Sunday, December 30, 2012

Li'l Sis December 2012 Read & January 2013 Read

Since I know I won't be done by the 1st, I'll add it to January! I just started A Vampire's Christmas Carol by Sarah Gray.  Couldn't find a more seasonal & Li'l Sis-appropriate-title on my bookshelves. It is quite enjoyable, heralding back to the writings of Dickens, with a twist! A big change from the recently-enjoyed Gillian Flynn! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Big Sis' November 2012 Books

Hey, we must be related!  I read a lot, too, but when I went to my list?  Only 3 books!  Really??? 

Well, admittedly I was a bit distracted by Hurricane Sandy (yes, I spent 10 days at home, 6 of them without heat or electricity, and I lost quite a bit of reading time at night - it's hard to read when it's pitch black in your room!), the Thanksgiving holiday, prepping for our family party (113 people and we were the hosting family this year!), Christmas shopping/decorating/card-writing, to say nothing of the really tough time I'm having at work lately.  No excuses, just reasons...

In the meantime, here are the three books I managed to squeeze into my November...

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (Kindle edition) - This is the third in the Hunger Games Trilogy.  I must say, while not a rabid fan like some, I liked books 1 and 3; I wasn't so enthralled by book 2.  I still sort of have a problem with a book FOR teens, ABOUT teens killing each other for sport in an arena, while being CONTROLLED by supposed adult mentors...  This last book had a lot of action, and I was able to borrow it for free from the Amazon Prime Lending Library.  I paid my $75 fee up front, and I now get free 2-day delivery and can borrow from the Prime Lending Library.  These are not books I would have paid for; I borrowed #1 from my daughter in trade paper format, and borrowed the Kindle editions from Amazon for free.  Free is good when I'm not a big fan...

The First Prophet, by Kay Hooper - I love Ms. Hooper's paranormal books, about the psychic Haven operatives.  This one seems to be the start of a new series, not directly related to Haven, but the Bishops are operating on the fringes of this new series...  If you read the books, you know of what I speak...  This was a good one, lots of psychic action and drama, and I liked the characters.  Hope they all appear in future books, too.  Sarah wakes from a coma with powers she didn't have before, strong powers that attract the attention of the bad guys.  Writer Tucker Mackenzie tries to help save her life, and while we assume they live happily ever after once they fall in love with each other, I sort of hope they become operatives in the Bishop Files series and we get to see them again!

The Tales of Beetle the Bard, by JK Rowling (Kindle edition) - This book was ONLY released in e-format, as a fundraiser for JK's Lumos Foundation.  It is a compilation of 5 fairy tales, translated and re-released by Hermione Grainger, with commentary by Albus Dumbledore.  LOVED it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Middle Sister's November 2012 Books

I did read in November, really, although the meager two titles may not seem like I spent much time with my nose buried in a book. I was distracted by grading writing assignments, out of town visitors, and several have-to-finished-last-week-even-though-we-told-you-not-to-start-until-today projects at work.

Absolute Monarch: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich Fun and easy-to-read papacy history light. Sure, Norwich focuses on the not-at-all-holy, er, shall we call them, activities of the popes, especially the salacious Middle Ages popes. He does a good job of simplifying some of medieval European history, convoluted as it is, with abundant handy footnotes. It is a big tome, though, and took most of November to finish.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells My nineteenth-century literature book club's November pick. Awesome! Accurate depiction of how people interact during catastrophes. Surprising solution to the invasion of England by the Martians. Very modern prose and action-oriented, which should keep a modern reader used to the nonstop Dan Brown-esque level of action interested. I totally enjoyed every second of this book and recommend it heartily.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Big Sis' November 2012 Reads

So I finally decided to go for it:  $75 to join Amazon Prime.  I will say that one benefit is being able to borrow books for my Kindle at no charge (yes, I know I've really sort of paid for them up front...).  One of the other benefits is free 2-day shipping on whatever I order from Amazon.com.  While I'm not thrilled with the whole Kindle thing, I'm not here to beat a dead horse.  I did read two books on my Kindle this past month...

Heaven Is Here, Stephanie Nielson (Kindle edition) - This is the autobiography of Stephanie "NieNie" Nielson, a Mormon housewife who was in a horrific small plane accident with her husband and another pilot.  The pilot, a close friend of theirs, died and Stephanie and her husband survived, although with terrible physical damage.  Stephanie's face will never be the same; she was severely disfigured in the accident.  She has undergone so many operations, been in a coma for months post-accident, and yet her spirit and strength and love never wavered.  She drew on her faith for strength, although she admits to fear and questioning; how could anyone not say "Why me?" at least once or twice through all she's gone through? 

A Fool's Gold Christmas, Susan Mallery - Another in the Fool's Gold series, this book centers around Evie Stryker, half-sister to the Stryker brothers who were the heroes in previous Fool's Gold books.  She's been estranged from her family for years, never having felt completely loved or a part of the family.  An accident brings her home (not her idea, actually - her big brothers just go and get her!) and she finds a new direction for her life, a new bond with her family and a new love.

Low Pressure, Sandra Brown - Bestseller author Bellamy Lyston wrote a novel based on a tragedy that occurred in her youth.  She did it with the hope it would be a cathartic release of all the suffering she and her family had gone through, but it had a much different result:  she is forced to relive all that happened, she's thrown into contact with her dead sister's boyfriend, the very one thought to have been the killer, and together they of course confirm his innocence and solve the murder all these many years later...

NYPD Red, James Patterson and Marshall Karp - Hollywood on the Hudson:  an opportunity to bring glitz and glamor to NYC.  More than NYC has already that is.  Along with the g&g, some more drama:  someone starts killing off famous Hollywood people, directors, stars, etc.  I like the books written by these two collaborators:  Mr. Patterson comes up with the basic premise and Mr. Karp runs with it.  I look forward to Karp's solo efforts just so I can see what he really brings to the combo...

The Time Keeper, Mitch Albom - I've liked Albom's previous books, but I have to admit that although I was intrigued by the storyline, I found it more difficult to read, at least until I was more than halfway through it.  The book is about Father Time, the man who first invented a clock in an effort to measure God's greatest gift, time.  He's banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to millions who seek more time, extra time...  Eventually he is released on the condition he find two humans and teach them the true meaning of time.

Sleep No More, Iris Johansen - I wondered how the Eve Duncan series would continue once they found Eve's daughter, Bonnie, who'd been missing for years and presumed dead.  She was, and they found her body and I was afraid that would end the series, but, no!  Ms. Johansen has done it well.  Bonnie continues to appear to her mother, but less often and only when needed.  The usual forensic twists and turns, a long-lost 1/2 sister to Eve is introduced, and Eve helps solve her sister's mystery...  I liked it!  I'm happy to hear the series won't end now that Bonnie's mystery was solved.

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (Kindle edition) - This is the second in The Hunger Games series.  I liked the first one better, but since I can borrow it for free, I thought, "Why not see what all the fuss is about?"  Glad I read it but I admit to being happy I have one more to read and I'll be done with the series.  Although Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games in the first book, they are now forced to fight the Capitol.  They become the faces of the resistance.  Eh...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Middle Sister's October Books

First, let me get the word out that the other sisters are fine; without power after Hurricane Sandy, but fine. Our mother never lost power. No one's house has, to my knowledge, any damage. They may be cold and bored, but they are fine--and hopefully that means they will have a lot of books to discuss when they are back online. On to the books.

