is loyal to her employer/maker which let's be honest, isn't very common today!

    Of all the Sookie Stackhouse books I've read so far, this one was fun, but probably my least favorite. I was kind of sad about it because I really am a big fan of Eric and was hoping for a more satisfying read out of an all Sookie-Eric book. The witches were kind of what soured the book for me a little. They felt a little out of place in the book. I'm not sure why I feel that way. Can any Charlaine Harris fans chime in on this? I just found them uninteresting as a whole. I think I might have liked the story more if they had been featured more prominently in the book. Their whole story isn't really known until the last few pages. There just wasn't much of a connection with them in either a good or bad way for me so I didn't find myself routing for them or loathing them much. On the evil scale they were about a three out of ten for me. Still, I really enjoy the series and will continue reading them. It's a nice break from some of the heavier reading that I've done this year (although I admit that I've been reading quite a bit of fluff this year).

    Deja Dead - Kathy Reichs

    A couple of my friends are huge fans of the Fox series, Bones. I have never watched it, but I did put it in my Netflix queue since I have been hearing so many good things about it. While it waits patiently in my queue, I picked up the first book of the Tempe Brennan books upon which Bones is loosely based.

    Deja Dead is a pretty fast read, but not ridiculously so. I will say that I was able to put the book down when I wanted to and didn't necessarily ache to know what was going to happen next...that is, until about 2/3 of the way through the book. Once the story picked up, I stayed up pretty late at night reading it. I also got a little scared at one point in the book (I scare easily though).

    Tempe Brennan is a Forensic Anthropologist that works with the police in Montreal. I was a little skeptical as to how a forensic anthropologist would put herself in danger and inevitably be chased by a killer, but Reichs somehow managed to do just those things. While investigating a series of brutal murders, Tempe gets caught up in a serial killer's web. Because she is working on the case and is closer than any of the police to solving the crime, the serial killer begins to stalk her. While her choices aren't necessarily any I would make (like investigating a possible murder site at the rain), it made for a thrilling read where danger was felt around every corner.

    I felt a little annoyed at Tempe's wild abandon at chasing the serial killer in the book even though she has no real law enforcement experience outside of examining bones and tissue in the lab and at murder sites. I used to work in a lab, and there is no part of me that would pick up a scalpel and start operating on patients just because I worked with doctors. Well, Tempe Brennan is not like me. She is law enforcement all the way. After reading this book, I recommend that she go to the police academy and get her sidearm and just become police! She would certainly be a lot safer.

    Even though I was annoyed with her choices, I will keep reading the series. It was engaging and fun enough that I want to try reading a few more of Kathy Reichs' books.  I will say that I think this is a better library book checkout or used bookstore purchase than getting it new. It was Reichs' first novel so I am confident that the books will improve over time.

    I am enjoying reading thrillers/mysteries. If you have any suggestions of books or authors I should read, please leave a comment and let me know what your favorites are!

    The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

    For the past few years I have been meaning to read The Kite Runner. I am not sure why I didn't get around to it until now, but I am glad that I finally did. I wondered if it was going to be one of those books that is so popular that I would be disappointed in it. I've read other immensely popular books like The DaVinci Code and found that I didn't really understand what all the hype was about. For about two thirds of The Kite Runner I was feeling that way. Then, something happened.

    It's not that the first two-thirds of the book weren't enjoyable to read. I was just thinking to myself through it that it was enjoyable, but not fantastic. However, when Amir gets the call to go see an old friend in Pakistan, the book took a turn that made it difficult to read the rest of the book. Why was it difficult? I ended up either on the verge of tears or in tears for the remainder of the book. There are few authors that can bring about enough emotion in me that I feel every inner pain, struggle, and hurt of the characters. Hosseini did that for me. I felt all the anguish that Amir felt through the years after his betrayal of his best friend, Hassan. I felt the redemption in Amir when he finally confronted his past in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I felt that hurt and fear that Hassan's son, Sohrab experienced in his homeland. The characters felt real. There was never a time that I felt like I was just reading a novel.

    For me, this kind of writing is rare. Khaled Hosseini is such a gifted writer. Not only do you love the story that he's writing, but you end up becoming more aware of the history and plight of Afghanistan. This novel is definitely on my top ten novels of all time list now. I am sure in the future I will re-read it which is not a common thing for me. If you read The Kite Runner, expect to be pulled emotionally in many different directions and just let yourself go along for the ride.

