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A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber

>> Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Series: related to the Cedar Cove series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 280
Challenges: None

Debbie Macomber releases a Christmas book every year. This year it’s related to, but not technically part of her Cedar Cove series. 8 Sandpiper Way ends just before Christmas and this book picks up right where that one left off.

It’s a fun retelling of the Nativity story in Cedar Cove. Mary Jo Wyse is very pregnant and looking to get in touch with her baby’s father, David Rhodes. David told her he’d be spending Christmas in Cedar Cove with his parents. Readers of the series will know that David is certainly not a man to be trusted, but when Mary Jo shows up in town on Christmas Eve, she manages to meet up with the kinder residents of town.

Mary learns that David is not in town (no big surprise) but it’s too late to get back home to Seattle and there’s not a hotel room to be had. With ‘no room at the inn’, Mary Jo finds herself staying in the apartment over Cliff and Grace Harding’s barn. Downstairs in the stalls are the animals that the Hardings are housing temporarily for the town’s live Nativity scene, including a camel and a donkey.

The story is rounded out with Mary’s three brothers (the 3 Wyse Men) driving to Cedar Cove to find Mary and of course, Mary goes into labor on Christmas Eve.

Fun to read during my holiday vacation and I managed to finish it up late on New Year’s Eve for my last book of 2008.


The Support Your Local Library Challenge

>> Tuesday, December 30, 2008

J. Kaye is hosting a fun challenge for 2009. It’s The Support Your Local Library Challenge.

I love that she made it flexible so participation is easy no matter what your level of library usage. Here are the details:

Since we are all different, there will be three sizes of challenges.

** The first is to read 12 books from your local library in 2009.

** The second is to read 25 books from your local library in 2009.

** The third is to read 50 books from your local library in 2009.

You decide which one of the three challenges is best for you. Here are the guidelines:

  • You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
  • This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
  • You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
  • Our goal is to read 12, 25, or 50 books checkout from our local library in 2009. Please decide which when you sign up and don’t change it.
  • These can be audios, downloads, children’s, YA. As long as it’s a book, format and target age group does not matter.
Looking back, it appears that I got about 60% of my books from the library in 2008. In addition all of my audiobooks came from the library. I work in one county and live in another so I have easy access to two excellent library systems. I had a hard time deciding whether to try for 25 or 50 books. Since audiobooks are included and 25 would just be too easy, I’ve decided to go for the 50.

I’m not going to post a list ahead of time, but will keep a running list on my sidebar throughout the year.

Thanks J. Kaye. I love my libraries and need no encouragement to use them, but this challenge was just too perfect for me to resist.


Audiobook – The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

Genre: Biography
Publication Date: 2007
Read by: Rosalyn Landor

I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d finish this one before the end of the year or not. At 17 cds it’s a lengthy one. I’ve never been a big tabloid reader or royal watcher and frankly after Princess Diana’s death I kind of avoided all the books and tell all’s that showed up in the first couple of years.

Tina Brown is the former editor in chief of Tatler (a gossip magazine), and has gone on from there to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. She did know Diana, but it’s pretty unclear from the book how close they were. This book came out 10 years after Diana’s death and has the advantage of hindsight and (hopefully) a bit of perspective.

Parts of this book were quite interesting. I did learn things I didn’t know, along with a lot of rehash of well known information. It feels a lot like a very extended magazine article. Part of the time Diana is portrayed as an innocent among the lions and part of the time she seems to come across as a savvy media manipulator. Perhaps that’s the thing that makes people want to continue to read about her. She really does seem to have been a woman of striking contrasts. Part spoiled petulant child, part a woman who wanted to create her own place in the world.

All in all, it was OK, nothing earth shattering in its revelations, but it made for interesting listening in small increments over the last two months.


8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber

>> Monday, December 29, 2008

Series: #8 in the Cedar Cove Series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 371
Challenges: None

This series is great for when I need something light and enjoyable. By this point in the series the residents of Cedar Cove are like old friends and neighbors. It’s like sitting down for coffee with a couple of friends and catching up on what’s been happening lately.

As always some of the established characters continue their storylines and the reader gets to know previously minor characters better as well as meeting some new folks. Cedar Cove is a pretty small town so there’s lots of interaction between well known and newly introduced characters.

Just enjoyable and perfect for a busy time of year.


What’s in a Name 2 Challenge

>> Sunday, December 28, 2008

I loved Annie’s clever What’s in a Name Challenge this year and was happy to see she’s tweaked it a bit to keep it fresh for 2009.

Here's the scoop on the What's in a Name 2 Challenge

*Dates: January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009

*The Challenge: Choose one book from each of the following categories.

1. A book with a "profession" in its title. Examples might include: The Book Thief, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Historian

2. A book with a "time of day" in its title. Examples might include: Twilight, Four Past Midnight, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

3. A book with a "relative" in its title. Examples might include: Eight Cousins, My Father's Dragon, The Daughter of Time

4. A book with a "body part" in its title. Examples might include: The Bluest Eye, Bag of Bones, The Heart of Darkness

5. A book with a "building" in its title. Examples might include: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Little House on the Prairie, The Looming Tower

6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title. Examples might include: Insomnia, Coma, The Plague

*You may overlap books with other challenges, but please don't use the same book for more than one category.

These are the books I’ve chosen to read for this challenge:

Profession –
The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning
Time of Day –
Murder on a Girl’s Night Out by Anne George
Relative –
Aunt Dimity Digs In by Nancy Atherton
Body Part –
Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines
Building –
Hammerhead Ranch Motel by Tim Dorsey
Medical Conditiion –
Delusion by G.H. Ephron

Thanks for hosting this one again Annie. I love the new categories.


