Red Leaves, by Paullina Simons

Cover ImageFinished 5-30-08, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 1996

“This world isn’t a black amoral hole where your actions have no meaning, and where nothing you do matters.  Did you ever think of the people you hurt?”

“They weren’t strong.  I didn’t ask them to be hurt.”                                Chapter 9

 This book has been on my bookshelf for so long that I can’t even remember why I picked it up in the first place.  There is a two paragraph blurb on the back that did not do the book justice and, in fact, seems to misrepresent the book itself.  So, with that said, I LOVED this book and encourage you to put it on your reading list.

Kristina, Conni, Albert, and Jim were a foursome since freshman year at Dartmouth.  They were seniors now and the fractured friendships were showing signs of wear.  Kristina and Jim were having problems and Conni was convinced that Albert was sleeping with Kristina.  Kristina just wants to start over with a clean slate and thinks maybe meeting detective Spencer O’Malley is her chance.  This description only covers the first fourth of the book or so, but to say more would ruin it.

The layers of mystery and intrigue are perfectly done.  I was so wrapped up in Kristina, Spencer, and the murder that I couldn’t put it down.  The players in this drama were so full of themselves and it was fascinating to see the character flaws that led them to do questionable things.  Only Spencer remains seemingly untouched by the dark side of human nature.

If you love mystery and drama with all the trimmings of money, greed, envy and love, you will love this book.  Highly recommended.

2nd Chance, by James Patterson

Cover ImageFinished 5-28-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

 I read the first of this series, 1st To Die, a few years ago because I had heard so many good things about it.  I did like it, but wasn’t blown away and didn’t read anymore even though my Mom passed them on to me.  I saw the first Women’s Murder Club on TV and didn’t think it was great either, but it grew on me.  So, I decided to see if the books would too.

The girls are all back and ready for murder.  Lindsay is tracking a serial killer whose victims seem to only be connected by race.  Claire uses her reporter smarts to help Lindsay look the right way.  Two of the girls are shot, one shot at, and one has a miscarriage.  This book is full of drama.

This was a very fast read and I enjoyed it more than the first one, but who can know if it because I was picturing the girls from TV in the roles.  My ambivalence with the first book and this one has something to do with the relationship between the four women.  Their interaction and conversation don’t ring quite true for me.  But, I will read more of the series because the action is swift, the mystery is good, and Lindsay is spunky.

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Cover ImageFinished 5-27-08, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 1963

“If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat- on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok- I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”  Chapter 15

 This is an semi-autobiographical novel that packs a powerful punch.  Esther is a college sudent who feels isolated from those around her and who is searching for the purpose of her life.  These futile efforts lead her on a downward spiral that she can no longer control. 

Esther landed a prestigious month-long job at a glamour magazine in New York City for the summer.  This opportunity only seemed to fuel her insecurity.  Once home she quickly fell into a depression that led her to contemplate suicide.  She started seeing a psychiatrist who after two visits recommended shock therapy. She tried cutting herself with a razor blade, hanging herself with a scarf, drowning, and finally pills.  The pills landed her in the hospital before being moved to a psychiatric hospital full of girls like her. 

I love the emotional pull of the writing.  I was drawn in, curious, entertained, and moved.  I listened to the first half on cd and read the second half, and I think to appreciate the novel it must be read.  I’ve heard it is being made into a movie with Julia Stiles playing the lead.  Read the book first.  It is only 200 pages and well worth the hours spent reading it.

Magic, by Tami Hoag

Cover ImageFinished 5-26-08, rating 2.5/5, romance, pub. 1990

Rachel has come home for the first time in five years to take of her mother, Addie, who is sick with Alzheimer’s disease.  She finds that Bryan is already living in the house, looking for ghosts.  Sparks fly and within 12 hours they are in love.  Although the focus is the love story, the relationship between Rachel and Addie is the most interesting.  There is a mystery thrown in, but not one that really mattered. 

 I started reading this a few months ago and completely lost interest, but for whatever reason decided I would finish it.  This book is sickeningly sweet, and not in a good way.  It seemed to repeat the same thoughts and feelings without much new to add.  I really enjoy Tami Hoag’s mysteries, but this is the first and maybe last of her romances I will read (unless of course I have another one hiding in that huge stack of books in my kitchen).

Love Story, by Erich Segal

Cover ImageFinished 5-25-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 1970

“Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.”   Chapter 13

I’ve seen the movie and knew the story, so I was surprised when I shed a few tears as I finished reading this slim novel.  I mistakenly thought the brevity would lessen the emotional impact, but it seemed to enhance it. 

Rich boy and Harvard jock, Oliver Barrett IV first met poor, smart Radcliffe student, Jenny, in the library.  An unlikely romance blossomed and in no time they were in love.  Jenny was awed by the Barrett estate when meeting his parents and Oliver was humbled when he met the neighbors and father who loved Jenny.  They were an odd couple and as often happens they decided to marry.

In marrying Jenny, Oliver was cut out of the family money and he and Jenny were forced to work their way through his law degree.  Jenny never stopped trying to reunite Oliver and his father.  Oliver graduated and and landed a great job in New York City and they seemed to have it all.  Then Jenny got sick.

I had a few healthcare issues.  The doctor told Oliver Jenny was sick, but did not tell Jenny!  He told Oliver to act as if everything were normal and Oliver did!  I don’t get it.  But other than that I really found the story touching and would recommend it.

