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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Caught Up

I have caught up with my reviews. Yes!

I have several non-fiction books in progress and am still trying to formulate my reading plan for next year. Fiction will still probably be the largest part of it with healthy doses of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. It is the nonfiction that I'm contemplating right now and with the goal of pursuing some interests with more organization than previously.

Lately, I've had a run of very poor mystery choices, but I will continue to pursue new authors to accompany my old favorites: Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson, Carol O'Connell's Mallory novels, Deborah Crombie, Jacqueline Winspear, James Lee Burke (haven't read one of his in a long time), Jan Burke, Laurie King, Colin Dexter, Minnette Walters, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, P.J. Tracy, and Charles Todd.

New discoveries this year have been Tana French and Robert Barnard. Winners, both!

Oh, yeah, the nonfiction...I've ordered several books about yoga and checked out some at the library. The goal is to study this a little more thoroughly--adding the intellect to the physical.

Biographies -- there was some serious slacking in this category in 2008 which definitely needs to be remedied. I think I'll look for a biography of Richard Feynman first.

Because I enjoyed The Terror, a novel about the real Franklin Expedition, I'm going to look for nonfiction on the subjects of Arctic exploration and the search for the Northwest Passage widening perhaps to other adventurous exploration. I've no problem with mixing fiction with the nonfiction, either, as fiction often leads to other digressive topics. :)

Stefanie at So Many Books (who instigated my reading of The Terror) mentioned that she might order the Nova documentary about the Franklin Expedition. I put it in my que yesterday. :) Another "reading itenerary" in the works!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Mephisto Club

Gerritsen, Tess. The Mephisto Club.

I reviewed The Keepsake, Tess Gerritsen's latest novel, the other day and you may remember that I enjoyed it.

Wouldn't you think that another one would be appealing? Maybe it would have been if I'd read it first, but it was the same formulaic plot. It was, however, the book preceding The Keepsake, so I guess The Keepsake was following the formula, which is--

a) a serial killer
b) several bizarre murders
c) a little supernatural
d) a beautiful young woman of 26 being stalked by the killer
e) the same detectives and medical examiner

There is a resemblance to the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, but a hurried and more formulaic version.

Also, it would be best to dump the bits about Jane Rizzolo's parents and Father Daniel Brophy, the lusty priest.

So maybe it is time for me to give the mysteries a rest.

Fiction. Mystery/Supernatural/Suspense. 2007. 448 pages.

On Account of Conspicuous

Shamp, Dawn. On Account of Conspicuous Women.

I was all over the place about this book. Loved the title, loved the cover. Read the first chapter and put it down, fully expecting never to pick it up again. Ran out of books, began again. Persisted, and found myself liking the characters after several chapters. Read rapidly and happily until the end, which was disappointingly bland.

The language is full of wonderful idiomatic speech, but so overdone (especially in the beginning) as to become annoying.

For: eventually, some interesting characters; the author has an ear for language; great title; interesting time period; good small town and historic detail; great cover. :)

Against: takes too long to get to the meat of either the characters or the plot; the language is forced--too many too clever sayings, idioms, dialect, and phrases; plots of the different characters never seemed to coalesce in a satisfactory manner; conclusion disappointing and predictable in a bad way.

Bertie completely turned me off in the first chapter, but later, I came to like her a great deal. Actually this was true of Ina, as well, although I kind of liked Doodle and Guerine from the beginning. All of the stories and characterizations kind of dissipated toward the end, though. And the turkey thing should most definitely have been omitted.

Maybe a good editor would have helped produce a better novel. On the other hand, there were parts of the book that I really enjoyed.

Fiction. 2008. 304 pages.

The Keepsake

Gerritsen, Tess. The Keepsake.

A suspenseful tale involving archeology, museums, a stalker, a medical examiner, and a couple of detectives.

A very fast-paced thriller that involves a spooky serial killer stalking a beautiful young woman. Maura Isles, a well-known medical examiner, has been invited to be present at an X-ray scan of an Egyptian mummy recently discovered in a private museum. The body, although mummified, is not that of the ancient Egyptian called "Madame X," but that of a much more contemporary young woman.

This discovery unnerves young archeologist Josephine Pulcillo, recently hired by the museum. Then more bizarre discoveries are made, including one found in the trunk of Josephine's car.

It is suspense thriller lite--a fast, entertaining read. The characters are not especially well-developed and the plot is pretty fantastic and in many ways cliched; nevertheless, I enjoyed the novel.

Fiction. Suspense/mystery. 2008. 368 pages.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Barnard, Robert. Last Post.

After the death of Eve McNabb's mother, a letter arrives from someone unaware of May McNabb's death. Puzzling statements make Eve aware that regardless of how well she thought she knew her mother, there are many things that she does not know, including much about her father who died when Eve was small.

Eve finds herself curious and begins trying to discover the truth about remarks the mysterious letter writer has made. With only a blurry postmark to go on, Eve begins by attempting to discover the individual who wrothe the letter, and then finds herself seeking other answers involving both her mother and her father. An interesting twist at the end answers her final questions.

This mystery is not the run-of-the-mill mystery in many ways, but was all the better for its unique approach.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 241 pages.

