Thursday, March 31, 2011

Listening, Reading and Wowee!!! Fast internet

One of the benefits of our new higher powered internet connection is that I'm now able to download huge files without suffering what we semi-humorously used to refer to as 'internet jail.'  Our old satellite connection, while certainly faster than dial-up, was subject to limitations on how much we could download in a given 24 hr period, so unless we wanted to stay up all night and do our downloads from 2am to 7am, we had to be very careful, or (as we often did) jump in the car to sit in the library parking lot to do our downloads over the library's WIFI.  Otherwise, we found ourselves at the end of the satellite queue for 24 hours begging to get the speed back up. Many a nasty word was uttered in the Tutu household when that occurred.

So when the phone company called and told us that they had finally gotten the DSL available to our little pocket here in the woods we said YES YES YES and hook it up NOW.  Not only is it faster, but it is cheaper, so I treated myself to a membership in, and as a bonus got a free download.

I used my bonus to download one of my favorite all time audios-- the montrously long (over 60 glorious hours) Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George . So this particular book will be showing on the sidebar as "currently reading" for quite awhile to come.  It's my comfort story-- the one I can listen to when I'm not ready to settle down and stay focused on an involved plot, or my eyes are tired, or I'm sewing.  It's a great story, well written, well-researched, and a fine example of historical fiction-- one of my favorite genres.  After finishing Stacy Schiff's biography of Cleopatra last week, I decided I really wanted to re-read this one.  I had read it years ago when it first came out, and I found myself hearing Schiff's story in Cleopatra's voice.

So.....please don't think I've forgotten to change the sidebar.  It truly reflects works I am currently reading in all formats.  I hope yours are all as enjoyable as mine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

Author: Ariana Franklin
Publisher/Format: audiobook: Books On Tape, 10 hrs 47 min
print: Putnam Adult (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Narrator: Kate Reading
Characters: Adelia Aguilar, Mansur, Rowley - Bishop of St Albans, Henry II
Subject: murder and mayhem, early forensic science, women in medicine
Setting: 12th century England
Series: Mistress of the Art of Death
Genre: historical fiction
Source: public library audio download, my own shelves

Is King Arthur still alive? Or are those his bones found in a deep pit in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset England after the great earthquake of 1154?  These are questions King Henry II wants answered so he summons his secret "Doctor of Death"- Mistress (Doctor) Adelia Aguilar- to determine the identify of the bones.  If Arthur is still alive, his legend poses a threat to Henry;  if dead, should his tomb become a tourist attraction to enable the Abbey to be rebuilt (and of course, enrich Henry's coffers)?  Adelia finds herself once again dragged into Henry's web of intrigue, and into the presence of her former lover and father of her child, Rowley Picot, now the powerful Bishop of St. Albans.  Will the illicit romance re-ignite?

Readers of the previous two books in the series, Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent's Tale, will rejoice in the continuing saga of Adelia and Rowley, Mansur, Lady Emma, King Henry, little Allie, and all the forces of good and evil.  Readers who are not familiar with the series will have no trouble jumping right in.  These are well researched historical fiction with extensive author notes. But aside from the historical accuracy, they are enjoyable mysteries with excellent plots, well described settings, scary twists, page-turning scenarios, and a good romance.  This third in the series is just as enjoyable as the first two. 

I also find these are pleasant reads in both formats: print and audio.  It is quite easy to read in print and then continue one's "reading" while driving or exercising by listening to the very well-done audios.

I'm looking forward to reading the fourth in the series A Murderous Procession.  Unfortunately, it is also the last in the series since the author died earlier this year.  I've heard rumors that their may be unfinished manuscripts lying around, but can find no solid evidence.  So I think I'm saving this last one to savor later this year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Democracy in Action - Maine Style

Well, it's time for a report on life in Maine.  I don't normally post too much about family or personal life here, but tonight was one for the books.  Bob and I moved here to retire and take it easy, but we seem to have forgotten the "take it easy part." Tonight, at our Annual Town Meeting,  Bob was  elected and sworn in by our Town Clerk to a three year term as Selectman, Assessor and Overseer of the Poor for the Town of South Thomaston.

And for a history lesson, here is the original ballot box the town has been using for over 100 years.  All ballots are hand marked, the voters must come forward individually and drop their ballots in the box, and then the box is closed (that top board that looks like a bread board slides in across the top).  In state and national elections, you go into a closed booth, mark your ballots and then come outside and put them in the box.

Tonight, in less than three hours, not only did about 100 citizens (from really young un's with babes in arms to nonagenarians) elect a selectman, we also elected a school board representative, passed a new ordance (town law)-- and repealed the old one-- about cemeteries, passed a moratorium on allowing a methadone clinic in town until the selectmen can come up with appropriate land use guidance, passed a resolution continuing our participation in a six town shellfish consortium, and  passed a budget of over $800K to run the town for one year, including such items as planting trees in the cemetery, paving some roads, resurfacing the tennis court, giving the library $1200, etc etc etc.  We voted to empower to selectmen to decide if and where to erect memorials to various citizens (private donations have been offered to pay for them). We even voted to give 7 town employees a whopping raise of about $337 a year for each of them.  And no shouting, name calling, or booing.  Cookies, cakes and coffee were served by the Fire Dept Auxiliary, plaques (and a cool plant!) given to the retiring selectman, and the new ambulance dedicated to the lady who has run the service for 35 years!

