Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bury Your Dead

by Louise Penny

I read this weeks ago but haven't had time to write my thoughts about it until now and, only now, because I have the flu.   I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC from Penny's editor, Hope Dellon which meant I was able to read this before it is released in the U.S. on Sep 28.  The offset is that I have to wait even longer for the next installment.

This is #6 in the Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries series.  Like the other five I was able to dissolve into the story and feel like I was home even though I was far away in Old Town Quebec in the middle of winter.  That doesn't sound very much like home or even very cozy, but some how Louise Penny's writing pulls you in and wraps it's arms around you and you feel like you are right where you should be - right in front of that roaring fire, tucked into an overstuffed chair, covered by a lap quilt with your hands on a warm mug of hot cocoa. 

Expect to get caught up in three different mysteries at once.  Penny deftly winds and weaves three different mysteries into one with the common thread or theme of mistakes running through all three. Even though the main story is set in Quebec City the familiars from Three Pines are not left out.  One of the storylines takes Belvoir back to that quaint village where he has to deal with the inhabitants firsthand, without Gamache to shield him.  Be prepared for a few surprises.

Before I was able to read my copy I shared it with my mother and husband who are both in love with Penny's gift for writing and telling remarkable tales.  You can read Candleman's review of Bury Your Dead HERE.  After my turn the book has made it's way to my daughter and then to my sister.  We are all big fans.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Brutal Telling

by Louise Penny

I wish I could describe my thoughts and feelings about Louise Penny's books.  Everything I come up with sounds so superlative - over the top and unbelievable, but that is really how I feel.  Those of you who have read them know what I'm talking about and those who haven't read them are greatly missing out.

Penny's  writing transports us to the village of Three Pines just south of Montreal and to the wonderful, kooky, flawed, generous characters who live there.  I feel like I could almost dissolve into the book and be there myself, surrounded by good friends.  Of course, I'd be hoping for a murder so Inspector Gamache would have to join the group. 
"He smiled and not for the first time she thought the rarest thing she'd ever found was Chief Inspector Gamache."

The Brutal Telling is the 5th in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.  It's a series that starts out strong and just gets better with each book.   In this one a murdered body is found in Olivier's bistro - a body that no one in the village can identify!  Gamache and his team are called to to strip back layers of lies and catch an unlikely killer.

There are many facets of meaning to every one of Penny's books.  The plot itself is immensely spellbinding as is Penny's ability to grasp the intricacies of human nature.  I love the way she will use a motif several times throughout her books and apply it to different circumstances or turn it in a new light to add greater meaning and depth.  I've often thought that if these books were not mysteries she would have a greater audience and be among the best selling fiction authors.  Many who shrug off mysteries as unfit literary fare would be surprised and pleased with the graceful, eloquent writing.

I'm anxiously looking forward to the next in the series which will be out the end of Sep.  I may have to fight my husband for it because he loves the books as much as I do.  And then there's my mother - but I think we can grab and run with it faster than she can!

A few of my favorite passages.  I like to reread the passages I've book darted and when I do the story comes back to life for me.  I'm only going to add two of the many that I marked.  You are welcome to read these, if you'd like, but I include them mostly for my benefit.
What a tale those eyes told Gamache.  In them he saw the infant, the boy, the young man, afraid.  Never certain what he would find in his father.  Would he be loving and kind and warm today?  Or would he sizzle the skin off his son?  With a look, a word.  Leaving the boy naked and ashamed.  Knowing himself to be weak and needy, stupid and selfish.  So that the boy grew an outer hull to withstand the assault.  But while those skins saved tender young souls, Gamache knew, they soon stopped protecting and became the problem.  Because while the hard outer shell kept the hurt at bay, it also kept out the light.  And inside the frightened little soul became something else entirely, nurtured only in darkness.
He was like Pinocchio.  A man made of wood, mimicking humanity.  Shiny and smiling and fake.  And if you cut into him you'd see rings.  Circles of deceit and scheming and justification.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Breaking of Eggs and a Giveaway

by Jim Powell

Meet Feliks Zhukowski, a Pole in Paris and a hangover from another age. Decades back, he chose politics over people and ideas over love. Feliks’ life’s work is a travel guide to the old Eastern bloc. His personal life is a series of failures. Unfortunately for him, it’s 1991, Communism has collapsed and, at 61, his travel-writing days are numbered. So he decides to sell his guide. This sets in motion a series of life-changing events: he’ll meet the brother he hasn’t seen in fifty years, learn the truth about the mother he thought abandoned him, and get a second chance with a long-lost love. But, after five decades of misunderstanding, can he start his life afresh – and finally learn that you shouldn’t cook like Stalin?

I had just finished reading Louise Penny's A Rule Against Murder and had the next in that series calling my name when I started to read The Breaking of Eggs.  At about page 45 I couldn't ignore the tug at my heart from my favorite mystery series so I set aside this book and picked up The Brutal Telling.  After that I was ready to settle in with a communist egghead named Feliks.

It was very interesting to read from the perspective of someone who had such opposing political views than I do and I wasn't so sure I would like being in his head. But I did like it, even learned a lot about myself and about Europe before and during the 2nd World War.

