Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still Life

by Louise Penny

I do not reread books as a general rule.  There are only 4 books that I can think of that I have reread:  Jane Eyre, The Book of Mormon, Still Life, and A Fatal Grace.  Five books if you'll let me count the New Testament.  (I read the Old Testament once and I think that will do it for this lifetime.)  You may have noticed that 2 of those books are by Louise Penny and can I just say, "The are even better the 2nd time around!"

My review of the first reading of Still Life can be found here (Feb 2009).  I remember liking the book and being impressed with Penny's style of writing and I enjoyed the characters, hoping we would meet them again in future books.  And we did get to chum with them in the sequels.  Penny unwraps parts of each character and lets us slowly get acquainted with them as we might a new friend.  In this reread I was reminded of earlier descriptions of the characters and to see them in light of what I knew about them from later writings.  My word, they are such multi-faceted, complex, flawed, and yet lovable people.  The following quote illustrates how well Penny brings her characters to life, as well as her understanding of human nature and her gift for expressing it in writing.
“Clara shrugged and immediately knew her betrayal of Peter. In one easy movement she'd distanced herself from his bad behavior, even thought she herself was responsible for it. Just before everyone had arrived, she'd told Peter about her adventure with Gamache. Animated and excited she'd gabbled on about her box and the woods and the exhilarating climb up the ladder to the blind. But her wall of words hid from her a growing quietude. She failed to notice his silence, his distance, until it was too late and he'd retreated all the way to his icy island. She hated that place. From it he stood and stared, judged, and lobbed shards of sarcasm.

'You and your hero solve Jane's death?'

'I thought you'd be pleased,' she half lied. She actually hadn't thought at all, and if she had, she probably could have predicted his reaction. But since he was comfortably on his Inuk island, she'd retreat to hers, equipped with righteous indignation and warmed by moral certitude. She threw great logs of 'I'm right, you're an unfeeling bastard' onto the fire and felt secure and comforted.”
One thing I didn't fully appreciate the first time was the beauty of Penny's writing.  She is a literary genius without seeming to be.  Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post said, "Penny is a writer blessed with considerable sophistication and literary skill."  He described her 6th book as a fascinating hybrid: a cozy that at best reads like good literary fiction. I totally agree.   I especially like how she examines meaning of an object or a simple term like 'still life.'  In the book there is a piece of art that is a 'still life'.  Myrna, the bookstore owner and former psychiatrist, described a personality trait - the people who lead "still" lives.  The ones who aren't growing or evolving, who are standing still.  Penny presents the title, in this case an object in another book, and throws light on different meanings or connotations of the term or object or situation.

My husband is currently rereading Still Life.  When I picked it up from where he keeps it, I was surprised at the wear evident from its being a well-loved and well-read copy.  Beside he and I reading it twice, my mother, sister, and daughter have all read this copy.  It has sticky notes left by DH and Bookdarts left by me. What a treat it's been to look through these marked spots and linger on them. 

Friday, November 25, 2011


by Paul Woodruff

I learned about Paul Woodruff several months ago while watching one of the last episodes of Bill Moyers.  I had never seen the show but have admired Moyers and was saddened to hear the show was ending.  I wanted to TiVo all the episodes but I was too late on the scene.

I ordered Woodruff's book thinking my husband would enjoy it but, as things turn out, I read it instead.  At times the philosophy end of things was a little much for me but the major concepts were relished.  I used lots of Bookdarts and have already enjoyed rereading passages.

Woodruff defines reverence as "the capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have."  He presents his reasons for writing a book on reverence, among others because "reverence lies behind civility and all of the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant" and "reverence fosters leadership and education.  Reverence kindles warmth in friendship and family life."  "Unlike rules, virtues (like reverence) give us strength to live well and to avoid bad choices.  Reverence gives us the ability to shudder at going wrong."  We live in a world where rules are passed that govern every minute detail of our life - how much better off we would be if we all cultivated reverence.

"Reverence stands in awe of something--something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits--so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well.  An irreverent soul who is unable to feel awe in the presence of things higher than the self is also unable to feel respect in the presence of things it sees as lower than the self."   I think that something Woodruff speaks of is nature, God, truth, people's talents, the workings of our bodies, love, integrity, sacrifice - well, the list can go on and on and it should.

Being a teacher, a post shared by each of us, I especially liked the chapter dealing with education.  "Reverent teachers believe that students can match them in hunger after knowledge, that they can learn what they wish to, and that they need to make learning their own."  And, "At every level in the ladder of learning there are human beings perched with astonishing--but limited--powers of understanding and creativity.  Obviously they are unequal in attainments; that is why they need to be reminded of the equality they have in reverence for the the truth."

