Chinatown Death Cloud Peril

by Paul Malmont

Ultimately I liked this book, but it didn't get anywhere close to interesting until somewhere around page 250. Most of the characters seamed rather flat to me, but it's pulp so I wasn't at all surprised or offended...since I'm not actually familiar with the pulp genre it's only a guess that characters are traditionally 2-dimensional.

The story is set in the the 1930's among the small clique of authors known as pulpsters. Malmont creates an atmosphere of reality in the midst of his fantastical, improbable plot by using real life authors of the day. Walter Gibson, writer of The Shadow, and Lester Dent, writer of Doc Savage follow seemingly unrelated clues and mysteries that ultimately bring them and their retinues together for one bone chilling climax. It's a story of death, government corruption, Chinese gangsters, revenge, maniacle ambition, and horrifying chemical warfare.

Everyone in my book group who read this one liked it. The few who hadn't quite finished it are looking forward to it and the one who didn't have time to pick it up has borrowed a copy. All agreed that the most interesting character was Norma Dent, Lester Dent's wife. We were all quite impressed with inclusion or mention of their real life contemporaries such as L. Ron Hubbard, Joe Kavelier, Robert Heinlein, Louis L'Amore, Orson Wells, and H.P. Lovecraft

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (Book 7)

by J.K. Rowling

No spoilers in the this review.

I did extremely enjoy reading the final book of the Harry Potter series. There was humor, suspense, tragedy, tension, and a great, believable ending. As is evident in the 759-page length of the book, Rowling refused to rush to the final confrontation. Answers to all questions remaining from the first six books were neatly and cleverly revealed. Kudos to J.K. for creating such a fascinating world. I'm quite looking forward to rereading the whole series now that all books are finally available.

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The AD Chronicles: First Light

by Brodie & Brock Thoene

This turned out to be a very intriguing book about life for the common Jew during end of Jesus' time. I did find it a little difficult at first; there are lots of Jewish names, places, history. Even the people and stories from the Old Testament that I'm familiar with were sometimes hard to place due to the old fashioned forms of the names. Even Jesus was referred to as Yeshua.

There are many story lines in this book though the central one must be the story of a man, blind since birth, who has an astonishing belief in the goodness of God. Astonishing considering the trials of his life. Through his belief that "nothing is too hard for God", the miracles of the time come to light. Culminating the gift of sight from Yeshua - one of the final miracles before his arrest.

Though the story lagged is places, I will be reading the next book in the series. It should be interesting at the very least.

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Brass

by Helen Walsh

I can't really say I enjoyed this book nor would I say that I would recommend it, but it certainly left an impression. I can't help feeling prissy as I write this, but the book was really just too crass/vulgar for my delicate sensibilities.

It's a story about a young woman's decent into depravity. Millie is in her last year at university and struggles with motivation, the defection of her mother, and the distancing of her best (male) friend to a relationship with a woman who doesn't get her guy's friendship with Millie, a much younger girl.

Reader be warned, there are more than a few extremely graphic sex scenes - hetero- and homo-. At first there seemed to be little point to them other than the shock value, but as the story progressed and the protagonist sank more and more into her depravity, the shocking scenes became necessarily the point. Uncontrolled highs followed by self-loathing lows.

At the end of the day, Millie wasn't a very likable character. Her best mate, Jamie, was marginally better. And I didn't really see how the crisis and its resolution was going to magically turn Millie into the person she seemed to want to become.

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Angels Fall

by Nora Roberts

I've really fallen back into the romance novels in recent days. They are a great size to hold when Magda is nursing to sleep in bed. And of course they are such brain candy, I'm kinda hoping it will distract me from eating actual candy.

This novel focused on Reece Gilmore, a woman who survived a violent attack in Boston that killed most of her close friends and family. She traveled the country as she fought to regain her sense of self, sanity, and security. Her journey ends at Angels Fist where she witnesses a man murdering a woman. The only one to believe her is a reclusive novelist, Brody. As in most small towns, the woman's mental history gets to be well known. The murderer tries to undermine her sanity and cast doubt on her stability in the eyes of the rest of the townies.

I did enjoy this book. The mystery was plausible and the romance was believable. Reece's passion was to cook and there were some great commentary on how home cooking helps to turn a house into a home.

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Granite Man & Warrior

Elizabeth Lowell

My sister left this book at my house after the Danskin weekend. As with most romance novels, I picked it up and finished it in about 2 days. I liked the first story, Granite Man better than the second one, Warrior. Possibly because I read it first and was getting kinda tired of the drama by the end of the second one. Also, the first one inspired tears where the second one didn't.