Another Lovely Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

As usual, I'm still behind in reviewing books, but I'm trying now to catch up.

One book that I'm currently reading, The Vigorous Mind, is helping me formulate goals for the coming year. This book was send by TLC Book Tours and my review is scheduled for Jan. 20th. I am finding it fascinating reading and am already trying to activate the process in my life. What reader wouldn't want to become more of a Renaissance mind?

Well, more about that later, I guess; I'll include the steps I'm taking (and considering for the future) after I publish the review. The book will certainly be influencing my reading for the coming year; in fact, it already is! I made a trip to the library today and kept The Vigorous Mind in mind :) when choosing my books. There is also that order from Amazon that I made yesterday.

I also picked up Amy Bloom's Away -- a result of this review at A Life in Books.

One of the best gifts I received this year is a book of photographs of my granddaughter Bryce Eleanor's first year. My daughter made it through Shutterfly, and it is a marvelous photographic unfolding from birth to first birthday!

Looking forward to spending 2009 sharing books with you.

Meltzer, Brad. The Book of Lies.

Add ImageHooey. I kept reading only because of the connection with Jerry Siegel, the originator of Superman; however, nothing much could have saved this book. Silly plot, one-dimensional characters.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 334 pages.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! Thank you all for visiting and for commenting throughout the year. The online community is such a wonderful way to share, and I love the book sharing that goes on. I get so many great titles from reading your blogs and have been educated and entertained as a result. Browsing your blogs is always an important part of my day, like a virtual book club with no rules. Drop in anytime, discuss anything, and have a cuppa' while doing it--pretty marvelous, eh?

Peace and Joy and Good Books to all of you for the coming year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Careless in Red

George, Elizabeth. Careless in Red.

I was all set to give up on Elizabeth George after With No One as Witness. However, enough time has passed that I couldn't resist giving her another try, so I guess I've recovered from the fact that she eliminated Helen.

Fortunately, I enjoyed this latest novel. It may not be the best of George, but it certainly is more up to standard than her two previous works.

Thomas Lynley, grieving intensely from the loss of his wife and unborn child, has gone for a very long walk. When the novel opens, he has been trekking stoically along the rugged coast of Cornwall for 6 weeks. His walk comes to an abrupt end when he discovers the body of a young man, who has fallen from the cliffs in an apparent climbing accident.

Lynley is a witness and a possible, although not likely, suspect when it is determined that the young man's climbing equipment has been tampered with. Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford, however, intends to make as much use of the New Scotland Yard's Lynley as possible. I liked Hannaford's character, especially when Barbara Havers shows up and the two work as an interesting pair.

Many of the other potential suspects are not especially likable; the character of Dellen Kern was a bit over the top, and perhaps her husband should have been committed for staying with her.

Soooo...I found Careless in Red involving, and I had no difficulty hanging in there, but it is certainly not her best.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 640 pages.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Mermaid Chair

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Mermaid Chair.

I really wanted to like this one. Kidd's prose is lovely and there are places that seem to be longing to be read aloud. The plot, however, and the characters seemed too pat. Annoyingly so.

The novel seemed three-dimensional only in the sense of a diorama. (As I wrote that, I remembered that Jessie used the term diorama in an attempt to describe her art). There was apparent depth, but it lacked resonance.

Religious and mythical symbolism is all over the place, and while it is great fun to pick up on symbolism, when the symbolism is spoon-fed over and over, it becomes difficult to swallow.

Was that all that annoyed me? No. The plot itself grated.

[SPOILER] Falling in lust with a monk is one thing, but love at first sight? And a monk? How wonderful that this interlude allowed her to regain her "self" and inspired her art and gave her marriage a new lease on life and somehow leads to an understanding of her mother's penchant for self-mutilation, but only after her self-absorption has kept her from recognizing her mother's increasing desperation resulting in the loss of another digit, and...

Fiction. Romance? 2005. 332 pages.

Water Like a Stone

Crombie, Deborah. Water Like a Stone.

I've always enjoyed the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series, and I enjoyed this one as well. Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Gemma, along with his son Kit and her son Toby, are spending the Christmas holidays with Kincaid's parents in Cheshire.

As usual, however, murder and mystery interfere when Kincaid's sister Juliet discovers the mummified body of a child interred in the wall of an old barn. This is the first of several intertwined complications involving family tensions, manipulation, deceit, and more murders.

The information about narrow boats and the canal systems provide an interesting and informative side note. Of course, atmosphere is always a large part of Crombie's skill in bringing the reader into the story, and this novel fulfills all expectations for narrative and atmosphere, both.

I can't wait for the next one!

Fiction. Mystery. 2007. 407 pages.

Catching Up

I've had a bad cold for the last 6 days, so I've been doing little besides sleeping and reading, reading and sleeping. Coughing, blowing my nose, sneezing, and sniffling. Some whining.

Now I have 4 more reviews to get caught up on! I'm going to get started on these today and see how long my energy lasts.
Olson, Karen E. Secondhand Smoke.

6 words (or less than): Attempts at hard-boiled, foiled.

A beloved Italian restaurant burns down and there is a body inside. Whose? Annie Seymore, investigative reporter is from the neighborhood and on the scene.

