31 January 2009

Weekly Link Round-Up (Jan. 31)

Here are the blogs and posts I want to highlight this week.


I'm sure you've seen the Booking through Thursday meme that many book bloggers participate in. This week Deb changed the rules just a bit and started a discussion through comments and blogs about books in the digital age. You shouldn't miss this conversation.

Amy from My Friend Amy wrote a thoughtful post about the joys of assigned reading. This topic has come up a couple of times in the book blogging world recently, and Amy talks about how exposure to the classics in school can spark a lifelong love of reading. Do you agree or disagree? Let Amy know.


This year I expanded my horizons by reading my first graphic novels. Laza of Gimme More Books is hosting a graphics novel challenge. If you've been even a little curious about graphic novels and the wide range of genres available, please stop by the Graphic Novels Challenge blog. Can you believe that there are almost 40 reviews up and the challenge is barely one month old!

Have you been reading the great mini-reviews on Jenny's Page? It's amazing how many books Jenny reads and how wonderful her reviews are. She has the talent to say more in a few sentences than I can say in several paragraphs! She has eclectic tastes, so you're sure to find a book that interests you. I hope you explore Jenny's blog.


I know a lot of you get used books from BookMooch, contests, giveaways, and other sources. Have you ever gotten a book that came from the home of a smoker? If so, you might have noticed that the books carried a smoke stench. Keira over at Love Romance Passion has some tips on how to get rid of the foul odor. You might want to bookmark her post.

Julie from Confessions of a Book Habitue has a nice review of State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy. This cozy mystery features Olivia Paras, an assistant chef at the White House. Here's what Julie had to say: "Great story. It was lots of fun. Not overly complicated."

Historical fiction fans should go to Wendi's Book Corner to read the review of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. I thought the novel sounded interesting, but Wendi has convinced me that it's a must read: "This book gives the reader a wonderful view of what life was like during [the late 1600s] and a shocking look into what can happen when people turn against each other out of spite, bitterness and jealousy."

Steph, a.k.a. Reviewer X, put together a terrific post for bloggers who review ARCs. She asked a number of publishing companies this question: "How far ahead of the release date do you consider ideal for bloggers to post about ARCs you send out?" Almost a dozen publishers replied; don't miss their responses.

You might not know that Shelly at Write for a Reader conducts author interviews. Her latest is with Merrily Kutner, who writes books for children. Kutner says, "I aspire to write with the whimsy of Dr. Seuss, the skill of Jane Yolen and the sensitivity of Eve Bunting."

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Some of these links were part of a link-sharing group started by Amy of My Friend Amy. If you would like to join in, leave your email address in the comments, and I'll send you the information. Link sharing is open to anyone who wants to participate, and you don't need to share links every week.

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30 January 2009

Friday Finds: Jan. 30

I post all my weekly discoveries on Sundays, but I like to highlight one or two books for this meme. For other Friday Finds, please click on over to Should Be Reading.

This week I found a great audiobook on Anastasia's blog Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. This novel is, according to the publisher, "a darkly comic spoof of the serial killer genre." Anastasia says: "I can confidently say that if you like that sort of thing, The Serial Killers Club will make you lol." Visit her blog to read the full review.

I found this book from Audible.com's email newsletter. Here's a bit from the publisher's summary: The "richly seductive prose brings to life the color and scandal of 15th-century Venice. . . . [The book] is more than terrific historical drama; its a love story, an investigation into ancient religious secrets that haunt us today, and it's a story of intrigue replete with pulse-pounding chase scenes, murderous assassins, torture chambers and conniving, desperate characters. It's beautifully written, authentically detailed . . ."

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29 January 2009

Award! Let's Be Friends

Robin from My Two Blessings was kind enough to give me this award. Be sure to check out her blog—there is always something interesting to read there. EDIT: Meghan from Medieval Bookworm also gave me this great award. Be sure to click to her blog to see some great reviews and bookish discussions. Melody from Meldoy's Reading Corner also gave me this award. Don't miss her reviews and photos.

The award says: “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

Now comes the part that I find so hard to do, and that is picking people to give the award to. I'm always worried about hurting someone's feelings or forgetting to list a favorite blog. I'm going to award this to just some of the non-U.S. blogs I read.

Marny at Marny the Bookworm and Women of the Civil War blogs from Germany
Belle at Ms. Bookish blogs from Canada
Dorte from DJs krimblog blogs from Denmark
Alessandra from Out of the Blue blogs from Italy
Louise from Lous_Pages blogs from Denmark
Veens from Give Reading a Chance blogs from India
Lynda from Lynda's Book Blog and The Holistic Knitter's Blog blogs from Wales
Dar of Peeking Between the Pages blogs from Canada

Be sure to visit these great blogs!

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28 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday (Jan. 28)

Statue in Copenhagen

For more Wordless Wednesday entries, click here.

