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Everything posted by Readwine

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley Blurb from Amazon: It's the beginning of a lazy summer in 1950 at the sleepy English village of Bishop's Lacey. Up at the great house of Buckshaw, aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce passes the time tinkering in the laboratory she's inherited from her deceased mother and an eccentric great uncle. When Flavia discovers a murdered stranger in the cucumber patch outside her bedroom window early one morning, she decides to leave aside her flasks and Bunsen burners to solve the crime herself, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. But who can blame her? What else does an eleven-year-old science prodigy have to do when left to her own devices? With her widowed father and two older sisters far too preoccupied with their own pursuits and passions�stamp collecting, adventure novels, and boys respectively�Flavia takes off on her trusty bicycle Gladys to catch a murderer. In Alan Bradley's critically acclaimed debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, adult readers will be totally charmed by this fearless, funny, and unflappable kid sleuth. But don't be fooled: this carefully plotted detective novel (the first in a new series) features plenty of unexpected twists and turns and loads of tasty period detail. As the pages fly by, you'll be rooting for this curious combination of Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. Go ahead, take a bite. This novel was a great surprise and a lovely delight. It is a straight forward mystery devoid of any graphic scenes or sexual situations (a nice change now and then). It is funny, fast-paced and lighthearted; it is also, to my delight, very British. I loved the writing style: smooth, swift and quite amusing. It is definitely written in the vocabulary of an older teenager or adult. I don�t think an eleven year old could actually get through it without a struggle (at least not a US pre-teen- US reading skills generally are appalling). Even though the mystery unfolds through the eyes and ears of a little girl, I think the novel is really written for an adult. It is almost nostalgic, taking you back to when you were 11. The main character, Flavia, is simply fabulous: smart, resourceful and very brave, with a fragile but firm philosophy of �Me against the World.� She adores chemistry, particularly poisons, which makes for an intriguing little girl. It is amazing how a male author really delved into the character of Flavia and really captured her views of an adult world (absent minded father and deceased mother), her constant rivalry against her older sisters and her friendship (cemented through the instruction of lock picking) with an old shell-shocked gardener. The plot of the mystery is really plain vanilla, but the delight of this novel is not in the mystery but in the characters of the mystery, particularly Flavia. This is apparently the first book in a series. So I shall be looking forward with great anticipation for the next installments. I give it a 10/10
  2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett Brief Summary from Amazon: Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. Secretly, the budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it. This is an absolutely fabulous book. The three main characters, Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen, each take turns describing events from their perspectives and fears, which makes the reader want to know more, become friends with them, become their secret confidants. The book focuses on the civil rights movement, not through historical fact, but through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of “the help.” Superbly done. Highly recommended. I give it a 10 out of 10
  3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Brief Summary from Amazon: This is a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, and experiences an awful assault. Later on, these experiences becomes a key moments in her destiny when the nun arrives in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brother
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Brief summary from Amazon: Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe. Nobody Owens, so named because he "looks like nobody but himself," grows up among a multigenerational cast of dead and half-dead characters from different historical periods that includes matronly Mistress Owens; ancient Roman Caius Pompeius; an opinionated young witch; a melodramatic hack poet; and Bod's beloved mentor and guardian, Silas, who is neither living nor dead and has secrets of his own. As he grows up, Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the man Jack who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting. Gaiman creates a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of dreams, ghouls, murderers, trickery, and family. This is my introduction to Gaiman. I really enjoyed the book and the scope of its imagination. (I bet you Gaiman has an interesting tale to tell about himself). A quick fun read, but I would recommend it more for older children (12 and up). I loved the characters, especially Silas ( a serious but loving “undead”). A good story to illustrate the need for children eventually to “ go and explore your life.” I give it an 8/10
  5. Readwine's Read 2012