When I said, "I liked it" I should have said that I loved it.  Fritz is a very matter-of-fact guy and his narrative is the same.  I book darted 16 passages.  I thought this passage speaks as strongly of today's political atmosphere as it did in the 30's and 40's:
That's the trouble with times like that.  When you have a threat from one extreme, people run to the other extreme to prevent it.  It doesn't matter which extreme is the devil and which is the savior.  What matters is that the center collapses.  Everything reasonable goes straight out the window.
And this one when Feliks was contemplating the destruction of the Berlin Wall and his interaction with an important person to him.
Our wall came down through weakness.  My weakness in allowing myself to be hurt by the taunts of a fascist.  Her weakness in allowing a pinch of vulnerability to sneak beneath her defenses and make her momentarily confess the wretchedness of her life.  Two moments of weakness resulting in, what, a moment of strength?  How could strength come about in such a way?  How could that be the way you built strength?  You built strength by constructing walls, not by demolishing them.  Surely that is what you did.
And finally this one:
It was necessary to be selective about the past.  Things happened to all of us that should not happen, that we wished had not happened.  We had to put these things behind us, not to pretend they had not happened, but not to dwell on them either, and to make a new life and meet new people and get on with it.  There were fault lines in the cloths that each of us had woven, places where the warp and the weft of life had become disjointed.  If you revisited those places, there was always the danger that everything you had subsequently woven would unravel.
Let me add that this book was long listed for the The Desmond Elliott Prize for  New Fiction.

Thanks to Lindsay and Penguin for sending me this wonderful book.  Also, for providing a chance for you to win a copy for yourself.

To Win The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell:
Leave a comment with a way for me to reach you so I can let you know you won.  I know you will!
Drawing Date:  August 18 midnight 

***FTC Disclosure:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, no other compensation was given, all opinions are my own***

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Penguin Anniversary Winners Announced

I love this part of giveaways!

The winner of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The winner of Donna Leon's Acqua Alta 
Cindi  from  A Utah Mom's Life

This is a blog that I have frequented for years.  She always has cute stories about her kids but she also features activities and fun venues around the state of Utah.

Congratulations to you both!

I would also like to send a BIG Thank-you to Penguin for providing the books for this giveaway.  And for providing me a copy of each of these books.  Totally Awesome! 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Anniversary Penguin Books! and a Giveaway

What a treat to celebrate Penguins anniversary and their contribution to reader's everywhere.  I was thrilled to be asked to participate in their celebration by receiving 2 free books and to be able to offer those same two books to you.

I chose The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd because it's one of my favorite books of all time and I wanted to own a copy so I could reread it and share it with my reading daughters.

The second book I chose was Acqua Alta by Donna Leon.  I have not read anything by this author but have heard lots of positive remarks about her books and her writing.  This book is part of a mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth.  That, plus the fact that the mystery is set in Italy, peaked my interest.  And that it was described as 'chilling.'  

Two of my reader's can win one of these books from the generous folks at Penguin.
Here's all you have to do:
1) Check out the Penguin Books 74th Anniversary website, look around the site and discover wonderful and interesting facts about Penguin, then click on The Original 10 button in the right column.  Towards the bottom of the article you'll find a list of the original 10 books that were published in 1935 and launched the beginning of Penguin Books.  In your comment let me know if you've read any of those and which ones.  If you're like me and haven't read any, let me know if there are any that sound interesting to you.
2) Let me know which of the two books I'm giving away you'd like to win, either Life of Bees or Acqua Alta.
3) Leave a way for me to contact you if you are a lucky winner.

I wish you all the best of luck.  However, we are all winners because we are able to read and enjoy the paperback books Penguin publishes at a reasonable price.  I hope you'll take a minute to read about the early days of Penguin.  I enjoyed the About Page, the Gallery, the Time Line and the six new cover designs by the world's best artists working tattoo and illustrations.  My favorite of those 6 is The Broom of the System by David foster Wallace and designed by Duke Riley.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Rule Against Murder

by Louise Penny

I just can't give enough praise for the Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series and for Louise Penny's writing.  I love them.  While reading this series I feel like I gently slip deeper and more comfortably into the coziest of overstuffed chairs.  It's a feeling that I cherish and am most grateful for.

This, the fourth in the series, is set in an old, log lodge set on a beautiful lake, surrounded with beautiful forest and just a short drive from the village of Three Pines.  Gamache and his wife are celebrating their anniversary with a week stay at the lodge.  At the same time there is a family reunion taking place.  Of course, a murder takes place and Gamache is the one who looks into the past to discover who has been harboring a wound that has grown into the act of murder.

 Penny keeps me totally wrapped up in the story, the mystery of who the murderer was and why and how it was committed.  But she also thrills me with her turn of a phrase and the way she uses words to paint a a feeling, an atmosphere, a lesson, a character, etc.

I liked this description of the lodge:
That was the other ingredient of the Manoir.  It was filled with suspects, it was filled with Morrows, huffling and silent.  But more than that, it was filled with relief.  It was like a sigh, with structure.

In the story the father had left each of his children a short note with advise on it. 
You can't get milk from a hardware store.  It was a funny sort of thing for a father to tell a daughter.  But by then she'd broken the code, and knew what her father had been trying tell her.  Stop asking for something that can't be given.  And look for what is offered.

Advice given by Gamache to his friend and also, a suspect:
Be careful.  You're making hurting a habit.  Spreading it around won't lessen your pain, you know.  Just the opposite.

