REVIEW: Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

A few weeks ago I was on Amazon, searching for a book to add to my order so that  I could get free shipping, when I came across Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes. It is a rather short book and a quick read, so I’ll keep this review short!

Pirate Latitudes follows the exploits of Charles Hunter – sea captain and gentleman pirate – as he seeks to take over a treasure galleon harbored in the Caribbean. This is typical pirate fair — lots of sailing in storms, attacks, fighting, “wenches” – for want of a better word, and swashbuckling. I thought I’d love this book, but it didn’t do much for me. I found the action scenes – which were a large chunk of book – confusing to follow and lacking imagery (unless it was gore), but I did like the main plot and the scenes that advanced it. I felt this book would be better as a movie and, not surprisingly, I’ve read that Spielberg already holds the rights to it.

Pirate Latitudes was taken from a completed manuscript found after Crichton’s untimely death.  I have to think that he really was still working on it as it doesn’t work for me as well as his other books.

I’d give it 2 Stars and an “I’ll see the movie instead”.

REVIEW: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

First, let me say that I am WAY BEHIND – like over a week – in getting this review written. My apologies! I’m not sure what happened — life got in the way!

On a recent stroll through Border’s I noticed this book and decided to buy it. It looked creepy and intriguing. Well, it was. The story starts with the heroine, Laurel, asleep in bed when she wakes to find her daughter’s best friend standing next to her. However, it isn’t her daughter’s friend, it is her ghost — and she leads Laurel to the backyard where her lifeless body is floating in Laurel’s pool. Thus starts The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, a breathless novel that takes you along on Laurel’s ride of being tormented by her past while having her daily ordered existence shattered. This novel has a lot of subplots in it — Laurel’s troubled family life growing up, Laurel’s mother’s issues, Laurel’s marriage, but mostly the focus is on Laurel’s extraordinary sister, Thalia, and her role in Laurel’s existence.

I really liked this book. Yes — I did have some issues with it. I felt Thalia was portrayed SO outrageously and SO over the top that at times she was unbelievable as a character. I also had two issues with the conclusion — SPOILER ALERT SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU’D LIKE!  First of all, the whole issue with Molly’s drowning and the part the house alarm played in it just rang false (no pun intended). I’ve never seen a house alarm that you can set and it immediately alarms without any sort of beep or delay. That didn’t work for me. A bigger issue was the ending — was Thalia just repeating history? Isn’t this another murder – or involuntary manslaughter? This was glossed over, and to my surprise the epilogue was a rosy happy ending with everyone with their arms around each other. Or was that the point? Was Laurel glossing over the bad things like her mother did? If anyone else has read this book – let me know your thoughts!

Overall, I liked this book and it was a great winter’s read. I liked the main character and I certainly kept thinking about this novel after I was through. I give it 3 1/2 Stars!

Coming Soon to Our Town – a New Library!

So — I just have to post my excitement over the opening dedication of our *new* public library in our quaint rural town. Who but my fellow bibliophiles can appreciate this momentous event?! When I first moved to this town of 4,000 residents (in 2002) one of the first places I checked out was the library. To be honest, in a town this small, there aren’t too many other places to check out! It was historic and picturesque but SO SMALL that I was shocked. Small as in one room for the adults and one room for the children, each room about the size of a dining room, in my opinion.

“Where are all the rest of the books?” I inquired.

“In storage,” I was told.

“Where’s the elevator?” I asked.

“Ma’am (uh-oh, I thought), this building is historic. There is no elevator.”

“Well, what about people in wheelchairs or with physical needs?” I asked, truly perplexed. I came to find out that those with physical needs, particularly those in wheelchairs, basically could not use our library (the entry was several concrete steps up to a small screened doorway)  . I was truly upset. I remember hearing a story from an elderly relative about a young man she knew who received a full scholarship to Harvard in the early 1920’s  but had to decline it as he was in a wheelchair due to polio and he could not get up the steps to use Widener Library (if you’ve never seen it, it has a million steps).  I remember saying, “Wow – I’m so glad that doesn’t happen today!” Yet here I was in a fairly affluent town 25 miles from Boston which was faring no better in the post-2000 years.

