Monthly Archives: January 2010

Review: In Tongues of the Dead by Brad Kelln

In Tongues of the DeadMy rating: 3.5  of 5 stars

I enjoyed the story of In Tongues of the Dead, but the writing style didn’t entirely work for me.

See the ECW Website for a detailed summary of the book.

In Tongues of the Dead is a book  in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code, with action and chases and puzzles and high ranking officials in the Catholic Church that will do absolutely anything to protect their secrets. The adventure was well executed, and both the action and the puzzles kept me involved in the story.

The unique twist of this book was the addition of angels and Nephilim (the result of crossbreeding of angels and humans).

As an aside, I found it odd to read this book after reading Hush, Hush and Fallen, two recent YA books featuring fallen angels, which appears to be a trendy topic in the genre. In Tongues of the Dead is a very different style of book, but I did keep flashing back to the other two simply due to the shared mythology they pulled from.

I liked the characters, and wished they’d been a little more fully realized, so that I could have gotten to know them better. I found the pieces I did have of them (past and present) to be teasers, making me want more.

The down side of this book for me was the writing. As I frequently state on this blog, what I want from writing is for it to deliver the story and stay out of my way. I kept being distracted by the words themselves, which seemed a little stilted, and kept the story from flowing cleanly.

I’ll put the same comment here as I did in my review of Tainted: There is a young child in jeopardy in this book. This may or may not be an issue for you, of course.

Overall, I still enjoyed In Tongues of the Dead, even while recognizing potential areas of improvement.

Thank you to ECW Press and their Shelf Monkey program for allowing me to participate, and providing In Tongues of the Dead for review.

As an aside, I found it odd to read this book after reading Hush, Hush and Fallen, two recent YA books featuring fallen angels, which appears to be a trendy topic in the genre. In Tongues of the Dead is a very different style of book, but I did keep flashing back to the other two simply due to the shared mythology they pulled from.

Posted by on January 27, 2010 in books, reviews


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Review: The Body Scoop for Girls by Jennifer Ashton

There’s nothing like reading a book about sex aimed at girls like your daughter to make you feel old!

The Body Scoop is about a lot more than sex, of course.   It covers many aspects of the life of an adolescent girl, including physical changes, nutrition, eating disorders, grooming, and so on.  I  didn’t read the whole thing, but I will before my daughter does.

I think The Body Scoop is aimed at 14 to 18 year olds, with useful content for girls  a couple of years on either side. Girls vary in their development and interests, of course. It seems to be directed a a girl that has started her period, has thoughts about hair removal (including pubic hair),  is familiar with a gynecologist and the concept of a vaginal exam, and is in a place where she’s making decisions about sex.

There is a lot of good information in The Body Scoop.  The big question is: will older teens find this book interesting and useful?

I think they need the information that is in here. In the chapters I read, the author goes into details on what is normal for periods and other associated issues. She makes a medical case for keeping your virginity until at least age 18 (she deliberately avoids the moral issues associated with that decision, which probably helps many girls keep from tuning out all of her advice on the subject). She gives details on sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent them, and on birth control (always use two methods: a condom as well as another one).

The Body Scoop is well organized for browsing. It looks like the author has her facts straight (I’m fairly well informed, but far from an expert!).

There are times that the author’s attitude bothered me a bit. Her friendly persona seemed slightly condescending in some places, and like she was trying to hard in others. Then again, I’m old and cynical, so maybe that doesn’t come through to her intended audience. I also didn’t like her recommendation of weight loss surgery for teen girls, but that’s a personal hot button.  Many important ideas are repeated multiple times, which is slightly annoying when reading the book straight through, but is useful for a girl picking up the book and just reading certain sections.

Last night, I handed The Body Scoop to my daughter, and asked her to glance through the first few chapters and tell me what she thought.  At first she was interested.  She asked a couple of questions (from the grooming section, fairly innocuous) as she went along.  Then she handed it back to me, and asked why there was so much information on each page.  Tonight she asked if she could look at it again when I finished my review.  She asked what a gynecologist is.  She commented that the author’s office sounds really nice (it does!). Then she asked again why there was so much information on each page!

It isn’t the book I’m currently searching for, one that is what my 11 year old needs right now. I’m hanging on to this book and making it available to her, whenever she is interested.   I hope she’ll always be willing to ask me, but I think having a backup plan always a good thing. This book also will answer some questions it might not occur to her to ask, or to me to bring up.

(As a side note, for girls just showing signs (physical or emotional) of starting puberty, I’d recommend the American Girl book The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls. I recently purchased the AMA’s Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Teen for my daughter, and it looks like a good next step.)

