Friday, August 31, 2007

Murder on a Bad Hair Day

by Anne George

Last night I finished the second in the Southern Sisters Mystery series. I love reading about these bubbly sisters who are just a few years older than me and who get themselves involved in things over their heads. Even though I figured out the mystery before the end, there were certain things that kept me wondering if I was right.

Choose this series for the light-hearted fun, the southern insights into Birmingham talk, sights, and food. Be prepared to laugh out loud at Mouse and Sister's relationship. You may even find yourself reaching for some tissue once or twice. I love these books and will be looking for the 3rd in the series.

Here's a bit about southern culture:
"Grandmother Alice, who lived in Montgomery, and from whom Mary Alice inherited her size, was a formidable disciplinarian. We were taught very early that there were three things the women in our family never were. First was tacky. Wearing patent leather shoes after five was an example of this. Then there was common. This included smoking on the street and not writing thank-you notes within a week. Finally, there was common as pig tracks. God forbid. Grandmother caught Mary Alice cutting her toenails on the front porch, a common as pig tracks offense."
Here's a statement that I've read in both books in one form or another. It must be a southern saying.
"I cut my eyes around at her."
I remember as a 7-th grader in Lincoln, NE learning about the pencil test. In this book Mary
Alice slams on the brake and Patricia Anne gets a tight squeeze from the seat belt.
"Did you hurt yourself ?" Mary Alice asked. "Let's just say I'll never pass the pencil test again." I was referring to the pencil-stuck-beneath-the-breast test. If the breast is firm and perky, the pencil will fall. Needless to say, only the very young or flat-chested will try it.
(I wonder why they had us do that silly test?!)

Good news: Finishing this book completes my Southern Reading Challenge. Just in the nick of time, since tomorrow is the deadline. I'm going to run over to Maggie's and let her know. YiPPeE!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just4thehelluvit Challenge

This is the challenge that needed to happen. You know that I love challenges and jump on the band wagon whenever a new comes along. I really do love them. I get excited about choosing the books, making the lists, posting the posts and reading the books. I thrill at crossing a book off the list when I finish reading it. And it's pure satisfaction to write a challenge wrap-up post when I finish the challenge. I've joined many challenges; finished all but one, which broke my heart because it was the Summer Mystery Challenge. Oh, how I hope Liz from Reviewed by Liz will sponsor this challenge again next summer. I can almost guarantee that next summer will NOT include a 36 day trip and a flooded basement. **fingers crossed** I'll be happy to grovel, Liz, if you will promise me...

Anyway, the brilliant Pink Dana at Think Pink came up with a challenge for the times - the times of many book challenges. You'll thinks she's brilliant, too, when you read the rules for this challenge:
The just4thehelluvit challenge is for those of us who just can't seem to read something simply because we want to.

Therefore, this challenge has just
one rule: nothing you read for it can cross over to ANY other challenge. You are reading these books JUST4THEHELLUVIT!

I don't care if you read one book or forty-three. I don't care if they won awards or not, if they have literary merit or not, if your Aunt Mathilda's poodle wrote it in a worm medicine induced stupor or not. I just don't care.

Go on and read one for fun! Do it for me! Do it for the hell of it! But please, PLEASE for the love of all that is holy,
do not make a list.

One afternoon when a book sounds good, just tickles your fancy for no good reason, go ahead and READ IT WITHOUT GUILT! And consider yourself officially a reading rebel!
The only way I can possibly do this challenge is to sign up for some of those others that will let me make a list! Just kidding! I'm not kidding about signing up for other challenges, though.

Do you love this idea - Reading a book just because it strikes your fancy at the moment? I remember doing that in my past life, before reading challenges. It's going to be fun. Thanks, Dana, for giving us the excuse to read just4thehelluvit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

R.I.P. II Challenge

This is the second year Carl is hosting the R.I.P. II Challenge. Hip, hip, hooray! We sure appreciate you, Carl. R.I.P. stands for Readers' Imbibing Peril. And that is just what reader's who accept this challenge will be doing - Imbibing Peril. There is a choice of 4 perils so you can choose your own cup of poison. Click on the above link to read all the ins and outs of the challenge.

