Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hidden in Plain View Thursdays

The Americans: The Democratic Experience


Welcome to the weekly feature where we use to pick a book from our library shelves (real or virtual) and bring it out into daylight.  To join in:
1. Pick a random book from your library and tell us:
  • title, author, #of pages, edition, (tags, and collections if LT)
  • why that book is in your library
  • whether you've read it or not
    • if so did you like it and why;
    • if not, do you plan to read it?
  • how and when you acquired the book
  • Be sure to leave us a link to your post so we can compare notes.
This weeks pick from pg #2, book #54 of the your library collection, is Daniel J. Boorstin's The Americans: The Democratic Experience, Vintage Trade Paperback, 736 pages of which 136 are bibliographic notes and index.  We have this in our library, having inherited it from auntie in 2001.  It is tagged "history, to be read, and Pulitzer".  

I haven't read it yet, and just discovered as I researched this book and went to look at reviews, that it is actually the 3rd in a series Boorstin did on "The Americans".  The 1st two were The Americans: The Colonial Experience, and The Americans: The National Experience.  I'm going to have to find these two because I have a feeling I'm going to want to read them in order.  Can't believe Auntie didn't have the other two, and I suspect they are residing on one of those 65 boxes in the attic.  Seems like next week may become dedicated work in the attic week.  Boorstin's reputation is enough to make me want to read these even if it hadn't won the Putlizer, but that's a double bump up on the TBR list.Anyway, here's the description from Amazon:

Daniel J. Boorstin describes a post-Civil War America united not by ideological conviction or religious faith but by common participation in ordinary living: "A new civilization found new ways of holding men together--less and less by creed or belief, by tradition or by place, more and more by common effort and common experience, by the apparatus of daily life, by their ways of thinking about themselves." This is not a familiar litany of names, dates, and places, but an anecdotal account that rises far above impressionism and paints a compelling portrait of the United States as it climbed to new heights. Sheer reading pleasure for lovers of history, this fittingly ambitious conclusion to the Americans trilogy won the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1973. --John J. Miller
(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 24 Apr 2009 07:58:19 -0400)


Guest Review: Sand Sharks

Today we have a guest review from one of my fellow library workers, a retired Washington journalist who wants to stay anonymous. I'm really behind on my reading and since she is a huge Margaret Maron fan, I offered a quid pro quo: "You can read the book now and not wait for me to finish it, but you have to write a review." She finished it in record time and sent me the following:

I’ve recently discovered that there are genres of mysteries that I’d never even thought of – cosy, cottage, needlework, etc.  Silly me: I’d divided them into categories like simple-to-read; boring British inspectors with no personality; fun with-a-hook, as in Monica Ferris’ needlework tales; and the continuing adventures of one main character or family, written so well that every new title is like a visit with a dear friend you haven’t talked to for some time.

Since I don’t dote on solving the crime before the author does, this last category is my favorite, with one big caveat: the writing must be good enough and sophisticated enough to tell a story with some momentum while it furthers (is that a word?) your acquaintance with a previously-met character.

That’s a long introduction to Margaret Maron’s fifteenth Deborah Knott novel Sand Sharks, set in yet another North Carolina locale.  We first met Deborah Knott in The Bootlegger’s Daughter, and have watched the Southern Belle mature from a somewhat wild child/lawyer to a cool, thirty-something judge in a District Court. Along the way, a husband and stepson have been added to her life. She’s related to many of the people in her town, and is the youngest child and only girl in a family of twelve children. Daddy the bootlegger is still alive and kicking, but his independent daughter tends to make her own way.

One of the charms of these books is that each takes place in a different locale in North Carolina, and the reader picks up a working knowledge of potteries, autumn tourism in the mountains, the furniture markets, etc.

Sand Sharks  takes Deborah to the coast at Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach for a Judicial Convention. Well-written prose ensures that soon your body has relaxed in the warm, sunny white sand, lulled by the cries of gulls overhead and the shrieks of happy children playing at the ocean’s edge.  And soon there is a dead body claiming your attention – and Deborah’s. The convention is peopled with Deborah’s cousins, old friends, a few old amours, and several stories of injudicious behavior that could set someone up as a murder victim. The question of who did it and why is irresistible to Deborah.

If this is your type of mystery – readable in just a couple of days, making you feel like you’ve caught up with old friends and distant relatives – then this is for you.  And you’ll probably want to go back to the beginning and read the 14 preceding titles.  One other note:  Maron’s book is set in a generous type that makes reading it easy as you stay up an extra 20 minutes to finish the book.

Wow...I think we should invite her back to review more books for us.  Don't you just want to dive right into this one?  Thanks again, oh ghost friend. We look forward to seeing you some more.

Mini Review: Agatha Christie Bedside Companion

Ok...I'll confess.  I've never read an Agatha Christie mystery.   We inherited this book, and when I discovered it on a shelf several weeks ago, I was delighted because I thought it was an anthology of her works, or at least a sampling, and would be a great introduction to this famous writer.

