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2008 Book Club Recommendations [Dec. 29th, 2007|04:46 pm]


[Current Mood |bouncybouncy]
[Current Music |Sugar High - Stephen Duffy]

Let's make this the one thread for recommendations; easy to keep track that way.

Brief mention about 2007's last selection, "Another Country." We'll give it another month for those who are still reading or want to read this novel. :) BTW, I loved it, think it was my favorite for the year.

Okay, 2008 is almost here! I spent a lot of time thinking of what books to suggest. I opted out of short stories, decided that it might be too difficult to negotiate timely copying, mailing and reading. However, I will periodically recommend great short stories I've come across, and will mail just for fun some that I think people might have a difficult time tracking down - as seen by my Christmas packages.

For my recommendations, I chose books with a variety of themes (gay, coming of age, fantasy, horror, etc.) - none of which I've read and I'm familiar with only four of the authors. I also checked that the page count is less than or close to the 300 page mark, and that these books are readily available in either hardcover or paperback from various booksellers - and all are available through my library so I'm hoping if any of them are chosen everyone will be able to find them with ease.

My list:
David Leavitt - The Lost Language of Cranes
Alan Bennett - The Uncommon Reader (got this from Simon's Reader, looks interesting!)
Edmund White - Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel
William Hope Hodgson - The House on the Border Land
Sokeki Natsume - Botchan
Brian Frances Slattery - Spaceman Blues: A Love Story
Helen Dunmore - A Spell of Winter
Harif Kureishi - Buddha of Suburbia
Pat Barker - Regeneration
Angela Carter - The Magic Toyshop
Charles Bukowski - Ham on Rye
Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses (An Inspector Rebus Mystery)
Rudyard Kipling - Kim

Edited January 4 - See my comments below for summaries.

I've deleted Roopa Farooki - Bitter Sweets from my list. I'd taken this book from the library for my mom. I'd read some good reviews and heard the book had been nominated for some award. Mom tried reading it and said it was horrible. Generally, I think she's a pretty good judge of books, so I gave it a try. 35 pages (three chapters later), I was in total agreement with her. Nothing wrong with the plot, it would make an interesting story. But the writing is dreadful, the worst-of-the-worst cliched, lazy, choppy writing I've seen in a long time. Makes me think the writer must hate words and writing to put together sentences such as those in the book. Also makes me think that talent has absolutely nothing to do with being a published writer - it is all a matter of luck if the editor or publisher happens to be in a good mood, had a great lunch that day, or has a date with Debbie Dominatrix that evening - any of these can make them feel kindly towards the manuscript. If a writer makes it past that point, talent may prevail if the book finds an audience who likes it and wants more. But I'm really starting to believe that talent has nothing to do with it.

[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2007-12-29 11:20 pm (UTC)
I'd like to have your summaries, no matter how boring or weird you think they are. With my slow dial-up connection, I can't look up each and every one of those books on Amazon in a reasonable amount of time. I'm going to have to guess which ones I'd like based on the titles.

If you still don't want to provide summaries, would you be willing to edit your post to provide the genres of each book? Then I can have some idea of what each book is about.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-29 11:59 pm (UTC)
Okay, I will get brief summaries together and post them in the next couple of days. :)

Lana, would you please email me your home phone number? I have your work one and another which I think is your cell phone - I've tried calling you on that one the last couple of days but it only rings and rings - I might have transposed the numbers. :(
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[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2007-12-30 12:16 am (UTC)
Okay, I will get brief summaries together and post them in the next couple of days.
Yay! :D Thank you, that is much appreciated!

Will email you very shortly with my numbers. If it rang and rang, that's undoubtedly my landline. A couple of years ago I bought a device that is supposed to alert me when someone's trying to call me on the phone while I'm online, but it has stopped working. :P When you call my cell, it will give you either the option to voice mail, or will tell you that you can't get through.

