Friday, September 30, 2011

Escape by Barbara Delinsky - a different format

Author: Barbara Delinsky
Publisher/Format: Doubleday(2011),Hardcover, 320 pages
Audio: Books on Tape, 12 hours 56 minutes
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Genre: Fiction
Subject: love and life in the fast lane
Source: Review copy from publisher

Last week I posted a guest review of this spirited fiction work by Barbara Delinsky. Just as Becky was finishing her read and handing me her review, I noticed it was available for an audio download from the public library. I always like to have a lighter piece of fiction available to listen to if I get into a reading funk, so I downloaded it to my MP3 player, and began listening while we were in California. I never got very far that week, since I was bone tired and kept falling to sleep as soon as I sat down, but I did enjoy it enough to want to finish it when I came home.

This is a chick lit story with a lot more meat than fluff. There is a feisty heroine, a super stud (as my friend Becky described him) husband, and equally dashing and dangerous former lover, and an early mid-life crisis. Emily, a young up and coming lawyer who has had it with money grabbing corporate antics, snaps one morning, walks out of her office, and doesn't look back. In addition to the story of her quest for meaning, Delinsky even builds a great deal of suspense with a well plotted mystery (no murder, just basic ugly cheating, embezzleing and kidnapping!)which increases the suspense of the story and adds to the relationship issues.

It was much more enjoyable than I expected. Well written, great character development and motivation, and a charming story. It's still going to fall under the chick-lit heading---I don't see too many men being able to relate well to it-- but it's not brain candy. There's definite intellectual nutritional value.

I especially enjoyed it in audio. The New England accents are quite authentic, although they may in fact be hard to understand for those not familiar with the many different dialects of Yankee. All in all though, Barbara Delinsky has certainly landed on my list of authors to watch for.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Long Time Gone by J. A. Jance

Author: J.A. Jance
Publisher/Format: Books in Motion audio,11 hrs, 39 min; 448 page equivalent
Narrator: Gene Engene
Year of publication: 2006
Subject: repressed memory, witness credibility
Setting: Seattle Washington
Series: J.P. Beaumont #17
Genre: police procedural detective mysteries
Source: public library download

I've been a fan of J.A. Jance for a long time and thought I had read all of the J.P. Beaumont series. Somehow, however, I seem to have missed this one. Beau has moved from his Seattle P.D. detective job and is now working for the State's Attorney General's "Special Homicide Investigation Team" (the acronym of which causes great glee within the unit, but due to political correctness is never used in public!). He is called to meet with a woman (now a nun) who claims to have witnessed a murder when she was about 5 years old. This memory has been recently brought to light while she was under hypnosis.

While Beau is trying to track down a victim, a location, and ultimately determine the veracity of the report, his former partner Ron Peters is in need of his help both personally and professionally. The tension that arises from this interaction begets another exciting case to be followed.

As always, there is plenty of suspense, numerous clues to follow, plenty of wise-cracking (although Beaumont has certainly mellowed a lot from his earlier alcoholic days) and a perhaps new?? love interest for Beaumont.

This is a series I really love, both in audio and in print. This particular audio featured Gene Engene, a voice that was new to me. It took a while to adjust to his narration, but then I settled in and was able to adjust. As usual, the story and the character took over. A great read and a great addition to the series.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mini Review: Eggs Benedict Arnold by Laura Childs -- the final cozy

Author: Laura Child
Publisher/Format: Berkley,  Paperback, 336 pages
Year of publication: 2009
Subject: small town amateur sleuths
Setting: Kindred North Carolina
Series: Cackleberry Club #2
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: borrowed from my sister

This past summer, I was engaged in a "cozy-thon" reading several mysteries from various authors that presented the reader with pain-free, enjoyable stories in a variety of settings.  Laura Childs was one of my favorite authors to emerge from that reading stint.  Her Cackleberry Club series delights me, and I intend to continue reading in that series throughout the year.  I actually finished this one in late August, but just never got the chance to close out my records and post a short review.

Like the first one, this story centers around the friendship and crime solving abilities of the three amigas who run the cafe known as the Cackleberry Club.  In this adventure, the local undertaker is found duct taped and embalmed on his own embalming table by Suzanne, who almost ends up in the same situation but who passes out before she can see who is doing the pre-mortem rites.  Sheriff Roy Doogie (don't you just love that name?) gets more "help" than he can use from Suzanne, Toni and Petra as they all have various motives for proving who didn't do it.  Again, we have several suspects, a plot that progresses nicely down several literary dark alleys and an ending that (for me at least) is totally unexpected.  I loved it! 

The books are fun and easy to read; the plots are basically believable, the characters just quirky enough to be fun without being outrageous.  They're brain candy with  some nutritional value in the form of the recipes and menus sprinkled throughout the story. The fact that several of the recipes are actually included is a huge bonus and almost worth the price of the book.  If you've never tried a cozy, these would be a good place to start.  If you're a cozy fan, I probably don't have to tell you about Laura Childs.  It was a relaxing way to end the summer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mushrooms!! We've got mushrooms!!

My local mushroom picker assures me that due to recent perfect weather conditions, we are now one of the primo mushroom farms in the area!!!

During the past summer, this young man has shown up at my front door, and requested permission to harvest "the gorgeous mushrooms in your yard", always offering us some for our own use.  We have always told him to have at it.  Today, he came back to show me all kinds of goodies....each separated into different sealed bags to segregate the non-edibles (AKA POISONOUS) ones.  He said to me "You really should try these chanterelles - they are spectacularly delicious."

I do like mushrooms, and have never tried these, so I did take a bowl full and am now in pursuit of a good recipe to do them justice.  Mr. Tutu is NOT a big funghi fan, so I'm going to invite my sister who's living down the road for a couple weeks to join me and we'll see what we can come up with.

