Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stress Relief for a Sunday

Title: At Home in Mitford
Author: Jan Karon
Publisher: New York : Penguin Audio, [2006]
Genre: Southern Christian Fiction 
Subject: Small town life, Episcopalian priesthood
Setting:  Fictional town, Mitford North Carolina
Series: The Mitford Years -#1
Source: Audio from public library -although I own the print copy
Why did I read this book now? I needed something calming and soothing, and I knew from experience this was it.

This past week has seen many "stressers" on Tutu's plate, not the least of which is planning a family reunion in California when I'm sitting in Maine. It's also strawberry season, and I've missed "putting them up" for the past two years.  This year I was determined to get some done, and now can report I have a half dozen jars of freezer jam to look forward to this winter.  I'm excited that my sister will be in town this week at her cottage down the road here in Maine.  She has a terrific hammock swinging in her yard looking out on the ocean, and I may have to trade a jar of jam for a quiet hour of watching the gulls fly over and the boats sail by.

Then in a few weeks Mr and Mrs. Tutu will  head out on the great California adventure.  I'll keep you posted as we get closer, and details fill in.  But in the meantime, when I found myself making lists of my lists, and walking around muttering "I've got to write those reviews," I knew it was time to step back, take a deep breath, load up a good relaxing audio, and head to the pool.

Who needs wine when there's a copy of one of Jan Karon's Fr. Tim books at hand?  This is one of my top ten feel good books.  The looney but likeable cast of characters and the small town setting are spot on. Fr. Tim, the rector of Lord's Chapel, an Episcopal church in rural North Carolina, is compassionate and lovable. A 60 years old confirmed bachelor, he is confronted with a) an ever-increasing health crisis when he ignores his doctor's warnings about managing his Type II Diabetes; b) a stray dog he names Barnabas who is the size of a refrigerator and who responds only to shouted Bible verses; c) sudden fatherhood in the person of a temporary foster child--Dooley Barlowe--a 10 year old boy raised in "the hollers" who is almost totally without family and who has no social skills; and d) a blossoming romance in the person of his new next-door neighbor Cynthia--famous author of children's picture books, who has terrific legs and who owns Violet the cat. The story is well fleshed out, but leaves much room for the ensuing books in the series. 

As many times as I have read or listened to this one (the audio is spectacular) I always find something new to take away. While many would consider it "religious", it is not at all preachy, and simply offers soothing life lessons and encouragement. It's a pure comfort read--no big surprises, problems are resolved in time, and although all is right with the world at the end, the reader knows there will always be more crises to solve and longs to know what comes next.  It's one of those series where you immediately go searching for the next installment. I've read them all, but suspect that I'll be re-reading several of them periodically throughout the rest of this year.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mailboxes and Mondays

Today, I'm featuring my dream Mailbox. Wouldn't this one just be perfect for Tutu? I could actually erect this one up at the top of the hill and across the road, so I could get my mail by taking a long....long....walk to see whether or not the mail had come! Hmmmm..... I think I'll just keep in Maine is so wonderful that it helps us accept the little inconveniences of not getting mail at our front door. Besides in a small town, where people live a bit apart (not packed into blocks of townhouses, or megaboxes of apartments), the trip to the Post Office, and the General Store next to it, and the library just across the street is often the highlight of the day. It's a gathering, social situation. Grab a cup of coffee at the store, sit and read your mail. In the summer, you can even go across the street to the town landing, and sit at one of the tables under a tree to soak up nature's beauty, and gaze at the beautiful little People's Church across the river.

Of course, everyone knows that Tutu's mail comes to the post office in a little square box with a lock on the front. It looks just like every other one of the 400 boxes in the little white building and is only accessible from 8-12:30 and 1:30-4 Mon-Fri. None of the books will fit into the box so all I really get is a yellow ticket telling me to go to the window. It's like winning the lottery.

This week I got two from entering contests - both perfect for summer...

 Kristin Hannah has written another gorgeous story I can hardly wait to dive into.  It's a follow-up to Firefly Lane, and I'm determined to read them in order so this one may take a few months for me to get to.  In the meantime, here's something to wet your reading whistles:

Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate---to be there for Kate’s children---but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.
Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.
Dorothy Hart---the woman who once called herself Cloud---is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.
A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another---and maybe a miracle---to transform their lives.An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day.
Then I got an ARC - one I think I got from filling out a form on Shelf-Awareness but I honestly can't find any record of how I actually got this, so my thanks to whoever sent it.  It looks like so much fun. Don't you just love the cover?  Who could resist it?  And it appears that it's got  a pretty good mystery inside. The perfect book to take on vacation next month.

