Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mailbox Monday

I found this too-cute-for-words mailbox on an awesome craft blog: Maya Road Design Team. You really should check it out. The design member who created the mailbox also has her own blog, again filled with some amazing crafts. Visit her blog, Katie Bee Creative. I am going to be checking back often because there are projects I want to make for Christmas gifts.

Here are the books that showed up in my mailbox this week.

A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (one of my favorite authors!) - This book came from LibraryThing as part of the Early Reviewers program. I feel so lucky to have my named picked to receive this one, but I this is book 5 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series and book 4 will be released tomorrow. I preorder #4 but it hasn't arrived yet. Will have to read #4 before reading and reviewing The Brutal Telling. Such fun!

The Knight with the Lion: The Story of Ywain by John Howe - I purchased this one. It's been on my wish list for some time. I don't remember who recommended it. I need to keep better notes!

The Big House by George Howe Colt - This book came from good friend, Les from Lincoln. Thank-you so much, Les. I love the cover of this book and am looking forward to reading the stories soon.

Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney - An ARC from Bancroftpress. My thanks to Harrison Demchick for sending this.

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry - This ARC came courtesy of the author. After reading just three pages I can tell I'm going to like this one a lot. Very creative, fun and I understand there's a mystery, too. My kind of book! Looking forward to reading this one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hooray for the Winners!

The 4 winners of
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society





Congratulations! I think you are going to love this book. It is one of my top five favorite reads this year, probably top two.

If you entered this drawing and did not win don't be crestfallen. Try entering to win at one of these blogs.

Books and Movies - drawing will be Aug 28.
Books on the Brain - drawing Aug 28.
A High and Hidden Place - Aug 30.

Bookish Ruth - Sep 2.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Cruelest Month

by Louise Penny

I've read some really good books this year but this is the only one I wanted to read straight through the night. I usually don't have a problem putting a book down when I'm ready for bed reassuring myself that it will be there for me tomorrow and that I will have longer to savor it. That rational usually works, but not this time. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen to Inspector Gamache.

There are three story lines in this book. The first is the mystery itself - Who killed the victim? Why? How? The second is who is trying to bring down the Inspector and why? The reader finds out the who and the why fairly early on but not how it would end. The third was a small subplot concerning a married couple, both artists, both people I've like in previous books but one is trying to undermine the other.

The Cruelest Month is the third in the Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series. The setting is a picturesque, small community south of Montreal. The characters are quirky, human and very likable. Even Ruth, the angry poet.

I really like Inspector Gamache. He likes to read, he loves his wife and two grown children, he's kind and he's good at his job. I love this description of him (it's also a good description of Clara):
"She often felt foolish, ill constructed, next to others. Beside Gamache she only ever felt whole." That's how I think I would feel next to him. Obviously, not everyone feels that way or someone wouldn't be plotting to ruin his career.

I suppose this series would fit into the cozy mystery genre but there is so much more depth and meaning to be thrown in with some of the lightweights of this genre.

What I did not like: There's only one thing - the use of the F word. Way too much. It was like Penny had just learned that word and wanted to use it a lot or maybe her publisher said her books would sell better if she sprinkled them liberally with foul language. Actually, no other foul language except that one word. I know not everyone cares about the language and I can usually skip over some, but this was too much. I hope it doesn't continue into the next books. I was recommending this series to my husband and mention this problem to him. His response - "That cinches it. I won't be reading it. There are too many really good books to have to put up with stuff like that." Darn, I really wanted to discuss this series with him.

Will I be reading the next two? Yes. Definitely!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Books that have found their way into my house this week include this one that was left on my kitchen counter after a family barbecue.

1632 by Eric Flint - I have never heard of this book but I did some research on the internet and it looks like one I'd enjoy, although it's not one I would have picked off the shelf in a bookstore. The cover doesn't call out to me. It's an alternate history series wherein a small fictional town in modern day West Virginia is transported to central Germany in the year 1631 in the midst of the Thirty Years' War. Tell me that doesn't pique your interest?
My sister Framed and I traded books. I gave her Receive Me Falling which I just finished reading and she gave me Havest. I've never read Tess Gerritsen so I'm looking forward to this.

Framed also gave or lent me Life Support by Tess Gerritsen. She is a very fast reader and finished both these books last week. Her advice was not to read them back-to-back because they are a bit formulaic but chocked full of interesting medical facts and worth reading.

House & Home by Kathleen McCleary came to me from Lisa Munley and TLC tours. I've just started it but I think I'm going to like it. Look forward to a review soon.

