Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: A Share in Death

Author: Deborah Crombie
Narrator: Michael Deehey
Format: audio- 6 discs, +/- 7 hrs
Characters: Duncan Kincaid, Gemma James
Subject: murder mystery
Setting: Yorkshire England early 2000's
Series: Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James #1
Genre: police procedural
Source: public library

Here's a great way to ring out the old year, and look forward to the new.  This is the first book in a series.  I'm going to want to read every one of them.  A great british police procedural.  In this first episode we meet Duncan Kincaid, of New Scotland yard, recently promoted to Superintendent detective. Kincaid is vacationing in Yorkshire when he becomes embroiled in a series of murders and attempted murders.  Crombie gives us many suspects, good motivation, a well developed plot, a great sense of place, and doesn't give us enough to solve the mystery until quite near the end.

We also meet, very slightly, Gemma James, Kincaid's detective sergeant who is still back in London holding down the fort while Kincaid tries to avoid the wrath of the local police force who resent NSY's nosing in.

It's a great beginning story, and promises lots more.  I've read another so I know they get even better.  I can't wait to have another helping.

Too bad I couldn't wait until January 1 to count them in 2010 challenges, but there'll be plenty more where these came from.

Challenges: Audio books, Thrillers, Typically British, Support your Library

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Homer's Odyssey

Author: Gwen Cooper
Format: Audio  9hr, 34 mins                            
Characters: Homer the blind cat
Setting: South Beach FL, Manhattan
Source: Overdrive Audio download from public library

While this book is billed as the story of a blind cat named Homer, it's as much the story of his owner Gwen Cooper  and her struggles to come to grips with adulthood, relationships, and life with three cats.

At first I thought it was just going to be another one of these "isn't he a miracle--look, he's blind and he can still function'" stories. But when Ms. Cooper moves to New York from Florida early in 2001, and ensconces herself and the three cats into a 31st floor apartment only 6 blocks from the World Trade Center, you knew what was coming. Her story of the heroic efforts of ordinary people, the mind numbing panic of trying to find out what was happening, and her subsequent rescue of 'her babies' was the best part of the book.

I listened to the audio version of this, read by Rene Raudman.The narration is excellent. I also thoroughly enjoyed the interview at the end of the book with Ms. Cooper and her husband.

Even if you're not a cat lover, this book has enough to offer for everyone.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Challenges - ARC Catch UP

A RC Catch up..........

Well................we all have a stack of ARCs waiting to be read, and several websites are featuring all kinds of challenges with rules to say how to count them.

I'm just challenging myself to catch up on the list below and then STAY CAUGHT UP --that is, no ARC will sit unread for longer than 6 weeks.  At the end of 2010, there will be no more than 10 ARCs or Early Review copies left.

Let's do some definitions:

ARCs are books received from authors or publishers given with the expectation of a published review.
"Catching up" is defined as reading, reviewing and posting the review of the book.

Books won in contests sponsored by bloggers are not considered ARCs unless the rules of the contest specify that a review is expected.

Here's the list of what is sitting on my shelf right now

1. Night Gardener by George Pelecanos
2. Book of William by Paul Collins
3. My Name is Will by Jess Winfield
4. Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
5. Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that redrew the Map of the New World by Douglas Hunter
6. Boy who harnessed the wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba
7. Artist in Treason: The extraordinary life of General James Wilkinson by Andro Linklater
8. Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich
9. Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
10. Maze Runner by James Dashner
11. Lovely Bones by Alice sebold
12. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the present by Gail Collins
13. Who Turned out the Lights: Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis by Scott Bittle
14. Broken Road to disaster recovery by Keifer Bonvillain
15. Triangle of Deception by Haggai Carmon
16. Moonlight in Odessa by Janet S. Charles
17. Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton
18. Exit Music by Ian Rankin

I hope to really get these caught up this year. I'm going to read the new ones as soon as I get them, so the behind list doesn't grow any longer. I am promising myself to be a bit more selective about what books I take on for reviews, and to stop accepting ARCs if I get behind.  It's not fair to authors who want a review to give me a book if I can't get a timely review out there. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Review: Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin

Title: Tooth and Nail
Author:  Ian Rankin
Format: audio: 8 discs (9 + hrs)
Characters: John Rebus
Setting: London
Series: Inspector Rebus
Genre: mystery - police procedural
Publication: 2001, Recorded books
Source: public library

I have another Rankin Exit Music to read as an ARC, and since that is supposed to be the last (#16) in the series, I decided I wanted to read at least one of the earlier ones (this is #3) before reading the last.

Inspector Rebus is a dour Scots detective summoned to London to assist the local police in solving a series of nasty murders by a perpetrator dubbed 'the wolfman' because of the bite marks found on the stomachs of each of the victims.  Not readily accepted (or easily understood) by several of the London team, Rebus has a tendency to stalk out on his own.

We have the divorced wife, the rebellious teenage daughter, a rather straight-laced (as far as Rebus is concerned) London detective, a delightfully rambunctious judge, and a shabby love interest, for backup characters.  A well written plot give us hints of the killer's motivation and identify, but not enough to spoil the story. A good solid police procedural.

I'm looking forward to reading more of these in this series.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: : The Sound of Sleigh Bells

A sweet little  Harlequin type romance set in Amish Pennsylvania.  I received this as an ARC, and it was an easy read during the hectic Christmas season.  The story is the typical girl meets boy, both have chips on shoulder, elders try to matchmake, principals resist matchmaking, etc etc etc.

