Robin reads: Everyone worth knowing, Iron orchid, and Dixie Riggs

October 12, 2006

Dixie Riggs by Sarah Gilbert : I picked this one up at book sale for 50 cents. Now I know why. According to Amazon it’s YA (Young Adult). Knowing that it is meant to be a Young Adult book also might explain why I didn’t think it was very good, but honestly, I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone. 😉 The story is that Dixie Riggs wants to get married to Buck Speed, who is a body builder/auto repair/evangelist wannabe. In order to try to advance her career, she enters modeling school along with her friend Sparkle. She and Sparkle get into all sorts of situations including creating some nude “modeling” photos. Along the way Dixie gets pregnant but is uncertain as to the father. Various confrontations and situations occur and the story is mostly resolved. There are no truly positive characters in this book. No one has any sort of accountability or even real concern for the various characters involved. As this is written about the south (South Carolina) it seems to wallow in making fun of “trailer park trash”. I think it’s supposed to be teen chicklit, but it’s not even close.

Iron Orchid Iron Orchid (Holly Barker Novels) by Stuart Woods
Stuart Wood’s books are generally fairly solid mystery/thrillers and this one is really no exception. There are two stories interwoven: the story of Teddy Fay, ex-CIA, who has decided to take on the role of vigiliant (this time taking on “enemies” of the US who have diplomatic immunity), and the second story, of Holly Barker, an ex-MP who has recently joined the CIA and is now assigned to Teddy’s case. This story has enough high tech gizmos, enough interesting characters, and enough plot to help keep the story on track through the various plot twists and turns. There are a couple of unresolved minor threads regarding Fay and Teddy, but nothing to the point of weighing down the story.

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger Well, if you’ve read the Devil wears Prada (the previous novel by Lauren Weisberger), then you know the drill, bad/mean/demanding boss + a worker trying to make it in a trendy industry + love interest. Bette leaves her “boring” job and gets a job as an event planner, which means she parties all of the time. Her coworkers are all superthin and superficial. In spite of the limitations of this novel and the familiarity of the story, it is a light and fun read, albeit a little silly.

Seven Deadly Wonders: A Novel by Matthew Reilly Seven Deadly Wonders is part of the Sigma Force novel series. As I haven’t read any of those, I really didn’t know what to expect. This title seems to be part Indiana Jones + X Files + Alias. The pacing is very fast, lots of action, harrowing situations, etc.
Parts of this book have many illustrations, but I am not sure if they actually added to the story or detracted from. The basic plot is that the Seven Wonders of the World still exist in some form and that each of them holds a small piece of the Capstone of the Great Pyramid. When the Capstone is reassembled, at a certain astronomical time, the power generated can affect the world. It is up to a multinational team led by Jack West, to save the day.

robin reads: in the company of the courtesan, predator

September 10, 2006

Predator (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries) by Patricia Cornwell Well, this is the first Kay Scarpetta (the lead detective/character) book that I’ve read, so I am not sure that this book is an accurate portrayal of the whole series. Generally, the book is a solid enough mystery and while there are not a lot of twists in the story, the ‘big’ twist attempts to sort of pull the various pieces together. Does it work? I’m not sure. It feels kind of hurried and a little unfinished, sort of soap opera-ish. Honestly, it seemed to me that in spite of the fact that these folks are supposed to be professionals in their respective fields, they seem kind of aware of what really goes on around them and very unprofessional in demeanor to colleagues and each other in general. A lot of dsyfunction, dsyfunction, and more dysfunction.

