Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Challenge: Review- Silent Nights by Anne Perry

Another Christmas book for my challenge.  This one actually consisted of two separate 'novellas' each featuring one of Perry's secondary characters from her William Monk and Charlotte Pitt series.

The first, A Christmas Beginning, features Superintendant Runcorn from Perry's William Monk series.  We see Runcorn arriving on a bleak island off the coast of Wales to spend his Christmas holiday.  There he discovers the secret love of his life whom he met working a case  in London, and further discovers a dead body in the Church yard shortly after his arrival.  In very UN-Runcorn fashion, he treads delicately with the local constable as he helps solve the murder.  There was a completely unexpected ending (in the very last sentence of the story) that really blew me away.  I enjoyed getting to know Runcorn better--I've been a fan of the Monk series for years, and feel I know him better now that this case is finished.  It will be interesting to see if Perry takes these personality developments further in future books in the Monk series.

The second story, A Christmas Grace was a real stretch.  It has Emily Radley (sister of Charlotte Pitt- another of Anne Perry's series) spending her Christmas in very rural Ireland, nursing her dying aunt from whom the entire family has been estranged for years.  I found this story awkward, with the characters very cardboard, and the plot really contrived.  I had to force myself to finish it because frankly, it just wasn't very interesting...

I like Anne Perry's works, but the Christmas stories (I've read 3 now) seem to be quickies thrown together without a lot of thought. I'll try one more next year, but after that, we'll see............

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reading Weekend wrap-up

What a great way to recover from pies, pies, pies and more pies.  The weather cooperated by giving us a horrendous Nor'easter (no snow just rain) that meant nobody wanted to go out to do anything, except stay home curled up with the cats in front of the fire.  So for the weekend, I managed to get through:

New Yorker staff writer Calvin Trillin gives us a fun little book about the eating adventures of a true gastronome, and his wife Alice who believes life should be strictly limited to three meals a day. Trillin takes us on a series of trips to France, Montreal, Omaha, Kansas City (his hometown), San francisco, Baltimore, and New Orleans among others. His attempts to experience food has him flying in tamales from New Mexico, barbeque from Kansas City, crab etouffee from New Orleans, crabs from Baltimore and other such delectables.

Reading this the day after the Thanksgiving Day feast was perfect. I could read it and not feel that I HAD to track down some of these feasts. Otherwise, I'd have been on google looking up home delivery!

For all who enjoy food, and humorous writing, this is a treat. As one of the last books in my Food category for my 2nd 999 challenge, it was really fun. Bon Appetit!

I picked this up last year, but never got around to reading it.  Several LTers have indicated it was a good read, and I second the motion.  It is a gentle, loving, easy to read, tear-jerker.  A wonderful story to read with youngsters, and remind us all what Christmas is really about.  A great way to kick off the Christmas season on a gentle reading weekend.


Subtitled The story of a boy's hunger, this is the story of a young boy whose mother was (to put it gently) not the greatest cook in the world. As he describes the horrors of the food she made, he manages to highlight the relationship of food to love in our lives.

While he has always been interested in food and cooking, his father did not allow him in the kitchen, so when his mother dies and father must take over the provision of meals, life becomes even more dire. After dad hires (and later marries) a cook/housekeeper, the food gets better, but life somehow does not. In fact, the family is uprooted and moved halfway across England to establish a more uppity lifestyle to please the 'new mum.'

Later when he gets old enough to get a job at a pub, and then a posh hotel, he realizes his calling in food prep. His father's death brings everything to a boil, severs the link with bridezilla, and provides Nigel with the impetus to go to cooking school and take up his true vocation.

I 'read' this one as an audio while preparing our leftover Thanksgiving meal. I loved hearing the British terms for foods --had to go look up a few--and laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes in a few places. It really brings out the role food (and in Britain the role of TOAST) plays in our lives, and how our relationships with food providers are formed so early in life. An enjoyable read--it's as much a coming of age bio as a food event-- even if you're not a foodie.

A sweet story focusing on talking Christmas ornaments.  A bit over the top for adults, but it's designed to be read, one chapter a night, starting on Dec 1st through Christmas Eve.  I personally think there are far better Christmas tales to share with children.  I just couldn't help thinking that it would make a great 1/2 cartoon TV special for the holiday season


I'm about 1/2 way through this delightful story of three generations of women living in rural North Carolina in the early part of the 20th century.  I'm already in love with all of them and can't wait to see the story progress.  This book was thrust (literally) into my hands by one of our library patrons, who imperiously demanded that if I hadn't read it, I must, because it was probably the most beautifully written story she'd ever read.  Well, so far, she's not too far off the mark.  I'll probably be up late tonite finishing it.  A beautiful way to finish up the weekend.

