Monday, August 31, 2009

Guest Review: Carbs and Cadavers

As you probably know, my sister, Tina (TUTU) has headed off to Europe on a cruise with her sweetie, Bob. (Last cruise I was her cabin mate, oh, how we fall out of grace.)

So when I visited her last month I perused all her shelves and stole this book to read and in her place will leave a review. (Maybe if I do a good job, she’ll take me next time.)

Carbs & Cadavers

Author: J. B Stanley

Category: Cozy Mystery

Pages: 257

The Supper Club Mysteries starts with this book and is extremely entertaining. The entire premise, and one I find hits too close to home, is a group of "fatties" joining together to support each other as they try to lose weight. They title themselves the FLAB FIVE.

James Henry, the main character, is a divorced former professor from Wm & Mary who has an addiction to Cheese puffs and is carrying 50 lbs. of extra weight. He has returned home to Quincy Gap to care for his elderly father after his mother's death. James gets a job as a librarian and settles into what he considers a boring life which only drives him to his addiction more often than not. He feels friendless and alone so when the opportunity to make new friends and lose a few extra pounds is presented to him, he jumps at the chance not knowing what he is getting himself into.

At their first meeting, they are all distracted by sirens (one member works for the local sheriff) and plunge themselves into an investigation of the events. Working together to both solve the mystery and lose weight, the dieters are melded together into close friends and band together to catch the killer.

The story is well-written and highly amusing with tales of diet cheating and buttons popping. I was completely engrossed in the story so I didn’t have to worry about a “Cheese Puff Attack”. As a fellow dieter, my interest was held as to their progress and their setbacks along with the mystery. I look forward to a second helping - pun intended.

So if you liked my review, come see me at ">Cheli's Shelves.

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Books are everywhere

I don't think I'm going to be able to marry up the picture with this's too hard typing on a blackberry, but the bb machine is taking great pictures and getting them back in emails/inet posts very efficiently and very cheaply (like free). So you should soon see a picture of the coolest table and chairs I've seen in a long time. This here in a little alcove in the library on the cruise ship. I really want to pack it in my suitcase and take it home....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Favorites from the Past: The Thorn Birds

This one of those big wonderful summer reads that has everything. It continues to be one of my favorites, to be plucked from the shelf and re-read every 3-4 years. My copy is a paperback, so used that it no longer has a cover (it was held on with a rubber band, but seems to have disappeared), and has graduated now to the "look for a hard back in the used book sales" category. Like I said, this one has everything: spectacular settings and crises, both environmental and emotional in both Australia and Rome; a multi-generational cast with very strong characters in every generation; an illicit love affair between young Maggie and Fr. Ralph; the struggle to love and forgive; and heartbreaking tragedies. I keep thinking things like 'blockbuster', bestseller, phenomenal, page-turner; nothing really can describe the emotional reaction I had and still have when I read this book. If you haven't read it, you owe yourself a good read. This one is an epic not to be passed up. Anyone having a book sale in town?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy

Now that we've arrived in Rome, I'm so glad I strolled through this book last month to revive my memories of previous trips to Italy. Although hubbie and I don't have time on this cruise to spend a lot of time strolling, we will have two days - one in Rome and one in Florence to see sights we missed on previous visits. This little treasure is a perfect starter for someone who has never visited this glorious country, who wants to get a feeling of life as it can be in the land of gelato, Michaelangelo, Dante, domes, fountains, and vespas. I don't think anyone can ever see it all, but the Husaks give us a sweet picture, wonderful suggestions, and re-engender the urge to do Italy over and over and over and over. I hope to post pictures of our passeggiata later tonight.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Contest Reminder

Don't forget I'm giving away 3 copies of Sand Sharks on Sept 16th. Get those entries in by leaving your comments here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Primal Obsession

