Friday, March 28, 2008

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

I has passed Sir Cedric's door and had almost reached the Tower Room when I felt a rush of air against my face. I opened my mouth to exclaim, but before I could do so, a strong hand clamped about my wrist and dragged me into the room. The door was closed behind me and I was pushed up against it, the hand now firmly pressed over my mouth. ~ Silent in the Sanctuary, page 262 ~

Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends - but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.

I found this book every bit as intriguing and entertaining as Silent in the Grave. She spends more time setting up the murder, it takes places half way through the story instead of right at the start. Clues are cleverly hidden in plain sight and you must be skillful in determining what is useful and what is not. I didn't uncover the murderer until it was revealed in the story nor did I see another twist that was coming for her aunt. All the same characters from Silent in the Grave are here along with some new ones. The relationship between Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane is interesting as you "watch" the give and take between these two. I'm all for keeping them at a distance letting the charged atmosphere swirl around them.

If you enjoy murder mysteries set in historical England add this author to your reading list. Personally I'm looking forward to the next Lady Julia Grey mystery.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I dove after it, although I cannot imagine why. Did I think I would find scissors and glue pot secreted inside? Actually I rather liked the idea of Renard as villain. I had always found him distasteful, and the notion of dismissing him without either pay or character was wildly appealing. ~ Silent in the Grave, page 276 ~

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.

Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has many twists and turns, taking you places you don't expect to go and revealing a killer you'd, almost, never suspect. If you suspect the least likely character you might be right but then again you might not. This book is populated with all sorts of interesting characters and family secrets. You have the outrageously eccentric requisite family members, the quiet unassuming widow, and the lead investigator who has his own dark history. Put all this together along with scandal and murder and you have quite a story. I was pulled in from the opening chapters and not let go until the last page. There's plenty going on the keep a reader interested and turning pages. I so enjoyed this book, 1st in a series, that I immediately started reading the 2nd one, Silent in the Sanctuary.

Nothing to Fear but Ferrets by Linda O. Johnston

I found myself aiming the Beamer down the San Diego Freeway towards Palms. And then cruising the street where Chad had lived. Why? Hell if I knew. But I was pretty frustrated that I couldn't just haul out some helpful facts and hand them to Noralles to get Charlotte off the hook. Maybe Yul, too. ~ Nothing to Fear but Ferrets, page 139 ~

Kendra knows that the furry ferrets her tenants keep are illegal, but she didn't realize they could be downright criminal. Nevertheless, when she finds a corpse in her renters' den, all clues point to the playful pets. The victim just happens to be dreamy Chad Chatsworth, the latest reality show sensation who has a lot of enemies both on - and off - camera. Kendra's pretty sure that all of his rivals were of the two-legged kind. Something smells funny about the supposed cause of death - and it isn't the ferrets...

This is series that I read for fun. I was a pet sitter for seven years so I identify with Kendra and her pet sitting escapades though thank heavens I haven't come across dead bodies. The book, 2nd in the series, is populated with fun, quirky, interesting characters. Kendra is forever stumbling in and out of trouble. I didn't figure who the murderer was until right before the revealing in the book. She does a respectable job of giving clues but not giving away the who done it. The books in this cozy mystery series are fun, breezy entertaining reads.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

The wind snatched at his words and the night sky swallowed them. Around him he could hear swords being drawn and the hiss of sharp breath, but none dared approach too close, and a callused hand had the sense to seize the dog by the scruff. Chang felt the power of the movement. It rose in him like typhoon, racing through his veins and driving all fear before it. He must enjoy this moment, taste its sweetness. It could be his last. ~ The Russian Concubine, page 246 ~

Junchow, China, 1928. Perhaps it's her red hair, or her hard life. Whatever the reason, Lydia Ivanova has a fierce spirit. Nothing can dim it, not even the foul waters of the Peiho River. Into the river's grime bodies are tossed, those of thieves and Communists alike. So every time she steals some marketplace treasure, the sixteen-year-old take her life in her hands. Her mother, Valentina, numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks rounded them up. They took her husband, but Valentina managed to buy back her child and bring her to China.

Now, though mother and daughter live in the whites-only International Settlement, no walls can keep Lydia in. She escapes to meet Chang An Lo, a handsome youth with fire in his eyes. He returns her love, but other dangers threaten him. Chiang Kai-shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like him - and in his possession are the priceless jewels of a dead tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. Their all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon the pair, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it...

