Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mistress of the Art of Death

by Ariana Franklin

Oh, how I hope that this is the first book in a series. I want to read more by this masterful storyteller and more of the adventures of the mistress of death, Adelia.

In the time of Henry II three children had been hideously tortured and murdered and the murders blamed on the Jews. Henry sends to Italy for a doctor to the dead (forerunner term for forsenic scientist) to help solve the crimes. Little does he realize that the school of doctors would send a woman.

Mistress is a suspense/thriller with a convincing historical feel. The occasional 'laugh-out-loud' moments further endeared me to the story. I enjoyed it immensely - better than The Thirteen Tale.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lily Dale: Awakening

by Wendy Corsi Staub

When Calla returned home from school one day she found her mother lying dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. After the funeral, neither Calla nor her father can stand the thoughts of staying in their home in Florida. Calla decides to stay with her strange grandmother in Lily Dale, New York while her father looks for an apartment in California.

Calla's down-to-earth mother didn't have much of a relationship with her own mother after she had left home and Calla's family never vacationed in Lily Dale, so Calla is surprised and shocked when she learns that the small town of Lily Dale is considered the World's Largest Center for the Religion of Spirituality and her grandmother is a medium.

I enjoyed this YA adult book for the most part and I can see its appeal for young teens and young adults. The reader can empathize with Calla and her pain over the loss of her mother, her confusion about her own abilities to see ghosts, her yearning to learn more about her mother by living in the home where she grew up, her developing relationship with her grandmother, her feelings for her ex-boyfriend and the attraction she experiences to 2 new boys in Lily Dale. I think young people will relate well to Calla's struggles and in subtle ways are reassured that they are not alone in the battles and triumphs of life.

Awakening is a fast, yet engaging read. I lent the book to one of my study skills students and she read it in 2 days. She was very excited about the book and wants to read the next in the series. As do I.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Barometer Rising

by Hugh MacLennan

I have been typing and retyping this first sentence and I'm still not sure where to begin. This book is a masterpiece, worthy to be called a classic. MacLennan's writing is smooth and descriptive. I have no desires to be a writer but for those who do, this would make an excellent study. Not only does Maclennan do a examplary job of writing, the story is taut and compelling.

Barometer is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia during WWI. The book encompasses only eight days during the first part of December in 1917. There was a wonderful sense of place, so much so that I could feel the damp coldness, picture the overcast grey sky and hear the boats churning in the bay. The pace of the story continues to build towards the real life catastrophic explosion that occurred in the bay and had such a devastating effect on Halifax.

The story centers on Penelope Wain who believes her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed by enemy fire shortly after being placed under court martial. Macrae's commanding officer was Penelope's father. In the two years Macrae was away Penelope has gained respect as a talented ship designer. And she has received a proposal of marriage from another soldier who served in the war in her father's squadron.

The main characters and supporting cast are so well depicted. Each seems like a real person with weaknesses, worries and strengths. MacLennan writes some of the best dialog I've ever read.

I highly recommend this book. One of my favorite quotes is from the man Macrae is depending on to clear his name of a military charge of insubordination.
"I do not understand very much, but I always have known what it is I have to do next, and if I lose the job at Wain's there will be another one somewhere else. We are told thea the Lord will provide, and there would be no use whatever in going to church if a man cannont believe a thing as easy as that."

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Cardathon Challenge

Becky at Becky's Book Reviews is a big fan of Orson Scott Card so she's decided to host a challenge featuring him. Since I also like the books that I've read by Card and would like to read some more I'm joining in the fun. Becky has a blog set up just for this challenge. You can get there by click on this link: Cardathon Challenge.

The challenge starts January 2008 and doesn't have a set ending date. This is the basic information for this challenge:
To qualify for the Cardathon Challenge a book needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) a book written by Orson Scott Card
2) a book edited/compiled by Orson Scott Card
3) a book with an introduction by Orson Scott Card
4) a book reviewed by Orson Scott Card on his official website.

How many books are we talking about? I'd suggest choosing 6-12 books to read. Along with alternates, of course. Always feel free to list more alternates than 'official' choices. Essentially, you could read as many or as few as you wanted. Although, I hope that given a year, you would read at least six books. If you should read all the books on your list, feel free to add more.

How many books must be written by Card? I'd hope that you would choose at least one or two books for your list. But you can choose many other authors as long as they've been mentioned and/or recommended by Card. This leaves the selection process very open-ended, and gives you many, many options.
In addition to the link to Card's official website, Becky also includes a list of all the books he has written, edited, or contributed short stories or written introductions. You can access this list by going to the Cardathon Challenge Blog. Keep in mind that you can also read a book that Card has reviewed on his website.

So, what will I be reading for this challenge? I haven't whittled my choices down to the final selections, but this is the 'long list'.

Books by Card
An Open Book
Hart's Hope
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Invasive Procedures
Treasure Box
Cruel Miracles

Books Reviewed by Card on his Website
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke (an Irene Kelly mystery)
Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint
The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz
TheMessenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

I can highly recommend Enchantment and Ender's Game, both by Card, to anyone who is planning on join the Cardathon Challenge.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two Challenges Finished

When I finished reading Brainiac I completed the TBR Challenge and the Non-fiction Five Challenge.

