Sunday, December 31, 2006

You could win! Click on the book cover or the scarf. Then enter your name in the comments.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

13 Favorite Books Read in 2006

This list of 13 favorites is chosen ONLY from the books I've read this year - 2006.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and The Book Thief by Mark Zusak tied for first place. Both are finely written books with characters that pull on your heart strings and yet fill you with hope and rejoicing in their strengths. I read The History of Love twice this year and enjoyed it even more with the second reading.

You all know how impossible it is to arrange favorites in a list with any type of order. It's impossible. Books can be so different but equally enjoyed, so the rest are arranged in no special order.

3. Hallelujah by J. Scott Featherstone
4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker
7. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
8. Folding Paper Cranes by Leonard Bird
9. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
10. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
11. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
12. Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett
13. Devil's Corner by Lisa Scottoline
13. Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz
13. Angels in the Gloom by Anne Perry
13. Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
13. Face Down Beneath the Banquet House by Kathy Lynn Emerson
13. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

Okay, so I stuttered there at the end. I just had to include 6 of my favorite mystery reads of the year!

A note to anyone who read this post earlier. I lost part of it earlier today, so I had to go back through my posts of the year to find my favorite books. I think I may have changed a few titles. Ask me tomorrow and they will probably be different again, but MOST are the same.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I spent part of this afternoon wrapping presents. Outside the snow was falling in big, soft snowflakes. It was beautiful. Wrapping and snow falling put me in the Christmas spirit. I should say it increased my Christmas spirit. I want to wish you all the best during the holidays. And I want to thank you for the gift of friendship and book suggestions you've shared with me this year through your comments and blog posts. I thought when I started blogging that I was just going to record my books. I didn't realize friendships would develop with such interesting people from all around the world. Thank-you.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thank-you, Colleen!

I finished Hallelujah on Sunday evening and what should appear in the mail on Monday, but a gift from Colleen Gleason. It was her brand new, very first, intirguing and tantalizing book, THE REST FALLS AWAY! Can you believe it?! I have a book that's not even in the bookstores yet. And, it's signed. Thank-you, Colleen. I'm almost to page 100 and loving it.

That's not all my good news. You could also get a free, first edition, signed copy of THE REST FALLS AWAY. Just click on the book cover (stunning cover, don't you think?) and it will take you to a post where you can leave your name for a drawing. You must get your name in by midnight on New Year's Eve. I will announce the winner on New Years Day.

You want more good news? You can also put your name in for a drawing for this book on Carl's blog Stainless Steele Droppings. (Ya gotta love that name!) The deadline for his drawing is Dec. 23 and he will be drawing the winner's name on Dec. 24.

Even more good news! You can enter for several different types of drawings at Colleen Gleason's website and at her blog site. She even has a page on her website with a list of bookstores where you can pre-order the first 2 books in the series. Trust me - you are going to enjoy them. You can see the cover for the second book, too. The second book's cover is just as incredible as the first.

Monday, December 18, 2006


by J. Scott Featherstone
Rating 5/5
There's a part towards the end of this book where one of the main characters is pondering her love of her daughter and she thinks that mere mortal words cannot express that love. As she listens to Handel's Messiah she realizes that music added to the incompetent words can express the feelings more accurately. Perhaps if my simple post could be accompanied by glorious strains of music I could better convey the impact this book had on me.

I knew very little, really, about Handel's life. Featherstone tells the story of his fame and censure at the whims of London society remarkably well. The depiction of the time period, both upper and lower class, is very well done. Had Featherstone just told the story of Handel this would have been a masterful book, but he includes several fictitious characters, that seem very real, and who I cared for as much as I did for Handel. One of the auxillary characters is the Packrat, a street urchin who always leaves something behind in exchange for what he's stolen.

Hallelujah deals with themes of purpose, redemption, charity, pride, and love. I cried and laughed. I stayed up late because of the suspense. Every once in awhile I could unwrap myself from the story to savor the beautiful writing. I wish I could give this book to everyone I know. I have my husband to thank for bringing Hallelujah to my attention. He bought and read it and highly recommended it. Thanks, M.

I was going to put of reading Hallelujah until next Christmas and count it for the Chunkster Challenge, if it went that long, but then Carl issued his G.I.F.T. Challenge and I decided to read it as one of my new books in that challenge. So this is post 3 out of 4 for the G.I.F.T. Challenge. It was definitely a wonderful Christmas G.I.F.T. for me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Chunkster Challenge

Another challenge - Hip, hip hooray! These challenges help me branch out and to get books read that are piling up on my shelves or on my TBR list. So I'm grateful for the instigators and their encouragement to 'get it read!'. This challenge is a doosey! Thanks go to Bookfool for coming up with the term and the challenge - CHUNKSTER. Don't you just love it?

I picked out 12 books for this challenge before I knew it was only going to last 6 months. So I'm going to post all 12 and then I'll choose 6 from the list as the whim hits me when it's time to pick up a new book. Maybe if I get in the habit of really really BIG books, I'll continue to read all 12 by the end of the year. More likely, I'll chuck the Chunkster in favor of slim books! Anyway, here's my list:

Woman in White by Wilke Collins

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (I've read this book, but it's been awhile and I feel like I need to read it again before reading Inkspell.)

