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Wordless Wednesday #124

>> Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the beach
Ixtapa, Mexico

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Weekend Update February 25, 2012

>> Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Update

Some of this . . .
Ixtapa beach

Some of this . . .
Bucket o'Beer

and a few of these . . . .
Hail to the Chef by Julie HyzyA Good American by Alex George

The Dispatcher by Ryah David JahnBlue Monday by Nicci French

Plus a bit of this . . .
Villa de la Selva

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Wordless Wednesday #123

>> Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sunset just north of Pacific City, Oregon

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Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

>> Monday, February 20, 2012

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 358
Source: Copy provided by publisher through Bookbrowse

The Short Version:
Successful Hollywood composer returns to Yorkshire after the death of his wife and becomes fascinated (or obsessed?) with a murder that happened more than 50 years ago in the house he’s bought.

Why I Read It:
I have been a fan of Robinson’s Inspector Banks series for years. When I found out that his newest book was a standalone mystery I knew I’d read it as soon as I could.

The Book:
Christopher Lowndes has had a successful career in Hollywood composing award winning movie scores. After the death of his wife he returns to England. He buys a house in Yorkshire, where he grew up. It’s an old mansion with a history. Part of that history is an infamous murder. Grace Fox was young and beautiful and she was hanged for the murder of her much older husband.

As Chris tries to settle in to both the village and his life alone he begins to feel as if the eerie feelings he’s having have something to do with Grace Fox and the murder. He begins to ask questions and investigate what happened so many years ago.

Before long he is accused of being somewhat obsessed with the Grace Fox case and his search for evidence of her innocence. The more questions he asks and the more information he finds, the darker and more confusing become the long held secrets.

As Chris seeks the truth about Grace, he also must face some truths about himself in order to move on with his life in his new home.

My Thoughts:
Having been a fan of Robinson’s Inspector Banks series for years, I expected to like this standalone mystery. I was not disappointed at all. The format of telling the story of the present day investigation while telling the historical part of the story through excerpts from books and from Grace Fox’s own diary works well. It’s a mystery but it’s also about relationships, guilt, and a bit of a history lesson added to the mix.

Kilnsgate House is almost a character in this book. It’s a big old drafty and dark character. Although plenty of the story takes place elsewhere, it is Kilnsgate House that holds the key and is where Chris feels his connection with Grace. I could see much of this story playing out in my head as an old black and white film from the glamour days of Hollywood. Naturally the character of Chris and his connection to the film industry plays into that imagery, but it’s helped along by the films and music he watches and listens to throughout the book. The musical references are tossed in throughout and I need to go back through the book and make notes of them.

Robinson takes a break from procedurals and scores a win with this one. The story kept me guessing and the musical references made me wish there was a playlist available.

The US edition of this one is on sale tomorrow. Do yourself a favor and get to your local bookstore to get it. If you’re a fan of the Inspector Banks series you’ll like the change of pace. If you haven’t read Peter Robinson’s work before, give this one a try and then go back to read the Inspector Banks series from the beginning.

4 stars Rating 5/5


Weekend Update February 19, 2012

>> Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:

I finished Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown this week. It was a mix of historical fiction and crime fiction. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think I was more intrigued by the secondary stories than I was by the primary story.

From there I moved into straight historical fiction and started The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great. I’ve been fascinated with Russian imperial history ever since I read Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra many many years ago. I have Massie’s biography of Catherine on my shelf but wanted to read the historical fiction one first. So far, I’m liking it a lot.

I had a road trip to Olympia, Washington last Sunday so I had several hours of quality audiobook time to spend with New Tricks by David Rosenfelt which was read by Grover Gardner. I finished it on Friday. It’s always tricky to switch to audio partway through a series. You take the chance that the narrator is totally wrong compared to how the characters sounded in your head when you were reading the paper editions. I have to say that Grover Gardner is great for this series and audio may become my preferred format for this one.

My new audiobook is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, read by Rebecca Lowman. I’m nearly done with the first cd and so far I’m loving it.

Other than books and reading:

As I mentioned I spent Sunday on the road to meet some friends for lunch and several hours of chatting with a couple of dear friends. We meet in Olympia because it’s halfway between my house and the friend who lives farthest north. Doesn’t everyone routinely drive 2 and a half hours for a lunch date? I really like the way the old downtown part of Olympia looks.
Downtown Olympia

Also, our backyard has been hosting some sort of small bird convention this week.
bird convention

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown

>> Friday, February 17, 2012

Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown

Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Crime Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 257
Source: Copy provided by publisher

The Short Version:
Mid-17th century crime fiction highlighting the law charging unwed mothers with murder for concealing the death of a newborn.