My offerings may be few, but they're pretty diverse:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, this amazing and charming and well-written book is a delight from beginning to end. Harold, Maureen, Queenie, David--with just a few well-chosen words, Ms. Joyce creates characters that we know, that we may see in the mirror every morning. Harold's pilgrimage is inspiring and tear-jerking and contemplative. Read this book. That's it, just read this book.

A Woman's Guide to Menopause and Perimenopause by Mary Jane Minkin and Carol V. Wright  Good, solid guidebook to the physical, mental, and emotional changes that accompany menopause and the years leading up to it (for some of us, it's been 10 years of perimenopause and frankly, we're ready for this phase to be over). Some of the medical information is outdated (e.g., there are some meds that are now off the market because of negative side effects), but overall, this guide will help women navigate this next phase of life successfully. A plus is the inclusion of many real-patient scenarios presented by Dr. Minkin, with her reasoning why some paths are more suitable for this particular case than others.

A Deadly Row to Hoe by Cricket McRae The latest in the Sophie Mae Home Crafting mystery series. Sophie Mae and her husband are trying to have a baby and still living with her friend Meghan and Meghan's daughter; and now, with the addition of Meghan's boyfriend, that house is starting to get really crowded.  This book capitalizes on the current proliferation of CSA (community-supported agriculture) groups, as Sophie Mae finds a murder victim while putting in her volunteer hours at the CSA farm to which she and her family belong. I like how the author tries to put Sophie in more unusual situations for her mysteries, which gets more difficult the longer a series continues. I liked the ending. Although I had guessed the murderer, the way the denouement played out was novel and, in some ways, far more realistic than this genre usually supports. I didn't like the way the police department was treated as composed of idiots (Sophie has to tell her policeman husband to put a guard on the hospital door of an assault victim--really? And her husband isn't insulted and Sophie isn't embarrassed when she finds out that he actually had already done this, being a professional? Oy vey!), and I got quite tired of the baby-making angle. I'm not sure I like the direction the author seems to be taking Sophie Mae's character at the end, but given that there are only so many home crafts one can do, she really has no choice if she wants the series to continue. The idyllic home life is getting to be a bit too saccharine for me. No one squabbles over whose turn it is to cook the exquisite healthy meals they eat, or clean the toilet, or take out the trash. Oh, and Meghan, words of advice: if your 12-year-old daughter is only trying make-up now for the first time, the better response is not the blow up and yell at her, but to show her how to use make-up correctly. Be grateful it's just make-up; lots of other 12-year-olds are pregnant or drug users. A little excess mascara--nothing at all.

My Bookstore edited by Ronald Rice I worked in an independent bookstore for 11 years, and I love bookstores. I also love ereaders. I don't understand why so many supposed book lovers feel it has to be an either/or situation. This paean to the independent bookstores has many essays (most good, some average, a couple bad) that share one common thread:  most rhapsodize how much the author loved visiting their local bookstore, where they could read for hours on end undisturbed by the salesclerks. Which leads me to wonder how many of these people love bookstores, or just love having their own 'private' library where there are no reserve lists for any title. No waiting, anticipation building, for that book you've been dying to read to come in. I don't want to see bookstores disappear either, and I'll say it again--there's no need unless the publishing industry decides to use the music industry as its model rather than the telephone industry (Tower Records is gone, but Sprint managed to move from landline provider to cell provider and flourish). The democratization of reading that ereaders and independent publishing offers carries Gutenberg's revolution one more step further. I hope bookstores don't get left behind. On a personal note, I was delighted to see the name of someone I went to high school with in the book--my seven degrees from celebrity, I guess. The pen and ink drawings of every bookstore were enchanting. And  I did discover some new-to-me authors whose work I'll now track down. If one measures the success of a book by how well it gets the reader to want to read more, well, then, this book succeeded. And yes, I did read it on my Kindle. So there.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Canine Cognition

What Your Dog Is Thinking on Time.com; interesting summary of some recent research into the dog mind. All of our dogs can master a large vocabulary, not just that one exceptional border collie. All our dogs can count. They can even use computer touch screens. It's not all "Feed me! Feed me! Walk me! Scratch my belly! Feed me!" I wonder how philosophical they get?

DoodleBug prefers to just rest his head on the laptop, imploring me with those big brown eyes to stop working and have fun. I'm glad, because I'd be worried about what web sites he'd want to surf. dogshaming, for sure. Mr. Big would enjoy the food websites.

Stripey Cat thinks computers are beneath her.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Little Sis' October Read #1

So far I've read Lisa Jackson's You Don't Want to Know.  Not an author I would normally pick up, but this one is about a woman going crazy after her 2-year-old disappears. Thought I could relate. Not!  The lead character complained soooo much, even motherly me got sick of it.  Heartache. Pain. In Every Paragraph. Some of the twists were almost entirely anticipated. Heartache. Pain. And wow, she lives in a mansion, is so rich she pays her family to work on the estate. That right there is enough to start a family crisis. Heartache. Pain.  I'm so wealthy. Heartache.  Pain. 'Nuff said!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Book Quote

"He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, p. 158. (Random House, 2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Middle Sister Reads September

A potpourri of reading goodness:

Walk Off Weight by Michele Stanten Inspired by my medical physical in July and yearly check-up in September, I attempt to figure out why these stupid 8 lbs won't budge from my middle and what to do about them! Actually a really useful guide to getting yourself back on the healthy tract, this walking exercise program involves nothing more than a pair of good shoes. Additional ways to ramp up the exercise using an exercise band or poles are provided, as are some sample menus to eat healthier. Best part--lots of testimonials, with photos, from real women who participated in the study designed to test this program before it was published. That's always my favorite part of Prevention magazine--the inspiration provided by real women. We'll see if it helps my 8 lbs.  (borrowed from library, but on my Amazon wish list)

The Lightkeeper's Legacy by Kathleen Ernst The first in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series, this was another set in the modern past, before cell phones and Internet service had us all connected, all the time; in this case, 1982. Chloe is a curator who goes to Rock Island for a week to help formulate a preservation plan for an historic lighthouse. She's only there for a few hours when she finds a body. What follows is an interesting story that divides itself between Chloe's present, and the life of the wife of the last lightkeeper at the house in the 1870s and 1880s.  Murder and mayhem beset both women, although I confess the denouement of the historic murder took my by surprise and that of the contemporary murder did not. I confess right up front that this is the second recent book I've read when simultaneous stories were told like this, with a strong psychic link between the modern protagonist and the past, and I'm a little leery of this plot device. Just tell me the stories and draw connections between them--I'm tired of supposed emotive psychic connections. Despite that, I enjoyed this mystery quite a bit. (NetGalley.com, to be published October 2012)

Historic Doubts in the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third by Horace Walpole In light of the fascinating discovery of what may be the burial of King Richard III under the cloister floor in the razed Greyfriars Abbey, now covered by a modern carpark (I speak British English!), and being a closet Ricardian, I decided to read one of the earliest attempts to examine the supposed 'facts' about his reign and set the record straight. Only for diehard fans, like me. Lots of references to other historic works that I need to track down if I truly want to follow his argument. The lesser-inclined should just read the most excellent Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (if they can find a copy of the twenty-year-old printing without the missing chapter, which I can't, and which frustrates me terribly! That's the copy still sold to you if you buy it online. I may have to try again; the last time was two years ago, and I still got the bad copy, but maybe Amazon will have worked sales down to a pristine, and complete copy?), where a cogent argument defending Richard is made.

