Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Giveaway: Red Hook Road

on sale July 13, 2010
Red Hook Road

Doesn't that cover look intriguing?  It's time for summer weddings, and the garden party appears to be setup and ready.  This giveaway comes from Judy at Doubleday who has given us two copies of Ayelet Waldman's follow-up to her earlier novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits.  Available in two weeks, the blurb tells me this is going to be a terrific summer read (after all it's set in Maine!).

As lyrical as a sonata, Ayelet Waldman’s follow-up novel to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits explores the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers,
Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter’s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life’s finer pleasures—music and literature—with the more mundane joys of living. Within these resonant pages, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it’s often the little things that make life so preciou

So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. For one entry leave a comment telling me why you'd like to read this book.  Include your email address (no email no win).
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  3. For another entry, leave another comment saying you blogged about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting.  (TOTAL 3 entries per person).
  4. US and Canadian addresses only, no post office boxes please
  5. Deadline is July 19th.
    Good luck and happy summer reading.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains

Author:  Nicholas Carr
Format: W. W. Norton & Company (2010), Hardcover, 276 pages
Subject: Memory, intelligence
Source: Public library
Challenge: Support your local library

I can't remember who told me about this one (maybe the author is right, and I'm already suffering brain damage from too much time on the internet) but IMHO, this is one of the most important books to be published this year. I find it difficult to write formal reviews of non-fiction works that deal with scientific topics. I'm always afraid I will misinterpret or worse still, show my ignorance as I divulge in my reporting that I missed some horribly salient point.

Rising from an article the author wrote for The Atlantic (July/August 2008) "Is Google making us stupid?" Cass takes us on a trip through the mental history of thinking, producing ideas, and handing on those thoughts and ideas to others. He discusses oral tradition, early writing starting with cuneiform and hieroglyphics, and marches on to the invention of scrolls, and the Phoenician, Greek and Roman alphabets.

He progresses to examine the importance of the discoveries and use of paper, the printing press and the book, and brings us to the present with a discussion of the role of the computer, the World Wide Web and the "instant-ness" of search engines such as Google. He includes an excellent explanation of the the role of Google in its project to digitize every book ever written, and the impact that will have (both good and bad) on research. All of these 'tools of the mind' had an impact on man's ability to obtain, retain, and pass on information. Each era used those tools within a certain ethic.

Throughout all of this, he documents scientific studies showing how the human brain works with each of these 'tools' and how over the centuries, each new thought medium produced a concomitant change in our brains and how they functioned. He is objective, but does manage quite eloquently to let us know that he is concerned that our current state of constant 'connectedness' is becoming detrimental to certain types of mental activity such as 'deep thinking' and sites several studies and experiments to support his position.

Whether I agree or disagree remains to be seen. For now all I can say is "get this one" (or at least get in line at the library for it--the hold list here is already several long). It is clearly and cogently written, quite easy to read in spite of the technical aspects, disturbing and encouraging at the same time. Every parent, teacher, reader, librarian should become familiar with his theory.

He begins and ends by reminding us of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"That's the essence of Kubrick's dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence."
I'm sure Mr. Carr would be more than happy to see his closing lines proved wrong. I certainly would.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Salon - Summer Snoozing

This Sunday is lazy day and an alliterative bonanza. Soccer, Sox, Sewing, Snoozing, Sunshine, and spectacular summer scenery.

What it is not for is bloviating about enjoy your day. Sunday's meant for recharging batteries- go get a mental energy re-charge.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekend Cooking - food magazines

  Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.  Today, I'm adding a discussion of cooking magazines. We don't do many magazines anymore...they're expensive, and we don't have time to read them, so they pile up until they become out of date, and then I guiltily throw them into the kindling pile for the fire. I do however, love to cook, love to have new recipes to inspire me, and keep current subscriptions to three which I shamelessly recommend. And NO............ I'm not getting any free issues or subscriptions from the publishers. (I should be so lucky!)

These three always arrive within three days of each other, and provide me with enough new recipes until the next issues arrive in about 8 weeks. In no particular order, here they are.  Links take you to their home pages where there are tons of recipes online (they have great RSS feeds) and free issues available.

CuisineAtHome is a short (only 52 pages this issue- on nice heavy paper) gorgeous spread of incredible photos, great ideas, and a wonderful website to supplement the paper mag.  Today's issue provided me inspiration for tomorrow's Sunday brunch:Baby Dutch Babies with preserved berries (can you say yorkshire puddings stuffed with berries, sauce and topped with iced or whipped cream?); Sunday dinner (stuffed flank steak), and several other unique takes on ordinary food, e.g., Margherita pasta, and some decadent steak sandwiches. There's a short and sweet, will illustrated 2 pager on preserving berries, and incredible spread entitled "Backyard Bruschetta Bar", an article on heirloom tomatoes, and NO ADVERTISING.  I have gotten so many 'out-of-the-box' ideas from this magazine, that I can't imagine giving it up. In the last year or so, they have also started included nutrional information with each recipe. It also comes three-hole punched so you can put it right into a binder, and has an index they send periodically.

Eating Well is another short but sweet (88 pages - lighter weight paper) publication I love. Published only 6 times a year, it focuses on healthy eating by presenting not only great recipes, but easy to understand, (although not dumbed down) articles about various issues affecting our food and our health.  This month, there's a well-researched special report entitled "The Future of Milk".  Worth the price of the whole issue.  August's pages also have me drooling over Zucchini Salad with Saved Parmesan (we're having this one tonite), 5 recipes for weeknights requiring only 5 ingredients each, ...... Not only does EW give you a complete nutrition breakdown, they often give hints on how to prepare the recipe for two (especially appreciated by this retiree couple).  And their focus on nutrition is that there are really NO foods off limits.  By judiciously combining foods, flavors, and adjusting portions, you can enjoy food and enjoy life.  For instance, one of my favorite recipes this month is "Brown Sugar and Toasted Almond Ice Cream".  YUM YUM.  They also feature heirloom tomatoes, a farm produce picnic, korean cooking, corn (several great ideas there like Corn and Basil cakes), and 'shorts' on multi-vitamins and 5 foods that good for your skin. I'll end this love fest by saying that EW's Cookbook "Eating Well serves Two" makes a great gift for newleyweds: my daughter-in-law assures me she consults it often.

And finally,Cooking Light: the one I'd choose if I had to say "Ok, I could only afford one."

This one comes monthly (I think actually 11 issues/yr) and has articles about aspects of a healthy lifestyle in addition to food.  This month I was particularly thrilled to see my aerobic exercise program validated by an article here "I tried it: Water Aerobics."  They have beauty tips, household tips, and the current one features how to choose healthy food at a Thai restaurant.  Again, nutritional information is available for every recipe, along with tips on where to find ingredients, acceptable substitutes, etc. 