All in all, while I'm glad it only happens once a year, it's truly a satisfying exercise in being a real American, and for Bob, as a retired history/social studies teacher, it's a chance to practice all that stuff he used to teach. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: One was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

 One Was A Soldier

Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Format: Minotaur Books (2011), ARC, 336 pages
Characters:Russ Van Alstyne, Clare Fergusson
Subject: soldiers returning from war, murder, theft
Setting: fictional town of Millers Kill NY
Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries
Genre: mystery- police procedural/amateur sleuth; romance
Source: ARC from the Early Reviewer program on

She's done it again!  Julia Spencer-Fleming just gets better and better. This is the seventh in the series, and the town of Millers Kill NY is beginning to feel like a hometown.  We thought we knew everyone, but here, as Rev (Major) Clare Fergusson finally returns home after her tour as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, we are introduced to several of her fellow veterans, each of whom has some serious impairment from service - either PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, physical impairment or some combination of all of them.  Depression, alcoholism, anger management, flashbacks, drug addiction ---these are some of the problems that send several of them, Clare included,  to veteran's group therapy sessions. While discussing their problems, they become involved in solving a mystery, and Clare, in her usual 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' manner again finds herself butting heads with police chief (and fiancé) Russ Van Alstyne, elevating the already steamy sexual tension between the two.

Spencer-Fleming is at her best here with an elegant, poignant, anguish-filled character study of the group participants, with her believable plot that gives us many twists and keeps us guessing, and with a romance that we thought was going to culminate in this volume (we've been waiting for years).  Everything-- characters, plot, scene setting, and romance combine to make an incredible and enjoyable page turner.  I only wanted to see how it started, but ended up putting aside two other books I was reading to follow this one from page 1 to the end.

Readers who are new to the series can read this one without having to read the previous ones - there is just enough back-fill to make it enjoyable, but fans of the series, who have followed this friendship/romance from the beginning, will find it truly rewarding.

I will not do spoilers--the group works together to try to overcome the mental and physical wounds they all are suffering, they become involved in "helping" the police determine if a murder has been commited and if so who did it, and they become involved in uncovering a huge Army boondoggle.  Oh yeah.....and Clare and Russ march toward the altar.  Do they finally get married?  I won't tell, and  I certainly won't give away a very surprising ending that left me screaming   "NO YOU CAN"T STOP HERE!"

I love Julia Spencer-Fleming, but I'm almost upset ---now I have to wait for the next installment.  And it had better be soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: March by Geraldine Brooks


Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher/Format: BBC Audiobooks America, , 10 hrs 21 minutes
Narrator: Richard Easton  
Also read as Ebook: Penguin Books, 267 pages
Characters: Robert March, Marmee, Grace Clement
Subject: Treatment of "contraband" slaves during the American Civil War
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Public library for both versions

I suspect that the majority of the women who learned to read in the past 100 years have read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.  Geraldine Brooks was one of them, and using the framework provided by LMA she has written the fictional tale of "Mr. March"-- the absent father of the family, who went off to minister to Union troops during the Civil War.  Bronson Alcott, Louisa's father, was a "radical, even by the yardstick of nineteenth-century New England...He recorded his own life in sixty-one journals, and his letters fill thirty-seven manuscript volumes in the Harvard College Library." (pg. 252), providing Brooks with copious inspiration.

Brooks gives us a man who is a selfish vegetarian, whose stand on principles often cost people's lives, who is definitely NOT the daddy that appears in Little Women.  We are given gruesome battle scenes, murders, torture, and all the inhumanity man can inflict upon his fellow human beings. We also see "Marmee", (was that really her name?) when she comes to DC to minister to her husband in an Army hospital (as portrayed in Alcott's original story), but it is really the character of the slave Grace Clement who is the strong woman in the story.  The book includes Brooks' notes on other sources she used to concoct the story, from medical texts to autobiographies.

It's a well-written story, perhaps even deserving the Pulitzer Prize it won (I'm not qualified as a literature critic to make that call), but I fail to see what it really has to do with Little Women, and in the end,  I almost feel that it demeans Louise May Alcott's work by trying to hang this story on hers.  This March person, by Brooks' own admission, has only his radical views in common with Bronson Alcott, for instance Alcott was not a clergyman, did not go south during the War, and was not at any of the battle depicted in the book. Yes it was fiction, yes it departed from known facts, but I'd have preferred a totally fictional story that could have stood on its own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas
Author: John Stephens
Publisher/Format: Knopf Books for Young Readers , ARC 432 pages
Series: Books of Beginning
Characters: Kate, Michael, Emma P.
Subject: magical fantasy, time travel
Genre: fantasy, YA
Source: ARC from publisher

I don't read many YA books, but this one may help change my reading habits. The first of three planned for the series, it definitely got my attention.  As the story opens, Kate-aged 4, Michael-aged 2, and baby Emma are summarily handed off ON CHRISTMAS EVE by their parents to the "forces of merciless darkness."  Kate's mother whispers to her not to forget that they will return for them, and makes her promise to take care of her siblings.  For ten years, the children are shuttled from one bad orphanage to even worse ones, each caretaker nastier than the previous one, and never getting any closer to finding out where their parents were, or why they were in this predicament.  They didn't even know their last name, and were given the surname "P."   Things are looking very bleak.......until they find the enchanted atlas.