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Dreams Under Foot
by Charles deLint

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Quincunx by Charles Palliser

The Way the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie McDonald

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Green Darkness by Anya Seton

A Traitor to Memory by Elizabeth George or The Snow Fox by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

These are all books I own, so it will feel great to read some and then pass the books along to somebody else. That way I free up shelf space for NEW-TO-ME books.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Cat Who Wasn't There

by Lilian Jackson Braun
Rating 3.25/5
Braun's cat mysteries aren't very intensive, but they are fun and perfect for listening to while running errands around town. I really like the main character, Jim Qwilleran. Qwilleran owns 2 Siamese cats that help him solve mysteries. The title for this book in the series comes from the fact that a murder takes place in Scotland, where Qwilleran was on a sight-seeing trip, and still Koko was able to 'hint' to Qwilleran who the murderer was.

This book actually has several mysteries intertwined and is a bit more complex than the 2 or 3 others I've read. Even at that it took several tapes before the story really got rolling.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Forgotten Carols

This Christmas season I decided to reread a book that I haven't read in years. It's a beautiful book about Nurse Constance, who never wanted to be called Connie. She was given an assignment at Christmas time to care for an elderly man thought to be a bit 'off his rocker'. He asked her to call him Uncle John and he insisted on calling her Connie Lou. When she persisted that he call her Nurse Chamberlain or Ms. Chamberlain, he responded
"If I call you Nurse or Ms. or something equally distant and lonely, that's all you'll ever be to me. But Connie Lou . . .ah, there's someone worth getting to know."
As Uncle John and Connie Lou decorate the tree, John tells her the significance of each ornament. In the process, he shares the real story of Christmas and magically helps her become less lonely. There are beautiful songs woven into the story. The music and words for each 'Forgotten Carol' is included at the back of the book. We own the book, the book on tape and a tape of the carols. The book and songs are written by Michael McLean. A delightful story and beautiful songs.

One of my favorite parts of the book and the song tape is the story told of a young angel who tried out for the heavenly chorus that was to sing on the day of Christ's birth. He sang his little heart out. The Grand Chorus Master smiled and nodded to his chief assistant to show the little angel out.
"This isn't fair," he said, "If you could hear what is in my heart, you'd let me sing."
How many times have I felt that same way. In my heart the music is indeed beautiful, but it doesn't come out that way, at all. My heart just breaks for this little angel that I can so heartily identify with. The story goes on to tell how the angel pleaded with the Grand Master, while softly, at first, songs of hallelujahs began in the background.
"Oh, little one," the Grand Master said, "you have so much to give, and your time will come."

"Then I can't sing with the choir?" he looked for him to change his mind, but he only shook his head and smiled.

"You have a different voice, but it will be heard. Centuries from now it will be heard. More orchestras and choirs than you can now imagine will be giving the music of your heart a voice that will echo through time."
The songs of the Messiah began to swell in crescendo as a backdrop to this sad little scene. The angel still doesn't understand, but the reader does.

I read this book because I knew it's message would lift my spirits and as part of the G.I.F.T. Challenge hosted by Stainlees Steel Droppings. This is post 2 out of 4 for this challenge.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

GI.F.T. Challenge

I am planning on doing four separate posts for the GI.F.T. (Giving Inspiration, Fostering Tradition) challenge. The challenge is to give of yourself for the shared edification and inspiration of others. Your favorite Christmas movie, story, song, etc. may just inspire others to try it out. At the very least we will share in your joy and enthusiasm as you give us a glimpse into who you are by sharing memories, traditions, and favorites.

I would like to suggest a wonderful gift you could give the booklover or student on your list: Bookdarts. When I'm reading a library book and want to keep track of a quote, I love these little things. When I write my thoughts in my reading journal, I can quickly find the quote. I used to use a little scrap of paper and then, sometimes, I'd have to read two pages to find the lines that I wanted. The bookdarts point right to it.

For books that I own, I leave the bookdarts in and so later I can pick the book off the shelf and quickly find a morsel that will enlighten, instruct, or cheer. These brief rereadings are priceless to me.

Right now you can order tins of 125 darts for $10 each in quantities of 3. This is a great deal. I think the ones I purchased from a bookstore were $9.25 for 1 tin of 50 darts. You can order online from and s&h is only $3 for all 3 tins. This little company from Hood River, Oregon ships orders out within a matter of days, so you still have time before Christmas to get some. BTW, I do not get a commission. In fact, bookdarts doesn't even know that I just did a free ad. I just really like the product and thought you might too.

Brother Odd

by Dean Koontz
Rating 3.5/5
Odd Thomas is just that odd, but in a very likable way. He sees dead people and other personages not of this world. He has seen a lot of violence and unhappiness in his young life and in an effort to keep things in perspective he has developed a delightful sense of humor. In Brother Odd, he lives in a monastery in hopes of finding some peace and to separate himself from the last two horrendous episodes that occurred to him. Of course, he doesn't find peace, but he does meet some interesting people and an ominous enemy.

I probably didn't enjoy this 3rd book in the series as well as the first two, but it was still a fun read. If, and I'm sure it will, a 4th book is added I will be in line to read it. One of the things I like about Koontz's books is the feeling of hope I always have when I finish a book. The bad, the chaoz, the evil in the world can be quite overpowering at times, but the main characters always have a chrystalized hope and belief in good. I like the encouragement I get from these feeble, humble and very real characters. And I always come away with some good quotes:

When we hope, we usually hope for the wrong thing. We yearn for tomorrow and the progress that it represents. But yesterday was once tomorrow, and where was the progress in it? Or we yearn for yesterday, for what was or what might have been. But as we are yearning, the present is becoming the past, so the past in nothing but our yearning for second chances.