Well, fast forward ahead and the library campaign was begun — passing town meeting (the New England way of doing things: all the residents gather in the school gym and vote by shouting “Ay” or “Nay” to issues — really, I kid you not) by a very small margin (something like 6 votes), and now – next week – we have the unveiling of our very own, new and improved, enlarged, expanded, filled with books, and I’m proud to say ADA compliant library!! I am just too thrilled for words and can’t wait to gather the family and go down — to fill our book bags and visit our librarian friends (who worked hard to get this new library into reality!) — and to read read read!

What’s On My Nightstand…..

“The Girl Who Stopped Swimming” – by Joshilyn Jackson – creepy ghost story/dysfunctional family story (what can I say? It’s winter in New England)
“The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” – by H W Brands – got interested after a visit to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia
“Pirate Latitudes” – by Michael Crichton – story found on his computer after his death
“The Queen’s Mistake” – by Diane Haeger- historical fiction for my online bookclub

And yes – I’m reading them all at once! 😉

REVIEW: The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters

I grabbed “The Favorites” spontaneously at my local library a few weeks back. It tells the story of young Sarah, who is Japanese-American, first as she visits Japan with her mother as a young girl and then as she returns as an adult after her mother’s death. (SPOILER ALERT!) Sarah discovers her family’s secret – more of an unspoken fact than a secret – that her adult “cousin” is really her aunt, and that her grandmother gave her young baby girl up to her neighbor and sister-in-law, who couldn’t conceive, in the post-WWII years.

“The Favorites” is a study in relationships – mother/daughter mostly, but also sister/sister and sister/friend. It beautifully portrays these female relationships, as it also portrays the Japanese culture. Waters is a skilled writer, able to delineate character through actions and personal reflections. I really enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book.

I give it 4 Stars!

Review: U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

Many years ago a friend introduced me to the mysteries of Sue Grafton. At the time she had just come out with the “D” book in her alphabet series. I loved them so much I read them all and have continued to read them ever since. In fact, I wait with bated breath for the next one as they are so much fun to read!

So, it was with much excitement that I saw “U is for Undertow” on the shelf at my local Target a few weeks before Christmas. I picked it up for my husband (with the caveat that I got to read it asap!). Actually, when we were first dating I had noticed that my husband had all Sue Grafton’s books and that we had that in common, so she’s a bit of a special author for us. 😉

In case you don’t read them, Grafton’s books center around a 30-something, down-to-earth, junk-food-eating, 3-mile-running, divorced, female, ex-cop detective (got all that?) named Kinsey Millhone, who lives in “Santa Theresa” California (very similar to Santa Barbara if you’ve been there). The whole series takes place in the 1980’s (our time moves faster than Kinsey’s time in the books). In this installment, it is 1988 and Kinsey is approached by a young man who feels he has some information regarding an unsolved kidnapping from the 1960’s. As Kinsey looks into his allegations, in part from a “recovered memory”, she uncovers more than she bargains for.

One reason I love these books is that they read very quickly and hold my interest. They are all different, too, and I give Grafton credit for her originality and creativity. Sometimes I can solve them, and sometimes not (another kudos to Sue!).

I recommend “U is for Undertow” to Grafton fans – new and old alike!

Another Challenge! Historical Fiction 2010

I discovered that Royal Reviews is hosting a historical fiction challenge ( and since that is one of my favorite genres, I signed up at the “obsessed” 20 book level.