I am going with Peril the First - Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose. My 'pool' of choices include

1. Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable (My daughter's recommendation)
2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
3. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
4. Bones by Jan Burke
5. Strange Happenings by Avi
6. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
7. Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell
8. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
9. Seeing Red (The Looking Glass Wars) by Frank Beddor

Monday, August 27, 2007

Murder on a Girls' Night Out

by Anne George

Oh happy days! I finally got to read a mystery. This one is for Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge. Only one more book to go and only 5 days to finish it. With that in mind I'm going to read the 2nd in this series, which is Murder on a Bad Hair Day.

Murder on a Girl's Night Out gave me a real feel for the south. It's about two mature women (in their sixties) who are sisters. The oldest, Mary Alice, is large, brassy, and bold while the other, Patricia Anne nicknamed Mouse, is petite and demur. Mary Alice has had 4 or 5 husband and now a male "friend". Mouse has been married to Fred forever.

Two of my favorite lines are from Mouse as she describes her feelings for her husband.
"He smiled when he saw me coming and waited for me. At that moment I loved him. I mean, I knew I loved him, which is something entirely different. One of the things you learn in a long marriage is that these moments happen. You'll see him standing in line at the movie waiting to buy tickets, or walking toward you at the Winn-Dixie with a gallon of milk, squinting at it to is if the date is okay, and you thinking, Hey, I love this man. You also learn not to take these moments for granted. So we didn't."

The next one comes a few pages later.
"I tried to remember that I had loved him a couple of hours ago."

This cozy mystery contained a fairly good who-done-it along with lots of laughs and a few insightful glimpses into relationships - husband/wife, mother/daughter, sisters and friends. An enjoyable, quick, easy-going read. I'll enjoy reading more in this series.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What a Terrific Day!

After work today I get this sweet little message from EMILY at Lost in the Pages: YOU WON! A message like that goes a long way. I won 3 books from her Library Thing AND I got to choose the books. Here's what I chose:
1. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
2. First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
3. The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory

And if you're not already thinking that Emily is a very NICE person, let me tell you SHE IS. She didn't just draw one name out of the hat (that was me), she drew out two names. Kristie from Kristie Loves Books also won 3 books of her choice.

You should click on Emily's link and read about her mishaps at the Toby Keith concert. Very funny.

The other thing that made my day was how great my kids were today in school. Yesterday I felt like quiting. Yesterday was only the 2nd day! Today they were charming and I fell in love with everyone of them. There's only 7 right now and they are all in foster families. Life isn't always easy for them, but each one has special gifts that they are trying to use to make their lives better.

I've retired from teaching science so I'm only a 1/4 day teacher, which means I teach only one period a day. It's a rough life. I have to be to school by 1:00 and class is over at 2:10. For me, at this point in my life, it's a wonderful job.

And tonight I'm going to do measure and find out how many inches I've lost doing water aroebics this last week. I've attended 4 times now. I have 3 daughters living in town and they go, too. They get a big tickle out of their old, fat mom sticking to it for an hour. They also think it's pretty neat. I do too.

Can you blame me for relishing in the wonderfulness of the day? Besides the weather is ideal - clear, blue skies, temps in the 70's. Who could ask for more? Hope y'all or yous (as they say in PEI) have a terrific weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Follow-up on Book Club

Before reading this post may I suggest you read a previous post. It's not that long - only 2 paragraphs - and it sets the stage for this post.

