Saturday, December 31, 2011

Middle Sis' December Books

Murder Past Due by Miranda James Cosy "Cat in the Stacks" mystery with a male college librarian/archivist in a small southern town. When a famous college alumnae and bestselling author is murdered the day after he donates his notes to the library, our hero swings into action to help an old college friend and her son, who are prime suspects. Male protagonists written by women sometimes seem more feminine than male, and that's certainly the case here--Charlie Harris is sensitive and introspective and not macho at all. And his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, his best friend and constant companion (how does he not get into trouble for taking his cat into the bakery?), is not the usual sidekick for a man, nor the pistol my Maine Coon cat is, but the chirping meow is recognizable to any Maine Coon owner. Too bad the cat on the cover is not a Maine Coon. Note to publishers: trying to sell a genre book will work better if you're accurate in basic details, like the cat prominently portrayed on the cover. Having the wrong breed on there just cheeses the cat-loving mystery buffs you're trying to attract, and non-cat-loving mystery buffs are unlikely to buy a book featuring a cat, so you might as well have the graphic designer get it right and please your target audience. Pleasant read, although the mystery is not mysterious at all and even a lackadaisical armchair detective can solve this one before the book is one-third read.

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum Lovely setting in a fictional Cape Cod-type seaside town, the first in the series centered on the Seaside Knitting Studio introduces us to a group of women brought together by their love of knitting and food and proximity. Loved the setting, and would love to live there. Note to publishers: the copy editor needs to make sure that there is continuity through the book. After a big deal is made about the turquoise sea yarn (p. 82) Nell uses to make herself a scarf/shawl to wear to the gala event that is pivotal to solving the murder mystery, to have her go find her "black" shawl (p. 167) is just sloppy. Also sloppy: not keeping track of who is who: p. 167, Izzy is working on a sweater and Cass is working on a shawl for her mother, yet just a few scant paragraphs down, "Izzy put down the alpaca shawl she was making for her mother." And how could Izzy be playing with her toast (p. 215) when they weren't served breakfast until p. 216? (Yes, a point is made of Stella the waitress bringing their food.) It's hard enough keeping track during some passages of dialogue, when all four women are talking (Nell, Izzy, Cass, and Birdie) and no names are used; the reader doesn't need sloppy editing. I never found any of these women to have a unique voice or way or talking that came across in the written dialogue, and pages of unattributed dialogue were frustrating if the reader is trying to keep track of who knew what, when, and how. Again, the mystery is not mysterious, and this undiscerning armchair detective had the mystery solved halfway through the book without even trying, but the setting is so vividily described, and Nell such a nice woman, I'm sure I'll be back to visit Seaside.

The Middle Temple Murder by Joseph Smith Fletcher Enjoyable historic-period mystery (set in 1912) in which the murder of a mysterious stranger from Australia is solved by an honest newspaperman with a nose for following a cold trail. I very much enjoy mysteries where the detective has to use his brains and courage, not his cell phone and brute force, to solve the mystery. Complicated shenanigans where no one, except our hero, is what he seems.

Chili Con Corpses (The Supper Club Mysteries) by J.B. Stanley Contemporary series focused on a group of dieting friends who take a culinary class, which is disrupted by the murder of a classmate. Pleasant enough, also with a male protagonist who seems more feminine than male in his attitude and actions. Do men really sit around in coffee shops talking about what would be the perfect gift to buy a particular woman? 

The Burglar and the Blizzard, a Christmas Story by Alice Duer Miller Historical mystery wherein the solving of the mystery may ruin our hero's (yes, another book with a male protagonist--it was a bit of a theme this month) chance at happiness. Enjoyable, fast read, neatly solved, no drama.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Middle Sister Reads in November

Hmm, seems I read more in November than I thought. The monthly summaries, plus a new feature--a monthly Best Book Quote.
  • The South Beach Diet Wake Up Call by Arthur Agatston The latest South Beach book. Really, these aren't diet books but lifestyle books. In the first, Dr. Agatston presented his diet-for-life plan. In the second, he added exercise as diet alone won't cut it for most people. And now, he's come to understand the importance of sleep to our health and well-being. Sleep and health have been hot topics in health magazines for the last 18 months, and this book provides a plan to incorporate both more movement and more sleep into our 21st century, constantly-on-call lives. I used the second book and the accompanying cookbook to lose 14 lbs two years ago, and have kept them off ever since, so I admit to being prejudiced to like this book before I ever read it. Another plus--he specifically addresses parental concerns in this books, with columns in each chapter covering topics specific to children. A high recommendation if you think your New Year's 2012 goal will be to get healthy.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle My online 19th century novels book group selected this classic mystery, the first which introduces Sherlock Holmes, for our November/December book. I hadn't read it in years, and had forgotten the premise (man tracks down killer of his sweetheart's father and the indirect killer of his sweetheart, over decades) and the plot device (presented in two halves, with the first centered on the present-day murder of the murderer, and the second presenting the back story). Not the best Holmes in my opinion, but enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Waiter, There's A Clue in My Soup! by Camille LaGuire Anthology of five short stories. I enjoyed this far more than I really expected to, given the historical Western setting of three of the stories. The two Mick and Casey mysteries were pleasant, and I liked the characters enough that I may search out more books featuring them. The Alibi was a classic murder plot--twisted. The Promise was a more predictable premise, but well written (and provides this month's Best Book Quote; see below). Waiter...is the weakest of the five in my opinion, as I had to read sections twice to make sense of the unraveling of the murder. However, that could have been my inattention at fault. I plan on looking for more novels by Ms. LaGuire.
  • The Haunted Pajamas by Francis Perry Elliott Ancient Chinese pajamas that mysteriously can affect the behavior of the wearer? Mistaken identities? Mischief and prison? Sounded like a great cheesy novel, but unfortunately, it was marred by the overeager use of some terminology designed to make the reader think the main character was a Bertie Wooster type. Sadly, he lacks Bertie's style and substance, and this writer was no Wodehouse. Some situations dragged on way too long and lost their edge and their supposed hilarity. Nor did I get a good sense of the era (it was published in 1911). And remember, I love reading old, old mysteries, so it takes a lot to disappoint me. In doing some archival research to determine how this book was received when first published, I learned there was a movie made in 1917--and now I am eager to track that down. Hopefully, it's better than the book.
  • June Bug by Jess Lourey Weak entry in a weak series. A long-lost diamond necklace is the prize object hunted by divers in Whiskey Lake, with a modern paste replica offered as a stunt by a not-so-local newspaper. The mystery is weak (and ick on the mental images of the dead body found in the denouement), the mean guy so appalling I cannot wonder why no one called the police on this creep (he trashes her house and defecates in her bath tub, and Mira doesn't call the sheriff, just cleans it up? I'd never liked her in the previous book in the serious I'd read, but at this little incident, she lost all sympathy she might have garnered from me.), and Mira's repeated lustful comments after the gardener got tedious very quickly (and if I were him, I'd think she was a loser, too). Skip this series. it's not funny, not quirky, not entertaining, and the mystery stinks. 
  • Village Life in America 1952-1872 by Carline Cowles Richards Some of you may know I am entranced following the Disunion series in the New York Times, which has been tracing the beginnings of the Civil War and now, the actual war, through fantastic essays written by a number of historians. The photographs, reproduced contemporary editorial pieces, and modern critiques and assessments have been fascinating. While there are a number of Southern diaries and memoirs that have been published, there are far fewer Northern examples of the same to show how the Civil War was perceived there. This twenty-year diary follows a young lady in upstate New York. Some pluses: fascinating local reaction to McLelland's firing by Lincoln; local reactions and impressions of the war; the window into a middle-class home of the time. Some minuses: not deeply stirring or well written. Students of history may enjoy the different perspective.
  • Miss Mapp by E. F. Benson I found an online group who adore Benson as much as I do, and this was my first group read with them. The Chintz Wars! Miss Mapp's Food Hoard! The Kingfisher Blue Gown Tragedy! I love this book. I always love visiting Tilling. With my stressful November, it was the perfect book to take my mind off my troubles for a little while.
Okay, and now, for the Best Book Quote of the Month:

"A woman's soul can stretch. Can endure and suffer any stain and any pain. But a man's soul is hard. It breaks." Ma to Lola, in The Promise by Camille LaGuire (2006; nominated for the Short Story Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer Award in 2007).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, M!!!