This is a good stay up all night to finish it book. Up front I must admit that I have met Susan Vaughan....she is a local author who taught at the same school where my husband taught. Then I must also say that I'd never read any of her other books. When she found out I reviewed blogs, she offered a copy of this for our library and I offered a review. I don't read a lot of romance, and I'm just starting to be able to read 'thrillers', so I'm not quite in my element. Primal Obsession is a well-done combination of both those genres. There is a delightfully spunky, intelligent herione, Annie; there is the 'hero' Sam: a has-been Boston Red Sox player, no longer able to play due to injuries and who is now a Maine wilderness guide; there is "The Hunter"- a bad bad dude if there ever was one, and there is a beautiful setting - the Maine wilderness, which can make any book a delight to read. Ms. Vaughan writes as if she has definitely been there and makes the reader feel and hear and smell every tree limb, lake shore, campground and pine tree Sam and Annie see. Vaughan manages to artfully weave several stories at once:
  • There's Annie's tale: she's a newspaper reporter who first made the connections between the killer's various victims, who is now receiving threats from him; at the same time, she is mourning a friend who was a victim of the serial killer and has actually gone on this wilderness expedition to fulfill a promise to her dead friend to spread her ashes in the woods.
  • The pshycho thriller story-- a very nasty serial killer stalking his prey (Annie) and the law enforcement types trying to find him before he kills again; one of the lawmen is Annie's brother who thinks that 'parking' her on a Maine wilderness adventure will keep her safely out of the Hunter's reach.
  • Sam's attempt to stop drinking to drown his sorrows at not playing baseball anymore and prove to himself and his family that he can be a successful wilderness guide; as things start to happen on the adventure, he finds himself tested - can he truly live up to his and everyone else's expectations?
  • Sam and Annie's almost stereotypical romance: Girl meets Boy, boy meets and immediately likes girl, girl rebuffs boy and refuses to acknowledge the attraction; boy and girl suddenly are faced with the physical threat to girl from the killer and boy must save girl.
The writing grips the reader from the beginning, and the book becomes a good old-fashioned page-turner. Ms. Vaughan has done an excellent job of taking what could have been a garden variety romance or a standard ho-hum thriller and combined the two into an exciting, vibrant, well-plotted story with well-drawn (if unsurprising) main characters, and enough plot twists and other characters to hold the reader's interest to the end. Even while changing point of view often (something I normally find distracting in a book) she manages to hold our attention and keep the story moving forward. I only wish the romance had been less cliched. I could already figure out exactly what was going to happen, and when this kiss would lead to that, or what Sam was going to run through his mind while watching her in a wet tee-shirt, etc. Probably the reason I don't read too many straight romances. The suspense action saves the book. It's real, it's thrilling, and it goes right to the end. I'd strongly recommend you try this one if romance and/or thrillers are for you, and especially if you love the Maine woods. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: In Defense of Food