I don't know...this one didn't really capture me. Characters seemed a bit cliched, the romance between Annie and Vinnie seemed forced--his lips twitched several times too often.

Fiction. Mystery.2006. 259 pages.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Incomplete Revenge

Winspear, Jacqueline. An Incomplete Revenge.

6 words: A village shares a secret shame.

Now I'm caught up with this series.

Working for James Compton, son of her benefactor, Maisie seeks to discover the origin of some mysterious fires in the village of Heronsdene. The villagers act as if the fires are accidental, but they occur annually in September, and are both deliberate and symbolic.

Winspear seems to be closing out the WWI angle and preparing to introduce increasing concerns about Hitler and Germany. One chapter is closing, and another about to begin.

I did enjoy this book, but found it a bit didactic. The information about the rigid class system of the time seems forced and a little preachy. The same with the prejudice against those who are different (introduced in at least 3 circumstances in this novel). A more subtle approach to these problems would have been better. It didn't have to be spelled out again and again.

One of the positives in this series is that the characters change and grow. They respond to circumstances, to social customs that are in the process of change, to economic pressures, and to the frailties of human nature. Winspear is laying the groundwork for future novels with her references to Germany, various kinds of prejudice, economic depression, and Oswald Mosley.

Her characters have been molded by one war and its aftermath; they will soon be forced to respond to the encroaching shadow of a second war.

Looking forward to the next in this series.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 320 pages.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pardonable Lies

Winspear, Jacqueline. Pardonable Lies.

6 words: Three mysteries for price of one.

As I've said before, I enjoy Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Winspear develops the characters well and allows them to change and grow. In this novel, Maisie has 3 cases: a young girl accused of murder, a father who wants proof that his son died in the war, and a friend who wants to know the circumstances surrounding her brother's death during the war.

Maisie, a nurse during WWI, has suffered emotionally from her war experiences and must confront some of her demons when two of her cases require her to travel to France where she served in a field hospital. In addition to the emotional stress of revisiting the region where she experienced war's horrors, Maisie finds herself at odds with her mentor.

Winspear does an excellent job relating the devastating effects of WWI on the British and, in this novel, the French. Both countries are still, 13 years later, dealing with the suffering and loss inflicted by the war. Winspear also manages to slip a 4th minor mystery that I will leave as a surprise, but that involves the psychic phenomenon that occured during that period.

Fiction. Mystery. 2005. 352 pages.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Works Abandoned, Works in Progress

I have been reading, even if I haven't been blogging about books. I've also been busy over at Bayou Quilts making all kinds of fun and mostly useless things--moving from one project to the next without any kind of plan.

I have tried to read 2 ARCs that purport to be novels for those who love Jane Austen. Wrong. If you've read Jane Austen with all of her wit and sparkle and charm, the characters in The Ladies of Longbourn by Rebecca Ann Collins and Mr. & Mrs. Fizwilliam Darcy by Sharon Latham will be recognizable by name only. I couldn't read very much of either.

I do have an ARC of Jane Austen Ruined My Life that I'm hoping will be much better. It is a contemporary novel about an English professor; I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Just finished a Maisie Dobbs and am in the middle of another one. I've enjoyed the previous Maisie Dobbs mysteries, so it is no surprise that these two please me. Have also finished my first Annie Seymore novel, but it didn't appeal to me as much as I'd hoped. Will review these 3 soon. I hope.

Also in the process of reading Ilium by Dan Simmons, but it isn't speeding along. The beginning with all of the gods, goddesses, and myth hooked me, but the shifting between 3 stories and time periods isn't holding my interest as well as The Terror, which I couldn't bear to put down.

And finally, the biography of Dr. Joe Slowinski, The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge is also in progress. Slowinski was a biologist who discovered many previously unknown and unidentified species of snakes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Simmons, Dan. The Terror. 6 words: Engrossing. Cold. Starvation. Horror. History. Myth. Based on the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845, The Terror is the name of the novel, the name of one of the ships, and a description of the experiences (both real and fictionalized) that the men who embarked on the search for the Northwest Passage endured in their arctic exploration. The ships H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror, captained by Sir John Franklin and Francis Crozier and crewed by 126 men, are caught in an ice pack for two years. Temperatures reach as much as -100; the long Arctic night begins in August; food is dwindling, as is the coal supply, and much of their canned food is contaminated; many of the crew begin showing symptoms scurvy; and if those conditions aren't bad enough, there is a creature stalking and brutally killing the crew. Dan Simmons has created an absolutely riveting novel with incredible historical detail. This is a novel that I will not forget. Thanks again to Stefanie of So Many Books whose review first caught my interest! I wrote a little about the novel here, as well. Nova made a documentary of the expedition. This slide show gives some great background. Click on the small pictures above the slide show to continue through segments 2-5. Dan Simmons has created an absolutely riveting novel with incredible historical detail. This is a novel that I will not forget. Fiction. Historical Fiction. 2007. 766 pages.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Broken Window

Deaver, Jeffrey. The Broken Window.

6 words: Cousin framed; serial killer at large.

Lincoln Rhyme's cousin is arrested for murder and the evidence seems conclusive. Although Lincoln has some unresolved problems with this cousin who used to be his best friend, he agrees to look into the situation.