The Red Room by August Strindberg It's the centenary of Strinberg's death, and my 19th century novels reading group chose this as its September/October book. A satire, it touches on politics, publishing, theater, and some other topics, as observed by Arvid Falk over the course of one year. Amazingly prescient in today's political climate, I must say. It offers hope that we will suffer these fools, even if not gladly, and survive them. (Project Gutenberg e-book)

The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler I think I may just have a slight crush on both John May and Arthur Bryant, the elderly police detectives who investigate strange crimes for the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Someone is killing middle-aged secretaries in pubs, but of course, the crime and its solution are far more convoluted than that simple statement. Government conspiracies, coded messages from the killer, and missing cremains are just part of the plot. I was listening to this on my iPod Nano, and I think these might be better suited to read, rather than listen--there's so many clues and so much information that I re-listened to several chapter more than once. Yes, there's an element of 'psychicness' to this one as well, but it's more sophisticated than in the other books with that plot device, and is handled with a much more deft hand.

Okay, and I checked--I've been keeping a list of all the books I've read since sometime in 2002, and I'm not sure why I started, but my grand total is:

677

which works out to 5.7 books per month, but since that covers ten years, that means I really read way less than you, Big Sis. But don't feel bad--it's not a contest. It's really just about enjoying reading and opening your eyes and firing your imagination. And personally, I am proud that I have read certain things I never thought I would and would enjoy (like Anna Karenina) as well as duds that left me cold (like two of my book club selections I never did finish). Long Live Reading!


Big Sister's September Reads - 2012

An interesting statistic - well, interesting to me, anyway...  Since February of 2005 I've been keeping a list of the books I read.  The list doesn't include repeats (like the Harry Potter books I've read several times) and it doesn't include all the non-fiction art titles I've read, like the art journaling books I've been hooked on recently (I think there's only one I remembered to include on the list - one out of about 15!).  It doesn't include magazines, and I read several of those a week.

601

I've read 601 books in 7-1/2 years.  I know for some people that might be an incredible number, but that averages out to only 6.6 books a month.  I always thought I read more...  Hmm...  Guess I have a goal for 2013:  I want to read MORE!

Okay, here goes, September's titles without further ado...

All Summer Long, Susan Mallery - (Fool's Gold #9) This one is about Clay Stryker, underwear model extraordinaire, who returns home to Fool's Gold after a tragic loss in his personal life.  He's known love and lost love and as we all know, isn't looking for love when he comes home.  Home is safe, and secure, and we all know there's no one there who's going to pique his interest...

One Wrong Move, Shannon McKenna - Another in the series of books by this author that include a mind-altering drug that, if ingested somehow, TOTALLY messes with you!  The story itself was fine:  a woman's aunt shows up, worn, emaciated, and during a struggle, injects our heroine with a drug.  Of course we find out that she has, oh, I don't know, FOUR days to live before her circuits will blow from this drug...  Our hero, Alex Aaro, just didn't do it for me.  It took me many chapters before I gave a hoot about either of them, which was disappointing because the orginal couple of books caught my interest right away.  It's a mystery/love story, the combination of which I like, but, eh...

Between the Lines, Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer - Jodi gives full credit to her daughter for coming up with the idea for this book.  It took me a while to get sucked into the story, but after a few chapters (I actually started it in August but never finished it - unusual for me), I was hooked.  What if you were a teenage girl who was, well, let's just say you weren't Miss Popularity.  You're hooked on this fairy tale you found by accident, and you've read it so many times you know exactly what happens on each page.  Then one day, the Prince speaks.  To you.  In real life.  You actually HEAR his voice and see his lips move on the page.  Yea, your mom will definitely send you to a shrink if she ever finds out about this...  It's a love story, a story about a story within a story.  The authors collaborated on it, with the basics coming from Ms. Picoult's daughter.  Great illustrations from the story within the story....

Zoo, James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge - A departure from Mr. Patterson's usual crime dramas, this reminds me of something Michael Crichton would have written...  HAC:  Human Animal Conflict.  It's increasing, by leaps and bounds, and it seems no one is paying attention, not even when MALE lions congregate in the wild and attack humans as an organized entity.  Not even when a domesticated ape goes - um - wild and kills his keeper.  Not even when medical staff in Africa are murdered, eaten by wild animals.  The story spans several years, and our hero and his eventual wife wind up being directly involved in saving the world from these wild animals...

77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz - The Pendleton, a gorgeous mansion turned condominium that was built in the 1800s, is home to the usual variety of characters.  What the current residents don't know is that every 38 years, something happens.  Something REALLY not good.  Something REALLY scary.  Suffice it to say this book includes the usual Koontz horror, with a twist.  His descriptions, the way he puts his words together - it's SO visual.  I could really SEE one of the monsters, HEAR him and FEEL him as he crawled along the floor...  I could envision them flying outside the windows, feel what our characters felt when they realized the San Francisco they knew was gone...  The big twist, and this drove Little Sister a bit nuts when she started the book, the big twist about this story is that time is warped - what takes 38 years in our time is about, oh, 45 minutes in the time warp...  The entire book takes place in such a short time, and each chapter is written from a different perspective, all taking place during the same few hours...

The Last Victim, Karen Robards - LOVE Ms. Robards' books, but this one threw me for a loop.  There's a psychic twist in it that I just didn't expect, and is obviously meant to keep us coming back for more, WHICH I will, as soon as the next book is released!  Dr. Charlotte Stone is a serial killer expert, with an ability to see dead people.  Sorta makes it easier to solve those mysteries, right?  But even though Mr. Right appears to be right there in front of her, working with her on this latest search for a serial killer, I can see why if you actually meet and work with the killer, that it might be hard to remain objective...

Almost Summer, Susan Maller (Kindle edition) - I bought several Kindle books in preparate for jury duty, and this was one of them.  Another from the Fool's Gold series, I wasn't thrilled with this one.  I guess I'm an American, through and through... Our British hero just didn't cut it for me in this book.  I didn't feel the love, the passion, the attraction that seemed effortless in other Fool's Gold stories...  And Paige, our heroine, she just didn't help me enjoy the story either...  After all the Mallery romances I've been reading recently, this one disappointed.

Only Us, Susan Mallery (Kindle novella) - Okay, this one was just fine, although it was about a couple of Fool's gold characters I really don't remember appearing in more than, maybe, one book...  The veterinarian's wife just up and left one day; she left him AND her baby daughter, and she never returned.  They divorced and Cameron has been raising his daughter alone, with the help, most recently, of pet groomer Carina Fiore.  Rina is in love with Cameron, she fell for him and his daughter immediately, but she's done nothing about it.  Her girlfriend convinces her to take a chance, and she does, with disappointing consequences.  Cameron rebuffs her advances - he just wants to remain friends.  Well, that doesn't cut it for Rina and she moves on, only to find that Santa can indeed bring happiness forever after...

Chasing Perfect, Susan Maller (Kindle edition) - Finally!  Fool's Gold #1!  Only instead of the tried and true formula, heroine and hero linked by an intertwined past, she starts off with strangers meeting under business circumstances, strangers who become friends, strangers who become each other's true love...  And that little twist about one of the strangers having an unknown link to the town?  That just added a little drama and made it feel more like you were reading about family instead of strangers...

