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What I did and didn't do this weekend

>> Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend is always a blend of busy and fun at our house.

What I did:
Spent time with my family: Had a great time on Thanksgiving Day with family at my Sister-in-Law's house. We pretty much do the same thing every year and keep it pretty simple and stress free. The important part of the day is spending time together.

These are my sister-in-law's decorations. She's the Martha Stewart Jr. of the family. This kind of decorating would never happen at my house unless someone who is not me did it.

Football: The Oregon Ducks played a home football game on Friday. This year our Thanksgiving Friday was all about football. We went down to Eugene and despite the cold and wet weather enjoyed cheering the Ducks to a win. We also spent much of Saturday watching college football.

Holiday Decorating: We usually spend much of the Thanksgiving weekend getting our house decorated inside and out for Christmas. Because of the football focus to Friday and Saturday, we didn't finish up the decorating until after dark on Sunday, but it's all done.

What I did not do:

Shop: the very thought of heading to a mall or high traffic store at any time over Thanksgiving weekend, much less on Black Friday just gives me the heebie jeebies. I so do not have the shopping gene.

Read: yup you read that right. I did very little reading over the long weekend. There was just too much other stuff we were doing. This is why I never sign up for the Thankfully Reading event over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I never have much reading time on Thanksgiving weekend.

I maybe read 3 or 4 chapters of Lonesome Dove all weekend. Speaking of Lonesome Dove, I've decided to abandon the Readalong schedule and just focus on that book until I'm done with it. I'm at the point where I don't want to put it aside to read anything else until I'm done with it. Expect a full on gushing review soon. I'm loving it.


Happy Thanksgiving

>> Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

~~Enjoy your weekend~~

Howie certainly will (and yes, that's all four feet and his tail in front of his nose)


Wordless Wednesday #60

>> Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fall in my front yard (again)

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Free Fall by Robert Crais

>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Free Fall by Robert Crais

Genre: Mystery/Detective
Series: #4 in Elvis Cole series
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 288
Challenges: none
Source: Purchased new

The Short Version:
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike take on pretty much everyone in a great combination of humor and action.

Why I Read It:
This is what I consider one of my ‘fun’ detective series and I’m trying to catch up.

The Book
Elvis Cole is hired by a young woman to find out what is going on with her fiancé. Mark Thurman is an LA cop and she thinks he’s in some sort of trouble. When Thurman himself shows up in Elvis’ office and basically says ‘go away I’m involved with another woman’, Elvis figures his work is done. Jennifer Sheridan, however refuses to believe it and convinces Elvis to keep digging.

Thurman is part of an elite undercover unit of the LAPD working in the notorious South Central area fresh out of the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. As Elvis keeps digging he finds some things about this unit that just don’t seem to add up to honest police work.

Possible crooked cops, gangs and a wrongful death suit against the unit that was mysteriously dropped all indicate that something isn’t right.

Elvis and his partner, the wonderfully scary but fun Joe Pike, take on both the cops and the gangs in search of the truth while trying keep themselves and their client alive.

My Thoughts:
I just love Elvis Cole. He’s a great mix of smart detective who genuinely cares about people and has no patience for nonsense. He’s got a great sarcastic wit which makes the books a perfect blend of interesting mystery and action with moments that make me laugh. Joe Pike is just awesomely scary and cool and definitely the man I’d want looking out for me. Yes, they’re tough guys who can banter with the best of them (Ok, Elvis banters, and Joe makes profound statements with either a single word or look), but they have a great sense of justice and want to see the right result to any situation.

This one takes place in LA with the Rodney King incident and riots still fresh in everyone’s mind. When Elvis and Joe discover that there’s some sort of police corruption mixed up with dangerous gang leaders they can’t let it go. Going against both street gangs and an LAPD unit straight out of FX’s The Shield? Of course I’d bet on Elvis and Joe.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t discover this series fairly recently because I have a lot of backlist to work my way through before I’m in that awful position of having to wait for the next book to be published. The series is just getting better with every book.

Rating 4/5


Confessions of a Serial Reader – they come and go, but I remain a series addict

>> Monday, November 22, 2010

When I did my first “Confessions of a Serial Reader” post, I said it was going to be an occasional feature here, but looking back it appears that it’s been far more occasional than I originally intended. I never wanted to be too strict about scheduling the posts, but I didn’t intend it to be quite so long between posts. Maybe I can shoot for at least monthly in the future? We’ll see.

