Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s story of her family’s experiment where they grow their own food in a rural environment is informative and a great read. While the subject matter is very serious, there are some very humorous parts to her story. She provides an extraordinary amount of information regarding everyday foods, how they are produced and how they get to our tables.

Undoubtedly, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. It didn’t come across as preachy, but rather inviting. The family’s interaction with the food they grew was the most interesting part for me. Because they lived through/with this experiment and wrote about it, it wasn’t just a how to manual, which likely would have been dry and somewhat boring. I loved that the story was presented chronologically featuring produce that’s available at that time of year.

Kingsolver’s family members have also made contributions to be the book. Steven’s sections were very informative and well written. They contained plenty of interesting facts and stats about food production. The recipes and accompanying text by Camille were equally well done. I haven’t any of the recipes yet, but I plan to soon.

While I haven’t made significant changes in my household yet, I’ve certainly had my eyes open by this book. I’m now convinced that I really need to look at where my food is coming from. I’m unlikely to start farming like this family, but there are lots of things I could be doing differently. The book is definitely worthy of a second read.

I’d definitely recommend this wonderful book.

From HarperCollins First Look program.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Invisible Armies by Jon Evans

In Invisible Armies, Danielle and Keiran get involved with an anti-corporate protest group who are campaigning against a mining company. They travel the world setting up demonstrations and diversions to stop the company from poisoning innocent children in India.

Excellent fast paced thriller with a high-action finale that kept me glued to my seat. Once I picked up this page-turner I didn’t want to put it down. There were parts of the first section that were a little slow, but once they reached Paris, there was non-stop action. My plan was to read it alternatively with Harry Potter. However, that didn’t happen. Once I picked this one up, I knew Potter was going to have to wait. [This probably isn’t something the author is going to do cartwheels about, but it was Potter-mania at our house for weeks before HP7 was released. It was going to take an extraordinary book to make me put Potter down.]

My favourite character was Keiran. I liked him right away. Maybe it’s because of my computer analyst/programmer background that I found him so appealing. Sometimes I, too, would rather deal with my computer than people. It should come as no surprise that my favourite quote was on page 261 with Keiran speaking to Danielle: “I like the idea of people. It’s the individual instances I have problems with”.

I love the look and feel of the matt cover with the glossy lettering. Nice.

When I finished the book, the first word that came to my mind was “sequel”. I’d love to see one.

It scares me a little that situations like this are plausible. However, our lives are so intertwined with computers now, there’s no turning back. My life is out there on servers across the world for those who want to know more about me. [I should warn you; I’m pretty boring] That’s the world we live in. Sure, I could stop using my computer, but then I’d also have to convince my bank, credit card companies, financial advisors, doctor, pharmacy etc. to do so also. It ain’t going to happen.

Highly recommended for thriller fans and, of course, hackers.

I got this book from HarperCollins Reading Group on MySpace.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch: Murder, She Wrote by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

In Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch: Murder, She Wrote, Jessica Fletcher goes to a friend’s ranch in Colorado. Of course, she’s going there for some R&R, however, we know that where Jessica goes, murder isn’t far behind. When one of the other guests, Paul Molloy, is found dead, Jessica is asked to help track down the killer. When she starts to investigate, she uncovers some connections between the guests and must determine if these secret links led to murder.

As a fan of the TV show, I really liked this book. It was fun to read and quick to read. Just like the other books in this series, it read just like one of the TV episodes.

I’d recommend it to other fans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

In What the Dead Know, two young girls, Sunny and Heather, go missing from a mall without a trace. Thirty years later, a woman gets into an accident. When she’s questioned about her identity, she lets slip that she’s Heather. As a result, the police start investigating this woman’s claims. Is she or isn’t she? Where has she been all of these years? What happened that day at the mall? These are the questions put to her, yet she’s being anything but cooperative.

Excellent mystery with very surprising ending. It’s not at all what I expected. As I was reading, some thoughts crossed my mind about how it could end. I never would have guessed at this, though. Very clever.

Lippman’s characters were exceptional. The reader gets to know them intimately down to the smallest details. For me, they were not just believable they were very real. I was so drawn into the story that I was starting to believe it was really happening. I even related some of the details to my husband as if I had watched the news rather than just read a piece of fiction.

There were so many good characters I just can’t pick a favourite. I especially like little Heather, Dave, Miriam and Infante. Each of them was so well developed.

