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Hometown Challenge

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Hometown Challenge is hosted by Callista over at S.M.S. Book Reviews. There isn’t an official challenge graphic yet, so I’m using a photo of my hometown – Portland, Oregon.

Your challenge if you choose to accept it is to read at least ONE book from November 1, 2007 to March 1, 2008 that either takes place in your hometown or is written by an author who lives in your hometown. It can be the place you were born or where you live now, whichever.

I’ve selected two books for this challenge:

Both authors live in Portand and both books are set in Portland, so I think I’ve managed to score a double double with my choices.

I’m looking forward to reading both of these.

Thanks to Callista for hosting this one!


From the Stacks Reading Challenge 07

>> Monday, October 29, 2007

I’m really glad that Michelle at Overdue Books is hosting this challenge again this year. Last year this was my very first blogger’s challenge so I’m excited about my first repeat challenge.

The rules are the same as last year. Between November 1st and January 30th read 5 books that you have already purchased have been meaning to get to, have been sitting on the nightstand and haven't read before.

Books I’ve chosen for this challenge:

Thanks Michelle – This is perfect for a few books I want to read before the 2008 challenges kick off.


RIP II Challenge Wrap-up

>> Sunday, October 28, 2007

The RIP II Challenge, hosted by Carl, was one that I’d had to pass up last year and had been looking forward to for months. I’d been marking books as possibilities for this one all year.

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

I chose 4 books for this challenge:

The best book: The Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I’m not sure why I’ve never read this one, but I’m really glad I finally did.

What book could I have done without? Five Mile House was just OK – not bad, but the weakest of the four I read for the challenge

Any new authors? All were new authors for me.

Books I did not finish: I finished read all that I planned

What did I learn? I loved reading other participants reviews and have several books already listed as possibilities for next years RIP challenge

Thanks Carl! This was fun and I’m looking forward to next year.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

>> Thursday, October 25, 2007

Published 1860
Genre: Gothic Suspense
Pages: 629

Although I’d read many positive reviews about this book, I really didn’t know much about the plot. Since that made the story all that much more suspenseful, I won’t go into plot details in my comments here. I really didn’t know what to expect, and although I didn’t love it, I liked it and I’m glad I read it.

This is a long and complicated story that is well described by the label “Gothic Suspense”. It opens with an eerie meeting on a dark road outside of London. Walter Hartwright encounters a strange woman clad all in white. He helps her to find the way to London and later finds out that she has apparently escaped from a nearby asylum. This book has a large cast and a complex story told by several different narrators. There are secrets, plots, escapes, reunions, danger, suspicions, you name it.

There are many memorable characters – some for their treachery, some for their comic relief, some for their devotion to each other. There are triumphs as well as sadness and loss. There is a lot of plot, but Collins did an amazing job of keeping the surprises coming and wrapping up all of the loose ends by the end.

I was pleasantly surprised at how readable this was to a modern reader. I’ve read quite a few classics in the past couple of years and have struggled with the writing style at times. Yes, this seems overly wordy and flamboyant, but is really quite readable for its age.

I only wish I had read it at a time when I wasn’t as busy. This would have been a good book to curl up with and just lose myself in the atmosphere and ups and downs of tension. I think if I’d been able to read when my schedule wasn’t so overwhelming I might have loved it, but my feeling right now is that I liked it and I’m perfectly OK with that.


Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

>> Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Published: 2004
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 311
Challenge: 2nds Challenge #1

This is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. When I read the first one I had described it as a gently told period piece. My only and minor disappointment in the first book of the series (Maisie Dobbs) was that there wasn’t much of a mystery to it and that it was primarily introducing the recurring characters and setting them up with their backstories. I was pleased to see that this second book has more of a mystery to be solved and that it retains the gentleness and atmosphere in the storytelling that I enjoyed so much in the first book.

When reading this book I could easily envision it unfolding in my mind much like watching a black and white movie on a rainy Saturday afternoon while curled up on the couch under a quilt with a cup of tea.

Maisie is a 30 something single woman in 1930 London working as a private investigator. She and most of the characters in the book are still coping with the aftereffects of World War I and an economic depression. This setting and time period are nearly characters themselves in the book.

The investigation that kicks off the story seems simple enough. The successful and powerful owner of a chain of shops hires Maisie to find his runaway daughter. This runaway is herself in her 30’s and this is not the first time she’s run from her father’s apparent controlling environment. Maisie begins by learning more about the missing Charlotte Waite and her friends, but when the friends keep ending up as murder victims, Maisie is soon investigating much more than a missing person case.