I love to eat, and have the shape to prove it. I grew up with an Italian grandma (dad's side of the family) who had to feed 8 sons on a very limited budget, and an Irish mother who couldn't cook anything very exciting (she never learned how). When I was 8, my father parked me in a Brownie troop with instructions to the leader that I was to earn the cook badge as early as possible. From age 10, I did most of the family cooking. Next to reading, food is still one of my top three hobbies. So I am often very tentative about anybody telling me what I should or should not eat, and how to grow, purchase, and prepare food. I love to watch cooking shows; I own--and peruse often--100's of cook books. Ieven have 6 different food feeds in my blog list. This book held my attention, made a lot of sense in several areas, and really got me thinking. It presents an excellent explanation of how the field of 'nutritionism' and marketing forces in the US have changed the diet (and-- the author posits--the health) of the western world, specifically the US.
"Nutritionists pay far more attention to the chemistry of food than to the sociology or ecology of eating." and.... "Gas stations have become processed corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high fructose corn syrup inside for you."
Michael Pollan offers easy to understand explanations, somewhat supported by experts, although I'm not quite ready to entirely buy something because "scientists commonly report", or 'are heavily leaning toward', etc. The author does point out the cyclical nature of all of these theories about what is healthy or not, and that they are heavily dependent on the science of the moment. He makes a cogent agument for returning to the days of grandma, before large food manufacturing conglomerates started tinkering with foods and making claims for health by eating this or that. He is especially believable in the campaign against engineered foods (or food products as he is quick to emphasize.) His explanation of how we went from a nation eating food to a nation eating manufactured food products, rather than food as it is grown or grazed, is eye-opening. The author has drawn up several "food statements", AKA rules, that make quite a bit of sense to help people return to eating the diet he claims human beings are biologically designed to eat. Among them (in no particlar order):
  • Eat well grown food from well-known sources.
  • Have a glass of wine with dinner.
  • Do all your eating at a table.
  • Try not to eat alone.
  • Cook your own food and plant a garden.
  • Eat more like the French, Italians, Indians, or Japansese. (I'll drink to that!)
  • And, perhaps my favorite - Eat wild foods when you can. I just remember my Italian grandfather setting off with his basket to the woods and returning with mushrooms, and fresh dandelion greens. My grandmother would be in ecstasy. Of course that was over 60 years ago, and no one in a big city has that luxury anymore.
Finally he admits that while he doesn't pray before meals, the practice of saying a blessing helps insure that we don't eat thoughtlessly. He finds a statement offered by Wendall Barry to be a perfect meal starter:
"Eating with the fullest pleasure...that does not depend on ignorance is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we can not comprehend."
I learned a lot reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in sorting through the current maze of food/eating gospels. I had it on the list for the food category for my 999 challenge, and look forward to reading his earlier work The Omnivore's Dilemma. For the record, my 85 year Mom, who is now a widow, has become an excellent cook over the years, and her food sense is still pretty sound. Let's hear it for Moms, nonas, tutus,common sense and fad avoidance.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New bookends?

I'm practising posting from the tech toy. These are our two big boys~Bruiser & Lightening as they try to get cool.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Trash overboard!

Abandon ship! That's exactly what I did after the first disc of this horrible book. I enjoy satire, I really do. I get it. I don't mind some sex and violence in my books, (or my listens) but this "hero" (and I almost choke as I write that word) Serge A. Storms, is a vicious, stupid, anti-social excuse for a character. This book is nothing but some post-adolescent fantasy about being nasty to people in every way you can think of, and frankly, my real world is nasty enough without inviting Serge and his more than mildly demented friends in. Think of it as The Three Stooges meet Freddy Kroeger. I'm reasonable picky about what food I eat, so I shouldn't expect my mind to digest garbage either. By the way....this is actually the second time I've tried this book, the first was in print, and I didn't get very far, but I thought maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Often I like a book on audio that I haven't been able to like in print. (Great example is No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.) I mercifully can't remember who receommended it, and if you were the one, please don't remind me. Then I won't have to think poorly of you. And yes, you're right.... I don't watch REALITY TV either. On to better things...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

They're Everywhere!!

As you can see , my TBR shelf is full--in fact it's grown to four shelves.

Since I confess to being someone who likes to seem like I'm in control, I decided to take today to prioritize things so I could leave town next week with a clear conscience:
  • I have my sister Cheli lined up to do a guest review of one of the books she 'borrowed' from my TBR pile
  • I'm taking my last 999 book (Saudade by Katherine Vaz) with me to finish while cruising (or flying over the Atlantic)
  • I've been trying to straighten up the office and blog space because my daughter is going to house-sit/vacation/work here, and I'd like her to have a place to put a coffee mug at least.
So what happens when I return on Labor Day?

Although I'm participating in several personal reading challenges, I'm going to give priority to ARCs and Early Review copies I've agreed to read and review.

