Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Salon...The Magazines are piling up!

I had planned to do this one last week, but spent most of the day reading and watching Olympics. In fact, that is the main reason my posting has been a bit thin this week. Blame it on the big "Os". We are certainly having fun, in spite of being a bit sleep deprived these past two weeks. Add to that the Lenten reading I've been trying to do, a hard drive crash, and the horrible Nor'easter that knocked our power out for over 12 hours, and there's not been much chance to sit and post.

Last Sunday, I also decided to attack the magazine pile which seemed to have decided to breed indiscriminately (perhaps to get my attention?). I found several articles to read in National Geographic (particularly a very interesting article on modern day Polygamy), Atlantic Monthly (a marvelously timely article on Walmart's attempt to introduce local/organic produce into its grocery line), DownEast (several pieces giving me a heads-up on new places to visit when we break out of our self-imposed winter hibernation). I also took the time to leaf leisurely through several cooking magazines I get and pulled out two or three promising recipes to try very soon. The article on Walmart was quite interesting since I'd just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. I hope to get a review of that one posted in the next few days.

Today, while I watch the hockey game, I plan to browse through the latest issue of MONEY magazine, do some more cross-stitch, and of course read some more.....

Current reads are:

Thomas Merton's Seven story Mountain ---I'm taking this one slowly and will finish by the end of Lent.
Eastern Stars - be sure to enter the giveaway.  This one is really getting me in the mood for spring training to start next week after the Olympics are over.
Shot to Death, a collection of mystery short stories.
The Cruelest Month - the only Louise Penny Three Pines Mystery I haven't read---this one is on audio --have to have something to listen to while working out!

And a final note on the BIG storm. Once again, we seem to have dodged a bullet. We did have really strong hurricane force winds, and a lot of rain, but there's no water in the basement,and we only lost power for 12 hours. We have a lot of firewood to 'harvest' from downed trees, but none of them did any damage (although there is one that is going to have to be brought down quickly because it's leaning dangerously across the driveway). We have a wood burning stove, we cook with gas, and we're just fine. Thanks everyone who asked. We hope you all are safe, warm and dry also.

Enjoy your Sunday! Can you believe February is over?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: House on Beartown Road

Author: Elizabeth Cohen
Format: 272 pages, 7 hrs, 35 min audio
Characters: Elizabeth, Daddy, Baby
Subject: Aging, Alzheimer's, single parenting
Setting: current, upstate New York
Genre: memoir
Source: Overdrive audio book download through public library
Challenge: Audio Books, Support Your Local Library

A heartbreaking story about a woman who moves from Arizona to an old farmhouse in upstate New York with her artist husband and one year old daughter. Subsequently, her 80 year old father comes from Arizona to live with them. Daddy has Alzheimer's. Hubbie has a total lack of marital commitment and leaves, and she is left to raise the baby and the father. She writes eloquently of the struggles her father has to remember and the struggles of her daughter to learn.

Daddy walks around now this way, dropping pieces of language behind him. The baby following picking them up. 

She writes about the surprising (to her) neighborliness of others on the street as they bring wood up to her porch, plow her driveway and shovel her walk. She tells us about her attempts to find help, her sister's problems dealing on the opposite coast with their mother. Through it all, her daughter is the shining star who brings everyone together.

"It isn't fatal Daddy, you could live a long time.  You'll just forget things. " That's the same thing as being dead.", he says.

The story is poignant in its outlook, but surprisingly not a tear jerker. It is inspiring.
Writing gives me a sense of control. It has its own special alchemy. I can make what is terrible turn beautiful.
Highly recommended to anyone who is dealing with, or may ever have to deal with issues of aging.  It's not preachy, it's not a how-to.  It's simply a well-written moving story very worth reading.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Unfinished Friday - Shadow of Wind

Now Officially Abandoned

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Format: 485 pages
Setting: Barcelona Spain
Genre: Fiction
Source: Public Library

I tried, and I tried again.  I tried it in audio, I tried it in print.  It just doesn't work for me.  I was just in Barcelona this past summer, and could actually visualize all the setting, but the characters were just not ringing, singing or grabbing me.  Perhaps in 10 years it might be different.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, the wonderful meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page , is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week   Living in rural Maine, we get our mail at the PO, and Michele, our wonderful post lady always greets me with a rundown of how many packages I have before I even get to the box to dig out the little yellow ticket.  As you can see, books don't fit into these boxes!

It's been a very busy week here.  Several ARCs arrived, including my first B&N First Look volume.
Here are the cover or publisher blurbs to whet your appetite.  They've all gone onto the TBR Pile, and I'll publish full reviews when they're done.

This is Not the Story You Think it Is.....An ARC  from Shelf Awareness. When Laura Munson's essay was published, The New York Times was so flooded with responses that they had to close down the comment feature. Readers wrote in saying that they had sent the column to all of their friends. Therapists wrote Munson to tell her that they were passing it out to their clients.

What did Munson write that caused such a fervor?

Laura detailed what happened when her husband of more than twenty years told her he wasn't sure he loved her anymore and wanted to move out. And while you might think you know where this story is going, this isn't the story you think it is. Laura's response to her husband: I don't buy it.

In this poignant, wise, and often funny memoir, Munson recounts a period of months in which her faith in herself-and her marriage-was put to the test. Shaken to the core after the death of her beloved father, not finding the professional success that she had hoped for, and after countless hours of therapy, Laura finally, at age forty, realized she had to stop basing her happiness on things outside her control and commit herself to an "End of Suffering." This Is Not The Story You Think It Is... chronicles a woman coming to terms with the myths we tell ourselves-and others-about our life and realizing that ultimately happiness is completely within our control.
Lost Love Found.  An ARC from the author, I'd requested this one several months ago.  Tim Gomes indicates that he delayed publication to do a major re-write.  This one appears to be the story of high school sweethearts meeting up later in life, and promises to be more than just a beach read chick lit.  I don't normally read a lot of romances, but this one looked like it had a little more to offer.