Why I Read It:
It sounded like an intriguing combination of crime fiction and historical fiction.

The Book:
In mid-17th Century England the law calls for any unwed woman who conceals the death of her illegitimate infant to presumed to have murdered the child.

Rachel Lockyer works in a glove makers shop. When her employer finds her burying something in the woods and later discovers the body of an infant, Rachel comes under the scrutiny of criminal Investigator Thomas Bartwain. It is his job to determine if Rachel's case should go to trial.

The story of his investigation and subsequent trial follows not only Rachel and the investigator but also the leaders of a political group called "Levellers' that Rachel met through her brother. Rachel's love story plays out amid the background of the turbulent times following the execution of Charles I when Cromwell and the army ruled England.

My Thoughts:
I enjoy a bit of historical fiction in between my many crime fiction books and this one was an intriguing mix of both. It took me a while to get fully involved in the story but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Part of the reason is that Rachel is in many ways a pawn of both the legal system and the political agenda of the Levellers.

I liked Bartwain's wife and the way she kept prodding her husband to question the decisions he felt he had to make. His development was a very interesting part of the story to me. Although this book is presented as Rachel’s story I found the storyline of her investigator to be the most interesting part.

The women in this story are strong, yet limited by society and the law. This part of the book is what I think would make it an excellent book club choice. While it takes place over 300 years ago there is much in this book that can be discussed in terms of present day issues.

I enjoyed the historical context of the story and it prompted me to seek out more information about the Levellers and some of the characters based on real people. I consider that to be a positive feature of a historical novel. Again the comparison to present day political movements would make for good discussion.

The mystery of what really happened to the child is finally revealed but to me the bigger and more interesting part of the story was already over. I’d call this one historical fiction with a side of legal thriller.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5


Wordless Wednesday #122

>> Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fishing boat off the Oregon Coast

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Confessions of a Serial Reader – The Ones We Take on Vacation

>> Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Confessions of a Serial Reader

I don’t really stick to any specific series, genre or book type when I go on vacation. My only rule about books and vacation is to take at least three times more than I could possibly read. I like to be prepared for a sudden swing in my reading mood depending on the weather, plans for the day or a sudden whimpulse to read something different than what is currently in my hand. This is much easier to do when we take a vacation that involves driving to our destination. When we fly somewhere I always take a few paper books but I have to be honest that this is when I really do love that we both have nooks. I don't have to try to take just books we'll both read. In the days of stricter size and weight limits for luggage and fees for everything, an e-reader keeps me from having to make that horrible choice of “This book or those shoes but not both”.

Out of curiosity I browsed our reading lists for the past few years to see if there was any sort of pattern or series that showed up in our vacation reading choices so I could make sure I had the right mix on the nooks before our next vacation.

Both The Hubster and I read plenty of non-series books on vacation but there are a few series that we clearly turn to again and again when we’re going to spend several days sitting, reading and watching the ocean. Series can be nice to take for vacation because it’s a bit of a known quantity before you even open the book.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series
Killing Floor by Lee Child
I think it’s the combination of fast paced action and books that we like to read in a few settings instead of a chapter or two here and there that makes this a go to vacation series for us. Besides Reacher is a character that both women and men can like.

Tim Dorsey’s Serge Storms series
Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey
This series makes great vacation fare. Noting about it can be taken seriously and the madcap craziness and laughs are great for reading in a relaxed atmosphere.

David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series
Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
These are fun quick and quick witted mysteries with enough laughs mixed in that they don’t break the spell of the relaxation mode. I’ve switched to audio for this series so it probably won’t show up on my vacation mix unless it’s one that is ‘next in the series’ for both of us and we’re driving to our destination.

For me the need for something out of the light fiction, historical fiction or cozy mystery realm is always necessary to have in the mix when packing for vacation.

Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove and Blossom Street series
1105 Yakima StreetSummer on Blossom Street

The Cedar Cove series has been a summer vacation staple for me for the past few years but I’ve finished that series so may focus on catching up with her Blossom Street series now.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' Moreland Dynasty Series
 The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Last year I started Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ Moreland Dynasty series on our vacation. That was a good fit and I’ve already got the second book on my shelf.

Julie Hyzy's White House Chef series
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
I want to get caught up on this series this year so I should probably make sure I have at least one with me on vacation.