Many thanks to Jenn for starting this tradition.  Maybe we should do it again sometime.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankfully Reading Weekend

Beth Fish at Book Blog Social Club posted about this wonderful opportunity started by Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves.  Beth has links to it all.  I found this one to be a perfect way to unplug for the weekend (don't worry-I'm unplugged---this one was scheduled ahead of time) and catch up on all those end of year reads I need for various challenges.  I'm also planning to spend some time getting organized with hubby for the upcoming Christmas holidays.

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving weekend continues to be restful, delicious, and affirming.  Why is it that Thanksgiving's leftovers are so much more delicious than any others during the year?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving....the mere word always brings to mind holiday, food, family, football, Pilgrims and Indians, turkey, cranberries, piles of leaves, pies, long winter naps, the best dishes, and cloth napkins.

More than any day of the year, This is the one time we stop to take account of our matter what religion we profess (or not), not matter where we live, we take the time to say "Thank you" for everything:

  • for life, in all its forms, in all its stages and for its Giver.
  • for family and the freedom to be with them, love them and accept their love in return.
  • for family who cannot be with us physically but who are with us always in our hearts.
  • for food and the ability to be able to provide it for ourselves, our families, and others.
  • for the changing seasons with their message of the earth renewing itself for another growing season come spring.
  • for our ability to worship whom, where,when and how we choose.
  • for our ability to educate ourselves and our progeny.
  • for the freedom to travel, to meet others on this planet and sample the diversity that makes us so wonderful.
  • for books, and the freedom to read them (in whatever format) and the guarantee of access to them.
  • for friends and the affirmation and fellowship they give us.
  • for caregivers who may not have the day free to eat and indulge, but who care for those unable to provide for themselves.
  • for the planet earth with its gifts of life-sustaining air, water, food, and land to live on.
  • for those who are no longer with us, for the love and lessons they bequeathed.
 May we all have a wonderful festive, belly-fulling, reflective Thanksgiving holiday whether we are alone, with family, with friends, or in harms way.
  God bless us all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogger Unplugged

Well, Beth, over at Beth Fish Reads has given us a wonderful holiday gift: Permission to unplug from the computer during the upcoming frantic, hectic holiday period.  My husband will attest that annually, sometime during the next week, I will go into emotional melt-down over
  • Not having my whole family together for the entire 6 week holiday period
  • The tree
    • what size
    • where do we put it?
    • real (we live in Maine for godsakes and have 32 acres of pine trees!!!) or fake (much easier and we don't have to kill one of our babies)
    • How many? (we have enough ornaments to do 5 good sized trees)
  • The baking
    • how much
    • what
  • The presents
    • who to get what for
    • online and send directly to out of town? or shop locally and go thru the hassle (it used to be fun!) of wrapping and mailing
  • Cards
    • Are we going to do them?
    • Do an Annual christmas letter (don't people already know enough from the blog and the Facebook accounts?)
    • who's doing them?
  • Wreaths
    • we have 9 windows and 2 doors - and the wreaths look gorgeous in the snow (we've had a white Christmas every year since we've been here) but we have to take the screens down for the full effect and that's a bummer with my arthritis and the cold temps.  Hubbie has enough to do with all the wood chopping, and other chores, but, they look so pretty...........
  • Finishing my various annual book challenges!  This year except for ARcs waiting review, I'm on track to finish up what I signed up for.  Next year I hope to get a better handle on the ARCs.
  • Events - which caroling parties, tree lightings/trimmings, egg nog parties, Advent wreath makings should we attend.  How much energy do we have.
I suspect some of this angst comes from the darkness of the is totally dark here by 4:30PM and the sun (or should I say daylight cause we don't often see Brother Sun) doesn't appear until almost 7:00AM...makes for a short, jampacked day.

Anyway, my darling daughter, (she who works in the information arena) showed me a wonderful add-on for those of us who use Mozilla Firefox as a browser.  It's a little program called Leech-Block, and you can use it to set specific hours when you are allowed (or blocked) from getting onto Blogs, Facebooks, etc....I've downloaded it, but haven't yet had the courage to turn it on.  I know I can get around it by simply using IE as a browser, but I detest IE, and that would be cheating, so if I can't completely unplug, I think I'll try the Leech blocker.

But thank you Beth. I for one welcome the opportunity to unplug and am challenging myself to do so.  Now I just have to figure out when.............................

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Salon

What a delightful Sunday it was....we decided to drive about 2 hours north to see the Bicentennial exhibit "Abraham Lincoln, Self-Made in America" at the Castine Historical Society in Castine Maine.  This is a traveling exhibit featuring reproduction artifacts from the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield Illinois.  We had both been to the actual Illinois complex many, many years ago but wanted to refresh our memories. What was so special for me however, was the exhibit next door.  The Castine Historical Society is restoring the Noah Brooks library in the Nelson House.  For a book lover, it was a wonderful journey into the past.