Stressed in Scottsdale.  Another romance that looks like fun. Cover blurb: With the absurdities of desert living set in her literary cross hairs, Fine once again skewers some of Scottsdale's finest while her protagonist, Jean, tries to find sanity in a world where it rains dirt and blind sheep fall off mountains. Modern living isn't for sissies and Fine addresses the deeper issues of the environment and political corruption as she couches them in laugh-out-loud lines. It is wickedly funny.

The Poacher's Son.  This is  one I'm really excited about.  It's my first book from the First Look Club at Barnes and Noble, and it's their first Mystery club book.  Not only are mysteries one of my favorite genres, but the author is a Mainer who lives down the road, and the story is set in Maine. I KNOW this one will be fun.

It's the first in a planned series featuring Mike Bowditch, Maine Guide.  Doiron, editor of DownEast magazine, is himself a licensed Maine Guide, and this murder mystery, where Mike tries to find a murder to clear his father who's been accused of the crime, promises to be a good one.

Shot to Death, a collection of 31 mystery stories, by another New Englander.  Stephen Rogers is a member of the New England Mystery Writers, and offers us this variety of stories, all set in the cities and small towns of his native New England.  Perfect for Maine winter reading in front of the fire.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: The Case of the Missing Books

Author: Ian Sansom
Format: Trade paperback, 336 pages
Characters: Israel Armstrong
Subject: bookmobiles (mobile libraries)
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: public library
Challenge: Support your local library

Another new series for me.  I'd seen this one recommended by several readers on LT threads, and our local library had a copy to check out.  It's not great lit, not even great mystery writing, but it is an amusing, pleasant cozy read.  Israel Armstrong, a down and out librarian wannabe from London, tires of his job working in a bookstore, and prodded by his girlfriend (who appears to be tiring of his "Poor me" attitude) takes a job as librarian in Tumdrum, County Antrim.  He arrives to find a notice on the door that the library is closed due to 'reallocation of resources'.  He is shocked and dismayed to find that he is expected to drive a mobile library (i.e., a bookmobile), live in a renovated chicken coop, and Oh the way, the library's books --all 15,000 of them--- seem to have disappeared.

His misadventures due to language difficulties and his personal fuddy-duddiness (is that a word?) are somewhat humorous, and are the stuff of which BBC comedy shows are made.

As I said, it was a fun read, but nothing to rave about.  I'm not sure how on earth the author is going to make a series out of this, so I'll probably try one more just to see how the rather thin plot is expanded.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Buried Strangers

Author: Leighton Gage
Format: hard copy 308 pages
Characters: Mario Silva, Arnaldo Nunez, Hector Costa
Subject: crime, police corruption
Setting: Sao Paolo, Brasilia Brasil
Series: Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation
Genre: police procedural
Source: public library
Challenge: Support Your Public Library

Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal police of Brazil, is trying to solve a crime in the city of Sao Paolo. What are these bones discovered when a dog dug one up? They're obviously human, but there appears to be a mass grave with 30-40 bodies. When the local cop on the scene, Delegado Tanako, is killed,  Silva's boss reluctantly lets the team go from their base in Brasilia to investigate, although he'd much rather they stay in town and dig up some dirt on the man who is running against him in the upcoming elections.

While in Sao Paolo, Silva, his deputy Arnaldo and his nephew Hector also become involved in locating a family missing from that cities' infamous favelas (slums).  Could this disappearance be connected with the bodies in the mass grave?  Many theories are advanced, many palms greased, a little romance blossoms, and Silva goes back and forth between Sao Paolo and Brasilia, while his crew continues to track clues. Who are these people?  Are they related?  Why were they killed?  And what happened to the witnesses who reported the other family missing? There are characters who are quite nasty, others who are quite likeable, and the plot certainly contains enough action and clues to keep us turning pages. In fact, I was so engrossed in finding out how it ended, that I read the last 35 pages while working out on the eliptical!

Leighton Gage, the author of this well-plotted who-dunnit, lives part-time in Brazil.  His knowledge of this huge country is obvious, and his ability to weave the language, the regional diversity and the mores of this nation into the story is exceptional. The reader gets a clear picture of modern day crime activities in Brazil, and gets a crime detective who hopefully will appear in upcoming episodes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Already? It's too early to be Lent!

Every year, many of us who belong to Christian religions undertake a forty (more or less) day period of preparation for the celebration of Easter-LENT. When I was growing up in a Lutheran-Catholic household, we strictly observed the laws of fast and abstinence. It meant my Mom packed my father's lunch with only one sandwich (not two), and fruit for dessert vice cookies or cake. Daddy would forsake his one bottle of beer and pretzels in the evening (no eating between meals was allowed) and we kids (because we were under 21 and not obliged to fast) were encouraged to 'give up' something. Since my Mom never allowed us to drink soda, eat potato chips or candy anyway, there wasn't much to 'give up.' Instead, we got up at 5:00 every morning to trudge up the hill to the Catholic church for daily mass. The nuns (who were our teachers at the Catholic school) also saw us come in with our father and believe me, we earned lots of brownie points for that trip. Of course, we sat behind the nuns with our noses buried in the missal, and they didn't see us sleeping! 