In the company of the courtesan by Sarah Durant Sarah Durant wrote Birth of Venus, which I enjoyed greatly. Birth of venus is a historical novel set in the Renaissance about a young girl/artist and her experiences in that society including an element of romance (in the true tradition of courtly love). Because I enjoyed that novel, I read In the company of the courtesan, which is interesting in its own. The characters are engaging although perhaps not as much as in the Birth of Venus. The story of the novel is that a courtesan, Fiammetta Bianchini, who escapes a pillage of rome (1527) sets off for Venice with her trusty assistant/pimp, Bucino (also the narrator of the novel), to make their fortunes in the city of her birth, Venice. A solid enough read, but Bucino is by far the most interesting character with his intelligence, various fears and obsessions, and restraints of physical stature (he is usually referred to as a dwarf, although I do not know if that is an accurate portrayal) to the somewhat shallow Fiammetta. Rich in the culture of the times, and lots of pageant and atmosphere.

Robin reads: Smashed, Collapse, Twisted, and the Donner Party Chronicles

September 3, 2006

Well, I’m not sure what happened to my longer reviews as they have disappeared, but here is the quick & brief. 😉
Smashed by Koren Zailckas A semi-autobiographical (?) tale of a young woman’s adventures with alcohol. I think it is a fairly accurate portrayal of a many women’s experiences in college; however, the book seemed to shift gears and moods too much. At times the author seems to glorify excessive drinking. Interesting, but uneven.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond Halfway through this book, I thought, “I’ve got it already!” The book is a little broad in scope and covers many societies from Easter Islands to Mayan to Greenland. The basic premise is that the survival of societies is based on sustainability. Overall, an interesting argument that the future of humanity resides in our ability to live with Nature and not against.
Twisted: A Novel by Jonathan Kellerman Multiple murders, a tough cop, an mathematical genius intern, an assortment of personal issues thrown in with a possible serial killer. For those of the faint of heart, a little gruesome in the initial descriptions of the murder scenes but overall not so much, with good pacing, lively characters, and many plot twists. A good solid crime thriller.
The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-Day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-47 by Frank Mullen Reconstruction of actual letters, diary entries, interviews, supplemented by period newspaper writings about the wagon train, as well as photographs, etc. into a day to day diary format. Fascinating and heartbreaking. Definitely a good read for those interested in history, folklore/storytelling, or biographies.

Robin reads: PopCo, The codex, Deception point & I never promised you a rose garden

May 23, 2006

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas (FICTION):
A friend recommended this to me and I found this a very fun read. Alice Butler is a whiz at cryptography, crosswords, and also works for one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers, PopCo, designing ‘kid’s spyware’. Having been selected for a special retreat which is actually to develop a new toy/marketing scheme for teenage girls, she quickly discovers that things are not always what they seem (to use a clichè). Hip, funny, insightful, with snappy pacing, and a few twists and turns throughout.

Codex by Lev Grossman (FICTION)

Well, I picked this up at a booksale. 😉 Edward Wozny, a banker, somehow gets involved with the Duchess and Duke of Bowery to catalog their book collection and find a particular famous medieval book, which by many is considered to be nonexistent A Viage to the Contree of the Cimmerians, by a monk, Gervase of Langford. Along the way, he meets a literature grad student, Margaret Napier, who he meets/employs/becomes involved with in the quest to find the codex. He also becomes obsessed with a computer game momus. So, how does this all fit together? Well, the book overall has a dreamy state and it’s like Edward is sleep walking through his life. The book is sort of odd coming of age story, or perhaps, more of person becoming awake. The ending is a little abrupt and feels hurried, but overall I enjoyed the book. I think the dreamy, sleepwalky quality makes the abrupt ending feel jarring, but perhaps that is the waking point. Also, I think you really need to enjoy reading about libraries and books to like this one.