First priority: I have four books that I personally received from the authors:
  • Susan Vaughan, a local author who has written several suspense romances, gave us a copy of her latest book Primal Obsession. Knowing how difficult it can be for Indie presses to get wide coverage, I offered to review for the blog. It's first up when I get back.
  • Sam Moffie offered me a copy of No Mad. I confess it wouldn't be something that I would normally go out and buy, but I have been trying to expand into new genres and this looks like it will be interesting.
  • Circle of Souls was sent by Preetham Grandhi -- another story with a young psychiatric patient with visions, her pyschiatrist, a murder, art therapy; the book cover calls it a "Stunning pyschological thriller". After reading The Rapture I think I can handle this and am looking forward to it.
  • The Saint and the Fasting Girl was sent by the author Anna Richenda. It arrived just as I finished Sacred Hearts and I wanted to put some space between the two. It will be an excellent read for my 2nd 999 challenge's Historical Fiction category.
Then there are two Early Reviews I received from LT-- they will be the next up. Both are books I really wanted because the suspense thriller is a genre I am coming to enjoy more and more.
  • Rizzo's War by Lou Manfredo
  • Guardian of Lies by Steve Martini
Shortly after those, I have to get to ARCs I've received from publishers, and I'm going to try to behave myself and not request any more (unless they are to die for!) until I get this pile under control. In no particular order they are...
  • The Maze Runner, by James Dasher - due out in October. I'm trying to expand and read more YA, and fantasy: genres I don't normally read. This one really caught my attention.
  • The Weight of Silence, a book about children lost in the woods by Heather Guedenkauf. After I survived reading Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,I guess I can do this one without fainting.
  • Half-Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World by Douglas Hunter. I love biography, and this book is a topic that really interests me.
  • The Boy who Harnessed the Wind LP: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba. Set in Malawi, this is a true story of courage and inventiveness. I have enjoyed the previous books I've read this year set in various countries of Africa, and this will be another to help expand my knowledge. I'm hoping this will also be suitable for the YA group in our library.
  • An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkerson by Andro Linklater. I requested this one because it's set in a period I love to read about- the American Revolution- and it's about someone I'd never heard of. Curiosity is a great reason for picking books...
  • Sand Sharks by Margaret Maron. I love the Deborah Knott series, so when Hachette Books offered me the chance to review and run a contest to share this one with others, I could not resist.
  • The Christmas Cookie Club: A Novel by Ann Pearlman. I am a Christmas cookie nut...I go absolutely crazy baking for weeks before the holidays, and if I'm not going to be with people, I actually mail giant boxes of them. I'm always looking for new recipes and new mysteries, so in spite of the plain red cardboard wrapper on the galley proof, this one looks great. I'm hoping to be able to try some of the recipes as I read it, so I can share the results in my review.
  • The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright. I honestly don't remember requesting this one, but it is an area in which I read a lot. I've tried three times to read Karen Armstrong's History of God but just couldn't get into it. Maybe this one will be better.
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy. Another of my favorite writers, and settings.
  • The Brutal Telling (An Armand Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny. Another of my favorite authors. I was thrilled to be able to be among the first to get this one. My sister also wants it, so I may try to eek out a spot in the luggage to take it along for the cruise. The Armand Gamache books are some of the best in the genre today. I hope this one doesn't disappoint.
And finally, there are three others that I received as prizes from other people's contests that I am itching to get to:

So if you are OCD and counted the books in the pictures, there are 75 there. The ones that are left after the ARCs, and ERs are books that were on my original list to be read for various challenges during 2009. I'm not sure I can finish all 75 of them before New Years but I'm going to have a wonderful time trying.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: The Rapture

Whew! As many of you know, I don't handle horror stories very well, so I almost turned down the chance offered by Doubleday to review this. I got my Advanced Review Galley last month, and kept putting it off. The Book went on sale this week, and if I had to write a one-line review, I'd say You must buy and read this book.

I don't believe in the Christian concept of the Rapture, and I do believe in the reality of global warming. Liz Jensen has written an incredibly well plotted story about both featuring a physo-therapist, Gabrielle Fox, and her patient Bethany Krall. Bethany, 16 yrs old, has been confined to a mental institution because she brutally murdered her mother. Her father, a preacher who believes in the Rapture, refuses to have anything to do with his daughter, saying she is possessed by the devil.