The true source of the chill might have been an understanding that our only choice is pyre or pyre, that we live and breathe to be consumed by fire or fire, not just now and at St. Bartholomew's but always and anywhere. Consumed or purified by fire.

I regretted having to let the air out of her plan after she'd evidently spent some time inflating it.

That is the best of all things we can do for one another: Make the dark small.

Knowing that my husband and probably my daughter will be reading our copy of this book, I occasionally slipped a book dart at a meaningful, funny or poignant line or where I thought Koontz wrote a beautiful description or made use of words and language in an unexpected way. I felt like I would be sharing something with them even though I'd moved on to a different book and did't even remember why I thought something was noteworthy. Hopefully, in the context of the book they will know and find themselves smiling or nodding in agreement.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Baron in the Trees

by Italo Calvino
Rating 2.5/5
The Baron got rave reviews on amazon, but it's not getting those from me. It may have been the wrong time for it to resonate with me, but resonate, it didn't. I never sat down for more than 15 min. at a time, so maybe it was the choppiness that hurt its rating. On the other hand it never pulled me in to read it for longer.

In this fantasy/fable set in the eighteenth century, tells the story of Cosimo, a young Italian nobleman, who rebels against parental authority by climbing into the trees and remaining there for the rest of his life.

There are a few good lines in the book, however.
He understood: that association renders men stronger and brings out each person's best gifts, and gives a joy which is rarely to be had by keeping to oneself, the joy of realizing how many honest decent capable people there are for whom it is worth giving one's best (while living just for oneself very often the opposite happens, of seeing people's other side, the side which makes on keep one's hand always on the hilt of one's sword).

He knew her and so himself, for in truth he had never known himself. And she knew him and so herself, for although she had always known herself she had never been able to recognize it until now.

There can be no love if one does not remain oneself with all one's strength.

Only by being so frankly himself as he was till his death could he give something to all men.

Win A Book on New Year's Day!

I'm very excited to be hosting this drawing for a free, signed, first edition book written by first time author Colleen Gleason. I have not read The Rest Falls Away since it won't be released until January 2, 2007, but the trailer is captivating and I'm sure the book will be too.

Here's a brief book description offered on
In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy of vampire slaying, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget. And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.
Sounds romantic and thrilling all in one, doesn't it? This contest is easy - just leave a comment and I will put your name in for the drawing, which will take place on New Year's Day. The deadline for entries is midnight on New Year's Eve. Colleen will sign the book and send it off to you. What could be better?

In the meantime, visit Colleen at her blog, For All the World to See. It's a fun, fun blog. Her Dec. 1 post shows her ecstatic feelings when she received the first copy of her book. This is just one of two pictures she shared on her blog.

On the sidebar of For All the World to See is a message board where you can have a conversation with Colleen and ask her questions about the book, her writing experience, her inspirations, etc.

Colleen also has an author website where you can read more about The Rest Falls Away and enter a contest to get your name featured in one of the books of the series.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Last Camel Died At Noon

by Elizabeth Peters
Rating 4/5
What can I say? I'm on a roll. I don't know that I've ever read 3 books in a series so close together before. This is book #6. I'm really enjoying the series at this point. Amelia and Emerson's son, Ramses, saved their lives and gained much deserved respect from his parents. It's about time! I guess I will substitute this for one of the books on my original From the Stacks list. I have all of this series on my TBR list so I'm still crossing off those books. Wow! It feels good to be making some headway.

I'm struggling through Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. The major problem is not sitting down and reading more than a few pages at a time. I'm going to force myself through it before I pick up Brother Odd by Dean Koontz, which I pre-ordered from Amazon and it arrived today right on schedule. Ohhhh, I can already feel my resolve melting. I think I have a workable idea - before I can read Brother Odd I must first read 15 pages in The Baron that day. Eureka!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Birds of a Feather

by Jacqueline Winspear
Rating 4/5
Birds of a Feather is book 2 in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, which takes place inEngland during the 1930's. Maisie is a shy 30-something private investigator. She was born poor but has been fostered by a wealthy widow whom she used to work for as a maid. Now she has a room 'upstairs' which places a strain on her relationship with the house help. She's not quite a gentlewoman so she feels out of place in that world as well. In the past she has had a close relationship with her father, but as she matures, Maisie reminds him more and more of his dead wife. This has created tension in their relationship. Maisie's 'true love' is in a convalescent home and will never again recognize her, so she is coming to turns with dating. In addition to all this, is the mystery of the story.

I enjoyed book 1 of the series, but thought this one was even better. I'm looking forward to reading the 3rd in the series, Unpardonable Lies.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Warning About "The History of Love"

I've read The History of Love twice and was awed by it both times. And I'm not a re-reader. There was so much symbolism and layers of meaning that I will probably read it again some day.

So, why the warning? Tonight was my book club and everyone HATED the book. I mean they HATED it, not just dislike, but HATE. I was the one who chose the book and was supposed to conduct the discussion. The first lady that came asked me if I had read the book before suggesting it. I answered that I had and that I loved it. She said, "Really, because I hated it and everyone I've talked to hated it." Two more people straggled in after that. They had the same reaction. They said they didn't like how it went from one person to another and back and forth. One said it reminded her of the Poisonwood Bible. Then she puts her hand over her mouth and says, "Whoops, you recommended that one, too, didn't you?"