I spent some time last week updating my To Be Read Spreadsheet and making sure that my spreadsheet, my current books and ebooks, my library wish list and my Goodreads “To Read” list were all in sync. It was a time consuming project because I had been hit and miss lately on keeping everything up to date.

Part of the process was to update the sheet in my TBR spreadsheet where I track all my current series and where I am in the series and the title of the next book. This is the page I rely on when I’m at the library or the bookstore and it’s also the one that’s a bit overwhelming when I see how many series I’ve started.

While I was updating my series page I did some weeding out and removed the series I’ve chosen to abandon as well as adding the new series I’ve started recently.

New Series I’ve added to my list:

Seeds of America by Laurie Halse Anderson – this is a young adult trilogy set in Revolutionary America and featuring a couple of teenage slaves. I’ve read the first and definitely plan to continue with the trilogy.

Tom Thorne by Mark Billingham – This is a british detective series that I just recently started and want to get caught up with before the newest US release comes out next July.

Maze Runner by James Dashner – Another young adult trilogy that I plan to continue. I didn’t love the first book The Maze Runner quite as much as some of my blogging friends, but I found it interesting enough that I do plan to read the second book The Scorch Trials even though I don’t feel an urge to rush into reading it right away.

Jonathan Grave by John Gilstrap – I’ve been a fan of John Gilstrap for years and even though some of his books haven’t been stellar, I think he’s really hit the right mark with this series. I’ve read the first and already have the second ready to read soon. Jonathan Grave is a wealthy, secretive man who runs a hostage rescue business. It’s exciting, suspenseful, not exactly within the confines of the law type of adventure.

Carter Ross by Brad Parks – Faces of the Gone was a wonderful debut and Investigative reporter Carter Ross is a character I’m looking forward to getting together with again. The second in this series is due out in February and I’ll be stalking my bookstore for it.

Inspector Vaara by James Thompson – This new police detective series set in the far north of Finland was a nice change from the typical large major city detective story. The great combination of setting, story and writing have me eager for the next book due out in March.

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White – Charleston, South Carolina is one of my very favorite cities and this series combining modern romance, historical fiction, a bit of ghost story and mystery was quite enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the second in the series.

Series I’ve started but abandoned:

The Caster Chronicles by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia – I liked the beginning of this young adult paranormal romance-ish story well enough, but there just wasn’t enough there for me to seek out the next book.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – I thought the first book in this young adult dystopian story was wonderful and a fascinating premise, but the second book was a disappointment with more of the same and additional annoyances that haven’t given me any reason to continue with the series.

Teashop Mysteries by Laura Childs – This is a cozy mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina that I’ve been reading for several years and although I’ve enjoyed the series and the setting, I have decided that after seven books in the series I’m done. They just began to feel a bit flat and repetitive without some of the stuff I enjoyed in the earlier books.

What about you? What series have you added or abandoned recently?


A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

>> Friday, November 19, 2010

A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Lincoln Perry series
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 294
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #49
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Private Investigator Lincoln Perry is hired to find the son of a recent murder victim and soon finds himself a suspect in multiple murders and a complex extortion plot.

Why I Read It:
I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series.

The Book:
When Alex Jefferson is brutally tortured and murdered, his widow asks Lincoln Perry to find her husband’s long estranged son in order to let him know his father is dead and he is to inherit a large sum of money. Oh, and the widow? She was engaged to Perry before she met and married Jefferson. In addition, it was a knockout punch delivered to Jefferson by Perry that got Perry kicked off the Cleveland police force and into the PI business.

This makes what should be an easy missing person search start out with plenty of complications, but it gets worse. Before Perry can even tell Jefferson’s son about his inheritance, the kid is dead and Perry is in jail under suspicion for his murder.

Then it gets even worse. The more Perry and his partner Joe Pritchard work to find out what really happened to both Alex Jefferson and his son and why, the more twists and turns come along. At almost every step is a clue for Lincoln and Joe that is soon followed by apparent evidence leading the police to suspect Perry is behind the murders and extortion.

The story twists along with events from the past coming back to haunt people, revenge, extortion and a very scary Russian hit man who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

My Thoughts:
Like the first two in the series this was a fun to read thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Lincoln Perry is a character I like a lot. He’s smart and sharp tongued with little patience for the law enforcement authorities despite his previous career as a cop. He’s funny and devoted to his friends.

