Feast of Pages

Reading, Living and Loving the Written Word…

And Back to Tudor England We Go… May 25, 2011

Filed under: Books Read,Reviews — kellyg411 @ 12:07 pm

So, late last night I finished reading a book that I had been entranced by, Dissolution by C.J. Sansom.  This is the first in an historical English mystery series featuring attorney Matthew Shardlake, who is an appointed commissioner (read: investigator) on behalf of Lord Thomas Cromwell.  I had gotten wind of these books when I read a review for the fifth book in the series, Heartstone, and thought to myself “damn, I need to read this book!” Alas, when I learned it was part of a series I realized that I must go back and start at the beginning (that’s just how I am).

Dissolution follows Commissioner Shardlake in 1537 to the Scarnsea Monastery in the south of England, where there has been murder and many other ill-gotten things going on, much to the chagrin of Lord Cromwell, who led the reformation.  Initially, Shardlake is there to investigate the brutal murder of the previous Commissioner appointed by Cromwell to investigate the Abbey.  However, as the story progresses, additional murders and intrigue turn up that lead us even deeper into a mystery that has ties back to Anne Boleyn and the false charges levied against her by Cromwell.  I cannot say much more on the storyline, as I do not want to give anything away that could impact your enjoyment of this lovely story.

Ultimately, not only was the excellent mystery part of why I liked this book so much, but also the writing style.  Although the book takes place in the mid-1500’s, it was a breeze to read and fascinating. The storylines and characters were so tightly written and everything occurred for a reason.  I also enjoyed that I did NOT see who was coming as the killer.  I was pretty blown away at how well Sansom did the reveal and the wrap-up.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of this series, and if you’re looking for a good historical mystery, I highly suggest you check this out!

 

Pitchers and Catchers Report — It’s Time to Play Catch-Up….. May 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kellyg411 @ 10:44 am

Sadly, I have not kept up on my book reviews, which is both maddening (for me) and distressing (for you, fair readers!). Do I have any type of valid excuse? Nope, not really. Other than that I read fast, and have not been good about sitting down shortly after finishing a book to gather my thoughts about it. Unfortunately, life, reading, knitting, cooking, and my other blog have gotten in the way of posting on a regular basis.  In fact, it is with shame that I report that I have read fourteen, yes, fourteen books, since my last post.  Ultimately, after thinking about it and letting the idea of how best to get caught up marinate, it has come to be — a quick, catch-up blog that gives a speedy review of the books and let’s me start fresh.  Otherwise, it would be like starting the to-do list with 20 huge projects on it and you look at it and realize that there’s no way in HELL you’ll ever get anywhere with it.  So, here goes!

Book #13 — Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Literature/Fiction) — For the past few years, I had seen this particular tome at the bookstore, would pick it up and think to myself that I should read it, and then something else would catch my eye. and it would get put back on the shelf. Add in that the book takes place in a circus, and that I do not like clowns, and it was not tough to see why I wasn’t racing to read it.  However, this past spring the movie was being released featuring Reese Witherspoon, one of my favorite actresses.  After seeing clips and trailers, I decided to read the book and am I glad I did or what! I gave this book 5 of 5 stars.  The author grabbed my attention right away and held it throughout, keeping me up late following the saga of the main characters, the circus and of course, the animals.  Within about 50 pages, I found myself passionately caring about the characters and rooting for them and wanting the best for them, which, in my mind, is what a good book is all about.  I still have yet to see the movie, but definitely can say you have to read the book!

Book #14 — It’s All Relative by Wade Rouse (Memoir) — I read one of Rouse’s earlier memoirs about moving from St. Louis to small-town Michigan a few years back and was howling, absolutely howling, with laughter.  When I saw that he had a new book coming out, I immediately pre-ordered it on my Nook, waiting with eager anticipation for the day that it would download automatically at midnight of the release date.  As I started reading, Rouse delivered on his trademark witty, smart and gay humor, regaling me with stories of life with his life-partner, Gary, and growing up gay in Oklahoma.  After a couple of entries, the stories turned a little more serious as Rouse wrote of serious issues, i.e., coming out, family members’ deaths and his parents’ mortality.  (Obviously, those stories did not contain as much laughter as the other parts.)  I finished the book and had enjoyed it.  I gave it 4 of 5 stars, based on the strength of the author and his collective work.  Originally, I was going to give it 3 stars, as I did not laugh as much at this book as I did his previous work, and I realized that was me being silly.  The writing was great, the stories hilarious AND poignant and that when an author chooses to show us the sadder and more serious sides, those are the ones that we cherish.  I look forward to Rouse’s future works.

