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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.


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