The Necromancer by Michael Scott

Challenge Book #45
Genre: Fantasy
Subject: monsters, evil, magic
Setting: San Francisco, Shadow Realms
Main Characters: Josh and Sophie Newman, Nicholas and Perenel Flamel, Dr. Dee
Series: yes, #4 immortal Nicholas Flamel
Dates Read: April 19 - April 28
Number of pages: 403
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Speech class

This 4th book of the Flamel series picks up immediately after book 3 with the twins arrival in San Francisco and the official introduction of Aunt Agnes.

Sophie and Josh are at odds as to who they should support Dr. Dee or the Flamels. We are also introduced to a few new immortals - Aoife (Scathatch's twin sister), Billy the Kid, Prometheus, Virginia Dare, and Niten.

The immortals are having their own problems - Scatty and Joan are trapped in a pre-historic shadow Realm, Saint Germaine, Palamades, and Shakespeare are running from the Dark Elders while trying to free Joan and Scatty, and Dee and Machiavelli are in deep trouble with the bosses because they haven't gotten the twins. So since all immortals are looking after themselves, who is there to keep Josh and Sophie safe?

This book supplies a great deal of background for the mythological creatures/immortals and their masters, the Elders. The tension builds as the life in the Flamels begins to drain to desperate levels and the twins are put at odds


Beekeeping for Beginners by Laurie R. King


Genre: Short Story
Setting: England
Main Characters: Sherlock Holmes, Mary Russell
Series: yes, 1b
Dates Read: April 25
Number of pages: 73
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Nook stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Homework

So many times when we read a book we are given the story from one viewpoint and often wonder what the other characters are thinking. Laurie R. King's first book in the Mary Russell series and all subsequent books are from Mary Russell's point of view but here in this book, we see and feel Sherlock Holmes perspective. Having read the Beekeeper's Apprentice - the meeting and developing relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes - told by Mary, this added little account of the events by Sherlock Holmes just makes their blossoming relationship that much more fun. Highly recommended to the followers of Mary Russell.


The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw

Genre: Mystery Thriller
Subject: lost civilizations, Roman Catholic church control
Setting: Russia, Africa, Spain
Main Characters: Thomas Lourdes, Leslie, Natashya, Cardinal Murani
Series: #1 Thomas Lourdes
Dates Read: April 14 - April 24
Number of pages: 312
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Net Galley stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Foreign Languages

Indiana Jones meet Da Vinci Code - well, not quite.

This is a intriguing story about the possible finding of the lost city of Atlantis and those that are fighting each other to get there first.

The clues to the actual location are apparently distributed through out the world with symbols that are from a forgotten language - enter Thomas Lourdes, a Harvard linguist professor who gets caught in the middle to decipher the code.

However, the characters are a bit stereotypical - Lourdes is brilliant and supposedly the only person who can solve the riddle, Leslie is the overly ambitious TV reporter, and Natashya is a female Rambo. The bad guys are so plain and ordinary you know from the start exactly how they will end.

However, even though the characters left room for improvement, the action of the book was extremely entertaining and has the reader rooting for Lourdes and his band of misfits. It was fun.


Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Subject: mistaken identity, greed, embezzlement
Setting: The Hamptons, NY
Main Characters: Clare Cosi
Series: yes, #4 Coffeehouse mysteries
Dates Read: April 20 - April 23
Number of pages: 257
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Math class

Clare Cosi is the manager of the Village Blend Coffeehouse in Greenwich Village and because of the success she has, a friend, David Mintzer, an entrepreneur, wants her assistance in his new restaurant in the Hamptons. So Clare takes on the position of Coffee steward at David's new restaurant. While "catering" his 4th of July party, one of the staff members appears to be accidently murdered because of his resemblance to David.

Trying to convince David and the local police that the entrepreneur is the actual target and being unsuccessful, Clare sets out to find the killer herself. Along the way, Clare finds herself in several uncomfortable situations.

This fourth installment of the Coffeehouse series is a bit light on plot but with the familiar supporting characters (Madame Dubois, Joy, and Matt) following Clare's adventures is still fun.


U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth by Joan Waugh

Genre: History
Setting: USA
Main Characters: Ulysses Simpson Grant
Series: no
Dates Read: April 8 - April 20
Number of pages: 373
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: no, Public library
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: History Class

I'm not going into a full review of this book basically because the three parts - his life, his reputation, and his effect on history was IMO, though well-written, lacking in enough details to make a full review worthwhile.

What this book did document was the successful way that Grant directed the entire Union forces after taking charge in 1864. It seems that so many believe that Grant was an unfeeling man because of the vast numbers of soldiers that were killed in the battles nearing the end of the war, but his own words show how he felt the necessity of being victorious. "we all felt, even those who did not object to slavery, that it was a stain on the Union that men should be bought and sold like cattle...We were fighting an enemy with whom we could not make peace. We had to destroy him. No convention, no treaty was possible--- only destruction."

