Category audio

2011: #27 – Pale Demon (Kim Harrison)

paledemonBook #27 was Pale Demon, the 9th book in Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series. The back of the book reads:

Condemned and shunned for black magic, Rachel Morgan has three days to get to the annual witches’ conference and clear her name, or be trapped in the demonic ever-after . . . forever after.

But a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car going across the country? Talk about a recipe for certain disaster, even without being the targets for assassination.

For after centuries of torment, a fearsome demon walks in the sunlight—freed at last to slay the innocent and devour their souls. But his ultimate goal is Rachel Morgan, and in the fight for survival that follows, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.

What do you do when you’re 8 books into a series and you need to shake up the character dynamics a bit?

You take all of your main characters and shove them into a Buick and make them drive cross-country in three days.

Harrison could have written an entire book just about that road trip. Friendships and alliances are tested, and new alliances are formed. Along the way they’re challenged by elves, pixies, and one particularly nasty demon. But some of the most interesting things happen once they reach their destination.

Not only are the interpersonal dynamics in flux, but Rachel also changes a lot. She’s forced to look very hard at herself and make some decisions, once and for all, about what it means to be a white witch or a black witch. And the result of it all could be a sea change for the series

I am still in love with this series. I’ve enjoyed how Rachel has grown and matured, even if she still slips into old behaviors from time to time. Trent is a particularly intriguing character in this book, though I did guess his big secret almost immediately. He could have easily been written off as bit player early in the series, but instead he’s  more important than ever. The one big criticism I do have has to do with his quest. I understand that the point of view the book is written in doesn’t allow us to go on the quest with Trent without Rachel going along, but there were still things about it that bugged me. Like, how in the heck did they get back to San Francisco in that amount of time? Ah well.

Harrison has left us at a very interesting crossroads in The Hollows, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Book Review: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
Literary Escapism » Pale Demon by K. Harrison
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison : Book Review
ARC Review: Pale Demon – Kim Harrison | Wicked Lil Pixie Reviews
A Book Blogger’s Diary: Review – Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Audiobook length: 17 hrs 54 min | Approximate word count: 112,000 (’11 total: 2,587,602)

2010: Rest in Pieces (Rita Mae Brown)
2009: Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead)
2008: Ice Trap (Kitty Sewell)
2007: The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
2006: Betrayal in Death (J.D. Robb)
2005: Open Season (Linda Howard)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; ARC Reading Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011; Four Month Challenge – Part 6;

2011: #22 – The Likeness (Tana French)

likenessBook #22 was The Likeness by Tana French, the second book in her Dublin Murder Squad series.  The back of the book reads:

The haunting follow up to the Edgar Award-winning debut In the Woods

Tana French astonished critics and readers alike with her mesmerizing debut novel, In the Woods. Now both French and Detective Cassie Maddox return to unravel a case even more sinister and enigmatic than the first. Six months after the events of In the Woods, an urgent telephone call beckons Cassie to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who is this girl? A disturbing tale of shifting identities, The Likeness firmly establishes Tana French as an important voice in suspense fiction.

When I first found out that The Likeness would feature Cassie as the main character, I admit I was a bit disappointed.  "But I don’t care about Cassie!" I whined. "I want to know what happens with Rob!" It took no more than a chapter for me to realize how wrong I was.

The premise of the novel is unusual but intriguing.  What are the chances that a girl will turn up dead that not only looks like she could be your sister, but is using an identity that you made up? Cassie is originally resistant to the idea that she take Lexie’s place and step into her life in order to find out who her killer was, but it doesn’t take much to convince her.  She’s just been biding her time in Domestic Violence since the end of In the Woods, and the spice has been sucked from her life. The trick is, pretending to be someone who existed, someone with friends and responsibilities and a life, is a whole lot different than pretending to be someone entirely new.

When I think about it, I haven’t read many books that feature undercover work, and that’s a shame.  I thought it was exhilarating, not only for Cassie but for the reader.  It raises the suspense level like nothing else, because the most innocuous situation could become a disaster with just one wrong word. Her housemates are wonderfully written, almost maddening in their peculiarities, and you know right away that there is something beneath the surface that you’re not seeing.  The only question is, how serious is it?

There are a lot of ghosts in this story.  Lexie haunts not only Cassie, but her housemates, even though they think she’s still alive. There’s the ghost of the past haunting a village that’s trying to deal with the animosity it feels towards those that once lorded over them. And even Rob is a ghost. He’s not dead, but he might as well be as far as Cassie is concerned.  The events of In the Woods continue to hang over her like a storm cloud. But I’d rather it be that way than for her to pretend like the previous events never occurred.

I do have to confess that at least some of my love for this book is due to the stellar audiobook production. Heather O’Neill’s narration could not be more perfect. Her gentle Irish brogue pulls you along like a song you can’t stop yourself from singing. She even made the distinction between country and city accents obvious to these untrained ears. I wish the next book wasn’t about Frank!

I’m pretty stingy with my 5-star ratings nowadays, but this deserves nothing less.