The current issue (July 2010) has such yummie sections as "Super Fast - 20 minute meals" (5 gorgeous chicken or seafood salads perfect for summer); "10 Things to know about melons"; a section called "Dinner Tonite" where they even give you a shopping list for the recipes; "Less Meat More Flavor" - a great primer on grilling just in time for summer, and  "Building Better Lighter Burgers" -another great grilling piece. Every month there's a "Cooking Class" with great illustrations: August features Summer fruit cobblers - I can't wait for our blackberries to ripen. 

Looking at all three, I'd have to say my favorite article is Singapore Spice and Smoke, (in CookingLight). When we lived in Japan, we had the good fortune to be able to visit Singapore several times - often on our way too or from Bangkok, Penang, etc.  Eating in Singapore CarPark food courts are some of my fondest memories of that beautiful city/state.  The food was cheap, HOT HOT HOT (like spicy), the beer was always COLD COLD COLD, and by staking out a table, and finding an urchin waiter who wanted to earn some good tip money, we could sit with friends and eat for hours, enjoying a variety of food, (some of which we never really knew what it was - but it was soooooo good.)The article this month brought back those lovely memories.

So if you can't decide what to cook, stroll through one of these and try something new. Expanding your food horizons doesn't have to expand your waistline.

Review - Death and Judgment

Author: Donna Leon
Narrator: David Colacci
Format: 9 hours 15 minutes audio; 304 pages equivalent
Characters: Guido Brunetti, Sra Eletra, Paula and Cara Brunetti
Subject: crime, corruption, murder
Setting: Venice Italy
Series: Commissario Brunetti mysteries
Genre: police procedural
Source: Public library
Challenge: Support your local library; Audio books

This is number 4 in the series and I think one of the best.  I've read 8 of the 19 (not in order) and am now trying to do the rest in order.  Leon really fleshes out Commissario (detective) Guido Brunetti in this one.  It is as much about his struggle to teach his 14 yr old daughter the subtle but substantial difference between something that is a crime, and something that is wrong, but given the fuzziness of the Italian criminal system, not necessarily a crime.  In this one he is dealing with murder, a prostitution ring, and several other unsavory aspects of that way of life to which his daughter is unexpectedly and brutally exposed.

It is once again, well plotted, deeply respectful of the characters (even the criminals) and still has enough comic relief in several of the characters to keep the dark parts from becoming unbearable.  If you haven't yet discovered Donna Leon.....Get thee to the library.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Castaways - We have winners!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to enter the giveaway for a copy of The Castaways.  And many thanks to Hachette for making those copies available.  So let's have a drum roll and announce the winners!

I've emailed the winners and they have until Monday nite to get back to me with their mailing info.  If I don't hear from them, I'll get to pick another winner.

If you didn't win this one, there are still giveaways running for three other books--see the sidebar and click away. They all offer the option of daily entries, sort of vote early-vote often. Come and see us.  I think there may even be another giveaway coming up in July.

Once again congratulations to the three  faithful followers who won this one.

Review: Out of the Deep I Cry

Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Format: audio (15 hours), 336 pgs equivalent
Characters: Clare Fergusson, Russ Van Alstyn
Subject: murder, prohibition
Setting: upstate New York
Series:Clare Fergusson, Russ Van Alstyn mysteries
Genre: police procedural/amateur detective mystery
Source: audio book from public library
Challenge: Support Your Local Library; Audio books

Two stories, a "Then" and a "Now" are intertwined as the reader listens to first one and then the other throughout the book. At first, the reader wonders what one has to do with the other, but the back-fill quickly becomes apparent, and also becomes a mystery all its own. This is #3 in the continuing saga of Clare Ferguson, Episcopal priest and Russ Van Alstyn, the married (not to her) Chief of Police, and the romance is heating up. Clare and Russ now have gotten a tad bit physical, but also a bit more pragmatic about the hopelessness of their relationship. In this episode, Clare is trying to trace the provenance of a huge chunk of money being donated to fix the church's roof, while she helps look for the local clinic doctor who has disappeared. In the meantime, the back story is filling in and leading toward both the money and the doctor. The plot twists in this one are serpentine, but delightful. Without doing spoilers, I will warn that if like me, you are claustrophobic, you might want to read (or listen) to this one in the day time in a big airy well-lit room. The climax is a scary stunner. Regular readers will delight in the ongoing adventures, while newcomers will have no trouble picking right up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Giveaway: The Case of the Missing Servant

Read this one first!
Get caught up because #2 just hit the bookstores!
2 copies available

A Vish Puri Mystery

Back in February I reviewed  The Case of the Missing Servant, a book I loved.  I ended the review by saying I was really looking forward to more adventures of the delightful Vish Puri.  Taquin Hall has granted my wish, and his publicist, Lucinda sent me not only a review copy of the new adventure The Man Who Died Laughing, but also is making two copies of Missing Servant available for a giveaway.

Here's the publishing blurb (my review is here):
The portly Vish Puri is India’s most accomplished detective, at least in his own estimation, and is also the hero of an irresistible new mystery series set in hot, dusty Delhi. Puri’s detective skills are old-fashioned in a Sherlock Holmesian way and a little out of sync with the tempo of the modern city, but Puri is clever and his methods work.

The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.

The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent ins
ights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.
So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. Go read my review and Leave a comment telling me something that interested you  Include your email address (no email no win).
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  3. For another entry, blog about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting.
  4. Since I don't twitter, tweet, or FB, you can get extra entries by visiting my blog every day, and simply saying "daily entry and the date" - feel free to comment on the current post too! So if you come every day from now until the deadline, you could have up to 21 extra entries. 
  5. US and Canadian addresses only, but PO Boxes are OK.
  6. Deadline is July 15th.
Good luck! ....I'll be reviewing The Man Who Died Laughing by the end of the month.  Promise!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday - June 23rd

This past week I spent a couple hours catching up on threads on LT-particularly on the 75 book challenge. Many of us are finishing up the first 75 books and heading for a second helping at the book buffet. I found so many great books to add to my wishlist that I can't possibly list them all here, but here are the highlights:

White Nights by Anne Cleeves - I keep seeing her pop up and must get one of hers at least to look at.

The Information Officer by Mark Mills

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami - short stories by a noted Japanses author. I enjoy shorts, and have been looking for a new author. This punches both tickets.

Amandine by Marlena DeBlasi. Many readers are posting reviews for the Early Review program for this one. I've tried reading DeBlasi's travel memoirs, but wasn't impressed. This one however is billed as 'historical fiction' about the French Resistance in WWII. I think it's at least worth checking out.

Original Sins: A novel of Slavery and Freedom by Peg Kingman.

I know I probably won't get to any of these in the next week, but it sure helps to jog my memory by building a list of great recommendations from all my reading friends.  What others would you recommend and why?