I liked that there was more mystery to this one, and I liked that it was a very atmospheric type of story. I was a bit annoyed by the pseudo-psychic intuition moments that Maisie has and felt that they only served to diminish her excellent investigative skills. Ultimately it’s Maisie’s investigative abilities and not her pseudo-psychic abilities that solve the case. The ongoing stories of Maisie, her father and her friends continues to be an interesting backdrop to the mystery.

I’m definitely looking forward to continuing with this series.


Audiobook - Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

>> Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Genre: Light humorous mystery
Published 2004
Book on CD read by CJ Critt

I tend to prefer light and fun books for driving around town audiobooks and this one was perfect for that. Having read all of the Stephanie Plum series I decided it was time to try out another Evanovich series. As I expected it was similar to, but not quite the Stephanie Plum series.

In this one, Alexandra Barnaby (known as Barney) is a gearhead who spent her summers and after school time working in her father's garage. After getting an engineering degree but then getting out of the car business, she's now in a dead end job at an insurance company in her home town of Baltimore.

A late night phone call from her brother in Florida changes all that. When her brother "Wild Bill" disappears with NASCAR driver Sam Hooker's boat, Barney heads to Florida. The usual Evanovich hijinks ensue. Crazy charactersabound. Some of them have parallels in the Plum series, as well as some new ones. Barney's foil and eventual love interest, "NASCAR Guy" Hooker is an annoying, yet likable partner in adventure for Barney. Vehicles explode, bad guys have bad accents, and it's all predictable and fun. Emphasis on the fun.

For commute time listening it was an enjoyable audiobook. If you're looking for depth, pick something else.


Forbidden Fruit by Erica Spindler

>> Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Published: 1996
Genre: Romantic suspense fiction
Pages: 504
TBR Challenge #10, Unread Authors Challenge #2

This was my first book by Erica Spindler and at the halfway point, I still hadn’t decided whether I liked it or not. This book hard to categorize. It’s the first venture into suspense writing by a former romance novelist. Part of it was a romance, with a large dose of privileged high school girl and boy from the wrong side of the tracks story. Another part of it was a multi-generational story of women descended from a New Orleans madam and included a mother who could make Joan Crawford seem like June Cleaver. Yet another part was a suspense story of a detective hunting for a serial killer who may or may not also be the killer of the detective’s mother.

Lily Pierron is a former New Orleans area madam who is estranged from her daughter and doesn’t know her granddaughter at all.

Hope Pierron St. Germaine left her mother’s home to build a new life where no one knew of her mother or her past. She’s now a wealthy member of New Orleans society who keeps her past a secret and obsessively battles her own inner demons and what she feels is a ‘darkness’ that is the destiny of all the women in her family .

Glory St. Germaine has no knowledge of her mother’s past and has never even met her grandmother. A child of privilege she leads a life of luxury, but is obsessively controlled and punished by her mother for reasons she doesn’t understand.

Victor Santos is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who has to make his own way after the brutal murder of his mother. He has connections to all of the Pierron women and ultimately hopes to bring his mother’s murderer to justice.

It’s a somewhat disjointed novel, parts of which are better than others. I wasn’t too thrilled with the high school romance section of the book, but the rest of it did hold my interest and kept me entertained. It wasn’t a top book of the year for me, but it was a decent start for a new- to-me author, and I’ve heard good things about some of her later books, so will likely read more of her books.


The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

>> Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Published 2006
Genre: Ghost story/ Gothic Suspense
Pages: 406

From the inside cover flap:

When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny. All children mythologize their birth...So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life historiesfor herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

This book was one of the hot books last fall. I waited to read it for a couple of reasons. At first, it was because I wanted to wait till it wasn’t the book everyone seemed to be reading at the same time, and later because I wanted to save it for this year’s RIP challenge. I’m glad I waited, because it was a perfect RIP book.

It’s very gothic, with a little bit of Jane Eyre, a teensy tad of Flowers in the Attic, and bits and pieces from other gothic and ghost stories. Primarily it’s a book about stories – some true, some not. As a reader I loved all the little comments about books and reading. I liked the way the intricately woven mystery built throughout the book. The twists and turns and hints keep coming. It definitely held my interest and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure it’ll make my top 5 of the year, but maybe my top 10.

Here are just a few quotes that I tagged along the way:

I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous.
People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them.
Whether by luck or accident I cannot say, but I found my way to the library a full twenty minutes earlier than I had been commanded to attend. It was not a problem. What better place to kill time than a library? And for me, what better way to get to know someone than through her choice and treatment of books?
Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.
Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you?


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