31 July 2009

Themed Reading Challenge: Wrap Up


Coming in just under the wire, I finished Wendy's (Caribousmom) Themed Reading Challenge for 2009.

The option I picked required that I read six books that share more than two themes.

Here are my themes (1) part of a mystery series, (2) woman author, (3) woman protagonist, and (4) protagonist operates out of the United States. Two bonuses: Each book took place in a different state and all were on audio!

Here are the books and authors (with protagonist and state) that I read. Click on the link for my review.

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement (Dixie Hemingway, Florida)
Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak, Alaska)
Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse, Louisiana)
Death Qualified by Kate Wilhelm (Barbara Holloway, Oregon)
Rapture in Death by J. D. Robb (Eve Dallas, New York)
Delectable Mountains by Earlene Fowler (Benni Harper, California)

Generally speaking, this was a great batch of books. New to me were the Clement and Staebenow series, both of which I hope to revisit. Harris, Robb, and Fowler kept me going with old friends. I will likely not read more Wilhelm, or at least not more in the Barbara Holloway series.

Are you waiting for me to pick a favorite? It's nearly impossible. If you've read any of these books or read my reviews, then you know how different these series and protagonists are; they simply can't be compared.

To find out what other people read for Themed Reading 2009, check out the wrap-up posts at Caribousmom's blog. There were some clever and fun categories this year. Thanks so much for hosting, Wendy.

Do you read mysteries? Which series is your current favorite?

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30 July 2009

Review: Delectable Mountains by Earlene Fowler


Delectable Mountains is the twelfth in the Benni Harper mystery series. The following review contains no spoilers for this book, but may contain spoilers for the series. For just my opinion, skip to the end.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, there is a lot happening in San Celina, California. Benni and her grandmother, Dove, are called on to help put together a children's play that is sponsored by their church. Besides play rehearsals, Benni must make sure the folk art museum and new gift shop are running smoothly. Meanwhile, her husband, Police Chief Gabe Ortiz, gets a surprise visit from his cousin, Luis, whom he hasn't seen in a few years.

On the evening after the first rehearsal, Benni returns to the church to pick up her forgotten script. When she enters the sanctuary, she discovers the body of a recently murdered man. In effort to reassure the parents, keep the play on track, and guarantee security, Benni reluctantly asks Detective Ford (Hud) Hudson to help with the play. Hud's daughter is in the cast, so he agrees to coach the kids. Benni is annoyed to find that Hud seems more interested in flirting than in helping the kids learn their lines.

After the historical society discovers that a priceless violin has been stolen from its display case, Benni begins to wonder if there is a connection between the theft and the murder. Despite her better judgment and the wishes of her husband, Benni can't help but investigate both the victim and the violin.

As in all the Benni Harper books, Benni's relationships with her family and friends take a central spot in the story. Gabe and Luis are struggling with unresolved issues that reach back into their childhoods. Benni and Gabe continue to work on their marriage, but Hud's presence isn't helping matters. Unfortunately we don't see very much of Elvia and Emory (Benni's best friend and cousin, respectively).

Fowler inserts a number of side plots in the novel. Some clearly move the characters forward in the series; others are more political or religious in nature. The exploration of these themes does not take away from the book, but the novel would have been tighter if Fowler had focused on only one such issue. Some of the clues to the mysteries were too obviously given, but in the end, the solutions were nicely complex.

Although Delectable Mountains was not the strongest entry in the series in terms of the mysteries, it is an important contribution to the continuing development of Benni and Gabe.

I listened to the audiobook read by Johanna Parker. Parker does a fine job narrating this series and deftly transitions into a believable Spanish accent when needed. She even gets a chance to sing to us.

Earlene Fowler has an informative website, complete with photographs, interviews, FAQs, and more.

The thirteenth book in the series was published in 2007, and the fourteenth is scheduled for 2010. Fowler published a stand-alone mystery in 2006 and a non-mystery novel in 2009.


Published by Penguin USA, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780425206522
Challenges: Themed Reading, Cozy Mysteries, 100+, 999
YTD: 59
Rating: B

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Thursday Tea: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll



Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.




The Tea

This week I'm drinking Adagio's Keemun Rhapsody tea, which has "taste bud entrancing cocoa notes, biscuity nuances, a whispering fruitiness and a flickering shadow of classic Keemun smokiness." The good news is that the tea was not too smoky in aroma or flavor. I've tried it only once, and I'm not sure I brewed it long enough because I didn't really taste much more than basic black tea.