2009 TBR Challenge

>> Friday, December 26, 2008

This has been one of my favorite challenges for the past couple of years. I’m glad that Jenn is hosting it again for 2009.

Here are the rules:
* the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months -- you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.
* you need to have a list posted somewhere for others to see (even if it's in a comment here)
* you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, 2009!!!
* you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).
* audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed
* re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren't TRUE "TBRs"
* you CAN overlap with other challenges
I decided several months ago that for the 2009 version of this challenge I was only going to list books that are ‘the next book’ in the many many series that I’m in the process of reading. So all 24 of the books that I’m listing are part of some series I’ve started but not completed or caught up to the current release.

I’m listing 12 primary and 12 alternates. My not so secret plan is to read all 24 but I’ll consider the challenge completed if I read at least 12.

Primary List:

Alternate List:

Thanks to Jenn for hosting this one again. I’m looking forward to it.


Howie says Merry Christmas

>> Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ho Ho Ho and all that crap.
Now take it off my head and let me go back to sleep!


Challenges: My approach for 2009

>> Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This is a post that actually started out as a comment on Amy’s post about reading goals. It worked well as a starting point for my own post about my approach to challenges for 2009.

I have now completed all 16 of the reading challenges I joined in 2008. While I have enjoyed every challenge (although not every book), I really want to scale back the challenges for next year. I'm going to limit myself to a handful of favorites.

I love to read about new challenges and even those I’ve never considered actually joining have often inspired me to look at books that might fit the challenge criteria. I’ll start by looking at my TBR list to see what I already want to read that would work for the challenge or I might start browsing the library catalog or Powell’s website for possibilities. I might even add a book or two to my TBR list from what I see other bloggers listing for the challenge.

Even when I do actually join a challenge, I’m not sure which part is more fun, the planning or the doing. I love making lists of possibilities and adding books to my TBR list. I also really like the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve completed a challenge and put together my wrap up post.

On the other hand I feel like for the past couple of years I’ve been committing myself to too many challenges. It’s not that I’ve committed to more than I could do because I have completed all that I joined. I changed my tactics a bit this year and really looked for ways to overlap books and count them for more than one challenge. I did that pretty successfully and my record is counting Peter the Great for 7 different challenges. I think my frustration is that participating in too many challenges takes some of the spontaneity out of my reading choices and I miss that.

So for 2009 my challenge related goals will include:

  1. signing up for only a few favorite challenges – I’m going to try to keep it to 5 or 6 at the most.

  2. viewing the other challenges I see as opportunities to create possibilities rather than commitments.

  3. focusing on continuing the many series I've already started (for the TBR challenge my list will be all series books from series I've started).

  4. keeping lots of room for spontaneous reading choices.

In other words . . . "becoming a damn fine drifter" when it comes to my reading choices.


2nds Challenge Completed

>> Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This was one of my favorite challenges last year, so I was happy to see Joy hosting this again for 2008 and didn’t hesitate to join again.

WHO: Anybody
WHAT: Read 4 books by authors that you have only read one other
WHERE: "Thoughts of Joy..."
WHEN: September, October, November and December, 2008WHY: Because we love to read...why else?
When scanning my TBR list for books for this challenge I found the same thing as last year – it took me all of about 3 minutes to find plenty of authors with book #1 marked as read and book #2 as not read.

These are the books I read for this year’s challenge:
  • The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel – her first novel is quite different from her memoir A Girl Named Zippy, but I really enjoyed it.
  • Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs – an interesting medical mystery series that can be a bit detail heavy at times, but the mystery is interesting.
  • The Treatment by Mo Hayder – Hayder’s books are not for the faint of heart, but if you survived Birdman, read this.
  • Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George – I’m wishing I started reading this series years ago, but it gives me lots to look forward to.

I had fun with this challenge and enjoyed all of the books I read. Thanks for hosting this one again, Joy.


Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George

>> Monday, December 22, 2008

Series: #2 in the Inspector Lynley series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 413
2nds Challenge #4

For some reason I’m a latecomer to this series, but I’m so glad I finally started after hearing for years that it was a great series.

In this second book, Inspector Lynley and his partner Barbara Havers are sent to Scotland to investigate a murder. No one seems to know why Scotland Yard has been called in when the local police didn’t ask for help. Playwright Joy Sinclair is found dead at a secluded estate where all of the guests have known each other for years. The reason for her death is unknown as well as the identity of the murderer. Surprisingly, one of the guests (and therefore one of the suspects) is Lynley’s longtime friend (and love?), Lady Helen Clyde.

The interconnected cast of suspects makes for a mystery with lots of twists and turns. I changed my mind several times about who I thought was the murderer. Also interconnected are the recurring characters and the gradual revealing of their pasts and the evolving of their present relationships keep this series about much more than the current murder case.

As I said, I’m a latecomer to this series, but I’ll definitely be working on catching up. I really enjoyed this one.


Happy Holidays

>> Sunday, December 21, 2008

despite the weather. I'm really not fond of snow and ice, but the Christmas lights covered with snow looked pretty cool.


A to Z Challenge Completed

>> Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Joy sucked me into this one. In 2006, way back before I started my blog and joined my first reading challenge, I did my own alphabetical challenge. I read (in order) an A to Z by title list of books, followed by an A to Z by Author list. It was fun and I said I probably wouldn’t do it again. Then last year, Joy posted that she was hosting an A to Z reading challenge for 2009. I wavered back and forth for a while and finally decided to give it a shot. I liked the idea of not limiting myself to reading the 52 books in order, but just filling in my list as I finished the books. The requirements really weren’t that strict.