The character development and motivation are above average for this genre, and the story goes along quickly.  I wouldn't rush out and look for more, but I think lots of people will find it a heartwarming read.

And in spite of the title, it doesn't even need to be billed as a Christmas book.

2010 Challenges - World Religion Challenge

World religions Challenge hosted by Bibliofreak.  There are various levels but.....
4. The Unshepherded Path (Also Known As: The Don't Tell Me What to Do Path): Read as many books as you would like about whatever religions you want.

I have an entire shelf labeled religion, and several on that shelf fit this challenge nicely.  I've identified 3-4 I'd like to tackle during the year, so having the challenge will provide me an incentive to crack a spine or two.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: In the bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Rev Clare Fergusson, retired Army helo pilot, sports car driver, and admitted tomboy, has only been assigned to her upstate New York parish for a week when she discovers an abandoned newborn on the church steps.  The baby has a note pinned to it asking that he be given to a couple from the church for adoption.

Russ Van Alstyne, former MP, has been Chief of Police of the small force in his hometown  since he retired from the Army 8 years ago.  He does not like the couple designated to be the adoptive parents.

When the priest and the policeman meet up, we don't see sparks fly, but the embers have been lit.  Together, they go about trying to find the parents of the baby.  The mother turns up murdered, and the plot thickens.  The Chief wants to pin it on the obnoxious attorneys named in the note, but Clare wants to see the good in everyone and refuses to believe they could have murdered a young woman just to get a baby.  She keeps galloping off on her own; he keeps having to dig her out (sometimes literally) of the messes she gets into.

This is an extremely well plotted book.  We don't really get a hint of the true murderer until close to the end.  There is action adventure (perhaps a bit too much description), the barest hint of promised romance, and characters who ring true.

When I finished reading it, I went directly to the library catalog to discover happily that there are several more in this series.  I can't wait.

edited to add a title to the post duh!!!

2010 Challenges - Medical Mysteries

Twiga at Twiga Blog is hosting a really fun challenge - Medical Mysteries.  Simple rules - read 6 medical mysteries during 2010.  I have really wanted to read some new authors (for me) such as Tess Gerritsen (she's a Mainer by the way) and Kathy Reichs, so when I add another Brother Caedfael and Ariana Franklin's "Serpent's Tale" sitting on my TBR pile, I'm well on my way for this one.

Get out your spyglass and join us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

No books, no bloviating, just a warm and heartfelt wish that the blessings of peace and love that are the true spirit of Christmas will warm you and your family today and throughout the year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas Challenge - Completed

This was so fun, it really shouldn't count as a challenge.  I ended up changing my reading a bit from my initial list because I kept finding such wonderful books out there related to my favorite holiday.  So here's what I finally read ( or in a couple instances listened to):

A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry
The Christmas Cookie Club by Anne Pearlman (see my review)
Secrets of a Christmas Box by S. Hornby
Angels - a pop up book (A fabulous contest win) by Chuck Fischer
Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book
The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne
Silent Nights -by Anne Perry
Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor (see review)
Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon.
Under the Tree by Sue Waggoner (we're going to pass this one around to guests tomorrow -- so fun)

Now I'm going to settle back and wait to see whatever Santa may have left under the tree, and have another batch of fun with "Under the Tree". I hope your Christmas wishes are all filled too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2010-Books Won Reading Challenge

TeddyRose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time has come up with this challenge and I would be ashamed of myself if I didn't participate.  I have 11 sitting here right now and I'm dying to get to them, so having this challenge will spur me on.  This is where we read the books we were lucky enough to win by entering blog giveaways.  I've been especially lucky this year.  In addition to 8 Early Review books from LT (all read and reviewed thank you) there are still this pile so...Here's my List:

Beat the Reaper
Fitzgerald Ruse
School of Essential Ingredients
The Calligrapher's Daughter
Supreme Courtship
Gift of an Ordinary Day
The Woman who named God
A Separate Country
Heretic's Daughter
Sand Sharks

This would put me at the gold level.....and they count toward my TBR and Reading from the Shelves Challenges too.  A couple might even count toward Thrillers and Suspense.

I'm a firm believer in multi-tasking.....

2010 Challenge - Reading from my Shelves

Diane of Bibliophile By the Sea is hosting this great challenge that goes right along with my goal for the year---to read the books that are already on my shelves. I'm going to aim for 20 for the year.  I may have a teensy problem totally fulfilling the rules since Diane wants us to get the books out of the them, sell them, give them away.  My books are like children, so I may not get them out of the house, but I will move them off the specific shelves designated as TBR shelves.  You can sign up over on her page.

I'll be posting titles and a review as I read them......

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: The Mudhogs by Dalton James

I don't read or review many children's books, but when Bostick Communications offered me a review copy of a book written by an 8 year old, and indicated that this was his third book, I had to take a look.

Dalton James is a very talented storyteller and illustrator.  This young man has presented a delightful story about pigs who are living in a drought and therefore have no mud to roll in.  Piggy, Piggles, and Piglet are a diverse group who are trying everything they can think of to bring rain but to no avail.  They then begin a series of adventures to find rain outside their own town.  After becoming tired of finding no rain and no mud, they return home to discover it's been raining since they left.

Dalton's ending line is spot-on: "They learned that sometimes all you are looking for is at home if you just wait for it."

