Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family by Jon Katz

Another very interesting and readable book about dogs and their changing roles in our lives. Katz interviews several people in his hometown of Montclair, NJ about their relationships with their dogs, from the "Divorced Dogs Club" (women whose dogs have helped them get through divorce) to the woman whose Welsh corgi keeps her company and comforts her as she battles cancer, to the young boy who wants a "tough" dog to help him feel tougher on the streets. Katz treats all his subjects (including the dogs) with compassion and understanding. I enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Ghost Brigade and Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Two great military sci-fi books by Scalzi! Really glad I stumbled upon him. If you are a fan of military SF (think Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber, even some early Heinlein) then you are in for a treat with this series.  Old Man's War is the first in the series, but it's the one I actually read the last -- I don't think you need to read them in chronological order, if you don't want to. Highly enjoyable.

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

I have enjoyed Ann Patchett's writing since I read Bel Canto a couple of years ago. I found this book (her first) at a yard sale and it sat, unread, on my shelf for a couple of years till I finally pulled it out the other day. I really enjoyed it. Patchett truly has a way with words. If you are a fan of Anne Tyler or Elizabeth Berg or Alice Hoffman, I think you would enjoy this book as well.

Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs by Jon Katz

Those who know me well know of my desire to have a dog, but so far this has been thwarted both by the fact that I am already owned by a strong-willed cat, and also that I can't take a dog to work with me. That doesn't mean that I can't read books about dogs and dream, though.
What I found most interesting is Katz' assertion that, when choosing a training method for your dog, you have to consider not only what is best for your dog, but what is best for you as well. Human beings are remarkably consistent in our inconsistency, and this confuses dogs, so we need to find ways to make ourselves more consistent in what we ask from our dogs.
Jon Katz has written an excellent, practical, down-to-earth book about dogs and humans and our relationships to each other. This book was very well-written and enjoyable. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

This book's been getting a lot of press lately, and for good reason -- it's really good. Kate Braestrup's life changed unexpectedly when her husband died in a car crash. This memoir chronicles the years after his death, during which she continued to raise their four young children while attending seminary to become a minister. Her story is interspersed with interesting anecdotes from her current job, as chaplain for the Maine game warden service, and her thoughts on how differently people perceive religion and God. I very much enjoyed this book, and would recommend it for anyone; however, those who've enjoyed Anne Lamott's books on religion and spirituality would probably especially enjoy this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Act of God by Susan R. Sloan

Wow, this was a terrific legal thriller. I was really impressed. Susan Sloan's writing, her insights into characters, and the surprises she pulls out of her hat at the end of her books are amazing. Why have I never heard of this woman before? Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille

This book scared me. FBI agent John Corey must try to foil a plot in which some Americans want to detonate nuclear bombs on American soil, to provoke the U.S. to retaliate on all Middle-Eastern countries by launching a full-scale nuclear attack.
Frankly, I got so freaked out by the whole concept that I skipped right to the end just to make sure the plot had failed, and then I tossed the book aside. Yes, I'm a wussy. So what. 

Fox Evil by Minette Walters

This woman knows how to write psychological thrillers. It was really hard to put down. I highly recommend this one, as well as her latest book, which is called The Devil's Feather.

The Sharing Knife: Legacy (book 2) by Lois McMaster Bujold

What is this?! Lois McMaster Bujold all of a sudden starts peppering her books with sex scenes? Oh, wait a second - that's not what I expect from the woman who brought us the excellent Miles Vorkosigan military-science-fiction series. But I forgot -she has decided she's bored with Miles and now she's writing this new fantasy series, which I guess is okay as fantasy series go, but it's NOT a Miles Vorkosigan novel!

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Hmm. I must say I liked Matt Ruff's earlier books better than this one, his latest. However, it was definitely interesting. I'm not sure I could describe it, though. Booklist gave it a starred review, if that means anything to you. You can read more about it (including reviews) at -- I have no more to say!

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Fantasy)

This guy definitely knows how to turn a phrase, and I was very impressed by his inventive use of curse words. But I have to say, the way in which he kept jumping back and forth from distant past to the present, and then back to the near past, made this book a little more difficult to read than I thought it needed to be. Lynch was, I'm sure, trying to be clever -- but I just wanted a good escapist yarn and I didn't want to have to work that hard to get it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Territory by Emma Bull

What if magic worked in the Old West? An interesting and enjoyable read - Emma Bull is a good writer. I really liked the main female character - would have liked to see more of her. I'll be interested to see if Emma Bull writes any more books with these characters -- the way the book ended, it seems that more books could definitely be written.

Monday, August 06, 2007

An Isolated Incident by Susan R. Sloan

Wow! What a great book, and quite a serendipitous find. The book turned up on our dusty list (meaning no one has checked it out in 5 years) so we pulled it off the shelf to evaluate it. When I picked up the book I could feel grains of sand under the Mylar jacket, meaning someone had probably taken it to the beach, which is often an indication that a book is good (or, okay, at least exciting). So that led me to read the inside cover, and I thought "Hey, this does look good!" I had never heard of the author, but I decided to take the book home. I picked it up and started reading it and couldn't put it down. It gripped me to the end.
A 15-year old girl is murdered on a small island in Washington state. It turns out she is pregnant. Because the island is only accessible by ferry, the murderer was most likely also an islander. The citizens of the island are outraged. Who could have done such a terrible thing? In the zeal and rage of a community shattered by violence, you see some pretty nasty bigotry and racism emerge that have been kept well-hidden for years.
Sloan has a way with words. She did a really good job with this novel. I highly recommend it, and I'm looking forward to checking out her other books.

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart

Ehh. I think I would have liked this book if I'd been in a different mood. It's a cute premise - three sisters with magical powers. And I like the authors. I just didn't care for the format - each short chapter told things from a different sister's viewpoint, and whenever I felt like I was just getting into a character, the chapter changed and boom! I had to get used to a different sister's perspective. Even though I didn't like the book much right now, it does have good writing, and there were some funny parts. I might try to pick it up again later and see if I'm in a more receptive mood for it.

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell

I really really enjoyed this psychological thriller... until the end, which I didn't care for too much. But the hours of reading pleasure that I got from it until that point make it well worth the read. I literally couldn't put it down. I resented every moment I was forced to spend away from the book. The suspense and the sense that you never quite knew what was going to come next were terrific. I am looking forward to reading more Ruth Rendells (or maybe some of her Barbara Vine books).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fancy stuff

You might wonder why I don't ever include pictures of the book covers in my reviews. Well, I'll tell you -- it's because I'd rather spend my time reading, not fussing around with Blogger and adding graphics! So, if you want great graphics and pretty reviews, you'll have to go elsewhere. Sorry.

The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva

I have enjoyed other Silva novels more, but this one definitely kept my interest. He certainly knows how to write a thriller.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

Very enjoyable-- the best military SF that I have read in quite some time. Thanks to Nichole for recommending this author to me!

Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell

Not bad, not bad... but I don't think it could figure out whether it wanted to be a mystery, a romance, or "serious" fiction. I kind of got whiplash.

Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis

Very readable. A good choice for a post-Harry-Potter readathon.