What about you? Do you have series that you prefer to read when you’re in more relaxed setting and away from your normal day to day routine? Do you prefer certain genres or types of books for vacation reading?


Weekend Update February 12, 2012

>> Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:

We had a fabulous weekend at the coast with friends last weekend, but that also meant not a lot of reading time.
beach sunset

I finished Missing Persons by Clare O’Donohue and liked it a lot. This is the first in a new to me series. The second will be out later this spring and I will definitely be on the lookout for it.

I started Accieents of Providence by Stacia Brown which is a historical fiction set in 1649 London.

I finished listening to The Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler. It was a fun adventure romp with the typical Cussler over the top but fun story. Scott Brick’s narration has made me a convert to audio for the two Cussler series I read.

I started listening to New Tricks by David Rosenfelt. I’ve read the first six in this series so making the jump to audio was a risk. Andy Carpenter is one of my favorite characters. You never know how the narrator’s voice and characterizations will match up or clash with the voice you’ve created in your head. I can tell you that by midway through the first CD I’m quite happy with the way that Grover Gardner reads this series and voices Andy Carpenter. . I have a road trip today and I’m definitely looking forward to spending several hours with Grover Gardner and Andy Carpenter.

Other than books and reading:

waves at sunset

We had a wonderful weekend getaway at the Oregon coast last weekend. We somehow lucked out and had amazing near record weather.
Tierra del Mar waves

I don’t think I’ve ever walked on the beach barefoot in Oregon in February before. We had a fun and relaxing weekend and are already planning a rerun for next January or February.
Pacific City Haystack Rock

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Audiobook – The Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler

>> Friday, February 10, 2012

The Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler

The Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler

Genre: Adventure
Series: #19 in the Dirk Pitt Series
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Scott Brick
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Classic Cussler adventure story with Dirk Pitt and his team against a power hungry maniac who wants to be a modern day Genghis Khan.

Why I Read It:
I’ve been reading this series for years and I still enjoy the heck out of it.

The Book:
From the Publisher:
Genghis Khan-the greatest conqueror of all time, who, at his peak, ruled an empire that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. His conquests are the stuff of legend, his tomb a forgotten mystery. Until now.

When Dirk Pitt is nearly killed rescuing an oil survey team from a freak wave on Russia's Lake Baikal, it appears a simple act of nature. When the survey team is abducted and Pitt's research vessel nearly sunk, however, it's obvious there's something more sinister involved. All trails lead to Mongolia, and a mysterious mogul who is conducting covert deals for supplying oil to the Chinese while wreaking havoc on global oil markets utilizing a secret technology. The Mongolian harbors a dream of restoring the conquests of his ancestors, and holds a dark secret about Genghis Khan that just might give him the wealth and power to make that dream come true.

From the frigid lakes of Siberia to the hot sands of the Gobi Desert, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino find intrigue, adventure, and peril while collecting clues to the mysterious treasure of Xanadu. But first, they must keep the tycoon from murder-and the unleashing of a natural disaster of calamitous proportions.

My Thoughts:
I’ve enjoyed this adventure series for years. Ever since I first read Raise the Titanic, I’ve been a Dirt Pitt fan. The adventures are always over the top and unrealistic but they’re always downright fun.

Every book starts out with a prologue from the past, then really kicks off in the present day. There is always some power hungry maniac who wants to take over the world in some way. This time around it’s a Mongolian decendant of someone from the prologue who is out to cause havoc in the oil market and make is fortune and restore Mongolia to it’s 12th and 13th century heyday all at the same time.

Think of is as a Saturday afternoon black and white adventure movie in book form. Add in plenty of technical mumbo jumbo, enough underwater action to make fit within the realm of Pitt’s National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) despite the fact that much of it takes place in Mongolia and the Gobi desert.

I’m so glad I’ve switched to audio for this and the other Cussler series I read (the Kurt Austin series). Scott Brick does a wonderful job with the characters and the feel and tone of the story. I will be unlikely to return to written format for either of these series because of his talent as a narrator.

Rating 3.5/5

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.


Missing Persons by Clare O'Donohue

>> Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Missing Persons by Clare O'Donohue

Genre: Crime Fiction
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 280
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Freelance Television producer Kate Conway works on a show that investigates a missing young woman while at the same time she’s a suspect in her soon to be ex-husband’s death.