This young man has an elegant sense of language and exceptional ability to draw the simple pictures that will delight the 3-6 years for whom this story seems best suited.  It's an engaging story, good for library and classroom story hours as well as bedtimes with Mom and Dad.  Bravo Dalton.  I look forward to more books from this budding literary notable.

2010 Challenges - Thriller and Suspense

I'm a absolute fanatic when it comes to this genre.  This challenge, sponsored by Book Chick City  even comes with a list of 38 sub-genres.

I'd love to say I'd read one from each of the 38, but some of them don't really appeal to me.  That however, is precisely the appeal of this challenge.  With 38 different types of thrillers, mysteries, etc. from which to choose, there is something for everybody.

The Book Chick has declared: 
Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010

Check out the details on her post if you want to play along.

Book Chick doesn't seem to have a Mr. Linky up yet for individual review posts so here's my list with links.

1. Death Goes on Retreat
2. A Fountain Filled with Blood

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Sicilian Tragedee by Ottavio Cappellani

Not a book for everybody, particularly the homophobic, this is one of the funniest, most original I've read this year. Cappellani gives us a cast of characters that seem to have come from "the Sopranos", "Soap", and "The Birdcage". There are competing mafiosi, bitchy wives and mistresses, divas and queens (of both genders), contessas, barones and other assorted broken down aristocrats and enough bumbling politicians to populate a good sized congressional committee staff. And you have to love every one of them.

I've spent several weeks in Catania Sicily (the setting for the book) and visited much of the surrounding area, so this one was especially fun for me. However, I don't think you need to have been there to enjoy it.

Billed as a farce, and a take-off on Romeo and Juliet (try Romeo and Mercutio as the love interest!!), it involves the courtship of a mafioso's daughter Betty by another up and coming 'business man'.  Betty's father desparately wants to get her married off and out of his hair, and Betty's gay companion Carmine trys to help this endeavor along.  In addition to marrying off Betty, we are treated to the attempts by an over-drugged and highly emotional director/producer (Cagnotto) to find financing and sponsorship-as well as a venue-for his less than standard production of Shakespeare. He must also convince a bunch of aging actors (and one outrageous actress) of the wisdom of his "vision", all the while trying to maintain the affection of his latest lover "Bobo"  When you insert the meddling of the aging and devious Contessa Salieri, you have the ingredients for a true soap opera. Here, for example is her philosphy on giving parties (pg.132):
The contessa says that the guests, before they arrive at the party must be tested: first you make it hard for them to find a place to park, then you make them walk down a dark path lit by candles and (lined) with the gay waiters, and finally, when they arrive, you treat them badly and don't acknowledge their presence.  The Contessa says the point of this is to get the husbands and the wives to quarrel, so that they won't say a word to each other all evening, but will talk to other people out of spite, and then you have a good party.

A murder or two (it is the mafia after all) brings in more 'family members' as the plot keeps twisting. In the end it is a farce so exuberant in its mockery, that I suspect Shakespeare would have loved it.

Be warned: it is ribald, naughty, bawdy, raucous, coarse, vulgar, crude rude and lewd, and probably will be offensive to many (there is certainly a generous sprinkling of the 'f' word) but if you can take it as a spoof, or a glorious Sicilian soap opera, it is uproariously funny.  Yes, I'm Italian, and my father's generation probably would not particularly care for this portrayal except that it's set in Sicily, and for them, that's not quite Italian.  If you're looking for a good belly-laugh and very clever plotting, try this one.  I don't think it will disappoint.

2010 Challenges - War through the Generations: Vietnam

Hosted by Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) and Serena (Saavy Verse & Wit) the  War Through the Generations challenge will focus in 2010 on the Vietnam war.

Both my husband and I served on active duty during the Vietnam War, but we both would like to understand that era a little better. This challenge has the following guidelines:
This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the Vietnam War as the primary or secondary theme.Books can take place before, during, or after the war.  Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.
Dip: Read 5 books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.
Wade: Read 6-10 books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.
Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme.
I'm going to go very easily and only commit to the Dip level. It will be an emotional stretch to go much further than that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2010 Challenges - Typically British

OK , I'm a sucker...I've got plenty of challenges for 2010 already, but who can resist this button.  Since I am also always ready to read a good British novel or cozy or mystery, this is another one I have to sign up for. You can sign up to at Book Chick City.


1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. 

2. There are four levels:

 • "Put The Kettle On" – Read 2 Typically British novels.
 • "Gordon Bennett" – Read 4 Typically British novels.
 • "Bob's Your Uncle" – Read 6 Typically British novels.
 • "Cream Crackered" – Read 8 Typically British novels.

3. Any book format counts.

4. You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone! 

5. The books you choose can crossover into other challenges.

6. If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the link I have set up below with the button to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.

7. If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.

8. There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.

9. Obviously only British authors count!
 Timeline: 1st Jan 2010~ 31st Dec 2010. Only books started on January 1st count towards this challenge.

So for this one, I think I'll stay at the "Gordon Bennett" level for my goal, and hope I get to cream crackers.

2010 Challenges - Audio Books

This is a no-brainer for me.  So far in 2009, I've read 62 audio books, and I'm sure I'll do at least that number again for 2010.  Royal Reviews is hosting this one this year, and I'll be replacing my weekly Wednesday Earplugs meme with a weekly audio book post instead.

Challenge Guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
--Non-Bloggers: Include your information in the comment section.

