Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Stephen King Challenge!

I just found this in another blog, and its definitely something that I want to accomplish this year!  Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, but there is still so much that I haven't read by him, so this is a good way to get some books knocked off my TBR List!


Click the button if you want to know more or join in!



Challenge Details
• Timeline: 01 Jan 2011 - 31 Dec 2011
• Rules - There are two levels: Read either SIX (6) or TWELVE (12) Stephen King novels in 2011 (6 is the minimum but you can read more than 12 if you wish!)
• 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 you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.
• You can join anytime between now and the later part of next year.



Progress

1It by Stephen King - Finished January 10th, 2011
2. The Colorado Kid by Stephen King - Finished February 24, 2011
3. Desperation by Stephen King - Finished May 3, 2011
4. The Regulators by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) - Finished May 9, 2011
5. Blockade Billy by Stephen King - Finished May 26, 2011
6. Mile 81 by Stephen King - Finished October 18, 2011

Bringing in 2011!

This year has been a crazy year.  I rediscovered my love for reading, and I couldn't be happier about that.  There were a lot of good reads, and some not so good reads.  So here's a recap of the year, the best and the worst!
The Best


     As Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, I did read a lot of his work this year and some of them happened to be some of my favorite reads.  I read both Black House and The Talisman, both written with help by Peter Straub, and they were two very good reads.  Duma Key: A Novel was a good one as well.
     Some other favorites of the year were The Other Boleyn GirlA Thousand Splendid SunsScarlet Song, and Wild Ginger: A Novel.  I found that I have a love of historical fiction, and non-western literature.
     Overall, one of my biggest accomplishments for the year was definitely finishing The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut.  At over 1,000 pages, it was a long journey, but it was well worth it and I really enjoyed the novel.  Definitely something that you have to have time to do, but its good, even if you're not a Stephen King or a horror fan.
The Worst

     Honestly, I didn't read very many bad books this year.  One of those reasons was probably because I didn't get to read very many books, but I did get through a good many.
     Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel were both by far the worst things I read.  I couldn't finish either of them.  Maybe one that I will pick them up again, but I just could not make myself finish reading those books.  But overall, if those were the worst books I read this year, then I would say that I'm in pretty good shape!
2011 Goals
     I have a specific page with all the books that I hope to get through, and we'll see what books I swap out and replace or books I add throughout the year.  I'm hoping that I can stay motivated, but I think that joining Goodreads.com is really going to help me get through all of these books.  Mostly, I'm trying to get through all of the classics that I know I should read and have just never gotten around to.  I'm looking forward to this coming year, and all it has to bring, and I hope you all are too!

REVIEW: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

book cover of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
     Title:  Outlander (Outlander Series, #1)
     Author:  Diana Gabaldon
     Publish Date:  1991
     Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance, Adult Fiction
     Page Count: 853 pages

     I have to say first, that I was a bit apprehensive before reading this book because of some of the reviews that I read.  Most were either very good or they were awful, so I was a little unsure.

     The plot centers around Claire Randall, on a second honeymoon with her husband in the Scottish Highlands in 1945.  While exploring she falls into a crack in time, I guess you could call it, hurling her into 200 year past.  She is immediately caught by the the English army, but then taken by a group of Scots, and so her adventure begins.
    Originally set on finding her way back to the spot she fell through, to get back to her beloved husband, things don't go quite as planned.  She finds herself married to another man out of necessity, and falling in love with him.  
   Claire and her new husband are not without their enemies and the reader watches as they play cat and mouse with the infamous Captain Johnathan Randall, her previous husband's ancestor.

    So, I'll say first that I loved this book.  I thought that it was phenomenal.  One of the reasons that I think a lot of people had a hard time with it was because of the massive amounts of sex scenes that are laced through the last half of the novel.  While some of them would make you blush, I found most of them to be not that bad.  There are a few other uncomfortable situations along the way, but nothing too terrible.  If you are conservative though, this is not a book that you should read.

     I loved Gabaldon's development of Claire and her Scot husband, Jamie.  You expect Jamie to be a brute that has little personality, and Claire to be a ridiculous damsel is distress, but they are both quite the opposite.  The relationship that is between them was also one of the best aspects of the novel.  I was throughly engrossed in this novel and I finished it in 5 days.  The book was over 800 pages.

