Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: She Walks in Beauty edited by Caroline Kennedy

Author: various, edited by Caroline Kennedy
Publisher Format: Voice (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Subject:women and poetry
Genre: anthology of poetry
Source: originally, an epub download from public library; also my own shelves 
Recommended? - absolutely

When I was in catholic grade school, every year we had a small book entitled "Poems and Pictures".  In Baltimore, we pronounced it "Poims and pichers" but the learning outcomes were the same no matter what we called the book.  It was used to introduce us to the best and most memorable works of poetry and art, and was always one of my favorite subjects.

In she walks in beauty, Caroline Kennedy has given us a beautiful anthology of poems to illustrate the various phases of a woman's life:
  • Falling in Love
  • Making Love
  • Breaking Up
  • Marriage
  • Love Itself
  • Work
  • Beauty, Clothes and Things of this World
  • Motherhood
  • Silence and Solitude
  • Growing Up and Growing Old
  • Death and Grief

Each section begins with an essay by the editor in which she gives us an insight into her choices of the poems included to illustrate that particular phase.  Her essays are as inspiring as the poetry, and serve as a foundation to center the reader in the appropriate setting.  Her choices of poems are broad, deep, eclectic, and delightful.  There are excerpts from the Bible, sonnets from Shakespeare, poems from Greece, from medieval Europe, from modern America.  There are poems that rhyme and poems that don't; there are short poems and long poems; there are poems I remember from the days of "Poims and pichers" and others I've never heard of.

I first got this book as an epub download from the public library.  It was delightful to read in that format, but I knew almost instantly that I wanted my own copy so I could tuck pretty bookmarks, make margin notes, and otherwise make this book my own to be treasured, re-read, and eventually passed on to my daughter. I treated myself to a copy in Barnes and Noble last weekend while I was back in Baltimore.  It's an exquisite book both in content and layout, especially for those of us who, while we may have been classically educated, didn't study poetry extensively -- I was a math major!!!  It would make a perfect gift to any woman you love - mother, daughter, sister, wife, teacher, etc.  Definitely worth adding to your shelves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Wooden Nickel and Hull Creek: A Pair of Books about Lobstering in Maine

The Wooden Nickel

Author: William Carpenter
Publisher Format:Back Bay Books, Paperback, 368 pages
Year of publication: 2003
Subject: Lobstering in Maine
Setting: fictional towns on Maine Coast
Genre: fiction
Source: public library
Rating:  4.5
Recommended: yes, but not for those who object to rough language

Author: Jim Nichols
Publisher/ Format: Down East Books (2011), Hardcover, 256 pages
Subject: Lobstering in Maine
Setting: Fictional Town in Midcoast Maine
Genre: fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4.5
Recommended: Yes

These two books are eerily similar, but also essentially different. Both have a Maine lobsterman as a protagonist. Both men have troubled marriages, both come from long family lines of lobstermen, and both sail wooden lobster boats. Both men are caught in the dilemma of trying to make a living and save a family homestead during a time when lobsters are not 'biting,' when taxes are rising, and the world is changing more quickly than they want.

In The Wooden Nickel, William Carpenter gives us Lucky Lunt, a high school dropout whose entire world is one big mid-life crisis. His home, built by his grandfather, is mortgaged to pay for a new engine for his wooden boat (The Wooden Nickel -the only wooden boat left on the waterfront.) His wife has "found herself" as an artist and has turned his garage loft into a studio. His son, a gay skinhead who has also dropped out of high school, is tattooed, and into drugs, - a combination which does not go over well with Lucky. His daughter, who appears to be the only one taking education at all seriously, is headed for college if the money can somehow be found. She manages to land a position as an au pair to a rich family "from away" and begins (at least in her father's view) to put on airs.

To add to all of this, Lucky is without medical insurance and therefore owes the local doctors and hospitals several thousands of dollars to pay for his recent open heart surgery after his heart attack. The doctor's proscriptions against smoking, drinking, cussing, and too much lifting on his boat have left him cross, scared, and totally lost on how to go about getting his life back to the good old days, his son back in school (or at least working on his father's boat), his wife back in his bed, and red meat back on his plate.

We read this one for our local book discussion group, and many readers, while admitting that this scenario could be all too real here in Maine, had a very hard time with Lucky's very crude language and overuse of a certain digital expression. Lucky is a man whose choices are limited by his background, his lack of education and a hefty dose of poor luck.

In Hull Creek, a new novel just published here by Down East Books, Jim Nichols's protagonist, Troy Hull, is a sixth generation lobsterman, who lives alone (his wife has already divorced him) in his family's home, which he too has mortgaged to pay for upkeep and repairs to his wooden boat. In fact, he is the only working waterman left in the town. All the other waterfront properties have been bought up by 'swanks from away' who have razed centuries old houses to replace them with monstrous McMansions, and whose fiberglass sailboats do little else but tip over in storms.

