Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Bride Quartet - Nora Roberts

Author: Nora Roberts
Publisher: 1-Waterville, Me: Thorndike Press, c2009 2-New York : Berkley Books, 2009, 3-New York : Berkley Books, 2010, 4-Detroit : Thorndike Press, 2010
ISBN: 1-9781410415370, 2-9780425230077, 3-9780425233689, 4-9781410421883
Copyright: 1-2009, 2-2009, 3-2010, 4-2010
Pages: 1-447, 2-358, 3-339, 4-485
Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: I like this author and this series looked like a fun.
Where I Obtained the Book: Got it at my local library.

Synopsis: The series is about four friends for life, who work together running a wedding planning service. Mac, Emma, Laurel, and Parker run Vows, a premiere wedding and event planning service. Parker’s family home is where Vows is housed and the large estate offers everything a bride could want.
Mac runs the photography side of the business, Emma the flowers, Laurel the desserts and wedding cakes, and Parker runs them all to keep everything running perfectly. Each girl faces her problems and a man who will turn their lives upside down. Each book highlights one of the girls and the endings are as promised, ‘Happily Ever After.’
Review: I liked the series, it was sweet and romantic. Not much happened beside the romance and the occasional Bridezilla. Each love story was cute and kept my attention. There is sex, but not much. If you like happy endings, this is the series for you.

Author Biography: Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland on October 10, 1950. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981. Since then, she has written more than 150 novels, which have been translated into more than 25 languages. She writes romances under her own name and crime novels under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb. Her book Happy Ever After made the New York Times Bestseller list for 2010. She has been given the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich

Publisher: New York, NY : Metropolitan Books, 2001.
ISBN: 9780965187701

Copyright: 2001
Pages: 221

Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I’ve gotten tired of everyone wanting to raise the minimum wage, so I did a little reading to find out why.

Where I Obtained the Book: Got it at my local library.

Synopsis: Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity. Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreic
h decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you want to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.
Review: I didn’t agree with everything she had to say about living on minimum wage, but it was interesting the adventures she got herself into. I will never look at a motel room the same, or at a maid service(wow if you have one read this book, you may not be getting what you think you are.) I did like the bond that seemed to grow between the women working the different jobs.
I think the problem with living on minimum wage, is that we are not meant too. The lowest paying jobs are a jumping point, not a goal. We have to allow businesses to grow and by making them pay employees higher wages, they are not going to. I sympathize with the people working at Walmart as a career(in her book she worked there.) But, I don’t think those jobs are meant to be a career, they are starting points only. The government should not raise the minimum wage, people should look for other alternatives and gain more education in the process. Look into your local community college, many people qualify for a free education, take it.
This was an interesting book and I’m glad I read it, I don’t agree with her on many of her points.
Author Biography: Political activist and writer Barbara Ehrenreich was born in Butte, Montana on August 26, 1941. She studied physics at Reed College and graduated in 1963. She received a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Rockefeller University in 1968. Rather than pursuing a career in science, however, she decided to focus on social change. Ehrenreich has written columns and contributed articles to publications including Time Magazine, The Progressive, The New York Times, Mother Jones, The Atlantic Monthly, Ms, The New Republic, Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. She taught essay writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley in 1998 and 2000.
Other Review:
New York Times

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Upside of Irrationality - Dan Ariely

Title: The Upside of Irrationality

Author: Dan Ariely

Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, 2010.
ISBN: 9780061995033

Copyright: 2010
Pages: 334

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: David had it in a stack of books to read, so I picked it up.

Where I Obtained the Book: Got it at my local library.

The provocative follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive

? How can confusing directions actually help us? Why is revenge so important to us? Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy? In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more. Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how-and why-we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for

purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home-and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

Review: This book was fascinating. I was shocked to find myself on many of the pages. Why we do what we do and how we do it even when it s

eems all wrong for us. Intuition? Is it always right? NO!!! Who knew? What really makes us happy is not what we think it is. How come?

Read this book, its interesting and the author has lead quite a life.

Author Biography: My immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago while I was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion. The range of treatments in the burn department, and particularly the daily “bath” made me face a variety of irrational behaviors that were immensely painful and persistent. Upon leaving the hospital, I wanted to understand how to better deliver painful and unavoidable treatments to patients so I began conducting research in this area. After completing this initial research project, I became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns. A few years later, decision making and behavioral economics dramatically influenced my personal life when I found myself using all of the knowledge I’d accumulated in order to convince Sumi to marry me (a decision that was in my best interest but not necessarily in hers). After managing to convince her, I realized that if understanding decision-making could help me achieve this goal, it could help anyone in their daily life.

