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Audiobook – A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Audio)
Series: #2 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Second in an interesting mystery series set in and around a quiet Quebec village. The Chief Inspector is a fascinating combination of master and student.

Why I Read It:
I enjoyed the first in the series and wanted to learn more about the characters. I stayed with the audio version because Ralph Cosham is exactly the voice I would have chosen for Inspector Gamache

The Book:
When CC dePoitiers is murdered, no one in the village of Three Pines seems upset at her death. She was a highly unlikeable person. What does upset the villagers, however is the thought that one of their own may have killed her. When Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec is assigned to investigate, it’s a bit of a return to familiar ground for him. He was in Three Pines just over a year ago investigating another murder. His familiarity with the village and its inhabitants is both a help and a hindrance in this new investigation. It seems that everyone in town might have a reason to kill CC and the killer may be someone he already knows and likes. Gamache also has to deal with a new member of his team and the return of a formerly disruptive team member.

My Thoughts:
I liked this one just as much and possibly even more than Still Life. The main characters have been introduced, so this time around some of the backstories begin to be explored. Gamache is a great character. He’s both kind, and firm as a leader and investigator. He’s a remarkable mentor to his team members and a husband who is still deeply in love with his wife of many years. While a great teacher, he is also a willing student. The way he investigates the crime involves learning from the potential witnesses and potentially the killer or killers. He does have his limits and when his patience is tried, he can be a formidable boss or interrogator.

This series has such an interesting style. The storytelling is gentle and measured, yet Gamache is a highly professional investigator and it’s definitely not a cozy series. The setting of Three Pines is quaint and quiet. A place I’d like to visit, but for the murder rate. This story takes place around Christmastime so it was wonderful timing for me to be listening to it during the latter part of December.

So, with the second book in the series done, there are still some unresolved issues with Gamache and his team and career. I’ll be requesting the next book from the library soon.

4 stars Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #13

>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hiding School Dropout

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


Hate List by Jennifer Brown

>> Monday, December 28, 2009

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 405
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #55
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Stop whatever you’re doing, go get this book and read it. Now.

Why I Read It:
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read another book about the aftermath of a school shooting but Galleysmith’s Review raved so much about this one that I just had to give it a try. I’m so very glad I listened and read this one. It’s excellent.

The Book:
Valerie Leftman is going back to school for her senior year. This is big because last May, her boyfriend went on a shooting spree and killed and injured several students and teachers. Valerie was shot in the leg as she tried to stop him just before he turned the gun on himself. It turned out that many of the people Nick shot were on a ‘hate list’ that Valerie and Nick had kept in a notebook. To Val it was harmless venting, but to Nick it was clearly more serious.

Valerie is struggling with a lot of things. Is she a hero for stopping Nick or is she an accomplice for keeping the “hate list’? Should she be back at school? Valerie’s family life was strained before the shooting, and it’s not any better now. Her parents seem to be both wanting to help her and blaming her all at the same time.

My Thoughts:
I thought this book was just excellent. Told from Valerie’s viewpoint it takes place both in present time as she struggles with her return to school and in flashbacks as she remembers both the day of the shootings and her relationship with Nick before that fateful day. She’s looking at everything with new eyes now as she wonders if she should have seen this coming and struggles with her own guilt and culpability. When she returns to school she doesn’t know where she belongs. Her old friends don’t know how to respond to her presence and while the girl Valerie stopped Nick from shooting appears to want to be friends, Val is suspicious.

I liked that the story is told by Val. Nick (as seen though her eyes) is not the purely evil killer many see him to be. Her conflicting feelings are well written as are those of the other characters. Almost everyone in the book is someone I both liked and disliked. Val’s therapist is fabulous. My issues with the characters were Val’s Dad, in whom I struggled to find something redeeming and the art mentor who what just a touch too ‘out there’ for me.

Those are seriously minor quibbles, trust me. This book is one of the best I’ve read all year. The roller coaster of emotions and healing that Val, her family, and community go through is just as much of a roller coaster for the reader.

Yes, I cried my way through the end.

5 stars Rating 5/5

Please read


Merry Christmas - Santa left you a recipe

>> Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

Have some Cranberry Cream Cheese Bread

I make this every year and get asked for the recipe all the time so here it is. This is a holiday tradition at our house. It's also a tradition for me to take to work on our last work day before Christmas.

Very easy and very yummy
  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Egg – beaten
  • 1 2/3 cups Milk
  • ¼ cup Cooking Oil
  • 1 cup Chopped Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 3oz. Pkg Cream Cheese – cut into small (1/4 inch or so) chunks (I use a wire cheese cutter)
    ** Edited to add that the 3 oz. packages of cream cheese are no longer available so you'll have to make your best guess with a portion of a larger package.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In another mixing bowl combine beaten egg, milk, and cooking oil. Add to flour mixture, stirring just till combined. Stir in cranberries and cream cheese chunks.