Here is a quote from the Bangor Daily News of 11/09/09:

Brooks was a Castine native, born just a few doors away from the Abbott House, the home of the Castine Historical Society, where the exhibit is located. He became friends with Lincoln while he was still in Springfield, Ill., and before he entered politics. Brooks was a newspaper reporter, editor and author who worked in Washington, D.C., and he and Lincoln renewed their friendship after Lincoln became president. He was one of the last people to see the president on April 14, 1865....

Brooks was a welcome visitor to the White House, according to the display at the historical society, and the two met at Lincoln’s office on the afternoon of April 14 to discuss the possibility of Brooks becoming the president’s private secretary. There is some indication that, if not for a bad cold, Brooks might have been with Lincoln at the Ford’s Theatre later that night when Lincoln was fatally shot in the theater.
Although he lived in California for a time, Brooks lived much of his later life in Castine at a home on Main Street. He died in 1903 in California and is buried in the Castine Cemetery beside his wife.
 While I wasn't reading in a salon this Sunday, I was certainly still connecting with books.  Being able to see the role a good library plays in the lives of important people in our heritage is affirming.  And taking a drive through Maine's peninsulas on a crisp, clear, sunny autumn Sunday is downright warm and fuzzy.

Review: The Gods of Newport by John Jakes

John Jakes is a touted master of American historical fiction. He presents stories of various communities and cultures in North America, mixing real and fictitious persons and relying on well done research to set scenes of authentic lifestyles.

Jakes tells the story of a self-made wealthy man, Sam Driver, and his daughter Jenny as they try to break into the very structured and snobby summer society of Newport Rhode Island. The summer set is 'ruled' by grande dames such as the famous Mrs. Astor, Mrs. Vanderbuilt, and others who kowtow to Mrs. A's rules about what is proper, what is forbidden, who is acceptable and who is not.

By introducing a love interest from the wrong class, Prince Molloy, an Irishman who works at the tennis Casino, and who falls for Jenny, we are exposed to life at all levels of society.

As Jenny and Sam try to ingratiate themselves with this group, Prince tries to win Jenny. There are many scenes of violence, back-stabbing, cheating, bribing, whoring, sailing, horse racing, and other instances of life in the late 1800's that paint a clear picture of what Newport was like both for the very rich, and those whose life was to serve the very rich.

NO spoilers, but there is a rather corny ending that will disappoint some, and be enchanting for others. All in all it was a pleasant read. Having lived several years in Newport, (my first apartment was actually on Bellevue Ave!) I found the descriptions of the town and the opulent 'cottages' a wonderful stroll down memory lane

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Malice Prepense

I enjoy courtroom dramas--I think even more than basic detective who-dun-its. Barbara Holloway, the defense attorney in Kate Wilhelm's wonderful series, is really beginning to hit her stride in this episode (it's the third in the series) as she builds a defense for the accused-a real estate mogul  whose wife had an affair with the congressman he is accused of murdering. Barbara was at first hired to defend their severely retarded son (a 20something year old who has the mental capacity of an 8 year old.)  When Barbara finds an eyewitness to verify the boy's alibi, the DA turns to the father instead.

There is a marvelous cast of characters: a polyester clad investigator, a bubbly young attorney helping Barbara, , some truly nasty bad guys, the accused's wife and other grown children, and above all, in an almost equal starring role, Frank Holloway- Barbara's widowed father (the senior semi-retired partner in the firm) who happens to be an avid gardener and very talented cook.

To make it all really interesting, the case is being presided over by a judge who seems to have a real prejudice against the defense, and who keeps restricting Barbara's ability to present information she feels is important.

Finally there's the love interest--the mine inspector whom she hired to get some more detail on what the deceased congressman might have been investigating. His scarred face, laconic sense of humor and questionable past might almost be at home in a pulp bodice ripper, but...this guy has great motivation, his character is well developed, and Barbara falls hard. It's a dynamite story with twists, turns, ups, and downs. I thought I had it solved twice, and was wrong both times. This series is a great one, and I hope that the next ones continue to be as good as the earlier ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hidden In Plain View Thursdays: A Christmas Book by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book
by Norman Rockwell

Welcome to the weekly feature where we use to pick a book from our library shelves (real or virtual) and bring it out into daylight.  To join in, follow the guidelines posted here.

Be sure to leave us a link to your post so we can compare notes. Unlike previous weeks, we won't ask you to try to pick this one off a shelf--it's been hiding in a credenza where I keep the Christmas goodies.  It will come out later next week to reside on the coffee table next to the bowl of nuts and candies.

