Friday, January 23, 2009

The Mind of a Genius

by David Snowdon

I accepted this book for review because it sounded interesting - The MI4, the CIA and the Denmark Intelligence are all after the project of a top British scientist. This project would change the world. I wanted to know more about the project and who was going to get it.

Sadly, after 30 pages I had lost all interest. And I was getting increasingly irked at the character descriptions. The author had a pat way of introducing each character, as seen in this example:
"Stephen Jones, which was his real name, was 58, 6-foot-2-inches and powerfully built. He had a head full of dark brown curly hair, and he wore an ear-ring on his left ear, a habit that he had adopted in his 20's and couldn't get rid of.
Tonight he wore a short-sleeved navy blue shirt and a pair of white cotton trousers."

Each character was introduced in exactly the same way - name, age, brief description and what they were wearing on that day. Sometimes it helps to flesh -out a character to know how they dressed, but I don't think it's necessary for every character's first introduction. And there are quite a few characters introduced in the first 30 pages.

I decided to give the author another try before throwing the book against the wall, so I flipped back to a random page and started to read the last sentence on page 97.
"At 3-foot-8, Shorty, Terry McGee was a dwarf. He had well-groomed, dark brown hair and brown eyes. "
And today, he wore a black suit, which had been tailor-made for him with a yellow shirt and a black tie." UGH!

One final chance - I turned all the way to the back, almost. I figured that maybe once all the characters were introduced the author wouldn't feel the need to tell us what the characters were wearing. No luck. This next bit was just 3 pages from the end.
"As she entered the living room, she got a shock.
Sitting on one of the chairs, a cheeky smile on his face, and a drink within his reach, was Jason Clay.
He was wearing a white shirt with a pair of white cotton trousers."

There were some other BIG problems with the book in addition to the flat characterization, but I'm tired of dissing a first-time author. The copy I have is an ARC, so there's a chance some of the problems will be fixed in the book when it hits the bookstores. We can only hope.

I am not going to finish this one - add it to the DNF pile.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Entertainment Weekly's "New Classics" List

I am happy to see a several of my all-time favorites on this list, namely Poisonwood Bible, The Giver, Prayer for Owen Meany, and The Kite Runner. The books I've read on this list have been crossed off. Actually all the ones I've read I have liked.

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1996)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1999)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (199
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1999)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1989)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

by Beth Pattillo

Looking for a fun, light but very good book for Valentine's reading. This one fits the bill. I've read several Jane Austen take-offs in the last year or two and this is by far the best. It rates higher than Austenland, The Jane Austen Book Club, and Jane and Cassandra. At least in my opinion. And I really liked two of those.

Emma has lost her husband to another woman and she has lost her college professorship for suposedly stealing the her teaching assitant writings. In hopes of gaining back her professional reputation she flies to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen - she has a contact who wants to help her.

Mrs. Parrot claims to have over 500 unpublished letters that Austen's sister Cassandra was put in charge of destroying. Before Emma is permitted to see the letters she must complete several task to prove her worthiness. I had lots of questions about Mrs. Parrot and the tasks which let just enough mystery to keep me interested in how things would turn out.

There were several passages that hit a chord with me but I didn't mark them. I usually put several BookDarts on the first page so they are handy when I run across a neat quote, but I keept forgetting to get the BookDarts. I'm passing the book on to my 19-yr-old daughter. I think her age group all the way up to my age group will enjoy this book. It's MUCH better than those Twilight books that were making the rounds.

This book will be released on Feb 3. Great timing for Valentine's and a perfect book for that holiday.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dead on Arrival

by Jeffery S. Savage

Most of us know Jeffery Savage as Scott Savage, the author of the fabulous fantasy Farworld: Water Keep. Whichever name he uses he tells a good story.

Dead on Arrival is one of two LDS mysteries written by Savage and featuring Shandra Covington. The setting is Salt Lake City, Utah - so if you are looking for a good Utah book for the states reading challenge, this one would qualify. Is there a state capitals reading challenge?

Shandra is a journalism. One day at work she is approached by an older gentleman claiming that he needs her help. His wife is trying to kill him. Only thing is his wife is dead and so is he. Of course, Shandra doesn't put much stock in what this old, and perhaps crazy, person has to say until she later witnesses him fall to his death from a hotel room.

