i've read all these books

Using Your Brain for a Change | Existential Sexuality | The Botany of Desire | Bloodline of the Holy Grail | Holy Blood, Holy Grail | The Time Traveler's Wife | The Mastery of Love | The Four Agreements | Invisible Monsters | Bats Fly at Dusk | Designer Knockoff | Killer Hair | Snow Crash | The Slippery Slope | Survivor | Diary | The Golden Compass | Two for the Dough – Hard Eight | Full House & Full Tilt | American Gods | Without Reservations | Lullaby | Dangerous Angels | Killer Pancake | Tough Cookie | The Two Towers | The Fellowship of the Ring | Bunny Modern | The Cat with a Really Big Head | Echo | A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius | Memnoch the Devil | Cirque du Freak: Tunnels of Blood | Into the Forest | Slapstick | One For the Money | Zodiac | Freeze My Margarita | Choke | Hold Me Close, Let Me Go | Tales of the Body Thief | The Queen of the Damned | The Vampire Lestat | Pretty Boy | The Black Rubber Dress | Chained! | The Stawberry Tatoo | The House of the Spirits | Portrait in Sepia | Daughter of Fortune | Frisco Pigeon Mambo | The Circus of the Earth and the Air | Geek Love

This is a list of the books I've read, starting at most recent. As you can see, I read from a variety of genres. If there is no date by my name at the end of the review, it's because I can't remember when I read it. The number in parenthesis by the name of the book is the score I give it, see the legend below. Sometimes, I might have a score range, that's either because I couldn't decide, I could't remember, or because it gave me mixed emotions.

Scoring Legend

9 = required reading, a literary masterpiece, I have read (or will) read this many times!
8 = required reading, a literary masterpiece but too serious or disturbing to read more than once
7 = highly recommended, ingenious
6 = extremely entertaining, smart
5 = very entertaining
4 = entertaining though simple
3 = entertaining though stupid
2 = not recommended
1 = terrible, I don't know how I finished it
0 = don't bother, I didn't
# = in progress

( # ) Using Your Brain for a Change

by Richard Bandler; Real People Press; 1985

Currently reading this nonfiction work.

( # ) Existential Sexuality

by Peter Koestenbaum; Prentice-Hall, Inc.; 1974

Currently reading this nonfiction work.

( # ) The Botany of Desire

by Laurence Gardner; Fair Winds, Gloucester, Massachusetts; 1996

Currently reading this nonfiction work.

( # ) Bloodline of the Holy Grail

by Laurence Gardner; Fair Winds, Gloucester, Massachusetts; 1996

Currently reading this nonfiction work.

( # ) Holy Blood, Holy Grail

by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln; Del Publishing, New York; 1983

Currently reading this nonfiction work.

( 7 ) The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger; Harcourt, inc.; 2003

Because I wasn't giving myself reading time, it took me quite a while to finish this 536 page book, though I was sure glad to finally get involved in the story about a third of the way in and then read more rapidly. This brilliantly thought through story jumps through time just as the reluctant time traveler. The book is as much about him as it is about his wife, and both are characters interesting to get to know.

She spends much of her life waiting for him.... from meeting him while she was a child and he an adult, to their real-time meeting as adults, through their marriage and his frequent random disappearances, to after his early death and his visit to her when she's an old woman. His time traveling forces him into some serious survival situations, bringing out some of the more violent aspects of men, and her love for him forces her to have patience and acceptance of that difficult part of him she can not change.

October 2005

( 9 ) The Mastery of Love

by don Miguel Ruiz; Amber-Allen Publishing; 1999

After reading The Four Agreements, I bought this and read through it quickly because I could hardly put it down. Using Toltec wisdom and inspirational stories, Ruiz teaches the true nature of love, unconditional love, and how most relationships are ruined by expectations and the war of control.

July 2005

( 9 ) The Four Agreements

by don Miguel Ruiz, audio book read by Peter Coyote; 1997

Lent to me by a friend, I had these cassette tapes in my car deck for weeks just looping. That's how good and important the lessons are.

