"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark

Author:  Carol Higgins Clark
Publisher:  Pocket Star Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Copyright:  2008 by Carol Higgins Clark
Pages:  287
Genre:  Mystery
Paperback edition

Following in her mother`s footsteps, Carol Higgins Clark has become a fabulous mystery novelist as is her mother Mary Higgins Clark.  This book, Zapped, is the 11th in the 14 books Carol Higgins Clark has written about the sleuthing wife/husband team of Regan and Jack Reilly.

Returning to New York after a weekend away, Regan finds signs of an intruder in their apartment as she stays behind while Jack is called in to police headquarters following a black-out. Inadvertently, Regan finds herself locked out while up on the rooftop terrace as she attempts to increase the ventilation in the apartment by making ajar the door to the terrace.

Meanwhile an art gallery is burglarized, a young man has gone missing and is last seen in the company of a young woman thought to be deranged and dangerous and more than one person has reason to gain access to Regan and Jack`s apartment.  After being rescued by Jack, Regan gains an entourage as she takes on the mission of finding the missing young man, Chip, while Jack fields problems from the station.  It promises to be a long, hot night in a New York City black-out!

Like all of her novels, this one is well-written and entertaining. Zapped is a quick paced mystery/suspense that can, if one is able, be read in one sitting; however, I didn`t have that luxury. The cast of characters can become confusing as the plot develops and more people become involved.  The author jumps from one character/story line to another, generally doing so in separate chapters, so I found myself having to refresh my memory as to which character was which, especially when it came to the three men whose names all began with `C`.  I`ve heard others comment they found it distracting to have so many characters and different sub-plots in her other books but the author does a good job tying them all together in the end of this novel.  One must be on their ``toes`` to keep up with Carol Higgins Clark!  All in all, I enjoyed this novel and recommend it as a good light read.

Rated 4/5.

2011 Reading Challenge - Nicholas Sparks

I am joining The Book Vixen for my first ever reading challenge, the 2011 Reading Challenge:  Nicholas Sparks.  Read as many Nicholas Sparks novels as you can in 2011, blogging about them on your book blog or keeping track on GoodReads or LibraryThing.  Link up with The Book Vixen to join this challenge.  There are four levels, you can begin at any level and graduate to the next, which is what I will do.  Starting at the first level, "First Date" - read 1-4 Nicholas Sparks novels, I shall begin with Nights in Rodanthe.  Join me here periodically for updates on this challenge and reviews of Nicholas Sparks novels.
Nicholas Sparks is one of my favourite authors so this shall be a fun challenge!!

Nicholas Sparks Reading Challenge

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Truth of the Matter

Author  Andrew Klavan
Publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Copyright 2010
336 pages
Juvenile Fiction Action and Adventure General/Christian

"Never Give In"
"Ever since he woke up in a terrorist torture chamber-with a year of his life erased from his mind-Charlie West has been on the run.  He has one desperate hope of getting his life back: track down the mysterious agent named Waterman.  But in fact, reaching Waterman-and recovering the secrets lost in his own memory-will only increase his danger. Because a team of ruthless killers is rapidly closing in on him, determined to stop him from finding the answers.  And the truth of the matter is more incredible...and more deadly...than he could ever imagine." (from the back cover)

What could terrorists possilby want with a teenage boy?  What truths does he know that keep him on the run?

When Charlie's best friend is murdered, Charlie is charged and found guilty. It's all part of a plan.  He is allowed to escape and finds himself on the run from the law and a terrorist group, The Homelanders.  He has lost one year of his memory and must track down someone who can help him retrieve those memories.   Charlie has a black belt, a clever young man with strong convictions.  He knows fear but he does not allow that fear to keep him from fighting for what is right.  He knows his life is in peril but he must find this individual.  He doesn't know who to trust.  Danger lurks everywhere.

This action adventure will appeal primarily to teenage boys (though I did enjoy it), drawing them into the life of Charlie West, a teenage boy on the run from the law and The Homelanders. He left behind his family, his school, his friends and his girlfriend.  Charlie's story begins in The Last Thing I Remember but the reader does not feel as though they are missing the gist of the story by beginning in book three of this series.  One can go back and read them, which the reader will want to do after reading this book but it isn't necessary to enjoy this novel. 

