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Natchez Burning

Natchez Burning, Greg Iles

Its been 5 years since Iles has published a book (and yes, I’ve read them all.) When I got my advanced copy, it was almost 800 pages. All I could think was, “Greg Iles, this better be worth it.” Well, I am here to assure you Natchez Burning was completely worth it!

In Natchez Burning, Iles returns to Natchez, Mississippi and the character of Penn Cage, defense lawyer turned mayor- familiar ground to fans of Iles’ work. Cage has only recently gotten Shadrach Johnson off his back (thanks to an incriminating photo) and is focused on his wedding to his long-time girlfriend,  Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Caitlin Masters. Cage’s world is shattered when Johnson tells him that Tom Cage, Penn’s well-respected physician father, is going to be charged with murder after helping a dying patient, Viola, end her life. Tom Cage has recently suffered a heart attack, and Penn wants to protect his family at all costs. Will he be able to exonerate his father, solve the mystery of Viola’s death, and keep his girlfriend,  daughter, and mother safe?
Local journalist Henry Sexton is closing in on the Double Eagles, a radical Klan offshot responsible for many race crimes, and rumored to be involved in the murders of Dr King and the Kennedy brothers. He has finally gotten an old, dying Double Eagle to go on the record- solving many old crimes, including one that is personal to Henry. Will he be able to publish the truth? Will it be worth it for him?
All of Penn Cage’s best laid plans are ruined when his father skips bail. Henry Sexton is attacked outside his office. The stories of Tom Cage, Viola, and the Double Eagles are deeply tangled together in history. Caitlin Masters is torn between publishing the truth and keeping her loved ones safe.
Natchez Burning answers some of the questions is raises, but leaves many more open. It’s supposed to be the first in a new Penn Cage trilogy. All I have to say is, “Greg Iles, you’d better write faster, because I can’t wait to read what happens!”
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Note: joking aside,  Greg Iles was involved in a very serious accident that delayed the publication of this book. The health of an author and their family is much more important then my entertainment. I wish him all the best.

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Apologies

Sorry everyone for my recent absence. It work in retail and the holidays had me running around with hardly time to read much less review.
But I’m back and I’ll try to scrape together a Best of 2013 list before too long

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Love Saves the Day

Love Saves the Day
Gwen Cooper

When Prudence’s human, Sarah, doesn’t come home, the little tabby cat starts to worry. Before too long, Sarah’s daughter Laura and her husband Josh come to pack up all Sarah’s things, and take Prudence and the boxes to their own apartment. Laura and Josh don’t understand the most basic things about cat care (like introducing yourself properly, or how and when to feed a cat.) Prudence finds refuge in the room filled with Sarah’s boxes. The things she digs out of the boxes draw the humans in; Josh is fascinated by Sarah’s musical past, while Laura uncovers photos and memories she thought were long gone.
Eventually, Laura relates the story of the first cat she loved- a neighbor’s cat called Honey. Josh and Laura are able to find common ground in the Sarah boxes. And Prudence realizes shes been lucky to find a loving home not once but twice.

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Its not common to read novels narrated by feline characters. Dogs, yes; cats, no. But I read and loved Cooper’s first book Homers Oddessy about her blind kitten (and other feline babies) and I knew if anyone could write a cat’s voice, it would be her.
Love Saves The Day is a sad book; I won’t lie. A lot of it deals with how it feels to lose someone we love. But it also illustrates what it means to love someone,  and what it means to be a family. Best of all, the character of Prudence is every bit the perfect cat
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You might like: Homers Odyssey, Cooper. Feline Mystique, Simon. Telegraph Avenue, Chabon.

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The Book of Someday

The Book of Someday
Dianne Dixon

Olivia grew up with a father who wqs physically present but emotionally and mentally checked out. Her stepmother was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. Now an adult,  Olivia has turned her experiences into a novel that is selling well. But she still anticipates that everyone she meets will hurt and reject her.
When she meets Andrew at a party, she is charmed by the handsome stranger. He wins her over with romantic trips and expensive gifts. But is he too good to be true? Has Olivia found the love of her or just another man that will leave her?

Micah is an artist, world-renowned for her photography. But her photos never have any people in them. When she receives a serious medical diagnosis, she wonders if it is punishment for things she has done. Instead of getting medical treatment, she begins to travel around the country trying to get in touch with people she has wronged. Can Micah have a second chance? Or does she have to die to pay for what she has done?

AnnaLee is a young married woman who loves her husband, Jack, and daughter, Bella. But she struggles because Jack doesn’t work hard and provide for the family. Their lives are thrown into disarray when Jack’s teenage neice (who wants to be called Persephone) comes to stay with them for the summer. AnnaLee struggles to love the unhappy wild girl the same way she loves Bella. Can Jack man up for his wife and child? Can AnnaLee’s love and patience win over Persephone? Or is it too late- have their choices already gone too far?

The stories of these three women- Olivia, Micah and AnnaLee- are of course linked. The author does an excellent job, tho, of drawing the stories together gradually; so that the reader starts to put the puzzke together but is still a little surprised when the last piece clicks into place.

The Book of Someday is a beautiful story, and the characters have a lot of depth. Each of them grows throughout the story in ways I didn’t anticipate when I opened the book.
The one criticism that I have of the book is that perfect strangers tended to share well-articulated insights into their innermost selves upon first meeting people. I understand why the author did this- she was trying to show not tell- but it struck an unrealistic note.
Can I just mention that the cover was exceptional? The “notecard” image was raised with textured edges. That was what first drew me to this book.

