Going on hiatus

I have to take a break from this blog. This month, I”m doing NaNoWriMo, working on our second non-fiction book, keeping up The Elffington Post and just started a new blog for the novel I’m writing.

So, I have less time to read, and a lot less time to write about what I’m reading. I definitely won’t make 200 books this year, but I should be in the mid-100’s.

I’m sure I’ll check in before the end of the year and let you know how I did!

The Lies of Locke Lamora- Scott Lynch

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OMG Fantastic!! Five BILLION Stars!!

How’s that for some enthusiasm? I haven’t been this excited about a series since George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for you TV people). It hasn’t been since I first read A Game of Thrones that I had to buy the next book in the series immediately. And the next one, too. So really, I”ll be reviewing the whole Gentleman Bastards Sequence, so far.

the lies of locke lamoraI picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora because I’m getting ready to write my own fantasy series, and needed inspiration. And it was provided in spades. In fact, I feel that Lynch has set the bar rather high. He does everything right. ┬áIf I can emulate him to a tiny degree, I’ll be happy.

Locke Lamora is an orphan with an unknown past, picked up by a “thiefmaker” in a fantastical version of Renaissance Venice, known as Camorr. It soon becomes apparent that Locke at age six or seven is dangerously good at what he does. Mostly dangerous.. So, the thiefmaker sells him to a temple, where the resident priest is really a confidence trickster, grooming youngsters for the trade.

Locke joins the twins, Calo and Galdo Sanza, along with the mysterious Sabetha, who is away training. Eventually Jean Tannen, a burly nerdy sort, rounds out their little gang. The story quickly jumps ahead to Locke in his early twenties. The old priest is dead, Sabetha is gone (and no one is willing to talk about it), and a 12-year-old named Bug is now part of the group.

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Never Buried- Edie Claire

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Three Stars

never buriedNever Buried is the first in the Leigh Koslow Mysteries series. Leigh is a sporadically employed advertising writer and amateur sleuth. At the start of the book, she is staying with her pregnant sister Cara, in Cara’s fancy historic house in Pittsburgh while Cara’s husband is out of the country on business. The husband is also Leigh’s ex.

The fun begins when a dead body is found in a hammock outside the house. Strangely, it’s not a fresh corpse; it’s been dead for years, and belonged to a past resident of the house. Of course, Leigh is intrigued and nosy. She also has a best friend on the police force, who of course tells her to keep her amateur nose out of it. And as we know, telling an amateur sleuth to “let the pros handle it” is like waving a red flag in front of . . . well, you know.

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A Way of Life, Like Any Other- Darcy O’Brien

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Five Stars

a way of lifeA Way of Life, Like Any Other was first published in 1977, won a slew of awards, then at some point, went out of print. Republished this year in paperback and e-book, a whole new generation is sure to be delighted by this wonderful book.

O’Brien was the only child of 1940’s movie stars George O’Brien and Marguerite Churchill, went to Princeton and spent most of his life as a college professor. This book is really a fictionalized memoir of O’Brien’s peculiar childhood in the Hollywood of the Golden Age.

The nameless narrator is born into a sumptuous life, while his parents are at the height of their careers. They live on a luxurious California ranch, attended by numerous staff doting on the little fellow. “Was there ever so pampered an ass as mine?” That line alone establishes the tone of the book: wry, humorous, a bit snarky. As a result, I chuckled through some what would have otherwise been pretty dark passages. Continue reading

I’d Tell You I l Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You- Ally Carter

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Four Stars

id tell you i love youI really enjoyed I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, partly because it was really well-done, but also because I would have loved to read this when I was a teenager. I really wanted to be a spy (and an opera singer and an astronaut), and even went so far as to “practice” whenever I got the chance. So, if you thought you were being followed by an awkward-looking teenage girl many, many years, congratulations- you blew my cover!

This book is first in the Gallagher Girls series, and follows the adventures of Cammie Morgan, just your average teenage girls at boarding school. A boarding school which turns promising teenage girls into spies. The whole thing is of course, top-secret. Which makes any kind of love life really awkward, if not impossible. And on top of that, Cammie’s mom is the school’s headmistress, and naturally, a former super-spy.