Granite Man is the story of a long lost sister returning to the family ranch to reunite with the brother she hadn't seen in innumerable years. Once there, she becomes entangled with the brother of her brother's wife with whom she shares a passion for gold prospecting. They embark on a quest for the family legendary lost gold mine and discovers love and a more elemental passion in the process. Of course, the Granite Man had been burned in love before and was quick to falsely accuse his new love of infidelity at the drop of a hat. She then risks life and limb and more besides to prove her love to the granite man. Typical romance, but worth the quick read.

Warrior takes place with the same supporting cast and focuses on the taciturn segundo on the ranch. He is completely closed to love and is enslaved to the awful memories of the effects of war on the innocents of Afghanistan. Then he meets the women who came to do a preliminary study on the wild cougars in the ranches high country, a women who has known love and loss and was strong enough to continue to embrace life and laughter and the possibility of love. As much as he tries, his will power in not sufficient to resist her charms. She tries to teach him the value of love. He breaks her heart. She learns his fears. He begs forgiveness and they live happily ever after.

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Seeing

by Jose Saramago

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Poison Study

by Maria V. Snyder

This book was recommended by my novelist friend. I really must remember to thank her next time I see her. I really enjoyed this book as well as it's sequel. I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the series which the library unfortunately doesn't seem to carry.

The story opens in the Commander of Ixia's dungeon where Yelena awaits her fate at the hands of the executioner. The guards come for her, but instead of taking her to the gallows, they take her to the Commander's head of security, Valek, who offers her the recently vacated position of food taster. Of course, to ensure her continued cooperation, he poisons her first requiring her to present herself in his office every day for the antidote.

Yelena quickly (and necessarily) learns the rudiments of her new job. Along the way, she develops friendships with members of Valek's elite squad and convinces them to teach her self defense. Intrigue, respect, and love eventually entwine Yelena's life with Valek's. Magic and sorcery, which is illegal and punishable by death in Ixia, are woven throughout the story. The discovery of the secrets of her past and the thwarting of a plot to end the life of the Commander and take over the government keep this story line moving along very well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a complete story within itself, yet it left me eager to hear how Yelena's life continues in the sequel.

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Song of Fire

by Joseph Bentz

I've been on a fantasy/sci-fi kick at the library, but instead of researching what books might be good, I troll the shelves looking for a likely candidate. Sometimes I find a good book and sometimes I don't. For me, this one falls on the side of "didn't find a good one".

Jeremy falls through the water of an icy lake after a disagreement with his girlfriend. When he quits falling, he lands in a world where music is outlawed and finds he has become a prophet with a duty to lead the beleaguered people to the promised land. He determines that their Emajus is the same as God and in this land, Emajus is in the music for those who open their hearts and minds to him.

I suppose it was an interesting book, but the religious angle was unexpected. It wasn't apparent from the blurb that this was religious fiction - a genre I generally enjoy. Also, I never got the sense that Jeremy did much as far as leading the people, though they did end up where they were going and achieved their ultimate goal of rebuilding the temple. However, it could be argued that Jeremy's guide less trek through this strange land is exactly the point the author is trying to make.

Throughout reading the book, I understood it to be a comatose dream of Jeremy's after being rescued from the frozen lake in his own world and time.

One final note, in all descriptions of the book, the blurb make mention of Jeremy being a "stranger in a strange land". I kind of expected more a relation to Heinlein's novel of the same name. Maybe it's been too long since I read that book, but I just didn't see the similarities.

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God's Pocket

by Pete Dexter

This book group selection provided for surprisingly lively discussion though some people weren't able to make it past some of the bloodiest parts in the first third of the book. I should have written this a couple of weeks ago after I finished the book. I don't have a clear recollection of everything that happened. I do recall that parts of it were hilarious - it's been a while since I laughed out loud when reading, but it definitely happened once or twice when reading this book.

The story begins when a disturbed young man, working on a construction site, pulls his knife on a co-worker. The old man who usually keeps to himself and maintains a steady work pace whacks the young man on the back of the head with a metal pipe and kills him. From there many things fall apart for many people. The old man ages. The site foreman looses the love and respect of his wife. The young man's mother falls apart and his stepfather who has loose connections with the mob selling stolen meat gets caught up in mob related business he never intended to get involved in. There is a drunken newsman reporting on the story and the neighborhood, God's Pocket, where it all takes place. Some reviewers considered his character a waste of space, but from what I understand, the reporter character may be somewhat autobiographical - though the author obviously didn't end up dead as did the reporter in the story.

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Dragon's Winter

by Elizabeth A. Lynn

Yes, I definitely wish I had read this book before I read Dragon's Treasure. It would have made the second one so much more interesting, though it is still disappointing that nothing of real interest happened in the sequel.

