Monday, June 30, 2008

July Book Blowout Reading Challenge ... update #1

Well I've done everything in my power not to start reading books included on my list for the July Book Blowout hosted by Blue Archipelago (complete details can be found here) but sadly I've come to a point where I have no choice. Hoping that I could hold out I've read one trashy novel and 4 J.D. Robb novellas, totaling 800 pages, in the last 2 days. I've exhausted my supply of short books to get me through to July 1st and it's still June! Knowing that it will be very quiet at work tonight I'm giving in and starting on book 1 ~ Somewhere In Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Andersen. I got this book through Authors On The Web. Anna and Nicole are delightful people and truly wonderful to work with. As I have the next 5 days off for the holiday here in the States I should be able to make a dent in my list.

Happy reading all!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

To Pleasure A Lady by Nicole Jordan

To Pleasure A Lady: Courtship Wars
Book 1

Nicole Jordan
Ballantine Books
400 pages

I vow the new earl will drive me to distraction, thinking to marry us off like so much breeding stock. - Letter from Miss Arabella Loring to Fanny Irwin
~ First sentence, Chapter One, To Pleasure A Lady ~

Marcus Pierce, a strikingly handsome aristocrat with a wicked reputation, inherits guardianship of Arabella Loring and her two younger sisters–and immediately declares his intention to marry them off. But gorgeously defiant Arabella sparks frustration–and something deeply erotic–in Marcus. After matching both wits and swords with her, Marcus concludes that this beautiful and formidable foe must be his.

Having sworn off marriage and men, Arabella wishes to be left alone to run her finishing school for young ladies. To that end, she boldly accepts Marcus’s intimate challenge: If he can woo and win her within two weeks, she’ll take her place in his bed as his wife. However, if she can resist his considerable charms, the Loring sisters will be granted their independence. Thus an extraordinary game of seduction begins. . . .

Before we go any further I'm invoking the Reader's Bills of Rights, #5, 6 and 10.
#5 - The right to read anything
#6 - The right to escapism
#10 - The right not to defend your tastes

I wanted something that would provide me with a distraction before starting in on the July Book Blowout. I have a bunch of books lined up but can't start any of them until July 1st. This isn't my usual reading fare. In fact I've read only one other author who writes books in this genre, whose work I enjoy, so I thought I'd give someone else a try. I knew what I was getting into before starting this book so no surprises. While it did provide the needed distraction and, at times, I found myself starting to enjoy the predictable story line there was one scene, in particular, that I was thinking OMG! this would never happen in proper English society in 1817. It actually bordered on pornographic ~ I can't think of any other way to put it. Somewhere down the road I'm sure I'll read the other two only because I'm curious to know which sister ends up with which friend and how they get there. After that I'll probably drop this author and give someone else their fair chance to win my reading affection.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
Kate Summerscale
Walker & Company
384 pages
Book provided by Bloomsbury USA through Shelf Awareness

In the early hours of Friday, 29 June 1860 Samuel and Mary Kent were asleep on the first floor of their detached three-storey Georgian house above the village of Road, five miles from Trowbridge.
~ First sentence, Chapter One, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher ~

Summerscale delivers a mesmerizing portrait of one of England's first detectives and the gruesome murder investigation that nearly destroyed him. In 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found murdered in the outdoor privy of his family's country estate. Local police scrambled for clues, but to no avail. Scotland Yard Det.-Insp. Jonathan Jack Whicher was called in and immediately suspected the unthinkable: someone in the Kent family killed Saville. Theories abounded as everyone from the nursemaid to Saville's father became a suspect. Whicher tirelessly pursued every lead and became convinced that Constance Kent, Saville's teenage half-sister, was the murderer, but with little evidence and no confession, the case went cold and Whicher returned to London, a broken man. Five years later, the killer came forward with a shocking account of the crime, leading to a sensational trial. Whicher is a fascinating hero, and readers will delight in following every lurid twist and turn in his investigation.