June 2005

( 7 ) Invisible Monsters

by Chuck Palahniuk; W.W. Norton & Company, New York; 1999

I waited too long to write about this after reading it... but I remember loving the twists the plot takes. Because of it's utter strangeness and perversity, I think it may be my favorite Palahniuk book yet (though I still haven't read Fight Club). I just can't help but love a book about a woman who gets tired of being beautiful and about a man who does everything he can to become a beautiful woman.

April 2005

( 5 ) Bats Fly at Dusk

by Erle Stanley Gardner writing under the name of A.A. Fair; Dell Publishing, New York; 1942

I waited too long to write about this after reading it... but I remember enjoying this novel about the female detective, Bertha Cool. She's not fabulous, she's not very smart, but with the help of telegrams from her partner, Donald Lam, who's away enlisted in the Navy during the story, she manages to get the case solved. In that sense, looking at it from a modern perspective, the lack of her abilities is a little annoying. For the time it was written, I imagine it was groundbreaking, and it was still a fun read.

March 2005

( 6 ) Designer Knockoff

by Ellen Byerrum; Signet, New York; 2004

I waited too long to write about this after reading it... but I remember very much enjoying the way she blended fashion history with the murder plot. Very fascinating and fun.

March 2005

( 5 ) Killer Hair

by Ellen Byerrum; Signet, New York; 2003

I waited too long to write about this after reading it, but I remember enjoying it. Fashion, murder, and journalism.... another book with a reluctant female detective, actually a journalist forced by her hair-stylist best friend into investigating a murder.

March 2005

( 7 )Snow Crash

by Neal Stephenson; Bantam Books; New York; 1992

Having heard so many great things about this book, when I finally got around to reading it I was a little disappointed. But that is often how it happens with things that go so highly recommended. It took me nearly two months to read, though I think that was more the fault of my schedule than the book, because the book really is brilliant.

This book has had so much influence over cyber culture that it's a must read, particularly if you are a fan of cyber-punk or even just a frequent user of the internet.

The future world where Snow Crash takes place is bizarre, though seems much more plausible than it would have to me in 1992.... Except for the pizza delivery part since I think most companies have given up on the 30 minute guarantee... though it was easy enough to suspend my disbelief and enjoy that part of the story. The characters are likeable, even the nuclear powered guard-dog and the big scary guy who slices people up with glass knives.

February 2005

(For a year I read no books? I guess I didn't finish any or read any fiction, but mostly read various nonfiction for research, such as those above, plus many others. The above books are ones I actually plan to finish, though who knows when I will.)

( 6 ) The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Tenth)

by Lemony Snicket

The Baudelaire orphans have always been clever children but they have been maturing in the past couple books. Instead of being constantly hunted by the villains, they now have to take active pursuit in order to rescue Sunny and find answers to the mysteries that may lead them to a possible surviving parent. Even baby Sunny learns some new skills as the three plot to spy on and trap Olaf and his evil girlfriend.

January 2004

( 6 ) Survivor

by Chuck Palahniuk; Anchor Books, New York; 1999

Palahniuk is Kurt Vonnegut's successor when it comes to character's who are pulled through life. While the events of the story happen to them, they hardly seem to have any control or care of their outcome. This can be frustrating at times for a reader who is engaged in the character and wants only the best for them, but Palahniuk always manages to pull me through the story right along with the poor, pathetic narrator. This book is the transcript of an airplane “black box” flight recorder as the last surviving member of a suicide cult tells his story to it. This story is highly original and full of unusual elements only Palahniuk could have thought up.

December 2003

( 6 ) Diary

by Chuck Palahniuk; Doubleday, 2003

Palahniuk's books always seem to be almost uncomfortable to read. They often start you off confused, not sure who's speaking and who they are speaking to. By the time you're done, you will understand, even if you don't want to. Diary is a sort of horror story, it's disturbing, conspiratorial, and mysterious. The worst part for me was having difficulty liking the characters enough or accepting some of their actions and non-actions, but to be horror, it couldn't be any other way.

October 2003

( 7 ) The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Book 1)

by Philip Pullman

This is an amazing fantasy story. The book is well written, original, and interesting. It's a "young adult" book but was surprisingly intelligent and does not talk down to the reader. As soon as I realized I was nearing the last chapter, I went out and bought the next two books in this trilogy.