I'm glad I happened upon that Bill Moyers show and was introduced to Woodruff and his insightful book on reverence.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Girl on the Cliff

by Lucinda Riley

This is the second novel by Riley.  Her first, Hothouse Flower, was a hugely successful debut.  I didn't read that one but because of its good reviews I was willing to accept Girl on the Cliff as an ARC.  

The story is about a young woman, deeply in love but wounded, who returns to her Irish home to stay a short time with her parents.  While there she meets an ethereal-like child who captures Grania's heart.  As her caring for Aurora deepens, Grania finds herself drawn to her mysterious father.  Grania's mother warns her to stay clear of the family but, of course, Grania doesn't listen and finds herself in a web of mystery that she can't unravel.

I really enjoyed this lengthy tale.  I like when books go back and forth in time and circumstances and keep the reader slightly mixed up about what is really going on. 

The Irish scenes are described well and I wanted to fly there and sit on that cliff and feel the breeze through my hair.  A rock, a book, the surf, and the breeze would be soaked into every pore.  Delightful.  And, yes, I would love a tour of Aurora & her father's house.  Maybe even fix up a light luncheon and eat it in that marvelous kitchen and be dined by candlelight by my husband.  Wow!  I really lost myself inside the settings, didn't I?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Young Adult Book Giveaway

My daughter, Katie, attended the Las Vegas Book Festival this last weekend and had a ball.  She interviewed all 18 of the young adult authors.  She asked them what their favorite rereads are and "They're coming to get you.  Which would you rather fight off:  a hundred chihuahuas, a hundred cheerleaders or a hundred 2-year-olds?"

And she's hosting a giveaway for 3 young adult books along with lots of extra items signed by the authors.  So watch the video and enter the giveaway.  Katie's a whiz kid at putting together her videos, so even if you don't want to win a book I think you'll enjoy the video and the authors' answers to the interview questions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Trick of the Light

by Louise Penny

I am a big fan of Louise Penny's and have loved all her books, so far.  I didn't like this one so much.  I know it was the language that kept getting in my way.  The characters, writing, story were fabulous but the heavy use of the f word kept getting in my way of settling comfortably into a mystery by my favorite author.  That said, the objectionable language did fit in with the story and it did make a point.

Three passages that caught my attention:
"Armand Gamache knew no good ever came from putting up walls.  What people mistook for safety was in fact captivity.  And few things thrived in captivity."

"Our lives, when we were drinking, were pretty complicated.  Pretty chaotic.  We got into all sorts of trouble.  It was a mess.  And this is all we ever wanted.  a quiet place in the bright sunshine.  But every day we drank we got further from it."  (probably true of most addictions)

"And he recognized it for what it was.  Chief Justice Thierry Pineault was pissing on him.  It was delicate, sophisticated, genteel, mannerly.  But it was still piss.  The problem with a pissing contest, as Gamache knew, was that what should have remained private became public."
I am looking forward to her next book.  If the f word is used as much as in that book, I'll probably quit reading this series.  I hope it's not because I love the characters, love Penny's story telling abilities and love the intricate mysteries.

This was my husband's favorite of the series.  Read his review on his blog, Live and Learn.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila

by Jeannette

I didn't like this book.  The beginning was very interesting about the mother's and dad's experiences during the war.  This book claims to be the story of her momila but it was more about the children and their problems.

Friday, May 27, 2011


by Angie Sage

I have really enjoyed the Septimus Heap series.  Septimus is the seventh son of a seventh son in a line of wizards.  In Magyck, the first in the series, Septimus is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead.  That same night the boy's father comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born baby girl.  The following books reveal who this baby girl is and what happens to Septimus and, eventually, the adventures they share together.

As with the five earlier books, there are sinister forces at work in Darke. One of the characters has been Banished and Septimus must enter the Darke in hopes of retrieving him.  The Darke Domaine finds a way to enter the Castle and eventually engulfs it.  And a threatening Darke dragon is on the loose.

The covers of the books in this series are fun and creative, too - each cover looks like a locked book.  This picture shows the books in the correct order.  I haven't read them in order and I feel like I've been able to follow along quite well, but it would probably be best to read them order.  
I applaud Angie Sage for the wonderful, magical world she has populated with quirky, lovable characters.  Even thought the books are written for a 9 to 14 year old audience they held the interest of this 60 year old.  I enjoyed the writing, the suspense, the humor, the setting and, most of all, the characters.

Warner Bros. is working on a movie of the first book which I look forward to with great anticipation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kiss Her, Kill Her

by Lisa Dewar

My goodness but I'm so far behind on writing my reviews.  I'm still reading, albeit not as much, but I'm not keeping a record of what I've read.  I sent a stack of books off to my daughter a couple of months ago, all books that I had read but not recorded.  I did make a list but now I've lost my list.  A word of advise - Don't take up other time-consuming hobbies that interfere with reading and blogging.  Once you do there will be no turning back!  Last winter I started quilting and this summer I started doing genealogy.  Both fun, interesting and addictive.  Now that the temps have cooled down I'm back to quilting.