What he discovers is that not only has Arthur been well-and-truly framed, but that there are a number of other murders in which the evidence seems incontrovertible and the accused are convicted of crimes they did not commit.

The murderer uses sensitive computer information to make sure that an innocent person is convicted, and so he proceeds, two victims at a time. Strategic Systems Datacorp--a huge datamining company--has some of the answers.

The really scary part is that the information-gathering and identity theft portions of the novel are well researched and the possibilities of corruption extend far beyond what I could have imagined.

This novel is absolutely unnerving--not so much the Lincoln Rhymes narrative, but the possibilities. Identity theft has frightened us all, but the sheer volume of information available about each of us and the ways that information can be manipulated is truly chilling.

Deaver lists several Web sites at the end of the novel for readers interested in knowing more about the right to privacy. He also mentions (and quotes from) No Place to Hide by Robert O'Harrow, Jr.

Here is the quote from No Place to Hide that opens The Broken Window:

"Most privacy violations are not going to be caused by the exposure of huge personal secrets but by the publication of many little facts.... As with killer bees, one is an annoyance but a swarm can be deadly."

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 414 pages.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Still Waters

McCrery, Nigel. Still Waters.

6 words: Someone kills old ladies; takes identities.

Although McCrery has written other novels, this one is the beginning of a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie, who suffers from synaesthesia. His condition is so severe that he has been on disability leave and has been called back to work early to head up this case.

What was originally thought by the police to be just a one-off murder appears to be the work of a serial killer...and a woman. Or are the powers that be already aware of the serial aspect?

This was really quite an intriguing novel--with some interesting psychological twists. Warning - I found the Prologue quite disturbing, but that gruesome element is not repeated, although this is never a "cozy."

Fiction. Mystery. 2007. 275 pages.

The Grift

Ginsberg, Debra. The Grift.

6 words: Psychic counselor suddenly gets genuine visions.

I love the cover and the combination of grift (a swindle, a scam) with gift (in this case, psychic ability). Isn't that perfect for a novel about a psychic?

The book itself, however, I found disappointing. Marina's attitude toward her "clients" (well, even the clients themselves) became a source of irritation. The plot didn't hold together for me either. Started quite well, but I couldn't muster much concern for any of the characters, and by the time Marina actually develops a psychic ability...well, not even "seeing things" can move the novel out of anticlimactic mode.

Fiction. 2008. 329 pages.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Recycle, Review

Student Hacks gives 10 ways to recycle old books and links to the instructions. My favorites are the secret hiding place in a hollowed out book and the floating book shelf.

I have 3 books to review, but can't drag myself away from the current read. I'm close to finishing The Terror by Dan Simmons. Thanks to Stefanie of So Many Books whose review instigated my choosing this one on my last trip to the library. I already had Simmons' Drood on my list when I read Stefanie's review, and now I will be looking for more Dan Simmons. Oh, yeah.

I've learned a great deal from this book including that a Welsh wig is a knitted cap: " By the eighteenth century, the woollen cap worn by the ordinary sailors in the British Navy had changed to the Welsh Wig which was described as a round knitted cap which may have originally been the 'Monmouth cap'." [from The Isca Morrismen]
I've also learned about the horrors of scurvy and that Holland tents were still being used in arctic exploration in 1875, and much more. I've been completely absorbed by it -- alternately entertained, educated, horrified...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


How sad to realize that one of our most active book bloggers is no longer with us. There have been tributes all over the web since Dewey's husband posted about the sudden silence on The Hidden Side of the Leaf.

We all operate within our own little spheres--isolated in fact, but connected in spirit to the rest of the blogging community. Book bloggers enjoy a meeting of minds, minds attuned to a particular topic, and we are often unaware of the real-life circumstances beyond our shared interest in books.

Dewey's presence was largely felt and will be largely missed...

"Birth, life, and death -- each took place on the hidden side of a leaf." Toni Morrison

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Herbert, Frank. Dune.

The classic science fiction tome, Dune is the story of Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto. When the House of Atreides is forced to leave Caladan and relocate on Arrakis, deceit and treachery result in the death of Duke Leto and young Paul and his mother must flee to safety with the desert tribe of Fremen in order to survive. And thereby hangs a tale...

The planet Arrakis (Dune) is a desert planet where water is of the highest priority; many of the details of the planet are fantastic indeed, but somehow Herbert brings it all together in a believable world. There is plenty of political corruption and intrigue, religious fervor, survival skills, myth, and battle strategy to go around.

I liked it and plan to continue the series. Better late than never.

Fiction. Science Fiction. 1965/1998. 517 pages.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Mechanic?

I used Typealyzer to analyze my quilting blog and thought I'd try the book blog as well. Not surprisingly the results were different.

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Huh? Driving race cars? Working as a policeman or firefighter? Enjoying risk? Nope. Not me. I'm a reader. Love to read adventure and action, but not big on taking part in it. I spend too much time reading about it.

Try Typealyzer to check your blog's type.

Love that Science Fiction

I'm really liking Dune by Frank Herbert -- From Library Journal: "Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy" -- and still can't explain why I've waited so long.

