Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run (Joe Pickett #10)Nowhere to Run by C.J. Box

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a Good Reads giveaway nearly a year ago, but it got misplaced in a move so I'm a little behind the 8-ball on this one :o)

I have only read one other novel in the Joe Pickett series, following the harrowing adventures of a Wyoming game warden, but I was grabbed quickly by both. Knowing first hand much of the story's settings, Box does a great job of capturing and bringing to life the rugged landscapes and putting you right there with Pickett.

This story, set in the remote southern portion of Wyoming, captures the danger and adventure of the wilderness, the trials of being away from family(and the strength of the family to perservere) along with politics and moral dilemas often posed between the citizens and government of the United States. Through a constantly moving plot, quick dialogue and well described locales, I felt more like I was watching a suspenseful movie rather than turning pages. I opened it this morning and before I knew it I had traveled hundreds of miles south, trekked through rugged backcountry, pondered moral dilemas and wound up back in my living room without batting an eye.

While the writing in both books I've read of this series is a bit simple, it is still smart and engaging enough for me to want to read more. Definitely a series, like my fun chick lit, to add to my list of guilty pleasures...perfect for a day on the couch, filled with thoughtless imagination.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Last Templar

The Last TemplarThe Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a bit up and down for me, though in the end I have to say I did enjoy it.

I do typically enjoy books of the church/Templar/Illuminati story line, definitely some I enjoy more so than others, this one probably falls just about in the middle.

While it fit the seemingly stock storyline(big mystery to solve, handsome cop with emotional baggage, hot/smart chick to help out, jet setting after clues) the story was fast paced and had enough turns to keep me interested most of the time. I also enjoyed the mostly modern setting with the flashbacks to the 13th and 14th centuries. Regardless of the proof or speculation surrounding the centuries old Templar lore, it is engaging to read about and thought provoking nonetheless. I did feel a drag in the middle, though I can't pinpoint what in the story really caused it, but once it picked up as they headed to Europe, it seems as though the end of the book arrived in no time.

My one big qualm with this book was the writing. While I don't mean to even hint that I would have done better, I found myself going "really?" on many occasions. We have Sean Reilly, a seemingly intelligent FBI agent and Tess Chaykin, an archeologist turned desk-jockey with a well admired archeologist father, yet they speak at times as though they didn't make it past even the grammar part of grammar school. Now, I understand the concept of needing to write for your audience and I don't expect a novel full of jargon, but come on folks. Can I at least have basic grammar?

Overall though, I'd say it fits nicely into the category of "good weekend reads"(and by weekend reads I mean, stuff I don't exactly have to think about ;o)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town AmericaThe Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were definitely parts of this book that rubbed me the wrong way, and it was not my favorite of Bryson's books, but overall I really did enjoy it.

Yes, Bryson have be a bit over the top in his negativity, and can be quite a jerk. However, he easily admits this throughout, and mocks not just those around him, but himself as well. While his mockings and generalizations do sometimes show a bit more personal stereotype than I'm sure he even realizes, he does not single out any one group; rather, he shoots his negativity at everything he touches in a quite humorous way.

And frankly, I would probably be just as negative in a such a circumstance. Many would not like to accept that many of the negative experiences and places he recalled are the way they are, or that so many of them have gone downhill in past decades. The sad truth, though, is that many areas in the U.S. have given in to the very things he complains about, and lost much of the charm that a road-tripping family would have experienced in the 1950s and 60s.

Yes, a bit harsh at times. Yes, maybe a few to many generalizations. Overall though, a good read(especially if you live somewhere he found favorable, as I do :o)

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The Crimson Rooms

The Crimson RoomsThe Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this in a pre-release giveaway from GP Putnam's, and I am so glad that I did!

The introduction to this story was very quick and abrupt; a major life event happening to the characters before we even knew their names. This bothered me at first, but as I got further into the story it came around and I don't think it would have worked any other way.

This story follows Evelyn, one of the first female lawyers in London, post-WWI. While dealing with the loss of her brother to war, her entire family lives a life that is very sheltered and mournful, even 6 years later. A serious of huge events such as the appearance of her brother's son and his mother as well as a major murder trial, force her to re-evaluate many facets of her life.

Thrown in is a great murder trial mystery, that intertwines the characters even more. I myself am not one to try to figure out mysteries, as I'm typically to engrossed in the story to really see anything deeper right away. After knowing the outcome of this though, I realized some great clues, moments of foreshadowing etc that could have led another reader to a conclusion that I just wasn't seeking, while not being so obvious to just give the story away.

Overall I think this book was very well written and engaging. Katharine McMahon painted a vivid picture of early 20th century London, as well as the trials and tribulations of a woman entering a new field. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction!

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BarefootBarefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a few things. I would have improved about this book, overall I really liked it.

The three main characters, Vicki, Brenda and Melanie, were great women to get to know in this story. The 3 drastically different worlds they were coming from made for an intriguing dynamic, espcially when you read about the close quarters of the Nantucket cottage they share for the summer. It was heart wrenching to read about Vicki's battle with cancer, exciting to learn about Brenda's fiascos, and saddening to hear about Melanie's recent ordeals, and heartwarming to see their situations change and have happy endings.

That said, I did feel a little lost at times from the jumping around between each woman's internal dialogue, and the abruptness of some of the story lines. Vicki's story is the only one that seems fully realized; Brenda spends the summer going back and forth, and then, just like that, her story seems resolved. Melanie, after coming across early on as a bit whiny and "junior high" ish, seems happy for the first time in what comes across as years and then abruptly takes what I think is the "easy" way in the end. I would have loved to see a more rounded story in the end, rather than what seemed to me was a hurried wrap-up to a story that began with more thought and inspiration.

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The Complusion

I have this a bit of a shop-a-holic tendency, though fortunately it is not a very expensive one....thrift store book shelves. I'm pretty sure the seeds of this compulsion were planted the first time my dad took me into Powell's City of Books in my hometown of Portland, OR, and it hasn't stopped since.

While there are never-ending possiblities of things to do around my little town of Gardiner, MT, which happens to be adjacent to Yellowstone, the very short winter days lend to a lot of time relaxing in the house. For someone like me who loved to read since before I even realized what reading was, this is a great thing. So are the shelves upon shelves of used books to be found for often as little as 25 cents, thus inspiring me to carry home yet another box of treasures just about every time I set foot into a local thrift store.

The constant collecting of random books, combined with my already random taste, makes for a quite eclectic reading list, as you will certainly see after a few entries into this blog. There will be Historical Fiction and Knitting Fiction, Chick Lit and Fishing Guides, Biographies and Church Mythology. It won't be for everyone(I'm sure by dad has no interest in Eat, Pray Love...and I'm pretty sure my mom could give a hoot about The Last Templar), so pick and choose, enjoy, ponder and by all means disagree....that's the fun part right?

Tonight will have a few posts, since I've done a few recent "reviews" on Good Reads. Then, I guess I'll have to get to reading!

Happy 2011!