Challenge Wrap-Up, READING CHALLENGES 2009

Finished Challenge – 2009 What’s in a Name 2

Annie hosted this challenge again in 2009. I really loved the 2008 version, this one I had a lot more difficulty finishing. I’m not sure if it was because I got burned out on having to find books to “fit” a challenge or what it was. I probably stretched the definition of “building” by using “Home” to fulfill the category, but I got desperate!! I will not be signing up for this 2010 version which is being hosted by someone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my two years with this challenge!! Here’s what I read:

  1. Time of Day: The Midnight Twins by Jacquelyn Mitchard REVIEW
  2. Building: No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark REVIEW
  3. Body Part: Sweetheart, Chelsesa Cain REVIEW
  4. Relative: BoneMan’s Daughter, Ted Dekker REVIEW
  5. Profession: The Chemist, Janson Mancheski REVIEW
  6. Medical Condition: ‘D’ is for Deadbeat, Sue Grafton REVIEW

Challenge Wrap-Up, READING CHALLENGES 2009

Finished Challenge – Celebrate the Author 2009

Becky hosted this challenge again in 2009. I got a little bit behind and had to play catch up quite a bit, but I ended up finishing this challenge and enjoying it once again. I have also signed up for the 2010 version of this challenge. Anyway, the idea is to “celebrate” author birthdays by reading a book by a certain author who is celebrating a birthday in that particular month. Here is what I read:

  1. January: Deal Breaker, Harlan Coben REVIEW
  2. February: Evil at Heart, Chelsea Cain REVIEW
  3. March: Heartstopper, Joy Fielding REVIEW
  4. April: ‘D’ is for Deadbeat, Sue Grafton REVIEW
  5. May: Whispers by Lisa Jackson REVIEW
  6. June: The Surgeon, Tess Gerritsen REVIEW
  7. July: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling REVIEW
  8. August: When the Bough Breaks, Jonathan Kellerman REVIEW
  9. September: The Godwulf Manuscript, Robert B. Parker REVIEW
  10. October: The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace REVIEW
  11. November: Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris REVIEW
  12. December: No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark REVIEW

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

REVIEW: No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark

No Place Like Home
by Mary Higgins Clark

Copyright: 2005
Pages: 472
Rating: 5/5
Read: Dec. 14-19, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; 2009 Celebrate the Author Challenge;  RYOB 2009; 2009 What’s in a Name 2; 2010 Countdown Challenge
Yearly Count: 66

First Line: Ten-year-old Liza was dreaming her favorite dream, the one about the day when she was six years old, and she and Daddy were at the beach, in New Jersey, at Spring Lake.

When Liza Barton was ten years old she accidentally shot her mother while trying to protect her from her stepfather. Although the shooting was ruled an accident, and Liza was let off the hook, the papers and the people in the area all compared Liza to Lizzie Borden. But Liza’s adoptive parents change her name to Celia and tries to forget the past. Widowed with a young son, Celia remarries and is perfectly happy. That is right up until her wonderful new husband surprises her with a house for her birthday. The same house that just happens to be the one that she killed her mother in so many years before. Since her new husband does not know the story of her childhood, he is baffled by his new wife’s response to this wonderful birthday gift. But then strange things start happening – the house is vandalized and people start getting murdered. Unforunately for Celia, someone in her old hometown has recognized her as Liza because she starts getting tormented and set up for murder. Although a suspect for murder once again, Celia has to be strong for herself and her son, for they are actually the ones being stalked by the real murderer.

I simply love Mary Higgins Clark. She just writes wonderful books! How on earth she is able to come up with new ideas is beyond me. But I guess that’s why she’s the author and I’m the reader 🙂 Either way, this book was exceptionally good. The twists and turns were really interesting. I had no idea what was really going on and who the real killer (or killers) were until the very ending when they were revealed. I felt sorry for Celia because she seemed to have really bad luck to have her husband buy the same house she accidentally shot her mother in. Clark really formulated some really mean characters in this book also. She had some really good villains in my opinion. I really can’t think of anything bad about this book, it was wonderfully written with a great storyline. I highly recommend this book!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, R, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