     She also paid close attention to the speech patterns of the Scots in the novel, and I think she did a large amount of research for the novel, which was a pleasant surprise.

     Overall, I highly highly recommend this novel.  I would give it a 5 out of 5.


Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!    Outlander

Sunday, December 26, 2010

REVIEW: The Stand by Stephen King

book cover of The Stand by Stephen King
Title:  The Stand
Author:  Stephen King
Publish Date:   1978
Genre:  Horror, Adult Fiction, Post Apocalyptic 
Page Count:  1,200 pages


     First, let me say that it has taken me a LONG time to read this book.  I honestly don't remember how long ago I started, but I have had to start and stop more times than I can count.  And at over 1,000 pages, it would have taken a while.

     The main plot of the story is a superflu virus spreads rapidly through the United States (and we're assuming the world as well) and has killed most of the population, though there are some people who are immune.  We meet these characters as the superflu takes hold of the country and as they struggle to survive.  The characters begin having dreams, telling them to travel to Hemmingford Home, Nebraska to see an old woman, Mother Abigail but are also having dreams of some dark figure that terrifies them.  The survivors congregate in Boulder, Colorado with Mother Abigail, but a faction is gather in Las Vegas as well, setting up a fight of good against evil.

      I read the uncut version.  I honestly don't think that you can find the abridged version anymore, but it is long, with a lot of detail.  While I was reading this, I read several reviews on Goodreads.com, and there were several people that felt that King put too many unnecessary details throughout the book and that much of it could have been cut out.  Now, I agree that there are some parts that might have been able to be cut out, but most of it was really essential to the development on the conflict and the concept of the good v. evil battle going on.

     In my opinion, this was one of this more scary novels, for the simple fact that it is semi realistic.  What if there was a superflu that wiped out most of the world?  With the bio-warfare that I'm sure is being developed in secret, its not far fetched at all.  There are some supernatural elements in this novel, and the infamous Randall Flagg makes his appearance as the Dark Man.

This novel is long, it takes a while to get through and at times it does tend to drag a little bit, but overall I really enjoyed it.  Overall, I would give this novel a 4.5 out of 5.



Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut

Friday, December 17, 2010

Calibre: Easy E-book Management.

With the popularity of e-readers and e-books on the rise, a lot of us are finding ourselves with pretty extensive e-book collections.  Some are in PDF format, others in epub and various other formats, so how do you get them all tagged, organized and converted into one format?


I was browsing on GoodReads.com a few weeks back, in my Nook group, and came across a post about a software program called Calibre.  Some people were raving about it, so I thought that I would look into it, since I have a pretty large e-books collection.  So, I checked it out, and I LOVE it.


One of the greatest things about Calibre is that you can use it no matter what e-reader you have.  When you install the program, it takes you through a setup wizard and you select your specific e-reader so it can configure it.  From there, you load in your e-books.  I found that most of the information that was attached to my e-books was wrong or out of order.  When you edit the 'metadata' as its called in the program, it gives you the option to search for the book and download the data, including summaries, tags, and ratings.  You can also download covers, or you can manually load them.  It also gives you the option to convert your e-books to epub or various other formats.  Once you load your books, it creates a separate library, so you can back up the original files (just in case) on an external drive and delete the originals from your hard drive.  The user interface is incredibly simple, even if you are not really tech savvy, you'll be able to figure this one out.  It does come with a built in e-reader, but I thought that it left a lot to be desired, so I would still recommend using B&N software or whichever other your prefer.


So, let's go over the pros and cons one more time:
Pros:
  • Compatible with nearly any e-reader
  • Simple design, easy to use
  • Instant download of book data
  • Option to organize by tag, author, and series
  • It's completely free!
Cons:
  • Built in e-reader software isn't up to par.
I'd say that the good outweighs the bad!  I would highly recommend this software.  And the best part is, its completely free!  Below is a video that was made by the creator to take you on a walk through of the software's features.  This was with the first version of the software I believe, but the newest version is not much different, just with some added features.  To download this software, you can visit Calibre-ebook.com




Monday, December 13, 2010

Just a quick update.

     I have finally finished transferring over all of my book reviews.  Those will be the last ones until I'm finished with the set that I'm reading currently.