    Endymion - Dan Simmons

    It's been a few weeks since I last posted! I don't know whether I got a little burned out on reading, or if life just kind of got away from me the last two weeks. It did take me a full two weeks to finish Endymion by Dan Simmons, but it was worth the wait!

    The book is about Raul Endymion--a man in his late 20s who is chosen by the poet Martin Silenus to find and rescue Brawne Lamia's daughter Aenea from the Pax government. The book has a lot of religious politics in it which I found really interesting. However, it was a little bit slower read through a lot of the book because of it. The story is a continuation of the Hyperion Cantos. I was a little surprised that there was another book after The Fall of Hyperion because all my questions were answered at the end of it. Dan Simmons weaves another great story out of all the elements from the first two books. The Technocore, cruciforms, and farcasters all play an important role in this book. I like how masterful Dan Simmons is at telling the story. There were times that I got so lost in the scenes that I could actually feel when he was describing how cold it was or how the gravity affected their bodies.

    The android from the first book, A. Bettik, was also a prominent character in this third book. I really enjoyed reading about him even though he was such a minor character in the first book. He was no more than a passing mention really, but he is such a likeable character and has his own unique story that I'm glad Simmons made him a major part of this story.

    Like Hyperion, Endymion ends in the middle. In other words, there is no resolution so I feel like I need to read the last book of the series pretty soon. So be warned, if you pick up the series, it's probably best to pick up all four books at the same time, or pick up the first two books at least (the last two happen ~270 years later so it's not necessary to read them all at once). This series is definitely on my top 10 books of all time so far. I have really enjoyed the series and think the quality of writing is superb.

    Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story) - Christopher Moore

    OK...I admit it. Earlier this year I read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and kind of got addicted to vampires. Since reading Twilight, I've read some Charlaine Harris books (which I've written about on this blog) and now I delved into vampiric comedy. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore looks at the more comedic side of both humans and vampires while still remaining just a bit dark.

    Honestly, I thought the book was just so-so. I think my problem is that I don't enjoy comedic writing very much (the only series that I laughed through was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). I read a Bill Bryson book a few years ago and really didn't like it. I chuckled a few times while reading Bloodsucking Fiends and enjoyed the story to a certain extent, but I didn't bust a gut laughing while reading it. Maybe I have no sense of humor!

    The story is about a guy named Tommy who moves to San Francisco from Indiana to become a writer. There he meets Jody who has recently been turned into a vampire by an unknown assailant. The two become a couple and go through all those things that couples go through--testing to see if your mate can turn to mist and a bat, trying to avoid becoming a regular meal for your mate, and so on. While all this is happening, dead bodies seem to follow the two and they begin to suspect that Jody's vampire assailant is the one leaving them. Of course the police get involved and the two have to figure out how to keep Tommy from going to jail or worse, end up dead.

    The book is a fun, light read that you can finish quickly. I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, You Suck. If you are looking for something quick and humorous, you might check it out at the library. It's not a waste of time and is light reading before bedtime--and it's not scary at all!

    The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons

    My book club is meeting at the end of October to discuss Hyperion by Dan Simmons. The book ended on such a cliffhanger that I wanted to read the next one in the series before we met. The Fall of Hyperion answered so many questions that I had from the first book and was just as masterfully written as the first.

    I think I mentioned that I saw a man perusing the Science Fiction section of Barnes and Noble so I went ahead and asked him what authors he recommended. Dan Simmons (and his Hyperion Cantos) was one of the first people he mentioned. I went through Simmons' books and decided that even though the cover of the book was really strange, I'd go ahead and give it a try. I am so glad I did. Both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are probably the best science fiction I have ever read (not that I'm that well-versed in science fiction). If there are any John Keats fans out there, then you'll probably know that Simmons based some of his characters on Keats and his poems (i.e., The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Lamia come to mind). I loved that he melded in classic British poetry into the books.

    I don't remember exactly how the first book ends. I think it ended with the pilgrims walking toward the Time Tombs to confront the Shrike. I was so disappointed with the end! It was one of those moments where you feel like someone stole some pages from your book! I should have picked up The Fall of Hyperion right away, but of course I didn't. I felt a little lost through part of the book because I had read so many books in between. Eventually though, it all came back to me and I really got addicted. There are so many answers in this book. The fate of all the pilgrims is resolved as well as some lingering questions about the World Web and the Techno Core.

