2. THE SKYSTONE by Jack Whyte. First in the Camulod Chronicles, an Arthurian series that begins back in 360’s A.D. Roman Britain. Wonderful historical detail with an interesting story and twist on the Arthurian myths—this constitutes the beginnings of the legend, with nary a mention yet of Arthur, just with his (apparent) ancestors. However, the Lady in the Lake is mentioned and a special sword made from a strange metal that “fell from the sky” in a skystone. This is the story of Publius Varrus, the blacksmith who made the sword, and quite a wonderful story it is, too. Lively storytelling, rich with detail, interesting characters—all essentials to a lengthy historical and/or fantasy series, and all definitely present in this first installment. I’m greatly looking forward to the next one in the series! This is one TBR Challenge book that I’m glad I finally got to. A.
3. IT’S NOT OVER TIL THE THIN LADY SINGS by Michelle Ritchie. Oh, yawn, I thought. Another book by a gastric bypass patient explaining how to make things work long-term. Received this from the LibraryThing early reviewer’s program to review, even though the book has been released for some months. This book is certainly different than several others I’ve read by post-bypass patients. The author is a certified addictions counselor, and she tackles one of the most difficult aspects of weight loss by ANY means, be it weight-loss surgery or a diet and exercise regimen and that is the psychological aspects of what cause us to overeat and become obese in the first place. There is some very basic information about WLS itself and about post-op care and eating, but not much. It is refreshing to read a book that doesn’t give lists of what you can and can’t eat, how many grams of this or that is essential, huge recipe sections, long lists of do’s and don’ts. It’s also refreshing to read a book in which the majority of the content is not all about the author and her story from fat to fit and how fabulous life is now. This book is about YOU. There are some anecdotes about the author’s personal experiences and the experiences of some of her clients (she facilitates WLS support groups and deals with chronic overeaters), but it’s mostly exercises encouraging you to find your own answers and gives you tools to help you work through your own “demons” and to develop strategies let go of the old behaviors. It also encourages you to come up with a post-op program that works for YOU rather than just following someone else’s lists of do’s and don’ts. This is an aspect of obesity in general and WLS in particular that I feel is very neglected and this book is a welcome addition to any collection of books dealing with WLS. That said, I do feel it’s somewhat incomplete with regard to the lack of information about the surgery itself, physical followup care, and I don’t believe it emphasizes enough the importance of putting protein first, and her protein requirements run a little lower than my own research indicates is necessary. The vital necessity of vitamin supplementation after gastric bypass is also not addressed forcefully enough, I don’t think. As an RN working in a GI clinic, I talk to many post-ops who are quite malnourished down the road, and their supplementation is very underdone. Since so many others of these types of books are just the opposite—emphasizing the physical aspects but ignoring the psychological, I do feel this book is an essential addition to any WLS patient’s library, but I cannot say that it is a complete and comprehensive guide to WLS. I myself am a year post-op RNY, and I did find the book very helpful, although not always pleasant, as some of the psychological things I have put on the back burner and it wasn’t easy dragging them into the light. Still, I believe for long-term success, the author is absolutely correct in stating that these things MUST be addressed. B+
4. THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson. Audio download from the library. First in a mystery series featuring Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is a crusty, middle-aged law enforcement officer, instantly likable, with a bevy of well-fleshed friends and townsfolk surrounding him, from his foul-mouthed deputy, Victoria Moretti to his best friend, Henry Standing Bear. Even the waitress at the local diner has more personality than the main characters in some books I’ve read! I really felt like I knew them all very well in a short period of time. When Cody Pritchard is found shot to death, it’s first assumed that it was a hunting accident. But the young man had a history—he was an arrogant ex-con, recently released after serving a very short sentence for the brutal group rape of a mentally challenged Indian girl. Walt has his suspicions about the death from the beginning, and would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t want to pop Cody at one time for one reason or another. But when another of the young men convicted with Cody ends up the same way, everyone else realizes that there must be a connection with the rape case, someone out for revenge—a dish best served cold, it is said. I figured out the killer well in advance and even managed to suss out why, but it did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of this book. The reader was excellent and really evoked the spirit of the characters, I think, and together with the author’s skill at storytelling made it a very worthwhile read…uh, I mean, listen. I was rather embarrassed at the end to be sitting there with tears streaming down my face, but ya know—I guess that means they did a great job, because I don’t leak all that easily.