Gabrielle, who is still suffering physically and psychologically from a terrible car accident in which she was left a paraplegic and her lover was killed, takes on Bethany as a patient against the advise of her previous boss, and her own medical team who do not think she is ready to return to work.

Bethany's 'visions' of terror to come have a surrealistic habit of proving true. She predicts earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, etc, with incredible and scary accuracy.

Enter Frazer Melville, a Scottish physicist who is not only interested in Gabrielle, but in Bethany's 'talents.' As Bethany's predictions increase, and the horror of what she is suggesting sinks in, Frazer and Gabrielle must decide if they believe her, if they have any obligation to warn the world, and how to handle the increasingly violent and disruptive teenager.

Enough plot. I don't want to spoil the ending. I won't discuss whether the Rapture happens or total disaster strikes the earth. You will have to read to find out. But you must read it.

The story keeps you on the edge of your seat. The characters are quite believable and often poignant. But it is THE PROSE, THE WRITING, that will have you breathless.

I am reluctant to quote because I only have a galley, and final changes may have occurred. I hope the editors don't change one word. Liz Jensen has written some of the most incredible imagery, dialogue and story lines I've read this year (and I've read over 100 books). Her ability to paint pictures with words is incredible. There were times I was left gasping. Here is one small example describing the aftermath of a giant earthquake:

Morning glory, cyclamen, and all shades of bougainvillea will writhe their way through the remains of tower blocks and climb up the rusted steel reinforcements of hospitals to bloom in bright carpets; poppies and bindweed and rosemary and lemongrass will deck splintered wood and smashed concrete with verdure; acacia trees and chinaberries will colonize the cracks, splitting tarmac to conjure the worst kind of beauty: the kind that celebrates human collapse.
Every word is that precisely written. Whether you believe any of the horror, or sympathize with the characters, you will not be able to forget this one. Thanks to Doubleday for making it available. This will definitely be on my "Best of the Year" list.

Note: edited to correct the name of the main character - it's Bethany, not Brittany.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Favorites: Winds of War

This week's walk down memory lane comes courtesy of my daughter. She and I were having a great discussion on the phone last night while she waited in a bar for a friend. She was laughing at my blog post about the Blackberry (which she had read on her BB) and then the chat turned to books. Babygirl is an exceptionally well-read daughter, but tends to read mostly non-fiction, and indicated that she was looking forward to her vacation later this month so she could get some serious reading done. She said was thinking of re-reading Winds of War, and some of Herman Wouk's other work. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Winds of War, and War and Rememberance. Wouk's ability to give us a history lesson at the same time we get romance, and a great view of the social and cultural mores of the era is the strong point of his historical fiction. The books trace the fortunes (or misfortunes) of a military family living in Pearl Harbor when the war breaks out, their moves to DC and to Europe, and give us a personal run-in with Nazi anti-semitism. The history is pretty close to reality, the relationships are intense and well-portrayed and although we may know how the war turned out, we are still on the edge of our seats waiting to see how things turn out for the main players. I confess that I read some of the reviews before I did this post to be sure my memories were not too warped. Several reviewers appear to be dismayed by what they see as Wouk's sexism, and how he portrayed women. My daughter and I had talked about the reality of his portrayal in that this is how life was. I don't think the author was trying to endorse or legitimize a belittling of women, nor was he trying to paint them as ditzy, witless, and unable to do anything serious. He simply writes about the role of women, particularly the wives of military officers during the period, with a clarity and acuity that gives us a true picture of what those families endured, and how they coped with the anxieties and challenges of living through a major global conflict. If you haven't had a good summer read, these are certainly worth digging out (I"ll bet there's a copy at a relative's house) or checking out of your local library. Thanks to Lisa for jogging my memory bank.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Winners!!!