Review: No! I Don't want to Join a Book Club...diary of a 60th year

Author: Virginia Ironside
Format:  audio - 8 1/2 hours; 256 pgs paperback ( I started reading, ended up listening)
Characters: Mary Sharp
Subject: turning 60
Setting: Somewhere in England
Genre: fiction written as diary entries
Source: public library
Challenge: Support Your Local Library

Get over it Mary! As I mentioned earlier this week,if this one hadn't been on audio with an exceptional narrator, I'd have thrown it across the room yelling "you're not old!" I started reading the paperback at the library where I work, after my sister (who is considerably younger than I) had mentioned she had read it, and gave it a mezzo-mezzo review. So I thought, well maybe I'll be more enthused if I listen to it.  NOT.

This is supposedly the diary of a curmudgeonly retired teacher who is turning 60 and who has decided that at 60, life is over.  Now that she's retired, she's determined to put her brain into idle, and do nothing.  Except that makes her miserable.  She has no desire to read, learn a language, take trips, have sex, go to the doctors, etc etc etc.  When her son announces she is to become a grannie, she professes to be delighted.  But....other people have grandchildren too, and they have lives and they don't go around moaning about how no one takes them seriously now that they've gotten "OLD" --for pete's sake, she just turned 60!  She seems quite happy to embrace the trappings of being old (free prescriptions, free public transportation REMEMBER IT"S SET IN GREAT BRITAIN), she's delighted to be a grandmother, and does a pretty admirable job at that,  but she sounds so whiney trying to convince us she's happy.

The book is at it's best when she describes her relationship with Hughie, a dear friend who is dying of lung cancer.  As she goes through the grieving and letting go process with Hughie's partner Jamie, she comes to a gentle acceptance that helps Jamie do the same. It is at its funniest when she describes some of her adventures in dealing with new-fangled baby items that did not exist when she was a young mother. The celebrated Brit humor can leave the reader gasping for breath from laughing.  It's worth a read, but not worth spending hard earned dollars.  Look for it at the library if you're having aging issues.  Otherwise, you're probably better off watching someone like Dame Judy Dench in some of her great Brit Com on netflix.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mini Review: I.O.U.

Author: Nancy Pickard
Format:Hardback 207 pgs
Subject: mental illness, small town coverup
Setting: fictional town of Port Fred Massachusetts
Series: Jenny Crain mysteries
Genre: mystery-amateur detective
Source: public library
Challenge: Support Your Local Library

I read this one for our monthly Mystery Book Club.  Pickard is a new author for me, and I found her writing crisp, easy to read, and believable.  This is #7 of the series (the only one the library had available), but I definitely intend to track down some of the earlier episodes.

Jenny Crain, Exec Director of a non-profit in her small town is dealing with her mother's death, trying to uncover the real reason mom spent years in a mental institution. As she asks questions, she becomes more and more puzzled about the reactions she gets from townspeople, including the members of her own board. Several incidents cause her to fear that someone is out to do her physical harm. Discouraged by her sister from further searching, but egged on by her friend - who happens to be her psychiatrist, and encouraged by her husband- who happens to be a police detective, she works to uncover the mystery of why her mother became ill, and why no one wants to talk about it.

The inter-family dynamics, particularly with her no-good father and his second wife, make it particularly interesting. I especially like the relationship between Jenny and her husband.  Both have professional lives separate from each other, but their mutual respect and support brings a richness to both of them, that many couples can only dream about.

Definitely worth going back to read some of the previous ones in the series (this is #7)

Giveaway: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On Sale Now
2 copies to giveaway

Thanks to Judy at Doubleday, we've got two copies of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a  literary fiction coming of age novel by Aimee Bender. I don't have my review copy yet, but it's one I'm anxiously waiting to delve into. I love lemon cake!

Here's the blurb:
On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. 
So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. Leave a comment telling me why you want to win (it's ok to say you want a free book!). Include your email address (no email no win)
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  3. For another entry, blog about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting.
  4. Since I don't twitter, tweet, or FB, you can get extra entries by visiting my blog every day, and simply saying "daily entry and the date" - feel free to comment on the current post too! So if you come every day from now until the deadline, you could have up to 21 extra entries. 
  5. Doubleday  is paying for the mailing, so the usual US addresses only.  NO PO Boxes.
  6. Deadline is July 13th.
Good luck!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: A Killer Plot (A Books by the Bay Mystery)

Author: Ellery Adams
Format: Advanced galley, 320 pages 
Characters: Olivia Limoges, Havilland the dog, Bayside Book Writers
Subject: murder, writing
Setting: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Series: Books by the Bay Mysteries
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: ARC from author
Challenge:ARCs completed

What a combo! Take an elegant but mysterious single wealthy female Olivia Limoges owner of an adorable intelligent well mannered dog named Havilland, living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Add an intelligent, sympatico, charming eligible police chief. Mix in small town atmosphere, great food served in several locations, a group of would be writers, and a murderer who writes Haiku!  This one is delightful.  Billed as the beginning of a new series (Books by the Bay Mysteries) written by the popular J.B. Stanley under the pseudonym Ellery Adams, the reader is instantly in love with the characters and  the setting, and becomes wrapped up in the town's dilemma: should they approve the sale of a popular but run down park to a conglomerate owned by a native son who made big bucks and moved away, even though it means moving several old graves to a non-descript setting across town?

When a visiting journalist, intent on digging up dirt on the would be owners is found murdered in a dark alley, and the only clue is a strange Haiku spray painted at the site, the local writers group (which the victim belonged to) led by Olivia, sets out to help the chief interpret the Haiku and find the murderer.  The reader will have to read the rest of the story.

There are several other delightful characters who- in this first volume-are given just enough personality for us to want to get to know more.  And in addition to the chief, the new book store owner also appears to offer possibilities for some romance in addition to the mysteries to come. Did I mention the cover alone would make me buy it.  Too bad my ARC has a plain orange wrapper!!

Many thanks to Ellery Adams for sending me an advance copy to review.

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, a fun weekly meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.  Just as the post office or mailbox is a place to gather to share the news, this gives readers  a chance to share the books that came into their house last week.  Here's what got delivered to casa tutu this week. It was quite an exciting haul!