Nice to know that there are plenty more in the series AND that I have a review copy of Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson, which links the first two books in the series.

My reading had been slowing down as I've tried to get in more sewing and crafty projects, but I've found myself picking up this novel more frequently than I intended.

I'm almost done with this pillow made from one of Miss Mila's drawings of her dog, Mojo.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Regency Buck

Heyer, Georgette. Regency Buck.

Again romance mixed with a little suspense, but with less wit and humor than in The Reluctant Widow. Judith Taverner and her brother Perry are traveling to London to meet their new guardian, Lord Worth. On the way, Perry learns of a "mill" - a prize fight that all of the fashionable (and unfashionable) men are excited about. As a result of the delay, the young Taverners meet some of the characters who will be involved in their London life.

The match Heyer describes is one of the famous matches between Tom Molineaux and Tom Crib, the British heavyweight champion. Again Heyer exercises her meticulous knowledge of the time period, not only with the descriptions of boxing, but with the fashion and manners of the time period and with the contemporary obsession with snuff - snuff blends, snuff boxes, and snuff "etiquette."

The stage is set with great skill, including characters like the Prince Regent, the Dukes of Cumberland and York, Beau Brummel and places like Brighton and London. Heyer manages to educate us seamlessly while telling her stories which are one part comedies of manners, one part romance, and one part mystery/suspense.

However, I liked this novel more for the historical detail than for the plot or the characters, who are one-dimensional and a bit irritating. I very much missed the wit and humor of The Reluctant Widow.

Fiction. Historical Romance. 1935 & 2008. 392 pages.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Last night I was working on some cuffs, then switched to reading. I didn't have any bookmarks handy, so stuck the cuffs in to mark my place. :) They actually work quite well--love the way the one with the Dorset button looks, almost like a halo on the woman's head. [click to enlarge]
I've finished Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck and need to review it; currently reading the above. As much as I love science fiction, why have I never read Dune before?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cornwell, Patricia. The Book of the Dead.

The book of the dead is the morgue log where Kay Scarpetta enters all the cases that pass through her morgue. Opening with a brutal murder in Rome, then moving to Charleston, South Carolina, Cornwell creates one-dimensional bad guys (Dr. Self is almost funny in her egocentricity) and the "good guys" have so many personal flaws, I wanted to smack each one. Twice.

This is the first time in years that I've bothered with Cornwell. Should have left well enough alone.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 511 pages.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Fredericks, James. Brother.

This was a review copy sent by the author and was a thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful mystery. The characters are engaging and the plot is fast-moving with plenty of twists.

Defense attorney Chase Riordan, a former prosecutor, successfully defends his most recent client, but begins to have some questions about all three of his defense cases. Something about these cases gives him pause, but he isn't certain what has thrown up his inner antenna.

In addition to some questions about his court cases, Chase is concerned about his twin brother, a veteran of Afghanistan, who is in a strange Army mental health facility in an almost comatose state. Chase has never been as close to his twin brother as he is to a select group of friends, but begins to find Jared's situation more and more troubling . The two begin communicating in a sort of code and Chase begins to provide aid secretly.

An exciting legal thriller and an excellent beginning for James Fredericks. There were a few niggling problems, but I had no difficulty setting these aside (couldn't put the book down) and look forward to more novels from this author.

Fiction. Mystery/Suspense/Legal Thriller. 2008. 410 pages.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Two tags to take care of -

A meme and an award from iliana:

things I did before
1. read
2. keep journals
3. take tai chi
4. teach
5. mail art
6. worked in the concession stand of the Dixie Theater, Ruston, LA
7. took several trips to England, Scotland

7 things I do now
1. read
2. keep journals
3. take yoga
4. quilt
5. meditate
6. spend many weekends at our little cabin
7. blog

7 things I want to do
1. spent a month in Scotland
2.make a queen size quilt
3. purge some of the junk I accumulate
4. dye fabric/ make art cloth
5. be more courageous; take risks
6. take a workshop at the John C. Campbell Folk School
7. attend the Houston Quilt Festival

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex
1. humor
2. intelligence
3. kindness
4. shared interests
5. loyalty
6. independent thought
7. nice smile

7 Favorite Foods
1. eggplant
2. banana bread
3. hot sauce & chips
4. pasta
5. tomato-basil soup
6. biscotti
7. white chocolate bread pudding

7 things I Say Most Often
1. Huh? (so sad)
2. Sure
3. Well, damn
4. How about...
5. Love you
6. That book is going on my wish list (of course! thanks for this one, iliana)
7. What now?

next from Janet's Jottings :

Here’s how it goes.Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56.Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following there.Pass this on to five blogging friends.

The closest book to me is one that I've not even read yet, but here is the passage:

"Hitherto she had regarded him as a gentleman of intelligence, amiable, with pleasing manners and a sense of public duty. Her husband had also recognized these qualities and commended him to her, "even though he is a Tory!" But now, he had revealed a far deeper sense of personal concern, a desire to help where he could. She was surprised, but pleasantly so." The Ladies of Longbourn by Rebecca Ann Collins

Tagged for the award and one or both memes (as you please and if you so choose - no obligation) :

Kimy at Mouse Medicine - wonderful quotes and superb photographs
Nancy the Bookfool - who hooks me with her reviews and is another great photographer
Rache at Books I Done Read - whose tart reviews always make me laugh
Wendy the Literary Feline - who causes me to add way too many titles to my list
Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm - where you can find books, quotes, and recipes- mmm

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'm reading Brother by James Frederick. Started it last night and stayed up way too late because I couldn't put it down. Have a couple of others started, but Brother will require finishing before I can get back to them. A legal thriller with lots of tension and suspense!