It is rare to find a novel without profanity and sexuality but this book will be found acceptable on all levels.  While Charlie's adventures seem way out there and the descriptions of his "moves" are a bit surreal, Charlie's journey will draw you in, keep you reading, page after page, until you finish the book, and then....well, you simply must get the next book in the series to find out what becomes of Charlie.

This is the third book in The Homelander series.  The first book in the series is The Last Thing I Remember and the second is The Long Way Home.  Look for The Final Hour, available August 2011, to discover the conclusion to Charlie's life on the run.  
Rated 4.5/5

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Favourite Children's Books of Christmas

The following books remain on my shelves as favourite Christmas books for children.  They stand the test of time and remain the titles we still reach for year after year.

The Littlest Angel
Author:  Charles Tazewell
Illustrayed by:  Paul Michich
Originally published in 1946, it has been reprinted several times

"THE LITTLEST ANGEL was born in 1939 when Screen Guild producers informed scriptwriter Charles Tazewell that he must "write something."  They anticipated a crisis with a current production, and Tazewell's creation would serve as backup.  While the crisis never materialized, THE LITTLEST ANGEL did."

First narrated on the Christmas radio show MANHATTEN, in 1946 LITTLEST ANGEL was published in book form by Children's Press of Chicago.  It was later translated into several languages and released as a Decca album.

CORONET published THE LITTLEST ANGEL in its magazine in 1949 and later released it as a film.  At the time of the author's death in 1972, THE LITTLEST ANGEL was in its thirty-eighth printing and was an "international classic".  It has stood the test of time and sold over five million copies.  It is considered one of the all-time best-selling children's books.

THE LITTLEST ANGEL is the story of a young angel who just cannot seem to stay out of trouble in the celestial city.  When the Christ child is born, this little angel learns a timeless lesson, one that endures as the true spirit of giving.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Author:  Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel )
Published by Random House in 1957
50 pages

'"Every Who
Down in Whoville
Liked Christmas a lot....
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Who-ville,
Did NOT!"

This was Dr. Seuss' criticism of the commercialization of Christmas and its setting is based upon his hometown and surrounding area.  Despite the Grinch taking away everything the Who's have to celebrate Christmas, it does not dim the spirit of Christmas.  As the Who's gather together, singing in praise of Christmas, the Grinch realizes Christmas does not come in packages tied in ribbons and bows nor in the magnificent feast.  Christmas dwells in the heart.  That day, when Grinch learned this valuable lesson, his heart grew three times larger.  He returned all that he had taken, with a new understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

A valuable lesson for all to learn and remember.


The animated version is still one of my personal animated favourites

Christmas Oranges
Retold by Linda Bethers
Illustrated by Ben Sowards
Copyright 2002
30 pages
This is the story of a young girl named Rose who is growing up in an orphanage.  She feels alone as she struggles to make new friends.  At Christmas a kind neighbour brings a box of oranges for all the children in the orphanage.  An unknown luxury for Rose, she waits in anticipation to receive her orange.  Christmas morning arrives and she is heartbroken to find there is no orange for her.

Rose has a few good friends who, upon discovering Rose has no orange, do something that changes their Christmas then and forever.  They show the true value of love and friendship.


The Nutcracker Ballet
Author:  Vladimir Vagin
Illustrations by Vladimir Vagin
Copyright 1995
28 pages

Based on the "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" written by the German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.

In 1954 famous choreographer George Balanchine staged a version of The Nutcracker Ballet which has become the basis for the productions on stage today and for this book.

Christmas Eve was magical in their household.  One Christmas Eve in particular Clara receives a wooden nutcracker doll from her eccentric godfather, a toy maker.  After midnight, the nutcracker is transformed into a dashing prince who leads Clara into the Land of Sweets.  The Rat King is an enemy of this dream world and the nutcracker must raise an army to defeat him and his minnions.