I loved the way the story jumped around in time…from past to present and back again. I also loved the shifts in point of view…from the girls, the parents, and the police. It would have been a different book, and certainly not nearly as good or interesting, had the story been told in a linear fashion from a single point of view. Lippman has a great way of writing that allows the reader to follow along or catch up rather than just get lost.

Highly recommended. I’d also recommend “The Sugar House” by this author. I’ll be looking for more of her books. She’s awesome.

From HarperCollins - Reading Group on FaceBook.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Absolution by Caro Ramsay

I got this book from HarperCollinsCanada – The Reading Group on MySpace.

In Absolution, twenty years ago PC (Police Constable) Alan McAlpine was guarding the room of a young woman who was viciously attacked. Now he is DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) and is leading the investigation in the “Crucifixion Killer”, named so because of the position of the victims. The case from 20 years ago has haunted McAlpine and continues to haunt him while he returns to the very precinct he worked earlier.

I loved it. It had great characters, good twists, and a fantastic ending. I didn’t see that coming at all. All in all it was a really good mystery/thriller.

My favourite character was Alan McAlpine. He wasn’t an easy character to like because he came across as moody, cranky and hard. The back of the book mentions a “planned series”. That’s very intriguing, especially after that ending. I can’t wait to see what the author does next.

I’d recommend it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar

In If Today Be Sweet, Tehmina has come to America to visit her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Her husband has died and she has to figure out where she wants to live now; by herself in Bombay or in America with the rest of her family. Tehmina’s decision will not be easy.

I loved every word of this book. From the prologue with Rustom talking about his wife to the ending with Tehmina decision, I was hooked. I just adored Tehmina. Her husband was not wrong about her.

Umrigar’s writing, characters and descriptions of Bombay made me want to read even more from this author. I especially liked the way she contrasted life in Bombay to that in America because America didn’t always come out on top. Where as Umrigar’s “The Space Between Us” was so sad, this one wasn’t so. For me, it was filled with hope, even though there was much to be sad/angry about.

My favorite quote:
Rustom to Sorab: Never begrudge another man his success, sonny. Remember, all of us live out our own destinies. All our lives run on a parallel path—someone else’s success neither pulls us down, nor does his failure boost us up. (page 46)

This book is now one of my favorites. I will not soon forget these characters. Highly recommended.

I got this book from HarperCollinsCanada – The Reading Group on MySpace.

Lying With Strangers by James Grippando

I got this book from HarperCollinsCanada – The Reading Group on MySpace.

Lying with Strangers was easy to read with a straightforward storyline. I zipped through it in just a few days. The ending contained some good twists that surprised me.

[Added July 19, 2007] The prologue, with Rudy on the subway, was pretty good. It was descriptive, suspenseful and drew me right in. Also, the character Rudy was a good scary villain. He was more believable than some of the others. A couple of times he gave me goose bumps.

However, at times it was unbelievable and over the top. [More about this later. Because any examples are likely to be spoilers, I’ve added those to the end.] I was also disappointed that Kevin’s book and the subsequent lawsuit, which had such promise as a storyline. It sort of fizzled after building up good momentum. [Is this another spoiler?]

As the title suggests, these characters were strangers. Indeed! Did these people know each other at all? It seemed that everyone had a deep dark secret they were keeping from the others. A few times, I almost laughed out loud at the levels of deceit. Probably not the reaction the author was looking for.

I still enjoyed reading it, but a few things made me squirm. As for a recommendation? Hmmmm...give it a try, if you want. You could do a whole lot worse.

As I said above the story line was unbelievable at times. Here are a few examples:
1) Kevin would not have remembered what earrings Sandra was wearing the one night they had sex. The dress? Maybe. The earrings? Not likely.
2) RG posing as a woman and Kevin didn’t notice. Not too many man make convincing a woman. You’d think he’d notice.
3) Gary’s interaction with Peyton: after she got drunk, the rose on her locker, the stolen computer. There was something odd about those exchanges.

I also thought parts of the story were over the top. In a few places there were several things going wrong as if only one thing wasn’t good enough. For example, Kevin was trying to get to his car in a snow storm….he drops his keys in the snow, lock is iced over, snow falls down his collar, too much snow on the windshield, ice under the snow, scrapes his knuckles trying to get it off, then his car won’t start.
*************end of spoilers********************

There you have it. Would I read another book by this author? If the timing was right, I might.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Ladies' Lending Library by Janice Kulyk Keefer

Rather than my "usual" review, I'm trying something different. Here are some some thoughts I had after finishing the book.

