Saturday, February 26, 2011

winter reading list

Kind of a mixed bag this quarter.

The Transformation Of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson - a story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in the 1860s, a sort of love story, or stories, among the human 'curiosities'...the fat lady, the strong man, the living skeleton, the bearded lady with a dark secret. A light fun little read.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife. I had enjoyed that one a lot so I thought I'd try another by her. This one is a ghost story with a twist intertwined with a mystery about twin sisters and the twin daughters of one of them. It was really good.

Circle Of Friends by Maeve Binchy - Another great Maeve book with her wonderful characters and intertwined story lines about a group of young students during their first year at University and how their lives change.

The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado - Jew versus Catholic versus Islamic terrorist centered around a secret excavation for the Ark of the Covenant. Lots of people died. It was OK.

The Moses Stone by James Becker - Another story of the search for the Ark in Israel. Well, not the Ark so much as the contents. A clay tablet is dropped by a man running for his life and is picked up by a tourist. People start being killed right away. Arabs, antiquities dealers and collectors, museum experts, a British cop, and the Mossad all in a race to recover the Silver Scroll and the stone tablets of the covenant. A better story than the previous one but lots of academic lectures as dialog about the history of the area and times.

The Magician's Tale by David Hunt - a strange little tale, it took me a while to get into it, it was my in-between-books book. Finally though I wanted to know how things turned out. It's a murder mystery, really several mysteries all rolled into one, the mystery of the murder, the mystery of a previous set of murders, the mystery around the murdered victim, the mystery of life on the sleazy side of life. It is set in San Francisco in the part of town where the skin trade flourishes, the hustlers and prostitutes and transgenders, the under-age boys and the chicken hawks. The main character is a female photojournalist who is color blind in that she sees only in black and white and gray and she sets about to discover the how and why of her friend's murder.

Secret Of The Seventh Son by Glenn Cooper - kind of an interesting concept, the seventh son of a seventh son is born back in the 700s, a sort of idiot savant who ends up in a monastery and starts scribing names and dates with birth or death next to it. Flash forward to the present and people start getting postcards with a date and a coffin drawn on them and the recipients all die on their appointed days. A serial killer is suspected and so the FBIs brightest and currently disgraced agent is put in charge. The story flashes back and forth through time connecting an archeological dig on the Isle of Wight and Area 51 in Nevada, the agent figures out who did it...sort of. The story takes a kind of silly turn at the end, in the past. And, uh oh, there's a sequel.

A Talent For War by Jack McDevitt - science fiction set several thousand years in the future when the human race has colonized other planets and 200 years after it's first war with another space faring species (the only other known extraterrestrial 'sentient' species). A man learns that his uncle is on a ship that fails to emerge from 'armstrong' space and that he is the designated heir, not only of his uncle's estate but also of the mysterious undertaking his uncle had been engaged in. Alex moves to his uncle's house and because the house computer has lost it's memory, he must piece together his uncle's activities and the puzzle which turns out to be a search for an artifact of the war. Consequently, most of the book is devoted to the search via combing through the historical records and correspondence of the war and related events eking out clues. The story is mostly concerned with the main 'hero' of the war and the discrepancies in the reports of his activities. I had a hard time keeping up with the details and the people and the story leading up to the end. Once the protagonist has solved the puzzle with the help of Chase, the pilot his uncle hired, the story really moves and I enjoyed that part of it. It's the first of four books but I'm not sure right now if I will read the next one.

Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - a murder mystery, one which I enjoyed a lot, but partly because I really liked the two protagonists...and FBI agent who would put McGiver to shame and a NY cop. Apparently, the authors have written several books pairing these two men. This one is a series of murders which appear to be very supernatural, a lot of interesting characters, and an ending that makes you want to read the next book, which is not a sequel so much as just the next case. (oops! See Dance Of Death below)

Polaris by Jack McDevitt - well, I know I said I wasn't sure if I was going to read the next book but it was too cold to go out to the library and this one was right here. This book takes place 12 years later and is from the viewpoint of Chase, Alex's (female) pilot and employee in his antiquities business. Another space mystery, this one centers on a ship found deserted 60 years previous. The last transmission from the ship was that they were getting ready to jump into hyperspace, returning home. A search and rescue mission found the ship still at it's last location but deserted with no clue as to what happened to the pilot and passengers. The artifacts from the ship are on display to mark the 60th anniversary of the disappearance and are destroyed by a bomb. It was enough to set Alex and Chase on the trail of what really happened. Good story, good characters. I enjoyed this one better than the first.

