The Eponymous Challenge Completed

>> Monday, March 31, 2008


I’ve completed another challenge. Hosted by Coversgirl, The Eponymous Challenge was another one that fit in well with books I was already reading for other challenges.

For this one, we had to read 4 books whose titles were the name of one or more of the characters, or a description of one or more of the characters

I read these 4 books:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was originally on my list as a re-read for the Heart of a Child Challenge. It was wonderful to read this book all on one rainy Sunday. A perfect way to relive the thoroughly enjoyable experience of this book.
  2. Smonk by Tom Franklin was a disappointment after his so very excellent Hell at the Breech. I still love his writing and will read his short story collection.
  3. City Boy by Herman Wouk was just a charming tale of growing up with a bit of humor tossed in with the heartwarming stuff and nostalgia.
  4. The Sisterhood by Michael Palmer was an excellent first novel and an introduction to an author whose books I’ve added to my TBR list

The only one I didn’t like was Smonk. The other three were from 3 very distinct genres and I enjoyed them all.

Another challenge moved to the completed column for me. If you’re interested, the challenge doesn’t end until May 31, 2008. There’s plenty of time. I’d be willing to guess that you could still join in the fun.

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The Jasmine Moon Murder by Laura Childs

>> Sunday, March 30, 2008

Series: #5 in the Teashop Mysteries Series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 245
Challenges:
What’s in a Name Challenge #4 (Plant), A-Z Reading #20 (J Title), TBR 2008 #6

This was as expected, a predictable, but still enjoyable entry in this cozy series. I love the Charleston, S.C setting and the information about tea and yummy recipes. The mysteries are somewhat predictable, but they’re short and pleasant reads.

Theodosia Browning, the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in the historic district of Charleston, once again finds herself a witness to the death of a prominent local citizen in the middle of a public event. Pretty soon folks are going to stop iniviting Theo to things. This time around, the victim is her boyfriend’s uncle. Once again, detective Tidwell tells Theo to stay out of the investigation, yet keeps her informed all along the way. Not something I’d want a steady diet of, but for a pleasant diversion, this series is OK. Besides, this one worked out well for both the What’s in a Name Challenge and the A-Z reading challenge.

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The Sisterhood by Michael Palmer

>> Friday, March 28, 2008

Genre: Medical Mystery
Publication Date: 1982
Pages: 343
Challenges:
Eponymous Challenge #4

Patients are dying at Boston Doctor’s Hospital when they shouldn’t be. Dr. David Shelton who is still dealing with his own demons from the past, finds himself accused of murder. This is one of those books where you know who at least some of the bad guys are. When the hero starts trusting them, it’s like wanting to scream “Look out” at the movie screen. I need to thank all my fellow bloggers who recommended Michael Palmer during last year’s Medical Mystery challenge. I didn’t have any of his books on my list for that challenge, but was convinced to add him to my TBR list.

This is his first book and I was impressed, considering it was published 26 years ago. A lot of medical mysteries don’t hold up over time due to ever changing technology and treatments. This was a suspense thriller that despite giving the reader part of the answer ahead of time, kept enough hidden until the end to keep me turning the pages.

I’ll definitely read more of Michael Palmer’s books.

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Tree Wagon by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

>> Monday, March 24, 2008

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Publication Date: 1953
Pages: 239
Challenges:
Heart of a Child Challenge #3

This is a fictionalized story based on a real family. Although some of the real family have been adapted and renamed in the book, the basic story is true. In 1847Henderson Luelling (sometimes spelled Lewelling) moved his family from Iowa to Oregon and brought with them a wagonload of over 700 fruit trees – about half of the trees survived the journey and became the beginnings of the Oregon Nursery industry.

More information about the real Henderson Luelling and his trees can be found
here and here.

Lampman’s book takes some liberties with the story which she tells from the viewpoint of 12 year old Aseneth Luelling – a young girl who at the beginning of the book plans to stay in Iowa because she can’t take her cat and 6 newborn kittens on the journey to Oregon. Aseneth is a daydreamer and has some elaborate ones throughout the book, but it’s an enjoyable read – albeit with some 1950’s era treatment in its portrayal of Native Americans.

This book was a pleasant trip down memory lane for me. It brought back memories of my beloved 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Williams reading it to us to go along with a series of history lessons on the Oregon Trail. When you grow up in Oregon, it seem like you study the Oregon Trail stuff every year. I remember reading the book several times on my own after that. I was so proud of myself for knowing what ‘grafted’ meant because of this book when I went with my Mom to the local nursery to buy trees and plants for our yard.

This completes the initial list of books I’d selected for the Heart of a Child Challenge, but I’m having so much fun with these that I think I’m going to read a couple more – maybe Harriet the Spy and The Borrowers.

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The Snake Tattoo by Linda Barnes

>> Sunday, March 23, 2008

Series: #2 in the Carlotta Carlyle series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 193
Challenges:
A-Z Reading #19 (B Author)

Carlotta is an ex-cop turned private investigator. She drives a cab in Boston to augment her income from investigations. This is the second in the series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one.

