Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hippopotamus Pool

by Elizabeth Peters

Book eight in the mystery series featuring Amelia Peabody is much like the previous books - enjoyable, satisfying, informative, humorous and cozy.

This season (1899-1900), the Emersons are greeted in Cairo by a mysterious Mr. Shelmadine, who tells them a tale of reincarnation and a queen's tomb before disappearing. The tomb he wants them to excavate is at Drah Abu'l Naga, the tomb of Queen Tetisheri. Despite Emerson's annoyance at the melodrama, his interest is piqued, especially after a corpulent and ruthless antiquities dealer named Riccetti mentions their visitor in a veiled warning.

While trying to find the exact location of the tomb, as well as the vanishing Mr. Shelmadine, the Emersons meet up with David Todros, a young apprentice to an accomplished forger of antiquities. David is Abdullah's grandson, who scorns the "Inglizi" and wants nothing to do with Abdullah, until he himself becomes a target for violence connected with the Emersons' quest.

Evelyn and Walter Emerson come to join the work as well, and Ramses, Nefret, and David begin what is to be a beautiful friendship.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book Give-A-Way!

You've never seen a book giveaway like the one Natasha from MawBooks is featuring. There will be ten winners and they each get to pick 2 books from the long list. It's also easy to enter - just post comments on Natasha's interesting post. Click either of the above links to be transported her her 100th post featuring the contest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Awards Challenge Completed

Thanks to 3M for hosting this challenge. I read some books that were new to me and some that I probably wouldn't have without the challenge. Here's my finished list of books I read:
1. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
2. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
5. Bones by Jan Burke
6. Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
7. The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip
8. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
9. Shipping News by Annie Proulx
10. Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
11. Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My favorite: To Kill A Mockingbird
The one I liked the least: Shipping News
All the others I really liked and enjoyed reading them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

by Wayne Johnston

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. The novel is about Newfoundland and centers on Joseph Smallwood, the real-life political figure who ushers the country through confederation with Canada and then becomes the first premier.

In writing a work of the imagination in part inspired by historical events, Johnston wanted “to fashion out of the formless infinitude of ‘facts’…a work of art that would express a felt, emotional truth... Adherence to the ‘facts’ will not lead you safely through the labyrinthine pathways of the human heart.” Johnston was 19 when he met the real Joe Smallwood; he was just starting out as a journalist, and Smallwood was less than complimentary about Johnston’s reporting. Although the politician died only in 1991, little was written about his life before the age of fifty, allowing Johnston some license to imagine his formative influences.

“I wanted to write a big book about Newfoundland in scope and in vision. I couldn't think of a bigger character whose life touched on more themes, involved the whole of Newfoundland more completely than Smallwood did.” Smallwood saw Newfoundland in terms of “unrealized talent and unfulfilled ambition”; his life was somehow emblematic of the land. Moreover, says Johnston, “He was so prone to making mistakes and so fallible, and he combines so many contradictions in his personality. His quest, like that of many great literary figures of the past century, is to overcome these divisions.” The completely invented character of Fielding, meanwhile, “is like me”, says Johnston. “I share her view of Newfoundland.”

The title of the book, Johnston says, evokes “the nostalgia Newfoundlanders have felt for the possibilities of the island, and that they still have for the future. Joe is always searching for something commensurate with the greatness of the land itself, but he can't find it, and it's driving him mad…Newfoundland is that kind of place. It makes you want to live up to the landscape, but on the other hand it offers you no resources to do so. There's always this constant yearning that at least for my part helped me to start writing.”

You can read more of Johnston's essay about Unrequited Dreams by clicking on the link.

Johnston creates a larger-than-life character in Sheilagh Fielding who counterbalances Smallwood's smaller-than-life personality. It was their relationship that most engaged my interest. I was happy to discover that Johnston has written a whole novel about Fielding, titled The Custodian of Paradise. Next to Newfoundland itself, Fielding was the most complex character. She had depth, mystique, struggles and strength. Whereas Smallwood lacked all those traits. And yet, on the surface he appears to be an upstanding citizen and she a retrobait.

Most of the book is told in the1st person narrative with sprinklings of personal letters, Newfoundland history, and newspaper articles written by Fielding. I thought this was a very effective way of helping the reader understand Newfoundland better and to provide other views of events and people than just Smallwoods.