As an adult, I've gotten away from the fasting's too much like dieting, and the motivation is all wrong. I try to put in more time exercising, and since my exercise involves either a 1 hour round trip drive to the pool, or at least 30-45 minutes on the eliptical down the basement, I have plenty of time for 'reading' (albeit the riding is "ear" reading from audio books.) Now that we have only 1 priest to cover 7 parishes here in Maine, daily mass is no longer an option.....

So I've started spending my Lenten time enriching my understanding of the spiritual side of life, and the role religion and its rituals plays in our lives. Yes, my husband (who is far more traditionally religious than I am) and I will still attend Ash Wednesday services; we'll still have special prayers at evening meals, and we may even participate in a lenten Bible study again this year. But I found my Lenten reading challenge last year quite fulfilling, and have decided again this year to spend the next 7 weeks making sure that at least part of my reading comes from the Lent shelf. The widget on the side has those books I've pulled from my TBR pile to read starting tonite when I will go through the introductions to all of them.

On the pile are

  • Rome has Spoken - a guide to Forgotten Papal Statements and How They have Changed through the Centuries by Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben editors (a signed copy that has been on my TBR shelf since publication in 1998)
  • The Woman Who Named God- Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths by Charlotte Gordon (a book I won in a blog contest recently and can't wait to read)
  • Jesus The Son of Man - his words and his deeds as told and recorded by those who knew him by Kahil Gibran 
  • The Women Around Jesus by Elisabeth Molotmann-Wendel (another on the TBR shelf too long)
  • Rabbi Jesus- The Jewish Life and Teaching that Inspired Christianity by Bruce Chilton. This one I got for Christmas in 2001 and just never got (or took) time to read.
  • Nearer My God, An Autobiography of Faith by William F. Buckley Jr, - an inheritance from Auntie
  • The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.  We own practically everything Merton ever wrote, but I've never read anything by him. So I am determined to get through this one if I don't finish any of the others.  If nothing else, it should be a great contrast to WFB.
At the end of this period I hope to have a better understanding of my heritage and perhaps some inspiration to help in the years to come.
    So what about you?  Do you do anything special for Lent?  Are you reading anything that you might not read at other times of the year?   Chime in and  let's compare notes.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Review: The Case of the Missing Servant

    Author: Tarquin  Hall
    Format: audio book 8 hrs, 23 minutes, equivalent 340  pgs
    Characters: Vish Puri, Rumpie, Tubelight, Facecream, Flush
    Subject: solving crime in India (non-fiction)
    Setting: modern day India
    Series: Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator Series
    Genre: mystery - private detective
    Source: Overdrive download from public library
    Challenge: Support your local library, Thrillers and Suspense, Audio  Books

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  The author manages to take a basic mystery cozy format and give us a well drawn portrait of life in modern day India by contrasting the lives of haves and have-nots.  Vish Puri is a fascinating, intelligent, well-educated, detective who lives with his "Mummie-ji" (think Grandma Mazur from Janet Evanovitch), his wife Rumpie (she calls him "Chubbie" and tries unsuccessfully to regulate his caloric intake) and several servants who are well paid and well treated.

    Puri's office crew all have wonderfully descriptive nicknames (they call him "Boss") -Tubelight, Flush, Facecream-- and they go about helping him not only serve a large clientele of parents researching prospective spouses for the arranged marriages so common in India, but also helping to prove the innocence of a famous lawyer accused of the murder of his servant Mary who has disappeared.  The family only knows her name was Mary and she was not from their town.  No last name, no picture, no registration papers, etc.  Puri smells a rat and goes about trying to find Mary (how many gazaillion women in India are named Mary?) find out if she was murdered, and if so, who did it.

    The portrait of India reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith's loving portrait of Botswana in the 1st Ladies Detective Agency series.  Vish Puri is a believable, likeable detective and readers should hope that more of his adventures are forthcoming.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Happy ?!? Valentine's Day

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

    Well...thanks to a local establishment's awesome Valentines/Presidents Day sale, I bit the bullet and got a new laptop. Now I will have to spend the next several days living at our public library as I install and download updates on all the stuff I want to load back on this new one. As you can see Bruiser (our 15 lb FIV+ rescue kittie) thinks he is going to do this for me!

    Not exactly how I'd planned to spend Valentine's day, but I figured at least I could sit and watch the Olympics and the Uof Md (sibs + inlaws are grads) vs Clemson (daughter's alma mater) ladies basketball game while I made backup discs, and did basic installs.  These I can even do while listening to an audio book.  However...........NOT to happen on the TV end....

    Suddenly our TV satellite has decided to dump all the network TV stations leaving us a screen that says:
    No need to call us- we are aware that this TV station is temporarily unavailable.  We'll have this channel back as quickly as possible.  Sorry for the interruption.
    How quickly we become dependent on technology.  I don't watch much TV, but really do enjoy the Winter Olympics and women's basketball.