It takes a bit for the action to kick in, but when it does, this one is a tweenie's delight. Using the magic book,  they travel through time (back and forth, back and forth) and find dwarves, elves, magicians, wizards, evil Countesses, witches, hidden treasures, and become involved in adventure chases that make Indiana Jones look like a wimp.  There are enough bad guys to wipe out the planet (and they almost do), and enough good guys to hopefully help the kids save the day, find their parents and get back to a normal life.  As with most stories of this ilk, the biggest problem is often the difficulty of distinguishing the good guys from the bad. The well-plotted page turner keeps the reader willing to stay up late reading 'just one more chapter.' 

The ending is sufficiently satisfying but certainly leaves the reader anxiously waiting for the next volume.  This one is due out in early April, and fans of good solid fantasy should be lined up to start this series.  Harry Potter fans now have something besides re-reads to fill their reading time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!
Besides now having it's own blog, Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at The Printed Page, is now on a blog tour! This month Laura de Leon at  I'm Booking It is hosting.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

This week, maybe to celebrate St Paddy's Day, the luck of the Irish was with me.  I got two books --both from my two favorite authors:  Julia Spencer-Fleming and Donna Leon.


Thanks to the good folks at St. Martin's Minotaur who participate in the Early Reviewers program of, I got an ARC of Julia Spencer-Fleming's latest.  I was so excited - this is one of my favorite series.  And I've already finished it- couldn't put it down.  I will be posting a full review later this week. Here's a teaser:
At the Millers Kill Community Center, five veterans gather to work on adjusting to life after war. Reverend Clare Fergusson has returned from Iraq with a head full of bad memories she’s using alcohol to wipe out. Dr. George Stillman is denying that the head wound he received has left him with something worse than simple migraines. Officer Eric McCrea is battling to keep his constant rage from affecting his life as a cop, and as a father. High school track star Will Ellis is looking for some reason to keep on living after losing both legs to an IED. And down-onher- luck Tally McNabb has brought home a secret—a fatal one. Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne just wants Clare to settle down and get married—to him. But when he rules Tally McNabb’s death a suicide, Clare sides with the other vets against him. Russ and Clare’s unorthodox investigation will uncover a trail of deceit that runs from their tiny Adirondack town to the upper ranks of the Army, and from the waters of the Millers Kill to the unfor - giving streets of Baghdad. Fans of the series have been waiting for Russ and Clare to get together, and now that burgeoning relationship is threatened in this next tantalizing novel by Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Then thanks to the folks at Grove Atlantic, through NetGalley I got an e-galley in my virtual mailbox for Donna Leon's latest in the Commissario Brunetti series. I'm ready to dive in this week.

Drawing Conclusions
Since 1992’s Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon and her shrewd, sophisticated, and compassionate investigator have been delighting readers around the world. For her millions of fans, Leon’s novels have opened a window into the private Venice of her citizens, a world of incomparable beauty, family intimacy, shocking crime, and insidious corruption. This internationally acclaimed, best-selling series is widely considered one of the best ever written. Atlantic Monthly Press is thrilled to be publishing Drawing Conclusions, the 20th installment, in Spring 2011 

Late one night, Brunetti is suffering through a dinner with Vice Questore Patta and his nasty Lieutenant Scarpa when his telefonino rings. A old woman’s body has been found in a Spartan apartment on Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. Her neighbor discovered it when she went to pick up her mail, after having been away in Palermo. Brunetti sees some signs of force on the old woman—the obvious wound on her head, what could be a bruise near her collarbone—but they could just as easily have been from the radiator near where she fell. When the medical examiner rules that the woman died of a heart attack, it seems there is nothing for Brunetti to investigate. But he can’t shake the feeling that something may have created conditions that led to her heart attack, that perhaps the woman was threatened.

Brunetti meets with the woman’s son, called into the city from the mainland to identify the body, her upstairs neighbor, and the nun in charge of the old age home where she volunteered. None of these quiet his suspicions. If anything, the son’s distraught, perhaps cagey behavior, a scene witnessed by the neighbor, and the nun’s reluctance to tell anything, as well as her comments about the deceased’s “terrible honesty,” only heighten Brunetti’s notion.

With the help of Inspector Lorenzo Vianello and the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra Zorzi, perhaps Brunetti can get to the truth, and find some measure of justice.

Like the best of her beloved novels, Drawing Conclusions is insightful and emotionally powerful, and it reaffirms her status as one of the masters of literary crime fictio

Hang in there....publication date for both is next month.  We who are fans can't think of a better way to welcome spring.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Salon

The sun is shining, the snow has melted, and even though the temperature here in Maine is still hovering below 40° and yesterday we drove to see friends through a pretty decent 'snow shower', the smell of spring is in the air.  I think last night's "super moon" put everyone in the mood for the coming season.

To celebrate, the Tutu family is spending Sunday getting ready for the long awaited installation of some true high-speed broadband internet.  Up to now, our little house in the big woods has been deemed too far off the beaten track for anyone to be able to offer anything really good. We started with dial-up, (SLOOOooooow), moved up to satellite (faster, but EXPEN$$$$$$ive - and very limiting in any streaming and/or downloading) but finally tomorrow we get to graduate to play with the big guys with DSL.

So because the installers will have to be crawling under desks, behind bookcases, etc., to reach our phone and TV connections, we had the impetus to do some quick spring house cleaning and remove the dust bunnies, lost jelly beans and paper clips, and all the detritus that seems to gather at blogging stations. The cats have run away to hide, because in their experience, such an endeavor on the human side usually means a horde of company coming, and their favorite toys and snoozing spots disappearing for awhile.