Despite Melanie's domestic demands - a toddler and a house full of Standard Poodles - helping Edward March pen his life story is an opportunity she can't pass up. Of course Edward turns out to be a growly old man who wants his book - "Puppy Love" - to consist mainly of his amorous encounters with women from the dog show community. It's juicy gossip, but not dangerous...until Andrew, Edward's son, pays Melanie an angry visit to stop her from working on the book. When Andrew suddenly turns up very dead, the victim of a seemingly intentional hit-and-run, the police are looking at Edward as Suspect No. 1. There was lots of bad blood between Andrew and his father, but Melanie is looking at the bigger picture. Would some of Edwards' ex-trysts have gone after Andrew to shut Edward up? How about all of those husbands and boyfriends with bones to pick? And who is that woman who everyone is avoiding at the funeral? Between getting caught up in the bafflingly dysfunctional March family, sorting out two generations of disgruntled ex lovers, and uncovering a shocking case of secret hoarding, Melanie's running into dead ends almost as fast as she's running out of time. The longer the killer stays unleashed, the sooner she may end up in the dog house for good.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spring flowers

 Spring fever comes late to Maine....we're getting summer weather here today - finally, after a short but beautiful burst of spring.  Life's adventures have been draining much of my available leisure time, so reviews are going to be slow in coming.  I've got several ARCs that will get reviewed here in the next two weeks, but after that, I'm probably not going to be doing too many formal reviews for the rest of the summer.  We'll be attending family reunions, helping kids move, being home health aides to family members recovering from surgery, entertaining summer visitors, and if all goes well, announcing an exciting launch sometime before labor day.
I'm still reading-- this week I finished two of Kate Wilhelm's Barbara Holloway legal mysteries, an Amish Country mystery, the newest Maggie Hope mystery from Susan Elia MacNeal, and William Kent Krueger's wonderful new novel "Ordinary Grace".   I just wish I were more in the mood to write reviews.  I'm not, so I'll beg your indulgence and wish you a wonderful summer weekend, and happy reading of your own.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Thirty-nine year old Benjamin Benjamin is not living the good life. His wife is hounding him to sign their divorce papers, he hasn't had a "real" job in eleven years (he was a stay at home dad), he's lost both his children in some sort of tragedy, he has no marketable job skills, his apartment is so small and poorly furnished that he refers to it as his "compartment." His car is on its last legs. As the book begins, he has just completed a course in care-giving/home health assistance and embarks on trying to find employment. He gets hired as a care-giver for 19 year old Trevor who suffers from Duschene muscular dystrophy, is confined to a wheelchair and whose male hormones have left him with a huge chip on his shoulder and an obsession about getting a girl.  He is trying desperately to untangle himself from his overbearing mother.

Over the course of several months, Ben and Trev bond as they take trips to the park, go out to eat, watch movies, play video games, go through Trevor's daily hygiene routines, and try to work around Trev's mom's list of do and don'ts. They develop a huge wall map where they trace an imaginary trip to visit imaginary sites. All the while, Trevor is reaching out for his long out-of-the-picture father, and Ben is trying to come to grips with the deaths of his two children, a story which is unfolded slowly over the course of the book in a series of flashbacks.

Finally, Trevor's mom reluctantly agrees to allow them to take a road trip to see Trevor's father in Salt Lake City.  Along the way, they encounter and fold into their family "tent" a melange of zany, lovable, comic-tragic characters representing all of life's exigencies. Trevor finds a girl.  Ben finds another father lamenting the loss of his daughter. Although everything that can go wrong does, opportunities for change and redemption abound.

In the end, Evison gives us relationships that enrich, explores the meaning of friendship and family, helps us root for underdogs and hold our breath in fear and sorrow as each piece of the puzzle slips into place.  Its a glorious book, beautifully written, giving the reader hope, despair, redemption, and love. It is a book that leaves the reader with a smile as the last page is closed.

