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Wordless Wednesday #113

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tiny front yard resident

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Confessions of a Serial Reader – The Ones with Holiday Books

>> Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Confessions of a Serial Reader

Holiday themed entries in ongoing series are something that’s probably more common in cozy mysteries or non crime fiction type series. I’m always a little confused when the next book in a series is clearly holiday themed. Do I read it now or do I wait to read it between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?

I’ve never targeted a lot of holiday books for my November and December reading. I usually pick up one or two but that’s about it. I tend to seek out the next book in any given series whenever I have an urge to revisit that set of familiar characters and setting. Whether or not the book fits in the same season in which I’m reading it is not something I even think about. On the other hand, reading a Christmas themed book in the middle of the summer always seems a little ‘off’ to me. I usually just go ahead and read the book and sometimes it gives me the urge to listen to Christmas music in July but let’s let that be our little secret, OK?

Here are a few of my current series that feature a holiday entry somewhere along the way:

China Bayles by Susan Wittig Albert

Mistletoe Man takes place at Christmastime and the holiday preparations are more of a backdrop than an integral part of the story. I read this one on a beach in Mexico in March.

Holly Blues looks like another one that is set during the Christmas season. I haven’t read this one yet.

Aunt Dimity by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity’s Christmas has a pretty strong Christmas with family theme. I did read this on in December last year. A fairly predictable Christmas parable but enjoyable.

Elm Creek Quilts by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Christmas Quilt is another one that I haven’t read yet. This is a series I haven’t revisited for a long time but need to get back to. I’ve got several to read before I get to this one.

Serge Storms by Tim Dorsey

When Elves Attack is another one that I’m several books away from getting to any time soon, but I have to say that Serge Storms at Christmastime is something I’m looking forward to reading no matter what time of year I end up reading it. It may or may not be a true part of the series. The whole chronology of the series is rather vague anyway so I’m guessing it may work as a standalone.

Cedar Cove by Debbie Macomber

Macomber loves Christmas books so there are a couple in this series.

A Cedar Cove Christmas isn’t a true entry in the series but it’s an additional holiday book that fits squarly between the 8th and 9th books and introduces storylines continued in later books. I did read this one around Christmas a few years ago just because I knew it would be a feel good kind of book.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane is the final book in the series and is a fitting end to it in appropriate predictable mostly happy endings. I read this one in October and it definitely put me in a pre-holiday season mood.

Eve Dallas by J.D. Robb

Holiday in Death takes place at Christmastime, but I read this so long ago (pre-blogging days) that I don’t remember much detail.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Among the Mad takes place between Christmas Eve 1931 and New Year’s Day 1932. The holiday season is important to the story because it is such a difficult time for war veterans.

I’m sure I missed some but these are the ones I know of from the series I’m currently reading.

What are your thoughts on holiday themed series books? Do you try to read them around the holidays or does it not matter to you? What are some other holiday entries in series that I’ve missed?


Short Story Monday – “Blue Horses” and “The Ballad of Duane Juarez” by Tom Franklin

>> Monday, November 28, 2011

I’m in the midst of reading my way through a short story collection by Tom Franklin. I love the way he can make a sad or even brutal story into a thing of beauty

Today I’m talking about two more stories from Poachers.

Blue Horses and The Ballad of Duane Juarez by Tom Franklin
Part of the Collection Poachers
Published: 1999

Blue Horses features two men on a mission of mercy take something important to a dying friend. A brief respite in an imaginary world is better than reality for all three of them for a few moments.

In The Ballad of Duane Juarez, Duane is divorced, unemployed and fairly dependent on his wealthy brother. Duane takes on various day jobs for his brother in return for being allowed to stay in one of the many houses his brother owns. The latest 'job' is a little disturbing, but then again, so is Duane.

These are both rather dark, depressive and slightly disturbing stories, but in Tom Franklin's able hands they are also full of sharp and moody images painted with words. Franklin has the ability to make you see and feel the stories both with what he writes and what he leaves you to fill in on your own.

Short Story Mondays is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.


Happy Thanksgiving

>> Thursday, November 24, 2011

Because my sister-in-law is way better at this than I am, I'm borrowing her decorations from last year to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Wordless Wednesday #112

>> Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Core Sample Time Line in the Washington Park Light Rail Station
Portland, Oregon

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Short Story Monday – Shubuta and Triathlon by Tom Franklin

>> Monday, November 21, 2011

Last week I started reading the stories in Poachers by Tom Franklin. He’s been a favorite author of mine for several years now. I just love the combination of moodiness and imagery that he can convey with words. Even when the story itself is raw and brutal, the way he writes can make it beautiful.