~ align the author's last name or the title of a book (excluding "the", "a", etc.) with its corresponding letter in the alphabet
~ enter a different book for each author and title (total of 52 books)
~ complete the alphabet lists anyway that suits your fancy (i.e.: complete each list separately in alphabetical order, read both "A" entries, then "B" entries, fit whatever you're reading into either list, etc.)
~ complete the challenge in the year 2008
~ enjoy the experience!

Doing this for a second time was a fun experience. I enjoyed most of the books I read. I was able to include many books I was reading for other challenges and only had to really search for a few authors or titles to fill in the blanks.

My list of completed books is here (links are to the reviews on this blog)

Author List
  1. Atkins, Ace - Leavin’ Trunk Blues
  2. Barnes, Linda - The Snake Tattoo
  3. Cussler, Clive - White Death
  4. Dorsey, Tim - Florida Roadkill
  5. Ephron, G.H. - Amnesia
  6. Forster, E.M. - A Room with a View
  7. Gruen, Sarah - Water for Elephants
  8. Hammett, Dashiell - The Maltese Falcon
  9. Ishiguro, Kazuo - The Remains of the Day
  10. Jordan, Hillary - Mudbound
  11. Koryta, Michael - Tonight I Said Goodbye
  12. Levin, Ira - Rosemary’s Baby
  13. Macomber, Debbie - 74 Seaside Avenue
  14. Notaro, Laurie - The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club
  15. O’Farrell, Maggie - The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
  16. Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
  17. Quinlan, Patrick - Smoked
  18. Rosenfelt, David - Dead Center
  19. Schein, Elyse - Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited
  20. Tarkington, Booth - The Magnificent Ambersons
  21. Uruburu, Paula - American Eve
  22. Van Ryn, Don and Susie - Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope
  23. Wood, Patricia - Lottery
  24. Xi, Xu - The Unwalled City
  25. Yarbrough, Steve - The End of California
  26. Zellnik, M.J. - Murder at the Portland Variety

Title List
  1. Aunt Dimity’s Good Deed by Nancy Atherton
  2. Black Wind by Clive and Dirk Cussler
  3. City Boy by Herman Wouk
  4. The Diamond by Julie Baumgold
  5. Echo Burning by Lee Child
  6. Faithless by Karin Slaughter
  7. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
  8. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  9. The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  10. The Jasmine Moon Murder by Laura Childs
  11. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
  12. London Bridges by James Patterson
  13. The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
  14. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  15. Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming
  16. Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie
  17. Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert
  18. Rueful Death by Susan Wittig Albert
  19. Smonk by Tom Franklin
  20. Them Bones by Carolyn Haines
  21. Undercurrents by Ridley Pearson
  22. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
  23. The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
  24. X-Treme Dating by Cathy McDavid
  25. The Yellow Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
  26. The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

It was enjoyable to do this alphabetical challenge a second time. I probably won’t do it again any time soon since I’ve now done it in slightly different formats twice within 3 years. For those who haven’t tried this yet, I’d encourage you to give it a shot at least once. You’d be surprised how many you’d get just by random selection of your normal reading and you never know when you’ll discover a very good title or author you wouldn’t have read without needing “that letter”.


Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

>> Monday, December 15, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 455
A-Z Reading #52 (N Title)

Jodi Picoult tends to take on emotional and difficult subjects. This time around it’s school shootings. As usual, she presents multiple sides of the story and leaves me thinking.

In Nineteen Minutes there is less of the story of the actual shooting incident and more of what took place both before and afterwards. The small town of Sterling, New Hampshire is shocked by the shootings at the local high school. In the aftermath, the parents of the shooter are trying to come to terms with what has happened and their child’s part in it. The daughter of the judge hearing the case was not shot, but was at the school and a friend of many of the victims. As a child she’d been friends with the shooter. Lives that were intertwined in the past become that way again.

As usual, Picoult presents the story from multiple viewpoints and also from different points in time. What makes a kid do such a thing? Is it ever really explainable? Expectations play a big part in this book. What are we supposed to be and how are we supposed to act? How can you know that you’ve interpreted correctly what you think your parent, child, friend, or teacher expects from you? When is what you’re seeing a mask or act and when is it the real person? Can you ever really know for sure?

I liked that Picoult brought back a couple of characters from previous books in this one. Jordan McAfee is a defense attorney I’d want on my side and it’s good to see Picoult bring him back again.

Typical for Picoult, the ending comes with a twist. I figured there was one on the way, and I’d read some of the hints correctly, but it was still a twist. I can see why some reviews I’ve seen have said “I thought it was good until the ending”, but I didn’t feel that way. I just thought it was good.


BCS: Beyond Common Sense

>> Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm seeing this all over the place, but haven't been able to determine the original source. Nevertheless, it makes me laugh.

BCS Declares Germany Winner of World War II

US Ranked 4th

After determining the Big-12 championship game participants, the BCS computers were put to work on other major contests and today the BCS declared Germany to be the winner of World War II.

"Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work--including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule--our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking."

Questioned about the #4 ranking of the United States the BCS commissioner stated "The US only had two major victories--Japan and Germany. The computer models, unlike humans, aren't influenced by head-to-head contests--they consider each contest to be only a single, equally-weighted event."

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler said "Yes, we lost to the US; but we defeated #2 ranked France in only 6 weeks." Herr Hitler has been criticized for seeking dramatic victories to earn 'style points' to enhance Germany's rankings. Hitler protested "Our contest with Poland was in doubt until the final day and the conditions in Norway were incredibly challenging and demanded the application of additional forces."