    Since I have been a BCF member, I have challenged myself to read 52 books during the year. I've yet to get there, but I will keep trying. 2009 = 44 2010 = 47 2011 = 48 2012 = ? Still, this is the most books I've ever read in a year (notwithstanding the years in university) and I owe it to the motivation BCF provides. Thank you. For 2012, I am reasserting that challenge: 1. Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin 9.5/10 2. Sanctus by Simon Toyne 7/10 3. The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau 7.5/10 4. Restoration by Rose Tremain 7/10 5. The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Peter Ackroyd 8/10 6. The Broken Land by Jack Ludlow 7/10 7. The Echo by Minette Waters 8/10 8. Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie 8/10 9. Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody 7.5/10 10. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey 9/10 11. Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey 8/10
  6. Pearl S Buck "The Good Earth"

    If Pearl Buck interests you still, I really enjoyed Pearl of China by Anchee Min. It is historical fiction written so well.
  7. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier Blurb from Publisher
  8. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

    I just finished this book and although Foulds, in my opinion writes beautifully, the storyline left me a bit empty. I felt the characters were only skeletal and needed a bit more flesh. Just could never really sink my teeth into it. I really struggled to finish it and only did to enjoy the writing.
  9. I loved Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  10. Recommend Me Books!

    Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  11. In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson

    Dawn, I challenged myself this year to read the whole of the Inspector Banks series. I am enjoying it. However, after reading several, In a Dry Season really took me by surprise as it is so different to the others in the series. I almost felt that someone else wrote it and Robinson lent his name to the novel. Its writing style is different as well as the structure, so I will admit that it is my least favorite in the series. Perhaps, had I read this one first, I would not have something else to compare it too.
  12. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

    Dawn, I read this last year and really enjoyed it. I have not had time to read the 2nd and 3rd in the series, but very much want to (in my TBR Pile) as I think as Ruth develops, she will be an interesting character. I lived in East Anglia as well so her settings are special to me.
  13. I may be in the minority here but I really did not enjoy this book as much as I anticipated. This is not my usual genre but I thought it may be a welcomed change. The beginning was very encouraging and it felt as if it was going to develop into a good yarn. As the character of Diana developed, I began to dislike her. She is terminally tired throughout the novel, which halted the story line in its development. I kept saying to myself "Come on. Stop napping and eating and get on with it." Though I did like the character of Matthew (he kept you guessing whether he was a good guy or not), he kept saying "We will talk about it later" over and over again. Again, restraining the development of the story. I guess I expected a little more action. Finally, close to the end it gets interesting and then it ends. What!!!! I guess the author has the sequel coming. I will probably not read it as I did not anticipate this book would be a romance novel - a little to "sweet" and "lovie dovie" for my liking.
  14. Help!

    Rosamunde Pilcher is lovely: Coming Home, Winter Solstice and The Shell Seekers are my favorites. Just read Ken Follett's Fall of Giants which was very good
  15. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

    CS, I agree with you. The writing style and tecnique is something to be envied. Absolutely beautiful The end did not satisfy me as I too was left with a hunger for a little more resolution, but like you said a fantastic read. Thanks for the recommendation everyone.
  16. Just started this book today. Not my usual gendre so I am looking forward to it, especially after the good words here. Thanks for the tip everyone.
  17. Readwine's Reads 2011