5. THE BURNT ORANGE SUNRISE by David Handler. Berger and Mitry mystery number four, in which Mitch, a New York film critic and Desiree, the resident state trooper, end up at big old Victorian inn, trapped during a winter ice and snow storm that topples trees, causes power lines to be down and generally makes things miserable. Even moreso when there are two deaths—the first thought to be heart failure of the inn’s proprietor. But when her mother, a feisty and unconventional famous ninety-two-year-old filmmaker and photographer whom the people present at the inn had gathered to honor ends up strangled to death, Des realizes that the first death is probably not natural, either. Mitch conjures up thoughts of the old Agatha Christie movie “And Then There Were None,” as they have no way out of the inn and no way for the crime scene investigators or detectives to get in until the storm breaks. A houseful of suspects, all with secrets and possible reasons for doing in the mother-and-daughter combo—and then, Mitch is clonked on the head and comes to next to another dead body! But which one did it?? Well, I figured it out pretty easily, and well in advance. This book didn’t enthrall me nearly as much as the previous ones in the series did. It was still a good read, but I was not impressed by all the celebrity name-dropping claptrap early on in the book—which I suppose is to be expected, since Mitch IS a film critic. Still, I am not fond of Hollywood hype stuff. It was still a decent read, and I do like these characters, but they just seemed a bit “off” in this installment. Or maybe I was off! Anyway, I didn’t enjoy it as much. B.
6. PYRAMIDS by Terry Pratchett. Sixth in publication order of the humorous fantasy Discworld series, this book features Teppic, a newly inducted member of the Assassins Guild. When his father dies, he must leave Ankh-Morpork and journey home because he also becomes King Teppicymon XXVIII, a demi-god/king in the land of the pyramids, far away physically and culturally from Ankh-Morpork. Many interesting supporting characters round out the cast, including Ptclusp, the pyramid builder, and his twin sons, IIa and IIb, who cause a major time (and other things!) warp when trying to erect the Great Pyramid in Teppic’s father’s honor by taking a few magical/metaphysical shortcuts. Plenty of chuckles and wacky Discworld humor, but I have to say this storyline isn’t my favorite. I think my favorite character in this book was You Bastard, the mathematical genius camel. LOL Enjoyable but somewhat ho-hum in spots—or perhaps it was just my mood. B+
7. EVAN BLESSED by Rhys Bowen. Ninth in the Evan Evans Welsh village police procedural/cozy series. Evan and Bronwen’s wedding fast approaches as Evan begins work on a case of a missing teenage girl lost while hiking on Mt. Snowdon. When the search turns up a hidden bunker dug into the mountainside, people begin to fear that perhaps this is a serial event. And when the perp starts sending musical clues to Evan, the local police force calls in a profiler to help aid their search. Will Evan solve this case in time to be married? And will his and Bronwen’s mothers drive them all crazy before it takes place? I did figure out the bad guy (though I admittedly followed the red herring for awhile) ahead of time, but didn’t solve the ‘whole’ puzzle. Nice plot twists and turns and another pleasant interlude in Llanfair. A.
8. DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY by Craig Johnson. Audio download, second in the Walt Longmire series. Not quite as compelling as the first one, but with an interesting mystery (though I pegged the bad guy when introduced—again, no reason, just a ‘gut feeling’ without knowing why) and further development of Walt and the other central characters in the story. When an elderly Basque woman who lived in the Durant Assisted Living home is found dead, former Sheriff Lucien Connolly, who also lives there, believes it’s murder and tells Walt so. Walt trusts his judgment and orders the body to be examined—but what Lucien fails to reveal is that the woman was once his wife for a few hours, before her family had the marriage annulled. When the woman’s granddaughter, who runs the bakery in town, is clonked on the head and a worker at the home turns up dead also, the suspects start piling up along with the dead and injured. Another wild goose chase across Absaroka county with Walt, Henry Standing Bear and Walt’s new deputy, whose name I can’t begin to figure out how to spell—the disadvantage of listening rather than reading. LOL Anyway, very much enjoyed again, though I’m going to give it a rest now—especially since (at the moment) there’s only one more in the series. A.