    Anyway, I did manage to get some reading done. Right now, I'm reading two different books and listening to a third. They all seem to have a rather depressing premise: corruption is part of everyday life in each of these. I'll have post reviews when I finish each of them, but this premise of humans having to be immoral to get something done is handled differently in each.  I'm currently reading

    • The Singer's Gun by Emily St. Martin .  Here the protagonist (and perhaps murder victim?) is dealing in stolen goods, black market documents, etc.  The setting is NewYork and the island of Ischia off the coast of Italy (although we haven't spent much time on the island yet)  With over 1/2 the book finished, I'm still not sure if I'm supposed to like or feel sorry for this gentlemen, and I'm certainly not likely many of the other characters or their morals.  This is a book that had better show me more in the second half if it's ever going to get me to recommend it to anyone. It's an ARC from Unbridled books, and it's readable enough that I'll finish it and give it an honest review.
    • Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage.  This one is set in Brazil, and I checked it out of the library having seen it recommended someplace, but can't remember where! Chief Inspector Mario Silva seems to be the only honest person in the entire country's crime fighting bureaucracy and while it's interesting, this is not yet a Brazilian Commissario Brunetti (by Donna Leon).  The plot is riveting enough, and the settings well drawn, so I'll probably get this one finished tonite (particularly if there's no TV!)
    • The Case of the Missing Servant: A Vish Puri Mystery by Tarquin Hall  I just finished this one on audio, and it was delightful.  Private detective Vish Puri leads a motley crew of cunningly named operatives (Tubelight, Flush, FaceCream) as they try to find a missing servant named Mary who has disappeared from the household of a wealthy attorney who has been accused of her murder. Quite different than his normal business of screening prospective spouses for India's numerous arranged marriages, Puri must wend his way through layers of bribes, payoffs, and corrupt doctors, lawyers, cops, judges, etc.  Tarquin Hall gives us a picture of present day India by juxtaposing the haves with the have-nots.  At one point, I wondered if anyone was above palm-greasing, but in the end, the reader should be satisfied with the outcome.
    So, the rest of my Sunday is going to be spent trying to get pills down Bruiser's throat-he' suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection and his wheezing sounds like a coffee pot as it perks its last drops into the pot.  He likes to sit in my lap while I do needlework and/or read, so maybe, just maybe he'll let me con him.

    Wish me luck...........

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Giveaway-Spring Training Opens soon

    The Eastern Stars
    How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town
    of San Pedro de Macoris
    by Mark Kurlansky 

    Somehow somewhere there's mouse twitch in the air.  I think I entered the form for an ARC of this delightful book twice, because I got two copies.  Lydia at G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead has given me the thumbs up to offer the extra to all of you in a giveaway.  Spring training is coming up soon, so for all of us baseball fans, this should be a delightful way to get a jump on the season.

    I haven't read my copy yet, but here's what's on the cover to whet your appetite:

    By the year 2008, seventy-nine boys and men from San Pedro had gone on to play in the Major Leagues--that means that one in six Dominicans who has played in the Majors has come from one tiny, impoverished town.  Rico Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Robinson Cano, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and legions of other San Pedro players who came up in the local sugar-mill teams flocked to the United States, looking for opportunity, wealth, and a better life......For those who make it, the million-dollar paychecks from Major League Baseball mean that not only they, but their entire families as well, have been saved from grinding poverty.  The successful few set an example that dazzles the neighbors they left behind.  But for the majority, this dream is illusory.

    Because of the sugar industry, and the influxes of migrant workers from across the Caribbean to work in the cane fields and factories, San Pedro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the Dominican Republic.  A multitude of languages are spoken there; a multitude of skin colors populate the community; the constants are sugar and baseball.  The history of players from San Pedro is also a chronicle of racism in baseball, of changing social mores in sports and in the Dominican Republic and the United States, and of the personal stories of the many men who sought freedom from poverty through playing ball.

    Mark Kurlansky reveals two countries' love affair with a sport, and the remarkable journey of San Pedro and its baseball players.  As he did in Cod and Salt, he follows the common threads to the story, and here he discovers wider meanings about place, identity, and above all, baseball.

    About the Author: Mark Murlansky

    Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times-bestselling author of many books, including The Food of a Younger Land; Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester. He reported from the Caribbean for the Chicago Tribune for seven years and wrote both A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny and The White Man in the Tree and Other Stories about the area. A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for science writing and a winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, he lives in New York City.

    So Here are the Rules:

    One COMMENT only 
    (if you leave more than one it won't count!)
    I'll figure out the bonus points.

     In your comment put the following
    • Your email address (use a spam busting format like myname (at) myemail provider (dot) com) (+1)--no email--NO entry--I have to be able to notify you if you win.
    • Which baseball team your root for (or if you're not a fan just say so)--no extra entries for BOSOX so don't try to suck up, just fun to know who's getting set for opening day. (+1)
    • Say if you're a follower (you can become a follower on the left side of this blog) (+2)
    • Post on your blog about the contest and leave a link to the  specific post (+4)
    • Post this in the contest sidebar on your blog (+3)
    • US and Canada only,  PO BOXES are acceptable (I'm paying for this one so I'll do the Post Office!!)
    So you could have a total of 11 entries from one comment - isn't that EASY????

    Deadline is March 19th.


    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Challenge Complete! Thrillers and Suspense

    I knew this was going to be a no-brainer for me.  I love mysteries.  Although in the past, I've read mostly what would be termed as cozies, I've been branching out into other genres of mysteries.  So when Book Chic City proposed this challenge, I knew I had to join.  The challenge was to read 12 books during 2010.  I was really going to try for 12 each month, but decided to allow myself to branch out into other books besides mysteries.  I finished my 13th last night .They could be broken down as follows:

    Authors: 8 women/ 5 men
    Amateur detectives : 4 1/2 (Spencer-Fleming has a team of cop and amateur)
    Police procedurals:  7
    Private Detectives: 1
    Forensic detectives: 1
    Series: 12 of the 13  were parts of a series- and let's hope Ron Goodreau makes a series out of Max Siegel.
    New Series to me: 5
    Library books: 9, ARCs or contest wins : 2, from my TBR shelves 2 favorite......................drum roll please.......... comes down to a tie between

    The Khan Dilemma and A Fatal Grace (although there isn't a bad one in the bunch)

    Here's the list.
    1. Death Goes on Retreat by Sr. Carol Anne O'Marie
    2. A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming
    3. Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke 
    4. True Blue by David Baldacci 
    5. The Body in the Cast by Katherine Hall Page
    6. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
    7. China Lake by Meg Gardiner
    8. Death of a Valentine by M.C.Beaton
    9. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
    10.The Khan Dilemma by Ron Goodreau
    11. 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
    12. Execution Dock by Anne Perry
    13.The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais

     Even tho I've techically completed the challenge, I'm never going to give up reading mysteries.  In fact, I'm going to try to see how many of the different genres of mysteries I can read before the year is out.