The Holy Bullet by Luis Miquel Rocha is an ARC I received from The Penguin Group. I'm on pins and needles - wanting to read this book NOW! It's a "fast-paced mystery about the conspiracy surrounding the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II." It's actually a sequel to The Last Pope which I didn't read but hope to read after this one. I usually like to read a series in order but since the second was an ARC I don't want to slow down the review process. If I was a faster reader I would but I want to honor Penguin's request for a review sooner than later.

Shooting an Albatross by Steven R. Lundin is a review copy I received from the author. It is set during the only year in history the PGA canceled the entire season of professional golf and the same year a unit of the US Army occupied the El Rancho Golf Course in Los Angeles. An Army general challenges an admiral in the navy to play an unaauthorized round of golf but, due their inabilities at playing the game, both agree to partner with the best player each can find in his own branch of the military. It promises intrigue, suspense, mystery, romance, and a touch of comedy.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. I just want to say she has a really terrific blog and her color scheme is beautiful. I think it's one of my favorite looks in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WIN The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann shaffer & Annie Barrows

There have been many good reviews about this book posted elsewhere on the blog and I'm just going to add - I loved it, too! This is one of my favorite books that I've read this year.

The book is written in letters back and forth from a journalist in London and some folks on Guernsey Island. It is the end of WWII and Europe is trying to put itself back together. I had a little bit of trouble keeping track of people for the first few letters but soon the characters became real to me, like good friends and I had no trouble at all.

Speaking of the characters - they are charming. I loved reading their letters. It was interesting to me just how much of their personality was revealed in a few simple letters. And how much we learned of the time period and the hardships suffered. I appreciated learning about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey Island, something I knew nothing about before reading this book.

It might seem like an oppressive book due to the subject matter and yet the overall feeling of the book is one of hope, resurgence, and love. I very seldom cry while reading or watching movies, but there was one part of the book that I couldn't hold back the tears. Don't put off reading this because it contains a little sadness. I thought the book was delightful. I strongly recommend it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (paperback) by Marie Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Dial Press Trade Paperback (May 2009; Originally published 2008); 304 pages; ISBN 9780385341004
Book Source: Review copy provided for free by Random House in conjunction with TLC Book Tours

Win a copy! This review is part of TLC Book Tours, and Random House has kindly offered to giveaway up to (5) copies of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to my readers. 5 COPIES! (1 copy for every 10 comments) Tell your friends about this one. Let's see if we can get 100 entries so I can give away 5 books. ***Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only.***
All you need to do TO WIN is leave a comment telling me the title of one book you would like to own and reread. I know, I know - how easy is that?! But there it is. That's all I'm asking. That and PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in unspammable code such as; booklogged AT gmail DOT com.

I will draw the lucky winners (lets's hope there's 5!) on August 26.

Other bloggers who are offering drawings for The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society:
Maw Books - I couldn't find a date for when the giveaway ends.
A Novel Menagerie - drawing will be Aug 20.
Brimful Curiosities - drawing Aug 24.
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves - drawing Aug 20.
Books and Movies - drawing will be Aug 28.
Books on the Brain - drawing Aug 28.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Receive Me Falling

by Erika Robuck

This dramatic story revolves around a plantation located on Nevis Island in the Caribbeans. Every other chapter tells the story of Meg who, with the untimely death of both her parents, inherits the plantation. The alternating chapters tell the story of the Dalls who own the plantation in the early 1830s.

After breaking off her engagement, Meg takes a leave of absence from her job and flies to Nevis where she gets her first look and at Eden, the large plantation house with its acres and acres of land. Nobody has lived on the plantation for over 150 years and the signs of neglect are everywhere. Meg decides to investigate the history of the plantation before selling it to a large hotel chain. She uncovers a diary, an original artwork that could be worth a lot of money and lots of family secrets.

The parallel story focuses on Catherine Dall the young mistress of Eden. Her mother died in giving birth to her and her father has turned into a drunk. She has a heart of gold and tries to make the slaves' lives as comfortable as possible. Her best friend is a young slave girl who is just 2 days younger than Catherine. Pressure builds as Catherine is forced to take over more and more of the running of the plantation because of her father's condition and yet, she lives in fear of the plantation overseer. The neighbor, also a wealthy plantation owner is becoming more persistent in his attention to Catherine - attention that Catherine does not welcome. Stir into this mix a couple of abolitionists who become friends with the Dalls.

The two stories unfold with new found mysteries side by side with each girl discovering long buried secrets. There are personal family truths that are revealed that devastate and cause both girls to struggle to regain equilibrium in their lives.

