Blogging for review of many books....!!

Sookie Stackhouse Boxed Set (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood) (Mass Market Paperback)


By CLG "Carrie Greenwald" (South Dakota) Great Escapism..., November 25, 2008

First off - if you are interested in the True Blood series on HBO - get these books and get this set. I was STRONGLY recommended to read these books after talking about the show by a friend who read them when they first came out. So I did...purchased one at a time. Boy do I wish I would have bought the set right off and then get the additional books later for I would have saved a bit of money and had a great way to keep all the books together and in great shape. Nevertheless, the books and show ARE different and yet both are worthy of reading/watching if you are into this genre of books. I have enjoyed both for various reasons, but for the books, I truly enjoy the narrative of Sookie through all her trials and tribulations of interacting with "special" characters. This is not a wannabe Anita Blake type of series, but very unique, exciting and often lighthearted...definitely not as dark! Harris has written these books in such a way to really draw one into them, sometimes even identifying with human emotions that is sometimes unexpected. Now I have all the paperbacks, without the boxed set container (sad), and am awaiting the next book in the series.

Plus I will continue to watch the show, knowing on what it is based and that I should not expect the same thing as I read in the books...yet knowing the same "flavor" will be retained. That makes for good reading and for good TV/movie adaptation.

By blueladyjames (Silver Spring, MD United States)
Books versus HBO...., November 11, 2008

The Sookie Stackhouse novels are a lot of fun. Her characters are all good and I look forward to each new book in the series. The HBO series started out fine. Then it quickly headed not only for left field but took a flying leap right out of the stadium. By the end of the first episode I had a feeling things were going to diverge radically from the books. At this point I have just decided to enjoy the HBO series for what it is, which at this point has so much left out and other things spliced in, that the books have no relevance. So buy the books and enjoy them and the wonderful characters that exist there. The HBO thing is interesting, but it could have made much better use of the existing plots and characters.

Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta) (Hardcover)


Product Description
From America’s #1 bestselling crime writers comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel.

Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.

The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murdered—and more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?

In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the city—an odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.

Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.

About the Author
Patricia Cornwell’s most recent bestsellers include Book of the Dead, The Front, and Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. Her earlier works include Postmortem—the only novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards and the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure in a single year—and Cruel and Unusual, which won Britain’s prestigious Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 1993. Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself won the 1999 Sherlock Award for the best detective created by an American author.

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Hardcover)


Review
“What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham’s vividly-told story of our seventh president. The rip-roaring two-fisted man of the people, duelist, passionate lover, gambler and war hero, was also a prime creator of the presidency as the fulcrum of executive power to defend democracy…Meacham argues that Jackson should be in the pantheon with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln for this and for his role in preserving the Union and rescuing democracy from elitism. He makes the historian’s case with wit and scholarship but Meacham also has the novelist’s art of enthralling the general reader much as David McCullough did for the lesser figure of John Adams. Reading “American Lion” one is no longer able to look on the gaunt, craggy face on the $20 bill without hearing the tumult of America in the making.”
--Tina Brown


“Jon Meacham's splendid new book on Andrew Jackson shrewdly places presidential politics in the context of Jackson's family life -- and vice versa. With an abundance of gripping stories, and with admirable fairness, Meacham offers a fresh portrait of one of the most controversial and consequential men ever to occupy the White House.”
--Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln


"Every so often a terrific biography comes along that shines a new light on a familiar figure in American history. So it was with David McCullough and John Adams, so it was with Walter Isaacson and Benjamin Franklin, so it is with Jon Meacham and Andrew Jackson. A master storyteller, Meacham interweaves the lives of Jackson and the members of his inner circle to create a highly original book."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln


“In magnificent prose, enriched by the author’s discovery of new research materials, Jon Meacham has written an engrossing and original study of the life of Andrew Jackson. He provides new insights into Jackson’s emotional and intellectual character and personality, and describes life in the White House in a unique and compelling way. Scrupulously researched and vividly written, this book is certain to attract a large and diverse reading public.”
--Robert V. Remini, National Book Award-winning historian and biographer of Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster


"Finally, a book that explains our nation's most enigmatic hero, a man who was revered and reviled and little understood. Jon Meacham brilliantly takes us inside the family circle that sustained Andrew Jackson's presidency and provided his steadiness of faith. It's a vivid, fascinating human drama, and Meacham shows how the personal was interwoven with the political. Jackson presided over the birth of modern politics, and this book's brew of patriotism and religion and populism tastes very familiar. In helping us understand Jackson, Meacham helps us understand America."
--Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life


"American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies. With narrative energy, flash and devotion to larger issues that are truly Jacksonian, Jon Meacham reveals Old Hickory's complicated inner life and recreates the excitement of living in Jackson's Washington. Most of all, Meacham's important book shows us how the old hero transformed both the American Presidency and the nation he led."
–Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989


"An admiring, vividly composed portrait, full of colorful anecdotes and sentimental personal detail. Andrew Jackson's presidency remains controversial; but even those who, like myself, prefer John Quincy Adams's statesmanship to that of Old Hickory will find themselves engaged by Jon Meacham's skillful narrative."
--Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History 2008