Lots of questions about how the story is going to turn out. I was glued to it from start to finish. About the finish - the basic mystery is cleared up, but something happens that made me want to scream, "Where's the next book!" I just interrupted this post to email the author in hopes of encouraging him to write more mysteries in addition to his fantasy series. I don't want him to neglect his family in acheiving this, but maybe he could quit his day job?!

I highly recommend this one. It's published by Covenant books. If you are concerned about it being an LDS novel, don't be. There's only a minor mention of the church early on. I definitely wouldn't classify this novel as Christian literature. The great thing is there's no vulgarity. I appreciate that. A complex, well-written mystery with no crudeness - isn't that refreshing? Why do some authors feel it's so important to add that?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Absolute Fear

by Lisa Jackson

I haven't been doing very well with starting a series with the first book. This is the second time this month. Oh well, in some ways it's fun to learn about the characters and their relationships and then go back to the beginning and find out what led up to this stage.

Her last memory before being shot in the head is looking up from her slumped position on the floor and seeing her boyfriend aiming a gun right at her. Quite the beginning, don't you think?! Talk about Absolute Fear!

This Southern mystery/suspense was as tangled as any soap opera could ever hope to be. WOW! That doesn't sound like a good thing and maybe it was a bit much, but I still enjoyed it. The only thing I didn't like was the crassness. Lisa Jackson has a romance series that I don't think I'll bother with, but I can skip over it in this mystery series.

There are four previous books in this series. Book one is Hot Blooded.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Red House Mystery

by A.A. Milne

My niece Julie told me about this adult mystery by Winnie-the-Pooh author. My interest was naturally peaked.

This cozy mystery was written in 1922 for Milne's father who loved mysteries. I wouldn't say it was a great work of fiction, but it was fun to read. The lead character has some of the same charm as Winnie-the-Pooh so I couldn't help but like him even though I was suspicious of him in a couple of places.

Anthony Gillingham stops by an English country estate to visit his old friend Bill and gets more than he bargained for. Bill is visiting is friend along with several others. (I think it's interesting how 'people of fortune' used to flit from one home to another in groups and stay for weeks.) That was what Bill was doing when Anthony stopped by to visit. As Anthony arrives he discovers the brother of Bill's host has just been murdered and the host is no where to be found. Anthony and Bill decide to become amateur sleuths and solve the murder. Each tiny shred of evidence leads to a multitude of questions in this unusual case.

This was a quick, fun read. I understand Milne has a few other adult novels, but I've been unable to locate them. Of course, I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hour Game

by David Baldacci

I discovered in the first couple of chapters that this book is part of a series, but I continued to read and I don't think it took anything away from the story not to have started with the first book. I did get online and mooched Split Second so I could get in on the beginning.

Former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have teamed up to form a investigative agency in a quiet community in central Virginia. They are called in to help investigate a series of murders, each one different but each a copy of an earlier famous serial murder.

This is just the type of book I love - a relatively intense whodunit. If I'm correct these are the other books in the series and in the correct order:
*Split Second
*Hour Game
*Simple Genius
*First Family

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Where Are You Now?

by Mary Higgins Clark

I think I've read all of Clark's mysteries* so when I noticed her most recent one, I picked it up. It was good. I'd probably rate it 3.25 stars, if I still did ratings.

Carolyn's brother has been missing for years; the only contact she and her mother have with him is when he calls every year on Mother's Day. After Mac's last call, Carolyn decides she is going to search for him. Her actions put her life in danger and has the reader guessing about the people she comes in contact with and what motivates some of their actions.

*I looked on and discovered Clark has another recent book I haven't read, I Heard That Song Before, and she has a new one coming out in April, Just Take My Heart.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Photo Books

My sister, Susan, is the inspiration for this post. She is a great walker as well as reader. I admire that she walks just about every day and it inspires me. It's been years but I haven't soaked up enough inspiration to walk on a regular basis myself. Susan started blogging 2 or 3 days ago and scrap booking online and I've already soaked up enough inspiration to write a blog post based on her blog and scrap booking. Funny how it doesn't take as much to feel inspired to blog (since I can sit while doing it) as it does to walk. Okay, not funny at all!