Troy, who dropped out of college when his father died, wants desparately to honor the family's traditions, but again, lack of money, poor lobster crops, and a series of less than brilliant choices leave him few options. His so-called friends also offer many opportunities for short-cuts that could have him quickly in need of a "get out of jail free" card.

Both books present their characters in real situations, often faced with choices that are not choices at all but are only a series of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenarios. We find ourselves often thinking "What would I do if I had to make this choice or that one? Would I choose to take the risks, to expose myself to jail time, to put myself in harms' way, or put others in danger?" We may not always agree with their actions, but both authors give us excellent portrayals of the decision making processes of these men.

These are both rugged, tell-it-like it is books. While similar, there is plenty of difference (the language alone separates them quite well) between the attitudes and expectations of both men. The characters, while facing similar "opportunities to excel" are both essentially likeable, and make these books both well worth reading.

Wooden Nickel's Lucky is one of the funniest characters I've come across in a long time. Think Archie Bunker on a lobster boat. His world is inhabited by meatheads who cannot understand or honor his commitment to living in the past, and his frustrations with being misunderstood and unable to articulate his fear, his rage and his feelings of helplessness manifest themselves the only way he knows how - in spicy, raw, crude language and obscene gestures. He's a flawed character you end up loving. The lead female character, Ronette, is a street tough, 20 year old whom Lucky hires as a sternman. Life gets even better (or worse depending on your perspective) after that.

Hull Creek's Troy Hull on the other hand, has more education and a better grasp of options, is more able to at least understand his frustrations, even as he resents the moneyed do-nothings who are threatening his way of life. Nichols gives us some delightfully amusing town characters who provide some comic relief to the tragedy, and a young woman Nicki, a childhood friend, who wants to help Troy overcome his shyness and reluctance to become involved with another woman after his divorce. Troy's language is more refined and his problems have more options available to solve them.  And Nicki is certainly not as bawdy or blousy as Ronette.

In the end, if asked, I could not tell you which I liked better. They are both well-written, well-plotted books with settings that are hauntingly familiar to me -- Hull Creek is fictional but the surroundings are not, and are all within a five mile circle of my little house on the inlet--and with a cast of characters I meet at the post office and in the general store every day. If you want the real Maine, try either of these. I promise you, this is not the sailboat and lighthouse postcard of the Chamber of Commerce. These books give you hardworking, god-fearing people who are trying to do the best they can with the cards they were dealt.

Many thanks to DownEast Books for the review copy of Hull Creek, and many thanks to the Maine Humanities Council for its wonderful "Let's Talk about it" book discussion series which led us to choose The Wooden Nickel for our reading group.

My giveaway of a copy of Hull Creek ends July 5th. Enter here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday - June 27th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month. Now that we're into June, The Bluestocking Guide is our host.  Be sure to stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

I've been gone for about ten days, and thankfully, my box was not too full when I returned.  One of my scores was from the Early Reviewer Program on  I was gifted with an audio book -Turning The Tide by Ed Offley and you all know how I love audios, so I was thrilled to receive this story of a little known episode of World War II.  This Navy family may have to resort to flipping a coin to see who gets it first.

Here's the blurb:
The United States experienced its most harrowing military disaster of World War II not in 1941 at Pearl Harbor but in the period from 1942 to 1943, in Atlantic coastal waters from Newfoundland to the Caribbean. Sinking merchant ships with impunity, German U-boats threatened the lifeline between the United States and Britain, very nearly denying the Allies their springboard onto the European Continent--a loss that would have effectively cost the Allies the war.InTurning the Tide, author Ed Offley tells the gripping story of how, during a twelve-week period in the spring of 1943, a handful of battle-hardened American, British, and Canadian sailors turned the tide in the Atlantic. Using extensive archival research and interviews with key survivors, Offley places the reader at the heart of the most decisive maritime battle of World War II.
Then, once again the nice folks at Atria Books sent a copy of this one as part of their annual Galley Grab.

The Best Kept Secret
by Amy Hatvany

Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.

Her drinking snuck up on her - as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie. 

It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist.  But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control.  Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.               

Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop.  But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle - even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again.  And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store.  It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….

Heartbreaking, haunting, and ultimately life-affirming, Best Kept Secret is more than just the story of Cadence—it’s a story of how the secrets we hold closest are the ones that can most tear us apart.


Winners of Prophecy by S.J. Parrish

I'm still about 1/3 of the way through the precursor to this one, Heresy  and don't want to read the 2nd until I finish the first, so I can't do a review yet, but if you are a fan of medieval history, Dan Brown, or conspiracy theories, this series is for you.