I feel most blessed that Louise Penny has such a marvelous talent and that she decided to share that talent with me.  I'm not a writer, have no desire to be but I'm grateful for those who are.  Penny is one of my absolute favorites.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 5th Horseman

by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

I've enjoyed listening to this series while I do none thinking tasks on the computer - like scanning my mother's pictures, playing solitaire, and, well those type of things.

I like the characters and their friendship and the way they offer feedback and support to each other.  And I love mysteries.

It's been several weeks ago since I finished this and I don't remember many details, but I do remember enjoying it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Madam, Will You Talk?

by Mary Stewart

In an earlier post I mentioned how my high school best friend and I touched bases with each other recently.  Since then we've been corresponding through email and sharing bits about life and suggestions for good reads.  This is one of Diane's suggestions.

I remember reading a book a long, long time ago by Mary Stewart but I don't remember the title so maybe I'm up in the night or dreaming or both!  I also remember my mother and my aunt reading the series about Merlin & King Arthur written by Stewart.  They had good discussions about them and my recollection is that they loved the books.

I really can't say why I haven't really delved into a Mary Stewart novel before this.  I think I associated them with older women and I figured they were written so long ago they may be too dated.  This book was written in 1954.  I do know I associated them with the romance genre and that is a big turn-off for me.

On Diane's recommendation I read Madam Will You Talk.  Totally and thoroughly delightful.  I loved it!  There's much more mystery and suspense then romance and the mystery was great.  There were lots of surprises and adventure.  The only problem I had was how fast the perceived enemy became the love interest.  I mean 'snap your fingers' fast. 

Will I be ready more of Stewart's work?  You betcha!  Can't wait, but first I have a couple Louise Penny's that I've put off for too long and I have an ARC I need to read before the end of the month.  And I need to ask Diane which one she recommends next.  It's always so thrilling finding new authors and new books, isn't it?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Little Bee

by Chris Cleave

I listened to the audio version of this book and am glad I did.  The narrator's voice fit Little Bee perfectly.  Hearing 'her' voice instead of mine helped me to better identify with Little Bee and her situation.

I really liked Little Bee, someone I could learn from and always feel hopeful in her presence.

I read this book on the recommendation of Les from NE.  I need to thank her for reading and suggesting remarkable books.  I can also blame her for casually tossing book after book on my TBR mountain.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

DNF The Girl Who Played With Fire

by Stieg Larsson

I've heard so much talk about Larsson's books and was so looking forward to reading one.  My daughter gave me this book for Christmas.  When I found out it was book 2 in a 3-book series I tried to mooch the first one.  It never became available.  After I did a small search through blogs, I discovered that the first book had a lot of deviant sex throughout and I decided I would skip it.

I read over 90 pages and found I didn't care to read on.  Salander sounded like an interesting character but I felt like I had missed much of her character development that I assume happened in the first book.  I felt like I was hanging in mid air trying to fit the pieces together.  And does the first bit about the couple in Grenada have anything to do with the rest of the book or was that just a side story thrown in right at the start of the book to further confuse and bewilder the not-too-savvy reader?

I ran across a brief article where I learned that the author may have based his ideas for Salander on a grown-up version of Pippi Longstockings.  If that's true, I thought he hit the mark right on the head.  I mean, just imagine what type of adult that delightful misfit of a girl would be.

I may have to go back to this book some day because even as I write this I wonder what will happen as Bjurman seeks his revenge from Salander.  Or maybe someone can just tell me...

Has anyone read this series and if so, what do you think?  Did you like the books?  Is it a MUST to read the first book?  Should I try again or am I just too dense to ever catch on?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Against Odds

by Dick Francis

A few weeks ago my high-school best friend called me from her home in Alberta, Canada.  We chatted for some time when the conversation turned to books.  She asked for some authors and books I really like.  I go blank when people ask me point blank for anything and I did then as well.  So I told her I'd email her a list, which I did and let me tell you it was not all that short!  She may regret asking me, but in return I asked for a list of her favorite authors and books.  I don't regret asking.

One author she recommended was Dick Francis.  I remember reading two or three of his books 20 or 30 years ago and liking them but I lost track of him.  I did a little internet research and discovered that 4 of his books feature an ex-jockey turned private detective, Sid Halley.  So I mooched those and started the first, Odds Against.

Sid Halley, an injured jockey, becomes a private eye and carries out some work for his father-in-law, who believes a man is trying to financially ruin Seabury racecourse, so that it can be sold to property developers. Sid and his father-in-law have a laughable relationship, though at the same time it is warm and endearing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the characters and the mystery.  I'm anxiously looking forward to reading the next book featuring Halley, Whip Hand.  And then I'll be reading some of the stand-alones.  A big thanks to Diane for this recommendation.

I found this interesting write-up about Dick Francis on alibris.
Dick Francis was one of the most successful post-war National Hunt jockeys. The winner of over 350 races, he was champion jockey in 1953/1954 and rode for HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, most famously on Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National. On his retirement from the saddle, he published his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, before going on to write forty-three bestselling novels, a volume of short stories (Field of 13), and the biography of Lester Piggott. 
During his lifetime Dick Francis received many awards, amongst them the prestigious Crime Writers' Association's Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the genre, and three 'best-novel' Edgar Allen Poe awards from The Mystery Writers of America. In 1996 he was named by them as Grand Master for a lifetime's achievement. In 1998, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 2000. Dick Francis died in February, 2010, at the age of 89, but he remains one of the greatest thriller writers of all time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Think Twice

by Lisa Scottoline

You all know I love mysteries and I love Lisa Scottoline so when I stopped at the library to get some books for my mother and saw this on the new shelf -- well, you know!  To my credit I did finish the book I was reading before starting Think Twice.