The Book

I just started listening to Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. In fact, I haven't gotten much past the setup. The book starts the day after the wedding and then flashes back to right after Elizabeth's and Jane's engagements have been announced. Lydia comes home for a visit to flaunt the great knowledge and wisdom she believes she's obtained now that she's a married lady.Wickman has been left alone in Newcastle to ponder his current state of affairs. I am a bit undecided about whether I'm going to like the book. It's 22 hours of audio, and the first hour hasn't really clicked with me. I hope it doesn't end up as aDNF.

The Assessment

Because Darcy is one of the richest men in England, he and Elizabeth could have any tea they wanted. As long as the tea was brewed fresh from loose leaves, I don't think I could have gone wrong. I'm not sure Darcy would have approved of a cuppa made from a teabag.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Anything gripping? And what are you drinking to cool off this summer or warm up this winter (depending on which side of the equator is home).

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29 July 2009

Wordless Wednesday (July 29)

Dragonfly


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28 July 2009

Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesday (July 28): Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart


I've finally finished my junior year in high school, and I've gotten a summer job working as a gardener for Miss Martine. My dad says keeping busy is a good way to deal with grief and to get on with life. He follows his own advice by spending time in his studio restoring paintings. My mom died on Christmas Eve day, after only three months of illness. I might be okay, but I hear things in the night and am bothered by birds.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.


MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.


You have to cross the stream to get to the site. You have to walk across the stones, then make one big leap for the banks, and I'm the last to get across, the shoelaces of my work boots trialing in the leafy watercress, a turtle swimming beneath my shadow. I know that there's nothing much on the other side but stone-wall crumbles and the busted blues of the hydrangeas, because I was here yesterday, all alone, listening to the water flowing. (pp. 18-19)


—Both from Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart

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27 July 2009

Assessment: The Game On Diet by Krista Vernoff and Az Fercuson


Yesterday was the end of my experiment on the Game On Diet. If you need a refresher on what the diet is all about, take a look at my review of the book, but here are the basic principles:

1. Eat five healthy mini-meals a day spaced 2 to 4 hours apart
2. Exercise at least 20 minutes 6 days a week
3. Sleep 7+ hours a night
4. Drink 3 liters of water a day
5. Add a healthy new habit
6. Get rid of a bad habit
7. Communicate with your team and the other players

What I Didn't Like

The hardest part of the diet for me was eating five times a day. Although two meals were supposed to be snacks, I found it disconcerting to be eating when I wasn't remotely hungry. It seemed as if I were always thinking about or dealing with food: timing my next meal, planing my next meal, eating my meal, cleaning up from my meal. I found that food really disrupted my day.

I didn't like eating dinner at a different time from my husband. Mr. BFR works a flexible schedule, and the diet is not flexible. Thus many evenings I would eat alone and then I would sit with him while he ate. Not a lot of fun.

Protein was required at every meal, and because I didn't want to eat meat five times a day, that meant a lot of dairy: yogurt and string cheese over and over. Beans were considered carbs but were allowed as protein for vegetarians. I am not a vegetarian, but I took the bean option for the last two weeks.

It was difficult to limit the amount of fruit I eat, especially because we are at the height of the season (at least where I live). I practically live on fruit in the summer.

What I Liked or What I Grew to Like

I already ate the foods recommended for the diet, and I already avoided or just didn't eat the foods banned by the diet. So that part was a great match for me.

I already exercised almost every day, so that part of the diet wasn't new.

I truly approached the water requirement kicking and screaming. I hated it, hated water, and didn't want to be forced to drink it. But funny thing: I started to like it and then I started to crave it. I found it hard to get all three liters in on some days, but not torture!

I liked having a meal off and a day off each week. That meant that nothing was forbidden forever, making it easier to stay on track.

I loved the habit part of the diet. I hope to keep on with my healthy habit and stay away from my bad habit. That was a great part of the game.

Communicating with my teammates and rivals was such fun! In fact, earning my communication points was almost too easy.

What I'll Take away with Me

The two biggest lessons for me were portion control and water. Remember that I was already eating the right foods (just too much of them) and I was already exercising.

We went out to breakfast this morning to celebrate the end of my diet, and when I looked at the amount of homefries on my plate, I was amazed. Even though the diet is over, I was happy eating just a fist-size portion and leaving the rest.