In the meantime, if any of you out there in blogland have any suggestions, bring them on.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Review: Maine's Most Scenic Roads

Author: John Gibson
Publisher/Format: Down East, 2nd Ed., pprbck, 192 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: 25 Routes off the Beaten Path
Genre: Travel/guidebooks
Source: Review copy furnished by publisher

Leafing through this book solidified my conviction that we made the right decision to move to this glorious state.  Forty-four years ago, Mr. & Mrs. Tutu came from Newport RI (where we were stationed together on active duty with the Navy) on our honeymoon to Maine.  We had no agenda: we wanted to sea the lighthouses, the nautical museums, and just let the scenery dictate where we would go.  We got all the way up the coast to Quoddy Head Light, a trip we repeated three years ago on our anniversary.  We left reluctantly, vowing to return again, "to see the rest" and came back on vacation as often as we could.  It was not often enough.  So seven years ago, when we made THE MOVE, we promised ourselves that we would continue to explore this glorious state.

We have not had this little guidebook in our travel bag before, but we will now be using it extensively. We were pleased to see how many of the 25 routes we'd been able to cover (some in part, others in their entirety) as we drive to see friends, attend High School sports events (when hubby was coaching) and library meetings to tour each other's facilities, and to take the grand daughter on trips 'to see the Moosies'.   It's a gem of a book that fits easily into your glove compartment.  While you'll probably be more comfortable with a more detailed map if you're in an area where you've not ventured before, the author presents enough detail to guide you to little known gems and let you soak up the scenery.  It's not a picture book.  The traveler can take his or her own pictures, taste the food, smell the smells, and simply soak up the ambiance.  John Gibson just provides the compass to point you in the right direction.  It's a gem of a  book, and for those who live in the vicinity, it's the perfect volume for the guest room bedside table, or as a welcome to town giftt for newcomers.  We're certainly going to be sure to get a copy for our library (and not just because we're mentioned in the book!)

Many thanks to DownEast books for the chance to review this one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Mailbox - Sept 26th - Personal deliveries

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!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  September, is the month for hosting by Amused at Amused by Books. Be sure to stop by and say howdy.

Since we knew we were going to be gone for much of September and a chunk of October, I deliberately refrained from accepting too many review requests, and confined myself to e-galleys through Net Galley.  However, last week, I had the chance to meet-up with Caite of A Lovely Shore Breeze.  We met in my small town library, where I gave her the grand tour (how grand can a whole 936 square feet get?) and then adjuourned across the street to our local general store cum cafe (AKA "The Gig") so she could partake of an honest to gosh whoopie pie.

While we chatted away about the merits of cheese steak sandwiches (with or without mayo), e-readers, lighthouses, fog, tour groups, ugly Americans overseas, etc etc., we chanced upon the topic of one of our mutually favorite authors Louise Penny.  I allowed as how I was panting to get my hands on the newest one, but just had not had a chance yet.  I was planning to break down and buy it for my Nook, and have it on order for our library.  She allowed as how she had the audio copy IN HER CAR!!!!! (can you see me drooling already?????)  and that she'd finished it, and that she was not an overall fan of audio, so she couldn't see herself ever listening to it again, and WOULD I LIKE TO HAVE IT???  Now since the Gig Store is right next door to the Post Office where I get my mail, I think this counts as the Mailbox delivery of all time!  I didn't even have to grovel--although I was prepared to offer up something close to the equivalent of my first-born for this treat.  What a lovely lovely gift and what a lovely lovely treat to be able to meet a fellow blogger in person.  Caite my dear, my reciprocal grab-bag is open...just let me know what strikes your fancy (first borns are excluded) and it will be on the way.   And, dear readers,  if you haven't yet visited Caite's blog....get over there---her photography is drop dead gorgeous, and the reviews aren't half-bad either.

I realize this isn't saying too much about this book, but since I know I'll be listening to it very soon, and I don't expect from reviews so far that I will be anything but thrilled about it, I'm sure you'll be able to hang on until then.  It's Louise Penny, it's Armand Gamage, it's Three Pines. What else is there to say?
Here's the Marketing blurb:
Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie [but] it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm...." --Booklist (starred review)
“Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light.  Where nothing is as it seems.  Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart.  And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

Children of the Street
Kwei Quartey

Now the other book that arrived in my e-galley mailbox is another one by Kwei Quartey in the Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery series.  I've reviewed the first one "Wife of the Gods" and have been anxiously awaiting this next one in the series.  Darko Dawson is a delightful character, and I enjoyed getting to know something about the culture and people of Ghana that Quartey describes so well.

Here's the publisher's blurb on this one:
In the slums of Accra, Ghana’s fast-moving, cosmopolitan capital, teenagers are turning up dead. Inspector Darko Dawson has seen many crimes, but this latest string of murders—in which all the young victims bear a chilling signature—is the most unsettling of his career. Are these heinous acts a form of ritual killing or the work of a lone, cold-blooded monster? With time running out, Dawson embarks on a harrowing journey through the city’s underbelly and confronts the brutal world of the urban poor, where street children are forced to fight for their very survival—and a cunning killer seems just out of reach.
Kwei Quartey was raised in Ghana by an African American mother and a Ghanaian father, both of whom were university lecturers. Dr. Kwei Quartey practices medicine in Southern California, rising early in the morning to write before going to work. He is currently writing his next novel.
  It's going to be a great autumn reading and listening to these two.  What was in your mailbox this week?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review--Code Word: Geronimo....Super-heroes in graphic format

Author:Captain Dale Dye (USMC, ret.) and Julia Dye Ph.D.
Afterward: John M. Del Vecchio
Publisher IDW Publishing,
Format:  e-galley 90 pages, Graphic format
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: American SEAL team raid and capture of Osama bin Laden
Setting: Abbottabad Afghanistan
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: electronic from publisher via NetGalley