Since, for some unknown reason, I am not able to post comments on some blogs here on blogpost, including The Mossy Nest, I will post a HUGE Happy Birthday to my favorite Samoyed boy here!
Happy Birthday, M! 
Wish I could give you a big birthday hug!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Big Sis' October Reads 2011

Hey, I had to mark this 2011 'cause I had an October Reads blog post LAST year!  That was a fast year!!!

This  month was nothing but entertainment.  I learned nothing from my reading, I didn't come to any great epiphanies based on the books I chose...  pure entertainment!  Loved it!!!  Here we go...

Heat Rises, by Richard Castle - The third book in a series of books NOT written by Nathan Fillion, I enjoyed this one immensely.  Nikki faces down a crooked contractor, a series of hit men, and a notorious drug lord, all with great style and ease (I hear music in my head...  LOL!).  I've converted TWO people that I know of into Castle fans, and they're reading the books, too!  I send my copies to Suzanne in AZ (hi, Suzanne!) and she enjoys them as much as I do!

Miracle Cure, by Harlan Coben - There's nothing new, right?  This is a rereleased book, originally written in 1991, it's the story of doctors searching for a cure for AIDS, prior to it becoming such a widespread epidemic.  He addresses the early views that it was a homosexual disease only, and comes up with a nice way to bring the danger of heterosexual AIDS transmission to the forefront of the story, if one can call anything about that disease "nice."  Coben wraps up the story easily, and I enjoyed a glimpse into his early writing.

Bonnie, by Iris Johansen - Eve found her daughter, Bonnie.  She had been kidnapped and apparently murdered many years before, and Eve has been searching for her all along, and that search was the basis for novel after novel.  I'm so happy it was resolved but I truly hope Bonnie continues to appear to Eve in future stories.  I love these characters and I'd hate to have this end their crime-solving just 'cause they found Bonnie.

The Christmas Wedding, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo - This is another of his non-Alex Cross novels, very different from his usual crime fair.  Gaby is getting married, to one of the three men who asked her.  And she invites her children all back to the family home to see her get married on Christmas Day but she doesn't tell them who the lucky groom is.  In fact, the groom doesn't know himself!  Patterson brings each of the kids home, complete with their own personal baggage, and of course, since this is a wedding story, it all gets solved, neatly and tidily, but not disappointingly, by the time the wedding rolls around.  This was a lovely, innocent, quick, fun read.

Hometown Girl, by Mariah Stewart - Another in The Chesapeake Diaries series, Brooke comes home to build a new life for herself and for her child, after her husband is killed in Iraq.  She has no intention of falling in love, but of course, she becomes friends with Jesse and does.  Fall in love, that is!  This is another book written purely for enjoyment, a lovely innocent love story.

Only His, by Susan Mallery - Nevada is one of triplet sisters, the only one not engaged and getting married.  We can't have that, can we?!?  Of course she meets up with an ex-flame (NOT) and they wind up together again.  She's a fun character, a strong woman in a man's career, and this was a fun story.  Don't worry - there are three weddings by the end of the book!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Middle Sister's October Books

Much of September and October was spent reading the first book below for my online 19th century novels group. I read this one to make up for having passed on reading Moby Dick. I'm not sure which is more punishing. The others were palate cleansers after Bronte.
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte I hated this book. Okay, maybe hate is strong. Intensely disliked. That's no reflection on our book group moderator, who selected it. In fact, Villette generated a lot of discussion because people either liked it or hated it, so from a discussion standpoint, it was a great choice. Lucy Snowe was whiny, narrow-mined, superstitious, tractable, and liked to wallow in self pity. When I compare this novel to Jane Eyre, I find it difficult to believe they were written by the same author. This reads to me like someone’s first effort at a Gothic romance, written by an inexperienced teenager who pays no attention to consistency and is rather too fond of coincidences. For all my dislike of Rochester as a character, Jane Eyre as a novel is far more sophisticated in plot, characterization, and believability (can I use that made-up word?). And apparently one misses way too much if one reads a version without all the French translated (which was my fault, I admit). But I give Bronte her due--she has a way with descriptions of places and people, and I enjoyed that part of the novel.
  • The Love Talker by Barbara Michaels What better choice for my first Kindle library loan than one by my favorite author? And unbelievably, except for a few descriptive paragraphs, you would never have believed this was published in 1980; the story holds up that well. The romantic denouement may have been a little predictable, but I forgive Dr. Mertz that for her superb descriptions of a wintry Maryland night. I was shivering under my covers.
  • The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton First in a mystery series starring one of America's brightest first ladies, Abigail Adams. The Revolutionary War is one of the most interesting time periods in American history to me, and this novel takes place just before the famous Boston Tea Party. It reads as if Ms. Hamilton has done a beaucoup load of research into the time period, and I enjoyed it immensely, despite the slightly grim murder. I will join Abigail for more murderous adventures, I assure you. The Revolutionary War backdrop will be fascinating.
  • A Test of Will by Charles Todd My last venture, for a while at least, into mysteries centered around World War I. This novel is the first in this series that has many entries, and I had read good reviews of it. First, the pros: very well written, very well researched, and what a complicated main character. Cons: the plot device of Hamish? Meh. He got very old, very fast, after the first few chapters, and I was pleased that he seemed to recede a bit as the story, and Ian's interest and involvement in the case, deepened. 
  • Mrs. Amworth and How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery by E.F. Benson Halloween reads of short ghost stories written by my other favorite author. Evil dead baby twins! Vampires! Loved them. No one has a way with words like Fred.
  • A Midsummer Night's Scream by Jill Churchill I needed some DVDs to listen to while I was making the daily drive on an out-of-town project for work. I knew there were a bunch of these books at the library by this author, I saw this one on DVD and thought why not? I enjoy a cosy mystery as much as the next cosy mystery buff. Not this one. Stilted conversations between the characters, a no-dimension love story, and why do we have to wait until Chapter 13 to find out whether our main character is a widow or divorced? There may be a lot of these Jane Jeffrey mysteries, but I'll pass them by, thank you. Oh, and audio book publishers? If your main character is supposed to be a big mystery genre fan, then make sure your paid reader pronounces well known real live authors' names correctly. It's pronounced Nye-oh, not En-gay-oh, Marsh. About a thousand websites will tell you this.
  • The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffths Number 3 in the Ruth Galloway series begins with the birth of Ruth's daughter, Kate. There may be no more unmaternal mother who is not a psychopathic killer than Ruth, but that's not a criticism. Griffiths did a nice job over the last novel and this one of addressing Ruth's sometimes scattered reactions to becoming a mother at 40. This novel begins with the discovery of 6 WWII-era skeletons on a deserted and eroding shoreline, which prompts modern murders in an attempt to keep Ruth and Harry from discovering what happened all those years ago. My impressions: too neat an ending with the 'voice from beyond the grave' cementing our unmasking of the original murderer. I am tired, so so tired, of the angst that both Ruth and Harry have over their one night stand, which resulted in Kate. And then another one, here? And then, just because of her one-night stand and the knowledge that Judy is keeping an eye on her daughter, the pages and pages of crazed worry about her daughter are virtually forgotten and Ruth wants to stay at the snowbound Sea's End and play house with Harry? I cheered when Tatjana told Ruth off for her behavior, that's how tired of the whinging I was. No, Harry, you cannot have both the beautiful and sexy wife and the once-a-year one night stand with a brainy woman you feel an intellectual as well as passionate yet confusing attraction to. It's not even as if they are enduring soul searching philosophical wrestling over whether an extramarital affair is moral--both think it's wrong. Yet they can't help themselves. Please, I am over this kind of nonsense. You're both adults, act like it. But again, like in earlier novels, I think Griffiths does a great job of crafting the setting, the lonely, wind-swept beach, the crumbling cliff face. But her characters are just not that sympathetic to me. I liked Judy in the last novel. This time, nope, I didn't. The commitment issues that all Griffith's characters apparently must have is boring after a bit. Next book it'll be Clough unsure of his relationship with Trace who finds someone to sleep with, a newly married Judy maybe? Or, here's a twist--Cathbad? Can we have more mystery and less internal angst? Although I'm glad Michelle has had her eyes opened as the book ended, I'm not sure I'll read the next to see her reaction. I just don't care about these characters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yea for Us Dogwalkers!

