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Rosemary Remembered by Susan Wittig Albert

>> Friday, August 31, 2007

Published: 1996
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 293

This is a nice light cozy mystery type series. China Bayles is a former hot shot Houston defense attorney who has chucked the rat race to run an herb shop in a small town in the hill country of Texas. China and her boyfriend Mike McQuaid (an ex-cop himself) as well as her circle of sometimes quirky friends in Pecan Springs are just a nice group of folks that I enjoy spending some time with on a regular basis. I’m really glad that
Framed got me started on this series.

In this installment, local bookkeeper and tax accountant Rosemary Robbins is found shot to death in Mc Quaid’s pickup truck. The suspects include Rosemary's ex-husband, her current boyfriend, or an ex-con who may be out to get McQuaid – and that’s just the starting list. Add Ruby Wilcox’s possibly psychic friend into the mix and a few other folks who may or may not be involved and it’s just an enjoyable light mystery.

It’s been nice to read a couple of lighter books after some of the heavier mysteries and non-fiction I’ve been focusing on lately and before I start into a heavily RIP II focused couple of months.


Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

>> Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Published: 2000
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 304

From the author’s

ROUND ROBIN reunites readers with the Elm Creek Quilters in this poignant and heartwarming follow-up to The Quilter's Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini's acclaimed debut novel. The Elm Creek Quilters have begun a round robin, a quilt created by sewing concentric patchwork to a central block as it is passed around a circle of friends. Led by Sarah McClure, who came to Waterford, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Matt, a few years ago, the project is to be their gift to their beloved fellow quilter Sylvia Compson. But like the most delicate cross-stitch, their lives are held together by the most tenuous threads of happiness ... and they can unravel.As each woman confronts a personal crisis, a painful truth, or a life-changing choice, the quilt serves as a symbol of the complex and enduring bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. In weaving together the harmonious, disparate pieces of their crazy-quilt lives, the Elm Creek Quilters come to realize that friendship is one of the most precious gifts we can give each other, and that love can strengthen understanding, lead to new beginnings, and illuminate our lives.

This is the sequel to The Quilter’s Apprentice, which I read last year. It continues the stories of the group of quilters introduced in that book two years later. Their business venture at Elm Creek Manor has been established and become a destination quilting school with a new group of quilt campers arriving every week. The Elm Creek Quilters teach the workshops and manage the business as well as their own complicated lives. The book is named for the Round Robin quilt that the group members are making as a surprise for Sylvia Compson who grew up at Elm Creek Manor and is a master quilter and mentor for the group. As the quilt is passed to each of the women to add the next border to the quilt her story becomes the focus for that section of the book. This is a book about women’s friendships, relationships, and challenges. The women’s stories intertwine and involve both the past and present with the quilt becoming a symbol of their lives and friendships.

This is a nice series for when I need a break and a book that’s slower paced and gentle. I have several friends who are quilters, so I enjoy learning about the quilting patterns and seeing the pictures on the author’s website of the quilts she describes in her books. It’s a bit predictable, and a few of the characters are less than sympathetic. I wouldn’t want a steady diet of this type of book, but it’s nice to have in the mix on a regular basis.



>> Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last fall when Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings hosted the inaugural R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Autumn Reading Challenge I couldn’t participate because I was all wrapped up in the last part of my own A-Z adventure. Nevertheless I spent the next couple of months reading many reviews of books that sounded interesting and adding them to my TBR list. I’ve been marking books as possibilities in hopes that Carl would make this an annual event. It’s HERE! [insert happydancing]

R.I.P. II is a September 1st through October 31st celebration of all tales gothic, eerie, creepy, and dark. Tales that one reads in the dark of night, experiencing delicious shivers of terror and suspense at each creak of the floorboards or each gust of wind. As in previous challenges the definition for what type of books fit into this category will be very broad. I would venture to say that there is something for everyone that could count as a R.I.P. book.

Carl has made this challenge quite flexible with several options for participants. I’m choosing to take on “Peril the First” which is to read four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Books I’ve selected for this challenge:
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (I’ve had this for months, but have been saving it for this challenge)
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (I saw a movie version of this on TV years ago, but have never read the book)
Five Mile House by Karen Novak (I found this one while browsing in the library one day, and have been waiting to read it)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (I’d never heard of this book until I started seeing reviews during last year’s RIP challenge)

Thanks to Carl for hosting this one again this year!


The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins by Dean Jensen

>> Friday, August 24, 2007

Published: 2006
Genre: Biography
Pages: 389
Challenge: Non-Fiction Five Alternate #4

I first heard about Daisy and Violet and this book when a friend from work was reading it. It was a very interesting biography.