Right now, I'm in the middle of The Stand: Expanded Edition: Complete and Uncut, I'm almost finished with It, both by Stephen King, and I'm about 100 pages into The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.  I'm hoping to finish both of the Stephen King's by the middle of next week.  We'll shoot for before Christmas, but it depends on how crazy my work schedule is.  As soon as those are finished I'll post my reviews.


Also, I'll be posting a review of the Barnes and Noble Nook at the end of the month!  I'm getting one for Christmas so after I have a little bit of time to play with it, I will be able to give feedback.  I'm VERY excited about it and I already have a pretty extensive ebook collection.


You can expect many more entries soon, including entries on other e-readers, ebook management software, ways to get free ebooks and many other things.  Be on the lookout! 

REVIEW: Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

book cover of Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Title:  Black House
Author(s):  Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publish Date:  September 2001
Genre:  Horror, Fantasy, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  640 pages


     The sequel to the Talisman. 

       Jack Sawyer is back, only this time as an adult.  At the peak of his career in law enforcement, he decides to take an early retirement and moves to the Wisconsin Town of French Landing where he had solved a previous case.  However, Jack will find no rest in this 
picturesque town because a child killer, called the Fisherman is terrorizing the town.  Jack must reawaken his memories of the Territories in order to stop this killer and he soon learns that there is even more at stake than he originally thought.

       The opening of this book was fantastic, in my opinion. You’re floating above the town, observing things as they happen.  When Jack comes back, he has forgotten everything about the Territories, chalking to up to "Seabrook Island stuff."  But when the Fisherman sends a child's shoe with the foot still attached, Jack begins to remember, with the help of an old friend, Speedy Parker.  Once again, King and Straub deliver a great array of characters.  A blind disc jockey with his many personalities who becomes Jacks good friend, a group of bikers who desperately want to see justice done, a weasel of a news reporter, and of course the Fisherman, who is 
truly terrifying.


     There are also several other elements that tie into the Dark Tower Series again, different ones than in The Talisman.  Overall, I really loved this novel.  I made the mistake of reading this one before The Talisman, and there were several references to that in this novel, so definitely read the previous first.  Once again, I loved this book, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5.



Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Black House

REVIEW: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

book cover of The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Title:  The Talisman
Author(s):  Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publish Date:  November 1984
Genre:  Horror, Fantasy, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  761 pages


     Jack Sawyer is 12 years old, and his mother is dying in a hotel on the other side of the country from sunny California, where there are from. Then he meets Speedy Parker and he is thrown into a mission and another world, the Territories, that is much different from his own. He has set out to find the Talisman and must travel from one coast to another to bring it back so he can save his mother and Queen Laura, his mother's "twinner", from death.

     If you have read the Dark Tower series, I suggest that you take a peek at this.  Similarities between the two include:  the Territories are the same in both novels, they just take place at a different time, the concept of twinners, and some of the settings (The Queen's pavilion) are the same.  King and Straub have some of the best villians in this novel.  Morgan Sloat/Morgan of Orris, Sunlight Gardner are pretty terrifying.  I completely lost myself in this book at several points.


     Like I said, if you have ever read the Dark Tower series, definitely check this out.  However, if fantasy is not really your thing and you have a hard time suspending your disbelief, I would bypass it for something a little more real.  Overall, I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5.


      Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  The Talisman



REVIEW: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

book cover of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
 Title:  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Author:  David Wroblewski
Publish Date:   September 2008 
Genre:  Adult Fiction
Page Count:  576 pages


     Oh Oprah, you have failed me.

     The Story of Edgar Sawtelle started slow. Edgar was a child that was born mute, but could hear perfectly well.  He learned to sign to communicate.  His family had been breeding a fictional breed of dog, a "Sawtelle" dog, for generations.  Edgar develops an unusual bond with one of the dogs.  Then tragedy strikes the family and they are struggling to continue running the kennel.  That was about as far as I got.

     I've been told by countless people that the last quarter of this book is phenomenal, but I could not get into this novel to save my life. Maybe it really was good, but I couldn’t finish it. The story was slow.  The writing was fine, but I'm one of those people that has to be immediately pulled in, and this book just did not do that.

     This book will have to be put on the stack that may be picked up another day.  As I said, people said this book was phenomenal, maybe other readers will have better luck.



 Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel (P.S.)

REVIEW: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

book cover of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Title:  The Other Boleyn Girl
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Publish Date:  November 2004
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  672 pages


     We have all heard of poor Anne Boleyn who was executed by Henry VIII. Well, this novel is told from her sister Mary’s point of view. Mary Boleyn, Anne's lesser known sister was the first to capture the king's attention.  She is forced into his bed at the age of 14, though already married, and she struggles to keep his attention.  She does beat him two illegitimate children, one a boy and her family then begins plotting on how to get him into the throne.  But as Henry's interest in Mary wanes, Anne steals the spotlight and Mary must decide to take her life and her future into her own hands.

     Gregory did a great job describing the English court at the time.  I found the development of Mary and Anne both to be well written.  The family dynamic between Mary, Anne, and their brother George was very well written, though also disturbing at times.

     I loved this novel, plain and simple. I could hardly put it down. For those that like historical fiction that is more accurate, I would not recommend this novel.  Gregory has been criticized by the fact that she claims to be a historian, but her works are overly embellished.  Personally, I think if you only considered the facts about Mary, it would be slightly boring.

     I loved the way that the novel was written, the way the plot unfolded, everything. Overall, I would give it a 5 out of 5.



 Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   The Other Boleyn Girl

REVIEW: The Oath by Frank Peretti.

book cover of The Oath by Frank Peretti
Title:  The Oath
Author:  Frank Peretti
Publish Date:  April 2007
Genre:  Christian Fiction
Page Count:  656 pages


     This novel centers around Hyde River, a mining town in the mountains.  The people that have lived there have been there for years, and it used to be a prosperous, but has since fallen into somewhat of a state of disrepair.  However, there were some events that happened when the town was first founded about 100 years ago that the townspeople refuse to speak of. And by refusing to speak of it, they fall further and further into the sin that the townspeople committed so many years ago. Then a stranger comes to town to investigate his brother’s death and it all begins to unravel as he begins to investigate the bizarre string of "accidents" that have happened and are beginning to happen again.
 
     For this book being over 600 pages, I still read it pretty fast. There aren’t really any ‘slow’ parts to speak of and the plot steadily unfolds for the reader.  I picked this novel up not realizing that it was Christian Fiction, only going on the jacket summary and though I’m not one to read Christian fiction, I actually enjoyed it. At certain parts I forgot it was a Christian novel.  There are some supernatural elements that are here, which I didn't expect and you really have to suspend your disbelief to wrap your head around that.   

    Overall, I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  The Oath

Sunday, December 12, 2010

REVIEW: Blackburn by Bradley Denton

book cover of Blackburn by Bradley Denton
Title:  Blackburn
Author:  Bradley Denton
Publish Date:  April 2007
Genre:  Adult Fiction
Page Count:  304 pages


     We follow the character Jimmy Blackburn, a serial killer who only kills people that he thinks deserves to die.  Some of his victims include an auto mechanic who rips people off, and a jerk of a boss, among many others.  You go back and forth between the present, and Jimmy’s past. Growing up with a father that terrified him and a mother much to afraid to stand up to him, the reader learns that Jimmy has only grown up to be a product of his surroundings.  Leaving home at 17 after killing a cop, Jimmy sets out to find a place in the world.


     We watch as Jimmy falls in love, only to be betrayed and how he struggles with who he has become and what he has done.  Constantly adrift through the country, never staying in one place too long, Jimmy never really finds his place.

     I found this book intriguing because of the insight that Denton attempts to give us into the mind of a serial killer. You find yourself sympathizing with this man who takes people lives.  I enjoyed this book. 

   Another quick read.  Overall, I would give this a 3 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Blackburn: A Novel

REVIEW: Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

book cover of Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
Title:  Shoot the Moon
Author:  Billie Letts
Publish Date:  July 2005
Genre:  Southern Literature, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  368 pages


     In 1972, Gaylene Harjo was brutally murdered and her ten-month-old son Nicky Jack disappeared. The small town was frantic, searched for months, but they never found the child. Nearly thirty years later, Nicky Jack returns, only he calls himself Mark Albright, a veterinarian to the stars in Beverly Hills.  He has come to search for his past.  Initially, he only came to search for his mother, but after he learns of her murder, he begins searching for her killer.