Semper Cool - an ARC from the author and publisher to the members of the War through the Generations/ Vietnam War challenge participants.  We'll be reviewing it closer to it's release date of November 1, 2010.
The Devlin Diary - a book I won by entering the giveaway at My Book Views.  Thanks Nicole, I can't wait to read it. Here's the publisher blurb:
A follow-up to the well-received The Rossetti Letter (2007), Phillips once again simultaneously follows seventeenth-century and twenty-first-century mysteries. A serial killer is loose in seventeenth-century England. Are his gruesome crimes random, or are they part of a royal conspiracy? Hannah Devlin, a rare female physician, becomes convinced of the latter. Meanwhile, in twenty-first-century Cambridge, England, Clare Donovan finds Hannah’s diary. Shortly thereafter, an academic rival is murdered. Are the crimes connected? Both women work to solve their mysteries, while also becoming embroiled in parallel romances. Although the twenty-first-century plotline and ending are the weaker, both sets of mysteries and romances are engaging. An excellent afterword answers questions about historical accuracy and literary license. A novel sure to appeal to readers of Philippa Gregory. --Marta Segal Block

A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie Littlefield
From the LT Early Review program, the description says:

Stella Hardesty, avenger of wronged women, is getting cozy with Sheriff "Goat" Jones when a tornado blows none other than Goat’s scheming ex-wife, Brandy, through the front door. Adding to the chaos, the tornado destroys the snack shack at the demolition derby track, pulling up the concrete foundation and unearthing a woman's body. The main suspect in the woman’s murder is Neb Donovan---he laid the foundation, and there's some pretty hard evidence pointing to his guilt. Years ago, Neb's wife asked Stella for help getting him sober. Stella doesn't believe the gentle man could kill anyone, and she promises his frantic wife she'll look into it.
Former client Chrissy Shaw is now employed at Stella's sewing shop and she helps with the snooping as Stella negotiates the unpredictable Brandy and the dangerously magnetic sheriff.
This is the thrilling sequel to Sophie Littlefield’s debut, A Bad Day for Sorry, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Stella Hardesty is a heroine to watch---join her on this next adventure for as fiercely funny and riveting a story as there is to be found in crime fiction.
The Red Hook Road by Ayelet AWaldman, an ARC from the publisher. Publicity on this one includes an interview with the author.  Here's part of it.

Where, the reader asks, do you get your ideas?
It’s a simple question, and my usual response is a kind of helpless, "I don’t know." But I do know....I’ll tell you what. Other people’s misfortune. That’s where we get those ideas that inspire us (and, we hope, you). Most writers spend their lives standing a little apart from the crowd, watching and listening and hoping to catch that tiny hint of despair, that sliver of malice, that makes them think, Aha, here is the story.
My new novel, Red Hook Road, began many years ago as a short article in the newspaper. A bride and a groom (or was it the groom and the best man?) were killed on their way from the church to the reception, when a speeding car smashed into their limousine. The horror of that happening on that day, at that moment, when you are about to embark on a completely new life, where everything is possible and the future is all that is on your mind... that stuck with me for years. I’d think of it time and again, as anyone would.
A normal person thinks about that tragedy, and maybe gets sad all over again. A writer thinks of it and wonders, "Can I use this?"
Until one day, you can, and you do. --Ayelet Waldman
Besides the incredible story line, this one starts on the Maine Coast...what more could I ask for?
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing 
by Taquin Hall

An ARC from the author's publicist who also offered two copies of the 1st in this series The Case of the Missing Servant. We're having a giveawy for 2 copies of Missing Servant later this week.  So be sure to come back.  This one promises to be just as entertaining:
The delightful, amusing, and deeply mysterious second novel to feature Vish Puri, a man after Hercule Poirot's heart, in a series that has already won diehard fans on three continents.
The bizarre murder of an Indian scientist in public by the goddess Kali is no laughing matter. Yet Dr. Suresh Jha, best known for unmasking fraudulent swamis and godmen, dies in a fit of giggles at his morning yoga class when the hideous deity appears from the mist and plunges a sword into his chest. The case is a first in the "annals of crime" according to Vish Puri, head of Delhi's Most Private Investigators. To get at the truth, Puri and his team of unstoppable undercover operatives must travel from Delhi's Shadipur slum, home of India's ancestral magicians, to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges — entering a world in which illusion and the supernatural are virtually indistinguishable.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Salon

The weather is too glorious to be spending much time at the  computer, so here's quick wrap up of the week and a look toward the week to come.

Books I finished this week (reviews to be posted later within the week):
  • Out of the Deep I Cry - the third in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyn detective series. Now I'm caught up, but I'm still begging for more, so I'll be reading, 5, 6, and 7 very soon.  If you haven't read these luscious romantic who-dunnits set in the Adirondacks, try one.  Julia Spencer-Fleming has given us great characters, exceptional plots and stunning twists and turns. 
  • No, I Don't want to Join a bookclub - the diary of a sixtieth year by Virginia Ironsides.  If this one hadn't been on audio with an exceptional narrator, I'd have thrown it across the room yelling "get over it already."  Other people have grandchildren too, and they have lives and they don't go around moaning about how no one takes them seriously now that they've gotten "OLD"  --for pete's sake, she just turned 60!
  • The Killer Plot - the first in a new series by Ellery Adams (aka J.B. Stanley).  This was an ARC sent by the author, and believe me --it's great. 
 I'm currently reading:
  • Blink, the power of thinking without thinking  by Malcolm Gladwell. This one is for our seniors' book group which doesn't meet until July 11th.
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison for our library bookgroup.This has been on my TBR shelf for over a year, and I'm thrilled to have a push to read it.
  • I.O.U., A Jenny Crain Mystery by Nancy Pickard for our mystery book group which meets in three days (fortunately this one's only 200 pages, so I hope to finish it tomorrow).
  • The Castaways by Erin Hilderbrand - an ARC I got to review in connection with the giveaway we're having --it ends this week, so be sure to click here and enter.

Other reading activity:

Put aside till later - The Wettest County in the World. A true story set in novel form (does that make it historical fiction?) written by the friend of a friend. Published in 2008 by Simon and Schuster it purports to tell the story of the Bondurant family and their involvement in illegal liquor production (stills!!) in Franklin County VA. The prologue grabbed me, but then the story just wasn't taking off for me. I sent it back to the library, (got it through inter-library loan) and have marked it in my records to try it again later. I think my brain just wasn't ready to handle all the mechanics of brewing white lightening right now.

And be sure to stop by this week....I have two more contests coming up - one for
The Case of the Missing Servant by Taquin Hall to celebrate the sequel The Man Who Died Laughing which is being released very soon.  This will give you a chance to catch up.

The other contest is a giveaway of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Cooking

  Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.

Today I'm chatting about  canning and measuring food.  We picked the last of the spring rhubarb crop early this morning, and two days ago I stopped at one of our local farm markets and treated myself to 4 qts of gorgeous, sweet, red, juicy local strawberries. Hubs is a big fan of rhubarb, and I enjoy few things more than slavering thick viscous strawberry preserves on my morning English muffin.  So we picked the hottest (so far) day of the year to do some canning. 

It was close to 80 when we started, and to put some context into this equation, we don't have a kitchen or living room or dining room, we have a GREAT room. So when you heat up the kitchen, you are essentially heating up the whole house (works great in Maine winters.) We do thank goodness have a "shotgun" arrangement where the front door and back patio door to the river are lined up, so when you open both, you get a great whoosh of air--if anything is moving.  We also have big ceiling fans, and lots of windows on the river side of the house.  However, we do NOT have air conditioning.  So the great big pot boiled away on the stove - first sterilizing jars and lids, and then water bathing jars yums. And the adults boiled away in the steamy air.

