Monday, February 28, 2011

Texas! Chase

Okay, more fluffiness.  (Is that even a word?!)  I finished Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown over the weekend.  This is book two in the Texas trilogy, written early in Brown's "mainstream" career.

This novel features a woman (Her name escapes me) that has been in love with a man (Chase) since high school.  He married someone else.  Sadly, Chase's wife dies at the end of the first novel in the trilogy while in the car with our female lead of novel number two.  (Female lead is a real estate agent and was driving wife to show her a house).  In despair, Chase buys the house after his wife dies (he's never seen it and never moves in).  Later he sells it, unknowingly to the real estate agent who is secretly in love with him.

On to novel two.  Real estate lady convinces Chase to marry her so that she can invest in his failing business without him "selling out."  They move into the house real estate lady bought for him. 

To me, all of this screams stalker.  But it's okay, because it's true love.  And it's Texas.  'Nuff said.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Animal Farm

I know, I know.  Most people are forced to read this book in school.  Somehow I never had to.  So I read it now.  Animal Farm by George Orwell was written (I assume) as political commentary.  And yes, I got that.  In the end, there was no distinguishable difference between pigs and humans. 

What caught my eye, however, was the cat.  He puts in only periodic appearances throughout the story.  He never puts in his share of the work to get things done.  But because he purrs and is snuggly, he gets away with it.  Sounds pretty much like all cats I've ever met.

Like most cats, his loyalty and love go to whomever is serving as a food source.  Fickle beasts!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Memory Game

The Memory Game by Nicci French took me a little while to settle into.  It's set in England, and has a very English feel, so it felt very foreign to me at first.  Once I was acclimated, however, the story took over.  The story centers around a middle-aged woman discovering the long buried body of her childhood friend.  The bulk of the book is her quest to find the truth hidden in her memories. 

The bottom line is that the human memory is very unreliable.  I've had some personal experience with that.  A few years ago, I was involved in a hit and run car accident.  As the other driver took off, I tried to memorize his license plate.  When the police arrived, the numbers were gone from my memory.  So I closed my eyes and tried to visualize what the plate looked like.  A very clear image popped into my head, and I gave the number to the police.  When I finally made it home, I saw my husband's car in the driveway.  With the license plate number I had just given the police.  My mind really wanted to remember that plate number, so when it couldn't find it, something else was dredged up and put in its place!

For most of my life, I had two very clear memories of my dad (who died when I was four).  The first involved a conversation with him about cutting my hair.  In the memory, my hair is very long, almost to my butt, and curly.  Here's the problem with this memory- my hair is straight.  Oh, and I never had long hair as a child.  There is not a single picture of me with hair any longer than shoulder-length.  I asked my mom about this, and she confirmed that I never had the hair I so clearly remembered. 

The second memory was of the day my dad died.  I remember getting ready in the morning and as I was leaving with my mom running back into the house to give my dad one more hug.  My mom shot this one down too.  My dad always left the house before we did, including the day of his death. 

So here I am with two wonderful memories of my dad.  And neither one is correct.  Are they at all based on reality?  I have no way of knowing.  Even though I know they are inaccurate (at best) they still appear to me as absolutely concrete remembrances.  Something in my brain saw a gap that needed to be filled and created some plausible events to fill the hole.  But knowing that I have these false memories makes me wonder about everything else I "remember." 

What do you remember?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Oracle

I just finished The Oracle: The lost secrets and hidden message of ancient Delphi by William J Broad.  This is a nonfiction work that is less about what the oracle did and said and more about how modern times have viewed the oracle. 

I don't have much interest in geology, slightly more in archaeology.  Yet this book was a really interesting read.  It tells the story of a group of men and their quest to prove (by geology) that the oracle was not a total fraud.  It all comes down to hydrocarbon vapors rising out of faults in the earth.

Through it all, Broad emphasizes that at any given time, science does NOT know everything.  What seems certain now can be proven totally wrong later. 

After all, the sun does not revolve around a flat earth. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I read another Sandra Brown novel.  This time it was the first in a trilogy:  Texas! Lucky

This is one of the early novels that Brown published under her own name.  It's really a cross-over novel between her really early work (pure romance) and her newest work (suspense).  In this novel, the focus is still definitely on the romance, but the characters are more fully developed than those in her romance novels.  Brown also has added an actual plot that has little to do with the romance between the two main characters. 

I like reading Brown because I can see the changes in her writing over her career.  It's refreshing to see an author who is constantly working to become better at their craft.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Servant of the Bones

I read Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice over the weekend.  Much like Interview with the Vampire, this story is set up with the main character telling his story to another person who is recording/ writing it down.  I really don't like this set-up. 