Pour bread batter into a greased loaf pan or pans. Bake in a 350° oven according to size of loaf pans or until toothpick inserted near the center or centers comes out clean.

One 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan --- 1 to 1 ¼ hour
Two 7½ x 3½ x 2 inch loaf pans --- 40 to 45 minutes
Six 4½ x 2½ x 1½ inch loaf pans --- 30 to 35 minutes

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove and cool thoroughly on wire racks. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. Makes 1 large loaf, 2 small loaves, or 6 mini loaves.

Optional add ins:
  • The original recipe includes 3/4 cup chopped nuts, but I think nuts taste like dirt so I don't add them.
  • You can also stir in 2 teaspoons of finely shredded orange peel, but I think it tastes just fine without that.


Wordless Wednesday #12

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Genre: Mystery / Vampire / Romance
Series: #4 in the Sookie Stackhouse series
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 291
Challenges: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge #4

This is the fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I’ve enjoyed every one so far and am looking forward to the next one.

With any series it’s difficult to discuss plot without giving spoilers to the earlier books so if you haven’t read the others yet, skip the next paragraph.

After the events at the club in Jackson, Sookie wants nothing to do with the drama of the vampires and other supernatural creatures she’s come to know. Her on and off vampire boyfriend Bill has left for a trip to Peru. Sookie has just finished a busy New Year’s Eve at work and has made an interesting New Year’s Resolution – to not get beat up due to things in which the vampires have managed to get her entangled. That plan ends up in jeopardy when a partly dressed and amnesiac Eric (Bill’s boss) ends up at Sookie’s house in hiding from a coven of witches and Sookie’s brother Jason goes missing. The mystery and adventure just take off from there.

This series is a lot of action with ongoing character development as it progresses. The culture of the Vampires and the other supernatural creatures gets more developed as well as complex with every book. There are some interesting new non-human characters in this one.

My two favorite parts were the amnesiac and very different Eric (is this more like what he may have been when he was alive?) and of course . . . Bubba!!

Rating 4/5


What's in a Name? 3 Challenge

>> Monday, December 21, 2009

Absolutely, I’m in! For the past couple of years this has been one of my favorite challenges. I was so pleased to see that even though the original hostess (Annie) is no longer hosting it, that Beth Fish Reads has picked up the reins.

So here's how it works: Between January 1 and December 31, 2010, read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  2. A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House
  3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan
  4. A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose
  5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia
  6. A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

For more details about the challenge and to sign up check out the challenge blog.

I love the categories that have been selected this year. It can’t be easy to come up with those. As always I started browsing my TBR list to see what books I already plan to read might fit the categories. I usually manage to fit in at least a few of my ‘next in the series’ books for challenges and this time around was no exception.

These are the books I’m considering for the categories, I’m not going to commit to any specific titles yet, but here are some of the options I’ve got in mind.

A book with a food in the title:
Blood Orange Brewing by Laura Childs (Teashop Series)
Orange Crush by Tim Dorsey (Serge Storms Series)

A book with a body of water in the title:

The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody Series)
Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart

A book with a title in the title:
The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory
King of Lies by John Hart

A book with a plant in the title:
Chile Death by Susan Wittig Albert (China Bayles Series)
The Coffee Trader by David Liss

A book with a place name in the title:
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd ( I loved this book and have been wanting to re-read it for a while)
Molokai by Alan Brennert

A book with a music term in the title:
Lullaby Town by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole Series)
Sorrows Anthem by Michael Koryta (Lincoln Perry Series)

I’ll be updating my progress on my Current Reading Challenges Post which can be found at the “My Reading Challenges” link right under the header picture at the top of this page.


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

>> Friday, December 18, 2009

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: YA Fiction
Series: #1 in the Uglies series
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 425
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #54
Source: Library

I added this book to my TBR list after a conversation among book bloggers on Twitter. It sounded so interesting. Then I started seeing other bloggers reviews popping up and based on the many positive reviews I was reading I had to move it up the list and read it sooner rather than later. I’m very glad I did. This is the first in a series and I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Tally Youngblood is almost sixteen and she can hardly wait for her birthday. In the world Tally lives in at sixteen everyone gets to have the operation that turns them from an Ugly to a Pretty. Once Tally turns Pretty she can go live in New Pretty Town where her responsibility will be to have fun all the time. Her best friend turned Pretty a few months ago and Tally is lonely and counting the days until her birthday. Then Tally meets Shay, another girl who’s almost sixteen. But Shay isn’t looking forward to becoming Pretty. She’s thinking about running away and joining a group of people she’s heard of who live outside the cities and never have the operation to become Pretty. When Shay runs away Tally is put into a tough spot. She finds out that she won’t be allowed to become Pretty until she betrays her friend and tell the authorities where Shay has gone.