In Think Twice we get to catch up with the fabulous characters that make up the all female Rosato & Associates Legal Firm.  Bennie Rosato's twin sister shows up again and causes untold problems for Bennie.  

The format reminded me of a Mary Higgins Clark novel - chapters switching between characters and action of the story.  Chapters shuffled between Bennie, her twin sister Alice and Mary DiNunzio until all 3 characters come together for the final chapters of the book.

The pacing is fast and I zipped through this book in a hurry.  Had to get answers and find out if Alice was going to totally fool Bennie's boyfriend.  

I love Scottoline's stand-alones but it's always fun to come back to this series.  What Scottoline needs to do is write one stand-alone and one Rosato book every year - or more often, I won't complain!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

by Fanny Flagg

I actually read this one earlier in the year, but forgot to write a review until now.  I borrowed this book from my brother after he, my mom and one sister read it and recommended it.  Fannie Flagg was an author I had heard about and was on my list of to-read authors.

There was so much to love about this book and I did love it all.  The characters in the small town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri and Dena (Baby Girl) and Dr. O'Malley, a psychiatrist that falls in love with Dena.  I can't believe how patient he is with Dena.

Dena is America's most popular female newscaster/journalist in the 1970s.  The change of TV news into sensationalism causes her to question her career.  The commentaries made about the change in news was worth reading and hit the nail on the head.  I can hardly stand to watch the news anymore.  I wish they'd just tell us the facts without all the over-hyping!

When Dena falls gravely ill, she returns to her home town from busy New York City, to the doting, loving care of Aunt Elner who is the personification of small town kindness.  While in Elmwood Springs Dena begins to search for roots to her past and discovers a shocking secret.

The picture on the cover is the home of Neighbor Dorothy who hosted a daily radio broadcast from her home, hence the tower in the back.  Her story makes me wish I had lived back in the 30's or 40's so I could turn on the radio everyday and hear about the news from Elmwood Springs and hurriedly scribble down the  recipes that were shared.

I liked this book so much that I bookmooched Daisy May and the Miracle Man and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven.  I need to get my hands on Fried Green Tomatoes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Deceptive Intentions

by M. L. Malcolm

I actually read this book about a week ago but didn't get the review written in a timely fashion.  This is the follow up to Silent Lies that I read earlier in June which has been recently released as Heart of Lies.  I don't see why they have to change the title, it only confuses us and the second title doesn't seem any better than the first.  Both fit the story perfectly, however.

Deceptive Intentions will be released sometime in the future as Heart of Deception.  I'm glad I already had access to both books (my daughter owns them) because when I finished the first I would have gone berserk if I had to wait for the second.  As it was I went straight from one to the other.

Silent Lies left me hanging and yearning to learn what would become of Leo and his daughter Maddy.  I have read reviews of Heart of Lies and people seem content to wait for the 2nd book, but I certainly was not.  I felt like they needed to be read back to back as one large story.

Loved Malcolm's writing and her splendid storytelling.  I was totally enthralled with these books and highly recommend them.  Actually, I've had a very good reading month and have totally enjoyed each book I've read.

Lady of the Butterflies

by Fiona Mountain

Sometimes reviews are easier to write than others.  The problem doesn't always lie with the book but with me.  Tonight my mind just doesn't want to turn out anything but gushing praises for this book - the writing was great, story very interesting, time period and setting right spot on, characters fully fleshed out and intriguing, my interest in the facts were sparked and my scientific interest satisfied.  I loved this sweeping novel featuring Eleanor Glanville, a lady ahead of her time and out of sync with the superstitious believes of those around her.

In my last post I interviewed my Mom about a book she read.  As I was sitting staring at my empty screen with my blank mind I decided I would try answering the same questions I asked my Mom.  This is not a new idea but it will be the first time for me.