Other reviews:

#304 ~ The Likeness :
Tana French – The Likeness « Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Book Review: The Likeness by Tana French « The Book Whisperer
Review of “The Likeness” by Tana French « Rhapsody in Books Weblog
The Likeness by Tana French « Book Addiction

Audiobook length: 22 hrs 30 min | Approximate word count: 139,800 (’11 total: 2,074,352)

2010: The Seventh Commandment (Lawrence Sanders)
2009: Dead to the World (Charlaine Harris)
2008: Living Dead in Dallas (Charlaine Harris)
2007: A Death in Belmont (Sebastian Junger)
2006: A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby)
2005: The Bastard (John Jakes)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011; Four Month Challenge – Part 6

2011: #17 – Black Magic Sanction (Kim Harrison)

blackmagic Book #17 was Black Magic Sanction, the eighth book in Kim Harrison’s wonderful Rachel Morgan series. The back of the book reads:

Rachel Morgan has fought and hunted vampires, werewolves, banshees, demons, and other supernatural dangers as both witch and bounty hunter—and lived to tell the tale. But she’s never faced off against her own kind . . . until now.

Denounced and shunned for dealing with demons and black magic, her best hope is life imprisonment—her worst, a forced lobotomy and genetic slavery. Only her enemies are strong enough to help her win her freedom. But trust comes hard when it hinges on the unscrupulous tycoon Trent Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and a lowlife ex-boyfriend-turned-thief.

There are few series that have captured me the way this one has. I’ve been thinking about this review for over a week, and I’m afraid the only way I can explain is in fractured points.

I love that Harrison throws us directly into the action.  We’re mere pages into the book when things start to go south for Rachel. This isn’t one of those series you can just jump into at any point and understand.  And that’s perfectly alright.

If you *do* jump in without reading the books before, Harrison is adept at weaving in the relevant back story without it feeling ham-fisted, forced, or completely out of place. It’s also a nice reminder for when there’s a year or more between the reading of volumes.

I love that Rachel is far from perfect.  She repeats her mistakes. She has questionable taste in men (though I happen to like Pierce). She’s protective of others to a fault. She has irrational attachments. She’ll push forward with plans she should know won’t work. She sometimes trusts in the wrong people. And she has an infuriating stubborn streak, not to mention her inability to see in shades of gray instead of black and white. Even though she sees that white magic can be just as dangerous as black, she still treats black magic (and those that practice it) as the scum on the bottom of her shoe. But a lot of the enjoyment of this series is watching what she does and then yelling at her for it. I wouldn’t have her any other way.

I love Trent Kalamack.  Yes, the ruthless, conniving elf is one of my favorite characters, even more than Ivy. His relationship with Rachel has many levels, and I’m not sure either of them really understand it. But he won’t rest easy until she’s under his thumb.

I’ve even developed a certain amount of respect for the demon Al.

Most of all, I love Rachel’s fight. Even when she’s misguided and wrong, tired and hungry, hurt and lost, she never stops fighting.

A bonus is Marguerite Gavin’s incredible narration on the audiobook.  She will always be the voice of Rachel for me.

Other reviews:

Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison : Book Review
Literary Escapism » Black Magic Sanction by K. Harrison Review – "Black Magic Sanction" by Kim Harrison
Black Magic Sanction – The Good, The Bad and The Unread
Bitten by Books » Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

Audiobook length: 19hrs 6min | Approximate word count: 144,000 (’11 total: 1,612,552)

2010: Outrageous (Christina Dodd)
2009: Kiss of the Night (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2008: Relic (Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child)
2007: At Bertram’s Hotel (Agatha Christie)
2006: Cerulean Sins (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: The Hearing (John Lescroart)

Used in these Challenges: Four Month Challenge – Part 5; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011; What’s in a Name 4 Challenge;

2011: #15 – The Silent Hour (Michael Koryta)

silenthour Book #15 was The Silent Hour, the fourth book in Michael Koryta’s Lincoln Perry series. The back of the book reads:

Fresh off the critical acclaim of his Los Angeles Times Book Prize–nominated Envy the Night, Michael Koryta returns with a blistering new installment in the Lincoln Perry series.

Whisper Ridge
Home to Dreams
October 2, 1992–April 12, 1996

So reads the strange epitaph carved beside the door of the home called Whisper Ridge, a multimillion-dollar piece of architectural majesty that once housed the beginnings of a unique program for paroled murderers. The program never got off the ground, however, despite how passionate a woman named Alexandra Cantrell, daughter of a notorious Mafia don, and her husband, Joshua, had been about it. Still uninhabited twelve years later, the house remains as a strange monument to dangerous secrets, falling into ruin as the forest grows up around it.

While the couple’s abrupt exit was unusual, it was also not regarded as suspicious—until the bones of Alexandra’s husband are found buried in the woods.

Private investigator Lincoln Perry isn’t thrilled about the situation, or his client: Parker Harrison served fifteen years for murder but claims Alexandra’s intervention saved his life. Now he wants to find her—and he’s not the only one.

What seems at first like the simplest of jobs proves to be an undertaking that will challenge both Perry’s abilities as a detective and his commitment to that calling. With a new partner to train and a case that leads straight to the heart of the Cleveland organized crime scene, Perry finds himself glancing over his shoulder at every turn, pushing the bounds of safety even as he backs away.

Once again Michael Koryta has crafted an intricate, lightning-paced thriller, ratcheting up the tension as he explores just how dangerous the offer of a second chance can be. The latest installment in the Lincoln Perry series, which the Chicago Tribune calls “addictively readable,” marks another step forward in his incredible career.