In the meantime, has once again done yeoman duty by choosing our two winners - I think they are both first time winners, so I'm particularly excited to announce our winners


One from my home state of Maine, and the other from my previous home in Virginia.  How fun is that!!!

I've sent emails to both of them, and will have their books sent out as soon as they send me their mailing addresses.

If you didn't win this one, you still have a chance, since several fellow bloggers have contests that haven't closed yet.  You can enter at:

Under My Apple Tree (deadline June 30th)
A Bookworm's World (deadline  July 2nd)

Good luck, thanks for stopping by and congratulations to our winners. And a special thanks to Liz at Random House for making these books available for our readers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Favorites Series : Joanna Brady mysteries by J.A. Jance

Outlaw Mountain

Author: J. A. Jance
Publisher Format: audio/ Books in Motion, 11:28 hours; 464 pg equivalent
Year of publication: 2004
Subject: murder investigation; law enforcement territorial issues
Setting: Tombstone AZ and surrounding towns
Series: Joanna Brady Mysteries
Genre: police procedural mystery
Source: public library audio download
Rating: 4.4 of 5
Recommended? yes - a great series for fans of the genre

This is a series I've enjoyed since it began,  although I have not been reading them in any particular order.  In this one, Joanna Brady, sheriff of Cochise County is called upon to investigate and help solve the mystery surrounding the death of an elderly woman whose body is found impaled on hundreds of cactus spines.  At first, it appears that the old lady, who was known to drink more than a few at a time, may have just gotten lost driving in the desert while drunk, left her car in the middle of the night, slipped, fallen and lost the battle to the giant cactus.

Although the death doesn't occur inside her jurisdiction, there are several other factors that involve Cochise County officials, and Sheriff Brady begins to suspect murder. There are several likely villains in this one, and more appearances by Joanna's other family members.  In addition, the side story of  "Junior" the lost man-child found abandoned at the local church, and who somehow ends up in Joanna's temporary custody, adds a strong sense of family, caring, and humanity that makes this series one I keep returning to.

If you haven't tried any of these, I'd recommend grabbing one the next time they pop up.  I haven't found it necessary to read them in order, so start anyplace you want to.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A great YA summer read - Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr.

Author: Cal Ripken, Jr.
Publisher Format: Hyperion books, Listening Library (audio) 2:50 hrs, 144 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: sportsmanship in youth sports and life
Setting: Anytown USA
Genre: YA fiction
Source: public library download
Rating: 3.8 of 5
Recommended: for young and not so young readers who love baseball

I grew up in Baltimore - home of the Baltimore Orioles and world famous shortshop Cal Ripken, Jr.  So this was a no brainer for me when it popped up on the new list on the library download program.  It's a short but fun book geared to young readers who are moving from the non-competitive levels of baseball into Little League or higher organized forms of the game.

The story centers on Connor Sullivan, a talented Babe Ruth league shortstop who has great difficulty accepting his imperfections. Whenever something goes wrong--he fails to hit the ball, he drops a ball he should have fielded, etc-- an explosion is sure to follow. Even being removed from the game and threatened with suspension from further play does not seem to help him control his "hot head."  Worried about troubles at home-- his father is out of work, his mother is working double shifts to try to keep the roof over their heads, and neither seems to have much time to spare for him--Connor is ashamed to share any of those concerns with his coaches or teammates, so the internal pressure ends up escaping in Vesuvian explosions.

Enter Melissa Monroe - A GIRL - who is a reporter for the school newspaper. Is she friend or foe? Will her stories about Connor and his antics make things worse? Or will her "interviews"- allowing Connor to talk about the external pressures in his life--help Connor to understand his behavior?

This one is geared to grades 5-9, but is an enjoyable read for anyone in the family who loves the National Pastime. The baseball clichès abound, and you can smell the grass and the hot dogs, and hear the crowd roar. A perfect short, sweet, summer read.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer

 Bubbles Unbound

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher Format:  Recorded Books, Audio,10 hrs, 47 min, 352 pg equivalent
Year of publication: 2003
Subject: crime solving
Setting: Lehigh Pennsylvania
Series: Bubbles Yablonsky mysteries
Genre: mystery, amateur detective
Source: public library download
Rating: 3of 5,
Recommended: for fans of the series, and semi-cozy mysteries

My sister Chèli, of Chèli's Shelves has read most of this series and suggested that I might enjoy one or two.  When I had finished reading this one, I asked if all of them were the same and she said "pretty much." Bubbles Yablonsky is a gum-snapping bottle blond, heavy on the make-up, skimpy on the clothes (tube tops/hot pants, HIGH heels), amply endowed in the right places hairdresser in Lehigh PA. The shop, Sandi's House of Beauty, is experiencing a downturn in clientele, which translates to a downturn in tips, which in turn translates into not enough money to pay the bills or feed her pre-teen daughter. Bubbles' ex-husband Dan (now he calls himself Chip) the attorney, was ordered by the divorce court to pay for Bubbles' higher education since her salary had funded his law-school education.