This is one of my favorite Christmas books.  It has stories, poems, pictures, music, and many beautiful Rockwell illustrations.  We received it years ago as a gift from my inlaws, and it has been a family treasure since then.  If you can find a copy, grab it.  It will be one book that even non-readers will browse through, over and over again.  And it is one book that does NOT translate to the Kindle or to an audio book.

Do you have favorite seasonal books that you bring out for short periods every year?  Be sure to leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Angels, a Pop-up Book by Chuck Fischer

Some people display trains at Christmas, some people build villages, some have hundreds of Santas and elves.  I do Angels.  My late blessed mother-in-law got me started by giving us a set of seven ceramic angels of various sizes and colors and shapes for our first Christmas together.  No matter where we lived as we traveled around the world, those angels came out of their box and we knew it was home, and it was Christmas.  Then several years later, when auntie died (she who left us all her books) we discovered that my m-i-l, (her niece) had given her a set that same year.  So now we have two complete sets.  But in the meantime, I've been collecting angels to add to the scene (they are placed around our creche) from Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Italy, England, Scotland, you name it.

When this ARC arrived today (I was fortunate enought to win it in a giveaway contest) my first thought was that it would make a splendid Christmas gift to our grand-daughter, who also collects angels, but that thought lasted two nanoseconds--only until I opened the first page.  THIS BOOK IS MINE.  It is absolutely breathtaking in concept. I had no choice but to drop everything I was doing and sit down and wallow in its beauty.  The research and descriptions are splendid---they enhance the artwork.
Arranged in three sections: "Messengers", "A Hierarchy of Angels", and "Secular Angels," it has something for everyone.  Whether you believe angels are a spiritual reality serving in the celestial family of the deity, or you think they are simply decorative adornments to art works, this book will appeal to you.

The pop-up format adds considerably to its enjoyment bringing a third dimension to the reader's experience.  In addition to gigantic and detailed two page pop-ups,(they can be seen from either side of the book-front and back) there are tiny side "books" (about 3x4) on the sides with additional pictures and text supplementing the visual sensation. It certainly is not a book to be handed to a young toddler, but a youngster who can sit with a parent, or grandparent, or aunt or uncle and respect a book will be as enchanted as the adult doing the reading.  I'll just give you a peek...then you can go get yours and enjoy.  Here's The Archangel Michael. Fischer's artwork is masterful and can only be believed by seeing it in person. This picture will whet your appetite, but it does not do it justice.

December Giveaway: Exit Music by Ian Rankin

Many thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group for giving us 5 copies of Ian Rankin's latest (and final???) book in the Inspector Rebus series. Originally published in 2007, this is a mass market reissue - I can't wait to get mine.  I've never read any of the series, and I suspect I'm going to be looking for one of the earlier ones very quickly.

Cover blurb from the publisher:

It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.
Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.
Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

About the Author

Ian Rankin is a #1 international bestselling author. Winner of an Edgar Award and the recipient of a Gold Dagger for fiction and the Chandler-Fulbright Award, he lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and their two sons.
Audio and Video

Here's the Rules:

  • Deadline: December 18th.
  • No PO Boxes, US and Canadian addresses only.
  • Leave a separate comment for each item below. Each comment = one entry.
  • Be sure your email is in one of your comments. No Email, No entry.

1. Leave a comment saying whether you've read any others in the series.
2. Leave another comment saying you're a follower (new followers are welcome with open arms)
3. Leave another comment if you read Tutu in a blog feeder, or Google reader.
4. Leave another comment (and a link) if you blog about the contest (sidebars OK)

Sorry, I don't do Facebook, Twitter, or any of that other stuff.  These four will get you four chances.

Wednesday Earplugs- the Weekly audios

It's been a few weeks since the last update,  but I haven't been listening as much as I used to.  During our recent road trip, I had over 20 books loaded up on my MP3, but found I was really having trouble finding any that appealed to me.  I had forgotten to transfer the one we really wanted to listen to in the car, and we ended up doing a lot of talking and/or sleeping when it wasn't our turn to drive, so the earphones are just getting resurrected.

I did manage to finish

An Irish Country Christmas
by Patrick Taylor
narrated by Jack Keating

A thoroughly enjoyable cozy read about two doctors who love their patients, who live in a big rambling house with their surgery in the same building, who are lovingly cared for by one of the most delightful characters- Mrs, Kinky Kincaid- I've met in a long time. Both docs are suffering from unrequited love, which lends some depth to their characters and the story. Not great lit, but a fun read, and it certainly got me in the mood for thinking about the upcoming holidays.  It even gave me a boost to be able to contemplate the holidays without some of my children/grandchildren being able to be physically with us.
Now here's what I had to abandon:

As I previously said, I put aside The Shadow of the Wind,, but based on a wonderful and lively book discussion with friends in Florida while we sat on the beach eating great seafood in St Augustine, I'm going to try to finish this one.  She said she had the same reaction in the center of the book, but indicated that it was definitely worth finishing.  So I'm going to move that one back to the front burner.