If the opportunity to attend the Nutcracker Ballet arises, do attend!  It is stunning in its choreography, costumes and dancers, and ability to retell this classic story.

The Small One
Author:  Alex Walsh
Illustrated by Jesse Clay
Copyright 1995 by Disney Enterprises, Inc.
28 pages

"Before honor is humility: - Proverbs 15:33

This book is based upon Disney's short animated film The Small One.  A young boy must sell his favourite donkey and is heartbroken over the prospect of losing his dear friend.  His sadness is lifted when he sells the small donkey to a man whom he knows will love and care for his little friend.  Knowing that the man is Joseph and his little donkey will carry Mary to Bethlehem, the young boy's sadness is lifted.

A book sure to inspire faith and love in all who read it.  A lovely story to share with your children.


On Christmas Eve
Author:  Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Nancy Edwards Calder
Original copyright by Roberta B. Rauch 1938 and 1965
Illustrations copyright 1996 by Nancy Edwards Calder
30 pages

The excitement of Christmas Eve leaves four children unable to sleep.  They sneak downstairs to gaze upon the tree and stockings and listen to the carollers outside.  They want to touch the Christmas tree and make a Christmas wish that night.  With hearts pounding they approach the tree and see the gifts beneath.  Outside the beautiful song of the carollers draws them to the window.  It is almost too much for them to take in.

A cute story with incredible illustrations that children will love year after year.  Children can relate to the characters in this book as they too want to sneak downstairs in the dark on Christmas Eve just to get a peak.


The Christmas Candle
Author:  Richard Paul Evans
Paintings by Jacob Collins
Text copyright 1998 by Richard Paul Evans
Art copyright 1998 by Jacob Collins
A Simon & Schuster Book for Young Readers
25 pages

This story is ideal for the older child but in the hands of a parent read to a child it is a story of love and mankind's need for love. 

On a Christmas Eve, on his way home, a young man finds his candle is dwindling and the flame soon to flicker out.  He finds a chandler's shop open and obtains a new candle but this isn't any candle.  It shines on those on the street casting them in a different light than their original form.  In one form, the young man sees his mother as a beggar and gives her his cloak.  This happens again as he sees someone he knows in the stranger in the street and is again inspired to share of his belongings.  By the time he arrives home he has no cloak and no money but in his heart he has a new gift.  The gift of love and acceptance.

A wonderful story which reminds us to love one another.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Crime BruleƩ

The first book in the culinary mystery with recipes series
Author:  Nancy Fairbanks
Berkley Prime Crime, 2001
Pages: 274 (paperback edition)

"Forty-something homemaker Carolyn Blue is through with cooking and cleaning.  She`s finally decided to throw in the dishtowel-and take on a dream job as a food writer.  Now her plate is filled with exotic locales, delectable foods, and even a dash of crime-to taste. She could very well get used to this.....
 Crime Brulee
It was a perfect arrangement.  Carolyn had already planned to accompany her husband to an academic conference in New Orleans-an event that meant visiting old college pals.  So why not use the opportunity to write a story about Cajun cuisine?  But just as she get a taste of Creole, she gets a bit of crime....Her friend Julienne disappears at a dinner party.  True, she had been fighting with her husband, but this only worries Carolyn more.  Now she has to put her taste-testing aside to search for answers-and the trail leads her right to an alligator swamp.  Carolyn better act fast, because in these parts, it's eat or be eaten......

Includes over a dozen delicious recipes!"

Given the opportunity, I would have read this book in one sitting.  Portions of Carolyn's food reviews are contained herein, giving the reader a taste of the cuisine of  Louisiana.  Recipes included herein include such enticements as Risotto Mille e Una Notte, Carol Lee's Avocado Stuffed Shrimp Remoulade, and Le Bistro Creme Brulee.