Title: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Author: Jonathan Evison
Publisher:Algonquin Books (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages Genre: literary fiction
Subject: dealing with disabilities, disappointments and tragedies
Setting: Pacific Northwest
Source:Copy from the publisher in conjunction with the Maine Readers Choice Award
Why did I read this book now? Maine Readers Choice Award Long List

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Strange book. It leaves me puzzled about how and what to write for a review. First of all, I'm a fan of Kate Atkinson, and have read all her previous works, even though I consider her to be one of the most frustrating writers I've ever read.
Here's the premise:  Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in February 1910.  She only lives to be five, dies and then is born again in February 1910.  This time she lives longer, then dies, is born again, and again, and again.  If you've ever seen the movie "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray, you get the picture.

 There are a list of reasons why I shouldn't like this book or give it a very high rating:
  • I'm not a fan of time travel and the time travel in this one is mind-boggling.
  • I'm not a fan of fantasy and the fantasmagorical endings Atkinson dreams up here and there are mind-boggling.
  • I'm so tired of books about Nazi Germany.
  • I tried to do this one in audio and it DOES NOT WORK.
  • The repetitiveness gets boring, confusing, and frustrating.
That said...........there is another list of why it's so good:
  • Somehow Atkinson makes all the fantasy and time travel work.
  • The historical facts woven into the fiction are fascinating.
  • The dialogue is crisp, believable and flows naturally.
  • The characters are engaging, believable and well-drawn.
  • The live/die/born again/start over again rhythm eventually settles down in the reader's mind.
  • Just when you think you know what's going to happen, it doesn't, and something else completely new happens.

Once I decided to give up the audio and read the book, or at least have a print copy to help me mark my place, and once I caught onto how it was constructed and what the author was trying to do, I was hooked.  Ursula goes through life experiencing a broad range of opportunities, triumphs, and tragedies.  Each time she dies, some of the previous lives stay buried in her sub-conscience.  The longer she lives, and the more times she goes through these phases (with different experiences, different people, different places), the more she begins to have "bleed throughs" that help/hinder her onward walk through life.

It's a bizarre premise, it's a strange book, and it can be frustrating to follow (I wanted to plot out all these different lives in a flow chart!), but it works.  I know I'm going to have to read this one at least once more, and I know that after the 2nd (or maybe 3rd) read, I'm going to declare this one of the best books of the year.  It is worth a look, and worth the time because she writes such descriptive scenes, her dialogue is wonderful, and her historical facts are woven into believable scenarios - - as long as they last!

Do try it.  I don't think it's for everyone, but it is certainly a thought-provoking and rewarding experience for anyone who perseveres.

Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher:Reagan Arthur Books (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 544 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Subject: Time travel
Setting: Europe 1910 -1950
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now? I heard so much about it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I concede....Vampires are Fun!

Ok.....I've succumbed. Many many many of my fellow readers over on LibraryThing are evil evil evil influences on me. They got me into the dratted, much maligned vampires for gosh sakes.  I've always said, nope, no, nada, nil, don't do vampires, don't do supernatural, don't do paranormal, etc etc etc.  Well last month, I decided that it was time for me to find out what all the hoopla was about with the Sookie Stackhouse series, so I downloaded this first one  from our library's e-collection. 

Then I kept putting it back in the queue to read other things I thought would be more interesting.  I ended up having to read it all in 24 hours because my download was going to expire! While I won't be nominating it for best anything of the year,  it was amusing and entertaining, with fun characters, a good enough plot, and ok ok, I'm going to get another one.  Even the mystery was fun.  I love New Orleans, and I love feisty females, so Sookie is now on the A-list.

So fellow readers, have you ever felt almost forced to read a book you thought you wouldn't like only to find yourself admitting that you really liked it? Are you a Sookie fan? What other books have filled this bill for you?

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Penguin Group e-Pub (2001)
Genre: fiction; fantasy; paranormal; mystery
Subject: Life of vampires, solving murders
Setting: Bon Temps Louisiana
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #1
Source: Public library e-book download
Why did I read this book now? I wanted to find out what all the hoopla was about.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review : Cooper River by William Kent Krueger

The next adventure of Irish/Native American sheriff Cork O'Connor finds our hero running from a mafia-like crime boss who has the mistaken idea that Cork has killed his son.  Cork is hiding out in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his long-lost cousin. To protect his wife and kids back home he has not told them where he is.  He's wounded, out of touch, and trying desparately to find the bad guy who is responsible for the crime so he can go home, be reinstated as Sheriff, and get his life back to normal.