A Family Affair
by Rex Stout
narrated by Michael Prichard

Since we own almost everything Rex Stout ever wrote, I was determined to read at least one Nero Wolfe mystery this year.  Many of my LT friends think these are wonderful books.  So when I saw this on the rack at the local library, I grabbed it, thinking it would be something great to listen to on the trip.  I cannot for the life of me see why anyone wants to listen to, or read about, a pompous overbearing egotist who thinks he is so wonderful that there is a new solar system of which he is the center.  I stand ready to be proven wrong, but this one didn't work for me AT ALL.

Death In a Strange Country
by Donna Leon
narrated by Anna Fields

As most of you know, I really enjoy this series.  The problem with this audio was the narrator.  All the other books I've listened to have had marvelous narrators who read with a decent Italian accent when it was called for.  Ms. Fields slaughtered the perfectly beautiful Italian, and it was too painful to listen to.  This one is still on my list to be read, but my eyes will have to supply the words to my brain on this one.
I'm currently listening to Malice Prepense, a Barbara Holloway courtroom drama, by Kate Wilhelm.  Like her others in the series, this one is terrific.

Before next week's post, I'll try to finish Shadow in the Wind, but I also have plans to listen toShepherds Abiding by Jan Karon (I know I'll like that one- I read it every year for Christmas), and one of many others that look appealing.  I'll suprise myself (and you my readers) by picking something different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Christmas Challenge

Michelle, The True Book Addict has challenged us to read Christmas books during the upcoming holiday season.  The link to the challenge is on her page.  It's quite simple, you have to read 1-3 books (no kiddie lit allowed) about this wonderful holiday.  Then blog about it and link it to her page via Mr. Linky.  Get over there and sign up.  It will give you something fun to do during these next few stress-filled weeks.

I've been doing a Christmas books category for my 999 Challenge on LT. Here are some of the books I've read or plan to read to complete the 9 for that challenge:

A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry
The Christmas Cookie Club by Anne Pearlman (see my review)
Secrets of a Christmas Box by S. Hornby
The Gift of Murder (An anthology of Christmas mysteries being sold to benefit Toys For Tots)
Murder for Christmas (another anthology edited by Thomas Godfrey)
The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne
Maigret's Christmas - a collection of nine stories by George Simenon
Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor (see review)
And one of my all time favorites.......Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon.

So.....have you started yet?  If not, put a log on the fire and forget the wrapping, decorating, baking for awhile each day.  Give yourself a gift....Where's the eggnog?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Road trip : I'll never catch up!

Now that we've arrived home safely, and the check engine light is off (it was on almost the whole way to Florida), we are slowly unpacking, reading mail, logging in all the new books that arrived while we were gone, and trying to relax, and catch up.  My blog feeder may go into shutdown--there are 1098 posts waiting for me.  I refuse to try to read blog posts on a Blackberry, and altho I had my laptop with me, I had very little free time, and used that to do actual reading. I finished 4 books while we were gone and abandoned, set aside, or am otherwise into another 4:

Finished Sarah Graves "Dead Cat Bounce"and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, a good chunk of Nancy Atherton's "Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon", The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel, and I was halfway through Banana Yoshimoto's wonderful little tome "Kitchen" when I LOST THE BOOK.  (loud booing, hissing, jeering permitted). I have just sent an email to the friend in whose wonderful sleep inducing guest bed  I slept when it was last 'alive' to see if I lost it deep in the covers. It's a tiny book and easily misplaced. I was really getting into it and was within 2 hours of finishing it. WAH........

I also finished an Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor on audio, decided to set aside A Shadow in the Wind by Carl Ruiz Zafron, but will be picking it back up later this week based on a recommendation from one of the friends we visited in Florida.  Right now I'm listening to Malice Prepense, a Barbara Holloway story by Kate Wilhelm. 

When we got home the mailbox had 4 books on Afghanistan, 3 more on Somalia (all for hubbie's research on his latest book), and ONLY 4 for Tutu--one I never ordered or asked for that was sent unsolicited by the author (not my taste at all-- it will go to the library's book sale), a copy of Triangle of Deception by Haggai Carmon (also sent by the author at my request), A Better War by Lewis Sorley (hubbie and I are both Vietnam vets and were anxious to read this one, so we bought it from Amazon), and Anne Perry's Silent Nights ( a B&N bargain table book I bought while in DC).  It was almost a relief to be able to say ONLY three....It gives me a chance to catch up.  The ones I've finished are reviewed in separate posts (the links will take you there.)  Stay tuned for more Christmas and food fun as I try to finish my second 999 challenge of the year, and catch up on ARCs. 