Here's The Marketing Copy: 
The leader of SEAL Team 6 uttered, "Geronimo," and the world let out a sigh of relief. The symbol of ultimate evil was no more. Code Word: Geronimo is the amazing, moment-by-moment story of the clandestine raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Told by military insider and Hollywood consultant, Captain Dale Dye (USMC, Ret.), with Dr. Julia Dye, Ph.D., this historic tribute details the bravery and valor of SEAL Team 6 as it descends into a foreign land and achieves the near impossible.
The graphic format of this publication does not work at all on my NOOK.  None of the illustrations transferred to the device, although I was able to read it and see the pictures clearly using Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop--which also shows the color very clearly.  The Afterword, obviously a straight text file, comes through just fine on the NOOK.  The book was not available in a Kindle edition through Net Galley, so I can't comment on that, although I notice that Amazon is marketing the kindle edition.

E-reader issues aside, the graphic format works well for this story, but I kept having to step back from my military background and relationships and remind myself that it was precisely that - a comic book telling the story of a brave adventure.  The only cataloging data I found has it designated as a graphic.  It's not intended to be an historical reporting, but was obviously written as a patriotic salute to a very brave group of warriors. That said, I suspect that parts will be difficult to grasp for someone without a military jargon grounding, but it's probably ok for a generation used to playing action video games.  The authors are very spare with their 'word-balloons' and that tendency keeps the reader's eye moving right along.

For me, the most interesting part of the work is the Afterward "Perspectives" by John M. DelVecchio, a noted author of fictional works about Vietnam, giving us a short but insightful history of Geronimo the person, and Geronimo as the choice for naming the operation.  It also gives us a short bio of Osama bin Laden with a time line of Al Quaeda activities, and finally presents the reader with a description of Navy SEALS - their organization and the rigorous training program an applicant must pass before earning that coveted trident patch.

We are assured that no real names of American participants have been revealed, but must take it on faith that no other secrets have been inadvertently displayed. The author's quote buried in the Afterward "Due to entirely appropriate security concerns, there is some creative license in our script." would have been much better inserted at the beginning of the book.   I found DelVecchio's  Afterward quite informative until the end when in the closing section "Perspective-Lessons Learned; Unfinished Business; Closure" we are given the oft-repeated mantra of look what happened in Korea, look what happened in Vietnam, if we don't stay in Afghanistan and clean up this mess, the world is doomed.  (italics my interpretation - not intended as a quote of Del Vecchio's actual words.) The tone, while patriotic, is a bit jingoistic for my taste. This turned what could have been a reasonably accessible story of an episode in American history into a politicized lecture that spoiled the overall effect for me.  It must be assumed that the authors agree or they wouldn't (or shouldn't) have allowed that section to close their work.

I'm not seeing it as a best seller, but I do see this as the unfortunate(?) beginning of a wave of this kind of publication.  Will it be the coming way to teach history?  Who knows?  If it presents facts to a generation more accustomed to the sound bite format to capture information than it's probably better than a totally uninformed public, but I for one hope that our accomplishments as Americans, and the analysis of that history does not totally depend on Hollywood screenwriters to be promulgated.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Theodora : Actress, Empress and Whore by Stella Duffy

Author: Stella Duffy
Publisher Format: e-galley ; 352 pgs
Year of publication
Subject: early life of Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian
Setting: Constantinople, Antioch, Syrian dessert, Alexandria
Genre: historical fiction/biography
Source: Net Galley

A fascinating read.  I knew very little about any of the politics or personages of this period of history (6th century Byzantium).  While I knew about the schism between the Eastern (Constantinople) and Western (Rome) branches of Catholicism, and the reason for the rift, this well-written novel brought the vibrance of the era to life.  Framing the story around the life of Theodora, the daughter of an animal trainer who was "given" to a eunuch master to train on the stage at the age of 5, we follow her tortuous life from acrobat, to poetic declaimer, to that of a highly prized prostitute when she reached the age of 13.

We learn of laws that forbade women who had performed on the stage to marry, although many were highly coveted as courtesans, mistresses or concubines.  Theodora herself, became the mistress of a regional governor in one of the north Africa provinces of the empire; then after being "dumped", she began a journey back to her home (Constantinople).  Along the way, she experiences a religious conversion in the desert, and is eventually recruited and sent back as the emissary of one of the battling religious factions.

The exciting page turning continues as she eventually meets and marries Justinian (only after the law was changed to allow the repentant former actress to do so) and becomes the adored and adoring Empress upon his ascending the throne.  It was a fascinating read, giving us glimpses of lives we'd only heard about.  I understand HBO is going to make this a series, but I'd not wait for that.  Pub date is Sept 27, 2011, and I'll be lined up to get a permanent copy for my library.  It's colorful, well-written, and keeps the reader up late to see what happens next.

Duffy indicates that she is writing fiction, and makes no claims for the historical accuracy of the story, but her research is evident and the basics are factual enough that it makes an exceptional introduction to the period.  She also gives us an excellent bibliography for future reading.  I'm going to be sure to take a look at several of them.  It's definitely a time-frame I want to learn more about.

Many thanks to Penguin Publishing for making this review copy available through Net Galley.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guest Review - - Escape by Barbara Delinsky

Author: Barbara Delinsky
Publisher/Format: Doubleday(2011),Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Fiction
Subject: love and life in the fast lane
Source: Review copy from publisher

If this doesn’t sound like Tutu, it’s her occasional book reviewer/borrower. Becky works at our town library and is a very competent writer/reviewer/retired journalist who loves to pick through my pile of new arrivals. And I love to have her help. I hope you enjoy her delightful review of this fun book. I'm certainly going to keep it on my TBR list.