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Tagged and Happy

I've been tagged by Rebecca from Lost in Books and Rose from Desert Rose Booklogue for this happy meme! First, if you haven't been reading their blogs, then click on over and take a look. I'm a regular visitor of both.

Okay, here are the rules:

⇒ Link to the person who has tagged you.
⇒ Write down six things that make you happy.
⇒ Post the rules, tag six others and let them know you did it.
⇒ Then tell the person when your entry is complete!

My 6 Things:

1. Really good coffee.
2. Bringing in bunches of lilacs in the spring.
3. Having a whole day to do nothing but read.
4. Traveling.
5. Taking my camera for a walk.
6. Celebrating my birthday.

Because I just tagged people for another meme, let me add a bonus happiness item: You! My blogging buddies. Consider yourself tagged.

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27 January 2009

Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesdays (Jan. 27)

I'm a teenage girl who followed my first love through a book and into a land of blue fairies, glass men, and fire-eaters. I thought life here would be wonderful, but I'm learning the lesson that you should be careful of what you wish for. I am so happy that my parents were able to follow me to Inkworld, but now we're not sure if we can ever return home.

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

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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.

My current book is on audio, but I thought I'd try Amazon's "look inside" feature. I hit the "surprise me" link, and this what I found:

But the hidden words said something else, something that only she could read between the lines. They said that at last the Bluejay was ready to strike the bargain she had offered him beside Cosimo's coffin. (p. 288)

—Both are from Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

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Review: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith

This is the second volume in Smith's Bone series. If you haven't read the first book, you might want to skip to my thoughts, but there are no real spoilers.

My Summary: This adventure centers around the village of Barrelhaven's spring fair. Poor Fone thought he'd spend the fair days with Thorn, but she is flirting with Tom the honey seller. Meanwhile Phoney is back to his old tricks, setting up a betting scam with Smiley's help. Gran'ma Ben is practicing for the annual cow race, and the rat creatures are still craving a Fone Bone quiche. How will it all work out?

My Thoughts: This volume is even better than the first; I couldn't put the book down, and I read it all in a single sitting. The plot is getting more complex, with intertwining stories and hints that some characters are not what they seem to be. Although Smith had me laughing out loud, there seems to be a sinister side to life in the valley. It's not yet clear how this evil will affect the villagers and what role each individual character will play. The full-color art continues to be awesome.

Here is the best endorsement I can make: My husband doesn't like animation, doesn't read the comics, and doesn't like fantasy. But he was laughing so hard at the last chapter in the book (the only one he read) that he now wants to read the whole series. He was impressed with how easy it was to grasp the characters' personalities in just a few panels, and he was amazed by the details in the drawings and by how much information each panel conveyed.

Two days after finishing The Great Cow Race, I went to library to get volume 3. Volume 4 was out, but I put a hold on it. I bet I read through the series in short order.

I read this book to meet several challenges (listed below). To learn more about the challenges and to see what everyone else is reading, click on the title above the progress bar in the left margin.

The Great Cow Race at an Indie

Published by Scholastic, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780439706391
Challenges: Graphic Novel, A-Z Title, 100+, 999, Buy 1
YTD: 8
Rating: A+

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26 January 2009

Musing Mondays: Lending

Here's this week's MM hosted by Rebecca over at Just One More Page. Be sure to click on over to her blog to see the complete meme and to see what everyone else has to say.

I was wondering what your policy was on lending books. Do you lend books to anyone? Just friends? Only big readers? How long are they allowed to have them?

Actually, I hate lending my books and rarely do so. My parents and brothers are pretty much the only people I trust with my books because (1) they remember to return them and (2) they treat them with care.

I have had many unfortunate experiences with lending books: I never see the book again, it comes back dog-eared, the spine is broken, or there are food or water stains on the book cover or pages. I try to think of some gentle excuse to get out of lending.

To be fair, I don't borrow books from friends either. Although I know that I'll return the book and keep it in good condition, it's not right to borrow if I won't lend.

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Oh my, I am so thrilled to receive this blog award from Sandy from You've Gotta Read This! She's terrific member of our blogging community and on her site you'll find thoughtful book reviews and some cool photographs. Be sure to click on over and check out her blog.

Before passing this award along to five other blogs, I have to list five things I'm addicted to. Sandy and I apparently have the same addictions (are we twins separated at birth?), so some of these will look familiar!

⇒ Cooking: I cook about 300 nights a year.
⇒ Collecting cookbooks: last time I counted I was getting close to 1000.
⇒ Making bobbin lace: I've even gone to Europe to pursue lace
⇒ Viggo: what's a post without him?
⇒ Audiobooks: Love them, especially when I'm in the kitchen cooking

And just to make sure lots of people read this post, here's a random photo of Viggo:

Now to share the award. Here are five blogs I read pretty much every day, be sure to click through and check them out. I hope they become a favorite of yours too.