Where Azaleas Bloom, Sherryl Woods - Another in the Sweet Magnolias series, single mom Lynn Morrow is struggling when her soon-to-be-ex-husband apparently stops sending support.  In fact, his lawyer even disappears for a while, apparently running off with hubby's money...  She gets a part-time job, and does well, but ends are not meeting and she winds up working from home a few hours a week for a local contractor who eventually winds up as her hero.

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn - An earlier book by the author of Gone Girl (reviewed last month), this novel contains the same dark characters and warped stories I guess Ms. Flynn is famous for, and MAN, were these characters dark!!!  I didn't like any of them - Libby Day, our heroine, is a troubled individual, not heroine material at all.  She's the victim of a horrible childhood, the only survivor other than her murdering older brother...  who murdered their entire family when Libby was only seven years old.  She's had nothing to do with her brother for 25 years, but desperate circumstances bring them into contact again.  I did NOT see the twisted ending coming and admit to being totally shocked at how it was resolved.  Disturbed, and shocked...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Little Sis' September Reads Oh yes ladies, you already know my secret goth tendencies and fondness of the more macabre. I read all 3 Gillian Flynn novels this month, but in reverse. First, I read Gone Girl. Being in the industry, I can't help but see this one compete with Fifty Shades, James Patterson, & Hunger Games for the top spots. So of course I had to read it. What, a husband murders his wife on their 5th wedding anniversary? Of course I'd like it. This author knows how to put the Dys in Dysfunctional. I finished thinking it makes my ex look like a cupcake -- well, not really, but almost. I did enjoy it, it also jumps from one character's view point in one chapter to another in the next, as many novels tend to do these days. This is a L.S. recommended read, but take note, this author is not for the squeamish or ultra conservative. Next, I read Dark Places--did her brother really kill her family? This one touches on relationships, Satanism, murder, lots of dark subjects. Up my alley. Lastly, I read Sharp Objects. Someone has murdered little girls, and the protagonist (a journalist) returns to her hometown to cover the story. Did I mention dysfunctional? Whew, Ozzie & Harriet would be appalled. I really gotta get writing. Too many things I'd like to do! Paint, write, Photoshop, groom, and no time for all! So now I've begun You Don't Want to Know by Lisa Jackson. I am not a romance fan, but this is a suspense novel about a woman & her missing toddler. Of course, it started off bragging how rich she was and what a mansion she lives in, wow. We can all relate, right? Oh, have a child, that I get. So we'll see how this one goes. Welcome October!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Makes a Tabby Cat

The part of the cat genome responsible for tabby markings in cats and cheetahs has now been uncovered:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/science/the-gene-behind-cheetahs-spots-and-tabbies-stripes.html?ref=science

Ya'll know how much I love my mackerel tabbies, a.k.a., my stripey girls.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coffee Klatch

Who's coming over for some delicious zucchini bread muffins, heavy on the cinnamon?



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Big Sister's August Reads - 2012 Edition

It was a good month - 12 books, plus several assorted magazines and LOTS of online blog reading...  I love it when I have the time to read a lot...  and not one Kindle book this month!!!  Not one!

Then Again, Diane Keaton - I started this several months ago, but didn't really get into it much.  I had some down time at the end of August and determined that I would finish this book, no matter what.  It was good, easy to read, but it took a while for me to get into it.  There's a lot of history at the start of the book, a lot of background about her parents.  Since I knew nothing about them, it caught my interest but it wasn't an easy read.  Then I got to the meat of the book, and Diane began including excerpts from her mom's journals.  Now THAT was interesting, to hear her in her own words...  Of course I was eager to read about all of Diane's great loves:  Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty...  She never married because, and go figure, the men didn't want to marry when she was with them...  It's more than just a celebrity bio, there's a lot of depth.  And the funny part - I never noticed that Anna Quindlen was a contributor until AFTER I finished the book!!!

Catching Fireflies, Sherryl Woods - One in The Sweet Magnolias series, this one has a special place in my heart, not because it's a particularly wonderful read (it's fine, I love Sherryl's sweet romances) but because the underlying theme is bullying.  I feel so very strongly about bullying and would love to work with children or with schools or with teachers to combat bullying.  I don't know why I feel so strongly; I had a pretty idyllic childhood.  I don't remember any particular trauma, no bullying...  But I feel as though if I were younger, it would be a calling, enough to lead me in a career path if I was to start all over.  This book is about teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician CJ Fullerton, how their lives intersect as they try to help a young girl in town.

I read (and will be reading) QUITE a few books by Susan Mallery.  You'll notice there are two series she's written - the stories are cute enough that I'll read them all...  I love to follow the same characters through several books; it's like you become a family...I'll lump them together here:

     Summer Days - Fool's Gold #7:  Heidi has put down roots on Castle Ranch and is quite happy raising goats, making cheese, making a home for herself after living a childhood on the circus route... No one, not even Rafe Stryker, will run her off her land.  UNTIL they find out "her" land isn't "hers" after all...

     Hot on Her Heels - Lone Star Sisters #4:  This is the last in the series and I actually read it first but it was okay.  Dana Birch has never been a girly girl, and in fact, she's the deputy in town.  Garth Duncan was a bad guy in the first three books, but eventually in this one, we see he's not all bad!  And of course, the not-so-bad-guy always gets his girl!  They met because he was dedicated to ruining Dana's friends' family (three sisters and their dad) because unknown to the girls, Garth was their father's illegitimate son and their dad (NOT a very nice guy) threw teen-aged Garth out of his house when the young boy came to save his mom, who was suffering from some sort of brain tumor and the insurance had run out.  Of course, being refused had tragic consequences and Garth has sworn revenge...

     Under Her Skin - Lone Star Sisters #1:  Lexi Titan has 30 days to come up with $2million to save her business.  Who knew the mysterious investor who helped her BUILD the business would call in the note with 30 days warning?  It's almost as if he were determined to ruin her...  But little did he know that Lexi had connections:  Cruz Rodriguez, a voice from her past, agrees to lend her the money...  as long as they can pretend to be engaged and she agrees to introduce Cruz to all her father's influential friends...

     Straight from the Hip - Lone Star Sisters #3:  Izzy Titan is blinded in a terrible accident on an oil rig where she was working.  She's sent home on medical leave and is eventually brought (against her will!) to a survivor training camp, which, by the way, only maquerades as a survivor training camp.  It actually serves a much more noble purpose:  a "dude ranch" for at risk children...  and Nick, her instructor, is determined to help her decide on sight-saving surgery while helping her adjust to her current blindness.  But WHY is he helping her?  She'd better not find out...

     Lip Service - Lone Star Sisters #2:  I finally finished the series!  Skye Titan left Mitch Cassidy for another man years ago.  But now he's home and he believes her daughter is his daughter!  There's immediate attraction, AND immediate anger and conflict between Skye and Mitch.  The best part of this book is that Skye learned to stand up for herself and take no crap from her domineering father...  LOVE that kind of character development:  God gave you two legs - stand up for yourself!!!