Daisy and Violet were born in 1908 in Brighton England to an unwed mother who was terrified by her babies. The girls were pygopagus twins - conjoined at the hips and buttocks. They shared blood circulation and were fused at the pelvis but shared no major organs. Cared for by Mary Hilton, the midwife who delivered them, the twins were quickly turned into an income producing venture. Mary, her husband and daughter became somewhat less than a ‘family’ for Daisy and Violet in the sense that the twins were treated as more of a business than family members. First controlled by Mary and her husband, the management of the twins life and career was eventually taken over by Mary’s son-in-law Myer Myers (a carnival balloon salesman who met and married Edith Hilton while the family was on tour with the twins in Australia).

The twins spent their early life on tour first in sideshows and carnivals in Europe, Australia, and eventually in America. Later they moved on to touring with the vaudeville theater circuit. To the Hiltons’ and later the Myers’ credit, they saw to it that the girls were educated as well as trained in music and dance.

As the twins matured, they managed to take the legal steps necessary to escape the controlling environment of the Myers household and take control of their own lives and careers. Their sometimes scandal ridden ride through the entertainment world of vaudeville, and the early movie industry is filled with famous acquaintences including Harry Houdini and a very young Bob Hope.

Their story has its share of sadness. The twins seemed to attract people who wanted to either exploit them or cheat them throughout their lives. As their show business career faded away, they really didn't have anything to turn to. Although they often said they dreamed of settling down and getting married to two nice men and having children, such a life eluded them.

All in all it was a very interesting book.


Audiobook - Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

>> Thursday, August 23, 2007

Published: 1986
Genre: Mystery
Book on CD read by Susan O’Malley

From the book cover:
The 1895-96 season promises to be an exceptional one for Amelia Peabody, her dashing Egyptologist husband Emerson, and their wild and precocious eight-year-old son Ramses. The much-coveted burial chamber of the Black Pyramid in Dahshoor is theirs for the digging. But there is a great evil in the wind that roils the hot sands sweeping through the bustling streets and marketplace of Cairo. The brazen moonlight abduction of Ramses -- and an expedition subsequently cursed by misfortune and death -- have alerted Amelia to the likely presence of her arch nemesis the Master Criminal, notorious looter of the living and the dead. But it is far more than ill-gotten riches that motivates the evil genius this time around. For now the most valuable and elusive prized of all is nearly in his grasp: the meddling lady archaeologist who has sworn to deliver him to justice . . . Amelia Peabody!

This is the 4th book in the Amelia Peabody series and I continue to find them enjoyable driving around town listening. The touches of humor with Amelia’s sarcasm and overblown self confidence along with the barest hint of mystery are just the right thing for small doses of listening in the car.


Summer Mystery Reading Challenge Wrap-up

>> Monday, August 20, 2007

(Format shamelessly stolen from Nyssaneala)

The Summer Mystery Reading Challenge, sponsored by Reviewed by Liz was another fun challenge. The goal was to to read six mysteries by authors whose works you haven’t read before between June 1st and August 31st. 3 of my 6 books were also read for the Medical Mysteries Challenge and the remaining 3 were selected from my TBR list. Thanks to Liz and Bob for hosting this one.

My completed challenge books are:
Privileged Information by Stephen White
Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Final Diagnosis by Gary Birken
Kiss Mommy Goodbye by Joy Fielding
Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle
Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins

The best book? Crossroad Blues is a moody, southern noir book with a fun new hero.

What book could I have done without? Kiss Mommy Goodbye was the biggest disappointment.

Any new authors? By definition all six challenge books were new authors for me.

Books I did not finish: I finished them all, but Kiss Mommy Goodbye was a struggle.

What did I learn? I learned I have at least 4 new authors to add to my TBR list (Stephen White, Kathy Reichs, Joshua Spanogle, and Ace Atkins) .


Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins

>> Sunday, August 19, 2007

Published: 1998
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 274
Summer Mystery Reading Challenge #6

Once again, I have to thank
My Surly Friend because without her, I'd never have heard about Ace Atkins. This book is the first in a series that I definitely plan to continue reading.

Nick Travers is a former professional football player who is now teaching the History of Blues at Tulane and occasionally playing harmonica at his friend, JoJo’s club in (pre-Katrina) New Orleans. When a fellow professor disappears while researching Blues legend Robert Johnson in Mississippi, Nick gets involved and ends up entwined in the mystery of not only the disappearance of his colleague, but also in the legend of the life and mysterious death of Johnson back in 1938.

