Friday, March 30, 2012

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

by Alexander McCall Smith

I hope everyone has taken the opportunity to read or, better yet, to listen to at least one book in this thirteen-book series.  I've read two so far and listened to many more.  My husband and I have listened to 5 or 6 of them and get so tickled at conversations and laid-back philosophy of Precious Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi.  We always try to say Mma the way the reader does and can never get it quite right but we keep trying.  I noticed reading this one that I still stopped occasionally and tried to say it.  If you haven't listened to one in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, you need too.

Don't expect a fast-paced, white knuckle mystery or even a regular cozy.  Throw all expectations out the window and just let the story and the characters gently pull you in to a delightful reading experience.

I especially like the part where Mma Ramotske reflected on the good that comes from families eating dinner together around the table.  Sadly, as I looked through my highlights, I did not mark those thoughts.  I did highlight this passage that's quite an acute observation:
 "The big mistake is to close your eyes.  There are so many who have closed eyes.  You look at them, of course, and you think that they have open eyes, but then you look more closely and you realise that although their eyes are open, there is nothing going in."
I was happy to be inside this book and meeting again with the delightful characters over a cup of bush tea.  Speaking of tea, there's a fun conversation between Mma Ramotske and Mma Matkutsi about how much tea they drink in a day, a week and a year.  It made me feel a bit water-logged.  

** I received a free copy of TheLimpopo Academy of Private Detection from Random House of Canada and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Ninth Step

by Barbara Taylor Sissel

My initial feeling as I began reading this novel was that it was a light, fluffy, chic-lit and I asked myself on several occasions why I was continuing.  But continue I did and I'm so glad.  The story and the characters develop with each page until things come together in a stunning climax and then mellow out to a . . . well, I don't want to describe the end.  You'll thank me for not spoiling it for you.

The Ninth Step is peopled with real, flawed, complex, and even quirky characters.  By the end of the book I loved them all and felt great compassion for their problems.  If you were to take a stop-action look at any one point you could quickly jump to rash judgments about anyone of them but as their inner cores are revealed I sympathized with each one.   I'm in awe that the author was able to pull me into this story so smoothly and subtlety.

My recommendation:  Definitely worth your time.  I liked it a lot and highly recommend it.  I love discovering a new-to-me author and it's a boon to learn this author has 2 other books.  In fact, I just looked on and one of her books, The Last Innocent Hour is free for Kindle. Yes, of course, I downloaded it.  And The Ninth Step was only $2.99.

** I received a free copy of The Ninth Step  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The TurboCharged Mind

by Dian Griesel with Tom Griesel

This little book of less than 100 pages provides a great reminder and motivation to those of us who have read several visualization-type books and a good introduction to those who are new to the concept.

It starts out discussing what hypnosis is and debunking some of the myths that cause many to think it's mystical and unnatural.  There's a comparison to the mind as a computer that stores our memories but is also programmable.

"This programing consists of our experiences & our thoughts about them.  Most of us have left the programming of our subconscious 'computers' up to the outside world.  The result is that a substantial amount of what we think, feel, and do has been left to chance.  Our 'input' has been manipulated by our parents, friends, family, advertising, big business, laws, church and religious doctrine, unwritten social mores and our own undirected thoughts."

That's not saying that all of that 'input' has been harmful. To me it means that we haven't always been mindful of what we've allowed to shape our belief system.   The Turbocharged Mind instructs us how to change the input so we can change the output.  In other words, we can better control what goes into our subconscious and thereby control what we believe and what we do.

I have used these ideas over the years and have seen some remarkable changes in some of my beliefs about myself.  I used to have quite a temper but now I am mild manner and very, very seldom get angry.   The biggest area of improvement is my self-image.  We are all constantly talking to ourselves in our minds.  So much of what I used to say to myself about myself was critical, over and over again and quite often with great emotion.  I used self-hypnosis and other thought processes to greatly decrease the negative self-talk.  Life has been so much more pleasant. 