⇒ Margot from Joyfully Retired
⇒ Nise from Under the Boardwalk
⇒ Gautami from the Reading Room
⇒ Rebecca from Lost in Books
⇒ Dawn from She's Too Fond of Books

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25 January 2009

Weekly Discoveries (Jan. 25)

Here's what caught my eye this week: As always, some are from fellow bloggers and some are my own discoveries.

For those new to this feature: I list all the books that attract my attention during the week. Some I'll read, many I won't. And later, I might not even remember why I thought I'd like a particular title or author.

Books to Consider
Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch (fiction, time travel)
Who By Fire by Diana Spechler (fiction) also as: ebook
Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson (YA fiction) just published
The Getting of Wisdom by Handel Richardson (fiction, Australia) also as: ebook; audio
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy)
Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (memoir; growing up in Brooklyn) also as: audio
FDR by Jean Edward Smith (biography) also as: audio
The Little Book by Selden Edwards (time travel; 1897 Vienna) also as: audio
The Fireman's Wife by Jack Riggs (contemporary fiction)
School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (contemporary fiction) also as: audio
Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne (contemporary/fantasy?)

Authors to Check Out
Margaret Grace (mysteries)
Rebecca Ray (fiction)
Flora Thompson (Lark Rise to Candleford series; semiautobiographical; Britain 19th-20th centuries) also as: audio
Liz Williams (Detective Inspector Chen series; mystery, fantasy)
Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles; fantasy) also as: audio
Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark Hunter series; adult fantasy/romance)
Pauline Gedge (historical fiction; ancient Egypt)
Jacqueline Winspear (mystery series; London between the wars) also as: audio

Books Bought or Borrowed
The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Witaker (nonfiction)
James Monroe by Harry Ammon (nonfiction)

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24 January 2009

Review: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith

Out from Boneville is the first volume in Smith's Bone series.

My Summary: Phoney Bone, the richest guy in Boneville, gets run out of town because of his dubious business dealings. His cousins Fone and Smiley join him in exile, and soon the Bones are lost in the desert. After the three are overtaken by a swarm of locusts, Fone finds himself alone with only a scrap of a map, which may be real or one of Smiley's practical jokes. Fone decides to follow the map, and along the way he sees Smiley's cigar butts, scattered in the sand like a trail of bread crumbs.

Fone eventually ends up in a beautiful, lush valley, and it seems that his luck has changed. Now all he has to do is find his cousins so they can all go back home. The good news is that he is able to make some friends; the bad news is that giant rat creatures seem to think Fone would make a tasty treat. Will Fone be able to escape the rats? Are Phoney and Smiley lost forever? How will Fone ever find his way back to Boneville?

My Thoughts: I loved Out of Boneville, and I even chuckled out loud in a few places. Fone is just so darn cute! The interactions and contrasts among the three cousins offer good dynamics, and Thorn and her grandmother are great characters. This first volume sets the scene for the longer tale, and although the plot isn't all that sophisticated so far, it's a great read.

The full-color drawings are absolutely brilliant. I am particularly taken with the characters' faces—from the monsters to the baby possums—and the eyes and the general expressions are fantastic. Two of the simplest panels show the first snowfall of winter; they are hilarious in the context of the story. Can't wait to read the rest of the saga.

I read this novel to meet several challenges (listed below); to find out more about a challenge and to see what other participants are reading, click on the title above the progress bar in the left margin.

Published by Scholastic, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780439706407
Challenges: A-Z Title, New Author, 100+, 999, Graphic Novel, Buy 1 and Read
YTD: 7
Rating B+

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Weekly Link Round-Up (Jan. 24)

Here's my first Weekly Link Round-Up.

Any Lost fans out there? Amy, of My Friend Amy fame, had an interesting post about the connection between the television show and books and reading. In fact, she's hosting a reading challenge based on the books mentioned in the series.

Do you review ARCs or receive books from authors or publishers? What are your thoughts about revealing the source of the book you're discussing? Join the lively conversation about this issue over at Trish's blog, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

It's always great when a author agrees to be interviewed by a blogger. Shelburns was lucky enough to talk to Tony Peters, who wrote Kids on a Case: The Ten Grand Kidnapping. This young Canadian has a lot going for him, don't miss meeting him at Write for a Reader.

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Wendi just finished reading The Valentine Edition by Robin Shope. If you're a fan of Christian Romance, you should check out the review at Wend's Book Corner for this "wonderfully romantic story that helps the reader to gently remember the importance of prayer, forgiveness and faith."

ForstRose at Bibliophile's Retreat has a great suggestion for historical fiction fans with an interest in the church. Here's what she has to say about The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke: "I'm not sure how to balance this rave out with more sober thoughts on the book as truly I wasn't able to find anything not to love about it."