This is a very ambitious, interesting non-fiction read with a lot going on ~ 1. The murder and investigation into the death of a three-year old child, 2. The rise and fall of Detective Jack Whicher and beginnings of modern detective work, and 3. The rise of modern sensation and detective fiction.

For the most part the author skillfully weaves all three story lines together though at times I felt that main story got lost among the many and varied details that make up this book. The murder, it's investigation and Detective Whicher's rise and fall would have been enough to carry this book. When the author diverges off into writing about rise of sensation and/or detective fiction is where I feel the book takes on too much. While it is interesting it detracts from the main story. The book is rich with detail and you can tell the author spent a lot of time in the archives researching her story. She brings to life this English Victorian household with their secrets and coverups. She also brings to life constituted the justice system in 1860s England and subsequent prison life.

I would recommend this book to fans of historical non-fiction and fiction alike. While it doesn't make my top 10 list for 2008 it does make my recommended reading list for this year.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Finds! ... 6/27/08

I came across this great new book blogging event while visiting Wendi's blog at Caribousmom. It is hosted by Miz B. Complete details come be found here.

My Friday Finds!

Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife
Like her bestseller Red-Tails in Love, Marie Winn’s Central Park in the Dark explores a once-hidden world in a series of interlocking narratives about the extraordinary denizens, human and animal, of an iconic American park. Her beguiling account of a city’s lakes and woodlands at night takes the reader through the cycle of seasons as experienced by nocturnal active beasts (raccoons, bats, black skimmers, and sleeping robins among them), insects (moths, wasps, fireflies, crickets), and slugs (in all their unexpected poetical randiness). Winn does not neglect her famous protagonists Pale Male and Lola, the hawks that captivated readers years ago, but this time she adds an exciting narrative about thirty-eight screech owls in Central Park and their lives, loves, and tragedies there.

Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them
In 2003, after two years at sea, the 55-foot catamaran sailed by the Silverwoods, a suburban California family that chucked it all to sail around the world, hit a reef off the South Pacific island of Scilly (now known as Manuae), putting the life of Jean and John and their four children (ages five to 16) in peril. The first part of the book is written from Jean's perspective as she opens with the wreck and then moves smoothly between the family's fight for survival and the story of their journey. By juxtaposing the two tales, Jean illustrates how the children's maturity and cohesiveness were not only a byproduct of the trip but also the keys to all the Silverwoods surviving their ordeal, especially John, who was critically injured by the falling mast. Jean wears her heart on her sleeve, and her writing about her marital problems or John's alcoholic relapses is honest. John's narrative is half as long as Jean's, underscoring his straight-to-the point personality and writing style. The saga from John's perspective lacks emotion, but his ability to interweave the story of the Julia Anne (a sailing ship that hit the same reef in 1855) gives an eye-opening account of how much and how little sea travel has changed in 150 years and accentuates the heroism of this family that overcame an extraordinary ordeal.

The Forbidden Daughter
Bantwal (The Dowry Bride) shifts her focus from arranged marriages to the high stakes parents place on producing a male heir in contemporary India in her middling sophomore outing. Isha Tilak and her husband, Nikhil, are counting on their second child to be a son. But when an ultrasound reveals she's carrying a girl, an illegal abortion is proposed, both by Nikhil's wealthy parents and by Isha's physician, Dr. Karnik. Nikhil staunchly refuses and soon turns up dead, and Isha can't help wondering if he may have been killed for not going along with the abortion.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

July Book Blowout Reading Challenge ... includes a giveaway

Blue Archipelago is hosting a July Book Blowout reading challenge that includes a gift voucher to Amazon for one lucky participant. Deadline to enter is July 14th. Deadline to post July reads is August 7th. Complete details can be found here.

Yes, I'm participating in this one! Now I just have to get together my list of books, quit blogging and start reading. I'm sure this will be easier said than done.