The writing definitely sets a mood, not only of New Orleans and Mississippi, but the music and culture of the blues as well. The bad guys are really nasty, Nick is likeable, but flawed, and the story takes many twists and turns, some of which involve a scary Elvis lookalike and worshipper. Robert Johnson is a real person and his death really is a bit of a mystery. Atkins deftly uses that as a starting point and blends it into an interesting and very moody story. I look forward to continuing with the Nick Travers series.

Confession time: I have admit that whenever I put this book down I made sure it was face down. The cover image is perfect and well-suited for the book. It was just a shame, however, to put this book down without leaving the
author’s photo on the back in plain view.


Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

>> Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Published: 1959
Genre: Nion-Fiction
Pages: 280
Challenge: Non-Fiction Five #4

This sometimes dry and weirdly detailed account of a failed expedition to Antarctica in 1914 would be completely unbelievable if submitted as a movie script, but it’s true.

In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 sailed the Endurance to the Weddell Sea – an ice filled sea off of Antarctica. Their goal was to make their way through the ice and be the first to cross Antarctica overland. They never made it, but their story is a truly amazing one when you step back to remember that first of all it’s real, and secondly that this was in 1914.

I say the account is weirdly detailed because Lansing used logs and crewmembers diaries as the basis of his account, so there are many instances of ‘they left at 3:10 pm’ and other excess minute details that seem odd in the big picture of this story. Nevertheless, the story is an amazing one that I’d never heard of before.

I first heard about this book from an online message board for runners (My Husband is a member). Periodically they’ll post a thread about what they’re reading or recommending and I’ve found several good book recommendations from this group. I’d put this one on my TBR list a while ago, and Joy’s Non Fiction Five Challenge was the motivation to finally read it.

When the ship and it’s crew sailed into the moving and drifting icepack of the Weddell Sea, they expected to make their way to land and then cross overland with their sledges and dogs to the Ross Sea. In January of 1915, the ship became trapped in the ice pack. For 10 months the ship and crew were passengers in the drift of the ice pack. In October of that year, they were forced to abandon the ship when the moving ice began to crush it. They then spent many more months camped out on the ice floes as they moved around the sea, and finally were forced into their 3 lifeboats that they’d managed to salvage before the Endurance sank.

For seventeen months these 28 men survived and in unthinkable conditions and life threatening danger. They eventually made their way to a small island, but it still took an 850 mile long voyage in a 22 ft. open lifeboat to reach an inhabited island and eventual rescue for the entire party in August of 1916 .

. . . and I though camping in Oregon was bad.

The book drags a bit in the first half when they’re stuck on the ice-bound ship. There’s only so much you can say about the ship is still blocked in the icepack and drifting, but when they are forced off the ship onto unsheltered ice floes, the sense of impending doom for the crew doesn’t let up. The story is a fascinating one, and I simply cannot imagine how these men managed to survive. The leadership of Shackleton and his team of officers combined with the amazing men who rarely seemed to lose hope is what allowed them all to survive.

The expedition photographer, Frank Hurley managed to document the journey and save his negatives, resulting in some amazing photographs.

Here are a couple of websites with more information about this expedition and more photographs and maps than were in the book:
(this one has some great information and photos by expedition photographer James Hurley)


Unread Authors Challenge

>> Monday, August 13, 2007

So – here I am with the Southern Reading Challenge recently completed and nearing completion of the Summer Mystery Challenge – that means there’s room for new challenges on the TBR list.

Unread Authors Challenge is being sponsored at Sycorax Pine. It runs from September 1, 2007 through February 28, 2008. Participants need to read six books by authors they have never read before. I’m choosing to read six new-to-me authors (one a month for the duration of the challenge).

I’ve got a few unread authors already scheduled for other challenges, so rounding out the list with a few more from my ever-growing TBR list wasn’t difficult at all. One thing I can count on from my fellow bookbloggers is a never ending supply of new authors I want to read.

Books I’m planning for this one:
· Tess Gerritsen - The Surgeon
· Erica Spindler – Forbidden Fruit
· Linda Barnes – A Trouble of Fools
· Chris Bohjalian – Buffalo Soldier
· Cory McFayden – Shadow Man
· Robert Crais – The Monkey’s Raincoat


Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle

>> Saturday, August 11, 2007

Published: 2006
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 516
Challenges: Medical Mystery Challenge #3, Summer Mystery Reading Challenge #5

I enjoyed this first novel by Joshua Spanogle.