REVIEW: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Copyright: 1997
Pages: 309
Rating: 4/5
Read: Dec. 6-13, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; 2009 Celebrate the Author Challenge; Harry Potter Reading Challenge; RYOB 2009
Yearly Count: 65

First Line: Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter only knows one thing: he has a miserable life living with his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys and their son, Dudley. But he also knows that he’s a little different than the average kid. When he gets really upset or angry, he can make strange things happen without realizing what he’s doing. He is as confused about it as anybody else is. But he will finally get some answers to what is “wrong” with him when on his birthday he gets a letter that arrives by owl messenger: it’s an invitation to go to a school that he’s never heard about. What he finds when he arrives at Hogwarts is unforgettable. He finds friends, magic, and new found fame.

I love Harry Potter 🙂 This was a re-read for me (something I never do!) and I loved it just as much as I did the first time around. Rowling created such a wonderful series when she started Harry Potter. I simply cannot say enough good things about this series and this book in particular. However, my one complaint is that this book is a little more juvenile than I care to read (the later books aren’t like that), but it’s still an enjoyable read.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

The Aztec Heresy by Paul Christopher

The Aztec Heresy
by Paul Christopher

Copyright: 2008
Pages: 346
Rating: 4/5
Read: Dec. 3 – 11, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2010; RYOB 2009
Yearly Count: 64

First Line: Friar Bartolome de las Casas of the Ordo fratrum Praedicatorum, the Order of St. Dominic, heard the giant wave before he saw it.

In search of a Spanish galleon, Finn Ryan and Lord Billy Pilgrim, find evidence of the lost Aztec Codex. This book is said to reveal the location of Cortez’s lost City of Gold. But Finn and Billy are not the only ones on the hunt for the Codex and the City of Gold. However, in while in search of the Codex, they stumble upon something much bigger. Secrets worth killing over are at stake, and Finn and Billy must find their way through the jungles of the Yucatan to the Sonoran Desert.

This is the fourth in this series. Usually I do not like to skip books in a series (and I really regreted it after I started the book, too) but I had to because a Yahoo group buddy requested this book from me. Either way, this was a good book. Life got in the way and it took me like forever to finish it, but it’s a really good read. I personally think that Michelangelo’s Notebook, the first in this series, was better than this one. But I did enjoy it. However, I don’t really recommend reading this series out of order. There were small references to previous books scattered throughout the pages, but it wasn’t impossible to follow. Overall a good book.

AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

REVIEW: Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz

Children of Dust
by Ali Eteraz

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 337
Rating: 4/5
Read: Nov. 16 – Dec. 3, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; Countdown Challenge 2010
Yearly Count: 63

First Line: In Mecca fathers become inclined to give up their sons.

This is not a book that I would have picked up from a bookstore or the library. It’s not even something that would have attracted my attention on a shelf. But when I was contacted by Julie Harabedian of FSB Associates about reviewing this book, I was intrigued by the description. I will admit that I know little about Pakistan and their people and their faith. It’s just never anything that I studied in school or on my own time. However, after reading this book I find myself interested in learning more. But to focus on the point of this post: the review of Children of Dust. This is really an enlightening book. It is extremely well written, by which I mean that it really flows. (For anyone who pays attention to the above listed dates in which I read this book, please ignore them: I went out of town and left the book at home because I have a huge fear of leaving books on airplanes). This book is not a slow read by any means. It begins with the Mr. Eteraz’s early childhood in Pakistan and how things were. We then follow him to the United States, when his family immigrated. It was very interesting to see how Mr. Eteraz describes trying to just be a normal kid when he had such a strict upbringing in regards to his home life. But my favorite section of the book was when he returned to Pakistan. I think his years in the United States really opened his eyes up to what his childhood was really like and what his life would have been like had he never immigrated to the United States. As Americans, a lot of us do not understand the kind of impact that religion has on other people around the world. I, for one, am not extremely religious, nor is anyone in my family. And this book really demonstrates quite well how there is a fine distinction between religious belief and religious extremism. I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It allowed me to learn more than a few things about the Pakistani world and their religious beliefs. If you want a really raw emotional book, this is a good place to start.