This one was quite different.  The normal cast of characters we've come to know and love play only peripheral roles.  Here we have a new batch of relatives, stories, and troubles. Cork's bodyguard/sidekick in this escapade is a delightful female Dina,  who befriends the cousins particularly a young woman working her way through a very traumatic adolescence. It appears the lovely Miss Dina put in an appearance in one the two previous books that I missed in this series, so I'll definitely be going back to catch up. In this sixth of the series, there seems to be more action, less philosophy of life, but in the end, with the change of scenery and addition of new characters Krueger has freshened and expanded the series and left us still looking forward to the next volume.

These are hard to review at length without giving away the plot, something I hate in mystery reviews.  Suffice it to say that the Native American lore and the strong and colorful descriptions of a very scenic geography provide a robust basis for the exciting cliff-hangar of a plot.  As I said, I need to catch up. I've got one of the two I missed on hold at the library.  Readers would probably be better advised to start at the beginning of the series, although enough back-fill is provided to be able to jump in at this point.

Title: Copper River
Author: William Kent Krueger
Publisher: Atria Books (2009), Edition: Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Mystery
Subject: murder and detective work
Setting: Bodine Michigan
Series: Cork O'Connor
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now? Next one in a series I love.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mailbox Monday - June 10th: Louise Penny is back

It's Monday....Mailbox report time. Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started years ago by Marcia (she of many blogs) who is no longer actively participating but who manages the string of wonderful Hosts for the weekly bloggers who do participate.  The calendar has turned to June, so hosting duties belong to Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza.  Stop over there  and discover a wonderful blog with lots of new ideas.

I almost posted a dancing Snoopy here since I scored the big one this past week!!!! Un petit paquet arrived in my mailbox from Quebec!  I managed to win an autographed ARC of Louise Penny's upcoming #9 in the Chief Inspector Gamage series "How the Light Gets In." As you know if you visit Tutu with any regularity, Louise Penny is one of my top five favorite authors, and I'm really pleased that in this one she has returned her protagonist Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to the magical village of Three Pines.  I even have gotten Mr. Tutu hooked on these mysteries to the point that we are planning a trip to Quebec next summer to participate in the Bury Your Dead walking tour.

So here's what I have to look forward to in the next couple weeks.  Although publication date is August 27th, I won't be waiting that long to read it.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” —Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Qu├ębec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?
With this book on my TBR pile, I don't need anything but a nice pot of tea to reach nirvana.  Thank you Louise (and your assistant Lise) for choosing my entry. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Sunny Sunday in Maine

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde Maine.
On a gorgeous sunny late spring afternoon, I'm enjoying watching the Red Sox, basking in the Bruins Division championship, and sorting through books that are in the queue for reading and/or review. My pile was in danger of toppling, so I spent some time this morning going through the books I'd downloaded from Net Galley, reading the first chapters of several - or at least enough to determine that they weren't for me. It's often hard to decide based only on a publisher's blurb whether a book is really going to be an enjoyable read, so sometimes the only thing to do is plunge in, and make a decision.

I sent notes to about six publishers letting them know that while there wasn't anything WRONG with certain books, they just didn't turn out to be something I wanted to spend time on. Then I lined up the rest in order of publication dates and got them scheduled to weave in amongst the print ARCs and audiobooks I have sitting here shouting "pick me, pick me."

Consequently, although I've only finished three books this month (reviews this week), I've got 10 more lined up. I really want to get the print books read by mid-July because we're going on vacation to California, and I don't want to haul heavy books on the plane. So I'm excited to have some good e-books and audios to go with me.

Here are the top three on tap from Net Galley...they've all passed the "first cut" test and have me excited to get to them. I also have a library book I downloaded that expires tomorrow...looks like I'll be reading late tonite.Since it's not my usual genre, I'm keeping that under wraps until I review it, hopefully later this week.

First up....Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer
Healing Sands Sanitarium, northwest of Hoquiam, Washington, sits on the sandy doorstep of the Pacific Ocean. Famed for its restorative rest-cure, fermented diets, and Dr. Hornsby's electrotherapeutics, no one has ever died at Healing Sands. Until now. When Professor Bradshaw is summoned to investigate, he knows this was no accident, but his only clue to foul play is as insubstantial as smoke—to anyone other than an electrical engineer. Suspects are limited to a handful whose lives—and lies—must be exhumed and examined. A sinister tale emerges as deep undercurrents turn personal, provoking Bradshaw to make a decision about the woman he loves. And then an everyday object provides the key, alerting Bradshaw that one among them is a walking dead man, and another possesses the capacity for murder.
The Astronauts wives club by Lily Koppel
As  America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying  missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young  wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses  into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the  cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons,  donning sherbet-swirled Pucci dresses and lacquering their hair into  extravagant rocket styles.