The French ranking has also come under scrutiny. The BCS commented " France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2."

Japan was ranked #3 with victories including Manchuria, Borneo and the Philippines.


It's a Weathergasm

>> Friday, December 12, 2008

The storm is still over the ocean and it's full on weathergasm mode here.

My prediction . . . about 10 snowflakes.

Usually when they get all goofy days ahead of time it fizzles into nothing more than a few snowflakes that melt in the heat of 14 live news trucks lights on the Sylvan overpass.


Smoked by Patrick Quinlan

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Smoked by Patrick Quinlan
Genre: Fiction/ Suspense
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 276
A-Z Reading #51 (Q Author)

Admittedly I picked this book because I needed a Q author, but I liked this debut novel enough that I’ll seek out Quinlan’s second book.

Smoke Dugan is a man with a past and it’s a past he’s kept hidden from his much younger girlfriend. Smoke used to build bombs for the mob. Now he’s living in Portland, Maine and his girlfriend thinks he’s a retiree who makes toys for special needs kids. Smoke’s girlfriend, Lola has had a rough life too. She grew up in the projects in Chicago and was brutally raped as a teenager. Since then, she’s studied martial arts and can certainly defend herself. In fact the book opens with a pretty brutal scene involving Lola and a couple of con-men/porn filmmakers.

Before long, Smoke, Lola, those con-men and a couple of mob hit-men are all involved in a round robin chase of each other.

It all sounds like something like a Quentin Tarantino film and that’s exactly how it reads. It’s a fast paced chase/suspense book that has lots of twists along the way. Not all of them are believable, but it’s a fun, quick read. There are some pretty brutal scenes, so if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing you won’t like this.


The Unwalled City by Xu Xi

>> Friday, December 5, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 309
A-Z Reading #50 (X Author)

This is one of those books that left me with mixed feelings. I can honestly say that without needing an X author for the A-Z challenge I would not have checked this book out from the library. Now that I’ve read it I can’t decide whether I liked it or not.

The book follows a handful of characters in Hong Kong in the years leading up to the handover to China in 1997. Andanna is a young local girl from a wealthy family who wants to be a Canto-Pop singer. Vince de Luca is a New Yorker who is living and working in Hong Kong as his second marriage is failing. Gail Szeto is a Eurasian single mom with a successful career and a mother whose contact with the here and now is tenuous. Colleen Leyland-Tang is an American who became fascinated with China at a young age and is now married to a wealthy businessman from a fairly traditional Chinese family.

These 4 people lead both separate and intertwined lives in and around Hong Kong. There’s a lot of interaction between them despite the differences in their lifestyles and goals. Hong Kong in it’s last days as a British colony is the setting.

I found the book to be rather noir-ish, and something that would have been a great context for a detective story, but what was missing was the detective story. The story is instead about these 4 characters coming to a better understanding of their pasts as well as their futures.

I didn’t love it, nor did I hate it. I think I have to let it simmer in my head for a while before I can come to a final conclusion.


The Chunkster Challenge Completed

>> Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This challenge was pretty much a no-brainer for me. I love big fat chunky books. I remember when I was a kid I’d go to the library and browse the shelves for the fat books. I think that’s what helped develop my liking for biographies and historical fiction

Dana hosted this year’s version of THE CHUNKSTER CHALLENGE 2008

These were the guidelines:
To qualify the book must be 450 pps regular type OR 750 pps large text.
You must read FOUR chunksters (one each quarter), you OBVIOUSLY may read more
The Challenge will run Jan 7th, 2008 - Dec 20th, 2008 . . . BUT any chunkster started after Jan 1 qualifies.

I listed 6 books to read for this challenge. I’ve actually read 12 books so far this year that were longer than 450 pages, (and have at least one and maybe two more before the year is out) but I’ll post the ones I had specified to read for the challenge here.

  • Faithless by Karin Slaughter – book # 5 in her Grant County series. It’s a brutal but well written series that I continue to enjoy despite the cringeworthy aspects and one character that I really don’t like at all.
  • Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak - a classic that I’d never read (nor have I seen any movie version). I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great wintertime read.
  • Peter the Great by Robert Massie - a huge sweeping biography of a fascinating man.
  • Black Wind by Clive and Dirk Cussler – another one of my brain candy series.
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone - Biographical fiction about Michelangelo and his work.
  • Trinity by Leon Uris - big fat chunky historical fiction about Ireland in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s

Thanks Dana – this was an easy challenge for me to complete. I appreciate you taking it on and hosting it this yearl


Decades 08 Challenge Completed

>> Tuesday, December 2, 2008

3M hosted another Decades Challenge this year – appropriately named Decades 08. I didn’t participate in the 2007 version of this, but the rules for the 2008 version made it just too hard to pass up:
The rules were simple:
1. Read a minimum of 8 books in 8 consecutive decades in ‘08.
2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.
3. Titles could be cross-posted with any other challenge.
4. You could change your list at any time.

I started with a list of 11 books from the 1880’s through the 1980’s. I knew that somewhere along the way I’d read a 1990’s book to round out a dozen decades.