Happy September! As in “Happy Kids Back to School, Happy Vacation Visitors have Gone, Happy Partner’s back at work, and Happy new Fall books are all out at once! Not so happy Border’s is gone, days are becoming shorter, and it’s almost time for winter clothes!" If you’re a consummate reader of everything and you’re a woman of a certain age, you probably know Barbara Delinsky well. You may even like her. Her books fall into two categories: strictly “chick lit” involving only a gorgeous heroine and a hunk of an available man, and slightly deeper plots involving a gorgeous heroine, a hunk of a man, and maybe some conflict besides the romance. Escape skirts between the two categories. Gorgeous hunk is a husband, and, as I expected, he’s a handsome, charming attorney married to an auburn-tressed beauty who’s herself an attorney. They share a Manhattan condo, love each other deeply (if only late at night since they’re both work-a-holics), and life is marred only by the occasional yen for a child.

Since the title gives it away, I’ll tell you: she plans an escape to think things over. And here’s this author’s strength. The escape takes her to a picturesque New England village, a charming B & B, an encounter with a long-ago swain, and an appealing center where animals are given a second chance at life. So although you know how it’s going to end, the details and the action keep you reading without forcing you to stay up until it’s finished because the suspense is just too much to bear.

Delinsky’s details are accurate, picturesque, and comprehensive. And even if you only read these books as “fillers” between your great literary perusals, you can count on a Barbara Delinsky hardback to distract you for a few hours with an enjoyable story. This is true to her form, and it was the perfect September escape when the kids have gone, the company has deserted Maine for warmer climes, and the sky is clear blue, the birds are singing, and you have all winter for the serious stuff.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon: More Old Books

While the real reason we are here in Central California this week was to attend the 50th reunion of Downey HS in Modesto (and I can assure you a good time was had by all), we have also been spending quite a bit of time helping family members sort through treasures and memories from now deceased parents and step-parents.  There are two storage units where stuff has been stashed for almost 30 years, and we are going through a lot of stuff (and a lot of dust).  Much has gone (or will go shortly) to the dump, and this afternoon we will be sorting through boxes and boxes of old pictures and letters to make sure everyone in the family -kids and grandkids--gets a good pile of memories.  However, tomorrow the real work will take place as we go through some antique chests (there's one we know came over from the Azores in the late 1800's), and many many boxes labeled BOOKS! 

Of course, everyone said "OH're the book lady" .... and couldn't understand why I groaned.  Our suitcases were absolutely stuffed coming out, so there will be some real decision making to happen tomorrow. 

But...........speaking of books, I did finish Theodora a couple days ago.  The publisher has requested that we hold all reviews until nearer the Sept 27 pub date, so stay tuned....It's a great one!

I have to finish my re-read of Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen for our book group on Wednesday, so I may not be up on the loop too much before then.  In the meantime, I hope you all have as much fun this Sunday as I'm having.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reading on a Plane

The person who invented the e-reader is on my short list for canonization, and the daughter who gave me my NOOK for christmas is right up there at the top of the list.  There is absolutely nothing like it for people like me who used to agonize for hours over which books to take on a trip, only to decide about half-way through that none of my choices held my interest.  Yesterday on a very loooonnnnnnnnnnnnng trip from Maine to California (Mr. Tutu and I both swear that it took longer to taxi to the gate at O'hare than it took to fly from Portland to Chicago), I finished over 1/2 a very long historical novel Theodora - and probably will finish it today as we drive around visiting various friends and relatives who won't be able to make the big reunion on Sunday.  E-readers--lightweight, easy to turn pages, and full of books (mine has almost 300 on there right now) are perfect for sitting, squashed in the middle seat (I did have two very polite seat mates, both of whom were reading real paper books), and losing oneself back in the Byzantine empire.

And no....I'm not getting any kick back for advertising from Barnes and Noble (I should be so lucky that they'd give me one of the new Nooks to test for them).  Any e-reader would probably make me just as happy.  I just happen to own the original NOOK, and love it!

Off to try to adjust to the time change!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Winging Away!

Every once in awhile, Mr & Mrs Tutu take leave of their senses and depart the peaceful shores of the Weskeag River to visit other parts of this wonderful world.  This week we're zooming west to attend Mr. Tutu's 50th high school reunion in central California.  While we're there, we'll be visiting with a host of friends and family, soaking up some sunshine, and I suspect battling a wee bit of traffic.

Tutu has loaded up her NOOK with lots of wonderful books to read.  Many thanks to NetGalley for providing publishers a way to make their ARCs available in the e-format.  At the rates airlines are charging for baggage these days, no way could I afford to take more than one book with me and that one book is  Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen.  I read this two years ago, but our local book club (which meets 12 hours after I get home next week) is reading this one as part of a series we're doing on women's cultures in different countries.  More on that series next week.  I remember it as a fascinating read the 1st time, and I'm looking forward to a re-read.  And I'm VERY thankful that Ms. Yoshimoto's prose is quite sparse.  The tiny little book is less than 200 pages, and fits nicely into my purse.

I've also loaded a few audio books on my MP3 for those times (particularly on the plane) when I want to close my eyes and ignore my seat mates (Mr. Tutu excepted of course.)  I have a few reviews waiting to be posted, and plan to finish another two while I'm gone.

Don't forget the Jeffrey Archer audio giveaway---we need more entrants to pick a winner.

