The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Read: November 17 - November 27
Format: Audiobook 16 CDs equivalent 784 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: masons, new sciences
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL, AUDIO
Category: Honeymoon - foreign settings/thrillers
Genre: mystery
Stars: ★★★

This book has been reviewed by hundreds so I won't even begin to describe the plot and story. I will just express my overall opinion. Let me say that I really enjoyed the first two books with Robert Langdon as the brilliant symbolist but this book fell far short of the excellence of the previous two. Maybe I was expecting more especially since it was set in my hometown, but the story was too predictable and a bit far-fetched (who gets their hand cut off and in less then 48 hours in whirling around the city giving a tour?) It was an entertaining read and I can feel sure that when the book is made into a movie that it will be as entertaining as the others, its just not the greatest literature.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Read: November 18 - November 23
Format: e-book 627 pages
Source: Barnes & Noble
Subject: spousal abuse, mistaken identity, marriage for profit
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: The good old days
Genre: Historical Fiction
Stars: ★★½

This book is touted as one of the first detective stories ever written and if they all had followed this book in style and tedium I never would have read another. Maybe because of all the books that I have read that are better written and more of my time frame, I found this book to be too predictable and the characters 1 dimensional.

Not something that I would recommend.


The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis

Read: November 17 - November 19
Format: Paperback 210 pages
Source: my shelves
Subject: friendship, sharing, materialism
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Something Old - read those TBRs
Genre: Non-Fiction
Stars: ★★★★½

Jonell McLain was walking past a jewelry store and saw a beautiful diamond necklace and immediately wondered what it would be like to wear. She went inside, tried it on, and then found out that the price was $37,000. It was great fun for a lark but she knew she would never be able to buy it. Frequently, when she was walking by she'd still see the Necklace in the window, and even noticed it had been reduced to $24,000. Still too rich for her blood. Still thinking about, she wondered how many other women would like to wear something like it on a special occasion and so she came up with the idea of sharing. When she read an ad that the jewelry store was having an auction, Jonell knew it was time to put her plan into action. With 12 other women, including the jewelry store owner's wife, Jonell bought the NECKLACE and started a special group that touched many lives in Ventura CA.

First, they gave it a name - Jewelia. Then they decided how it would be shared - each women would have Jewelia for 4 weeks including their birthday. Then the women would meet and pass Jewelia on. Soon they were sharing not just among themselves but with others for charity - an evening with Jewelia could raise thousands of dollars as women came and got a chance to wear the necklace for an hour, or 5 minutes but they got the chance. The story of this Necklace and the amazing 13 women who were its guardian was awe-inspiring as we see how an "exclusive" piece of jewelry got to be "inclusive" at the initiative of its owners.

What startles me about this book, is that first, it's not the type of book that I normally would read but I was at the bookstore and they had a Buy 3 get 1 Free table - of course I could find 3 books I wanted but when it got to the 4th book nothing grabbed me. Then I saw this book and being a Jewelry fiend I picked it up and headed to checkout knowing nothing about it. The book fairy was on my shoulder that afternoon - it's one of my favorite reads of the year!


Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton

Read: November 14 - November 16
Format: Paperback 239 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: knitting, alpacas, betrayal
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Category: Setting up Housekeeping/ Leftovers - Crafts
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Stars: ★★★

Kelly Flynn is still in Fort Connor, CO telecommuting to her business office in Washington while she finishes sorting out the estate of her late aunt and her subsequent inheritance. Having made friends with the ladies at the knitting shop across street, these relationships with the different ladies gets her involved in the investigation of the murder of Vickie Claymore, an alpaca rancher in the canyon.

This is a light and fun cozy mystery with just the right amount of knitting and yarn inserted to handle all the tangled clues and characters. Definitely a fun read - going on to the next one!


The Brazen Bride by Stephanie Laurens

Read: November 9 - November 14
Format: Hardback 405 pages
Source: my shelves
Subject: Love, Marriage, espionage
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Love and Marriage: a lifetime commitment
Genre: Romance
Stars: ★★★½

The third installment of the Black Cobra Quartet was a bit different than the previous two. In those we see the troubles and dangers that the two couriers encounter and what forces them to spend their time and efforts with a young lady with whom they fall in love, so naturally, I expected the same type of story for courier #3.

Nope, here Logan Montieth is discovered at the beginning on board a ship in the English Channel, fighting with the Black Cobra legions during a storm. He and his attackers are swept overboard before the ship capsizes. Logan is the only survivor but without his memory. He is discovered and nursed by a lady and her staff on a remote section of the Island of Guernsey. Linnett helps him to recover his memories while their love affair proceeds, and when he recalls his mission, she gets him to his assigned destination.

From there the story is very similar to the previous installments with a few twists and turns. Of the three books, that I've read so far, this is my favorite because of the strong, dynamic and unusual female character who stands up for what she wants and what she wants to do. Looking forward to the last of the series.