Book #15 — Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger (Health/Non-Fiction) — I picked this book up after a friend from college posted on Facebook that she had been reading it.  Clean is the semi-biographical story of Dr. Junger and his health care program that involves eliminating certain foods from your diet, as they are toxic, and a cleanse program to improve your health.  It is based substantially on tenets of Eastern healing and talks primarily about how what we choose to put into our bodies shapes how we feel and live.  A must read for anyone with food allergies, health issues, stomach pain or my favorite diagnosis, IBS.

Book #16 — Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (Essays/Memoir) — Most importantly, this is Off the Shelf Challenge Book #7! I’ll say right off the bat that I am a HUGE fan of Anthony Bourdain, his television show No Reservations, his previous books and his Twitter feed. He is ranchy and honest and funny (add in hot too — sorry, P!). I’d read each of his previous books and flown through them, sucking up every word he had about working in a restaurant, travels, and food all throughout the world.  When I saw that he was releasing Medium Raw last summer, I leapt on it the day it was released, started it and then put it down for about 10 months.  This book just did NOT grab me and hold my attention the way his previous books had, which saddened me greatly.  Mostly, I felt that the stories lacked a unifying theme and were just a bunch of essays that he had thrown together to fill his page requirement.  Does it make me hate Bourdain? Absolutely not.  I’ve just decided I’ll look before I leap when it comes to racing out to buy his next book.  I give Bourdain 3 of 5 stars.

Book #17 — The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen (Mystery/Series) — Yay! Another Off the Shelf Challenge Book!!! #8! The Keepsake is the 7th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series by Gerritsen.  From the first moment I picked the book up I could not put it down and I simply devoured it — the mystery story was fantastic and gripping, and the development of the underlying characters was well-done.  Flat out, this book was a 5 of 5 stars.  Some authors after a few books featuring the same character get stale, but not Gerritsen.

Book #18 — The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Literature/Fiction) — Off the Shelf Challenge Book #9 — This was the sophomore effort from Tartt who had penned The Secret History, one of my all-time favorite books.  The story was completely different from that featured in History and follows the main character, Harriet, as she investigates her brother’s mysterious death 12 years earlier when she was just a baby.  The book was at times horrifying, slow, maddening, filled with snakes and moments that made you want to reach through the pages, grab Harriet and shake her senseless while screaming “What do you think you’re doing!” The book is the favorite of one of my best friends and had come so highly recommended by many that I finally picked it up after having it on the shelf for a good 5 years? When I finished the book, I could not say if I had liked it or hated it.  In fact, I still cannot say which it is.  The book was prosaic and so well-written that if you read it solely for the writing you’ll do well.  The story, as it develops, is not one anyone would race out to read as it is not a “feel good” story.  But overall, I think the book is an important work in modern American literature, which is quite a statement.  I personally gave it 3 of 5 stars, mostly for story elements that I did not enjoy on a personal level.  If I was rating it by removing that, the book would have received 5 of 5 stars.  It’s like East of Eden.  You may just have to read this book.

Book #19 — Composed by Roseanne Cash (Memoir) — For years I’ve been a fan of Johnny Cash’s music and books and I recently started listening to Roseanne Cash’s albums.  Like her father, she is a talented singer/songwriter, her Twitter feed is hilarious and her book was well-written, and compelling.  Cash made me laugh and cry in the same book, and I cannot recommend her work enough.  5 of 5 stars!

Book #20 — Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs (Mystery/Series) — This is the 4th book by Reichs featuring Temperance Brennan, who many may know from the Fox TV show Bones.  As I’ve written in previous posts, there is not much similarity between the books and the TV show, other than the main character’s name.  However, both are thoroughly enjoyable.  This book revolves around Brennan investigating the cause of a commercial plane crash that  killed everyone on board, and leads her to uncovering a decades old cannibal club with prominent members.  As always, a good read and the character development was excellent.  4 of 5 stars.