My book problem

So, I just posted info on the upcoming book sale in Cleveland.  I have never seen a bookstore or or book sale (and some libraries) that I have not walked into.  I knew I had a book buying problem.  So, I decided it would be funny if I collected all the books that I have purchased, but not yet read, over the years and took a picture to show that I really did not need to attend another book sale.  Well, here it is.

That’s Max looking a little nervous that all those books might topple over on him!  So, instead of being funny, it made me a little sad that I had gotten this far behind 😦  I will go to the book sale this weekend, but I’m taking Jason to limit my craziness.  But, then I need to spend a few months reading through my backlog before buying anything new.

So, please, take a look at the different FREE books I offer every month.  I have already read them and need to pass them on.

Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas

Private ArrangementsPrivate Arrangements. Finished 5-24-08, rating 3.5/5, romance, pub. 2008

As a romance lover, historicals are my favorite.  When they are well done they can take your to a beautiful place full of chivalry and passion that is sometimes lost on modern day romances.  This was a wonderful historical romance that works because the characters were so real.

Why would a husband and wife in love part the day after their marriage and remain on separate continents for ten years?  Surprisingly, it is their flaws that make this romance more interesting than most.  Gigi is a forward woman used to getting what she wants any way that she can get it and she wants to marry a Duke.  Camden is a Duke in waiting whose heart is pledged to another, but who is falling in love with Gigi.

Fast forward ten years and Gigi is asking for a divorce so that she can marry a man who sees the best in her.  Camden goes back to England to confront his wife and offer his conditions for divorce.  The two are forced together and neither is complaining.

The secondary story of Gigi’s mother, Victoria, is a sweet one filled with a Duke of her own.  This is a great historical from a first time author.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Cover ImageFinished audio 5-22-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, originally published 1953

 I listened to the book read by the author as I always try to do if possible, but this time I think it was a distraction.  Bradbury’s voice did not fit the way I was picturing in my mind.  The one saving grace was the last disc that was an interview with Bradbury.

The book is set in a cold, distant future where fireman start fires instead of putting them out.  The people are controlled by a government that wants its citizens to live blindly and do do as they are told.  Guy Montag, a fireman, meets his neighbor, Clarisse, and she begins his enlightenment with one question.  “Are you really happy?”  Clarisse opens his eyes to the past when books and ideas meant something and how awful Montag’s current job of burning books was.  Montag was shocked, but intrigued and begins his journey by stealing and reading the Bible.

I loved the idea of the book.  The theme of government slowly stripping of rights until there is no free thought is a timely one.  The melancholy future without books made me look at my overflowing bookcases with extra love 🙂

If you have read the book, I still recommend going to the library & checking out the cd’s read by Bradbury and listening to the last disc.  He gives much insight to the book and characters, but it’s much more than that.  His thoughts on writing were interesting.  ”

“You don’t want to know what you’re doing.  You must never know what you’re doing.” 

Maybe my favorite story was about his not being able to afford college.  From the ages 18-28, Bradbury spent 2 or 3 days every week in the library educating himself.  He said at 28 he graduated himself from the library.  His lenghthy interview was charming and candid.

Other reviews-

Heather @ Book Addiction

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, by Steven Brown

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private InvestigatingThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. Finished 5-21-08, rating 3.5/5, non-fiction, 2nd Edition 2007

“I can’t think of anything more interesting than being a private investigator.  But it also has hour after hour of sheer tedium.”   Chapter 1

Are you thinking of hiring a private investigator?  Are you considering a career in the field?  Do you think your spouse is cheating on you?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the book for you.

This book covers a wide range of topics and handles each with ease and humor.  The first section of the book details what you need to do if you are interested in a career.  How do you break into a field where there are many more applicants than jobs?  Details such as firearms training, salary, licensing, camera and computer needs, and desired skills are all covered.

The book then moves into the do-it-yourself section.  The basics of how to find someone, how the courthouse works, and how to beat the telephone company are all covered.  I must admit that I spent a few hours checking out some of the free databases online that the book suggested and had fun until I put my own name in and realized how easy it was for someone to get information about me!

The next section they call on-the-job training.  It covers the interview, the neighborhood investigations, and surveillance (including tips on tailing someone).  It gives intruction and ideas for pretexting, which basically means what lie to tell to get the most information.  It offers six ways to get around caller id and also offers a whole chapter (16) on how to tell if your spouse is cheating.

The books was interesting, useful and full of stories of the author’s own investigations.  I was amazed at how much information was covered.  If you are ever in need of a private investigator I would recommend buying this book first.  You will save yourself a lot of money.

An Angel For Emily, by Jude Deveraux

An Angel for EmilyFinished 5-17-08, rating 3/5, romance, pub.1998

“I’m your guardian angel and we have been together for a thousand years.”            Chapter 1

Emily is engaged to a popular newscaster in the city and she runs the local library in the small town of Greenbriar.  On a night when Emily was the center of attention and being awarded Librarian of the Year, her fiance, Donald, stands her up.  Upset, Emily hits a man with her car on a dark road and is faced with a man who called himself her guardian angel.

Michael, her personal angel, has been sent down to earth to help Emily, but he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do.  Emily can’t believe he’s an angel, especially considering that he’s on the FBI Most Wanted list.  The two reach an understanding and some very unangelic feelings arise.

To enjoy this fun romp you must be totally willing to suspend disbelief and common sense beginning on page one.  With that said, it was fun.  The way of this spiritual world has its heart in the Hindu tradition of reincarnation, although I’m pretty sure Hinduism doesn’t believe in ‘relations’ between angels and humans.