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Riva's Reads

I read just about anything with words - especially cozy mysteries and urban fantasy.

Currently reading

Kitty Rocks the House (Kitty Norville, #11)
Carrie Vaughn
Loki’s Wolves
Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr
Beyond Sugar Shock: The 6-Week Plan to Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction & Get Slimmer, Sexier & Sweeter
Connie Bennett
Ghosts of 42nd Street
Anthony Bianco
Kevin Hearne

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder - Daniel Stashower This book is a fascinating look at Edgar Allen Poe, the New York City of the 1840's, and the still unsolved murder of the "beautiful cigar girl", Mary Rogers. Stashower has written a very readable book, similar in style to Erik Larson (Thunderstruck and The Devil in the White City). He uses the murder of Mary Rogers to explore New York and gives the reader a feel for the era while examining how murders were investigated in that time. Poe was familiar with the case, and wrote one of his stories ("The Mystery of Marie Roget") in an attempt to solve the mystery. His character, C. Auguste Dupin from "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", examined a "coincidentally similar" case in Paris. Stashower paints a fairly sympathetic portrait of Poe, and points out that Poe's Dupin was the inspiration for many later detectives - including Sherlock Holmes. In reading this book, I realized just how lacking my knowledge of Poe was. I need to read more Poe.

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, Book 3)

Kitty Takes a Holiday - Carrie Vaughn I picked this up for a bit of fluff. I remembered the first two in this series as funny and light hearted. This installment was much darker but still quite good. There was more character development in this story and we learn much about the history of Ben and Cormac.

Every Inch a King

Every Inch a King - Harry Turtledove Not the usual Turtledove. It wasn't bad, just not what I was expecting - and not as funny as it could have been.

The Immortals

The Immortals - Tamora Pierce This is an omnibus edition of the middle quartet of the Tortall series. You don't have to have read the first quartet to understand this one however. It stands quite well on its own. Our heroine is a young girl who has Wild Magic and can talk to most of the animals in her land. The Immortals of the title are beings that were forced from the land by the human mages. This series tells the story of the Immortals' fight to come back to Tortall and the humans fight to keep them out. This is a young adult series, but is great fun for adults as well. Pierce is great at world building and describes everything so the reader can see exactly what she's talking about. Her characters are well-drawn and grow throughout the series - something sometimes lacking from YA material. This series would be especially good for young girls, peopled as it is with a great number of strong female characters.

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, Book 1)

Furies of Calderon - Jim Butcher An interesting foray into fantasy by the author of the Dresden Files. Like the better known series, this book is a little dark, but it's not totally, unremittingly dark. I'm quite impressed with the power structure depicted in the book - it's elemental magic, but with an interesting twist. Though it's the first volume of a six volume series, this story can be read as a stand-alone with a satisfying ending.

Ship of Destiny (The Liveship Traders, Book 3)

Ship of Destiny - Robin Hobb I really like the way Hobb builds worlds and sure hope she revisits this one soon. She tied up all the loose ends, so I don't feel like I'm missing anything, but I like these characters and this world, and would love to see how things work out down the road.

The Fairy Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, Book 1) (Bk. 1)

The Fairy-Tale Detectives  - Michael Buckley, Peter Ferguson I really like this book. It's entertaining without talking down to the kids. Sabrina (the older sister) is a little grating - but, after all, she IS eleven (almost twelve).

The Unusual Suspects (The Sisters Grimm, Book 2) (Bk. 2)

The Unusual Suspects - Michael Buckley, Peter Ferguson Warning!! Don't start this book unless you have Book 3 close by. The last three words in Book 2 are: "to be continued". Don't worry, the mystery in Book 2 (who's killing the teachers??) is solved, but Sabrina jumps into a new adventure immediately and gets into a jam right off the bat. This series continues to enthrall me.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak I finished reading this book a few days ago, but had to think a bit about what to include in this review. I want to say it’s a lovely book, but that seems a little weird when describing a book about World War II and the Holocaust. But, it’s true. This is a lovely book about a horrible time in human history. Everyone should read this book. The beauty of the language contrasts with the ugliness of the history and brings both into sharp focus. At the very least, everyone should read Max Vandenburg’s story “The Word Shaker”. It just might wake some people up. All in all, this is a truly touching book. I highly recommend it to everyone.

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition

American Gods - Neil Gaiman I really enjoyed this book. It grabbed me from the beginning and just didn't let go. I connected with Shadow right from the start. I need to do some research on the mythology of other cultures to see where all the gods fit in.

The Historian

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova I really liked this book. Lovely language - the author paints beautiful word pictures. I liked the characters very much and really cared what happened to them. So much so that I wasn't totally happy with the ending. But, it fit with the story so it wasn't totally disappointing.

The Whims of Creation

The Whims of Creation - Simon Hawke This book is just OK. It's about a "generation ship" on a colonization mission. Life is good, but people are committing suicide. At the same time, other folks are reporting sightings of strange, mythical creatures, and some of the children are getting caught up in a "rogue" virtual reality game. It's an interesting attempt at blending sci-fi and fantasy, but doesn't quite pull it off. The book isn't offensive, just meh.

Stealing Home (Sweet Magnolias, Book 1)

Stealing Home - Sherryl Woods I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Good, strong female characters quite willing to stand on their own if needed. And, there weren't many instances where I shouted at the character "Just tell him/her!!" So many romance novels turn on the fact that the characters won't TALK to each other.


Thunderstruck - Erik Larson I really enjoyed this book. Larson has a conversational style, and makes history interesting. I like the way he combines a monumental event with a darker one to show all sides of an era. I also like the fact that he doesn't use footnotes (so the story flows well), but does include extensive notes and bibliographic data at the end of the book.

Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse

Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse - Mim Eichler Rivas This book tells the story of a little horse that helped launch the humane treatment of animals movement by showing what is possible using kindness in training/teaching methods. His owner, Dr. William Key, taught Beautiful Jim to recognize letters, numbers, and words and respond to questions by spelling his answers. Unlike Clever Hans, who was proved to be getting cues from his handler and could only perform when his handler was close by, Jim really seemed to have learned his letters. He could, and frequently would, answer questions put to him by his audience while his owner wasn't anywhere close around. I really wish there were records that could be studied by scientists today to see what was going on. Anyone who enjoyed Seabiscuit: An American Legend or Black Beauty will enjoy this book. It's a wonderful look back at an amazing animal and an amazing time in history.

Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille

Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille - Steven Brust Meh. I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it. Maybe, because of the title, I expected more comedy - kind of like 'Lady Slings the Booze' by Spider Robinson. The ending felt a little rushed and a little flat. Not horrible, just not particularly good.