This book tells the story of dragon-blood twins. The first born, Karadur, inherited his father's dragon blood while the second, Tenjiro, inherited his madness. Tenjiro's jealousy of his brother's dragon powers leads him to the dark side of magic. He steals the talism that enables his brother's transformation into a dragon and escapes to the barren north where he continues to harness the power of the dark side or rather lets that power consume him. Karadur eventually discovers Tenjiro's stronghold and amasses an army to avenge the wrongs done him and help return the dark powers that have corrupted his brother to the enchanted prison which held them for ages. An epic battle between brothers ensues.

Lynn has created a fascinating world of shape shifters, magicians, and seers. She provides a nicely detailed picture of living in this fantastic world. I don't think I would necessarily recommend this book to anybody (though my husband and cousin both read it after I did), but I would read a third book in this series if it is ever written.

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Dragon's Treasure

by Elizabeth A. Lynn

I love the public library! I picked this book up at random when I went in to get this month's book group book. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the blurb/description on the book jacket wasn't very accurate.

The book was well written and engaging but there didn't seem to be any point to it. There was no life-changing conflict, no great romance, no mystery. Some of the characters seemed superfluous and some of the relationships weren't well justified. That being said I've discovered that it is actually a sequel to a book written seven years ago which I'll likely pick up tonight. Among the reviewers on Amazon, it is generally agreed that a third book is likely and this one is a good setup for whatever will come next. I wish the fact that this book is a sequel was mentioned is the jacket blurb.

In summary, the book lays out a fascinating account of life under the protection of a dragon lord. Karadur Atani is the dragon lord. He can morph into a dragon at will and struggles to maintain a firm hold on his dragon temper. He's had past trials and tribulations (the subject of the first book no doubt) that still profoundly effect his outlook and temperament. Other main characters include Maia Unimara, a simple herbalist with whom Karadur falls in lust with and who ultimately bears his child. There is also Maia's brother, Treion, a bandit leader who justifiably suffers the dragon's justice. And a whole host of minor characters who populate this imaginative landscape.

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Mary, Queen of France

by Jean Plaidy

I'm inspired to begin writing this entry before I've actually finished the book. As I read about the desolation of young Mary prior to her marriage to the King of France, I feel not one bit of sympathy for her. She has no character beyond that of the spoiled, beloved princess.

Reading this book so soon after having finished The Constant Princess has been very interesting, especially so for the first part of the book which takes place in the English court. The two works of fiction offer very different takes on the feelings and emotions of the royalty and noblemen of the day. So far the most interesting part of this book for me has been reading about the intrigue surrounding the line of succession for the French court prior to Mary's marriage to King Louis of France.

I finished the book this afternoon and though I did enjoy it, I really wouldn't recommend it to anybody. It was nice that Mary finally got to marry her "one true love", but I never really got invested in her drama. I did enjoy the insight provided into the apparent decline of the mental health of Henry VIII and the machinations of both the English and French courts.

I like the idea of historical fiction; it makes history seam more real and engaging. But I've yet to discover an author who can realistically bring it alive for me. It also

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The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This was a great selection for bookgroup. Everyone enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to others. It also provided lots and lots to discuss. I'm pleased as anything that it was one that I offered up to the group. Even Stepan enjoyed it though he was not looking forward to reading it at all.

This is the story of Vida Winters, a long celebrated author, and Margaret Lea, who Winters choses to write her true biography. Over the years, Ms. Winters has given many different versions of her life's story. She decides to finally reveal her truth as she suffers in the end stages of a fatal disease. Her biographer of choice, Margaret Lea, is a little known bookseller and biographer with her own secret sorrows.

I found this book to be very readable. It was dark without being morbid and it ended with a surprising twist.

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The Darwin Conspiracy

by John Darnton

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and forgot to write about it here in my book journal. I hope I can remember enough to give the book justice because I did enjoy it.

A floundering researcher, Hugh Kellem, begins investigating Darwin - looking for a new take on the naturalist life and discovery process. Hugh uncovers a secret journal written by one of Darwin's daughters which reveals the truth about Darwin's famous "natural selection" theory. The journal and its author were one of the most fascinating thing about this book. I did enjoy reading it, but some of the revelations were very convenient.

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Good Omens: The Nice & Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

by Terry Pratchet & Neil Gaiman

I had high hopes for this book - I've heard lots of great things about both authors that I was positive the book could be nothing but good. Ultimately, I did end up liking the book, but not as whole-heatedly as I expected to. I think it just took me a little while to adjust to the English humor It reminds me a bit of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in that respect - I can see the humor in it, but I don't get the raves and accolades that other people pour on the book.

The "nice and accurate prophecies" have been spot on since Agnes Nutter chronicled them 400 years ago. Sadly, her last prophecy predicts the end of the world on this day at this time. Sure enough, the forces of good and evil are amassing their armies in preparation for Armageddon. But somebody misplaced the anti-Christ and two "enemies" (an angel and a fallen angel) who have been on Earth since the fall of man and have grown quite fond of life on earth and the people who populate it, conspire together to do whatever they can to subvert the end of the world.