The photo is of our home on the beach in Mayport Florida where we lived over 25 years ago...It's still there, but now obviously under renovation.  This was taken about 24 hours ahead of Hurricane Ida.

Update 11/16/09: The missing book KITCHEN  has been found, and is being UPS'd up here by one of my bestest friends. Can't wait to finish it.!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hidden in Plain View Thursdays

Sullivan's Island
by Dorothea Benton Frank

Welcome to the weekly feature where we use to pick a book from our library shelves (real or virtual) and bring it out into daylight.  To join in, follow the guidelines posted here.
    Be sure to leave us a link to your post so we can compare notes.
    Can you find this one?  It's not quite in plain view.

    I read this one when it came out in paperback, and have read all of her books s  If you enjoy Anne Rivers Siddons, or Pat Conroy, you'll definitely like reading Dorothea Benton Frank's delicious fiction set in the low country of South Carolina.  Sullivan's Island, the first of six  novels in the Low Country series tells a story of one woman's search for truth, after she left an unfaithful husband, and unpleasant life and returned to her childhood roots.

    I've read the first two, and I'm looking for more.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Book title meme

    After reading Alyce's post  At Home with Books,  I decided to give this a try. It's a lot harder than you think, but much more fun than some of those other brain feathers games I see on other social networks.

    What To Do: Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

    Describe yourself:  The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon

    How do you feel: Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson

    Describe where you currently live:  16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber

    If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Portugal by Carlos Vittorino da silva Barros

    Your favorite form of transportation: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

    Your best friend is: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

    You and your friends are: A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

    What’s the weather like: Shoutin' in the Fog by Thomas Hanna

    You fear: Bad Blood by Linda Fairstein

    What is the best advice you have to give: There is a Season by Joan Chittister

    Thought for the day: Manana, Manana by Peter Kerr

    How I would like to die: Pawing through the Past by Rita Mae Brown

    My soul’s present condition: So many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

    Some of these are a bit of a stretch, but I did have fun. Join in and send us a link if you want to try it.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

    Normally, I don't have a great interest in witches, witchcraft, or even the Salem history about them.  But this book is so well written that it really has whetted my interest to find out more.  While not exclusively historical fiction, it is fictional and does have as its central theme witchcraft and the question of whether it was responsible for the events that occurred in Salem Massachusetts in the late 1600's.

    Connie Goodwin, a PhD candidate at Harvard, is trying to define the topic she will develop for her dissertation. As summer opens, her mother, living in the Southwest, phones to ask Connie to please spend the summer cleaning out her dead grandmother's vacant but furnished house in Marblehead.  Urged on by an academic advisor whose motives become more suspect as the story unfolds, she begins her dissertation research at the same time she moves to the house. While there, Connie discovers that the house has no electricity, no phone, a mountain of grime encrusted furniture, a collection of filthy bottles, and a jungle-like yard, completely hiding the house from the road. 

    The principle discovery on her grandmother's shelves is a Bible and key.  Inside the key, there is a tiny curled piece of paper with the name Deliverance Dane.  Connie's search for information about "Livvy" Dane leads her to various libraries, archives, auction houses, as she becomes more and more anxious to find Dane's missing 'receipt' book.  In the process, she meets Sam the steeple climber who is an old house restoration expert. 

    Howe skillfully interweaves the story of Deliverance and her decendants -- and the story of her book-- with the present day story of Connie and her immediate antecedants -- and the story of her search for the book in alternating chapters.  We are lead inexorably to a climax where evil, romance, reconciliation, and historical conformation all meet. We are also lead to the ultimate question "Is Connie a witch? Does she possess certain mysterious powers she's only now discovering?"  We are left to decide on our own.  This  was a powerful, emminently readable, and exciting book: one I highly recommend.

    Howe gives us a short but interesting list of sources to get us started on our own quest to find out more. 
    This was an ARC I swapped with another blogger friend who highly recommended it.  Thanks to her (I can't remember who sent it to me) and to Hyperion Books who originally made it available. 

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Road Trip: Grown-up parties

    Warning---this has nothing to do with books, and may bore you to tears if you have no interest in ships or the Navy.  Permission granted to skip over....Week two of our trip is just about done.  We attended the big formal celebration last night to honor former Commanding Officers of Adams Class Destroyers at the Jacksonville Omni.  The food was delicious, the speeches mercifully short, and everyone seemed to have a great time bumping into people we hadn't seen in 25-40 years! 

    My husband is the President of the ACVA (Adams Class Veterans Association) a group that is working to bring the last one of these ships from its current location in Philadelphia where it is just sitting 'in mothballs' to the beautiful Navy city of Jacksonville Fl to be part of the Jacksonville Naval Museum site.  Tonite we will have the official opening of the Adams Class Naval Ship Museum storefront at the Jacksonville Landings.

