As quickly as I read books, I thought it a fine idea to find a place to post my recent recommendations, future finds and stash of swaps.
At the bottom, checkout my Goodreads library shelf. I'll be posting reviews there as I finish books here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Lies That Bind (A Bibliophile Mystery #3) by Kate Carlisle

The strength of lead character Brooklyn Wainwright carries what could have been a case of the "swooning damsel" and this lends itself nicely to learning how to balance her steadfast independence with her situational dependence on others.

The secrets of the dark "stranger," what connections there could possibly be between the victims and the seemingly innocent, and what the romantic interest's true intent could be really do keep the pages turning. The conversations and situations are realistic and entertaining without being too simplistic or over the top, given the circumstances.  There is enough detail in Brooklyn's life, job and neighbors to imagine walking into such a circle of individuals.

Yet another case of having picked up a sequel, the story does fairly well standing alone, but there are some of the characters' nuances toward each other that are a bit confusion without knowledge of the full account of previous events (which are constantly alluded to throughout).  However, as murder-mysteries go, it is kind of exciting not knowing the full history of the characters when the plot does twist. Perhaps it is more ironic or more in-line with the character; one can't be sure.

What you can be sure of is that the previous books from this author's series will soon be on the "to-read" bookshelf!

The Final Summit A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity By Andy Andrews

Reading the sequel without reading the first book has been problematic in the past, by happily there is enough of the back-story provided that this well-written book can indeed stand on its own.

We encounter David Ponder sometime after his adventures of the first book, as well as sometime after his beloved wife of more than 40 years has passed quietly in her sleep. He is distraught and seemingly adrift in his own little world. He reminisces about his wife and seeks solace in his sachet of mementos obtained in the travels (covered in the first book). In his despair, he looks up to see the archangel who had previously whisked him away. He now has a new task, one of tremendous importance. With the assistance of historical persons assembled to aid him in his new quest, David is told the rules, the manner in which the solution must be found to the all-important Question, and the hourglass is put in motion.

The author cleverly draws upon actual correspondence and transcripts of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Eric Erickson and George Washington Carver, as well as historical records pertaining to Joan of Arc and biblical references to King David, to breath life into David's dilemma. Andy Andrews has done a splendid job of creating a believable Summit of personalities and dialogues to flesh out potential answers to the Question posed. The clever splicing of little-known facts regarding these attendees, these fictional fellow Travelers of David's, brings a fullness to the historical figures in his world and helps to lend credibility to his representation of "the everyman" chosen for this fictional task.

Andrews' use of philosophy and dialogue truly brings the reader into the discussion, nodding in agreement with each answer, following the arc and the scope of the debate to its "eureka moment" and the final Answer. The inspirational conclusion will spur anyone into action, even if the action is merely to change one's mind.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games by A. Bartlett Giamatti

The true voice of Giamatti is that of a philosopher and professor, and it made the book difficult to read without first eliminating all other distractions (including pet cats). And it's definitely not a beach read unless you read Plato or Socrates for breakfast.

The topic itself was quite entertaining, once a state of reading nirvana is attained. Giamatti pours his philosopher's soul into the musings of societal influences and reflections on play, games and, eventually, that of the sport of professional baseball.

As several other reviewers have stated, this is not solely about baseball, nor is it for the faint of heart.  It is for those who ruminate on the decline of society's joie de vivre and its resulting escapism in organized sports.

The last words of his epilogue, the simplest and truest, are the heart of the whole of this book:
"If we have known freedom, then we love it; if we love freedom, then we fear, at some level (individually or collectively), its loss. And then we cherish sport. As our forebears did, we remind ourselves through sport of what, here on earth, is our noblest hope."

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore by Stella Duffy

The creative imagination and detailed research required to bring to life an historical figure, big or small, is evident in Stella Duffy's Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore. A relatively small character of history, Theodora was not a person included in most survey courses, so the subject was not as well-known or documented as Queen Elizabeth. The extensive bibliography shows the varied sources available to the author, but the nuances of the title character can only be surmised. The results were believable.