So, I made it to book club. Unfortunately I didn't finish the book* but I was prepared with some info about the author and I even did some research on the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. I went 15 minutes early (I know, very impressive!) and met one of the ladies in book club in the lobby. She asked if I read the book and I admitted to not quite finishing. She said it had been a while since she read it so she hoped she would remember enough to present it well. Freeze that frame! She's presenting? Oh, what great relief. I can't even express how good I felt. I really thought my mind was not to be trusted. While I still think that, I feel like I'd been pardoned to attend to the normal routines of life for a while longer.

*This month's selection was Bel Canto. A book I am thoroughly enjoying, but haven't had enough time to read. School starts tomorrow and I had to move classrooms today! And you may remember that my house is torn apart and our washer and dryer are being stored in the carport. I really must get in some time at the laundromat. On that note let me share a quote from the priest in Bel Canto:
"In fate there was reward, in turning over one's heart to God there was a magnificence that lay beyond description. At the moment one is sure that all is lost, look at what is gained."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Face-to-Face Book Club Funny :D

Our book club meets every 3rd Tuesday. This month we are reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Due to our long, wonderful vacation and our upheaval at home I had only read about 40 pages before Tuesday nights meeting. As it turned out that was no big deal because I forgot to go. I had family over for dinner in the backyard and we had so much fun visiting that I forgot until it was 8:00 - an hour too late! I was quite disappointed. :(

Today when my mom, daughter and I were at the quilt show, we ran into a girl from book club. We didn't recognize each other right off, but eventually she recognized me and asked, "Aren't you in book club?" I said I was and asked about Tuesday's meeting, expressing my disappointment in not attending and my positive feelings for the book so far. She said I was mistaken - it wasn't last Tuesday, it's this coming up Tuesday. I was so excited and recommitted myself to reading faster so I could finish in time. Then I asked if she knew who had recommended Bel Canto. She said it was that lady that didn't come very often. And I said, "That's me!" A look of further recognition sparked in her eyes and she confirmed that it was, indeed, me. How could I so thoroughly forget something like this? I stammered for a minute or two in unbelief because I never recommend a book that I haven't already read. As I keep going over this scene in my head it creates a slight breeze that nudges the cobwebs and I ever so vaguely recollect recommending it but that was forever ago or in a dream, wasn't it? Between my mind and my waist, I'm not sure which one I miss the most!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2nds Challenge

I Want Seconds!

I've seen this challenge on Joy's blog and have just been waiting until we got back from vacation to choose my books and to post this challenge. This is how Joy explains the challenge:

"I know many of us have discovered several new authors as we have participated in the gazillion challenges we joined this past year (Joy said endearingly!) and I also know that we have stumbled upon some books that we thought were really great and some maybe not-so-great. Well, here's the perfect excuse opportunity to explore 3 new-found authors that you would love to go back for a second helping. I hope you'll join me.
WHO: Anybody
WHAT: Read 3 books by authors that you have only read one other
WHERE: Mister Linky will keep track of monthly books read here on "Thoughts of Joy..."
WHEN: October, November and December, 2007
(Directly following the Non-Fiction Five Challenge)
WHY: Because we love to read...why else?"

After choosing your 3 books go to Joy's blog and sign up with Mr. Linky. Here are my choices for this challenge:
1. The Bookman's Wake by John Dunning. First book in this series is Booked to Die which I thoroughly enjoyed. Click on title for my review.

2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I know it's amazing that a 56-yr-old woman has only read one Austen book, but it was Pride and Prejudice so that redeems me just a little, doesn't it?

3. Body in the Kelp by Katherine Hall Page. This is a series my cousins Pam and Jane read and recommended to me. I really enjoyed the first, Body in the Belfry. Another light, cozy mystery.

As possible alternatives I have chosen:
*A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber. This is the next book after The Shop on Blossom Street.

* The Love Letters by Madeleine L'Engle. The only L'Engle book I've read is A Wrinkle in Time, but I have several others on my shelves.