It really is a clever book. I'm not sure I would tell everyone to rush right out and buy it, but is't a great light read if you have the time or if you happen to be traveling.

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The Rag and Bone Shop

by Robert Cormier

This book group selection was offered by Elizabeth. I didn't realize until I had finished the book (about 2 hours after starting it) that the author also wrote I am the Cheese, a book I read and liked in high school, though I don't think I completely understood it at the time.

The protagonist in this book is a 12 year old boy, struggling with the trials of adolescence compounded with shyness and the knowledge that he isn't as intellectually acute as most of his peers. Following the murder of a young neighbor, he becomes the prime suspect and suffers the machinations of a police department and interrogator more interested in validating their theories than actually divining the truth of his involvement. Though the real killer ultimately is revealed, it is revealed at the expense of this young boys innocents and the interrogator's integrity.

I've heard of this having happening in real life (or some version of it) but I couldn't find any info after a quick web search. It's easy to believe, but hard to imagine. As in the finale of the book, such an incident would have incredible life-long, character-altering repercussions for the juvenile. One thing is for sure, though I'll do my best to teach my children respect for law enforcement and the judicial system, they will never be allowed to give official witness without me or Stepan present.

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The Last Days of Dogtown

by Anita Diamant

I picked this book up at Chicago O'Hare airport on the way home from our Christmas vacation. I chose this one because the author also wrote The Red Tent which I found fascinating. I was please that this novel was just as engaging. The subject matter of the two books is so completely different; this author has great versatility and talent. I would be interested in reading additional works of fiction by her. I liked this book so much, I chose to pass it on at our book group White Elephant gift exchange.

This story chronicles the last days of a settlement in the early 1800s. The dwindling inhabitants include freed slaves, whores, loners, and presumed witches. The story is told from several perspectives as the final dregs of the Dogtown population either move out or die. It isn't a happy book, but it is compelling and feels real - not contrived as some historic fiction can seem.

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The Constant Princess

by Philippa Gregory

I actually started this last year but finished it on the plane home from our European Christmas vacation. I don't think I'll be seeking out other P. Gregory books though I can certainly see myself picking one up on a whim.

This one was about Queen Katherine of England, a.k.a Caterina, Infata of Spain, the first wife of Henry VIII. The details of her life are fascinating, but the fictionalized account of her relationship with her first husband, Prince Arthur, the trials of her seven year waiting game to remarry the young Prince Harry, and the subsequent early years of her reign as Queen of England seemed a little formulaic. I would have also been interested in reading more about the split final split with King Henry VIII though that would have made a much longer book. And, the final scene, Katherine standing proudly before a court, defending the supposed lie she told to secure her throne, fit nicely with the overall theme of the book as reflected in the title.

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Allegra Maud Goldman

by Edith Konecky

This bookgroup selection was a wonderfully fast read. It's a coming-of-age story about a young Jewish girl in Depression-era Brooklyn. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I�m curious to find out what Stepan thinks of it � it is very much a young feminist book and one I would have available for any young girl to read.

Allegra Maud Goldman's father is self-made dress manufacturer and her mother is a society woman whose life is full of gaming (cards and mah-jongg) and socializing. Neither parent seems terribly interested in the development of their precocious daughter, convinced as they are that she�ll marry and have children someday.

It was fascinating to see how this practical young girl made sense of the world around her. She faces the prejudices of being female in pre-WWII America, comes to terms with the inevitability of death, ponders the various meanings of love, and attempts to reconcile her view of what she wants her world to be within the narrow confines placed on her by her family. It�s a book of philosophical conflict between Allegra and the world she was born into, yet she comes to accept the limitations of her world and the struggles she will have to endure to make her world one she can live within.

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The Sinner

by Madeline Hunter

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I did the previous book I read by this author. The characters seemed more believable somehow.

This book was a little different from most historical romance novels in that the heroine is much older than most of the young ingnues. Long-forgotten traumas from her childhood had made Fleur Monley determined to never marry, never have intimate relations with a man, and never suffer the pain of childbirth. As she nears 30 years of age, she is considered by most of society to be a paragon of virtue and spinsterhood. Her substantial inheritance has made her an eccentric with a deep and devoted interest in charities.

Eventually she realizes that her charities are not enough to substitute for the traditional life of marriage that her fears will never let her accept. So she conceives of a Grand Plan to create a school for farmer's children and a trust that would provide perpetual funding for the school. These plans threaten to expose long hidden sins of her stepfather who abducts her and makes plans of his own to declare her unfit to manage her own finances. In desperation, she turns tries to turn to Virgil Duclairc, a respected peer of the realm and friend who once assisted her by participating in a sham engagement to deflect other prospects from seeking her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, hes out-of-town with his opera-singer wife and she is innocently caught in a compromising circumstance with his rogue of a brother, Dante.