WRONG!  Julian Symonds has edited this mishmash of items about Agatha Christie, including everything from reviews to articles, to publicity shots; it does not however contain any of her writings. The small (think about 8) font makes it difficult to read at night, and its large and heavy size makes it (in spite of what the title proclaims ) a "not for bathtubs" book.  As an armchair companion it works, but it's much more a reference, browsing book than one to read cover-to-cover. And again, I confess, I did not, could not, can not, and will not, am I sounding like a Dr. Seuss book? read it all. I slogged through quite a bit of it, enough to realize that she is a highly regarded writer, and obviously worthy of the accolades compiled here.

If you're a Christie fan, you might like it.  If like me, you've still got to cut your teeth, I suspect this is not the place to start. It did induce me to read one of her stories to find out what all the excitement is really about.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

National Banned Books Week - Speak!

Catcher in the Rye . . 
. . . . . Harry Potter ...
. . . . . . . .Captain Underpants . . .

Every year, there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries.  My fellow bloggers have been quite busy celebrating this week, speaking out about a subject near and dear to all of us.  I'm not going to try to repeat all that has been said, but I can provide you some links to some very thoughtful and thought-provoking posts:

Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here 
Aarti at  BOOKLUST
Stefanie at So Many Books 

Be sure to speak out in support of free thinking, reading, and writing.

Thanks to the Intellectual Freedom Committee of ALA for the promotional materials.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: The Saint and The Fasting Girl

Anna Richenda sent me this richly worded story of a group of women living in England during the time of the early Reformation.  She asked if I would be interested in reviewing it, and I agreed to read.  I had recently finished Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth so I was familiar with the period and thought it sounded really fascinating.  I apologize to Anna for not getting to it sooner. 

I realized also as I went to post this review, that this book fits really well into this week's Banned Book theme.  I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, this book is going to be challenged and some group will ask to have it removed from circulation.  In my view, that means more people will want to read it to find out why some people don't like it and want it banned. More on this as I go on.
This book has great descriptive text.  Through her writing, we are transported to a time and setting of awful stenches, steaming piles of mud and manure, bone-numbing cold, gruesome starvation, teeth-chattering rains, blood and sweat and urine soaked straw mattresses, fleas, spiders and other bugs, and every other physical hardship that can be dreamt of.  
As the story progresses, there are action scenes worthy of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart – lots of blood, gore, pounding hooves, waving swords and pikes and bishop’s staffs; children, horses, pigs, oxen and pregnant women being beaten, whipped, dragged away, burned and hanged;  and lots of trauma (as in chopping off) of various body parts.
The chapters are well defined and divided into easy-to-read-in-one session pieces, but with chapter titles that seem, with a few exceptions, to have nothing to do with the text that follows.
I have done other reading (albeit fiction) set in this period, and have spent time literally traipsing through the area of England she talks about, so I from my limited perspective, I’d say that her historical settings are accurate portrayals of the times and places.
All that said, I need to preface the rest of this review with the caveat that I don’t like fantasy, or paranormal activity in my reading, so I really had a hard time with a lot of this.  These points are exactly why it IS an important book and why it will be challenged and why some people will want it banned/burned/removed.  While I regret to say that I couldn’t figure out the point of this book, that doesn't mean that others won't.  It's not my bag, but it should be looked at and available to others who will read and enjoy it. Here are some of my issues:
  • First of all, the main character Georgia? Jane? has (had?) many lives (incarnations?) with different names, and has (had?) been killed many times but keeps coming back to be the bearer of the relic of St. Iselda. This rebirth issue made it difficult for me to get an accurate picture in my mind of what this woman looked like…something I find necessary if I’m to read a story about a main character.
  •  The next character "Lo" is said to be the "Chooser" but I never figured out what she was to choose.
  • I never figured out what St Iselda is supposed to do (other than restore these women to power? – power over what? Men?)or when she's supposed to do it or why these women are following (worshipping?) her.  Shades of Christ coming to save the world, but then again not.
  • The ‘followers’ of the saint (they keep emphasizing “we’re not nuns”) go through quite a bit of persecution on the part of both the Roman and Protestant Catholics, who see any woman as a threat, nuns as whores, and treat women as chattel but why this is any different than treatment of any other group of religious at the time is not really clear.
  • I know that during medieval times there was quite an emphasis on appealing to saints for protection, and relics were big big big, but never once in this book did I hear a prayer being sent heavenward to any deity…only female saints.(Right there....that'll get it on the Banned Book list! )
  • Every chapter builds to a new battle with some MAN or other, and often involved some struggle to find the relic (which kept getting stolen but without the men realizing what they had?).For the first 150 pages or so, this constant distress and see-sawing held my interest; after that, I began to find myself saying ‘Oh no, not again….when is this ever going to end?’ It went on for a full 300+ pages. And maybe that’s the point? Was her point that for women, this never ended?
For me, all the aforementioned descriptive text provided way TOO MUCH descriptive INFORMATION with too little real plot or denouement. Ok …it smelled bad…it was cold…nobody took a bath…ok…I get it, but I didn’t like having to get it over and over again. And I didn't like wondering where it was going.