Look for my email in a few minutes! :D
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 12:19 am (UTC)
Okay, makes sense about the numbers then - I thought I'd used the number before (off of an old slip of paper, lol).
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 02:16 am (UTC)

Summaries - taken from Amazon (1 of 3)

David Leavitt – The Lost Language of Cranes - The story focuses on Philip Benjamin, a 25-year-old New Yorker, somewhat naive but definitely gay, who is involved in his first "serious" romance. This situation is complicated by the struggle of Philip's father to deal more openly with his own longstanding, but thus far closeted, homosexual inclinations. With Philip's coming out, father is thrown into even greater turmoil, mother begins to realize the complete truth, and all are forced to reexamine the ties that bind them.
Alan Bennett - The Uncommon Reader (got this from Simon's Reader, looks interesting!) - Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. With the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility, plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books.
Edmund White - Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel - A biographical fantasia, White's latest imagines the final days of the poet and novelist Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage), who died of TB at age 28 in 1900. At the same time, White also imagines and writes The Painted Boy, a work that he has Crane say he began in 1895, but burned after warnings from a friend. Crane dictates a fresh start on the story to his common-law wife, Cora Stewart-Taylor. Interspersed within White's impressionistic account of Crane's life, The Painted Boy tells the tale of Elliott, a ganymede butt-boy buggaree. Once a farm boy used by his widowed father and elder brothers like a girl, Elliott escapes to New York and begins a new life as a street hustler. Crane, dying overseas, asks that someone skilled and open minded complete the novella. The wry Cora, in her earlier career as a madam at the Jacksonville, Fla. Hotel de Dream, has some ideas of who among Crane's friends fits the bill.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 02:17 am (UTC)

Summaries - taken from Amazon (2 of 3)

William Hope Hodgson - The House on the Border Land - In the ruins of an ancient stone house in Ireland is found the diary of an elderly man who lived alone with his sister and their pets, and who longed for his lost love. The diary tells of how the man explores a cyclopean cavern beneath the house and fights off swarms of white pig-like monsters pouring up from below. Then, in a visionary sequence, he breaks through to an alternate space-time dimension and sees a doppelganger of his house on a vast desolate plain. Big influence on H.P. Lovecraft.
Sokeki Natsume – Botchan - "Botchan" is the classic City Mouse tale. Botchan is a Tokyo boy, through and through. Lazy, unmotivated, and spoiled by the housekeeper who raised him, he suddenly finds himself needing to make his own way in the world when his father dies and his older brother inherits the fortune. Thinking school is easier than work, Botchan takes his brother's offer to pay his way through university. Life is good so far, but even Botchan must graduate, and he finds himself educated and assigned as a middle school teacher in a rural town in the island of Shikoku, Japan's most rural island. Arrogant and sure of his superiority over the hicks, Botchan quickly runs afoul of the locals and winds up in a merry war with both students and co-teachers
Roopa Farooki - Bitter Sweets – The novel begins in Calcutta. When scholarly Rashid weds beautiful Henna, he is surprised on their wedding night to learn she's not an accomplished 17-year-old but rather a lazy, illiterate 14-year-old who opted for marriage over education. He waits several years to consummate the union, then Henna gives birth to Shona, who quickly learns her parents' language of deception. Shona elopes with handsome Parvez and moves to London. At the same time, Rashid finds himself traveling to the same city on business, and when he meets Verity, a shy English woman in her late thirties, he sees a chance for the happiness that he's never found with Henna—even if it means weaving an intricate tangle of lies. Rashid, Henna, and Shona continue to deceive each other and their families for the next two decades, until Shona faces a midlife crisis that makes her question whether deceit really is the best policy.
Brian Frances Slattery - Spaceman Blues: A Love Story - Manuel González, a legendary New York City party animal, has disappeared and his apartment has exploded, leaving behind only the memories of his thousands of friends and enemies. His lover, Wendell Apogee, is determined to find out what happened. So are police inspectors Herman Trout and Lenny Salmon, who uncover a web of bizarre characters, from Lucas Henderson, former Lunar Temple cult member, and Arturo El Flaco Domínguez, González's worst enemy, to a washed-up '80s pop band the Marsupials. As Wendell tracks González through Darktown, the place where you find lost things, the prophecies of the apocalyptic Church of Panic begin coming true: aliens threaten to invade Earth, and Wendell must become superhero Captain Spaceman and save the planet. Referred to as a hallucination of New York.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 02:18 am (UTC)