     Mark meets other members of his family along the way as well and together, they continue the search and eventually find out what really happened the night his mother was murdered.  But along the way, things get a little bit muddled when he finds himself falling for his cousin (by marriage, no incest here!).
     If you’ve ever read Billie Letts, this is a perfect example of her writing style. She does a great job of portraying a small Midwestern town and the people that inhabit it.  She also does a great job mixing mystery and just a little bit of romance. She also writes well-defined characters that fit perfectly in the setting that she’s provided.

     Overall, this was a good book. It was a very quick read, but overall a good book. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Shoot the Moon

REVIEW: Bedlam by Greg Hollingshead

book cover of Bedlam by Greg Hollingshead
Title:  Bedlam:  A Novel of Love and Madness
Author:  Greg Hollingshead
Publish Date:  September 2006
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  320 pages


     This is going to be a very easy book review, for the fact that I simply could not make myself finish this novel.

      Taking place at the end of the 18th century in England, the novel centers around James Tilly Matthews, a man who has been institutionalized seemingly without reason.  The time period in which this novel takes place, if you happened to have opposite political views, you could be jailed, killed, or institutionalized.  Both Margaret Matthews, his wife, and the chief apothecary of the institution, John Haslam, are struggling to find the reason that James is institutionalized.

      Though this is based on historical events, I could not make myself continue reading this book.  I was interested at the very beginning, and the further I went, the further my mind slipped away from it.  Maybe I'll pick it up one day and finish it, but right now, I just can't.

     I would recommend this for anyone that enjoys historical fiction.  Maybe you'll have better luck than I did with it.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness

REVIEW: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

book cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Title:  A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author:  Khaled Hosseini
Publish Date:  May 2007
Genre:  Non-Western Literature, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  384 pages


     Taking place in Iraq, A Thousand Splendid Suns takes a good look at the roles and relationships with women in the country.

      The book opens with Mariam, the illegitimate child of a well known public figure in a nearby town.  Because she is a bastard child, she and her mother are forced to live in isolation, so Jalil, her father, will not be embarrassed.  This leaves Mariam's mother a very bitter woman.

      Fast forward a few years.  Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage.  She knows nothing about her role as a wife or housekeeper, and the reader sees her suffer for it.  When Rasheed, Mariam's husband, takes a second wife, Laila, Mariam is outraged.  Laila is young enough to be Mariam's own daughter, though she has never had children herself.  This creates much animosity between the two women.  However, as the country and the city they live in fall into turmoil and their existence becomes more difficult, the two women find solace in each other's company.

     This novel is a very accurate picture of the lives that Iraqi women and wives are forced to live.  The latest part of this novel takes place in the early 2000's.  The contrast between the two women and their unlikely friendship makes for a very compelling novel.  The historical backdrop of the country as it switches government powers and such was interesting as well.

      I had to read this novel for a non-western literature class, and it was by far one of my favorites.  Hosseini (also author of The Kite Runner) makes you connect with these characters, especially if you are a woman.  With moments of triumph and deep heartbreak and despair,  this novel is a great read.  Overall, I would give it a 5 out of 5.



     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   A Thousand Splendid Suns

REVIEW: Wild Ginger by Anchee Min

book cover of Wild Ginger by Anchee Min
Title:  Wild Ginger
Author:  Anchee Min
Publish Date:  January 2002
Genre:  Non-Western Literature, Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Page Count:  240 pages


     Taking place at the height of the cultural revolution in Maoist China in the 1960's/70's, this novel follows two youths, Wild Ginger and Maple.  Wild Ginger is determined to become a Maoist, despite the fact that her mother has been called a French spy, because her father was a Frenchman.  Maple and Wild Ginger quickly find solace in each others company, both being shunned by the other children.

     As the two children grow older, Wild Ginger becomes a national hero after exposing some criminals in a local market.  But soon, she comes to her ultimate test as she falls in love with Evergreen but can not give in to her desires because of her desire to be a Maoist.  In the meantime, Maple and Evergreen are both suddenly doubting the entire revolution and everything that they were raised to believe.  As Maple and Evergreen fall in love and become engaged, Wild Ginger's turns cold and soon betrays the both of them, but she still can not stay away from Evergreen.