If her point was to demonstrate that woman were treated poorly in Merry Olde England, she’s done that in spades. In fact, seven no trump. If the point was to portray the customs and lifestyle of this particular cult of woman, she did that too…sorta…but I found I had to stop in the middle of the book, go to the web page listed in the acknowledgments and read about Anchorites and their practices for any of this to make sense. And this pointer was buried at the end of the book in acknowledgments---not in the front, where the reader could have used it.
Then there’s this whole issue of being reborn. I saw resonances with the tribal memories we saw in “Clan of the Cave Bear” but this was quite different…this was a reincarnation theme that had the main character coming back ….and back…and back…and bringing memories with her and dragging, and I mean drrrrrr….aaaa…..ggg…….ing this Saint into everything.  Often, these revived memories appeared to have been drug induced or the result of sleep deprivation, so I found myself not accepting their validity.
As I said, I never could figure out who the Saint was (other than the owner of the blood in the relic) or what she had done to merit such devotion, or what on earth power she had that was going to turn the whole world into one dominated by women where men weren’t needed. 
And I never did figure out which of these ladies was ‘the fasting girl’ – I think there was more than one, but….?
As I said, I don’t normally read in the paranormal genre, nor do I read or enjoy fantasy.  This book, though billed as historical fiction, reads much more like fantasy. There were times when  I half expected Wonder Woman to rise from the bubbling stream of muck! Or a unicorn to come bounding out of the woods to rescue the princess or girl or nun or whatever she was!  I probably wasn’t the right person to review this.  I think this book would have been helped immensely by putting some background material at the beginning. If I hadn’t gone and delved into her reference on the Internet, I’d never have finished it.
So....If you’ve never heard of Anchorites (and that term was NEVER mentioned in the book itself—I had to discover it on the internet), if you’ve no experience of religious women living in community (I was educated by nuns from 1st grade through college and I still have trouble understanding it), and if you’ve never read anything else about this period, this is probably not the book to start with. 
On the other hand.... If you’re well versed in Reformation England history and its religious battles, and enjoy adding to your knowledge of the period, if you like some fantasy mixed in your fiction, you may find this to be a welcome addition to your library.  It would in fact, make a great Reading Group discussion book for those who like this genre.

The Banned Book Library Project

I just discovered that my favorite all-time book site has a separate Banned Book Library project where they are compiling a list of books that have been banned or challenged over the years.  Clicking the link will take you to the list, where you can see not only the list, but the reasons they landed there. By using a tag system, the LT group is able to give us a better picture of why a particular book is/was considered objectionable.  Click on a particular book to bring up more details.

Quoting from the profile page:

Explanation of Tags

To make browsing easier, the tags have been structured in a way that groups sections of information together. To summarise:

Country - Refers to country work was banned in
Source - Refers to source of information regarding banning
Reason - Does what it says on the tin, why the book was banned
Time Period - Time period when the book was banned/restricted. Grouped by century - details in comments field.
Censoring Body - Specific authorities that have banned work (taken directly from source)
Banned Books - Books that have been banned
Censored Books - Books that have been censored
Challenged Books - Books that have been challenged

As an LT member, one of the things I like best is that it automatically matches my library with the banned books list, giving me a quick snapshot of which of these evil devils are in my library, allowing me to tag them in my library and find and relish them quickly. 

Just for fun, here are my matching items so far---I think I'm off to stroll through a few.

Tropic of Cancer
Henry Miller

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: A Rule Against Murder

While this novel by Canadian Louise Penny is an Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, it is not set in Three Pines as were the others.  It is however, every bit as tightly plotted, exquisitely written, and spell-binding as her others.

Gamache takes his beautiful wife Reine Marie to the idyllic rustic Manoir Bellechasse to celebrate their wedding anniversary (it is where they spent the first night of their honeymoon).  While he's there another family has taken over the rest of the lodge, and it soon becomes apparent that these people do not like each other very much.  They are there to commemorate their deceased father by unveiling and dedicating a statue to him.

As one would expect, there is a murder on site, and Gamache (along with his second in command, Jean-Guy Beaumont) goes about the ugly task of interviewing this most unhappy group of visitors and staff to solve the mystery.  They are an intriguing group: the chef who looks familiar to Jean Guy, and Reine Marie, the aloof maitre d', the surly summer hire, the shy and nervous gardener, the sons of the deceased (one a total snob, the other --well---), the widow of the deceased (who has re-married) and her husband, the daughter of the deceased and her child (we must question whether a child named "Bean" is male or female--I won't tell) and the proprietess who owns and runs the shop. 