I thought the concept of this dystopian story was an interesting one. In Tally’s society, everyone is made to look the same to prevent anger, resentment and war due to the differences between people. As the story progresses it’s not any surprise to find a very disturbing undertone to what everyone is taught is a good thing. When Tally discovers what life is like outside the rules of society and begins to question what she has been taught is true is when the story really took off for me. The characters were interesting and I was really pulling for Tally to make the right choices despite her tendency to continually cover her tracks with lies.

I liked the world that Westerfeld imagined. It’s not so far out of the realm of possible futures to dismiss out of hand. The little bit of history of how society ended up where it is was enough to make it plausible without being a history lesson dropped into the middle of the book. That’s the piece that I felt was so lacking in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

I’ve been reading a lot of Young Adult and Dystopian books recently. I’m finding them intriguing. I can thank the excellent group of book bloggers that I chat with on Twitter for all the recommendations. I definitely would not have read this one if I had missed out on the Twitter chat.

This was an interesting first in a series that I’ll be continuing.

4 stars Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #11

>> Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Holidays

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I only do a select few challenges and this is one that I enthusiastically join. Last year I thought I’d have to use my audiobooks to reach my 50 library books goal, but I made without them. Just over half of the books I’ve read this year have been from the libary

The 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge is hosted once again by J-Kaye.

2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge
The rules are flexible and fun. No listing ahead required. All you have to do is keep track of books you check out and read from the library.

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:
--The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.
--Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.
--Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.
--Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.
I’m choosing the Just my Size level and setting the same 50 book goal I used last year. Beginning in January, I’ll be updating my progress on my Current Reading Challenges Post which can be found at the “My Reading Challenges” link right under the header picture at the top of this page.


Aunt Dimity’s Christmas by Nancy Atherton

>> Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: #5 in the Aunt Dimity series
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 214
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #53
Source: Library

This was a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas episode of this gentle cozy mystery series.

Lori Shepherd did not grow up as a child of privilege, but thanks to her mother’s lifelong friend 'Aunt Dimity’ she now lives a privileged life. When Lori was at her lowest and all alone after her mother’s death she suddenly became the heir to Aunt Dimity’s wealth, Cotswolds cottage, and responsibility for Dimity’s charitable trust. She also has Dimity’s blue journal that Dimity uses to communicate with Lori despite Dimity’s very dead status. Now that Lori is happily married and mother to infant twin sons she’s looking forward to a perfect family Christmas in the Cotswolds.

When a vagrant collapses in Lori’s front yard a series of events are set off that derail Lori’s carefully laid holiday plans. The man’s identity is unknown but as she tries to find out who he is and where he came from she discovers more mysteries as she goes. With the assistance of a kindly priest, she finds more and more people who have been positively influenced by this mysterious stranger and more and more questions about his past.

The story remains a predictable Christmas parable yet still enough of a mystery to have a few surprises

The only thing I didn’t like about this installment of the series was that at the beginning Lori seems more selfish and materialistic than she’d been in any of the previous books. It was annoying and a surprising change in her personality, but seemed to be exaggerated to make the point of the story. It doesn’t really keep this from being a pleasant little cozy Christmas story with the expected moral and the return of our normal Lori at the end.

3 stars Rating 3/5


A Killing Frost by John Marsden

>> Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Killing Frost by John Marsden

Genre: YA Fiction
Series: #3 in the Tomorrow series
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 275
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #52
Source: Library

This is a continuation of the story begun in Tomorrow When the War Began an continued in The Dead of Night. In the first book, Australia is invaded while a group of teenagers is on a camping trip out in the bush. They return home to discover that their families have been imprisoned and end up living out in the bush on their own while doing what they can to make things difficult for the invading army. The next books follow their story. Since this is a third book in a series, it’s nearly impossible to avoid spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

It’s been six months since the invasion. The war continues and the kids have grown up in ways no teenager should ever have to, yet at the same time they’re just kids trying to deal with unimaginable circumstances. They’re scared, they’re bored with hiding in the bush, they’re worried about their families and friends and they’re angry at the invading army and the colonists.

I though this third book was much better than the second. The impact this war and their isolation has had on the group is showing. They’ve become more like soldiers in the ways they’re trying to cause trouble for the invaders yet at the same time this book also brings to light their vulnerabilities and fears.

I’m more an more impressed with Marsden’s ability as a writer and storyteller as this series continues. The main character and narrator Ellie is well drawn and just as vulnerable as she is strong. Nothing is certain as the story plays out. The reader knows that Ellie is telling the story in retrospect, but what may happen at any time or to any of the other main characters is not certain.

The suspense and action really heats up in this one. There’s a section in the middle that left my heart pounding and and the tension rising as I read as fast as I could to not have to stop reading at the end of my lunch hour with so many questions unanswered. Ellie is definitely the star of the story, but some of the other characters are getting more rounded out as the series continues.