A few of the characters are fleshed out in this book, but the focus is more on the plot - what's happening, what are the outcomes and how do they affect the characters. Taking this approach the author allows the reader to step in and be/feel as if she was the character. It worked very well in this book

I'm always pleased when I learn new things in a book as well as being entertained and captivated for several hours. I looked up Nevis on Google Earth and saw that it is quite a small island and that it really exists.

I am always amazed at authors. The gift to put on paper a story that is engaging is beyond my comprehension. And when I read debut novels that are this good, I'm really amazed. I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Robuck.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Last Queen

by C. W. Gortner

I enjoyed this book on many levels. It was well written, interesting, taught me about people I didn't know and entertained.

The Last Queen tells of the 3rd child of Ferdinand and Isabel of Spain. She enjoyed a pleasant and somewhat uneventful childhood with her brothers and sisters after Spain conquered the Moors in Granada.

Juana is wed to Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire when she was only 16. It was interesting to read about the wedding customs and how they differed in Spain and Flanders. I thought it would be very strange to be wedded by proxy in a big ceremony and not really be married at all. Juana was to have another marriage a year or so later when she arrived in Flanders.

Even though she was against her arranged marriage to Philip, they fell in love and enjoyed years of happiness together. I just discovered tonight that there was a movie released in 2002 called Mad Love that is about Juana. It's rated R so I imagine there are some steamy sex scenes. The book isn't steamy but it does indicate that Juana and Philip enjoyed a healthy relationship and that Juana was deeply in love with Philip. Since the book is told from her point of view we never really know Philip's true feelings, though I suspect he loved her, too. In the beginning.

I'm not going to go any further into the story because you'll enjoy the book more if you don't know everything going into it. All I knew was that Juana was Isabel and Ferdinand's daughter. Now that I've read it I will always have great feeling for Juana.

I highly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction, royalty stories, and those who just love a really good book whatever genre it resides. My copy is being lent out to my mother next. One of my daughters want it after that. Really good!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Strange But True, America

by John Hafnor

Fun, informative and surprising tales from each of America's 50 states. Great reading for kids of any age. Candleman and I (both over 50) are enjoying it immensely.

Does anyone else have 'bathroom books'? Those books that have short chapters and are great for a semi-quick read. Well, this book is a perfect bathroom book.

Each story is only 1 page long with a corresponding 1 page picture. Here's an example of one of the pictures.
The story that goes with it is about Al Capone and his lawyer, Easy Eddie. You can read the whole story and get an idea of how the book is structured at the Strange But True, America site. This page also tells about the namesake for Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

The subject matter is very diverse - from an accidental bomb dropped on American soil to questions about the Transcontinental Railroad to the quietest square foot of land to the beginning days of Nike shoes.

My favorite story is on p.38 'Mountain Mail Mania'. Utah witnessed the largest item ever mailed: a bank building. In 1916 W.H. Coltharp began constructing a bank in Vernal, Ut. That's my hometown! Freight charges would cost 4X the cost of each brick so he had the bricks bundled 10 to a box and had them mailed to Vernal. The bank still stands at the main intersection in Vernal.

Also on that page is the story of a 4-yr-old girl who was mailed to her grandmother. She made the 75 mile trip in the baggage car of a train. I actually am familiar with both the bank story and the girl mailed from Utah to Idaho to see her grandmother. A Vernal resident and fellow classmate, Michael O. Tunnel wrote a book called Mailing May that won many awards back in the late 1990s.

Back to my review on Strange But True, America: Towards the back of the book is an interesting section titled 'When Doomsday Came Calling In Your State' which tells about "almost" disastrous events. And it hosts an index so you can easily look up your state or that article you wanted to share with someone. I like a book with an index!

A really fun book. Check out the website: for more information, plus a video of the author sharing some strange but true tales. There are also some education resources and a contest.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Update on Visions of America

I posted a review of Visions of America in July. I hope you'll click on the link and read my thoughts about this remarkable book.

Today I received an email from the photographer/author with this outstanding offer,
"for those that buy the book via our website,
I would be honored to sign and inscribe it
- Joseph Sohm
Just go to the Visions of America site and then click on store.

I'm starting to make a gift list for Christmas. It's not too early, is it?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Color Is Everything

Beginners to Advanced Painters Can Learn What All Great Artists Know
by Dan Bartges

I was most impressed by this little book. It starts off talking about brushes, paints palettes, etc. then continues with a discussion on color schemes, but it's not just a lot of words. There are pictures galore.