Today I’m talking about two more stories from this collection

Shubuta and Triathlon by Tom Franklin
Part of the Collection Poachers
Published: 1999

In Shubuta, Franklin uses that town in Mississippi as a background for a story of love gone wrong. The storyteller’s girlfriend has left him. His uncle is dying but still carries pain from the woman he loved and quickly lost many years ago. The story includes many other examples of lost love and the pain it causes.

It’s a mournful story with incredible images and feelings expertly written. The occasional touches of wit make it real.

Triathlon is a story of a man and how he ended up in a doomed marriage. His failed attempts to settle down are derailed by his friend Bruce, who never will settle down. Bruce blows through his life just often enough to stir up trouble. Their escapes from the pressures of expectations are some of their brightest and most memorable moments.

Tom Franklin writes stories that are not easily summed up but contain the kind of images and feelings that linger long after you stop reading.

Short Story Mondays is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.


Weekend Update: November 20, 2011

>> Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Update
Since my last update:

It’s been a busy week with very little reading time. I’m actually a bit stunned at how few pages I’ve read since last week. I’m still reading and enjoying Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell. It’s a very interesting story about a major diamond theft, but I’ve only been able to get a few minutes here and there to read any of it. Hope that changes soon.

I’m still listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (read by Wil Wheaton). This is such a fun book. It’s definitely a bit of a departure from routine for me, but it’s a very entertaining listen.

I read the first story in Poachers by Tom Franklin for last week’s Short Story Monday. Look for another one from this book for tomorrow.

Other than books and reading:

In case you missed it I’m going to put in another plug for my Thursday post about the stairs at the Multnomah County Library Central Branch. It’s one of the thinks I love about stopping in at that branch after work. I posted a preview photo on Wednesday, but this post has the full story.

I’m still working on the baby sweater but I started a new knitting class this week. I’m making my very first socks. The class is teaching the magic loop technique rather than using double point needles. I’m having fun but ‘homework’ for this class took priority over the baby sweater this week, I need to be ready to srart the heel by Tuesday night. I’m just thrilled that it’s actually looking like a sock!

New on my shelves and lists:

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle
 Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle
This is one of those books that keeps popping up and catching my attention. I figured it was about time I officially added it to the TBR list.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
 The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Meghan at Medieval Bookworm posted about this one this week and it sounded quite interesting.

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Library Stairs

>> Thursday, November 17, 2011

Central Library

Yes, I'm posting about a stairway.
Central Library Doorway

It's the main stairway at the Central branch of the Multnomah County Oregon Library. It's also one of the reasons I truly enjoy stopping by this branch after work before I catch a train to the suburbs.

Warning: photo heavy post ahead

Main Stairway

This is the what you see as you walk into the main doors. What you don't notice right away is that the stairs are granite etched with intricate designs. At first you see the designs but as you walk up the stairs you start to notice that there are words as well as pictures in the design.

So you go back down to the bottom and start again. Not all of the risers have words and they're not all in the same place (some are on the edges others are in the center).


You get to the top and realize you've missed a few, so you go back to the bottom and start up again. Of course by now, you're getting odd looks from a few of the patrons and odd yet understanding looks from the library staff.



The lighting isn't the greatest and you're taking photos with your iphone while trying not to block traffic and get the photos without so much glare that they're completely unreadable, but by now you're on a mission.



So you keep going up and down, side to side not caring if you're getting stared at because, after all, this is PORTLAND for Pete's sake! There are people doing much weirder things than this outside and more than likely somewhere inside the library too.



As you get closer to the landing you start to think this is too weird, no one is going to be interested in this as a blog post, but then you think, what the heck, you think it's cool, so there might be someone else out there who thinks so too.



The words start to really sink in and you realize that they are perfect. These are all the things that books allow you to do and encourage you to do.

But then you get home and discover that because of all the up and down and side to side while taking the pictures that you've lost track of the order the photos and words should be in when you put together the blog post.