It feels like this was maybe planned as a trilogy because the end of this one, although leaving the door open for more could also have been a possible ending. I’m glad it didn’t end, though and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the fourth one soon. This one clearly leaves it open to take some new directions.

4 stars Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #10

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cannon Beach, Oregon

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge Wrap-Up

>> Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I technically completed this challenge last week, but I’m going to continue to add books to my list so I’m calling this one "completed but still tracking".

Support Your Local Library Challenge

J-Kaye created the perfect challenge for me in 2009 - The Support Your Local Library Challenge. I love my libraries and use them extensively. Hardly a week goes by without a stop at one of them. I’m lucky enough to live in one county and work in another and both counties have wonderful library systems.

When I signed up for this challenge last year, I hesitated about what level of participation to set as a goal. I decided to try for 50 and see how it went. Well I easily met the 50 books goal without even counting my audiobooks. This was after taking off a couple of months from the library for the Clear Your Shelves Challenge. This challenge worked well with my goal to try to rein in a bit of my spending on books. I still bought plenty of books this year. I don’t even want to start counting those up. I did focus my book buying on the books that I knew I wanted to keep or those that I knew The Hubster would also read. That left plenty of books at the library just waiting to jump off the shelves and come home with me for a visit.

These are the books I read this year from the library (alphabetical order by author). As I said, this does not include my audiobooks which are all from the library). I will continue to update this list until the end of the year just to continue tracking my library books for 2009. Links are to my reviews.

Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Aunt Dimity Digs In by Nancy Atherton
Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Coyote by Linda Barnes
Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
The Cross-Country Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini
Chamomile Mourning by Laura Childs
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook
Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
The Bookman's Wake by John Dunning
Delusion by G.H. Ephron
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George
The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines
The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris
Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
Eli the Good by Silas House
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
The Lost Boy by Brent Jeffs
A World I Never Made by James LePore
Susannah's Garden by Debbie Macomber
Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
The Dead of Night by John Marsden
A Killing Frost by John Marsden
Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
Ruined by Paula Morris
Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs
Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve
To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall
Higher Authority by Stephen White
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

I was actually surprised that I met the goal of 50 without counting my audiobooks. I’m planning on joining the 2010 version of this challenge. It’s an easy one for me since I have such great libraries and can easily take advantage of them.

Thanks again to J-Kaye for a useful and fun challenge.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

>> Monday, December 7, 2009

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 1968
Pages: 244
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #51
Source: Library

Yes, I’m well aware that this book is way far out of the norm for me. I don’t read that much of this type of book, but there is a good reason it’s here. Earlier this year Newsweek Magazine published a list of what they called “50 Books for Our Times” I was a part of a conversation on Twitter about how soon a challenge would be posted for reading this list and before too long . . . Voila! Amy at My Friend Amy’s Blog found herself hosting the Newsweek’s 50 Books for Our Times Reading Project. The best part for participants was that we only had to sign up to read one of the books and then post about it.

I chose this book because it was supposed to be the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner. I remember seeing this movie in the theater when it was first released. I was much more into Science Fiction movies and books back then. It’s been many years and I hardly remember the movie, but I remember thinking it was OK, but not the cult classic that many folks seem to think it is.

So – I read this book and now I’m supposed to tell you what I think of it and whether or not I think it qualilfies as a ‘book for our times’. The quick version of my thoughts are that considering that this book was published in 1968, there are aspects of it that I do think are relevant and perhaps even more relevant now. I can also say that although I don’t remember a lot about the movie, I do remember enough to say that the book is better (but isn’t it always?).

It’s the year 2021, after World War Terminus. Earth has lost much of it’s population and animal species. Humans have been encouraged to emigrate to Mars, lured by the promise of androids to serve them. Androids are not allowed on Earth. Rick Deckard is a Bounty Hunter working with the San Francisco Police. His job is to hunt down and ‘retire’ (kill) androids that are hiding in plain sight and trying to blend in as real humans. At a time when most animals are extinct or extremely rare, owning an animal is a status symbol, to the extent that electronic animals are often the best that some folks can afford. Those who can only afford false animals can hide this with maintenance services masquerading as veterinarians.

The focus of this book is what is it that makes us human? The tests that Deckard uses to identify androids key in on empathy as the trait that separates humans from androids. On the other hand the humans in this book can select their mood with a device called a ‘mood organ’. By the end of the book, the androids at times seem less mechanical than the humans.

