Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Informationist - Taylor Stevens

Title: The Informationist
Author: Taylor Stevens
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Broadway/Crown/Random House
Published date: March 2011
FTC: Received to read and review from Publisher

When I first heard about Taylor Stevens' book The Informationist I was intrigued.  My Master's degree is in Information Science so the title was very appealing.  This is Stevens' first book featuring heroine Vanessa Michael Munroe who deals in information gathering for her clients.  I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't wait to read her next book The Innocent.

Back of the book:

Vanessa "Michael" Munroe deals in information. After escaping a traumatic childhood in lawless central Africa, she is now sought after by corporations, heads of state, and private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise.

When a Texas oil billionaire hires her to find his daughter who has vanished in Africa, Munroe finds herself back in the darklands she once knew so well, fighting mysterious forces determined to keep the fate of the missing girl a secret. If she has any hope of getting out of the jungle alive, Munroe must finally face up to the demons of the past she's tried for so long to forget.

My thoughts:

I throughly enjoyed The Informationist and will definitely be reading more of Stevens' books.  I don't think it was so much the character of Munroe (who goes by the masculine name Michael and who IS really a kick-butt character) but rather the African setting.  I can't say that I've traveled anywhere like where she was in Africa but the book was so spot on regarding certain things that it reminded me of when my husband and I traveled through Egypt.  Munroe goes through Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and I was so absorbed that I was getting out Google Earth and seeing where she was and what rivers and cities she was traveling through.  Stevens was spot on, I thought, regarding customs, language, and just uniqueness of African life.  I would love to learn how she knows so much about Africa (Ah ha! Here's an article about that).

The story and Michael Munroe's character were interesting - but it really was the Africa setting I loved. I've read some reviews where people were disappointed that too much of Munroe's back story was revealed in this first book - but that wasn't my opinion at all.  I am much more interested to see where Stevens takes this character and how she evolves through subsequent books.  I would also love to see her story adapted into a movie.

I've heard this book and protagonist Munroe compared to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Lisbeth Salander.  I really can't compare since I've never read that series and have only seen the Swedish movie.  I'm definitely going to have to pick it up now and see if it compares at all.

For fun:

I thought I'd share just a few random photos from our trip to Egypt back in '08.

Felccua in Aswan
Fast food cart
Felucca guides in Aswan
Cairo traffic
How you cross the street in Cairo

Alternate cover:

Also Reviewed By:

Book Magic
S. Krishna's Books
Number One Novels

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Babies love books

Should I be concerned that Rocket's rolling around now (no crawling but rolling) and he apparently shares my love of books.  But that could be a bad thing right now.

I've also been playing with my white balance button on my camera.  It takes such such better photos.  Here's when I caught Rocket before setting my white balance.

Ouch, right?  Here's one of my favorite:

Ok.  He's crying now.  Stuck in the bookshelf again.  Oh joy :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Personal Wish-List Challenge

I've been composing my own little wish-list of books that have been coming out by my favorite authors. It seems like just recently there's an onslaught of them. I figured I might as well keep a running tally of them and link them under my Challenges page. What's on your wish-list?

Charles Frazier - Nightwoods   I loved loved Thirteen Moons but thought Cold Mountain was ok.  I want to this one out and see how it is.

David Liss - The Twelfth Enchantment   My husband and I listened to the audio version of Whiskey Rebels and I loved his writing and the characters.  I keep collecting his books - I have two on my shelf I need to read, but The Twelfth Enchantment sounds a bit different than his normal fare and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Ann Pachett - State of Wonder 
I thought Bel Canto was pretty darn good (if not a bit purposefully heart wrenching), Run (my review) was pretty good too, and I recently found a used copy of Truth & Beauty I've been wanting to dig into.  I've heard that State of Wonder is pretty good too.  Must check it out.

Thomas Mullen - The Revisionists 
One of my favorite books I've read in recent memory is Thomas Mullen's book The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.  A.W.E.S.O.M.E.  Read it now.  Read my review.  Then read Leafing Through Life's review.  She agrees that it is awesome.  And how cool does his new book sound about time travel?  May need to actually buy this one.  I know!

Matthew Pearl - The Technologists
I've read and reviewed his book The Last Dickens and recently found a copy of The Poe Shadow.  This one, about post Civil War and MIT --- sounds fascinating to me.

Candice Millard - Destiny of the Republic: A tale of medicine, madness, and the murder of an American President

Years ago I read and fell in love with her book River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt's trip down the Amazon River.  O yeah.  So cool.  So when I heard she finally came out with a new book, I knew I had to read it.  It's gotten amazing good reviews.  It's about the attempted assassination of President Garfield - a Civil War hero and how Alexander Graham Bell (yes THE telephone guy) tried to help save his life.  Oooo.