    I highly recommend both books. I was so satisfied with the ending of The Fall of Hyperion that I immediately started reading the next book in the series, Endymion. If science fiction isn't something you normally read and you want to try it, this book will be sure to challenge you and suck you in. I am secretly hoping that the cliffhanger ending will encourage my book club members to pick up this book and read it as well. It's just as good as the first and has a very satisfying conclusion.

    Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) - C.S. Lewis

    I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia two years ago by starting off with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I will not lie. It took me a year to finish it. I think I started reading this series 20 years later than I should have. I decided to give the Chronicles another go and read the second book, Prince Caspian this last week. While I liked the story better, I still found the story and the writing to be too childish for me.

    Don't get me wrong. The book is full of high adventure as Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian take his rightful place on the throne of Narnia. I enjoyed parts of it as they made their way to find the Prince and help him in his fight against his evil uncle, King Miraz. There was just something missing in them for me. Clearly the series is written for children, and I can't change the fact that I am almost 32 years old. If I had children to read it to I might have enjoyed it infinitely more.

    Because it's a classic, I'm determined to finish the series. I decided to read them in the order that they were published instead of chronological order. I hope that wasn't a mistake. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    Straken (High Druid of Shanarra: Book 3) - Terry Brooks

    Since I had such a large amount of time between the first and second books of the High Druid of Shanarra series, I decided that I'd pick up Straken as quickly as I could and finish out the trilogy. I know some people aren't fond of the way that Terry Brooks took the Shanarra series--the airships and technology that didn't exist in the first books are really prevalent in the last two trilogies he has written--but I rather enjoy it. It takes the series a whole new direction with more depth and exciting adventures.

    The last installment of the series wrapped up a few different storylines. Grianne Ohmsford (the Ard Rhys of Paranor) is still stuck in the Forbidding, Pen has been captured by the Druids and taken back to Paranor, the demon changeling that has been released from the Forbidding is trying to wreak havoc in the Four Lands, Pen's parents have also been captured by the Druids, and a war is being fought on the Prekkendoran plains. It is safe to say that I knew this book would be exciting from beginning to end. I stayed up really late last night because I hit the truly exciting part in the book and couldn't put it down. How could I put down the book when a battle was being fought for the future of the Four Lands?!!

    There was something a little more dramatic about this book than some of the other ones I've read. Some of the characters I really grew to like, but knew that they were conflicted. I was disappointed but relieved with some of the outcomes to these characters (like Weka Dart and Grianne Ohmsford). Brooks wrote them in a way that I knew what needed to happen, but wasn't sure exactly what would happen to them until the end. I like how noble many of his characters are and find myself wishing more people were like that outside of a work of fiction. I think the world would be a better place!

    Overall, I thought the book was a really fun read that I couldn't put down. I was satisfied with the end of series and can't wait to read more of Terry Brooks' works. If you like stories with adventure, danger, magic, and friendship, look no further than Terry Brooks.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

    For months, I heard about the hype surrounding Stieg Larsson's novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Thrillers/mysteries are a genre that I am trying to get into this year. I always enjoy them, but I also find most of them forgettable and within a few months of reading them I can rarely remember what the plot of the book was. I can safely say that this book will not be one of them. The plot was incredible and left me guessing through much of the book. There was such a detailed back story that I became attached to some of the characters as well.

    The book is about a disgraced financial journalist named Mikael Blomkvist who has been convicted of libel for a story he published about a Swedish businessman. Through the press coverage of the trial, industrialist Henrik Vanger finds Blomkvist and hires him to write his family's story and hopefully solve the mysterious disappearance of his niece, Harriet Vanger. Blomkvist does exhaustive research into the Vanger family over the course of a year and even picks up a research assistant along the way. The twists and turns the story takes made for a really good read. I was never bored! However, this book was chosen for an online book club that I am participating in, and one of the readers found the book laborious and difficult to follow. It is true that there are a ridiculous number of Vangers in the book (since Blomkvist is researching the family history, he pretty much touches on every one for the last 100 years it seems like) and the back story takes quite awhile to get through. My copy was almost 600 pages and the exciting part starts around pages 200-250. I didn't find any of it boring. During the back story, Lisbeth Salander (who is the girl with the dragon tattoo) has her own story that I felt was equally interesting if not more at times.