For a book that was written in 1968, I was surprised at how relevant this book still is. In a time where robotics and cloning are becoming more common, the ethical questions raised about what is it that makes us human is still and maybe even more pertinent. I don’t remember that being something I got out of the movie Blade Runner, but as I said, it’s been many years since I saw it. There were also themes of religion and mass media that I found to be quite relevant to present day

3.5 Stars Rating 3.5/5


Audiobook – Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams

>> Friday, December 4, 2009

Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams

Genre: Fiction
Series: #3 in the Hitchhiker’s series
Publication Date: 1982
Read by: Martin Freeman

The craziness that began with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy continues in this third volume of a trilogy that is now 5 parts by Adams and a recent 6th volume by Erin Colfer.

Once again I marveled at the genius that was Douglas Adams. This continuation of the adventures of Arthur Dent and his merry (or not so merry in the case of Marvin the android) band had me spinning at the sudden turns it took and laughing as I drove (my primary book listening time).

From Prehistoric Earth to Lord’s Cricket Ground shortly before the Vogons destroy Earth (which happens at the beginning of the first book) to the planet Krikkit and several other stops along the way the fun and craziness keep going. It’s part Science Fiction, part fable, part comedy, part nonsense and all fun.

Don’t go into this series expecting a linear plotline. It’s more like a superball bouncing around the room. Arthur and and his friend Ford Prefect (from somewhere near Betelgeuse) and the others he’s met along the way and the occasional sofa try to save the Universe before the army of white robots from the planet Krikkit destroy it. The whole reason the people of Krikkit want to destroy the Universe? They thought they were alone in it and when they discovered they weren’t they didn’t like it.

Oh and Arthur learns how to fly. And he still doesn’t know the question to go with the Ultimate answer of 42.

Don’t expect it to all make sense, just get the whole series on audio and enjoy. I actually liked this one more than the second book. The 4th is already on my ipod.

Rating 4/5


Eli the Good by Silas House

>> Thursday, December 3, 2009

Eli the Good by Silas House

Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 295
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #50
Source: Library

I’m so very glad I paid attention when my bookseller friend mentioned that she was reading this book. It’s just wrapped itself around my heart. Eli and his family will stay with me for a while.

It’s the summer of 1976. Eli Book is ten years old and it seems that his family may be coming apart at the seams. His Vietnam vet dad is having horrible nightmares. His mom seems distant. His 16 year old sister is defying her parents. His very best friend is hurting because her parents are divorcing. His aunt who was a protester of the war her brother fought in is staying with them. Eli is an observer of people and of nature. He eavesdrops on conversations and finds himself knowing things he probably shouldn’t.

I liked Eli. I wanted to grab Eli and wrap him up in a big hug. Then I wanted to hug the rest of his family and his friend Edie too. The story is written as if the adult Eli is writing about that fateful summer. His observations are almost poetic at times, but as he’s watching his family and best friend and their conflicts there is also a deep sense of love in the way he tells the story of how he struggled to understand what was happening. There is also music. The songs that are mentioned throughout the book create a soundtrack to the story. This is the soundtrack of my life. I was a teenager in 1976 so almost all the songs are well known to me and carry their own memories and emotions as they underscore Eli’s story.

If I hadn’t known this book was shelved in the Young Adult section, I’m not sure I would have classified it as a YA novel. Perhaps that’s because I can so easily place myself in and around Eli’s story. While reading about that summer, I remembered the music, the TV shows, my friends who’s Dads or older brothers had served in Vietnam and the struggles they had as well as so many other things about that time that were there as casual parts of the story. I think many people in my generation might feel the same way about this book. I’m not so sure how it would be for someone much younger than I am.

I loved the writing. I’ve never read any of Silas House’s other books, but I will look for them now. He has a way of writing about both people and nature that paints images as well as emotions. There were far too many quotes I could have marked or written down.

This is a book I can heartily recommend.

Rating 5/5


Wordless Wednesday #9

>> Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sunset - Yachats, Oregon

Sunset Yachats, Oregon
For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


The Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Wrap-Up

>> Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clear Off Your Shelves ChallengeMy Goal: 70%
Actually read: 73%

Yesterday was the last day for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge hosted at S.Krishna’s Books

The point of the challenge was to read books that were already on my bookshelves. Participants had to set a goal of a percentage of books that they’d read between October 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009.

This challenge was perfect for me because I’d been neglecting the books on my bookshelves in favor of library books. Part of the reason for that has been the Support Your Local Library Challenge but with that nearing completion I was glad to have an incentive to read books I already owned.

I set a pretty ambitious goal of 70% for myself for this challenge. I didn’t have any pending review commitments so I really just needed to browse on my bookshelves instead of the library for a few weeks. Of the 15 books and audiobooks I read in October and November, 11 of them were books I owned so I met my goal with 73%

These are the books I read for this challenge:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

  • Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

  • Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

  • Honeymoon by James Patterson

  • The Ruins by Scott Smith

  • Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

  • The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

  • Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

  • Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

  • The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

  • Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

  • The list is heavy on mysteries and thrillers because those are the books I tend to buy. I’m more likely to buy books that are something both The Hubster and I will both read. Books I know he’d have no interest in; I’m more likely to get from the library.