For the most part I enjoyed this book. It was a pleasant read though not anything that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I thought the last 100 pages were the best by far. It falls somewhere between so-so and recommended. I couldn't relate the book's title to the actual story line which I think is what threw me from really enjoying this book. I kept expecting one plot line when it was something totally different. I found myself most interested in the culture and history of the time period rather than the story itself.

I would give this author another try though she's not at the top of my "have to read" list.

Reading Journal ... Sunday, 3/23/08

Nothing to Fear but Ferrets, page 48

I finished The Russian Concubine yesterday. It falls somewhere between so-so and recommended. It was a pleasant read but nothing that really grabbed me. Definitely the last 100 pages were the best. The title doesn't appear to have much to do with the actual story so in a way was misleading. I'll be posting my official thoughts tomorrow under Book Reviews - 2008.

I've started Nothing to Fear but Ferrets. 2nd book in the Kendra Ballantyne, pet-sitter mystery series. I enjoyed the 1st book so I'm back for a second helping. I can associate with the lead character as I pet sat for a number of years. Luckily I never encountered any dead bodies, animals or human. The books are smartly written and filled with witty humor.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reading Journal ... Thursday, 3/20/08

The Russian Concubine, page 180

I'm enjoying this book just not getting as much read as I'd like. It's not the book, it's life. I have two days off this week so hopefully I'll be able to devote some time to reading. Tonight is book club but we've invited the spouses to join us so there definitely won't be any book talk. That's Ok! I DNF'd it, Stef didn't read it and I'm not sure about Jill and Dana.

Well I spent my Borders book card and picked up books that won't, most likely, be converted to Kindle books. They're books in mystery series I'm currently involved in so no guilt "buying" these books. I also didn't want to waste my gift card just because I want a Kindle. I know it's adding to the TBR piles but they'll get read. I bought: Witches' Bane by Susan Wittig Albert; The Fright of the Iguana by Linda O. Johnston; Murder on Mulberry Bend & Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reading Journal ... Wednesday, 3/19/08

The Russian Concubine, page 111

I'm back into historical fiction. I just can't seem to get away from it but that's most likely because my TRB piles are loaded with this genre and as I'm working my way through them I'll be reading a lot of it. This book is set in China in the early 19oos so it's another interesting cultural lesson. I just love reading about other cultures especially in earlier times.

Earlier this week I finished an absolutely wonderful book Beneath a Marble Sky. I was enchanted and captivated by the back story of the Taj Mahal. It is one of my top books so far this year and March hasn't been a great reading month. I was so taken with the book that I emailed the author. I actually heard back the same day! I've never done that before and it's a bit of rush to open email and see a response from an author.

I snagged an Early Reviewers book from the March batch at Librarything. It is Rosalind Laker's Venetian Mask. More historical fiction. Now I get to look forward to something in the mail besides junk!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Upcoming Book Club Selections

Upcoming titles for book club... in no particular order

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst (Kindle)
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Kindle)
Alphabet Weekends by Elizabeth Noble (Kindle)
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Kindle)
The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal ~ August 08
The Book of Loss by Julith Jedamus
Secrets of a Lady by Tracy Grant (Kindle)
The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Whitaker ~ August 08
Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg (Kindle)
The Scent of Rosa's Oil by Lina Simoni
Peony in Love by Lisa See (Kindle)
The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (Kindle)
Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour
Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushman
Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elsye Schein & Paula Bernstein
Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer
The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (Kindle)
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
Lottery by Patricia Wood
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a Sixtieth Year by Virginia Ironside
Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure by Bill Jamison and Cathy Alters Jamison

Reading Journal ... Monday, 3/17/08

Beneath a Marble Sky, page 282

This is a wonderful book. I love reading about other cultures and the author does a very good job providing a look into India in the 1600s. The descriptions are vivid without being bogged down in detail. The author draws you in and you "see" the people and the land. The Taj Mahal is one of those magical, mystical places on earth and now I want to go visit more than ever.

I'm not doing a very good job including more non-fiction in the reading diet. I did read A Sense of the World and now I'm back in to historical fiction. Next up is The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall. I was drawn to this book by the cover while standing in Target one day.

With each book I read I'm making progress through the TBR piles and getting one book closer to buying my Kindle.

Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

As the months passed, thousands of slabs of marble were inlaid with semiprecious stones, set against structural bricks, and plastered into place. Elephants died, men succumbed to fever, and barges laden with supplies sank in storms. Despite these tragedies the mausoleum continued to rise. By now it was about half its intended height, and tales of its beauty spread throughout the Empire. Travelers - whether visiting nobles or pilgrims on their way to Mecca - always stopped to gaze at the Taj Mahal. Sometimes they even helped for a few days. In such cases, men left strangely content, as if awash in the knowledge that their hands had contributed, however slightly, to the creation of a legend. ~ Beneath a Marble Sky, page 176 ~

Princess Jahanara, the courageous daughter of the emperor and his wife, tells their mesmerizing tale, while sharing her own parallel story of forbidden love with the celebrated architect of the Taj Mahal. Set during a time of unimaginable wealth and power, murderous sibling rivalries, and cruel despotism, this impressive novel sweeps you away to a historical Hindustan brimming with with action and intrigue in an era when, alongside the brutalities of war and oppression, architecture and the art of love and passion reached a pinnacle of perfection.

I loved this book. It was moving and magical. The author writes wonderful descriptions of the time without going overboard and dragging down the story. I felt like I was right there beside Jahanara as she lived her life. I could smell the spices, see the Red Fort, the harem, the bazaars. I watched the Taj Mahal being built, 22 years in the making. I could see the sun set behind it and the moon rise above it. I was captured and taken on a wonderfully touching, sometimes heart breaking ride. I originally picked up the book because of the story behind the Taj Mahal: the love of a man for his wife. This book so much more and if I never get to visit, in person, at least I've been there and visited for a brief time through Beneath a Marble Sky. I highly recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction and those who enjoy moving love stories.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reading Journal ... Saturday, 3/15/08

Beneath a Marble Sky, page 1

Didn't write yesterday as there wasn't much to chat about. Busy with chores and such as I only have a day a week off from work due to an adjusted schedule for the next couple of months. I did finish Charmed to Death which was a fun read. I love Abby and Ophelia and enjoy the adventures they get into. I've posted my thoughts under Book Reviews - 2008.

I'm just starting Beneath a Marble Sky which is a fictionalized history the Taj Mahal and the love story surrounding it. As I know very little about this story I'm looking forward to reading this book. This is one of those places I'd love very much to visit as the building & setting is incredibly beautiful.

Score one for me. I managed to get out of Costco without buying a book. This is progress in conquering my addiction. Every time I see I book I want I think about that Kindle that will be mine by the end of the year and those TRB piles slowly melting away.

Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard

When the lightning cracked again, the rune, Hagalaz - the symbol for the destroyer, for the crisis at hand - slipped from my numb fingers. And all I saw was the empty street. ~ Charmed to Death, page 146 ~

Ophelia Jensen's good witch granny Abigail revels in her paranormal powers. But Ophelia never asked for her bothersome psychic abilities - especially since they proved worthless when the thirty-something librarian's best friend Brian was murdered by a still-unknown assailant.

Now, five years later, another friend is gone, killed in almost identical fashion. Even dear old Abby isn't safe, distracted as she is by her fight to prevent a massive, mega-polluting pig-farming operation from invading their small Iowa town. And Ophelia can't count on her snarling, scoffing nemesis, police detective Henry Comacho, to get the job done, so she'll have to take matters into her own hands. Because a common thread to the crimes - and a possible next victim - is suddenly becoming troublingly apparent ... and it's Ophelia Jensen herself!

This is one of those cozy mystery series I read for fun. I like Abby, Ophelia and the characters that populate Summerset, Iowa. Darci's a kick and just what Ophelia needs to keep her from being too withdrawn. They balance each other. While Ophelia doesn't really want anything to do with her powers she must give in and use them to solve the mysteries surrounding her. This is the 2nd book in the series and it was just as much fun as the 1st. It's a fast read, being only 285 pages, and nice break from the more intense books populating my current reading. This time I did figure out who the killer was but I didn't figure out the "why." Book 3 is in the TBR piles somewhere and I'm looking forward to more Abby and Ophelia adventures.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Sense of the World: How A Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts

As best can be reconstructed, by October of 1846, when Holman stepped off the Channel packet, his travels totaled no less than a quarter of a million miles. While other contemporary, professional travelers, such as Cochrane, had racked up impressive mileages, non could even approach the achievements of the Blind Traveler. He could claim a thorough acquaintance with every inhabited continent, and direct contact with at least two hundred distinctly separate cultures. Of the handful of nations he hadn't passed through, many of them, like Japan or Vietnam, were "hermit states," where entrance was forbidden to Westerners, or at least to British nationals. Alone, sightless, with no prior command of native languages and with only a wisp of funds, he had forged a path equivalent to wandering to the moon. ~ A Sense of the World, page 320 ~

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback ~ and, astonishingly, circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he sagaciously explored.