Add in the ex-son-in-law (sitting in a Vancouver jail for investment fraud) and Gamache's struggles with his memories of his deceased father and this book becomes one with layer upon layer of complexity.  It is frankly magnificent.

Although this is not set in Three Pines, Penny manages to involve the villagers (Peter is the son of the deceased pater who is being memorialized) and she evokes the quiet, beautiful wilderness that is the hallmark of the other books in the series.

I think Louise Penny is going to be this generation's Agatha Christie.  She is that good.  I love her characters, I love her settings, and she is masterful at developing plot lines.  If you haven't read any of her books, take it from must.  It will be on my list of Best Reads of the Year for sure.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Banned Books Week - Read!

Reading - it's good for you!

Celebrate YOUR freedom to read during Banned Books Week, September 29th to Oct 6. I'm planning to go through my Library catalog on LT and mark all the books that have been challenged, withdrawn or otherwise burned over the years.  Here's one list (there are several compiled over the years) of the most challenged books. Have you read any?

Many thanks to the Intellectual Freedom Committee of ALA for the promotional material.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday's Favorites from the Past: Do Not Open

Every Friday, Alyce At Home With Books features this meme inviting us to look back at a favorite book from the past.  Every parent who has ever read aloud to a child sooner or later discovers that there is one book that MUST be read every night for what seems like eighty-eleven million years.  When my son made his first trip to the public library in the spring of 1982, we checked out Brinton Turkle's gorgeously illustrated book DO NOT OPEN. We renewed it, and then renewed it, and then my neighbor graciously volunteered to check it out (and renew it) while I scoured used book stores (remember this was pre Amazon and even internet time) trying to find a copy to give him for Christmas.

I finally did find one and it has remained with us over the years.  Last December, when he was visiting with his own daughter, and they were shifting through boxes of books in the attic, I was treated to a glorious crowing as all 6 ft of him came galloping down the attic steps and he raced into the great room holding this aloft yelling "YES YES....we still have it."  Daddy and daughter now both read it went home to Virginia with him, but I still have fond memories of it.  It is now out of print, and I 'm trying to find a decent copy for our library here in town.

The story is about an old lady who lives on the beach with her cat.  She walks every day and collects sea glass bottles, and other flotsam and jetsam and then finds a bottle that says "Do Not Open" one day after a big storm.  Should she open it?  You can imagine the tension and suspense this holds for youngsters. The exciting events that follow make it a wonderful book for the 3-7 age group.  I won't spoil it but there is a wonderful wonderful MONSTER, and I wish I could remember the name of the cat, who ends up being the hero....

If you can find it, grab it. It's a treasure to savor and pass on.

Hidden in Plain View

I've not been able to keep up with everyone else's memes, so I decided to start one of my own...Hidden in Plain View.  Feel free to play along, just post a link to this one, so we can all stay in touch. This is a chance to dig a little deeper into our personal libraries to find books that may be languishing on the shelves and bring them out for a better look. I plan to do this weekly on Thursdays.  To join in:

1. Pick a random book from your library (I used to pick mine from my LT catalog).
2. Tell us
  • title, author, #of pages, edition, (tags, and collections if LT)
  • why that book is in your library
  • whether you've read it or not
    • if so did you like it and why;
    • if not, do you plan to read it?
  • how and when you acquired the book

I have 24 'pages' of books in LT, so this week chose pg 17.  Then Random choose book 74 from the 100 books on that page.  This week's book is

  • Franklin and Winston, by Jon Meacham, 512 pages, hardcover, Random House, 2003;
    • Tags =   biography, history, WWII, Churchill, FDR, US Pres challenge, TBR;
    • LT collections= my library, to read
  • Both hubbie and I love to read biographies and history, and since this will help as an 'extra' when I'm doing the US President's challenge on LT, I scarfed it up. 
  • Haven't read it yet, but it's on my TBR list for when I get to FDR on the president's list. Since I'm only at Jefferson right now, this one will sit patiently on the biography shelf.  It promises to be a good one though and I'm looking forward to reading it.
  • I bought the book for $3 at a Friends of the Library booksale about 4 months ago. It had been withdrawn from the library's collection (I can't imagine why unless they had duplicates).

Here's a back cover blurb from Tom Brokaw:
"This is at once an important, insightful, and highly entertaining portrait of two men at the peak of their powers who, through their genius, common will, and uncommon friendship, saved the world. Jon Meacham's Franklin and Winston takes its place in the front ranks of all that has been written about these two great men."
So what's lurking in your library?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Earplugs- the Weekly audios

If you notice my 'currently reading' widget, there are often books there that don't make it to the formal review postings.  I 'read' a lot of books with my ears: i.e., I listen to them in audio format.  Due to various physical limitations, I often find it hard to hold a paper book, or concentrate my eyes on the printed page, and it's not a print size problem.  Anyway, I listen to at least 2, often 3-4 audio books a week, as I drive, do housework, needlework or take a walk.  I get most of them from the public library, either in hard CDs, or as downloads from Overdrive.