Water has become such a habit that I asked for and drank two glasses at the restaurant. So I think my body expects to have its water now.

The Future

I plan to continue my exercise, drink my water, and stay on track with my habits. I am looking forward to going back to my normal eating schedule and eating only when I'm hungry. The main thing is going to be watching my portions and avoiding seconds. I also plan to live with the idea of one meal off and one day off each week. It's a great way to keep a rein on my week-long eating trends.

And, of course, you want to know about the weight loss. I was kind of a bad candidate for this experiment because I wanted to lose only three pounds. I did that very easily and even lost a bit more. The question will be whether it stays off and how well I'll be able to live with the spirit of of the diet now that I am Game Off!

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26 July 2009

Awards!

heartfelt
Shelly from Write for a Reader gave me this incredibly cute award. The Heartfelt Award is about the warm feeling you get when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, or sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends. If you haven't been to her blog, check it out: you'll find reviews, interviews, and author spotlights. Thanks so much Shelly!





Shelly was also sweet enough to pass along this Queen of ALLL Things Awe-Summm award. This one comes with a meme: Once you receive this award, you have to share 7 Awe-Summm things about yourself and then pass it on to 7 others. Shelly's list is truly awesome -- check it out. Here are seven little-known facts about me:

1. I am certified to lead white-water rafting trips. In my youth, I spent the bulk of one summer rafting and kayaking white-water rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado to become qualified as a river guide.

2. I have placed second in two national cooking contests. One was for an apple pie contest run by Family Circle magazine and the other was for recipes using pumpkin puree hosted by Libby's. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

3. I have a PhD in physical anthropology and genetics but I earn my living as a freelancer in the publishing industry.

4. In the early 1970s I spent a month backpacking in Baja California. The trip was actually part of my freshman orientation program for college.

5. I won the first-grade read and review contest. From January to June I read 56 books and wrote a review of each one. We were supposed to write our reviews on 5-by-8 cards. I still have the stack of cards somewhere in this house.

6. I have been in every state in the United States except Louisiana and Alaska. I can understand why I haven't gotten to Alaska yet, but I'm still not sure how I missed Louisiana, especially because I've driven cross-country a number of times.

7. Many members of my family are "literary professionals." My mother is a journalist, one of my brothers is a published poet and short story author and teaches writing at the university, one of my nephews has had stories published on the web, one of my sisters-in-law is a freelance indexer, a brother-in-law teaches English in high school. Everyone is an avid reader.


And finally, Bernadette of Reactions to Reading passed along this super award developed by Cathy from Kittling Books. The I Keep Coming Back for More Award is

for a blog you just can't stay away from. If you've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger with the hives and your Google reader is over 1,000 unread posts, these are the blogs that you single out to read. These are the ones that are never victims to the dreaded Mark All As Read. There may be many different reasons why you can't stay away: a taste in books that mirrors your own, the same sense of humor, always knowing the latest in the book world . . . for whatever the reason, these blogs are flat out addictive and you have no wish to be cured!

Wow! Thanks so much Bernadette. And now, be sure to check out Reactions to Reading, Bernadette's blog is not to be missed.

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25 July 2009

Challenge: Random Reading


Wendy from CaribousMom is hosting a fun challenge. This one is designed to help you get through your TBR.

The idea is randomness. The challenge for me will be to pick a book at random instead by mood or review schedule. I'm committing to 12 books for the challenge (there are different levels), which means one a month from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. I can do it -- I think!

Visit the Random Reading Challenge sign-up post for more information and more ways to play the game, but here's what I'm going to do:

1. Pick a random group of books from by TBR pile (I have several stacks to choose from!)
2. Count the books, numbering them from the top down.
3. Head off to random.org or another random-number generator and pick a number.
4. Read the book that was selected.
5. Repeat the procedure each month.

I think this is going to be a fun way to get through my books. And Wendy mentioned that there would be at least one prize (in case you need incentive!). Really, how hard can it be to complete this challenge?

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Challenge: Harry Potter


Okay, really, who can resist revisiting Harry? Michelle at GalleySmith is hosting a great challenge that will let me return to the world of muggles and wizards.

Although I read each book within a month of its publication, I have never listened to the fabulous Jim Dale narrate the books. I know, hard to believe that an audiobook nut like me hasn't listened to HP. Here's my chance to correct that failing.