    Review: The Monkey's Raincoat

    Author: Robert Crais
    Format: audio 8 hrs, 237 pgs equivalent 
    Narrator: Patrick Lawlor
    Characters: Elvis Cole, Joe Pike
    Subject: murder, abduction
    Setting: Los Angeles area
    Series: Elvis Cole detective series
    Genre: mystery - private detectives
    Source: Overdrive audio download
    Challenge: Thrillers and Suspense, Support your local library, Audio books

    Robert Crais has published over a dozen Elvis Cole/Joe Pike detetive mysteries.  While this is the first one I've read, it certainly will not be the last.  The Amazon product description catches you right off the bat:
    Taking the mystery community by storm, this Elvis Cole novel was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, and Macavity awards and won both the Anthony and Macavity for Best Novel of the Year. Crais, a VP at Paramount, was previously head script writer for Quincy, Hill Street Blues, and Cagney and Lacey.... When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-Deco office, she's lost something very valuable - her husband and her young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower Joe Pike.
    Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs and sex - and murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it's also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis.
    As Elvis begins detecting, he finds himself embroiled in a nasty fight over drugs, with the requisite dealers, Hollywood talent scouts,  did I say it was set in Los Angeles? domineering friends, Mexicans, Eskimos, a friendly cop willing to help him, and the stereotypical upper level "special ops" cop pushing him out of the picture.  At one point, all I could think of was Rockie and Dennis in The Rockford Files. The story had a believable plot, with terrific dialogue and characters I could believe. I may have wanted to smack a few of them upside the head, but I could believe them, root for (or against) them, and although I didn't care for some of the tactics used by either side in this undeclared war, I found they read true  This is a series I'm definitely looking forward to getting into.  I want to know more about Elvis and his very puzzling partner Joe Pike.  I want to see if they can keep up this pace.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Still Unplugged

    There are times when I HATE computers....and this is one of those times. Several $100's later, and much 'maybe this, maybe that' my out-of-warranty by only 2 months computer is back from the hospital, but still acting achy-breaky. We are trying to decide if it really needs another $200-$300 of work, or if I can limp along. I'm thinking it's time for a new cheapy instead.

    We gave up two years ago buying fancy coffee pots because our water here is so hard on the pumps that we went to a cheap $10 import. When it dies (as it will after 9-12 months, we just buy a new one!) I hate that throw away mentality. I grew up in a house where the whole basement looked like a junk yard for electronic parts, appliances, and whatever 'might be useful someday'. It's bad enough for $10 coffeepots, but when I start doing it for computers, I need to knock myself upside the head and say "Wait a minute."

    Of course, I'll admit, I really wanted to use all this computer fix-it money to buy a new HDTV for the Winter Olympics (I'm a snow junkie- you all know that), but I guess we'll be viewing on our good old more than adequate screen.

    Anyway, I'm going to be carefully trying to restore all (well, most) of my programs, bookmarks, files, etc over the next several days. I have 800+MBs of updates just for Windows, 11 other programs I use that have to be reloaded (I do have all the discs thank goodness) and updated, and since my internet service only allows me (and hubby together) 425 MB a day, I'm going to be up at the town library doing updates FOREVER. I'll someday get back to doing book reviews and contests, and all that fun stuff so stayed tuned and don't give up.

    While all this stuff is running at the library, if there is another free public computer, I'll do some posting about goodies in the mailbox, upcoming books of interest, etc. In the meantime, everyone please stay safe in all these horrible storms. We've dodged everything up here in Maine. It's cold, but sunny, and at least the roads are clear and the schools are in session.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Spotlight Series-

    Aarti at Booklust has begun a new adventure for all of us: The Spotlight series, a reading and discussion series focused on small press publishers, their authors and their books.  The first session will be from March 14-27th.  So grab a book from Unbridled Books, and run over to the blog to sign up and join the fun.

    Edited  Monday 8:00pm:

    After Caite's comment, I realized I should have indicated whassup!  So, I already have (and actually am currently reading, The Singer's Gun, by Emily St. John Mandel- to be published by Unbridled Books in May 2010.  I've just started, and will save my comments for the actual online sessions at Spotlight Series, but I am enjoying it so far.  The link to the series (and subsequent link to the publisher) has all kinds of other information.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010

    Review: Execution Dock

    Author: Anne Perry
    Format: audio book, 12 discs (13 hrs.) 304 pgs equivalent
    Characters: Hester and William Monk, Oliver Rathbone,
    Subject: murder and child enslavement 
    Setting: Victorian England
    Series: William Monk novels
    Genre: detective mysteries
    Source: Overdrive download from public library
    Challenge: Thrillers and Suspense, Audio Books, Support Your Local Library, Typically British Reading

    This is #16 in Anne Perry's William Monk series, and although I eventually enjoyed it as much as the others, this one almost had me giving up. She spends an inordinate amount of time to say the same things over and over again.