To me there is no difference between reading with my eyes or with my ears...I get the same enjoyment from the author's efforts.  So I decided to do a weekly post of mini-reviews of the great audios I've finished during the past week.

The first one I finished was P.D. James' latest (out in hardback last year) The Private Patient.  This looks to be the last in the wonderful Adam Dahlgleish series, and it's every bit as good as the previous ones.  If you haven't read or listened to any of these, hurry to your local bookstore/library and grab one.  Dahgleish is an urbane, polished, humane, gentle, highly intelligent detective (he's like....the head of the British CID.)  This one concerns murder (what else?), greed, deeply buried secrets from the past....all the usual ingredients of a good who-dunnit.  The plot is intricate, the characters extremely well fleshed out, and we are left up to the very end to figure everything out. James is almost 90 years old, and I hope she lives, and continues to write for another 90.

Then I ear-read another in the fun series of Inspector Montalbano mysteries: The Voice of the Violin.  Set in Sicily, these feature a detective who is almost the antithesis of Dahgleish.  Montalbano is crusty, short-tempered, willing to bend the rules, but also insightful, food-loving, and ultimately very human and forgiving.  In this episode, Montalbano's police driver crashes into a parked car whose owner turns up murdered.  His unorthodox search methods get him suspended from the case at one point, but that doesn't stop our hero.  This one leaves big fat hints all over the place. It's one of those where the reader wants to grab the main character, shake him and say "Hey....what about the XYZ"  I enjoy these stories, but unlike some of my other favorites, I can only take these in small doses.

Both are well read by their narrators.  The lush Sicilian accents of the Montalbano series are especially pleasant to hear.  Give your eyes a rest and try one of these.  They're definitely a treat for another sense.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: South of Broad

Pat Conroy hasn't published a novel in almost 14 years, but South of Broad was worth waiting for.  Meet Leo "Toad" Bloom, whose mother is his high school principal, and whose father is the high school's physics teacher.  The trio is battling to hold on to a semblance of family following the suicide of Leo's older brother Steve, when Leo was 10 years old.  The story begins in the summer of 1969, as Leo is entering his senior year of high school. 

We meet the group of friends who will influence him well into adulthood: there is Ike Jefferson, son of the first black football coach at the school, his girlfriend Betty; Chad Rutledge and his sister Fraser, Molly Huger - all arch stereotypes of old Charleston society;  Niles and his sister Starla, orphans whom Toad is ordered by his mother to befriend; and there are the twins--the beautiful Sheba, the future Hollywood starlet and Trevor her equally beautiful and homosexual brother whose mother is a raving alcoholic, and whose father is .....well......NO SPOILERS HERE.  Conroy takes each of these and gives us a deeply developed character, relationships that are all too real, and heart-breaking scenes of friendship, denial, betrayal and loyalty.

Leo and the group must cope with mental illness, segregation, integration, AIDS, divorce, alcoholism, Hurricane Hugo, death, betrayal, and forgiveness as they live their lives through the tumultous decades of the 70's, 80's and into the 90's. Like his previous books, Conroy writes of relationships, of the influence of Roman catholicism during this period and on those relationships, and lets those relationships define the story.  At several points, he could have written 'the end' (lesser writers certainly would have) but he is able to climb from one resolution up another peak and then slide down into a whirl of crisis bringing the reader along to a thoroughly unexpected (at least for me) finale.

Over, under and behind it all is the city of Charleston SC with its rivers, its sultry weather, its incredibly snooty old guard, and its antebellum mansions.  Conroy's ability to evoke the essential beauty and ambience of this queen of southern cities is incredible.  I've never lived there, but have visited several times.  Each time I read one of Conroy's novels, it's like being on a trip to the low-country.
It's one of his best, and will be on my 'best of the year' list. Run and get it....or at least put it on your Christmas wishlist.

Thanks to Nan Talese at Doubleday for the ARC and the chance to review this fantastic novel.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bookshelves - never enough!!

Peter S over at KyusiReader has honored me by featuring Tutu's library as #10 in his Bookshelf Project.  Please visit his blog not necessarily to check out my shelves, but to read his often insightful take on books and reading. Here's a shot from the opposite side so you can see, it's not as un-messy as it looks in the shots Peter has. Remember dull women have immaculate desks/houses/libraries!!!

Thanks's a great feature.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ahoy Me Heartys!