The challenge runs from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. Starting in September, I plan to listen to one Harry Potter book a month. I'm so excited!

Oh and did I mention that there will be prizes and gifts? Just sign up by August 15 to be in the running for the first giveaway: a complete set of the Harry Potter books. Awesome!!!

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Giveaway Winners: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

WINNERS!!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered and tweeted and blogged about this giveaway.

There were a total of 198 entries (individuals could have multiple entries). I went to random.org to find the two winning numbers. Without further ado:

The first winner is Kris (escaping journey), who would like to go to Australia.
The second winner is Fiona (c_fjones), who would like to go to Tahiti.

I can't get you plane tickets, but I can let you take a mental trip to Nantucket.

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24 July 2009

Review: Imperium by Robert Harris

In the years before I started blogging, I kept notes about the books I read. Every once in a while I post mini-reviews of books I read in my pre-blogging days. Enjoy.

Imperium is the first in a trilogy set in ancient Rome. It is written from the viewpoint of Marcus Tullius Tiro, who was Marcus Cicero's personal secretary. Both men are quite accomplished: Tiro invented shorthand and authored several books, including a biography of his master. Cicero, of course, was the famous Roman orator, lawyer, and statesman.

The novel is meant to be a re-creation of Tiro's biography (which was lost in the Middle Ages), and the story takes us from Cicero's humble beginnings to his life as a daring lawyer and finally to his rise as a major political figure. Harris introduces us to ancient Rome, including family life, social climbing, and the Senate floor. Of course many famous Romans play a part in the book, and we meet the likes of Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, and Cato.

Imperium presents a wonderful portrait of Rome before Pompey and Ceasar became rulers. Cicero's path to power is a fascinating story of politics and corruption, plotting and secrecy. It was especially interesting to read about Marc Anthony as a young man and to see the beginning of the rift between Ceasar and Pompey, which occurred years before they became co-consuls.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Simon & Schuster Audio) read by Simon Jones. My reading notes have just one word for the narration: Terrific.

I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction fans. The book is also a terrific supplement to the HBO series Rome, which begins at a time somewhat after the story told in Imperium. The second book in the trilogy, Lustrum, is supposed to be published in 2009, and I am impatiently waiting for its release.


Published by Simon & Schuster, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780743498661

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23 July 2009

Thursday Teas (July 23): Delectable Mountains by Earlene Fowler



Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.




The Tea

This week I'm drinking Adagio's Irish breakfast tea, which "smoothly blends the high notes of a high-grown Ceylon with the malty underscore of a hearty Assam." Irish breakfast tea is not overly strong but has a nice flavor. I've been drinking it iced in the afternoon.

The Book

I'm about halfway through the audio of Delectable Mountains by Earlene Fowler, which is the twelfth entry in the Benni Harper series. These books are cozy mysteries that revolve around Benni, who runs a folk art museum with artist studios in San Celina, California. She grew up on a ranch outside of town and is currently married to the town's chief of police. In this novel, she discovers a body in the church sanctuary. Fowler has created a great group of characters and interesting mysteries. Plus there's always something to learn about quilting and other crafts.

The Assessment

Benni is pretty down to earth, but she does live in California and knows how to place a complicated order at the local coffee shop. I think that if she were drinking tea, she'd pick something like Irish breakfast--it's simple but just a bit more than ordinary.

As always, I'd like to know what you're reading or listening to this week. And whether you're in the heart of summer in the Northern Hemisphere or hoping winter will end in the Southern, let me know what's in your mug or glass.

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22 July 2009

Wordless Wednesday (July 22)

View from Pennsylvania Military Museum


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21 July 2009

Review: Rapture in Death by J. D. Robb


Rapture in Death is the fourth book in the In Death series by J. D. Robb. This review assumes you've read the first three books; it contains no spoilers for the novel and some minor spoilers (no surprises) for the earlier books. Skip to the end if you want just my opinion.

Rapture in Death begins just a couple of weeks after book three ends: Eve and Roarke are on the last leg of their honeymoon at an off-planet hotel. The resort, owned by Roarke, is still being built, and the newlyweds spend some time taking a tour and trying out the facilities. The trip would have been perfect except a young technician was found dead by apparent suicide, and Eve and Roarke are called to the scene.