This book did show the difficulties that Grant went through to complete his memoirs. He had been diagnosed with threat cancer and his last years were filled with tremendous pain and discomfort. Completing the books which told his viewpoint of the war became, after his death, a massive bestseller which provided financially for his wife, Julia, and his family.

This book did not give sufficient details of the presidency of Ulysses Grant, however, it did justify the stature in which he was held in the hearts of his countrymen.

The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks, Tinker Lindsay

Genre: Mystery
Subject: con artists, buddhist monk, ex-cop
Setting: Los Angeles, CA and surrounding area
Main Characters: Tenzing Norbu,
Series: #1 A Tenzing Norbu Mystery (Dharma Detective)
Dates Read: April 13 - April 19
Number of pages: 312
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Net Galley stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge:

The first Rule of Ten is "If you're open to learning, you get your life lessons delivered as gently as the tickle of a feather." Sounds very philosophical, right? Something from the Dalai Lama? This is how we begin the story of Tenzing (Ten) Norbu, a former Tibetan monk turned LA Cop, now private investigator. He didn't accept the tickle, instead he got hit like a sledgehammer with a bullet grazing his head. Deciding that his life as a Police Homicide cop is over, he begins to put together his plans to be a PI.

The very first day, however, he's presented with a mystery that seems to be "tickling" him. Barbara Mazey, a total stranger comes to his door searching for his landlord. Unsure about giving the information out, she leaves but comes back to haunt him when he is contacted by his old police partner to identify her body.

The mystery continues to evolve, placing Ten in danger as well as some of the people that he meets during his investigation. Trying to decide how to proceed Ten meditates frequently remembering that "life demands that we face the consequences of our actions, and sometimes it boils down to a series of sweaty 10 minute conversations that you're willing to have or not."

I loved this mystery. The writing was clean, the characters were well-developed yet left room for growth. The details/aspects of his life as a monk were so well incorporated that I wanted to say More! More! quite frequently. Looking forward to the next installment.


Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albon


Genre: Memoir
Subject: Death, illness, acceptance
Setting: West Newton, MA
Main Characters: Mitch Albon, Morrie Schwartz
Series: no
Dates Read: April 13 - April 14
Number of pages: 127
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Lunch

Haven't had a book move me to tears in a long time, this one did.

This small little book is a marvelous testament to the human spirit. Here was a man, a philosophy professor, who was literally dying inch by inch in his body and yet his spirit was indomitable. As his life was shrinking away from ALS, Morrie spent his time explaining to his former student what was important in life and what wasn't. His teaching was spiritual yet realistic. Love, according to Morrie, was the most significant act and forgiveness of self - well, according to him " for all the mistakes you've made, for all the things you did you shouldn't have, for all the things you should have done, don't get stuck on your regrets."

The lesson he was teaching is one that is hard to learn, but definitely worthwhile to hear.

"The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his home by a window in his study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink flowers. The class met on Tuesdays, no books were required. The subject was the meaning of life. It was taught from experience. The teaching goes on."

I don't usually read books like this but I'm definitely glad I read this one. I learned a few important items.


Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Genre: Fiction
Subject: philosophy
Setting: Paris France
Main Characters: Renée Michel, Paloma Josse, Kakuro Ozu
Series: no
Dates Read: April 8 - April 12
Number of pages: 325
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: Audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Foreign Languages

7 Rue Grenelle, an exclusive address in 'bourgeois' Paris is the home to two totally different yet similar characters. Renée Michel is the concierge who has lived at the address where she works for much of her life and Paloma Josse, a highly intelligent 12 year-old, who has decided to commit suicide when she turns 13 because she sees only that adults are forced to compromises, renouncing their ideals, and betraying the principles of their youth.

Renée lives a life of fear - the typical French Concierge is expected to be uninteresting and spend their time watching television - Renée is the opposite, a highly intelligent, well-read bibliophile who is interested in philosophy. Then another tenant dies and Kakuro Ozu moves in. Both Renée and Paloma befriend the newcomer and here is where the intergenerational communications on philosophy expand.

Without words they both appear to realize that each is hiding in their own way - Renée is hiding her true intellect pretending to be what is expected of a concierge and Paloma is hiding her intelliectual abilities at school so that she can fit in.

***SPOILER***Renée eventually shows Paloma that life is worth living because of the beauty that can be found in numerous different areas. Her tragic death at this point does prevent Paloma from going along with her suicide plans.

Normally I don't like the change of viewpoint so frequently, but in this book it did work. The characters seemed to be stereotypes rather than well-rounded personalities all in all. That said, I really didn't like this book. Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the characters, maybe the philosophies, maybe it was translation. I really don't know.

Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee


Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Setting: London, England Buckingham Palace
Main Characters: Mary Quinn, James Easton, Queen Victoria, Prince Edward,Lady Dalrymple, Amy Tramer, Octavius Jones
Series: yes, #3 The Agency series
Dates Read:  April 7 - April 11
Number of pages: 380
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?:  yes, Netgalley Stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge:  English Lit

Mary Quinn, in the third Agency mystery by Y.S.Lee, has grown and matured to the point where she is set in as a domestic at Buckingham Palace to find a petty thief. What she finds because of her position, is romance and friendship from an unexpected source.  Her abilities to uncover items that others wouldn't have found, give her an advantage which definitely is essential for the climax in the book.

The series is fun and engaging.  The characters, especially in this book,  are extremely entertaining and heartrending all at the same time.  What will happen in the future, we will have to wait to see but at least we know that the Agency will be there to back Mary if that's what she wants.

Love the series, want more!


Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Setting: London, England
Main Characters: Mary Quinn, James Easton, Mr. Harkness
Series: yes, #2 The Agency series
Dates Read: April 1 - April 7
Number of pages: 337
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, NOOK Stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Class schedule, English Lit

In the second installment of the Agency Mary Quinn is disguised as a young boy and working at the construction site of Big Ben. Bricklayer Wick has been found at the base of the clock tower and investigation by the police has not turned up any indication of what happened, so the Agency has been hired to find out.

A special safety inspector has been hired to determine what needs to be done to get the site back on track, and Mary may be compromised because the inspector is none other than an old acquaintance James Easton. Will he see through her disguise? If so, will he give her away?

The action in the book is pleasantly spread along with the personal dilemma for Mary. This series seems to be perfectly designed for young adults with hidden agendas of moral quandaries.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Genre: Fantasy
Subject: government control, manipulation
Setting: Panem
Main Characters: Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne, Cinna, Haymitch Abernathy
Series: yes, #1 Hunger Games
Dates Read: April 5 - April 6
Number of pages: 485
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Speech class

There have been so many reviews telling the plot/story of the Hunger Games, I'll forego that and just give my impressions.

I was reluctant to read this book because there seem to be so much hype that I couldn't believe that it could live up to it. So when I "read" this book I was extremely surprised. The story is told in the first person character of Katniss Everdeen. I listened to an audio version narrated by Carolyn McCormick and felt that I was really experiencing the events through her eyes. I felt the horror of hearing her little sister's name called, the disgust at the behavior of Haymitch Abernathy, but most of all I really felt her aloneness when she was fighting for her life.

The writing was superb, the characters well-defined, story engaging - all in all, a truly excellent book, IMO. Glad I've got the next one already in my hot little hands because I loved this one!


Lord Sunday by Garth Nix

Genre: Fantasy
Setting: the House, Imcomparable Gardens
Main Characters: Arthur Penhaligan, Suzie Turquoise Blue, Lord Sunday
Series: yes, #7 Keys to the Kingdom
Dates Read: April 3 - April 4
Number of pages: 320
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Audio Stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Leftover

Arthur Penhaligan is nearing the end of his quest. He has conquered all the immortal trustees except for Lord Sunday and has in his possession the first six keys to the kingdom. Arthur is still struggling with his transformation from human to denizen.

The story which completes the adventures of Lord Arthur, the rightful heir of the Architect, has numerous twists and turns not just for Arthur but his friends as well.

The interesting conclusion definitely brings the finale of the series to an unexpected but satisfactory end. Loved the series.


Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

Genre: Fantasy
Setting: the House
Main Characters: Arthur Penhaligan, Suzie Turquoise Blue, Lady Saturday
Series: yes, #6 Keys to the Kingdom
Dates Read: April 2
Number of pages: 278
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, Audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Math class

Arthur Penhaligan , Rightful Heir of the Architect, has successfully defeated 5 of the immortal Trustees (Monday through Friday). But now he must tackle the two strongest of the Trustees and starting with Superior Saturday, the most powerful Sorceress in the House. Saturday is attempting to destroy the Lower House while reaching for the Incomparable Gardens above the Upper House occupied by Lord Sunday.

As Arthur prepares for his next adventure, he realizes that Superior Saturday's actions are threatening his home on Earth and he has to stop time there to prevent a nuclear attack. Every time Arthur uses his magical powers from the Keys he has in his possession, he gets closer and closer to losing his humanity and turning into a Denizen. He struggles with this loss of identity, trying to do what is needed but trying to maintain his personality and humanity as well.

While searching for the 6th part of the Will, Arthur makes use of the special talents of the rats who can travel between realms easily, after determining where the Will is, he proceeds on his quest. Arthur must succeed before Saturday destroys the House and therefore the secondary Realms which include Earth.

This book was my least favorite of the series in that there was little originality to the story. Garth Nix seems to be patterning the books on the Seven Deadly sins and this book would have Saturday being the sin of Lust. A bit of a stretch with his "yearning" to reach the Incomparable Gardens and Sunday's position of power. It seems that if Saturday was the most powerful Sorceress, we would have had a great deal more action and struggles than what appeared here.

Still a fun read and a decent prelude to the finish.