This was my first glimpse of Koryta’s non-supernatural side, and you’ll have to color me impressed. Lincoln Perry has reached the point in his career that I think every good hard-boiled detective series explores: the point where they have to ask themselves, "Is this still worth it?" Tortured by memories of his partner and girlfriend in mortal danger, Lincoln starts taking more risk on himself, a decision that rarely leads to happy endings. Throughout the story, you’re never quite sure if the mystery is wrapped up in the mob, in drugs, or in something altogether different. All you know for sure is that things are more dangerous than Lincoln expected. It’s never just a simple missing persons case.

One thing in particular that I appreciated about Koryta’s writing is that his characters aren’t superheroes. When someone is injured, it affects not only their body but their mind. There’s no getting shot three times and still miraculously chasing down the bad guy here. 

I haven’t read the other three books in the series, but I had no problem jumping in and connected with Lincoln. He’s everything we look for in a hard-boiled detective. Hard on the outside, soft and gooey within.

Audiobook length: 11 hrs 40 min | Approximate word count: 84,000 (’11 total: 1,387,052)

2010: Heat Wave (Richard Castle)
2009: College Girl (Patricia Weitz)
2008: The Paid Companion (Amanda Quick)
2007: Dark Side of the Moon (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2006: Burnt Offerings (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: F is for Fugitive (Sue Grafton)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2011: #4 – Bite Me (Christopher Moore)

biteme Book #4 was Bite Me, the third and final book in the Love Story Trilogy by Christopher Moore.  The back of the book reads:

"The city of San Francisco is being stalked by a huge shaved vampyre cat named Chet, and only I, Abby Normal, emergency backup mistress of the Greater Bay Area night, and my manga-haired love monkey, Foo Dog, stand between the ravenous monster and a bloody massacre of the general public."

Whoa. And this is a love story? Yup. ‘Cept there’s no whining. See, while some lovers were born to run, Jody and Tommy were born to bite. Well, reborn, that is, now that they’re vampires. Good thing theirs is an undying love, since their Goth Girl Friday, Abby Normal, imprisoned them in a bronze statue.

Abby wants to be a bloodsucking fiend, too, but right now she’s really busy with other stuff, like breaking in a pair of red vinyl thigh-high Skankenstein® platform boots and wrangling her Ph.D.-candidate boyfriend, Steve (the love monkey). And then there’s that vampire cat Chet, who’s getting bigger and smarter—and thirstier—by the minute. Abby thought she and Steve could handle the kitty cat on their own, mais non . . .

Before you can say "OMG! WTF?" Tommy and Jody are sprung from captivity, and join forces with Abby, Steve, the frozen-turkey-bowling Safeway crew, the Emperor of San Francisco and his trusty dogs Lazarus and Bummer, Abby’s gay Goth friend Jared, and SF’s finest Cavuto and Rivera to hunt big cat and save the city. And that’s when the fun really begins.

Moore has wrapped up his trilogy in fine fashion.  As before, the star here really is Abby Normal, whose voice cuts through everything else.  Especially entertaining is her quest to become "Nosferatu" — much more entertaining than chasing herds of vampyre cats around the city. I also enjoyed the mysterious orange-socked samurai. Not quite as entertaining was anything that had to do with Cavuto, Rivera, or the Animals. But, I can sit through periods of slow stuff as long as I know there’s more of Abby’s narration around the corner.

And with that, I have completed the oeuvre of Christopher Moore. At least, until Sacré Bleu is published.

Other reviews:

BookNAround: Review: Bite Me by Christopher Moore
What Cheesy Reads: #97 Bite Me by Christopher Moore

Audiobook length: 8 hrs 4 min | Approx. word count: 80,000 (’11 total: 357,600)

2010: Night Fire (Catherine Coulter)
2009: Kopek the Destroyer (Phil Owens)
2008: The Ice Queen (Alice Hoffman)
2007: Agnes of God (Leonore Fleisher)
2006: Postmortem (Patricia Cornwell)
2005: The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2011: #2 – Star Island (Carl Hiaasen)

starisland Book #2 was Star Island by Carl Hiaasen.  The back of the book reads:

Meet twenty-two-year-old Cherry Pye (née Cheryl Bunterman), a pop star since she was fourteen—and about to attempt a comeback from her latest drug-and-alcohol disaster.

Now meet Cherry again: in the person of her “undercover stunt double,” Ann DeLusia. Ann portrays Cherry whenever the singer is too “indisposed”—meaning wasted—to go out in public. And it is Ann-mistaken-for-Cherry who is kidnapped from a South Beach hotel by obsessed paparazzo Bang Abbott.

Now the challenge for Cherry’s handlers (über–stage mother; horndog record producer; nipped, tucked, and Botoxed twin publicists; weed whacker–wielding bodyguard) is to rescue Ann while keeping her existence a secret from Cherry’s public—and from Cherry herself.

The situation is more complicated than they know. Ann has had a bewitching encounter with Skink—the unhinged former governor of Florida living wild in a mangrove swamp—and now he’s heading for Miami to find her . . .

Will Bang Abbott achieve his fantasy of a lucrative private photo session with Cherry Pye? Will Cherry sober up in time to lip-synch her way through her concert tour? Will Skink track down Ann DeLusia before Cherry’s motley posse does?

All will be revealed in this hilarious spin on life in the celebrity fast lane.