By Sally Reed "a Texas Blue bonnet" (West Texas)
My Husband was right again!, November 11, 2008

I started this book with trepidation as I am not a big nonfiction reader, I love thrillers and mysteries, but my husband said I had to read this new Andrew Jackson book that he had some how wrangled an advance copy. I have to grudgingly admit that he was right, this book was as much a page turner as the recent Patterson. Even more so because this stuff actually happened! Also my enjoyment of the book was probably enhanced given the current political season. One of the things that struck me was how thier are so many who complain today about the rancor in politics, and what happened to bipartisanship? After reading this book I realize political discourse was a lot more wild in the past, much more wild than anything we could imagine today. There was a time when it was not uncommon for two political rivals to settle their differences with a duel.

This is the story of the life and times of the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson. I have to admit I did not know much about the man prior to reading the book, but his life makes for a fascinating read. His life was an adventure full of drama. A real man of the people I found myself identifying with him in spite of his serious faults. This book made me see how his individualist outlook is still with us today and traces back in part to Jackson. Pull a twenty dollar bill out of your pocket and this is the man and his times "American Lion" is about. Hopefully, young people will read this book and get a better idea about the roots of our great country. So I have to give my husband credit for recommending my two favorite reads of 2008 Across the High Lonesomeand "American Lion."

Outliers: The Story of Success (Hardcover)


Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari Malcolm

By Nick Tasler (Minneapolis, MN)
4 stars for fun, but 2 stars for originality, November 21, 2008

Gladwell has done it again...sort of. I would have categorized this book as a 4 or 5 star read like his previous two installments--Blink and The Tipping Point, except he lost a few originality points this time around.

Gladwell's knack for making a reader say "huh, interesting..." is something for other writers to marvel at. I'm convinced that he could pen a book called "Green: It's the color of grass," and he would write it in such a way that would inspire most of us to say "huh...who knew?!?"

But in the case of Outliers the "huh..." factor has little to do with the ideas found in the book, and are almost exclusively the result of Gladwell's keen sense of how to make the ordinary and mundane sound exciting and new. This is especially true in the two chapters devoted to debunking the myth that intelligence is the key to success. Unfortunately, Dan Goleman beat him to the punch way back in 1995 with his book "Emotional Intelligence: Why it matters more than IQ." With a quick sleight of hand, Gladwell cites Robert Sternberg's label of "practical intelligence," instead of calling it emotional intelligence. But let's be honest, here, the only difference is Goleman says "tem-ay-toe," and Gladwell says "tem-ah-toe."

The other flaw is that nothing in it is terribly useful for practical application. It's no secret to anyone in the business of hiring that most selection techniques are abysmal predictors of on-the-job success. What we are left with as a takeaway from Outliers is that factors of chance like the ability to practice a skill for 10,000 hours--mostly during childhood--is the key to predicting future success. Get your kids started today...as long as you know when the next Industrial Revolution or Internet Age is going to occur. Aside from emotional intelligence (aka "practical intelligence") most of these are factors that we just can't do much about. Unfortunately, we already knew that.

Alas, however, Malcolm Gladwell is a professional writer, and not a professional researcher. If readers keep that in mind, they won't be too disappointed by the methods or originality of the research. His job is to weave together an interesting story, which is something Gladwell does exceedingly well. If all you want is some good entertainment and fodder for cocktail party discussions, Outliers might make a nice addition to your bookshelves.

By Preston Barrett
An interesting look at what gets success, November 18, 2008

In this wide-ranging third installment of Malcolm Gladwell's exploration of how people and social phenomena work, the New Yorker journalist takes a close look at what constitutes high levels of success. That is, what makes people at the top of their respective fields get there? As we've come to expect from Gladwell's previous books, the answer to the question is a bit complicated.

He says that upbringing, culture and even random luck have something to with success, but there is another important quality that anyone can control. Two chapters are dedicated to the "revelation" that IQ is only a baseline quality and success has little to nothing to do with having a high IQ or a low IQ. Rather, success is substantially a product of cultivating a high degree of what Robert Sternberg calls "practical intelligence" or what most refer to as "emotional intelligence."

Gladwell uses the example of Nobel laureates coming from unknown schools as often as ivy league schools. At this level of mastery IQ is no longer a factor. Success has little to do with where you were educated and everything to do with your level of practical/emotional intelligence and willingness to put in the 10,000 hours of practice required to reach mastery of your field.

All in all, it's an interesting read that isn't too heady and goes by pretty quickly, as the interesting anecdotes are what you would expect from Gladwell.

Another book on the topic that I strongly recommend because it has been really helpful to me in actually applying what Gladwell teaches in my own life (for my own success!) is The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition (Hardcover)


Amazon.com Review
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition
In December 2007, J.K. Rowling unveiled The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a very special book of five fairy tales illustrated by the bard herself, embellished with silver ornaments and mounted moonstones. Amazon was fortunate to come into possession of one of the original copies, and it was our privilege to share images and reviews of this incredible artifact. Now J.K. Rowling is giving millions of Harry Potter fans worldwide cause for celebration with a new edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, available December 4, 2008.