Once home in New York, the two return to their usual busy schedules. Eve has managed to snag Peabody as her new permanent assistant, and best friend Mavis is working with a publicist to launch her singing and dancing act. On just the second day back on the job, Eve is tagged as the principal in a suspicious death of a famous defense attorney. He was found in his bathtub with his wrists slashed.

Although there is no apparent connection between the lawyer and the technician, Eve can't help but notice that each died with a smile on his face. Furthermore, brain scans indicate a tiny area of damage in both men.

After a third suicide, this time a prominent businesswoman, Eve is convinced she is looking for a serial killer. The problem is, each person seems to have gladly chosen "self-termination," so how could the murders have been orchestrated?

Rapture in Death is a strong entry in Robb's Eve Dallas novels. Although the book takes place in the 2050s, the futuristic or science fiction aspects of the story are matter of fact, and we are not overwhelmed with techo-jargon. The interlacing of the murder investigation with Eve's personal life keeps the reader engaged throughout. Because we are given a few clues that are hidden from Eve, we have the chance to figure out who the bad guy is before she does, and the device adds to the suspense.

Similar to the other In Death novels, this one revolves around Eve, Roarke, and Mavis, although the characters do not grow as much in this entry as they do in the earlier books. On the other hand, Peabody is given a bigger role, and we learn a bit more about some of the minor players. Rapture in Death seems to be a transitional point in the series, settling Eve into her new professional relationship and into her new status as Roarke's wife.

If you like cozy mysteries or romantic suspense you'll like the In Death series. It's important to start from book one, Naked in Death, because the development of the main characters and their relationships make for a continuing story and minor characters reappear.

The audiobook was read by Susan Ericksen, who did a fine job. Unfortunately, the first three books are read by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis, and it took me a third of the way through the audio to get used to the new narrator. Ericksen puts her own spin on the characters' voices, and once I adjusted, I enjoyed the listen. This is a good thing because she narrates the rest of the series.

J. D. Robb is a pen name of Nora Roberts. You can learn more about the author on her website. In November 2009, the 30th In Death book will be published. Robb has also written several Eve Dallas novellas.


Published by Penguin USA, 1996
ISBN-13: 9780425155189
Challenges: Themed Reading, Cozy Mysteries, 999, 100+
YTD: 58
Rating: B

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20 July 2009

Review: Death Qualified by Kate Wilhelm


"Tom" can't remember much about the last seven years of his life, but he has figured out his name is really Lucas and recalls that he has a family in Oregon. Two things happen on the day Lucas finally returns to his wife, Nell: A young woman's body is seen floating down the river and Lucas is shot dead at the very moment he first sees his wife. After examination of the available evidence, local police decide that Lucas killed the woman and Nell killed her husband.

Barbara Holloway is staying with a friend in Arizona, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She left the law five years earlier in disgust over some of the behind-the-scenes deals and compromises made between defenders and prosecutors. But when her father, Frank, a semi-retired defense lawyer, talks her into returning home, she reluctantly takes on the Nell Kendricks case.

Death Qualified is a complex, multilayered courtroom drama and is the first in the Barbara Holloway series. The novel is told from several points of view and takes the reader from university campuses to a close-knit community in the coastal mountains about thirty minutes from Eugene.

Wilhelm's characterizations and descriptions of the landscape are detailed, making it easy to care about Nell, Barbara, and the other principal players. Unfortunately, the plot is a bit too all-encompassing: There are many more details about chaos theory and perception research than seem necessary. The red herring aspect of the Kendricks case takes up a good percentage of the novel and doesn't prevent the reader from figuring out who done it. Furthermore, the two surprises that occur at the end of the book are fairly predictable and expected.

The audiobook was read by Anna Fields, one of my favorite narrators. The Blackstone audio production was slightly flawed in that several times a paragraph would be repeated for no apparent reason. However, Fields is always a pleasure to listen to, and her performance added greatly to my experience with the book.

Although Death Qualified was not for me, the Barbara Holloway series is very popular, and the eleventh novel was published in 2008. Kate Wilhelm has a website, where you can learn more about her and the wide range of works she has published.


Published by Mira, 2002 (first published 1991)
ISBN-13: 9781551668727
Challenges: Pick Your Theme, 999, 100+
YTD: 57
Rating: C-

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19 July 2009

Spotlight on . . . Pennsylvania Authors


Welcome to a new feature at Beth Fish Reads. From time to time I will be spotlighting authors from Pennsylvania. The posts will take many forms: interviews, book reviews, link posts, wish list posts, and more. I'll be focusing on authors of all genres and writers from colonial times up to the present.