If you love Carl Hiaasen, there’s no surprises here.  It’s your usual mix of wacky characters put into a wacky situation that more often than not, is the result of their own despicable actions.  In the midst of all the less-than-savory characters is your beacon of shining hope: Ann DeLusia. All Ann wants is to be an actress, but the novelty of pretending to be Cherry Pye is getting old. She’s already trying to figure out how to extract herself from her job when she’s mistakenly nabbed by Bang Abbot, a paparazzo who becomes obsessed with Cherry after a brief, but intimate, encounter with the inebriated starlet. He has dreams of cementing Cherry’s legacy with a Marilyn Monroe-esque photo collection, and it turns out that Ann is his ticket in.

While the story is mostly solid, there were some weak points.  I really couldn’t muster up a care for the Jackie Sebago/real-estate scam storyline, which really just seemed like a reason to bring Detective Reilly into it.  I also thought the ending was weak.  After Ann is rescued (sort of) and the scheming to keep her quiet begins, I really expected her to go out with a bit more of a bang.  The final confrontation in the nightclub is pretty bleh.

But, Hiaasen is still one of my go-to authors for humor and adventure.  His characters are over-the-top without being fantastical, and you usually can find some sort of message amidst the chaos. This was well worth the listen.

Audiobook length: 11 hrs 30 min | Approx. word count: 105,600 (’11 total: 209,600)

2010: Shogun (James Clavell)
2009: Skin Tight (Carl Hiaasen)
2008: The Indictment (Barry Reed)
2007: True Colors (Doris Mortman)
2006: Cyclops (Clive Cussler)
2005: Naked in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2011; 2011 Audiobook Challenge; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2010: #107 – You Suck (Christopher Moore)

yousuckBook #107 was You Suck, the second in Christopher Moore’s Love Story trilogy.  The back of the book reads:

Being undead sucks. Literally.

Just ask C. Thomas Flood. Waking up after a fantastic night unlike anything he’s ever experienced, he discovers that his girlfriend, Jody, is a vampire. And surprise! Now he’s one, too. For some couples, the whole biting-and-blood thing would have been a deal breaker. But Tommy and Jody are in love, and they vow to work through their issues.

But word has it that the vampire who initially nibbled on Jody wasn’t supposed to be recruiting. Even worse, Tommy’s erstwhile turkey-bowling pals are out to get him, at the urging of a blue-dyed Las Vegas call girl named (duh) Blue.

And that really sucks.

This was pretty entertaining, though it has its ups and downs.  The "up" was following Tommy in his first days of being a vampire, and how he and Jody figure out just what the implications of certain things are — especially since Jody is such a new vampire herself. The "down" was the Blue storyline. It just felt like a way to keep Tommy’s old coworkers in the picture. Really, the best parts of the book were the chapters in the voice of Abby Normal, Tommy and Jody’s 16-year-old goth minion. Just think of things a teenage goth would say, and then put them in the vernacular of a valley girl. Definitely the most entertaining voice in the book. The ending is a little weak, in an "oops, time to wrap everything up!" sort of way, but it’s not a big deal. These are probably the best of Moore’s books, so be prepared to laugh and laugh often.

Other reviews:

Christopher Moore: You Suck – Book Review
BookNAround: Review: You Suck by Christopher Moore
Review: You Suck by Christopher Moore » Life … With Books
Sassymonkey Reads » You Suck
You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore « In the Shadow of Mt. TBR

Audiobook length: 7hrs 43min | Approximate word count: 88,000

2009: The Fury (Jason Pinter)
2008: The Charlemagne Pursuit (Steve Berry)
2007: Dead Certain (Mariah Stewart)
2006: Chase (Dean Koontz)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2nd Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2011;

2010: #104 – At Home (Bill Bryson)

athome Book #104 was At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.  The back of the book reads:

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”

Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.

This is one of those books that fills all the empty spaces in my brain that used to hold phone numbers. Some parts are more dry than others, but I learned a lot of things.  I think there’s a little bit of something here for everyone.  If furniture and clothing aren’t your thing, maybe architecture and gardens are. Did you know that the color of your wallpaper used to be a sign of how well-off you were?  And that some of those colors could then make you sick? Or why Chippendale furniture is so special? Or why brick has gone in and out of fashion as a building material? And why do we eat the meals we do at the time of day we eat them? Maybe I’m a nerd, but I find a lot of this stuff is really interesting. This isn’t as humorous as some of Bryson’s other books, but you still know it’s him.

Other reviews:

A Bookworm’s World: At HomeBill Bryson – Review and Giveaway
BookSpin: Guest Review – At Home by Bill Bryson reviewed by KC Martin
Bill BrysonAt Home « Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Audiobook length: 16 hrs 38 min | Approximate word count: 153,600

2009: Hunter’s Moon (C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp)
2008: Skipping Christmas (John Grisham)
2007: Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)
2006: A Stroke of Midnight (Laurell K. Hamilton)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2011;

2010: #97 – Don't Look Down (Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer)

dontlookdown Book #97 was Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.  The back of the book reads:

SHE is a director of dog food commercials who’s just been recruited to finish a four-day movie shoot. But as soon as Lucy Armstrong arrives on set, she discovers that the staff is in chaos, the make-up artist is suicidal, and the stunt director just happens to be her ex-husband. That, and the temperamental lead actor has just acquired as an advisor a Green Beret who has the aggravating habit of always being right.

HE thought that hiring on as a military consultant for a movie star was a to-die-for deal: easy work, easy money, easier starlets. But his first day on the job, Captain J.T. Wilder ends up babysitting a bumbling comedian, dodging low-flying helicopters, and trying to find out who’s taking "shooting a movie" much too literally.