"A 2011 study found that dog owners were 34% more likely to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week than nonowners. Nearly half of the roughly 2,400 dog owners in the study reported that they exercise thirty minutes a day for at least 5 days a week; among the nonowners, only about a third exercised that consistently."

Cute and warm and fuzzy--and good for our hearts in more ways than one!

"How America Got So Fat (and So Sick)" by Arthur Agatson, M.D. Prevention October 2011, p. 107.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Little Sis' October Read--got one!

I just read "Wither" by Lauren DeStefano. Marketed as teen fiction, it is one of those crossovers that is great for adults too. Interesting world in the future, where no one lives past 25 anymore, and the desperation that comes from the fear of death..Girls are abducted, children bought & sold as domestics (sound familiar?)....Oh, and a polygamous marriage is the new family unit.....!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Middle Sis' Books o'September (and a Couple I Forgot from August)

Happy autumn! Now the perfect time to settle in with a god book and the soothing hot drink of your choice has finally arrived. Well, maybe for you, sisters, but it's still dang hot here in the desert. I forgot to include some books from last month, so here's what was on my nightstand this past very hot and very wet month.

  • Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers  The classic whodunnit with an introduction that summarizes the backstory of Lord Peter Wimsey. I thought I'd read all of Sayers, but I don't remember this one. And that's a good thing--I can reread and enjoy them all over again. In this story, Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, is accused of killing their sister Mary's fiance, and while denying the accusation, he refuses to provide an alibi. Enter Peter to untangle this family mess. Period talk and situations (early 20th century England). Very enjoyable. 
  • The Tale of Applebeck Orchard by Susan Wittig Albert
  • The Tale of Oat Cake Crag by Susan Wittig Albert
  • The Tale of Castle Cottage by Susan Wittig Albert Yes, a Beatrix Potter mystery series marathon. I read that the last in the series, The Tale of Castle Cottage, was released this month, and realized I'd fallen behind. So in three marathon days (thank you, MCC, for the fieldwork with all the 10 minute down time stretches in which I could read), I finished off the series. Very cosy, but not for people who don't enjoy talking animals who take tea and have underground setts furnished with fireplaces and libraries. The only jarring note was where an incident from one book was recounted in the next, verbatim (which you would only realize if you read them back to back, as I did). I may cut and paste in my technical writing, but I don't like it in my fiction. But yes, the series ends on the real-life happy note of the wedding of Beatrix Potter and Will Heelis.Period talk and situations, with commentary by the author directly to the reader that some may find annoying after a while.
  • Goodness Gracious Green by Judy Christie Modern cosy novel centered on a small town. I'm not sure how I feel about this series. It didn't help that I haven't read the several that came before this one, and the author does a lousy job of introducing characters, assuming that her reader has been following the inhabitants of Green all along and knows them all. Well, after a little befuddlement, I got everyone straightened out. The book could have used a little editing work (e.g., at location 2612, our main character Lois thinks to herself that she wishes someone else would take over the conversation as she was uncomfortable with the talk, but she was the one who initiated it; location 3076, teeth are clenched, not clinched; some missing words at location 3098 found at location 3113). There are apparently no non-Christians in Green (and thus no need for separation of church and state and the fourth estate), nor any bad people or even unlikeable people. If you're in the mood for a super cutesy, schmaltzy, slight mystery with a squeaky clean romance, than you'll enjoy this series.
  • Saving Sailor by Renee Riva Young adult coming of age story set in 1968. The author has done a great job of getting into the mind of 10-year-old A.J. and reconstructing a more innocent childhood that reminded me strongly of my own. Except that A.J. is a bit more precocious and philosophical than I was at 10. I loved her parents and family life. I'd love to attend her family's big summer bash.This was a great book to read in the summer, taking place largely as it does during A.J.'s summer vacation, with flashbacks to when she got Sailor, her dog, and other events.  Recommended for any age.
  • Walking Into Murder by Joan Dahr Lambert First in a new series. Professor Laura Morland is on a walking vacation in England (aha, now you know why I read it) when she gets caught in a torrential downpour. A tall, handsome stranger looms out of the dark and begs her to pretend to be his wife, and Laura finds herself in a strange manor house, populated by a strange family, with a strange corpse in her bed that disappears. There were some rough passages that could have used some editing (we know right away something is not kosher when Adrian shows his vault of priceless art to a complete stranger; people pop out from behind trees in the forest so often in one scene that it reads as repetitive and silly, not scary, and there were typos and other typeset and grammar mistakes that could have been caught). The Thomas and Catherine subplot seemed a bit contrived and coincidental; Catherine's character was useful, but making her Thomas' daughter was a bit of a stretch. Laura was almost too naive for believability as the heroine, and utters some senseless lines. But all in all, not a bad first effort. I might continue to read the series, especially if a good editor is hired to tighten the plot and prevent inconsistencies.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Big Sis' September Reads

I know, September isn't really over until tomorrow, but I'm working from home today and have a few moments, so I thought I'd get a head start on this post...  At least THIS month's won't be late!!!

Always Something There to Remind Me, by Beth Harbison - We all have a first love, that man (or boy! or significant other!) who, 10 or 20 years later, even though you've moved on and married and wouldn't trade your husband in for anyone, can still make your heart just go pitty-pat...  Well, Nate is Erin's first love, and all of a sudden, while she's involved with Mr. Apparently Right, he appears in her life again.  Beth does a good job of making us "feel" what Erin is feeling, and the resolution, Mr. Now vs. Mr. Then...  I like it.

Kill Me If You Can, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp - What would you do if you found a bag full of diamonds, no one knows you have them, and you could travel the world, sell a few of them in Amsterdam, and live forever on the money?  Regardless of your answer, this book has a tremendous twist and a surprise ending!

1105 Yakima Street, by Debbie Macomber - Another in the Cedar Cove series...  Jolene is Bruce's daughter, and she and Rachel became close friends.  Jolene needed a woman in her life, and Rachel was happy to be involved.  Then Rachel and Bruce fell in love, got married and got pregnant, and Jolene is 100% opposed to this version of their family.  I'm happy that there's a happy ending, and I liked this story...

Decision Points, by George W. Bush - This was a great read!  I learned a lot.  Of course it was great to hear his side of 9/11, but what I found more interesting, almost, was how important the interpersonal relationships between his staff and employees was to him.  I already knew how important his family is to him, how patriotic he is...  But the background to choosing a Supreme Court justice?  Choosing a running mate?  A Defense Secretary?  A Secretary of State?  Fascinating!

In Good Hands, by Kathy Lyons - Back in the day, when I worked at The Printed Word Bookstore, we got paid every Wednesday.  And I bought all 6 new Harlequin romances once a month, in several of the series.  Harlequin Blaze is a current series, and it's got a lot more sex in it than the old innocent romances did!  This one includes some hospital politics, holistic healing, and a high-powered businessman - and some good old-fashioned sex! 

In the Line of Fire, by Jennifer LaBrecque - Girl next door is getting married, boy next door is stationed overseas, in the line of fire.  Her brother is supposed to come home to give her away, but can't so he sends boy next door in his place (they happen to be best friends).  Girl next door decides, at the last minute, NOT to marry her fiance and escapes out the church window.  Boy next door helps her escape and eventually they find each other.  Predictable, but I've always loved this formula...

Bossypants, by Tina Fey - Not really a fan, but it was a fun read.  She herself is a funny lady, and I enjoyed her twist on telling the story of her life.  I wasn't all that interested in the 30 Rock or SNL stuff, since I don't watch either, but since I read a friend's copy and didn't spend a dime on it, it was a good book.

Lethal, by Sandra Brown - Honor and her daughter come face to face with an apparent felon, and even after witnessing a murder, they opt to run with him, and eventually they solve the mystery of the factory murders, they find out who's who, and they all learn a lot about themselves.  I "know" how it ends, but I must say I would have preferred it to get wrapped up a bit more prettily, with a nice pink bow...  There's nothing missing, but I like the whole "and they lived happily ever after" thing...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Knew If I Waited Long Enough....

The one advantage that the Barnes and Noble Nook had over the Amazon Kindle was the ability to borrow books from the library. However, when I decided I wanted a e-reader last year, I knew that I'd never buy a Nook (I'm still loyal to you, Frankie and the PW). I also knew that Amazon would eventually enable library lending, and when they did, it would be fabulous.