Anyway, back to photo books. I used Photoworks to create a book for my mother for a Christmas present. She, Candleman and I went to Oregon for a wonderful week in October. The fall colors were fabulous and visiting the coast again was wonderful. It was hard deciding what pictures to include and which ones to leave out. The layouts available sometimes dictated which pictures would work best. Sometimes I had a weird combination of portrait and landscape pictures that didn't match up with the layouts. Sometimes I only had one or two pictures of something, so those two pictures took up a page when at other times I had lots of pictures that were condensed into a page. It seemed to give some scenes a higher prominence than what they held in my mind while others received lesser prominence than they deserved. Overall, the experience was good. The finished book turned out really well even though I made a few mistakes on labeling the pictures. The pictures were crisp and clear and the quality of the book was great. I was very pleased. And I received the book in a mere 5 days after ordering it. Amazing! I also liked that I could add a few extra pages to the book.

With that successful experience under my belt I decided to make another book for Candleman for our anniversary present (We have always stuck to the 1st year present of paper and given each other a book.) This time I would use pictures from our 5 week trip to Newfoundland and back. My daughter, Alyson, told me of other photo book publishing sites; such as,,, and that's all I remember. I chose Artscow because they offered the most variation in layouts for a 12x12 album. I knew I would need that size to even include a few pictures of all the wonderful things we saw and did. And they offered extra pages - I was sure I would need more than 30.

Artscow was not as easy to use as PhotoWorks because it didn't allow me to see my pictures in a little band across the top of the screen while I was choosing the layout for the page. So I had to write down the number of pictures I wanted to use and how many were portrait and/or landscape then I had to choose a layout that would work best. Then I had to go back to the picture selection to add pictures. Sometimes the pictures didn't work so well in that layout so I'd have to go back to the layout page and choose again. That is my #2 biggest complaint about Artscow.

My #1 complaint was that after doing all the above steps for 30 pages I discovered I could only add ONE more blinking page! They told me up front that I could add additional pages at $1 a page, but they neglected to tell me that I could only add ONE page - just one! I needed to add about 8 more and I couldn't do it. Oh, I was mad. I had spent hours on those 31 pages and was very pleased with them. I really couldn't condense anything because each page or 2 page spread was about 1 theme. I thought about doing a second book the same size and just paying the extra but I really didn't have enough to fill another 30 pages. I emailed the company about my problem but they just informed me that I could only add one extra page.

Needless to say, I did not get my husband a book for our anniversary which was on Dec 28. It still on hold until I decide what to do. I don't know if the quality of the book would have been comparable to PhotoWorks or not.

If you have any experience with photo books or have a site that you are especially pleased with please let me know. I suspect there are other sites that provide a nice selection of layouts. Would love to hear your recommendations and/or experience with photo books.

**Added Note: After writing this post I went back to Artscow and looked over their other book sizes. They only offered an 8x8 and a 12x12 size, but the 8x8 offers 39 pages. So I wondered if I could just choose the same layouts and just have my pictures show up smaller. I started a new book, moved my first picture and, lo and behold, there were handles around the picture allowing me to change the size. Next I checked the text box, it also had handles. Wow! The 12x12 book didn't do that. Last month it didn't, but this month it does. I think that's an awesome feature. I'll keep you posted on how things work out.

**Second Added Note: I just read a review about Artscow that didn't thrill me. Until I read this review I had decided to use Artscow and do two 12x12 books - one for the trip from Utah to Newfoundland and one for the return trip. Both books would be cheaper than one book from Shutterfly. I guess you get what you pay for. Someone who commented on that review at Freebies4Mom mentioned Snapfish had good quality, so I'm off to check them out. I may have to settle for fewer layout options and a higher price tag to get good quality results.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Lost My Feed Addresses - HELP!

Santa delivered a new notebook computer for me. I know - totally awesome! But there was a catch - transferring all my important information. No real problem because I had a plan. I was going to set up the notebook next to the desktop, send what I could and copy the rest. Unfortunately, on the day I was going to do this the desktop decided to throw a fit and not start.

Not the end of the world because I still had most of my feeds listed in a widget on the sidebar of my blog. That is until tonight when I changed my blog background. My widget with your blog links were lost.

Please help me keep in touch. Leave me a quick hello in the comments so I can visit your blog and add it to my Sage Reader. Thank you so much.