I'm having a hard time describing how I feel about this book. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was entertaining, educational, fascinating, engrossing, and compelling reading. It was one of those books I picked up on whim at Costco and I'm so glad I did. I'd never heard of this man before as he has all but disappeared from written history. His life and travels are so moving that we all should take the time to read his story. To think that he did what he did for all those wondrous years is mind boggling in the day and age of the 1800s. As the author states: "Ibn Battuta is deservedly remembered as history's greatest traveler prior to the age of steam. Holman's travels belong to that age but only to its infancy, when steam-powered vehicles were just emerging from novelty into practicality. He had taken steamboats into the interior of Australia, and from Carthage to Malta, but that was a minute fraction of his various routes. There is no record of his boarding any railroad, nor of him being in a place where railroad could have taken him more than a modest distance. The overwhelming preponderance of his travels were accomplished by the same means as Ibn Battuta's ~ on foot and on horseback, in whatever passed for a carriage or cart, and in vessels driven only by the wind." ~ page 319 & 320 ~ All this and the man was blind. All this in the early to mid 1800s and the man was blind.

If you enjoy a good biography disguised as a travel memoir littered with fascinating people and interesting places read A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts.

Reading Journal ... Thursday, 3/13/08

Charmed To Death, page 34

I finished A Sense of the World last night. What an absolutely fascinating and compelling book. I'll be posting my thoughts about the book later today under Book Reviews - 2008. I started Charmed To Death by Shirley Damsgaard. The 2nd book in the Ophelia and Abby mystery series. A nice little cozy starring Ophelia, the 30-something librarian and her grandmother Abby. Both have magic powers it's just the Ophelia would rather not knowledge her's. This is one of those series that I read for the pure enjoyment of reading.

Browsed through the Kindle bookstore at Amazon just to see if I could justify buying one towards the end of this year. I wanted to see if they carried any of the books from authors whose series I've started in traditional print and would switch to in Kindle format. For the few I looked up I'm happy to say I can continue reading without having to buy traditional books. I still need more time to browse and really check out the selection. I'm sure the longer I hold off the more Kindle books will be added to the back lists. Goodie for me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'08 Reading List

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
Pope Joan by Donna Cross
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris/Early Reviewers
Pick Your Poison by Leann Sweeney
Stone Cold by David Baldacci
Gardens of Water by Alan Drew/Early Reviewers
The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz
The Courtesan by Susan Carroll
The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll
The Huntress by Susan Carroll
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah/Authors on the Web
Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb/Authors on the Web
A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts
Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard
Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors
Nothing to Fear but Ferrets by Linda O. Johnston
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
The Appeal by John Grisham
A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith
Franklin and Lucy by Joseph E. Persico
Predatory Game by Christine Feehan
Takeover by Lisa Black
The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Some Like It Hot Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly
The Whole Truth by David Baldacci (Kindle edition)
The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell (Kindle edition)
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett (Kindle edition)
Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer (Kindle edition)
Getting Stoned with the Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost (Kindle edition)
The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden
The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky (Kindle edition)
Marie-Therese, A Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel
The Broken Window: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffery Deaver

Somewhere between so-so & recommended
The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker
Southern Fried by Cathy Pickens
Legerdemain by James J. Heaphey
Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund Intuition by Allegra Goodman

Victoria Victorious by Jean Plaidy
Mew is for Murder by Clea Simon
The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
Secret of the Scroll by Chester Campbell

The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber/Early Reviewers
Summer People by Brian Groh
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis/Authors on the Web
Apples & Oranges, My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner

'07 Reading List

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Geisha, a Life by Mineko Iwasaki
Dispatch by Bentley Little
The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
Sweet Caroline: Last Child of Camelot by Christopher Andersen
Executive Power by Vince Flynn
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn
Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn
Act of Treason by Vince Flynn
Conspiracy Game by Christine Feehan
Deadly Game by Christine Feehan
Silent Partner by Stephen Frey
Earthly Joys: A Novel by Philippa Gregory
Virgin Earth: A Novel by Philippa Gregory
Company Man by Joseph Finder
The Secret Hour by Luanne Rice
The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Simple Genius by David Baldacci
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag
The Overlook by Michael Connelly
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd: A Novel by Jim Fergus
Safe Harbor by Luanne Rice
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant
The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
The Queen's Fool: A Novel by Philippa Gregory
Perfect Match: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
The Edge of Winter by Luanne Rice
Skyward by Mary Alice Monroe
Tenth Circle, The by Jodi Picoult
Duchess by Susan Holloway Scott
Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott
IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW by Cecelia Ahern
THE LOST PAINTING by Jonathan Harr
The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips
The Last Victim by Kevin O'Brien
The Notorious Mrs. Winston by Mary Mackey
The Burning by Bentley Little
An Infinity of Little Hoursby Nancy Klein Maguire
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Red River by Lalita Tademy
The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Sovereign Ladies by Maureen Waller

Catnap by Carole Nelson Douglas
The Tidal Poole by Karen Harper
The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
City of Glory by Beverly Swerling
Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George
Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson
Dream Country by Luanne Rice
The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
The Twylight Tower by Karen Harper
Death Instinct by Bentley Little
Sit, Stay, Slay by Linda O. Johnston
The Trouble With Magic by Madelyn Alt
Crisis by Robin Cook
Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard
The Vanishing by Bentley Little
The Forget Me Not Sonata by Santa Montefiore
Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum/Early Reviewers
Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn
Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
High Noon by Nora Roberts
Innocent in Death by J.D. Robb
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Creation in Death by J.D. Robb

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray

A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies by Ellen Cooney
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HERE by Cecelia Ahern/Early Reviewers
Talking Back by Andrea Mitchell

An American Story by Debra Dickerson
Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs
Dry Ice by Stephen White
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Places In Between by Rory Stewart
The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Guardians by Ana Castillo/Early Reviewers
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Garden of Ruth by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
February Flowers by Fan Wu

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon

Reading Journal ... Wednesday, 3/12/08

A Sense of the World, page 237

I didn't get as much reading in yesterday as I would have liked. This is such a good book I just wanted to spend every free minute engrossed in the story. No such luck. I may have a bit more free time today so hopefully I'll be able to finish. This is such a fascinating story, especially when you think about the time in history when it takes place.

Happy day ~ another book in the mail. I spent some Amazon gift $$ and picked up a cozy mystery by Cathy Pickens , Southern Fried. I discovered this author through St. Martin's press Read-It-First program. I've decided to spend only those Amazon gift $$ so that I can buy my Kindle later this year. Also I don't want to add to my ever growing TBR piles just to my Kindle wish list.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reading Journal ... Tuesday, 3/11/08

A Sense of the World, page 159

Finally a book I can sink my teeth into. I read 158 pages yesterday so it must be holding my attention. Actually this book quite engrossing. Just think about traveling by yourself, you're blind, and it's the early to mid 1800s. That's exactly what our main character Mr. James Holman does. And these just aren't day trips or weekends to a nice resort. Oh no, Mr. Holman is traveling the world and going places few people of the time ever went. I read until 1230am last night as I just didn't want to put it down. This is one of better books I've read lately. It's so nice to add some non-fiction to the book diet.

I went and peeked at the Amazon Kindle today. Watched their video. I've been interested since it first appeared at the end of last year. It would be so nice for traveling and work but the cost is a bit high. I'm also waiting for others to test drive before I jump in and buy one. I'm keeping a watch on the Kindle group at Librarything and reviews for it across the web. Now if I can just keep myself from buying more paper books this year I can justify buying one before vacation. I've made a vow to keep a list of what I want, buy my Kindle and download them there. Just think having access to all those books in the Amazon Kindle library while sitting on a beach in Cancun.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reading Journal ... Monday, 3/10/08

A Sense of the World, page 1

March has not been a good month for finishing books. I've just DNF'd my 3rd book and a book club book at that. I'm having trouble with all these books about characters trying to find themselves and wandering aimlessly through life. Give me something I can sink my teeth into. Murder, steamy sex, a cozy mystery, maybe a little shoot 'em up, take names later. I need action and a hook. Not ho hum wander through the story.

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler should fit the bill. We're not talking about traveling in today's world. Oh no this man traveled in the late 1700s & early 1800s. I'm suspecting things were a bit different back then. You didn't just hop on a airplane and land somewhere. You had to work to get where you were going and being blind only adds a little something to the mix. If this doesn't get me reading juices flowing maybe it's time for a break.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

She turned and started through the hedge, breathing fast. He'd kissed her! She still couldn't believe it. Though she intended to march straight to her door, making sure he realized how adamant she'd been about not wanting it to happen again, she snuck a peek over her shoulder and was mortified to realize he'd seen her. He raised a hand in a relaxed wave. ~ The Choice, page 139 ~

Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life ~ boating, swimming, and regular barbecues with his close buddies ~ he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is until Gabby Holland moves in next door.