July's Blowout Books
1 ~ The Aviary Gate (ARC/historical fiction)
1/2 ~ Somewhere In Heaven: The Remarkable love story of Dana and Christopher Reeve (ARC) 2 ~ Tribute (Nora Robert's newest release/Kindle edition)
3 ~ The Scene of the Grime (A Grime Solvers Mystery/Kindle)
0 ~ Narrow Dog to Carcassonne (travelogue/Kindle) ~ DNF
4 ~ The Innocent (historical fiction/Kindle)
5 ~ Trace Evidence (forensic science/Kindle)
0 ~ The Genizah at the House of Shepher (Gave the book away)
6 ~ The Heretic's Daughter (ARC)
7 ~ Before I Wake: A Novel (ARC)
8 ~ Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant's Tales of Sex, Rage, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet (Kindle edition)
9 ~ The Warriors, Book 1: Into The Wild by Erin Hunter (Kindle edition)
10 ~ What Angels Fear
(Kindle edition)
11 ~ The Map Thief (ARC)
0 ~ Soul (Kindle edition) ~ DNF
12 ~ The First Patient (Kindle edition)

I'm including some alternates just in case some of my ARCs/AREs arrive.
1 ~ Angel's Tip
2 ~ 5 Broadway travelogues
3 ~ Stealing Athena
4 ~ Sword

Tuesday Thingers...Least Popular Book

Well Tuesday has come and gone but here's my take on the least popular book(s) in my Librarything library. First order of business is Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Marie at The Boston Bibliophile and second here is this week's question: Do you have any unique books in your library- books only you have on LT? How many? Did you find cataloging information on your unique books, or did you hand-enter them? Do they fall into a particular category or categories, or are they a mix of different things? Have you ever looked at the "You and none other" feature on your statistics page, which shows books owned by only you and one other user? Ever made an LT friend by seeing what you share with only one other user?

Well I don't have any books unique to my library but I have six books in my library that I share with one other LTer and each book is shared with a different LTer. 2 books are related to September 11th, 3 are fiction and, most likely, catalogued incorrectly after looking at what they are, and the last one is a non-fiction account of crossing Antarctica in 1999.

You and None Other was one of the features that caught my eye when I first joined LT. I do check it periodically just to see if the books have changed with the all cataloguing we LTers do and they haven't.

I haven't contacted the other LTers nor have I checked out what else they have in their libraries. Maybe I should go take a peek. You never know what you might come across.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Broken Window: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffery Deaver

The Broken Window: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
432 pages

Something nagged, yet she couldn't quite figure out what.
~ First sentence, Chapter One, The Broken Window ~

Rhyme, a forensic consultant for the NYPD, and his detective partner, Amelia Sachs, take on a psychotic mastermind who uses data mining—the business of the twenty-first century—not only to select and hunt down his victims but also to frame the crimes on complete innocents. Rhyme is reluctantly drawn into a case involving his estranged cousin, Arthur, who's been charged with first-degree murder. But when Rhyme and his crew look into the strange set of circumstances surrounding his cousin's alleged crime, they discover tangential connections to a company that specializes in collecting and analyzing consumer data. Further investigation leads them to some startlingly Orwellian revelations: Big Brother is watching your every move and could be a homicidal maniac.

Major cases of identity theft gone murderously wrong. This is a chilling tale, frightening really when you get right down to it. To think that someone or someones know everything about you. Every little, minute detail of your life. And they steal it. They turn your life upside down. They murder, set you up to take the fall and they've done it perfectly. I've read every book in the series and this is my favorite to date. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. This one grabs and doesn't let go. Engaging and suspenseful start to finish. Mr. Deaver is a master at his craft and this proves he's at the top of his game.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Marie-Therese, A Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel

Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter
Susan Nagel
Bloomsbury USA
448 pages
Book provided by Authors On The Web

When Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I died without a male heir in 1711, the crown passed to his brother, Charles VI.
~ First sentence, Chapter 1 - Sex and Politics, Marie-Therese, Child of Terror ~