4/5, A, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009, SERIES

REVIEW: Denial by Keith Ablow

Denial
by Keith Ablow

Copyright: 1997
Pages: 358
Rating:4/5
Read: Nov. 24-28, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; Random Reading Challenge; RYOB 2009
Yearly Count: 62

First Line: I shot up, sweat dripping down my face.

Frank Clevenger is a forensic psychiatrist with more than a few problems. Problems with drugs, intimacy, childhood abuse, and professional mistakes have made him who he is today. And that is exactly what makes him so good at his job. But this latest case is one that he needs in order to get back into the good graces of his employers. A young woman is found brutally murdered and mutilated. But when Frank goes to the morgue he is shocked to find that he knows the woman lying on the table. She is a good friend of his girlfriend. The main suspect is a schizophrenic homeless man. But Frank isn’t convinced that he committed the murder. When more evidence and more bodies begin to stack up, it is Frank who must race agains the clock to find the murderer to end the killings. But what he finds will terrify him.

This is the first in a series. (Like I need any more of those!) Either way, this is not a book for everyone. This book has all the elements of what I like to call “sick sh*t”. I’m not offended or turned off easily, but some people may be. If that is the case for you, then do not read this book. However, I felt like it was an interesting read. I always like to read fiction novels with psychological elements in them. This one definitely has that. There were certain times when I did want to just knock Frank upside the head and knock some sense into him. But I think the ending sure did sober him up. I personally liked how Mr. Ablow created a character who was addicted to cocaine rather than the standard alcohol (how many books have main characters with alcohol problems these days?) I felt like it gave the book a different angle. I think he eventually found himself in this book in a very unconventional way. Now how this series continues will be very interesting in my opinion. So I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, H, Harper Connelly, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009, SERIES

REVIEW: Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Grave Secret
by Charlaine Harris

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 306
Rating:4/5
Read: Nov. 17-24, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Countdown Challenge;  2009 Celebrate the Author Challenge
Yearly Count: 61

First Line: “All right,” said the straw-haired woman in the denim jacket. “Do your thing.”

Harper Connelly has traveled to Texas with her stepbrother Tolliver to do a job. They like to travel to Texas, it allows this to see their little sisters. But what they learn while in Texas is worse than they could have ever imagined anything. First they learn that Tolliver’s father is out of prison and is trying to re-establish family connections. After they finish the job that brought them to Texas, Tolliver is shot. But the police think that Tolliver was not the intended target, that Harper was. While Tolliver is recovering in the hospital, Harper is trying to figure out what is going on. She has a feeling that there is a connection between their last job and Tolliver being shot, but she can’t possibly figure out what it is. And the fact that Tolliver’s father is back in the mix only makes matters worse for her. However, what she will ultimately find out will turn her world upside down. Harper finally finds out what happened to her sister so many years ago, but what the truth reveals is something far more disturbing than anyone ever thought possible.

This is the fourth (and, sadly) the last in the Harper Connelly series. Although Ms. Harris left a small opening for another book in this series, she has mentioned in numerous places on her website that she is finished with Harper. And honestly, I can see where it would be hard to go anywhere else with this series. Although a lot of people might have been turned off by the relationship between Harper and Tolliver, I didn’t find it all that problematic. In fact I can see where it can be quite common – however, I would have thought that the attraction would have happened when they were teenagers. However, having Harper and Tolliver together practically 24/7 on the road made it kind of inevitable also. I personally liked Harper’s character. I thought that the gift that Harris thought up for her was quite interesting, and her descriptions of how she did her work were interesting. However, I have a rather large complaint about this book – there was very little action in regards to what Harper does as a living. She came in and did her “thing” within the first chapter and that was that. The rest of the book was mainly about Tolliver recovering and Harper trying to figure out what was going on with the help of Manfred. I rated this book a 4/5 simply because I felt it was a little rushed in places. It was like Ms. Harris was trying her hardest to wrap this series up as quickly as possible. There were also more than a few grammar/spelling errors (which I have noticed is a common thing in Ms. Harris’ books). Overall I thought that this was a pretty decent way to end this series, and that although I am sad to see the end of this series, I am also glad to have a conclusion.