I do plan to read for a good chunk of the day.  I finished the fabulous Julia  Spencer-Fleming's  One was a Soldier on the drive yesterday.  It was every bit as good as I expected (even better I think).  My review will be up later this week.  For now, just run to your bookstore or library and get on the is her best yet!!  I also finished March, the Pulitzer Prize winner by another of my favorite authors, Geraldine Brooks.  It too was all that I expected.

Then yesterday, my name finally came back up on the reserved list at the library for the epub of Orange is the New Black.  I had downloaded it before, but only got it about 1/2 finished before it expired, so I had to go to the back of the line.  This time, I plan to keep better track of the expiration date.  And I am over half finished the YA fantasy The Emerald Atlas, which is a page-turner for sure.  So together with my newest audio, The Tiger's Wife, I'm looking forward to a great reading and listening (and swimming) weekend and week.

In the queue after the ones I just mentioned:

13 rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shaprio
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli
Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Strange Relation by Rachel Hadas

I think I have enough to keep me out of trouble.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Author: Stacy Schiff
Publisher/Format: Hachette audio 14+ hours,  368  pgs equivalent;
included 12 page PDF of maps, illustrations and full color cover art
Narrator: Robin Miles
Subject: Cleopatra
Setting: Egypt, Rome 1st century BC
Genre: biography
Source: won in blog contest from Yankee Romance Reviewers

I'm in awe of anyone who can write a book like this.  Biographers are often overwhelmed with tons of extraneous material about the subject of their work; they have letters, diaries, journals, shopping lists, newspaper articles, essays, speeches, orations, and often,  fictionalized accounts of lives that bear no relation to reality.  Pulitzer prize winning biographer Stacy Schiff not only had to dig through some of these types of materials (including Shakespearean plays), but if she wanted to be true to her subject and her craft, she had to plumb primary sources in languages such as Greek, latin, hieroglyphics, etc.

Cleopatra herself was an exceptionally well educated woman -she spoke 8 or 9 languages, she could quote various Greek poets and playwrights as well as converse with her troops in Egyptian.In fact,Schiff makes a point to let us know that Cleopatra was the first Egyptian monarch who could speak the language of the common people she ruled.

I learned so much about this fascinating woman.  For instance, I'm not sure I ever paid attention to time lines before-- I always imagined her as being several centuries earlier than she was.  The fact that she was a contemporary of Julius Caesar just goes to show you that I didn't realize how close to the BC/AD he was.

Although she had contemporary sources such as Plutarch, Cicero, and Cassius Dio among others, there are no  letters to Caesar or Anthony, no written proclamations, and only one direct quote from Plutarch.  Schiff explains this quote quite well in an interview she gave to Barnes and Noble editor James Mustich.
It's a sultry Alexandrian afternoon: Cleopatra and Mark Antony are out fishing with their friends. To retaliate for a prank he has pulled on her, Cleopatra tricks Antony by attaching a salted herring on his line. This he delivers up to laughter all around. Then she delivers this wifely speech: "But darling, you shouldn't be fishing; you should be out conquering kingdoms."
Her book, which is based almost entirely on recollections and writings of foreign males, gives us a wonderful panoramic view of the glory of ancient Alexandria, and compares it to the early, less gaudy Rome. As she gives us a very real queen who is balancing delicately between the splendor of Egypt and the might of Rome, she shows us the differences in the education and treatment of women, the availibility of books, the styles of buildings, the fighting styles of the armies (and navies).

She strips away the Hollywood glitz, the Shakespearean hyperbole, and gives us a picture of a powerful, wealthy, competent, ruthless ruler, who bested the best, who refused to put herself into situations where she or her country could be humiliated, and who may not have been the sexual brazen hussy we have been previously presented.

This woman was as regal and influential as any monarch the pre-Christian world produced.  Ms.Schiff has given us a highly readable, extraordinarily well-researched biography that sets a standard that future researchers will strive to emulate.  The illustrations and maps bring the story to life and help the reader get a good picture of the extent of the Egyptian empire, and the spectacle of the capital city this queen called home.

I think Stiff herself gave us a look into her mind when she did the interview with Barnes and Noble
JM: What do you find compelling about biography? What draws you to it?

SS: Well, it has been called gossip with footnotes for a reason. I like to read my history through the lens of a personality. I don't think I'm alone in that. To be able somehow to view historical events through their impact on and through the eyes of an individual thrills me. Then, of course, there is always a beginning, a middle, and an end in biography. And there's a particular gratification to the genre: ultimately you get to kill off your subject. [LAUGHS]-----Stacy Schiff,  A conversation with , Editor-in-Chief of Barnes & Noble Review

Even killing off the subject presented a new and thought-provoking alternative to the 'asp in the basket' fable we've all been raised on.  This one is a keeper.

Many thanks to Yankee Romance Reviewers for holding the contest and for Hachette Audio for making the audio book available for giveaway.  Robin Miles does an outstanding job of reading this, and even manages to make the footnotes interesting.\

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review - The Sins of Brother Curtis

 The Sins of Brother Curtis: 

A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church

Author: Lisa Davis
Format: egalley ;  March 2011, Simon and Schuster hardcover 386 pgs.
Characters: Franklyn Curtis,
Subject: pedophilia coverup in Mormon Church
Setting: Washington State, Oregon
Genre: Non-fiction, investigative reporting
Source: e galley from publisher

This book is at the same time disturbing and affirming as it tells the story of a protracted legal battle between 18 year old Jeremiah Scott and the Mormon Church.  Scott alleged that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by a member of the church when he was 12 years old.  The problem was that Brother Franklyn Curtis was dead, but Scott and his mother claimed that the Church itself was to blame - his mother told the Mormon Bishop about the abuse, but nothing was done.