As the current batch of younger than me folks might say: "I am so LOL"!!!  I logged onto my LibraryThing account this morning to be greated with an entire new vocabulary, tab labels, etc.  Today is International "Talk Like a Pirate Day, and those zanies over at LT are celebrating in style.  If you've never checked out the  site, today would be a really fun time to look at it.  Not only can you catalog your books, track your wishlists, chat with folks who have similar (or dissimilar) reading tastes, you can learn to talk pirate.
You can see an example of the pirate talk on my library in LT here

For more info on this fun way to spend a fantastic fall (ok, ok, it's still officially summer, but here in Maine, it's autumn) day, you can check out the origin of all this craziness at International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Back to reading...we must have a book about pirates around here...

Edited 9/20/09: AARRR.....seems the bloomin' mates over at LT were serious about Pirate DAY ..the pirate language is gone....Like most things in life, it was fun while it lasted...oh to write.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eat your heart out Bill Bryson!

I very seldom post my pictures in the "large" size but this is so momentous it deserves to be super-sized.  My cousin Jason successfully completed the entire hike of the Appalachian Trail on Wednesday this week.  He is seen here at the northern terminus: Mt Katahdin in Maine.  He started this amazing life changing journey on April 1st down in Georgia, and over the past 5 1/2 months has hiked over 2100 miles to arrive at his goal.
You can read an online journal of his adventure at Sailor J's Trail Journal. This link takes you to the summit page, but also gives you a link to go to "first" to read the whole story if you're interested.

Today he came to lunch as he is slowly rejoining the 'other' world and learning to sleep in real beds and eat real food again.  His tales of 57 snake and 19 bears, knee deep mud, heart-stopping cliff hangars (literally) and various other excitements left us envious but also thankful that he managed to complete this undertaking in relatively one piece.  I found his solar powered satellite phone to be even cooler than my's an iPod, camera, and phone all in one and weighs only 6 oz.  By wearing it on his back with its little wings extended (I forgot to take a picture while he was here) he could keep it charged for up to two days.  He was able to text back and forth to his parents in Maryland who kept him up to date on impending weather developments, and posted the short texts and pictures he sent home.

Now that he's back to civilization, he'll be uploading lots more pictures and fleshing out the texts in the journal over the next few weeks, so if you're interested be sure to check it out.  It may not be as funny as Bill Bryson's "Walk in the Woods" but it is every bit as inspirational as Thoreau.

Friday's Favorites from the Past: The Tudor Rose

This meme started as My Favorite Read by Alyce at At Home with Books.  On Fridays, if we're not too busy, (you may laugh) and can remember that far back, I'm supposed to feature a book that was one I enjoyed years ago before I started blogging.  There are so many to choose from.  But this week, since we've been doing the Historical Fiction week in addition to BBAW, my choice is easy.  Margaret Campbell Barnes was an author I devoured in my formative years...She had princesses, and romantic knights, and kings, and beautiful dresses and castles, and there was some history in there too, which I absorbed almost without knowing it.  I could hardly wait for the bookmobile to come and bring another of her books.  While written for adults, they are very readable for any pre-teen and up.

Now I notice that several of her books have been reissued in paperback and I could not be happier.  These books are wonderful introductions to the world of HF for the next generation who can get some romance, history, and even a little intrigue without having to read some of the more raw stuff being printed these days.  Accuracy doesn't necessarily mean I need all the nitty gritty.

Barnes introduced me to that naughty lady Anne Boleyn, and to the strength and influence of women like Elizabeth of York about whom my favorite, The Tudor Rose was written.  There are at least 10 works listed in LT by this author, and I 've only read 4 others. Brief Gaudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves, Kings' Fool, and Isabel the Fair.  They'd all be candidates for a re-read if I come across them.   I know my parents had a couple of these, but I suspect they have long gone the way of the wringer washer. I'll have to start haunting the used book sales.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BBAW: I read it because of Bloggers

Today we're supposed to blab about books we'd never have found without being a book blogger.  Most of my finds have come from the ARCs I discovered while blogging. I'd never read Michael Connelly, or George Pelecanos; I had a chance to read Sacred Hearts, and Labor Day, and Brutal Telling without having to get in line at the library. 

Of course, I'm going to be honest and say that except for ARCs, most of my book suggestions and new ideas (and there have been over 50 of them) have come from my reading challenge buddies over on LibraryThing.  I would never have read authors like Stephen King, Donna Leon, Monica Wood, and too many others to mention.  It's been an incredible year (I've read 117 books so far) and I look forward to seeing what's up next.