Joe Mooney was Carlotta’s boss when she was a cop. They’re still friends, so when Joe needs help, he hires Carlotta. He’s been suspended for a brawl in a bar. None of the witnesses are backing Joe’s version of the events of that night. He remembers a blond with a snake tattoo who saw the whole thing and hires Carlotta to track her down.

While looking for the tattooed woman in a rotten part of town, Carlotta finds herself with a nervous teen-aged boy in her cab who wants a ride home. Before the evening is out he’s also hired Carlotta to find his friend, neighbor, and schoolmate; a fourteen year old girl who’s missing.

Both cases play out as the book proceeds, along with the saga of a remodel gone wrong (in many different ways) in Carlotta’s bathroom.

It’s a fun series with a likeable protagonist. I’m looking forward to number three.

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White Death by Clive Cussler and Paul Kamprecos

>> Friday, March 21, 2008

Series: #4 in the NUMA Files series
Genre: Adventure
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 419
Challenges:
A-Z Reading #18 (C Author)

When I need a fun escapist kind of break in my reading, Clive Cussler’s books are perfect. Don’t expect believable, don’t expect well rounded, fleshed out characters, but expect a lot of action and water. Filled with the usual swashbuckling kind of action I expect from a Cussler novel, the NUMA files series is a slight, but not major departure from his Dirk Pitt series.

Kurt Austin is the hero, who along with his partner Joe Zavala, are kind of “Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino” lite. The story is part comic book adventure, part swashbuckler style action, and part underwater exploration techno-fiction. You know what’s going to happen before you start because every Clive Cussler book has the same plot, but you just enjoy the ride anyway. A hint of an ancient mystery at the beginning, a megalomaniacal villain who wants to either control or destroy the world, smart good guys, dumb bad guys, and of course our hero saves the world and gets the girl.

Brain Candy.

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Royalty Rules Challenge Completed

>> Thursday, March 20, 2008


I’ve completed my first challenge for 2008. Hosted by The Magic of Ink, The Royalty Rules Reading Challenge was an easy one for me to add since all the books I chose were already on other challenge lists.
The rules for this one were to read 2, 3, or 4 books of any genre that were about a royal personage (whether or not that person was the main character).

I read these 3 books:

Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie was a chunkster of a biography about a man who changed the course of his country’s history. It was a fascinating biography of a fascinating man.
The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander was a fictionalized account of the final days of the last Tsar of Russia and his family. The speculative twist at the end was a surprise.
The Diamond by Julie Baumgold was a fictionalized story of a famous diamond that touched the lives of much of the royalty of France in the 17th and 18th centuries.

My favorites were The Kitchen Boy and Peter the Great.

I’ve got a couple of other challenges that I’ll be wrapping up in the next few weeks. This is a good thing, because there are some upcoming ones that I’ve got my eye on and I’m already making tentative lists.

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The Diamond by Julie Baumgold

>> Monday, March 17, 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 304
Challenges:
TBR 2008 #5, A-Z Reading #17 (D title), Royalty Rules #3

This is a fictionalized story about a real diamond and real people. The Regent Diamond was one of the largest ever found. Discovered in India around 1700, it was later cut in England and possessed by an ancestor of William Pitt who eventually sold it to the nephew of Louis XIV. This was the Regent (for Louis XV) for whom the stone was named.

This novel follows the diamond and its owners through all the French kings and emperors over the next century and a half. The story is told primarily by two narrators. The main narrator is the Count las Cases who begins to write the history of the diamond at the same time he’s living on St. Helena, writing the memoirs with the exiled Napoleon. The final portion of the story is told by an anonymous narrator,

This book was not an easy or quick read because I spent almost as much time looking up people and events on the internet as I did reading the book. Perhaps the writer presumes the reader has a much more thorough knowledge of French history than I did. Parts of the book were a bit chopped up due to needing to go back online to find out the whole story of events and people that are hinted at and quickly passed over. I did learn a lot about the French rulers and history. Other parts of the book were totally fascinating and compelling to read. Overall however, I ended up having mixed feelings about this one. OK but I felt like I needed a prerequisite refresher on 18th and 19th century France to make it good.

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Rueful Death by Susan Wittig Albert

>> Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Series: #5 in the China Bayles Series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 275
Challenges:
TBR 2008 Alternate #2, A-Z Reading #16 (R title)


This is just an enjoyable series. I like China and the supporting cast of characters. This book takes the reader away from Pecan Springs and some of the regular characters, but unlike some series, the feel and nature of the series is not completely lost when the normal setting is changed.

China decides to join her friend Maggie on a 2 week retreat to the convent where Maggie (a former nun) used to live. It turns out to be far from the restful getaway that China was expecting. She arrives to find herself recruited to investigate a series of arsons at the monastery, and possibly even more disturbing, a series of anonymous and not so vaguely threatening letters to the nuns that had to be sent by one of them. There is a rift between the recently merged orders of nuns and the political, personal and possibly murderous tension is not helping resolve any of the issues.