What was the fate of Marie-Thérèse (1778–1851) after the beheadings of her parents, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France? Nagel, professor of humanities at Marymount Manhattan College (Mistress of the Elgin Marbles), relates the dramatic highs and lows experienced by the woman known as Madame Royale. Her uncle, the Austrian emperor, wanted her to marry his brother, when she escaped from the Temple Prison at age 17 after three hellish years. Instead, she endured a loveless and childless marriage to her Bourbon cousin the Duc d'Angoulême, but became the close political ally of their uncle, Louis XVIII, whom she joined in his peripatetic exile and saw in his triumphant return to France in 1814 as king. Marie Thérèse survived the 1830 abdication of her father-in-law, Charles X, and died in exile. Known for her kindness and wit, she also endured persistent rumors that she was not the real Marie-Thérèse and the constant threat of abduction and assassination.

A thoroughly engrossing non-fiction book that reads like a novel. It is filled with rich and exacting detail of Marie-Therese's life and no stone is left unturned. One would think that a book like this would be slow going, not so. The author brings the characters, times and places to life and you become enmeshed in the world around you. Marie-Therese was truly a remarkable woman considering what she went through as both a child and an adult. She forgave the people of France for the horrendous treatment of her family and always believed until the end that she would see her family restored and returned to glory. She never stopped loving her country. I very much enjoyed this book and recommended it to any lover of historical non-fiction or fiction.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reading Journal ... the week past

Time to catch up and review the past week. I finished two books and started a third. Not bad when it feels like I spend more time blogging than I do reading these days. Now that it's nice in Boise, actually hot ~ 95 right now, I take the furbabies outside and spend time doing a little of both.

I finished two books I would consider womens' fiction: The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden. I received this book through the Early Reviewers program at Librarything. This a debut author and I really enjoyed her work. My thoughts and impressions can be found here. The other book I finished this week is Barbara Delinsky's newest, The Secret Between Us. While I usually associate her with romance not so for this book. My thoughts and impressions can be found here. The Richest Season was a printed book and The Secret Between Us I read on my Kindle. Because I now own (1 month old) and love my Amazon Kindle I find myself having a hard time putting it down and picking up and reading a printed book. Being a dead hard bookaholic I thought I'd have a hard time adjusting but not so. Actually I find I'd much rather read on my Kindle than a printed book. Strange as that might seem it's true.

The third book I started this week is a non-fiction account of the life of Marie Antoinette's daughter. I received Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel from Authors On The Web. I thought this book might be a slow, dry read as it's non-fiction. I'm happy to say not so. It very much reads like a narrative story of her life and I find myself fascinated by this woman. The first part covers her childhood up her family's imprisonment, the death of her parents and brother, and her continued imprisonment for the next 3 years. The second half, which I'm currently reading, covers her life after her release. She is a remarkable woman.

I'm not sure where my reading adventures will take me this week. Once Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter is finished I don't have anything lined up. Not to say the downloaded book samples and saved for later list on the Kindle don't hold anything of interest, they do, just not sure whether it will be more historical fiction, maybe a cozy mystery, a travelogue, or something totally different. I'm also waiting for the mailman to deliver, hopefully, some of the many ARCs/AREs I've signed up for through Shelf Awareness. Got to love free books and I always promise to read and review in a timely fashion. I move any ARCs/AREs received to the top of my reading list. I believe that if a publisher is offering me a free book the least I can do is read and offer my thoughts & impressions in return.

Speaking of free books I've noticed that my book buying habit has improved greatly since buying my Kindle. It's actually saving me money! Costco had many, many books that I would have bought today, on the spot, but having a Kindle and being able to download book samples at no cost is saving me from buy books that sound interesting but actually turn out not to be or the writing style doesn't appeal. So no more monstrous TRB piles staring me down, calling my name and haunting me.

I also spend time every day working on my labor of love, the book giveaway and contest site, Up For Grabs. It's a bit slow going but seems to be gaining some momentum.