Alice Hoffman - The Dovekeepers
I'll admit I first heard of Hoffman when I saw the movie Practical Magic.  I read the book (my review) and then fell in love with her after reading The River King (my review).  I have a stack of her books on my shelf waiting to be read.  But The Dovekeepers is a bit of a departure from her norm and I've heard it is AMAZING.  Must buy.

Interred With Their Bones - Jennifer Lee Carrell

Title: Interred With Their Bones
Author: Jennifer Lee Carrell
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Plume/Penguin
Published date: 2007
FTC: won in a contest from Reading Group Choices

A few years ago I won a cool bundle of books from Reading Group Choices - a very very cool site for book lovers.  Back in 2009 I read this book and thought it was a fun Shakespearean mystery but never reviewed it for some reason.  While watching the preview for the movie Anonymous, a movie centered around one of the theories of who wrote the famous plays, I was reminded of this book.  So I thought I'd re-read it and finally get a review written.

My synopsis:

Present day:  Kate Stanley is a highly educated Shakespearean scholar and was offered the dream job of directing a production of Hamlet at the Globe in London.  During rehearsal, her old mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a box and a mysterious message.  The next day Rosalind is dead and someone has tried to burn the Globe to the ground.

Following Rosalind's message to keep the gift safe and "follow where it leads", Kate sets of in an adventure around the world, following cryptic messages, uncovering hidden truths about Shakespeare and his plays, while leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

My thoughts:

If you are interested in Shakespeare or find the whole conspiracy theories surrounding Shakespeare's plays, then you'd probably enjoy this well-written romp.

I'll be honest that when I first read this book a few years ago, I didn't know as much about all the different theories surrounding Shakespeare.  I knew there were probably some missing plays, there were some debate if all the plays were written by Shakespeare, and that not much was known about him - even what he really looked like.

So instead of a traditional review, I'll post some links and photos of interesting things I learned.

First Folio: the collection of Shakespeare's works compiled AFTER his death.  If you find one of these you will be very rich...there were originally about 750 and now only 228.  So you could theoretically be very very lucky.

Cardenio - a possible lost play, possibly by Shakespeare and probably based on Don Quixote.  Which reminds me I should read Don Quixote at some point.

Shakespeare's portrait - what did he really look like?

Shakespeare's children - there are no direct descendants, the last living died in 1670.

His creepy tombstone with a curse!

The Shakespeare statue at Wilton House (go here for a picture)

Frances Carr - won't tell you much more but here's her portrait:
Frances Carr

Delia Bacon - smart lady who thought Sir Frances Bacon could be part of a Shakespearean collaboration.  Here's Sir Frances Bacon:

Sir Frances Bacon

Did you know Bacon developed a cipher?  Very interesting.

Edward de Vere - 17th Earl of Oxford  -- if you haven't checked out this guy's wiki page, he was such an interesting character.. I could see why some might think he could have been Shakespeare:
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Simon Forman - what a weird interesting historical character.

Folger Shakespeare Library - beware of spending too much time at their gift shop site

And someday I WILL make it to Utah's Shakespeare Festival.  Why go to London when I can visit the Globe in the state next door?

Also, check out Jennifer Lee Carrell's website for some more fun Shakespearean links.

So the book was a good little mystery romp but what I really enjoyed was finding out all the interesting tidbits.  What do you think -- did Shakespeare write his plays or could it have been someone else?

Different cover art:

I believe this is the UK version:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Map of Time Winner!

Wow, I know I'm quite a bit belated in announcing the winner of The Map of Time by Felix J Palma.  Without further ado...


Margaret is from Canada, has read The Lord of the Rings but would love to read The Lantern and her favorite cozy up and read drink is a hazelnut creme flavored coffee.  Mmmmm...a girl after my own heart.

Enjoy the book Margaret!

A Sound Among the Trees - Susan Meissner

Title: A Sound Among the Trees
Author: Susan Meissner
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook
Published Date: October 2011
FTC: Asked to review through Blogging for Books

I read a review of Susan Meissner's novel A Sound Among the Trees a few months back over at Luxury Reading and it sounded like a pretty good book.  I can't remember where I stumbled upon it, but I found out about Blogging for Books which offered this as one of their review books so I signed up.  I only request books I want to read and review.  Nice little deal.