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The Mill River Recluse- Darcie Chan

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Four Stars

mill river recluseThe Mill River Recluse is one of many books I’ve recently picked up for free or very cheap via BookBub. Nearly everything on the daily email list is free or $0.99, so if it looks interesting, I’ll grab it. That’s exactly what I did with this book. It looked intriguing, and it was. It’s a quiet book; almost an anomaly in a world of fast-paced thrillers, fantasy and mystery.

This was a charming, warm-hearted story set in fictional Mill River, Vermont. On the hill overlooking this pretty town is a great marble mansion. It’s sole inhabitant is an old woman most of the town’s residents have never seen. Yet unbeknownst to them, she has been taking an interest in their lives for decades and has been an anonymous benefactor to many of them.

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The Three Musketeers- Alexandre Dumas

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Four Stars

the three musketeersA classic that I haven’t read since I was ten. I remember devouring it on a transatlantic flight and really enjoying myself as the hours flew by. It was just as much fun this time. It’s a bit on the fluffy side, so not as weighty as some of the other classics, but that’s part of its charm.

It’s actually pretty fast-paced for a book from that time-period (1844), and even though there are some interludes that briefly take you out of the action, they don’t come close to anything like Hugo’s excursions to Waterloo or the Paris Sewers. Maybe Dumas wasn’t being paid by the word.

I was particularly struck by how well-drawn and appealing the main characters are. D’Artagnan of course, is an all-around delightful guy, whose adventures anyone would like to follow, but the characters of the musketeers are also well-drawn and sympathetic; even the somewhat ridiculous Porthos who usually plays for laughs is capable of pathos.

In addition, Cardinal Richelieu and the Duke of Buckingham are enjoyable foils to the boys.

I’m just not altogether pleased with the female characters. While Lady de Winter is delightfully bad, there seems to be a bit of madonna/whore dichotomy going on vis-a-vis the nearly saintly Constance Bonanceaux. Well, as saintly as a married woman who agrees to secret assignations with a man not her husband can be. But, she’s French, so it’s okay.

I was actually reading this by way of research for a novel I’m working on. Even though it will be fantasy, it’s set in that time period, and I was hoping to catch some period-sounding dialogue. Alas! I don’t think it will work, unless I want my book to sound kinda silly. I guess I’ll have to come up with my own lingo.

Still, now I’m interested in re-reading some of Dumas’ other great works like The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

The Secret Holocaust Diaries- Nonna Bannister

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Three Stars

secret holocaust diariesThe story of how this book came to be is as interesting as the book itself. Just before her death in 2004, a Tennessee housewife of East European descent revealed her long-hidden past to her husband of fifty years. From the time she was a young girl, growing up in 1930’s Ukraine, Nonna Lisowskaya kept a diary. As a child, she lived a charmed life, part of a wealthy family that had managed to keep most of its property in spite of the Communist revolution.

While millions of Ukrainians starved to death, Nonna’s family celebrated a magical Christmas on a beautiful estate, a memory that would sustain her through some terrible times. When the Germans invaded, Nonna’s parents elected not to flee, which kept them alive a bit longer. Much of the rest of her extended family was killed when the retreating Soviet army blew up their own trains headed east, carrying refugees. Her teenage brother had been sent to university in St. Petersburg and was never seen again. Continue reading

How to Argue- Jonathan Herring

Four Stars

how to argueHow to Argue Powerfully, Persuasively and Positively is the first in an ebook box set on personal relations that I’m working my way through.

Just mention the word “argue” and my blood pressure goes up. I’m famously non-confrontational, yet opinionated, which mostly just stresses me out. So, this book was pretty useful.

Herring walks us through the different types of arguments we have in business and our personal lives. In all cases, he stresses the importance of preserving the relationship. He makes note of when it makes sense to walk away and when to stand your ground. He also gets into the basics of formulating a good argument and how to do so under pressure, when necessary.

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Relationship Readiness- Aryanna and Doc Elffington

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relationship-smallAwesome!

Full disclosure here: my husband and I wrote this book.

We met on a big online dating site in 2009, then proceeded to hear from all kinds of people how online dating doesn’t work. But it does! In addition to the naysayers we saw more and more folks around us who were meeting online and were happy with the results. So, we concluded that there is a right and a wrong way to do this.

We started by writing a pretty straightforward book about the online dating process, then most of the way through realized that some other stuff really needed to come first. Namely, that stuff we called relationship readiness. So many people dive into online dating without really being ready for it and then wonder why they have a horrible experience. Not to mention, there are many who simply have a long history of unsuccessful relationships and would like to change that.

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