Summaries - taken from Amazon (3 of 3)

Helen Dunmore - A Spell of Winter - Unsettling love and stifled horror create and then destroy the claustrophobic world of this lush, literary gothic set in turn-of-the-century England. Catherine and Rob Allen, siblings two years apart, grow up in a world of shameful secrets. Their mother creates a public outcry, abandoning her family for a bohemian life on the Continent. Their father, whose mental state always has been slightly precarious, is committed to an asylum in the country. The children are sealed off with their grandfather in a crumbling country estate accompanied by their sturdy and well-loved servant, Kate, and the predatory tutor, Miss Gallagher. In true gothic fashion, terror, violence and eroticism collect beneath every dark surface. Against this strange and secretive backdrop, Cathy and Rob develop a closeness so fierce that it eventually threatens to smother them both. Kate makes the first crack in their hermetically sealed world, which World War I eventually bursts wide open. With Kate's departure for Canada and Rob's for the front, destitute times at home force Cathy into self-reliance. It's only after she's redeemed by hardship that she's given a second chance to be redeemed by love. Though the setting is classic gothic, the novel is peculiarly modern with its precise, unforgiving depictions of childhood and madness, its dark sensuality and surprising, artful use of metaphor.
Harif Kureishi - Buddha of Suburbia - A bureaucrat becomes a suburban guru who marries a follower with a son who's a punk rocker named Charlie Hero. Consequently, the guru's son is propelled from his bland life into a series of erotic experiences in London. All the while, Hanif Kureishi keeps the tone lively with wry wit. On the description of suburban life: "We were proud of never learning anything except the names of footballers, the personnel of rock groups and the lyrics to 'I Am the Walrus.'"
Pat Barker – Regeneration - Regeneration, one in Pat Barker's series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear -- the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing -- it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other.
Angela Carter - The Magic Toyshop - Melanie and her two siblings are suddenly orphaned, and whisked away from the beautiful country house and idyllic life they've always known. Soon they're living in a slummy area of the city, with their brutish toymaker Uncle Philip, wraithlike mute Aunt Margaret, and her two brothers, in a house that is crammed with the magnificent toys that Uncle Philip creates. Melanie finds herself increasingly drawn to her aunt's brother Finn, a feisty Irish boy who hides an artistic soul and a punk attitude -- and he and Philip are locked in a silent war. As the family tensions come to a climax, Melanie learns of a dark secret that Aunt Margaret is hiding, and which can only end in a horrific tragedy.
Charles Bukowski - Ham on Rye - Charles Bukowski details the long, lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski. From a harrowingly cheerless childhood in Germany through acne-riddled high school years and his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of D. H. Lawrence, Ham on Rye offers a crude, brutal, and savagely funny portrait of an outcast's coming-of-age during the desperate days of the Great Depression.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 02:19 am (UTC)

Summaries - taken from Amazon (4 of 3?) XD

Ian Rankin - Knots and Crosses (An Inspector Rebus Mystery) - Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders...and he's tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain's elite SAS. Now he's an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn't just one cop trying to catch a killer, he's the man who's got all the pieces to the puzzle.
Rudyard Kipling – Kim - It is the tale of an orphaned sahib and the burdensome fate that awaits him when he is unwittingly dragged into the Great Game of Imperialism. During his many adventures, he befriends a sage old Tibetan lama who transforms his life. As Pankaj Mishra asserts in his Introduction, “To read the novel now is to notice the melancholy wisdom that accompanies the native boy’s journey through a broad and open road to the narrow duties of the white man’s world: how the deeper Buddhist idea of the illusion of the self, of time and space, makes bearable for him the anguish of abandoning his childhood.”
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[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2007-12-31 04:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Summaries - taken from Amazon (4 of 3?) XD

Thanks so much! I know you went to a lot of trouble to get all these summaries, and I appreciate it a lot. Now I have a good idea of what I'd like to vote for.

Now I should get to work putting together my own summaries! :P
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[User Picture]From: maldeluxx
2007-12-29 11:47 pm (UTC)
(I have read three of these: Kureishi, Kipling and Bukowski, but I could read them again as I read all three before 2004, and liked them, should they end up to be chosen.)