This feature is part of the Literary Road Trip project sponsored by Michelle from GalleySmith. To learn more about the project and to claim a state, visit the Literary Road Trip page. EDIT: The Literary Road Trip spans the globe: Participants are not restricted to picking a U.S. state.

Publicists and Readers: Please feel free to suggest a Pennsylvania author you would like me feature.

Authors: If you are a Pennsylvania author, please do not be shy: Leave a comment or email me, and I will add you to my list.

Thanks to Michelle for starting this great journey.

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18 July 2009

Awards!


I got this great award from the wonderful J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. I can hardly believe that there is anyone who doesn't know J. Kaye! She is a prolific book reviewer, a great host of book challenges, and generous with giveaways. And her entire family reads and reviews! Don't miss her blog.

The Humane Award is to honor bloggers who are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it weren't for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. This award is to thank them for their growing friendships through the blog world.

I am blessed to know many bloggers who deserve this award. I'm going to pass it along to three readers who are not from the United States.

Gautami from India, who blogs at Everything Distills into Reading
Belle from Canada, who blogs at Ms. Bookish
Jackie from the UK, who blogs at Farm Lane Books


Jill from Rhapsodyinbooks's Weblog passed this super award along to her fellow Game On dieters. If you haven't been to Jill's blog, you're missing out on some great reviews, articles, giveaways, and more. Seriously, go and read. Shanyn from Chick Loves Lit Also gave me this award! Visit her blog for terrific reviews and giveaways. Another blog to add to your daily visits.

The Kreativ Blogger award meme works like this: If you accept it, you are supposed to list seven of your favorite things and nominate seven blogs that deserve this award. I recently listed seven favorite things, but I'll name seven favorite foods or flavors in honor of the Game On diet:

1. Anything lemon (lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon custard ice cream)
2. Anything spice (spice cake, molasses cookies, gingerbread)
3. Pesto
4. Risotto (any kind)
5. Green chili
6. Grilled homemade pizza
7. Fresh homemade fruit salad on a hot summer's day

What are some of your favorite foods or flavors?

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Book Blogger Appreciation Week


The second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week has been set for September 14 t0 18. It's a way give recognition to all who are involved with books in the blogosphere. That means you, whether you are an author, book reviewer, or reader.

The first step is to go the BBAW blog and register. Then pick up a button to place on your blog and follow @BBAW on Twitter. Encourage others to participate.

Next, click on the link for Awards & Nominations. There you can nominate your favorite blogs for the categories given. (It is absolutely within the rules to nominate yourself!) There is also space to write in nominations for additional categories. Nominations will be taken until August 15. Final voting begins in September.

BBAW is open to everyone: You don't have to be a blogging superstar, you don't have to have been blogging for eons. Join in the event and use it as an opportunity to connect with the book blogging community.

Don't forget to subscribe to the three feeds at the BBAW blog.

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17 July 2009

Book Review Carnival


The 33rd Bookworms Review Carnival is up today. The theme is Whatcha Reading. Don't miss visiting this great round-up of reviews.

Volunteer to host a carnival and be sure to submit your reviews to future carnivals. Information is available at the carnival blog.

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Take a Walk with Me at Just One More Page


Rebecca at Just One Page invited me to take a walk with her this week. Head on over if you'd like to listen to our conversation. Rebecca is also visiting with Sally from Books and Musings from Downunder!

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Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

North America, sometime in the future. Environmental deterioration has lead to political upheaval, reorganization, a new country, and new laws.

Life in the Seam is difficult, and sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen does what she can to feed and protect her family, including volunteering to substitute for her sister in the annual Hunger Games. Each of the twelve districts of Panem, in what used to be called North America, must send one boy and one girl as tribute to the games. This televised show is no joke: Only one child can remain alive at the end.

Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch—this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. (p. 18)

District 12, Katniss's home, never wins. The mining area is too poor to muster up decent sponsors, and the principal trainer is almost always drunk. Still Katniss and Peeta Mellark must have hope that one of them will be only the second victor from their district in almost seventy-five years. Will either of them have what it takes to stay alive? And what will happen if they have to fight each other?