2. There are four levels:

-- Curious – Listen to 3 Audio Books.

-- Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books.

-- Addicted – Listen to 12 Audio Books.

-- Obsessed – Listen to 20 Audio Books.

3. Audio books only.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Only books started on January 1st count towards this challenge

I'm obviously going for the Obsessed level. !!!!
Look for my first post on  January 6th.  Happy Listening in the meantime.

Royal Reviews is not using Mr. Linky for individual posts.  So I will list the books read for this challenge as I read them, with a link to my post.

1. Death Goes on Retreat
2. A Fountain Filled with Blood

2010 TBR Challenge

MizB's Reading Challenge Blog is hosting this one and it's made to order for me.  I've got to get the guilt level down a bit from all the fantastic books sitting here staring at me screaming "pick me! pick me!"

Here are the rules:

* the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months — you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.
* you should have a list posted somewhere for others to see
* you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, of the current year!!!
* you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).
* audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed
* re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren’t TRUE “TBRs”
* you CAN overlap with other challenges.

So here's my list (subject to change thru midnite Dec 31st);

1. Beat the Reaper byJosh Bazell
2. Fitzgerald Ruse by Mark de Castrique
3. School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
4. The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
5. Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
6. Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir by Katrina Kenison
7. The Woman who named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths by Charlotte Gordon
8. Amigoland by Oscar Casares
9. A Separate Country by Robert Hicks
10.When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
11. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
12. Property by Valerie Martin

Now the challenge allows a list of 12 alternates (in case the fancy doesn't strike to read from the first list) so here are my alternates:

1. The Love Letters by Madeline L'Engle
2. The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst
3. Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
4. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
5. Here If you Need Me by Kate Braestrup
6. Death At La Fenice by Donna Leon
7. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
8. Alligator: A Novel by Lisa Moore
9. Journey to Portugal by Jose Saramago
10.In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
11. The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets by Bill Moyers
12. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

If you're fixin' to clean out some of that TBR pile to make room for more, mosey on over to MizB's and sign up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance

One of my favorites has always been J.P. Beaumont, the irrascible go-it-alone homicide detective who has retired from the Seattle PD to join SHIT-- the Washington state Attorney General's  Special Homicide Investigating Team. I also have enjoyed the Joanna Brady series about the sheriff in Arizona married to a writer, mother of a teenager and a one year old.

In a previous story, Partners in Crime, author Jance had these two law professionals working together in a story that was very exciting. This 2nd attempt to pair them on a case just doesn't do as much for me. I found it very off-putting when each chapter switches back and forth constantly between in Seattle and Arizona.

Beaumont is investigating the brutal murders of 6 unidentified (and badly burned) females, while Joanna is trying to solve the murder of an ATV park manager. I could see almost from the beginning where the story was going, but Jance took so much time backfilling the history of each of the protagonists, that the current story almost took a back seat.

Her characters seemed almost cardboard in this one, and the story seemed contrived to try to fit them together. These two characters are strong, likable, and have great stories to tell on their own. I hope Jance sticks to two separate series and doesn't try to force this relationship too much in the future.

Winners- Exit Music

Thanks to all of you who dropped by to enter for this drawing. has
selected  the winners and they have all been notified by email this morning.  They have until Tuesday Dec 22 to get me their mailing addresses.

SO TA DA!! Without further ado, here are the lucky winners....

Congratulations to all.

2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

J.Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog is hosting this wonderful challenge this year.  Of course, you know this one is dear to my heart.  Last year 49% of the books I read came from a public library, and I plan to keep my reading at that same level this year.  Here are the rules J. Kaye has set out:

There are four levels:
--The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.
--Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.
--Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.
--Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)
  • Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.
  • No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
  • Crossovers from other reading challenges count.
  • Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.
I'm aiming for the "JUST MY SIZE" - 50 books from the library is very do-able for me.  I'm really going to try very hard to read at least one I already own for every book I bring home from the library. It's just that I see so many wonderful recommendations, and I love the downloadable audio books our library offers ( I don't even have to leave home!).  What a wonderful treat for our towns though to know that the public library can get anybook they want.

Hmmmm.....which one should I put on reserve?  If you want to join, go to J. Kaye's post here and join in the fun.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 Challenges - New Year's Resolutions?

I've been thinking, and pondering, and making lists, and checking them twice, and changing them, and re-arranging them.  It's the end of year angst over what am I going to read next year?  Am I going to join a challenge, lay down one of my own, ignore them all and read whatever pops into my hands? Not an easy decision for someone like me. Last year I met all my challenges, and wanted more.  I've seen so many proposed for 2010, I can't seem to make up my mind. I like all kinds of books, in different formats, a broad spectrum of genre, and I usually am reading 3-5 at a time.  Come Dec 31st, I suspect my total for 2009 will be around 175-180.  Not bad, but in reading them, I managed to put another 228 on my TBR pile--some I bought, some are on the wish list and some are on the 'look for them in the library' list.

Last year on LibraryThing, I completed two 999 challenges, and that group has proposed that this year -2010 -we read across 10 categories - we get to pick how many books we want in each category.  I love this one, and have decided to pick 10 different challenges as my ten categories.  So from now until the end of the year, I'll be posting about the various challenges I've joined and how I plan to meet them.  Many of them allow overlaps, so it won't be too bad.  If you belong to LT, I'm 'tututhefirst' and I have a thread already set up on the 1010 challenge.  Drop by.