Despite his attempts to be neighborly, the attractive redhead seems to have a grudge against him ... and the presence of her longtime boyfriend doesn't help. Still, Travis can't stop trying to ingratiate himself with his new neighbor, and his persistent efforts lead them both to the doorstep of a journey that neither of them could have foreseen.

I needed a good story to get lost in and this fit the bill. Just a nice love story with a slight twist towards the end. It was a fast, easy read and I breezed through it. After being disappointed with The Guardian I thoroughly enjoyed The Choice.

Reading Journal ... Sunday, 3/9/08

Summer People, page 1

I blew through The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. It was nice just to sit down and read a book that didn't require great amounts of angst over what the author was trying to say with their story. I wanted a book I could get lost in and The Choice was perfect for that. As I didn't much enjoy The Guardian I was hoping for better and I got it. This was love story plain and simple. It was about the ultimate decision we might have to make one day for a loved one. Once I realized what had happened and the choice he was facing I cried from that point until almost the end.

Starting Summer People for my f2f BC next week. Another new-to-me author so we'll see what reading has in store for me this week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber

But someone shouts, and the flower woman darts away and does not latch the gate, and I slip out into the street, although I have been warned not to, warned that the Jews will steal me. I follow the flower lady through the narrow streets; she knocks at doors, enters or is shouted away. While I wait I play with a stick; I poke a dead cat into the sewer that runs down the center of the street. I am careful with my shoes, I am not to get them wet with the filth. ~ The Forgery of Venus, page 62 (ARC uncorrected proof)

Chaz Wilmot, an artist more gifted than his famous father, more gifted than his contemporaries whose works sell for fortunes, refuses to compromise his gift and so leads a miserable life as a commercial hack. Offered a lucrative job restoring a ceiling in a Venetian palazzo, Chaz reluctantly accepts. With an ex-wife and a desperately sick child, he needs the money. Once there, Chaz finds there's little left to restore ~ it's more a "re-creation" than restoration ~ but he does the job brilliantly, so well that it leads to other opportunities which he finds impossible to resist. But this work sets Chaz on the road to madness, and he begins to question his own existence: Is he who he thinks he is? Or is there another Chaz, a man he himself wouldn't recognize? Is he crazy? Or is someone trying to drive him crazy for their own purposes?

I didn't finish this book reading 112 of 318 pages. I initially found the concept of the story interesting but as I read further I became more disenchanted and frustrated. The parts of the story where he travels back in time and paints as a famous, well known artist while in a chemically induced state were what kept me reading. The parts where the main character is pondering his childhood, his current state in life and his poor, whoa is me the misunderstood artist drove me to distraction. Basically I just didn't enjoy what I reading. I can't explain it any better than that. The author a couple of times references the events of 9/11 and one character is determined to create a work of "art" using "materials" he collected from that day. This is the point where I put the book down for good. This character creates his "art" and I found the author's description of this fictional work of "art" very disturbing. This was a new-to-me author and I won't be reading anymore from him.

Reading Journal ... Saturday, 3/8/08

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks, page 32

I gave up on The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber, reading 112 of 318 pages. While the concept of the story was interesting nothing else was. I started The Choice last night. It was given to me by a co-worker as who saw me reading The Guardian a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't that taken with The Guardian so I'm hoping The Choice will be better. So far this month I've DNFed 2 books out of 4 so I'm not doing very good with my reading choices.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reading Journal ... Friday, 3/7/08

The Forgery of Venus, page 111

This book is different, strange different. Parts of it I like and others not so much. I'll finish reading only because I want to see what happens at the end and that involves the parts I like. I most likely won't read anything by this author again. I'm not really interested in the story just curious about his painting the forgery. All the other "stuff" I can do without.

Have to go finish Booking Through Thursday. This week's question deals with who is your favorite male lead character. That's an easy one for me: Roarke and Mitch Rapp. Now I just need to find enough adjectives to describe these men.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hero ... Booking Through Thursday, 3/6/08

You should have seen this one coming … Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?

Roarke... In Death series by J.D. Robb

Seductive, oozes sex appeal, smart, great sense of humor, mega rich, dark & mysterious. Blah, blah, blah.