    The trade off for my success in this challenge is that for the past two months I’ve been adding books like crazy to my wishlist at the library to start reading once this challenge was over. Looks like December will be library catch up month for me. Look for lots of YA and Dystopian stuff, one Christmas book, and a couple of other books I want to read but will not likely pass along to The Hubster.

    Big thanks to Swapna for hosting this challenge. It was a lot of fun.


    Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

    >> Monday, November 30, 2009

    Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
    Genre: Crime Thriller
    Series: #3 in the Gretchen Lowell – Archie Sheridan series
    Publication Date: 2009
    Pages: 306
    Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
    Source: purchased used

    Just like the first two books in this series (Heartsick and Sweetheart) this one falls in the seriously disturbing but good category. Twisted, gruesome, but again, one I stayed up late to finish the last 80 pages in one sitting.

    If you haven’t read the first two books skip on over this next paragraph – it’s impossible to talk about this book without even giving minor spoilers to the first two.

    Two months after his last encounter with serial killer Gretchen Lowell, Detective Archie Sheridan is still in the psych unit at the hospital. He could get out, but he doesn’t seem to want to. Gretchen is still on the loose and has become a media darling. So far Gretchen and Archie have kept their agreement – he won’t kill himself and she won’t kill anyone. Journalist Susan Ward is both appalled and intrigued by the celebrity of Gretchen. Tours of her crime scenes, T-shirts, Fan websites are all just a little too weird considering she’s a brutal killer on the run after escaping prison. But then the bodies (and body parts) start showing up. Archie, Susan and Archie’s partner Henry are all deeply intertwined in the events that result. Is Gretchen still out there and killing? Can Archie keep off the drugs and find her. Will his strange attraction to her get in the way again?

    OK – spoiler free from here on out.

    Once again, Chelsea Cain keeps the action moving and the blood flowing. It’s gruesome, it’s twisted, and yet I can’t stop reading. I liked this one a lot. I probably liked it even more than the second book. If you liked the first (and second) one, I do encourage you to continue with the series. There are questions answered and characters exhibit some growth, but there are also questions left unanswered and some new disturbing elements introduced.

    As far as I’m concerned I’ve enjoyed the Archie and Gretchen story, but I’m ready for Chelsea Cain to take on a new story. She’s a talented writer who I’d like to see break out of what could become a rut if she’s not careful.

    Rating 4/5


    I think I might be a freak

    >> Friday, November 27, 2009

    I enjoy the holiday season.

    There. I said it. I know that many people find the holidays stressful or depressing. I get that. I understand and sympathize, but I just can’t empathize and I’m going to admit that I don’t think I want to. I wish the folks I know who feel this way didn’t, but I don’t feel obligated to participate in it.

    I come by my enjoyment of this time of year naturally. My Mom loved Christmas. She liked decorating, she liked having the family around, and she even liked shopping (I definitely didn’t get that gene). We never really DID a lot; it was more about being together.

    We’ve seriously simplified our holiday traditions over the years. We’ve disconnected from the gift exchanges, we only go to the events and gatherings we truly enjoy, and look forward to the handful of get-togethers that have become annual traditions.

    I love seeing the neighborhood lit up and decorated. I love seeing the spirit of giving alive and well in my community. Yes, I wish it were that way all year round, but I can still appreciate that this season encourages it and be happy for it.

    This weekend, we’ll decorate inside and outside the house. Monday morning I’ll put up my Christmas lights in my cubicle at work. I’ll pull out my cranberry cream cheese bread recipe and figure out when everyone will actually be at work on the same day so I can take some to share. I’ll take the long way home from work so I can drive around and see the decorations. I’ll say Thank YOU to the folks who work hardest at this time of year.

    This year I’ve decided to stop fighting or trying to defend my feelings. They just are. Just like the feelings of those who don't like this time of year. I like the holiday season, some of my friends don’t. That’s fine – it would be a very boring world if we were all the same. That may mean I need to disconnect a bit, but that’s OK. I think I need to put holiday seasonal stuff in the same category as I do politics and religion. I absolutely refuse to discuss politics or religion with friends and co-workers. When those discussions or debates start, I simply remove myself from the conversation. I think I’m going to start doing the same thing with holiday hating. Just not participate in it. I’ll flip to my holiday playlist on the ipod and relax.