If Jesus ran for president, would you vote for him? Roland Merulla's novel American Savior follows Jesus on the campaign trail. In a great review of this work of contemporary fiction, Kathy, of Bermudaonion's Weblog, tells us: "This book is humorous as well as thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it."

Marta of Marta's Meanderings posted a nice review of Houston, We Have a Problema, by Gwendolyn Zepeda. This is contemporary fiction about a young woman trying to find her way in the world. Here's a quote from the review: "It has a strong latino theme to it, but it definitely crosses all cultures with the themes of growing up, tolerance and acceptance."

If you like the mob and/or a good thriller head on over to Booking Mama to read Julie's review of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. Julie says: "I enjoyed how the story was told using flashbacks into Peter's childhood and prior mob life because it gave the reader insight into his character. I also appreciated seeing how conflicted Peter was."

Mystery lovers should check out the review of Conscience Point by Erica Abeel over at S. Krishna's Books. Here's a snippet: "Conscience Point is fashioned as a modern-day Gothic mystery . . . that's very easy to get lost in."

Hope you enjoyed this Weekly Link Round-Up. Let me know if you'd like to see more of this kind of post.

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23 January 2009

Friday Finds: Jan. 23

I post all my weekly discoveries on Sundays, but I like to highlight one or two books for this meme. For other Friday Finds, please click on over to Should Be Reading.

I have two Friday Finds to share this week, both from fellow bloggers.

I found Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne on Alea's terrific blog Pop Culture Junkie. Here are just a couple of sentences from her review: "Going To See The Elephant is hilarious, quirky, and very full of great little details. It felt to me that the story was set in an alternate universe San Fransisco. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what time period it takes place in and I loved it for that. It's truly original." Click the links to see what else Alea said.

The next book comes from Michele's fantastic blog A Reader's Respite. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister is a novel that centers around a cooking school. Seems tailor made for me. Here are a few sentences from her review: "[T]his novel is, above all else, a beautifully written character study of each student in Lillian's class. Each character is given their own chapter and their diversity is bound to strike a chord in readers from all walks of life." Click the links to read Michele's full review.

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22 January 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Inspiration

Here is this week's BTT question hosted by Deb. For more answers, click on over to the meme's blog here.

Since “inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week . . . what is your reading inspired by?

Yikes! Difficult question. I'm basically mood-driven when it comes time to pick the next book to read. I might be influenced by current events, a television show, a movie, an interesting book review, or just plain whimsy.

I am most attracted to books involving other places, other times (fiction, nonfiction, fantasy) and mysteries (especially series).

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Review: Rebel by Bernard Cornwell

My Summary: Under the influence of his abolitionist preacher father, Nathaniel Starbuck reached young adulthood with an unhealthy fear of hell and not much firsthand knowledge of the outside world. Thus the young Bostonian is ripe for the pickings when a pretty actress is looking for someone to escort her from Connecticut to Virginia. Richmond is not a good place for a Yankee in April 1861. The South has just captured Fort Sumter, and Nate is beaten up, robbed, and accused of being a spy. Only the intervention of his best friend's father, Washington Faulconer, saves Nate from being tarred and feathered.

Faulconer, like many rich Southerners, has romantic notions of leading brave men into war and defeating the North in one or two glorious battles. Nate, who is too afraid of his father to return home, joins Faulconer's Legion to become a soldier. Starbuck will eventually have to face some tough questions: Can he shed his abolitionist upbringing and fight against his fellow Yankees? Will he be able to kill another human being? How will he feel when he sees the Stars and Stripes on the other side of the battlefield?

My Thoughts: Rebel is the first of the four-book series The Starbuck Chronicles, covering the U.S. Civil War. Although Cornwell takes up familiar themes—including brother fighting brother and shattered dreams of battlefield heroism and glory—he also explores the theme of rebel in several forms: young men vs. their fathers, young women vs. their lovers, individuals vs. their own natures, and soldiers vs. the army leadership of their new country.

It is clear that this novel is the first in a series. Cornwell spends most of the book setting up the characters and the conflicts and alliances among them. Nate Starbuck's transformation from naive seminary student to a young man facing the destruction of his nation is at the center of the story, but we also see how the impending war affects other fathers and sons, rich men and ordinary schoolteachers, outlaws and rogues, and women of all social classes. By the end of the book, Starbuck has made difficult decisions and found his place in the war.

Even if you already know the outcome of the First Manassas, the battle scene is exciting, and the specific experiences of the characters cannot be predicted. We see how battle breaks some men but brings out the best in others, and we're left wanting more.

The book finishes with an author's note that discusses the very few liberties Cornwell took with history. Although the main characters are fictional, the principal details of the battle and the events leading up to it are based in fact.

Photo and Battle: The image is of Federal cavalry at Sudley Ford (near Manassas), where some of the action in the book takes place. The photo is in the public domain and was taken by George Barnard in March 1862. I could find no photo from the time of the battle (July 1861). For additional contemporary pictures of the battlefield and surrounding area, click here. For information about the battle see the National Park Service's website here.