I would love to sit in on book discussion groups all across Newfoundland when they are discussing this book. The treats would definitely take a back seat to the lively and emotional discussion. To many in Newfoundland Smallwood is a hero and to the rest he is a traitor. I can understand both sides. Actually, I would welcome a good discussion of this book with any bookclub.

I would like to have had a map of Newfoundland with major areas and cities highlighted and also a map of St. John's included in the book. I lived in St John's when I was little and visited there this summer, but was unfamiliar with the area called the brow. I am assuming it's the peninsula of land where Ft Amherst Lighthouse is located.

I highly recommend this book. If you have any connection to Newfoundland it's a must. If you don't, I think you'd still be immensely satisfied.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Carpet People

by Terry Pratchett

The appeal to me was first, the book was written by Terry Pratchett; second, it was first published when Pratchett was 17-years-old, and third, it was revised by Pratchett, age 43, when the book was re-released.

Pratchett said in 1992 when the book was republished, "I wrote that in the days when I thought fantasy was all about battles and kings. Now I'm inclined to think that the real concerns of fantasy ought to be about not having battles, and doing without kings." That was my final summarizing thought when I finished the book - This book is about battles.

Pratchett's humor is evident and the story was okay, it just wasn't one of my favorite. I can see how it may be interesting for someone in Jr. High.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

by Terry Pratchett

The American cover is not the least bit cute or enticing, so I'm showing the English version even though that's not the one I was able to hold in my hands.

Some books I've read recently are based on fairy tales; this book takes the Pied Piper tale and "turns it right on it's head" according to the front cover. I think that's an apt description. Maurice is a talking cat who has teamed up with a "stupid-looking boy" and some talking mice in a Pied Piper-like scam.

Pratchett's characteristic humor defuses the ick factor allowing me to actually like the rats and tolerate their environment. In fact, I found myself cheering for the rats, which is to be expected since they are the heroes along with Maurice, the boy and a town girl.

I found myself thinking this was the perfect book to engage the interest of young boys. Although, I need to add a word of caution: the book gets quite terrifying in the last half. I didn't have any nightmares, but I could imagine that some children might. I think this book should be categorized as YA, not children's. The scary part ends and the book finishes on a lighter note. I really liked this book and highly recommend it to adults and cautiously recommend it to young adults.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents was awarded the Carnegie Awards in 2001. This award is given for outstanding children's or YA literature.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

342,745 Ways to Herd Cats Reading Challenge

Renay had way too much fun dreaming up a title for this challenge. There are 2 choices - 342,745 Ways to Herd Cats or tl;dr, which stands for too long; didn't read. I don't understand what either one has to do with the challenge, and that's part of the fun. It's quirky. The main concept is similar to last year's Something About Me Challenge, only different.

Here's how to play:
1. Make a list of ten books you love (or at least like).
2. Shate the list.
3. Browse the lists created by other members -- Reading lists sorted by bloggers or Master Reading List sorted alphabetically.
4. Read at least three (3) books recommended by others between May 1 - November 30, 2008.
5. Write reviews of the books you read.
6. Share the links to your reviews with Renay and all the other members of the challenge.
*** For the complete How To's go to Renay's blog where she explains it all much better.

I chose 10 books that I love and highly recommend. These are not necessarily my own personal top 10 favorites.
White Midnight by Dia Calhoun
History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
Anne Perry's WWI Series (This series starts with No Graves As Yet)
I Am the Messenger by Mark Zusak Most of you have read Zusak's Book Thief. I Am the Messenger is almost as good.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The 3 I'm going to read for this challenge are
1. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (recomended by Susan from She's Too Fond of Books)
2. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett (from 3 lists: Owlmouse, Lyzzle and Cyrnelle)
3. Pomegrante Soup by Marsha Mehran (from Melissa, the Booknut)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Soup's On! A Culinary Reading Challenge

At last - a cookbook challenge. I love reading cookbooks and trying new recipes. ((Why didn't I think of this??))