9. AGATHA RAISIN AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE by M.C. Beaton. Fourteenth in the Agatha Raisin, amateur sleuth in the Cotswolds mystery. A mystery presents itself when a woman in a nearby village claims she’s being haunted in her own home. 92-years-old, far from frail, and the bane of everyone in the village including her own children, the woman eventually ends up dead. Many had motives, as the woman had some money and lived in a home that was significant historically. But who had means and opportunity? Agatha and her new neighbor Paul, a computer specialist that she (once again!) finds attractive, investigate. Agatha and her concerns over her aging looks and propensity to become enamored of every man she meets makes me laugh—in other characters, it would just be annoying and I’d stop reading, but for some reason I tolerate it and even enjoy it in the indefatigable Ms. Raisin. This was a typically enjoyable entry in the series, bolstered by the appearance once again of Sir Charles Fraith. B+
10. PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie. (audio download) I hadn’t read this book since I was quite young, and must say it was an enjoyable interlude listening to this classic children’s story being told by an excellent reader. Running the gamut of emotions from hilarity to fear to grief for things long lost, this was quite a treat as Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy and the boys, Hook and Smee and all the other characters spring to life. Definitely more enjoyable than Disney’s watered-down, whitewashed version! A.
11. KAFKA ON THE SHORE by Haruki Murakami. Last of my “TBR Challenge” books for 2007, yay! What a WEIRD book! I liked it—it was a very interesting story, about a 15-year-old boy who runs away from his home and his emotionally distant father in Tokyo and travels to a small city on the coast where he spends time in a private library reading all day. It’s also about an older man who, as a child during WWII, had a strange blackout episode and woke up with basically a ‘blank’ mind, living the rest of his life unable to read or write or retain much knowledge, but who could from then on talk to cats. Sometimes difficult to follow, these two both meet some interesting characters and their paths begin to intertwine in bizarre and strange ways. I sometimes wonder what the author was smoking when he wrote this book and I’m still undecided as to whether I want some or not! LOL I’m not even sure I understand what exactly his point was, but it was a thought-provoking book and very hard to put down, though necessity dictated that I had to pause quite often. I will be looking for more my Murakami for sure. A.
12. THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS by Colin Dexter. Ninth in the “Inspector Morse” British police procedural series set in Oxford, in which an American tourist who is part of a tour group staying at a ritzy hotel in Oxford dies shortly after checking in. Although it appears that the woman dies of a massive coronary, police are alled in because a valuable artifact that the dead woman was carrying to donate to the Ashmolean Museum has also been stolen. And when another body associated with the group turns up a couple days later, the niggling doubts Morse had about the first death being by totally natural causes spring to life and he and Lewis are hot on the trail. Typical excellent Morse mystery, always a joy for me to dig back into this series. A.
13. PLAINS CRAZY by J.M. Hayes. Third in the “Mad Dog & Englishman” series. Full of wry humor, bizarre happenings, interesting characters, and the very essence of small-town Midwestern life, this series set in Kansas and featuring Sheriff English and his half-brother Mad Dog, is in my opinion one of the most sadly overlooked and seldom talked-about mystery series out there. When a teenage boy, a member of a family doing a re-enactment of Cheyenne life in the 1860’s for PBS, dies with an authentic Cheyenne arrow in his back, Mad Dog is looked at as the first suspect. Until it’s determined that he was probably the intended victim, that is. Then, the bank is robbed and several crudely-made bombs explode at different locales in town accompanied by notes from a terrorist with terrible grammar, and Judy, Englishman’s wife, insists that they take a trip to Paris in the midst of it all. As the story progresses from one madcap scene to the next, there is a sense of total incredulity and frequent “No way!” exclamations from inside the brain, but also one of pause as you think, “Okay, I CAN see that happening after all…bizarre coincidence, but it could happen!” but not likely strung together in a series of events such as depicted in this book. Still, it’s highly entertaining and felt like a visit with well-loved friends once again. Was glad to see that Hayes had a fourth book in series published earlier this month—I look forward to it! A.
FORTUNE’S SLAVE by Fidelis Morgan. Altogether TOO campy and silly for me, and I found myself on page 60 with a decided lack of interest so decided to move on.
THE FIG EATER by Jody Shields. Yawn. The author’s writing style rather annoyed me too.