Odd Apocalypse, Dean Koontz - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Odd Thomas series!  It's an awesome blend of Koontz's traditional horror with an awesome soup├žon of philosophy thrown in AND some of the best character development I've ever encountered!  I was always a fan of his books; even the "straight horror" titles always had a twist of some sort that was mindblowing (Mr. Murder, anyone?!?!?).  In this one Odd encounters the ghost of Nikola Tesla, who invented the "time machine" and all sorts of other wonderful inventions that play such a huge role in this book.  Did you ever wonder if there was an alternate universe, right here, and you were living there concurrently?  And did you ever wonder if anyone or anything could cross over from that universe to this one?  And would they be the same here as they are there?  (FYI, in past books he's met the ghost of Elvis Presley, and another one makes an appearance in this book:  Alfred Hitchcock, who I'm willing to bet will play a pivotal role in the NEXT Odd Thomas book...)

Sweet Talk, Julie Garwood - I'm a fan of her current fiction; I've moved away from the historical romance genre...  Who's scarier?  The FBI or the IRS?  I guess it depends on where you are in life, but in this case, Olivia's determination to bring down the bad guys who are benefiting from a Ponzi scheme that is just a little too close to home.  And Grayson Kinkaid, FBI, crosses paths with her on a different but related case...

Haven, Kay Hooper - LOVE the Bishop/SCU series!  Big twist at the end of this that I really didn't see coming!  Supernatural talents help these good guys solve crimes and find the bad guys, and in this instance, brings two sisters back together after years apart, before...  Nope, not giving it away!!!  Suffice it to say BOTH Emma and Jessie Rayburn are targets before the end of the book, and while one is very aware of her psychic abilities, the other?  Not so much...

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn - This is another example of one of those books getting SO much press that I was really determined not to read it, until a couple of blogger friends started ranting and raving about it...  They made it sound interesting, so...  (And it turns out Little Sister read it this month, too!!!  Just wait for her review!)  I'm going to do my best NOT to include any spoilers...  Let's see...  Boy meets girl.  Boy and girl get married.  Boy and girl are so very happy in NYC.  The economy tanks and boy and girl aren't so lucky any more.  Family tragedy brings boy and girl to Missouri (not exactly NYC).  Boy and girl are moderately happy there, adjusting to their new circumstances.  Or are they?  HUGE plot twist (another I admit I didn't see coming!) halfway through the book, and a surprise (to me!) ending!!!  REALLY makes me want to run over to school right now and give my awesome hubby a big hug!!! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Middle SIster's August Reads

An interesting month for books, August was. Forthwith:

  • Classic Elite Quick Knits by Classic Elite Yarns Quick Knits is a nice compendium of quick knit projects for knitters of all levels of experience. The hat and sock patterns are particularly nice, with a range from easy to intermediate patterns. Large-sized photos and information on yarn types and weights make it easier to substitute yarns. Although these were individually published in pattern books or the CEY newsletter, this would make a nice holiday gift.
  • Walking Meditations by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk who has written and instructed lots of people on mindfulness walking. The text is a short and easy introduction to the concept of meditation walking. The accompanying DVD and CD instruct the walker who wants to engage more fully with nature and themselves. Apparently I wasn't in the right frame of mind to follow the CD, as I found the repetitive instructions frustrating at times, so clearly I need to practice my mindfulness walking more. I do wish they had not used the terms 'in-breath' and 'out-breath' for inhale and exhale, though; I found it grating and that may be why I had trouble focusing on the exercises.
  • Face of the Enemy by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Excellent mystery, first in the Wartime Mysteries series. Set in 1941 NYC, the story opens with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the rising hysteria within the city regarding invasions and spies blends well with the rising tension of the murder of an art dealer. Louise is a nurse from Kentucky, an exotic herself in the gritty Big Apple, hired to nurse the American professor husband of a Japanese artist. Masako, the artist, is arrested as an enemy of the state, and the night before she is arrested, the art dealer who decided to stop her show because of public anger, is killed. While the feds and NYPD fight over who has jurisdiction over Masako, Louise and Abe, a feisty lawyer, investigate the murder as they try to clear Masako and save her very ill husband's life. This has to have been the best galley I've read all year for Net Galley. The book is scheduled for release in September and I urge all fans of historical mysteries to read it. Beyond a good mystery and superb ambiance, and despite some distressing racial slurs, the attitude of several characters is mirrored in our current society's issues over Mexican-Americans and illegal entrants, and makes this a particularly thoughtful and timely mystery story.
  • Drop Dead on Recall by Sheila Webster Boneham The wold of canine obedience trials is cutthroat, and this mystery captures that perfectly. When a contender for top obedience handler drops dead in the ring, 50-year-old Janet MacPhail, photographer and dog lover, hastens to help, and is drawn into a dangerous, murderous world. The author is a bit heavy-handed with her suspects, making it pretty easy to figure out whodunnit, but the grown-up romance between Janet and fellow dog-lover Tom is nicely and realistically portrayed, and gives all of us dog-loving women of a certain age hope, even if it is a fictional romance. Who knows? The author got the world of obedience trials and competition right; maybe she's right about middle-aged romance, too. Definitely a recommendation for dog lovers.
  • Pets at the White House by Jennifer B. Pickens and Barbara Bush Lovely book showcasing the pets that have helped our First Families make the White House a home. The book begins with a brief review of the early presidents of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, but focuses on the presidential pets beginning with the Kennedy administration. A nice book for dog lovers and history buffs. Filled with great photos, both staged and informal. And it was nice to be reminded that even presidents I didn't vote for and disagreed with vehemently have a humane streak, and if they love animals, they can't be all bad, right? I just wish there had been more on the earlier presidents; Pickens has tracked down some interesting trivia, like Jefferson's parrot, so there must be other stories and information out there. 
  • Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson Nice re-release of small knitted projects that would be nice for holiday presents. Patterns range from a scarf and mitts to a tea cosy, even a blanket. The section at the back on presentation and wrapping is nice, since the perfect gift needs the perfect package. Nice photos give good views of the projects from different angles.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good Buddies

Mr. Big sends everyone a raspberry.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Big Sis' July Reads 2012

I did a lot of reading this month, contrary to Middle Sis...  It might well be one of my better months in recent history...  I guess since work is actually a bit slow, there's more time to read before, during lunch, and after work, and there were some good vacation days that were productive reading days, as well.

Enough blathering  ---  here are July's books...

XO, by Jeffery Deaver - I do love Jeffery Deaver.  I especially love his Lincoln Rhyme books and even though this was actually a book from Deaver's Kathryn Dance series, Lincoln made an appearance to help solve the mystery of the stalker following young singer Kayleigh Towne.  I love the idea of body language being used to help solve a mystery.  Personally, I rely a LOT on people's faces, their eyes, the sound of their voices, to help me make judgments when meeting new people, or when deciding if I believe them or not...

The Third Gate, by Lincoln Child - Oh, I had such plans to read this book and send it on to Middle Sis for her enjoyment.  After all, wouldn't she just L.O.V.E. a book about an archaeological team trying to locate the tomb of an ancient pharaoh in Northern Sudan?  The pharaoh who united Upper and Lower Egypt in 3200 B.C., whose tomb has been whispered about for years??  Yea, NOT.  The story itself was good, but I was disappointed in the writing.  It seemed a bit disjointed, more so than previous Child books.  There were some cool "special effects," and he came up with a great description of the scene, but it just seemed the usual character development wasn't there. 