I have mixed feelings about this.  First, the audio production I listened to was really odd, with the different male/female points of view and male/female dialog done by different narrators (male for male, female for female, of course).  It was a little jarring at times, and I think it contributed to the outrageousness of the story. The plot is weak and unnecessarily confusing (I’m still not entirely certain what was going on in the end), and characters are so over-the-top they border on cartoonish.  I guess this could be good or bad, depending on your point of view. I’d read more from Crusie, but I might shy away from this particular combination of authors in the future.

Other reviews:

REVIEW: Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer | Dear Author
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Audiobook length: 11 hrs 51 min | Approximate word count: 96,000

2009: Huge (James W. Fuerst)
2008: The Book of Three (Lloyd Alexander)
2007: Three Act Tragedy (Agatha Christie)
2006: The Kill Artist (Daniel Silva)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2nd Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; Four Month Challenge – Part 5; Countdown Challenge 2011;

2010: #92 – Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (Vincent Lam)

bloodletting Book #92 was Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam.  The back of the book reads:

Provocative, heartbreaking, and darkly humorous, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures introduces readers to a masterful new voice in fiction. A practicing ER physician, Vincent Lam delivers a precise and intimate portrait of the medical profession in his fiction debut. These twelve interwoven stories follow a group of young doctors as they move from the challenges of medical school to the intense world of emergency rooms, evacuation missions, and terrifying new viruses. Winner of the prestigious Giller Prize, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures marks the arrival of a deeply humane and preternaturally gifted writer.

Fitz, Ming, Chen, and Sri are the four ambitious protagonists of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. They fall in love as they study for their exams, face moral dilemmas as they split open cadavers, confront police who rough up their patients, and treat schizophrenics with pathologies similar to their own. In one harrowing story set amidst the 2003 SARS crisis, which the author witnessed firsthand, two of these doctors suddenly become the patients.

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures invites us into a world where the ordinary becomes the critical in a matter of seconds. A formidable debut, it is a profound and unforgettable depiction of today’s doctors, patients, and hospitals.

I thought this was really interesting.  It’s more a collection of short stories than a novel, and each story focuses on a different member of the core group of doctors. Despite being in medical school together, they don’t always travel in the same circles.  But, practicing in the same city, their paths cross from time to time, often in very interesting ways. There’s love and death, success and failure.

I listened to the book on audio, and was amused by the production. The narrator portrayed each character with their expected accent, and it walked the line between useful and overdone.  I’m still not quite sure what to think of it.  I almost felt like I should be offended on someone else’s behalf. Despite that, I enjoyed the listen.

Audiobook length: 8hrs 22min | Approximate word count: 90,500

2009: The Big Steal (Emyl Jenkins)
2008: Degree of Guilt (Richard North Patterson)
2007: When the Bough Breaks (Jonathan Kellerman)
2006: 4th of July (James Patterson)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #89 – Black Hills (Nora Roberts)

blackhillsBook #89 was Black Hills by Nora Roberts.  The back of the book reads:

Lil Chance fell in love with Cooper Sullivan pretty much the first time she saw him, an awkward teenager staying with his grandparents on their cattle ranch in Montana while his parents went through a messy divorce. They spent every summer together, trekking in the Black Hills, tracking cougar and falling in love. Then Cooper broke her heart and moved back to New York City. Ten years later and Cooper has given up his job in the police force to run the ranch after his grandfather is injured in a fall. Lil has stayed true to her love of cougars and of the Black Hills and opened an animal sanctuary. She has been targeted by animal rights campaigners in the past but this time someone seems intent on murder. As hikers are killed, animals mutilated and a family member goes missing, Lil knows that she has no choice but to turn to Cooper for help in her fight for survival …

This was alright, but not the best Nora Roberts I’ve read.  Lil holds on to her broken heart a little too long to be truly likable.  I wanted to tell her to just suck it up and get on with things, either forgive Coop or get off the pot.  So to speak. The setting is good, and as always, Roberts does a great job of making a place come alive.  I also liked the concept of the animal sanctuary.  It’s nice to have a character with a job that’s a little out of the norm.  We read about so many cops, investigators, lawyers, journalists, and ranchers.  The formula here is a little different — we find out "whodunit" quite early on in the story — and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  The bad guy’s reasons for doing what he’s doing seem a little forced, and I’m not sure it all holds together in the end.  Still, Roberts manages to give us at least a few characters we care about, and an interesting climax.

Other reviews:

REVIEW: Black Hills by Nora Roberts | Dear Author

Audiobook length: 16hrs 51min | Approximate word count: 116,000

2009: The Memory Collector (Meg Gardiner)
2008: Nefertiti (Michelle Moran)
2007: The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
2006: Dangerous Tides (Christine Feehan)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #83 – Baltimore Blues (Laura Lippman)

baltimoreblues Book #83 was Baltimore Blues, the first book in Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series.  The back of the book reads:

Until her paper, the BALTIMORE STAR, crashed and burned, Tess Monaghan was a damn good reporter who knew her hometown intimately–from historic Fort McHenry to the crumbling projects of Cherry Hill. Now gainfully unemployed at twenty-nine, she’s willing to take any freelance job to pay the rent–including a bit of unorthodox snooping for her rowing buddy, Darryl "Rock" Paxton.

In a city where someone is murdered almost everyday, attorney Michael Abramowitz’s death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer’s notoriety–and his noontime trysts with Rock’s fiancée–make the case front page news…and points to Rock as the likely murderer. But trying to prove her friend’s innocence could prove costly to Tess–and add her name to that infamous ever-growing list.