And it's here! And it is! I borrowed my first book last week--an older Elizabeth Peters (my copy is in Mom's house somewhere). I put an Sidney Sheldon on reserve for La Madre, since I bought her one earlier this year for her Kindle that she enjoyed.

So one of you will have to do us an enormous favor and load it on her Kindle when it arrives. Since we have the K2, our model doesn't have WiFi like the current models, which it needs to download automatically; we have to use our USB ports. A small price to pay for having just doubled the books available for us.

Hooray!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Little Sis' September Read

There may not be another one!
I read "Room" like Big Sis (I borrowed her book). It was compelling to read, for sure. Few spots had me at a loss, how a 5 year old had such complex thoughts and a huge vocabulary...I know, I know, nothing byt time to learn on his hands while in Room, but c'mon...You have to keep going, this book has the snowball effect, you can't put it down & ignore it for a while & go back to it. Kudos to the author for taking on such a formidable challenge!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Big Sis' August Books

The Ideal Man, by Julie Garwood - I like Ms. Garwood's contemporary books and this was a good one.  Dr. Ellie Sullivan witnesses a crime and needs protection from the bad guys, the Landrys.  Enter Max Daniels, FBI man extraordinaire!  I like the interaction between the two of them; sparks fly and of course, they get together eventually, but it's not a sappy ending...

A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard - I watched the special on World News Tonight, where Diane Sawyer interviewed Jaycee.  I admit to thinking, "Okay, she was 11.  But really, when she HAD a chance to look up her mom on the internet, or escape when they were out in public, she didn't?!?"  But her book really makes you understand the sense of safety she felt even though she was kidnapped and raped and forced to live in a single room in the backyard of those two nutcases.  She explains why safety for her and her daughter(s) became more important than escaping to find the mom who might not even remember her...  Of course, we know Mom never gave up and my heart leapt when they were reunited.  Jaycee explains about the therapy she's going through, and will continue to go through.  She admits that she doesn't know if a relationship with a man is in her future but she seems content and happy to be mom and daughter and self for now.

Cold Vengeance, by Preston & Child - Another Pendergast novel, and in this one, we locate Helen!!!  Without giving anything away, I do think you should read these in order, otherwise this one will make no sense whatsoever!

Finding It, by Valerie Bertinelli - I bought this book when it came out but never bothered to read it.  And I didn't read Losing It yet, but I will.  She's an actress I've always liked and reading this book, well it felt as though you were just sitting over a cup of coffee with an old friend.  She talks about losing the weight, enough to appear on a WW commercial in only a bikini.  We get to know Tom, and her love for her son and ex-husband really comes across.  It's nice that they're still friends, able to co-parent as a team.

Shoe Addicts Anonymous, by Beth Harbison - Toni introduced me to this series and I LOVE it!  It's a quick read, a bit of mystery thrown in but the best part is meeting the women and making friends with them as they make friends with each other!

Secrets of a Shoe Addict, by Beth Harbison - #2 in the series, we meet sisters and new friends, we watch them make stupid decisions and work their way out of the consequences, eventually to become friends forever...

Thin, Rich, Pretty, by Beth Harbison - Although not part of the Shoe series, it's fun, too.  Holly and Nicola meet at camp at about age 12, go through all the angst of not being thin enough, pretty enough or rich enough.  Twenty years later, they're still friends, going through their own adult issues.  Holly runs into Lexi, one of the thin, rich and pretty girls at camp, whose life now is not so wonderful.  It's sort of fun how they meet up again, what they do to resolve 20-year-old issues, and even though the 80s nostalgia is almost better than the storyline, I liked it a lot...

Never Tell a Lie, by Hallie Ephron - Saw this recommended on a blog I read and thought, for $10 from Amazon, I'll try it...  and it was pretty good!  Melinda is last seen at Ivy's garage sale, and we find out later that she's not all there.  Melinda, that is...  It turns out she's a bit unstable, and eventually, when we find out where she's been, well it was a creepy stalker mystery and I liked it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Middle Sister's August Books

Not so many books read this month, as I was reading some textbooks and rewriting lectures for this semester's class. Here are the few books on the fiction/nonfiction front I managed to squeeze in.

  1. The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers Fun historical mystery from 1916, Biggers is best remembered for his Charlie Chan novels, but he also wrote stand alones, including this and Seven Keys to Baldpate (one of my favorite classic films). Our narrator is a young man about the town drawn into a mystery in London when he decides to pursue a chance acquaintance. The plot twist is key: he falls madly in love with a woman he sees in a restaurant, writes a note to her via the newspaper's agony column (today's personals), and then writes her a series of letters describing the perilous mystery swirling around him. Extremely enjoyable! I recommend this one highly.
  2.  Lye in Wait by Cricket McRae (2007) First in the Home Crafting mystery series, this cozy introduces us to Sophie Mae Reynolds, her friend Meghan, and Meghan's daughter Erin, all sharing a house outside Seattle. When the neighborhood handyman is killed in Sophie Mae's soap making workroom, she's drawn into a mystery that threatens everyone she loves. Naturally, the investigating officer becomes her love interest (really, authors, this is getting to be a boring cliche), and the coincidences that come with the identification of the murderer are a little farfetched, this is not a bad introduction to the series and the characters. 
  3. The Knitter's Life List by Gwen W. Stenge (2011) Nicely illustrated and laid out introductory guide for new knitters, this books stakes its own claim to the over-saturated knitting book market by providing life lists to introduce each chapter. These life lists include yarn goals, pattern goals, and other bucket list entries (Who came up with the silly term bucket list anyway?). Honestly, this was the part of the book I disliked. I am not less of a knitter because I have no inclination to learn to knit socks; I only wear socks out here for about 3 weeks of the year. Heavy on Internet-promoted designers, with only a few of the older, pre-web designers mentioned. Limited in the kinds of patterns it discusses (scarves, sweaters,socks,, gloves, and bags) when there are tons of other things one can knit.  But, great photos, great hand drawings illustrating the different kinds of sweaters and how their constructions differ (surely a big help to new knitters or those who've never tried a wearable), and hooray for the discussion on various knitting styles and how they are all the right way to knit if it's comfortable to you.Nice bibliography.
  4. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius (2011) Great guide to all animals that provide fleece that can be carded and processed into yarn. This is a unique addition to the knitting literature out there. While it's for serious spinners and weavers out to expand their horizons, knitters with a passing interest in what they are working with will find the book useful for its easy to follow, well executed layout, great photography, and inclusion of more breeds of sheep than I knew existed. The authors included chiengora (spinning dog fur, and yes, they include a photo of a gorgeous Samoyed!), rabbit fur, and other unusual fiber options. Love the photo spreads showing the unprocessed raw fleece, the spun fiber, and gauge swatches for each fiber source. I don't harbor secret fantasies of living on a sheep farm to get all the yarn I want, but maybe some knitters and crocheters do, and if so, this is the book for them. To the rest of us, it's a handy reference to what a qiviut really is.
  5. All Wound Up by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (2011) Latest collection of essays by the Yarn Harlot of blog fame. Pearl-McPhee muses on yarn, stashes thereof, and other mysteries of life. Fans of the Yarn Harlot will love this latest collection. Enjoyable light read. I was only disturbed to find that Pearl-McPhee can't even have dinner with her husband and children without knitting. Really, Stephanie, it's okay to let the needles lay and enjoy the moment. Those girls will be all grown up soon, and gone, and you'll wish you remembered more more about restaurant dinners with them than what socks you were working on. Hopefully, the socks will trigger a memory of the jokes they told, the food they ate, they way their eyes twinkled. But too many new knitters take the words of Serious Knitters like Pearl-McPhee to heart and think it's okay to knit anywhere, including church services, concerts, and anywhere they want to. It's just knitting, folks. You won't die taking an hour off from your current WIP.
I'm hesitant to include the next title, which sucked up several nights of precious reading time. It's one of the few books I've ever stopped reading. Cooking the Books by Bonnie S. Calhoun has a great premise: woman's mother dies, leaves her a bookstore (love that location for a mystery), and as daughter is looking to restart her life, she decides to at least give running the bookstore a try, despite not knowing anything about the business nor being interested in it.This backstory takes place before the book opens. When the story starts, Sloane has already been at the bookstore for a few months, has met a doctor she's romantically interested in, and is trying to figure out what to do with the bookstore. Some developers are trying to buy out the local small business owners to turn this block of Brooklyn into a high rise development, and Sloane is determined not to sell when she knows her mother would have resisted. Sounds great, right? But the book was in need of serious editorial help. After having read one-quarter of the the book, the most mystery we've had is two threatening emails. The author spends an inordinate amount of time trying to develop her characters into quirky, one-of-a-kind eccentrics but failed. Typos, grammatical errors, and ridiculous copy--no thirty-four-year old, even one who doesn't cuss, is going to use the phrase "great googa-mooga!" repeatedly. I stopped reading this galley, the first I've had to decline from NetGalley. As a first draft, this showed some promise, but it needs a lot of editing. A lot.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Sis' July Reads

Yea, I know it's August already, and I have my August list ready to post, too...  It's been a busy month, what with earthquakes and hurricanes and vacation days... 