     This novel is a frightening but true look at China's past.  Full of intensity and passion, Wild Ginger is a love story which uses the horrors and injustices of China's cultural revolution as a backdrop.

     Honestly, I wasn't sure how I would feel about this novel, but I was drawn in instantly.  The passion and the intensity of the characters makes this novel a truly memorable one.  It does get a little racy at some points, but nothing over the top.  Overall, I would give this novel a 4.25 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Wild Ginger: A Novel

REVIEW: Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba

book cover of Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba
Title:  Scarlet Song
Author:  Mariama Ba
Publish Date:  May 1995
Genre:  African Literature, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  171 pages


     A story about two 'star-crossed lovers' in Senegal; Mireille, the daughter of a French diplomat and Ousmanne, the son of a poor Senegalese family.  The couple meet while in high school, but they are forced to keep their love a secret, due to their difference in race and culture.

     When their love is discovered by Mireille's family, she is whisked away back to France, but there the couple is determined to continue their love affair.  When the time is right, the two get married and Mireille moves back to Senegal to live with Ousmane to make a life together.

     However, the young couple soon learns that it takes a lot more to survive discrimination than just love.  As Ousmane returns to the roots of his culture, Mireille is left heartbroken, humiliated and completely alone.

     You expect any novel about young love to have a happy ending, but Ba shows us that this is not always the case.  Ba shows the audience that when confronted with a difference in culture and an unwillingness to compromise that even the strongest love has little hope to survive.  I loved this novel.  This was the first novel that we read in my Non-Western Literature class and i'd say my professor picked a great novel.  The way that Ba shows the deterioration of Ousmane and Mireille's relationship was well written. Its a short, but very powerful read.  I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  Scarlet Song

REVIEW: The Transformation by Catherine Chidgey

book cover of The Transformation by Catherine Chidgey

Title:  The Transformation
Author:  Catherine Chidgey
Publish Date:  June 2006
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  320 pages

     Set in Tampa, Florida in 1898, the story centers around three individuals; Monsieur Lucien Goulet III, a master wig maker, Rafael Mendez, a Cuban immigrant who works in the local cigar factory, and Mrs. Marion Unger, a widow still in mourning four years after her husband's death.

     Monsieur Goulet, a Frenchman who immigrated to the Tampa area, prides himself in his craft, which is a dying art form at the turn of the twentieth century.  His card reads "Manufacturer of Ladies's Imperceptible Hair-Peices and Gentlemen's Invisible Coverings".  He understands his client's needs for him to act with the utmost secrecy.

     When Marion Unger comes into his shop to order a 'transformation' for herself, just something to wear to the opera and such, Goulet become enamored with her white-blonde locks and undertakes his greatest project yet, his masterpiece.  However, this requires much more hair than that which she has provided, and he soon employs the younger Rafael to help him.  

     Though I like historical fiction, I did find it somewhat difficult to get into this book.  After about the first half of the book, I found the story easier to read.  As you learn more and more about Monsieur Goulet, you see that he is not only a master of making transformation for his customers, but he is also a master of transforming himself.  I really enjoyed Chidgey's development of his character.

     Overall, I enjoyed this book, though as I said, it was slow at points.  An easy, quick read, nothing too special though.  I would probably give this book a 2.75 out of 5.

     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!  The Transformation: A Novel

REVIEW: The Witch of Cologne by Tobsha Learner

book cover of The Witch of Cologne by Tobsha Leanrer
Title:  The Witch of Cologne
Author: Tobsha Learner
Publish Date:  July 2005
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Page count:  480 pages


     Taking place in the 17th century Germania, this novel centers around Ruth bas Elazar Saul, a Jewish midwife and daughter of the chief Rabbi of Deutz, the Jewish ghetto outside of Cologne.  Ruth, uncharacteristically headstrong as opposed to most women of the period, secretly studies philosophy and actually goes to Amsterdam to escape and arranged marriage, disguised as a boy to continue her studies.  There, she acquires her knowledge and skill of midwifery, which she brings home.  Word of her skill quickly travels and she is called upon, not only by the Jews, but by the Catholics of cologne.  But, as word travels, word get to the Spanish Inquisition.  Headed by Carlos Vicente Solitario, Ruth is arrested, long with several other members of Cologne and Deutz, and is accused of witchcraft.  However, the reader learns that this prosecution is fueled by Solitario's obsession with Ruth's mother, Sara, who humiliated him years ago.