They thought it was pathetic. I talked about the idea of survival and how each character had a method to help them survive. Wasn't it interesting that a teenage girl in New York read and reread the Wilderness Survival Guide? Didn't they feel the triumph of each person's spirit? Didn't they think Leo was lovable with his quirky little ways? No, they thought he was crazy. Well, obviously he is, but he made the most of it and he had a great sense of humor. They worried about the author's personal life, thinking she must be a bit screwy to write such a weird book.

I tried to get them to discuss the idea of authenticity that ran as a theme throughout the book. I mentioned a few examples: Leo's love for Alma - was it authentic or was it built up on his part. Did she love him in return? Who knows? Why did he hold to it so tenaciously? What was Bruno's role? Was the book Leo wrote real or another fabrication of his imagination? If not real, then why was Alma named after the main character? And why was the book written in Spanish since Leo was from Poland and never went to South America?

I went to book club thinking we were going to discuss a meaningful book in a thoughtful way. Was I ever disappointed. We talked about the book for maybe 10 minutes, maybe. Then we talked about a trip to Vegas, the plot of the Spenser for Hire books, a husbands job with the park service and how he likes the Nevada Barr books. Did I say WE? One lady dominated the whole hour. That was all her stuff we talked about. It went on to include the Qwilleran books (The Cat Who . . .), the baskets they were putting together at her church, the book about a quail. Forgive me, one other lady did get a word in edgewise - she told us how she had a complete set of Louis L'Amour books (all 130) in a leather bond collection. She's starting to reread them.

Oh, my gosh! I thought I was going to die. I don't mind that nobody liked the book, but I do mind that we couldn't discuss it at book club.

Anyway, I thought I'd better issue a warning that you may not like The History of Love, especially after I raved about it earlier this month. I guess this book is NOT for everyone. If you do pick it up, keep in mind that it will be confusing at first. You will have questions. There are several different threads that will eventually work together. It's not told with one event smoothly happening after the next. It's multilayered and thought-provoking. And if you hate it, that's okay, too. Just remember that I did warn you. But I think it's completely AWESOME.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho
Rating 3.5/5
My nephew recommended this book. It's one that I would have enjoyed more when I was younger, but I'm still glad I read it. It's an inspirational tale of a young shepherd who is in search of his 'Personal Legend' embedded with lots of platitudes.

"Don't forget that everythin you deal with is only one thing and nothing else."

". . . he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure."

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure."

This is book four for me in From the Stacks Winter Challenge. Yeehaw - four off my list. Okay, so I've added a million gazillions from everyone else's list, I'm at least having fun reading some good books.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Deeds of the Disturber

by Elizabeth Peters
Rating 3.5/5
My last review of Peters' Amelia Peabody book was not very robust. I enjoyed book #5 in the series much more and so I will probably continue to read a few more. This mystery takes place back home in London. A couple of things happen that force Amelia to take her son a bit more seriously and offer the poor boy a modicum of the respect he deserves. I still get a chuckle out of Amelia and Emerson's relationship, although things become a little sappy touching at times.

While trying to find information on the Vicky Bliss mystery series, I found that Elizabeth Peters is a pseudonym used by Barbara Mertz. Mertz holds a PhD of Egyptoloty and has written several non-fiction books in that field of expertise. Mertz has also written 25 or so romantic suspense novels under the name Barbara Michaels.

Back to Vicky Bliss - I did read one in that series - Naked Once More. I really did like it, just didn't realize it was part of a series.

I am going to change my original From the Stacks list to include Deeds of the Disturber instead of Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert. I am finding that I don't do real well at keeping to my list, but I still am reading from the stacks. So I'm still making headway! Truly a good feeling to scratch off the list instead of adding to. Thanks Michelle. This is book three for the From the Stacks Winter Challenge.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lion in the Valley

by Elizabeth Peters
Rating 3.5/5
This is book two on my From the Stacks Challenge. This is book 4 in the Amelia Peabody series. I have enjoyed them, but I feel some of the magic disipatating. I'll probably read another one or two. But I did get another book marked off my list. Whipeeee!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The History of Love

by Nicole Krauss
Rating 5/5
This is not one of my challenge books. I suggested this book for my f2f bookclub and so that means I will be presenting it this month. I felt like I needed to read it again. I am so glad I did. I think this book is beautiful, a literal masterpiece. In this reading I was able to watch for the repetition of ideas and symbols. One theme that runs throughout is that of authenticity. What is real, what is believed but not real, and what is fake. Along with that is the idea of validation.

One of the lead characters is Leo Gurksy, an 80-yr-old single man who says, "All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen." He spills his popcorn at the theater so people will notice him. He even poses nude for an art class. He is quite the quirky, yet lovable character. He needs to be real and to be validated.

Later, another main character, Alma Singer, writes in her journal, "I am invisible to my mother." Again, the need to be seen, noticed. Alma's father died 4-5 years ago and she's trying to hold on to his memory and she's trying to keep his memory alive for her younger brother so she elaborates on his virtues. What's real, what's not. What is imagined?

When I finished The Book Thief I knew I would be disappointed by the next book I read, whatever that book would be. I thought my best choice would be a light, cozy mystery because I wouldn't be expecting much. But I had The History of Love I needed to reread. It turned out to be a perfect choice. Both books hold up greatly next to each other. I've requested a copy of The History of Love for Christmas, because I will want to read it again. The History of Love and The Book Thief are two of my top 10 favorite books I've ever read and I was fortunate to read them back to back.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

13 Mystery Series

I post my Thursday Thirteens at my other blog, In Season. Since this week's post is about books I thought I would mention it on my reading blog. I welcome comments about mystery series that you are reading and mystery writers that you keep an eye on.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak
Rating 5+/5
There are no words in my vocabulary to describe the beauty and power of this book. It is definitely in the top 5 on my list of all-time favorites. By now you have all read reviews and you know the book is about a little German girl who belongs to Hitler's youth group and lives with her foster parents in a small German town. The story is narrated by Death, who interestingly enough, is afraid of humans. The girl, Leisel steals books. Her Papa, a kind, good-hearted man, teaches her to read. Amidst the dismal backdrop of Hitler's Germany, Leisel learns the meanings and the power of words. She learns to love them and she learns to hate them.