Room, by Emma Donaghue - I am SO totally against reading the "it" book when "it" is all everyone is reading or talking about...  For instance, I resisted reading The Bridges of Madison County until WAY after the movie came out (yay, Clint!), and hated it on every page...  So I was resistant to reading this book; after all, everyone on the train, the plane, and in the hotel was reading it, on every train and plane, and in every hotel I stayed in over the past year or so.  But I saw it in Costco and it was under $10 so for some unknown reason, I gave in to the urge and bought it.  And never looked back.  I.LOVED.IT.  It was a real adjustment to get used to the narrative style; it's written in the voice of a young boy who has never left the room he's being raised in by his mother, who's locked in this converted shed and not allowed out, but is trying to protect her son from her kidnapper/his father, keep him from being exposed to the sex/rape, and teach him what she can about the world he'll never know...  Strange, yes, but very intriguing.  The ending wasn't what I expected.  I wasn't disappointed, but all of a sudden, it was over.  And I wanted more.

Now You See Her, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge - Another quick read, about Nina, who marries young, escapes from the husband she thought she knew, and who she is forced to confront again, under the worst of circumstances...

Flowers on Main, by Sherryl Woods - Another book in the Chesapeake Shores series...  This one actually took place before the others I read, but I went back to read them all and fill in the gaps...  In this book, Bree comes home, a failure in her own eyes, even though her family doesn't agree.  She starts a new life back home, doing something she never did professionally before, and discovers that the love of her life she left in Chicago was really NOT the love of her life, but a manipulative man who, under the guise of being her mentor, actually trashes her career because it was beginning to eclipse his.  Bree finds love at home with her first love, Jake, the man she left for Chicago's bright lights.

Two for the Dough, by Janet Evanovitch - The first Stephanie Plum novel I've ever read, the second in the series...  Old acquaintances, 24 stolen caskets, and a familiar Trenton, NJ...  Yes it was a funny book and yes I liked her writing style but I don't think I'll be buying them all like I did the Harlan Cobens....

U Is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton - The author has made her way through the alphabet to "U," but again, as much as it was a decent read for my business trip, it didn't hook me into wanting to read all the other books in the series.  I liked Kinsey Millhone, but it seemed hard to follow between the here and now and the back then...  I did like the story line, digging up the truth about a client's past, only to find his memories were skewed and lead her down many a wrong path in solving the mystery...  Just not a HUGE fan but I'd certainly pick up a few in the used bookstore...

Eyes Wide Open, by Andrew Gross - The author has co-written with James Patterson and the quick pace is reminiscent of JP...  The story was interesting:  a brother is drawn into his own brother's life, current and past, when that brother's son is found dead and suspected of suicide.  The parents are convinced it wasn't suicide, but they are not the most reliable people you've ever met...  Charlie winds up solving his nephew's death, and meets all sorts of unsavory characters along the way.  Good read!

Quinn, by Iris Johansen - Another Eve Duncan tale, leading up to Bonnie, which is releasing this fall...  So excited to feel this series drawing to a phenomenal conclusion...  This particular book has a lot of past and present in it; we are there when Eve and Joe meet, and we're there while they search for Bonnie all those years later.  Good book!

Split Second, by Catherine Coulter - Another FBI Thriller, Dillon and Lacey are at it again, this time solving a mystery tied, in a surprising twist, to Ted Bundy.  There's another plot running throughout, starring Agent Carlyle, who I anticipate will be a bigger character in future books...  These seem to run hot and cold, but I liked this one; the Bundy angle was pretty neat and wrapped up pretty well...

Justice, by Karen Robards - Witness Protection Program?  Check.  Disguise?  Check.  New life?  Check.  Low profile?  Um, not so much...  Jessica is supposed to stay out of the public eye, but unfortunately for her, a big win for her law firm puts her smack dab on the front page, and all those criminals she's hiding from?  Guess what!  They read the paper!!!

Port Mortuary, by Patricia Cornwell - I bought this when it came out in hardcover but never read it until this month; I'd started it but it wasn't one of her best and I just didn't care too much for the 1st half of the story.  Eventually the familiar characters hooked me once again, but for such a big, thick book, this was probably my least favorite Kay Scarpetta story - too much book, not enough story...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our next challenge?

So, sisters, what is the next challenge?
I suggested close-ups, of anything, not something in particular.  For instance, a close up of the pattern on my hotel bedspread...

Or a close up of the Vera Bradley pattern on my tech case...


So, it doesn't have to be textile-related, but how about "close-ups" as a theme for this month?  (Which is half over, I might add!)

Sunrise

Sunrise, Saturday, 13 August 2011, 5:40 a.m.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Clouds 04/12/2011

Taken specifically for this challenge.



Sunday, July 31, 2011

Middle Sis' August Books

Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America by Jack Rakove (2010). Excellent history of several of the founding fathers, some famous, some not. The first half of the book looks at what changes led to the acceptance of an inevitable war for revolution, while the second half focuses on how the Constitution was devised. Rakove's analysis of the various regional differences in attitudes towards revolution was a new understanding to me, and fascinating. A hearty recommendation to read this book is offered.

Nature's Wrapture and Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet, both by Sheryl Thies. Excellent pattern books, with good photos, charts, and written patterns. The Tunisian book in particular is stunning, with every pattern a winner.

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (1885). The summer choice of my 19th century literature group, this rollicking good tale was perfect for the summer--lots of adventure, mysterious people, a hidden treasure, and quite a bit of humor. And no, the movie is very different. Yes, there are a few slightly uncomfortable moments and words for a 21st-century reader, but the evolution of Allan Quatermain's views of the Kukuana, while not perfect and far from satisfying in today's world, was probably quite dramatic and unusual for his time and place.

The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers (1916) A classic mystery from the writer of Charlie Chan. The agony column, what we call the personals, is the lynchpin for the mystery and the romance. Cheesy mystery lover that I am, I thought I had guessed who the murderer was. Then I thought I was wrong. Then I thought I was right. And then I found out I was wrong! Deliciously, decidedly wrong! This short story, just 9 chapters long, is worth a read for the author's fantastic descriptions of London, the atmosphere before the outbreak of World War I, and a murder than will keep you guessing.

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (2011) Another post WWI mystery (I told you in the last review column that there are a slew of them out now), this takes place in, you guessed it, 1920 London. Our hero is another returned soldier, damaged, trying to find his way in a world that no longer makes sense to him. The mystery is good, although a little drawn out; tighter editing and compression of timescales may have made this a more enjoyable read. There are two strong female protagonists that will appeal to a modern female reader. The author lists reference works at the end, something I always enjoy and approve of, especially in a historical setting as detailed as this. I had no idea who the murder was, but once this person was revealed, the entire M.O. was obvious without reading another paragraph, so don't expect anything unusual in the murder mystery itself. Read the book for a well-researched depiction of London in 1920 and a fairly good, although at times slightly tedious, mystery.

Dandy Detects, a Victorian San Francisco Story by M. Louisa Locke (2010) Novelette featuring Ms. Locke's protagonists from her Victorian San Francisco series--except the detective is Dandy, a small terrier owned by the son of a teacher. The short story is well drawn; the characters are finely etched and sympathetic with just a few short lines of description, and the murder mystery, while predictable, is believable. Nice introduction to this series. Award winner? No, but a pleasant hour's read.

The Amersham Rubies by Rhys Bowen (2011) Novelette that tells how Molly Murphy, the plucky Irish immigrant solving murder mysteries in 1900-era New York, solved her first mystery in Ireland. Enjoyable, and the backstory is a perfectly light summer's brunch book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clouds in NJ, 072711

Straight out of camera (SOOC)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clouds from Above

Took this photo from the plane on the way home from St. Louis...