Come Home, by Lisa Scottoline - Jill is getting married.  Well, she was until her ex-stepdaughter shows up on her front steps.  Jill's ex-husband is dead, and Abby, one of the two stepdaughters she lost contact with after the divorce, well she wants nothing more than for Jill to fix it all.  She wants to find out who killed her dad.  And although all signs point to it NOT being murder, some things just don't add up and we soon find there IS a mystery to solve.  What I liked the best in this book, and I don't usually credit this to Ms. Scottoline, I LOVED the feelings, the emotions.  Jill loved these girls like they were her own and they were ripped from her life as a result of the divorce, but she soon feels that love again, up front and personal, and her fiance has to come to terms with a child from Jill's past, actually, TWO children from her past...

15 Seconds, by Andrew Gross - Oh, yay!  This was a GREAT read!  It had tons of twists and turns, and it took quite a few chapters before I figured it out, and even then, even when you knew who the bad guy was, you still had to read 2/3 more of the book to figure out how their lives intersected, and then, THEN his daughter is kidnapped...  And that's ALL I'm going to say.  Read this suspense novel!  It was a great read!

The Line Between Here and Gone, by Andrea Kane - I met Ms. Kane at a lunch her publisher threw for her when I used to work at SDC.  She's a lovely woman and I've been a fan ever since.  Another Forensic Instincts story, we have a dying child, a mom determined to save her son, a missing father who doesn't know he's a father, the Mob, and several investigators who have special talents.  I will be reading every one of these (I think this is the second?) - I sure hope there are several more coming!

Between the Lines, by Jodi Picoult and Samantha VanLeer (Kindle edition) - Ms. Picoult's daughter Samantha came up with the basic premise of this story:  what if the characters in your favorite fairy tale actually had real lives outside the story you were reading?  What if things happened when the book was closed and you weren't reading it?  Could a character from a book come to life, in real life?  Ms. Picoult was intrigued enough to decide to work WITH her daughter to write this book.  In all honesty, I'm only halfway through it, so I can't say if the ending justifies the journey, but so far, while it's not one of Ms. Picoult's traditional novels, it's interesting enough to keep my attention and I'll be finishing it this week.  I'll update this entry with some final words later...

Backfire (an FBI Thriller), by Catherine Coulter - This series started off phenomenally well, then seemed to peter out a bit.  It seems to me to be a 50/50 chance that the book will be up to speed, or disappointing.  This one?  While it wasn't as good as the earlier ones, it was good enough.  A judge is shot, the prosecutor from a high-profile trial is missing, and Sherlock and Dillon Savich are called to San Francisco by the judge's wife (they're friends from a previous case), called to SF to hopefully find the person who tried to kill the judge.

I, Michael Bennett, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge - Again, a great opportunity for an up and coming author to have another bestseller under his belt before he goes solo!  I like the character, NYC Detective Michael Bennett, dad to 10 adopted children.  Michael takes the kids and the nanny on vacation to the family cabin in Newburgh, NY.  Of course, a vacation can't just be a vacation or there'd be no story, but in this book, we deal with the attempted murder of one of Michael's boys, the developing relationship and almost demise of said relationship between Michael and Mary Catherine, the nanny, and loads of fast-moving action.

Midnight Promises, by Kay Hooper - Another in the Sweet Magnolias series, we meet Elliot and Karen, now married after meeting and falling in love in a previous novel as supporting characters.  He wants to invest their hard-earned and saved money in a business venture he really believes in, to make their lives better in the future.  He wants to adopt her children, who already love him like the father they never really had.  But Karen can't get over the memory of the debt her ex-husband left her in, where her children had to live with a family friend because Karen couldn't support them, where they had nothing, and nothing was a lot.  A series of misunderstandings, a family friend possibly suffering from Alzheimer's, everyday stresses... is love enough?

Summer Nights, by Susan Mallery - Fools Gold:  Book 8 - I haven't read 1-7, although I do think I read one or two of them because some of the characters and scenarios seemed familiara.  Shane wants a quiet woman, someone who will be content to be a rancher's wife.  A librarian, perhaps?  Annabelle has a history, and all she wants is passion and heat and overwhelming love, none of which she got in her first marriage.  Can this work?  (Hint, hint:  yes, it can, and it's fun watching the fireworks!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Canine Reflections


With the arrival of Golden Boy last year, I decided that the dogs needed new bowls, so I selected some nice, shiny, stainless steel bowls. The cats had and have stainless steel bowls, and the water is always cool, so I thought this might help keep the boys' water cool during this hot and humid summer better than the ceramic bowls the dogs had. I'm not sure abut that, as they drink far more than the cat does, but it does provide the human some fun.

Best part--their reflection in the bottom of the bowl through the water. I'm trying to get good photos of this, as Mr. Big in particular looks amazing, with all his furry whiteness and that black nose in the midst of it. Golden Boy has not as striking a reflection. I'll keep trying to get better photos.

Don't mind the dirty crocheted mat under the bowls. We've had our fourth rainy weekend in a row, which we desperately need, and which I guaranteed by mopping my floor Sunday afternoon. It started raining, literally, 15 minutes later.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Middle Sister Reads in July

Okay, happy campers, it's time again for the monthly book round-up. This was a pretty slow month for me, as I was distracted by updating lectures for my fall class and now the Olympics. This month I dedicated myself to reading and reviewing some upcoming mysteries for NetGalley, all of which are due to be published this fall.

To Hell in a Handbasket by Beth Groundwater  I confess to turning to mysteries set in very cold places when the temperature here is in the three digits, so I had high hopes for this mystery set in Breckenridge, Colorado. The cover is attractive. The book, well, less so. I think the hobby-driven mystery subgenre has pretty much run its course, as our amateur detective is a part-time gift basket maker. Okay, I can see a spin-off from a professional shopper, but really? And she travels on vacation with supplies? She did--she made 'unexpected' baskets for the family of the murder victim and the detective from supplies she had in her luggage, including baskets. I'm shaking my head here in disbelief, maybe because I've been known to forget my toothbrush when I've packed for vacation. This story tries to transcend the cozy genre mystery to one with more grit by having the Russian mob at the center of the mystery, but it just doesn't work for me. I really don't think the Russian mob in the US is going to be undone by one gift basket maker, as the police suggest at the end of the story. But, the depiction of the skiing and the tourist village is nice, the pace of the story is nice (especially the snow mobile chase at the end), and hobby mystery lovers might like this one more than me. Claire's husband Roger was the only character I liked; her daughter is very annoying; and her daughter's boyfriend, while sympathetic, was a bit of a muttonhead. I doubt I'll seek out the first in this series given my reservations about Claire Hanover, but I can see potential within this series with some hard work and tweaking.

A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn The latest Bernie and Chet mystery. Bernie is the human, Chet is the dog, and it's Chet who narrates this series. A cute idea that can get a little irritating after a while, especially when Chet is distracted for the umpteenth time by a scent in the middle of a crucial scene. And frankly, I don't think my dogs are laying around rhapsodizing about my eyebrows, the way Chet does about Bernie ("Bernie has great eyebrows, if I haven't mentioned that already--and eyebrows like his, beautifully thick and heavy, are worth mentioning again--with a language all their own." Location 928, Kindle version). They may think that some days I smell better than others, but that's about it. Nice depiction of a not-so-hard boiled Southern California detective (although there is the requisite fistfight and some car scenes, so the book maintains its hard-boiled detective street cred) and an adult romance that's realistic. I'm mildly intrigued and might read earlier entries in the series if they come my way.