    The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

    >> Thursday, November 26, 2009

    The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

    Genre: Non-Fiction
    Publication Date: 2008
    Pages: 315
    Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
    Source: purchased new

    I added this book to my list after my friend Eleanor recommended it highly (you can read her review at GoodReads)

    Douglas Preston is a successful mystery writer. In 2000 he and his family moved to Italy so he could work on a novel. While there, he met and befriended Mario Spezi, a journalist who for years had been writing about a famous serial killer in the area. This killer had been dubbed The Monster of Florence. When Preston found out that one of the double murders in the case had happened not far from the house where he and his family were staying, he wanted to know more. Spezi filled him in on the history and together the two decided to write about the case. Before long it the research developed into a personal investigation. This book is the story of their investigation and also of the questionable handling of the case by the Italian authorities. Preston and Spezi developed doubts about the official investigation due to the seemingly bizarre turns it took. At times it appeared to be a case of making the evidence (or lack of it) fit the most recent theory (whether or not the theory seemed realistic). Soon, Preston and Spezi themselves were under suspicion by the authorities and the case took yet another of its bizarre turns.

    This is a true story that if it was written as a fictional mystery thriller would be dismissed as totally unbelievable. It reads like a fictional murder mystery because that’s what Preston writes, but this time around, he’s caught up in the story himself. So there’s some objectivity that goes by the wayside before it’s all over with, but it’s still a fascinating story.

    It’s interesting to me that the current sensational media murder trial in Italy (American student Amanda Knox) is being prosecuted by the same person who led much of the case in this book.

    I’ve never read anything else by Douglas Preston, but this book makes me want to check out some of the books he’s written with Lincoln Child. I had some minor quibbles with the writing, but I’d still like to check out Preston’s fiction.

    Rating 4/5


    Wordless Wednesday #8

    >> Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Cascade Bay Orcas Island, Washington

    For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


    Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

    >> Friday, November 20, 2009

    Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

    Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
    Publication Date: 2008
    Pages: 477
    Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
    Source: purchased new

    Once again Harlan Coben has delivered a quick reading, fast paced, multiple storyline thriller that made me hate to get to the end of my daily train commutes and lunchtimes.

    Mike and Tia Baye are a successful suburban couple with a teenage son and younger daughter. When 16 year old Adam becomes more and more uncommunicative following the suicide of his friend, his parents are understandably concerned. When they decide to install spy software on Adams computer so they can see where he’s spending all his computer time and who he’s talking to in chat rooms and via email, they find far more than they bargained for.

    That’s the primary storyline in this one but there are also several others that take most of the book before they all start to spiral together.

    This book is a combination of several versions of a parent’s nightmare, murder mystery, crazy serial killer, and suburban family drama turned feud. It’s a whirlwind of jumping between storylines and waiting for them to start linking up. Coben populates it with a huge cast of characters and as usual some of them are from his previous books making minor cameo appearances.

    Parts of this are frightening because they are so very plausible. I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it. It was a series of moments characters wish they could have taken back or rewound and not done or said. All of these by the many characters combined built into a spiral that spun out of control.

    It’s the kind of fast paces suspense story that I expect from Harlan Coben, who continues to be one of my favorite authors.

    Rating 4/5


    Movie/TV Tie-in Book Covers

    >> Thursday, November 19, 2009

    I’m not a fan.

    I’m a member of the ‘the book is almost always better than the movie’ group. It’s not that I have anything against making movies and TV shows based on books. I watch and enjoy many of them. But when I buy a book, I want the book cover not the DVD cover.

    Yesterday I went to the bookstore to buy a The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. My friend Eleanor read it when it first came out and has been telling me ever since that it’s one of the best football related books she’s read. Granted the upcoming (or already released? I don’t know) movie is what prompted me to remember that I wanted the book, but when I went to buy it I almost didn’t. The only copies I saw were the covers with the movie promo picture.

    The Blind Side Movie Cover
    Sorry, not interested. Lucky for me I did find off to the side a single copy of the original paperback edition with its original cover so the day was saved and I now have the copy I want.

    The Blind Side
    This is not the first time I’ve had to look hard to find the edition I wanted. The Sookie Stackhouse Series has a wonderful set of quirky covers, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. What’s prominent on the shelves are the covers with images from the HBO series True Blood (based on the books).

    Living Dead in Dallas HBO coverLiving Dead in DallasI’m buying this set,

    not this one. ---->

    I’ve been known to seek out used editions (being thankful here that I live in the land of Powell’s Books) in order to get a copy of a book that does not have the movie or TV tie-in cover.

    Yes, even though it’s Johnny Depp, I’ll be purchasing

    Public Enemies Movie CoverPublicEnemiesthis edition of Public Enemies,


    and not this one. ---->

    How do you feel about Movie or TV tie-in covers? Like ‘em? Don’t like ‘em? Don’t care? Or does it depend on whether you read the book or saw the movie/show first?


    Wordless Wednesday #7

    >> Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Contented Cats (Howie and Phoebe)

    For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.


    Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

    >> Monday, November 16, 2009

    Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
    Genre: Crime Thriller
    Series: #2 in the Gretchen Lowell – Archie Sheridan series
    Publication Date: 2008
    Pages: 325
    Clear Off Your Shelves
    Source: purchased new

    This is the sequel to
    Heartsick which I loved for being seriously twisted but Oh so good. This one falls in that same category.

