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Vacation Planning

>> Monday, July 31, 2006

How to pack for vacation (by my friend Jan)
Vacation checklist in order of priority, is:
1. Pack more books than you could possibly read in one year let alone one week. Ditto with yarn and knitting patterns.

2. throw a few clothes in a suitcase.

3. drop dog at kennel.

Two minor modifications were necessary to adapt this for my own needs.

1. I don't knit, I crochet. Yesterday I purchased the yarn for the baby afghan that I can work on while riding in the car, so that one is taken care of.

3. We don't have a dog, so #3 is outta there.

Today is the first day that I can check books out of the library that won't be due till we get back from vacation so I picked up two at one library on the way home tonight. Tomorrow I'll stop at the other library and pick up the Book on Tape and Hardcover book that I requested and are waiting for me on the hold shelf. I was able to time both of those requests beautifully so that they became available within the perfect timing window to take on vacation.

All in all I'm putting about three times the effort into planning my books for vacation as I am in planning what clothes I'll take. Sounds about right to me.


O - The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

>> Sunday, July 30, 2006

This is the first book by this Irish author. It's a pleasant little story of the many characters who frequent a tea shop in Belfast. Their stories intertwine and there are funny, touching and predictable moments throughout. All in all a pleasant little book and I may very well read more by this author.


A Weekend with no reading

>> Friday, July 28, 2006

Normally that would be a very sad prospect, but this weekend I won't have much time for reading because it's time for a very important annual event:

We've got family coming to town tomorrow and we'll spend some time down at the Brewer's Festival and then come home for dinner and a chance to enjoy some time with my family.

Then, on Sunday morning I'll be meeting a couple of friends from out of town for breakfast and most likely a couple of hours of conversation and laughs.

So even though I'll have little or no chance to read this weekend it's not a bad thing.


N - Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

>> Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I’d been told that it’s slow to start for some folks, but worth hanging in. It was definitely slow to start for me. I really didn’t feel engaged in the story till about page 150 or so. I didn’t love the book, but I also didn’t dislike it enough to give up on it. Just about the time I felt it was too wordy or over the top, I’d happen upon a really beautiful phrase, sentence or paragraph that pulled me back in. I was home sick from work and finished the second half of the book in 2 days which allowed me to really wrap myself in the language and setting. All in all, I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but I’m glad I read it.

It had some fabulous moments and the whole concept of wrapping the story around a story we're familiar with was intriguing. In places she pulled it off well. Other places it was just kind of over the top in an effort to bring in so many different historical figures and social issues. Particularly near the end it felt like the author was trying to rush in everything she hadn't checked off her list yet.


Another Book on CD

>> Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - This was not an easy book to listen to. The reader (John Lee) was great, but the story and the language made it tough to follow becuase I tend to listen to books in 10 - 15 minute increments. Thank goodness for Sparknotes. I really used the chapter overviews and analyses on that website to follow the story for the first third of this book. After that, I was acclimated to the language and the story and could follow better just by listening.

Bottom line - I'm glad I listened to this book - it truly is a classic worth experiencing.


Back to A to Z by Author 'M'

>> Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Macomber, Debbie – 50 Harbor Street. This is the fifth installment of her Cedar Cove Series. It’s light and a quick read. No brain effort involved here, it’s kind of like having a reading weekend. All the books take place in the same small Washington town. Each book focuses on a different family in town, with several story lines continued throughout the series. By now, for me, it’s like returning to familiar territory and characters. One thing I particularly enjoy about this series is that although Cedar Cove is a fictional town, I have spent time in the area of Washington where Debbie Macomber lives. This is clearly the inspiration for Cedar Cove and when she does mention real places they are often familiar to me.


2006 Audiobooks (so far)

>> Tuesday, July 18, 2006

As I said, my audiobook listening is separate from my A to Z reading. There was just no way to coordinate the two.

This year I’ve been focusing on two series. I’ve continued with the Mrs. Pollifax series that I started last year. Barbara Rosenblat reads these and I think she could read the dictionary and make it entertaining. The new series I started this year is the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series. Lisette Lecat who does just a fabulous job with the voices and accents reads these. I’ve slipped in a couple of others this year – including the first of the Aunt Dimity series that was fun. The Janet Evanovich was a road trip book for us when we went down to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland in April.

Here’s the 2006 list (to date) of the audiobooks I’ve finished:

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Mrs Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha by Dorothy Gilman
Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman
Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish by Dorothy Gilman
The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton
Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman
The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith
Mrs. Pollifax Pursued by Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer by Dorothy Gilman

I’m currently listening to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m on the second to last CD and should be done soon.