Offering the trademark wit and imagination familiar to Rowling's legions of readers--as well as Aesop's wisdom and the occasional darkness of the Brothers Grimm--each of these five tales reveals a lesson befitting children and parents alike: the strength gained with a trusted friendship, the redemptive power of love, and the true magic that exists in the hearts of all of us. Rowling's new introduction also comments on the personal lessons she has taken from the Tales, noting that the characters in Beedle's collection "take their fates into their own hands, rather than taking a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe," and "that magic causes as much trouble as it cures."

But the true jewel of this new edition is the enlightening and comprehensive commentary (including extensive footnotes!) by Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who brings his unique wizard's-eye perspective to the collection. Discovered "among the many papers which Dumbledore left in his will to the Hogwarts Archives," the venerable wizard's ruminations on the Tales allow today's readers to place them in the context of 16th century Muggle society, even allowing that "Beedle was somewhat out of step with his times in preaching a message of brotherly love for Muggles" during the era of witch hunts that would eventually drive the wizarding community into self-imposed exile. In fact, versions of the same stories told in wizarding households would shock many for their uncharitable treatment of their Muggle characters.

Professor Dumbledore also includes fascinating historical backstory, including tidbits such as the history and pursuit of magic wands, a brief comment on the Dark Arts and its practitioners, and the struggles with censorship that eventually led "a certain Beatrix Bloxam" to cleanse the Tales of "much of the darker themes that she found distasteful," forever altering the meaning of the stories for their Muggle audience. Dumbledore also allows us a glimpse of his personal relationship to the Tales, remarking that it was through "Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump" that "many of us [wizards] first discovered that magic could not bring back the dead."

Both a wise and delightful addition to the Harry Potter canon, this new translation of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is all that fans could hope for and more--and an essential volume for the libraries of Muggles, wizards, and witches, both young and old.

By A. Writer O. Sorts "A. Reader II" (Oregon, U.S.A.)
My only complaint: I wanted more, December 5, 2008

If you love the Harry Potter series, then this is a must-have. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and I devoured it right away. And that's my only complaint: it's brevity. It's a short, quick read. But a fun one.
And it's not simply a handful of fairy tales from the wizarding world. The commentary by Albus Dumbledore on each story was a really nice touch, in some cases even more entertaining to me than the stories themselves.
If you were expecting a thick book that would absorb you for hours as the Harry Potter series did, I hope you're not disappointed in this book's brevity. It's still worth the price if you enjoy the series, and it supports a charitable cause.
If you've never read the Harry Potter books (or seen the movies, I suppose) then do NOT consider this a sample of the series. You will not glean any sense of the depth, quality and, as everyone else calls it, the magic of the Harry Potter world. This book is a tasty dessert to those who've feasted on the seven-course series.

By Laura "Bookworm" (New York USA)
The Incomparable Tales of Beedle the Bard, December 4, 2008

Everything written with the pen of JK Rowling seems to be magical, and this volume is no exception. The very genesis of this book is so special: the tales in it, we are told, were left to Hogwarts by the great Professor Dumbledore. The style and sentiment of these five little fables will come as no surprise to anyone who is a Harry Potter fan -- in fact one of them should already be well known to all. "The Tale of the Three Brothers" was first told in Book 7 of the Harry Potter series. It is such a simple yet strong tale with such a forceful message (much like all of JK Rowling's tales) of the difficulty of making hard choices and being the master of one's own fate. I have read this fable to my sons who are still pondering its message.

No one less than Hermione Granger serves as the translator of these works, and Ms. Rowling has included with the text Dumbledore's commentary and some wonderful illustrations of her own. The simplicity of the tales only underscores the wonderful messages they bear in terms that are not at all preachy. In many ways, the stories remind me of many standard fairy tales, such as those written by Aesop or the Brothers Grimm, but in a context much more likely to appeal to young children as well as the magic lovers among us. It has always amazed me that anyone could find anything in Rowling's work that is somehow not wholesome. Her messages as always are clear, simple, direct and as important life lessons as children will ever learn: the use and abuse of power; the benefit of working together; being able to recognize and value what is special in each of us; the dangers of working with the dark arts (i.e., the abuse of power). It is no wonder that her work is so loved and so enduring. I will treasure this volume as I have treasured all of the Harry Potter books. Only one of the fables is a bit too dark for me (The Warlock's Hairy Heart); I'm not sure I will read it to my kids as it is a bit gruesome.

I have not yet received the Collector's Edition that I pre-ordered. I know that there is much speculation that this edition may have been over-subscribed. My order information indicates that I should receive it December 8th. I certainly hope I do, but if not, I notice that it is already for sale on ebay, and most sellers are not seeking to gouge people too badly. The real disappointment in ordering it on ebay would be losing out on the chance to make a contribution to Ms. Rowling's wonderful charity, The Children's Voice Campaign. But I think I might just make a separate contribution, as a small return for the many wonderful hours of reading and reflection she has given me!