These are the books I read for this challenge:
  • 1880’s - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – a fun classic.
  • 1890’s - The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells - A Science Fiction Classic that I’m very glad I finally read.
  • 1900’s - A Room With a View by E.M Forster - I really enjoyed this book and the movie too.
  • 1910’s - The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington - an American classic about changing times.
  • 1920’s - The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse - lighthearted humor that has withstood the test of time.
  • 1930’s - The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett - a classic of noir detective fiction that I should have read ages ago.
  • 1940’s - City Boy by Herman Wouk - a charming tale of growing up with a bit of humor tossed in with the heartwarming stuff and nostalgia.
  • 1950’s - Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak - a classic that I’d never read (nor have I seen any movie version). I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great wintertime read.
  • 1960’s - The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone - Biographical fiction about Michelangelo and his work.
  • 1970’s - Trinity by Leon Uris - big fat chunky historical fiction about Ireland in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
  • 1980’s - Peter the Great by Robert Massie - a huge sweeping biography of a fascinating man.
  • 1990’s - Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey - Pulp Fiction takes Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through Florida – only for those with a twisted sense of humor

Many, many thanks to 3M for a wonderfully organized challenge and challenge blog. I had a great time. If you haven’t done a Decades challenge yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a try with Decades 09.


The Idiot Girls’Action-Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro

>> Monday, December 1, 2008

Genre: Humor/ Essays
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 225
A-Z Reading #49 (N Author)

Laurie Notaro used to write a humor column for an Arizona Newspaper. This collection of essays wasn’t as funny as some of the reviews indicated it might be, but it was a quick reading in short 3-5 page stories that was perfect for my holiday weekend reading which only occurred in short bursts.

I wanted this to make me laugh more than it did. About the best I could do was an occasional smirk or giggle. The 39 chapters were too heavy on the retelling of drunken exploits for my taste. I only finished it because it was such a quick read and every time I almost put it aside I came across a chapter that I thought was truly funny. The revenge on the date who stood her up was perfect and the chapter on Public bathroom etiquette was one of the few that did make me laugh.

Overall my feeling is ‘meh’ and I’m glad I got this from the library instead of buying it.


Trinity by Leon Uris

>> Friday, November 28, 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 1976
Pages: 751
Decades 08 #12 (1970’s), Chunkster Challenge 2008 #4

I love big fat chunky historical fiction. I love books with maps. I love books that inspire me to head to google to start looking up more information about the time period or place described in the book. This book was all those things and more and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This has been hanging around on the fringes of my TBR list for ages. I think it finally jumped to the more active section of that list when I read the review at
Framed and Booked last year. Written in the 1970’s when the hostilities in Northern Ireland were all over the news, this book takes a step back nearly a century from that time to look at another phase in the life cycle of that longstanding conflict.

Beginning in 1885 young Conor Larkin and his friend Seamus O’Neill are introduced as young boys living in a small town of Ballyutogue. Even then, the town is divided into their poor Catholic section and the more affluent Protestant section. The book follows many characters, but the primary protagonist is Conor Larkin. The conflicts between the Irish people and the British, the Protestants and the Catholics, the aristocracy and the working class all form the background and stage of this saga. Conor and Seamus hear the history of their families from the local storyteller, then go on to become part of the fight for freedom from British control.

The story follows Conor and two other families (one of British aristocrats and one of Scottish Protestants) as they interact and work both with and against each other to pursue their conflicting goals for Ireland. This book held my attention and kept me heading to my computer to look up more background information.

Obviously the violence in Ireland outlasts the ending of this book, but it gives an interesting look at some of the history of the conflict and helped me understand some of the background to what I saw on the news from Belfast when I was growing up.



>> Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts one generation can pass to another is the wisdom it has gained from experience, the Wisdom project, produced with the cooperation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seeks to create a record of a multicultural group of pepole who have all made their mark on the world. Presented against the same white space, all of the subjects are removed from their context, which not only democratizes them, but also allows for a clear dialogue to exist between them. In an attempt to create a more profound, honest, and truly revealing portrait of these luminaries, the project encompasses their voices, their physical presence, and the written word. This comprehensive portrayal of such a profound and global group is an index of extraordinary perspectives.
I think I either want this for Christmas or will be giving it as a gift for Christmas (or both).

Here's a trailer (but go here for more ):

More here too:
Filmmaker and photographer Andrew Zuckerman thinks hard-won insights should be shared. That’s why he’s releasing The Wisdom Project, a one-hour documentary film and companion book that share the collective experiences of 51 luminaries over age 65, including authors, artists, and world leaders from Willie Nelson to Nelson Mandela.
Inspired by the ancient African concept of ubuntu, which emphasizes human connectedness—I am what I am because of who we all are—Zuckerman set out to gather and communicate the lessons his extraordinary subjects have learned about love, work, the environment, and conflict resolution. “We live in a confusing and fast-changing world,” says the filmmaker. “It’s a great time to look to our elders, to see what they have to say that can help us.”

Special thanks to Lesley for posting this first. Thanks Les !!


Afghan for Amie's baby boy

>> Monday, November 17, 2008

Yarn - Lion Brand Baby Soft
Color - Pastel Green


Echo Burning by Lee Child

>> Friday, November 14, 2008

Series: #5 in the Jack Reacher series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 412
A-Z Reading #48 (E Title), TBR 2008 Alternate #8

Jack Reacher is one of my favorite characters. I’m not sure who it was that first recommended Lee Child’s books to me, but I’m very glad that someone did. This is the fifth in the series and I enjoyed it just as much as the others.

Jack is an ex military policeman who really just wants to drift and live his life without attachments. He travels with the clothes on his back, a toothbrush and cash in his pocket. The major complication in Jack’s life seems to be Jack’s inability to stay out of things when he thinks there is an underdog who can use some help. This usually ends up with Jack against not only the bad guys, but also one or more branches of law enforcement and or the justice system.

