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A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

>> Friday, May 30, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: Original 1908 This edition 1993
Pages: 229
Decades 08 #7 (1900’s), Initials Challenge #2, Herding Cats #1, A-Z Reading #33 (F Author)

This book has been on my TBR list for quite a while. It’s one of those that it took the motivation of a challenge for me to finally pick up and read. It was slow going at first, but once I got immersed in the language and the story I enjoyed it.

Forster’s novel tells the story of Lucy Honeychurch. As the story begins the young Englishwoman is on a trip to Italy with her cousin. Her journey to Florence begins a journey of self discovery and a young woman exploring the idea of her independence in a repressive society. The Victorian era is being replaced by the more liberal Edwardian age and Lucy’s dilemma finds her struggling between what she ought to do and what she’s developing a desire to do.

The social commentary is done with wit and charm. The large cast of characters includes a few that are quite exaggerated who go back and forth between being comic relief and a warning of the mold into which they’re trying to lock Lucy.

I particularly loved how Forster used Lucy’s music as a window into her true mood and feelings.

Although I struggled with this book at the beginning until I got used to the language and got all the major characters straight, I ended up really liking it. Now I need to get the Merchant/Ivory movie version from the library.


Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John

>> Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 272
Southern Reading #1, Non-Fiction Five #3

I love college football and we have season tickets to the University of Oregon football games so our fall weekends revolve around tailgating and football. My friend (who is an Alabama fan) sent me a copy of this book a couple of years ago, but for some reason it’s been sitting on the shelf. The Southern Reading challenge was the perfect excuse to read it now, so I decided to substitute it in for the Non-Fiction Five challenge as well. Since we’re somewhere in that dead part of the year between the National Championship game and Opening Kickoff, it was fun to get a desperately needed football fix.

Warren St. John, a reporter for the New York Times, took a leave of absence to spend a football season with the RVers who travel to the Alabama football games. A devoted Alabama fan himself, St. John wrote this book about his experience. This is part travel memoir, part cultural anthropology about sports fans, and mostly just a whole lot of fun.

From the introduction:

At some point in the life of every sports fan there comes a moment of reckoning. It may happen when your team wins on a last-second field goal or three-point basket and you suddenly find yourself clenched in a loving embrace with a large hairy man you’ve never met and with whom you have nothing in common except allegiance to the same team. Or it may come in the long, hormonally depleted days after a loss, when you’re felled by a sensation oddly similar to the one you felt when you first experienced the death of a pet. In such moments, even the fan who rigorously avoids anything approaching self-awareness is sometimes forced to confront a version of the question others—spouses, friends, children, and colleagues—have asked for years: “Why do I care?” In very general terms that’s what this book is about—the human obsession with contests.
You don’t have to be an Alabama fan to enjoy this book. I could relate to so many of the tailgating stories as well as the story of the team and their season. When he tells about being in the stands watching his team’s ridiculously undersized defensive backs trying to keep the ball out of hands of the other teams ridiculously tall wide receivers, I relived several moments of Oregon football. When he mentioned his team going into a prevent defense to hang onto a slim lead I could just hear my husband muttering inside my head “the only thing a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning”. Yes, Alabama lost the game in that story. Although we don’t have an RV and only go to home games, we do tailgate with two other couples and essentially the same large group of fans in our parking area every game. Reading this book made me anxious for football season to start – I can almost smell the grills and hear the beer bottles being opened in the parking lot now.
Go Ducks!!!


Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

>> Friday, May 23, 2008

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 266
A-Z Reading #32 (S Author), Non-Fiction Five #2

Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein both knew they’d been adopted. What each of them didn’t know was that she had a twin. When Elyse started searching for her birth mother she discovered that she’d been born the younger of twins. That the adoption agency had separated the twins and they’d been part of a study of separated twins was information that not only the twins, but their adoptive parents had not known.

This book tells how the women discovered the truth and were reunited and began to know each other. It also tells of their search to learn more about this mysterious study they’d been a part of and their search to learn more about their birth mother.

The authors alternate telling their viewpoints of events and interspersed between is information about twins and various studies and research about twins. It was a quick and somewhat interesting read, but just not as good as I’d hoped it would be. I happened across a review somewhere that said it would have made a better magazine article than book and I have to agree with that.


Dead Center by David Rosenfelt

>> Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Series: #5 in the Andy Carpenter Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 326
A-Z Reading #31 (R Author)

This is definitely one of my favorite series. Andy Carpenter is a smart and smart mouthed lawyer with an interesting cast of regular characters around him. This one takes him away from his New Jersey hometown and some of those series regulars, but it is still a fun and interesting legal thriller.