This challenge has been issued by Ex Libris. The challenge will run from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. All you have to do is select six cookbooks to read* and make at least one of the recipes. These can be any cookbooks of your choice - brand new ones, old stand-bys that you can't live (or cook) without, or even heirlooms. You do not have to decide on the cookbooks ahead of time (unless you want to, of course). Then post your reviews either here or on your own blog. If you want, you can even post pictures of your creations along with your reviews!
Food Network Favorites
My first born daughter gave me this one for Christmas. I had asked for one by Rachel Ray but when I saw this I was thrilled to pieces. I love watching the food network and this book has oodles of yummy looking recipes. I haven't made anything yet, but I'm going to now - with the help of this challenge urging me.

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two
I love using my slow cooker and have found a few really yummy, easy and dependable recipes. I had this book on my wishlist for Christmas and my 2nd daughter gave it to me. I was tickled. But, alas, I haven't tried any of the recipes yet. I know I'm sounding like a broken record! I'll be letting you know what some of my favorites are.

Making Memories: A Collection of Recipes from the Family & Friends of the Dairy Keen in Heber, Utah
My birthday falls between Christmas and New Years. This year daughters 3 and 4 gave me a cookbook from my favorite drive-in - The Dairy Keen in Heber. We call it "the train drive-in" because there's an electric train on a track that goes all around the drive-in. It's up high enough that people can't play with it but we can watch it while ordering and eating. In recent years the Dairy Keen has been remodeled to look like a train depot. It's really very charming. If you ever go thru Heber City you should try their fresh raspberry shakes, or any of their shakes for that matter. The cookbook is actually a collection of recipes from family and friends, but it includes some fun history of the town and the people who run the Dairy Keen. I'm very excited to have it in my collection, but it's time I tried some of the recipes.

Marshal Field's Cookbook

Candleman & I visited Chicago last summer and, on the much appreciated recommendation of Dolce Bellezza, we visited Macy's which used to be Marshall Field's. We bought some delicious Frango Mints and a beautiful cookbook.

Light and Tasty Annual 2003
Before I retired as a science teacher I didn't cook much during the school year and when I did I always relied on the familiar. During the summer I would always go through my cookbooks for new and exciting recipes. And I would check out piles of cookbooks from the library. One of the favorites to check out were the annuals from Light and Tasty. I'm going to get the annual for 2003 because on page 86 is a recipe for Asparagus Tomato Stir Fry that I am dying to try. It was submitted by Raidergirl3. Yes, our very own book blogging, trivia buffing friend from PEI. Isn't that soooooo cool.

Make-A-Mix Cookery
I bought this cookbook back in 1980 when my 3 daughters were 5, 4 and 3 years old and daughter 4 hadn't been born yet. I made up several of the mixes and saved lots of money. I used it so much that the cover became ripped, pages smudged and eventually it dissolved (or was lost). Today my oldest daughter was over telling me about a cookbook she thought she would order. It reminded me of this one. I got on and they had this one and several newer editions. I contemplated which I should order and finally went with the nostalgic first edition. It only cost $0.08 plust $3.99 s&h.

I have a million cookbooks on my shelves and I love checking out cookbooks from the library. My family loves it when I get into my cookbook-reading mood, because I always try out a few recipes, too. So a BIG THANKS to Ex Libris from me and my loved ones.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thru The Grapevine Challenge

In celebration of books that have been recommended to us, Lynne's Little Corner of the World is hosting a fun reading challenge.

The goal of this challenge is to read 3 new-to-you books between June 1 and November 30 that have been recommended to you. Any type of book is OK. It can even be a book by an author you've read before. Cross-overs with other challenges are fine, and you can change books at any time. And there will be a prize at the end of the challenge. You will need to sign up before June 1.

I haven't joined any new challenges for awhile because of the unwieldy number of challenges I had joined earlier. I feel like I'm doing quite well at crossing off books on those lists so I'm going to add this challenge. I have a bazillion books I've added to my TBR list that other bloggers, friends and family members have favorably reviewed - picking 3 should be a cinch.*

1. The Princess and the Hounded by Mette Ivie Harrison (recommended by Katie from Under the Covers)
2. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett (recommended by Framed from Framed and Booked )
3. Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen (recommended by Lynne from Lynne's Little Corner of the World)

* What was I thinking - it was not easy choosing just 3 because there were too many that sounded good.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Anne of Avonlea

by L.M. Montgomery

When I finished reading Anne of Green Gables I had no intention of reading any further. I couldn't imagine the story could carry on with any of the freshness of the first book. Lucky for me, I met Raidergirl3 while Candleman and I were visiting Prince Edward Island and she gave me Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.