Portland Radio Drove Me to Audiobooks

>> Monday, July 17, 2006

And I have to say “thank you, Portland radio”. Two thirds of my daily commute to and from work is a ride on a light rail train system. This is great for a reader. I get 20 minutes each way to read and not feed road rage. I love that I have this time. The other third of my commute is the 10-12 minute drive between my house and the park and ride lot. A couple of years ago I suddenly realized that in that ‘drive-time’ I was almost always listening to commercials and inane banter (trust me, Portland drive-time radio stinks!). After one day when I left my house in the morning and heard nothing but a solid block of commercials the entire trip to the park and ride, I’d had it. I stopped at the library on the way home that night and picked up a book on tape. It was Patty Jane’s House of Curl by Lorna Landvik. It wasn’t a book I had been seriously looking forward to reading, but several of the folks in my online booklovers group had enjoyed it. I figured it would be a good one to try. If I didn’t like listening to a book in the car, it wouldn’t be a book I really cared about. I really wondered if listening to a book in 10 minute time slots would make it too chopped up to enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed listening to a book when I was in the car alone. It definitely kept me interested way more than Portland radio stations did.

These days I always have a book on tape, cd, or on my ipod (plugged into the car stereo via cassette tape adapter). It’s quite unusual for me to be driving by myself without a book playing, even if it’s just the quick drive to the gym. I also use the books I have on my ipod for listening while walking (I walk in a lot of 5k events and it’s great to listen to a book if I’m not walking with a friend).

My husband and I now listen to books together when we take road trips. We’ve been working our way through Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (which I’ve read, but he hasn’t) and Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who . . . series. Both of these make for great road trip books.

I’m pretty picky about what I’ll listen to. Because I do tend to listen in small chunks of time, I don’t like to listen to complicated mysteries or non-fiction. The lighter mysteries are fine. I have learned that a good reader can make an Okay book better, but the wrong reader can absolutely ruin a great book. I definitely have some favorite readers (George Guidall and Barbara Rosenblat are both awesome). I have also found that listening is a good way to do some of the ‘classics I’ve never read’, as well as some books that are overloaded with description (cough, cough, Jean Auel, cough, cough) so I can sort of fade out until the action kicks in again.


and on to 'L'

>> Sunday, July 16, 2006

Larson, Erik – The Devil in White City. I’ve had this one on my list to be read for quite a while. I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends, but I decided to go ahead and give it a go. I liked this book a lot – I enjoy reading both history and true crime, so this is the perfect blend. The parallel stories of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and of a serial killer at the same time and place made it seem almost like reading two books at the same time. Just about the time I was getting ready for a break in the story of building and operating the fair, the story would shift to Holmes. I’m passing this one along for my husband to read.


July (so far)

>> Friday, July 14, 2006

Jackson, Joshilyn – Between, Georgia. This is yet another author that my bookseller friend brought to my attention. I thoroughly enjoyed her first novel “gods in Alabama”. This one was good too. In the midst of a mixed up dysfunctional family there’s a lot of love and southern humor to be found here.

Kerley, Jack – The Death Collectors. His follow up to The Hundredth Man has Carson and Harry at it again. Once again he’s written well-paced mystery with lots of twists and turns. The humor and romance are there, but not obtrusive. I changed my mind several times regarding who I thought was the murderer, which makes for a fun read.



Evanovich, Janet – Eleven on Top. I love this series. It’s funny, sexy, light and thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve read them all so far and then listened to them again on CD with my husband on car trips. They make great road trip listening.

Frank, Dorothea Benton – Plantation. I’m a sucker for books set in the South. I enjoyed Dot Frank’s first book Sullivan’s Island. This one started out good and I ended up really enjoying it. Sure, the characters are over the top, but it’s entertainingly dysfunctional families.

Gilstrap, John – Scott Free. His first book Nathan’s Run simply blew me away and even though his books are hard to find, I’ve enjoyed every one. This guy can write the kind of suspense novel that I have a hard time putting down.

Hayder, Mo – Birdman. I’ve never read anything by her, but this is another author that my bookseller friend really likes. This is seriously twisted stuff, but a good creepy crime thriller. The ‘hero’ is not exactly a likeable guy, but the story had enough twists and turns to keep me interested.

Iles, Greg – Spandau Phoenix. This one has an interesting premise that starts out with the facts of Rudolf Hess’ flight to England and takes off from there into speculative history rewriting. It’s got lots of characters and locations to keep straight, and many twists and turns along the way, but a good thriller.


May - (part 2)

Albom, Mitch – Tuesdays with Morrie. This book has been on my list for years, but for some reason I’ve never actually gotten around to reading it. This ended up being a one day book, but I just loved it. I renewed it from the library so my husband could read it too.

