Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Big Sis' December Reads - only one month late!

December was not a month, apparently, where I read very much.  I was a bit busy decorating, shopping, and vacationing...  And I didn't read very much during vacation either, and I'm really not sure why...  Perhaps because I got sick and started coughing up part of a lung???

Edge (Jeffery Deaver) - Oh, I hope Corte is a character who returns in future novels!  I liked him, and I liked how the author made us think we knew everything about him until the last page, when we discovered we were missing a WHOLE LOT of Corte!  He's with the Strategic Protection Department, one of those government agencies who don't exist on paper, and he's usually called in to protect and guard high-profile targets.  I guess he'd be the first step before the Witness Protection Program...  He is called in to guard a cop and his family from a worthy enemy, Henry Loving, who we find out killed Corte's mentor years before.

Rescue (Anita Shreve) - I love her books, and this one was no disappointment, but I will say it's probably my least favorite.  Peter Webster falls in love, has a baby, his wife leaves, he raises his daughter all alone, and then in an ironic twist of fate, he goes looking for his ex to save his daughter from making the same mistakes her mother did so many years ago.  Good story, but it wasn't one I "just couldn't put down."

Unbearable Lightness (Portia DeRossi) - Non-fiction from one of the actresses who made it big on Ally McBeal all those many years ago, a TV show I never watched but was a popular favorite with millions of viewers.  Portia is now married to Ellen Degeneris, and apparently the happiest she's ever been.  This is the story of her anorexia, and her denial that she was suffering from anything more than dieting to be a thin actress/model.  She really explains her thinking and rationale so well; it makes it a bit easier to understand where people suffering from this terrible disease are coming from and what they are experiencing.  I thought this was a well-written (well-edited?) book and although I didn't particularly like Portia before, I find myself "liking" her a lot more now!

Big Sis' November Reads - Really Late!

So I finally found my list...  Here you go...

Chasing the Night (Iris Johansen) - One of Iris Johansen's usual thrillers.  I liked this one because for some reason, I liked Catherine Ling; even though it's an Eve Duncan book, Catherine and her search for her long lost son was the basis of the story.  As always, I hoped Bonnie would visit, and as much as I LOVE this series of books, I REALLY want Eve to find Bonnie...

Call Me Mrs. Miracle (Debbie Macomber) - A short Christmas story, in gift book format.  It should be turned into a made-for-TV Christmas movie, just like Miracle on 34th Street, etc.  Holly needs a miracle to find that certain special Christmas toy for her nephew Gabe, and Mrs. Miracle and Jake come to the rescue.

Back Spin (Harlan Coben) - As always, I love reading about local spots here in NJ!  And this backlist title that I missed during my first go-round with reading every Coben title I could get my hands on truly delivered!  Some of this took place on Philadelphia's Main Line...  And it had a great ending, too - I really liked this one!

You'll Lose the Baby Weight (Dawn Meehan) - A non-fiction book written by a mommy-blogger I read religiously - she's SO darn funny!  Although I must admit I like her blog better than I liked this book.  Although I haven't birthed no babies from my loins, so it doesn't apply personally, I liked some of her descriptions and laughed out loud in a few part, too!  Plus she's personally going through a tough time right now, divorced mom of 6 with an ex who's chosen to be out of the picture...  I figured she could use the royalty payment!

The Confession (John Grisham) - This one seems like a return to Grisham's guaranteed courtroom thriller format, and I loved it!  Regardless of where you stand on the issue of capital punishment, this book was a great read!  My politics have changed as I got older, but I didn't find this one too heavily weighted to one view or the other.  Of course if you know anything about Grisham, you know where he stands on certain issues, and he's entitled to write a book from any side he chooses.  This was a good one!  Donte was in prison for a murder he didn't commit and there's all sorts of scrambling going on at the last minute.  Will they get the governor to issue a stay?  Will they save Donte?  Will you like the ending or not?  Read it and find out!

Play Dead (Harlan Coben) - Coben's 1st novel, and another backlist title I missed until last month!  A good story, but you can definitely see that Coben's gotten better as he continues - this one was a good read, and I was not disappointed but either it was a bit disjointed at times or I was not reading with 100% concentration.  I found myself thinking "?" a few times, but all in all, I'd recommend it!

Crossfire (James Patterson) - Kyle Craig returns!!!  And Alex Cross is on the way to getting married!!!  Will Kyle stop that with another murder?  How did he escape?  Will he get caught again or will he escape and return in another book?  Who murdered those corrupt DC citizens?  Was the murderer really a murderer, or a vigilante?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Next Photo Idea

Just ran into this elsewhere - thought I'd put it out there...  I know it's your turn to pick a topic for photos.

Someone on my scrapping blogs is choosing photos of a particular color one day each week.  Photos of things purple, things green, things gold, etc.

Think about it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow Photos from NJ

Hopatcong State Park with what's left of the first 11" of snow that they got when we got our 2'!!!  The ice fishermen were all out there with their little huts and their awls...

The view of the Hudson River and the Lackawanna Train Station from my office window, once the second snowstorm started - most of the first had melted off the pier, except for some of the piles that were shoveled or plowed against the wall...

Mom's house after the snowstorm of 2010!  Love the western sun shining on the house...

The 2' of snow we got in December drifted to almost 3' on our deck - look how high it is under the picnic table!

My Dog Knows More Words Than Your Dog!

The journal "Behavioral Processes" has published an article about a dog named Chaser who was taught to recoginze1,022 nouns. PBS' Nova episode will broadcast an episode on her in early February.