They had difficulty finding a lawyer who would take his case, but finally Seattle criminal attorney Timothy Kosnoff agreed to team with civil litigation attorney Joel Salmi. For over three years, they worked to uncover the lengthy career of pedophilia of Brother Curtis, the assets of the Mormon church, and the inner workings of church organization and personnel policies.

Lisa Davis has given us not only the story of the protracted legal proceedings but also the background that Kosnoff and Salmi gathered to acquaint themselves with the inner workings of the Mormon church, the painful reminiscences of victims, the anguish of parents, and the obstreperousness of Church leaders who tried month after month, with one legal filing after another to stop the progress of this case.  Through numerous judges, a variety of venues, hours of depositions, the reader accompanies the team as they grind toward a resolution.

This one will probably not be viewed with delight by members of the Mormon church, but the clear presentation of the cover-up by Church leaders will, in the long term, serve the cause of justice and perhaps help others to know what has and can be done on their behalf.

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing the e-galley of this one for review.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday- March 14th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!
Besides now having it's own blog, Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at The Printed Page, is now on a blog tour! This month Laura de Leon at  I'm Booking It is hosting.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

 I have to confess......I've never read Kristin Hannah before, but she is so popular in our library that when I had the chance to enter to win an ARC from St. Martin's I did...and the galley arrived this week.  I must say, I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

night road
by Kristin Hannah
Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.
When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.
Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most.
And...... I am really excited about this one. 
13 rue Thérèse
by Elena Mauli Shapiro

I love puzzles....crosswords, sudoku, jigsaw (both on the card table and on the computer) mazes, etc.  So when Random House offered me a chance to review this one, I jumped at it.  It finally arrived last week, and it's on the list to get to this week.  

American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a feisty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.

As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet's life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13 rue Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise's life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

Doesn't this sound like fun....I can hardly wait.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: More Guido Brunetti--Doctored Evidence

Doctored Evidence
Author: Donna Leon
Publisher/Format: BBC Audiobooks America, audio 7 hr, 45 min
Narrator: David Colacci
Characters: Guido Brunetti, Lorenzo Vianello, Signorina Elettra
Subject: Corruption in government, murder, blackmail
Setting: Venice
Series: A Commissario Brunetti Mystery (#13)
Genre: Mystery: Police procedural
Source: public library audio download

This is definitely one of my favorites in this series by Donna Leon.  The complexity of the characters and their motivations continues to unfold as Leon carries on the saga of Commissario Guido Brunetti, his wife Paola, his children (marching smartly toward young adult maturity), and his comrades at the questura (police headquarters): Ispectore Lorenzo Vianello and Signorina Elletra.  She adds in a very true to life ongoing tug-of-war with others on the staff - his boss, Vice-Questore Guiseppe Patta, and the stuffed shirt everyone loves to hate, Lieutenant Scarpa.

In this episode, an old woman, not well liked by anyone, is found brutally murdered, and her illegal alien house worker has disappeared.  Brunetti is on a well deserved vacation, and does not discover until he returns that as usual, Scarpa has taken the easy way out, has not done his homework, and  has declared the case closed. When a new witness appears to contradict Scarpa's conclusions, Brunetti feels compelled to reopen and take over the case.   In the meantime, Vianello is dealing with an elderly relative who seems to have come under the spell of a TV evangelist cum rip-off artist.

Leon always adds into the mix wonderful discussions of current vs classic mores, police corruption, crime solving techniques and wonderful presentations of Italian food and drink. The story is especially enjoyable as an audio narrated by the incomparable David Colacci who captures the Italian inflections and intonations so well. I have yet to discover what's not to like about this series.  I certainly recommend them to anyone who loves Venice, Italian food, good mysteries and strong characters, both male and female.

Author Interview and Giveaway: Geraldine Brooks - Caleb's Crossing

I discovered Geraldine Brooks about two years ago, before I started blogging,  when I read her incredible novel : People of the Book.  I went back to look at my notes and see words like "richly detailed", fascinating characters, well researched.  It was a masterpiece.  Then last year, I read her book Year of Wonders, about the village in England which quarantined itself from the world to prevent the plague from spreading.  Again, the details, the characters, and the wonderful story telling were exquisitely woven together.  I had already planned to read her Pulitzer Prize winning book March - in fact it's sitting on my Nook near the top of the To Read Next shelf.  To say I'm a fan, is putting it mildly.

So when I got an email last week from Rebecca Lang at Viking/Penguin group asking if I'd like to participate in getting the word out about her latest book, and have the opportunity to present you with a great interview from the author, how could I say no?  I'm honored to be able to present this to you, and hope, after reading this you are as anxious to read this one as I am.  By way of introduction from the Caleb's Crossing webpage:
In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.
Here's the Q&A from this talented writer:
Caleb Cheeshahteamauk is an extraordinary figure in Native American history. How did you first discover him? What was involved in learning more about his life?
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah are proud custodians of their history, and it was in materials prepared by the Tribe that I first learned of its illustrious young scholar. To find out more about him I talked with tribal members, read translations of early documents in the Wopanaak language, then delved into the archives of Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially the correspondence between colonial leaders and benefactors in England who donated substantial funds for the education and conversion to Christianity of Indians in the 17th century. There are also writings by members of the Mayhew family, who were prominent missionaries and magistrates on the island, and John Cotton, Jr., who came here as a missionary and kept a detailed journal.