Yes it was hot but it was worth it.  Blogs don't do taste testing very well, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Now about measurements.  Many of the recipes I perused had fruit measured in pints, some in pounds, and some in cups.  I know we used to have to memorize that stuff in school, but face it fans, that was almost 50 years ago, and this brain is not computing cups=quarts=pints=pounds too well.  Besides, I was trying to listen to an audio book while I did this.  So, I pressed pause on the audio, went to my friendly computer, and found two marvelous sites with great downloadable pdf charts - one of which is now firmly attached to the side of my frig with a magnet saying "maine defends the right to arm bears"....

Anyway, here's the printable chart and here's a great site for helping do conversions by simply filling the one you have and clicking to see it convert.  It's an online form that doesn't show well here, but bookmark it--it will be a great help.

And here is my favorite:  I really didn't need any of these today, but found it quite amusing.  After all, you never know when I'll have to figure out how many firkins are in a gill, or how many tablespoons are in a hogshead!

Liquid Measurements 
In the United States, liquid measurement is not only used for liquids such as water and milk, it is also used when measuring other ingredients such as flour, sugar, shortening, butter, and spices.
teaspoon tablespoon fluid
gill cup pint quart gallon
1 teaspoon = 1 1/3 1/6 1/24 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1 tablespoon = 3 1 1/2 1/8 1/16 - - - - - - - - -
1 fluid ounce = 6 2 1 1/4 1/8 1/16 - - - - - -
1 gill = 24 8 4 1 1/2 1/4 1/8 - - -
1 cup = 48 16 8 2 1 1/2 1/4 1/16
1 pint = 96 32 16 4 2 1 1/2 1/8
1 quart = 192 64 32 8 4 2 1 1/4
1 gallon = 768 256 128 32 16 8 4 1
1 firkin = 6912 2304 1152 288 144 72 36 9
1 hogshead = 48384 16128 8064 2016 1008 504 252 63

Now here's how I made the Rhubarb Chutney--perfect on pork, grilled chicken or fish or with Indian curries and vindaloos.

4 cups (1.5 lb) chopped rhubarb
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup mixed dried fruits (I used cherries, blueberries and strawberries)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Put all that in a big pot, bring to a boil, and then cook, stirring frequently until the rhubarb gets soft and pulpy. Spoon into sterilized jars, and waterbath for 12 minutes.

Enjoy your summer weekend.  Glorious days like this are far too few, and we're thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy them. Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: The Serpent's Tale

Author:  Ariana Franklin
Format: Hardcover 384 pgs;
Characters: Adelia Aguilar, Rowley Picot, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine
Subject: murder, intrigue
Setting: 12th century England
Series: Mistress of the Art of Death
Genre: Fiction; suspense
Source: my own library
Challenge: Read From My Shelves

Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar has been called out of retirement by the Bishop of Saint Albans (Rowley Picot) to investigate the mysterious poisoning of Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II.  Henry's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, recently escaped from her imprisonment in France, is the prime suspect, and all fear another civil war is brewing because of it.

If you have read Franklin's earlier book, Mistress of the Art of Death, these characters are well-known. If not, it doesn't matter. This one can stand on its own. It's another fascinating look at the field of forensics from the 12th century viewpoint.  Adelia is a Medica, trained at the famous medical school in Salerno Sicily and as such, a practicing physician. Her specialty though is death.  She is a Doctor of Death – the equivalent of a modern day forensic pathologist-- who has special training in deducing from the dead how and why they died, and in the case of homicides, who killed them.

In England however, if it were known that she has this calling and training, she would be subject to being burned at the stake as a practitioner of witchcraft.  Thus, she travels with a huge lovable Saracen eunuch named Mansour, sent from Sicily to accompany her as her bodyguard. As far as the English are concerned, "DR Mansour" is always assisted by, and has as his translator, Mistress Adelia. The fact that Adelia has given birth to a child fathered by Rowley (before Henry made him a bishop) is another strike against her.

In this episode, fair (Henry thinks so anyway) Rosamund has been poisoned by mushrooms delivered by a servant girl who claims to have received the basket from a lady in the forest. NO SPOILERS.The setting is a hellacious winter (the Thames has frozen over), the English forests and countryside, and an isolated Abbey inhabited by a group of very capable sisters. The characters include an unnamed assassin (who is introduced at the very beginning but who is not identified as such until the end), a totally loony (can you say 'off the deep end'?) maid servant to Rosamund, an icy but imperious Queen Eleanor, several dead bodies in various states of decay and decrepitude, and enough plot twists to keep the reader awake to the wee hours.
Good historical fiction.Great suspense thriller.More than adequate love story.

Review: Burma Chronicles

Author: Guy Delisle
Format:  208 pgs
Subject: Life in Burma (Myanmar)
Setting: Myanmar
Genre:  Graphic Novel
Source: Public Library
Challenge: Support your Local Library

My first graphic novel…and I was impressed.Through the medium of black and white cartoons, the author tells the story of his family’s sojourn in the country of Myanmar (we used to call it Burma) in Southeast Asia. His French wife is a member of the Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and they take their young son on a journey throughout the country.

With limited electricity (often only 2 hours a day), tightly controlled access to many areas, particularly anywhere close to the house where Nobel Prize winning peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi lives, DeLisle tries to continue his work as an illustrator- writer while searching for adequate housing, learning to navigate the baby stroller among the motorcycles, and trying to make sense of a culture that is very different from his native Canada. There are short vignettes of visits to local markets and restaurants, a sojourn in a Buddhist facility to learn to mediate, starting up classes in illustrations for locals. A wonderful story of foreigners trying to fit it, and the struggles they have.

Having lived overseas for several years, I could definitely relate to some of his quandaries, and found myself laughing out loud at some of them. For instance, men are not normally accepted as stroller pushing care-givers. DeLisle’s adventures in play-groups are quite funny. I remember well the stares, followed by hisses, my husband used to get when he would take our son (then about 8 mos old) out for a stroll to the local Japanese market.

While not a novel in the fictional sense of the word, the graphic format is stunning. I’m not sure I could read consistently only in this format, but the simple black and white illustrations bring the starkness of the life in Myanmar into startlingly clear view. I have glanced at other graphic publications but found them confusing, blaring, and assaulting to my senses. This does none of that, and is a surprisingly easy to read story of what is currently happening in that that area of the world.

I can certainly see how social studies teachers could make great use of a format like this to encourage young readers to get their world studies very easily completed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wish List Wednesday

I'm starting something a bit new here, mainly to highlight great books I've heard about on other blogs, or newsletters, or from my fellow librarians or readers on LT.  This will help me keep track of books I see that I want to read, and give me some clue in the future about why I said I wanted to read them!

  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson - I've read her first one and really enjoy her take on life in the South. The town of Between gives this one its name.
  • The Case of the Man who Died Laughing (A Vish Puri mystery )by Tarquin Hall -I really enjoyed the 1st in the series, and want to see if Hall can continue and Vish Puri is still as entertaining..
  • The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald - a fascinating study of the use of 'practice babies' from local orphanages used in college HomeEc classes  in the mid 1900's. Recommended by one of the best RA librarians in the state so I MUST read it.
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen - recommended by several fellow librarians, and it's the sort of British cozy sans mystery - small town story that I'm currently wallowing in.