Dante has his own problems to deal withmainly gambling debts that outweigh his available finances. Faced with debtors prison and concerned with the troubles faced by the fair Ms. Monley, Dante agrees to a so-called White Marriage (no intimacy) with Fleur. Of course their troubles do not end with their elopement. Dante finds himself more and more enchanted with Fleur who also feels a strong physical attraction to Dante, but they find themselves at a loss when trying to overcome Fleurs fears. Also, the protection of marriage does not stop Fleurs stepfather from trying to overthrow the Grand Plan, but only escalates the lengths that he and his silent (and more nefarious) partner go to in order to protect their own schemes.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book and was well-worth the hours spent reading it.

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Parasites Like Us

I reluctantly include this in the Sci/Fi/Fantasy category. The science fiction only appeared in the last couple of chapters. In fact, this would have made a very interesting short storywe could have very
easily done without the first 5 chapters of the book.

As with most of the novels based on the life of academics, the main character in the book, Hank Hannah, a tenured Anthropology professor, was not a very inspiring character. The professors that the book group have read about all seam to be very wishy-washy individuals who have no solid moral moorings to assist them in making the life-changing decisions inevitably faced by leading characters. Dr. Hank was sadly no exception.

Im not inclined to write too much more about the plot of this book. Suffice it to say that the book described on the book jacket is not the book you get to readoverall, an extreme disappointment.

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The Charmer

by Madeline Hunter

Sometimes I read books too fast to get much out of themespecially romance novels. Ive enjoyed most Madeline Hunter books that Ive read so far, but this one didnt seem to engage my interest as much as the other ones have. I think I didnt like the fact that the heroine didnt appear to have any optionsit was either do what the overbearing emissary of the king told her to do or have him force her to do it. Never mind that she ended up falling in love and living happily ever after with said overbearing emissary of the king.

The main female character, Sophia Raughley, lives a life of apparent debauchery in Paris, collecting and supporting a colorful collection of artists and poets on her estates. When her father, a duke, dies without another heir, the entailed English estates and parliamentary obligations fall on her shoulders and give her the title of Duchess. Upon her refusal to return to London, Adrian Burchard is sent to bring her back. The king and other politicos hope to marry her off to a viable candidate and thus secure the Parliamentary votes included in her inheritance for their own self-serving agendas.

Adrian Burchard, as the illegitimate, third son of an earl, has his own hang-ups and foibles to conquer in order to achieve a happy ending. Not the least of which is overcoming the strictures of society that dictate who a man of his class can hope marry.

Perhaps I just wasnt in the mood to read a romance when I picked this book up. I know a book without conflict would not be worth reading , but the societal conflicts of this book irritated me more than anything else. Maybe one day, Ill give it another read and have a different opinionmaybeone day

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Enchanting Pleasures

Eloisa James

This book was a nice light romance with enjoyable characters, humorous encounters, and heart-wrenching trials and tribulations to overcome.

Gabriella Jerningham is pledged in marriage to Peter Dewlanda man whose portrait she has fallen in love with. However, upon arrival in England, it is Peters older brother, Quill, who she finds herself fascinated with. Tragically, a youthful accident has rendered Quills ability to produce an heir questionable which is why the voluptuous Gabby is betrothed to the 2nd son.

As the story progresses and the characters unfold, it is ever more and more apparent that Gabby is much better suited to the character and temperament of the older brother than of the younger. Peter is every inch the man about town a man who treasures the image and his standing in polite society above everything else. For a woman who grew up in India, raised by a self-important missionary to the savages, this proves to be a terrifying and nearly impossible standard to live up to.

I enjoyed reading this book tremendously.

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Temptation

by Jude Deveraux

This book was a very fast read. I started it around 6pm and finished it around 1:30amduring that time, I also fixed dinner and watched a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3.

Set in the early 1900s, the heroine of this book, Temperance ONeil, spent a majority of her life as a champion of destitute, abandoned women in New York City. Due the patriarchal laws in force at the time, her freedoms and work were interrupted at the age of 29 when her mother, a widow of 12-years, married a Scotsman. The new stepfather had very old-fashioned views on what was proper for a woman. Since he controlled the inheritance left to her and her mother by her father, Temperance was forced to temporarily abandon her work in New York City and accompany her mother and stepfather to Edinburgh.