When Julienne disappears, Carolyn is the singular friend who believes there's foul play involved.  She is determined to find her friend and finds her very own life endangered as she pursues the mystery.  This is the first of Nancy Fairbanks' (pseudo for Nancy Herndon) culinary mysteries.  If you love food; eating, making or reading of; or you enjoy a good fast-paced mystery, you're going to devour this book.  Once you do so, like me, you'll be hungering for more of her works.  Others in this series include Truffled Feathers, Death a l'Orange, Chocolate Quake, The Perils of Paella, Holy Guacamole!, Mozzarella Most Murderous, Bon Bon Voyage, and French Fried.

Rating:  5\5

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Plain Truth

Author:  Jodi Picoult
Published by Washington Square Press a Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Pages:  405
Reader's Group Discussion Included

"The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster Country to its core.  But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure; circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn's mother, took the child's life.  When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big-city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide-and for the first time in her high-profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own.  Delving deep inside the world of those who live "plain", Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms.  And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within-to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past re-enters her life."  (from the back cover of Plain Truth)

Well-written and captivating, this novel is the first of Jodi Picoult's that I have read.  Plain Truth holds your attention, draws the reader in and is hard to put down.  The characters are well-developed, and the lifestyle and culture of the Amish are well-portrayed.  The author did, after all, spend a week living with an Amish family, participating in chores and living as they do.  Not easily forgotten, this novel may enlist the reader in a quest to simplify their own lives and question their perspectives.  Not a bad thing.

Rated 3.5/5

*As administrator of a local Christian book club, I read this as a possible book of the month.  Though the author does an excellent job of drawing the reader in, I was not impressed with the explicit sex included in a couple areas within this novel.  As such, based upon language and sexual content, we cannot include this as a suggested read for discussion. 

Does popular fiction need to bridge the gap between moral and immoral to be popular? Perhaps books should have a labelling system similar to that of movies.  PG, R, General based upon content.  It would make things simpler when selecting books for discussion.  This reader intends to read another of Jodi Picoult's novels, My Sister's Keeper.  Hopefully the content will be agreeable for our group as a future read.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


This last novel written by Jane Austen was published posthumously.  Set in the Victorian era amongst those of society where birth and title dictate proper decorum.  This is the story of Anne Elliot, the often overlooked daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a man full of self-importance and vanity; and sister to Elizabeth and Mary.

At eight and twenty years (28) Anne is yet unmarried though her heart belongs to Colonel Frederick Wentworth.  Eight years previous they'd been engaged but he was not a man of circumstance and her friend Lady Russell persuaded her to break the engagement.  Broken-hearted, Frederick Wentworth went to sea, becoming a colonel and commander of his own vessel.  He made his "fortune" in the navy before returning to Anne's hometown.  Will they reconcile?  Will he forgive her?  Will she marry Mr.  Elliot?

This novel took me over a month to read.  Never before have I had such difficulty with a book.  Written in the early 1800's, the prose and style is one I am not accustomed to and it seemed so wordy to accomplish so little, dialogues didn't ensue quickly enough for me.  It was only in the final chapters that I found interest in the dilemmas of Anne and Frederick.  The final chapter seemed to pull things together too quickly, especially compared to the pace of the previous 23 chapters, as if the author wanted to be done with it.

My apologies to lovers of Jane Austen,  this must seem brutal.  I've read and love the likes of Agatha Christie, but that is a more recent era, and welcomed the challenge to expand my repertoire, so to speak.  If you have never read Jane Austen or the likes thereof, I highly recommend renting the movie version first, if available.  It was only after seeing the BBC film of Persuasion that I was able to accomplish the final chapters.  Don't let this dissuade you.  Welcome the challenge to broaden your horizons, the love story is beautiful!

Rated 3/5

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have You Read Six or More of These?

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte --hated it!!!
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Ok, I thought I was rather well-read, but after going through this list I find myself coming up short.  You  may have read this list on Facebook.  My niece posted it on her page and I decided it to be post worthy here.  So tell me, dear reader, how many/which ones have you read? Which have you started but didn't finish?  How many/which ones are on your reading to do list?  I think I've read about 11 of these.  Do tell.......

Up and Running!

It appears my issues with posting have been resolved so check back soon for reviews of what I've been reading!  Coming soon:  Crime Brulee by Nancy Fairbanks, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult, to name a few.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...