Luckily there is a handy online "Email a Librarian" button on the library website. So you fire off an email that starts out "I know this is an odd question" and ask if there's a list of the words on the stairs listed in order somewhere or if that information is available. You get a response within a couple of hours from a nice library staff member who says "I did not find a list, but it was a good opportunity for me to go out and actually look at the stairs." and you kind of fall in love with your library and its staff all over again.

So here's the list (read it from the bottom up). I just think it's a great way to say what books mean to me.



Wordless Wednesday #111

>> Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Multnomah County Central Library Stairs
(come back tomorrow for more)

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The What’s in a Name 5 Challenge

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I stopped participating in nearly all blogger reading challenges a couple of years ago. There is one exception to my ‘no challenges’ rule. It’s the What’s in a Name Challenge. Originally hosted by Annie, it’s been hosted for the past couple of years by the wonderful Beth Fish Reads. It’s now the one and only blog reading challenge I join. The reason is that it’s just a ton of fun.

Here’s how it works.
Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Other Things to Know
  • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
  • Books may overlap other challenges.
  • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
  • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
  • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

I’ve already been scanning my To Be Read list and have several options for most of the categories. I’m not committing to anything yet. In fact, I still have two books to read to complete this year’s What’s in a Name Challenge. Nevertheless, I’m already looking forward to next year.

Here are some of the books I'm considering for each category.

Topographical Feature
Pig Island by Mo Hayder
Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
Island of the Lost by Joan Druett
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman edited because a river is a water feature not a land formation . . . duh!

Something in the Sky
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Creepy Crawly (this will likely be my toughest category, I might have to break my never read a series book out of order rule)
The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout

Type of House
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Something in a Pocket
Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber

Something on a Calendar
Murder on a Bad Hair Day by Anne George
A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton

One of the great things about this challenge is the flexibility. The categories are interesting, yet they are designed to allow some flexibility and creativity in choosing book titles that fit.

If you’re interested in joining the fun, head on over to Beth Fish Reads and sign up.


Short Story Monday – Grit by Tom Franklin

>> Monday, November 14, 2011

Today I’m kicking off a new short story collection. This is a collection of ten stories that has been around for a few years but I’m just getting around to reading it. I became a fan of Tom Franklin after reading Hell at the Breech which I call a brutal story that’s beautifully told. His most recent book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is also excellent but in many ways is a very different book, although also beautifully told. Poachers is a collection of ten stories that I’ll be reading and talking about over the next several weeks.

Grit by Tom Franklin
Part of the Collection Poachers
Published: 1999

I was already a fan of Tom Franklin before I even picked up this book but even without that pre-existing fan status I believe this book is worth a look.

In the introduction, Franklin gives the reader a bit of his own history and the area where he grew up that he considers ‘his South”. If you haven’t read his work before it provides a context for his stories by understanding the people and places he grew up with.

In the first story Grit, Franklins taps into his own history for the setting. He spent some time working at a sandblasting grit factory and just such a factory in Alabama is the setting for this story.

Glen is the factory manager and with 4 ex-wives worth of alimony and a gambling problem eating up his income he really doesn’t need any complications in his life. He’s told by the company owners in Detroit that in a cost-cutting measure he needs to eliminate the two employees who work the night shift and cut the factory back to day shift only. Glen doesn’t really have any qualms about one of the men he has to let go, but the second one is a bit more complicated. That’s because Roy is also the man Glen owes money to for his gambling debts. Rather than accept the layoff, Roy proposes a counteroffer to Glen. It doesn’t take long before Glen’s life is far more complicated and dangerous than he’d ever anticipated.

The moodiness of the setting in the factory at night casts such an atmosphere over this whole story. That’s what I love about Tom Franklin’s writing, you not only get the story but you also get the full background image and feeling that goes with it.

This one is dark, dangerous, disturbing and has a nice light touch of twisted humor that shows up in a few places.

I’m glad I finally started this collection of stories.

Short Story Mondays is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.


Weekend Update: November 13, 2011

>> Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Update
Since my last update:

I finished Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil by Nancy Atherton. It wasn’t a favorite of the series for me but it was still an enjoyable book and took care of another category for the What’s in a Name 4 challenge. My current book also qualifies for that challenge. I started Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell. I remember reading positive reviews of this one when it first came out and have had a copy on my shelf for a while now but the fact that it fits for the Jewelry/Gem category prompted me to finally start reading it.