This is a series I’m glad I started.  Tess is a little bit lost in her life, seemingly content to get by working here and there and rowing every morning. She finally finds her purpose again when her rowing friend, Rock, asks her to follow his fiancée. This is one of those mysteries that starts out looking like it will go in one direction, but ends up somewhere completely different.  We also find out that Lippman isn’t an author who’s afraid to make some hard decisions. The setting adds a little bit of extra charm for me personally, because my husband is from the Baltimore area and we go there often. I listened to it on audio, and narrator Deborah Hazlett did a great job of illustrating the native Baltimore accent without being cartoonish about it. I can’t believe this is my first Laura Lippman book! She writes right up my alley.

Other reviews:

S. Krishna’s Books: Book Review: Baltimore Blues – Laura Lippman
Beth Fish Reads: Review: Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Audiobook length: 9 hrs 55 min | Word count: 91,483

2009: Suzanna’s Surrender (Nora Roberts)
2008: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
2007: The Legacy (Steven Frey)
2006: The Eighth Commandment (Lawrence Sanders)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; 1st in a Series Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #80 – Stalking Susan (Julie Kramer)

susan Book #80 was Stalking Susan, the first book in Julie Kramer’s Riley Spartz series.  The back of the book reads:

Inside the desperate world of TV news, a reporter discovers a serial killer is targeting women named Susan.

Riley Spartz is recovering from a heartbreaking, headline-making catastrophe of her own when a Minneapolis police source drops two homicide files in her lap. Both cold cases involve women named Susan strangled on the same day, one year apart. Riley sees a pattern between those murders and others pulled from old death records. As the deadly anniversary approaches, she stages a bold on-air stunt to draw the killer out and uncover a motive that will leave readers breathless.

This is one of my favorite new series.  Julie Kramer has hit the mark with a kicky main character, solid supporting cast, and suspenseful mystery. Not necessarily suspenseful in the sense that the bad guy is a surprise, but suspenseful in the sense that there are unexpected twists and turns along the way. I enjoyed her camaraderie with ex-policeman Garnett, but was a little disappointed that their relationship took the predictable "I like you, don’t you like me too?" turn. I liked the behind-the-scenes look into TV news and all its politics and back-stabbing, and thought it gave us a fresh perspective on the usual "amateur detective" story. I listened to this on audio, and thought the narrator, Bernadette Dunne, did a great job.  I often have problems listening to books with female narrators (it seems there’s a much higher chance of me finding their voices grating), but no such problems here.  I’ve already put the next two books in the series on my wish list.

Other reviews:

My Favourite Books: Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer

Audiobook length: 9 hrs 17 min | Approximate word count: 108,000

2009: Spook (Mary Roach)
2008: Fat Tuesday (Sandra Brown)
2007: The Killing Game (Iris Johansen)
2006: Strip Tease (Carl Hiaasen)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 1st in a Series Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010;

2010: #74 – Smoke Screen (Sandra Brown)

smokescreen Book #74 was Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown. The back of the book reads:

When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston PD, she remembers nothing of how she got there…or of how Jay wound up dead.

Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston’s police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety.

Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay’s lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley’s world was shattered.

Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he’d dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers — and ruin his — had festered, but he was helpless to set things right.

That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess’s shocking death and Britt Shelley’s claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay’s death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay’s last sexual conquest, might be his only chance to get personal vindication — and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire.

But there are powerful men who don’t want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they’re not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.

Friends are exposed as foes, heroes take on the taint of criminals, and no one can be trusted completely. A tale about audacious corruption — and those with the courage to expose it — Smoke Screen is Sandra Brown’s most searing and intense novel yet.

Another pretty good one from Sandra Brown, though I made the mistake of reading this too closely to the poorly done Standoff, which also featured a reporter and the man she (inadvertently?) harmed. There’s generally not a lot to be surprised about in these sorts of books — you know the male and female leads (Raley and Britt, in this case) are going to eventually join together both for their crusade and for their libidos — but I still enjoy the journey we’re taken on.  Though I had some suspicions about what was really going on, I was still surprised by what exactly happened and who exactly was in charge. There was just one detail that bugged me. At one point, Britt decides to waylay the men who are chasing them by removing the valve covers from their tires, which then go flat as soon as the men try to go anywhere.  Maybe tires were made differently (ahem) two (ahem) years ago, but I recently (inadvertently) drove for a few months with no valve cover on one of my tires, and it did not go flat. That seems like one of those details that a veteran writer and her editor should have picked up on.  Sloppy!

Other reviews:


Audiobook length: 14 hrs 16 min | Approximate word count: 140,000

2009: Fluke (Christopher Moore)
2008: The Face of a Stranger (Anne Perry)
2007: Love and War (John Jakes)
2006: Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
2005: Hornet Flight (Ken Follett)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #70 – Fool (Christopher Moore)

fool Book #70 was Fool by Christopher Moore.  The back of the book reads:

Verily speaks Christopher Moore, much-beloved scrivener and peerless literary jester, who hath writteneth much that is of grand wit and belly-busting mirth, including such laureled bestsellers of the Times of Olde Newe Yorke as Lamb, A Dirty Job, and You Suck: A Love Story. Now he takes on no less than the legendary Bard himself (with the utmost humility and respect) in a twisted and insanely funny tale of a moronic monarch and his deceitful daughters—a rousing story of plots, subplots, counterplots, betrayals, war, revenge, bared bosoms, unbridled lust . . . and a ghost (there’s always a bloody ghost), as seen through the eyes of a man wearing a codpiece and bells on his head.