  • Freedom for the Thought that we Hate by Anthony Lewis- recommended by a fellow LTer; I'm a huge 1st Amendment fan, and must read this book by the author of Gideon's Trumpet.
  • The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelley McNees - what woman who ever spent a summer wallowing in Little Women can resist this one?
  • The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom - another one I've seen on blogs everywhere and desperately want. I think it will be an interesting followup to The Help, since it concerns 'white slavery'.
  • The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme - next to coastal Maine, I love the Outer Banks of NC and the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland almost as much.  The setting alone grabs me on this (the cover looks great too) but the post civil war, somewhat romantic promises of the blurb are calling me to this one.
  • Bone Appetit by Carolyn Haines - the #10 in the Sarah Booth Delaney series.  I've only read 2 or 3 of these but definitely want to pursue some more.  I'm glad to see she's still going strong
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira -  another historical fiction set in post civil war times.  I'm thinking this one might be more to my liking than A Separate Country.

So what have you added to your wishlist lately?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: The Secret Scripture

Author:  Sebastian Barry
Format: audio 9 hrs, 45 min; 320 pgs equivalent
Characters: Roseann Clear McNulty, Dr. Grene
Subject: Mental Illness, Catholic Church
Setting: Sligo Ireland 1930 to present
Genre: fiction
Source: public library audio download
Challenge: SYLL, Audio books

A powerful, incredible book.  Set in an insane asylum, the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital in Sligo Ireland, this is the story of one of its patients, 100 year old Roseann McNulty and her psychiatrist Dr. Grene.  The hospital is slated for demolition shortly, and Dr. Grene must evaluate his patients to see if they should be moved to another institution or can be 'turned loose' into Society.  Unbeknownst to the other, each is keeping a diary, writing a scripture if you will.  Hers is the story of her life, as she remembers it, and it appears she has not previously shared this information with any of the staff. The good doctor, on the other hand, while struggling with grief for his recently deceased wife, feels a great fondness for Roseann, and tries gently to come to an understanding of how she came to be there, since she seems perfectly sane to him.  Naturally, he feels a great reluctance to turn out a 100 year old woman who has no place to go, and seemingly no living relatives.  In the meantime, his discovery of a document written by a priest who knew Roseann, which paints a very different picture from what she seems to be telling him (and the reader in her secret diary) adds to his dilemma and helps build the tension.

As they both struggle through the story of Ireland's politics and religious wars and the iron grip the Catholic Church held on the morals of the town, as they review and remember long lost family members and events in their past, their stories-hers working from the start, his working backward--come to an explosive and (for me) unexpected conclusion at the very end of the book.

This is an exquisite, elegant story of love, betrayal, treachery, secrets kept, secrets revealed, secrets misunderstood, and the ultimate goodness of a few people who persist in goodness to bring the story to its incredible climax. I really didn't see it coming, which made it all the more satisfying. It's difficult to say much more without spoiling a beautiful story.

Sebastian Barry is a two time nominee for the Man Booker Prize.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: The Executor

Author: Jesse Kellerman
Format: unproofed galley, 343 pages
Subject: philosophy, greed, loneliness
Setting: Boston
Genre: suspense novel
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenge: ARC to complete

The blurb says: Things aren't going well for Joseph Geist. He's broke. His graduate school advisor won't talk to him. And his girlfriend has kicked him out of her apartment, leaving him homeless and alone. It's a tough spot for a philosopher to be in, and he's ready to give up all hope of happiness when an ad in the local paper catches his eye. 'Conversationalist wanted', it reads. Which sounds perfect to Joseph. After all, he's never done anything in his life except talk. And the woman behind the ad turns out to be the perfect employer: brilliant, generous, and willing to pay him for making conversation. Before long, Joseph has moved in with her, and has begun to feel very comfortable in her big, beautiful house. So comfortable, in fact, that he would do anything to stay there? 

Jesse Kellerman writes in clear, crisp prose that gives us an immediate picture of Joseph Geist the protagonist in this thriller. This is a very difficult book to review without spoiling. The philosophical discussions the protagonist has with the woman, and with his girlfriend, and above all with himself, are often almost convoluted. Through them we see a tortured, insecure person who has never managed to accomplish anything in his life except to get out of the mid-West and into Harvard where he has wallowed for 8 years. The conversations are so pompous at times that I actually had to resort to a dictionary. The book has a back cover that says “A masterly inventive thriller from a remarkably assured young writer.”

There are 343 pages in my copy. At page 240, I was still waiting for the thriller part to kick in.

Then it did, and I haven’t been on a roller-coaster that exciting or terrifying in my life. It is a spectacular story, told so well that even when things are slowly building, you feel the tension, you sense that something is going to happen, you posit several different scenes, and then BAM! Nothing like I expected, but definitely heart-hammering, page–turning good. The author brings the story to a clean concise denouement that leaves the reader with a sense of justice and sadness.

It could have been, and I suppose in many ways it is, a depressing and sad book. But it is so well written that I came away only saying WOW, what a great story.

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, a fun weekly meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.  Just as the post office or mailbox is a place to gather to share the news, this gives readers  a chance to share the books that came into their house last week.

This week the mail brought only two but they are both going to be winners.

Sundays at Tiffany's (a win from Alyce's monthly shelf cleaning contest At home with books )

AN IMAGINARY FRIEND: Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl. Her mother, a powerful Broadway producer, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany's. Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael. He's perfect. But only she can see him. Michael can't stay forever, though. On Jane's ninth birthday he leaves, promising her that she'll soon forget him.
AN UNEXPECTED LOVE: Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child. And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother. Then she meets someone-a handsome, comforting, funny man. He's perfect. His name is Michael . . .
AND AN UNFORGETTABLE TWIST This is a heartrending story that surpasses all expectations of why these people have been brought together. With the breathtaking momentum and gripping emotional twists that have made James Patterson a bestselling author all over the world, SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S takes an altogether fresh look at the timeless and transforming power of love.

A Killer Plot an ARC from Berkley Prime Crime sent by the author ( who also writes as J.B. Stanley).  Here's her own blurb on this one:

In the small coastal town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina, you’ll find plenty of characters, ne’er-do-wells, and even a few celebs trying to duck the paparazzi. But when murder joins this curious community, the Bayside Book Writers are there to get the story...
Olivia Limoges is the subject of constant gossip. Ever since she came back to town—a return as mysterious as her departure—Olivia has kept to herself, her dog, and her unfinished novel. With a little cajoling from the eminently charming writer Camden Ford, she agrees to join the Bayside Book Writers, break her writer’s block, and even make a few friends...
But when townspeople start turning up dead with haiku poems left by the bodies, anyone with a flair for language is suddenly suspect. And it’s up to Olivia to catch the killer before she meets her own surprise ending.