Deception Point by Dan Brown (FICTION)
President Zachary Herney is up for relection and NASA has made several very public bad decisions and overspent its budget. The president has come to their aid many times, which is perfect fodder for his opponent, Senator Sedgwick Sexton, whose platform is children/education by privitizing space exploration. Into this situation, is tossed a meteor under the arctic circle which will prove the existence of extraterrestial life. The President taps Rachel Sexton, of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and Sedgwick Sexton’s daughter, to verify the data and findings. She travels to the Arctic circle where she only needs to verify that the information is correct. At this point, the story takes off. Is the meteor real or not? It is ultimately up to Rachel Sexton and another scientist affiliated with the project, oceanographer Michael Tolland, to bring the truth to the surface. Typical Dan Brown. I do think he provides enough momentum, details, and changes to keep his stories from feeling too redundant, but there is a definitely a pattern to these.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg (FICTION)

The story of a 16 year old (Deborah’s) struggle to overcome mental illness, which causes her to create the internal mystical world of Yr, a world bound by rules and gods, with both beautiful and desolate scenary. I first read this when I was an early teenager (13ish), and I definitely appreciate it much more now. Gives an insight into the reality of mental illness through the patient’s perspective and an interesting slice of mental health treatment and diagnosis in the 1950s. Beautifully written and truly a modern classic.

Robin Reads: Metro Girl, The Rule of Four, and The Bronte Project

April 27, 2006

Well, out of these, I didn’t really like any of them. 😉 Two novels about literature, two thrillers/mysteries.

Let’s start with The Rule of Four.

The Rule of Four: Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason (FICTION):

Lurching novel (literary thriller) about a renaissance era book which is supposedly impossible to deciper and filled with clues. Kind of like a renaissance Finnegans Wake? I’m not sure as I don’t know alot about renaissance lit (my speciality was gothic/romantic). Touted as a thinking person’s The DaVinci Code. I really wanted to like this but I barely finished it. Generally, the story is interesting and the plot twists are okay, the four main characters do complement each other, but it suffers too much from repetition. Having said that, I do think it is more intelligent than the DaVinci Code which is really not that original anyhow (as the key to the story is based upon Holy Blood, Holy Grail). The book spent 6 months on the NY Times best seller list. Also, there is an accompanying game:
Amazon link:

The Bronte Project: a novel of passion, desire, and good PR: Jennifer Vandever (FICTION):

Well, the first thing that is always a little odd is when you read about a character that umm… sort of sounds like you physically. It’s kind of like reading about your sister doing something. 😉 This novel is mostly a coming of age tale of a young graduate student ‘the silent Victorian’ who is writing her thesis on Bronte. Along the way, she is dumped by her longtime boyfriend and takes up with an assortment of odd characters. Generally, an easy read and it does ring rather true of the odd characters who seem to fill English Lit programs. Overall enjoyable, but nothing too spectacular. The ending seems at once too obvious and on the other hand, peculiar in terms of the rest of the story. Next up, I’m reading the DeKooning biography.
Amazon link:

Metro Girl: Janet Evanovich (FICTION):
Alex Barney receives a mysterious phone call from her brother in Miami, drops everything and heads to find him. Along the way she means NASCAR guy (who really does call himself that), a stereotypical gay guy, a bunch of stereotypical Cuban American women (who work in a cigar factory), and let’s see anymore stereotypes? Metro I think is supposed to refer to Alex as metrosexual in that 1)she goes by her last name Barney 2)she used to be a mechanic and 3)pink mini skirts? no, wait, there must have been something else.
Anyhow, I read it for the S. Florida scenery but I felt guilty about reading all of the stereotype stuff (or actually, the author presents the characters as stereotypes but then throws something in so that it can be a “nonstereotypical” representation… umm… I don’t think that is how it works…) The mystery/story is ok, but the story is very uneven. There are some very serious elements to the story, which seem to just not make sense. At one point, Alex is knowingly driving around with a bomb in the back of her car. Yep. Honestly, I kept thinking/hoping this one would get better.
Amazon link:

book reviews for: The friend who got away, Son of Wicked, Locked Rooms

February 10, 2006

While I STILL wait for Wicked from the public library (I’ve been 2nd on the list for a while now), I did manage to finish 3 books:

The Friend Who Got Away : Twenty Women’s True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away, by Jenny Offill, Elissa Schappell. (NONFICTION) ?
I enjoyed this book greatly. It has a great variety of types of friendships (across gender, age, relationship, etc.) Some are funny, some are sad, some are charmingly bittersweet. The last one is about a girl (woman?) who has colon disease and spends a great deal of time in the hospital for treatment, until the doctors remove her colon. Her best friend is an artist, and when she goes to her friend’s new art show, it’s all ‘colon’ paintings. This particular story was kind of eerie to me after my time in the hospital, especially as several people have asked me how/if my illness has influenced my artwork. Too be honest, I haven’t really decided yet. Anyhow, it’s an easy enough read, I imagine at least one of the stories will ring true to everyone, given the variety.

Mary Russell, parttime private investigator and wife of Sherlock Holmes (and apparently heroine in her own line of books by Laurie King) is trying to make amends with her past, sort out her inheritance (her parent’s house, primarily). In the meantime, she discovers that her memories are not quite true and that things are not always what they seem (ha! I can use a cliche, as well as the rest, hmm?) A light read, sprinkled with interesting characters, with a dose of the roaring 1920s. I had hoped for a little more Agatha Christie style plots and twists, but over all enjoyable, primarily due to the dialogue and character interaction between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire (FICTION)
This continues the story of Wicked, which is the story of the witches in the wizard of oz. I wish I had read Wicked first, as I think it would help the set the stage a little more, but in general I really loved this book. Unlike a lot of other modern fantasy lit which is either steeped in Sci Fiction, Middle Earth, or romance novels in disguise, this book very much reads like a modern fairytale. For those who are fans of the Wizard of Oz or this genre of literature, I think they will enjoy these. Liir, a young boy, is found in the castle after Dorothy desposes of the Wicked Witch of the West. Orphaned and with a personal quest to find a possible family member, Liir sets out for Emerald City in a coming of age tale. The setting is very well done and the story develops along nicely.

…and yes, I have read the Harry Potters which are very good, too, but I don’t see a point in writing reviews when there are millions of websites devoted to them already… 😉 but who knows. When I read the next one, I may feel inclined to post a review. 😉

book reviews for : Angels & Demons, Twisted, the undomestic goddess, colors insulting to nature

January 14, 2006

I finally do have some nonfiction coming up on my reading list… and you can see that I’ve been doing ALOT of reading…

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown I enjoyed this one much better than the DaVinci Code, although reading these two so closely together I did see a formula. Here is the formula for those who might wonder: Famous symbologist/professor Robert Langdon receives a phone call from some large and very important institution/organization about a mysterious death. Upon his arrival, he meets a woman who is a scientist (Kind of the inverse of the sterotypical arts/humanity = femininity and science/math = male, although I wonder if that was planned or just a convenient way to get a love interest in the story…) They investigate and the follow alot of clues hidden in architecture, art, etc. to the point where an important person to the story is revealed as the villain. How important? Well, you will have to read the book. Along the way, Robert Langdon and his Scientist romantic interest, will espouse various theories about religion, science, and art. If you enjoy mysteries and reading about art or religious/scientific theories and conspiracies, you would probably enjoy these in spite of the formula.

Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson A quirky coming of age tale of a girl who believes she is talented and wants to be a star, in spite of the fact that her ‘talent’ is questionable. Her mother is a train wreck of a stage mother (think if Divine were your mom) who starts her own theatre house, her brother becomes an agrophoric artist (and conversely famous), her father (a former rodeo cowboy) becomes a drag queen… still all’s well that ends well to a certain extent. She wanders through a lot of personas and subcultures along her way to adulthood, and the heroine is not the most lovable character, but I think that is part of the charm. The novelist does step inside the story at times to propel the story along or comment. At times, this is a little disconcerting, but I think overall it works with this novel. I enjoyed this book immensely and I honesty think this book would make a great John Waters movie…

Twisted by Jonathan Kellerman Hollywood homicide detective Petra Connor (a regular character in Jonathan Kellerman novels), has to solve two different murders. One appears to be a gang drive by shooting after a hip hop concert. The second, a possible previously unrecognized serial killing spree, of murders where folks brains are bashed out (literally). Is there a pattern to the second murder case as her mathematical genius intern suggests or is it just imagined? I like Kellerman’s mysteries/crime stories. I’m not exactly sure why except the characters are well written, and the stories are consistently good, and overall, his books do not feel quite as formulaic as some others in this genre.