Audio: I listened to this unabridged recording read by Tom Parker. Parker does a fine job differentiating the characters and with the various accents. His rendition of women is not the strongest but is definitely adequate. The reading was engrossing, and I had a hard time turning off my MP3 player.

Challenges: I read this book to meet a number of challenges (listed below). To learn more about them and to see what other participants are reading, click on the name above the progress bar in the left margin.

Audiobook published by Blackstone, 2001
ISBN-13: 9780786119325
Challenges: Winter Reading, Civil War, A-Z Title, Support Your Library, 100+, 999, Audiobooks
YTD: 6
Rating: B

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21 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday (Jan 21)

Autumn Skies

For more Wordless Wednesday shots, click here.

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20 January 2009

Blog Improvement Project: #2

It's task 2 of the BIP, hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. If you haven't heard of this project, head on over to her blog and read all about it.

Today's Assignment: In a nutshell, this week we're to focus on content and brainstorming ideas. Kim found some good articles on how to come up with fresh ideas for posts and gave us a two-part assignment: brainstorm post topics and come up with a unique feature for your blog.

Progress to Date: As a result of the first assignment, I've made a few changes around here. I'm still working on all my goals, but here's what's different or new:

Blogroll: now a drop-down list
Awards: now a slide show
Social media buttons: now near top of sidebar and in footer of each post
Stats: added blog to a few more catalogs and stat sites
Profile: updated
Photo blurb: updated
Template and html: making progress
Commenting: improving
Book reviews: added headers to help readers and to make it clearer that the summaries are my own

Brainstorming Content: What to blog about is not difficult. My focus is books and book reviews and my weekly photograph. I participate in enough memes that I'm covered for the days that I don't have a review. I brainstormed a bit and decided that I'm generally okay with what I have. I could add recipes or more articles about wine if I needed something new, but I'm happy with my content for now.

Blogging Ideas: I already have a unique feature: My Weekly Discoveries post seems to be a popular item. The number of hits and comments I get on that post each Sunday are increasing, and at least a few people go back and read my old lists as well. I have a couple of ideas for improving that feature to make it a bit more informative. I need to think them through before going public!

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19 January 2009

Musing Mondays: Sick Bed

Here's this week's Musing Mondays, brought to us by Rebecca at One More Page. To read more about the meme and to see other answers, click on through to her blog.

How does your being sick (or injured) affect your reading? Do you read more? Less? Do you pick out a different book than you had already planned? Do you have a "comfort book" that makes you feel better?

When I don't feel well, I want a light and easy read. I might turn to cozy mysteries or YA fantasies. I want a book that won't tax my foggy brain and that can hold up to intermittent napping.

Last time I was really sick (about a year ago) I read Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor and started Murder in the Museum by Simon Brett.

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18 January 2009

Weekly Discoveries (Jan. 18)

You know the drill by now: Here are the books that caught my eye this week. Some come from fellow bloggers and others are my own discoveries.

Notice that I didn't buy or even borrow a single books this week. A first!

Book Suggestions
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (food and cooking)
Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas (HF, Civil War)
The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright (mystery)
Undercover by Beth Kephart (YA fiction)
The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley (HF, Tudors)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (YA, Britian between the wars)

Authors to Check Out
Christopher Fowler (mysteries, England)
Ellen Crosby (mysteries, winery)
Nancy Springer (adventures of Sherlock Holmes's younger sister)

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17 January 2009

Tag: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Carrie from Books and Movies tagged me for the "I Have Been Lazy, Hence I Make Excuses" meme, in which we are to list the excuses we give ourselves when we haven’t made time to read, in spite of the towering stacks of to-be-read books. Be sure to click on through and see Carrie's excuses.

This is hard for me because my life generally goes the other way -- I always have time for reading but never have time for anything else. But here goes:

1. It's January, I really should put away those Halloween decorations.
2. I just heard TweetDeck beep; I don't want miss any vital news.
3. I need to go to the store; for some odd reason Mr. BFR thinks there should be food in the house.

If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged!

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16 January 2009

Review: Artemis Fowl (Graphic) by Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel was adapted from the first entry in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and Andre Donkin with art by Giovanni Rigano and color by Paolo Lamanna.

My Summary: Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old genius whose family life is falling apart. His father, a kind of Irish mobster, has been kidnapped; his mother has gone into a psychological decline from the strain; and the family fortune is rapidly dwindling. The boy is left in the care of Butler, his body guard, guardian, and friend.

Artemis must find a way to replenish his funds so he has the resources to track down and free his father. His plan involves tricking the fairy world into surrendering one ton of their gold. The only problem is that Artemis must first learn all about fairies and then try to find one! Captain Holly Short, the only female elite police officer, is the lucky fairy to be entrapped in Fowl Manor.