Theodora lives in a world of child labor, rigid class structure, slavery and organized prostitution is rampant among these lowest of classes. The passion and fortitude of such a young girl is made believable and becomes even more so as she matures into decisions and situations beyond her years. The author's clever device of separating Theodora's self from her body, cynical and detached throughout her life, is realistic. Using this not only as a defense mechanism, but ultimately to ensure her psyche's survival, Theodora's intelligence and intuition as envisioned by the author is refreshing. Remaining detached and cynical until her self-realization is complete in the arms of her Justinian illustrates what must have been an amazing strength of character.

Seeing characters from history brought to life colorfully and dynamically is enjoyable. In creating a lifelike and believable character from sparse historical records and contexts, and weaving an entertaining biographical account of this colorful woman, the author has certainly succeeded in all regards.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Faculty Club by Danny Tobey

The rural Texas upbringing of Jeremy Davis is almost at odds with his drive as he embarks on a serious journey out of his comfort zone in the Ivy League law school that has made presidents and important social pillars during its history.  The pressure to perform, the need to fit in, the exclusive club veiled in secrecy and the innate curiosity of a first year law student.  But the school has a dark side hidden beneath its polished faculty and large, dusty library and imposing brick halls. Just how far and how deep Jeremy must go to win acclaim from his peers and his professors and gain entrance into the secret club surprises some.  And how far he must go to set things right will amaze even himself.

Landing a key research assistant position with Professor Bernini, the most influential faculty member, and falling in with the "right" crowd seem to happen so easily during the first days on campus.  One evening, he receives a coveted invitation from the V and D, the secret club, appearing in his locked room as if by magic. Each invitation seems to be more of an audition, as if he were being sized up for something.  But wisps of conversation caught in passing in the halls outside of Bernini's office, odd reactions to questions, unexpected connections to the unsavory characters on campus, and the information from his trusted friend and his contacts make Jeremy uneasy.  The more he learns, the less he wants to know. What he finally learns is more disturbing than a nightmare.

The plot started off with much promise and a good number of twists kept it interesting. The few main characters seem solid enough, but the farther from Jeremy the action, the characters seem to fade.  Granted some perspective is necessary, and how much the reader learns is only what Jeremy himself learns, but what should have been room for character development is left vacant.  A good deal of details are available in the first half of the book, details about Jeremy and his family, his initial invitation. As the second half of the book progressed, Jeremy received some direction, but the turns he takes are not fully qualified or explained.  Questions regarding important discoveries are left unanswered and loose ends are neatly tied off abruptly.

An additional 100 pages or so of character development and details would have benefited this book greatly.  As it stands, it makes a good showing as a quick afternoon read.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Okay so I finally won something!

The Goodreads community have numerous prerelease books listed for giveaway by publishers and authors, and members can enter to win. They call it "First Reads." Winners are picked randomly at the end of the giveaway.  I have entered a number of them over the last few days in all different genres and subjects. Well, lo and behold, I actually won one! Entering on the last day it was open, I was selected to win a copy of Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore by Stella Duffy.

The blurbs provided are as follows:
THEODORA is based on the life of Theodora of Constantinople, who started out as an actress and prostitute and rose to become the Empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church. Roman historian Procopius praises her piety and saintliness in his Wars of Justinian while his Secret History gives salacious details of her stage act and maligns her as ruthless and power hungry.
So who was Theodora? Social climber, politician, or saint? In Stella Duffy's page turning historical novel, she's a little of each. From her humble beginnings as an acrobat and dancer (and by extension a prostitute) to her religious conversion in the African desert to her fame as Empress of Rome and social reformer, Theodora lived an incredible life, and Duffy brings her story roaring to life on the page. Charming, charismatic, and controversial, Theodora's is a story of a powerful, little-known historical figure that will absolutely captivate you.
Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety-while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world's most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history.
As with any number of other books on historical figures, a great deal of speculation and creative license is implied. There are so few facts and details available on such a small cast member in the ranks of history. Even some of the larger figures have little hard evidence to their daily lives (Jesus is a prime example).

I'm looking forward to reading this one to see how it gels.