September 2003

( 5 ) Two for the Dough; Three to Get Deadly; Four to Score; High Five; Hot Six; Seven Up; Hard Eight

by Janet Evanovich; Pocket Books / St. Martin's Paperbacks, New York; 1996 - 2002

I blew through numbers two through eight in the Stephanie Plum series, hardly able to resist the next one. Though this is not a very intellectual type of fiction, it can be clever at times, and is highly entertaining. Each book gets better. The author's skills are noticeably improved as do the character's. Plum, a woman who's become a bounty hunter even though she has no skill for it, is a slow learner. But she does learn, especially by the eighth book, so when she does something smart it makes the reader so excited that the frustration with her bumbling in the past is made up for.

July - August 2003

( 4 ) Full House; Full Tilt

by Janet Evanovich; St. Martin's Paperbacks, New York; 2002 - 2003

After reading Evanovich's One for the Money, I picked up these two from a different series. These are less tough, less exciting, more romance, but still with a bit of mystery and danger. They were entertaining but not as much as the Stepahnie Plum books.

July 2003

( 6 ) American Gods

by Neil Gaiman; HarperCollinsPublishers, NY; 2001

This book was slow to pull me in, but it eventually succeeded, and I enjoyed it overall. The basis of the story, that Gods are incarnations of peoples beliefs, isn't an original idea, but Gaiman spins this tale into something entirely his own. It has mystery and twists of plot, love and magic, and it shows a side of America that is easy to overlook.

June 2003

( 5 ) Without Reservations

by Alice Steinbach; Random House, NY; 2000 (Adv. Reader's Ed)

The author's account of leaving her life as a journalist in New York behind to travel Europe and to re-define herself. I picked up this book because the author's first stop was Paris, but the entire book was fascinating and full of surprises. I enjoyed this book much more than I expected I would.

March 2003

( 6, 9 ) Lullaby

by Chuck Palahniuk; Doubleday, NY; 2000

Palahniuk again manages to create a world so bizarre and unbelievable, yet real and believable in his words.

A journalist who had lost his wife and daughter teams up with a realtor who lost her husband and son, along with a couple other strange characters, they embark on a journey to find an ancient book of spells.

It's amazing how Palahniuk manages to go far beyond where readers may normally loose our suspension of disbelief, and create problems, solutions, and answers to life's oddities, all at once. He makes his characters so faulted but so easy to relate to.

I'm already thinking about reading this book again....

March 2003

( 5-6 ) Dangerous Angels

by Francesca Lia Block; HarperCollins, New York, NY; 1989

This is a collection of five Block books, all about Weetzie Bat or her family. Every one of these characters is a beautiful, interesting, magical person made up of their own faults, loves, and needs.

Her writing style is like poetry, with a touch of fantasy, a tint of beatnik, and a bit of any sub-culture you could think of.

February 2003

( 5 ) Killer Pancake

by Diane Mott Davidson; Bantam Books, New York, NY; 1995

This was my second Davidson book in a row so I was prepared for her excessively detailed writing style and read with more patience, though it didn't seem as necessary this time. This book didn't start out as slow, but had a plot nearly as complex as Tough Cookie.

The caterer main character is not my favorite of heroines, being a bit dumb and clumsy at times, but she has guts, I can say that much.

February 2003

( 1, 5 ) Tough Cookie

by Diane Mott Davidson; Bantam Books, New York, NY; 2000

Lent to me several months ago by a fellow female-sleuth-novel lover, I began to read it back in December. It was slow and over packed with details, I got bored and put it down. After reading a few other books, I decided to try to finish it, and it didn't take long.

This book starts out slow, and is packed with details, but the plot ends up complex and engaging. Many of the seemingly superfluous details in the beginning are later tied in to the story. It was entertaining and interesting, even for a non-skier.

The heroine of this book, Goldie, is a caterer/personal chef/TV show cook who manages to get herself in the middle of violent, mysterious deaths. It takes place in Colorado shortly before Christmas, and is from a series of novels about this woman sleuth. Expect to see more of them reviewed here.