The Undomestic Goddess: Books by Sophie Kinsella Samantha Sweeting should be on the top of her game. A lawyer at one of the most pretigious law firms in London, a nice flat, and all of the other trappings of success. She considers being overworked and scheduling her time in 6 minute intervals to be the sacrifice of being successful. On the day that she is to be made partner, a terrible financial & legal mistake is found by Samantha “I don’t make mistakes” Sweeting. Freaking out, she walks out of her office and ends up in the country where she somehow ACCIDENTALLY accepts a job as a housekeeper in spite of the fact she has no idea of how to cook, iron, or anything else required… Will she stay? Will she be found out? In spite of the fact that this book became a little too.. umm… sweet for me towards the end, a solid read.

To see all of my reviews & synopsis, click here.

book reviews for: the davinci code, the best awful, incubus dreams

December 29, 2005

well, I think I am feeling in desperate need to read some good quality nonfiction. Too much fluff in my reading bag these last couple of weeks! …which I suppose is okay for someone whose brain is not working so well…
+The Davinci Code by Dan Brown Yeah, I read it finally. So much has been written and talked about this book (not sure why, except that it brings up the premise of Holy Blood, Holy Grail book which was apparently a hot and controversial read in the 80s). I do have two things to say about it, though. First, it’s at least two mysteries in one…. a fairly well written murder/intrigue mystery wrapped around the second religious mystery. So, although I was kind of afraid that it would be really boring because I already ‘knew’ what the second mystery is (at least the concept of what the author is presenting), there are enough twists and turns to keep most people interested. Secondly, if you are not somewhat familiar with the works of DaVinci and basic mythology/symbology, you may have some trouble understanding pieces of it (although at times, the author goes to painstaking detail to try to explain very big concepts in a paragraph (BA HAH AH HA!). I personally loved reading all of the stuff about DaVinci. Although I am not a big fan of his work (artistic blasphemy surely!) I am a big fan of him, at least of what we know about him… The fact that he incorporated puzzles, the golden mean/rule, sexually ambiguous (combining the male + female in a divine way or did he just prefer pretty boys? or most likely a little of both), his journals/sketchbooks written backwards…. Anyhow, I’m guessing that if you’re interested in art and like mysteries, you have probably already read this one. 😉

+The Best awful by Carrie Fisher: The tale of an over the hill manic depressive former drug addict/alcoholic actress, Suzanne Vale, who is now a cable talk show hostess interviewing famous people. Her mother is a old musical star, her father is missing, her ex-husband and father of her child, Honey, has discovered he is gay and moved out. Somewhere along the way, she decides to stop taking her prescribed medicines and there the adventure begins….
From a wild ride to Tijuana, Mexico with a former ex-con tattoo artist to a full mental breakdown in a mental hospital. It kind of is going along at a crazy but fun pace when the breakdown happens, and the book quickly changes gears. An interesting peek at the cycling of a manic.

+Incubus dreams by Laurel Hamilton Anita Baker is a vampire hunter, animator of the dead, and sort of a detective. All of that sounded kind of interesting, but this book is um… awful. I haven’t read any of the other Anita Baker vampire hunter stuff and I just picked this up on a whim at the library. I had hoped for a new vampire series to read (I do like most of the Anne Rice vampire books) but these are not going to be it. I don’t consider myself a prude, but this book seems to be more about sex and little about anything else… (although, admittedly, I did not get very far into the book before I just put it down to boredom….) Isn’t she supposed to be investigating a crime spree by vampires?!?!! Anyhow, what is interesting about this book is that in this particular literary world, vampires, lycanthropes (wereleopards, werewolves, and apparently, even wererats…. )all seem to get along fairly well together and live openly in modern society… The other thing is there are probably about a billion typos… really, I think each page has a typo!