Temperance had a brilliant plan to act the dutiful daughter to her new Stepfather by joining and hosting innumerable acceptable charity organizations all the while dressed in the height of fashionwhich was all funded by the unlucky stepfather. This would of course drive the poor man to the brink of sanity where the only course of action would be to ship her back to NYC with an allowance and permission to continue the good works to which she was devoted. Her plan worked to a point. Stepdad would let her go only after she accepted the task of finding a wife for his nephew, Laird James McCairn a 35-year-old, nearly destitute, but drop-dead-gorgeous laird of the Clan McCairn - while posing as his housekeeper.

Temperance of course cant let James know that she was sent to find him a wife and James of course has no intention of getting married. Add into the mix James illegitimate son, a multitude of colorful villagers, a flock of sheep, prize racing horses, a mansion in extreme disrepair not to mention dirty beyond all imagination, and hidden treasure and poofthere you have a book I just couldnt make myself put down!

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The Seducer

by Madeline Hunter

This book is another in the romance series that includes The Saint. If I failed to mention it in the previous review, let me take a moment now to thank my cousin Elizabeth for introducing me to this series. Quite a switch from the days of our youthor rather our more youthful dayswhen Romance was all I read and Elizabeth would come to me for tales of lust, intrigue, and true love.

The guardian theme is continued in this book. This time the heroine, Diane Albret, is orphaned as a child and entrusted to the care of the mysterious, dangerous Daniel St. John. She is raised in a French orphanage and only encounters her guardian once a year. Those meetings are perfunctory; Diane is able to convince everyone that she is younger than she really is so she can stay in the only home she has known. One day, when Diane is about 20, St. John notices that she is no longer the child that she claims to be and removes her first to Paris then to London. Diane hopes to find a position as a governess. St. John hopes to use Diane to ensnare a British aristocrat with nefarious tastes in a dangerous game of secret identities and 20-year-old vendettas. Needless to say, they fall in love and all well-laid plans go astray as old misdeeds and secret pasts are revealed in thrilling, life threatening, adventure.

I dont think I have a preference between The Saint and The Seducer. If you pick them up, you should pick up The Seducer first since its first in the series and Diane and Daniel make cameo appearances in The Saint. They both end well. And they both have interesting story linesespecially in the secrets that the protagonists agonize over defending.

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how to breathe underwater

by Julie Orringer

Unfortunately, Ive let too much time pass between reading this book and writing the synopsis/review. Im not sure my synopsis would have been any good immediately after reading the book either since it was my office read the book I kept at work and would read if I ended up eating lunch alone. Since that rarely happens, it took a long time to make it through all the stories in the book. I can say that I did enjoy the short stories in this book and plan to keep it on my shelves for a while. I do believe these stories are worth rereading.

The following is from the book jacket:

In story after story, Orringer captures moments when the dark contours of the adult world come sharply into focus: Here are young people abandoned to their own devices, thrust too soon into predicaments of insoluble difficulty, and left to fend for themselves against the wide variety of human trouble. Buoyed by the exquisite tenderness of remembered love, they learn to take up residence in this strange new territory, if not to transcend it, and to fashion from their grief new selves, new lives.
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The Saint

by Madeline Hunter

It has been way too long since I picked up a good romance novelor as I prefer to call them trash novels. There is nothing like getting lost in the lives of the improbable, beautiful, misunderstood by society heroines and their moody, ruggedly handsome, successful, impervious to the foibles that hinder Everyman hero.

In this book, our heroine is orphaned American, Bianca Kenwood, who becomes the ward of a stodgy, very correct British peer, Vergil Duclairc. Bianca travels to England with the hope of dumping the unfortunate choice of guardian and pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a renowned opera singer regardless of the cost to her reputation and marriage prospects. Viscount Laclere unfortunately has other plans for his new ward. He hatches a brilliant scheme to marry her and her newly inherited fortune to his younger brother in a bid to bolster the foundering family fortunes. Of course both plans go astray in the midst of unplanned, unexpected, and unwanted mutual passion as well as the nefarious scheming of other parties interested in taking advantage of the beautiful American and the financial well-being that come with her.

As with most romance novels, this one ends well: An exciting, near-death adventure, newly acknowledge life-long love, and the promise of happily-ever-after for all the characters one grows to love throughout the course of the book. If romance is one of you interests, I do recommend this book and I look forward to reading not only the other books in this particular series, but also whatever other books of the authors that I happen across.

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Lost in a Good Book

by Jasper Fforde

This book is a sequel to a book read for Book Group called The Eyre Affair. While I truly enjoyed The Eyre Affair and I would recommend you read it first (Lost is a Good Book is a sequel), I believe I liked this book a lot better.

The series centers on the career of Thursday Next, a literary detective for a government agency called the Special Ops Network (division 27). She and her division authenticate long lost manuscripts of the literary classics such as Shakespeare and Byron as well as provide protection for rare copies that go on tour.