Therefore Bubbles decides to go back to school to increase her earning potential.  Nine years later, she has attended and FAILED every course offered by the local community, except for Journalism...her last chance to make something of herself.  She aces the course, and sets out to become a crack reporter.  Her adventures are at times hilarious, at times a bit over the top, but the story is entertaining enough and comes to an expected ending.

This series has been compared to Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum series.  Meah......maybe......but these characters aren't doing it for me.  Bubbles is too much of a caricature - sort of Flo (from Mel's Dinner) meets Stephanie.  Bubble's mother Lulu  is definitely no Grandma Mazur (on whom she seems to be modeled).  The other characters, particularly the males, are wooden and lacking in any kind of appeal.  The supposed love/lust interest "Stilleto", wouldn't even make it on the cover of a pulp romance.  Chèli did allow as how this particular one, the first in the series, isn't as good as the rest, so I gave it 3 stars, and may try another sometime in the future to see if Bubbles is more than a pretty illusion floating through the air.  Until then mark it for a perfect beach read, airy, light, bubbly, and as empty as that iced tea you just gulped down.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More Summer Fun and Another Giveaway

The Upright Piano Player
By David Abbott

Thanks to Liz at Random House, we are able to offer two copies as a giveaway for this one.  I got my review copy recently, and hope to read it before the contest ends.  Here's the publisher's blurb:
 Henry Cage seems to have it all: a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man. But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random violent act which soon escalates into a prolonged harassment.

As his ex-wife's illness becomes grave, it is apparent that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past. But the man stalking Henry remains at large. Who is doing this? And why? David Abbott brilliantly pulls this thread of tension ever tighter until the surprising and emotionally impactful conclusion. The Upright Piano Player is a wise and acutely observed novel about the myriad ways in which life tests us—no matter how carefully we have constructed our own little fortresses.

There's an enlightening interview with David Abbott, the author, which is worth a visit just to see a picture of the real-life bookshop Henry visits in the story.

So ..... if you want to win, it's usual rules.

* Enter by leaving a comment saying why you'd like to win the book and then completing the form below. The form will automatically give us the info for all extra entires. You just have to fill it out once!

* The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm Pacific on July 30th

* Winners will be selected at random.

* Since this is from Doubleday the winners must have a mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.

Remember - Comment+ Form to enter.

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Treasures from the Attic - Giveaway

Treasures from the Attic
The Extraordinatory Story of Anne Frank’s Family
By Mirjam Pressler

What a wonderful opportunity Random House has arranged for us! We have two copies of this extraordinary book to giveaway. The author, Mirjam Pressler, is the beloved German author who translated Anne Frank's diaries.  Here's what they're saying:

The story is one that is envisioned by many: a relative, an old woman who has lived in the same home for a lifetime, passes away, her death prompting the inevitable task of sorting through her effects by her surviving family. But in the attic in this particular house, a treasure trove of historic importance is found. Rarely does this become an actuality, but when Helene Elias died, no one could put a price on what she left behind.

Helene Elias was born Helene Frank, sister to Otto Frank, and therefore aunt to Anne Frank. Ensconced upstairs in the house she inherited from her mother, and eventually passed on to her son, Buddy Elias, Anne’s cousin and childhood playmate, was the documented legacy of the Frank family: a vast collection of photos, letters, drawings, poems, and postcards preserved throughout decades—a cache of over 6,000 documents in all.

Chronicled by Buddy’s wife, Gertrude, and renowned German author Mirjam Pressler, these findings weave an indelible, engaging, and endearing portrait of the family that shaped Anne Frank. They wrote to one another voluminously; recounted summer holidays, and wrote about love and hardships. They reassured one another during the terrible years and waited anxiously for news after the war had ended. Through these letters, they rejoiced in new life, and honored the memories of those they lost.

Anne’s family believed themselves to ordinary members of Germany’s bourgeoisie. That they were wrong is part of history, and we celebrate them here with this extraordinary account.

Now doesn't that sound like one you'd like to read.  It's easy to enter to win one of these copies.  Here are the rules:
  • Enter by leaving a comment saying why you'd like to win the book and then completing the form below.  The form will automatically give us the info for all extra entires.  You just have to fill it out once!
  • The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm Pacific on July 20th
  • Winners will be selected at random.
  • Since this is from Doubleday the winners must have a mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.
Remember  - Comment+ Form to enter.
Good luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Celebrating Reading - - forever and ever

from my private collection of ornaments from the Library of Congress.