Yes I’m still listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (read by Wil Wheaton). I only listen when I’m in the car by myself so it takes me a while to get through audiobooks. This one is just great. I’m enjoying all the 1980’s pop culture references and as the story continues the adventure just continues to build.

I need to pick a short story to read for tomorrow’s Short Story Monday. Maybe it’s time to finally pull Poachers by Tom Franklin off the shelf and start that

Other than books and reading:

My three week knitting class is officially over but I’m not done with the baby sweater yet. I finished the body and border and I’m ready to start the first sleeves. My instructor works at the yarn shop on Sundays so I plan on stopping by there this afternoon so I can get her help on the next step.

I start a new three week class on Tuesday. I’ll be making socks out of this:

We typically have a wind/rainstorm blow through just before the fall leaves get to their prettiest but this year the storms held off a bit and the maple trees on our street were just gorgeous when the sun came out earlier this week.

Of course on Friday the aforementioned storm blew through and they don’t quite look like that any more.

New on my shelves and lists:

Double Exposure by Michael Lister
 Double Exposure by Michael Lister
This one is all the fault of Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts. I have absolutely no willpower when she tells me she really enjoyed a book.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
 The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
I’d been considering this one anyway but then I somehow won a copy from Jenn’s Bookshelves Indie Thursday weekly celebration of Independent Bookstores.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
 11/22/63 by Stephen King
I was a loyal Stephen King fan for years but for a variety of reasons I hadn’t read much of his recent work. This one was already on my radar anyway, but I was able to get it from I still don’t really understand or even care about Klout but I’m glad they gave me a copy of the book.

I also removed the Books Purchased in 2011 tab from the blog. It was kind of an experiment this year anyway and I decided I didn't want to continue it. I'm thinking about a couple of possible replacements for that page for next year. Maybe I'll finally get my review index organized . . . or not.

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil by Nancy Atherton

>> Friday, November 11, 2011

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil by Nancy Atherton

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: #6 in the Aunt Dimity Series
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 245
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A semi-gothic cozy mystery of ghosts, romance and family secrets has Lori Shepherd in a remote village near Scotland and wrapped up in mysteries a bit deeper than she expected.

Why I Read It:
This is a cozy mystery series that I enjoy returning to every once in a while and this one fit nicely into the ‘evil’ category for the What’s in a Name 4 Challenge.

The Book:
Lori Shepherd travels from her cozy home in the Cotswolds to inventory a book collection at Wyrdhurst Hall in Northumberland. The Hall and its book collection are now the property of newlyweds Nicole and Jared Hollander. Lori leaves her toddler twins with her devoted husband and heads north on her own. A washed out road near her destination is only the beginning of her troubles. Soon she is wrapped up in a mystery of a ghostly nature that is connected to a WWI era forbidden romance.

Lori is no stranger to ghosts as she’s used to communicating with her deceased Aunt Dimity via an old blue journal in which Dimity’s words appear. This time around however, the ghostly presence may not be as friendly. The villagers say Wyrdhurst Hall is haunted, Nicole is afraid of the noises she hears and the things she sees, her husband is only interested in the value of the antiquities with which he seeks to decorate the hall. Even more concerning is that Dimity manages to make it clear that Lori may be in danger if she stays at Wyrdhurst Hall.

Complicating matters are the handsome neighbor Lori finds herself attracted to and the multiple secrets that begin to come to light.

My Thoughts:
Usually in this series, Aunt Dimity is the only ghostly presence as she writes to Lori via the old blue journal. This time around, however, there is at least one other ghost involved in the story. The long abandoned Wyrdhurst Hall is a perfect setting for a story that involves a forbidden romance and family secrets long hidden.

My thoughts about this series are hard to explain. The main character, Lori is really not my favorite character at all. I enjoy the ghostly character of Aunt Dimity much more. I even like Lori’s husband Bill much more than Lori. In this book, Bill is pretty much a non-presence as he stays at home with the children.

Lori is a bit too easily attracted to men who are not her husband. Granted, in this case there are influences beyond her control that are a factor in that attraction, but I was glad that even Aunt Dimity called her on it.

This is a fun series and I like that one of the best parts of it is the very dead Aunt Dimity. This particular installment was entertaining enough and I liked it but it was definitely not among my favorite books in the series. I’m hoping that the series takes Lori back home to her family and the familiar secondary characters in the next book.

3 Rating 3/5


Wordless Wednesday #110

>> Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In my front yard

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