Annie Glenn, with her  picture-perfect marriage and many magazine features, was the envy of the  other wives; platinum-blonde bombshell Rene Carpenter was proclaimed  JFK's favorite; Betty Grissom worried her husband was having affairs;  Louise Shepard just wanted to be left alone; and licensed pilot Trudy  Cooper arrived on base with a dirty secret. With each spectacular  launch, they worried they might never see their husbands again. Together  they formed the Astronaut Wives Club.

A fascinating,  dishy and moving read, , set against the backdrop of the Space Age and a  country that would be forever changed by it, THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB  tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest  heroes in American history.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
In 1950, a young doctor called  Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an  expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a  rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a  group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be  fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects  the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist  the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat  back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning  worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its  miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral  out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal  consequences.            
So there you have it - a mystery, some literary fiction, and a dishy tell-all.  Add that to my pile of great mysteries in print, and an interesting non-fiction in audio (see the side-bars) and I'm really ready to enjoy the glorious breeze wafting off the river through the trees.  I might even have to cajole Mr. Tutu to get the gazebo put up.  Enjoy your Sunday.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Looking for Me - Review and Giveaway

Southern fiction is a genre I love but only if it's done well.  Beth Hoffman not only does it well, she is masterful. I often hesitate before reading follow-up novels after the author has such a gorgeous debut as Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, so I approached this one skeptically.  It is a thrill to be able to say that Looking for Me is every bit as good as her first.

Teddi Overman, the central figure in the story, is well-portrayed southern lady.  Growing up in rural Kentucky, she watches her mother go about a dull, monotonous existence, and as she nears adulthood, comes to the realization that she is never going to be happy living the life her mother seems to want for her - a job (preferably in an office) with benefits, and obviously eventually a husband.  Teddi however, has other ideas.  From early childhood she is attracted to old things - furniture, glass, silver - any kind of antiques.  Her artistic talent thrives on revitalizing just about any old "stuff" she can find. She dreams of a life among beautiful, artsy, and creatively challenging.

Her brother Josh on the other hand, is thoroughly devoted to nature - animals, birds, trees, and in general just wants everyone to respect the life that exists around them.  His disappearance as Teddi is pondering her own future, deeply affects her sense of home, but cannot diminish her longing to break away from her mother's expectations.  When she leaves home in the middle of the night, she not only abandons the typewriter her mother gave her as a graduation gift, but the close-knit town where she grew up.

Teddi eventually finds her way to Charleston South Carolina, the queen of southern cities where she finds her place in life.  Shifting back and forth between Kentucky and South Carolina, the story weaves a tale of family, friends, southern gentility, heartbreak, and romantic love.  There are some wonderfully engaging scenes of almost stereotypical "characters"; there are scenes of wretched despondency; there are emotional ups and downs (a prerequisite for good southern fiction); and there are descriptions of exquisite beauty - both in the scenery and in the relationships of the people.  There is advice from a wise grandmother; there is solace from old friends; there is unmatched generosity from unexpected sources.

In some areas, particularly in Teddi's struggles to find out what happened to her brother, the story seems a bit stretched.  However, it doesn't detract from the overall beauty of the life portrayed.  It's another winner and one I'm happy to recommend to readers. 

So without further ado, here's the winner of Looking For Me:

Margie ! ! !

I've sent her an email and she has until noon on Friday to get back to me with her mailing address.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  Be sure to track down a copy of this one.  It's definitely worth getting.

 Many thanks to Catherine at Viking/Penguin for sending a review copy and for making a copy available for the giveaway.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mailbox Monday - June 3rd

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started years ago by Marcia (she of many blogs) who is no longer actively participating but who manages the string of wonderful Hosts for the weekly bloggers who do participate.  The calendar has turned to June, so hosting duties belong to Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza.  Stop over there  and discover a wonderful blog with lots of new ideas. This week, I had two yellow slips in my box that I exchanged for two really special goodies.

Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery is the 1st in what has been billed the "Collins-Burke Mystery series". Set in Nova Scotia, it was originally published in 2008.  I won this from Shelf Monkey, a giveaway program of ECW Press, a small Canadian publishing house.  The blurb sounds like something I'd really enjoy:
Monty Collins is a sharp-tongued public defender who just wants to represent an upstanding character for a change. A priest with something to hide isn't quite what he had hoped for, but when the literate, arrogant, and tight-lipped Father Brennan Burke is implicated in the strange murder of a young woman, Monty doesn't just take the case—the case takes him. When Burke won't come clean, Monty is forced to play private detective, traveling into his client's past. Things look good for the case until another body is found, marked with the same telltale sign as the first. Burke keeps mum, alternate suspects are ruled out, and the trial looks like it might be lost before deliberation. As if it couldn't get any worse, Monty's wisecracking ex-wife enters the picture, and she seems to know more about Burke than Monty does. Evidence and coincidence pile up, leading to a revelation neither Monty nor the reader see coming.

And then I got one I've been waiting for literally for years.  Back in 1995 my husband gave me volume #1 of Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History series: How the Irish Saved Civilization.  There have been 4 more in the series, which is one of the most fascinating I've ever read.  But it's been almost 7 years since the last one, and I'd about given up.  This week, NanTalese/ Doubleday sent Heretics and Heroes to my open arms.  I'm so excited!  This one has a release date of Oct 29, 2013, so I'm starting this week back at #1 and plan to read the whole series leading up to this newest one.  Here's the scoop:

In Volume VI of his acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill guides us through the thrilling period of Renaissance and Reformation (late fourteenth to early seventeenth centuries), so full of innovation and cultural change that the Western world would not experience its like again until the twentieth century. Beginning with the continent-wide disaster of the Black Plague, Cahill traces the many innovations in European thought and experience that served both the new humanism of the Renaissance and the seemingly abrupt religious alterations of the increasingly radical Reformation. This is an age of the most sublime artistic and scientific adventure, but also of newly powerful princes and armies, and of newly found courage, as many thousands refuse to bow their heads to the religious pieties of the past.  It is an era of newly discovered continents and previously unknown peoples.  More than anything, it is a time of individuality in which a whole culture must achieve a new balance, if the West is to continue.
My summer will be a wonderful reading experience even if the mailbox is empty until Christmas!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer Sundays in Maine

Summer has jumped over spring and arrived here on the coast of Maine in all its glory. I'm taking a day off from reading to enjoy everything that made us move to Maine nine years ago this week.

Just Wednesday nite, we still had a fire going in the wood burning stove, and as late as a week ago, we were having frost warnings, but yesterday even here on the coast we got to 85. The good weather started on Thursday and has continued so far. In fact, it was so gorgeous Friday afternoon, I considered moving our libary's mahjongg group outside to play in the park across the street.

Friday night we dined al fresco at a local restaurant that has recently re-opened under new ownership.  We split the calamari basket, had an extra order of cole slaw, a good glass of Portuguese wine, and that left room for a gorgeous dessert to be enjoyed as we watched the sunset over the St. George River.

Saturdays I went over to check out a newly launched  local farmer's market in the parking lot of a neighboring town's library. How cool is that?  Park once, hit the market and the library in one stop!  We have a CSA share in one of the small family farms  and chose the storefront option where we get to spend our funds on anything the farmstore (or stand) is offering. I bought eggs and lamb chops.

Today, with a beautiful sea breeze to make things comfortable, (we're only at 66 right now) we have the ceiling fans going, the windows open, the screen doors up, the deck swept off, and plants that have been incubating in our sun room are finally in the planters we use for herbs, small patio variety veggies.  I even finally have irises blooming and buds on the rosa rugosa.  We had french toast from the homemade bread bought yesterday along with farm fresh free range organic eggs, and tonite we'll grill those lamb chops and serve them with some yummy rainbow chard which will be sauteed with onion, lemon, butter, olive oil, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  

In the meantime, don't forget the giveaway for Beth Hoffman's new book Looking for Me - deadline is tomorrow at 6:00 pm.  It's really a wonderful story- my review will post on Tuesday along with the name of the winner.  So hurry up and enter.  If you've already been there, you can get one extra by just going back and simply typing "extra' in the comment field.

Enjoy Sunday.  I certainly am.