As part of Barnes and Noble's Read Forever Guest author series, Tom Brokaw has written a wonderful essay on the importance of reading in his life. I'm always interested to see what is being read by authors I admire. I hope you enjoy his piece as much as I did.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mailbox Monday - June 13th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month. Now that we're into June, The Bluestocking Guide is our host.  Be sure to stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

Again this week, my books arrived via  physical mail people and through the virtual e-mailbox.

The Reading Promise 
by Alice Ozma

This one arrived as an e-galley from Hachette Book Group.  I've seen this one on the boards a lot these past two weeks, and it looks like a great book for all ages.  The publishers blurb:
When Alice Ozma (the author) was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights.  On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their reading ritual.  So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak."  Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college.  Alice approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her.

The Orchard
by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Last year, I was fortunate enough to win an ARC of Stepakoff's first novel "Fireworks over Toccoa".  I was absolutely enchanted with that one, so when the publisher Thomas Dunne Books offered me an ARC of his latest (release date July 5th) The Orchard, I jumped at the chance.  It will be at the top of July's list- nothing like a good romance to warm up the summer.
The publicity tells us:
Grace Lyndon is a rising ingenue in the world of perfumes and flavors; a stiletto-wearing, work-a-holic in Atlanta, she develops aromas and tastes to enthrall the senses. Dylan Jackson is a widowed single father whose heart and hands have been calloused in the fields of his North Georgia apple farm. When Grace happens to taste an apple picked from Dylan’s trees, it changes both their lives forever. Determined to track down the apple’s origin, Grace sets off in the middle of the night where she finds not only a beautiful mountain orchard in the clouds, but the mysterious man who owns it. In Stepakoff’s heartbreaking eloquence, their sudden yet undeniable attraction is threatened—leaving readers with a momentous finale that proves Jeffrey Stepakoff is a master craftsman of the heart.

Turn of Mind
by Alice La Plante  

Another one due out July 5th is from Grove Atlantic Press.  The e-galley arrived via Net Galley and is now residing on my Nook.  There have been several excellent books published in the past year in which Alzheimer's plays a central role.  This one is going to be novel mystery that has all the markings of one that will be an all-nighter:

A stunning first novel, both literary and thriller, about a retired orthopedic surgeon with dementia, Turn of Mind has already received worldwide attention. With unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante brings us deep into a brilliant woman’s deteriorating mind, where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

As the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, who lived down the block, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed from her hand. Dr. White is the prime suspect and she herself doesn’t know whether she did it. Told in White’s own voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emergesof the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these life-long friends—two proud, forceful women who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries. As the investigation into the murder deepens andWhite’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown childrenintensify, a chilling question lingers: is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her to hide it?

Astartling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to bits of realitythrough anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss, Turn of Mind is a remarkable debut that examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence.

The Haunted Bookshop
by Christopher Morley

I was so enchanted by Morley's Parnassus on Wheels, that I grabbed this  recently reissued classic- the sequel- for my own.  I don't own a Kindle, but it's such a delightful book, I don't mind using the Kindle PC app to grab bargain priced books that I really want to read.  If it's half as much fun as the first one, it will be well worth the $1.99.  And I didn't even have to drive to to post office for this one.

Can you tell I'm really becoming a fan of e-books? 

So......what landed in your various mailboxes (real and virtual this week?)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Among the Departed by Vicki Delaney

Author: Vicki Delany
Publisher Format:Poisoned Pen Press e-book -282 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: cold case crime solving
Setting: Trafalgar, British Columbia
Series: Constable Molly Smith Novels
Genre: mystery- police procedural
Source: Net Galley from Poisoned Pen Press
Rating 3.8 of 5
Recommended? definitely for mystery fans

Constable Molly Smith has matured quite a bit since I met her in the first book in this series last month.This series is going to become one of my favorites.  In this one, Molly and her date- another policeman Adam Toucek - are searching for a lost child in a wooded park with their police dog Norman.  Not only do they find the lost child safe and sound, Norman digs up some more human remains.  When the Medical examiner says the bones have been there at least 10-20 years, the Trafalgar police department must go back into the cold case files to track down who the deceased is, and after that, how he or she got there.

This is a first class who dunnit, with several very interesting characters, plot twists leading us away from the real killer, and delightful relationships among the characters. The ending is a stunner - I just never saw it coming, although I probably should have.  I'm becoming quite fond of this group of characters, and Ms Delany's excellent plotting.  The setting is not as intense as for instance the village of Three Pines in a Louise Penny mystery, but it still sets a delightful background for all the goings on.  I look forward now to reading #2-4 between the 1st and this latest one in the series, if for no other reason than to see how some of the budding but in the background romances progress.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A great Maine story and another giveaway: Hull Creek

Hull Creek: A Novel
By Jim Nichols

Down East Books here in Maine has been putting out some great fiction this past year. They started with Paul Diorion's The Poacher's Son, and now give us Hull Creek, written by a local author here in the Mid-coast, and featuring life as it really is here in lobster land.