There were some nice cloud formations today, just before we went into the theater to see HP7.2 for the third time, but by the time I parked the car, cloud photos were completely out of my head.

I'll watch over the next day or two for some more current ones; I don't want to cheat and put my 2009 photo in here...

I was thinking about another photo theme...  how about close ups?  Close ups of anything.  A close up of your appendectomy scar, or a close up of the inside of a flower, or a close up of my dental implant...  Something original, or something that looks really cool...  What do you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clouds from San Fran trip


Afraid this is all I've got so far. Some cloud cover hovering over the I've-no-idea-what-they-are mountains, and the "mist" that rolls into San Francisco every day from the Pacific. It's very creepy when you zoom in, like something straight out of The Fog.

Storm Is Almost Here 07/23/2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Li'l Sis Summer Read=Christmas at Timberwoods

Yes, Christmas in July! I just finished Christmas at Timberwoods by Fern Michaels. It's our bestseller #15 for October (I read an advance proof), so I wanted to read it. Pretty quick read, although not a fan of the writing style. Too many strangers are thrown together and while a connection is made, it lacked emotion; there was no sense that any time has passed, so the story seems rushed. It may only take place during the Christmas season, but heck, that's at least a month! And for some reason, the mention of snow & angels & Christmas trees did not create any pretty imagery in my mind as I read, so I was bummed. Oh, well!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hoboken Clouds

Not for our monthly assignment, but a photo of a front coming in over the city earlier this month... Far from the best photo I've ever taken (see the light reflections in the window?!?) but for sure a pretty dramatic example of the view from my window at work...

Looking forward to a nice cloud photo either over the lake, over the city, over the house, or in some random to-be-determined location sometime in July... 

Summer Photo Challenge: Clouds

Okay, gals, here's a free-floating photo challenge, with no end date. We finally are entering the season when we have weather out here, and ya'll have great summer thunderstorms, too. So how about a challenge to capture clouds? Dark, dense clouds. Roiling clouds. Sunlight streaming through clouds. Post when photoed, and let's just follow this theme through Labor Day, which sadly will be here by the time I blink at the end of this sentence. (If this is how fast time is going now, by the tme I'm 80 a year is going to go by in a nanosecond!).

And to get us in the mood, a cloud photo from 2010:

Middle Sis' June Reads

While this looks like a short list, I've been reading an e-book galley for a couple of weeks now that I had hoped to finish by the end of the month; no dice. It's another post-WWI mystery, the first in another series, and I have to say, so far, so good. I've also been reading a newer textbook to update one of my lecture topics for my class this fall. So I have been reading more than this list reflects. Reviews next month. I'm sure you can catch the theme for this month's reading.

L Is for Lawless by Sue Grafton Okay, so I'm waaayyyy behind in the alphabet series, even more than you know, since I don't read these in order. But this was another good yarn spun by Ms. Grafton. Kinsey Milhone is asked to do a favor, an innocuous favor, for an old friend that spins out of control and sends her racing to a Texas hotel in hot pursuit of a duffel bag full of cash. Or is it? There are a few unresolved strands to the story, presumably purposefully left that way because Kinsey has no resolution (and never gets paid) to the entire mystery, so why should the reader? Strong entry in the series, with a more unusual premise to kickstart the action.

The Golden Retriever: All that Glitters by Julie Cairns Well illustrated introduction to the breed. Provides breed-specific information (coat, head, etc.), as well as general guidelines re: food, exercise, training, etc. She also provides a glossary to explain the field trial champion designations, which many breed books which focus on conformation do not. Excellent photos show the difference between the traditional field golden, and the golden retriever body and coat that has become popular over the past twenty years or so here in the states. CuddleMonster has the field retriever coat and body, by the way (someone at the dog park called him an Irish setter yesterday!)

The Essential Golden Retriever by Howell Book House and Golden Retriever by Peggy Moran Sense the theme? Lots of reading about the new zoo member this month. These are reviewed together because they are essentially the same book. If Moran's was first, and if I were her, I'd be peeved. Entire sentences and paragraphs are identical between these two books, and not just for general topics such as grooming. Let's face it, there's only a few ways to describe golden feathers. But there are lots of ways to discuss the history of the breed, and here is where the sameness of the two books is most apparent. Published by the same house, I was wondering if they bought the intellectual property rights to the one book and just re-packaged it with a different price point and no author acknowledgment in the other. If I had to chose one, go for Cairns' All That Glitters--more complete, better layout, and abundant gorgeous photos, so worth the extra money.

Does it count that I got caught up on magazines this month, including my quarterly Mystery Reader's Journal, the theme for which was Mysteries in London, which has added about 12 books to my want-to-read list?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Big Sis' June Books

I think this is the first time I've ever posted my book list first!  Yay, me!

Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert - Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love.  This book is about marriage, love and marriage in every different configuration that exists around the world.  The love and relationship and marriage she had with her first husband, how she found the same but different with Felipe, everything they had to go through to be together.  It was an interesting read.  I got a lot of good quotes for my collection.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, by Andrea Kane - I met the author years ago, and in fact, had lunch with her when I worked for that NJ book distributor...  After I read this book I sent the author a note and she kindly replied that "of COURSE she remembers me..."  Nice woman, but Andrea, really?  I'm thinking your mama raised you right...  This is the start of a new series about a group of unconventional operatives who work together for "Forensic Instincts."  They are hired to find Krissy and the story was good and the character development was good and I'm already waiting for book #2!

You Belong to Me, by Karen Rose - Karen is a Facebook "friend" so I knew this one was coming and I couldn't wait!  She writes such great thrillers - lots of excitement and crime and drama.  Lucy thinks her close friend is murdered, and although happily he's not, it turns out that the murderer is out to demand Lucy's attention and what better way than to kill people with a connection of some kind to Lucy?

Trader of Secrets, by Steve Martini - In this Paul Madriani novel, a Mexican hit man known as Liquida threatens his daughter Sarah and needless to say, NO ONE threatens his daughter!  Paul and his cohorts travel to Asia and then to France to solve this one, but eventually have to rush home for another thrilling ending!!!

Beach Lane, by Sherryl Woods - Another in the Chesapeake Cove series, a light romance that's pure entertainment, no lessons to be learned, no deep meaning...  Susie and Mack are friends, just friends, friends who spend every possible second together, friends who everyone knows are lovers-to-be...  Now they just have to be convinced...

[edited to include...]  Oops, forgot a book...

Two Kisses for Maddy, by Matthew Logelin - Matt is the author of a blog named matt, liz and madeline, dedicated to his daughter Maddy and his late wife Liz.  Liz died within 24 hours of the birth of their daughter, after a pregnancy that wasn't the easiest...  Matt was forced to step up and be mother AND father to his baby girl, and he freely admits he wasn't the responsible one in the family!  He's a terrific author; his blog is one of my favorites.  He's also set up a non-profit foundation in Liz's name, "giving hope to widows and widowers with young familes..."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Too Hot to Think

It is currently 112 degrees Farenheit (44 degrees Celcius) at 3:25 p.m. It is too hot to think.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I Love My Kindle

I know these photos are blurry, but you should be able to see what happened on Thursday to a brand new trade paperback I started reading on Wednesday. Yes, that's right, on the second day I was reading it. This is no cheesy fiction trade paperback. This is published by a reputable company who specializes in academic books like this one. The glue in the spine is dried out, and whole sections of pages are already falling out. I have come expect this from a cheesy novel, since apparently these are supposed to be disposable. But this is an academic text that costs $35, and I don't expect this from a company that is supposed to be conscious of academic tendencies to hold onto our books for decades, even though we zealously buy the next editions. Archival quality? Fat chance.



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Big Sis' May Books

Moonlight Cove, by Sherryl Woods - SW is an author I used to read years ago, back in my Harlequin Romance days.  I liked her then for a quick and romantic read (those of us who didn't, used to read about it!), and I like her still, with an obviously more modern twist to her characters and her writing style.  This is one of her Chesapeake Shores series, and the first one I've read.  I'll find the others and read them, too.  This one is about Jess and Will.  She's fighting her ADD and he's an old family friend who grew up to be a psychologist but he's loved her forever.  Jess has a hard time accepting that he's not just trying to "fix" her.  Soon she learns that he truly loves her and once she takes a chance on love, well, there's your happily ever after Harlequin ending!