    I cannot wait to pick up a copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire and continue reading the series. I will most likely wait until it comes out in paperback just to keep my series consistent (my copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is paperback). My only regret in this series is the Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50. According to Wikipedia, his plans were to write ten books in the Millenium series, but only three were finished and a fourth manuscript was left unfinished. Synopses were written for the fifth and sixth books of the series. I would have enjoyed reading all of the novels, and I'm excited that there are three that are or will be available soon.

    The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan

    Has anyone ever recommended a book to you that you are sure you won't like? You just kind of look at them and nod and say that you'll check it out even though you know you never will? Well, that is how I felt with The Omnivore's Dilemma. My cousin recommended it to me and I was really reluctant to read it because I didn't want anyone telling me that everything I was putting into my body was absolute poison and how could I possibly be eating things with high fructose corn syrup?!! I told him I'd put it on my reading list and secretly promised myself that I would never pick it up. Lo and behold a few months later my cousin told me that he had read a book that I recommended to him (it was Life of Pi if you are curious). I inwardly sighed and said to myself that I had to read The Omnivore's Dilemma because since he was open to what I read, I should be more open to what he is reading. I picked up a copy at the library and told myself that I wouldn't enjoy it. What a fool I was! It was excellent!

    The book is about a man's quest to prepare a few meals through the different food chains available to humans today. One was the fast food chain/the industrial food chain, another the organic food chain, and the forager's food chain. The book says that it's the natural history of four meals, but Pollan did prepare more than that. I was ready for the criticism that my junk food diet would be under so much scrutiny in the book that I would end up hating him. Not only did I not feel criticized, I actually am a little more interested in food now. From the beginning of the book I could tell that Michael Pollan was a total foodie (which I am not) so I didn't really take the things he said personally. He went to great lengths in the book to prepare meals for his family and friends that they would enjoy using the different food chains. I have to admit that I have no idea what some of the food preparation methods were, nor did I know what some of the foods were so I didn't really end up feeling bad at all. He and I are just different people. Food is an experience to him while for me it is just to put something in my belly.

    There are three main parts to the book. The first goes into the industrial food chain and has some interesting information about how much corn is a part of the American diet. I had heard this before, but reading about it actually amazed me. From the corn that is grown in the American industrial farm fields to the feed given to cattle and chicken which eventually ends up on our plates, we might as well be shucked! Pollan goes into the raising of chickens and cattle and tells what life is like in the industrial food chain. Was I grossed out and appalled? Not really. I pretty much knew most of the stuff going into it and have accepted it.

    The second part of the book talks about the organic farm and how much like regular industrial farming it has become. Pollan goes on numerous adventures to experience all these farming methods first hand. He meets a man that pasture farms his animals and processes his chickens on his farm. This part of the book was fascinating--I would really like to try pasture fed chicken and beef now! Pollan talks a lot about the sustainability of current farming practices in America. While I think he makes some good points, I also wonder how sustainable pasture fed meat is with the large population we have. However, he does make a point to say that the pasture farming is a niche market.

    The final part of the book is about Pollan's quest to forage a meal for himself. He meets up with some really avid foragers that are willing to teach him to hunt and forage for fungi. This was the part of the book that I least identified with. While I am not a hunter, I don't have a problem with eating meat and I realize where my meat comes from. I have family and friends that hunt and I know it's a very fulfilling and respectable thing to do. Pollan has a real moral dilemma with killing a pig when he is out hunting and writes a long commentary about vegetarianism and the hunter. I once had a Biology professor who was also a hunter that told me that you cannot truly respect the meat you are eating unless you kill it yourself. Pollan makes this same point in his book--you are much more aware and thankful for what you are eating when you have been the one that has foraged and taken life to provide life for your family and friends.

    All in all, I think any person who loves food should read this book. The information in it is interesting, but it really becomes secondary to Pollan's adventures in seeking out his meals. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I finally finished. I didn't feel preached to or convicted about my current diet. Instead, I felt more informed and aware of what is available to me. The book was really well written and a lot of fun to read and I am really glad I took my cousin's advice! I will definitely be more open to reading things people recommend to me from now on!

    Tanequil: High Druid of Shanarra (Book 2) - Terry Brooks

    I picked up the second book of the High Druid of Shanarra trilogy two weeks ago at the library. After getting back from a trip to New Mexico to see my two adorable nieces, I decided to sit down and read it. Tanequil continues the adventure of Pen Ohmsford trying to obtain the darkwand and Grianne Ohmsford (the unseated Ard Rhys of Paranor) stuck in the Forbidding (aka, Jarka Ruus) with demons that have captured her.