TLC Book ToursI received The Body Scoop as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to Lisa for this opportunity.  Take a look at the other tour stops for other perspectives on the book:

The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., Ob-Gyn


Posted by on January 26, 2010 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Tainted by Brooke Morgan

Tainted by Brooke MorganTainted by Brooke Morgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From the TLC Book Tours site:

Holly Barrett first saw Jack Dane early one morning—tall, tan, and so heartbreakingly handsome he took her breath away. He also seemed like the last person to disrupt her quiet, uneventful days with her sensitive daughter, Katy. But the charming, enigmatic Englishman has blown into her small Cape Cod town like a brisk summer wind off the bay.

He sweeps Holly off her feet, and is soon touching the lives of everyone she deeply cares about. But is Jack the considerate, concerned gentleman he appears to be—or is there a very different creature lurking below the surface? Has a monster entered her life . . . and how far will Holly have to go to save the person she loves more than anyone else in the world?

I found Tainted an utterly engrossing book, heavy on the suspense and creepiness. While I was reading, I was completely drawn in by the characters and their actions.

I think this is a testament to the quality of the writing, which I never found obtrusive (this is probably how I’d define what I like in a writing style– effectively captures my attention while never forcing me to pay attention to the actual words).

When I stopped reading, I found myself questioning the story. Did I find Holly realistic in her reactions to the events that unfolded? (yes) Was I convinced by Jack? (that answer kept changing over the course of the book, I’m still not certain now I’m finished with the book).

These characters stayed with me, as did the secondary characters of Katy (the daughter, occasionally in danger of being more of a plot device than a person, but whose personality does come through), Henry (Holly’s grandfather and support system, a crotchety but loving father figure), Anna (Holly’s childhood best friend) and Billy (the deadbeat dad).

I liked how the book was primarily told from Holly’s point of view, but we’d get chapters that were glimpses inside other heads.

I want to give this book a Warning: Child in Jeopardy label; since I know several people that would not want to read Tainted due to that aspect of the story. I found it disturbing, but that didn’t stop me from liking the book.

TLC Book ToursI read Tainted as part of a TLC Book Tours tour. Thank you to Trish for the opportunity to read this book and to participate in this tour. Tainted will also be visiting:


Posted by on January 19, 2010 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m guessing it’d get at least another half star from me if I was within the target audience. Sometimes, young adult books work seamlessly for me, sometimes I feel old when I read them.

From the publisher’s website:

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those who have fallen — and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

I couldn’t help but think of Twilight and Fallen when I read Hush, Hush. This book is missing most of the things that most annoyed me about either of those. In the end, I liked it better than Fallen, but it wasn’t quite the guilty pleasure that I found Twilight.

I really liked how the book set up the story with the brief scene in the prologe. The reader is given a framework for the mythology. When the details about angels come out later, it doesn’t come out of nowhere.

I liked the characters. I found them fairly interesting, even if their teen-ness distanced me from them. I’m never thrilled with the whole obsessive love thing, but this was actually pretty well handled. I liked the plot. It kept my interest as I tried to figure out each character’s role.

Altogether, it was readable and entertaining.

I received this book for review from the publisher. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this opportunity.


Posted by on January 17, 2010 in books, reviews


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Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog My rating: 4 of 5 stars


We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there’s Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

I found this book very odd to listen to. I mostly mean that in a good way, although there are times that I wasn’t sure.

The first half of the book kept rambling off on tangents, usually (but not always) interesting ones. I drifted along, bemused, as Renée pontificated on philosophy or stories about people she knew; or as 12 year old Paloma talked about how pointless her life was. I admit, I let it flow by at times, listening but not always absorbing what was said.

In the second part of the book, the story came together. Parts that I let slip by me became relevant. I got to know the characters much better, and finally connected with them.

The characters, particularly the main characters of Renée and Paloma are the heart of this book. Although they both interest me, I didn’t like either of them as much as I expected to, or as I think I should. Both were very smart female characters, which is often enough to make me bond with them. In both cases, I was too far into the book before I really understood why they needed to hide their intelligence from everyone around them.

I also continue to think on Ozu and Manuela, two key secondary characters. I wish both had been fleshed out more. Ozu never felt like more than a plot device to me, although a very pleasant one. Manuela was a foil for Renée. Yet, I still perked up whenever they entered.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure all of this is deliberate, that’s the way I’m supposed to feel as I make my through the book. I think everything I perceived as borderline negative when reading adds to the final understanding of the book.

This was a very intricate book, not in its plot, but in the characters and in the telling. There were many small pieces that interlocked in unexpected ways.

I’d really like to reread this book. I suspect that on a second time through, I would love this book rather than simply liking it a lot like I do now.

I think this would make an excellent book club selection, and will consider suggesting it to one of my clubs next time we select books.


Posted by on January 13, 2010 in books, reviews


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Review: Exit Music by Ian Rankin

Exit MusicMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the Hachette Book Group web site:

It’s late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.

Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus’s investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.

Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

I have a friend that has been urging me to read Ian Rankin for several years now. I’ve meant to get to this series, and when I had a chance to review this book I jumped on it, even if I had to start at the end of the series.

I can see why my friend recommends the series so highly. There were a variety of interesting characters, the mystery was well plotted, and the writing was high quality.

On the other hand, I think I was missing some richness because I hadn’t read any of the early books. I think having a better understanding of where the characters came from would have made their journeys more meaningful.

It is a good book on its own, and I recommend it for those that like police procedural mysteries. I’m going to go back and fill in some of the earlier books. I think I’ve been missing out.

Thank you to Hachette books for providing this book for review!

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Posted by on January 7, 2010 in books, reviews


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Book club updates

I haven’t posted recently about my book clubs and the books we’ve discussed!

A few days ago, my Book Club M discussed Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby I reviewed it in October, and then suggested it for this group to discuss. We all enjoyed reading the book– I’d been pretty sure that most of the members would, but I was glad that the others did as well. We had a good discussion, largely stemming from the highly unreliable narrator and from the family relationships in the book.

Book Club L skipped December (my fault!) but Book Club M read and discussed Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, which is the Silicon Valley Reads book for 2010. I haven’t posted a review of this book yet, and I probably won’t. Our opinion on this book was mixed, with some people loving it, and others being not as certain. I didn’t think our discussion was particularly compelling either, but I was probably the persbn that liked the book the least. We talked about the science behind his claims and about his tone while discussing them. I think that those that liked this book best had previously read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so that may be a better place to start.

In November, my Book Club L discussed Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which I’d previously read, reviewed and discussed with Twitter Book Club. Olive Kitteridge made my list of top reads in 2009. Everyone thought it was a good book, but not everyone enjoyed reading it– a couple of people found Olive’s character too negative, and that interfered with their connection with her. This disagreement helped the discussion, which I think everyone enjoyed.

Also in November, Twitter Book Club discussed Tethered by Amy MacKinnon. I still hope to review it someday, although I’m not sure how likely that is at this point. I really enjoyed the book and the TBC discussion (even if I hadn’t finished the book yet). I need to recommend this for one of my other clubs, since I’d love to talk about the parts I hadn’t yet read.  I have to say, Twitter Book Club has consistently selected great books, and I’m thinking I should go back and read the two I’ve missed!

I think that catches me up on book club discussions! Hopefully, I’ll stay more up to date on my reviews this year, but  I still may post short updates when we discuss I book I’ve already read.


Posted by on January 6, 2010 in Book Club, L, M, Twitter


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2009 books in review

I read 151 books in 2009.  89 of these were on paper, 62 were audiobooks.  I significantly exceeded my goals for the year, which worked out to about 50 paper, 25 audiobooks.

Although I expect to keep reading much as I have been, I’m keeping the same goals– one paper book a week most weeks, an audiobook about every two weeks.  I hope to read more, but it’s OK if I don’t.

I read a LOT of good books last year, and I wanted to call out a few of my favorites.  These aren’t necessarily the ones that had the highest ratings at the time, but they’ve stuck with me through the year. They weren’t necessarily published in 2009, but that’s when I read them.

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is my top audiobook for the year.  It is overall an amazing book, with outstanding characters and a great story to tell.  I was a little nervous going in, since I don’t always enjoy  books about serious issues.  This one delivered all around.
  2. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins have my votes for best general appeal.  I bought multiple copies for Christmas presents, including a gift exchange where I didn’t know who would end up with it.  These also worked very well in audio.
  3. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison was the book that best delivered words I needed to hear, while being beautifully written and still enjoyable to read.
  4. Betsy and the Great World by Maude Hart Lovelace (and the rest of the Betsy-Tacy books) made me wish I’d discovered them earlier.  I actually had read the first four (about Betsy as a young child) with my daughter, and we liked them a lot, but I was completely unaware of the books taking Betsy from a teenager to adulthood.
  5. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is the most readable literary award winning book I’ve come across.  I really enjoyed getting to know Olive.
  6. The Language of Bees is the latest book in my favorite series, Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books.   I’m really looking forward to the next book, coming out in April 2010.
  7. 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton was a book that looked inside the life of a very ordinary young man, someone you could know.  He’s confused about the world, and has decided that he needs to deliver a message.  This is a book that is much more readable than I expected from the description, but still delivers a major impact that has really stuck with me.
  8. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale are two very different books which were 5 star reads for me, but I can recognize they might not be as objectively high quality as the others on this list.  They each were very good, and had appeal for me in particular.
  9. I really didn’t want to leave these off or pick between them, so I’ll just list them here:

Posted by on January 4, 2010 in blogging, books, summary


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