Read Along (Just not over my shoulder, please!)

Welcome to my RA page.  In librarianship, RA stands for Reader's Advisory.  It is a practice that many librarians must competently perform on a regular basis for their patrons who want to know what they should read next.  It is also a practice that librarians-in-training must perform for friends and family members who for some crazy reason think that this is some sort of magical ability. 

Instead of tailoring reading suggestions to anyone in particular, I am going to try and keep up with sharing my list of current "just reads."  As much as I would like to go back and outline my all-time favorites, that is just not in the cards right now. 

So let's start!

Envious Casca, by Georgette Heyer.

I completed this book on August 31, 2011.  It came to me out of a random blog-surfing adventure as part of another bloggers list of recent reads/suggestions as a good old-fashioned British mystery whodunit.  As I am a huge fan of this genre who had never heard of Georgette Heyer, I was thrilled to find that not only did she have an extensive catalog, but that her books are still in print and available at my local Barnes and Noble.  My link above is to, but I am by no means advocating one vendor over another. 

There is nothing out of the ordinary about this book, but it was enjoyable and a nice break after several long and mind-numbing days of work.  So if you're a fan of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers but are bummed that you've read their entire collections, give this a go.

Verdict:  Good.  Not fabulous, but good.

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton.

This one was a bit longer and more involved than the last book I read, but that's OK.  Especially when one is attempting to read the whole thing over Labor Day weekend.  It has been a while since I last read a book that kept me engaged to the point that I kept picking it up to get just a little bit farther along.

I have definite plans to read more of Kate Morton's books, but for now I have to content myself with reading the other books I picked up in my last Barnes and Noble shopping spree.  Oh, and to start in on some of those required school-related readings as well...

Verdict:  Engaging.  Definitely one to take your mind off of other things going on in the world.

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton.

Were you hoping that I would continue to hyperlink the titles to Amazon for you?  Ha!  Too bad. 

I picked up this book because I enjoyed reading another work by this author (listed above).  If I have to be honest (and really, why not), I did not enjoy this one as much as the first one I reviewed.  Yes, it did have the same gradually unwinding mystery working throughout the plot moving through various timelines and points of view. 

But in this book, I pretty much figured out the "mystery" after the first four chapters.  The only surprise left came at the very end, and it was not totally unexpected but just a tiny bit disappointing.  Definitely not the book to read if you're looking for big ol' happy endings, but I suspect that none of Kate Morton's novels will give me this. 

Even though there is still another novel in Kate Morton's booklist, I think I may wait on that one for the moment and move on to a different author.  Honestly, my metadata workbook has taken all the concentration I have at the moment, but I am hoping to work some fiction back into my schedule very soon.  Real soon.

Verdict:  Well written, but drags a bit.  Not too many surprises, and I found the characters just a bit less relatable than I was expecting and perhaps a bit overdramatic. 

Margot 47574: The Story of an Auschwitz Survivor, as told by Sharma L. Wolff and Carol L. Miller.

This book came at the recommendation of a coworker who happens to be personally acquainted with Margot, the person at the center of the work.  It is not a lengthy read, but it was well paced.  Chapters of narrative format were interspersed with photographs, interview transcripts and excerpts of letters from people who have heard Margot speak in public about her experience.

By all accounts, both in the book and from my coworker, Margot is an amazing human being.  Stories of the Holocaust are always daunting and usually leave me with a sense of shame with regards to the things I value and take for granted.  The fact that Margot remains a positive believer in human goodness is astonishing to me after all that she has suffered at the hands of fellow human beings. 

Anyway, this is a somewhat difficult book to find as it was published locally, but if you ever come across it, I highly encourage you to read it. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

This is not a new book, and it came to me in an unconventional fashion.  My brother and his girlfriend went down to Georgia this summer for a wedding.  They came back with gifts for all, and because they made a visit to Savannah, they bought me this book.

You see, it takes place in Savannah and is semi-non-fiction.  I believe the author added some little dramatic embellishments here and there, but what good writer can really avoid it?

It is a good book and a fast read.  Truthfully, I enjoyed the first part of the book wherein the author meets various colorful locals and learns more about the culture of the city.  When the "action" starts in the last part of the book (the murder and trial), I actually started to lose interest. 

Now, if you have only seen the 1997 movie version of this book starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey, you may find the book to be a bit different.  You see, the book focuses mostly on the murder/trial section and really spends no time in the beginning introducing most of the interesting characters you find in the book.  Plus, Jude Law plays the sexy murder victim, and I just do not buy a British dude as a bisexual Southern sassy lad.  No.

But either way, read the book.  That is my verdict.

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly.

I picked this book up at Barnes and Noble one day off of the "Buy Two Get One Free" table.  I do not wish to admit how often I do this, but it has definitely introduced me to some books and authors that I would not otherwise have found.

This may sound very unlike me as I tend to be overly critical, but I really really liked this book.  It is not really a mystery, but it definitely carries elements of suspense.  It is a story about a child and contains many allusions to fairy tales, but it is quite dark and I am not sure how many children would handle some of it.  Then again, who am I to say?  I was always the kind of kid who read whatever I wanted, including on occasion, my grandmother's Harlequin Romances.  Heavy stuff for a 10 year-old, I tell you.

Back to this book.  It runs a blurry line between reality and fantasy and leaves some questions unanswered, but deliberately.  At least I think it was intentional.  This writer has the gift of descriptive imagery that is so unobtrusive that you do not get mired down in the flowery words but are able to create vivid mental images of your own. 

Verdict:  I highly recommend this book and I fully intend to pick up more books by this author. 

The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde.

This is not the first book that I have read by this author, and it is a bit hard to explain his genre.  I guess I would call it fictional literary fantasy.  He creates alternate realities where fictional characters from well-known books, stories or in this case nursery rhyme characters.

In this story, the detectives of the Nursery Crimes Division are trying to solve the murder of Humpty Dumpty.  Sound silly?  Dumb?  You're wrong.  It is actually a very engaging and entertaining story.

In comparison to his Thursday Next series, this was maybe not quite as much fun, but if you're looking for a fun and quick mini-mystery, check this out.

Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman.

So sometimes I go on buying sprees and pick up extra books based on bookstore recommendations and even the "buy two get one free" offers.  This book was one of the extra books on display that I picked up to get my free book.

It just so happened that this book was left under a pile of other papers several months ago only to be found last week... by me (of course).

So now I am done with it, and I can say that it was... OK.  I should warn you, it is a vampire novel, but slightly less cheesy than the "Twilight" series.  If forced to choose, I would definitely put this near the top of my vampire list, but then again, it is a short list to begin with, so I am not sure what that really says.

I was surprised to learn that this book was published in 1992, even though this printing was from 2011. I believe that the author has written several other novels in this line since that time, but I have not yet decided whether or not I will read them.

If I had to offer up any good points to the book it is that the author likes to use the names of well known historical and fictional characters from vampire/mystery stories.

Would I recommend it?  Meh.  Sure.  But be warned, it is a little scary.  And intense.  Keep the kiddies away - the violence and slightly sexual content could be traumatizing.