When he discusses color schemes there are pictures of the color wheel as you would expect, but there are pictures by great artists so the reader can learn to distinguish different color schemes. There's a chapter on How to Plan Your Next Painting's Color Scheme. I thought this would be helpful in planning a color scheme for a room since the rules are applicable to things other than painting.

I received this book as a review copy. If you are a painter, beginning or more advanced, I'm sure you would learn some helpful technique and tips from this little gem.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I Talk to Strangers

On our recent trip home from a family reunion we stopped at a Whole Foods store. They had a sample of salsas set out that were tasty, but the item I was interested in was the chips. They had sesame seeds and other mixed grains and they were yummy. I asked the man at the counter if he could tell me what type of chips they were. He couldn't but another shopper pointed out to me where the empty bag was so I could see. I thanked him then noticed he was of a different nationality that what is predominate in Salt Lake City.

I thought he looked like he might be from India, so I asked him if he was. No, he was Israeli. I explained that being from Utah I wasn't as familiar with other nationalities as I would like to be. He was most patient and kind. We continued talking and I discovered that he was vacationing in Utah and was currently living in N. Carolina.

He mentioned he was an author and his first book was due out soon. He even gave me a card. I told him I sometimes reviewed books on my blog. We talked about his book and my blog. He was interested in my blog and told me he would love to send me his book for me to review.

He asked me to contact him on his website. I said I would identify myself as the lady who talked to him in the Whole Foods store in SLC. He said I could just say I was the lady from Utah and he would know who I was because I was the only one who had talked to him in Utah. How sad is that?!

A few years ago my niece told about someone who talked to her in the elevator. I said that was something I would so do. She said she thought of me when it happened and went on to say it annoys her when people do that. I was crushed. My sister then went on to say how much she hated it when people would stop and ask her what she was reading. Oh, dear - me again! I thought of how many people I had engage in wonderful conversations about books on a recent trip.

There were the two couples sitting outside their motel room in Thermopolis, WY - all 4 were reading. The women told me how the 2 couples have been taking short trips together for years. The wouldn't go far, but stayed several days and played games, fished and read. The women exchanged books with each other. "In fact, we both just finished this one by Lisa Gardner. We love her. Why don't you take it?" So I was given a free book by a new-to-be author that came highly recommended.

On that same trip I struck up a conversation with a high-school student who is a voracious reader. His favorite book was Dune. As we talked we both pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote down titles of books the other recommended. Soon his mother joined us and I add even more books to my list.

The other day at a restaurant in our home town I passed a table where two black man were sitting. One gave me a friendly look and an 'almost' smile so I stopped and asked them where they were from. (In my small Utah town we don't have the wonderful cultural variety that other places do - I are short-changed!) They were from Sudan. Candleman was with me and he asked pertinent questions about the strife going on in their country. It was very interesting. They were happy for the visit, too.

What about you? Do you wish people would just mind their own business and ride up quietly in the elevator? Leave you alone when you are reading? Are you the type who will engage in conversations with strangers?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Another Personality Quiz

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Self-Knowing Romantic Extrovert

Self-knowing. I guess that means I know myself pretty well. Okay, I'll buy that but romantic?! Who knew? Certainly nobody that knows me very well! I used to be an extrovert but now I don't like to go places if there are going to be other people there. I like to stay home A LOT!

These little quizzes can be fun to do once in awhile, but I don't know if any of them are very accurate.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Story of Forgetting

by Stefan Merrill Block

This is one of my two favorite books for 2009 - the other is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Of course, they are totally different stories, time periods, settings, characters and writing; but both memorable and masterfully told.

The Story of Forgetting is told from two different perspectives. Abel, a 70-year-old twin, tells his story looking back at the past while he waits for the return of his daughter. Seth is living a mystery that he is trying to solve and he narrates alternating chapters revealing his teenage struggles and his goal to solve his mother disease.

Each chapter ends with a remembrance by one of the narrator's of the story they both know about the imaginary land of Isodora.

I don't want to tell you very much of the storyline because so much of the goodness was in being surprised and/or predicting what was coming. I was surprised more often than correct. I finished the book with a big sigh of satisfaction. Then today I discovered this was Stefan Block's first book. Oh, goody - more to come. I hope.

This is a drama. I wanted to make that clear since I did hint to Seth trying to solving a mystery. More accurately he wants to learn all about his mother's disease in the hope's of finding a remedy and he wants to solve the secrets of his mother's past.

The Story of Forgetting is a book that will stay with me. I have marked several passages with bookdarts so I can pick up this book and read through those parts and bring back some of the feelings I had as a I read. And someday I will reread this book.