If the idea of self-hypnosis/visualization is new to you this is a good starter book.  I also recommend Psycho-cybernetics and the Magic of Belief.  For those of us familiar with the concepts, it's a good reminder to keep doing what we know works.  I haven't used these techniques in awhile and I needed this nudge to work on a few other problem areas in my life.

The authors have a website where they talk about self-hypnosis, offer their books and have some self-hypnotic downloads on weight control, relaxation, energy, quit smoking, etc.  The downloads cost $10.   There is a beginner meditation download and a eRecipe book that are free.

** I received a free copy of The TurboCharged Mind  fromthe authors in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances

by M.J. Rose

This book was interesting, suspenseful, bittersweet and romantic.  I loved it!  I'm going to borrow the lead-in to this book from's page:
Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.
Rose wrote the scenes of Jac drifting in and out of fugue states so well that I could picture the change taking place just like it was a movie playing in my head.   I would probably rate this one as a 4.75/5.0 if I was to rate it.  Very enjoyable!

** I received a free copy of The Book of Lost Fragrances from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

BTW ~ If you haven't connected with NetGalley you need to check them out.  You are able to look through the galleys (when did we start calling ARCs galleys?) and if there's a book that interests you can request a galley.  I've received 5 or 6 so far; this is the 1st I've read.  They are all digital and the final editing hasn't been finished, but I like the concept a lot.  Authors and publishers don't have to email you personally and you can look through all the books and available and choose only the ones that call out to you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Land of Decoration

by Grace McCleen

I want to discuss the cover before talking about the book.  The first image is of the US cover.  It's okay, and if I hadn't seen the Canadian/English version, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.  As I just now searched for an image for this post I saw the Canadian/English version and thought how cute and appropriate to the story it was.  Why do they (whoever THEY is) have to make a different, and only so-so cover for the US?    The cute cover has a picture of the main character, 10-yr old Judith, siting in her home and yet too big for her home.  Quite Alice-in-Wonderlandish.  The homemade clouds, planet and sun hang from strings as they do in Judith's room.  And all the snow falling represent a major pivot point in Judith's young, lonely life.

Am I wrong?  Which cover do you like best?

I wanted to like this book because I watched the video sent along with the invitation to receive an ARC of this book.  I've included the video at the end of this post.  It's mesmerizing and created a desire to learn more about Judith and the little world she had created in her bedroom.

Judith's father is a radical evangelical.  Actually, he's lost and lonely after the loss of his wife and he tries to fill that with an unwholesome religious fervor that he questions and struggles with in his alone time.

Ten-year-old, bullied, friendless Judith is also trying to deal with the loss of her mother.  She follows her father, much like a bewildered puppy, to and from meetings, visiting homes, handing out flyers, and teaching religion from the street corners.  She spends too many hours alone, thinking, creating her private landscape and integrating her father's religious views to solve her own personal problems.  She becomes an innocent victim of the narrow range of her life.

This is a powerful, well-written book but it was not a pleasant experience for me to read it.  I found my anger near boiling at the stupidity of the radical, non-rational thinking of the father and his small group of devout evangelicals and the effects of "religion" on young Judith.  It wasn't a stretch to think about all the people who hold radical beliefs of any kind and the effects that has on their children - religious, political, educational, health-related, etc.  In my neck of the world, there isn't a healthy regard for education so I hear a lot of ignorant comments about non-Caucasian races, Democrats, women, the wealthy and so on and so forth.  My little valley is a field ripe with potential when it comes to propaganda.  

The message is powerful and hits you right in the gut.  The ending will leave you reeling.  When I started writing my review I planned on saying that I did not like this book, but after writing my thoughts I realize the book did what it set out to do.  It warns of the danger of radical thinking.  It creates strong feelings of anger and disgust in it's readers while watching the effects of radicalism on the fertile soil of a young child's mind.