Other Reviews:
New York Times
Huffington Post

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void - Mary Roach

Title: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
Author: Mary Roach
Publisher: W.W. Norton

ISBN: 978-0393068474
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 334

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: Love Mary Roach’s books. Non-fiction and fun.

Where I Obtained the Book: My library

Synopsis: Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can't walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it's possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Review: The first thing I look for in a non-fiction book is that the topic is interesting. The genius of Mary Roach is she takes these subjects and makes them extremely fun and funny.

Imagine every question you could possibly ask about travelling in outer space, serious or silly, and you have this book. I knew in the back of my mind that everything that goes into space has been tested and retested about 100 times before the launch. I just didn’t really think about what exactly that meant. Pooping in space? Someone tested the toilets out with a group of engineers watching while floating around the “vomit comet.” Even beyond that I never realized all the problems with the process, from the consistency from the material to the fine dust that slowly covers the capsule.

From ghosts, to dead bodies, sex, and outer space; I recommend picking up any of her books, you will not be disappointed.

Author Biography: Mary Roach was born and raised in Etna, New Hampshire. She has a BA degree in psychology from Wesleyan University. She spent a few years as a free-lance copy editor before she landed a job at the San Francisco Zoological Society turning out press releases. She then moved on to write humor pieces for such periodicals as The New York Times Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle and Sports Illustrated. Her article "How to Win at Germ Warfare" was a National Magazine Award Finalist, in 1995. In 1996, her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award. She published several books such as Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003) and Packing for Mars (2010).

Other Reviews:

New York Times

The Space Review


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Devil - Ken Bruen

Title: The Devil
Author: Ken Bruen
Publisher: Minotaur

ISBN: 978-0312646967
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 288

Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: My library system rarely gets Ken Bruen books so when one turned up I immediately snatched it up.

Where I Obtained the Book: My local library.

Synopsis: America-the land of opportunity, a place where economic prosperity beckons: but not for PI Jack Taylor, who's just been refused entry. Disappointed and bitter, he thinks that an encounter with an overly friendly stranger in an airport bar is the least of his problems. Except that this stranger seems to know much more than he should about Jack. Jack thinks no more of their meeting and resumes his old life in Galway. But when he's called to investigate a student murder-connected to an elusive Mr. K-he remembers the man from the airport. Is the stranger really who he says he is? With the help of the Jameson, Jack struggles to make sense of it all. After several more murders and too many coincidental encounters, Jack believes he may have met his nemesis. But why has he been chosen? And could he really have taken on the devil himself? Suspenseful, haunting, and totally unique, The Devil is Bruen at his very best.

Review: Typically I try to avoid reading a book from a series out of order, especially if the series is new to me. I made an exception in this case because Ken Bruen is an exceptional author rarely seen in my library. The reason I will read Ken Bruen every chance I get is simple; he is simply one of the best dialogue writers I have ever read. The conversational tome of his books are phenomenal, the pages just fly by. I feel pretentious praising his writing style, but the whole plot is driven completely by the spoken word. I am always amazed at his skill.

The down side unfortunately is my complete unfamiliarity with the character(s). That meant I was quite lost with the motivations of the protagonist because the plot was a but different. Private Investigator battles the devil is a bit of a stretch when I was expecting a straight up mystery. I feel that would have been more acceptable if I had the opportunity to read the first books in the series. Read it for the writing, but start in the beginning to understand the characters.

Author Biography: Ken Bruen was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and the Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. He lives in Galway, Ireland.

Other Reviews:
Spinetingler Magazine

Mystery Scene Magazine


Interview with Ken in Shots Magazine

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Room - Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 321

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: One of the most popular books on Goodreads.

Where I Obtained the Book:
I got it through inter-library loan.

Synopsis: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Review: Every now and again a book so compelling comes along that you literally cannot put it down until you’re done. Young Jack has just turned five years old and has spent his entire life locked in a 11 by 11 room with his Mom. The whole story is told from Jack’s point of view wherein we learn his mother was kidnapped and has spent a lot of years as a prisoner. Jack’s birthday has finally served as a catalyst for escape and freedom.

Small Spoiler

Unlike most books, this story doesn’t end with the great escape; that is only the halfway point. My favorite part of the book is the second half, the aftermath of dealing with freedom and PTSD. Especially with the recent spate of escapees in the news, I find Donoghue’s interpretation of the transition fascinating. You do not walk away from that sort of ordeal without a price to your mental health. The Mom in the story summed it up best (paraphrase): All those years I wanted to be around people and now I can I want to be alone.

This book will grab you immediately and show you the spirit of human triumph and all the personal costs that involves.

