Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pretty Girls

Fiction by Karin Slaughter.

Pretty Girls

What happens to a family when a girl goes missing at age 19 and is never found? Specifically, what happens to her sisters?

This was an interesting character study of this family, as well as a thrilling mystery novel. I'd recommend this book.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Fiction by Dani Pettrey.

Submerged (Alaskan Courage Series #1)

A thriller that begins the "Alaskan Courage" series, this book seemed to me a timely read, as I live in Alaska now. It was interesting, but I'm not sure I want to read the rest of the series.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crash and Burn

Fiction by Lisa Gardner.

Crash & Burn

This was a thriller about a woman who may have lost her memory in an accident, may be in danger from her husband, and may be a grown-up milk-carton kid, missing for over twenty years. Or maybe she is none of those things...

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Innocent

Fiction by David Baldacci.

The Innocent (Will Robie Series #1)

This book was the beginning of a Baldacci series about a white-hat assassin (there's an interesting concept) called Will Robie. It's from a few years back, so there are already a few more books written about him.

I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure if I'm interested in more books about this character. The whole good-guy-who-kills-people-conflict was a little difficult.

I also read recently by this author: Memory Man 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Secret Sisters

Fiction by Jayne Ann Krentz

Secret Sisters

This was a nice light read, a romantic suspense story. Most of Jayne Ann Krentz's books are good.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Blood Salt Water

Fiction by Denise Mina.

Blood, Salt, Water (Alex Morrow Series #5)

Apparently when I chose this book I missed noticing the fact that it was number FIVE in a series. That is way too late in a series for me to successfully jump on the train, so that explains why I didn't much like this book.

Also it was rather bleak. There were some realistically-drawn characters, but their lives were so depressing it was too terrible to engage with them.

Still, I did read the whole thing because I was interested in the story, so... half a thumbs up, I guess?

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe

Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith.

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #15)

The latest book (number 15!) in the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series, this was a nice quiet story with a small mystery and some pleasant characters at its center.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #1)I have read most of the books in this series, set in Botswana, a country in Africa, and enjoyed them.

I do think one would have to read the first book first, however. You have to like these characters to care about what happens, and characters are always best introduced in the first book of a series.

And remember to switch into low gear when reading. This is NOT a fast-paced thriller.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up

Nonfiction by Marie Kondo.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I'd read a lot about this book in various sources; people said it was fantastic, wonderful, etc. I did not find it to be worth such a build-up, and it was not "life-changing" by any stretch, but it wasn't a bad little book at all. It's about organizing your home, which the author calls "tidying."

(By the way, I think that's a pretty good word, although we never use it much in American English. It's different from "cleaning," which would involve scrubbing and cleansing, but that's the word Americans would usually use. I'd say, for example, that I'm going to "clean up" the living room, but what I mean is that I'm going to pick things up and make the room look nice. I don't actually mean I'm going to get soap and a scrub brush and wash down the place, so really I SHOULD say "tidy up." Still, it sounds weird to me as an American. But I digress.)

Marie Kondo is an organizational expert in her native Japan, and I can see why she is successful. I mean, talk about a person who loves her work; this chick REALLY cares about "tidying."

She writes about how she used to tidy her house, including her siblings' rooms, just for fun when she was a child. (Did you catch the phrases "as a child" and "just for fun" in that sentence? Seriously.)

She also seems to identify a lot with the things she tidies. For example, she tells a story about a woman who rolled up her socks into tight balls, which, according to Marie, is the absolute WRONG way to do it. Think how unhappy the poor socks are, to be rolled up so tightly! We should, she says, fold things the way they naturally WANT to be folded.

I'm not making this up by the way. Like the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, Marie speaks for the clothes.

Joking aside, I felt like her techniques were pretty good ones, especially in that she advises getting rid of as much junk as possible. She also gives specific guidelines about what to keep and what to toss, which is helpful.

One thing I disagree with her strongly about, however, is what she says about tidying being a one-time chore. Marie insists that, once you have tidied, your house will magically stay that way forever. She claims that NONE of her previously slob-like clients have EVER relapsed back into messiness. She is sure that once you have your tidying done, you will easily and naturally return everything to its proper place after using it. No more worries!

Obviously this woman does not have children.

Update: 2/13/16 I read an article in People about Marie Kondo. Last year sometime she had her first baby, so he should be turning one year old pretty soon. This means that, coming up this summer, her little bundle of joy ought to be starting to wreak havoc on her tidy life. Forgive me a cruel chuckle at the thought. Bwahaha.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rogue Lawyer

Fiction by John Grisham.

Rogue Lawyer

This book was less a novel and more a series of stories featuring the same character. It was a decent character, however, and some good stories, so I suppose the loose connections and unsatisfying ending are mostly forgivable.

Still, this is not one of Grisham's best.

I also read recently by this author: Gray Mountain, Sycamore Row, Skipping Christmas, The Racketeer, The Litigators 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Fiction by Mitch Albom.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

This was a nice story, following a young man who makes it big in late-fifties-style rock-n-roll and then loses it all. Will he make a comeback?

I also read recently by this author: The First Phone Call From Heaven, The Time Keeper

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Girl Next Door

Fiction by Ruth Rendell.

The Girl Next Door

I have never read any of Ruth Rendell's books before, which is surprising, because apparently she's written a LOT of them.