When Andy gets a call from his ex-girlfriend asking him to help with the defense of a young man accused of a brutal double murder, he’s really not interested because he’s trying to get over Laurie. But the intriguing part is that Laurie is the acting police chief of Findlay, Wisconsin and responsible for the young man’s arrest. Before long, Andy and Tara (The best dog EVER) are off to Wisconsin.

I really enjoyed this book, the combination of and interesting, suspenseful murder mystery, with the legal fun that always happens when Andy is involved kept me turning the pages. The occasional laugh out loud humor is a great addition. While I did miss some of the usual returning characters, the visiting characters of Findlay added new interest.

I definitely recommend this series, but start with the first (Open and Shut) and enjoy.


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

>> Monday, May 19, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 331
A-Z Reading #30 (G Author)

I waited a while to read this one. It was originally recommended by
My Surly Friend probably around the time it was first published. Then, suddenly it seemed that everyone was reading this book and most really loving it. I decided to wait till the buzz died down a bit (and the paperback was available). I bought the book shortly after the paperback edition came out, but for some reason it’s sat on my shelf and I hadn’t felt an urgency to read it. I think it was one of those books that just had to wait till the time was right and I was in the right mood, which hit this week. We had a trip planned and I wanted a book that would draw me into another time and place when I needed to escape the airport/plane chaos.

This was the perfect book for this trip. I was able to totally immerse myself in the story and it’s atmosphere and pretty much read it in just 2 long stretches. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not going to bother with the plot since nearly everyone I know has already read it. The dual stories of Jacob’s present time in the nursing facility and his past in the depression era traveling circus are both interesting and well told. The writing is wonderful and I loved learning about the circuses of the period and the people who performed and worked in them. It was all just fascinating to me and all wrapped within an interesting and surprisingly suspenseful story. I had figured out part of the ending early on, but definitely not all of it.


Heart of a Child Challenge Completed

>> Thursday, May 15, 2008

After finishing Harriet the Spy I was able to check off another challenge as completed. The Heart of a Child Challenge was hosted by Becky (watch out she’s a prolific challenge creator and once you get sucked into the Vortex, she finds a way to keep you coming back for more and more challenges!!

I loved the idea of this challenge and it was an easy one:

How many? Read 3 to 6 books
When? from February 1, 2008 to July 14, 2008
What? Books and authors that you discovered, loved, or adored as a child.
How am I defining "child" --I'll be generous. Anything and everything that you read through the age of 18 would qualify.
Why? Because sometimes it's fun to reread books and see if they still hold the same "magic."

These are the books I read for this challenge:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Tree Wagon by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

All of these were enjoyable trips into my memory and still held up over the years. They reminded me of people and places from my childhood and I was pleased to find that I still thought all of these books were fun reads even as an adult.


Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

>> Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Publication Date: 1964
Pages: 300
Heart of a Child Challenge #5

From the Publisher:

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?
This was another totally enjoyable trip down memory lane. I read this book multiple times when I was a kid. I could relate to Harriet on many levels at the same time that I could see that she was kind of a spoiled brat. The thing I remember is that in Harriet I found someone who learned some of life’s lessons just like most of us do, by making mistakes and having to remember that it’s just as easy to hurt someone else’s feelings as it is to be hurt yourself.


Seduction in Death by J.D. Robb

>> Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Series: #13 in the Eve Dallas Series
Genre: Mystery/Romance
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 354
Initials Challenge #1

I knew it had been a while since I’d read the previous book in the series, but when I checked my spreadsheet I discovered that it had been over 2 years. I think that’s part of the reason I enjoyed this one so much. This is a series that I like, but need to not read too close together (maybe a little closer together than 2+ years, though).

In 2059 New York, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is on the trail of a serial killer (or is it killers?). Cyberdating leads to murder and young women are dying from overdoses of a rare and incredibly expensive illegal drug. Eve and her usual sidekicks are on the case.

This is part crime procedural (not really a mystery since we know early on whodunnit), part romance, part light science fiction, and as the series has progressed, part comedy.

I enjoy the crime procedural part. The light SciFi part is good because it’s not so far in the future (2059) that some of the technology doesn’t really seem out of the realm of possibility and it’s not totally teched out either. I endure the romance part because that’s just not my favorite genre, but I do admit to a bit of drooling over Eve’s too good to be true husband. I’m finding that the humor increases as the series progresses. The sidekicks and running jokes continue with Roarke’s butler Summerset and the efforts of he and Eve to irritate each other. The banter between Eve and her aide Peabody just makes me giggle and I always eagerly await the arrival of Mavis and her outrageousness.