The Hunger Games deserves all the attention it has garnered. The post-disaster world that Katniss inhabits is easy to envision, and the plastic, show-business quality of the mortal games is reminiscent of what has passed for human entertainment from the gladiators to Survivor.

As in real life, the people who live in Panem are not easily classified, are not necessarily friend or foe. Along with Katniss, we must assess other people's words and deeds and decide who can be trusted. It is difficult to turn away from Katniss as she trains for the game, courts sponsors, and then attempts to find a path through the physical and mental demands of the arena. Players not only must kill or face death themselves but must remember to please the viewing audience, the Gamemakers, and any potential sponsor. With so much to keep your interest, you'll want to read the book in a single sitting.

The novel is wonderfully constructed, moving between action and description, between present and past. Although we are fairly sure of the ultimate outcome, we cannot predict how the players will reach that end and just how the Gamemakers will react to the way in which the victor wins the game.

The unabridged Audiobook (Scholastic Audio) was wonderfully read by Carolyn McCormick, whose pacing and inflections made the story come alive. Whether you read it in print or listen to the audio, I highly recommend this young adult futuristic novel to both teens and adults.

The Hunger Games has won several awards, including the Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice and a Horn Book Fanfare. For the full list and to learn more about Suzanne Collins, visit the author's website.


Published by Scholastic, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780439023481
Challenges: What's in a Name, Support Your Library, 999, 100+
YTD: 56
Rating: A

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16 July 2009

Thursday Tea (July 15): Rapture in Death by J. D. Robb



Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.




The Tea

This week I'm drinking Adagio's Lapsang Souchong tea, which is "Black tea from the Fujian province of China. Lapsang Souchong tea (also called Russian Caravan tea) has a famously smoky aroma and flavor." This tea was in the black tea sampler I bought from Adagio. It is really smoky and reminds me of a campfire. I'm not crazy about it, I think that it must be an acquired taste . . . and I don't have it yet.

The Book

I just started listening to Rapture in Death by J. D. Robb. This is the fourth in the In Death series, which is a bit difficult to describe. Eve Dallas is a detective in New York City in 2050s. She is tough and vulnerable all at once. There are science fiction elements to the books (you can travel off planet, for example), but they are not overwhelming. In fact, I normally hate SF, but I love these books. I have not listened to enough of this novel to know how the mystery/crime aspect is going to play out. [The assessment contains a minor spoiler for the first book in the series.]

The Assessment

Roarke, who is attracted to Eve from the first moment they meet, is one of the richest men in the world. So it is entirely possible that Eve would be able to obtain Lapsang Souchong tea, even in the mid-twenty-first century. In that sense, the tea fits the book. However, I don't really see Eve drinking an exotic tea; she's a bit more down to earth than that.

Here's where I turn to you: I want to know what you're reading or listening to this week. And I'm always interested in what's in your glass or mug.

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15 July 2009

Wordless Wednesday (July 15)

Maine Coastal Path


For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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14 July 2009

Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesday (July 14): Inventing Montana by Ted Leeson


I'm a university professor in my real life, but for several glorious weeks a year I head off for Montana. I spend my days flyfishing and my evenings solving the world's problems over a beer or glass of wine with my summer companions. There's something about Montana that soothes my soul.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.


MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.


Place is a human invention, a negotiated space lying somewhere between the fact of the land and our desire to inhabit it. It exists as both a discovery and a creation, a cartographer's scrawl and coordinates on a map of the imagination. (p. 110)


—Both from Inventing Montana by Ted Leeson

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13 July 2009

Giveaway! The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand


I was going through my books this morning and realized that I have two ARCs of The Castaways. Because I really enjoyed the book (see my review), I'm giving both copies away. This giveaway is international! (I will send the books the least expensive way, so it may take a while to reach you.)

Rules

1. Leave a comment with your email address telling me which island you would visit if money were no object. (1 entry)

2. Tweet or blog about this giveaway (and come back and leave the link in a comment). (1 entry)

3. Subscribe to this blog (through Google, email, RSS). (3 entries)

4. Already a subscriber? Thanks so much. Let me know and you get 5 entries.

New subscribers can have up to 5 entries. Veteran subscribers can have up to 7 entries.

I will use random.org to find two winners when I turn on my computer on the morning of July 25. Good luck!