Back of the book:

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots.  Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather that the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, she is soon led to believe that the house she's just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak -- and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

My thoughts:

I'll admit that I love war novels and since this one centered around the Civil War in America it seemed like a good book.  At first I was really disappointed.  While great writing, the first few chapters revolved around Adelaide and Marielle.  I just wasn't getting interested in their story.  I mean yes - Adelaide struggled with an absentee daughter, the death of her granddaughter, and the new marriage of her grand son-in-law.  Marielle was going through a new marriage to a widowed man with two children and trying to fit into the home where not only the possibility of Civil War Susannah's ghost but also the memories of her husband's late wife.  I'll be honest that I picked it up and put it down quite a bit at first.


Then it started to get good.

First, Marielle finds the diary of her husband's late wife.

Then she reads Susannah's diary set against backdrop of the Civil War in Virginia.

That is when I couldn't put the book down and pretty much ignored my daily chores to finish it.  I loved reading Susannah's account.  I love the Civil War setting and how it depicts the often blurry lines between the North and the South.  It's fascinating to see the effects of war on families - even a war as old as the Civil War can have long lasting repercussions.  I loved the resolution at the end of the book - how just discovering the truth about Susannah affected her family generations down the line.


This book is sometimes found in Christian book listings.  While I am a Christian, I wouldn't classify this as Christian fiction.  However, it is a book with a good message and it is a book I could recommend to my mom or grandma.

I also love the cover with the mansion and the Civil War clothing.  What do you think?

Book Trailer

Also Reviewed by:

Luxury Reading
Dani's Bookshelf

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Redbreast - Jo Nesbø

Title: The Redbreast
Author: Jo Nesbø (author's website)
Paperback: 521 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published Date: 2009 (original 2000)
FTC: Received free to review from publisher

Back when I lived in New York, I was invited by Harper Collins to a cool little bar to meet Jo Nesbø.  I had heard about him - a pretty famous crime writer from Norway.  I knew his books were starting to be translated to English and published in the States.  I think Harper did an amazing job with the translation (Don Bartlett) and the covers of the books.

I'd post photos from the event but I'll be honest that I didn't take any.  Sometimes I am hugely silly when it comes to famous people.  I get all nervous and lose my mind.  I will tell you that he was extremely nice, drinks Heineken, and said that it doesn't matter which book you read first but he'd go with The Redbreast.

The Redbreast is the third book in the Harry Hole series but it's the first one published in English.  I honestly don't know why it took me so long to read this book or series.  A long time ago I got interested in the whole Scandinavia crime writing thing.  I had checked out the book Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg.  Unfortunately I only got halfway through by the time I had to return the book but I was hooked.  I actually bought a copy later on and have been meaning to read it.  Anyway -- maybe it's because I used to live in Alaska and the whole Arctic culture is intriguing.  Whatever it is -- I am loving it.  Ok. After that incredibly long intro, here we go...

Back of the book:

Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks.  But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past -- when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany.  More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away, and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one.  Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind.  For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole -- and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.

My thoughts:

I ended up really liking this book and want to read more of the series.  But there are some things you must know going into it.

1) Detective Harry Hole -- Ok.  I can't be the only one who sniggered at the chosen name of the detective.  Whether it was something lost in translation or is meant to be funny, just go with it and smile.

2) It's a deceiving chunkster.  While it looks like a normal paperback, it is on my list as a chunkster at a good 521 pages.

3) It took me a little bit to get into the book.  I'll admit that.  While the writing is awesome, it took me a little bit to get into the story.  But once I did I was hooked.

4) I love WWII stories, so for me this was a fascinating look at Norway's involvement during WWII.  Again, this is another story which really rams home the idea that WWII did not just affect that one generation but is still having ramifications on subsequent generations and events.  I obviously think that it's more apparent in Europe and places where the fighting happened on their own soil rather than here in the USA.  The story has chapters interspersed with a character in WWII and I loved those.  It's a great writer who can make me like both the present day story AND the flashback story.  Bravo.

5) The "present day" story takes place in 1999 -- which is when Nesbø wrote the story.  I find it odd that while 1999 doesn't seem that far in the past to me (that's the year I graduated high school) how much the world has changed.

And more...

I have two more Nesbø books, Nemesis and The Devil's Star, on my shelf to read and I definitely want to get into them.

 I've been ogling the newest books in the series - especially The Snowman and The Leopard on Kirkus Reviews.

While I still haven't read the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson -- I would assume that if you are a fan of Larsson's works, you'd appreciate Jo Nesbø's series.

I also found some alternate covers for The Redbreast.  I prefer my edition above but what are your thoughts?

Also Reviewed by:
Linus's Blanket  (She was at the HarperCollins event as well.  Awesome blogger.)

About Jo Nesbø:
Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover  found out she loves Nesbø's books
Bookfinds found an awesome article and photo of Nesbø's bookshelves
Check out Nesbø's author website - very cool