To my loyal blog followers, I hope you'll join me on some of these--it's going to be a very interesting year. For now, my biscotti are due out of the oven.  Ciao!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The envelope please

After reading 175 books this year, it was hard to narrow down to choose the best.  I read some really good ones, and a few dogs. But the overwhelming feeling here is that it was a very successful year for reading, and for getting to know some great fellow readers. The list here is my personal judgement of the best books I read...they may not be on someone else's list, but these are my award winners. So without further ado...the envelopes please.

Best Children's or YA books:
    Sea chest by Toni Buzzeo
    The Secret Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Best Fiction
   Sacred hearts by Sarah Dunant
   Saudade by Kathleen Vaz
   Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Best Mystery
  Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
  Rizzo's war by Lou Manfreda
  Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Best Non-fiction
    Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris
    The Dark Side: the inside story of how the War on Terror turned into a war on American Ideals by Jane  Mayer
    Night by Elie Wiesel
    The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
    Rule Number Two by Heidi Squier Kraft
Best Short stories
    The Blackford Oakes Reader by William F. Buckley, Jr.
     Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett
     Our Lady of the Artichokes by Kathleen Vaz
Best poetry
     Dante's Divine Comedy - The Inferno
Favorite new authors discovered this year:
Andrea Camilleri - the Inspector Montalbon series
Donna Leon - the Commissario Brunetti series
Kaye Gibbons
Deborah Crombie - Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series

How does your list stack up?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Earplugs- the Weekly audios- Dec 16th

Here's the weekly wrap-up of the wonderful ear reading I've been doing. If you haven't yet indulged in this pleasure, I hope you take some time during the upcoming year to try it.

Now You May Weep
by Deborah Crombie
narrated by Michael Deehy

A well plotted mystery featuring Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid.  Gemma goes off on a 'cooking holiday' with her friend Hazel, who, unbeknownst to Gemma is secretly working up toward an assignation with an old lover.  When lover-boy is murdered, Gemma discovers the body and then must bite her tongue and sit back while local police handle the case.  The characters in this delightful story are richly done.  There are motivations and opportunities aplenty so the reader is presented with several possibilities for who dunit...The audio was particularly charming.  Narrator Michael Deehy does an outstanding job with lush Scots accents, stirring recitations of the poetry that opens each chapter, and a clear easy to listen to style. 

I'm heading right to the library for more of this series..

The Johnstown Flood
by David McCullough
narrated by Ed Herrman

This was another audio I listened to these past couple days as I baked cookies and took a long car ride to an Army-Navy football game party (GREAT GAME!!!).
It was so good, it deserved a full review which I posted yesterday.


I have several great ones on deck for the coming busy wrapping, baking, tree trimming can see them on the sidebar. 

Where's the eggnog?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

On May 31, 1889, the town of Johnstown Pennsylvania experienced a near biblical flood, caused by a dam failure in the valley above the town. David McCullough, as usual, does an academically sound job of bringing tons of research together into an interesting account to help the reader understand all the complex variables that contributed to this well-known, but often misunderstood disaster.  Ed Herrman, the narrator keeps the story moving with his wonderful news reporter voice, and a perceptible personal interest in the story.

Before reading this, I knew only that the town of Johnstown got washed away in a flood, and I remember images (paintings perhaps?) showing train locomotives floating in an ocean of water and debris along with bodies and houses.  I believe I was taught that a dam burst, and washed everything away.  End of that history lesson.......NOT

McCullough traces the building of the dam, the decisions made about how certain engineering feats were handled (or mishandled), lays the groundwork for explaining what really happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent it.  By weaving these facts with historical accounts from survivors to portray the human toll taken, McCullough gives us an almost eyewitness account.  It is a masterful work, particularly considering it could have been very boring.

The entire time I was reading/listening to this, I kept thinking of New Orleans and FEMA and the disaster that followed the disaster.  The people of Johnstown and the surrounding area could have taught FEMA some interesting lessons.

Highly recommended for anyone wanting to know more about the flood that cost so many lives, the events leading up to it, and the aftermath.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Grocery Lists

People on LT have left comments on my thread similar to Caite's on my Milk, Vodka, Eggs post.  I have to agree...there is nothing more frustrating that taking inventory, planning menus, trolling through the coupon pile, making the list, double checking with others in the household, organizing the list by aisles, (or categories)  etc. and THEN LEAVING THE #)($*% THING HOME!!!!!

Just after Thanksgiving every year, I retrieve the cookie box from the attic ( I have all my favorite Christmas cookie recipes stored in a separate slip case) and spend a quiet evening sipping eggnog and deciding which cookies I'm going to bake, for whom, how many etc.  Then I make a list of how many eggs, how many cups of flour, sugar, milk, shortening, butter, etc, what extracts, spices, jimmies, sprinkles, paper liners I'm going to need, figure out what I already have in the pantry, and proceed to make THE LIST.

This year, when it came time to go shopping (the big store where I do this kind of shopping is an hour away and requires A TRIP), I couldn't find THE LIST.  My husband kept saying "Oh, you know what you need, you'll be alright" but I refused to budge without that list.  I knew WHAT I needed, just not how much.

How was I supposed to remember that I needed 4 lbs of sugar and 8 lbs of flour, (or was it 8 lbs of sugar and 4 lbs of flour?) or 28 eggs, or 6 lbs of butter and 5 lbs of raisins, or cinnamon, colored non-pareils, 10x sugar (2 lbs), etc etc etc....?