So here's to all of you--Let's go read.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBAW - Reading Habits

Oh's true confession time.  Today's event features a look at who we bloggers are as readers...sit back and let's get to know Tutu:

First of all, Tutu never used 5 words to say something that could be said with 10, so I'm really going to do something different and try to be brief here....I want to get back to reading.
  • Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Coffee and Jelly-beans (but no red or green ones)
  • Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I use that wonderful fluorescent yellow and green tape from Levengers' but I also pencil mark in ARCs.
  •  How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?Laying the book flat open? Bookmarks  
  • Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? Both 
  • Hard copy or audio books? Both 
  • Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? chapters unless the house is burning down 
  • If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? I make a note and look it up later if the meaning doesn't become clear as I read on 
  • What are you currently reading? South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • What is the last book you bought? Sicilian Cooking by Carmelo Sammarco (I got this last month in Sicily at the end of my Sicilian cooking class)
  • Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? Always more than one- at least one hard cover, and one audio 
  • Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? All day, all nite
  • Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? either will do, altho I tend to tire of series that go on forever with nothing new to say 
  • Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? Whatever I'm currently reading
  • How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) By genre,then alpha by author, but size is always the final determinant 
Well, it's time to round up a cup of coffee and a handful of jelly beans and get back to South Of Broad.

I hope you enjoy your day --mine is rather cool and windy - perfect for curling up to read while the fresh tomato sauce simmers on the stove for dinner. 

Giveaway- True Compass

I am absolutely thrilled that Brianne at the Hachette Book Group has given me 3 copies of Ted Kennedy's memoir True Compass to giveaway.  I can't wait to get my copy to review.  I've always been a fan of the Kennedy family, and this insider look promises to be special.

Here's the description from Hachette:

In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells his extraordinary personal story--of his legendary family, politics, and fifty years at the center of national events.


The youngest of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he came of age among siblings from whom much was expected. As a young man, he played a key role in the presidential campaign of his brother John F. Kennedy, recounted here in loving detail. In 1962 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he began a fascinating political education and became a legislator.

In this historic memoir, Ted Kennedy takes us inside his family, re-creating life with his parents and brothers and explaining their profound impact on him. For the first time, he describes his heartbreak and years of struggle in the wake of their deaths. Through it all, he describes his work in the Senate on the major issues of our time--civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, the quest for peace in Northern Ireland--and the cause of his life: improved health care for all Americans, a fight influenced by his own experiences in hospitals.

His life has been marked by tragedy and perseverance, a love of family, and an abiding faith. There have been controversies, too, and Kennedy addresses them with unprecedented candor. At midlife, embattled and uncertain if he would ever fall in love again, he met the woman who changed his life, Victoria Reggie Kennedy. Facing a tough reelection campaign against an aggressive challenger named Mitt Romney, Kennedy found a new voice and began one of the great third acts in American politics, sponsoring major legislation, standing up for liberal principles, and making the pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

Hundreds of books have been written about the Kennedys. TRUE COMPASS will endure as the definitive account from a member of America's most heralded family, an inspiring legacy to readers and to history, and a deeply moving story of a life like no other.

About Author

Edward M. Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate for forty-seven years. In 2004 he began interviews at the Miller Center of the University of Virginia for an oral history project about his life. Since then, he has drawn from his fifty years of contemporaneous notes from his personal diaries and worked closely on this book with Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Powers, coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers and author of Mark Twain: A Life.

So here are the rules: 

Each of these must be a separate entry.

1. Leave a comment WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS saying you want to enter.
2. Tell me if you're a follower - if you're not, then sign up and tell me and you'll get the extra entry.
3. Post this on your blog and LEAVE ME A LINK to the post.  Sidebars count, but I'd still like the link. (You'll get 2 entries for a blog post, one for a sidebar--but you only need to make one comment here).

Deadline is midnite EDT, October 9, 2009.
Same as before - no PO Boxes, open to US/Canada residents only. (Hachette's rules, not mine.)
I'll draw names on October 10, and the winners will have 48 hours to claim their prize or I'll draw again.

Once again, thanks to Brianne and the Hachette Book Group for this wonderful opportunity.

Sand Sharks - The Winners

Well has done its job again.  No names in a cereal box for me...I let the computer do the picking. Thanks to everyone who entered, and I hope you continue to visit here and all the sites on the contest sidebar. If you didn't win this one, your chance is still out there for the next one.

So without further ado or to-do, here are the winners!
Nonnna (Cheli)
Debbie F
Karen K
All of the winners have been notified by email, and they have until Midnite Friday nite (September 18th) to send me their mailing addresses.  If I wake up Saturday and still have not heard from anyone, I'll pick replacement winners.
Again thanks for entering.  Go hug a blogger today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBAW- The TBR pile

Well today's event for BBAW is to show the pile of books we hope to read by the end of 2009....this basically what I did back on August 18, so I'll just show the piles again...they haven't gone down too much (you may have noticed I was otherwise engaged for a couple weeks), but I still have high hopes to get to many of them.  It's so comforting to be surrounded by all of these.  I know if we get snowed in here in Maine, I won't be bored.  If you missed my reading schedule, here's the link to the original post.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Premio Dardos

From Kristen at BookNAround, I received the Premio Dardos Award. This award comes from the Italian (or Spanish) meaning "prize darts". She has flung this at me, and the idea is to single out and acknowledge the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.