Book #21 — The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (Health/Non-Fiction) — This book was recommended to me by my brother, who has followed TPB eating plan for several years and dropped over 100 pounds.  The author essentially advocates the return to a hunter/gatherer eating lifestyle that focuses on lean meats, vegetables and certain fruits, while avoiding processed foods, which are insideously evil for our bodies and health.  As with Clean, it is a must read for anybody who has been diagnosed with food allergies, Celiac’s disease or IBS.  Following the TPB plan has changed my life in a distinctly positive way!  4 of 5 stars.

Book #22 — Juliet by Anne Fortier — I picked this book up after a college friend whose reading tastes I greatly respect read it and raved about it.  The story follows a young woman, Juliet, as she travels from the US to Italy to trace her family’s history and attempt to get to the bottom of her parents’ deaths and the “curse” that follows their family.  Legend has it that the curse formed the basis of the story of Romeo and Juliet and Juliet sets out to get to the bottom of it.  The book flashes between modern day and the 1300’s at the beginning of the legend.  The book was unique, well-written and I highly recommend it.  4 of 5 stars!

Book #23 — Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (Tween Fiction) — When I heard that Pascal was publishing a book that followed the characters from the SVH books into adulthood, I knew I had to read it.  I had grown up reading the SVH books during my youth and was just plain curious to see how the old gang would fair into adulthood.  The book was whimsical and more nostalgic than anything else.  The writing was not great, the story was not well-developed and ultimately, what occured between the sisters at the end seemed far-fetched.  But isn’t that the whole point of the SVH books?  I think so.  2 of 5 stars, for the nostalgia alone is worth reading it!

Book #24 — Game of Thrones (Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin (Fantasy) — O.M.G.  This book was so damn good it’s going to get it’s own blog post in the next few days.  5 of 5 stars.  Absolutely amazing and I’ve heard the series only gets better.  If you haven’t read it, get it!

Book #25 — Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen (Mystery/Series) — Off the Shelf Challenge #10 — This book is the 8th in the series featuring Rizzoli and Isles.  I personally did not like the mystery part of the story at all, as it dealt with a cult that involved kids, which is something that I do not like AT ALL! The furtherance of the character development and interpersonal dealings was the only reason that I kept reading the book, as I love the series and will continue to read it.  For me, this book was an abberation in what I’ve come to expect from Gerritsen.  3 of 5 stars.

Book #26 — Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Mystery/Fantasy/Series) — This book is the 11th in the series featuring Sookie Stackhouse, and the basis for the HBO show True Blood.  Every May Harris publishes a new book in the series and I immediately grab it up and read in a day or so, then spend the next 363 days whining about how I don’t have another Sookie for a whole year.  This year followed in exactly the same pattern and the story was GREAT.

And finally, Book #27 — The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (Memoir) — This is the memoir book of a blogger that I read, http://www.thepioneerwoman.com, which is run by a city girl turned country girl who married a cattle rancher and picked up from the city to move to the middle of nowhere.  I was at the library, just about to check out, and the book caught my eye on the new releases shelf and I picked it up. Drummond’s writing is funny, witty, poignant and just the right amount of self-depricating.  She makes the reader long to live out on a cattle ranch, even when they’ve been born and bred in the city.  In this book, Drummond tells the story of meeting her husband, upheaving her entire life and her plans to move to Chicago to marry her love and live on a cattle ranch.  The book is a quick and enjoyable read, although it seemed a bit tedious at points. I attribute this more to the publisher’s page requirements than the author’s wordiness, as I’ve read her for quite some time and she’s a lovely writer. All in all, a quick and enjoyable read — 3 of 5 stars.

And now that we are all caught up on what I’ve been reading over the past 2 months, fair reader, I can promise you this — I do hope to be better at posting about my books on a regular basis.  More importantly, I realized that I committed to reading 30 books in the Off the Shelf Challenge and not just the 15 I thought that I had — whoops! Time to get my ass in gear and get moving on that bookshelf, because we are almost halfway through the year and I’m only 1/3 of the way done. My biggest problem is that there are far too many books to read and just too little time!