It was fun to get back into this series after a break. It’s not a series I want to read too many too close together, but I don’t think I’ll wait quite so long before picking up #14.


Themed Reading Challenge Completed

>> Monday, May 12, 2008

Now that I’ve finished Harvest, I have another challenge to move to the completed list. The Themed Reading Challenge was the brainchild of Wendy of Caribousmom. The great thing about this one was it was kind of a build your own challenge opportunity. Participants had to choose at least 4 books that shared a theme. It didn’t matter what the theme was, it was our choice.

I confess I lacked the creativity of many of the participants when it came to the theme I chose, but what the heck – it was my choice.

My theme was “Books with One Word Titles”. These are the books I read for this challenge:

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.

Amnesia by G.H. Ephron – a new series for me. Good enough that I’m planning #2 for the Medical Mystery Challenge.

Undercurrents by Ridley Pearson – another new series for me. This is the first in his Lou Boldt / Daphne Matthews series and I really enjoyed it.

Lottery by Patricia Wood – A utterly charming book with an utterly charming hero. I’d love to meet Perry L. Crandall.

Harvest by Tess Gerritsen - A well done medical mystery. I may add another one by Gerritsen to my Medical Mystery Challenge list.


Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by Don and Susie Van Ryn et al.

>> Saturday, May 10, 2008

Additional Authors: Newell, Colleen and Whitney Cerak, with Mark Tabb
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 261
Non-Fiction Five #1, A-Z Reading #29 (V Author)

In 2006 a Taylor University van was involved in a horrifying accident. Five people died and Laura Van Ryn was critically injured and in a coma. The funerals were held and Laura’s family and friends rallied around in support of her and each other through what promised to be a long recovery.

Five weeks later it was determined that the young woman everyone thought to be Laura Van Ryn was actually Whitney Cerak. Whitney’s family had already held her funeral and the Van Ryn family who had been caring for who they thought was Laura suddenly learned that Laura had died five weeks earlier.

I remember following this story in the news and was fascinated that such a thing could happen. This book is quite an emotional read. I admit to more than a few tears. It’s a bit heavy on the religious aspects but I knew that going in and while not my lifestyle I knew it was theirs. The people involved in this story cannot be discussed separately from their faith. The authors clearly state in the preface that their reason for writing the book was to explain how their faith was what helped both families endure not only the initial tragedy, but the incredible turnaround in fate for both families.


Audiobook – Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry

>> Friday, May 9, 2008

Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Jim Dale

From the Publisher:

In an evocative and fast-paced adventure on the high seas and on a faraway island an orphan boy named Peter and his mysterious new friend, Molly, overcome bands of pirates and thieves in their quest to keep a fantastical secret safe and save the world from evil. Bestselling authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have turned back the clock and revealed a wonderful story that precedes J. M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan. Peter and the Starcatchers is brimming with richly developed characters from the scary but somehow familiar Black Stache and the ferocious Mister Grin to the sweet but sophisticated Molly and the fearless Peter. Riveting adventure takes listeners on a journey from a harsh orphanage in old England to a treacherous sea in a decrepit old tub. Aboard the Never Land is a trunk that holds a magical substance with the power to change the fate of the world.
This was just a fun adventure tale and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jim Dale’s reading of it. I already have the second book in the series on my ipod and will be starting that next time I’m in the car alone (when I do all my audiobook listening).


Harvest by Tess Gerritsen

>> Thursday, May 8, 2008

Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 343
Themed Reading Challenge #5

Dr Abby Di Matteo is a surgical resident at Boston’s Bayside Medical Center. She’s thrilled to be offered an opportunity to work with Bayside’s organ transplant team. She’s less than thrilled, however, to find out that the heart of one of her trauma patients is being directed to the wife of a wealthy businessman instead of the 17 year old kid who is number one on the transplant priority list.

When Abby helps the chief surgical resident go against orders she finds herself in far more trouble than she ever expected.

While I initially expected to be reading something that would feel like “Robin Cook’s Coma (Redux)”, this book is a decent medical thriller with many similarities to Coma, but enough differences to make it an entirely different mystery.

After reading The Surgeon by Gerritsen last year, I definitely wanted to read more. This was her first medical thriller and I’m looking forward to reading my way through all of her books.