Well, Kristen, I try, and I appreciate your recognition of that. I'm just glad it's a paper dart that's incoming!

The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award. Now this part is harder, because doing 15 new bloggers when all kinds of awards are flying around this week, is difficult. I'm going to put the passing on part on hold for a bit, while I investigate all these wonderful new blogs I'm discovering this week as part of BBAW. I'm sure I'll discover several that are candidates for a prize dart.

Again though, many thanks. Now party on....books are waiting.

BBAW: My Shortlist

This is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and since I was gone, I haven't gotten too involved in any of the activities planned. The wonderful folks sponsoring this event have graciously provided "prompts" to help us celebrate. Today's prompt: Write a post thanking and spotlighting your favorite blogs that didn’t make the shortlists. This is not as easy as it looks. There are literally hundreds of blogs out there and there's no way I'll ever get to read each and every one. I think we all find the ones that speak to us, and those are the first ones we go to on our feeders every morning. So here are a couple of my favorites: Alyce of At home with Books - her site is visually and cerebrally (is that a word?) so pleasant that I find myself always thrilled to see a new post in the feeder. Plus she has some wicked good contests. Kelly at The Novel Bookworm - she has a sense of humor that matches my own, and she hooked me with her online invitation to 'grab a cup of coffee and a cookie (or two) and let's talk about books'. Coffee, cookies and books? What's not to like? Her site is well designed (I'm jealous) easy to navigate, and always a welcoming spot. Caite's A lovely shore breeze She quotes Emily Dickinson, she loves beaches and lighthouses, and her Tuesday Thingers Meme is one of my favorites. Library Thing (LT) is my all time favorite book site, and Caite helps us all get the most out of it. There are so many many more I'd like to mention, but there are also 100's of books waiting to be read. Enjoy your week. Have you hugged a book blogger today?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Non-review and quickie giveaway: No Mad

Notnessie at Today's Adventure has come up with a terrific way to handle reporting on books that just didn't make it to the finish line, i.e., for whatever reason, we just didn't read the whole thing, but have read enough to get a flavor of the writing. She calls them "Non-Reviews". I've been calling them "Abandoned books" over on LT, but that sorta sounds like I've left them on the roadside for the crows. In some cases, I intend to come back and try later; in other cases, like Sam Moffie's No Mad, I realize that this is just not my cuppa tea. Sam asked if I would review this, and was gracious enough to send me a copy, so I feel an obligation to get it to someone who can appreciate the author's hard work. Sam has suggested that I find another home so someone else can enjoy it. So first my few comments, then the rules for the giveway.. I didn't finish this book; after 60+ pages, I felt it was going nowhere, and I got tired of the moanings, fantasies and self-centered musings of an adolescent masquerading as an adult male. The premise (if I read the back cover blurb) appears to be that said male finds his wife in bed with his brother, so he takes his belongings and his dog and sets off to find himself or abandon his previous life and see the world and/or d) wallow in sex whereever he finds it?? I got that far, but nothing seemed to indicate this journey would ever end... Moffie writes well, his sentences are often humorous, but I kept finding myself saying "and? and? get on with it." I couldn't find the point....but that may be just me---I'm not a middle aged male. I'd be happy to have someone else give it a look and enjoy it. So drop me a comment, and I'll pick from entries received by September 19th. Be sure to leave me an email so I can get in touch with you about mailing instructions.

Calling Historical Fiction Fans

The first ever Historical Fiction Round Table begins tomorrow. I've always been a fan of HF, and haven't done as much this year as previously because I've been trying to branch out into other areas. But I'm sure going to be peeking at this all week long. There are giveaways, chats with authors, and several just plain fun activities. Participating blogs include some of my favorites: Marie at The Burton Review Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine Arleigh at Amy at Passages To The Past Allie at Hist-Fic Chick Lizzy at Historically Obsessed Heather at The Maiden's Court They all have posts about their schedules, so pick what fits yours best. Let's dust off those pomanders, send for our stately steeds (or coaches) and get to the party! See you there.

Review: Murder on K Street

Another good solid mystery by one of my favorite mystery writers. Having lived in the DC area for over 15 years, I enjoy these stories. While the premise may be a tad farfetched, I listened to pompous politicians on the evening news for enough years to know that it's not out of the realm of possibility. Senator Lyle Simmon's wife is found murdered inside their Georgetown home. The senator, who is about to run for president, seems more concerned with his image than in finding the killer. His two children, a wimpy son who is president of a lobbying firm, and his politically active (on the opposite side of her father) daughter, are devastated. Add a best friend who was in the love with the wife, some questionably legal doings by the lobbying firm, throw in another murder, and it makes for a good who-dunnit. Nothing extravagant, but it was a good easy read while I was on cruise.