Fool is Christopher Moore’s reworking of Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear, through the eyes of the King’s fool, Pocket. Pocket is your usual Moore narrator — more than slightly absurd and utterly charming.  The story itself is chocked full of his trademark vulgarity and bawdy humor, with a bit of an antiquated twist. I thought it was a pretty decent listen, one of Moore’s better stories, and some of his phrases have made it into our real-life conversations. If there’s one thing you can always count on Moore for, it’s a hearty laugh.

Other reviews:

Bookopolis: Book Review: Fool by Christopher Moore
Fool « reading comes from writing

Audiobook length: 8hrs 41min | Approximate word count: 96,800

2009: Night Play (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2008: Wed to a Stranger? (Jule McBride)
2007: A Complicated Kindness (Miriam Toews)
2006: Killing Floor (Lee Child)
2005: Sudden Prey (John Sandford)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge;

2010: #62 – Undertow (Sydney Bauer)

undertow Book #62 was Undertow by Sydney Bauer.  The back of the book reads:

A girl is dead…and not just any girl.

Christina Haynes is the teenage daughter of a popular US Senator, and when she drowns moments after a conversation at sea with her best friend’s mother, Boston Lawyer David Cavanaugh faces his toughest case to date.

What appears to be a straightforward, tragic accident in the waters off Cape Ann Massachusetts, turns into something else entirely as Rayna Martin, a respected African-American attorney, is charged with her murder.

With the victim’s father one of the most powerful politicians in the country and the Assistant District Attorney prepared to put his personal ambition ahead of legal justice, David soon discovers that his most dangerous battle is taking place outside the court room.

Lies, deception, blackmail, threats…and finally the precision of an assassin’s bullet combine to create a shocking finale in this exciting debut from Australian author Sydney Bauer.

I was pleasantly surprised by this, since I had never heard of the author before. Bauer has given us a story of hatred and bigotry gone seriously awry, but with a twist. It’s not often you hear a story of a black person being accused of a hate crime, especially a well-respected female lawyer who’s also a single mom. Overall, the story moves well and is mostly believable, but the climax of the trial was way way over the top. The theatrics employed would never be allowed in a real courtroom, and the judge grew very liberal about what was and wasn’t relevant, seemingly to satisfy his own curiosity. On the plus side, I didn’t expect the final twist, yet it fit perfectly into the story. I was able to pick up that the author is not American (she’s Australian); a few phrases that aren’t used here, like "in hospital", snuck through.

I do have one teensy complaint about the audio production.  It is absolutely rife with stereotypically bad Boston accents. Only select characters had the accent, regardless of if they’ve lived in Boston their whole life or not.  Could’ve been toned down a bit.

Audiobook length: 15 hrs 54 min | Approximate word count: 112,000

2009: Doomed Queens (Kris Waldherr)
2008: The Plot Against America (Philip Roth)
2007: The Harlequin (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2006: M is for Malice (Sue Grafton)
2005: Blood Test (Jonathan Kellerman)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; New Author Challenge; Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge;

2010: #49 – The Beach House (Jane Green)

beachhouse Book #49 was The Beach House by Jane Green.  The back of the book reads:

Nan Powell is a free-spirited, sixty-five-year-old widow who’s not above skinny-dipping in her neighbors’ pools when they’re away and who dearly loves her Nantucket home. But when she discovers that the money she thought would last forever is dwindling, she realizes she must make drastic changes to save her beloved house. So Nan takes out an ad: Rooms to rent for the summer in a beautiful old Nantucket home with water views and direct access to the beach.

Slowly people start moving in to the house, filling it with noise, laughter, and with tears. As the house comes alive again, Nan finds her family and friends expanding. Her son comes home for the summer, and then an unexpected visitor turns all their lives upside down. As she did so masterfully in her New York Times bestseller Second Chance, Jane Green once again proves herself one of the preeminent writers of contemporary women’s fiction.

When we first meet Nan Powell, she is wandering naked around her neighbor’s back yard and sampling their kitchen garden after a quick skinny dip in their pool.  They’re not home, of course.  So, needless to say, Nan is a little eccentric, and she is also well-practiced in the art of denial. She’s been ignoring the fact that she’s running out of money for as long as she can, and now she has to do something about it.  So she decides to rent out rooms in her much-desired house on Nantucket. What follows is a story of people who are looking for some healing in their lives, and finding it in a peaceful summer on a peaceful island. Unfortunately, I felt that the story fell a little short on emotional punch.  There are some conflicts that could have led to some really interesting places, but the author chose not to take the story in that direction. The "unexpected visitor" story arc fell completely flat. It felt a little like things had to be wrapped up quickly, so there wasn’t time to make anything messy.  I still liked the story and enjoyed listening to it, but I think it could have been taken further. 