    The book is not very long and is action packed. The group seeking the darkwand from the Tanequil tree is pursued by none other than the Druids and an unknown assassin trying to get to Pen. In their efforts to escape the Druids, the group flees to a town of Trolls and asks for help. In the Forbidding, Grianne is tested by the leader of the demons and must decide whether to attempt to pass that test or give into her former self and use skills she had as the Ilse Witch.

    I think Terry Brooks is quite a fun author to read. His Shanarra books are pretty engrossing and whisks the reader away from their everyday life. I do think that I spaced the first and second book out a little too much. I struggled a bit trying to remember what happened in the first book. Because of this, I decided to go get the third and final installment of the series right away. I am still reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (on the last section) and I started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson today. After these two books, I'll read Straken to finish the series. This way, I won't forget so much of the second book!

    After this series, I have one more set to read before I've finished the Shanarra series (for now at least). I read that Terry Brooks is planning to write another book on the Shanarra series after he finishes promoting his new Landover book. So, that being said, I will probably be continuing to read the Shanarra books for some time to come!

    Bitten - Kelley Armstrong

    This year I decided to make a concerted effort to read books people recommend to me. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong was suggested to me by a friend who loves the Women of the Otherworld series. The main character is Elena, whose ex-boyfriend bit her and turned her into a werewolf. I wasn't sure what to expect because I think of werewolves in terms of the movie Teen Wolf! No worries about any similarities though. Bitten had a serious plot and serious action! It's a fun read that you can just sit and enjoy.

    The book begins with Elena living in Toronto trying to maintain a normal life devoid of the werewolf culture. She has a good job and a loving boyfriend. Life is calm and unexciting for her until she receives a call from her pack alpha leader, Jeremy. The call ends up sending her back to her werewolf home of Stonehaven where she learns that a murder has a occurred. The pack doesn't want to be associated with any involvement in it so they begin to investigate. What ensues is action and intrigue. The pack learns that other werewolves are in town and plan to cause trouble for the pack.

    I really liked the flow of the book and the writing. Lately I've been reading books that are truly just books for fun (i.e., Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series). Armstrong writes with sufficient description and quality that has sometimes been lacking in my reading this year. Don't get me wrong though--I enjoy reading books that are meant to just be enjoyed as a quick read as well. This book just had a little more depth to the writing. It is definitely a series I will continue reading.

    Club Dead - Charlaine Harris

    Ahhhh....the continuing saga of Sookie Stackhouse. I feel like I have grown a lot in the type of books I am willing to read. I used to be a sort of "book snob" and would only read books I thought were of good enough quality to read. This year however has been all about fun, and I am realizing just how much I can enjoy a good, quick read. The Sookie Stackhouse books are by no means award winning literature, but they are quite a bit of fun.

    The third book, Club Dead, picks up with Sookie back in Bon Temps after her nightmarish time in Dallas. Of course dating a vampire doesn't allow Sookie to live the nice, quiet life. From the first page of the book, Sookie's time of peace and quiet is something that never quite happens. Vampire Bill is spending all his time at the computer instead of snuggling up with his favorite living being. Whatever he is working on is sure to be dangerous, and he tells Sookie that should something happen to him she should take his computer and hide it. He tells her he is going to work on an assignment in Seattle and then disappears from Bon Temps. No sooner has he left than Vampires Eric, Chow, and Pam show up to tell her that not all is right in the world of Bill. Of course Sookie has to drop everything and attempt to save Bill. It leads her to Jackson, Mississippi where there are shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, and a creepy vampire bar called Josephine's (a.k.a, Club Dead).

    The action is pretty non-stop in this third novel. It also further explores Sookie's complicated, yet hysterical relationship with Vampire Eric. He is by far my favorite person in the books and I even laughed out loud a few times. He says some pretty funny things like, "I took 'English as a Second Language' at community college in the seventies" when Bill asks him where he learned the term "possessive pronoun". Those little gems of comedy coupled with his Scandinavian good looks makes him the most likeable character in the series. I may just really like him because Eric in True Blood is played so well. I definitely see Alexander Skarsgaard when I read the books.

    At times I get a little irritated with the conversational diary-ish tone of the books, but overall they are quite fun to read and it's something I know I can get through in a day or two. I will probably pick up the next book in the series pretty soon because I am having such a good time reading them. Sometimes reading should just be fun, don't you think?!!

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