I loved this book. I got lost in the beginning too, with all of the names to remember. However, just when I thought I was terribly lost, the names all fell into place. I really got into it after that. It was beautifully written and a joy to read.

As for characters, I was fascinated by a few of the relationships: Laura and Nastia, Bonnie and Marta, and finally Peter and Nadia. I admired Peter and Nadia for risking it all to follow their dreams. I loved the ending and really wanted Sonia to find some happiness.

It did make me miss my mother, though. She was Ukrainian and died in 1998. This book brought back all kinds of wonderful memories of her and my childhood. I miss watching her make perogies (varenky) and other ethnic dishes. We (my siblings and I) never did learn to speak Ukrainian like my parents; we just used the odd word here and there…interspersed with English - kind of like in the book. In fact, we still use some of those words we learned as kids. Now I know why “toshi, toshi, toshi” sounds so familiar to me.

Really good book; great ending. I’d recommend it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bread on Arrival by Lou Jane Temple

In Bread on Arrival, Heaven Lee, a chef in Kansas City, attends the ARTOS convention to pick up some break-making tips. She isn’t expecting trouble, but that’s exactly what she gets when two of her colleagues wind up dead. She’s determined to find out who killed them and why, while still learning a thing or two about bread.

Along with some good information on bread, baking and some yummy recipes, the author gives the reader an above average cozy mystery with a host of fun characters and intricate plot. Heaven Lee is a great, smart-alecky character and I enjoyed reading about her.

I’m going to save the recipes. I hope to make at least a few of them.

Recommended for cozy mystery lovers, especially those who enjoy food and recipes along with their mysteries.

Murder on Monday by Ann Purser

In Murder on Monday, Lois Meade, who cleans houses in the village of Long Farnden, investigates the death of Gloria Hathaway by looking for clues in the houses of her clients. She doesn’t engage in gossip, but isn’t above sneaking around and looking into other people’s business.

A really good British cozy mystery with interesting, entertaining and believable characters as well as a clever plot with lots of twists to keep the reader guessing until the end. I wasn’t particularly fond of the Josie/Melvyn side story and kept wondering why we needed all of this information. Little did I know. I’ll zip my lip now before I give away any spoilers.

This one is the first in the series. I don’t have any of the others, but I’d really like to read them. I’ll keep my eye out for them.

Highly recommended for cozy mystery lovers.

The Firm by John Grisham

In The Firm, Mitch McDeere has been hired by a very prestigious law firm. The firm is going above and beyond when they lease him a new BMW, find him a house to live in, pay off his student loans and many other things ordinary companies wouldn’t do for employees. This is not an ordinary company, though as Mitch soon finds out. When the FBI contacts him to spy on the firm, Mitch is thrown into a tailspin from which only the craftiest of heroes can recover.

Grisham has presented a very good suspenseful, page-turner that had me hooked from beginning until the very end. Even after I finished the book, I wondered what the characters were doing and how they were continuing on with their lives. He has a great sense for cliffhangers and keeps the reader wanting more.

In the beginning of the book, I hated the way Grisham portrayed women. I also disliked the attitudes of the men towards women. It really bugged me that it was mentioned numerous times that the secretaries in the firm were all ugly. That being said, Grisham redeems himself with Abby and “Doris”, both of whom I really liked.

Otherwise, a very good read. Recommended.

Death of a Travelling Man by M.C. Beaton

In Death of a Travelling Man, Hamish has been promoted and must determine who killed the “travelling man”. At first, it seems that some of the neighbours welcome the new people in town. However, that doesn’t last long and things turn ugly. It’s up to Macbeth to determine why the neighbours are acting strangely and what’s really going on.

I so enjoyed this one. I devoured it in just a few sittings.

I’ve read a number of other books by Beaton, but this is the first one with Hamish Macbeth. I was afraid that I was going to miss Agatha (Raisin, the main character in Beaton’s other books), but I loved Hamish so much it didn’t matter to me that Agatha wasn’t there (Sorry Agatha).

I have a number of other books featuring Hamish Macbeth and I can’t wait to read them.

Highly recommended for the cozy mystery lovers. Delightful.