Jack is a little bit MacGyver and a little bit Rambo, and maybe a touch of Agent Gibbs from NCIS. He’s got some issues, but he’s a good guy who is out to help the underdog. This time around the underdog is a woman who picks Jack up when he’s hitchhiking through west Texas; hot west Texas. The heat is almost a character in this book. Carmen Greer needs Jack’s help and he ends up agreeing to see what he can do for her. Before long Jack doesn’t know who to believe. It seems like almost everyone is lying to him, people are in trouble and so is Jack. Then there are the 3 hired assassins that Jack doesn’t even know about.

The twists and turns keep coming and it takes a while for all the storylines to come together. I definitely recommend the series and hope to read the next one soon.


An excellent napper

>> Sunday, November 9, 2008

How many different directions can you point at the same time?


The Treatment by Mo Hayder

>> Saturday, November 8, 2008

Series: #2 in the Jack Caffery series
Genre: Mystery / Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 404
Challenges: ,
2nds Challenge #3, TBR 2008 Alternate #7

Mo Hayder can write a mystery/ psychological thriller that can keep me turning the pages and not want to stop reading. She can also write an extremely disturbing book that can give the faint of heart nightmares and make many people want to put the book aside long before finishing it.

Definitely not a book I’d recommend to a lot of folks, but if you made it through her first book (Birdman) you’ll want to read this one. Jack Caffery is back and he’s still the damaged and not wholly likeable hero he was in Birdman. The case in this book is just as messed up, if not more. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing. Jack’s personal tragedy continues to haunt him and there are more twists and turns about the story of what happened to Jack’s brother so many years ago.

Not for everyone, but a well done, if disturbing, story.


Murder at the Portland Variety by M.J. Zellnik

>> Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Genre: Cozy Mystery / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 329
A-Z Reading #47 (Z Author)

This is the first in what appears to be only a two book series by a brother/sister writing team (Miriam and Joe Zellnik as M.J. Zellnik). It’s an interesting mix of cozy mystery and historical fiction.

The story is set in Portland, Oregon in 1894 – so it’s interesting to me to read something set in that time period in my hometown. The authors’
website has some pictures of Portland, fashion, theater and others from that era. Those were fun to see – familiar parts of town from back then.

Libby Seale is a young seamstress working in a vaudeville theater making and maintaining costumes. When one of the performers is found dead, Libby just believe the quick conclusion to the case the police do. Soon she finds herself enlisting the help of a young newspaper reporter in town to investigate what really happened to her friend. Along the way the reader also learns what brought Libby to Portland from New York all on her own.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The mix of genres was a new one for me and since it’s set in Portland, many of the locations are familiar to me. According to the authors’ website, the planned series stopped at two books. I do plan to get the second book from the library. I liked Libby and her reporter friend Peter and want to read more of their adventures, even if it is only one more book.


The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

>> Thursday, October 30, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 245
A-Z Reading #46 (O Author)

Iris Lockhart is doing OK. She’s got her vintage clothing shop, the affair with a married lawyer is a bit complicated, but she’s in kind of a ‘wait and see how it goes’ pattern with that. She gets a bit of a shock, however, when she gets a call from a soon to be closing mental hospital telling her that she’s listed in their records as the person responsible for her great aunt who is about to be discharged. Esme Lennox has been locked up in the asylum for over 60 years (since she was 16 years old).

It’s a shock because Iris has no idea that she even has a great aunt. As far as she knows her grandmother was an only child. Unfortunately her grandmother (Kitty) is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers disease and not exactly full of useful information about the woman who is supposedly her sister.

I loved this book. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and the time frame jumps around from Esme’s early life in colonial India to present time and many various points and viewpoints in between. I know some people would find that confusing, but I really enjoyed it. The reader hears from Iris, from Esme as she experiences life outside the institution for the first time since she was young, from Esme as she remembers her past and also from Kitty via her Alzheimer’s-addled memories. Yes it could be confusing, but I found it to be fascinating and engrossing. I didn’t want to put this book down and probably would have read straight through it if I’d picked it up on a quiet weekend.

The story of Esme and Kitty and how Esme came to be institutionalized at a time when unconventional behavior (particularly by women) was just not normal is intriguing. The twists are telegraphed early enough that they weren’t really much of a surprise to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be putting Maggie O’Farrell’s other books on my TBR list.


Audiobook – Miss Julia Strikes Back by Ann B. Ross

>> Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Series: #8 in the Miss Julia Series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Read by: Cynthia Darlow

This is another series that I’ve only listened to rather than read. I find them to be good for the way I listen to books. It’s my driving around by myself entertainment so it needs to be books that I can listen to in short increments over a period of several weeks. This series is great for that.

Julia Springer is a ‘woman of a certain age’ from Abbotsville, N.C. This book continues her adventures and her surrounding cast of quirky and fun characters. This time the story begins with the discover that a series of burglaries has occurred in Abbotsville. Miss Julia’s engagement and wedding rings are gone as well as nearly all of Hazel Marie’s jewelry.

In typical Miss Julia fashion, she takes action rather than waiting for anyone else to follow normal procedures. Pretty soon she, and some interesting sidekicks are on the way to Palm Beach to get the jewelry back from the thieves. An alcoholic private detective provides some additional humor along the way.


Photo Tag

Booklogged tagged me for this easy photo meme. I don't do memes that often, but this one was quick and fun. I had every intention of posting it on my "Occasional Other Stuff" blog, but you'll see why I ended up posting it here instead . . .