Driftwood Cottage, by Sherryl Woods - Here you go, book #2.  Heather loves Connor.  Heather and Connor have a baby.  Heather decides she wants to get married.  Connor will never get married.  Heather leaves Connor with the baby and moves to - wait for it! - Connor's hometown, where she's welcomed with open arms by his entire extended family.  Eventually Connor realizes love IS enough to overcome his lack of faith in the tradition of marriage, and he has to win Heather back.  Spoiler alert:  there IS a happy ending...

The Shadow of Your Smile, by Mary Higgins Clark - I used to like her books, but haven't read them in several years.  This was the wrong one to choose.  It was in paperback and I thought it would be a quick read during my work trip to Florida.  It was quick, yes, but not very good, in my personal opinion.  The story was disjointed and just didn't seem to "flow."  I liked the premise:  Sr. Catherine is up for sainthood.  But someone knows she had a baby pre-sisterhood, and that baby stands to inherit her grandfather's fortune.  We meet said baby when she's a 31-year-old pediatrician who's called to testify on the miraculous healing of one of her patients, supposedly thanks to her grandmother, the grandmother she never knew about who just happens to be the nun to whom the family prayed for their son's healing.

The Knitting Diaries, by Debbie Macomber, et al - That's strange...  This is a 3-story anthology but when I went to amazon.com to refresh my memory of the charater's names, 2 of the stories seem so completely foreign - I have no memory of them!  I clearly remember the first short story, where 10-year-old Ellen wants nothing more than for her adopted mom and her real dad to get together.  I'm going to pull this book out of my stash and see if I even ever finished it...  Although I wouldn't have had another title on my list if I didn't, but...

Chasing Fire, by Nora Roberts - I used to be a huge fan until I read an unedited manuscript and realized how very much this author relies on her editor for correcting grammatical and spelling and story errors.  But I gave her a shot and this was a pretty good story.  Dad is a retired fire jumper and finds love when he takes a principal her first buddy sky dive.  His daughter is another fire jumper who finds good sex and then love with a colleague, which goes against her personal morals so that's a struggle.  In the meantime they are both solving a couple of not-so-random murders and she is coming to terms with the loss of one of her colleagues in a fire the previous season.

10th Anniversary, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro - This is another in the Women's Murder Club series, and it's a good one.  Lindsay Boxer forgets to call home to her newlywed husband when she's out solving a crime in chapter one.  Oops.  Yuki has found love with Jackson Brady, who just happens to be Lindsay's new and not-so-beloved boss.  Oh, and he's married, too.  While looking for the missing baby, Lindsay notices her biological clock is ticking a bit more loudly than before, so there's something else to distract her...

A Turn in the Road, by Debbie Macomber - When 70- or 80-year-old ex-mom-in-law announces she's driving cross-country on her own to attend a high school reunion, her ex-daughter-in-law decides to go along for the ride, as does her recently jilted young daughter.  Just to mix it up a bit, the car breaks down, DIL meets a biker with whom she fights a strong attraction, grandma admits she wants to apologize to her ex-high-school love for leaving him for another, and granddaughter's ex calls from Europe to say he's wrong, he shouldn't have left...  And just so it's not all too easy to wrap up, DIL's ex-husband has decided after several years that he was wrong to have left his wife and daughter for Tiffany and he's now divorced and wants to find his way back to his family.  This is my kind of book:  THREE happy endings!!!

Closer Than Blood, by Gregg Olsen - Now THIS is one I'm glad I picked up!  I'm going to go and see if I can find some of his other books.   I read through this whole thriller, about a murder, a previous murder no one knew was a murder, another murder no one knew was related to the first, and then there was a surprise twist that I NEVER saw coming!!!  LOVED it! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Middle Sister's May 2011 Books

I had more time for fun reading in May after school let out. Several of these were galleys read for NetGalley, although one is actually a reissue of an OOP title. All in all, a successful month as I enjoyed most of these. But there were two major disappointments.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum My book club is discussing this book this month, which I had never read. It was a short and fast read, and I was surprised by how vastly different the book is from the Hollywood movie. And better, in my opinion, without the saccharine overlay of the movie. I had no idea there were so many Oz books in the series until I went to get this one. I may try some of the later titles in the future; hearsay is that they are grimmer. Our book club discussion: was Baum telling the truth when he said it was just a childrens story, or are all the characters representations of the political and economic world of the late 19th century?
  • Died in the Wool by Elizabeth Ludwig and Janelle Mowery Do not read this book. I do not make such proclamations lightly, but this book was terrible. I had such high hopes--murder in a library. I love libraries! I love books! It read as if the two authors had independently written their chapters after only agreeing that any individual chapter would contain certain minimal information and no proof-reading of each other's chapters. The main character acted one way in one chapter, and very differently in another, was very immature, and acted inconsistently in the story, except for her consistently juvenile behavior. Although I don't remember reading her age, she must be in her early 20s and acts as if she's in middle school (e.g., the jealousy she exhibited to any woman that even talked to her boyfriend was so over the top I thought I was reading Sweet Valley High Twins Unmask a Murderer; or her reaction to the murder--sick to her stomach and then in the next paragraph eager, no hopeful, to see the murder scene again; and couldn't she ask the policeman to let the trapped bird out of the library rather than stand there and essentially think,' too bad.'). The policeman boyfriend takes her on an official interview? Have the authors never watched any police procedurals on television? And I know this is a Christian publisher, but no one would think her virtue compromised if she talked to a man in her office with the door closed, even though he is her boyfriend, who was there on official police business. I won't go into the odd vocabulary choices (bobbed her eyebrows? What does that mean? Waggled?), the horrible Kindle formatting issues, WHERE RANDOM parts of sentences would be CAPITALIZED in their OWN paragraph. My biggest gripe--no librarian would ever release the names of patrons to a policeman without a court order (in fact, M works in the library and they have had to deal with this exact situation, so I can assure you they don't just hand this information out as Monah did). The details of the murder seemed beyond improbable, but I honestly didn't care by the time I reached the end of the book. Had I not been reviewing this for NetGalley I'd never have finished this book.
  • Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg Decent book on adopting a dog from a shelter. The book is no help if you are adopting from a rescue organization, with different organizational structure. I also disagree with some of Sternberg's training tips. But in general an okay book to read if you are preparing to adopt your first dog or the first dog in a long time. I'd recommend Pat Miller or Ian Dunbar over this book, though.
  • A Lesson In Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear I usually like Maisie Dobbs, but not in this story. She seems to have gravitated away from the strong, independent Maisie to a love-sick Maisie. I enjoyed the setting (Cambridge, England, where I briefly lived; and a university setting anywhere would guarantee my interest), and Ms. Winspear writes as well as always. The hints of what life in early 1930 England was like are always a treat and underscore how much research Ms. Winspear has undertaken to recreate so faithfully this period. The mystery itself was predictable, but handled well. I hope the romance focus will not carry through in future stories. All in all, a good way to cleanse my palette after Died in the Wool (Blech! See above).
  • Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove by Audrey Penn Somewhat confusing in the early chapters, this YA book switches point of view, and from the natural to supernatural planes, a great deal, to the detriment of the plot at first. YA readers will enjoy the real danger the kids encounter, none of which is sugarcoated, and with pirates and supernatural stuff so popular these days, the topic of the book would seem to be a guaranteed seller. From an adult reader's perspective, although there's little character development (they area kids, after all), the setting is superb, and I really felt I was on Ocracoke Island, in the middle of a storm, or in a lost tunnel. The illustrations are excellent.
  • Lie Down in Green Pastures by Debbie Viguie Third in the series; I've read No. 1 and now No. 3, and I won't read another. Is he Superman? Rambo? No, Jeremiah is SuperRabbi!  Watch him swing through trees and kill three men using a several hundred pound mountain lion and his hand as weapons. Clearly he's a former Mossad agent, although that's never named, because otherwise why would he be able to do what he does in the last third of the book (which, by the way, was way too much time to spend on this part)? And will Cindy ever grow up? She should have made progress with her jealousy of her brother and her inability to deal as an adult with her mother after the horrifying murders she's been through in three books now, but I suspect she won't as the author seems to be wedded to having Cindy throw darts at her brother's photo and winge that her family doesn't care about her. But then Cindy doesn't tell them what she's been through, so I guess she expects her family to be psychic. While Jeremiah was the more interesting of the two characters in the first book, the caricature he became in this book was disappointing. The reason for the murders seemed a little over the top and excessive, even in a day and age where we like to blame greedy corporations. The murders in this supposedly cosy series are anything but cosy, so don't be mislead that a series with a church secretary and a rabbi will be gentle--these are gruesome murders. No more for me. I like my cosies cosy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

IOU Some Purple Photos...