    Gretchen Lowell is a beautiful, sadistic serial killer. Archie Sheridan is the detective who finally caught her, but not before she held him captive for 10 days and tortured him. She’s in prison and he’s still in torture. His wounds have healed, but he’s far from healthy. He’s still addicted to both painkillers and to Gretchen. While battling his emotional and physical issues, he’s also involved in a new investigation when a body is found in Forest Park. Susan Ward is a reporter for the local newspaper. She’s a bit of a rebel (with turquoise hair this time) who is about to break the story of her life. A well known and loved local politician is about to have his past blow huge holes in his reputation. Susan and Archie got to know each other during a previous investigation. They find themselves in a mutually beneficial situation again when Susan needs help with a story and Archie needs publicity for an investigation. But then things are all spectacularly sidetracked when Gretchen escapes from prison and comes looking for Archie.

    The multiple stories in this book are all interesting on their own, but you just know that they’re going to intertwine in ways that will put Archie, Susan and their families and friends in danger. The gruesome factor is pretty high as it was in Heartsick, so this series is not for the nightmare prone. The chapters are pretty short and the pace is fast so it’s a book that you can lose yourself in easily. I went to bed last night with 125 pages to go and finished it before I went to sleep.

    Archie is seriously messed up. I want to root for him at the same time I want him to get some help before he damages his family any further. Susan is likeable and incredibly irritating at the same time. The good guys are not always easy to support in this series, but Gretchen is such pure evil personified that you want them to succeed.

    I enjoy reading books set in Portland. It’s fun to read about familiar locations. I like that Chelsea Cain manages to include some Portland insider type stuff without being too excluding to readers who aren’t from the area. The storyline that is clearly taken from a couple of well-publicized local political downfalls from recent years was fun to see.

    I’m going to be looking for the third book in the series very soon.

    Rating 4/5


    Audiobook – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

    >> Friday, November 13, 2009

    Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

    Series: #10 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
    Genre: Fiction
    Publication Date: 2009
    Read by: Lisette Lecat
    Source: Library

    This series remains just completely enjoyable to me. It’s one my reliable audiobook selections and I typically get on the library waiting list early as soon as I find out the next book is on the way.

    In this 10th book in the series it’s once again a slow paced and thoroughly charming visit to Botswana. Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi spend more of their time making observations about life and people than they really spend in accomplishing any actual detective work. The long anticipated demise of Mma Ramotswe’s beloved tiny white van is looming. Mr. J.L.B Matekoni’s apprentices are no closer to completing their apprenticeships. Mma Makutsi’s engagement may be threatened by her longtime nemesis Violet Sephoto. The primary case for the detective agency is this one has them working for the owner of a local football team to find out if their streak of recent losses is due to someone on the team fixing the games.

    I just love listening to Lisette Lecat read this series. I cannot imagine reading the books because I find them so thoroughly enjoyable in the audio version.

    I did manage to catch the first episode of the HBO version of this series and hope to watch more of that to last me until the next book in the series is released. I enjoyed the first episode both for what they retained from the book and the changes they made for TV.

    Rating: 4/5


    The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

    >> Thursday, November 12, 2009

    The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey
    Genre: Crime Thriller
    Publication Date: 2007
    Pages: 331
    Clear Off Your Shelves
    Source: purchased new

    The blade itself incites to violence – Homer

    Danny Carter grew up in Chicago. His dad worked hard, but Danny got mixed up with the wrong crowd as a kid and ended up a petty thief. Seven years ago he and his partner Evan held up a pawn shop and things went dreadfully wrong. Danny has put that all in his past and had gone on to build a new life of respectability despite the fact that he did it by hiding the truth of his past mistakes. When Evan suddenly reappears in Danny’s life he’s unsure what to make of it. Evan is newly released from prison and ready to join up with Danny again and return to their old ways. When Danny says no, Evan refuses to accept that answer. With his past mistakes now threatening his new law abiding, responsible life, Danny has to make an impossible choice. Things soon start spinning horribly out of Danny’s control.

    While I found this book in the mystery section, it’s really not a mystery at all. It’s much more of a suspense thriller type of story. Will Danny be able to refuse Evan’s request? Are they still partners or not? Just how much and what does Danny owe Evan and how many people will the threatened, hurt or killed before it’s all over?

    I was impressed with this first novel by Marcus Sakey. I was impressed enough that I’ve added the rest of his books to my TBR list. I’ll be passing this one along to The Hubster to put in his ‘you need to read this’ stack.

    Yes, in some ways is a bit predictable, but it’s a fun thrill ride of a story. It’s fast paced enough that I read it in a couple of days.

    Rating 4/5


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