Robin reads Fall reads : Olivia Joules & the overactive imagination, White as Snow, The Birth of Venus, Portrait of a Killer, Gothic Tragic

October 14, 2005

Olivia Joules and the overactive imagination / Helen Fielding.
From the author of bridget jones. A silly fluffy read. Great fun. Actually, I liked it much better than Bridget Jones.

White as snow / Tanith Lee.
A remaking of the Snow White story in a traditional fantasy fiction vein. I forgot I had already read this one. The story is superficially straightforward, but it has alot of strong undercurrents of gender dynamics, relationships, ageism, violence/abuse, and of course, lots of obvious symbols and metaphors. Mirrors the myth of Demeter and Persephone to a certain extent. I haven’t read alot of Tanith Lee, so I don’t know if it is typical of her work or not. I liked it the first read around, and I was a little disappointed when I realized I had already read it.

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper– Case Closed / Patricia Cromwell.
Now this was interesting. True? Good science? Who knows. It lays out the argument that Walter Richard Sickert, an artist, was Jack the Ripper. The author analyzes the crimes, evidence, and his artwork. Sort of CSI in the art world. Very interesting. (although to make the determination purely upon his paintings would be folly, but the case as she assembles it is interesting…)

The Birth of Venus : A Novel / Sarah Dunant.
Coming of Age medieval tale of young girl/artist who becomes involved with a painter. Subplot involving Dante’s Comedy and Bottecelli’s Birth of Venus. Interesting threads about women’s roles in medieval society as well as the roles of artists during that time period. Mostly enjoyable, the courtly love stuff got a little tedious towards the end, for me…

Gotham Tragic / Kurt Wenzel.
Modern tale of NYC, publishing, on being a writer, hipness/being outdated, religion, society,etc. Continues the story of Lit Life’s main character, Kyle Clayton, an alcoholic hip writer. Somehow, I really enjoyed this one in spite of itself…

July 4, 2005

The devil wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Ok, I must have had some of the worst bosses in the history of the world, as this person didn’t seem THAT bad to me. I know, I kept reading it, thinking, she doesn’t sound THAT bad… WHAT? Am I crazy?!?! I did love this one though. Very girly, corporate, fashionasta, funny in a demented way.

Alternative Atlanta by Marshall Boswell
Basically, the adventures of a stoned guy who sort shuffles through life: his job (writing music reviews for the local music weekly), his relationships (his dad is dying; very confusing love life –well sort of),etc. Story takes place during the Olympics, which is kind of interesting. It was a fun read, except the characters sort of made me cringe at times. Does the main character redeem himself by the end of the book? Do you want me to tell you? If you are from the south or have some friends from college still ‘finding themselves’ you might enjoy this. This had a very ‘real’ voice to it. I kept wondering if it was partially autobiographical or at least a composite of real people. I like this one more retrospect…

The lady and the unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
Sort of a historical fiction of those tapestries depicting young girls with unicorns. I enjoyed this one well enough, although somehow it felt a little unsatisfying.

In the hand of Dante/Nick Tosches
Hmm. Finished it, but the plot kind of wanders around. Lots of middle age angst. By page 105, I was still not sure of the plot besides what I read on the back cover. Let’s see, brief summary: impotent diabetic foul mouthed alcholic writer with issues somehow gets involved with a copy of the Divine Comedy which has been found in a Vatican library…. and gets involved with the Mafia. Interesting, but the main character is very unlikable, in general. It’s been compared to Burkowski, so that should give you a clue as to the writing style.