Well , here are the winners of our latest giveaway: The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser goes to Debbie. I just got my review copy in the mail yesterday, and it really looks like it's going to be a good one. The lucky winner of the Blue Star by Tony Earley is Etirv. I can't wait to get my copy. The winners have been notified by email, and have until midnite Monday, August 17th to give me a good mailing address for Hachette. If they don't get back to me, or decline the prize, we'll draw another name. In the meantime, if you didn't win, there's still time: check out the Contests and Sweepstakes page of Hachette Book group for more sites featuring these and many other giveaways.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu

This is the second book in the series, and I'm off to find the first quickly. Set in Botswana, a setting many of us are now familiar with thanks to the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, author(s) Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip co-authored this under the Michael Stanley name. Inspector David "Kubu" Benbu is sent to investigate the murders of two people at a bush camp. There are a variety of campers (suspects) and staff (more suspects), including a cook with a live bird attached to his shoulder. There are survivors of rebellions years past, British bird watchers, a pair of sisters claiming to be British journalists, cops who are scared to death of crocodiles, bad guys galore, lots of hippos (in fact "kubu" means hippopatamous--the nickname was given to the detective due to his size). Family members help to humanize Kubu and give us an eye into his motivations. I don't like to do spoilers in reviewing mysteries, so no plot review here, but the characters are delightful, the setting is beautifully portrayed, and the plot is definitely one with twists, turns, and lots of clues. When Goodluck is murdered and his fingerprints indicate he has been officially dead for over 30 years........well as you can see, the plot thickens quickly. It is fascinating to watch the thought processes of the various detectives as they try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The book also contains a glossary of African terms, a map and a drawing of the layout of the camp. I found myself referring to them occasionally, and while they were helpful, this isn't a book where you're going to have to constantly keep referring to them. As we read, we are treated to a mini-history/politics lesson about Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe intertwined with the story. The culture, customs, and geography of the area are lovingly painted. It's a marvelous read...grab it and sink in.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Technology rant---WAHHHH

Today...I'm feeling very old. For various reasons, I'm now the proud(?) owner of a Blackberry and now I'm also researching various ways to seek revenge on the people who designed and documented this idiot machine. My fingers are too fat, my eyes too old, my ears too sensitive to tinny sounds, but since I never met a geek toy I didn't like, I'm sure I'll master least by my 90th birthday or the expiration of my contract. I spent about 4 hours last night getting the settings adjusted, scrolling thru various menu features, finding out I could actually read (or at least download) my blog on the dang thing. How cool is that? IT's not!!! --even zooming in, it's hard to see, and getting to the comments---forgedaboutit. I don't understand a world that is trying to sell me a 52" TV (we call them Bubba's in this household) so I can enjoy the big screen experience at the same time they're selling me a screen the size of an ink-jet cartridge and telling me I can download and watch movies. Of course that also means, if I'm polite and wish to watch in public, I now have to cram some painful device into my ear so I can hear the movie. But does the bluetooth I have from my previous phone work with this one? Or the car charger? Of course not!!! My model is the one that flips sideways (it's the BB Storm) sorta like shifting from Portrait to Landscape, and if you tilt it just past whatever axis it's programmed to, it flips on its side. YIKES. I'm getting seasick. And I keep pressing the wrong buttons!! DOUBLE YIKES!!! I really just wanted a new Palm (mine is d-e-d dead) but since they only come in phone varieties now, and my wireless carrier doesn't do Palms, I settled for this BB. I'm sure in the end I'll get to know and love least until the first bill comes in. I wonder if I could get my email in the ICU while recovering from the bill induced heart attack?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review: Dear Fatty