The rules are simple - post the 4th picture in the 4th file of your 'My Pictures' folder. As I said, the intention was to not post it on my book blog, but when I checked the 4th picture in the 4th folder it turned out to be a picture of my bookshelves!

I took this a couple of years ago so some of the books have changed - old ones sold to Powells or donated somewhere and just as many (or more) new ones have replaced them, but it still pretty much looks the same.

I'm not much of a meme participant, so I'm not going to officially tag anyone, but if you're reading this and want to participate, consider yourself tagged.


Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Series: #3 in the Rev. Clare Fergusson - Russ Van Alstyne series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 388
A-Z Reading #45 (O Title), TBR 2008 Alternate #6

Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal Priest in Millers Kill, NY. She also happens to be an ex army helicopter pilot. In this third installment in this series the relationship and romantic tension between Clare and Russ Van Alstyne (the local chief of police) continues.

There are actually two mystery stories in this book, both involving missing men. Back in 1930 Jonathon Ketchem disappeared and was never seen again. Now there’s another man missing in town. This time the missing man is Dr. Allan Rouse, the only doctor at the local free clinic (which happens to have been started and funded by Jonathon Ketchem’s widow). The story shifts back and forth between present day with Clare and Russ trying to find out what happened to Dr. Rouse, and also to the 1920’s and 30’s as the story of what happened to Jonathon Ketchem is gradually revealed.

I enjoy this series a lot, but read them in order.


A Pretty Fall Day

>> Saturday, October 25, 2008

Normally in Oregon we get limited time with the leaves looking pretty in the fall. It seems that most years, just about the time the leaves start getting beautiful, we get a nasty rain and wind storm that blows them all off the trees overnight and turns them into road slime.

Luckily this year it's been fairly dry for a couple of weeks. Today we went out for a drive and I took a few pictures.


The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

>> Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Genre: Fictionalized Biography
Publication Date: 1961
Pages: 758
Decades 08 #11 (1960’s), Chunkster Challenge 2008 #3

This is what Irving Stone described as a “biographical novel” of Michelangelo. This book definitely took some time investment at 12 days to read, but I really did enjoy it. I think Irving Stone was one of the authors that first got me interested in historical fiction. His ‘biographical novels’ of Mary Todd Lincoln (Love is Eternal) and Jessie Benton Fremont (Immortal Wife) were books I read and liked when I was in High School.

I’m actually glad I didn’t read this story of Michelangelo when I was in High School. I spent a semester in Rome when I was in college so when the book described the sculptures, frescoes and buildings it was things I’ve now seen in person. That made them so much more meaningful to me. I remember that one day a couple of friends and I got to the Vatican Museum before it opened and then raced to the Sistine Chapel so we could be there with no one else in the chapel to just absorb it. I’d seen it a couple of times already, but the opportunity to be there with only two or three other people in the room was an incredible experience.

This book is fiction, but extensively researched (as are Stone’s other books), the story picks up when Michelangelo was 13 and just becoming an apprentice to a painter in Florence. The story of his artworks and his ongoing battles and frustrations with several Popes covers just an amazing period in history. It’s amazing how much happened during his lifetime in art, politics, and religion.

If you’re a fan of Michelangelo’s work, then I do recommend this book. It’s a chunkster, but one I enjoyed very much.


Let's just get through this together

>> Tuesday, October 14, 2008

OK - so this is really about the election in Canada today, but the nonsense is international and made me laugh anyway. Even if you don't recognize the candidates, you'll recognize the types.

(Shamelessly stolen from Raidergirl3's blog)

Three weeks till November 4th. Let's just get through this together.


The End of California by Steve Yarbrough

>> Friday, October 10, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 303
A-Z Reading #44 (Y Author)

Dr. Pete Barrington returns to his home town of Loring, Mississippi. It’s not initially clear why Barrington is suddenly moving back to Loring from Fresno, California with his wife and teenage daughter. What is clear, however, is that his marriage is under a strain and they’re not moving to Loring because they all want to do so.

Soon Pete is starting a new medical practice and helping coach football at the high school where he once was a football star as a kid before earning a scholarship and escaping small town Mississippi. His wife and daughter are definitely having trouble adapting to life in Loring, but Pete seems to be making the best of re-starting a practice, spending time with his oldest friend and re-establishing a new life in his hometown.

Not everyone in town however, is happy to see Pete return.

This is a book that was initially a bit confusing due to a quick introduction of a lot of characters. It quickly settled down into a well written story of old and new relationships, old and new hurts, dormant pain reignited, beginnings, endings, new beginnings and tested loyalties.

It’s a slowly building story that is hard to predict and kept me turning the pages and not wanting to stop reading.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

>> Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1988
Pages: 245
Challenges: A-Z Reading #43 (I Author)

Mr. Stevens is the perfect English butler. He’s also the perfect unreliable narrator for this beautifully written story. Told in the first person through Stevens’ heavily filtered and imperfect memories, this book is slow to draw the reader in, but the writing brings the payoff.

In 1956 Mr. Stevens takes a road trip and along the way he looks back over his life and career as a butler focusing on the years between World War I and World War II. His loyalty to his long time employer, Lord Darlington can be considered both flawed and admirable. His efforts to be what he considers a ‘great’ butler and to achieve ‘dignity’ come at the price of his own emotions and relationships.

This is a fairly short novel, but the writing is so precise and dense that the story feels much longer. The restrained and careful prose is the perfect depiction of the restrained and careful Stevens. Although I saw the movie many years ago, I didn’t remember much about it. Maybe I’ll get it from the library and watch it again. I did picture and hear Anthony Hopkins as Stevens and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton as I read and I didn’t feel like the actors got in the way of the story as I went along. They seemed to fit.