January 2003

( 9 ) The Two Towers

by J.R.R. Tolkien; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1965

This is a re-read of The Lord of the Rings Part Two, first read about 15 years ago. After seeing the recently released movie several times, I had to read the book again. I'm not going to say anything more than what is obvious, that this is a necessary classic for any fiction lover.

January 2003

( 9 ) The Fellowship of the Ring

by J.R.R. Tolkien; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1965

This is a re-read of The Lord of the Rings Part One, first read about 15 years ago. After seeing the recently released movie several times, I had to read the book again. I'm not going to say anything more than what is obvious, that this is a necessary classic for any fiction lover.

December 2002

( 6 ) Bunny Modern

by David Bowman; Little, Brown, and Company, New York, NY; 1998

Bowman is a new discovery for me, but I wish I hadn't taken so long discovering him! I found this book at a library sale and bought it because it looked interesting.

This book is written in the voice of a man who can "sheldrake", or see through other people's eyes, so although it is in first person, there are large portions in third person. He also chooses to address the reader by name, "Ishmael", is the name he decides the reader must have.

It takes place in a future without electricity and where fashion is based on literature. Why isn't there power? Because it just stopped working, mysteriously. Also, babies are rare because people can't have them any more. There are theories of what is causing the problems, but no one seems to know for sure.

Since babies are so rare, of course they are much desired, so people who have babies, hire armed and drugged nannies to protect the baby from the kidnappers and black market baby trade.

This book might not appeal to everyone, but if you are a fan of Kurt Vonnegut and Chuck Palahniuk, I highly recommend it. If you have a baby, I recommend it. If you like drugged out chicks with tattoos and guns, it's a must read.

December 2002

( 5 ) The Cat with a Really Big Head (and One Other Story That Isn't as Good)

by Roman Dirge; SLG Publishing, San Jose, CA; 2002

This is a short story with illustrations in the style of a children's book, but probably not meant for children. At least not most people's children (although if I had my very own test subject, I would read this book to it). This story is funny, surreal, disturbing, and sad. Don't expect a good ending for this poor malformed kitty. Maybe in a few lifetimes..

December 2002

( 6 ) Echo

by Francesca Lia Block; Joanna Cotler Books, New York, NY; 2001

Block's writing style is like poetry in which words she chooses, and which details she includes, making it beautiful, flowing, uncluttered prose. Using a combination of unabashed descriptions, magical metaphor, miraculous fantasy, she gives the reader the raw emotions, the pain, loneliness, insecurities, hunger, desires. as well as angelic beauty, the glory of nature, empathy, even vampirism and psychic phenomena. This is a must read for any woman or girl who has felt as an outsider, like she is not beautiful, has felt lonely, imperfect, or who has wished for magic.

This book is meant for girls 13 and older, and while reading it, I was shocked that an author would include sex and drugs in a book for such a young age. But then realized that the issues dealt with in this book are issues kids that age are confronted with in their lives, so why not deal with it in the fiction they are reading instead of society being in denial that it goes on? Kids that age are seeing it done by adults in movies, kids are doing it themselves, why not write stories that kids can really identify with, and maybe learn from.

This book doesn't glorify young sex and drug use, but it showed that a young girl who has no self respect or confidence will smoke, drink, use drugs, and have sex with random boys, but then when she finds how to like herself, she no longer needs any of that.

November 2002

( 1,6-7 ) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Edgars; Vintage Books Edition, New York, NY; 2001

This book has taken me a year to read. I was sucked in from the beginning, because starting from the copyright page he is witty, smart, and funny. But then it became too long and tedious. I put the book down for many months after getting to a long spot in the book, which is a dialog between himself and the casting director of Real World. Well, it seems to start out as a dialog between them, but becomes a fantasy dialog, which goes on much too long.

I've picked the book up and put it down many times in the past year. I've read many other books in between, but I've always known that I had to read the whole thing, if not to find out what happens in the "end", then to get every last brilliant phrase.

The subject is tragic and fascinating. A family of four children, who's parents had passed away, leaving them to take care of each other. Dave Eggers is second to the youngest and college age, but gives up college to be home while his parent's die of cancer, then, to raise his younger, pre-teen brother.