At one point last winter I read a review copy of Kiss Her, Kill Her by Lisa Dewar.  It was very interesting and took an unexpected turn early in the book.  Here's the write-up from the back of the book:
New York City has a monster on the loose and his name is Tarryn Cooper Love.
No one had given a second glance to the handsome taxi driver, but in reality he had been molded to be a killer since early childhood. His mother, who valued a juicy murder above all else, had taught him well. Just one more trophy and he is set to reach his goal, surpassing his mother's idol, the infamous Ted Bundy.
When a beautiful young woman gets into his cab flashing a wad of cash, he thinks he's hit the jackpot. As she starts confessing her plans for ending her own life he decides to listen to her story, hoping to charm her back from the brink of death, to heighten his game.
What he discovers is a twisted tale that has taken her from the hardened streets of LA to the upper crust of New York...a story that might even rival his own.
Tarryn has to decide within the space of 24 hours, if he should kill her or save her - and perhaps save himself in the process
 The rating on GoodReads for this book was 4 stars.  I would only give it 3 stars because it didn't really have the intensity that made me want to keep reading.  I didn't like either character, although I did sympathize with both of them.  I think I suspected a direction the book was going to go (something I don't usually do because I tend to just float along through a book without thinking too much) and the book didn't take that direction.  That could have resulted in a good, surprising twist but it didn't.  Instead the book just plodded on, sharing the back stories of the 2 main characters.  That was interesting, but I kept waiting for some conflict to develop and it didn't.

I do hope Lisa Dewar will continue to write.  She does have talent and I would be interested in reading future novels.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dolce di Love

by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Let me first share the write-up on the back cover of the book:
Corporate star Lily Turner abandons the boardrooms of Manhattan for the steep streets of Montevedova when she discovers her "perfect" husband, Daniel, has another family tucked away in the hills of Tuscany.  Once there, her plight attracts the attention of the Secret League of widowed Darners, an all-but-invisible army pulling strings behind the scenes to create happy endings.  Soon, founding members Violetta and Luciana are scheming to mend Lily's broken heart--and to enlist her help for their struggling pasticceria.

The part of that write up that urged me to read this book was the League of Widowed Darners.  I had recently watched Return to Me which featured the most delightful group of four old men that I fell in love with so I thought the idea of old women helping Lily with her love life would be every bit as delightful.

The old ladies didn't capture my heart in quite the same way but they were indeed a fun part of the book.  The love story with its' unexpected twists and turns was the real highlight of the book.  Lily faced several large scale obstructions to her future happiness and here chances for ever getting things resolved with Daniel but she also met a handsome, attentive man that could help her forget Daniel and his other family.

The girl should have just stayed at home in New York and left that cheating Daniel to his other family and left things alone, but she felt so compelled to find out what and why Daniel had betrayed her so badly.  Without her compulsion to face the problem this story would not have happened.

Very fun read, great for summer, for the beach, vacation, or plane ride and highly recommended to the romantic in us all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Postcard Killers

by James Patterson & Lisa Marklund

I just remembered another book that I read in the spring that didn't get reviewed.  This book was pretty sleazy and is one I would have quit if I'd have had anything to read.  I took a book with me to Cedar City when I went to help my sister after her operation.  My mistake was not taking it to the hospital.  In my defense, I didn't know I'd be staying all night but after the operation both my sister and I felt I should stay.  Luckily she had a book she thought she'd feel good enough to read.  She didn't. 

The one good thing about Postcard Killers was that it kept my interest piqued throughout the night and I was able to stay awake.  Being one of James Patterson's, the chapters were short and the writing a bit large.  Many would have finished it in a few hours - it took me most of the night. 

Do I recommend it?  Not really.  There's too many descent books that are really good to waste time of this type of read under normal circumstances.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

by Michelle Moran

I loved this book!  Best book I've read so far this year!

You may be familiar with Michelle Moran's earlier novels: Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter.  All very good, enjoyable reads, took me to places and introduced me to people from history, and were well researched and well written.  Madame Tussaud does all that and more.  In my opinion this is Moran's best work so far.

Perhaps it was the backdrop of the French Revolution that made me love this book.  I feel like I knew so little about that period, though I did read (and love) The Scarlett Pimpernell.  Perhaps it was the main character that I liked so well. Though she is quite different from me, I was able to understand her motives and to sympathize with her roles as daughter, girlfriend, niece, teacher, and her devotion to her work.

The characters in this book are complex.  I think Moran did a superb job of progressively revealing more dimensions to the characters, mainly Madame Tussaud and Robespierre, as the story unfolds.  And the story!  Excellent!  I liked how we see the French Revolution from a different slant than is presented in The Scarlett Pimpernell.  I felt compassion for the Royalty as well as anger.  The progression of Robespierre from an activist to a villainous madman was portrayed with finesse.