As the fairy police arrive--bringing a centaur, a troll, a dwarf, and special weapons--Artemis must hope that he has made no mistakes.

My Thoughts: The graphic version of this novel works beautifully, and the drawings are absolutely amazing. While it is true that my images of the characters didn't match those of the artist, I quickly adjusted. I loved how the background information was presented on separate pages, one of which appeared before each chapter. Those pages were set up as if they were file folders, complete with sticky notes, photos, business cards, and scraps of paper. It was easy to tell the difference between spoken words and a character's thoughts, and some of the balloons were color coded to help differentiate characters' dialogue.

I'm not sure how this book would work for someone who hadn't read the print novel, but I enjoyed it. The second in the series will be out as a graphic novel in August, and I'll be looking for it.

I read this book as a part of several challenges (listed below). To learn more about them and to see what other participants are reading, click on the name above the progress bar in the left column.

Published by Miramax Books, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780786848829
Challenges: A-Z Title, Graphic Novels, 999, 100+, Buy One
YTD: 5
Rating: A

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Friday Finds: Jan. 16

I post all my weekly discoveries on Sundays, but I like to highlight one or two books for this meme. For other Friday Finds, please click on over to Should Be Reading.

The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker was recommended by my local library. Here's the publisher's summary:

"The year is 1735. A decade-long expedition to South America is launched by a team of French scientists racing to measure the circumference of the earth and to reveal the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery and knowledge. From this extraordinary journey arose an unlikely love between one scientist and a beautiful Peruvian noblewoman. Victims of a tangled web of international politics, Jean Godin and Isabel Gramesón’s destiny would ultimately unfold in the Amazon’s unforgiving jungles, and it would be Isabel’s quest to reunite with Jean after a calamitous twenty-year separation that would capture the imagination of all of eighteenth-century Europe. A remarkable testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness, and enduring love, Isabel Gramesón’s survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration."

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15 January 2009

Booking through Thursday: Songs

Here is this week's Booking through Thursday. For the complete meme and to see other answers, be sure to visit Deb's BTT blog here.

If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes. So, today’s question? What songs . . . either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer . . . have words that you love? Why? And . . . do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?

I have just two words: Bob Dylan.

Okay, I'll a few other words: Bill Staines, Nanci Griffith, Chery Wheeler, and many other folkies.

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14 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday (Jan. 14)

Fireworks! (Happy Birthday to Me)

For more Wordless Wednesday shots, click here.

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Review: French Lessons by Peter Mayle

My Summary: Most people know Peter Mayle from his delightful memoir A Year in Provence, which describes the British author's adjustment to living in the French countryside. In French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew, Mayle travels throughout his adopted country to savor a selection of typical French fare.

With his usual charm and self-deprecating humor, Mayle takes us from his first Parisian meal (of upscale fish and chips) to a frog-leg festival, a mass held in honor of truffles, wine-tasting opportunities, and a look behind the scenes of the Michelin guide. Among other adventures is a trip to Normandy to learn about pungent cheeses and delectable ciders. Throughout, we are treated to a sense of a culture just a step removed from the modern frenzied pace.

For example,

Lunch progresses at an unhurried pace, as all good lunches should. People eat more slowly on Sundays, and drink a little more wine than usual. They forget to look at their watches. Two hours slip by, often more. Eventually, with appetites satisfied, a drowsy calm comes over the room as the plates are cleared away, the tablecloths are brushed, and coffee is served. A lazy afternoon lies ahead: a book, a doze, a swim. The chef makes a ceremonial tour of the tables, gathering compliments, happy to share with you one or two favorite recipes. Curiously, these dishes never taste quite the same at home, no matter how carefully the recipe is followed, no matter how talented the cook. There is something about Sunday lunch in a French country restaurant that goes beyond food (p. 19).
My Thoughts: This is must-read for all Mayle fans. If you're new to the author, start with A Year in Provence, the best (in my opinion) of his memoirs.

I read this book for a number of reading challenges (listed below). For more information about them and to see what other participants are reading, click on the name above the progress bar in the left column.

Published by Random House, 2002
ISBN-13: 9780375705618
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Title, 100+, Buy One
YTD: 4
Rating: B+

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13 January 2009

It's Tuesday: Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesdays (Jan. 13)

It's 1861 and I'm a Massachusetts seminary student who left school and my family to escort the woman I love to Virginia. Once we reached Richmond, she ditched me for another, and I was left with not much money and no place to go. As luck would have it, the south captured Fort Sumter just about the time I was wandering around the city. Only the serendipitous appearance of my best friend's father saved me from being tarred and feathered as a Yankee spy. With the nation on the brink of war, I have to figure out how I'm going to support myself and where I'm going live.

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.