Have a wonderful week - I sure plan to.  Many thanks to our neighbors taking care of the homefront, and all the volunteers at my library who let us get away for this once in a lifetime event.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: When Will there be Good News by Kate Atkinson

Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher/Format: Little Brown and Company, 1st edition E book, 314 pages
BBC America, Audiobook, 10 discs, 11 hours, 51 min
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Year of publication: 2008
Subject: kidnapping, deceipt, cold case
Setting: Scotland
Series: Jackson Brodie mysteries 
Genre: private detective mystery
Source: Public library downloads, Barnes & Noble Nook

Jackson Brodie is a detective I really root for.  He seems to run into more bad luck than any other of his ilk, and seems to have terrible luck with women, even when his heart is in the right place.  Kate Atkinson somehow manages to make us fall in love with him, even as she skips blithely back and forth, hither and yon among three or four stories.   This technique can be very disconcerting to first time readers of the series, but this is #3, and I'm finally getting used to the style.  I'm sure the story would not be nearly as exciting or attention holding were she to tell each thread more linearly, but it takes some getting used to.

This style is not particularly well suited to audio, unless you have the time to sit down with pencil and notepad to take a lot of notes so you can keep up with everyone.  I read this one both in print and audio.  I've learned by now to get into all the threads (about the first 30-40% of the book) and THEN I can pick it up in audio while I'm working out.  If I don't get a good grip on who is who (often requiring some flipping back and forth) I'm not able to enjoy Steven Crossley's wonderful narration.

In this adventure, we meet some old friends - Detective Inspector Louise Monroe, Julia Land, and Jackson's ex-wife Josie, and are introduced to a 16 year old detective in training Reggie Chase.  Reggie works as a home helper (don't say "Nanny"!) for Dr. Joanna Hunter, who suddenly goes off on a mysterious trip to visit an aging auntie.   Brodie, still haunted by the deaths of his sister, brother and father, is  married now to an art curator named Tessa, who has gone off to a conference in the US for most of the book.  While she'd gone, Jackson goes on a quest to determine whether he is the parent of Julia's son.  Along the way tho, he becomes unwittingly (isn't this how he always gets involved?) embroiled in the case of the missing doctor who was herself  involved in a brutal mass slaying in her childhood, the search for a recently released felon who seems to have assumed another identity, and another series of daydreams (reciprocal at least) about a romantic relationship with Louise.  Of course, he's trying NOT to get involved in any of this because he's recuperating from a near fatal train crash while traveling back to Covent Garden.

The plot is complicated, convoluted, and at times confusing.  I've finished it, but as with previous books in the series, I'm still not sure I understand everything that happened or why.  I have the fourth one on the nightstand, but I'm going to let it sit for awhile.  I love this series, and may want to go back and re-read one or two before I tackle #4.

If you like really well-plotted, intricate mysteries, with quirky, snippy, and quintessentially British characters, and enjoy a very dry and biting sense of humor, these are for you.  They're not for light reading, but they are for those times when you want to lose yourself in a good book.  And if you like sensitive, intelligent men not afraid to bend the rules, Jackson Brodie is the hero for you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Doc by Mary

Author: Mary Doria Russell
Publisher/Format: Random House audio 12 discs; 16 1/2 hrs
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: John Henry "Doc" Holliday
Setting: Dodge City Kansas
Genre: Fictional biography
Source: Public library download

I've never been a big fan of "Shoot 'em ups" but I grew up during the era of westerns on TV, watching Bat Masterson, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday in weekly episodes.  I knew they were actual historic figures, but never had much need to figure out the who, why, when, where of each of their claims to fame.  But when I kept seeing very positive reviews and conversations about this book from people who usually don't lead me to poor books, I decided to take a look at this one.

Even if you don't think you'd like westerns, even if you don't like biographies, try this one.  Mary Doria Russell, and narrator Mark Bramhall have given us a very fresh, unadorned look at Doc, his lady friend Kate, the Earp brothers, and the bustling, smelly, muddy, smoked filled saloons and bawdy houses of Dodge City.  Her research into the symptoms and effects of tuberculosis and her descriptions of the hard life of cattle rustling, early dental procedures,  and law enforcement in "the wild west" give us a picture we didn't get on TV.  Mark Bramhall's ability to give us a distinct voice for each character, a coquettish European accent for Kate, a guttural German for the Augustinian priest, a gentle Georgian drawl for Doc, Irish brogues for several of the women, and western twangs for the Earps was incredibly powerful and kept me riveted for the full  sixteen hours.

Doc's long slow losing battle with TB was something I had been vaguely aware of, but the personalities of each of the others was new and interesting.  It was an eye-opener for those of us steeped in whatever version of the shoot-out at the OK Corral we have inherited. Russell has done a wonderful job in setting the record back onto a more historically accurate track in a very enjoyable read along the way.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can You Believe it? Tutu's Reading Romance! And loving it!

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publisher/Format: Brilliance Audio, 12 hours, 448 page equivalent
Year of publication: 2011
Genre: chick-lit, romance
Source: public library download

I don't normally read pure romance, but a dear dear friend whom I'm going to visit next week in California, insisted that I would LOVE Jennifer Crusie and MUST read her.  When I saw one of her books available on the library download, I decided I had nothing to lose and would listen for a few hours, and then at least be able to tell her I'd tried it.  I did try it, and I kept reading and reading, and loved it.  I could not stop this one, and was inventing all kinds of reasons to sit down and listen to the audio.

Essentially it's a romantic comedy featuring two delightful people who are tired of their friends telling them what or what not to do, and who are therefore determined not to allow themselves to build anykind of romantic relationship.  The harder they try to stay apart, the harder they fall.  Throw in two ex-lovers who are trying hard to break them up, but whose attempts make it even worse, and you have the ingredients for a great farce.  It's simply delightful.  Well-written, well plotted, and the characters are very like people we all know.  It was a delightful read, and I'll certainly be looking for more by Jennifer Crusie whenever I want a feel good read with some meat to it.

Sometimes it pays to listen to our friends.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An old friend in a new format!