So here you go...  And these are NEW photos, not from my admittedly large stash of iris photos - we went to the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens last evening, after dinner, before dessert.  I took my point-and-shoot camera; thank goodness the battery didn't die until AFTER I took my photos...  All of these photos are SOOC (straight out of camera); I made no color adjustments, light adjustments or crops to any of these photos...













These last two photos were taken in our front yard.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Quote of the Day

"One always has riches when one has a book to read."

Ursula Thurlow, in A Lesson in Secrets, by Jacqueline Winspear (2011, HarperCollins, Inc., Kindle edition).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Sis' April 2011 Reads

Yes, I know these are late, but I have a valid excuse - I was sunning myself at the pool at in Cabo San Lucas...  I think that's a pretty valid excuse in itself, vacation sans computer...  But THEN I went to Sarasota, FL, to attend my first publisher sales conference, and it was exactly what I expected.  More on that at my blog, when I have time to catch up...

A Heartbeat Away, by Michael Palmer - LOVED it!  Palmer's usual suspense thriller, with some terrorists and some unidentifiable and fatal pathogens tossed in for good measure!

Night Road, by Kristin Hannah - I usually read her books, and I usually like every other one, but surprisingly I loved this one!  Three children grow up together, 1 from the wrong side of the tracks and the other 2 quite privileged enough.  But of course, money isn't everything.  Lexi and Zack fall in love, but love isn't everything either.  A tragedy splits them apart, tears the family and friends apart and it takes years to put it all back together again.

The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly - Another Mickey Haller story, the star of the recent movie, "Lincoln Lawyer."  Foreclosures and murders and criminal courts, oh my!  Very timely, and fun to read.  I really liked the twisted ending!

Eve, by Iris Johansen - I'd hoped we would finally find Bonnie, but of course that would be the end of the series.  But we do meet her dad, and Catherine Ling returns as a regular character.  The emotional cliffhanger was great - this one didn't disappoint!  (Even though Bonnie is still missing!)

Hush, by Cherry Adair - A new series, introducing a new cast of characters.  While Zac and Acadia push their way through the Venezuelan jungle to find his brother, they clash with each other AND with the brutal kidnappers!  Can't wait for Gideon's story!

Save Me, by Lisa Scottoline - Another author who just isn't consistent, in my book, but this one was great!  Read it on the plane home from Mexico...  If you had to choose, who would you save?  Your daughter, who's somewhere in the school, or the two girls in your immediate care, in the cafeteria, immediately after the explosion?  Would you take them out and return for your daughter?  Or would you leave them to fend for themselves and look for your daughter, possibly leaving them to die?  Tough decision, isn't it?!?  Rose makes her choice, and finds that neither her choice nor the alternative were right!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Middle Sister's April Books

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth van Arnim I love both movie versions, and this was one of the first books I downloaded to my Kindle last year--but I saved it until an April to read it. The book is as wonderful as the movie versions, and the one change made for the more recent movie improves the story immeasurably. I'm sure Ms. van Arnim would have approved that slight change. If you're weary and desperate for a change and unable to go on a vacation, take this sublime trip to Italy--you'll be glad you did.

Tom Swift and His Submarine by Victor Appleton Another trip down long out-of-print juvenile literature lane. Tom Swift was one of the creations of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Although as a printed book, this might not appeal to today's young boy, I can see this as a highly successful cartoon, a la SpeedRacer. The first half of the book takes place in New Jersey, with a fictional Atlantis substituting for Atlantic City. In its attempt to blend cutting edge science and technology for the everyday boy, who would have believed that he, like Tom, could build his own submarine or dirigible, I can see why these were very popular books in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Purebred Rescue Dog Adoption by Liz Palika We all know what's on my mind these days, so no reason to say why I was reading this book, this month. Nice introduction to what adopting a rescue dog entails, the questions prospective adopters should ask themselves and the organization they adopt from, and potential issues with the new family pet.

The Alto Wore Tweed by Mark Schweizer Very funny first in a series of gentle mysteries starring the police detective/church organist and choir master of a small town in North Carolina who just happens to be filthy rich, too. Irreverent mystery humor, irreverent religious humor, irreverent uber-feminist humor, and likable characters make this a winner. So much so that I bought the second in the series when only halfway through the first. The mystery is not so challenging, but the people we meet and places we go are so engaging the journey races by. A couple of scenes will have you laughing out loud, so if you're easily embarrassed, don't read this in public.

Genes, Germs, and Civilization by David P. Clark Great idea--how have infectious diseases affected the course of human history--sadly not completely realized. Clark focuses on the same diseases to illustrate different concepts, and unfortunately that comes across as repetitive after a few chapter (surely there are other diseases aside from tuberculosis?). The lack of footnotes is disturbing even in a book aimed at the general public. His handling of history and archaeology is adequate, but clearly the work of a microbiologist (which Clark is) and not an historian (which Clark is not).

Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh by R. L. LaFevers Latest entry in the series aimed at 10-12-year-old girls. Theodosia is the daughter of archaeologists, and she and her mother go to turn of the twentieth century Egypt to dig in the Valley of the Kings. In order to conjure up Edwardian times without boring a modern girl, the author has Theo speak in very adult terms and style, with a modern understanding of socioeconomic, political, and historical interpretations, which left this adult wondering if Theo was really a time-traveling 26-year-old from the year 2015. Theo also is one of a long line of caretakers of ancient Egyptian knowledge and magic, and as part of a secret brotherhood out to stop Chaos from taking over, she gets to battle bad guys and use some nifty magical gadgets for which James Bond would trade his Austin Martin. This series definitely has to be read in order, as references are made to previous people and incidents without much, if any, explanation, and Theo seems to be suffering from extreme tween angst and its unclear if her parental observations are real or just tween imagination. Enjoyable enough despite these reservations, I'll look up the other books in the series. Excellent line drawings that accurately reflect story settings and add immeasurably to the mysterious ambiance.

Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson Again, pretty obvious why I'm re-reading this classic book on how to re-train a dog that guards food, or toys, or you. An absolute must-have for any dog lover.

The Death and Life of Monterey Bay by Stephen R. Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka Excellent book tracing the affects of humans on beautiful Monterey Bay. The book opens with the first human presence in Monterey Bay (Native Americans), details the various commercial enterprises and their negative impacts on the life of the plants and animals that live there, and then traces the development of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is how a science book is written for the general public--engaging writing, nice illustrations, great maps (I love maps! And I love a history book that takes the time to get the permissions from different archives to use maps from their collections), and footnotes (see, Mr. Clark it can be done easily and without distracting the reader). Several chapters focus on the sardine canneries made famous by John Steinbeck, while the last chapters deal with the modern development of the Aquarium. The interesting insight into the friendship of John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell, and Ed Ricketts, all of whom lived at the bay and were influenced by the life they saw around them, the life of the bay they saw deteriorating, and the interconnections they explored in their conversations and their writings between the water, the fish and plants, and humans, was fascinating. Great summer read, especially if a trip to the Aquarium is in your plans.

Patty Fairfield by Carolyn Wells Trip down girls literature lane, where I love to visit. Patty Fairfield is introduced in this first in the series, written in 1901. With her father off for a year for work, Patty visits each of four aunts and their families, learning a different lesson about how to behave and what priorities are appropriate from each family. An interesting view into the very end of the Victorian era, this book also takes place partly in New Jersey. Patty ages across the series, so I will follow her to the final story, which I believe is just before or after her marriage, around the time of World War I. Such a great insight into what was acceptable behavior several generations ago, what normal family life was like, even details like clothes and social relations make this an interesting sociological read, which the author never would have imagined. The most interesting thing--there are parents and children who misbehave exactly the same way children and parents misbehave today. So much for arguments that some of the problems we see today have emerged since the 1960s.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Purple

I don't know how I forgot this purple shot--one of our bus stops, a purple metal saguaro cactus. Aren't these charming?
One of my African violets is blooming, and it's purple, too, but every shot came out fuzzy. My photos of the violet from last year came out fine, but I thought it might be cheating to use that one.