Baldacci, David – Absolute Power. I’ve never read anything by Baldacci, but I’ve heard he’s good and writes the kind of thriller/suspense stuff that both my husband and I enjoy. I saw the Clint Eastwood movie that was based on this book many years ago, but I’ve forgotten more than I remember about the movie. I certainly don’t remember enough to be concerned about where the book and the movie don’t match up. I really enjoyed the book and will likely read more of his.

Coben, Harlan – Promise Me. Hooray for the return of Myron Bolitar!! I loved Coben’s series featuring Myron and his entourage. His recent stand-alone books have been awesome too, but I’m thrilled to see Myron, Win, Esmerelda, etc. back and was not disappointed in the book at all.

Dean, Debra – The Madonnas of Leningrad. I think if I had an aging parent or relative with Alzheimer’s like many of my peers do, I might find this book difficult to read. Since I don’t and my personal experience with a family member with Alzheimer’s is in the past, it’s not quite so personal for me right now. I really enjoy the way the author moves back and forth from Marina’s past which is so clear to her, and the present where she’s having such difficulty. Ultimately this book left some questions unanswered and never really completely developed the characters including Marina, but was still a good book.


So ends A to Z part one

May 14th and I made it through my Alphabetical by Title list in 4½ months. Now it’s on to another Alphabetical list – this one by Author. As with the title list, I started with books that had been on my ‘to be read’ list that I haven’t gotten around to reading. Then I tossed in a few new authors that I wanted to try, then filled in the blanks as needed when I got close to a letter where I didn’t have an author lined up.


May - (part 1)

The X President by Philip Baruth: this was seriously on the list simply because I needed an X title. It’s a combination of Sci-Fi and political commentary. Definitely not something I would normally pick up and read, but part of the reason for doing the alphabetical list was to force myself to read new and different things and break out of my routine. It was odd, but it did hold my interest.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks: This one is about a village in England in 1666 that decides to quarantine themselves to keep from spreading the plague to their friends and neighbors once they become exposed. Interesting book, very well written, but the epilogue seems completely disconnected and to come from way out in left field. Still, I’d recommend it.

Zorro by Isabel Allende: I’ve wanted to read this one since I first heard about it. I thought her writing in Daughter of Fortune was beautiful and looked forward to this. I really ended up thinking it was just OK. There were parts that were great, but not enough of them to make the book great.



The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini: This is another new author to me. Clearly the primary reason for picking this book was that I needed a Q book for my alphabetical list. I ended up enjoying the book and will probably eventually read the rest of the series. Found the website to look at the quilts as described in the book – which was nice.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow: This is one of those books that has been on my bookshelf for years, but I’ve never read. I have seen the movie, so wasn’t surprised that the characters were not named for the most part and that it jumped around a lot. I really just thought it was OK.

Still Waters by Tami Hoag: This is the first Tami Hoag book I’ve read. I really enjoyed it. It’s a good thriller with a bit of romance thrown in. I’m probably going to read more of her books, but will stick with her suspense novels. Looks like she’s got a few romances out there that don’t interest me as much.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: It’s been years since I read this book. I’m glad I read it again. Harper Lee only wrote one book, but it was a doozy. Considering it had been many years since I last read this, I was surprised at how much of it I remembered. This is still one of my all time favorites.

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon: Yet another recommendation from my bookseller friend. Her tastes are as eclectic as mine when it comes to books and I’m surprised just how often they mesh. This novel is written as a series of letters between two young African-American kids from Harlem. He’s 17 and in jail for possibly killing his father, she’s 16 and thinks he’s the love of her life. Their letters tell a compelling coming of age story for both of them in often brutal, but genuine language.

The Virgin’s Lover by Phillipa Gregory: Another of her ventures into historical fiction about Tudor royalty. I enjoyed this one. Although it’s clearly fiction and not history, it’s fun.

Whiteout by Ken Follett: His books range from historical fiction, to wartime thrillers to suspense. This one certainly caught my interest right off the bat. Then it drifted into just OK in the middle. Tension made the end better again, but not great. Follett can write some great books, but he can also write some duds (The Third Twin). This one was good, but not great.



Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George: Her first two books were all or nothing for me. I loved the Autobiography of Henry VIII, but didn’t like much of Memoirs of Cleopatra. I’ve heard good things about this one and hoped that her return to the Tudor era will be an improvement. At the halfway point I’d gotten lost in the vast numbers of people mentioned in places, but still kept up with the focus of the story. Some time online researching the main participants helped. The rest of the book was less confusing, but by the time I got to the end, I was ready to be done with it.