** I received a free copy of The Land of Decoration in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Promise Me Eternity

by Ian Fox

Dr. Simon Patterson is a successful and well-respected neurosurgeon at Central Hospital in the town of Medford. Married, though without children, he keeps himself so busy that one day is not much different from another. Until, that is, he saves the life of the powerful mobster Carlo Vucci. At a dinner in honor of Dr. Patterson, Carlo Vucci introduces him to his alluring wife Christine. Simon is entranced by her beauty. Three weeks later, Christine shows up at the hospital, complaining of terrible headaches. Dr. Patterson offers to help her, but Christine did not come to see him just because of her health. A series of shocking events follows that transforms Simon’s life into a nightmare. Among other things, he finds himself in court being accused of first degree murder…

There are a number of characters to keep track of and at times I got a little confused, but that only lasted a little while.  The main character, Dr. Patterson, is self-absorbed and quite clueless at times even though he is a competent surgeon.  Now that I think of it, most of the characters are not very likable and yet, I still really liked the book.  There were a few twists and turns to keep you guessing, but I was pretty sure how things were going to end.  That said, there was a delightful little twist to finish things off.

I received an e-copy of Promise Me Eternity from the author through Smashwords, an ebook online store.  I just checked and you can buy this book from Smashwords or for 99 cents.  It's definitely worth buying.  If you are interested Fox has a 2nd ebook, Only the Strongest Survive available for 99 cents on amazon.  I'm interested!  See links in right column.  I kept thinking as I read that I would like to read another book by Ian Fox so I'm happy to discover there's another one available and at such a wonderful cost.

** I received a free copy of Promise Me Eternity in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Winter Garden

by Kristin Hannah

Again I find my talents lacking.  I am unable to transform my feelings about this book into satisfactory words.  Why is it that when I really like a book all I can come up with is, "I really like this book."?  (I know the punctuation is wrong in that last sentence, but I punctuated it the way I thought it should be for what I was saying.)

Maybe if I ask myself some probing questions I'll be able to better define my thoughts and feelings.  Who was the book about?  Who did I identify with?  Who did I like and who did I not like? 

The story starts out being about Meredith, one of 2 sisters of a cold, insensitive mother but then it expands to include her mother's & sister's stories, as well.   The setting is an apple orchard located on the Columbia River.  The father's death brings the sisters and their mother together to confront their differences and buried pains.  Before the father died he pleaded with the youngest daughter, Nina, to make their mother tell them her story.

I didn't really identify with any of the characters but I grew to like them and sympathize with their journeys.  Early on in the book I contemplated quitting because I didn't want to drudge through sibling rivalries and Meredith's tough exterior but I wanted to know the mother's story.  Why was she so cold and hurtful to her daughters both in the present and when they were younger. 

What was the mother's story? What could possibly have happened to her that could make her daughters forgive and love her?  It was this question that kept me reading and I'm so glad I did. 

That's all the questions I'm going to answer because I want you to read this book as I did - without knowing too much about it.  Learning about the mother without knowing ahead of time was a good thing, I think.  That's not to say if you know where the story's heading that you shouldn't read it.  You should.

I like books that entertain as well as educate.  This one did both.  And it made me count my blessings on many different fronts.  I read Winter Garden for my church's f2f reading group even though I knew I wouldn't be able to attend the discussion. 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

No One You Know

by Michelle Richmond

I probably read a review much like the following that intrigued me to read this book:
“Heartbreaking and compelling…A thoroughly riveting literary thriller.” Booklist, starred review

Sad - yes; compelling - sort of; thoroughly riveting - not so much; thriller - not by any stretch of the imagination.