The author effectively conveys the meaning and power of words in the arrangement and choice of the words he uses to write the story. Zusak is a master. Let me give you a small sampling. Death is describing a neighbor man by listing the five contradictory politics of Alex Steiner. "Point Five: Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of what might come leaking out."

After Leisel stole her first book, Death described her as "the book thief without the words." (because she didn't know how to read yet) Death continues, "Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."

The first time Liesels' foster mother made her knock on the door and ask for the laundry from the mayor's wife. Liesel was scared to death. "Liesel's blood had dried inside of her. It crumbled. She almost broke into pieces on the steps."

The whole book is filled with beautiful and unexpected arrangements of words. This alone is not what makes the book so outstanding. The story is compelling. The characters are flawed but important. You love them. You care about them. You worry and cry for them. Even Death.

This is a must read and I don't believe it will let you down like The Thirteenth Tale did. Compared to The Book Thief, TTT was only an interesting story.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

by Lillian Jackson Braun
Rating 3.5/5
I listened to this book on audio. I checked it out from the library to listen to while we drove to Salt Lake City for the Book Festival a week ago. Needless to say, with my mother, sister and I we didn't listen enough to finish this short book. Too, too much talking. (Meanwhile, my daughter is listening to her music with headphones.) I finished listening to it on my little jaunts around town.

There are 21 books in this series. Take heart! Even those there's many, you won't ever feel compelled to read them all. I've only read two, I think and neither in any order. TCW Ate Danish Modern is only book 2 in the series, which features Jim Qwilleran and his cats. In this 2nd book there is only one cat, Cocoa, who is joined at the end of the book with a female cat named Yum Yum. The cats are instrumental in helping Qwilleran solve murder mysteries.

This cozy mystery series is very light and it's easy to keep track of the story while listening to in short increments. The books are also quite enjoyable.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge

Michelle over at Overdue Books is hosting an awesome challenge that will help us whittle down the number of books vying for attention on our shelves. Reading a few of these will help relieve the guilt and pressure of owning books that we neglect. I NEED this challenge! Here's how Michele words the challenge: "for this challenge we would be reading 5 books that we have already purchased, have been meaning to get to, have been sitting on the nightstand and haven't read before. No going out and buying new books. No getting sidetracked by the lure of the holiday bookstore displays.

"The time frame would be Nov. 1st until Jan. 30 and there will be some small, fun prizes awarded to random participants and/or those with clever review posts. There will be one random drawing for a prize to those who submit their list of books in the comment section by Nov. 15th but feel free to join any time. There will be another random drawing for those who submit five reviews by Jan. 30 for a small gift certificate to Amazon."

Most of the books on my list for this challenge are from my book stacks, but a couple are from my never-ending To-Be-Read list. I hope that will count.
Here's my list:
1. Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (I've had this on my list for over 7 months)
2. Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters
3. Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
4. Triangle by Katharine Weber
5. Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Bonus Books: (My list is really long and I'm going to make an effort to reduce it even further. If I don't get to them, so it be it - they'll be there on another day.)
6. Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters
7. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
8. Birth Marks by Sarah Dunant
9. Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
10. Catch of Consequence by Diana Norman

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dirty Blonde

by Lisa Scottoline
Rating: 4.5/5
The dirty blonde is a 30-something, attractive judge, who has just recently been appointed as a federal judge. After issuing a ruling in favor of a television producer, that producer is shot to death. The next day the man who was suing the producer commits suicide. Thus starts an intriguing, suspenseful, and well-crafted murder mystery.

Judge Cate Fante is young, attractive and shows a great lack of judgment in some areas. This lack along with her feisty personality get her into big trouble and a few life-threatening situations. I found myself liking this woman. I hope Scottoline will do a few more books featuring her.

Cate's secretary Val, who Cate refers to as Invaluable, gives Cate some good advise when her world seems to be crashing down all around her. Val tells her that the other judges will probably give her troubles, other's will joke and people will talk. "When that happens, tell yourself that none of it matters. None of it. That's all outside, and nothing that's outside matters. Not the other judges or the TV or the gossips. Nothing matters but what's in your heart. Don't think on what they say, because you don't have to get yourself right with them. You have to get yourself right with you."

Somewhere I read an unenthusiastic review of Dirty Blonde that almost convinced me not to bother reading it. I'm glad I didn't listen.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie
Rating: 4/5
Listened to the audio while driving to and from work and around town. It takes quite awhile to listen to a book when you live in a small town. I only live 4 minutes from the high school where I work. I get most of my listening in while waiting in line for chicken selects. Sometimes I think a longer commute would serve my listening library better.