Scone Island by Frederick Ramsey I love a mystery that includes a map or a house plan. Scone Island opens with a map of the island, so it gets props for that in my book (and a great cover). The latest in the Ike Schwartz mystery series, Ike is a retired CIA operative, and in this entry, he's targeted for elimination--only he doesn't know it. Ike and Ruth, his fiancee, have decamped to Scone Island for a completely unplugged weekend where they are completely unreachable by his sheriff's deputies or her university. Unfortunately, that means when Ike's friend Charlie Garland, still with the CIA, discovers that agents linked by one particular operation are all being killed, he can't reach Ike to warn him. Interesting idea--what happens when CIA agents retire, and what happens if someone from their past reappears. A little unbelievable in the end, where two people face off against hired soldiers-of-fortune. This is more a thriller-type mystery, with lots of 'collateral damage' and  some violence, but not gore. My major pet peeve--pages of dialogue without any reference to who is saying what. Given the poor formatting (see below), even if only two people were involved in a conversation, it was often difficult to keep track of which character was speaking. I'm not a fan of this style, or some of the wording (thesaurus- and dictionary-loving me got to learn some new words like gelid, which mystery-loving me is not sure is appropriate for the style of the book). Again, I'm mildly intrigued and might read earlier entries in the series if they come my way.

A general critique for all of these, though--the Kindle formatting is terrible. It's often impossible to tell when paragraphs end and new ones begin, there are lots of inserted spaces, typos, missing words--it's all very shoddy. I don't remember paper galleys (from my many happy years at the bookstore) ever having this many grammatical mistakes and typos. Editors are badly needed for this new format. I missed having my red pencil to whip out to make corrections--it's just not as satisfying highlighting and making a notation. You can't type a flourish with the same kind of aplomb as you can when writing with a red pencil.

Yup, I'm ready for school to start.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Big Sis' June Reads, 2012

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen - I am a fan of Ms. Quindlen and this book is a new favorite.  She reflects on growing old(er); Ms. Q. has reached 60, I believe.  She remembers the past, she predicts her future, she enjoys her present.  I can certainly relate to a lot of what she wrote - this is a keeper; if you want to borrow it, just drop me a line!

The Unexpected Husband:  Jury of His Peers and Any Sunday, by Debbie Macomber - Two for the price of one, folks!  Caroline and Ted meet again, for the first time since high school, I believe, when they serve on the same jury.  Caroline never liked him, he always liked her, and since this is a romance, yay!  They eventually get together!  And in the second story, Marjorie meets Ben when she needs a doctor.  He falls for her immediately but she's not in the market for a husband...  or so she thinks!

Hot for Fireman, by Jennifer Bernard - Our heroine turns out to not be such a heroine:  I have a problem with someone really thinking that setting fire to her family's bar might be the best way to pay off the upcoming loan...  After all, what else would you use the insurance payment for?  I had a hard time wrapping my head around her decision to do this, even though, during the course of the story, she winds up not being "the bad guy..."  Just the thought that she'd even consider it made me not like the story, but it was fun and a quick read. 

Odd Interlude 1, Odd Interlude 2, and Odd Interlude 3, by Dean Koontz (special Kindle only short stories) - These were $1.99 each and they were apparently intended to be a prelude of sorts to his forthcoming Odd Apocalypse.  They were short stories, unique each to themselves, but you really need to read 1, then 2, then 3 or they make no sense.  I can't wait to see how they fit into the new book coming next month.  Little Sis has a galley; just waiting to borrow it when she's done with it.  I LOVE the Odd Thomas series!  Interludes 1-3 are chock full of sci fi, mystery, psychic phenomenon, characters we love, characters we really don't like too much, and of course, one AWESOME bad guy!!!

No One Left to Tell, by Karen Rose - I am a huge fan of Ms. Rose, and I think this might be my favorite romantic thriller!  She's in the same genre as Ms. Johansen and Ms. Hoag (two of my all-time favorites, as you know!) and this one?  This one is her best, I think!  Paige witnesses the death of a woman related to a case she's working on, and realizes the victim's fiance is in prison for a crime he didn't commit.  Paige and Grayson work together to solve this whodunnit, and by the end, after several twists and turns and numerous more murders, we finally find out who the bad guy really is.  This was a long, thick book and I loved every page!!!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Middle Sis' June 2012 Books

Well, a large part of my recreational time in June was spent reading The Mill on the Floss, which I am still only two-thirds through. My book group begins another title tomorrow (Thomas Hardy), so I may or may not finish this one. Well written, some interesting characters, but interminable. I feel terribly guilty at not having finished it. I have no idea why I can't.

I did spend some time monitoring a county crew this month, so I had a chance to get a lot of fast reading in on my down time (Mill was on my Kindle, which is not excruciating heat friendly). Forthwith:
  1. It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh. How to declutter. I am happy to say that according to his quiz, I am one of those few who are not buried under clutter. But I do have some closets that need to be cleaned out and some bad housekeeping habits I need to break, so this very fast read may not (hopefully) have been in vain. (library hardcover)
  2. Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo. Very fast, fairly engaging read. This reader wanted to smack the heroine upside the head after about the fifth time she said that Austen's books had led her to believe that everyone has their happy ending (I'm not sure what Jane Austen she read; the one I've read had plenty of characters fail to have happy endings.). I had a whole page of detailed notes or comments. My dog ate it. Just as well, I guess. Printed on nice paper and very few typos. Good beach read, even if I read it sitting on a bucket on the side of a broken sewer line. Oh, glamorous life. (present from Lil' Sis)
  3. P Is for Peril by Sue Grafton. Kinsey Milhone in yet another mystery where she's not sure she likes the people who have hired her. Interesting twist at the end that I really didn't see coming. As with every alphabet title, recommended. (extremely old galley from Big Sis)
  4. The Spirit Woman by Margaret Coel. Mystery and murder surrounding academics trying to determine when Sacagawea really died. A long-lost memoir could re-write modern history, and make or break academic careers, but someone is willing to kill to keep them from coming to light. Interesting main character is a priest on a Native reservation. He's assisted in his investigation by the only female Native lawyer on the res. It was a relief to see a priest depicted as a decent, honest person, with foibles, but not the devil incarnate. Well written and gripping, but I was completely depressed because every single female character in this book is physically abused by her husband or boyfriend, every single one. Read this just as the congressional inquiry into rapes on reservations was in the news, so it was timely. Not much has changed, sadly. (library discarded book sale paperback)
  5.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Big Sis gave me the whole ebook edition series for my birthday, which is wonderful as I never made it past book 4 when taking the books out from the library. So I'm beginning at the beginning, and am going to try to read one every month or so. Obviously great, but I did see one glaring error: muggle is never defined. They are talking about Draco's snide comments about students who are only half-wizards, and then Harry uses the word 'muggle' but it had never been introduced before, so how did he know that word? I finally will catch up with the rest of the universe. (ebook)
  6. Sweet Shawlettes by Jean Moss. Shawls, my dear gentle readers, are very hot in the knitting and crocheting world right now. Very hot. And let me tell you why--they are super fun to make. I myself have made about 6 or 7 in the past year. This book is a nice addition to the other shawl pattern books out there, but I caution other knitters: there are quite a few cowls and skinny scarves in here, title aside. Some of her patterns are gorgeous and have unique shapes, but there are no crescent-shaped shawls, which are particularly capsaicinesque right now. Big props given for listing the weight and kind of yarn used for each shawl at the back of the book, so that substitutions can be made. Nice variety of shawls from simple to complex should make this interesting for any shawl addict. Gorgeous photos; one model in particular is stunningly gorgeous. (NetGalley galley).
  7. Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor. Only a die-hard knitter would happily read a book about nothing but various methods to cast on and bind off. And boy, was this knitter happy to find this book! Ms. Bestor included some techniques I'd never heard of before. Mucho big props given for telling the knitter when each particular method would work best. Nice photos demonstrating all the steps to each cast on and bind off technique. This book immediately went onto my Amazon wish list. I have other knitting basics book, but they all only have 1 or 2, at most, cast on techniques, and just the standard bind off method. I want this book, badly. (NetGalley galley)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Big Sis' Reads - May 2012

Here we go...  the last of my Kindle reads for a while...