1.  What did the title have to do with the story?
The whole 527 pages of this book tells a fictionalized story based on the real Eleanor Glanville who lived in the late 1600s and developed a deep passion for natural sciences, especially the study of butterflies.  This passion was not understood by society and her family.
2.  Why did you decide to read this book?
    I requested a copy from the LibraryThings Early Reviewer Program after reading the description.  Being a former biology teacher I wanted to learn more about Eleanor and her struggle to study science in the late 1600s.
3.  How does the author make the setting important?
    Lady of the Butterflies is set in Somerset before the moors were drained.  The author describes the cold, muddy winter well and, though they sound horrible to me, they provided a way of live for the tenet farmers, eel fishers, sedge-cutters and water-fowl hunters that live around and rely on Eleanor's Tickenham Manor.  A great deal of conflict arises when discussion of draining the moors threatens to hurt so many people's livelihood.  The setting is also important because of the butterflies that lived there and were studied by Eleanor.
4.  How does point of view shape the book?
    The story is told from Eleanor's perspective, so the reader sees and sympathizes with her, in her relations with her father, her two husbands, her children and her friends.  We feel justified when she is angry and suspicious of Richard.  We want her to have some of the "colors" of life that she longs for and is missing in her father's strict Puritan ways.  We are thrilled with Eleanor's discoveries and her reasoning skills and see them as she does not as the superstitious and unlearned people of the tenants see her.
5.  Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?
    When I was still working on my college degree to become a biology teacher I remember a fellow student saying something to the idea that if man can figure out how light is split apart by droplets of water to make a rainbow that it disproves a God because we can see it's nature and not God who makes a rainbow.  That was so surprising to me because I feel like knowing the properties of light and its ability to be split into colors helped me appreciate how God uses natural laws.  I saw science as one way to learn and understand the ways of God.  Granted, there is a long way to go and much knowledge gathering to be done, but each new discovery fills me with wonder and awe at the magnitude of God's knowledge and ability.  On p 270 Eleanor just learned how white light can be split into the colors of a rainbow.  She says, "If experiment can reveal the components of light, maybe it can illuminate the rest of God's works."  My feelings exactly!
    Eleanor lived at a time when spontaneous generation accounted for flies coming from dung, frogs from mud, etc.  She had heard talk that some botanists of the day claimed butterflies metamorphosed from worms.  Near blasphemy!  Not long ago I had a monarch caterpillar that I put into a jar along with some of a milkweed plant.  I watched it make it's coffin (as Eleanor called it) and one day when I was watching the butterfly came out.  I held it on my finger in the sunshine for over 30 minutes as it's wings dried and it got its bearings before it flew away.  It was Eleanor's hope that if metamorphosis was real that she would get to see it.  I hoped all the way through that she would be rewarded with the good fortune to see it as I did.

I absolutely loved this book.  There were times when plots were being laid and foundation information unfolded that I wondered if this book could have been a little shorter, but now I don't think so.  Can't wait to hear from someone else who has read Lady of the Butterflies and we can discuss it together.

You can learn more about the book at Fiona Mountain's website.  It's very interesting.  And you can find out about the other books Fiona has written.  I know I'll be checking out another one.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Whiter Than Snow and an Interview With My Mother

A few years ago my mother read Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, an author from our neighboring state of Colorado.  Mom enjoyed it and lent it to me at a time when I had so many ARCs demanding my attention that I had to set Prayers for Sale aside.

In February we were discussing Prayers for Sale and wondering if Dallas had a new book out.  Checking we discovered Whiter Than Snow was going to be released on March 30.  A few days later I received an offer for an a review copy. I jumped for joy.

When the book arrived I gave it to my mother and asked her if she would be willing to do an interview about the book.  She graciously accepted.

Before I share the interview, let me tell you a little about this amazing lady that I am fortunate to have for a mother.  She's 88 years old and is starting to slow down slightly.  My 2 sisters and I used to collapse on a bench when we'd shop with her and occasionally say, "Oh, there she goes..."  Not one of her seven children can keep up with her.  When we travel she doesn't sleep because she's afraid she'll miss something.

It was my mother's example of life-long learning that has encouraged my love for reading.  She graduated from the University of Nebraska the same year her second child graduated from high school.  Most of her years in college she had all 7 of us living at home.

1.  What did the title have to do with the story?
 A tremendous snow slide is the focus of the story and as it crushes and whitens everything in its destructive path, the lives of all the people are changed--whitened.  Priorities are changed and old grudges and grievances are overcome and forgotten. 
2.  Why did you decide to read this book?
I had read and enjoyed Dallas’ Prayers for Sale, so when I read a review of this soon to come out book I added it to my to-read list. The setting for both books are little gold-mining camps high in the Rockies above Denver. Brought back memories of a radio soap opera that we used to listen to when I was growing up. ?? I was attracted yo Prayers for Sale as I knew piecing quilts was an integral part of the story. Quilts were only mentioned in this book , mostly as being plentifully available to wrap survivors in.
3.  How does the author make the setting important?
The setting is the very basis of the story. Life in a mining camp shapes the characters of the residents. They endure many tragedies and hardships. Some have come to seek the isolation of the camp and to others it is the only life they know or want. Some want to escape but the hold on them is powerful and leaving is difficult.
4.  How does point of view shape the book?
I am a reader who does not often internalize stories. Most of what I read is purely for the enjoyment of a good story with an interesting plot and memorable characters.

5.  Did this book remind you of anything tha has happened to you?
As mentioned above--the old radio program. Also I thought of our trips through the Rockies and some of the little mining towns we drove through. I would like to visit a little town like Swandyke.

6.   What did you feel towards the main character?  Was there another character you found to be more interesting?
I am not sure just who was the main character. So many were strong characters with such a diversity of backgrounds, hang-ups, fears, secrets. Etc. I particularly am drawn to the to two single men whose children did not survive the avalanche,, Joe and Minder. Telling of them made a very strong ending for the book.
 Thanks so much to my Mom for reading and reviewing this book.  I'm looking forward to reading it in the near future.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Silent Lies

by M. L. Malcolm

I gave this book to one of my daughters for Christmas several years ago because I had seen it favorably reviewed on some one's blog.  I thought she would enjoy it and then I'd get a chance to read it, too.

It took me years but I finally got to a point where I remembered it and asked to borrow it.  I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed the story and the characters. 

The book starts in 1940 and quickly jumps back to 1910 in Hungary.  The dates span both World Wars so I prepared myself for some sad scenes.  The main character is a young Hungarian who has an amazing talent for learning languages.  This talent provides some interesting opportunities for Leo throughout his life.