(A Books by the Bay Mystery #1) Berkley (Prime Crime), June 2010 ISBN-10: 042523522X ISBN-13: 9780425235225 320 pages Paperback $7.99

I started this one last night, and believe me, it doesn't disappoint!  Besides, how can you resist that cover?  My ARC has a plain wrapper, so I'm probably going to have to buy one just to have that great scene.

So what goodies were in your mailbox this week?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Salon

I'm late posting, but I just came up for air. I was determined to finish two books that had been hanging, and I wanted to get some needlework done as well, so I stayed curled up in bed to finish one book, and then being unable to handle any more "kitty kisses", I got up to fix breakfast. Tuna and salmon for the beasties, and blueberry buttermilk pancakes for the humans. With the World Cup, and later the Red Sox muted on the TV, I've been camped in in my recliner working on the Great Blue Heron cross stitch, on this foggy, misty Sunday (actually my favorite kind) listening to an incredible ending to a fabulous book . What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday!

I can report that I'm finally over my reading funk and have had an exceptionally great week. Friday, we had our quarterly Mid-Coast Maine librarians meeting - this time out on one of the islands. There is nothing as head-clearing as a brisk breeze on a ferry boat crossing Penobscot Bay, and as you can see, you sure can't beat the scenery.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
One of our favorite parts of these meetings is going around the room and reporting on what we personally are reading. I get so many great suggestions from this group, I need to start a whole separate wishlist just for them.

In addition to some chit-chat, I'm trying a more structured format for this post for the next few weeks. I must give some credit for Alyce of At Home with Books for her style which has influenced my own.

Books I read this week (reviews will be posted during the upcoming week - we hope!)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - best of the week by far (the one I just finished !! FABULOUS)
The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin - the sequel to The Mistress of the Art of Death (both worth reading)
Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle - my first Gothic Novel
The Executor by Jesse Kellerman - an ARC for a book that was released in April (and a good one!)

Currently reading This week I'm again 'ear-reading' two and print reading at least two others:
The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant (recommended by a friend).
A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams (an ARC I received from the author).
No I Don't want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a sixtieth year by Virginia Ironside (recommended by my sister, who never steers me wrong)
Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming (another Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyn mystery) - I can't stop reading this series, so I may as well keep going til I catch up.

Recommendations from my fellow librarians
These are at the top of my TBR/wishlist pile, and I plan to work as many as possible into the everlasting gob-stop pile of ARCs wanting reviews:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (her newest one The Nobodies Album is up for giveaway here)
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Phillip Pullman
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (I'm in the queue at the library- maybe by the end of the summer!)

So off to enjoy what's left of the was your Sunday?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Giveaway: The Nobodies Album

Just in Time for Summer
On Sale Next Week
2 copies to giveaway

Thanks to Judy at Doubleday, we've got two copies of Carolyn Parkhurst's latest novel, The Nobodies Album to giveaway.  Author of best-seller The Dogs of Babel, Parkhurst has given us a novel, a mystery, and a story about a story all in one volume.  I don't have my review copy yet, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it.

Here's the blurb from her website:

From the bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel comes a dazzling literary mystery about the lengths to which some people will go to rewrite their past. 

Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book — a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.
On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo have not spoken years — in an estrangement stemming from that tragic day — she drops everything to go to him.
The last chapters of Octavia's novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album — the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo's dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning conclusion, Octavia must consider how this story will end.
Universally praised for her candid explorations of the human psyche, Parkhurst delivers an emotionally gripping and resonant mystery about a mother and her son, and about the possibility that one can never truly know another person.
So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. Leave a comment telling me why you want to win (it's ok to say you want a free book!). Include your email address (no email no win)
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  3. For another entry, blog about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting.
  4. Now ....this is a new one...since I don't twitter, tweet, or FB, you can get extra entries by visiting my blog every day, and simply saying "daily entry and the date - feel free to comment on the current post too!" So if you come every day from now until the deadline, you could have up to 22 extra entries. 
  5. Doubleday  is paying for the mailing, so the usual US addresses only.  NO PO Boxes.
  6. Deadline is July 1st.
Good luck!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: The Lumby Lines

Author: Gail Fraser
Format: trade paperback, 336 pages
Characters: Mark and Pam Walker
Subject: Being 'from away' in a small town
Setting: Small town in the Northwest
Series: The Lumby Series
Genre: cozy fiction
Source: borrowed from my sister

Published several years ago, I borrowed this one from my sister last month, and picked it up to have something quick and fun to help me get over my reading funk. It's a nice cozy story of a town in the Northwest but it could be anywhere, sort of a Three Pines meets Mitford without the mystery story plots, murders, or detectives. Just ordinary people, living ordinary lives, dealing with the everyday emotions and dreams of everyman.

Well.....not exactly...
  • How many of us have the bazillions of dollars to drop what we're doing, move cross country and buy and restore a burned down monastery, orchard, and all the assortment of out buildings that go with it?
  • How many of us have our own architect we can persuade to leave it all and come with us?
  • How many of us have mud (or other detritis) that turns to roses no matter what?
  • How many of us have our own plastic pink flamingo in the front yard, who magically changes his outfits almost daily to fit the occasion?
I live in a small town, and most of these people are very real, but I wish the author had focused more on the townspeople instead of the newcomers.  I'd like to get to know them better. And while the issues faced by these people "from away" seem anything but everyday, the townspeople are genuine, and it is they who give the story its charm. It's humorous, fun, warm and fuzzy and has lots of room to grow since this appears to be the first of a series. If you live in a small town, you will recognize the setting, the people, the problems. If you don't, you can dream that this is the place you'd want to live if you had your druthers. Perfectly charming, easily readable.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Abandoned Book: A Separate Country

Author: Robert Hicks
Format: hard copy  432 pgs
Characters: Eli Griffin, John  Bell Hood, Anna Marie Hennen Hood
Subject: I WISH I KNEW!!!
Setting: New Orleans post civil war
Genre: Historical (?) Fiction
Source: My own shelves (won in a contest last year)
Challenge: Read from my Shelves

I really wanted to like this book....the cover is appealing, I love New Orleans, and I generally like historical fiction.  I had seen several reviews which indicated that this one took a while to 'get into' so I gave it 180 pages!!!  I'm officially declaring it over, done, not to my liking.  Supposedly it is the story of General John Bell Hood, one of the most controversial Confederate generals, and of his wife Anna Marie, as told by their memoirs.  Bell has written a book to explain himself and seek forgiveness for his monumental blunders that cost thousands of lives during the war.  I found this frame for their search for justification and redemption BORING to say the least.