They tell us this much.....
Troy Hull has troubles. After the death of his parents, he left college to take up his family’s traditional lobster-fishing life. Now, thanks to poor fishing, a misguided second mortgage, and the changing nature of his hometown, Troy finds himself faced with the loss of that life. As a former high school classmate turned banker tells him: “This isn’t a fisherman’s town anymore.” Indeed, soaring property values have made it increasingly a haven for land speculators, wealthy summer residents, and tax-sheltered retirees, and Troy’s home—just off the harbor on a quiet stretch of Hull Creek—is exactly the sort of property these newcomers covet. So Troy must decide whether to join his friend on an illegal path to solvency or let the straight-and-narrow take him from his beloved home. Hull Creek is a timely tale of change on the coast of Maine and the challenges it brings to the men who still seek their livelihood from the sea.
This sounds like summer reading at its best, but I'm suspecting from the first chapter I took a look at that this is much more than a beach read - it may be fiction, but it's a reality check on life in Maine.  And the most exciting part is that Down East has given me an extra copy to give to a lucky reader.  So here's the deal on how to win:

 - Since Tina is mailing this, you can use a PO Box if that's more convenient for you.
 - US and Canadian addresses OK.
 - Leave a comment below with your email.
 - Fill out the form.
- The deadline on this one is July 5th

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After the cleanup.... isn't immaculate, but the floors are clean, the dust bunnies are gone, and I can find everything once again. Who knows how long it will stay this way. With my new "retirement" life, I sure don't have too much time to devote to cleaning up, so I'll just have to try to be more organized to begin with. Yeah....

Anyhow, it's time to get back to reading and contests. I have to finish a couple for reviews, and one for a book club next week before I leave to go to Baltimore for a week. I am still planning to put all really "serious" (as in review required) reading on hold for July and August and settle back and just read cozies, series, and mysteries. I need to be able to have a period of time when reading is just plain fun so if you're up for joining in, please do so.

Come back later this week for a couple more giveaways and several reviews. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my cleaned up girl-cave.  At least I can see the top of the desk!!! I now have a good clean spot to start another TBR pile.

A Winner - - - The Russian Affair!

It's a great one!  Life is getting pretty hectic here so I've only been able to get about half-way through this one but believe me, I'll finish it by week's end.  The love story, espionage story, and telling of life in Cold War Russian in the 70's is well done.  I keep wanting to abandon my gardening, and my spring house cleaning to lounge in a chair and read it.  I'll be staying up late to find out what happens next.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who entered the drawing to win a free copy. has chosen entry #24 from

Kaye of Pudgy Penguin Perusals

 she's always have such fun contests for the rest of us, it's great to be able to see her win one.  Do you think maybe she could return the favor?   I've sent her an email, and she has until Friday nite to get back to me.  If I don't hear from her, then we'll choose another winner.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dull Women

I'm sure you're all familiar with that old saying that

Dull women have immaculate houses/desks/rooms etc. 

As you can see, I am NOT a DULL woman.  Between working in the yard, doing a little spring cleanup around the Casa, beginning to plan for the library's annual Flea Market/Book Sale next month, and trying to stay caught up on reading, the old scene of the crime office has really gotten a little out of hand.  I decided that piles of books to be read will never get read it they can't be found, so I took what I thought would be a couple hours to clean the place up.

And as with most projects, one thing lead to another....after all, if you're going to cleanup those 258 paper clips that got dumped , then you might as well clean the floor, and if you're going to do that, since it's such a good warm, sunny day, you might as well cart the rolling chair mat outside and hose it down.  And while you're out there, you might as well pull up a few of those weeds, and on and on and on and on.  

Now.....when I was inside, I was listening to an audio book.  David Brook's SOCIAL ANIMAL is fascinating and one that I have to be able to pay close attention to.  Feeding papers into the shredder doesn't require any brain power so I could concentrate on the book.  Tonite, I really want to get back to THE RUSSIAN AFFAIR- it's a great spy and love story that will be very popular with readers of both genres.

So I've almost finished the office and tomorrow I'll let you see the "afters" of today's "befores."

But cheer up......I'll never be cleaned up enough to be dull!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mailbox Monday - June 6th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month. Now that we're into June, The Bluestocking Guide is our host.  Be sure to stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

Tutu's mailbox this week has some paper and some e-books arriving, and each one looks too good to let languish for very long.

THE DOGS OF ROME - A Commissario Alec Blume Novel
by Conor Fitzgerald

The Blurb:
On a hot summer morning, Arturo Clemente is sloppily murdered in his Roman apartment by a mysterious slasher. Though the murder appears amateurish, even random, Clemente is no ordinary victim. An animal rights activist campaigning against dogfighting, he is married to a prominent politician and sleeping with Manuela Fusco, the daughter of a dangerous crime boss.