Not that I don't have enough in my current TBR stack, but here are the most recent additions to my list of books that sound good:

The Annie Seymore series by Karen E. Olsen
The Ursula Marlow series by Claire Langley-Hawthorne
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs (YA)
To Catch the Lightening by Alan Cheuse
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
Drood by Dan Simmons

Simon & Schuster have a weekly podcast.

Stefanie of So Many Books wrote about library elf, but my library isn't listed. Maybe I should let them know about it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Reluctant Widow

Heyer, Georgette. The Reluctant Widow.

I'm glad Georgette Heyer's books have been republished and appreciate Danielle of Sourcebooks, Inc. having sent me several of the new releases.

I enjoyed this Regency romance, which has Elinor Rochdale, prospective governess, taking the wrong coach and answering the wrong advertisement. Instead of finding a post as governess, she finds an employer who wants her to marry his dissolute cousin.

Missing papers, French spies, a hidden door and staircase, lots of Regency detail, and plenty of wry humor. Even the dog has character. A very satisfying and cozy read!

Fiction. Romance, Mystery. 1948, 2008. 316 pages.


Preston, Douglas. Blasphemy.

6 words: cardboard characters, silly plot, bad dialogue

I enjoy the books by Preston and Lincoln Childs, which even though they are quite unbelievable, are entertaining. Preston's solo effort in Blasphemy wasn't very entertaining, although it does read quickly. Not one believable or even really interesting character in the book and a plot that began with some spark became forced, annoying, pretentious.

Fiction. Science fiction? 2008. 416 pages.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November Reading

More books added to the stacks. I've slowed down a bit in my reading and am trying to catch up on sewing, etc., but with the weather getting cooler, curling up with good books sounds just right.
I've already begun The Reluctant Widow -- a little Regency romance mixed with spies and murder. Georgette Heyer in top form!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Support Your Local Library Challenge

I found the link to The 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge over at Marg's. Since I'm a regular at the local library, I think it behooves me to join this challenge.

Here's the Deal (from J. Kaye's Book Blog):

You all know what a supporter of the library my family and I are. What better way to pay homage than by having a reading challenge in 2009? Since we are all different, there will be three sizes of challenges.

** The first is to read 12 books from your local library in 2009.

** The second is to read 25 books from your local library in 2009.

** The third is to read 50 books from your local library in 2009.

You decide which one of the three challenges is best for you.

Here are the guidelines:

1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.

2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.

3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

4) When you sign up under Mr. Linky, list the direct link to your post where your library books will be listed. If you list just your blog’s URL, it will be removed. If you don’t have a blog, leave the URL blank.

6) Our goal is to read 12, 25, or 50 books checkout from our local library in 2009. Please decide which when you sign up and don’t change it.

7) These can be audios, downloads, children’s, YA. As long as it’s a book, format and target age group does not matter.

8) Feel free to post a link to your reviews in the comment section below. That way, we can visit your blog and read your review.

9) If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or email me at Comments usually get a quicker response.

***Update: You do not have to decided on your books ahead of time. You can add or subtract from your list during the year.

I'm going for 50. Shouldn't be too hard, huh? Fingers crossed. Yeah, I know, #5 is AWOL.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Wasted Vigil

Aslam, Nadeem. The Wasted Vigil.

To echo my comments from my in progress post: this book is beautiful and terrible.

Searingly honest, the book spares no country and few individuals, despite their "convictions" or "passionate intensity." (I simply cannot think of the book without thinking of Yeat's poem.)

Afghanistan's history, the Muslim religion, the Russians, the Americans, the Afghans are all brutally illuminated through the stories of Marcus, Qatrina, Zadeem, David, and Lara, who find themselves caught in the web of Afghanistan's culture and history, a web that continues moving out from the center, sticky and deadly.

Beautifully, lyrically written, Aslam describes the delicate colors of the landscape and the horrifying treatment of women, prisoners, enemies, and victims of "collateral damage" by any of the warring factions. He creates a sense of place and beauty in Marcus' home, full of color, culture, perfumed scents, quiet goodness, but never lets you believe that it is a safe haven, even if it does provide sanctuary.

"Easy to imagine, at such an hour, how Qatrina could have filled notebooks with the colours she found in a square foot of nature. An olive grove outside Jalabad--grey, white, green. A mallow blossom--red orange, sulphur, yellow bone, red-wine shadow. The mountains above the house--silver, evasive grey, blue, sapphire water."