Then I remembered that I'd actually sorted out THE LIST on an Excel spreadsheet and saved the file..and I did go shopping with the list (and returned with it too!).  Now I just have to bake all of them, and get them in the mail to the relatives.

Oh...and after all that...the store didn't have any parchment paper ..........

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mini Review: Milk, Eggs, Vodka

A quick  fun read I had on my list for my food category in the 999 challenge. Keaggy has collected used grocery lists, and assembled them, along with funny, snarky, and insightful comments on who might have had such lists. The book actually shows the lists, with the bad penmanship, the eclectic assortment of paper (or wood chips) used to write them, and the abominable spelling. It was a quick and fun read...definitely not worth buying, but if you see at the library grab it for an enjoyable hour.

The author even has a web page with a downloadable master grocery list that looks kinda cool and a web site where you can submit your list if you think it's worth sharing.  All in all, a fun concept.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hidden in Plain View Thursdays - Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Summer Sisters
by Judy Blume

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.

I picked this one up at a book sale last summer, mainly because I was attracted to the Martha's Vineyard (New England) setting.  I like Judy Blume, and think this one looks like one I'm going to put on the summer list for 2010.  Here's what's in the Amazon ad blurb:
In the summer of 1977, Victoria Leonard's world changed forever—when Caitlin Somers chose her as a friend. Dazzling, reckless Caitlin welcomed Vix into the heart of her sprawling, eccentric family, opening doors to a world of unimaginable privilege, sweeping her away to vacations on Martha's Vineyard, a magical, wind-blown island where two friends became summer sisters. . . .

Now, years later, Vix is working in New York City. Caitlin is getting married on the Vineyard. And the early magic of their long, complicated friendship has faded. But Caitlin has begged Vix to come to her wedding, to be her maid of honor. And Vix knows that she will go—for the friend whose casual betrayals she remembers all too well. Because Vix wants to understand what happened during that last shattering summer. And, after all these years, she needs to know why her best friend—her summer sister—still has the power to break her heart....

I'm glad picked this one...sometimes we just need to be reminded......

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wednesday Earplugs- the Weekly audios- Dec 9th

It has been a bummer week for listening...the AV unit in my car went catywhompas and was out of service for almost a week.  I finally got it partly fixed today, but the MP3 and CD disc slot still don't work right -so if I want to listen to a taped book while I'm driving, it's "Too bad, so Sad.."  BUMMER.

Since my listening has been limited to the house or walking outside, it was a slow week.
 Here's the wrap-up:

Excursion to Tindari
Andrea Camilleri
narrated by Grover Gardner

Another in the Inspector Montalbano series. The irrascible detective hasn't improved his social skills one bit, but other members of his team are learning to interpret his moods. In this story, they are looking for the killer of a playboy found dumped in front of his apartment, and tracking down a missing elderly couple who were last seen on a bus trip to Tindari. While at first the cases don't seem to be related, as clues emerge, and with the 'help' of one of the local maffiosi, our crew of brilliant detectives discover that they all lived in the same apt building. 

No spoilers....this is an enjoyable series, and I think getting better with each one. Recommended

About Face
 by Donna Leon
narrated by David Colacci

It seems it has been the week for Italian crime stories.  Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series, set in Venice is one of my favorites.  In this one, Brunetti must deal with corruption in the Carabinieri, his parents-in-law, a once gorgeous model with a seriously deformed face who quotes Cicero at dinner parties, toxic waste, garbage, and of course a murder.  These stories never fail to delight me...and David Colacci's narration and ability to inflect just enough Italian into the English is perfect.

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
by Irene Pepperberg
narrated by Julia Gibson

I also tried twice to get into this one, and just couldn't --it looks like it should be a great story, about a parrot who lived to be over 30 years old and who exhibited great intelligence and ability to learn, but I was just not about to get interested.  So, it's back to the library for now, and I'll look for it in print to see if that makes it more palatable.

So what's in your earphones these days?  Are you taking advantage of ear-reading opportunities while you wrap presents, bake cookies, or shovel snow?  Drop us a comment so we can compare notes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Salon

We got SNOW!!! Just a nice 3-4" dusting that coated everything in crystal clean gorgeous white. Now it looks like winter, and really makes us ready for the upcoming holidays.

So, today, we're unpacking the Christmas angel collection to put up the foyer display, we're making our final baking list, we're watching a football game, and I'm reviewing 2009's reading to prepare my BEST OF THE YEAR list.  I'm also trying to catch up on reading all your wonderful blogs (I'm a week behind), and decide which of all these wonderful challenges I'm going to do for 2010.  Hubby has woodstove duty (and he's very good at it.) In the meantime, I'm listening to a terrific audio (I'll fill you in Wednesday in my weekly post), and periodically sitting down to read a chapter of each of my hard copy books.

Speaking of big hard cover books: I'm really being challenged by one of my current reads The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright.  I got this as an ARC back in late June, and have finally gotten around to feeling like I was ready to tackle its 500+ pages.  It's very deep, pretty interesting, but a bit too academic to suggest as a 'read it in one sitting' book.  Fortunately, it's written in short (3-5 page), well delineated sections so that I can read 15-20 pages at a time, and then put it down.  It may take me until next June to finish it!  So, in the meantime, it will remain in the 'currently reading' slide show in my sidebar, rotating with others I'm reading to lighten the load.