I enjoyed the story and thought the infamous Hercule Poirot was quite charming. Hugh Fraser did a nice job of reading. I must of heard of the plot sometime in my life, because I figured out the solution to the murder early in the story. I don't know that I'll be rushing to read anymore of Agatha Christie's work, but it's nice to be introduced to her work.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Salt Lake City Book Festival, Part Two

I was a bit hesitant about going to the festival this year because the list of authors was not drawing me. My mother and I have attended this event for the past three years, so it was a fun tradition that I didn't want to see end. Finally, we decided to go. My sister and daughter decided to join us, which made it even more fun. Once in Salt Lake another daughter and a niece joined us. The company was great.

Friday night there was only one presentation - Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame. We were all lukewarm about attending, but enjoyed Jennings very much. He's a Utahn who has recently had his first book published, Brainiac, Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. Here's a couple of excerpts from the inside flap of the jacket: "Whisking us from the coffeehouses of seventeenth-century London to the Internet age, Jennings chronicles the ups and downs of the trivia fad." "Jennings also investigates the shadowy demimonde of today's trivia subculture, guiding us on a tour of trivia hotspots across America." All the chapter headings are written as questions. He signed my book, "Who is Ken Jennings?" Cute, huh?

Saturday I attended the following sessions:
Peter Brown, author and illustrator of children's books. I bought and had him sign Chowder and Flight of the Dodo. Both books are fabulous.
Lawrence Yep, author of nearly 60 YA books. I bought Dragon's Gate for my daughter. Yep signed it and etched a little picture on the title page.
Tracie Morris, poet. This session was interesting. Morris read a few poems and also performed some of her sound poems. I wasn't extremely fond of her stuff, but I was happy to be exposed to something so innovative as sound poetry.
Janet Tashijan, author of YA fiction. She is a high-energy person, who talked fast and fidgeted a lot while sitting. She wrote True Confessions which was later made into a Disney TV movie.
Karl & Anne Taylor Fleming, journalists. Karl covered stories such as the Watts riots and Martin Luther King. Anne told a little about her first interview which was with Truman Capote.
Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy, Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets. This was the one person I really wanted to hear. We got seats on the front row and were also first in line for book signings. She was delightful and very funny. She told about her adult novel coming out in the spring. It's about a woman who can't get passed her infatuation with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth. I can't remember the title. Good grief! But it sounds funny.

In addition to the Festival, we ate at delectable restaurants and were joined by family members who lived in or close to Salt Lake. Lots of good times and memories.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Salt Lake City Book Festival

I'm off for 3 days to the SLC Book Festival. My mother, sister, daughter and I are going out together. Should be lots of fun. Shannon Hale, who wrote Goose Girl and Princess academy, is one author we're excited about. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My R.I.P. Challenge Reads

September and October brought me unexpected pleasure this year thanks to Carl's R.I.P Fall Reading Challenge. It's fun to delve into a genre that I only occasionally read. And delve I did, with gusto.

Here's a list of the books I read for this challenge.
1. The Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
3. The Thirteen Tale
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
5. The China Garden by Liz Berry
6. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
7. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
8. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I was richly rewarded by this experience. I never thought I would enjoy Dracula, but I loved it and, because of it, I read The Historian and Twilight, two other vampire books. From the books listed, my least favorite was Twilight and I liked it a lot. Thanks, Carl, for issuing the challenge.


by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4.5/5
This book was a joy to read. I received it as a present from Bellezza when I won a drawing during Buy Your Friend A Book week. Periodically while reading, I would be caught with the thought that this book came from Bellezza and that would make me smile. To think it had once set on a shelf in her house and that she also read it made it doubly fun to read.

I rated this book higher than Neverwhere. I think subconsciously the dark, damp world of the London underground may have affected my overall feelings about Neverwhere. Stardust was much lighter.

The story is about a falling star, the three different groups of people who see it fall and the meaning they attach to it. A member of each group sets out to find the fallen star, by doing so, that person will receive something of great meaning to them.

I would recommend Stardust to anyone who hasn't yet read a Neil Gaiman work. It is a wonderful fairy tale. Thank-you, Bellezza, for the very fine gift. I enjoyed it immensely.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Hearing

by John Lescroart
Rating 4/5
Earlier this year I read Second Chair by Lescroart and enjoyed it enough to read another of his. Since finishing The Hearing I've done a little research on Lescroart. He has three mystery series: Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky and Wyatt Hunt. The Second Chair is the ninth in the Dismiss Hardy series and was written in 2004. The Hearing is the third out of four in the Abe Glitsky series and was written in 1999. What's funny about this is that both books included both men; one who is an attorney and the other who is a police detective. Hardy and Glitsky have a close friendship and sometimes help each other on various cases.

I haven't found that it has hurt me to read these two books out of order, but I think I'm interested enough now that I'll go back to the start and read both series. Lescroart writes well without adding gratutious sex and violence. Reading to find the solution to the crime is compelling and it's hard to put the book down.

Another interesting tidbit I learned about Lescroart is he writes his own songs and has a CD published. Country-type music. He has a nice voice.

Friday, October 20, 2006


by Stephanie Meyers
Rating: 3.75/5
I'm really quite amazed. I've never read a vampire book in my life and in the last two months I've read three. I figured that The Historian would be my last RIP Challenge read, but then I saw a couple of reviews for Twilight and, since I was still in the mood for creepy, I decided to read it.

This is a Young Adult novel so it went quite quickly. I thought the first two thirds of the book was a bit mundane, but the last third totally made up for it. I couldn't believe how fast the girl fell in love with pale boy, but I wrote that off as the draw a vampire can have on a person. My age, advanced as it is, may have been another factor in my rating. I grew tired of the over-dramatic romantacism of young adults. Give me Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes or Amelia Peabody and Emerson - Oh, Wait! I forgot that I adore Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy - anyway, you get the point.