Author Biography: Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic, Henry James Professor at New York University). I attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 I earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). I moved to England, and in 1997 received my PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. From the age of 23, I have earned my living as a writer, and have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since I was sacked after a month as a chambermaid. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 I settled in London, Ontario, where I live with my lover Chris Roulston and our son Finn (6) and daughter Una (3).

Other Reviews:

New York Times

The Telegraph


ROOM, by Emma Donoghue from era404 creative on Vimeo.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 978-0385342308
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 373

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: A friend had read it on Goodreads and I started noticing a lot of other people had as well. I was just jumping on the bandwagon

Where I Obtained the Book:
I got it through inter-library loan.

Great literary crime detectives aren’t always born; they’re sometimes discovered, blindfolded and tied up in a dark closet by their nasty older sisters. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce’s bitter home life and vicious sibling war inspires her solitary diversions and “strange talents” tinkering with the chemistry set in the laboratory of their inherited Victorian house, plotting sleuth-like vengeance on Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13), and delving into the forbidden past of her taciturn, widowed father, Colonel de Luce. It comes as no surprise, then, that the material for her next scientific investigation will be the mysterious corpse that she uncovers in the cucumber patch.
Review: After a slow start this book turns into a classic mystery, slowly building to a satisfying conclusion. The real charm of this book is the lead character, Flavia de Luce. A highly intelligent eleven year old with a unrelenting passion for justice and a keen mind for chemistry. Her years of dealing with her older sisters has trained her well to handle life’s problems. Consequently no villain is competition for her deductive skills.
The heart of this mystery is the foolishness of youth, and the consequences of not owning your mistakes. It is that cowardness that allows the truly wicked to work their plans. In this story it’s Flavia’s determination that brings those hidden truths out. A great character who I look forward to keeping up with as she grows.

Author Biography: Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, as well as the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children's Literature. He is the author of many short stories, children's stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats, and is currently working on the next Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard.

Other Reviews:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beatrice and Virgil - Yann Martel

Author: Yann Martell
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau c2010
ISBN: 9781400069262
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 213
Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: David brought it home so I read it.

Where I Obtained the Book: David got it at our local library

Synopsis: Fate takes many forms.

When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey – named Beatrice and Virgil – and the epic journey they undertake together.

Review: I read this book and even when I was fin
ished I still did not have a clue what it was really about. I went on-line and read other reviews to see what I had missed. I did grasp that it had something to do with the holocaust, but it was vague for me.
The story was interesting, but finding meaning was not something I did with this book.
Author Biography: Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain. As an adolescent he attended high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario. He grew up in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Canada. As an adult, Martel has spent time in I Iran,Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Martel spent 13 months in India visiting temples, churches, mosques and zoos, and spent two years reading religious texts and castaway stories. His first published fictional work, Seven Stories, appeared in 1993.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Grave on the Right - Darynda Jones

Title: First Grave on the Right

Author: Darynda Jones

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press c2011
ISBN: 9780312662752

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 320

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I won an advanced reader copy from Goodreads, when I received the book I read it right away, so I could give it a review on Goodreads and hopefully win other advanced copies. We use the library, so its always nice to actually own a book.

Where I Obtained the Book: I won a copy from Goodreads, it was sent from St. Martin’s Press.

Synopsis: Charley Davidson is a private investigator from a family of cops. She also has an unusual part-time job as a grim reaper. Those who die and have unfinished business on Earth seek her out for assistance. When the issue is resolved, she helps them go to the light. But lately she is having a different kind of heavenly experience: ve
ry naughty dreams of a powerful, dark, totally hot, supernatural guy. How is he getting into her head? While investigating a triple homicide at the request of those killed, she discovers that her soul mate and nocturnal lover is the son of Satan—which, as he points out, is equivalent to Charley’s being the stepdaughter of Denise, who is entirely human but evil.

Review: I enjoyed this book, it was sarcastic and funny. I think the way she writes and thank heaven I don’t always say what I think or I could get into loads of trouble. There is sex so beware. The paranormal part was good and the way the pe
ople passed from this earth to heaven was sweet. I loved the description of their crossing. It was a great mystery and I enjoyed the other characters and her relationship with them. Her step mother is a piece of work and the cop she spars with is adorable. Look out for Big Bad. This is a fun book if you like suspense romance.

Author Biography: For reasons known only to the Big Guy upstairs, Darynda Jones won the 2009 Golden Heart® for Best Paranormal Romance with her manuscript FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. But even before that, she couldn’t remember a time she wasn’t putting pen to paper. Thank heaven practice makes perfect and now she has a three book deal with St. Martin’s press.

She lives with her husband and two sons in New Mexico.

Other Reviews:
Literati's Literary Reviews

Disclaimer for all reviews sent by the publisher, publicist or author for review.