There is little documentation on Caleb’s actual life. What parts of his life did you imagine? Do you feel you know him better after writing this book, or is he still a mystery?
The facts about Caleb are sadly scant. We know he was the son of a minor sachem from the part of the Vineyard now known as West Chop, and that he left the island to attend prep school, successfully completed the rigorous course of study at Harvard and was living with Thomas Danforth, a noted jurist and colonial leader, when disease claimed his life. Everything else about him in my novel is imagined. The real young man—what he thought and felt—remains an enigma.

Bethia Mayfield is truly a woman ahead of her time. If she were alive today, what would she be doing? What would her life be like with no restrictions?
There were more than a few 17th century women like Bethia, who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence. You can find some of them being dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defending their unconventional views in court. If Bethia was alive today she would probably be president of Harvard or Brown, Princeton or UPenn.

The novel is told through Bethia’s point of view. What is the advantage to telling this story through her eyes? How would the book be different if Caleb were the narrator?
I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures. So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world. I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race.

Much of the book is set on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also your home. Did you already know about the island’s early history, or did you do additional research?
I was always intrigued by what brought English settlers to the island so early in the colonial period...they settled here in the 1640s. Living on an island is inconvenient enough even today; what prompted the Mayhews and their followers to put seven miles of treacherous ocean currents between them and the other English—to choose to live in a tiny settlement surrounded by some three thousand Wampanoags? The answer was unexpected and led me into a deeper exploration of island history
You bring Harvard College to life in vivid, often unpleasant detail. What surprised you most about this prestigious university’s beginnings?

For one thing, I hadn't been aware Harvard was founded so early. The English had barely landed before they started building a college. And the Indian College—a substantial building—went up not long after, signifying an attitude of mind that alas did not prevail for very long. It was fun to learn how very different early Harvard was from the well endowed institution of today. Life was hand to mouth, all conversation was in Latin, the boys (only boys) were often quite young when they matriculated. But the course of study was surprisingly broad and rigorous—a true exploration of liberal arts, languages, and literature that went far beyond my stereotype of what Puritans might have considered fit subjects for scholarship.

As with your previous books, you’ve managed to capture the voice of the period. You get the idiom, dialect, and cadence of the language of the day on paper. How did you do your research? 
I find the best way to get a feel for language and period is to read first person accounts—journals, letters, court transcripts. Eventually you start to hear voices in your head: patterns of speech, a different manner of thinking. My son once said, Mom talks to ghosts. And in a way I do.

May 2011, Tiffany Smalley will follow in Caleb’s footsteps and become only the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard. Do you know if this will be celebrated?
In May Tiffany Smalley will become the first Vineyard Wampanoag since Caleb to receive an undergrad degree from Harvard College. (Others have received advanced degrees from the university’s Kennedy school etc.) I’m not sure what Harvard has decided to do at this year's commencement, but I am hoping they will use the occasion to honor Caleb’s fellow Wampanoag classmate, Joel Iacoomis, who completed the work for his degree but was murdered before he could attended the 1665 commencement ceremony.
Caleb's Crossing is scheduled for publication May 3, 2011.....just in time to coincide with Tiffany Smalley's graduation.  To celebrate the publication, Viking/Penguin is providing two copies to giveaway to Tutu's readers.  I can hardly wait for my review copy to arrive.  In the meantime, here are the rules for entering the contest.  If you want to win a copy.....
  1. Leave me a comment WITH YOUR EMAIL saying why you'd like to win.
  2. Go to the Caleb's Crossing webpage and read more about this fascinating book..Then leave me another comment about something interesting you learned about the book or the author.
  3. Leave me another comment telling me you're a follower (new followers welcome.)
  4. Blog about the giveaway (sidebars ok) and leave me a link to the post.
  5. Deadline is April  19th.  US addresses only, no PO boxes.
Good luck.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Giveaway: The Revenge of the Radioactive..

It's time for another giveaway contest!

Earlier this week I reported on a great arrival in my mailbox. This one certainly looks like one designed to bring us all out of the end of winter doldrums:

This lively, intricately plotted, laugh-out-loud funny, and surprisingly touching family drama combines the wit of Carl Hiaasen with the southern charm of Jill McCorkle.

Seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent as part of a secret government study that had horrible consequences.

Marylou has been plotting her revenge for fifty years. When she accidentally discovers his whereabouts in Florida, her plans finally snap into action. She high tails it to hot and humid Tallahassee, moves in down the block from where a now senile Spriggs lives with his daughter’s family, and begins the tricky work of insinuating herself into their lives. But she has no idea what a nest of yellow jackets she is stum­bling into.

Before the novel is through, someone will be kidnapped, an unlikely couple will get engaged, someone will nearly die from eating a pineapple upside-down cake laced with anti-freeze, and that’s not all . . .

Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddball characters and written with the flair of a native Floridian, this dark comedy does not disappoint.
 Liz at Doubleday has graciously made two copies of this fun book available for giveaway to US addresses only.  Sorry no PO boxes.

Easy entry for each

1.  Leave a comment with your email address.  NO EMAIL no entry.
2.  Leave another comment if you're a follower (or become one).
3.  Blog about this (sidebar entries are ok) and leave a link to the post.
4.  Contest ends midnite March 31st.  We'll announce the winners on April Fools Day----fun!!!
5.  Remember, US addees only, no PO boxes, email in your comments.