    In 2009, I challenged myself to read 52 books during the year; I only made it to 44. In 2010, I made it to 47. Still, I am proud of myself of that accomplishment. This is the most books I've ever read in a year (notwithstanding the years in university) and I owe it to the motivation BCF provides. Thank you. For 2011, I am reasserting that challenge: 1. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore 8/10 2. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson 7.5/10 3. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 8/10 4. The Bonesetter's Wife by Amy Tan 9/10 5. Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson 8/10 6. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett 9/10 7. Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher 8.5/10 8. Heartstone by C.J. Sansom 9.5/10 9. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley 9.5/10 10. First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones 9/10 11. Final Account by Peter Robinson 8/10 12. Caveat Emptor by Roth Downie 6/10 13. A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters 6/10 14. Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson 8/10 15. Moloka'I by Alan Brennert 9.5/10 16. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross 8.5/10 17. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 10/10 18. Blood at the Root by Peter Robinson 7.5/10 19. In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson 7/10 20. Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson 8/10 21. The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall 8/10 22. The Last Queen-Juana La Loca by C.W. Gortner 8/10 23. The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall 8/10 24. Aftermath by Peter Robinson 8/10 25. Close to Home by Peter Robinson 8.5/10 26. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain 8.5/10 27. Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (could not finish it - Ugggh) 28. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness 6/10 29. Ireland by Franck Delaney (could not finish it - Ugggh) 30. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber 9/10 31. All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson 8.5/10 32. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson 9/10 33. Dr. Margaret's Sea Chest by Waheed Rabbani 7/10 34. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey 8.5/10 35. Strange Affair by Peter Robinson 8/10 36. Bad Boy by Peter Robinson 8.5/10 37. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer 8/10 38. The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths 8/10 39. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths 8/10 40. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton 7.5/10 41. Agatha Raisin and the Vicoius Vet by M.C. Beaton 7.5/10 42. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds 6/10 43. I am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley 8.5/10 44. Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor 8.5/10 45. Christine Falls by Benjamin Black 7.5/10 46. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig 8.5/10 47. Galore by Michael Crummey 7/10 48. Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
  18. Readwine's Reads 2011

    I have been so busy at work these last year, I have very neglectful of my challenge and browsing BCF. Though I am a little behind in my challenge, I can only excuse it by the length of the books I am trying to read through the Inspector Banks series of Peter Robinson, which are a quick and entertaining read for the most part (except for In a Dry Season). One very good surprise was Darynda Jones' First Grave from the Right. A mixture of mystery novel with vampires. Usually, I do not read much about vampires and talking dead people, but this book I really enjoyed. It is light hearted and fun. I would recommended it, and I will read its sequel, Second Grave on the Left (love the titles) Another adventure on reading for me was reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Again, westerns are not my genre of choice but I very much enjoyed this big book; specifically, the character of Gus. Another good surprise was Moloka'I by Alan Brennert. It is the life story of a young girl from Hawaii beginning at the turn of the century who is sent to the leper colonies of Hawaii. Very good historical novel and very moving. Good read as well was Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. Gives you a perpective of WWII from various points of views. Made me want to read the sequel.
  19. Psychological thrillers?

    Shutter Island?
  20. Lists!

    I saw my homework on the New York Times Bestsellers List, so that means somebody stole it.
  21. the Sherlockian

    I am actually reading this now thanks to Katrina (thank you Katrina) and so far it is quite good. There are two stories unfolding; one, in which Conan Doyle is the protagonist (with Bram Stoker as his Watson- I did not realize they were contemporaries); and the second, taking place is 2010 in which a member of the Sherlokian Society is scouring for clues to a murder (with a female reporter as his Watson). Both plot lines hold your interest. It is well written and the style is fluid. It has also peaked my curiosity to actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories as I have never had the pleasure. So I foresee 2011 being a little Sherlockian
  22. Annual Review...

    The Best Book I've Read This Year: I'll have to go with what looks like the majority here: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell I started reading it because it has become a classic and I wanted to read at least one classic this year. I really had no interest in reading about the US Civil War, but I decided to give it a try anyway. WOW, was I pleasantly surprised! What a wonderful book and brilliant characters. I especially loved Rhett. My Favorite Book Of The Year: Again, discovered this new series by accident, wanting at the time to read a mystery without gore and violence. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. (I know he now has a new one out and cannot wait to read it). These books feature an 11 year old girl detective who is smart, funny and vulnerable. Though the mysteries are plain vanilla really, the characters and the tone of the books are "lovely" - that is the only way I can describe them. If ever you are in a mood for a lovely little series, I highly recommend it, My Worst Book Of The Year: Two come to mind: The Religion by Tim Willocks and The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell. Absolutely waste of time and redeeming factors. Unfortunately, I am one of those readers who will finish a book even though it is terrible. In a way, I guess this compulsive disorder really wants to give credit to the author for spending so much time researching and writing a book. So I keep reading in hope. Oh well.
  23. Thank you for the B-day wishes, Happy New Year, Readwine