Often I'm asked how I get so many new books to review. Where do I find them?  The answer is a simple one.  I subscribe to a daily newsletter called Shelf Awareness.  I've enjoyed getting a chance to see new books as they come out, read interviews with authors, and keep up on what's happening in the industry.

This publication that booksellers, librarians and bloggers turn to for news on the book industry is now publishing a version for book lovers! Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers is a FREE emailed newsletter with reviews on the 25 best books publishing each week along with author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways and more. Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers. Check out the button on the sidebar to sign up for the new publication and to be entered for a chance to win a great book!

I know you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Audio Book Review: One Summer by David Baldacci

Author: David Baldacci
Publisher/ Format: 7 discs; 8 hours, 337 page equivalent
Narrator: Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy. 
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: love and loss 
Setting:Ohio and South Carolina
Genre: romance
Source: review copy from Hachette Audio

One Summer is a complete departure from David Baldacci's normal political thriller, action adventures.  It is a romance, some would call it chick-lit, but it is every bit as well written as his other stuff.   It was a pleasant summer read, and fit right in with my cozy summer reading theme.

Essentially, it's the story of a terminally ill man whose wife is killed on Christmas eve.  His children are ripped from his deathbed by his mother-in-law who sells the family home to pay for his care, and he is left to die alone.  Then a miraculous recovery and an unexpected inheritance allow him the chance to reunite his family, rebuild his relationships with his children, and find a new friendship that has definite romantic possibilities.  The family interactons are realistic even if the plot is a bit far-fetched.  I suppose every summer romance has to have a happy ending, even if we are left to imagine the future of many of the characters.  The positive possibilities for each were there.

I "ear-read" this one thanks to a review copy from Hachette Audio.  It's a favorite format for me.  I've listened to several other Baldacci books in audio that also had Ron McLarty as the narrator.  He has a clear voice, and terrific inflection, but I found it disconcerting to have this voice who is usually relating white-knuckle suspense to be telling a story of love lost and found.  I also disliked the music.  I'm not sure why audio book producers feel they have to make 'productions' out of book readings.  A good narrator should be able to give us the story.  I don't need background music to set the tone or scene in a printed book, and I find it distracting in an audio book.  I want the author's words to set the tone, not some heart-string pulling music (if I closed my eyes at one point, I'd have expected to open them to see angels descending with harps!)

All in all though, it's a fun read, a heart-warmer, and one that is sure to please readers who like happy endings.

Many thanks to Hachette for the opportunity to review it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Author: CS Richardson
Publisher Format: Doubleday (2007), Hardcover, 119 pages
Subject: facing death
Genre: Novella
Source: public library

This is an exquisite little book. It is difficult to classify it.  Certainly it's fiction. It's a love story, it's a story of grieving, of fear, of loss, of death.  But it's a story of celebrating life, of empowering each other by letting go, of suffering loss and experiencing growth.

Layered onto the life story however is a very very clever play on words and letters. The cover flap describes the basics:
Ambrose Zephyr is a contented man. He shares a book-laden Victorian house with his loving wife, Zipper. He owns two suits, one of which he was married in. He is a courageous eater, save brussels sprouts. His knowledge of wine is vague and best defined as Napa, good; Australian, better; French, better still. Kir royale is his drink of occasion. For an Englishman he makes a poor cup of tea. He believes women are quantifiably wiser than men, and would never give Zipper the slightest reason to mistrust him or question his love. Zipper simply describes Ambrose as the only man she has ever loved. Without adjustment.
 When Ambrose is told by his doctor that he has only thirty days to live, he and Zipper set out on an alphabetical journey to fulfill Ambrose's many childhood dreams of the alphabet being spelled out in places vice objects.  Ambrose's alphabet wasn't "A is for apple, B is for bear",  his was "A is for Amsterdam, B is for Berlin" and so on.   The frantic and frenetic race to see all his beloved dreams is written so crisply, in such elegant, reduced text, that the reader is able to read the 119 pages in one sitting.  You put this down and realize that you have practically been holding your breath until the end.  It's a book to be shared by lovers, a book to read again, and a beautiful expression of lives well lived.

Do yourself a favor - - get a copy, grab a cup of tea and curl up.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A second chance for Jeffrey Archer

Wow!  How lucky can we get?  MacMillan audio saw the review last week for Jeffrey Archer's latest one, and offered to give me an audio version to review.  They are also giving us a copy for a giveaway.  So....If you really wanted to read this one, and you didn't win, here's your chance.  I'm going to make this one vey easy.  One comment, one chance per customer.  BUT....I'm not going to give it away until I get 20 comments.  So mention this one on your blog and encourage people to come over here.  If you do post it on your blog (and mention that there's no giveaway until we reach the magic number) then I'll give you an extra won't have to do a thing.

If you've never tried an audio book before, this would be a very good one to start with, and just to prove it, there's a substantial sample here on the Only Time will Tell page It's a great read, and I can't wait to get my copy to listen to the story and see if there was anything I missed first time around.  The best part of audio books is that you don't have to turn the pages....they just keep going for you.  You can get lost in a book very easily and not want to turn it off.

Remember - one comment, include an email address, no PO Boxes, and be sure to give me the link to your blog post. Good luck.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow

Author: Dana Stabenow
Publisher Format: St. Martin's Minotaur (2010), 322 pages
Subject: gold mining
Setting: Alaska
Series: Kate Shugak Novels
Genre: women private detectives, murder mystery
Source: public library

 Now here's a series I'm really going to get into.  One of our patrons donated this book to the library, and shoved it at me (she knows me well) saying " YOU MUST READ THIS."  Now who am I to make a patron unhappy?  She was right.  It's a page turner, with a great plot, a wonderful protagonist in Kate Shugak, a private investigator who works along side the tribal and government law enforcement authorities in the Alaskan wilderness.