His writing is wonderful and witty, I wish I had written little quotes of the best or funniest parts to include here, but I didn't, so you'll just have to suffer through the book yourself, because I think I can say it is actually worth it.

November 2002

( 3 ) Memnoch the Devil

by Anne Rice; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1995

Book five of The Vampire Chronicles and I was again disappointed. It was fictionally written by my favorite vampire, Lestat, but was a little boring and frustrating to read because 90% of the book is dialog between either Lestat and Memnoch (the "fallen" angel) or Memnoch and God.

There wasn't enough of a story here. Lestat wasn't enough a part of this book since so much of it was Memnoch's dialog. This book uses argumentive dialog as the tension and the arguments are at times not very believable and the characterization weak. I finished the book because it had just enough story, and just enough mystery to keep me reading to the end, but often wondered if I should put it down for good. I wanted to know if Lestat would take the devil's side as his assistant.

The subject of human spiritual development and Christianity was also interesting. I am glad I finished it, because the ending had a nice twist.

October 2002

( 4-5 ) Cirque Du Freak: Tunnels of Blood

by Darren Shan; Little, Brown, and Company, New York, NY; 2002

The third book in the Cirque Du Freak series and another good one. Darren, a young boy half vampire and assistant to an ancient old vampire who he doesn't quite trust, has scary and engaging adventures.

This is a young adult reader, but still very entertaining.

October 2002

( 6 ) Into the Forest

by Jean Hegland; Bantam Books, New York, NY; 1996

I probably wouldn't ever have known about or read this book if I hadn't taken a creative writing class at the Junior College which happened to be taught by the author.

I think the most I got out of the class was discovering this novel! Not that she wasn't a good teacher, more that I wasn't a good student.

This book is beautifully written, the story interesting and believable, touching and powerful. It's a story of two sisters who are left alone in the world right after the technologies and conveniences of our society are seemingly put on hold. Or, are they gone forever?

This book doesn't dwell on explaining the mechanics of what happens to life as we know it. It's almost as if it magically stopped, but Hegland does touch on the subject now and again, giving it a real feeling, breaking through the mysteriousness of it just enough to give the reader an idea of what happened but not so much that it can become questionable as a basis for the story.

The characters are so real I felt they were my sisters, the father, my father.

This was Hegland's first novel and I look forwards to see what comes from her next.

September 2002

( 9 ) Slapstick

by Kurt Vonnegut; Dell Publishing, New York, NY; 1976

This is the third time I've read this book. What more need I say?

September 2002

( 5 ) One For The Money

by Janet Evanovich; HarperPaperbacks, New York, NY; 1994

Second book in a row which takes place in Boston & New Jersey!

This book was loaned to me by a fellow Lauren Henderson lover. I wasn't as pulled into it as I was with Henderson's books, I don't know if I think Evanovich is as skilled as a writer. Some of the paragraphs were tiresome: I did this. I did that. I such and such..

They made for quick, no-nonsense reading, however, and gave it a more real-life feel, and speaking of real-life, the character was one of the most believable I've come across in a long time. Real enough to completely frustrate me with her stupidity. Not always stupid, though, she's smart enough to remove the distributor cap from her car to keep it from getting stolen (see also Sangamon in previous review) and her persistence and bravery are definitely traits to look up to.

Stephanie is a girl who lost her job and is in need of money, quick. She "convinces" her cousin Vinnie to let her skip trace for him. Bounty hunting is something she is definitely not a natural at. The book is at times hilarious, sad, disturbing, sexy. with an attractive "villain". He's a cop, a murderer, he's jumped bail, and you end up hoping the two of them get together. It's an action/mystery novel with a believable, but tough, woman hero.

August 2002

( 7 ) Zodiac

by Neal Stephenson; Bantam Books, New York, NY; 1995 (first published 1988)

Sangamon Tayler is a scientist and a good one. "Good", not just as in competent and smart, but "good" as in not evil. He works for "GEE", an environmental agency who he does water testing for, plus the occasional shut down of an entire polluting chemical company.