What Doesn't Kill You, by Iris Johansen (Kindle Edition) - Not my favorite in recent years, this one was about Catherine Ling, Eve Duncan's new friend.  It's about her relationship with Hu Chang and John Gallo (Eve's ex lover), and I thought that would hold my interest, but, eh...  So-so...  I was disappointed.  It was still a good read, but it just wasn't good enough, not up to Ms. Johansen's usual...

A Brewing Storm, by Richard Castle (Kindle Edition) - "Part 1 of the Derrick Storm Trilogy" - "A Derrick Storm Short" - One of those special Kindle stories, specifically written to offer readers something in between books, this was okay, much better, say, than the Cherry Adair short I reviewed a few months ago...  Richard Castle did a much better job with this "short" than the other few I've read.  Derrick comes out of early retirement to solve a high-profile kidnapping, along with April Showers....  Yes, Derrick STORM and APRIL SHOWERS.  Despite that, it was still a fun read!

Tuesday's Child, by Fern Michaels - I still have some connections and this ARC (the actual book is releasing June 26, 2012) was okay.  I used to read a lot of her books, but as I've gotten older, I've been much less interested in historical romances, and much more likely to read a modern day romance.  I liked the idea of a middle aged heroine, since yours truly is rapidly approaching those years herself (isn't it funny that at 51-1/2, I seriously don't consider myself middle-aged!?  But that's a topic for another blog post!), and I liked the plot twist...  Mikaela Aulani is a Hawaiian attorney, getting ready to retire, when all of a sudden, "the case that got away" is back in her lap.  The wife of a 10-year murder victim comes and confesses that HE killed his wife and that Kala's client, convicted and in jail for 10 years, is innocent.  It wrapped up a bit too easily, it really needed another chapter or two of plot, but it was okay.

11th Hour, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro - I've spoken before about how impressed I am that Mr. Patterson is giving other up and coming authors a hand...  I LIKED this one!  Lindsay Boxer is pregnant, and she has marital troubles 'til they get better at the end of the book, but I liked the body-less heads in the backyard, the household staff members who are quote obviously suspects, the cool "compound" the suspected bad guy lives in...  Quick and fun read - Mom will love it when I pass it along!

Beautiful Sacrifice, by Elizabeth Lowell - I really thought I was going to pass this one along to Middle Sis - here's the book description, according to amazon.com: 

     According to Maya legend, December 21, 2012, will mark the end of the world as we know it. Is it myth . . . or will their prediction become reality?
     Archaeologist Lina Taylor has devoted her life to studying ancient Maya artifacts, splitting her time between digs in South America and the classroom teaching college students. But the professor's structured, academic life is about to spin out of control. Some extremely valuable and important Maya artifacts have gone missing. Are the culprits fanatics determined to create chaos and usher in annihilation?
     Helping out a friend, former immigration and customs enforcement officer Hunter Johnston is determined to recover the missing pieces and he needs Lina's help. A man used to calling the shots and working alone, he isn't comfortable letting anyone get close, especially a beautiful and brainy woman like Lina. His gift for reading people tells him there's a lot going on below that professional exterior, and he's more than a little curious to probe her depths.
     Burying herself in her work, Lina's had little experience handling men, especially one as fascinating and exasperating as the secretive, headstrong Hunter. A devoted archaeologist, she has the skill to excavate those protective layers all the way to his core.
     But finding the missing artifacts is only the beginning of a mystery that will plunge these unlikely partners into adventure, romance, and danger more thrilling, sensual, and deadly than either of them knows. . . .

BUT, the book, the story, it was disappointing.  Not enough Maya stuff for sis, an okay whodunnit, but not Ms. Lowell's best.  I read a LOT of the book before I cared at all about the characters - I didn't like Lina or Hunter until halfway through the book.  A lesser reader might have given up long before that point...

Vortex, by Cherry Adair - Another in the Cutter Cay series of books, I liked it.  Logan saves Daniela, Daniela helps Logan find the treasure he and his salvage company are looking for, Logan saves her again from her criminal cousins plus other assorted bad guys from her past...  It was a quick and fun read, and you don't have to have read the previous Cutter Bay novels to get it - you would just know Logan's brothers when they're mentioned...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Middle Sister's May Read

Yup, May read. Singular. Not plural. I read one book in May.

Oh, I've been reading. I started "The Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot for my book club on May 1. I'm still reading it. I'm only one-third the way through. Here's the kicker--I like the way Eliot writes, her descriptions of the Dodson sisters is hilarious, and yet the book is moving so slowly, it's like walking though molasses. I've been told by a fellow book club member it will pick up, so I'm plugging away at it. I needed a break over the holiday weekend, however, so I started "Harry Potter" number 1 (thanks, Big Sis!).

But I did read a book loaned by a friend, so here's my impressions of Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan. It's a young adult novel, aimed at the 10-13 crowd. Naomi and her brother live with their great-grandmother in a Gulf Airstream affectionately known as Baby Beluga. When Naomi's mother reappears after many years, family relationships, Naomi's self-confidence, and a journey through emotions as well as Mexico change everything. A delightful, quick read in which the characters wind up in one of my favorite places: Oaxaca, Mexico. Naomi is an unusual girl of unusual talents, and many girls her age would find her a sympathetic role model. I love how the author didn't sugar coat Naomi's mother, or make Naomi blind to her shenanigans. Kids deal very matter-of-factly with things that adults sometimes think it's best to hide from them.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Nandina blooms and a Lone Harison's Yellow Rose

My Nandina domestica is also blooming now, it's little spikes covered in white flowers. These will produce red berries later this fall. My real fondness for this shrub is that after the first frost, the leaves turn red. What a lovely splash of color during our harsh, brown winter.

And this week, the one bud on my Harison's yellow rose bloomed. Last year it also had only one bloom. I've stepped up my watering schedule, so it now has a three-inch second cane growing next to the 2.5-year-old original cane. Hooray!  While this is not a graft from the original bush from the old family homestead in Newfoundland, NJ, a graft of which grew at my grandfather's house and which my dad transplanted to our house (I've failed miserably every time I've tried to transplant some of it out here), it is, at least, the same old rose that's been in our family almost as long as its been here in the States. And so while not the same bush, it still makes me feel connected to the family.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pretty Fern

My asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus) is blooming.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

B at the Lake

Adorable photo of T's dog, B, at the lake at the local park. He's looking pretty grown-up, even if he is still a teenager.