A poignant tell-all written as a series of letters to people who played large roles in her life: her husband Len, her daughter, Jennifer Saunders (Fatty) who was a life long sidekick, her mother, her grandmothers, her brother, a variety of lovers (? - the answer is cagily phrased so one is never sure), and above all her father, who committed suicide when she was in her early teens, everyone who played an important role in helping her define herself. French leaves little to the imagination, treating us to an inside look at a vulnerable, loving, talented woman. I don't normally read celebrity memoirs, but I'm a huge fan of DF, and when I had the chance to pick this up, I grabbed it. It could have done with some editing to tighten things up: the lack of any kind of time line made it difficult to follow at times, but OTOH, it made it easy to read in short, individual 'episodes' as each letter was self-contained. Her letter to her dad in which she lays out the pain and disbelief at his death, is very touching. The letter describing the Queen Mother's visit to their Air Force quarters when she was only 3, is quintessential French. Her teen-age angst, the joys and throes of raising a teenager, and her obvious love for her husband all come through. There are pages and pages of candid photos, most in color, making it quite a vibrant story. I'd recommend it for anyone who is a fan.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Review: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A wonderful cozy mystery featuring an exceptionally precocious 11yr old chemistry whiz , Flavia de Luce, who helps solve a current murder, an old murder originally thought to be a suicide, and the theft of an extremely valuable stamp belonging to King George VI. A book that will be devoured by all pre-teen girls in the same way we once devoured Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden. At the same time, if adults can suspend belief in such a level of forensic aptitude in an 11 year old, it is an excellent read for all mystery lovers. It is well plotted, suspenseful, and the characters are well drawn. In addition, since this was my weekly audio 'read' I must commend Jane Entwhistle, the narrator. She was spot on as an 11 year old who is going on 50. I'm not sure I could handle any more of Miss da Luce, but I know in a few years my granddaughter will.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Giveaway: The Sand Sharks

Ok all you Margaret Maron fans! I have 3 copies of her latest Sand Shark available for giveaway. If you're not familiar with Maron's books, you are in for a treat. This is a series with a believable gutsy main character Deborah Knott, a wonderful caste of side characters, terrific fun-in-the-sun southern settings, and always well-plotted stories that keep you guessing. Can you tell she's one of my favorites? Here's the blurb on this new one from Hachette --it sounds terrific!
When Judge Deborah Knott travels to Wrightsville Beach for a summer conference for North Carolina District Court Judges, she stumbles upon the body of one of her colleagues. Meanwhile, Deborah's husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, is in Virginia with his son, tying up loose ends left by the death of his first wife. When another judge is found murdered at the conference, it soon becomes evident that Deborah may be the killer's next target. Her relaxing trip to the seaside soon transforms into a harrowing experience, and she must summon all of her strength and investigative expertise to track down the culprit before she becomes the next victim.
So let's make this fun... to enter:
  1. Leave a comment - give me either your favorite Margaret Maron book, or state that you're new to this author.
  2. Leave an entry if you're a follower (or become a follower and tell me.)
  3. Blog about the contest and leave me a link in a third comment. (sidebars are OK).
  4. No PO Boxes, US and Candadian residents only.
  5. One of your entries (or your blog profile) must have an email address so I can contact you.
  6. Contest ends September 15th.

Bloggers Beware!!

Well my fellow bloggers--here's a little warning that is of particular interest if you use Blogger as your platform. This morning, when I went to access my blog, I was denied access (the page wouldn't even load) and given a big Google warning that it appeared I might have been infected with malicious spyware. All very nicely worded so that they could never claim I WAS infected, but gee whiz....we can't let you in until you either a) wait awhile or b) run some anti spyware/adware software. Convenient links were provided to two such programs --both of which APPEARED to be free. Let me add here that I have a relatively new computer, and haven't installed a lot of extra spy/malware catching programs trying to keep things simple. Now I have good antispy software and malware protection as part of my McAffee protection suite, and when I ran those scans..all appeared well. But I still couldn't get my blog to load. Much gnashing of teeth at this point. SO...........instead of just downloading my two favorite programs that I knew worked and could be a big dummy................I downloaded one of Google's linked programs for free and ran that program which told me I had 2 SEVERE files that were going to cause me problems. Now comes the clincher......according to this Google linked program "AdwareProfessional" I now had to 'register' the program to be able to clean up these two files. Of course when I clicked on register (Ok, ok, I know....stupid....blame it on not enough coffee and too much sunshine) I discovered --surprise, surprise-- that it would only cost me $37.95 or some close dumb amount to 'register.' I then Googled this program(Adware) and found a good amount of discussion at one of my trusted sites CNET (should have done this in the first place). I also googled "Spydriver", one of the files this bogus Adware program labeled as a severe problem on my computer, and found that it is planted into your computer (perhaps by Adware itself?) to get you to buy software to clean it up. Big fat frowny face here..... Fortunately, another of my favorites (again....why did I trust Google, instead of the old standbys?) Spybot S&D identified and safely quarantined this little darling for me. Uninstalling it looks like it may be a real hassle, but at least it's off in jail for now. Please don't confuse this Adware program with Ad-aware - a free program I have used successfully for years. That one is a good one, and I have reinstalled it on my computer. The moral of the story, please beware of links in anything --use the old "trust but verify" before you download anything. Here's another link to discussion about Adware. SHAME on Google for posting these links. I'll be much less ready to trust anything from Google from now on.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Red to Black