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, D, Nonfiction, P, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

REVIEW: The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson and Martin Dugard

The Murder of King Tut
by James Patterson & Martin Dugard

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 332
Rating: 5/5
Read: Nov. 13-15, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Countdown Challenge
Yearly Count: 60

First Line: It was New Year’s Eve as a somber, good-looking explorer named Howard Carter, speaking fluent Arabic, gave the order to begin digging.

King Tut, the Boy King. Less than a decade after becoming Pharaoh of Egypt, the boy dies mysteriously. In the years following his demise, his name is essentially wiped from the history books. Even today, the death of King Tut remains somewhat of a mystery. Howard Carter’s life mission was to uncover a virgin tomb; he wanted King Tut’s tomb the most. He began his search in 1907. It would take many, many years before he finally found Tut and the world would finally begin to understand the Boy King. In this book, James Patterson teams up with Martin Dugard to really look through all the evidence and put Tut’s life and death in a spotlight like never before – true crime and history collides in this book as Patterson unravels the mystery surrounding the Boy King.

Being a history major, I love anything history pretty much. But here recently my husband, mom, and dad, all went up to Indianapolis to see the King Tut exhibit. It really reignited my interest in Egyptian history. I was unfortunately never able to take a course in college on Egypt, but I knew some things from different museum trips and whatnot. But this book was really interesting to me. It read like a novel, which will make history interesting to a lot more people. (It also has the name James Patterson on it – which I have come to the conclusion sells a book like nothing else.) It’s really an easy read. And yet it’s historical. A lot of people don’t read historical books because they might feel bogged down or whatever the reason – however, if you are one of those people, please pick up this book!! You will not be bogged down at all. It reads like all of Patterson’s other works – like a novel. If you have any interest whatsoever in Egypt, this is an interesting book. However, I do want to add, that I’m not completely sold on Patterson’s conclusion – that it was a conspiracy of the three people closest to him. I’m not saying that it isn’t true, it very well may be, but without knowing more information regarding the mystery surrounding Tut’s death I’m not sure if this is right. Who knows if Tut was even really murdered?! However, if he was, there was almost certainly some sort of conspiracy, and it definitely revolved around the desire to have the power that Tut had as Pharaoh. But one of the three people that Patterson names, I’m not completely sold on being a part of the conspiracy. I think that there could possibly be other explanations for that person’s actions. But that’s just my opinion … I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good murder mystery, because that’s what this book is all about!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, G, RATING, Read in 2009, READING CHALLENGES 2009

REVIEW: The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace

The Eleventh Victim
by Nancy Grace

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 353
Rating: 4/5
Read: Nov. 6 – 13, 2009
Challenge:  2009 100+ Reading Challenge; 2009 Celebrate the Author Challenge; 2010 Countdown Challenge
Yearly Count: 59

First Line: A little something. What was it? Something … Some detail was wrong.

Young Hailey Dean’s life is turned upside down when her fiance Will, is murdered weeks before their wedding. She deals with it the only way she can think of: she becomes an attorney. And a darned good attorney at that. Working as a prosecutor in Atlanta, Hailey racks up a 100% win rate in court. She is unstoppable. Until she meets Clint Cruise. She manages to get the jury to convict the serial murderer, but it will be her last case. She has finally reached her limit. She leaves Atlanta and the court system behind. She finds herself in New York City working as a psychiatrist. She thinks everything is going great for her – until not one, but two of her patients turn up murdered. And who is the police’s prime suspect? Hailey herself. She manages to get herself out of jail, but she knows that the police are watching her every move. But when she finds out that Cruise has been released from prison on a technicality – her whole world is going to be chaotic because she knows he is the one who is framing her for the murder of her patients.

I enjoyed this book. It was slightly formulaic and predictable. However, I thought that overall the storyline was pretty good. Knowing Nancy Grace from watching her show over the years, I’m sure she has lots of great ideas for fiction books based on all of her experience. I know she put some of herself into Hailey Dean, which made Hailey’s character that much more likable. I thought that for Grace’s first stab at fiction, she did really good. She had some well developed characters and I love how she had kind of two, almost three, storylines going on at the same time and yet they weren’t confusing to me the reader as to what was going on. I enjoyed this book and hope that I see more of Nancy Grace’s fiction books in the future.