(descriptions mostly roughly remembered)

Achebe - Things Fall Apart (a boxer returns to his village in Africa, but the harmony of the village has been broken - tragical things happen)
Wharton - Summer (an artist comes to a town where a young woman seeks his company, wanting to free herself of conventional life - but is it possible)
Yoshimoto - Hard Boiled/Hard Luck (two novellas: two women explore the themes of love, loss and memory)
Ondaatje - Coming Through Slaughter (world of jazz circa 1920s and relationships within it)
Lanchester - The Debt To Pleasure (fictional biography with lots of food memories included)
S. Clarke - The Ladies of Grace Adieu (from the writer of "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell": short stories with sort of magical feel into them, including on with the Raven King from "JS" book)
Eliot - Silas Marner (a disgraced old man takes to raise an orphan girl)
Ishiguro - The Remains of the Day (an old butler takes a short holiday, and reminisces on things past, and love lost(?))
Steinbeck - Cannery Row (life in said place, in California, with lots of interesting characters)
Singer - The Certificate (a young Jewish boy comes to Warsaw, determined to be a writer, full of hunger for knowledge, becomes entangled with three women and dreams of emigrating to Palestine in the year 1922)
Vonnegut - Welcome To The Monkey House (a short story collection which looked intersting)
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 05:43 pm (UTC)
Okay, I read the summaries at Amazon and have a better idea about the rest of your recommendations.

"Coming Through Slaughter" and "The Debt to Pleasure" both sound great; dark and different. I've read "Ethan Frome" by Wharton and liked that very much, thought it was an easy read - I wouldn't mind reading another by her.

I'm not sure on the Clarke book - I've not read the "JS" novel, would be willing to give it a go.

Vonnegut I'm quite familiar with, would rather read a writer who is new(er) to me.

I'm ambivalent about the Achebe book - doesn't grab me but doesn't turn me off either.

If I had to chose from among these, I'd pick the books by Lanchester, Ondaatje, and Steinbeck.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 05:44 pm (UTC)

I've read "The Remains of the Day", wouldn't necessarily want to read it again but would recommend it as a good read to anybody. The Yoshimoto and Steinbeck books both sound good, wouldn't mind either of those. "Silas Marner" I remember from (vaguely, lol) from high school - seemed like slow torture at the time, but it might appeal to me now, don't know. The subject matter of the Singer book doesn't particularly appeal to me at first look.

Going to look up the rest on Amazon and get a better idea. "The Debt to Pleasure" sounds familiar, could be I've read it but swiss-cheese brain can't recall.
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2007-12-30 07:37 pm (UTC)
Hi all! Can someone explain to me how this book club works? I read a bit about it in Alannah's LJ and was interested, but I have to admit that the book list that I'm seeing is a might bit intimidating.
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[User Picture]From: maldeluxx
2007-12-30 08:50 pm (UTC)
Well... right now we're gathering ideas for books to vote from. So: books that are 300 or under in pages, preferably easy to find (at least on Amazon), 6 (six) per year.
No voting yet, but we'll have to look to it at some point soon.
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2007-12-31 02:02 am (UTC)
Ah cool! Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-30 09:46 pm (UTC)

As Liza says, we're in the nomination phase right now. For me, the book club is a chance to learn about books that I might not have picked up myself to read - trying to broaden my reading but keep it entertaining. That to me is the main thing, I want to enjoy a book for the story - I don't want to feel like it's a class assignment (had enough of those in my lifetime!).

Nominating and voting hopefully keeps things democratic and provides more variety - personally I don't want to read anything 'heavy', political, more style than substance, or overly philosophical. Reading the selections is optional - I gave them all a try, gave up on two (Tender is the Night and If On a Winter's Night) and disliked one but finished it (Wide Saragasso Sea).

Any you'd like to recommend - if not for the book club, how about just good reads? :)
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2007-12-31 02:03 am (UTC)
LOL! Yes, no class assignments.

I'll put together some books for nomination. Are only fiction/novels preferred?