    It's been a busy week, as all these chronologically advantaged gentlemen climbed ladders, painted, hauled display items, polished their speeches, and subsisted on coffee and sandwiches---just like real sailors.  But last night, as everyone remarked, they cleaned up well, and took their favorite ladies for a swing around the dance floor again.

    I'm looking forward to an end of the festivities.  After our quiet, laid-back Maine life style, the return to the more hectic, 'every minute filled' life is a bit more than I'm ready to handle on any long-term basis.  On Sunday, we're off to drive down to St Augustine to spend 2 quiet days with other old friends before we start our trek back north.

    I for one am looking forward to some snow, a big cat in my lap and a quiet read in front of the fire.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Hidden in Plain View Thursdays

    Cat and Mouse
    by James Patterson

    Welcome to the weekly feature where we use to pick a book from our library shelves (real or virtual) and bring it out into daylight.  To play along check these guidelines.

    Be sure to leave us a link to your post so we can compare notes.
    Can you find it in plain view? Answer at the bottom of the page.

    I've read a few of James Patterson's books, mostly the Women's Detective Club series, but this is another we inherited, along with a substantial number of his works.  According to what I find on LibraryTHing, this is #4 of the Alex Cross series (of which there are 18).  I think I might try one of them in the next year because they are exciting and well plotted.  My problem with the WDC series is that, like many series, they started getting formulaic, and I'm hoping maybe since this is early in the series, it will be OK.  Besides, if I haven't read any of the others, how would I know if it's following a formula?
    From the jacket: That monstrous villain Gary Soneji is back in Cat & Mouse, the fourth book in James Patterson's series about Alex Cross, a police forensic psychologist, but he's not alone. In seeming support of the premise that you can never have too much of a bad thing, Patterson has thrown a second serial killer into the mix: Mr. Smith, a mysterious killer terrorizing Europe while Soneji practices his own brand of evil along the Eastern Seaboard. With two killers to track, Cross has his hands full--and Patterson has another hit.
    By the way, if anyone has read and reviewed this book, please leave us a comment and a link to your review.  We'd love to hear what others have said.  I can't possibly read every book in my library.  That's why I have so much fun with this meme.....I can feature a book on my shelves without feeling like I have to drop everything and read/review it.

    It's hidden in plain view on the middle shelf 3rd  from the left. (and yes...that's Tutu and handsome escort on the right.)

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Review: The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel

    This was quite an interesting read following on the heels of The Christmas Cookie Club. The Recipe Club is a Mercedes compared to Pearlman's Chevy. Recipe Club is a novel about friendship, a cookbook, and a history of the relationship of two women from the time they are in their pre-teens through their mid-twenties; then again after a 20+ year hiatus following "a disagreement", and to the present when they reunite.

    The recipes are numerous and diverse, cleverly woven into the story of Lilly and Val, and their parents. The girls form a Recipe Club, correspond via mail, and help each other throughout their lives, up to the time when Val graduates from college.  They are as different as night and day. Neither set of parents would ever be nominated for parents of the year, and the girls help each other relate to the individual parents by seeing them through the other's eyes.

    The book is written not just as a series of letters, interspersed with yummy recipes but also as emails (when the relationship takes up again in 2000) and also has a section written in normal fiction format.

    It is an elegant, thoughtful, delicious book. You have to love the two characters, although you also want to smack them. You have to wonder how two people who are so different in so many ways, can stay such good friends. And then you wonder as you work your way through the book, what caused the estrangement.

    The ending of the book was quite surprising to me, but I think I should have seen it coming. It's a well-written, well-planned book that will be enjoyed by women of all ages.

    The characters have so much more depth than Pearlman's women, while dealing with many of the same real life issues.  It's amazing to read them back to back and compare.  There truly is no comparison.  If you have to read only one, pick The Recipe Club  You won't be disappointed.

    Edited to add:  One of my LT buddies asked if I had tried any of the recipes yet.  Short answer: No, but.....I'm on the road and have marked a couple to try when I get back.  I realize people will want to know about the recipes, but this book stands alone as a novel....the recipes are frosting on the cake. (Pardon the pun.)

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Amateur female sleuths

    Thanks to my sister Cheli (she of Cheli's Shelves) --aka Queen of the Cozies, I seem to be picking up quite a few 'cozies' featuring amateur detectives who happen to be female. While I can't handle a steady diet of cozies, I think of them as treats to 'cleanse the pallet' between doses of hefty, heavy, depressing, or horrifying reads. The cozy mystery always has a lovable, almost huggable hero or heroine, a plot that's relatively easy on the brain cells, settings that inspire (in fact I've often thought as I finish one of these that I'd love to visit the scene), and believable, almost happily-ever-after endings.