A timely, scary and topically current book. The main characters in this 21st century Cold War spy thriller are a female Russian KGB (now something else?) colonel -Anna-who is assigned to be a 'honey pot' to a British M-16 operative- Finn- inside Russia. One is never sure until the end whether the relationship between them is real, or being feigned by one or the other to accomplish their spying on each other. We are led to believe he's trying to find out what Russia's intentions are and why they are amassing billions of western dollars in European banks. She's trying to find out the significance of what he knows, and decide whether she's in love with him or not. As they travel, separately and together all over Europe, and inside Russia, they're both trying to feed just enough information back to their respective bosses to keep from being fired (or killed!). Told from Anna's point of view, Dryden does a good job of explaining what could be (and probably are?) the intentions of and inner workings of today's Russian leadership. Anna struggles with her belief in her country and her understanding of and (dis)trust of her country's leadership. She struggles with her feelings for Finn. How she is able to resolve these struggles produces a breathtaking ending. Once I got into the book, I found it was a real page turner-- to the point that I had 4 pages left to read when my plane landed, and actually sat in the airport parking lot to finish it before I left to drive home! However, I wish the beginning had been as exciting as the ending . I almost put this down at about the 35-45 page point. It was not developing into anything that sounded like a thriller. A little tighter editing, or even a different 'grabber' at the beginning might have boosted my interest. It was overall though a great story and one that enlighted me about current world politics, and one that certainly will have me following Russian vs "The West" relations more closely. Thanks to Harper Collins for making the advanced galley proof available. It's due in your bookstore in September 09.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday Salon: August 2nd

If you read this on Sunday, I will be reading on the plane or in an airport, or on another plane. I may also be audio 'reading' as I drive home from the airport. It will be a long day. The grand-daughter has to return to her parents in Virginia, and this time Tutu gets to be the plane escort. She is a delightfully fun traveler, and even with the 3 hr drive to the airport, the short flight to DC, and a turn around and do it in the other direction trip, it will be worth having had her for two delightful weeks. We got a lot of reading done, and a lot of lobsters eaten; we discovered a new museum- the Coastal Children's museum in Rockland Maine--if you are ever in the area with a child between 1 and 12, it is a fantastic way to spend an hour or spend a day. I got a tatoo, I was served plastic lunch, we figured out the gear wall, and I got a new black and red doll shaped bookmark to go with the Red to Black ARC I happened to be toting along. After we spent several hours at the beach Saturday on a perfect Maine summer blue sky day, we checked on the puffin cams at the Project Puffin visitor center, and sadly returned home to separate the library books from those that would go home with her, do the dirty laundry, make some last entries in her trip journal, put the pictures on CDs to take home, and have a final Jeremy and the Ghost story hour with Grampa. We will miss her, but will cherish the thoughts that our love of books and story hours has taken hold. Aside from liking lobsters, I can't think of a better value to pass to our grandchild.