In theory, having an observer who hears the story and then relays it should give you more information about the main character.  Perhaps the observer is changed by hearing the story or interacting with the main character.  Perhaps they have some insight into the main character that makes the story richer.  Or maybe the observer just makes the story move super slowly.  That was my experience in this case.  The first 150 or so pages are there just to get our observer together with the main character. 

The big question of this novel is whether Azriel (main character) is good or evil.  It seemed that Rice didn't trust her readers to answer this question based on his actions through the novel.  So, she introduced the observer to make the decision for us.  He does, in the last few pages.  He tells us that Azriel is good.  Two problems:  A) I had already figured that out on my own, thank you very much.  B) If the observer told me he was good but I disagreed, I wouldn't change my mind just because the observer told me to.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Skin Gods


I finished the follow-up to The Rosary Girls:  The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari.  I read this novel because I was mad at the previous novel for inserting a totally ridiculous twist at the end of the novel.  I wanted to see if Montanari redeemed himself by making that the focus of the follow-up.  He did not redeem himself.

Byrne, our bad cop, still has visions.  But, they are randomly placed throughout the novel, and not very helpful to the overall plot.  The plot of this novel had the potential to be amazing.  However, Montanari violates the trust of his readers and that makes the plot tank.

Early in this novel we meet an FBI agent who is assisting with the case.  He appears periodically, says cryptic things, and then wanders off.  He seems to never be around when he would be useful to the case.  He manages to get himself shot (a graze to the shoulder) with no witnesses, supposedly by the perp.  There's nothing obviously wrong with him, but just enough hints to make you think that he is involved in the crimes.  He didn't do it.

Who did?  Another cop introduced somewhere around page 20 (in the story for all of 2 paragraphs) who is never referred to again in the novel.  Until the last few pages when it is explained that he is the killer. 

Part of the appeal of suspense novels is trying to figure out who dun it.  I don't feel like I ever had a chance of figuring it out in this novel.  Montanari dropped lots of clues, but not a single one of them pointed to the killer.  Some clues he discussed at great length, making them seem super important in solving the case.  Many of these clues were never resolved, he never let us in on how they connected to anything else.  I was disappointed. 

Monday, February 7, 2011


I read Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson over the weekend.  The first thing I noticed was the difference in the characters she focused on in this story.  Normally, Anderson's main characters are your average, everyday, middle-class teenagers.  In this story, she focuses on a high school in South Philly. 

Here, teenagers have all the usual teenage troubles.  Friendship, love, parent problems.  But it's all overlaid with a different dynamic.  Here, there is a struggle for survival.  How do you move beyond working for Chuck E Cheese?  How do you get out??

In this story, the characters are lucky.  They attend a high school that has "woken-up."  Adults there realize that success is not a given for their students.  They have a mantra: "the tassel is worth the hassle."  Amazing what simply acknowledging the struggles of your students can do to help them move through them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Don't Tell

I'm reading another Karen Rose novel,  Don't Tell.  This is one of her earlier novels, and I can tell.  The characters aren't quite as rich, the plot not quite as neat, as her recent books. 

This story has me thinking about identity.  Is it something you are born with, dictated by your genes and upbringing?  Is it something you determine, modifying every day as life happens?  Do we all have the ability to be like Madonna and recreate ourselves when we feel the urge?

I know that I have different personas depending on who I am interacting with.  Which of these is really me?  Is one of those personas the true me, the rest merely facades?  Or am I a blend of bits of each?

Way too deep for a Friday morning!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Good Soldier

You know the saying: "Can't always get what you want."  That should have been the title of The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.  Originally, Ford had titled this book "The Saddest Story," but he was told to change the title.  Personally, I think the original title was much more fitting.

An excerpt: "Well, it is all over.  Not one of us has got what he really wanted.  Leonora wanted Edward, and she has got Rodney Bayham, a pleasant enough sort of sheep.  Florence wanted Bramshaw, and it is I who have bought it from Leonora.  I didn't really want it; what I wanted mostly was to cease being a nurse-attendant.  Well, I am a nurse-attendant.  Edward wanted Nancy Rufford, and I have got her.  Only she is mad.  It is a queer and fantastic world.  Why can't people have want they want?  The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing.  Perhaps you can make heads or tail of it; it is beyond me."

John, the point of view character, is the only one who realizes that everyone is equally miserable.  What he misses, along with everyone else, is that each of them is responsible for their own misery.  Each character had the ability to get what he or she really wanted, yet they acted in ways that guaranteed that they wouldn't get it. 

I suppose it is human nature to dodge potential happiness whenever possible.  We really are gluttons for punishment!