     Through her imprisonment, her intelligence and will to survive, she makes a friend in Canon Detlef von Tennen, cousin to the Archbishop, who is helping in the investigation.  The two fall passionately in love after her release, but soon learn a man full of hate and one without a heart, Solitario, should never be underestimated.

     Full of religious quarrels, deceit, passion and betrayal, I found that I had a hard time putting this book down.  At some points, I skipped paragraphs because Learner's attention to detail and I just wanted to know what happened, especially during the last half of the book.  Some of the plot is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from how good it is in my opinion.  Overall, I loved this book.  I would give it a 4 out of 5.


    Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon! The Witch of Cologne

REVIEW: Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey.

book cover of Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
Title:  Bright Shiny Morning
Author:  James Frey
Publish Date:  May 2008
Genre:  Adult Fiction
Page Count:  512 pages


     This is the story of a city.  The city of Los Angeles, California.  James Frey attempts to paint a portrait of the city by following the stories of several individuals.  Dylan and Maddie, two kids from Ohio who escapes their impossible home lives to come to California, with only the faith they have in each other to sustain them.  Old Man Joe, a homeless drunk on Venice Beach, obsessed with chablis, who lives in a bathroom and lays on the beach everyone morning, waiting for an answer to a question he doesn't know.  Esperaza, a Mexican American who forgoes her college dream after she is humiliated at her own high school graduation.  Amberton Parker, an Oscar winning actor who lives in great wealth with his beautiful actress wife and his two beautiful children, but things aren't what they seem to be. 

     In between these stories, there is a history and fun facts of LA.  While initially it seemed interesting, by about the middle of the book it becomes very tiresome.  I found myself skipping over these segments to get to the segments about the actual characters.

     If you have not read James Frey before now [A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard], his writing style is something that you have to get used to.  He writes in incomplete sentences, he repeats things.  If you can make it past that, then you might be able to somewhat enjoy the book.

     Yes, he lied to Oprah and a lot of people refuse to read his work because of that, but he's not a bad writer.  If the interludes weren't so tiresome and the writing style was different, then I might have liked it better, but as it stands, I would probably give the book a 2 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give this book a try?  Read other reviews or order from Amazon!   Bright Shiny Morning   

REVIEW: Duma Key by Stephen King

book cover of Duma Key by Stephen King
Title:  Duma Key
Author:  Stephen King
Publish Date:  January 2008
Genre:  Horror, Adult Fiction
Page Count:  611 pages




     For most readers, when you think of Stephen King, you immediately think horror.  Vampires in Salem's Lot, or undead, zombie like children from Pet Cemetery.  However, Duma Key has a different brand of horror.  Rather than using the supernatural, King deals more with the aspect of health and sanity, which will still scare the hell out of you.


     The plot takes place on Duma Key, Florida, on a nearly uninhabitable island.  Edgar Freemantle has found refuge there after suffering a construction accident that took his arm and left his brain scrambled.  The sunset on Duma Key, from the house he dubs "Big Pink" makes him want to draw and it turns out he has a knack for it, though he never really knows what he's drawing.  Elizabeth Eastlake, who owns the island, has artistic talent of her own.  One thing that Ms. Eastlake, her caretaker Mr. Wireman, and Edgar all have in common is that they have suffered some sort of head injury 


     King takes his time at the beginning explaining Edgar's story (his accident and his divorce).  The beginning of the novel drags a bit, with hints and secrets dropped here and there to keep you interested.  As Edgar struggles with his memory and his paintings become more and more strange, King builds suspense for his audience.  The last part of the book, about the last third, throws the reader into a fury of action.  As the action builds, it becomes more and more apparent to Edgar and Wireman that something has drawn them there, because something sinister that has been lying dormant has finally come to life again.


     Though it isn't the traditional King that I know and love, it was still a good read.  He draws you in from the beginning, although it does take a good minute to really get into the story.  Overall, I would give the novel a 3.5 out of 5.


     Think you might want to give it a try?  Read reviews or purchase the book at Amazon!  Duma Key: A Novel
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