My other true blessing this Sunday is to report that thanks to my son-in-law, I have a huge 'doggie bag' of leftoever REAL southern ham (cooked in Dr. Pepper and crusted with gingersnaps) to have for dinner tonite.  All I have to do is whip up another batch of wicked good southern biscuits, breakout the mustard and cranberry sauce, and dinner is served! 

The sun is out, and it's almost half-time.  We're going to try to get some wreaths up on the windows outside...just keep thinking snow.  For those of us who choose to winter over in Maine, there's nothing better.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

999 Challenge Complete - Part II

As promised, here is the list of the 2nd batch of reading completed for the Other 999 Challenge.  Some of my categories were the same - I love to read mysteries and fiction, some were designed to capture some of the ARCs that were stacking up, and some were simply to meet my need for whimsey.

Category #1: Mysteries

1. Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein.
2. The Girl of His Dreams Donna Leon
3. On What Grounds Cleo Coyle.
4. Mint Julep Murder Caroline Hart.
5. Cream Puff Murder Joanne Fluke.
6. chocolate chip murder mystery Joanne Fluke
7. Murder on K street Margaret Truman
8. The New Bedside, Bathtub, Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie by Julian Symons
9. The Terra Cotta Dog Andrea Camilleri

Category #2: Leftovers - some of these were leftover from my first challenge, and some had to do with food (get the pun?)

1. Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson.
2. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.
3. The Private Patient by P.D. James
4. There is a Season Joan Chittister, OSB
5. Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner
6. The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel
7. Roux Morgue (Mary Ryan, Pastry Chef Mysteries) by Claire M. Johnson
8. Alice, let's eat by Calvin Trillin
9. Toast Nigel Slater
Category #3: Maine/New England - (this was originally setup to be the books we were reading in the "Maine Reads" online group, but that fell apart after the sponsoring newspaper got bought up by 'others.')

1. New England Days:Stories (our American Heritage) by Sarah Orne Jewett
2. Primal Obsession by Susan Vaughan.
3. The Paperwhite Narcissus by Cynthia Riggs
4. Absolute Certainty by Rose Connors.
5. Deadly Nightshade Cynthia Riggs
6. Shoutin' into the Fog Thomas Hanna.
7. Pink Chimneys: A Novel of Nineteenth Century Maine Ardeana Hamlin Knowles.
8. The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo.
9. Last Night at the Lobster Stewart O'Nan.

Category 4: Historical Fiction

1. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
2. The Lady Elizabeth Alison Weir
3. The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys.
4. Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's by Charles A. Cerami
5. Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
6. Saint and the Fasting Girl by Anna Richenda
7. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Elizabeth Howe
9. The Gods of Newport John Jakes.

Category 5: ERs or ARCs

1. Wife of the Gods A Novel by Kwei Quartey
2. Obama's Blackberry
3. The Link by Colin Tudge
4. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
5. Red to Black by Alex Dryden
6. The Rapture by Liz Jensen
7. Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
8. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
9. True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy

Category #6: LT Recommends (books that caught my eye from discussions on LT threads or more LT early review books)

1. Rule Number Two Heidi Squier Kraft
2. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Alan Bradley
3. The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu Michael Stanley.
4. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
5. A Novena for Murder by Sr. Carol Anne O'Marie
6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.
7. Rizzo's War by Lou Manfredo
8. Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
9. A Circle of Souls Preetham Gandhi

Category #7: Surprise!! (not sure what to expect, but give it a try...)

1.The Scarecrow and his Servant by Philip Pullman
2.Little Fingers Filip Florian
3.Guardian of Lies Steve Martini.
4.Moth Lew Griffin Mysteries James Sallis
5.Tea Time for the Traditionally Built Alexander McCall Smith
6.Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
7.a Rule Against Murder Louise Penny
8.Manana, Manana Peter Kerr
9.Dead Cat Bounce Sarah Graves

Category #8: Only Audio

1. Scarecrow Michael Connelly
2. Cemetery Dance Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
3. All Other Nights Dara Horn.
4. Executive Privilege Philip Margolin.
5. Knit Two Kate Jacobs
6. Tunnel Vision Sara Paretsky
7. Inventing a Nation Gore Vidal
8. Death is a Cabaret Deborah Morgan
9. Devil's Claw J.A. Jance 

Category #9: Christmas

1. A Christmas Secret by Anne Perry.
2. The Christmas Cookie Club Ann Pearlman
3. Irish Country Christmas Patrick Taylor
4. Angels: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Fischer
5. Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book
6. Silent Nights Anne Perry
7. Shepherds Abiding Jan Karon
8. The Paper Bag Christmas by Keven Alan Milne
9. Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby

This has certainly been a fun year. Looking back over the list, (parts 1 and 2) I see that at least 30% of what I read I'd have never given a glance to if I hadn't joined LT and this challenge.  The insights, suggestions and encouragement from that group have been such fun, and certainly have expanded my horizons.  Reading ARCs is another new joy I had this year...I tried to accept only those I know I'd be able to get through, but again, I stretched a bit, and wasn't disappointed.

I'm spending the rest of the year browsing through books sitting on the TBR mountain, and the ARC shelves to get myself organized for another great reading year.  We're predicted to get our first snow later today, so after a trip to an early holiday party, I'm hunkering down.

Tomorrow, if I get a chance, Sunday Salon will have some musings on where my reading challenges will take me next year.