Good luck.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Half-Broke Horses

Author: Jeannette Walls
Publisher/Format: Scribner (2009),first edition, hardcover, 275 pagesCharacters: Lily Casey Smith, Big Jim Smith, Rosemary, Little Jim
Subject: growing up on a ranch in SW US
Setting: Arizona, Texas, Chicago
Genre: Fictional memoir
Source: Public library

The jacket cover says this is "Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults."  That was all it took to grab me.  Jeanette Walls had a very colorful grandmother. She tells her grandma's story using the format of a memoir  in grandma's voice, but admits that she has written it as fiction.  The enchanting tale of Lily Casey Smith is entirely believable whether it is fictionalized or not.  Walls obviously draws on actual interaction with her grandmother, and incorporates family anecdotes to embellish the story.  It is oral history at its best.

Lily Casey was an independent, intelligent, and tradition defying woman.  Raised on a ranch during the depression, she was a child of poverty, desperation, violent weather, famine, and limited opportunities.  By the age of six, she was helping her father break wild horses, and learning that the only real obstacles to her future were ones she allowed to go unchallenged.  When she was fifteen, she left home, riding her horse by herself over 500 miles of wilderness and desert to take a teaching position in a small village (she herself hadn't even formally graduated from the 8th grade.)  Later, she learned to fly a plane, she went off to live in the big city (Chicago) to make her fortune, but gave up that dream because she missed the West and returned to continue a series of teaching positions in various small towns.  Eventually she completed college and got her teacher certification, but was never happy in 'big city' schools with all their bureacracy.

With her husband, "Big Jim" Smith, she helped manage a huge (160,000 acre) spread owned by an overseas corporation.  She taught her two children and their numerous farmhands how to herd, brand, and slaughter cows, how to geld stallions, how to make do with whatever was available, and how to mend fences.  Drawing on her memories of drought when she was a child, and learning from the example of the great Hoover dam which she had visited, she was able to convince her husband they needed to build a series of earthen dams throughout their ranch to guard against dry times.

Walls takes the story through her mother's early marriage to Rex Walls, and leaves us with a picture of an incredible woman - a true 'pistol packing mamma', a school marm extraordinaire, and a grandma every little girl would definitely enjoy.This was the pick of our book club this month, and a great one it was.

I listened to parts of it in audio--read by the author.  It was the only negative part of my experience.  Jeanette Walls' voice just didn't sit well with me, and her diction is not crisp enough to carry the story through.  It would have been better done by a professional reader.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giveaway - A Deadly Cliche (A Books by the Bay Mystery)

It's March giveaway time and this is really a fun one to help us all get in the mood to look forward to summer vacation.  (See what living in a snow globe does to your mind?)  Kaitlyn Kennedy from Berkley Prime Crime publishers has graciously provided me with a review copy and a giveaway. If you read the first one in  Ellery Adams' Books By The Bay series--A Killer Plot, you are probably waiting anxiously for the next.  My review for that one is here.  I'm about halfway through this one now, and it's even better than the first.

Olivia Limoges, out walking with her beautiful companion Captain Haviland--the poodle on the cover--discovers a dead body on her town's pristine beach.  At the same time, there seems to be a growing crime spree in her small town, giving Police Chief Rawlings more than enough to keep him busy, and the Bayside Book Writers Group lots of fodder for future stories. To complicate the plot even more, Olivia has just been given a clue that her father, thought to have been lost at sea over 30 years ago, may in fact still be alive, and she seems to be developing more than professional feelings for Chief Rawlings (in addition to or instead of her current lover????)

Enough to get you interested? If nothing else, that gorgeous doggie sure beats a bare-chested Lothario for cover art in my book.  And of course it has a lighthouse! I know I'm not going to be doing much else until I finish this one. I'll give you my final review when I announce the winners to our giveaway.

So let's get down to it.  We have one copy to giveaway, so I'm making this one very easy for you and me. One entry only. Just tell me whether or not you've read the first one, and leave me your email address in a comment. That's all.  EASY.

Deadline is March 31st, US addresses only, no PO Boxes.

Good luck, and if you haven't read it, go get A Killer Plot, so you'll be ready when you win this one!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: The Last Brother

Author: Nathacha Appanah
Publisher/Format: Graywolf Press, 2011, softcover 164 pages
Subject: European refugees held on Mauritius  during WW II
Setting: Marititius
Genre: Fictional memoir
Source: ARC from publisher

Graywolf Press has done it again.  This exquiste and poignant memoir comes as close to poetry as prose can be.  Every sentence is eloquent in its simplicity, vibrant in its imagery, and laden with anguish.  Nathacha Appanah tells us the story of 9 year old Raj, an native Maritian child who grieves the loss of both his older and younger brothers, while enduring incredible physical and pyschological abuse from his drunken father.  While delivering lunch to his father who worked as a prison guard, he discovers another boy his age - David-who lives at the prison.

Appanah leads us on a journey of friendship, love and ultimate grief as the two boys try to escape from their impoverished world.  She tells the story in Raj's voice, but from his perspective as a grown man 60 years later.  We are given a look at a little know part of World War II history, and another piece of the Palestinian puzzle as we watch a group of European refugees who must remain incarcerated on the island of Mauritius awaiting their long-for settlement in Palestine.

This book touched me on so many levels: the story of the two boys, Raj's story of his young life, the elder Raj's memories of what was and what could have been, and the story of the refugees.  The author gives us all of this in a small, 165 page gut-wrenching book of incredible beauty.  It will definitely rank as one of my top reads of the year.