Sangamon is smart, or should I say Stephenson is? This book is filled with chemistry, but not so much that the read was too difficult for me. I skipped very little, even if I didn't understand it, I read it, because I felt like I was learning things. This book made me want to take chemistry at school. It made me want to go out and save the world, in a real way, a major way. That's one of the things I appreciated about the story: it wasn't about the little things that many people worry so much about and that become a tiring but necessary worry for conscious consumers, but a little chlorine bleach is nothing compared to gallons of PCBs, so this ecological thriller is interesting, even to me, a faithful but burned out environmentally concerned person. Sangamon Tayler is a scientist, not a hippy. Hurrah.

This is the first book I've read that had the hero breathing from Hefty bags of nitrous. I guess there's a first for everything.

This was an action/adventure/mystery plus a little uncomfortable romance thrown in. Sangamon is a true hero, and one I wish the world had dozens of.

August 2002

( 5-6 ) Freeze My Margarita

by Lauren Henderson; Arrow Books, United Kingdom; 2001 (first published 1990)

Sam Jones, again, and this time on stage. Well, behind the stage, actually, as she cuts and welds metal into huge mobiles for a stage production of Midsummer Nights Dream.

This is the story of meeting Hugo, her boyfriend in several novels after this one. Oh, and the story of a woman who helps discover a dead body, another dead body, some practical jokes, and a couple more attempted murders, and of course, rescues her effeminate boyfriend from the murderer.

This is an exiting and funny look at the life behind the theater (oh, I mean theatre) and the desperate for attention actresses that live in it. Sam Jones kicks.

August 2002

( 1,6-8 ) Choke

by Chuck Palahniuk; Doubleday, New York, NY; 2001

I saw Palahniuk speak before I read this so while reading it, was immediately reminded of several things he mentioned about his style of writing. He said he writes the way he talks, including switching tenses and perspective, which is true, at least in this book. It took several pages for me to get into the flow of it, but probably because it is such a different style than what I've been reading (see below), such authors from England and Puru and a professional San Francisco columnist tend to sound either foreign or more formal.

But before I had to get used to the style I first had to get through the beginning with him nearly convincing me to stop reading. This is a tactic I have come across before, but in a way that made me merely more curious (see books by Lemony Snicket). Palahniuk was near successful in turning me away, especially once he got further into the first chapter, one of several in which the main character, Victor, constantly refers to himself as "that stupid little boy".

I was forced to get used to reading graphic sex scenes from the perspective of a sex addict who uses sex addiction meetings to meet women. Then I was forced to suspend my disbelief as Victor made himself choke in restaurant after restaurant in order to get, not just sympathy, but a steady income.

I must be making this book sound as if was hard to get though. Well it was. But in ways that challenged me to open my mind and to enter the world of Chuck Palahniuk. This book was so good, so disturbing, and so controversial in my own mind, that i couldn't decide how to score it. That just makes it even better.

On the back of the book, he is compared to Vonnegut, my all time favorite author, and I can see the many similarities. He has a similar sense of humor and he uses the technique of repetition. Read the book and you'll see what I mean.

So it goes...

August 2002

( 4 ) Hold Me Close, Let Me Go!

by Adair Lara; Broadway Books, New York; 2002

Lara succeeded in bringing me through her heart-breaking and angering account of raising a difficult adolescent daughter. This is not the usual type of book I read - but I tried it out as research - and I was captivated. Although at times I was frustrated by the stupidity of the mother (Lara), so had to remind myself that the book was written with the hindsight that allowed the author to see her own mistakes and therefore, reflect upon them.

I could identify with Adair Lara as she confronted issues with her own parents, her six siblings, her family's past, and it's ties so strong that at times acts as a kind of living being beyond the control of any of the individuals involved. I could identify with Lara's attempt to break from her family patterns and protect her own daughter from the mistakes that she, her sisters, and mother made. This book is a reminder to parents everywhere that you cannot mold your children into what you wanted to be; that they have to learn their own lessons, and usually all you can do is love them through it. The tagline claims, "a mother, a daughter, and an adolescence survived," but as I like to remind my own mother, it could have been worse.