The book seems disjointed at times, almost stream-of-consciousness, as the story unfolds in fits and starts, jumping from present to past, gradually revealing and intertwining. Initially disconcerting, the technique proves very effective, and the reader falls into the spiralling events, moving here and there with the characters, the past, the present, thoughts, memories.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that Aslam has written a book that tells of love and hate; healers and murderers; religious zealots and political zealots; courage and gentleness and unbelievable horror...with such clarity, with such even-handedness, with a cool, calm distance that allows the reader to absorb the information without feeling overwhelmed with grief, without succumbing to total desolation. The author does not flinch from the truth and manages to keep the reader with him because of his deft, sensitive touch in presenting this truth.

A remarkable book. I'm very grateful for the review copy I received and will pass this book on. I expect to see it listed for literary prizes and deserves them. Highly recommended; don't miss this one.

Fiction. Historical fiction/ Contemporary fiction. 2008. 320 pages.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wrapped Up in Books

Kimy at Mouse Medicine always has beautiful photos and thoughtful posts. Today her topic is books/reading. Check it out.

I borrowed this video of the song "wrapped up in books" from her post:

In Progress...

I'm reading - slowly, because I've been so busy since returning home - The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam. Each time I pick up this book, I think of this poem by William Butler Yeats:

The Second Coming (Slouching towards Bethlehem)
W.B Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
nd what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

and the lines from his Easter, 1916 -- "a terrible beauty is born."

The book is beautiful and terrible and "the worst are full of passionate conviction."

On a lighter note, some pictures of my book chaos:

Monday, November 03, 2008

How We Choose to Be Happy

Foster, Rick, and Greg Hicks. How We Choose to Be Happy.

I really, really liked this book. Not a psychological treatise or a spiritual discourse, but a list of components that truly happy people have in common. Foster and Hicks's research led them to develop a model that has been adapted by major institutions including the Mayo Clinic, NYU Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the American Heart Association, and Wake Forest University Medical Center.

Although genetics certainly plays a role in an individual's happiness or unhappiness, certain behaviors and thinking patterns were evident in those individuals who were in the genuinely happy category. Those individuals, regardless of family backgrounds, made certain choices that led to their happiness. The authors and the interviewees never say it is easy, nor do they say that life will be perfect, or that we will escape the difficult aspects of life, but they do say that we make choices and that we can choose to be happy.

Again, common sense comes into play, but the way the material is presented is so straight-forward and interesting that I found myself thinking about even familiar terms like "intention" with a new perspective. There isn't much new about the components themselves, but the logic and simplicity can bring clarity to our own choices.

The nine components are discussed in separate chapters and include the stories of many of the individuals interviewed and some ideas to think about concerning your own personal choices. The authors tell you not to expect change overnight--the pursuit of happiness takes work, self-evaluation, and practice, but choosing to put in the work can make your life happier. Not necessarily more successful, not wealthier, but possibly healthier and happier.

Intention - Accountability - Identification - Centrality - Recasting - Options - Appreciation - Giving - Truthfulness -- the components are synergistic, they feed into each other and work together. Very simple. Very difficult.

I read through the book twice and am leaving this copy with Erin, but I'm going to order more copies: one to keep and at least one to give away.

nonfiction. Sociology/Behavioral Science. 199/2004. 228 pages.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Clark, Carol Higgins. Laced.

I finished the four books I brought with me, and was thus reduced to reading this one that Erin picked up at the pharmacy.

6 words: Not even Irish setting saves this.

One more word: simplistic.

Took about 3 hours of mindless reading. woe is me

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 352 pages.

March to the Stars

Weber, David, and John Ringo. March to the Stars.

6 words: Undeveloped characters, predictable and unrealistic plot.

A disappointment, and had I not been here in Baton Rouge and finished all of my others books, I would not have finished reading this one. I love science fiction and Weber is usually a favorite, but not this 'un! In fact, the ending indicates another in the series, but another has not yet been forthcoming, so maybe the authors thought better of it.

Fiction. Science Fiction. 2003. 526 pages.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Still As Death

Taylor, Sarah Stewart. Still as Death.

This is the 4th mystery in the series following Sweeney St. George, the art historian who specializes in funerary art. I read the first not long ago, and the library didn't have the second and third books, so I skipped on to the fourth.

Sweeney has been working toward an exhibition of funerary art for quite some time and the exhibit is about to open. However, when an Egyptian funerary collar that she would like to include is missing, Sweeney begins to become curious about the last person who had studied it, a 1979 robbery of the museum, and the suicide of the young woman interested in the collar.

There is a romantic element as well when Ian tries to persuade Sweeney to return to England and Detective Tim Quinn turns up to head the investigation into current robbery and murder.

Not a bad little mystery, but after the two very dense and thoughtful mysteries by Tanya French (Into the Woods and The Likeness), I should have waited to read a mystery-light.

Fiction. Mystery. 2006. 304 pages.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Snow Blind

Tracy, P.J. Snow Blind.

Snow Blind is the 4th in the Monkeewrench series. When a snowman-building contest features two frozen bodies packed in snow, Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves in a new investigation. Then a third "snowman" turns up in Dundas County on Iris Rikker's first day on the job as sheriff.

Leo and Gino must work with the Dundas County team to find the murderer, but even in the midst of the case, there are some strange doings involving an abused wife and the Bitterroot Complex.