The last part of the book was definitely intense and worth the read. The last sentence leaves you hanging and you have to know what happened. The perfect setup for a sequel, enter New Moon.
I thought the cover of Twilight was very enticing and full of symbolism that fits the story; Eve trying to get Adam to take a bite of the apple. Enticing! The cover for New Moon definitely catches my imagination as well. I like the simplicity and the colors used in both. The paleness of the girls white skin, the vivid red and the black background.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rightfully Mine

by Doris Mortman
Rating 4.5/5
This was the selection for my f2f bookclub. It's a chunkster with 626 pages, but it was good. I waffled about reading it because it looked like a romance and I really don't like romances. There was romance, but I would classify this book more as a drama.

The main character finds herself divorced, without a job, an aunt that is dying, and a son in boarding school. She is unskilled so she has a hard time landing a job. Eventually she uses her knowledge of antiques, move to NYC, and changes her name slightly and is hired by an antiques dealer. Her life spirals up and down from there.

The reason the book is so long is because there are several characters and each of their recent life histories are told. Their histories help me care more about the people and it complicated the plot, making the story more interesting.

I liked this book well enough to look for others titles Mortman has written. There were a few lines that I especially liked. This line came from the narrator during a scene with Gaby and her Aunt Simone. "Both of them knew that the page on which they had charted their life together was running out of space." I thought it was a beautiful way of expressing the simple idea that time together was growing short.

This line came when Gabby was asking Armand about the medieval banquets and why they didn't have dining room tables. Armand says, "The did have dinner parties, but the ones you're thinking of were held in the grand hall, not a dining room. And while the table may have been enormous, it was little more than a huge board on thick trestles. All the guests sat on backless stools, the one chair being reserved for the lord of the manor, who sat at the head of the table. He was the 'chair man of the board.'" I love finding out little tidbits of history and the origin of words and terms.

Another great line: "Like most opportunities, this one didn't knock as much as it slid into place, greased by timing and coincidence."

Last one: "Deceit, like nuclear energy could be contained, and yes, some of its uses were good not evil, but with something that continued to gain strength and momentum even in its confinement, there was always the risk of a leak, always the danger of a ruinous explosion."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Online Book Clubs

Earlier in the year I was trying to find an online book group but was unsuccessful. Since then I've become aware of several. For those of us who live in out-of-the-way places where bookclubs don't exist or there's only one that isn't very interesting, these online clubs are great. If anyone who stops by here is interested here are a few links. If you know of anymore let me know.

The Blogger Book Club
is hosted by Mizbooks. Nominations for the Nov. read are still open. So visit her and nominate a book that you want to read that you've heard great things about.

Reading Matters is reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Discussion will start in about 2 weeks. Watch for a new book nomination to be coming up.

Stephanie and Maureen host The Written Word. Their current read is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

Our Coffee Rings October read is a Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald's book, The Way the Crow Flies. There are 5 choices listed for the Nov. read, so if you're interested go on over and vote on the one you'd like to read.

Slaves of Golconda are presently reading Indiana by George Sands. They will soon be choosing a new book for Nov.

Michelle and a few friends at Overdue Books are reading The Thirteenth Tale for October and The Memory Keepers Daughter for Nov.

Litblog co-op offers a seasonal reading experience. For the Autumn 2006 Read This! the book choice is Firmin by Sam Savage.

Kate and several of her friends have an interesting group at A Curious Singularity. They review one short story by a different author each month. This month they are discussing Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens. Choices for Nov. through April are listed in the sidebar.

Mizbooks at Biblioholism (a disease taking over all my cells!) participates in The Alphabet Readers group. The goal is to read books that start with every letter of the alphabet by either author or title or both. Several blogsters are already doing this, but you may want to join the group for encouragement or suggestions to fill certain letters.

Yahoo! Reading Groups provide an extensive list of 2,186 reading and/or writing groups. You can find 164 Science Fiction and Fantasy reading groups, but only 64 Mystery reading groups. (What's up with that?!) Other specialized groups include Oprah's Book Club with a listing of 74 different book groups and Cultures and Groups that include such subgroups as African American Reading, Moms, Teenagers, etc. There are even groups for audio books, to buy, sell and trade books, etc. You could spend days looking over the lists. So this might be a good thing to know on those days when you are plum worthless in the areas of housework, cross-stitching, quilting, scapbooking, cooking or going to the job. Thanks Lesley for providing a heads up about yahoo reading groups. Lesley belongs to the yahoo group called On The Front Porch. Love that name and I love the picture on the site.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Second Chair

by John Lescroart
Rating 4.25:5
Well developed characters who are real-life people with problems who are trying to solve puzzling crimes. A teenage boy is accused of killing his girlfriend and his drama teacher. The evidence is stacked against him. His lawyer makes a few misjudgements, so her boss becomes the second chair to help her with the trial.

I really enjoyed this book. A few surprises and a well-told story.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Face Down Beneath the Banqueting House

by Kathy Lynn Emerson
Rating 5/5
Book #8 in the Lady Appleton mystery series was most enjoyable.
Let me share a quote from Julia Spencer-Fleming that was on the back flap: "Kathy Lynn Emerson effortlessly transports us into a vividly-detailed 16th century, peopled with real human beings whose ambitions, fears, and crimes are authentically grounded in the politics, religious tensions, and mores of the elicited era. Emerson deftly slips her meticulous scholarship into a honeyed comfit of murder, malice, and manor houses."