"I said get off that damned horse!" Truslow snapped the corn so fiercely that even the dog, which had seemed wilder than its own master, suddenly whimpered itself into silence and skulked back to the shade of the broken porch. "I've got work for you, boy," Truslow added.

"Work?" Starbuck slid out of the saddle, wondering just what kind of hell he had come to.

--Rebel (The Starbuck Chronicles #1), by Bernard Cornwell (p. 77)

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12 January 2009

Review: House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar

Davidar follows three generations of Dorai men as they struggle to find their place in India as it morphs from a passive British colony to an independent state.

My Summary: At the turn of the twentieth century, Solomon Dorai, headman of the southern village of Chevathar, has made minor concessions to British rule and the modern world. But he finds it impossible to shed the traditions of the caste system and the emotions of family rivalries. Solomon wants nothing more than to keep the peace in his town and to pass his mango groves and social status onto one of his sons, but the boys are interested in the wider world. Aaron dreams of an independent India, and Daniel wants to be a doctor.

In a familiar karmic cycle of rebirth and death, each generation must establish itself anew, shedding the sins of those who came before while attempting to find the correct path to the future. Daniel's son, Kannan, grows up in especially turbulent times. Like all men of his generation, he is forced to place a bet: Who will control India, the British or the Indians? This choice will have lasting effects on Kannan and the Dorai family.

My Thoughts: Davidar, a native Indian, relegates politics to the background of the story. Instead, he focuses on the lives of Solomon, Daniel, and Kannan, none of whom is active in the independence movement. In this way, we learn how the events of twentieth-century India affected ordinary, somewhat well-off families.

Unfortunately, the pace of the book is variable. Solomon's story is well told and contains a fair amount of drama. Daniel is the most interesting of the men, but here the plot begins to drag. By part three, Kannan's story, it becomes easy to stop caring about the Dorais. Despite the tangents and slow pacing, The House of Blue Mangoes offers a fresh perspective on India's push to self-rule.

I listened to the novel on CD (obtained through interlibrary loan), read by Robert Whitfield. I am no expert on accents, but I was particularly impressed with Whitfield's ability to speak with an Indian accent that was believable and in no way a parody.

I read this book as part of a number of challenges (listed below). For more information about any of them and to see what other participants are reading, click on the name above the progress bar in the left margin.

Audio published by Blackstone, 2002
ISBN-13: 97809786195282
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Author, Well-Seasoned Reader, New Authors, Support Your Library, 100+, Audiobooks, 999
YTS: 3
Rating: C+

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Musing Mondays: School Reads

Here is today's Musing Mondays, hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. To see the complete meme and to see everyone's answers, click on over to Rebecca's blog.

How did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/university/college/etc? How do you think on these books now? What book were you 'forced' to read when you where in school that you've since reread and loved?

I was always an avid reader and never reacted badly to assigned reading. That is not to say that I loved everything assigned but that I approached my assignments with an open mind. I was a science major, so I didn't take many English classes as an undergraduate.

Three authors I disliked in my youth and still dislike: Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and E. M. Forester.

Two authors I always liked but for whom my appreciation has grown as I have matured: Franz Kafka and Victor Hugo.

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11 January 2009

Weekly Discoveries (Jan. 11)

Here are this week's discoveries. Many come from fellow bloggers and others are my own finds.

For those new to this feature: I list all the books that attract my attention during the week. Some I'll read, many I won't. And later, I might not even remember why I thought I'd like a particular title or author.

Book Suggestions
The God of War by Marisa Silver (contemporary fiction)
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee (historic fiction, WWII)
Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud (YA)
The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick (historical fiction; Arthur; first in trilogy)
My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse (historical fiction; China 1850s)
The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan (historical fiction; India early 20th century)
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman (historical fiction; Newfoundland early 20th century)
Silver: My Own Tale As Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder by Edward Chupack (fiction)
The House at Riverton by Kate Marton (historical fiction)

Authors to Check Out
James Rollins (adventure, thrillers)

New (to Me) Mystery Series by a Favorite Author
Carolyn Hart's Bailey Ruth mysteries

Books Bought or Borrowed
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson (contemporary fiction / historical fiction, 17th century)
Secret Vampire by L. J. Smith (YA fantasy/paranormal)
Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (YA fantasy/paranormal)

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10 January 2009

Saturday Review of Books

Just a short note today. You might not know that every Saturday Semicolon offers a place to post your book reviews. I always find some great books and discover new blogs by clicking through the links. Visit Sherry's blog here.

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09 January 2009

Award! Premio Dardos

I received this awesome award from J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog. Her blog is a spot I check several times a day because she and her family are avid readers with eclectic tastes, and there are always new and interesting reviews to be found. If you haven't seen her blog yet, go check it out.

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.

The rules to follow are

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The following blogs are places I go pretty much every day. Each person has a unique outlook on life -- some make me laugh, some make me think, some share my reading tastes. All make my life online a rich and interesting experience.