I liked the introduction of Iris Rikker and her deputy, and don't mind the computer geniuses at Monkeewrench taking a less active role in this novel. The concluding chapters raise some issues about justice that I personally take to heart as a result of an incident several years ago concerning the abusive husband of a friend's daughter. It was a real tragedy that broke many hearts. moral sense and my sense of justice are called into consideration -- what I think and what I feel are in conflict. The characters in the novel face the same dilemma.

Fiction. Mystery. 2006. 320 pages.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Drove down to Baton Rouge yesterday because Erin was having a tonsillectomy this morning. We were at the surgery center by 6:30 for all of the paper work and pre-op stuff. They took her in around 8:00, and things went well. Home by about noon. This is not an easy surgery for an adult, but Erin is hanging in there -- thanks to hydracodone.

I brought several books for me and for Erin (+ embroidery stuff to play with). Right now I'm reading P.J. Tracy's Snow Blind and How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks.

Maybe some of you read about the happiest places to live and saw this list of the 15 happiest countries and an explanation of why Denmark tops the list. I had a friend who lived in Copenhagen several years ago, and she was fascinated by the Danes and commented that they didn't seem melancholy at all. Take that Hamlet! Evidently she was right since Denmark has the highest rating of life satisfaction in the study.

Maybe because I minored in sociology and psychology years ago, human behavior and its causes always fascinates me, and I love reading about some of the factors that contribute to a person's sense of well-being.

Foster and Hicks have been studying the components of happiness for a number of years and are involved in research with the Mayo Clinic and Wake Forest University Medical Center (and others). While there is definitely a genetic/inherited predisposition toward optimism, Foster and Hicks have developed a "cognitive roadmap" of nine behaviors that give people a way to control their reactions to circumstances.

I'm almost half-way through and enjoying it. The language is geared for the layman and reads quickly, yet the content provides much food for thought, especially when considering one's own behavior patterns, both genetic and learned.

Poor Erin...maybe she will feel like reading tomorrow. I hope so because one of the books I brought her is In the Woods by Tana French. That will make her happy!
Tracy, P.J. Dead Run.

I reviewed Live Bait a couple of weeks ago; now onto the third in the Monkeewrench adventures. (and I have Snow Blind in my stack! :p)

Annie, Grace, and Sharon Mueller are on their way from Minneapolis to Green Bay and make a slight detour. Unfortunately, their car breaks down on a little used road in the middle of miles of forest.

After a long, hot tramp through the woods, they walk into the tiny town of Four Corners, and immediately, Grace is ill at ease. Something is wrong. Very, very wrong.

The three women must use all of their wits to survive while the rest of the Monkeewrench gang (Harley, Roadrunner) and Sheriff Mike Halloran and Detective Leo Magozzi and his partner Gino are losing their wits in their efforts to locate the three women.

Fast and furious, full of suspense and odd moments of humor. The mother-daughter team that writes as P.J. Tracy have added another entertaining book to the series.

Fiction. Mystery/Thriller. 2005. 324 pages.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Poet of Lochness

Corrigan, Brian Jay. The Poet of Lochness.

Another debut novel, this is the story of Perdita Miggs, who is able to return to Scotland after a 17 year absence when her husband gets a grant to study Loch Ness.

The writing is lovely and the story begins in a way that makes you feel you know the destination, but want to make the journey anyway. Then there is a hiccup. Hmmmm. What is going on here? And another...

The narrative is more about what lurks in our hearts and minds than about Nessie, about relationships and insight rather than about high adventure...but there is mystery and definitely suspense.

I look forward to future works by Corrigan.

Fiction. 2005. 302 pages.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Likeness

French, Tana. The Likeness.

I was so delighted to realize that Cassie from In the Woods was the protagonist in The Likeness. Rob gets a few mentions, but doesn't figure into the story, although Sam does.

This one was even better! Cassie is still trying to recover from all of the fallout from Operation Vestal in the previous book. Six months later, a woman identified as Lexie Madison is found dead. Lexie Madison was Cassie's identity when she worked undercover. Weird enough, since the identity was created out of whole cloth by Cassie and Frank, her boss at the time, but stranger still is the fact that the woman appears to have been Cassie's physical double.

Once again, Cassie slips back into the identity of Lexie Madison, but this Lexie has a different personality. Lexie's housemates are told that she survived the attack, and Cassie begins studying to assume Lexie's role before she moves in and attempts to discover who is responsible. This undercover situation, however, is one that Cassie begins to enjoy. She likes her housemates, she loves the house, she really enjoys the relaxed and intellectual lifestyle that these five individuals are living.

Once again, French manages to separate the reader from any questions about the believability of the plot by creating characters that seem fully-fleshed and achingly alive. Her evocative language, her poetic descriptions of the individuals, the setting, and the events enmesh the reader completely.

The book is long, not entirely plausible (nor was In the Woods), and entirely entertaining.

And there will be another one. French is working on a book that features Frank, the undercover fella'.

Other reviews: To the Lighthouse , Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'?, Bookgirl's Nightstand -- I know that Ann of About this Blog has read The Likeness, but I couldn't find the review.

And, by the way, Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'? is offering a give-away copy.

This is an interview with Tana French about In the Woods.

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 466 pages.