Roarke makes me think of dinner on a secluded deck overlooking white sand beaches and turquoise blue water. Later... well you all have vivid imaginations.

Mitch Rapp... Action/thriller series by Vince Flynn
Loyal, steadfast, kicks ass & takes prisoners, straight talker (even to POTUS), gives better than he gets, James Bond of the U.S. Black Ops world.

If I'm ever in trouble, serious trouble Mitch is my man of choice.

I've spent many pleasant hours daydreaming about who would play these men if there were film versions of the books. If I could find enough adjectives I could wax poetic for days. I haven't even begun to do either of these male leads justice but describing, OK maybe it's thinking about, these men is burning up the computer. Must. Stop. Now!

Reading Journal ... Thursday, 3/6/08

The Forgery of Venus, page 1

I finished reading Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb and loved it. The "In Death" series is my favorite and I'm already looking forward to November when the next installment is due. The review is posted under Book Reviews - 2008. I'm starting The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber. He is a new-to-me author and I got this book through the Early Reviewers program at Librarything. I have no idea what to expect nor have I read any of the comments posted on the Early Reviewers forum as I don't want to be influenced by what others think before I start.

I've started checking out the spotlighted author each month at Mystery Lovers Corner. For March Cyndia Depre is spotlighted and I ordered her 1st book, Amanda's Rib, through Amazon with some of those precious gift $$$. More "no guilt" book buying.

After looking over January and February's reading stats I discovered something I'd never really given any thought to. My spouse thinks the TBR piles are growing and I'm happy to say for both months the books I've bought match exactly with the number I've read. The piles are holding steady.

Strangers In Death by J.D.Robb

They don't like her. What they liked, with the exception of Leopold who liked nothing about her, ever, was filtered through Anders. Tommy. With him not there as filter, the smudges are coming through. She doesn't care about being liked. Or cares only because being liked is a stepping-stone to being admired. Being admired, now that's important, and it's a stepping-stone to being influential. ~ Strangers in Death, page 175 ~

It doesn't surprise Lieutenant Eve Dallas that Thomas Anders' scandalous death is a source of titillation and speculation for the public ~ and humiliation for his family. While everyone else in the city is talking about it, those close to Anders aren't so anxious to do so. Fortunately, because Dallas' billionaire husband, Roarke, happens to own the prime real estate where Anders' sporting-goods firm was headquartered, she has some help with access. Before long, she's knocking on doors ~ or barging through them ~ to look for answers she needs.

I love this series. I've loved it since the very first book, Naked in Death, and it's still going strong 28 books later. Picking up and reading a book in the "In Death" series feels like meeting up with old friends. Eve, Roarke, Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Summerset, Mavis, et al. have become some of my favorite characters and I love spending time with the gang. Every book is always a new adventure and though I'm never quite sure where we're headed it'll be fun getting there. Eve's biting, sarcastic, no holds barred attitude along with her conviction of "standing for the dead" drives this series. She kicks ass and asks questions later. Several main characters make appearances repeatedly throughout this series and it's been interesting to watch these relationships develop. For Lt. Dallas this is her strongest story line in terms of trusting herself with those relationships. She's finally coming to terms with her feelings of letting others into her life. Don't get me wrong she's not going soft. There will always be the gritty cop we've come to love. Those who believe they can murder and get away it had better watch their backs.

The writing style of these story lines is harsher (language) than a typical Nora Roberts book but appropriate. Also, I find the writing witter and interaction between the characters more playful. There are times when Eve drops her cop face and just lets loose. This series is just plain fun. And trying to imagine who'd play Roarke if there is ever a movie isn't a bad way to daydream.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reading Journal ... Wednesday, 3/5/08

Reading Strangers in Death, page 243

Love this series. I'll be sad when I finish this book tonight as my good friends won't be back until the end of year. Ah, but I have the anthologies I bought that contain J.D. Robb short stories so those will have tide me over. Now if I can just ration them until November. It's been interesting to watch Eve's personal relationships develop throughout this series. I'd say in this book she's made considerable progress toward being truly comfortable with those closet to her including Roarke. Her softer side is starting to show a bit more and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The March batch of Early Reviewers books is up at Librarything today and I selected three. I'll cross my fingers and see what happens. There was a good selection this time but I only choose three: historical fiction, travel stories from real travelers and a memoir about an Alaskan Bush pilot. A little bit eclectic but then so is my library if you take a peek.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Reading Journal ... Tuesday, 3/4/08

Reading Strangers in Death, page 126

Been away since last Thursday at the NASCAR race in Vegas. Boy does that ever put one behind the 8-ball. I had so much catching up to do with the blog and Librarything that I've spent most of today not reading like I wanted to.