    Here are a few that have tickled my fancy in the past few months:

    Sr. Mary Helen in...........

    A Novena for Murder
    by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

     A sweet and sassy cozy written by a nun featuring a 70 year old nun as the amateur sleuth.  Sent  against her wishes to her alma mater to "retire,' Sr. Mary Helen finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation, helping a former student who is now a San Francisco police detective find out the who and why.

    I went to a school exactly like Mt. St Francis (mine was Mt St Agnes) and our dear Auntie whom you've heard me speak of so fondly lived right where this is set, so I could really relate to this.  Besides, some of the main suspects (and the victim) were Portuguese, so this was a no-brainer for me to pick up and read.  It's not Nobel Prize lit, but it's fun. A nice afternoon's read--perfect for the fog and rain of the San Francisco setting.

     Dead Cat Bounce
    by Sarah Graves
    "Home Repair is Homicide" Series

    This was originally slotted to be a group read by our Read Around Maine group, but that group seems to have dissolved. I decided to read it when I needed something less cerebral than some of the other books on my list. It was actually a delightful little mystery, set in small town Maine, capturing the flavor of the town, the culture of those living by the sea and making their living from the sea. Jacobia Triptee lives in a falling down Victorian house which she is remodeling, has an ex-husband who is the proverbial jerk, and a teenage son trying to adjust to living in a small town after having lived in a big city.

    When the dead body shows up in the pantry, and her friend confesses to the murder, Jake sets out to prove her friend innocent. There are several suspects, and the plot is convoluted enough to make it really interesting. This was the first in the "Home Repair is Homicide Series" and I'll definitely look for more.
    Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon
    by Nancy Atherton

    I've read several Aunt Dimity stories before, and enjoy them alot. I've just started this one and suspect that it will be neither more or less pleasant than those before it.  Lori Shepherd, the mother of twins, moves to a tiny village in the Cottswolds, and there makes the acquaintance of "aunt Dimity" --actually a haunted journal who ''writes" to Lori explaining and/or giving clues to the mystery du jour.  The stories are almost non-sensical, but the sense of whimsey and the pleasant English countryside setting redeems them.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Muddled in the Middle

    Last week when I posted David Carr's delightful piece Stuck in a Book, little did I know that I was about to fall victim of the same syndrome.  I'm currently STUCK in the middle of my audio book "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Luiz Zafon.  It's really a good book, but I suspect that my lack of a real chunk of time to listen and/or read it, is causing me to feel ambivalent.  The writing is so crisp and clear, since I was just in Barcelona 8 weeks ago strolling the very streets and venues featured in this story, I'm really enjoying the scene, and the characters.  It's just that the story does not seem to be going anyplace, and I'm literally falling asleep listening to it. I'm just waiting and waiting and waiting for something to HAPPEN. And it's not.

    So, I am reluctantly putting it on hold and will try to finish it again later this winter.  It's due at the library (as in the dowload rights will expire) in two days, so I'll wait till I can get it again. 

    Although I usually enjoy audio books, I'm really having a hard time on this trip...too many distractions and then I'm too tired. 

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Road Trip: Birthday Books and Bikes

    Road trip part one is now just about complete....we've gotten Mom's computers working, and showed her how to log into the private family blog we set up.  We done Halloween with our son and daughter-in-law, and today we did a small birthday party for granddaughter K who turned 9 on the 29th.  She had an early morning shopping trip with her Tutu and her stepmom, and only wanted to go to the hairclip store and the book store.  We had a wonderful stroll thru the entire children's and YA departments as she explained to us what she was interested in, what she'd already read, and what she didn't like.

    We came away with a Junie B. Jones journal for school, a Beverly Cleary (I forget which one she finally decided on), and another who's title also escapes me.  I had already gotten her Toni Buzzeo's glorious Sea Chest.  When my daughter (her auntie) arrived later that afternoon, she presented Miss K with a fabulous shopping bag of books saying..."These were some of my favorites when I was growing up...I remember Tutu reading them to me, and then I learned to read them myself."  My son (her father) readily agreed to help her read them, but she thought she'd be able to handle them herself.  They included Anne of Gren Gables, The Island of the Blue Dolphin, two poetry anthologies, and Hoot. My mom had sent Mr. Toad and Mr. Frog book plates to be inserted the growing grand-girl library.  A perfect topping for all the books.

    It certainly made this old Tutu feel real warm and fuzzy to see how much the whole family values books and reading, and to hear my adult kids speak so highly of the reading experiences they had as kids. But.........I will have to be honest also and admit that all those books were not to compare with the new bike...AWESOME. 

    We'll just be sure that  in the coming months when it's too dark, cold, rainy or snowy to ride the new bike, she'll have plenty of reading material.  As far as I'm concerned, I can't ask for anything better than that.