July 2002

( 4 ) The Tale of the Body Thief

by Anne Rice; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1992

This is the fourth book in The Vampire Chronicles and the third book written from Lestat's perspective, and supposedly by his hand. I was a little let down by this book, but what could be expected as a follow up to the amazing story in the last book.

Lestat is followed by a human who is able to change bodies. He wants to change with Lestat. Who wouldn't? And, Lestat is tired of his vampire strengths and powers and wants to be a weak sick human again. I couldn't understand Lestat's decisions in this book. He seemed stupid. As vampires get older and stronger, do their brains turn to mush? Do they become gullible?

This book was entertaining, but not as amazing as the last two.

July 2002

( 6 ) The Queen of the Damned

by Anne Rice; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1988

Third book in The Vampire Chronicles, the most interesting and creative. Rice creates a history of the vampires that is brilliant. Picking up were he left off in the last book, Lestat, the story teller, had awoken Akasha, the Queen of the Vampires who has a plan to save humanity, in a most barbaric fashion.

This book goes inside the minds and history of several important and interesting vampire characters showing the reader what was going on while Lestat was busy being a "brat prince".

I recommend that this book be read right after reading the last one, they are so much parts of the same story.

July 2002

( 6 ) The Vampire Lestat

by Anne Rice; Ballantine Books, New York, NY; 1985

Lestat follows up Louis's story with his own, making corrections and winning the reader to his side. Louis made him look so bad! But Lestat makes you love him and see Louis as a weakling and a whiner.

This is Lestat's life story, his history, and the current story of his rise to rock-stardom, and the problems that causes in the vampire world.

July 2002

( 5-6 ) Pretty Boy

by Lauren Henderson; Hutchinson, London; 2001

Sam Jones visits the English countryside to see her best friend who's moved there to be a teacher and pick up on single mothers. He's found his true love, and he finds himself in trouble. for murder. Sam must solve the mystery to get Tom off the hook and fend off her maddening desire to shag a beautiful young man. Is this the end of her relationship with Hugo? Read it and find out!

July 2002

( 6 ) The Black Rubber Dress

by Lauren Henderson; Arrow, London; 1997

Sam Jones gets herself mixed up in a blackmail plot, someone is killed by one of her mobiles, and she finds herself dating a gorgeous banker (she hasn't met Hugo yet). As she tries to find out who's killing so many people, she must attend numerous dinners and rub elbows with drug taking anorexic Sloanes and drunk genital flapping bankers. After reading two of her more recent books, it was cool to read this older one (number 3, I think) and discover the source of several references in the other two books.

June 2002

( 6 ) Chained!

by Lauren Henderson; Hutchinson, London; 2000

Another mystery, crime novel with the female, reluctant sleuth Sam Jones who has a knack for finding herself in the middle of trouble. She never looses her head, charismatically gets people talking, and intelligently solves the mystery. This book is brill', complete with a spoiled brat actress, jealous boyfriend, unwashed animal rights vegans, Sam kidnapped by mistake, and a popular TV actor murdered. Sam Jones is no stereotypical broad. She can weld, solder, dress well, drink a man under the table, but can't cook or clean her bathroom. It's such a relief to read about a woman punch a man! This book attempts to give the character, Sam, a bit more depth by bringing up her childhood, but it just made me realize that this writer, and this series is better off concentrating on the complex plots and twists and the cool, hip life-style of the characters. Though it was good to get to know Sam a little better....

June 2002

( 5-6 ) The Strawberry Tatoo

by Lauren Henderson; Hutchinson, London; 1999

My first Sam Jones read and I can see myself having to read them all. This woman is cool! Strong, smart, funny, and a refreshingly light-hearted outlook on life. The honesty of life-style of the characters is great - I think this is the first book I've read with an acid-trip scene (unless I'm forgetting something...) and It's not too often I come across a drunken-groping-in-a-public-toilet scene either. My only complaint is the shallowness of the characters and the superficiality of the sometimes exaggerated and tedious descriptions... although it did help get across Sam's many observations.