I am not doing this book justice with my choppy review.  I need to have my daughter read it and discuss it with me.  Then I could write what I feel but what she can help me express.  I wish I had her gift for putting into words the things she feels about a book.  Suffice it to say in my own befuddled way that I think you will enjoy this book and I hope you love it as much as I do.  I may need to start going to book club again so I can recommend this book.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dear Strangers

by Meg Mullins

It was a slow start for me getting into this book for a couple reasons.  First, I just haven't been reading the first couple months this year so I was trying to coming out of a reading slump.  Second, this book was a bit confusing at first.

Luckily, I kept reading and finally reached the point where I was hooked.  As the disconnected story lines, as they seemed to me, began to join together I had to keep reading to see how they all finally blended into one.  Usually I really like this technique.  I think I had a harder time this time due to the reading slump.

There was a third reason I had a hard time getting into this book rather than just bobbing along and enjoying the ride was the main character, Oliver.  His father died of a heart attach when Oliver was 6 or 7 just days before his adoptive brother was delivered.  The brother did not stay, so Oliver experienced 2 losses close together.  That I sympathize with but I still thought Oliver was quite overboard in his reaction.  Later in his 20s he's still behaving very weirdly as a result of his losses.

I really liked the characters of Miranda and Mary.  Miranda is working on completing a very interesting art project that requires willing participants that don't ever meet her.  Not going to tell you more!  

Overall, I'm glad I read Dear Strangers.  Definitely liked the last half best but can see the need for the first half.   There were several passages that caused me to pause and ponder the book and life in general.  Meg Mullins is the author of The Rug Merchant.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Moon River and Me

by Andy Williams

This book provided a nice walk down memory lane.  As someone who grew up watching Andy Williams on TV and listening to his music I was delighted when Courtney from Plume & Hudson Street Press offered me a review copy.  I learned a lot about Andy Williams that I didn't know and I enjoyed revisiting the past.  

It's been several months since I read Moon River and Me so specifics have left my old, muddled brain but I do remember liking this book.  The writing was easy flowing and nice.  The chronicle of Andy's life from a poor, small town boy to a world famous singer through a time period that I grew up was most interesting.  I had fun looking up some of the old shows on youtube and the memories came flooding back of being a young girl laying on the floor with my head in my hands watching Andy's Christmas special as well as others of his shows.  Good times!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chasing the Night

This review is long overdue.  A special thanks to the Ann-Marie Nieves who offered this book to me in the first few days of October.  My mother was very ill at that time and I had stopped reading during her illness and I thought a riveting book by Iris Johansen would be just the thing to hold my attention.  I was right but I wasn't able to start reading it for many weeks after I received it.  Ann-Marie was so sweet and patient during a hard time in my life.

My 88-year-old mother started feeling sluggish last spring and repeated doctor appointments didn't find any reason for her declining health.  Her doctor and I kept reminding her that she was getting older.  At one point I commented to her that I was finally able to keep up with her!  Finally in August the problem was discovered -  Mom had stage 4 stomach cancer.  During the last 2 months of her life I was fortunate to be at her house for extended periods and had plenty of time to read but I would start one after the other books only to reach page 100 or so and loose interest.  One book, that I can't even recall its title, I only had 50 pages to finish and found I just didn't care enough to finish.  Meanwhile reading gave Mom something to occupy her mind and she read almost nonstop during her waking hours.  I am so grateful that there are so many good books and that they are so readily available to us.  Mom passed from this life on Oct. 15.  Let me tell you - she is sorely missed.

Chasing the Night was the first book I read after Mom's passing.  It did hold my interest and I can't wait to read Johansen's next book which comes out in April.   I read the first 2 or 3 books in this series years ago and loved them.  I wonder now what interrupted my continuing with it.  I plan to go back and read the ones I've missed.

Eve Duncan is a forensic sculptor who works to bring closure to families of missing children.  Her work touches a cord of heartache for her because Eve's own daughter was kidnapped years earlier and has never been found.  In Chasing the Night, Eve helps a CIA agent try to find her kidnapped son Luke by discovering what Luke might look like today.  That brief description does not sound particularly suspenseful, but trust me, there is plenty of intensity in this book.  The man who has a hold  on the CIA agent is pure evil.  And scary.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this last installment in the Eve Duncan series and being reintroduced to a literary character that I like a lot.  I'm sure it would be nice to have read all the books in order but this book could easily be enjoyed as a stand alone.  I liked this book so well that I want to pass it along to a fellow reader.  If you like mystery/suspense books and would like to win an advanced reader copy of In Chasing the Night, leave a comment and a way for me to contact you when you win the drawing.  I will draw a name on Monday, Feb 21 - One week from today.