Here's the write-up of the story (on Michelle Richmond's web page).
All her life Ellie Enderlin had been known as Lila’s sister. Until one day, without warning, the shape of their family changed forever. Twenty years ago, Lila, a top math student at Stanford, was murdered in a crime that was never solved. In the aftermath of her sister’s death, Ellie entrusted her most intimate feelings to a man who turned the story into a bestselling true crime book—a book that both devastated her family and identified one of Lila’s professors as the killer.
Decades later, two Americans meet in a remote village in Nicaragua. Ellie is now a professional coffee buyer, an inveterate traveler and incapable of trust. Peter is a ruined academic. And their meeting is not by chance. As rain beats down on the steaming rooftops of the village, Peter leaves Ellie with a gift—the notebook that Lila carried everywhere, a piece of evidence not found with her body. Stunned, Ellie will return home to San Francisco to explore the mysteries of Lila’s notebook, filled with mathematical equations, and begin a search that has been waiting for her all these years. It will lead her to a hundred-year-old mathematical puzzle, to a lover no one knew Lila had, to the motives and fate of the man who profited from their family’s anguish—and to the deepest secrets even sisters keep from each other. As she connects with people whose lives unknowingly swirled around her own, Ellie will confront a series of startling revelations—from the eloquent truths of numbers to confessions of love, pain and loss.
A novel about the stories and lies that strangers, lovers and families tell—and the secrets we keep even from ourselves.
I don't think this book was a waste of time and there were subtle messages that were worthwhile, but I don't highly recommend it.

Six Year Blog-iversary

I've been blogging about books for over six years.  I can still picture the day I started.  I had stayed late at school to grade papers, enter scores and work on lesson plans.  My youngest daughter was in high school and often stayed after to socialize.  When she was ready to go she would come to my room and get me, most of the time having to busy herself while I finished up my projects.  On this day I asked her to show me some of the new things she was learning in her computer class.  That's when she talked me into starting a blog.

Two daughters had blogs as well as several nieces and I thought it would be fun to read what they were writing  but I had no idea what I could possibly blog about. Katie was the one to suggest a book blog.  I felt pretty safe with that idea because I didn't think anyone would ever read my blog.  Plus it would be a great way to record all those wonderful passages that cramped my hand when I recorded them in longhand.

So that evening, in my classroom, Katie walked me through the steps to setting up a blog on Blogger.  It was hard thinking up an address and even harder to come up with a, what did she call it back then, a tag?  In hindsight, I wish I would have made my address the same as my blog title, but I didn't really understand what I was doing.  I have been pleased with my tag - booklogged.  It seemed to fit and grew more comfortable with the passage of time.

My earliest entries were about my favorite books in sci/fi, Nobel Prize winners, and 3 books I would like to reread.  I wrote a post about several books I didn't like and two posts about favorite authors.  Reading over these posts reminds me that I had not yet been introduced to the works of Louise Penny, Andrea Barrett, David Baldacci, Jacqueline Winspear, Lisa Scottoline, Laurie King and so many other authors that I now love.  And the glorious books suggested by fellow bloggers - Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, The Book Thief, Anne Perry's WWI series, The History of Love, and all those reading challenges and fun memes. I've had so much fun over the years writing TBR lists and making spreadsheets to keep track of the reading challenges.

 I like that Blogger provides an archive so I can look back and reread my impressions about books.  As I look at some of the book titles I draw a blank as to what they were about but my little short snippet about it usually brings it back to mind.  Last year I only made 14 entries even though I know I read more books than that, though probably not many.  My mother died of cancer in Oct 2010 and I lost interest in reading for several months, almost a year.  I feel like some of that old yearning is coming back so I hope I will read more and record each book I read.  I have never been good at keeping a daily journal but I find that my book journal provides some record of my life.  As I read the entries I can sometimes remember other pertinent things that were happening in addition to the book I was reading.

One thing I would like to do is to print my blog.  I'm just not sure if I should print it all or edit it first.  Have any of you saved your blog in a more concrete way than on the internet?  What have learned from doing so?  Do you have any suggestions or advice?

The best part of this blogging experience has been making friends with other readers and sharing our love for the printed word.  I have loved discussing books with you.