For other deserving blogs I encourage you to look at the list J. Kaye put together because many of my favorite blogs are there. And then you need to see my blogroll (contains only participants in the Read & Review challenge) for more. Finally, I wish you could see my feed reader. I hate to stop at just this list, but them's the rules.

A Reader's Respite
Giving Reading a Chance
Just One More Page
Not Enough Books
Gimme More Books
Out of the Blue
Kylee's 2009 Blog
All About {n}
Farm Lane Books
Melody's reading Corner
Linus's Blanket
Lynne's Little Corner of the World
A Guy's Moleskin Notebook
Fizzy Thoughts

EDIT: Wow!! I just found out that Lilly from Reading Extravaganza also gave me this award! You must head on over to her blog to read about everything from Bill the Vampire to some great book reviews. Thanks so much, Lilly!

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Friday Finds: Jan. 9

I post all my weekly discoveries on Sundays, but I like to highlight one or two books for this meme. For other Friday Finds, please click on over to Should Be Reading.

I found The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson in AudioFile magazine. Here is part of the publisher's summary:

Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. It appears to be a book of exquisite 17th-century embroidery patterns--but on closer examination, Julia finds it also contains faint diary entries. In these, Cat Tregenna, an embroideress, tells how she and others were stolen out of a Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat's story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia discovers buried secrets.

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08 January 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Best of 08

Here's this week's Booking through Thursday. To see what others have to say, visit Deb's blog here.

It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?

I always have trouble picking out favorite books, so I'm going to list some of the books that got top ratings from me last year. Half were read before I started blogging, but I've provided a link to my review for the others.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (mystery; gothic)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (fiction)
About Alice by Calvin Trillin (memoir)
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (review) (fiction; time travel)
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke (review) (fantasy; YA)
House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler (review) (nonfiction)

I rated other books with an A, but these are the ones that stuck with me.

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07 January 2009


Thank you to Book Psmith for this Butterfly Award. I've had a rough week at work and this is great pick-me-up!! It was sooo nice of her. Thanks again!!!!

I know I'm supposed tag others, but there are just so many great blogs out there, I don't know who to tag. I'm simply going to tell all my bookish friends that I think they're all pretty cool.

EDIT: Thanks to Melody from Melody's Reading Corner for also giving me this award! I can't tell you how touched I am. The book blogging community is made up of an awesome group of people. Thanks for bringing me some good cheer!

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Wordless Wednesday (Jan. 7)

Bremen, Germany

This was taken early on a Sunday morning, before the shops were open and when most people were still sleeping! For other Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

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06 January 2009

Blog Improvement Project: #1

After reading about the Blog Improvement Project on Louise's blog (Lous_Pages), I headed over to Kim's blog at Sophisticated Dorkiness and signed up. Every other week Kim will post a mini project that is geared to help us improve our blogs and become better bloggers.

This week's project is to think about goals. Kim provided some great ideas and links to get us started. I've always been a bit of rebel, so I'm going to do this assignment my way!

I've tried not to read too many posts by other participants, because I want my goals to suit me, and I don't want to be too influenced by others. I suspect I'll be posting some amendments once I get around to reading other posts.

I set up my blog in September 2008 to be a place to talk about books, to increase my participation in reading challenges, and to post my thoughts about the books I read. Originally, I thought I'd also discuss cooking and maybe post some photos. As it happened, I am not at all interested in blogging about food and cooking, and I love to post my weekly photograph. So already my goals have changed.

Here are some things I'd like to do in 2009:

• Learn more html
• Improve my blog's template, making it more personal and cutting down on clutter
• Integrate my blog more fully with Google Alerts, Technorati, Stumble Upon, and Twitter
• Learn to use my stats and tags better so my blog shows up in searches

Be a better participant in the book blogging community by
• Posting more meaningful comments
• Remembering to check back to see if any comments have started a discussion
• Responding more meaningfully to the comments left on my blog
• Taking some time to scope out new-to-me blogs
• Participating in more book review carnivals

• Work on my profile so it more accurately describes me and my blog
• Improve my writing skills
• Take more local photos (instead of travel photos) to post on Wednesdays
• Become a better book reviewer
• Continue to build and strengthen my online friendships
• Think about the tone of my blog (too many memes? not enough personal posts?)

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It's Tuesday: Where Are You? (Jan. 6)

I'm in India. It's the early twentieth century, and my family is caught between the comfort of colonial rule and the idea of Indian independence. In the last century, my father was head our village and even converted to Christianity. But my brother joined the rebels and was put in jail.

Me, I don't care about politics. I am a doctor, pharmacist, and businessman. I must take care of my mother, wife, children, and nieces and nephews. I am working to restore my family's fortune and good name and am currently building a grand house. I've started to hear rumors of a man named Gandhi who believes in something called passive resistance. I try to ignore the rebels, what does all this have to do with me?

--The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar

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

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