* Spectacle of Corruptions by David Liss. I fell in love with Liss when I read A Conspiracy of Paper. He includes such interesting tidbits of history that add depth and richness to his novels. I read this one so long ago that it's not even included in my blog reviews. It's definitely time to read this one.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Two Unfinished Challenges **Sob**Sob**

It makes me sad but I have to face the music. I am not going to be able to finish the wonderful Summer Mystery Challenge sponsored by Liz. I remember when I first discovered this challenge I was so excited because I was mystery deprived at the time. What an opportunity to read mysteries, which are my favorite genre. What happened you may ask? Well, I had to plan a 5-week trip, then I HAD to take that trip and then I came home to a ruined basement. Otherwise, I would have curled up in my reading chair and had a blissful time soaking up those wonderful mysteries. Here's how things worked out:

  • 1. Booked to Die

  • 2. Body Double

  • 3. A Deadly Secret

  • 4. Murder on a Girl's Night Out

  • 5. Bones

  • 6. Eye of the Needle

  • While I'm wiping the slate clean I might as well confess that I didn't finish my library's summer adult reading program, either. The challenge is to read 9 out of the 12 genres they listed. The contest only runs for the months of June and July. Here's my final results for this challenge:

  • Adult Classic - Scarlet Pimpernel

  • Jr Classic - Anne of Green Gables

  • Newbery - Higher Power of Lucky

  • Nonfiction - Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death

  • Biography - Brainiac

  • Mystery - Booked to Die

  • Romance - Princess Bride

  • SciFi/Fantasy - A Wrinkle in Time

  • Western - Haunted Mesa

  • Fiction of Choice - Bridge of San Luis Rey

  • Short Stories - Dreams Underfoot

  • Poetry - One of Carolyn Pearson's books

  • I don't feel guilty about not finishing, I just feel bad I didn't read the ones that aren't crossed off. With the exception of Haunted Mesa I still plan to read the others. And I will still sign up for more challenges. I really enjoy them.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Book to Movie Challenge

    Even though I'm going to have to bail on a couple of my summer reading challenges, I'm undaunted about taking on new challenges that won't be affected by a 5-week trip. On the other hand, I might need to be careful because over the next several months we will be remodeling our entire basement due to flood damage. Oh heck, I'm going to throw all caution to the wind and join as many challenges as I want. What's the worst that can happen? Not finishing AND that's not going to kill me. I will at least read one or two on the list.

    Back to this new challenge. It's being hosted by Callista at S.M.S Book Reviews. It sounds fun and Callista has designed an awesome button besides! Here are the rules:

    1. This challenge will run September 1 - December 1. (3 months)

    2. Your challenge is to pick and read at least 3 books that were made into movies. There is a LARGE list here.

    3. You can use books that fulfill other challenges if you want but you must read them AFTER
    Sept. 1.

    4. If you'd like to participate, pick your books (at least 3) and post them on your blog with a link back to this challenge so others can participate. Then go back there and add yourself to the Mr. Linky. Check back here for other participants and more news.

    5. It is not required that you watch the movies and compare them to the books but this would be a good idea if you want to.

    My choices for this challenge are:

    ***The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
    ***Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
    ***Random Passage by Bernice Morgan

    Thanks, Callista for inventing this great new challenge. I'm excited about it and hope to finish all 3 books AND watch the movies. It will be fun to read and watch with a mind set to compare the nuances, differences and similarities between the two. I talked with a young man on a ferry trip this summer who had an assignment like this for his English class. He said most of the students were very excited about this assignment and completed it. (They only needed to read one book and watch the movie.) Then they prepared and presented their report to the class. I told him I was envious that I never got to do a fun assignment like that. Low and behold! Now I get to!

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Shadows on the Rock

    by Willa Cather

    I can't tell you what a treat it has been for me to read this book. Having spent 6 years of my life in Lincoln, Nebraska I knew about Willa Cather. Or so I thought. Cather also lived in Nebraska. She attended the University of Nebraska and wrote books that took place in Nebraska and New Mexico. We were taught about her in English classes.