Police inspector Alec Blume has a favorite suspect, but the investigation is already being manipulated by both the Senate and the Fusco crime ring. As the details of the case continue to trickle out, Blume soon realizes he is being watched from on high—and that solving this crime may be the least of his worries. Angry, sleep-deprived, and unsure who to trust, Blume is losing control of his investigation. As the mob tightens its grip on the city, and with the killer still at large, Blume’s struggle for justice may cost more innocent lives.

In this riveting debut novel, we are introduced to Blume, an American expatriate and seasoned police veteran. Intelligent yet sometimes petulant, instinctive yet flawed, Blume is a likable and trustworthy protagonist for this first installment of a gritty and promising series.
This was a free Friday Nook book that I made sure to put into my virtual Mailbox.  I'm looking forward to this series and plan to read this for my cozy-thon in July and August.

 HULL CREEK -  A Novel of the Maine Coast
By Jim Nichols

DownEast Publishing (right down the road from me) sent me this one for review.  It's by a local author, and since it's practically set in my back yard, (or should I say on my waterfront out the back deck?) I'm raring to go for this one.  Watch for a post later this week, because the author also sent an extra copy for a giveaway.  Keep checking  for details.  Sneak hint: 
After the death of his parents, Troy Hull left college to take on his family's traditional lobster-fishing life. But after a few good years, he finds himself threatened with the loss of that life, a result of some bad choices and the changing nature of his hometown.
by Michael Malone

In small towns between the North Carolina Piedmont and the coast the best scenery is often in the sky. On flat sweeps of red clay and scrub pine the days move monotonously, safely, but above, in the blink of an eye, dangerous clouds can boil out of all four corners of the sky…The flat slow land starts to shiver and anything can happen. In such a storm, on Annie Peregrine's seventh birthday, her father gave her the airplane and minutes later drove out of her life.
Twenty years is a long time to be without a father, and, for Navy pilot Annie Peregrine-Goode, the sky has become a home the earth has never been. So when her father calls out of the blue to ask for a dying wish—one both absurd and mysterious—no is the easiest of answers. Until she hears that the reward is the one thing she always wanted …
Thus begins an enchanting novel that bursts with energy from the first pages, and sweeps you off on a journey of unforgettable characters, hilarious encounters, and haunting secrets.

This is the author's 10th novel, but I've never read any of them.  When the friendly NOOK folks offered this as a freebie as a way of introducing Malone, I was certainly attracted enough to hit the 'deliver to my NOOK mailbox' button.  I'll let you know, because it's gone onto the cozy-thon electronic shelf.

 by Elizabeth Von Arnim

This one was originally published decades ago, but is recently out in paperback and e-book editions.  I bought this one for myself and had it delivered to the NOOK mailbox because it was highly recommended by several of my virtual book friends on LT.  It's a definite cozy summer read.Here's the blurb from the back cover....
"Colour, fragrance, light, sea; instead of Shaftesbury Avenue, and the wet omnibuses, and the fish department at Shoolbread's ... and dinner, and to-morrow the same and the day after the same and always the same."
A discreet advertisement in The Times, addressed to "those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine ...", is the prelude to a revolutionary month for four very different women. High above a bay on the Italian Riviera stands San Salvatore, a medieval castle. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs Wilkins, Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the Mediterranean spring, the violet mountains and sweet-scented flowers, they gradually shed their public skins and discover a harmony each of them has longed for but none has known. First published in 1922, reminiscent of Elizabeth and Her German Garden, this delightful novel is imbued with the descriptive power and lighthearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnim was so popular.

So------------- Rome, North Carolina, the Maine Coast, and the Italian Riviera--- my vacation is all set, and I don't have to do anything but put on the sunscreen, grab the iced tea and the sun glasses,retire to the deck overlooking the water, and travel to spots near and far.  The mailbox was good to me this week.

And speaking of travel....I'm reading the Russian Affair, and it's a good one.  Don't forget today is your last chance to enter to win that one.  Click the book cover over on the sidebar.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Publisher: Random House, 
Format: Audio, 13 hrs, 56 minutes, 496 pg equivalent
Narrator: Edward Hermann
Year of publication: 2010
Subject: Survival as a POW during WW II
Setting: California, South Pacific, various venues in Japan
Genre: history, biography
Source: public library audio download
Rating: 5 of 5 .  Highly recommended - a must read.