Night Fall by Nelson DeMille: I really enjoy DeMille’s books and particularly those with John Corey in them. I love him as a character because he’s got a real fun attitude.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz: Many people I know have already read this book and recommended it to me. I used to read a lot of the horror/thriller genre and read quite a few of Dean Koontz’s early books. I haven’t read one of his books in years, but had so many people recommend this one that I had to give it a shot. I really ended up enjoying it.

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult: Picoult is one of those authors I would never have read if not for the recommendations of my online book group. The thing I enjoy about her books is that she takes controversial issues and presents them in a way that the reader can have empathy for both sides . This one was the same way. By the end of the book I could see valid reasons for both outcomes to the trial.



The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley: Kerley is a new author for me and I have to say that I’m impressed. The serial killer mystery was well paced and exciting and the bits of humor tossed in throughout were fun and well placed. I added this to my husband’s “you need to read this book” list.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming: Another new author and mystery series for me. This one came highly recommended by a friend who is a bookseller. The main character of an Episcopal priest who is a 35-year-old woman who also happens to be an ex-military helicopter pilot is quite unique. The small town upstate NY setting makes for an interesting supporting cast. The book was well written both in terms of the mystery and in the relationship between the priest and the police chief. I will definitely read more of this series.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: This is from the ‘Classics I’ve never read’ realm. I love the movie with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, but have never read the book. I’ve had two booklover friends tell me it’s slow to start, but hang with it. I’m glad I read it. It was slow in spots, but I still enjoyed it.

Kisscut by Karin Slaughter: This is a series I started after a member of my online book group recommended Karin Slaughter’s books. I really liked the first one (Blindsighted). This is the second in the series and just as good as the first one.

Leaving Ireland by Ann Moore: Time for a bit of historical fiction/romance. This one is a sequel to Gracelin O’Malley which I read and enjoyed a couple of years ago. As is normal for this genre, it’s a bit predictable, but the background setting of Ireland and New York in the mid 1800’s and the focus on Irish immigrants is interesting.



And so it begins . . .

Abduction by Robin Cook: This was pure escapist fluff – perfect follow up to Franklin’s very excellent but intense book.

Beach House by James Patterson: It was a quick read (all James Patterson books are). This one was not part of any of his series and was quite enjoyable.

The Childrens’ Blizzard by David Laskin: I heard about this one from the BookBrowse newsletter (which I will no longer get because it’s gone to a subscription and although it was nice, it wasn’t worth paying for). Anyway . . . the book was interesting, but not compelling. It had great potential to be compelling, but he kept stopping to take a step back and then losing momentum.

Die Trying by Lee Child: This is the second in Lee Child’s series. I like the Jack Reacher character. He’s got a great smartass attitude.

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray: Short, sweet, light. It was a perfect counterbalance to a thriller.

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson: Part of the Alex Cross series.

A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber: Light, quick, feel good girly stuff. It was nice for a break in between murder mysteries.


But First . . .

So, there I was on January 1st with this goal in mind, but first I had to finish a book I’d already started– Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin. It was most definitely the best book I’d read since Kite Runner. There were also some similarities to Kite Runner in that it was a brutal story, but exquisitely written. As soon as I finished it, I gave it to my husband so he could read it.

After finishing up Hell at the Breech I started on my Alphabetical by Title book list.


Adventures in Reading: A to Z

I started out 2006 with a particular reading goal in mind. I wanted to read my way through 2 lists of 26 books. The first would be A-Z by Title, and the second would be A-Z by Author. I got the idea from an online book group member who was doing something similar. When I put the list together, I started with my existing list of books I wanted to read and filled in what letters I could. I actually got most of them. Then I went in search of books to complete the missing spaces on the list.

At this point in the year I’ve completed the A-Z by Title list and am just about halfway through the A-Z by Author list.

I’ve always been an avid reader and never kept track of my reading until a couple of years ago. I participate in an online booklovers group and others in that group encouraged me to start tracking my books and reading. Until this year that has been a simple spreadsheet listing of titles, authors, pages and nothing much more. I’m a stats freak so the numbers are fun.

There is a columnist who writes for our local paper who annually asks readers to send in their reading lists. He writes a column or two about it, as well as announcing a few awards for the most books and pages read. I’ve sent in my reading lists to him for the past 2 years. This year I decided that I wanted to send more than just a random list, so the idea of an A to Z reading adventure was born. I also decided to expand my simple list to include a comment or two about each book along the way.

Now, at just over the halfway point in the year and three-quarters of the way through my A to Z Reading Adventure, I feel compelled to expand this even further, so here I am.
I’ll begin by posting the books I’ve read so far this year and then continue as I complete my A to Z list. After that, who knows where my reading adventures will lead.


>> Thursday, July 13, 2006


Not ready for Prime Time

>> Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm not ready to really get started yet. I'm still deciding exactly what I want to accomplish here.

Stay tuned . . .


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