June 2002

( 8-9 ) The House of The Spirits

by Isabel Allende; Bantam Books, New York; 1986

This is the second time I read this remarkable book - the first time was about four years ago. I read it this time because I had just finished the two books, which, although written later, were the prequels to this one. It was fun to read it again after getting to know many of the characters through the other two books (although all the books do well on their own). It's amazing how much time and how many characters Allende can fit into her novels.

This is the story of Estaban Trueba, a man you could abhor after bearing witness to his life and atrocities, but through Allende's words, the reader can only feel compassion and affection, hoping that the book has a good ending so that his life turns out well for him. His wife is Clara, the Clairvoyant and sister of Rosa, the beautiful, the woman Trueba had meant to marry before she died of accidental poisoning. Clara and Rosa are two of the many children of Severo and Nivea Del Valle, from the previous book, the characters that tie the prequels to this book. Estaban is a conservative man amidst his family of eccentrics: the daughter whose only love is the dirty little boy from the country; the son who will work 20 hour days as a doctor helping the poor; the son who can not find his place in life but manages to attract a number of followers to his mystical teachings; the granddaughter who is the only one who can melt Estaban's hardened heart but is secretly an activist against her fathers political party; and the grand house whose doors let in a constant flow of strange psychics.


( 8-9 )Portrait in Sepia

by Isabel Allende; HarperCollins, New York; 2001

This is the novel that continues the story begun in Daughter of Fortune. It is written from the perspective of Aurora Del Valle - the bastard child of Lynn Sommers (daughter of Eliza and Tao Chi'en from the last book) and Matias Del Valle (son of Feliciano Rodriquez De Santa Cruz and Paulina Del Valle). My hardcover copy has a convenient family tree inside the cover, which I referred to many times while reading in order to keep track of the many characters throughout this book. This is mostly Aurora's story, but begins before her birth to explain the strange way she came into the world. First, there was her mother's seduction then death, her grandparents who initially raised her until the death of her Chinese grandfather, and then she was raised by the wealthy businesswoman, her grandmother Paulina. She was married off to the first handsome bachelor who asked, only to discover he could only love his brothers wife!


( 8-9 )Daughter of Fortune

by Isabel Allende; HarperTorch, New York; 2001

This incredible tale of love, rejection, adventure, and mystery is my favorite story of the trilogy and caused me to read Portrait in Sepia and re-read The House of Spirits. The young Eliza is a true heroine who follows her gold hungry lover to California, disguises herself as a man, and manages to survive in the dangerous world of a developing San Francisco and California foothills during the gold rush. She finds a love truer than what she ever thought she was after.


( 6 ) Frisco Pigeon Mambo

by C.D. Payne; Aivia Press, Sebastopol, CA; 2000

This is a hilarious novel about laboratory pigeons who think they are human and are released from captivity by animal rights activists. It is a story about their adventures in San Francisco as they try to find their way back to their home at the Berkley lab. Since the experimentations involved smoking and drinking booze, the pigeons have some interesting habits to maintain. Since they were read Sam Spade mystery novels, they have a strange and deluded concept of reality. At first, they don't even realize they are capable of flight, but once that ability is discovered, they find skillful ways of snagging their next cigarette.

July 2001

( 6 ) The Circus of the Earth and the Air

by Neil Gaiman; HarperCollinsPublishers, NY; 2001

I'm writing this from memory, several years after reading it. I'd read it again if I had time and not so many other books to get to!

This book is about a man whose wife disappears into a circus magic trick, and doesn't reappear. After the circus does its own disappearing act, he has to find the circus to find his wife. He finds himself in the circus headquarters hidden inside a hollowed-out mountain and has to join the surreal circus to get to his wife.


( 9 ) Geek Love

by Brooke Stevens; Harcourt Brace & Company, San Diego; 1994

I am writing this more that two years since I read it, unfortunately, but it was good enough to read again, so maybe I will and then rewrite this, but for now:

I love novels that include the carnival in a way that adds mystery and intrigue to the story. This book does so much more than that. It adds thrill and fascination to the carnival.

The shocking freaks of this story are some of the most unique characters you'll ever read about. They are unbelievable but somehow Dunn makes me believe in them, she does so well to humanize them. The plot is also one of true rarity, I look foreword to re-discovering it's twists and turns.


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