Thanks for the info!
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2007-12-31 06:17 pm (UTC)
I don't think it has ever come up before, but I don't see why non-fiction couldn't be included. Look forward to seeing your recommendations. :)
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[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2008-01-02 12:39 am (UTC)
Here's my list. I've narrowed my choices down to a few, so I'll use partly Amazon summary and partly my own comments.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain.
This might be our first non-fiction suggestion! I don't know if Chef Anthony Bourdain is well-known outside the USA, but I assure everyone that he's not boring.

Most diners believe that their sublime sliver of seared foie gras, topped with an ethereal buckwheat blini and a drizzle of piquant huckleberry sauce, was created by a culinary artist of the highest order, a sensitive, highly refined executive chef. The truth is more brutal. More likely, writes Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential, that elegant three-star concoction is the collaborative effort of a team of "wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths," in all likelihood pierced or tattooed and incapable of uttering a sentence without an expletive or a foreign phrase. Such is the muscular view of the culinary trenches from one who's been groveling in them, with obvious sadomasochistic pleasure, for more than 20 years. CIA-trained Bourdain, currently the executive chef of the celebrated Les Halles, wrote two culinary mysteries before his first (and infamous) New Yorker essay launched this frank confessional about the lusty and larcenous real lives of cooks and restaurateurs. He is obscenely eloquent, unapologetically opinionated, and a damn fine storyteller--a Jack Kerouac of the kitchen.

Hot Spot, by Michael Craft. Mystery/gay.
In Michael Craft's sixth solid Mark Manning mystery, Hot Spot, the Dumont, Wis., journalist and his lover, architect Neil Waite, are honored to act as witnesses at the wedding of Roxanne Exner, best friend to them both, and Carl Creighton, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois. But when an electric shock at the reception that kills a major donor to Creighton's campaign turns out to be no accident, Mark faces the daunting task of clearing the name of the chief murder suspect-the bride-in this engaging whodunit.

I know the author, and chose this particular book because he borrowed my name (with a tweak on the spelling) for one of the characters. *g* He's also an excellent mystery writer.

Lisa, Bright and Dark, by John Neufeld. Young adult.
Sixteen-year-old Lisa, smart, attractive, and outwardly successful, suffers from a nervous breakdown that only her closest friends seem to notice and care enough about to try to find a way to help her.
One of the Amazon reviewers stated that the story today is "dated" and not relevant to today's teens. That comment annoyed me to no end. Why should it be relevant to today's teens? Let them see what it was like to have an emotional disorder in 1969, when Prozac and Zoloft weren't being thrown around like candy and when parents weren't trying to be their kids' best friends.

I haven't read this book in years and would be interested in revisiting it to see if it's as powerful as I remember, or if I'm just being sentimental about it.

Edited at 2008-01-02 12:45 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2008-01-02 01:04 am (UTC)

One more...

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie. Mystery.
This novel, written in 1927, is considered the best and most successful of the early mysteries. It met with no small outrage when it appeared, as it uses a plot device many readers thought "unfair." There is a full complement of characters populating the cozy English village of King's Abbot: Major Blunt, Colonel Carter, Miss Gannett, the butler, the housekeeper, the narrator, Dr. Sheppard, and his know-it-all sister (the precursor of Miss Marple, according to Christie), and, of course, the redoubtable Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells. There are clues with a capital C to mislead us, and the listener gets so involved with these red herrings (or not) that the very simple truth eludes the puzzler.

I know what the "unfair" plot device is, which is why I'm curious to read this particular selection even though I've never really been a Christie fan. Who knows, maybe this story will change my mind. ;)
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:11 am (UTC)
I am tickled to see that you and I both suggested books by Food Network personalities.
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[User Picture]From: alannahjoy
2008-01-02 01:18 am (UTC)
Hee! Even funnier, we couldn't have chosen more opposite personalities than Sandra Lee and Bourdain. *g*
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:46 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:05 am (UTC)

My Suggestions Part One

ETA: comments

Here are my suggestions. I'll say up front that I tend to like odd, supernatural reads.