First, Leo has the opportunity to study and live in Budapest where his life is transformed from a poor son of a Hungarian farmer to a foster son of a wealthy Jewish couple.  His life experiences changed again with Hungary's collapse after WWI.  I was interested in the Bolshevik take over of Hungary and why many blamed it on the Jews, so I did some further research online and filled in some gaps in my European history knowledge.  (So much more to learn...)   Leo meets the love of his live on a trip to Paris but when he is implicated in a counterfeit scheme he flees to Shanghai. 

I found the twists and turns in Leo's life provided an interesting story and making it an even better book is the backdrop of historical events that I am familiar with but told from a different location and angle.

My one suggestion is to reread the first page after you finish the book.  Also a warning - this is book one of two.  I didn't know that when I bought the book.  Luckily for me, my daughter bought the 2nd book so I didn't have to wait before diving right back into the story.  Perhaps, I should offer one other warning since I recently complained about a sex scene in O' Artful Death.  There is a much more colorful sex scene early on in Silent Lies, and though it didn't need to be so 'juicy', it wasn't just thrown in.  It's the only one in the book so just get passed it and worry no more.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge

It's been 18 months since my last reading challenge. Oh heck, that's not entirely true - I tentatively joined 4 last year. I say tentatively because I don't know that I even added my name to the challenge site. One that I officially joined was Heidenkind's Art History Challenge. I only read one of the four required books before the challenge ended. I don't see it as a total failure though because I've been more mindful of this category and I have read several books since that fill that category.

In the time of my challenge hiatus I've acquired some control over my reading appetite and think I can safely take on one challenge.  Since my favorite genre is mysteries, I feel some hope at being able to complete this one.

As you can see from the super-cute button, the challenge is hosted by Book Chick City.  It runs from Jan 1, 2010 - Dec 31, 2010 and you can sign up anytime, even as late as I am!  The challenge is to read 12 books.  I'm going to include some of the books I've already read this year so I'm not so far behind.

My list:
1.  4th of July by James Patterson
2.  Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters
3.  O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor
4.  Silent Lies by Mary Lee Malcolm
5.  Everywhere That Mary Went by Lisa Scottoline
6. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
7.  The 5th Horseman by James Patterson
8.  Witches' Bane by Susan Wittig Albert
9.  The New Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jaqueline Winspear
10. Face Down Beside St. Anne's Well by Kathy Lynn Emerson
11. Simple Genius by David Baldacci
12. The Brutal Retelling by Louise Penny

Monday, May 31, 2010

O' Artful Death

by Sarah Stewart Taylor

I have had this book on my shelf for years along with the 2nd book in the series featuring Sweeney St. George.  I've been biting the bullet when it comes to review copies only saying yes at the weakest of moments and only if the book sounds like it would be perfect for me. The results have been a return to blissful reading.  Blissful being defined as reading what I want when I want.

What I wanted when I picked this book off the shelf was a light, interesting cozy.  I was richly rewarded and as I read I felt that this series would join my favorite 5 or so cozy mysteries.  It's always nebulous picking favorites but among those would be Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, Jaqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, Laurie King's  Mary Russell, Kathy Lynn Emerson's Lady Susanna Appleton, Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody and Anne Perry's William Monk series.

Sweeney looks nothing like a university professor with her unruly red curls and preference for vintage clothing.  Single and wary of relationships, she pours her energy into her college teaching and a passionate interest in cemetery art.  Cemetery art!  That's the part that piqued my interest.  Learning more about cemetery art was a fascinating part of the book but that was just an added bonus.

The mystery involved a macabre graveyard statue that may provide a clue to a hundred year old murder as well as some disturbing behavior in the present-day Byzantium, Vermont.

I look forward to reading book 2 in this series and meeting Sweeney again.  She's an interesting person with some very human foibles and some emotional baggage but also a good dose of determination and likability.  She has the potential to become one of my literary heroes. 

Lots of surprises in a well-told story, interesting characters, and good writing put this series comfortably tucked in with my other favorites.  There was one problem and it almost upset the whole feel I had for the book.  I was reading along and all of a sudden I was in the middle of a sex scene.  STOP!  What?!  I had to go back and reread the two paragraphs before to find what I missed leading up to this.  Talk about jumping into bed together!  I felt like the lead-up was almost non-existent.  When the couple of mildly explicit paragraphs were through I found myself totally baffled.  It was the worse case of  "throw it in to please somebody" I've ever read.  Mind you the scene itself wasn't particularly disturbing, though it was totally unnecessary, it was the jump - no transition in an otherwise well-written book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Borrower of the Night

by Elizabeth Peters

I have read eight of the Amelia Peabody books written by Peters and one of her Jacqueline Kirby books but this is my first look at her series featuring Vicky Bliss.  And as luck would have it, this is book one in that series.  As you know I don't always start a series at the beginning.

Vicky is a tall, beautiful, intelligent and capable historian who is challenged by a fellow professor and suitor to a search for a lost piece of art.  The purpose of the challenge is to prove he is smarter than her, which will convince her to marry him.  This man needs help with his personal relationships!  It will be interesting to see if he is a major player in subsequent novels.

What began as a treasure hunt in an old German castle soon turned into a game that was being played in deadly earnest and Vicky becomes the target of greed and finds herself in mortal danger.  Since there are more books in the series, it was obvious that Vicky wasn't going to die but I wasn't sure that the others with her would live. 