    We understand that Monk has identity issues. We understand he has an inferiority complex. We understand the complexities of his relationship with Oliver Rathbone. We quickly figure out that Hester is suffering for her husband's mental anguish and wants to help, but good grief....get over it and get on with the book. It's #16, and while the author certainly needs to identify issues for 1st time readers, we don't need all 15 previous books worth of finger wringing.

    In this story, Monk's mentor Durbin is dead. Monk and his 2nd in command Orme, capture one of their top ten criminals - a notorious peddler of pre-pubescent males for pornographic pictures and for catering to the 'needs' of gentlemen of Victorian England with the cash and discretion to participate in these sorts of activities.

    NO Spoilers, so this may be a little thin....Oliver Rathbone is hired to defend the wretch and Monk and Hester are called to testify.

    The ensuing trial and its aftermath add more and more plot twists, give us more of Perry's incredible insight into the mores of the period, and culminate in a great splash of an ending. Definitely worth reading if you're a Perry fan. If you're new to the series, it might do to start back a bit further.

    Review: The Weight of Silence

    Author: Heather Gudenkauf
    Format: paperback review galley - 384 pgs
    Characters: Calli, Deputy Sheriff Louis, Petra, Martin, Antonio
    Subject: missing children, selective mutism
    Setting: small town in Iowa

    Genre: fiction
    Source:  ARC from Mira books (pub date Aug 2009)

    An absolutely heart-pounding read.  I picked it up last night to start it so I could get an idea of about how long it would take.  I finished it 3 1/2 hours later.   I was reluctant to start it since it dealt with missing children, and after some of the darker reading I've been doing, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it.

    Briefly (NO SPOILERS) Calli and Petra - BFFs- aged 7, go missing early one morning. Parents, police, and townspeople begin the search in the woods behind the girls houses, where they liked to wonder.  Ben, aged 14, Calli's brother goes into the woods to search.

    Gudenkauf writes from knowledge of disabilities.  One of the little girls who is missing suffers from 'selective mutism.'  Much of the book deals with the mystery of why she is unable to speak.   There is an element of mystery, a poignant lost love, great emotional development of all the characters. I was on the edge of my chair throughout, unable to put the book down.

    The results of the search for the girls, the well-drawn players and the predictable (no more) ending are well worth staying up half the night.

    Challenge: ARC completion 
    Many thanks to Mira Books ( for the review copy.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Unfinished Friday -Unfinished or Abandoned?

    Marie, the Boston Bibliophile started this very useful meme so we can blog about books that for whatever reason just don't work.
    Last week Caite of A Lovely Shore Breeze commented on my double discards:
    " I love the idea of Unfinished Friday...but my problem is I hate to admit defeat. I put a book aside with the idea that someday I will finish it and am not sure I ever admit I absolutely will not finish it."
    I totally agree with her.  For those of us who love books, and have any acquaintance with anyone who writes them, we know how much the author invests physically, emotionally, and often financially, into getting this book published and having people read it and comment on it.  I often put books aside to try later. I have an entire category in my LibraryThing personal library called "DNF- try later" as opposed to the "DNF- given away".

    Perhaps it's my generation...I belong to that age group whose parents lived through the Great Depression and who would not let us leave the table without finishing every single brussel sprout, green bean, or beet on that plate.  After all "children were starving in (India, China, Korea, take your pick)".  So I'm socially conditioned to finishing anything I start.  I was so thrilled when my then 70+ year old father took up needlepoint when he needed something to do while recovering from knee surgery.  I unloaded a trunk full of half-finished projects that had been languishing for YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEARS.....and he polished them off in four months!

    Just for a diversion, here's the last piece Daddy did for me before he died, he was 82 at the time he completed it and said 1000's of swear words as he attached each of those 1000s of beads, and by the way, he did this one completely from scratch.  It wasn't one of my leftoevers. It hangs on the wall opposite my bed, and it's one of the last things I see at night when I turn out the light. But I keep thinking, if Daddy could finish those beads, I can finish a book!

    So when I get a book I don't like, or keep falling asleep while reading (Ya think that's a clue????) I have a hard time getting over the feeling that it's my fault.  But FACE IT TINA....You aren't supposed to like everything in the world.  There are TV shows I turn off, clothes I look at in the store and put back on the rack, foods I don't order from a menu ( and a few I've even sent back!).  So why can't I abandon a book?

    When I looked at the books I've abandoned so far this year, one was self-published and the promotional blurb did not match the subject matter as I expected.  The writing was bombastic, and I just wasn't interested.  It went into the LT Member Giveaway where, to date, 70+ people have indicated they would give it a home.  Another ARC from Hachette went into Member Giveaway - over 200 people wanted it, and many people gave it great reviews on LT, so I didn't feel so guilty abandoning that one...I figure the author is getting the publicity ARCs are designed to provide, and I didn't say it was awfully written, just that the subject matter was not to my liking.

    My third and fourth abandoned beauties are still with me.  They are huge chunksters of non-fiction that I'm really interested in, and want to be able to pick up and read perhaps in pieces as time goes on.  I also know from experience, than sometimes it takes almost 200 pages to really get into a big guy.  So when my brain is ready to settle down and absorb some more, I intend to get to them again.

    I actually have 7 more sitting on my TBR (Finish them shelf) and I'm hoping the "Finish them" challenge I set myself will help me get back to at least 3 of them this year. I found them all interesting to a point but as often happens with non-fiction, the authors just get into so much detail, I get lost in the trees and can't get out of the forest. With the fiction books, I keep seeing fabulous reviews, and several people have told me to stick with them, so I'm holding them, hoping that some morning my mind will say---AHA...let's finish that one this week.