Why I Read It:
I saw some info about upcoming second book in this series that caught my interest, so I decided to read the first to see what it was like.

The Book:
Kate Conway is a free lance television producer. She currently working on a true crime news magazine type show. She's in the middle of a rather messy divorce when she gets a couple of surprise phone calls.

One is an offer to work on a new TV series called Missing Persons which will focus on average people who have disappeared. The first show will focus on a 22 year old Chicago woman who disappeared a year ago.

The other phone call is from Kate's soon to be ex-husband's girlfriend, Vera (the woman with whom he was cheating on Kate). Vera tells Kate that Frank is in the hospital after collapsing mysteriously after playing basketball. Frank's death from an apparent heart attack stuns both women. When an autopsy reveals that the cause of death might not be so simple, Kate finds herself on the other side of the interview table and being questioned by the police. She has no idea who may have had a hand in Frank's death beyond knowing she didn't do it.

Her investigative reporter approach to the disappearance of young Theresa Moretti soon coincides with looking into what really happened to Frank. Kate's not sure who to believe in either investigation.

My Thoughts:
I liked this one a lot and I will most definitely be getting the next Kate Conway book. The TV investigative type show works well as a venue for an amateur sleuth. The double storylines of Theresa's disappearance and Frank's death keep lots of potential suspects in the mix until the very end. The parts that are predictable are well balanced by the parts that are not.

I liked Kate and I also liked the two guys who work with her on the TV show. They're fun characters who work well with that of Kate and the freelance aspect of their work opens them up for a variety of scenarios and settings as the series continues (and I hope it will).

Kate's relationship with Frank's girlfriend and his parents as they all deal with their grief and the police investigation is realistically messy. Kate suspects Vera but at the same time finds herself unable to dislike her.

Grief is also a key in the Theresa Moretti case. Her mother insists she's still alive, other friends have gone on with thier lives, and it seems like everyone is holding back some bit of truth about events that led up to Theresa's disappearance.

The television production approach to the investigation makes it a nice change from a classic police procedural.

I'm looking forward to the second book in this series and hoping that it continues beyond that.

4 stars Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #121

>> Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dogs . . . Love . . . The Beach

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Music to Read By

>> Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Do you listen to music while you read or work? For years I have not. I have preferred no music playing while I read or work but lately that has changed. Perhaps a bit of late onset ADD or maybe I’m just more easily distracted lately for a variety of reasons. No matter what the reason I’ve been seeking recommendations lately for music that I can play while reading or working that won’t be distracting.

Over the past few months I have been less able to just sit and read for long periods of time. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with my book choices. I’m reading great books. It’s my brain that gets distracted. I can find a reason every few minutes to take a break for a gazillion reasons. I check email, check Twitter, play a game of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, Look out the window to see what the kids in the playground are up to or pretty much anything for a minute or two before returning to my book.

I have discovered that for the first time since college, background music helps me focus. This is weird because it’s truly not been true since I got out of grad school. However, there are some major restrictions.

  • No words – I tend to sing along or pay more attention to the words in the song instead of the words on the page
  • Nothing too jittery or nervous sounding
  • I’m not a jazz fan
  • Some classical stuff works but some of it is sleep inducing and therefore defeats the purpose
  • Instrumental versions of common songs don’t work well because my brain starts filling in the lyrics

I put out the word on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and have added some music to my reading and working playlist that has made a great difference and I actually enjoy listening to this as background music.

One friend recommended Explosions in the Sky.

Well first of all, they get an “A” for great band name. Secondly, their music was often used in the show Friday Night Lights. I loved that show and the music. I have now added most of their CDs to my Reading and Working playlist and it’s perfect for what I need. The first evening The Hubster came home and I had their music playing I didn’t tell him what I was listening to. Pretty soon he said “This sounds very Friday Night Lights”. Ten points for The Hubster!
If you’re a fan of the show or just want some good background music you might want to give them a try.

Another friend recommended Christopher O’Riley.

He is a classical pianist who has two CD of his own arrangements of Radiohead songs. Yeah it sound weird, and it sort of violates my ‘instrumental versions of songs I know don’t work’ rule, but it actually works for me as good background music. If you like piano background music you should give these a try.

That’s as far as my music exploration has gone so far, but I will likely be trying more options and sharing more music to read by as I find choices that work for me. Another twitter friend has suggested music with lyrics that are in a language that I do not know. I hadn’t considered that but it might work and I’ll be trying out some options with Spotify soon.

Do you listen to music when you read or work? What’s your favorite background music?