999 Challenge Complete - Part I

Last weekend, while sitting and reading through the Thankfully Reading Weekend, I passed a huge milestone by completing my 2nd 999 challenge of the year.  Started as a Challenge Group on LibraryThing, that means 9 books in each of 9 categories read during the year 09.  I did this twice.  Admittedly, I had to fudge a couple of categories to make things fit, but forcing myself to read outside my normal comfort range, and to read (or listen to) 162 books for this was quite a feat.

I have taken this past week to do a wrapup and look at some interesting stats:
Of those 162 books
  • 79 came from the public library (49%)
  • 50 came from my own TBR piles (31%)
  • 33 were ARCs or LT Early Review books (20%)
  • 103 were print (64%)
  • 59 were audio (36%)
Here's the breakdown by categories: (If I reviewed them, my review is in the LT page.)

The First Challenge
1. Fiction -

1. Pawing through the Past- Rita Mae Brown
2. Comforts of a Muddy Saturday - Alexander McCall Smith
3. 16 Lighhouse Road - Debbie Macomber
4. Sarah - Marek Halter
5. Heart and Soul - Maeve Binchy
6. Shape of water - Andrea Camillieri
7. The Red Tent - Anita Diamont
8. Suffer the Little Children -Donna Leon
9. Blood from a Stone - Donna Leon
2. Books about books, libraries, or language 

1. Free for all: oddballs, geeks and gangstas in the public library - Dan Borchert
2. Ex Libris Confessions of a Common Reader -Anne Fadiman
3. Sixpence House - Paul Collins
4. So Many Books, So Little Time - Sara Nelson
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
6. The Library at Night - Alberto Manguel
7. Dewey - Vicki Myron
8. The YellowLighted Bookshop - Lewis Buzbee
9. Soldier's Heart - Elizabeth Samet

3. Things Portuguese

1. Letters of a Portuguese Nun - Myriam Cry
2. Sonnets from the Portuguese - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
3. The Coffee Trader - David Liss
4. Our Lady of the Artichokes - Katherine Vaz
5. Portuguese Irregular Verbs - Alexander McCall Smith
6. Food of Portugal - Jean Anderson
7. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
8. Portugal - Carlos Vitorino da Silva Barros
9. Saudade - Katherine Vaz
4. Theology and Spirituality turned out to be my Lenten read

1. The Prince Mammoth Pumpkin - James Adams
2. Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
3. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith  - Kathleen Norris
4. Misquoting Jesus - Bart Ehrman
5. Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacob
6. Christ the Lord:The Road to Cana - Anne Rice
7. Dating Jesus - Susan Campbell
8. Being Catholic Now  -Kerry Kennedy
9. The Shack Wm. P. Young
5. Politics, History and Biographies
1. The Dark Side: the inside story of how the war on Terror turned into a War on American Ideals -  Jane Mayer
2.The Nine - Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court - Jeffrey Toobin
3.Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the cults of Catholic Europe - Thomas Cahill
4.Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay - Nancy Mitford
5.America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders- Kenneth C. Davis
6. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time - Dava Sobel
7. Great Souls: Six who changed the Century - David Aikman
8. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House - Jon Meacham
9. Dear Fatty - Dawn French
6. Award Winners these could be either the author (for this or another work) or the work itself; might be a Pulitzer, Booker, National or other award.

1. Ship Fever - Andrea Barrett
2. The Blackford Oakes Reader - William F. Buckley
3. Here Lies the Librarian - Richard Peck
4. Night - Elie Wiesel
5. Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin
6. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo
7. The Spellman Files - Lisa Lutz
8. Hard Row - Margaret Maron 
9. A Taste for Death - P.D. James

7. Poetry, Letters and Short Stories

1. The Gift of story, A Wise Tale about What is Enough - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
2. Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn
3. A Few Quick Ones - P.G. Wodehouse
4. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
5. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri "Inferno" 
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & other stories - F. Scott Fitzgerald.
7. Ants on the Melon - Virginia Hamilton Adair
8. Morning Poems - Robert Bly
9. Short And Tall Tales: Moose County Legends - Lillian Braun
8. Books from somebody else's lists

1. The Little World of Don Camillo - Giovannino Guareschi
2. Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Stout  Maine Reads online book group

3. One Man's Meat - E.B. White Maine Reads
4. Any Bitter Thing - Monica Wood  Maine Reads
5. The Girl who loved Tom Gordon - Stephen King Maine Reads
Corduroy Mansions - Alexander McCall Smith
7. On What Grounds - Cleo Coyle
8. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
9. Lobster Chronicles - Linda Greenlaw Maine Reads
9. No place else to put them!

1. Shakespeare:The World as Stage - Bill Bryson
2. Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar - Thomas Cathcart
3. Best Seller! Jane Daniel
4. Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World - Eruc Weiner
5. Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity,Strangeness and Mythconceptions - Leland Gregory
6. Bad Blood - Linda Fairstein
7. The New 50 Simple Things Kids can Do to Save the Earth by the Earthworks Group
8. Delectable Mountains - Earlene Fowler
9. Summer in Tuscany - Elizabeth Adler
The Second 999 and New Challenges
Since this post is getting pretty long, and I've tons of books to read, I'm going to do a second post for the 2nd challenge sometime later this week. After that I'll be choosing my Best of the Year list to publish on New Year's Eve.  In the meantime, I have to decide on and get organized for what (if any) challenges I'm going to do in 2010.  In the meantime READ ON.................