Seeker by Jack McDevitt - OK, still housebound. This is the third of the four books in this series. Same characters. After being asked to appraise a cup that turns out to be from a 9,000 year old space ship, Alex and Chase set out to find the Seeker and the lost colony it set out to establish. Again from Chase's point of view, I guess since she does all the legwork. Good story, good book.

Ape House by Sara Gruen - the author of Water For Elephants. I pretty much sat down and read this one straight through. The story centers around 6 bonobos, one of the lines of great apes, who live at and are the subjects of studies at a language lab. One day there is an explosion that severely injures the scientist who cares for them. The apes are spirited away in secrecy and disappear until they re-surface as the 'stars' of a reality TV show called Ape House where they are given a computer with which to 'order' whatever they want and have it delivered. Isabel, after recovering from her injuries sets out to rescue her 'family' of apes with the help of a reporter and some other colorful characters.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd – I'm not really sure how to describe this one by the author of The Secret Life Of Bees. The main character is a woman whose only child has gone off to college and she finds her life to be a pale shadow, a woman who subjugated herself to the role of mother and wife of a successful psychologist. She is awakened early one morning by a phone call from a family friend telling her she needs to return home and care for her estranged mother who has purposely cut off her index finger. Her family home is on a barrier island off the coast of one of the Carolinas which is also home to a monastery where she meets and falls in love with a monk. While caring for her mother, trying to find out the motive behind her mother's self-mutilation which is shrouded in mystery, she examines her own life. I enjoyed it but I think it contributed to my 'dis' mood.

Dance Of Death by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - I didn't realize until I finished this book and looked the authors up on the 'net that this is part 2 of a trilogy, part 1 being Brimstone (see above). There are 10 Pendergast novels (he's the FBI agent) with a new one to be published this year. I've actually read two of the ones that precede these but it was years ago. Anyway, this one picks up two months after the end of Brimstone with the NYC cop, D'Agosta, being handed the task of locating and stopping the diabolically evil brother of Agent Pendergast, who faked his death 20 years previous, before he commits the crime of the century and, oh yeah, he's only got a week to do it. Good story, good writing. I'll be on the lookout for the third and checking to see if the library has any more of their books.


  1. Are you kidding? All in one winter? Very impressive. I can barely get through that one book a month for the book club! Sounds like good reads there, and I haven't read one of them. I did read some great shorts, though, by Lydia Peelle (Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing).
    Thanks for sharing your list. :)

  2. I read the Mermaid's Chair a couple of months ago. And, yes, I enjoyed it, but it left me with quite a bit of disquiet. I think it's because she did a good job of getting me into the main character's head & holding me there - and I didn't want to be there LOL!

    I'll have to check out the FBI books - I like that type of book a lot. And the space ones too.

    I've been reading The Secret Garden for about two weeks. I'd never read it before & I'm enjoying it, but apparently I want to really take my time with it. I think it's because I remember someone not liking it so I'm afraid I'll get to the part they didn't like :)

  3. Thanks for the reading list. I have a stack I need to get through, but I can't help myself from ordering more.

  4. This is some list! I'm going to attempt one of two on your list, not the science fiction ones for now.

  5. Who writes something like the "Mermaid..." book. That is disturbing.

    Very eclectric list otherwise. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Girl, when do you find time to read? You do so much! Travel back and forth from city to country, grandmother 4 girls and make art and more art and more art. You walk through your garden, you take pics of the sunset AND you have time to read??

    Maybe you never sleep. Is that how you do it?

  7. I'll give Brimstone and Dance Of Death a try; they sound like my kind of murder mysteries. And I must read The Transformation Of Bartholomew Fortuno, your description has me so intrigued that I might have to cheat and put it at the top of my TBR pile.

    "the fat lady, the strong man, the living skeleton, the bearded lady with a dark secret." Who can resist that?

  8. I will be checking some of these out. I do all my "reading" through audio books while I am cooking and sewing and am always looking for new authors to explore.

  9. Ellen, just popping by, you asked me about the font on my blog. it is called calligraphetti...just go into design, advanced, over to fonts and then click on this one. let me know if you have any trouble. have a great day....thanks for sharing your list. I really need to read more.

  10. I'm just impressed that you read books, with proper pages and everything. I think I read trashy crime novels all winter and now feel the need to read some history books to look vaguely intellectual again.

  11. I am impressed! That is a lot of reading to do! Wow!!
    I only have two books done so far!! Well, almost three! Sigh!
    Finding time to read is always a problem...I need to make reading one of my priorities for sure.

  12. It really is an impressive list! I believe you will be even richer than you already are when you're done.

    Alas, I am the slowest reader in the kingdom, and the towers of books next to me attest to it. But I will never stop reading them . . . even if one day I get an eReader.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.