Along the way, China meets up with a former boyfriend and begins to question her relationship with McQuaid.

It was nice to have the series take a bit of a break from the familiar eccentrics of Pecan Springs, but I did miss Ruby and her well intentioned and often misguided meddling as well as some of the other recurring characters. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Pecan Springs.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

>> Monday, March 10, 2008

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Publication Date: 1964
Pages: 155
Challenges: Heart of a Child Challenge #2, Eponymous Challenge #3

I still love this book. The book is different and definitely better than either of the movie versions.

Some details I’d forgotten – the other 4 Golden ticket finders take both their parents on the factory tour.
Everlasting Gobstoppers change color once a week.

Some of my favorite lines still make me smile:

Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!

This elevator can go sideways and longways and slantways and any other way you can think of!
And this part of the Oompa Loompa’s Song after Mike Teavee meets his fate:

‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

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Smonk by Tom Franklin

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 251
Challenges:
TBR 2008 #4, A-Z Reading #15 (S Title), Eponymous Challenge #2

I loved Tom Franklin’s first novel Hell at the Breech, and it’s still one of the best books I ever read. I’d described that one as a brutal story, beautifully told. This second novel was just brutal. I only finished it because it was short and I was hoping that there would be enough at the end to make up for the disgust I felt reading the first part. There wasn’t.

Franklin can be a wonderful writer and I still want to read Poachers, which is a collection of short stories.

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City Boy by Herman Wouk

>> Thursday, March 6, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1948
Pages: 317
Challenges:
Decades 08 #4 (1940’s), A-Z Reading #14 (C Title), Eponymous Challenge #1

I first read this book back when I was in high school. If you only associate Herman Wouk with such novels as The Caine Mutiny or Winds of War you probably have never heard of this, his second novel. It’s a charming, humorous, yet bittersweet coming of age story.

It’s 1928 in The Bronx. Herbie Bookbinder is a fat, brainy, eleven year old kid. He’s smarter than most of his friends, but because of his complete lack of athletic ability is just not quite “a regular guy” at an age when a boy wants nothing more than to be considered “a regular guy”.

The book opens with Herbie’s heartbreak at discovering his teacher (and object of his current crush) has gotten married. Typical for an eleven year old, he soon recovers and finds himself hopelessly in love again – this time with the lovely red-haired Lucille Glass.

The story takes place in spring and summer – much of it at a summer camp called Camp Manitou. It almost reads more like a series of vignettes rather than a continuous story, but at the heart of all of it is Herbie – fat, misunderstood, unathletic, dorky before dorky was a word, Herbie. The cast of characters includes Herbie’s parents, his older sister Felica (known to Herbie as “Fleece”), his cousin Cliff and of course, a nemesis in the person of Lennie Kreiger, the not-so-smart, but athletic and good-looking son of Mr. Bookbinder’s business partner. I really think that the best character in the book is the one of a kind horse called Clever Sam.

It’s not laugh out loud funny (well, it is in a couple of places), but it’s charming, and at times heartbreaking and heartwarming. Herbie’s pursuit of Lucille, his adventures at camp, and the portrayal of a simpler time and place was a nice break from my usual mystery/thriller fare and I was glad to read this book again.

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Undercurrents by Ridley Pearson

>> Monday, March 3, 2008

Series: # 1 in the Boldt/Matthews Series
Genre: Mystery/ Crime Thriller
Publication Date: 1988
Pages: 386
Challenges:
Themed Reading Challenge #3, A-Z Reading #13 (U title)

I first heard about Ridley Pearson when a few bloggers reviewed his new book last year. I promptly added this (the first of his Lou Boldt/Daphne Matthews series) to my TBR list. Later, I found out that he’d co-authored some award winning juvenile fiction books with Dave Barry about Peter Pan before Peter Pan. I currently have those on my ipod for future listening. I knew this book had been around a while when I picked it up in the library and found a pocket in the inside back cover for a library check out card from the days before the library went to bar codes and scanners. That will give you a hint that some of this book is a bit dated (typewriters instead of computers on detectives’ desks, a notable lack of cell phones, etc.).

The story, however didn’t feel dated at all. I really enjoyed this one and although I was sure I’d figured it all out early on, there were enough twists at the end to keep me from being certain.

Lou Boldt is a member of a special homicide task force investigating a brutal serial killer in Seattle. The police had thought the Cross Killer had been caught, but apparently he’s still out there. This also means that the person who had been gunned down in a courtroom by a previous victim’s relative was probably innocent. Not only is Boldt dealing with guilt issues over that man’s death, he’s also dealing with his own personal issues with his marriage. Add to that a co-worker on the task force who resents playing second fiddle to Boldt, and it’s just an unpleasant situation all around.

Although not Pearson’s first book, this was the first in a series featuring Lou Boldt and psychologist Daphhe Matthews. I have added the rest of this series to my TBR list and will also be considering some of Pearson’s standalone crime thrillers.

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