Peters writes a cozy mystery with witty banter, oddball characters, a funny romance, historical intrigue which develops into perilous situations.  I tried to mooch the other 5 books in this series but not one of them was available.  I may have to check my library.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Exile of Sara Stevenson

by Darci Hannah

I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.  Watch for this book to hit the bookstores the end of July. 

I have read some ho-hum reviews but my feelings about this book are very positive.  I loved it!  I enjoyed the writing, the characters and the story.

In 1815 Sara Stevenson falls in love and plans to elope with a common sailor, someone her parents will never approve of.  When her sailor doesn't show up for the elopement her parents send her to Cape Wrath lighthouse so as not to disgrace them with her pregnancy.

I was so intrigued with the lighthouse keeper and wanted to know what haunted him.  Actually, I was intrigued by most of the characters.  The author deftly wrote a story that posed many questions that I needed answers for and that search for answers kept me involved in the story.

I was touched by the relationship between the the McKays and the realization that Sara had when she was watching them that they had so much more than she did even though they lived in a small croft in an inhospitable environment.

Hopefully, Ms. Hannah has more wonderful stories coming in the future.  I'll be watching.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge was an especially fascinating read for me.  My mother highly recommended it, saying it was an interesting look at aging.  The book contains 13 stories of people living in a small town of America.  The thread of commonality through these divergent stories is Olive and her connection to the characters in the stories.

Olive is not a particularly likeable character and, unfortunately, I found myself strongly identifying with her.  At some point in my reading I called my mother and asked if Olive was going to come through at some point with some redeeming qualities.  Her answer was not reassuring.  As the book continued and Olive ages, I discovered we shared fewer similarities.  Olive has different demons and struggles in life than I do.  It's those struggles that caused our similarities to diminish over time.

What made this such a fascinating read for me was that my mother had liked the book so much that she shared it with a close friend who, after reading it, said she was going to buy a copy for each of her children.   So as I started reading I expected a book filled with tidbits of wisdom and sage advise.  I didn't find that and, even now that I've finished, I keep asking what it was that these two beautiful, older women saw in this book.

I was looking on Ken Follett's website today and liked what he had to say about the book:
I find it hard to say why this book is so utterly captivating. It consists of thirteen short stories set in a small town in New England, most of them featuring or at least mentioning the title character, an ornery schoolteacher with a patient husband and a disaffected son. The tone is low-key, although dramatic things happen—sudden medical emergencies, outbreaks of lunacy, and one gory murder.
Olive Kitteridge is captivating.  One of the things I really liked was the separate stories that told of interesting characters and the glimpses of Olive's life through these stories.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

When She Flew

by Jennie Shortridge

Review pending....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mapping the Edge

by Sarah Dunant

I love the title of this book, Mapping the Edge - it suggests travel, boundaries, being on the edge, taking the next step, learning something new about yourself - your life, your loves, your needs, your desires.  The title could fit so many different stories and I was anxious to know the one told in this book.  And isn't the cover lovely?

I found myself more than a little confused for the first half of the book.  At one point (around page 60) I was thinking of setting it aside but I'm glad I kept reading.  I love a book that pushes the boundaries of a traditionally written, linear novel.   

Mapping the Edge covers a period of only a few days but it switches narrators.  One of the 3 story lines is told by the disappearing woman's best friend so it has a personal, thoughtful perspective.  The other 2 story lines are told from the 3rd person point of view and provide the reader with an ever expanding view of 2 possible scenarios as to why Anna didn't show up at home when she was expected.

I love a book that shouts at me to pick it up and to keep reading.  The questions whirring around and needing to be answered kept me reading.  Each of the possible disappearance scenarios served up a couple of  interesting twists that added increased interest.  I'd like to say that the ending answered all my questions, but it didn't.  I closed the book thinking that everything had been resolved completely, but after a day I think the ending was as it should be.

I loved this book but I won't be suggesting it for my f2f book club.  I can just see the looks, the same ones I got at the discussion for The History of Love.   One lady said I had a weird taste in books and wasn't I the one who also recommended The Poisonwood Bible?  Add this one to the list and I'd probably get booted out.  That doesn't mean I'm not recommending it to my blog readers.  Just remember that you may need to push yourself beyond the first 60-80 pages.  After that I think you'll get pulled in and swept along with the story.

One passage out of several that I book darted:
I've become more aware of time passing recently.  Not the day-to-dayness of it, but the bigger, structural stuff.  Sometimes I have a sense of great chunks of my life floating, like space debris, in slow motion around me:  three- or four-year bits that have got detached from the space station and can't be recovered.  There goes twenty-two to twenty-six, passing so close I can almost touch it.  Then a little further off I see my late twenties/early thrities turning over and over in zero gravity.  Maybe I should reel it in and work a little revisionism on it.  But then I think, Why bother?  It's done already, over, all the possibilities hardened into choices, of no interest now except as history. 

Monday, March 01, 2010

Stone's Fall

by Ian Pears

My first foray into Stone's work was when I stood on my tiptoes to reach a fat book with an interesting title from a top shelf at the library.  An Instance of the Fingerpost proved to be worth the stretch so when I saw this hefty book by Pears I didn't have to be cajoled into reading it.

Stone's Fall has 3 different narrators who try to unravel the mystery of a wealthy magnate's death.  I enjoyed this book immensely,  Pears is a masterful storyteller, although the ending was a bit contrived the rest of the story was engaging.  The parts dealing with the high-priced madame were especially interesting and provided interesting insights into the business of making money.