Murder in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Read: November 3 - November 10
Format: Paperback 244 pages
Source: my shelves
Subject: miniatures, dollhouses, illegal adoptions, family
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Blind dates: Will I like them? - New series / new authors
Genre: Fiction Stars: ★★★

If you're looking for a fast-paced nail baiter to keep you awake at night, don't pick up this book, but if you are looking for a warm and cozy mystery, this might be just up your alley. If, as a child, you loved to play with your dollhouse and even imagined specialized furniture, you could pick up a few tips on how to make your own while following the "investigation" into murder and robberies. Geraldine Porter is a miniaturist - in other words she plays with doll houses. Gerry is this year's chairwoman of the local Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair and at the same time is visited by her granddaughter who is extremely inquisitive. So when her friend disappears unexpectedly during the Fair, Gerry has to take on added responsibilities. Having a nephew on the local police force, Gerry and her granddaughter try to assist the investigation with personal observations.

This book is not exactly like most cozy mysteries in that Gerry doesn't so much investigate on her own as just gather information. The characters are very true to life and make you want to get to know them better. I'll definitely be reading more in this series.


Friends in High Places by Donna Leon

Read: November 3 - November 8
Format: Audiobook 7 CDs equivalent 272 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: bureaucracy, drugs, loan sharks
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL, AUDIO
Category: Honeymoon - foreign settings/thrillers
Genre: mystery Stars: ★★★

The 9th installment of the Commissario Brunetti series begins with Guido being confronted by a member of the Officio Castrato, the Registration Office, that controls permits and titles to all property in Venice. According to Signor Rossi, the proper papers for Brunetti's apartment are not on file, and so city records say that his apartment does not exist. Consequences could be a huge fine and possible demolition of his residence.

Brunetti immediately begins to concentrate on who can be of assistance to him in clearing up this matter. Hearing nothing for several months, he is surprised to hear from Rossi who appears to be nervous about something that he wishes to discuss with the Commissario. Before they can meet, Rossi's body is found, apparently having fallen from a scaffolding. Brunetti is suspicious since on their short acquaintance, Rossi had shown definite signs of acrophobia.

Investigating the incident, leads Brunetti into a world of real estate corruption, drug abuse and loan-sharking. The apparent murder of two drug users links high officials to the drug world and shows what having Friends in High Places can do for you in Venice.

This installment seemed to me to be more a test of Guido's ethical and moral honor than a full-blown mystery thriller. Still amazingly entertaining.


The Sorceress by Michael Scott

Read: November 2 - November 7
Format: Paperback 500 pages
Source: loan from a young friend
Subject: alchemy, mythology, twins
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI
Category: Going steady: Should we keep seeing each other? - ongoing series
Genre: Fantasy
Stars: ★★★½

Nicholas Flamel is certain that he has found the twins of legend but he must protect them from the Dark Elders so that they can be trained in the maigic of the elemnts and so protect humanity from the threats of monsters and demons of ancient times. After arriving in Paris, Sophie having already been awakened and taught the element of Wind, she is taught the attributes of Fire. Meanwhile, Josh still awaits awakening and must stand by as Sophie and her teachers battle the dark forces. Just before their escape to London, Josh is Awakened by none other than the God Mars and Josh becomes a warrior/strategist.

Meanwhile, Perenelle Flamel is trapped on the island of Alcatraz. Befriended by a ghost of an old sea Captain, Perenelle is able to outwit several ancient creatures (sphinx, Crow Goddess, Nered) and escape leaving her attackers stranded on the island.

The story is filled with monsters and demons as well as characters from history that have been designated as immortals who come to the assistance of Josh, Sophie, and Nicholas. Perenelle's character is strong and determined and unrelenting in her goal to free herself and reach Nicholas.

The whole story was great fun!


April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik

Read: October 28 - November 2
Format: Hardback 606 pages
Source: my shelves
Subject: Civil War, assassination, reconstruction
Category: The Engagement: this is getting serious
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Stars: ★★½

At the end of the Civil War, it is startling that so much occurred in the "final" month. The Confederate Army, led by Robert E. Lee, made one last ditch effort to elude the Union forces of Ulysses Grant but on April 9, 1865 surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Less than a week later, Abraham Lincoln lies dead, assassinated by John Wilkes Booth and Andrew Johnson is the new President. Confederate General Johnston disobeyed Jefferson Davis' orders to fight on and surrendered to Sherman.

The end of hostilities came in 1865 and possibly, Lincoln would have agreed with Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General, when he said "You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous."

This book relates the details of these events as well as the background that brought about these results. However, IMHO, it is not well written. If this book is to be constituted as a book of historical fact, then it needs to be severely edited. There are far too many personal observations and conclusions interspersed throughout as well as a jumpy writing style. The author frequently leaves one thought process hanging moving on to another and then jumps back to where he left off. I have no doubt that Professor Winik has researched his topic diligently, however, I believe that this book of 606 pages with another 101 of footnotes could have been more concise if the author's opinions had been eliminated and the conclusions left to be evaluated by the reader with just the facts stated.