Until next time, happy reading:)

 

My Addiction to Serial Killer Books is Beginning to Worry Me…. March 4, 2011

Filed under: Books Read,Off the Shelf Challenge — kellyg411 @ 10:50 am

Anyone who has been following along with my Feast of Pages blog has probably picked up on the fact that, of late, I have really been enjoying reading mysteries and serial killer books.  They are fast-paced, the good ones feature great characters whose storylines you become invested in, and are flat-out enjoyable. I’m not reading them because I think that they are great literature, a la James Joyce.  I KNOW they are not.  I read them because they are fun.  This is an odd concept for many people when reading.  I know quite a few people who are “judgey” about what they read — there are books they flat-out would not be caught reading in public, nor would they ever admit to reading them , ever.  And why? If you are reading anything, at least you are reading.  You are getting your fill through a wonderful medium, and a “low-brow” book is no different than watching E! television for an hour a day.  Or, the Charlie Sheen 20/20 Interview, which I may have watched with rapt attention last night.  So, whatever you choose to read, celebrate! You’re reading! Keep it up!  Now, on to the ongoing reviews of the books I’ve read in 2011, thus far:

(more…)

 

Beautiful Darkness, OTSC Book #6 March 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kellyg411 @ 11:41 am

If ever a book deserved a blentry all to itself, it is Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia.  This book is the sequel to the tween hit Beautiful Creatures, that took us deep into the gothic South (Georgia, to be exact). I would not say that I am an avid fan of young adult fiction, but there are certain books in the genre that I have read that I have truly enjoyed and this series falls smack dab into the middle of that category. The books, while geared toward the young adult genre, truly could pass muster in the world of adult fiction.

The story follows Lena, a sixteen year old girl with unique abilities who comes to a small Georgia town to live with her uncle, Macon Ravenwood, and Ethan Waite, the local goodboy, who falls hard for Lena. The relationship between Lena and Ethan, their families’ tangled history, and the deadly decision that Lena must make are the focus of Beautiful Creatures. Seriously, run out to your local bookstore and buy it.  NOW.  What follows, is going to contain spoilers from the second book….read at your own risk!

(more…)

 

Serial Killers? Check! Books I Own? Check! Off the Shelf Challenge? You got it! March 1, 2011

Filed under: Books Read,Off the Shelf Challenge — kellyg411 @ 11:10 am

Oh, fair readers, I am so sorry to have abandoned you for a while, in my failure to not post about the fascinating books I’ve been reading. I know for so many of you (all 3 who read this blog, if I’m including Patrick, that is) live for my posts, looking to them for guidance and wit.  I have no excuses, other than I’ve been busy (reading), hanging out (as always), and drinking coffee. But alas, I am back with a vengeance.

 

As you all know, this year has been the year of my “Off the Shelf” Challenge, where I am endeavoring to read books that I owned at the start of 2011, and/or had been loaned to me by the start of 2011, all of which were taking up plenty of room on my shelves.  For the most part, the challenge is going quite well, with a few library books peppered in, and a new purchase (or 3) but hey, variety is the spice of life. Now, to the really good stuff, the reviews:

 

Off the Shelf Challenge, Book #4, Vanish by Tess Gerritsen. This book is the 5th in Gerritsen’s series featuring Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles. In some instances, it’s okay to read series books out of order, but that is not the case with Gerritsen. From the first book, her characters’ lives and relationships build and become entangled, giving a great history and background that moves the B and C plots in her books, and oftentimes makes appearances in the main story.

 

 

Vanish starts with the arrival of a Jane Doe corpse at the Boston ME’s office. Dr. Isles, working late, goes back into the fridge to check on another cadaver, and realizes that Jane Doe is alive. From that moment on, the book is a fast-paced run to find out who this woman is, how she ended up presumed dead in the morgue, and why numerous dangerous (and high up) people are after her. And if that wasn’t enough action for you, dear reader, Detective Rizzoli has just had her first baby (a little girl), and she and her FBI agent husband are leading the charge into the investigation of Jane Doe. I read this book in about 2 1/2 days, and couldn’t put it down. It was a fast-paced thriller (though Gerritsen’s books usually are) and I immediately loaned it out to my bestie during the February snowmageddon that hit Chicago. Yes, that is how good this book is, that I braved going outside into the snowstorm to meet my friend and hand off this book.

 

Off the Shelf Challenge Book #5, The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen.  In case you hadn’t noticed, I enjoy a certain theme with many of my books these days — serial killers, strong female characters, and fast-paced (but excellent) reads.