About the author: Nathacha Appanah, a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, was born in Mauritius and worked there as a journalist before moving to France in 1998. The Last Brother, her fourth novel, won the Prix de la FNAC 2007 and the Grand Prix des Lecteurs de L'Express 2008

Geoffrey Strachan is the award-winning translator of Andrei Makine.

The Tablet Magazine has a wonderful interview with the author.  
My thanks to Graywolf for making this ARC available.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday - March 7th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!
Besides now having it's own blog, Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at The Printed Page, is currently on a blog tour! This month Laura de Leon at  I'm Booking It is hosting.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

I had a great assortment make it way through the snow to my bookcases this week:

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady
by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

The Blurb: This lively, intricately plotted, laugh-out-loud funny, and surprisingly touching family drama combines the wit of Carl Hiaasen with the southern charm of Jill McCorkle.

Seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent as part of a secret government study that had horrible consequences....
Come back later this week to learn more about this one and to enter a giveaway.

A Deadly Cliche
A Books by the Bay Mystery
by Ellery Adams

Ever since I met the adorable poodle Captain Haviland in Ellery Adam's first book in this series, A Killer Plot, I've been looking for the next adventure.  Berkley Crime publishers not only sent me an advance copy, but they're offering another for a giveaway, so check back this week for all the details.  Psst...I started this one last night, and it grabbed me right off.

 Gideon's Sword 
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Lastly, I got a review copy of the first in a new series by that famous duo of  Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  The Gideon series should delight the many fans of the Pendergast series who are sure to look into this one.  In our house, it was almost whisked away by the other mystery reader, so I know we'll have some sort of review to post in the not too distant future.

Tutu's TBR pile continues to grow.  What was in your mailbox this week?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Salon -watching the snow melt!

Last Sunday, we enjoyed watching the snow fall --it was like living inside a snow globe.  By now however, we're getting tired of it, so the temperature in the 40s is most welcome. We've had over 36 hours of rain, and the snow is becoming a memory.  The snow itself is beautiful, but having to plow, sand, salt, and pray that the oil and propane trucks can get down our treacherous driveway-- and that we can get out --was becoming tedious.  And of course, that doesn't even cover the anxiety of knowing that the UPS man has several books that can't be delivered because his truck won't make it down our driveway.  After all, priorities are priorities!

Anyway, this type of pioneer living is wonderful for inducing long periods of quiet reading, and--when I can get out-- long workouts in the pool so I listen to some audio books.  I haven't been blogging much and I can't blame it all on the internet connectivity problem.  I've just been too engrossed in reading.

I've finished and will soon post reviews for  
  • Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - this one is for our book club that meets this week.  It's a great one.
  • The Sins of Brother Curtis ,- an excellent piece of reporting on a story of pedophillia in the Mormon Church, due out sometime this month 
  • The Last Brother  by Nathacha Appanah- an exquisite little book by already leaping onto the Best of the Year list. 
 In addition to writing reviews, I'm going to be spending the afternoon setting up !!!GIVEAWAYS!!!! for two others that will show up first in tomorrow's Maiilbox Monday:

So check back this week....the individual giveaway posts will  be up for grabs by Friday.
  So as you can see I have lots of great reading to do - I'm about 1/2 through Stacey Schiff's wonderful bio of Cleopatra, and my exercising is being enhanced by yet another great episode in Donna Leon's wonderful Commissario Brunetti series.

And finally, Lent starts this week, so I'll be trying to slide in some more serious reading -- that's  much more life enhancing than giving up coffee and candy.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Cloud Atlas

Author: David Mitchell
Publisher/Format: Ebook, Random House 448 pgs; also audio by Books on Tape, approx 20 hours - large cast of narrators
Genre: Novellas- science fiction, letters, journal, fictional narrative
Source: My shelves (ebook); public library: audio

I have been reading this book for months.   I was trying to stretch my reading horizons by reading some science fiction, and all my LT friends said this was the one to read.  So, I tried it......and found myself saying WHAHHHH?????

I abandoned it....I just couldn't figure out the subject, the meaning, the language, etc. Then a group on LT started a group read online, and I figured ok, I'd try it again.  One of the group suggested I skip the first chapter, and start with the second.  Later, she assured me, the 2nd would make sense.  She was right.   The group also pointed me to a podcast by the author that was accessible on the BBC World Book Club site.  Listening to David Mitchell talk about this work really helped me understand what he had written.

I admit there is a lot I didn't understand, but I can still appreciate the greatness of the writing. I read this on my NOOK, and (this is important) listened to the incredibly well-done audio book by Books on Tape. They had a multi-membered cast reading these different stories. The cadences and the inflections really added to my understanding and my ability to immerse myself in the story. I finally finished it, and it's positively incredible.

Essentially it is six novellas, each split in two.  They are interwoven, but in different genres, different voices, different time frames.  Science fiction, fantasy, history, philosophy, metaphysics.  It has positively everything.  And it is almost impossible to review without taking the time and energy to write a doctoral dissertation.  The settings wonder from the south seas in the late 1800s to 1930s Belgium, to the American southeast, to a futuristic society set in what appears to be Korea.  The book is mind-boggling, but a book I know I'm going to read again and re-read many more times.  And I suspect that everytime, I'm going to get more from it, and like it more.

As Mickie says in the cereal commerical "Try it, you'll like it."