Laura Hillenbrand has given us a hero-- Louis Zamperini--of incredible achievements in this story.  Many of my parent's generation knew of his exploits, but those of us who were born after WWII may not have heard about his life. It was a book I kept passing by at first but can't tell you why.  It was only when I mentioned that I was in the middle of a pile of books all themed around WW II that one of my best friends (one whose reading tastes I trust) said "Oh, you must have read Laura Hillenbrand's book".  I was embarassed to admit that I hadn't, and she assured me that when I got home I had to go search it out.  I realized I was fated to read it when I logged on that night to discover it was available and ready to be checked out on our library's downloadable audio books.

This is an incredible story.  Edward Hermann's narration is spot on, and I literally stayed up late several evenings in a row to finish it.  I've let it sit for a week or so before trying to write this review because it was such a powerful and disturbing book, that I wanted to be sure I had a full appreciation of it. 

Zamperini, son of Italian immigrants, made a name for himself in southern California during the 20's and 30's by being a very fast runner.  Those in the know were convinced that he would be the runner to break the four minute mile barrier.  Louis himself wanted nothing else. His speed earned him not only  a scholarship to USC. and a spot on the 1936 Olympics team.  He finished 8th in the 5000 meter race, but had the fastest finishing lap, an achievement that earned him an invitation to meet Adolf Hitler.  He returned to the states determined to train to make the next Olympics and break world records.  The war intervened.

In September 1941, Louie enlisted in the Army Air Force, got a commission as a 2nd LT, and was subsequently posted to Hawaii to serve as a bombadier.  Flying in a B24, his plane was shot down on a search and rescue mission over the Pacific Ocean.  Louie, the pilot and the engineer were the only survivors of this horrific crash, and spent the next 47 days floating in life rafts, drifting over 2000 miles, subsisting on rain water, raw fish, and ever rawer courage.

When they were finally rescued, their joy was shortlived--their rescuers where Japanese.  Hillenbrand paints the story of their horrific experiences as POWs in a matter-of-fact prose that, along with Hermann's equally matter of fact narration, allowed me to get through the cruelty without feeling that I couldn't handle it.  I normally do not read violence this graphic, but somehow had, by this time in the story, become so intent on knowing how Louie handled his captivity and whether he survived and then got on with his life that I had to keep on.

This is an inspiring and affirming story of incredible humaneness as well as staggering inhumanity and cruelty. Louie's life on his return to the living is as interesting and inspiring as his POW service and his athlete prowess. This is a story that transcends generations, genders and and should appeal to all readers.  It is a 5 star must read.  I'm definitely getting my own copy to keep on hand.  If you're an audio fan, you won't go wrong with that version either.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Another Great Summer Giveaway = Wonder Girl

Just Published Yesterday!

Wonder Girl
The Magnificent Sporting Life of
Babe Didrikson Zacharias

Here's the publisher's blurb:

A story of women in sports, particularly women in golf, and also the history of Cancer awareness. Babe Didrikson Zaharias overcame vicious criticism and rocked the status quo to pursue her dreams and objectives.

WONDER GIRL by Don Van Natta, Jr. is the extraordinary story of a nearly forgotten American superstar athlete. Texas girl Babe Didrikson never tried a sport too tough and never met a hurdle too high. Despite attempts to keep women from competing, Babe achieved All-American status in basketball and won gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics.

Then Babe attempted to conquer golf.  One of the founders of the LPGA, Babe won more consecutive tournaments than any golfer in history. At the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with cancer. She would then take her most daring step of all by going public and trying to win again with the hope of inspiring the world. A rollicking saga, stretching across the first half of the 20th century, WONDER GIRL is as fresh, heartfelt, and graceful as Babe herself.

Now the best news of all - the publisher, Little Brown and Company has made two copies available for a giveaway.  I haven't gotten my review copy yet, but I'll be just as anxious as you all to read this one.  To enter  to win one of these copies just fill out the form below.  Standard rules:

Only residents of the U.S. or Canada are eligible to win
-No P.O. Boxes, please.
Winners will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if you win the same title in two or more contests, you will receive only one copy of the title.
Deadline to enter :  July 1st.     Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome Summer - A new Giveaway - Prophecy by S.J Parris

Another good one from the author of "Heresy

We're finally looking like spring/summer here in Maine, and what a great way to start off the season.  Thanks to Liz at Random House I have two copies Prophecy, the 2nd in the Giordano Bruno series to giveaway. This is an historical fiction/murder mystery and since  I love mysteries, and I love historical fiction (particularly from this period) I'm really looking forward to this one.  I haven't read the 1st one in the series, but I'm going to plunge on in with this one, and I'll let you know in my review whether you need to read "Heresy" first.

Here's the blurb:
S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger? In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller. do you enter to win one of these copies?
Tutu's making it easy for you.....just fill in the form and you'll be entered.  We'll be sure to credit the correct number of entries, so you only have to do this once.
To enter the contest to win one of  two copies
please complete the form below.

See how easy?

Standard rules -
No PO Boxes
US addresses only
One winner per household
Deadline : June 25th