I thought this book was very good and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. The occasional inadvertent humor did manage to lighten the heavy tone here and there. I loved Stevens’ efforts to learn ‘bantering’. Ultimately however, it’s a sad story of a man whose profession is going by the wayside.


Medical Mystery Challenge Completed

>> Monday, October 6, 2008

I was happy to do this challenge again this year. Last year’s challenge was a lot of fun and introduced me to several new authors. This year’s challenge gave me incentive to read more of their books.

WHAT: Pick anywhere from 3 or more medical mysteries/thrillers to read and discuss with fellow medical thriller fans. (Last year was 2 - this year I'm upping it to 3 :-)
WHEN: June 1 to November 1WHO: AnyoneWHERE: Hosted by Twiga
WHY: Seeing others' lists would give us more ideas of other medical thrillers out there that we might not be aware of yet. Those that want to read the same books can do buddy reads if they'd like.
HOW: Post the list of medical thrillers that you plan to read on your blog and then sign up in the comments to this post.

These are the books I read for this challenge:

  • Private Practices by Stephen White – The second in a series featuring psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory. I enjoy both the characters and the Colorado setting.
  • Addiction by G.H. Ephron – another second in a series featuring a psychologist (looks like a trend). This one is Dr. Peter Zaks and is set in the Boston area.
  • Side Effects by Michael Palmer – not the best nor the worst medical thriller I’ve read, but OK for a vacation book.
  • Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs – yet another second in a series, this time around it’s a forensic anthropologist. Scientifically detailed, but a series I’ll definitely continue.

The only disappointment was Side Effects. All the others were second in series books and I’ll be continuing with all three of those series. If this challenge shows up again next year, that will be the perfect opportunity.


Audiobook – The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith

>> Friday, October 3, 2008

Series: #9 in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Read by: Lisette Lecat

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the latest installment in this series. I love Lisette Lecat’s voice characterizations for these books.

They’re not really detective stories. They’re more about observations about people and Botswana. The continuing characters have the usual combination of situations that make me smile and also feel their heartaches. I find this series utterly charming and one of my favorite series on audiobook. If you like the series, you’ll enjoy this one.


So true

and yet also so annoying.

song chart memes
more music charts


Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs

>> Thursday, October 2, 2008

Series: #2 in Temeperance Brennan Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 451
Medical Mystery 2008 Challenge #4, 2nds Challenge #2

This is the second book in the Temperance Brennan series. I don’t watch the show Bones, but from what I understand from those who do, the tv series is quite different from the book series. Since I only read the books, it doesn’t bother me in the least.

Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who works in both Montreal, Quebec and Charlotte, N.C. (coincidentally, so does Kathy Reichs). In Charlotte, she’s a university professor and in Montreal she works with the Laboratoire de Médicine Légale. Although the first book in the series took place primarily in Montreal, this one moves back and forth between there and North Carolina.

There are multiple cases involved. At the beginning of the book Tempe is looking for the casket containing the 100 year old bones of a nun who may be named a saint. Soon she’s helping the police investigate the grisly deaths at a suspicious house fire. Back home in Charlotte, she soon finds herself looking into both the potential local connections to the Montreal case and bodies found in a wildlife preserve.

It’s complicated, probably overstocked with coincidences, a bit heavy on the scientific and academic detail, but a series that I’m really enjoying and planning to continue. I like Tempe and the supporting cast. I don’t mind the detail (except for the part about the bugs and decaying bodies – eewww) and the mysteries in both of the first books have kept me guessing at least a little bit.


It's Tailgating Season

>> Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Next game - 10/4/08

Next tailgate - 10/11/08

"We're not here for the game. The game is nothing. The game is crap. The game makes me sick. The real reason we Americans put up with sports is for this: Behold, the tailgate party. The pinnacle of human achievement. Since the dawn of parking lots, man has sought to fill his gut with food and alcohol in anticipation of watching others exercise."

Homer Simpson
Season 19, Episode 18 Any Given Sundance


The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

>> Friday, September 26, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 258
2008 2nds #1, TBR 2008 Alternate #5

It’s hard to say much about this book without spoiling plot elements that I don’t want to spoil, so this will be limited.

Langston Braverman returns home to Haddington, Indiana after abruptly walking out of her PhD orals. She doesn’t appear to be interested in doing anything beyond writing in her attic room and walking her dog. She’s self absorbed, smug and actually a bit insufferable. She also appears to not be interested in doing anything along the lines of getting a job which distresses her mother.

Amos Townsend is the local preacher. He’s struggling with a bit of a crisis of faith as well as how to communicate his thoughts on theology and philosophy to his parishioners.

Langston’s childhood friend Alice has recently died, leaving two little girls who have their own set of issues. They are telling people that they’ve been given the new names of Immaculata and Epiphany. Their grandmother is clearly in over her head trying to provide a home and care for these troubled girls.

I’d read and enjoyed Kimmel’s memoir “A Girl Named Zippy” and was curious to see what her first novel was like. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, it’s got flaws, the writing is beautiful, but sometimes the conversations just don’t ring true. It’s not the same lighthearted stuff that I enjoyed so much in Zippy, but there are still some humorous moments about small town life and quirky families mixed in with the philosophy, theology, and tragedy. Langston isn’t really a sympathetic character, but that also is what makes her interesting.

I would imagine that readers hoping for another Zippy will be very disappointed in this book, but readers who what to see what else a good writer can do will be interested. I wasn’t surprised to see some very mixed reviews of this one, but I liked it a lot.


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