I love these books. Can't believe I didn't read them when I was young, but I'm certainly glad, that at 57, I did read them.

In this installment we meet the delightful Philippa who is one of Anne's friends at college in Nova Scotia. Let me just share this one interchange between Philippa, Anne and Priscilla when the girls first meet. Philippa begins with, "Tell me, what do you think of my looks?" At this naive demand, made in a perfectly serious tone, Priscilla laughed again. But Anne said, impulsively squeezing Philippa's hand. "We thought this morning that you were the prettiest girl we saw at Redmond." Philippa's crooked mouth flashed into a bewitching, crooked smile over very white teeth. "I though that myself,: was her next astounding statement, "but I wanted some one else's opinion to bolster mine up. I can't decide even on my own appearance. Just as soon as I've decided that I'm pretty I begin to feel miserably that I'm not. Besides, I have a horrible old great-aunt who is always saying to me with a mournful sigh, "You were such a pretty baby. It's strange how children change when they grow up." Please tell me quite often that I am pretty, if you don't mind. I feel so much more comfortable when I can believe I'm pretty. And I'll be just as obliging to you if you want me to - I can be, with a clear conscience." "Thanks," laughed Anne, "but Priscilla and I are so firmly convinced of our own good looks that we don't need any assurance about them."

I laughed at this description Philippa gives of Mrs. Grant: "She is a sweet old thing; but she never says anything but good of anybody and so she is a very uninteresting conversationalist."

I hope I always remember this bit of wisdom from Aunt Jamesina: "Anybody is liable to rheumatism in her legs, Anne. It's only old people who should have rheumatism in their souls, though. Thank goodness, I never have. When you get rheumatism in your soul you might as well go and pick out your coffin."

I strongly encourage you read these books if you want to brighten your day.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Farworld 2008 Blog Tour

It's always a thrill to discover a new author that you like. My newest author discovery is J. Scott Savage. He has a new fantasy series coming out this fall called Farworld published by Shadow Mountain. The first four books will focus on one of the four elements: water, fire, earth, air. Book one is titled, Farworld: Water Keep.

I've enjoyed reading Scott's blog about the marketing process of this series. He's so excited and that excitement is catching. I don't even know him, but I am tickled pink for his successes as I read through his posts. As I read today's post about the cover art, it made me fidget with anticipation to see the cover (and the font), which he said he'd show us as soon as it's finished.

In this post Scott tells of his life long love of reading. Also, about how Shadow Mountain has outlined a two week tour of schools across the U.S. that he will visit. The title of his tour is Find Your Magic. The publisher does this for all its writers which include James Dasher, Brandon Mull, Orson Scott Card. In this post he also shares a little part of his book

In addition to the school tour, Scott is going to do a blog tour also titled Find Your Magic. The tour will be in July and August, just prior to the release of Farworld: Water Keep on Sep 5. If you are interested in hosting an author interview with Scott as part of this tour, you need to check out the post that tells about the blog tour and sign up. Scott is sending out free ARCs to those who are interested. All the details on how to qualify are listed on that post.

As you read through Scott's post you get a real sense that he can write and write well. He has a great sense of humor as shown in this post: What Me Worry, which tells the story of his first meeting with the publisher. Absolutely hilarious and filled to the brim with tension.

I hope you'll skip on over and give Scott a visit at his blog: Find Your Magic. You could put your name in for and ARC starting April 11. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crossed Bones

by Carolyn Haines

I discovered Carolyn Haines' mystery series when I decided to do my Themed Reading Challenge using books that had the word bone in the title. (That's how I stumbled across Kathy Reich's novels, too)

This series features Sarah Booth Delaney as a private investigator in the Mississippi Delta. There's a good mix of humor, friendship, forbidden love and a satisfying mystery. The characters are human and Southern. I can't say the characters are real, because one reappearing character is a figment of Sarah Booth's imagination.

