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.

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.