Harm None - M. R. Sellars
When a young woman is ritualistically murdered in her Saint Louis apartment with the primary clue being a pentacle scrawled in her own blood, police are quick to dismiss it as a cult killing. Not one for taking things at face value, city homicide detective Ben Storm calls on his long time friend, Rowan Gant- a practicing Witch- for help.
In helping his friend, Rowan discovers that the victim is one of his former pupils. Even worse, the clues that he helps to uncover show that this murder is only a prelude to even more ritualistic bloodletting for dark purposes. As the body count starts to rise, Rowan is suddenly thrust into an investigation where not only must he help stop a sadistic serial killer, but also must fight the prejudices and suspicions of those his is working with-- including his best friend.

The Society of S - Susan Hubbard
Identity issues involving a child of mixed heritage get a supernatural spin in this affecting coming-of-age tale. Ariella Montero's mother vanished the day she was born, leaving her to the care of her overprotective scientist father, who homeschools her and limits her contact with the outside world. Only when she reaches adolescence does Ari discover that her special diet and insular home life set her apart from her peers. Her father's confession that he was vampirized shortly before marriage, and that Ari can choose whether to be undead like him or mortal like mom, set her off on a road trip that eventually brings her to her mother and into an understanding of tough truths about her family.

Dead End Dating - Kimberly Raye
A vivacious vampire with a flair for accessorizing, Lil Marchette is unlike most of her kind. She prefers lively shades of pink to dismal black (soo not her color), plus she’s a hopeless romantic. In need of a steady paycheck to support a compulsive cosmetics habit, Lil starts Dead End Dating (DED), a Manhattan-based matchmaking service that helps smart, sophisticated singles like herself find eternity mates–and may even help her stake a claim to her very own Count Right! When Lil meets geeky vampire Francis Deville, she knows he’s the perfect first client. If she can hook up Francis–after a little revamping, of course–she will prove her skills to the vampire community and turn DED into the hottest dating service in the Big Apple. But just as her business takes off, Lil meets the (literally) drop-dead gorgeous bounty hunter Ty Bonner, who is hot on the chase of a serial killer. Instantly drawn to the luscious vamp stud, Lil really wants a taste. But as a made vampire, Ty can’t procreate–and Lil will settle for nothing less. Luckily, between “vampifying” Francis and helping Ty solve his murder mystery, Lil has no time for silly romantic entanglements . . . even if Ty is all that and a Bloody Mary chaser!

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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:06 am (UTC)

My Suggestions Part Two

The Greatest Stories Never Told - Rick Beyer
History isn't always made by great armies colliding or by great civilizations rising or falling. Sometimes it's made when a chauffeur takes a wrong turn, a scientist forgets to clean up his lab, or a drunken soldier gets a bit rowdy. That's the kind of history you'll find in The Greatest Stories Never Told. This is history candy -- the good stuff. Here are 100 tales to astonish, bewilder, and stupefy: more than two thousand years of history filled with courage, cowardice, hope, triumph, sex, intrigue, folly, humor, and ambition. It's a historical delight and a visual feast with hundreds of photographs, drawings, and maps that bring each story to life. A new discovery waits on every page: stories that changed the course of history and stories that affected what you had for breakfast this morning.


The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer
Some Roman officials were so corrupt that they actually stole time itself
Three cigars changed the course of the Civil War
The Scottish kilt was invented by an Englishman
Based on the popular Timelab 2000® history minutes hosted by Sam Waterston on The History Channel®, this collection of fascinating historical tidbits will have you shaking your head in wonder and disbelief. But they're all true. And you'll soon find yourself telling them to your friends.