A Fatal Grace/ Dead Cold

by Louise Penny

Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors and I absolutely love her Inspector Gamache series.  I listened to this book with Candleman on a trip to southern Utah in Nov.  It was not his choice but he ended up loving it.

This is book 2 in the series.  I'm sure it is advisable to read this series in order especially to follow the continuing story of Gmache's enemies in the force.  Unfortunately, I've been reading them out of order and don't feel like it's detracted from the storyline too much.

I love coming back to this fictitious village just south of Montreal and reconnecting with the people.  They are real, flawed and multi-dimensional - just the type I would love to have for neighbors.  Most of them, anyway.  The setting makes me long to visit that area again.  It reminds me a a beautiful little town called Knowlton we visited that is real and is located just south of Montreal.  Absolutely picturesque and filled with charm.  That's how I think of Three Pines.

The mystery is complex and was hard for me to solve.  One of the things I like best about Penny's books is the wisdom sprinkled throughout.  I am going to need to reread this one so I can book dart those many passages I loved while listening to it.

If you haven't picked up one of these books in the Armand Gamache series, I highly recommend you do.  Start with Still Life.

A Fatal Grace is the title used in the U.S.  Elsewhere it goes by Dead Cold.  Why they can't use the same title is beyond me...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh Canada!

Congratulations to Canada!  The cheers from the north could be heard across the border! 

Alice I Have Been Melanie Benjamin

I read Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass for the first time a few years ago for a Classics Challenge.  I totally did NOT understand Lewis Carroll's writing even though I was reading an annotated copy and had seen Disney's version.  I recognized many parts and was surprised to find that many poems and stories I was familiar with originated with the Alice books.

Even though Lewis Carroll's genius soared way over my head, I developed a strong interest in the little girl Carroll wrote about and in the author himself.  Unfortunately, there are not many personal papers remaining to provide insight on the relationship that existed between Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson.

Benjamin is upfront about informing the reader this fictional story told from Alice's perspective.  Although much is unknown Benjamin weaves her story around substantiated events.

The book is divided into 3 major sections based on the men in Alice's life.  The first is Alice's questionable relationship with Charles Dodgson, one that is both filled with love and mystery and leaves Alice totally baffled when her mother stops them from being with each other even though Dodgson continues to work on campus.  Next is Alice's relationship with Prince Leopold that ends with questions for the reader, at least this reader.  I wish there was more known about why that relationship ended.  The final section is about Alice's marriage to a man who basically rescues her from spinsterhood.  It was during this part that I choked up and even shed some tears.

I loved this book!  Good story, good writing.  I strongly recommend Alice I Have Been, even if you're not a fan of Alice In Wonderland.  I read this book in November and have no worthy excuses for my delay in reviewing it.  I've thought of it many times over the ensuing months and finally decided I needed to review it so I could recommend it to others.

I received this book as a advanced reader's copy.  I did not receive any other payment for my review.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Home Repair

by Liz Rosenberg

This is a DNF.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

4th of July

by James Patterson

 I really enjoy these books.  The association between the 4 women is a fun part of the mystery.  Yuki Castellano, who is an attorney, joins the women as a new member.

In this 4th book in the Women's Murder Club series, Lindsay is charged with police brutality.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Garden Spells

by Sarah Addison Allen

Review pending....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Huckleberry Finished

by Livia J. Washburn

I don't know that I would have picked this book up at the store or library, but when it was offered from the publisher I accepted it on a whim.  This is book 2  in a mystery series that features Delilah Dickinson.

Delilah is a travel agent who specializes in literary tours.  Sounds like a great job, doesn't it?  The first in the series Frankly My Dear, I'm Dead was a romp through the Old South.  This one is, you guessed it - a riverboat trip down the Mississippi.

I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted cozy.  Interesting characters and quite a few twists and turns.  I liked it well enough to recommend it to my daughter.  She thought it was a fun read, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Swan Thieves

by Elizabeth Kostova

I am so far behind with my book reviews.  Hopefully, getting this one posted will get me past the barrier.  I received this book from Hatchette and I was delighted to have the chance to reading Kostova's 2nd book.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Historian a few years ago when I read it shortly after reading Dracula.

The Swan Thieves is not at all like The Historian except that both are long and circuitous.  I have often heard people talk of character studies without fully comprehending the term.  I think I understand it now.  The Swan Thieves concentrates significantly on the characters, painting each character with layer after layer of description. 

The story can be summed up briefly:  An artist is caught with a knife attempting to stab a famous painting and is incarcerated in a mental hospital.  The psychiatrist caring for him becomes obsessed with him and searches for answers to the artist breakdown.  This search leads to interviews with the 3 women in the painter's life and a story told through letters the painter obsessively reads.

I liked The Swan Thieves but not as much as The Historian.  I wanted to learn why the artist would stab a beautiful piece of artwork and that small mystery kept me reading.  I was intrigued with the story told in the letters and thought it the most enjoyable part of the book.

I'm not strongly recommending this book.  I think there are many who will like it and even a few who will love it.  It doesn't make my list of memorable books or my rereads list.  A quick look at amazon. com shows a higher rating for The Swan Thieves than for The Historian.  That surprises me.  And the ratings may change as more people read it as currently there are only 5 posted reviews - none are mine.