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You might like: The Language of Flowers, Diffenbaugh.

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The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is a slightly quirky twist on a standard romantic comedy novel, with lots of fun moments, a few insights, and of course, a happy ending.

Don is a professor who clearly has Aspergers syndrome (ie, is on the autism spectrum) altho its unclear if he really admits that to himself. His attempt to find a romantic partner have been unsuccessful, so he devises as multi-page questionnaire for potential mates and dubs it “the Wife Project.”
Don’s friend and coworker Gene is a playboy trying to “sleep his way around the world.” Gene’s long-suffering wife Claudia is also Don’s friend and someone he turns to for advice and perspective.
Gene arranges for Don to meet a woman named Rosie, who is trying to find out the identity of her biological father. Her mother has died and she has an uneasy relationship with her step-father. Together, Don and Rosie concoct “the Rosie project”, elaborate schemes to collect DNA from potential patriarchs, including serving cocktails at a class reunion and inventing a fake research project. As they spend time together, they become friends- at least in the limited way Don’s life allows.
The highlight of the story is Don and Rosie’s trip to New York to collect DNA. Rosie gets Don to open his mind to many new things, including shopping for clothes and attending a baseball game. When the trip culminates in a failed one-night-stand, Rosie cuts off the relationship, fearing Don will only let her down. But it turns out thats what it takes for Don to realize he has fallen in love.
Commence “the Don Project”, as Don attempts to make himself over and prove  to Rosie that he can be a good romantic partner. He changes not only his style of dress but also gives up some of his strict schedule and even watches romantic comedies for tips.
When Don proposes to Rosie, it goes predictably (hilariouly) wrong. Can he convince her that he is willing to change his behavior for her, but he will always be the same man she fell in love with? Can Gene give up his philandering, and will Claudia give him another chance? Does Rosie find out who her biological father is and reconcile with her step-father? The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy so you can probably guess, but the book is still a fun and worthwhile read.

There is an increasing number of characters in books, tv and movies with Aspergers Syndrome or on the Autism spectrum. Probably the most popular is Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory (altho the show’s creators deny this label, the actor who plays Sheldon has admitted he plays him as a character with autism, and, well, its pretty obvious.) I am all in favor of this. I am hopeful for high-functioning adults on the spectrum who may find more understanding and acceptance because of increased awareness.
But I wonder if the popular portrayal makes it harder for families when someone’s Autism is more severe. If a parent says “my son has autism” someone could easily think that child is a brilliant OCD nerd- and maybe they are. Or maybe they are non-verbal and spend hours rocking in the corner or lashing out physically in a way that harms themselves or others. Maybe they function better than that but couldnt ever handle the stimulation (like Don can) of a baseball game.
With help from both Rosie and Claudia, Don buys new clothes. Plenty of people with Autism find this an overwhelming prospect, as they might not be able to stand certain texture, button or zippers, tags in clothing- or the feel of a three- piece suit like Don dons to impress Rosie.
So… bottom line I’m all for increased awareness of people on the autism spectrum. But I hope that awareness is accurate. Autism is a very real difference in how the brain functions, and while  many behaviors can be learned, its not a quick self-improvement project.

You might like: House Rules Jodi Piccoult. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime Mark Haddon. The Journal of Best Practices David Finch.

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new blog!

Hi I’m K, and I love books!  When I started talking about a blog, at first I thought of some of my other interests: food, makeup, cats. When I finally hit upon the idea of a book blog, tho, everyone went “duh!” Its convenient, then, that loving books as I do, I also work in a bookstore. I have worked in said Corporate Bookstore (which shall remain nameless) for almost 8 years now. I appreciate the access to books, book trends, and the occasional Advanced Reader Copy (aka “ARC” pronounced “ark”) which publishers send out.

a few words on the name:
The phrase “just too many books” applies on many levels. I may have first uttered that phrase at work, upon seeing I had just too many titles to put on a display, or maybe looking at shelves of extra stock. Looking at the stacks and stacks of books, I said, “There are just too many books!”
It applies at home too, tho. Although I add bookshelves to my apartment on a regular basis, they never seem to be enough. One day I have all my books dusted and organized in nice, neat rows. Next time I look, they are piled two rows deep, books stacked on top of books, with random piles of books in the corners of rooms. No matter how many bookshelves I get, I always seem to have just too many books!
Finally, I feel like the phrase applies to the average reader, who maybe doesn’t work in a bookstore, and wonders how they can possibly keep up with all the new titles that come out all the time. This person might feel like, “How can I possibly know what to read now… there are just too many books?” I hope this blog is helpful for you.

a few words on blogging:
I haven’t had a blog since Xanga (anyone remember Xanga??) and that was less a “blog” and more “random brain overflow from a teenage girl.” What I’m hoping to do here is post book title and author, a short summary, a response/reflection/reaction on my part, and then a “you will like.” I’m hoping that the “you will like” can go both ways: that if you like an author listed there, you will try this book. But if you try this book and like it, you might check out one of those authors too.

I had planned a lot more lines of introduction-type stuff, but I decided to skip it and dive right in with a few of my Top 10 titles for this year. Either you will like it, or you won’t, and I can do more background later.

a few words on my Top 10:
I keep a running Top 10 of various things at all time in my mind. Its usually ranked chronologically, and there aren’t always 10. I tend to keep a slot or two open just in case.