Made from Scratch - Sandra Lee
This powerful, emotional, and astonishing story will inspire anyone who has faced adversity to overcome challenges and persevere. Sandra’s candid account of her personal journey offers a rare glimpse into the life of the woman behind the phenomenal success of Semi-Homemade. Smart, witty, and moving, Made From Scratch is an uplifting tale of determination and survival. Sandra is stunningly open about her abusive childhood and the responsibility thrust upon her at an early age to be the caretaker of her family.
Through a series of tragedies and challenges, she painfully discovered that we are all responsible for the choices we make in life. With the guidance of her grandmother, Sandra learned to be a self-sufficient and independent woman. After moving to Wisconsin at 15 to live with her father, an unexpected tragedy and the fallout from his mistakes required her to get her own apartment while still in high school. At 21, Sandra moved to Los Angeles, where she found tremendous success, launching her first product line, Kurtain Kraft. Working with the gritty resolve and make-do skills she learned as a child, she became a millionaire by the time she was 25, only to lose her fortune before the age of 30 and have to start all over again. Sandra started Semi-Homemade, smarter and wiser from her past mistakes, and has never looked back. Now dedicated to helping others through various charities and foundations, Sandra is committed to aiding and inspiring people to reach their dreams. Her unforgettable story will show that if she can do it, you can too. Made From Scratch will make you laugh, cry, think, and embrace the grace and glory in every day. Sometimes feisty but always sincere, Made From Scratch has all of the ingredients that make up the recipe of a courageous life and remarkable success.

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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:06 am (UTC)

My Suggestions Part Three

The Darkest Evening of the Year - Dean Koontz
Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers. Among dog lovers, she’s a legend for the risks she’ll take to save an animal from abuse. Among her friends, Amy’s heedless devotion is often cause for concern. To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can’t allow herself to return, Amy’s behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret. No one is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home. The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny. Even her two other goldens, Fred and Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha. But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents. An ominous stranger. A mysterious home invasion. And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy’s every move and that, whoever it is, he’s not alone.
Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature she’s always been there to save. But now there’s no one to save Amy and those she loves.

Adventures of the Monkey God - Wu Cheng-en
Monkey King is no ordinary monkey. He can change into any shape and he can fly to heaven on a cloud. He stores a magic rod in his ear and uses it to defeat the nastiest ogre in battle. Follow the adventures of Monkey King and Piggy as they accompany Monk Tang on a journey from China to India to gather Buddhist scriptures. The story of Monkey King has been read and loved by Chinese children for hundreds of years. Now it is available in an easy-to-read English translation, which is not only entertaining, but also educational.

The Complete Life and Adventures of Santa Claus - L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum's wild imagination takes up the Santa Claus story, reinventing it with a new origin myth in line with the Oz fanasies for which Baum is best known. From his humble beginnings as the only human child in an enchanted forest to his ultimate destiny as the immortal being who delivers toys to the children of the world, Santa Claus finds a sympathetic storyteller in Baum. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is a must read for anyone who wants to recapture the childlike essence of Christmas! This edition also includes Baum's other Santa Claus story, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus," a sequel to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-02 01:07 am (UTC)

My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

Princess: A True Story of Life B ehind the Veil in Saudi Arabia - Jean P. Sasson
In this consistently gripping work, a Literary Guild alternate selection in cloth, the American-born Sasson recounts the life story of a Saudi princess she met while living in Saudi Arabia, offering a glimpse of the appalling conditions endured by even privileged women in the Middle East. One must keep in mind the context of time and place when reading this emotional and exciting book to alleviate some of the horror of the injustices endured by the women described here. Equality of men and women has not worked out in any society, but the status of women in Islam is more problematic in that canon law is applied according to the social climate. Consequently, countries influenced by the West, such as Egypt, are more relaxed than countries like Saudi Arabia that are ruled by strict Hanbali law, which subjects women to unwelcome marriages, execution at whim, and the boredom of purdah . In this book, Sasson ( The Rape of Kuwait , Knightsbridge Pub. Co., 1991) tells the fascinating story of "Sultana," an unidentified Saudi princess who yearns for recognition in her own right, not as an adjunct of men.

Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
Author Wilson Rawls spent his boyhood much like the character of this book, Billy Colman, roaming the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma with his bluetick hound. A straightforward, shoot-from-the-hip storyteller with a searingly honest voice, Rawls is well-loved for this powerful 1961 classic and the award-winning novel Summer of the Monkeys. In Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy and his precious coonhound pups romp relentlessly through the Ozarks, trying to "tree" the elusive raccoon. In time, the inseparable trio wins the coveted gold cup in the annual coon-hunt contest, captures the wily ghost coon, and bravely fights with a mountain lion. When the victory over the mountain lion turns to tragedy, Billy grieves, but learns the beautiful old Native American legend of the sacred red fern that grows over the graves of his dogs.