Other reviews:

S. Krishna’s Books: The Beach HouseJane Green
Book Review: The Beach House by Jane Green
Michele – only one ‘L': Review: The Beach House by Jane Green
Booking Mama: Review: The Beach House
The Beach House Review << Belle of the Books

Audiobook length: 11 hrs 14 min | Approximate word count: 93,775

2009: Dead Girls Are Easy (Terri Garey)
2008: The Whole Truth (David Baldacci)
2007: Holiday in Death (J.D. Robb)
2006: All That Remains (Patricia Cornwell)
2005: I’ll Be Seeing You (Mary Higgins Clark)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Chick Lit Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010;

2010: #46 – A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick)

reliablewife Book #46 was A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.  The back of the book reads:

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for "a reliable wife." She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman." She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.

What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.

Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder.

     "It was a story of a son who felt his one true birthright was to kill his father. It was the story of a father who could not undo a single gesture of his life, no matter the sympathies of his heart. It was a story of poison, poison that causes you to weep in your sleep, that comes to you first as a taste of ecstasy. It was a story of people who don’t choose life over death until it’s too late to know the difference, people whose goodness is forgotten, left behind like a child’s toy in a dusty playroom, people who see many things and remember only a handful of them and learn from even fewer, people who hurt themselves, who wreck their own lives and then go on to wreck the lives of those around them, who cannot be helped or assuaged by love or kindness or luck or charm, who forget kindness, the feeling and practice of it, and how it can save even the worst, most misshapen life from despair.

     It was just a story about despair."

Right from the start, Goolrick shows us the people we are dealing with.  Ralph Truitt is a quiet, steadfast, private, and powerful man who expects things to be as he wants them to be, even thinking he can control what time the train arrives.  As Catherine Land dons a modest dress with her jewels sewn into the hem and throws her traveling clothes out the window of the train, we see she is not who we think she is, or who Ralph Truitt thinks she is.  In many ways, she’s not even who she thinks she is.  This is a story full of surprises, without being full of suspense. It certainly wasn’t the story I was expecting when I started, and it was even erotic at times. And a lot of strange things happen in this Wisconsin town in the long winter season. A tragedy is inevitable, but there is some redemption in the end.  Along the way, we are treated to some beautiful prose and complex characters.

Other reviews:

#234 ~ A Reliable Wife :
Booking Mama: Review: A Reliable Wife
Book Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick « The Book Lady’s Blog
S. Krishna’s Books: A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick
A Reliable Wife – Book Review « Devourer of Books

Audiobook length: 8 hrs 54 min | Approximate word count: 96,000

2009: Darling Jim (Christian Moerk)
2008: A Treasure Worth Seeking (Sandra Brown)
2007: Manhunt (Janet Evanovich)
2006: Myths, Lies & Downright Stupidity (John Stossel)
2005: In the Cherry Tree (Dan Pope)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; Historical Fiction Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010;

2010: #25 – The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (Christopher Moore)

lustlizard Book #25 was The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore.  The back of the book reads:

The town psychiatrist has decided to switch everybody in Pine Cove, California, from their normal antidepressants to placebos, so naturally—well, to be accurate, artificially—business is booming at the local blues bar. Trouble is, those lonely slide-guitar notes have also attracted a colossal sea beast named Steve with, shall we say, a thing for explosive oil tanker trucks. Suddenly, morose Pine Cove turns libidinous and is hit by a mysterious crime wave, and a beleaguered constable has to fight off his own gonzo appetites to find out what’s wrong and what, if anything, to do about it.

This was my favorite of the three Pine Cove books.  Here we get what Moore does best — a colorful cast of characters mired in an extremely unusual situation.  In this case, there’s a mysterious sea beast in town, making the newly un-drugged residents of Pine Cove somewhat… amorous. Constable Theo Crowe knows *something* is going on, but he’s not too sure what.  All he knows is that he doesn’t believe housewife Bess Leander killed herself, and it’s up to him to find out who really killed her. The only one who really has an idea of what is going on is mostly-out-of-her-mind ex-B-movie-queen Molly Michon, and who’s going to believe her? This is the Moore I first enjoyed with A Dirty Job.

Audiobook length: 8 hrs 45 min | Word count: 80,680

2009: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)
2008: One Mississippi (Mark Childress)
2007: Deal Breaker (Harlan Coben)
2006: Witness in Death (J.D. Robb)
2005: Ceremony in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: The Four Month Challenge; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Audiobook Challenge; TwentyTen Challenge;

2009: #127 – Island of the Sequined Love Nun (Christopher Moore)

lovenun Book #127 was Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore.  The back of the book reads:

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy’s body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss’s pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean’s goons. Now there’s only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

This was better than the last few Christopher Moore books we’ve listened to.  In this book, we meet Tucker Case, who also appears in Moore’s later book, The Stupidest Angel.  Tucker gets himself in a bit of trouble when he takes a drunken joyride in one of his employers jets with a beautiful lady.  About $2 million in damages later, Tucker’s lost his pilot’s license.  When he’s approached by some supposed missionaries wanting to hire him to pilot their jet back and forth from their Micronesian island and Japan, it’s an offer he can’t refuse (at least, not if he wants to fly again).  Unfortunately, when Tuck gets to the island, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that everything isn’t as it seems.  People are getting hurt in the name of cash, and Tuck can’t be a part of it.  He really has to step outside of himself and take on some major challenges to save these innocent island people.  Tuck isn’t a particularly likable character at first (really, he’s a screw-up), but by the end of the book he’s grown into someone who can be proud of himself.  Even if he did steal a 747.

Other reviews:

Christopher Moore – Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Ace and Hoser Blook: Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Audiobook length: 11hrs 39min | Word count: 106,804

2007: Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)

Used in these Challenges: none

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