    So imagine my shock when I asked for suggestions of books with settings in Canada and Qinsina suggested a book by Willa Cather. I called my mother who graduated from the University of Nebraska (while raising 7 children) as an English major. She was as surprised as I was that Cather had written a book set in Quebec City. Qinsina included a great website that featured a Quebec tour of the places talked about in the book. The tour was prepared by John J. Murphy of Brigham Young University. I added the tour to my Microsoft Streets and Trips map. I bookmooched a copy of the book and packed it for the trip.

    I don't remember just where we were on our trip when I decided I just couldn't carry that heavy Devil in the White City around in my carry-all and put in instead, Shadows on the Rock. I only read 5-6 pages a day - very slow going. There were times when we just sat in a park or by a lake or the ocean, and even though I held my book in front of me I didn't read because I was just soaking in the environment. So I didn't finish the book before we reached Quebec City.

    Shadows on the Rock is about an apothecary and his daughter, Cecile, who came to Quebec in the late 1600's with their patron, Count Frontenac. Cecile describes looking up from the front door of the apothecary to the Frontenac chateau. Below are a couple pictures we took looking up at the Frontenac Hotel from Old Town Quebec. Standing there and walking around the area gave me a real feel for Cather's descriptions.

    Obviously, there are more people milling around than in the time of the book. Many of the buildings have been rebuilt on the original foundations, but a few of the buildings date back to the late 1600's. This next picture shows the little church that Cecile and her friend visited that was dedicated to the infant Jesus.

    We have pictures of the basilica that Bishop Laval enlarged and also his seminary, but the quality is not so great. The basilica has had to be rebuilt after a couple of fires, but it is the first basilica in North America and Bishop Laval was the first bishop. In the book he is depicted as a kind, humble man.

    One more note: Shadows on the Rock was in my big cloth carry-all the night we attended the International Fireworks Competition held at Montmorency Falls near Quebec City. We arrived a couple hours early. I thought I would read some. It poured until a few minutes after the fireworks started and my bag and everything in it was soaked, including my book. I had to use the hair dryer to try and dry it when we got back to the hotel. It still has the water stains along the bottom. Good memories!

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    The Good Guy

    by Dean Koontz

    Listening to this book brought us through Kansas and most of the way through Colarado. Both Candleman and I love Dean Koontz and were confident that his book would hold our interest while driving familiar roads.

    The main character, Timothy Carrier, a quiet stone mason having a beer in a California bar, meets a stranger who mistakes him for a hit man. The stranger slips Tim a manila envelope containing $10,000 in cash and a photo of the intended victim, Linda Paquette, a writer in Laguna Beach, then leaves. A moment later, Krait, the real killer, shows up and assumes Tim is his client. Tim manages to distract Krait from immediately carrying out the hit by saying he's had a change of heart and offering Krait the $10,000 he just received. This ploy gives the stone mason enough time to warn Linda before they begin a frantic flight for their lives. --Publisher's Weekly

    I really enjoyed this book, although I thought the love interest was a bit weird. There was a fair amount of tension to keep my interest. Not the best Koontz book I've read, but still good.

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    by Khaled Hosseni

    Candleman and I listened to this book on our iPod while driving through New Brunswick, Quebec Province, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and part of Kansas. There were lots of stops, starts and delays of days in our reading, so the experience was not ideal. I think this is a book that should be read in a more succinct time frame than what we gave it. One thing I did like about listening to it was hearing the pronunciation of the words, especially Mariam and Liala's names.

    It's a wonderful book. I think it favorably compares to The Kite Runner. I enjoyed learning more of Afghanistan and the way of life for many of its people. A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of Mariam and Laila's lives and how they came to be interconnected. It tells of the hardships they had to bear and their methods of coping. Both are brave, courageous woman. I can highly recommend this book to you.