This post is where I’ll post my reads:

1.   Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

2.  The Queen’s Mistake by Diane Haeger

3.  Back Bay by William Martin (toggles back and forth from history to present)

4. The Deserter by Jane Langton (toggles back and forth from history to present)

5. Murder on Waverly Place by Victoria Thompson

6. Audiobook: Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood

7. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

8. Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

9. The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

10. A Quilter’s Homecoming by Chiaverini

11. Royal Flush by Bowen

12. A Royal Pain by Bowen

13. Murphy’s Law by Bowen

14. For the Love of Mike by Bowen

15. Her Royal Spyness by Bowen

Review: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

Years ago I picked up a new release entitled Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood as my book to read on a plane. I loved it! In time, I went to read Rebecca Wells other books about the Ya-Ya’s: Little Altars Everywhere (which I found somewhat disturbing) and Ya-Ya’s in Bloom (which I enjoyed). So I was thrilled to find The Crowning Glory of  Calla Lily Ponder on the new release shelf at the library. Calla Lily Ponder is Wells’ new heroine, a Louisiana native who desires to be a hair stylist  like her mother was. This novel follows Calla Lily’s life from childhood until adulthood, covering her family’s highs and lows, births, deaths, and lost loves.

If I say more than that, I’ll be giving too much away! I enjoyed reading this novel, though not as much as I enjoyed the Ya-Ya’s. At times I found Calla Lily’s naiveté to be unbelievable. I also thought the ending wrapped up a bit too neatly and quickly. Overall, though, it was a good read and I’d give it 3 1/2 Stars!

Support Your Local Library 2010 Challenge

This post is where I’ll be posting the books I read for this challenge (

1. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

2. The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters
3. The Farmer’s Daughter Novellas by Jim Harrison (read but not reviewed)

4. Back Bay by William Martin

5. The Deserter by Jane Langton

6. The Face in the Wall by Jane Langton

7. (audiobook) What Matters Most by Luanne Rice

8. There Goes the Bride by MC Beaton

9. The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta

10. Murder on Waverly Place by Victoria Thompson

11. Audiobook: Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood

12. Audiobook: Travelling with Pomengrantes by Sue Monk Kidd

13. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

14. Audiobook: Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

15. Audiobook: The Lost Quilter by Chiaverini

16. Yaxley’s Cat by Westall

17. Rainwater by Sandra Brown

18. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

19. Death of a Valentine by MC Beaton

20. Death of a Dreamer (audio) by MC Beaton

21. Deadly Nightshade by Cynthia Riggs

22. A Quilter’s Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini

23. Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen

24. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

25. Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

26. For the Love of Mike by Bowen

27. A Royal Pain by Bowen

28. Audiobook : Cross by Patterson

29. Audiobook: Sam’s Letter to Jennifer by Patteron

Ruminations on my First Year of Book Blogging…

Well – now that we’re back from visiting relatives and celebrating the holidays I have a moment to tie up the loose ends from 2009! This was my first year of blogging book reviews, and it was a good one. The whole experience started as a New Year’s resolution for me — to try something new that I’d like to do but was intimidated by. Thus, I picked keeping a blog of book reviews, with the hope that someone, somewhere, might actually read it and find it useful. What amazed me is that people actually DO read it, for which I am very grateful. 🙂

This year my goal was to post, on average, once a week and to read approx. 50 books. I actually had 63 posts in 2009 and reviewed 43 individual books and 2 series of books. I read more books that I did NOT review, mainly because I didn’t enjoy them and felt the reviews wouldn’t be value-added to my blog. In the coming year I may add those “read but not reviewed” titles to my blog and plan to add more of the YA and children’s books I read. Also, I’m going to add audiobooks to my list – as soon as I get some! 😉

One of the best parts of this year’s experience was discovering the HUGE community of online book bloggers that are out there. There are SO MANY wonderful, incredible, talented individuals out there reading and reviewing books – and doing lots of other neat and creative things with their blogs (creativity – never easy for me!). I have loved getting to “know” them and follow many of their blogs through my Google Reader. And let me tell you — friends often say to me: “You read more than anyone I know”. Well, I don’t read one half of what some of these other bloggers are reading – I look like a big slacker! I feel so honored to be in amongst such a group of intelligent and enthusiastic readers!

So – moving on to 2010 – I look forward to more reading, more reviews, and trying some new and different things this year.

Happy Reading!! 🙂