I enjoy the banter in Koryta’s books. He uses entertaining and quick witted dialog to progress the story, but there’s plenty of action too. The Russian hit man is scary, but he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book.

The story is complicated and despite the many twists and turns it takes along the way (some more plausible than others), it’s an entertaining read. The essential question of who murdered Alex Jefferson and why turns out to have a surprising and yet by the time you get there, not so surprising resolution.

I look forward to continuing with this series as well as Koryta’s standalone thrillers.

Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #59

>> Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall in my front yard

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Audiobook – The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Audio)

Genre: Fiction
Series: #11 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Publication Date: 2010
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #48
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Not much of a detective story, but an enjoyable visit with familiar characters in Bostwana

Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to all the previous books in this series and thoroughly enjoy listening to Lisette Lecat read them.

The Book:
Precious Ramotswe only has a couple of minor detective agency related stories in this installment of the series. One of which ends up having both partners in a marriage ask her to find out if the other is having an affair. The other detective type storyline isn’t that complex and involves finding a safari guide who was kind enough to a visiting American woman that she left him some money in her will.

The more involved storyline in this one is that Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Grace Makutsi has some personal trauma to deal with. Her fiancé is injured and his aunt uses this as an opportunity to keep Mma Makutsi away from him whether out of jealousy or because she feels Grace is not worthy as a future member of the family.

Of course Mma Makutsi’s arch nemesis Violet Sepotho makes a reappearance too.

My Thoughts:
As always I absolutely enjoyed the heck out of listening to Lisette Lecat’s reading of this series. Her voices and and personalities she gives to the characters have made them feel like old friends by this point in the series. The running jokes are totally expected, yet they still make me laugh.

It’s a very slow paced and rather plot thin series and I’m sure that if I read the books I would not have continued with it, but the audio versions are just a complete delight. The gentle sensibility of Precious Ramotswe and her love for her homeland of Botswana make her a fictional character that I’d love to sit down with for a cup of tea (red bush tea, of course).

Rating 3.5/5


Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

>> Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #1 in the Tom Thorne series
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 310
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #47
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Detective Tom Thorne takes on the hunt for a serial killer whose goal isn’t killing his victims, but instead to leave them alert, but totally incapacitated.

Why I Read It:
Mulholland Books was kind enough to send me a galley of the 8th book in this series (which they will be releasing in July) and I wanted to use the time between now and then to catch up on the earlier books in the series.

The Book:
After several women are found to have died from induced strokes, the police are finally making the connections that there is a killer on the loose. When one of the women survives her attack, but is left incapacitated and uncommunicative, the authorities believe the killer has made a mistake that could lead to his capture.

When the lead detective, Tom Thorne finds a note from the killer on his car the motives of the killer turn out to be almost more sinister than previously thought. The women who died were his mistakes. The one who is still alive, but trapped in a body that cannot function is the one he considers his first success.

Tom Thorne is a dedicated detective with plenty of personal baggage. He’s haunted by an old case, he’s still mourning the deaths of his mother and his marriage, he doesn’t exactly follow the rules and he’s attracted to the victim’s doctor whose friend may or may not be the prime suspect.

Interspersed with Thorne’s investigation are sections where the killer is followed but not identified. Even more interesting are the sections where the still living but unable to communicate victim has the chance to tell what is going on from her viewpoint and in her mind from her hospital bed.

My Thoughts:
I enjoy many British crime stories and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new to me series about which I’ve heard good things turned out to be something I just couldn’t resist.

Tom Thorne is the kind of protagonist I find in many of my favorite series. He’s a dedicated detective who takes justice for victims seriously and the rules of authority in the police bureaucracy not quite so seriously. He’s got a past that haunts him for several reasons, and while he is at times someone I may not like, I find him fascinating.

The story is an interesting psychological mystery and crime procedural. The killer is clearly a very twisted person and the idea that the victim who lived is the success rather than the mistake is creepy. Thorne hones in and locks on early on a prime suspect, but the authorities disagree with him. I couldn’t tell if this was going to be one of those stories where the detective going against the grain was going to be right or wrong. The clues and twists kept coming and I changed my mind several times along the way.

It turned out that I was right in my guess as to the outcome, but I was left unsure about that guess long enough to just enjoy the mystery and suspense as they played out.

I liked the way Billingham let Allison (the victim in the hospital) tell her part of the story in her own words. It was an interesting and well done element in the narrative.