It was a long, long time ago that I picked out my books for the TBR Challenge - I couldn't even find the post with my original list of books. I wanted to see if I read all the originals or if I made any changes along the way. Oh well. Here's the list I did read:

  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  3. I Am the Messenger by Mark Zusak
  4. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
  5. At Some Disputed Barricade by Anne Perry
  6. Brainiac by Ken Jennings
  7. Flowers for Algernonn by Daniel Keyes
  8. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  9. Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  10. House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende
  11. Booked to Die by John Dunning
  12. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The only one I didn't care for was House of Spirits. Numbers 4 and 5 I read to further my progress in two different series I was into. (Still am.) Book 11 started me on another series. All in all, some really good books.

I was able to find my original list of books to be read for the Non-Fiction Five challenge. I posted this list on March 7, 2007. At the top is the original list and after that are the books I actually read.

I didn't read the original numbers 1, 2, and 3. In addition to numbers 4 and 5 I read

  1. My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen
  2. My Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Any that I disliked? No, I liked them all.

I can't believe how rewarding it is to finish a challenge and take a few minute to review the fruits I've reaped in the process. Worlds of information and hours of entertainment have been mine as a result of stretching beyond my cozies and suspense novels. Thank-you, Mizbooks and Joy for hosting this challenges. I have loved doing them and look forward to another go around.

I have learned that Mizbooks will be hosting the TBR Challenge again in 2008. Hurray! I have sooooo many books piled on my shelves and a bazillion more on my TBR wishlist at LibraryThing. I'm trying real hard to read mostly from my shelves this year, so this challenge is going to help me do that.And Joy will be hosting a new challenge starting in January 2008 called The First in a Series Challenge. So fun! I own the first book in 11 series, so this challenge is going to be just the thing to get those read. I have my mind set on 3 other series that I'd like to read. Here's hoping the library has those.

Friday, September 21, 2007


by Ken Jennings

Why? I bought this book at the Salt Lake Book Festival last fall after listening to Ken Jennings talk. He was so personable and funny. I was entirely captivated so I bought his book and asked him to sign it. Very cleverly, he signed it "Who is Ken Jennings?"

What? The book talks about Jennings' experiences trying out for and being on Jeopardy for 6 months. It was interesting to read about the regulations and the contracts that contestants must sign. They can't tell anyone about their experience until after the show airs, which is usually 3 months after taping. So here's a guy with a family and a job who has to fly to L.A every Tuesday and, in Jennings' case, stay until Thursday and he can't tell anyone! I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. And then after the first show airs, how do you not let it slip that you're still making new shows and that you've won big sums of money?

What did I like? I liked that Jennings doesn't just linearly tell his Jeopardy story. Instead, he weaves it over, under and through interesting history and trends in trivia. Did you know that in the mid-1800's a a man named Timp published trivia books. Wilkie Collins wrote an essay in which he describes using some of Timp's trivia at dinner parties.

Each chapter title is a question: What is Ambition? What is Cognition? What is Tradition? and so on. And each chapter has several questions to test the reader's trivia prowess. That was fun, even though I could only answer about half the questions.

I enjoyed reading about the bumpy emergence of Trivial Pursuit, bar trivia games, and the city of Stevens Point, Wisconsin the trivia capital of the world. Stevens Point has an annual 54-hour trivia game. Wow!

Anything else? Let me leave you with one philosophy of two guys talked about in the book. (How's that for specific?) These guys contend that good trivia questions are based on nostalgia. People like to be reminded of their common cultural heritage. This type of nostalgia trivia worked well in an era when the three TV choices on Sunday evening were Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen or Maverick. When Jennings asked if they thought this type of trivia would ever ebb to another high in America they said the didn't think so. There reason, "What makes us Americans, in a certain way, is the centrality of popular culture. It ties us together. The explosion of TV channels and fragmentation of popular music genres have changed all that. There's so much more out there, that there's less that people share. As a result, we have less of a strong, unifying cultural force in society in general. Things that used to be very, very deep cultural reference points don't mean anything at all nowadays."

Fall Into Reading Challenge

Fall Into Reading 2007 is a casual, low-pressure challenge that's being hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. The official dates are September 23rd through December 21st.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Their Shoes Reading Challenge

Sponsored by N. Vasilly. The complete write-up with rules, etc. can be found at "In Their Shoes" Reading Challenge.

The rules are real simple: you pick the number of books that you want to read. You also pick the books you read. They just have to be either a memoir, autobiography, or biography.

The challenge doesn't start until January 1, 2008 and it ends December 31, 2008.

I will be reading books from this list:
1. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Greely
2. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
3. The Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell
4. And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran
5. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
6. A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi
7. Everything by Design by Alan Lapidus
8. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong
9. Long Ago in France by M.F.K. Fisher (recommended by Jenclair)
10. Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen (recommended by Ben)
Hopefully, I will get all 10 read, but my goal is to read six. I only own 2 of these books, the rest I hope to get from the library.