We  discussed this one at our senior center book group this morning, where they were gracious enough not to ask me to eat crow after I apologized for ever suggesting this ponderous package of pages.  We were equally divided between liking (finishing) and not liking (abandoning) the book, although I read much more than the others who bailed.  Most said they at least learned a little about the man (we all are great internet searchers), but found the writing style less than encouraging.  I suppose this is another reason I didn't like the book: I really resent it when I have to go do ponderous research to get a good setting and background before I'm able to read a piece of FICTION.  Different story if it's supposed to be history, but this one is fictional.

Those who felt it was a worthwhile read were the civil war buffs, several of whom are not normal fiction readers but felt this read more like a memoir.  Ok .... if you say so, but it's sure not going onto my best of the year pile.  Nor is it going onto the worst.  It's just a my candidate for most boring historical fiction of the year.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Meet the Author - Paul Doiron

The Rockport Public Library in Maine ( a couple towns up the road from Tutu's little library and town) had a party on Friday to honor local resident and now famous author Paul Doiron.  After reading from his fabulous book The Poacher's Son, he signed copies, accepted our ginger ale/hard cider toasts, joined us in cake (I wish I'd gotten a picture) and answered questions about being a writer, birthing the book, and what's up next.

I asked Paul for permission to write up some of the Q&A, and he graciously agreed. (NOTE: these are not exact quotes...I was furiously taking notes, but I think I have captured the gist.)

How long did it take to write?
That answer is hard to pin down as I wrote it over a longer period of time.  Now since I have a contract with Minotaur for two more books- one a year--it's much easier to say how long.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I knew from the time I was 15 or 16 that's what I wanted to do, and tried to write all the time. I got an MFA from Emerson College, and have been honing my skills ever since.  The DownEast job of course provides me great writing opportunities.

Do you write every day?
Not really. Since I write for my day-job as Editor in Chief of DownEast Magazine, I don't have much writing energy left to write at night after work, and I've never been an early morning writer.  So I do most of my writing on weekends.

Did you choose the title?
Yes, I did, although I will share that it was not the first title. I won't tell you the original one I had in mind because I think it becomes a spoiler, and I changed to The Poacher's Son (which was suggested by a friend who read an early draft) because I realized that while the book is a mystery,  it is also very much a novel about the relationship of a father and a son, and I wanted to emphasize that.

Do you take reviews and online discussions into consideration as you're writing these next two books (for example the Barnes and Noble First Look Club where we discussed the book)?
I try not to.  When I set out to write this story, I had a firm picture in my mind of who Mike Bowditch (the protagonist) was, and what his character was.  I was tired of detectives who were typically 35 years old and who were going into mid-life crisis. They all had wives who had died, or they were divorced.  I wanted a character who was just starting to find himself, and who would question things, but who was fairly black and white about what he believed in.  I've noticed that some readers in their comments don't seem to remember being 24 years old, or never had a son or brother who went through this stage in life.

You're obviously familiar with Maine and its wilderness.  Did you do much research, or was this subject matter one you were already comfortable with?

I'm a registered Maine guide, so I'm writing about a subject that is near and dear, but I can never know everything.  There were pieces that required more research than others, and you always want to check that what you're saying is still current - for instance, as I completed the first draft, I learned that the Maine Warden Service had completely changed its uniform, so I had to go back and re-work that.  For the next book, I did a 'ride-along' for a day with a warden, including a fly-over.  You get a very different perspective from the air than from the ground.  At this point they were focusing on the drug war, and I learned it's much easier to identify marijuana from the air in early fall, because it's the last plant on the forest floor to change color.  That green sticks right out!

The setting seems to play a huge role in this book.  How much of that was intentional?
Oh, it was definitely intentional. The book is as much about the Maine wilderness as about Mike Bowditch...the Maine Woods can really be a character of its own.  In fact, I've been asked to be a panelist at the New England Crime Bake in the fall where the topic is something like "Setting as Character."  The wilderness - its depth, its inaccessibility, its wildlife and vegetation, has definite implications for the plot. 

The character of Mike Bowditch is portrayed as a kind of loner.  Do you think this is true of all wardens?
The warden's job requires hours and days of being alone in the woods.  The warden has to be comfortable being alone with his thoughts, and must be able to put family and personal concerns aside.  It's no accident that Mike is portrayed from the very beginning as someone who didn't mind being alone.
"...I had chosen to be alone. An empty house was what I'd wanted all along, even if it had taken Sarah years to realize it...and it was only after I had gotten posted in coastal Knox County that she realized that being a game warden was a twenty-four-a-day, seven-days-a-week way of life, and for reasons neither of us fully understood, I'd chosen it over her.   So she left." (pg. 10)
In books 2 and 3 I'm trying to show how Mike grows, how he grapples with the real question of whether he's cut out to be a warden, and how (and whether) he resolves his relationship with Sarah.

It was a great afternoon. Thanks to Molly Larson, director of Rockport Library for arranging the festive occasion, and many thanks to Paul's gracious wife Karen Lindquist for taking the photo of Tutu and Paul. Again I thank Barnes and Noble for the opportunity to have read this one pre-pub. See my review here if you missed it earlier.

And definitely check out Paul's website. We wish him continued success and absolutely can't wait for the next installment.

Review: To Darkness and to Death

Author: Julia Spencer- Fleming
Format:  audio - 14 hrs;  370 page equivalent
Characters: Clare Ferguson, Russ Van Alstyn
Subject: Murder, big business takeover of wilderness
Setting: Upstate New York
Series: Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyn  mysteries
Genre: police/amateur detective
Source:  public library
Challenge: SYLL, Audio, Thrillers and Suspense

Ingredients: Ex Army helicopter pilot now Episcopal priest (oh yeah- she's female); retired Army MP, now Police chief, lots of illicit romantic tension, no sex, a couple of Forrest Gump level criminals ("stupid is as stupid does"), a small town very professional police force, a giant conglomerate taking over bazillions of acres of pristine woodlands, a flawed recluse harboring a grudge, a priggish British suitor, a pompous Episcopalian deacon, several disenchanted businessmen watching their life dreams disappear under the onslaught of 'progress', loggers, mill-workers, and do-gooders.

Spencer-Fleming's ongoing series continues to build the romance between Rev. Clare Ferguson and Police Chief Van Alstyn, this time giving us more of a glimpse of the Chief's wife Linda.  The story opens with a reported missing person, and Clare's being called out on the search and rescue mission (she wants to keep her Army skills honed).  The ensuing tangled story that emerges from the results of the impending sale of acres of property by the Van der Hoeven family has many subplots.  The criminal characters are run-of-the mill criminals...they're ordinary townspeople who have not learned to deal with their emotions, their greed, and their longing to keep things from changing.  I did think Spencer-Fleming went a little over the edge though on some of the scenes.  I mean really! How stupid can people be and still be believable?

I enjoy this series, and plan to spend several hours this summer reading #3, which I skipped because it wasn't available at the library, and then 5, 6 and 7.  Like a good soap opera, they hook you into continuing so you can see what happens to the star-struck lovers.  Worth a read.