Southern Reading Challenge 2008

>> Wednesday, May 7, 2008

This is another challenge that I’ve been hoping would I would see again. Maggie is hosting the Southern Reading Challenge again and I’m using it to get to a couple of books that have been on my TBR list for a while and one fairly recent addition that comes very highly recommended.
The rules are easy:
3 Southern Setting Books by Southern Authors in 3 Months beginning May 15 through August 15!
This is what I’ll be reading for this year’s challenge:


The Medical Mystery Challenge is back

>> Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Yay Debi !! I’m so glad this one is back this year. Last year’s challenge was a lot of fun and introduced me to several new authors. This year’s challenge will give 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 1

WHO: Anyone

WHERE: 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.

The books I’ve chosen for this challenge are:


Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

>> Monday, May 5, 2008

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 324
A-Z Reading #28 (J Author)

Wow! This was a wonderful book. I had high hopes going in because two people whose recommendations on Southern reading I trust had both recommended this one highly. Both
my Surly friend and Maggie gave it high praise and I must say that praise was well deserved.

Laura McAllan never expected to find herself living in a ramshackle house on a farm in the Mississippi Delta that has no indoor plumbing or electricity. Whenever it rains, the farm is cut off from town because the bridge becomes impassable. This book is told in alternating chapters by several of the main characters. The relationships that exist between Henry and Laura McAllan and their closest neighbors, Hap and Florence Jackson are complex. The two families are in a sharecropping situation and rely on each other as much as they remain separated by race, custom, and societal expectations. When Laura McAllan’s brother-in-law, Jamie and the Jackson’s oldest son, Ronsel return from World War II, things become even more complex.

The writing is exquisite. This is just one of the many memorable passages (these are Florence Jackson’s words):

Soft citybred women like Laura McAllen weren't meant for living in the Delta. Delta'll take a woman like that and suck all the sap out of her till there ain't nothing left but bone and grudge, against him that brung her here and the land that holds him and her with him. Henry McAllen was as landsick as any man I ever seen and I seen plenty of em, white and colored both. It's in their eyes, the way they look at the land like a woman they's itching for. White men already got her, they thinking, You mine now, just you wait and see what I'm gone do to you. Colored men ain't got her and ain't never gone get her but they dreaming bout her just the same, with every push of that plow and every chop of that hoe. White or colored, none of em got sense enough to see that she the one owns them. She takes their sweat and blood and the sweat and blood of all their women and children and when she done took it all she takes their bodies too, churning and churning em up they they one and the same, them and her.
The best book I’ve read this year – don’t miss it.


What’s in a Name? Challenge Completed

>> Friday, May 2, 2008

I completed another challenge this week. Hosted by Annie, The What’s in a Name? Challenge had such a fun premise that I couldn’t resist. We had to choose our books based on words in the titles, and read one book from each category. It was surprisingly easy to find books to fit most of the categories and surprisingly difficult to find books for all six.

The books I read for each category were:

A book with a color in its title:
Leavin’ Trunk Blues by Ace Atkins – a moody noirish mystery with a blues soundtrack to the writing style.

A book with an animal in its title:
The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – my first Crais and his first Elvis Cole book – lots of fun.

A book with a first name in its title:
Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie – A complex biography of both the man and the world of his time.

A book with a place in its title:
London Bridges by James Patterson – typical Alex Cross mystery.

A book with a weather event in its title:
Black Wind by Clive and Dirk Cussler – another one of my brain candy series.

A book with a plant in its title:
Jasmine Moon Murder – a cozy mystery set in one of my favorite cities (Charleston, SC)

This challenge led me to choose quite a variety of genres and I had a great time. I need to keep an eye out for what Annie’s got up her sleeve next.


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

>> Thursday, May 1, 2008

Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1930
Pages: 217
Decades 08 #6 (1930’s), A-Z Reading #27 (H Author)

No, I haven't seen the movie except for occasional clips here and there. I do plan to get it from the library and read it soon.

Based on the opening paragraph description of someone who 'looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan", the Sam Spade in my head doesn't look exactly like Humphrey Bogart, but he does have Bogie's voice and mannerisms - it just fits.

This is a story of greed, lies, deception and spare, action packed storytelling. There are twists and turns from the very beginning. Hammett kept the story moody and moving along with well written dialog. While there are detailed descriptions of people and places, it doesn't pad the story at all and just adds to the noir moodiness of 1930 San Francisco.

I love the way Spade lets folks talk themselves into a corner. The habit of rolling a cigarette is always the clue that Sam is thinking and there's either a twist or clue on the way.

I loved this book and am looking forward to watching the movie.


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