This is evidently the 17th in the series, but I didn't feel I need much back fill to enjoy the story.  The plot revolves around a greedy mining company wanting to dig gold from a pristine and ecologically endangered mine.  I thought the author did an excellent job balancing what could have become a political diatribe and instead offered a fair explanation of the issues.  These were certainly debated enough to cause murder and mayhem, missing and mis-identified bodies, and offer Kate the chance to once again help put together the clues she and others piece together from the wilderness.  There's just enough question mark left at the end (no spoilers here!) to make readers look forward to the next in the series.

There is certainly enough to this character and the gorgeous setting to make me definitely seek out at least a few of the earlier ones.  If you like rugged settings, strong women, and well plotted murder mystery, these just may be for you. 

Summer wrap- up

Since many of the books I read this summer were for my own reading pleasure, and not formal reviews, I haven't done individual posts on several of them.  There are some however, that merit a mention with my comments and what's to like or dislike:

Sizzlin' Sixteen - Janet Evanovich.  I chuckled when I read #15 in this series, but almost forgot why I had stopped reading them several years ago.  This one made me remember and swear off Stephanie Plum for the rest of my life.  Evanovich is a good writer.  She just needs to find something new, refreshing, and with a totally different premise.

To Kill a Mockingbird - This classic was chosen by our Book Club at the library for it's July discussion.  I hadn't read it in 50 years since it came out.  I thought I remembered it, but found there was so much I'd forgotten, or never keyed on when I was younger.  It is a true classic, and if you haven't read it, drop everything and do so.  It was required reading when I was in high school, and in my opinion, should still be required, but those of us who read it as the Civil Rights movement was just starting will find a surprising depth of insight from being able to look back.

August Heat by Andrea Camilleri.  The 10th in the Inspector Montalbano detective series, this was the perfect book to read in August.  The scorching searing heat of Siciliy in the summer is something I've experienced first hand (twice!) and although Sicily is a spectacular vacation venue, I'm not going to plan my next trip in the summer months.  Montalbano locates a beautiful seaside villa for a friend coming down from northern Italy, only to have the family discover that there are some serious defects in the building (like a dead body to begin with).  His girlfriend Livia, as usual, becomes upset and goes home.  Montalbano battles the heat, tries to solve the mystery of why the house is as it is (it's hard to describe the mysterious happenings without spoiling the story) and in the end detects the true culprit.  His sidekick, Catarella provides just the right touch of comic relief to make the book not only a good who dunnit, but an enjoyable and amusing read.  This series continues to get better, so if you haven't tried any of them, next time you're browsing the shelves, pull one out and settle in for a few hours.  I don't think you'll regret it.

All in all, it was a successful restful summer.  I wallowed in a few great page turners, enjoyed the summer breezes while listening to some awesome audios and stitching my blue heron.  In fact, I'll be giving you a progress report on my stitching project later this fall.  For now, the leaves are already turning, and it's time to turn to some heavy duty catching up on ARCs sent for reviews.  I'm still planning to continue reading in some of the new series I discovered this summer, so as long as the eyes and ears hold out, and the NOOK stays charged, I'll be offering up more of my two cents.

Monday Mailbox - September 5th

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!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  Now that we're into September, is the month for hosting by Amused at Amused by Books. Be sure to stop by and say howdy.

Only one this week-- a contest win  from First Reads, but one that certainly has a big appeal to me:

The Goodreads blurb says:

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. (more)
Sienna is one of my favorite cities in Europe, absolutely elegant in its architecture, ambiance, and refusal to move too far out of a medieval setting.  I can't afford to go back there right now, so I'm really looking forward to day-dreaming about my wonderful visits there in the past, while I read this one.

Many thanks to Goodreads and the First Read Program for picking me to win it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two New Winners - How Cool is That?

Author:Barbara Delinsky
Publisher Format:Doubleday (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages Setting: New York
Genre: fiction
Source: ARC from publisher has really done a great job this time.  The two names chosen as winners of Barbara Delinsky's newest fiction were new winners here at Tutu's Two Cents.  We welcome both of them and hope they come back often.

To refresh everybody about this one, here is Doubleday's synopsis:

Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer married to a lawyer, working in Manhattan. An idealist, she had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days in a cubicle talking on the phone with vic­tims of tainted bottled water—and she is on the bottler’s side.

And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband, Tim, with whom she doesn’t connect the way she used to. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch.

Acting on impulse, Emily leaves work early one day, goes home, packs her bag, and takes off. Groping toward the future, uncharacteristically following her gut rather than her mind, she heads north toward a New Hampshire town tucked between mountains. She knows this town. During her college years, she spent a watershed summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.
I don't usually read too many pure 'chick lit' books, and I haven't read any of Delinksy's work in several years.  It's not something I'd want to have a steady diet of, and perhaps it's because I've been reading "lite" all summer that I found this one wasn't quite as developed as I would have preferred, but it was certainly entertaining enough and I know will be enjoyed by our winners:

Ellie Lewis
Congratulations to both of them. I've sent their emails and they have until Wednesday nite to get back to me.

If you missed out on this, you can have another chance at some of my favorite blogs who are also featuring giveaways of this one:

Bookin' with Bingo - deadline Sept 6th
Just Another New Blog - deadline Sept 7th

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Christmas Cookies? Already?

The World's Greatest Christmas Cookies
A collection of cookie recipes,  decorating ideas, and inspirational thoughts from the contributors.
Publisher/ Format: Barbour Publishing Company, e galley 160 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: Christmas Cookies
Genre: Recipe compilation
Source: Net Galley

Net Galley has offered several cookbooks for review recently, and since Christmas Cookies are a special weakness for me, I was delighted to be able to take a look at this one.  I had best state up front that I collect cookie cookbooks, and over my forty plus years of marriage and moving around the world, I've been through an extensive assortment of recipes.  But by now, I've settled on about two dozen all time favorites that I know I can count on to be fun to make, easy to store, and (most of all) well received by all who stop by to share holiday cheer, or to whom I send them as gifts every year.