A well done first novel and I’m looking forward to continuing with this series in preparation for reading Bloodline next summer.

Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #58

>> Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shaggy Mane Mushroom
in my front lawn

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Book reviews, well that would require finishing books

>> Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's not that I haven't been reading, but it's just that I haven't been reading as much as normal. There are book reviews coming eventually, but it requires me actually finishing a book or two.

It's just that busy time of year with football season taking up weekends and normal day to day errands getting pushed to weekdays.

It also has to do with the fact that I'm participating in a readalong of Lonesome Dove. Because of that, part of my normal reading routine is devoted to a book that I won't finish for several more weeks. I am absolutely loving Lonesome Dove, though. I've wanted to read this for years and I'm so glad the readalong has convinced me to actually start.

So, I'm still here, I'm busy, I'm reading and I'm still blogging, but just at a bit of a slower pace for a few weeks.

This is the time of year I relish the days that don't involve long To Do lists and allow me to just spend a few hours curled up with a book. I'm hoping today turns out to be one of those days. If all goes according to plan, I've got a couple of them on the way next weekend too.

 11/8/10 Editing this post to add more - based on the initial comments people seem to be under the impression that I'm not finishing books and posting reviews because I'm reading books I don't want to read or books I feel like I have to read.  Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth.  I love all the books I'm currently reading.  None of them feel like a chore or homework.  The reason I'm not posting more than one review a week these days is simply lack of reading TIME. Those pesky annoyances of work and sleeping and life in general are eating up my reading time.


Wordless Wednesday #57

>> Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Along the 804 trail (again)
Yachats, Oregon

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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

>> Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fiction
Series: #1 in the Seeds of America series
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 300
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #46
Source: Library

The Short Version:
The beginnings of the American Revolutionary War as told from the viewpoint of a young slave girl in New York.

Why I Read It:
I’ve heard such good things about the author's books that I wanted to read them and decided to start with her historical fiction books first.

The Book
Taking place between May of 1776 and January of 1777, the beginnings of the American Revolution are experienced by a thirteen year old slave.

Isabel and her younger sister Ruth were owned by a wealthy woman named Mary Finch in Rhode Island. Miss Finch had told Isabel that her will contained a provision that would grant Isabel and Ruth their freedom, but when Miss Finch’s nephew arrived to bury his aunt and settle her estate, he says there was no will and that Isabel and Ruth are now his property.

He takes the girls to New York where he and his wife live while supporting the British side in the revolution. The Locktons turn out to be the kind of owners who treat their slaves far worse than Miss Finch did. In fact, Mrs, Lockton is a rather cruel person. Isabel tries to cause no trouble out of fear that her younger sister will be unfairly punished. After a particularly awful turn of events, Isabel is desperate to get away from the Locktons and find a way to freedom.

While running errands as part of her duties, Isabel meets a young boy named Curzon who is a slave to a Patriot. Curzon encourages Isabel to share information she learns from the Tories at the Lockton home with the Patriots. In hopes that this will help her obtain her freedom (and Ruth’s) Isabel agrees to spy for the Patriots.

Caught between two sides of a revolution, Isabel seeks to gain freedom with the help of those seeking their own freedom from British rule.

My Thoughts:
Although I liked Anderson’s Fever 1793 well enough, it was targeted at a younger audience than I’d expected. This one is also targeted at a middle grade audience, but I found it to be more readable to an adult audience than Fever 1793.

I loved Isabel! She was a courageous, smart girl stuck in a situation with no clear way to find the best way out. Her previous owner had some unusual beliefs and so Isabel could read, but she was smart enough to not flaunt this ability.

The author did a wonderful job of portraying 1776 New York. Occupied by British Loyalists and the British army, the rebels both in and out of prison suffered. The conditions were terrible and even worse for slaves. Isabel had reason to believe promises from both British and Rebels that helping them could be her path to freedom, but she also had reason to mistrust both sides.

Ultimately it is her devotion to her sister and her sense of gratitude to Curzon that determine her actions.

I loved the way that the contradiction of the Americans fighting for their own freedom, yet denying that same right to their slaves is so well portrayed. Neither side could truly be trusted if you were a slave.

For a middle grade to YA book, I thought it was quite interesting and entertaining and I look forward to continuing with the planned trilogy. I’ll be requesting the second book (Forge) from my library soon.

Rating 3.5/5


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