This was an interesting character story; it moved a little slowly but spent just enough time making its point, I think.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Biology of Luck

Fiction by Jacob M. Appel.

The Biology of Luck

This was an odd novel. It's about a man who works as a New York City tour guide. He writes a book about a girl he is infatuated with, and the chapters of his book are interspersed with the real events of his life on the day he plans to reveal his feelings to her.

I was interested in the characters, and the structure of the book was unique. However, the story wasn't great and the ending was terrible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Naturals

Fiction by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

The Naturals (The Naturals Series #1)

This is a young-adult book about some teenagers who help the FBI solve murders. (Just suspend your disbelief on that one, okay?)

The story was all right, but I had some trouble getting interested in the characters. I'm not sure why. I'm giving it a half-thumbs up(new graphic!!); it was a good enough book, but not for me.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pathfinders Trilogy

Fiction by Orson Scott Card.

Pathfinder (Pathfinder Series #1)

This was a really good science fiction book, which I realized after I started reading that I'd read before. (Probably when it came out, back in 2010, before I started keeping this handy record of books I read.)

Ruins (Pathfinder Series #2)

However, when I read it, the other two books in the trilogy had not yet come out, so I re-read this one (still good!) and then read the other two.

This is the best way to read a series, I think: all at once. I hate waiting in between for the next book to come out!

This whole series was good, but the first book was the best.

I also read recently by this author: The Lost Gate, Shadows in Flight,  Ender in Exile

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Chasing Sunsets

Fiction by Karen Kingsbury.

Chasing Sunsets

This was the sequel to Angels Walking, which I read a few months ago. (Actually I listened to it as an audiobook.) I liked this book better than the first one; it was really good.

I also read by this author: The Chance, When Joy Came to Stay, The Bridge, Coming Home

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Japanese Lover

Fiction by Isabel Allende.

The Japanese Lover

This was a really good character story. I'd definitely recommend it! I'm giving it almost two-thumbs up, which would be one-and-a-half-thumbs. (See new graphic below!)

Oddly enough, this is another translated work, originally written in Spanish. I may have to revise my position on translated books.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Reader

Fiction by Bernhard Schlink.

The Reader

Often I am wary of translated literary works, because sometimes the book loses its essence when it is translated away from its original language. This novel was originally written in German, but I did not know that when I purchased the audiobook. Now I'd like to know who the translator was, because he or she did a great job! No one is credited with the translation anywhere on the edition I downloaded or in the book's publicity listing. This is sad. I don't think translators get enough credit in general.

This book was very good. It is narrated by a boy who becomes a man over the course of the story, but at its center is Hanna Schmitz, a female character whom many would call pure evil. But of course no human being is really pure evil, are they? We are so much more complicated than that.

All in all, it's a very thought-provoking book, as well as being an interesting story.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Organized Mind

Nonfiction by Daniel J. Levitin.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

My daughter looked at the cover and size of this book (528 pages!) and said, "Who would want to read THAT?!"

Granted, it's not the sort of thing I usually read, but....

This was a really interesting in-depth look at how the mind works, how we store and retrieve information, and how we can use our knowledge of these two things to make our own lives better. In particular, I liked the chapter about medical decision-making.

I'll admit I didn't read every word of this weighty tome, but it's an amazing book.

Monday, November 23, 2015

One Child

Nonfiction by Torey Hayden.

One Child

I've read almost all of Torey Hayden's books and loved them. (see below) This is her first book, the story of a child almost everyone would call unreachable, unmanageable, and unlovable.

I also read by this author: Beautiful Child, Murphy's Boy, Ghost Girl, Just Another Kid, Twilight Children  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finders Keepers

Fiction by Stephen King.
Mr. Mercedes
Finders Keepers

I'm not exactly a Stephen King devotee, but some of his books I really like. This one was very good. It had great characters and an engaging plot.

After I read it I went back and read the book that took place before it: Mr. Mercedes. Amazingly, that one was good too, and I was able to enjoy reading it even though I'd read the sequel and already knew essentially how it came out.

So I recommend both books, in either order.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Playing With Fire

Fiction by Tess Gerristen.

Playing with Fire

Tess Gerristen is known for her "Rizzoli and Isles" series of books, but this is not one of those, and that's why I picked it to read. (I've mentioned before the trouble I have with serial mysteries, click here to read that if you're interested.)

The story in Playing with Fire centers around a piece of violin music (which the author apparently actually composed as a companion to the novel, although I haven't listened to it). The mysterious music is a link with the past and seems to threaten the protagonist's ordered life.

It's an exciting thriller, and a short read.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Secret History

Fiction by Donna Tartt.

The Secret History

This novel held my attention from the beginning, although it's a strange type of story. Basically, it's about a boy who transfers from a community college in his native California to an exclusive private college in Vermont, and then tries to reinvent himself to fit the change, falling in with an even more exclusive group of classical Greek students. The characters were very realistic and believable, but not always likable.

I enjoyed this book, but it's not for everyone.

I also read by this author: The Goldfinch.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Girl on the Cliff

Fiction by Lucinda Riley.

The Girl on the Cliff

This story was like a Gothic romance, but more believable for the modern age. Also it was mostly set in Ireland, which is always nice. Good book.