Our heroine, Thursday Next, has the fascinating ability to jump into books and interact with the characters in them. Though this ability isn't wide spread, some with the in-born talent and others aided by technology also find their way into numerous works of fiction. The portal also works for fictitious characters who occasionally wish to try their hand at surviving in the "real' world.

Enter the operatives of the evil, world-dominating, global corporation called Goliath, a time-traveling father, unexpected, but timely assistance from Miss Havisham (Dickens's Great Expectations), and the threatened eradication of her one true love and a wonderfully inventive story unfolds.

This was a fantastic book that I found extremely hard to put down. Though I borrowed this copy, I feel I'll have to purchase it for my personal library. I'm also very eager to read the next book in the series...especially since this one ends in a cliffhanger!

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The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

by Sandra Gulland

This is the first of three novels following the life of Josephine, wife of Napolean and Empress of France. It is told from Josephine's perspective in journal form. The diary format didn't appeal to me much at all...especially since the entries were dated chronologically and grouped into titled chapters. I just couldn't get over the fact that nobody's life goes in such an orderly fashion.

Three members of the Book Group did enjoy this book. I probably would have as well if not for the format it was written in. According to the book, Josephine was born in Martinique. In her youth, she was told by a witch that she would endure a bad marriage, become a widow, and she would be a queen.

The most interesting thing about the book was the glimpse of how people lived in those times. It didn't seem like it was a very easy life for anybody. Even Josephine, who was supposedly a member of the upper class, had terrible debt problems and lived in constant fear of the ever changing political tides. While in France, all her wealth and income was based on the holdings in Martinique...how impractical that sounds to me since there was no electronic bank transfers and travel from France to the island took months to say nothing of the near impossibility of overseeing the local managers - something that was essential even though the local manager of her properties were relatives.

Bottom line, while parts of the novel were interesting, I don't have much of a desire to read the remaining two books in the trilogy.

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Micael Chabon

Ive wanted to read this book for a while. It was one of the books I suggested to Book Group at one point, but it never made the cut. Luckily, Stepan got it at the Book Group Christmas party in the book exchange and we took it with us to Europe.

The first part of this book was by far the most intriguing. Young Joe Kavalier is a Jew in Prague in the late 1930s. Jews are suffering the indignities of the Reicht and their liberties are being eroded bit by bitday by day. The Kavalier family bribed, bartered, and went bankrupt to secure passage for their oldest son, Joe (age 19) to America. Joe is stopped at the border on a technicality (a regulation that was changed just that morning) and sent back to Prague. He knows he cant return to his parents who see Joes going to America as the salvation of the family so he seeks out a former teacher, the great Kornblum, master magician, escape artist, and lock pick. With Kornblums help, Young Joe manages to escape Prague.

Once in New York, his cousin, Sam Clay, introduces Joe to comic books and a legendary comic book team is born. With Sam creating the narrative and Joes incomparable illustrating talent, The Escapist is born and rivals anything that comes out of their competitors efforts. Enter the love interest, Rosa Saks, and you have a fascinating novel of friendship, fighting personal demons with pen and ink, sexuality, and war evolves.

I enjoyed this book and Im glad I finally got an opportunity to read it.

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The Visitor

by Sheri Tepper

Science Fiction/Fantasy is slowly replacing Romance as one of my favorite novel genres and Sheri Tepper has long been one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed this book, though the language was a bit overblown.

This book was about the life of the human race hundreds of years after an asteroid strikes Earth in the 21st century, which is called The Happening. The inhabitable land mass is shrunk by 2/3s and the population is reduced to the hundreds of thousands though it is slowly creeping up into the millions. One group of survivors call themselves The Spared and establish a very repressive society where all dissenters are bottled and those at the pinnacle of power involve themselves with black magic (Ultimate Evil). The society/government is searching for the magic that was lost at the time of The Happening though those in power have every aspect of the search so regulated that the discovery of the magic is unlikely to happen. I was constantly wondering if the magic was real magic or merely lost technology.

There are demons who provide the Spared with limited technology who are actually another group of survivors (scientists) from Chasm who keep themselves separated from the Spared and have formed a symbiotic relationship with another sentient race which makes it appear as if they have horns. I was never sure where the demons came from. Possibly they were on the asteroid, but that is never clearespecially considering what else came to Earth on the asteroid.

The main mystery of the book concerns discovering the Guardians and their purpose with the book culminating in a massive battle between Guardians and the Ultimate Evil. The book is well set up for a sequelridding the Earth of the Evil was only their first task. Additional tasks would be complicated by the survivors from Chasm who refuse to believe in their powers and purpose and are constantly trying to debunk their powers.