I have enjoyed reading two from this series - neither one in the correct order. Someday I'm going to start at the beginning, but I don't think it's hindered my enjoyment that I've been hit-and-miss so far. I love the covers on the earlier books with the square in the middle.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books

by Paul Collins

I mooched this book last year during the Something About Me Challenge. It was one of the books Nattie listed as one that told something about her. The part of the title - Lost in a Town of Books - naturally drew my interest. I didn't get it read for the Something About Me Challenge, but since it was on my shelf, it was available for some of this year's challenges.

Sixpence House is a memoir of Paul Collins' experiences in the bookish town of Hye-on-Wye. He moved from San Francisco to the small community in the Welsh countryside.

One of my favorite parts of the book was Collins' comparisons of things English with things American from aspects of daily life to food and architecture. For example, the shower: "Every shower in Britain has some sort of Heath Robinson mechanism who devised for all British showers cheap plastic box with tubes that go nowhere and buttons that do nothing, except for the one that will scald you. Apparently it is some kind of filtration system for removing any pleasure one might have in washing. When I was a little boy in America, the pounding water pressure would allow me to stand with my eyes closed in the sower and imagine that I was flying a wounded P-57 back to base, with rain whipping into the cockpit; or to pretend that I was getting heroically smashed against a brick wall by a water cannon wielded by riot police. But I'm not sure what British boys can imagine in their showers. {Perhaps they pretend that they are standing under a rusted and leaking pipe in an unlit boiler room. Or that someone is weeing on them from a great height." (I've experienced showers just like that in America.)

Collins told about his love of literature that developed when his parents would go to antique sales. He always came away from those sales with books. He especially like old science books. "My most beloved book was a relative youngster: a 1951 volume by Willie Ley called Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel. And yet the creamy plate paper, the yellow embossing of a pointy fifties sci-fi rocket on the cover, the feeling of reading Ley's speculations on a moon shot and knowing more than the author did - the true classical sense of irony, where the audience is aware of the ending even as the players of history are not - these things appealed to me in a way that I couldn't explain." As a science teacher I used to experience this feeling often.

I laughed and was amazed at this accounting: "This is a country where citizens will not grumble or take action at much of anything unless it interferes with their cup (of tea). Some years ago, a species of English tit bird discovered that if they pecked through the foil cap on milk bottles, they could suck down a cream feast so sumptuous that they could barely stagger away afterward on their little bird feet. Other varieties of tits quickly learned by watching, and suddenly the nation's cream teas was in moral peril; whereupon redesigned bottle caps were procured with impressive alacrity."

I enjoyed this morsel from a letter from Helen Hunt Jackson to Emily Dickinson(before Dickinson was well published): "I have a little manuscript volume with a few of your verses in it - and I read them very often - You are a great poet - and it is a wrong to the day you live in, that you not sing aloud." I think we could all take that counsel to heart - whatever our gifts and talents are we should share them with those around us.

All-in-all I really enjoyed Sixpence House. I found myself wondering if I could ever convince Candleman to spend a year in the Welsh countryside.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Messenger of Truth

by Jacqueline Winspear

Book four in the Maisie Dobbs Mystery series is every bit as good as the others and there's more tension and suspense. Maisie is called upon to discover if the accident that killed an artist was really an accident or if it was murder. In her pursuit to find the truth, she questions her motives in becoming a private investigator. In the end she does uncover the truth of the accident and discovers some things about herself as well.

I liked this passage towards the end of the book:
The sea lapped even closer; though Maisie remained in place, her hands holding her collar to protect her neck. It's because it's the beginning, and also the end. That was what she loved about the place where the water met the land - the promise of something fresh, a suggestion that, even if what is happening now is to be suffered, there is an end and a beginning. I could sail away on that beginning, thought Maisie.
I already have book five and I've added it to my list for the Cardathon Challenge so I'll be able to read it in the near future.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Orange Prize Longlist

I was visiting new blogger, Rose City Reader, where I read her post about the Orange Prize. The Orange Prize is an award given to the best novel in English written by a woman. I agree with Rose City Reader's opinion: Why do we need a special prize just for women?! Can you imagine the hubbub that would arise if there was a Tangerine Prize for the best novel in English written by a man? In an effort to rid the world of discrimination, have we become too tolerant of reverse discrimination?

Now that I've said that, let me say that I love this button that the Orange Prize uses on their website.Finally, the titles of the book on the 2008 longlist are interesting, they entreat me to read them all.