In this novel Queen Elizabeth and her court are on the move and they are heading toward Leigh Abbey, where herbalist and widow Susanna Appleton lives. During the preparations two men are murdered. There are several twists and turns, several hidden secrets are revealed, and eventually an intricate mystery solved.

This may be the best of the series. After #7's disappointing read, I'm glad the series is back on track with this one. If you love mysteries this is a great one. If you like historical novels, you'll really enjoy this one. All and all, a good read.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Face Down Across the Western Sea

by Kathy Lynn Emerson
Rating 2.5/5
I was so disappointed in this mystery, the seventh in the Susanna, Lady Appleton series. I have so enjoyed the earlier books. This one started out 'warbled' meaning to me that it was unclear and confusing. There was some really interesting historical facts, but the storyline wasn't the best. I would have decided not to read anymore books in the series, but I had the next sitting on the shelf and it was an interlibrary loan so I felt some obligation to. So I'm reading #8 right now. It's already more interesting. Whew!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oh, Happy Day!

You'll never believe it. I almost didn't. Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza is buying me a book for Buy a Friend a Book Week! *dance a jig* *jump up and down* My book is Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Isn't life grand?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I Need Help - Acutally a Lot of Help!

BUT the only help I'm going to ask for right now concerns a Classic Reading Challenge. I had so much fun doing Carl's Autumn R.I.P Challenge that I thought it would be fun if we were all encouraged to read some classics.

BUT when to start? I thought about Nov through Feb. Wondered if that would be too long and what with Dec being such a busy month. So I thought maybe Nov, Jan, Feb but that seemed a bit choppy. Next I wondered about just Jan and Feb. That way we could hurry and read some delicious books that don't fit any category in the meantime.

BUT how many books for the challenge? I liked reading five for the R.I.P. challenge. If we combine one or two harder ones with some easier ones that sounds manageable, doesn't it? Let me know what you think.

BUT what to do for the prize? No suggestions, I'll take care of this one. I don't have any plans yet, but I'll enjoy planning it.

BUT Carl didn't need any help planning his challenge. I know, I know! What can I say? I just need help.

BUT what exactly is a classic? That's a hard thing to pin down. No definition but here's a list of classics and here's a list of classic authors.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova
rating 5/5
Let me just say - This book was spine-tingling! I loved it. What a great book to read in conjunction with Bram Stoker's Dracula. My mother read The Historian when it was first released and commented on the interesting historical aspects. I enjoyed the history, too, but I was not prepared for the suspense. It gave me the chills. No nightmares. Yet, anyway.

Kostova told an icredible story using narative and letters from several different characters with three distinct storylines being told simultaneously. Each story built on the other and each narration propelled the story forward.

The Historian is book #6 for the Fall RIP Challenge. I have really enjoyed reading eerie, scary, gothic books this last month. Although I look forward to reading a few cozy mysteries, I am a bit sad to leave this challenge behind. I look forward to next year and I'm sure I'll sneak in some other thrillers before then. Besides, I've put my name in for a book drawing, asking for Stardust by Neil Gaiman. AND I AM GOING TO WIN!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Get a Free Book!

It's Buy a Friend a Book Week and I would like to give one of my online friends a book. Know that this gift is given for no good reason. If it's your birthday, I don't want to hear about it. Anniversary? Not a chance. This is a no-strings-attached present given just because.

Leave a comment telling me the title of a book you would like (please, under $15*) and I will enter your name for the drawing. I will post the winning name on this site on Oct. 5 in the evening sometime.

BAFAB week is celebrated four times a year, during the first weeks of January, April, July and October. If you're interested in taking part in Buy a Friend a Book Week yourself, visit for the details. Enjoy the read!

Click here for a list of other bloggers participating.

*How about a paperback or a used book in good condition. And if the book you choose is a bit over $15 that will be okay, too.

The China Garden

by Liz Berry (read September 2006) Rating: 3.75/5
When Claire's mother receives a cryptic summons from estranged relatives, she uproots her daughter from urban London to a remote estate in the English countryside. Ravensmere is immediately, disturbingly familiar, and Claire soon realizes that her psychic mother has kept huge secrets, beginning with Claire's own name. Worse, the people of Ravensmere seem to expect something of her, something having to do with Mark, leader of a local motorcycle gang. Though they have little in common, Claire and Mark fall helplessly in love, to the relief of the superstitious villagers who believe the two are destined to be the next Guardians, charged with protecting Ravensmere from destruction. Symbols of nature, healing, and rebirth are everywhere in the formal gardens, classical statues, and labyrinths of the Ravensmere grounds, and are clues to an ancient mystery. Like Persophone, Claire must descend into the bowels of the earth, face the terrors hidden underground, and then find her own way back to the surface.

This is book 5 for my RIP Challenge, however
, I'm enjoying my plunge into the eerie so I've started The Historian for a bonus read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dragonfly in Amber (Outland#2)

by Diana Gabaldon
(read September 2006)
Rating: 4.5/5
Unfortunately, I find myself hooked on this series. The first book is Outlander and Dragonfly is the second. The reason I say, "Unfortunately I'm hooked" is because each book is so long. These books feature Dr. Claire Randall who travels back in time two hundred years and meets and marries the gallant Jamie Fraser, laird of Lallybroch. Twenty years after her first trip to 1743 Scotland, Claire returns to modern-day Scotland with her daughter where she plans to tell her the truth of her parentage.

The story is mesmerizing with it plot twists and beautiful language. I look forward to reading the next installment The Voyager.