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Musing Mondays: Cover Story

Here is this week's Musing Mondays hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. For the full rules and for everyone else's answers, click the link.

We all know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but just how much sway does a book cover have when it comes to your choice of book – whether buying or borrowing? Are there any books you’ve bought based on the cover alone?

I am a sucker for a good cover, but I'm not sure I've ever bought a book for its cover alone. I've certainly discovered books based on their covers, but I have to have something more than a pretty picture before I'll actually read a book. Here are some random covers from books I read in my pre-blogging days.





How influenced are you by a good cover?

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12 July 2009

Review: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

In the years before I started blogging, I kept notes about the books I read. Every once in a while I post mini-reviews of books I read in my pre-blogging days. Enjoy.

Plainsong, set in a small plains town in Colorado, revolves around two groups of three people—a schoolteacher and his two young sons and two bachelor ranchers and the pregnant teenager they take into their lives. The common thread among them is another schoolteacher, who lives alone with her senile father. Each character's personality has been molded by a difficult or tragic event, but each one faces life head-on, bucking up in the stereotypical Midwest fashion. Rather than wallowing in the negative, Haruf punctuates the novel with laugh-out-loud moments, especially when he focuses on the aging bachelor McPheron brothers.

Don't be thrown off by the publisher's summary of this novel, which implies that the book is a bit of a soap opera. The characters are so well drawn that it is easy to care about what happens to them. Haruf reveals the traits of the seven main characters only as the plot requires so that there is always a sense of the private nature of each person. There is a strong feeling of reality to the story and setting: Small town life means that almost everyone knows the details of everyone else’s life, from who drives what truck to who is sleeping at whose house.

I listened to this book narrated by Tom Stechschulte, who gave each character a distinct voice. Stechschult conveyed the emotional feel of the novel without letting his dramatization interfere with the flow of the story.

Plainsong was 1999 National Book Award nominee for fiction.


Published by Random House, 2000
ISBN-13: 9780375705854

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11 July 2009

Review: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand


Eight people, four couples, one island. From the outside, they were a happy and blessed group who traveled together, celebrated together, and raised their children together. The day that Addison and Pheobe, the Chief and Andrea, and Jeffrey and Delilah learned of the sailing accident that killed Greg and Tess, all illusions would be shattered.

Castaways is a novel told from six viewpoints as each friend tries to make sense of the deaths and of the events that led to that fateful day. Was it just a simple capsizing in bad weather? Or could the accident have been the result of foul play? From the first page, when we learn about the deaths, to last page, when we learn what happens one year later, the true stories of each castaway are revealed layer by layer. Eventually, all the pieces are provided and we can assemble them into a coherent whole.

Hilderbrand introduces us to imperfect, self-reflecting, and self-involved characters who are not easy to like. Their lives seem to veer off course onto paths that most of us would not take. Regardless, the story is addictive, and the reader is compelled to see the drama through to the end. The multiple connections and gulfs between and among the couples drive the plot forward, keeping us guessing until all is brought to light.

Although a few extraneous characters are described in more detail than was probably necessary, Hilderbrand has written a tight, well-told story that makes a good summer read. I recommend the book and plan to explore the author's other novels.

Castaways has a great website with discussion forums, photographs of Nantucket, and even a yummy-sounding summer cocktail recipe!


Published by Little, Brown, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780316043892
Challenges A-Z Author, 999, 100+
YTD: 55
Rating: B

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10 July 2009

Summer Reading: A Peek at the Peak of Mt. TBR

Here are some books that are near the top of my TBR pile. I'm looking forward to them all, and hope I can finish them by summer's end.



First up are two YA fantasies that I'm really excited about. The Magicians and the first in the Oathbreakers series: Assassin's Apprentice.



Here are two books about family: Atlas of the Unknows is about sisters and Five Minutes More is a YA novel about a young girl coping with the loss of her father.



I plan to spend some time in Africa! Baking Cakes in Kigali is a novel that takes place in Rawanda. Wife of Gods is a debut mystery that takes place in Ghana.



And finally, three unrelated books I'm looking forward to. Patron Saint is memoir of a man's search for the perfect old car while coping with family crises. A Separate Country is an historical novel that takes place during the Civil War. I loved Hicks's Widow of the South and can't wait to read his new one. The Amen Heresy is a thriller centering around the Dead Sea Scrolls.

What do you have planned for your summer reading?

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2017. All rights reserved.

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