Weekend Update February 4, 2012

>> Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:

It seems like the hectic pace is going to be the status quo for a while but I’m managing to carve out a bit of reading time when I can. It’s not nearly as much as I’d like but such is life.

I’m finished Pronto by Elmore Leonard and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a fan of he TV show Justified I was curious to find out how the character of Raylan Givens in the book compared to the TV show. I can happily say that I can totally see and hear Timothy Olyphant as Raylan while reading it.

I started Missing Persons by Clare O’Donohue and so far I’m liking it a lot. The main character is a TV producer for crime based news magazine type shows. In the early chapters of the book her soon to be ex-husband dies and she finds herself under suspicion for his death.

I’m on the last CD of The Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler. I’ll definitely be finishing this up this week and it’s been a fun adventure story and exactly what I expect from the Cusslers. Scott Brick makes the audio versions of these books quite enjoyable. I have several audiobooks clamoring for my attention so picking out my next one might be a tough choice.

Other than books and reading:

We had a rough week at our house. We had to say goodbye to our elder cat. Phoebe was nearly 15 years old and the first pet The Hubster and I adopted together. Her nickname remained “baby girl” until the very end.
Sometimes doing the right thing really sucks. We’re going to miss her. Howie is going to miss her a lot. This is the first time since we’ve been married that we only have one cat. I’m sure we’ll be getting Howie a cat later this spring or summer because he does not do ‘alone’ well at all and becomes his own crime spree.

We’re spending this weekend at the Oregon Coast with some friends. It’s nice to take a couple of days away for a getaway like this. The weather is absolutely amazing for February so I hope it holds up for the rest of the weekend.

These are just a couple of photos off the phone from when we arrived last night. I have a feeling some of the ones I took with the camera will be showing up for upcoming Wordless Wednesday photos.

Hope you're having a great weekend!!


Pronto by Elmore Leonard

>> Friday, February 3, 2012

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

Pronto by Elmore Leonard

Genre: Crime Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 198
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
Raylan Givens’ first appearance is completely in line with the character as portrayed in the TV show Justified and his trip to Italy is both thrilling and hilarious.

Why I Read It:
I’ve been a fan of the TV show Justified since the very first episode. Raylan Givens as portrayed by Timothy Olyphant is one of my favorite television characters. I decided I wanted to read about him as he was originally created by Elmore Leonard before the TV show existed.

The Book:
This is the first time the character of Raylan Givens appears in an Elmore Leonard story.

From the publisher:

The feds want Miami bookmaker Harry Arno to squeal on his wiseguy boss. So they’re putting word out on the street that Arno’s skimming profits from “Jimmy Cap” Capotorto—which he is, but everybody does it. Harry was planning to retire to Italy someday anyway, so he figures now’s a good time to get lost. U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens knows Harry’s tricky—the bookie ditched him once in an airport while in the marshal’s custody—but not careful. So Raylan’s determined to find the fugitive’s Italian hideaway before cold-blooded Sicilian “Zip” whacks Arno just for fun. It’s a “pride thing” . . .

My Thoughts:
Whether you’re a fan of the TV show Justified or not this is an enjoyable story. It’s the first time I’ve read anything by Elmore Leonard and I promise you it won’t be the last.

Raylan Givens is a great character but he’s not the only one in this book. Harry, Jimmy Cap and Zip are all both dangerous and hilarious at the same time. I was pleased to see that in the book because one of the things I enjoy about Justified is the way it can be serious, dangerous and suspenseful but at the same time make me laugh out loud.

Raylan’s unsanctioned journey to Italy to find Harry really takes him out of his comfort zone. Nevertheless he’s still very much Raylan and takes the local criminals by surprise because he’s definitely not what they’re used to. His primary goal is to get Harry back to the US because he cannot stand that Harry got away from him not once but twice.

Harry’s girlfriend Joyce is also intrigued by Raylan, but at the same time she doesn’t want Harry killed and does what she can to keep him from being a complete idiot. This is not easy because even though Harry has been running a successful bookmaking operation for years, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I will definitely be reading the other books and stories by Elmore Leonard that feature Raylan Givens and will likely take a look at some of his other work. I really enjoy the combination of suspenseful crime story with fun characters and some laugh out loud moments to balance the tension.

I absolutely recommend this one for every one and hightly recommend it for fans of Justified.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5


Wordless Wednesday #120

>> Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mt.Hood with Lenticular Clouds

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