So even though I'm pretty settled on my list, I'm also always looking for something new, delicious, and relatively easy to make.  (I gave up trying to be Martha Stewart a long time ago).  I would not buy this one for myself since I have most of the recipes that appeal to me already in my files.  But I definitely would consider this one as a gift for someone who is just embarking on setting up housekeeping, a young parent who wants some easy to make recipes to make with children, or someone who is not a cookbook collector but who loves cookies.

The format is excellent - each recipe is easy to read, colorfully typeset, the pictures are crisp, clear and yummy, and none of them threaten to overwhelm the baker with complications.  I especially like the "Sweet tips" sprinkled throughout the book.  Several of them were new to me (such as placing a slice of apple in a container of cookies that are beginning to get a bit dry---I've done that for brown sugar but never thought about it for cookies!)

The recipe for Potato Chip Cookies looks like a busy Mom's dream - crushed chips, a can of sweetened condensed milk, coconut and peanut butter.  Mixed up and dropped on a greased cookie sheet, these can be done in about 15 minutes start to finish!

Bar cookies are another favorite of mine, and living up here in cranberry bog heaven, those Cranberry Paradise bars look really yummy.  We also grow a lot of rhubarb up here, and the Rhubarb Squares looks like a good recipe to use up that last bag of frozen rhubarb to make more room in the freezer!

There are a few drawbacks to this one.  Cookbooks, by their nature, are meant to be browsed. There is no Table of Contents - although that may be simply a function of the egalley - I hope one appears in the finished product.  There's a great index, but I shouldn't have to go to the back of the book to browse.  AND....................about 25% (I didn't do an exact count) of the recipes don't have pictures.  Sorry Barbour publishing, but cookies need to have pictures.  It's the picture that grabs a cook.  I don't have the vaguest idea of what the "Italian Christmas Cookies" are supposed to look like.  The ingredients and instructions don't sound like ANYTHING any of my Italian relatives every made for Christmas, and I certainly don't think I've ever seen a recipe like them in any of my numerous Italian cookbooks.  So that one for me would be destined to remain a mystery forever - I'd never even consider it.  And that may be a shame.

Over all, this is one to consider if you like cookies, or are looking for a good not too expensive addition to your cookbook collection, or for a nice gift.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and Net Galley for making it available.

For other Weekend Cooking, take a look at our Host: Beth Fish Reads.  There's always a great range of yummy reviews, recipes, and all things foodie to whet your appetite. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Audio Reviews: The Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson

Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher/Format: BBC Audio America, 10 discs-11 hours, 312 page equivalent
Year of publication: 2008
Narrator: Susan Jameson
Subject: Three different crimes separated by years
Setting: Cambridge,England
Series: Jackson Brodie Mysteries
Genre: mystery- detective fiction
Source: public library

Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher/Format: BBC Audio America, 12 discs-14 hours, 448 page equivalent
Year of publication: 2006
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Subject: seemingly random unrelated incidents of murder
Setting: Edinburgh Scotland
Series: Jackson Brodie Mysteries
Genre: mystery- detective fiction
Source: public library

This series has a lot to like about it.  I had just gotten the 4th in the series Started Early Took My Dog for our library, and was intrigued by the jacket blurb.  I really dislike starting a series in the middle, so I hunted down the 1st two to see if they might be worthy of including in our collection.  Since I needed some audios to get me through a couple of cooking/sewing projects this summer, these two really met the challenge.  They are intricately plotted, but somewhat hard to follow in the beginning.  In both volumes, Atkinson weaves together a series of seemingly unrelated characters and murders that leave the reader asking "where is this going?" until about half-way through each book.  The head scratching is well worth the wait however because not only do the stories mesh together, along the way we meet a cast of wonderfully eccentric and engaging characters who hold our interest and pull us toward their personal conclusions.

In Case Histories, Jackson becomes involved in a cold case of a missing toddler, another of a dead teenager, and an ax murder.  I don't want to spoil the delicious way Atkinson pulls Brodie through all of these with their reluctant witnesses, missing evidence, etc. so I won't reveal too much more about the story line or characters.  I especially like her borderline risquè sense of humor, her tartly funny remarks emerging from the most unusual characters, and Jackson's seemingly lackluster enthusiasm for some of the rigors of the cases.

In One Good Turn, we see Jackson continuing a relation that was only a glint in the first book, as he follows (somewhat begrudgingly?) his now lady friend to Edinburgh so she can participate in an acting festival.  He whiles away the time that she is in rehearsals by blundering onto a dead body, and then spends the rest of the book walking a tightrope between wanting to be totalling uninvolved in solving the crime, (he's on vacation after all!) and in wanting to take over the investigation completely.  His prickly personality and on-again/off-again motivation makes for a true page turner and some uproarious chuckles.  Again, the reader has to pay attention to be sure not to miss any of the many many clues Atkinson strews throughout, but that concentration is well worth the effort in the end.

Normally, I really enjoy audios, but I'm daring to say these are better read in print at first, unless you have exceptional powers of remembering who is who.  The audios done by BBC America were spot on, and easy to listen to, but I think being able to flip back and forth would be a definite advantage to the first time reader of either of these.  Susan  Jameson and Steven Crossly did a first rate job of bringing these doty characters to life so if you like audio, do give them a try, but maybe with a dog-earred paperback next to you for easy referral.   I don't necessarily see that they have to be read in order either, so my advice is to find any of the four in the series, grab a chair and settle back for a great and fun detective story.

PS...I think I'm going to be adding at least one more of these to our collection at the library.