    By the way, these 7 that need finished are listed here.

    I'm having a contest, and any book that gets 10 or more comments of encouragement, I will pledge to read it at least 1/2 way again this year.  Then if I still don't like it, I'll have a giveaway.  Get those comments in..

    1. The History of God by Karen Armstrong
    2. Women who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
    3. Generations: The History of America's Future 1584-2069 by Neil Howe and William Strauss
    4. East of the Mountains by David Guterson
    5. Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton
    6. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    7. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

    So let's all's Ok to leave a book unfinished.  And let's thank Marie for starting this meme and giving us permission to put these back on the shelf (with bookmarks intact) for later enjoyment if we don't want to abandon them completely.  YEA MARIE!!!

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Review: 206 Bones

    Author: Kathy Reichs
    Narrator: Barbara Rosenblatt
    Format: audio book- 9 discs (10+hours),320 pg equivalent
    Characters: Detective Ryan, Temperance Brennan
    Subject: murder investigation, identification of remains
    Setting: Montreal, North Carolina
    Series: Temperance Brennan
    Genre: crime fiction
    Source: audio books from public library

    My first Reichs read. Being as claustrophobic as I am, I had a hard time with the subject matter (NO SPOILERS). I also felt that she was trying to politicize her obvious bias about the professional credentials required for various forensic experts. I'll read another one before passing judgment on the series.

    Basically, Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, is working various cases in Montreal and in North Carolina. (I gather our heroine bi-locates.) When bad judgments appear in her examinations and reports, she sets out to discover who or what may be sabotaging her good name. Four different murders of elderly women and identifying the remains of a family lost on a boating trip 40 years ago are all begging for her attention.

    There is a love (on again, off again?) interest with a detective named Ryan, a wonderful cat and a snarky neighbor. The character lineup is good, the plot was well developed, and without the campaigning it would have been an enjoyable read.  Barbara Rosenblatt does her usual great job of narration.

    Challenge: Medical Mysteries, Audio Books, Thrillers and Suspense,  Support your Local library

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Review: The Khan Dilemma

    Author: Ron Goodreau
    Format: paperback ARC galley proof -282 pages
    Characters: Rich Danko, Max Siegel,  Franny Rappaport
    Subject: corruption, National Security, rogue intelligence
    Setting: Las Cruces, California
    Genre: crime fiction; suspense
    Source: ARC from iUniverse publishing
    Challenge: ARC cleanup challenge, Thrillers and Suspsense

    An outstanding debut thriller. Cashing in on the abundence of homeland security rogue operations scenarios sweeping the literary and video world, Ron Goodreau, practicing DA and new author, gives us a tight, chillingly believable plot with a host of good guys/bad guys (who's who we're never sure), fast paced action, excellent dialogue, and characters you can definitely picture.

    A young Pakistani, Raheem Khan, has been caught red-handed by a citizen neighbor at the scene of a double homicide in a quiet residential neighborhood. Rich Danko the current DA in Las Cruces is under investigation for corruption when he is approached by FBI agents to squelch Khan's indictment avoiding a splashy trial, and urged to make the whole thing go away. Hoping to work a quid pro quo with the Feds, he hands off what he considers to be a career buster mess to his hated rival and assistant DA Max Siegel. Max immediately smells a rat and enlists the help of his favorite investigator, retired Special Forces paratrooper Franny Rappaport. Both Max and Franny dislike the FBI's handpicked lackey Detective Dale Cox and set out to discover "the rest of the story."

    The plot rolls along, the pages turn quickly, and within a few hours the incredible ending arrives. It's a story worthy of a movie script. I hope that Max Siegel, the hunky protagonist turns up in more books. He is a lawyer one could almost learn to love.

    Many thanks to iUniverse for providing the review galley of this great read.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Blogger Unplugged

    I may be off line for awhile. My computer has developed some nasty nasty behavior (I don't get the blue screen of death, I get the white screen of black dots screen of frozen nothing) so it's in the hospital now going through a queen's ransom worth of diagnostics.....let's just hope it's a nasty virus, and not a dissolving hard drive...

    Thankfully hubbie let me use his, and I can check email on my blackberry, but it's not the same as visiting with you all on a full screen with regular keyboard. So stand by, just means I'll have more time to read and have lots of reviews stacked up.  There are three great mysteries I'm doing right now, and two more great ARC panting for their turn.  I'll keep you in suspense.  Please feel free to continue to drop comments - I can check those on the crackberry!

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Review: War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who covered Vietnam

    Contributors: Tad Bartimus, Denby Fawcett, Jurate Kazickas, Edith Lederer, Ann Bryan Mariano, Anne Morrissy Merick, Laura Palmer, Kate Webb, Tracy Wood
    Format: Hardback 340 pgs
    Subject: Women reporters in Vietnam War (non-fiction)
    Setting: Vietnam
    Genre: Non-Fiction, personal recollections
    Source: public library

     When I think of Vietnam, I think of the soldier's faces.  Unguarded, innocent, smiling. They were all so young, unprepared for the filth and degradation of war.  No one wanted to be in that distant, strange land, but they did not complain. Some felt it was their duty to come to Vietnam.  Some never stopped questioning why they were there.  But they fought; they died....I wanted to write about these men.----Jarate Kazickas  War Torn, "These Hills Called Khe Sanh"  pg.121.
    In 1966, when I graduated from an all-female college, women were just beginning to embrace the concept that opportunities were open to them, that we went to college to get an education-not a husband, although many of us still embraced the "womanly" occupations of school teacher, nurse, and librarian.  I joined the Navy, and found myself (after a rigorous Officer Candidate training in Newport RI) serving in a schools command personnel office in Newport where for the next two plus years, I spent 50% of my time, signing orders and travel papers and getting clearances to send graduates of the Navy's various training schools in Newport to duty in Vietnam.  None of my Newport classmates (all females) served in country.  The only women the Navy sent were nurses.  I signed their orders, but I didn't go through training with them and I didn't go to war with them.  My war was at home, convincing myself that our country couldn't possibly make the horrible mistake the war protesters screamed we were making.