 

 

The Mephisto Club (TMC) is the 6th book in the Rizzoli/Isles series. The book opens on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve (ironically, I read this during the snowstorm), when a woman is found viciously murdered and dismembered in her home. The police are quickly able to identify her, but have a little bit more trouble with the symbols left at the murder scene. The action quickly introduces us to The Mephisto Club, a group of elite, eccentric scholars dedicated to the belief that evil in truly exists in this world, and presumably fighting it. As the story unfolds, Maura gets drawn deeper into the world of TMC and ultimately becomes the target of the killer. I personally found the mix of an academic club that traced the origins and historical associations of “evil” to be a great component to the book.  It kept me turning the pages and the ending proved to be fascinating. I can only hope that Gerritsen, in future books, heads back to this story to do some more exploring with it. Yes. It was THAT good.

 

If you haven’t read Gerritsen yet, start with The Surgeon and keep going. You will not regret it!

 

 

 

I am Katherine of Aragon, Infanta of Spain, Queen of England….a/k/a Off the Shelf Book #3 January 30, 2011

Filed under: Off the Shelf Challenge — kellyg411 @ 7:45 pm

I’ve always been fascinated by England, all things British and the royalty too. Those who know me are probably already geeked for the party I will be throwing for Kate and Will’s wedding, with full on finger sandwiches and Princess Di memorabilia.  Of late, Patrick and I have been watching “The Tudors,” using our lack of cable television as an opportunity to get caught up on all the shows we didn’t watch while we were watching stupid shit like The Amazing Race.  Which, of course, led me to my third book in the “Off the Shelf” challenge, The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory.

 

 

Now, before all my history buff readers get their panties in a knot (CK, this means you), I KNOW that these are not historically accurate books, but I just LOVE them. Gregory has the ability to write a fictional accounting of history that weaves in enough of what actually happened to satisfy the historically curious in me, while adding in just enough fiction to keep me up late at night reading. Not only that, she portrayed Katherine of Aragon for who she really was–a total badass, a woman far ahead of her time, whose intelligence and machinations kept her alive in an era when she could easily have been tossed aside in a matter of seconds.

 

If you’re at all interested in the Tudors and the first of Henry’s 6 wives, from a “fictional” accounting, of course, I suggest picking up The Constant Princess.

 

Off the Shelf, Part Deux January 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kellyg411 @ 10:52 pm

What was better than Hot Shots? Why, Hot Shots Part Deux. Sometimes, a sequel or series of books can be horrible. And other times, you come to enjoy the characters. They become like old friends to you. You know their habits, their likes, their dislikes, and the little quirks that make them who they are.  Such is the case with the second book of my 2011 “Off the Shelf” Challenge book, Hex and the City by Simon R. Green.

 

I started reading the Nightside series by Green in early 2010, after it was recommended to me by my best friend, Carolyne. They are in the science fiction genre, which would normally have steered me fast in the other direction, but I had been looking to expand beyond biography, history and general “literature”.  I picked up the first book in the series, Something from the Nightside, and was hooked.

 

The protagonist, John Taylor, is a human with certain mystical capabilities that lives and works in the Nightside, the seedy, dark magical underbelly of London.  All types of horrible creatures, monsters and the like live together, often in states of distress, in the Nightside, and Taylor works among them as a private investigator for anyone willing to pay.  Taylor is a likeable character, a man whose alcoholic father drank himself into an early grave, who did not know his mother, other than that she was the cause of his father’s emotional distress upon learning of her “true nature” and a vendetta against everyone and everything that moves. While some may say the foregoing combination is a blueprint for a jackass character, there is just something about Taylor that is endearing and makes you want to keep reading.

 

Hex and the City, the fourth book in the series by Green, has us following Taylor as he is hired by Lady Luck, one of the ethereal beings in the Nightside, to find the true origins of the Nightside and who created it. Her payment? The long-awaited reveal of just who (and what) Taylor’s mother is, a secret he had been searching after nearly his entire life. From the very start, everyone who is anyone in the Nightside is trying to prevent Taylor from moving forward with his case. With the help of some truly dark powers, The Sinner, The Madman, and Pretty Poison, he continues to the end with his case, finds the origins and more importantly, learns just who, and what, his mother is.

 

The reveal of Taylor’s lineage left me wanting to know more, which is always the sign of a good cliffhanger and a beloved character. How will this new information affect Taylor’s life? Will he stay in the Nightside now that he knows the truth? Will he ally himself with his mother and her cause, or will he forge his own path? I have my guesses, which I am keeping to myself for now (don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who may go out and read the books), but I can say this….the fifth book in the Nightside series will be making its appearance on this “read” list in very short order!

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.