Bimbos of the Death Sun - Sharyn McCrumb
For one fateful weekend, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention, Rubicon, has all but taken over a usually ordinary hotel. Now the halls are alive with Trekkies, tech nerds, and fantasy gamers in their Viking finery *all of them eager to hail their hero, bestselling fantasy author Appin Dungannon: a diminutive despot whose towering ego more than compensates for his 5' 1" height . . . and whose gleeful disdain for his fawning fans is legendary. Hurling insults and furniture with equal abandon, the terrible, tiny author proceeds to alienate ersatz aliens and make-believe warriors at warp speed. But somewhere between the costume contest and the exhibition Dungeons & Dragons game, Dungannon gets done in. While die-hard fans of Dungannon's seemingly endless sword-and-sorcery series wonder how they'll go on and hucksters wonder how much they can get for the dead man's autograph, a hapless cop wonders, Who would want to kill Appin Dungannon? But the real question, as the harried convention organizers know, is Who wouldn't ?
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2008-01-04 04:54 pm (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

The Sellars, Hubbard, Koontz books sound good to me. I used to love Koontz, kind of lost track and interest in his writing after "Intensity" but did read "False Memory" a few years ago, which I thought was excellent.

I've always like supernatural novels, tending more towards the horror or fantasy side than the paranormal romance stuff (which seems to be popular). I've been looking for my next supernatural kick since Laurell K. Hamilton and haven't quite found it yet (did find new loves in fantasy writers though, particularly Mercedes Lackey, Sarah Monette and Morgan Flewelling). I think I've been sampling the wrong stuff, lol. Last year, I took out a few supernatural (with romance or erotica as part of the deal) books by Nina Bangs, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan - Bangs I thought was horrible, and the others readable but...kind of felt I'd read things very similar in the past - they weren't original or interesting enough for me to finish.

The McCrumb book sounds fun too - I could get into something like that.

I read a book a couple of years ago, can't remember the author or title but it was the first in a cozy mystery series. A romance writer is planning to attend a romance writers' convention. The main character (a dashing hero type) and his valet from her book come to life, and attend the convention with her, where a murder takes place. Her characters solve the murder. I wish I could remember the writer because I would like to read more in this series - does it ring a bell with you?

I haven't read the Wu Cheng-en book, but I have read the first volume of the graphic novel "The Monkey King" by Katsuya Terada (very violent, good artwork) and the manga series "Saiyuki" which is inspired by the novel "Journey to the West" by Cheng-en which contains the monkey king fable - I liked both and think I'd enjoy reading the source.
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-05 12:44 am (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

Oh! I lvoe Laurell K. Hamilton! Well, her earlier stuff. At first her stuff had agreat plots and then it seemed like it moved on to just enough story to get from one sex scene to the next.

I read a book a couple of years ago, can't remember the author or title but it was the first in a cozy mystery series. A romance writer is planning to attend a romance writers' convention. The main character (a dashing hero type) and his valet from her book come to life, and attend the convention with her, where a murder takes place. Her characters solve the murder. I wish I could remember the writer because I would like to read more in this series - does it ring a bell with you?

YES! Oh it does! Wow. I know someone has described that very book to me. Gah! I'm going to be wracking my brain now trying to remember. I'll see if I can't figure it out.
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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2008-01-05 03:24 am (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

I agree with you about Hamilton. The last book I enjoyed in the Anita Blake series was "Obsidian Butterfly", and stopped reading it after "Cerulean Sins" - characterization and plots faded. I've only read the first two books in the Meredith Gentry series, liked them both but didn't keep up - might go back to that series at some point.
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-05 12:50 am (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

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[User Picture]From: heartofdavid
2008-01-05 01:37 am (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

YES!!!! That is it! Oh, thank you, because I wanted to read more by this writer; the book was so entertaining!
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[User Picture]From: txredhead
2008-01-05 02:29 am (UTC)

Re: My Suggestions Part Four (Final)

ANd thank you! I'll have to add that to my list of "must reads".
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