    My husband graduated from the Naval Academy that same year, and many of his classmates did go to Vietnam.  Several didn't return.  He went in 1972, commanding a large ocean going tug ferrying barges in and out of that dangerous area.  We don't talk a lot about the war.  To this day, I cannot go to the Vietnam War Memorial (THE WALL) without breaking down in tears.  It's not just for the people we know.  The tears are for all the people we didn't know, that we'll never have the chance to know, and for the loved ones who never had the chance for a long life together like we have had, for the incredible carnage and anguish our country endured because of what is known as Vietnam. was with a great deal of trepidation that I took on the reading challenge War Throughout the Generations: Vietnam sponsored by Anna and Serena.  I wasn't certain I was ready to tackle what I was sure could only be an extremely politicized and polarizing experience. I don't watch war movies, I can't stand to see anything with blood and guts and guns and grenades.  I even have trouble reading some 'thrillers' if they're too graphic. Is it that if I can't picture it, then it didn't happen?  I'm especially sure that I'll probably never be able to publicly blog about my still conflicted thoughts.

    War Torn, was the perfect book for me to begin my reading, and maybe even to begin to examine my feelings.  Written by nine women who served as war correspondents in Vietnam during various periods of the conflict between 1966 and 1975, the diverse perspectives, adventures, and experiences of this group helped me to come to grips with the fact that it's ok not to be able to resolve our feelings.  They came from a variety of backgrounds and educations (one had never worked in any journalistic capacity - she got to Vietnam as a pediatrician's girlfriend!), they had an assortment of marching orders (from covering traditional women's items like families and food to going anywhere the military would permit them), and they had a wide range of reactions.

    I was struck so strongly by their love of the country and the people.  Anyone I've ever spoken to who went there speaks of the beauty of the land, and the gentleness and integrity of the people.  The government may have been corrupt, and the land may have been decimated by all participants, but these women were all able to find something positive to bring out of their experiences.  I was especially struck by their insistence of getting the word out about what the average GI was really going through, by trying to get to know them, convincing field commanders to let them accompany troops in the field, and then report about soldier's heroism, fears, and battlefield wisdom.

    I was also struck by the difference between "the war" as experienced by those who stayed mainly in Saigon, and "the war" out in the valleys, in the mountains, in the villages.
    Kate Webb: "...back in Saigon it was different. You got back more often than not stinking, sweat caked, mosquito bitten, and badly in need of a shower, the images of the last week or ten days --the loss, the nerves, the bitterness, the adrenaline, the fear-- to lights, booze, laughter, and martinis on the terrace of the Caravelle (hotel) pg. 68.
    The courage (some might say recklessness?) exhibited by this group as they schlepped up mountain sides wearing 100 lb packs, burned leeches off their arms and legs, waded across rivers holding their precious cameras and tape recorders over their heads, ducked into trenches to avoid flying mortars was not what was expected of 'little ladies' of our generation.  Several were wounded, a couple have debilitating physical issues that will follow them for the rest of their lives.  They adopted Vietnamese children, wrote books, and basically did what they were supposed to do--they reported what they saw.

    Several admitted however, that they had been unable to think about or reminisce about their time until this project was proposed.  It was only in this book, 25 -30 years after they left, that they allowed themselves to confront some of the very emotional issues they had to bury in order to report in an objective manner.  Kate Webb was taken prisoner (in Cambodia) at one point. In writing about the experience, her ability to detach and report is impressive.
    With the lack of any news or reference point, any reality check, in the grey limbo of 'the prisoner'--where you are not among the living or the dead of the war, but trapped in a gray twilight with no links to the living world--you reach a point inside yourself that you wouldn't reach otherwise. Pg. 78

    There are other memorable quotes from several of them:

    Anne Bryan Mariano: "Being in the field proved to me that while there are many cases of individual courage and heroism among soldiers, there is nothing about war itself that is heroic." (pg. 39)

    Tad Bartimus : "In my youth I thought I was invincible, that if I didn't get shot or visibly maimed, I'd get away clean.  But surviving a war doesn't mean you escape being its victim. ongoing health problems (from exposure to Agent Orange?) remind me that thousands of veterans still fight the Vietnam War every day in their own bodies." pg. 188, 217.

    Laura Walker, who 'hitchhiked' to Vietnam with no press credentials or experience, writes eloquently of the other group of women who served in Vietnam, and about whom as a group not much has been written, the nurses.
    The myth is that women weren't in combat.  In an official sense, that's true...Nurses saw the war from the inside out, from the rotting wounds infested with maggots to the stink of burned flesh, the mangled limbs, and the sucking chest wounds....The nurses wanted, willed, hoped, believed, prayed, and yearned for their patients to live so much that each death felt like a defeat. Nearly every nurse came home with a debilitating and corrosive sense of failure embedded in her soul.  If only she ad been a better nurse, more would have survived.
    These are powerful and empowering stories-- for women and men. If you want to start reading about actual 'in country' experiences, this is a great place to start.

    Challenge: War Thru the Generations