My dogs are way underachievers in this regard. Chaser is the Fulbright Scholar of dogs. Mine are more like school dropouts--they like to learn, but are inherently lazy (especially now in their old age), and like to do things humans find unpleasant, like eat poop. They're so dang cute, though, and they clearly understand way more than I'd care to admit.

Words/commands they do know:  Up, down, sit, stay, come around, take a bow, spin, ride, outside, inside, shake, cookie (of course!), cat, Where's ----(fill in cat name)? stand, rub-down, give me your foot, lift, walk, wave, enough, look at me, nice ignore! chase, work, doctor--the usual doggy knowledge required to live with a human. But I like to read aloud to them, and we just finished "The Fall of the House of Usher" for my book group. Perhaps they know more than I think? Perhaps they know more than me.Their deep brown eyes seem to betray an age-old wisdom far beyond that of a creature solely concerned with finding something stinky to roll around in.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Middle Sis' December Books

I hope you don't kind that I cheat and include the last book I read, as I technically finished the last few chapters on New Year's day. But it's a galley from NetGalley due to be published soon, and I don't want to have to wait all  month to post my review. Not much reading this month, as I was a little too preoccupied with Stinkerbelle's medical problems to concentrate on reading and thinking about what I was reading. I went for books that didn't require too much concentration.

  1. Tale of the Witch Doll by Mildred A. Wirt  Yes, I confess, I still want to be Nancy Drew when I grow up. This long OOP series by one of the stable of authors who wrote the Nancy Drew books does Nancy one better, as Ms. Wirt was writing this under her own name for herself, not the Stratemeyer Syndicate, so she had lots more leeway with her heroine. This book introduces us to the series heroine, Penny Parker, who is Nancy gone rogue. Okay, maybe not rogue, but not the goody two shoes we love Nancy for being. Penny is a bit more irreverent, more sure of herself, more flippant with her father, and more realistic in some ways because of these traits. Penny is impatient; Nancy would never be impatient. Penny teases her father or talks back to him; Nancy never would.  Penny's car is so decrepit it's out of service half the time and Penny can neither afford to repair it or put gas in it when it is running; Nancy never has problems with her little blue roadster. The mystery is a little darker, with The Criminal determined to kill His Archenemy. A little dated and maybe a little stiff and plenty formulaic, but loads of fun nonetheless. I have several other of Penny's adventures on my Kindle and can't wait to read them.
  2. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie Last year I briefly toyed with the idea of working my way systematically through all of Dame Agatha. I've read all the books, and many of the short stories, but haven't read most for more than 25 years. I may still take this on in 2011. Tommy and Tuppence are the lighthearted amateur detective series, and I needed lighthearted. Luckily, it's been so long since i read this or saw the BBC dramatization that I couldn't remember a thing about it. Perfectly written, of course, with tight dialogue, action, and enough background that the international intrigue made complete sense, even 80 years after the fact. Who wouldn't enjoy an Agatha Christie? Grab a big mug of tea, a scone, and settle in for a few hours of great storytelling.
  3.   The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman A to-be-published novella from established author Laura Lippman, whom I confess to never having read before. A riff on Rear Window and A Thief of Time, with our heroine on bedrest during the latter part of her pregnancy. Watching the daily visitors to the dog park across the street, she becomes concerned when one of the regular dogs appears, still on leash, but with her owner. Taking in the dog and determined to find the owner, the mother-to-be uses all her private detective skills and friends to find out what happened to the missing dog owner. This novella does a good job of incorporating modern technology into the classic bedridden detective tale while still providing a good dose of bone-chilling drama at the end. While the novella started off slow, it quickly picked up steam. I have to confess that the main character and her paramour didn't interest me very much, but Mrs. Blossom was very intriguing. I may read more inthe series just to find out more about this supporting character.
  4. A Certain Dr. Thorndyke by R. Austen Freeman Classic mystery series from the golden era, Freeman's books aren't well known today, but they should be. The first half of the book is rather slow moving, and allows us ample time to get to know the criminal on the run. The second half is retroactive, and shows how 'a certain Dr. Thorndyke' solved the mystery. Although somewhat old fashioned, the female character is a strong and likeable woman and no shrinking Edwardian violet. I will definitely be making Dr. Thorndyke's acquaintance some more.
  5. Lethal Lineage by Charlotte Hinger Okay, our mother raised us not to say anything if we couldn't say something nice, so I'll start with the positives. Although the descriptive blurb talks about murder in a church, this is not a preachy, Christian lit, proselytizing mystery. Just a mystery centered on a mysterious death in a brand new church in the farmlands of Kansas. The author realistically mentions the problems a May-December marriage may pose for the grown-up children involved, although there are few details to flesh this problem out and help us like our heroine. I really liked the historical research angle to the story, which was used to introduce us to some of the major players and their interrelationships. However, I am forced to admit I thought this book, another galley, was pretty bad. If I had received this as an acquisitions editor, I'd have sent it back for some polishing and re-working. There are some inconsistencies in the character that were unsettling (she's concerned about being blasphemous in our first encounter with her when she thinks "Oh God!" but later has no problem with calling a bishop a bastard) that could have been easily taken care of with a few sentences. The entire story hinges on a series of improbable coincidences, and far too many of them. The introductory chapters and the discussion of roaming Episcopal bishops and priests was so confusing I still don't understand it, and I wonder if the author had it straight in her own mind or just abandoned that part of the story because she couldn't make it make sense. The Hutu/Tutsi genocide angle was very far fetched, and could have been handled far better than it was. Overall, this reads like a second draft, not a final galley ready for publication. And the formatting was terrible on my Kindle--it was often difficult to tell who was speaking as paragraphs all ran together and no quotation marks were used. The book may have potential, but this needs a lot more work.