I'm back with old friends in Strangers in Death. This is one series I can't get enough of. Eve and the gang are so entertaining. Even though I don't read anthologies I've bought the 4 that contain J.D. Robb short stories just so I can get more of my fix of the "In Death" series.

It was like Christmas and my birthday all in one when checking the mail Monday night ~ books, books, books. My Early Reviewers' book, The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber arrived so that tops the reading list. I also got my copy of Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum. This is the prequel to Have You Found Her by the same author that I snagged through Early Reviewers. Random House was nice enough to send copies to those who provided feedback on Have You Found Her. I also received a 2nd copy of Strangers in Death which I've since passed along to another reader.

Stopped by Costco on the way home from Vegas and shopped for books of course. Just can't resist brand new books. I picked up Saving the World & Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson; The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan; Immortal by Traci L. Slatton; & Patriot Hearts: A Novel by Barbara Hambly.

February Stats:

Books bought
And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander
The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook
The Scent of Rosa's Oil by Lina Simoni
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith
A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas
Peony in Love by Lisa See
They Did It with Love by Kate Moregnroth

The Courtesan by Susan Carroll

Authors on the Web
Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis
Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb

Early Reviewers
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (2008)
Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew (2008)

Books read
1 - The Huntress: A Novel (Dark Queen) by Susan Carroll (2007)
2 - Secret of the Scroll by Chester Campbell (2002)
3 - The Silver Rose: A Novel by Susan Carroll (2006)
4 - The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks (2005)
5 - The Courtesan: A Novel by Susan Carroll (2005)
6 - The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz (2007)
7 - The Dark Queen: A Novel by Susan Carroll (2005)
8 - Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (2008)
9 - Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew (2008)

Total pages: 3,869

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis

I don't like the way he says it, though. As if her cancer is helpful. Or a tool for us to use. It's not. It's something awful she has to go through. We're vultures waiting to take what might be useful. ~ Ask Again Later, page 119 ~

Emily has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. When her mother dramatically announces, "They've found a lump," Emily gladly leaves behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and what she's doing with her life to be by her mother's side. But back in her childhood bedroom, Emily realizes that she hasn't run fast or far enough ~ especially when she opens the door, quite literally, to find her past staring her in the face.

If you like dysfunctional families with dysfunctional adult children from those families trying to figure how to live their lives amid the tattered ruins and get moving forward you'll most likely enjoy this book. I didn't finish (reading 120 of 244 pages). I struggled to get that far. I'd read a page or two put the book down, do something else, anything else and then try again. This just wasn't my idea of good read. Every couple of pages, or less, starts a new section. I found this very distracting. It seemed to break up whatever flow the story may have had going. It felt like transitions were missing. Disjointed and broken just like the family in this book.

The Huntress by Susan Carroll

Perhaps it was not the wisest thing to taunt a man armed with a longbow and a quiver of arrows belted around his waist, but Cat was entirely unable to resist. ~ The Huntress, page 239 ~

The year is 1585 ~ and prophecy has foretold the coming of a daughter of the Earth whose powers are so extraordinary they could usurp the very rule of the Dark Queen herself, Catherine de Medici. Dispatched from Brittany to London, Catriona O'Hanlon, known as the Huntress, must find this mysterious young girl and shield her from those who will exploit her mystic abilities, which have the potential to change the course of history.
Catriona's skill with weaponry is all she has to protect herself and her young charge from spies who snake through the courts of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen ~ including the girl's own father, whose loyalties are stretched to the breaking point. But Catriona will soon face menacing forces and sinister plots unlike any she has ever encountered.

Another winner from Susan Carroll. Her stories draw you in and keep you there. The settings are accurate to time and place and well drawn. Her characters, both good and evil, are believable. I'm to the point where I can't wait for The Twilight Queen in early '09. I love spending my time engrossed in Paris & England in the last 1500s. Scandal, intrigue, mystery, white magic vs. black, strong women and passionate men, friction between the lovers. What's not to like? While not part of the Cheney sisters trilogy these characters have all made appearances throughout that saga so you will definitely want to the read those first before reading this one. She tops my have to place on hold at the library list.