From the back cover:
Dr. Nathaniel McCormick had never seen anything like it before: three female patients, all residents of Baltimore’s group homes for the mentally impaired, their bodies racked by a baffling and unstoppable virus. As a young investigator from the Centers for Disease Control, Nate’s job is to peer into the lives and habits of the victims . . . and what he finds chills him to the very bone. Teaming up with an old colleague and former lover, Nate follows a twisting trail of clues to an unimaginable discovery. And as a circle of treachery tightens around him, he is about to confront the most chilling revelation of all – and a past he himself has been desperately trying to escape.

Nate is both likeable and unlikeable all at the same time – he probably describes himself well in this quote:

Not to be arrogant, but I’m a smart guy, I understand how the human body works, I understand the way microbes attack it, I’m even beginning to understand how bugs work their way through a population. But people, I do not understand. Their motivations and hidden agendas. The events of that day and the days following would show me just how severe a liability that is.
This was not the best debut I’ve read, but it was a pretty darn good page turner. I was hooked from the first few pages. It kind of lost momentum in the final third, but all in all it was good enough for me to put Spanogle’s second book on my TBR list.


Audiobook – The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun

Published: 1990
Genre: Mystery
Book on Tape read by George Guidall

This is more of the same in the series. If you enjoy them you’ll enjoy this one. If you don’t like the series, this one won’t change your mind.

The Hubster and I like listening to this series on road trips and this one made for enjoyable listening on our vacation drive. The mystery is extremely light, but the descriptions of cat behavior just make us laugh because it reminds us so much of our cats.


The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch by Marsha Moyer

>> Friday, August 10, 2007

Published: 2002
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 291
Challenge: TBR Challenge #8

I was thirty-three years old when my husband walked out into the field one morning and never came back and I went in one quick leap from wife to widow.
From the inside front cover:
Lucy Hatch never expected more of life than to spend it on an East Texas farm with her silent and stoic husband, Mitchell. Now that the curtain has abruptly come down, she’s back where it all started – in tiny Mooney – living in a run-down old house perched on the edge of nowhere, meaning to carry out her widowhood in the manner of her old maid Aunt Dove, in peaceful solitude.

But life, and the folks of Mooney, have other plans for Lucy. In hardly any time at all, she’s mortified her entire family by taking a job driving a delivery van for a local florist shop. And without even trying, she’s caught the eye of the local handyman, Ash Farrell – lifting eyebrows and setting tongues wagging. Everyone in town, it seems, thinks the guitar-playing, lady-loving Ash is the wrong choice of company for a brand-new widow whose man is barely cold in his grave. Part of Lucy, as well, is telling her she’s on the road to perdition. But it’s the other part – the scared, elated, electrified part – that’s saying “What if . . .? ‘

I really liked parts of this book and wasn’t at all impressed with other parts. The struggles Lucy has with her conflicted feelings and family relationships is well written. The character of her sister-in-law, Geneva is just a bunch of fun. Where the book falls flat for me is when it falls back on being a straight romance novel and drifts into a bodice ripper set in modern day East Texas. Take out about 30 pages of sex scenes and it’s a good story of a woman coming to terms with her past, her present, her needs and desires. Leave those sections in and it’s a book that can’t decide what it wants to be.


I love vacation

>> Thursday, August 9, 2007

but gosh, it's hard to read with stuff like this going on out the window . . .
Tuesday night . . .
Wednesday night . . .


Vacation = reading time? or not . . .

>> Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We're renting a house at the Oregon Coast for the week (in Yachats). I keep trying to read, but the view out our window is just too mesmerizing. The rocks are only about 30 feet from the end of our deck.

I'll be back in a few days, but I don't know how much reading I'll get done. The surf watching seems to be taking precedence :-)


Southern Reading Challenge Wrap-up

>> Friday, August 3, 2007

I've finished my final book for The Southern Reading Challenge. This was an easy challenge for me. I've read lots of books by Southern writers for years. The 3 I read for this challenge were all very different from each other and I enjoyed them all.

  • Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully by Melinda Rainey Thompson

  • A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley

Thanks Maggie for sponsoring this one. It's been fun.


A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley

Published: 2006
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 374
Challenge: Southern Reading Challenge #3

Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus are back and I’m glad. I really enjoy this series. This time around they start investigating the brutal murder of a radio newswoman. Soon they fear there is a bizarre and brutal serial killer at work in Mobile, Alabama. Further complications soon arise, many involving a wealthy and powerful family with whom both Carson and Harry seem to have some sort of connection. The tension rises and the twists and turns keep coming and keep the reader guessing.

The occasional humor is still there without taking away from the mystery and I really enjoy both of the main characters in this series. For those who have read the first two books by Kerley, there is a bit of a refreshing change this time around with the lack of involvement of Carson’s brother. This time the focus is on Carson and Harry and I find that to be a positive change.


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