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The Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

This book is about the early life of a boy named Piscine. He shortens his name to Pi when boys in school start calling him Pissing. According to the book jacket, the book is about Pi surviving a shipwreck alone in a small life boat with a Bengal tiger, but it was so much more than that. He doesnt even start his sea voyage until nearly 1/3 of the way through the book then doesnt even discover the presence of the tiger for several chapters.

The first part of the book is introduction to Pi. I enjoyed his discovery of and dedication to Catholicism, Hinduism, and Islam. It followed nicely with my vague belief that the true religions of the world actually worship the same (One True) God, just in different ways and under different names.

Once he is on the lifeboat, there are some fairly gruesome scenes I wouldnt read them while eating. And during his struggle with the day-to-day struggle and worries of survival, he does some pretty disgusting things.

The book ends with a bit of ambiguity. Pis adventure ends when he finally drifts to land in Mexico. While recuperating at the hospital, he is visited by agents of the shipping company who dont believe his story about surviving with a tiger for over 200 days on a tiny lifeboat. Pi finally tells them another story where all animals are transformed into people that the agents do accept. The reader is left to wonder which story is actually the true one. I choose to believe the story as originally told.

One final note, in the beginning of the book, the narrator is directed to interview a much older Pi to hear a story that would make him believe in God. I didnt agree with that assessment of the story at all. The story for me was more about the perseverance of the human spirit to survive against all odds and through amazing trials and setbacks.

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After You'd Gone

by Maggie O'Farrell

I really enjoyed this book. It's one I picked up at random at Bookstop a few months ago and I would recommend it to anyone who asks.

The novel is well written very poetic and engaging. The narrations jumps around chronologically, covers multiple points of view, and occasionally changes from 1st to 3rd person, but I didn't have any trouble following it as I have with other novels written in a similar fashion.

It tells the story of Alice Raike through a troubled relationship with her mother, meeting the love of her life, and the struggle of the desire to die vs. the will to live as she lies in a coma after an apparent suicide attempt.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

This was a very easy read. The story is told from the point of view of an autistic 15-year-old boy who discovers the body of his neighbors murdered dog and gets accused of the crime. Fascinated with investigating this death, he sets out to discover who actually committed the crime. It the process, he uncovers some surprising and, to his mind, scary things about his own family.

I expected this to be a very light book, but was unexpectedly caught up in the drama of this boy's family intrigues. Though the book was written entirely through the point of the view of the boy, it was easy to sympathize/empathize with the parents and the decisions they made even though those decisions ended up doing more harm for all involved than good.

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Everything is Illuminated

by Jonathan Safran Foer

It took me a long time to read this book, but I did enjoy it. The story is told in fragments and is sometimes difficult to follow, but once I caught up to the time and place of a given passage, I was engaged and eager to find out what would happen.

The story is about the discoveries made by an American Jew who returns to the Ukraine in the present to locate the woman who saved the life of his grandfather during the Nazi invasion of WWII. A good portion of the text is in the form of letters written to the American after his return to the US by his Ukrainian translator. The fluid yet misused language of these letters can be confusing, but once I found the rhythm of them, they were very amusing.

Though this story was destined to end in tragedy (the tragedy of the war, the tragedy of the atrocities committed by friend in order to survive the war, the tragedy of having to cope with these atrocities...) it was also illuminating (revealing truth, discovering strength, displaying courage).

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The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

Lynn suggested this book for book group, but it was rejected in favor of Dirt Music by Tim Winton. This book was a quick read, but I'm not sure it would be a very good group discussion book. I think there are 4 Catholics in our group (I am including Stepan since he was raised Catholic), but I doubt we could shed much light on the what was fact or fiction in regards to how the Catholic church was portrayed...but that's a topic for my journal.

The main character in the book, Robert Langdon, a symbologist, becomes the number one suspect in the mysterious death of the curator of the Louvre, who happened to be the Grand Master of a secret society, The Priory of Sion. The Priory is nearly two-thousand-years old and guards the secrets of the "other" gospels that the politicos of the Catholic establishment deemed heretical at the time of the Niacin Council (sometime in the 700s). It all evolves around the "real" life of Jesus Christ and his relationship with Mary Magdalene, the gradual assimilation by the Catholic church of ancient pagan rites and rituals, and the power of women (goddess worship). I think my sister, Meredith would really relate to certain parts of this book! (She has issues with the Catholic Church's stance on women in the priesthood.)

Upon finishing the book, one of my first thoughts was to discover the Catholic response, but I wasn't able to find much of anything on that topic...though I got side-tracked in several discussion groups while looking. However, the book does have an interesting website that is all about answering clues and solving riddles to advance to the next screen. Opus Dei is a real organization, though I doubt it's leaders are interested in holding absolute power over the Vatican. And does anybody know why the Pope is called the Holy See?

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