That's it for today. Back to reading...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tuesday Thingers... Thursday thoughts on Friday

Ok, so I've decided I should title these posts "Tuesday Thingers ... Friday Thoughts." It's been my intention to do this on Thursdays but that plan has been led astray these last few weeks. That aside I did travel through the Tuesday Thingers comments today and didn't find any big surprises. So here we go...

First: the details ~ Marie at The Boston Bibliophile hosts Tuesday Thingers every week. Second: this week's question: What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

What's the most popular book; have you read it; what did you think?: No surprises here or at least there shouldn't be: The phenomenon better known to the world as Harry Potter leads the way. Out of 31 responses the overwhelming majority had at least read this series, some several times, or own the series. In some cases LTers own multiple versions of the series. Seems that Harry has taken over. All seven Harry Potter books lead the Top Books listing at Librarything. Now we're a bit divided on the what did you think part . While some absolutely loved the boy wizard others thought it was merely a good read and there were a few that wondered what all the fuss was about, hadn't read the series and didn't intended too.

What's the most popular book you don't have: There seemed to be a majority here too. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was the next most popular book that most people didn't have and didn't have any interest in reading. Like some others I made a start and stop before I got through it. While it's been read by some in this group no one seemed to be ranting and raving about it.

Lastly: How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read? For most of us, me included, our reading selections are driven by personal preference. Yes, the most popular or talked about books tend to make it on to best sellers lists, TV & radio talk shows, book selection sites (Amazon), book blogs and eventually into movies. That in turn means that we're more likely to have heard about it, checked it out, seen or read the hype and made our own informed decision. Maybe something will induce us to give it a try, maybe not. We appear to be a group that trusts our instincts when it comes to picking a book that will interest us and don't necessarily jump on the bandwagon or follow the crowd.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky

The Secret Between Us
Barbara Delinsky
Random House
480 pages

They were arguing in the seconds before impact.
~ First sentence, Chapter 1, The Secret Between Us ~

On a rainy night, Deborah Monroe and her teenage daughter, Grace, are driving home when their car hits a man. The victim, who turns out to be Grace's history teacher, is unconscious but alive. Although Grace was driving, Deborah sends her home and takes responsibility for the accident when the cops show up. Deborah is juggling a lot: as a family doctor, she is in private practice with her über-demanding widower father, who is trying to hide a drinking problem; her son, Dylan, is vision impaired; her mother's death continues to affect the family; Deborah is still dealing with her ex-husband's new, separate life; and her unmarried sister, Jill, has just announced she's pregnant. Grace's guilt about not taking responsibility for the accident makes her withdraw from friends and family, and the accident victim turns out to have a more complex private life than anyone imagined.

This is a bit of a new direction for Barbara Delinsky. While I'm used to reading books from this author with the main focus being romance not so with this book. This book is more about family, how far parents will go to protect their children and the expectations that family members have for one another. It reminds me of another author whose work I enjoy, Jodi Picoult.

We all have expectations for the people around us. Expectations of how they'll behave, react, do things. Are those expectations ours alone or do others have some ownership? They most certainly drive how we react to others when our expectations aren't meet. For Deborah, Grace, Dylan, Jill and Michael their lives are driven by expectations, realistic or not, and when they aren't meet it implodes with unforeseen consequences.

This book is also about how far a parent will, or should, go in protecting a child from the consequences of their actions. While a parent may believe they are acting in the best interest of their child this book shows the ramifications of what happens when guilt sets in for both mother and child and how destructive it can become.

While the end is a little too easy overall I enjoyed this book. While not a parent myself I could understand Deborah's need to protect Grace. I most certainly understood the parent/child expectations between Michael and his daughters. If Ms. Delinsky continues to turn out stories as good as this one I'll continue to read her work.

The Richest Season by Mary McFadden

The Richest Season
Mary McFadden
336 pages
Book provided by the Early Reviewers program at Librarything

The sky was still dark, as it was every morning when Joanna Harrison began walking the two-mile route that serpentined through the development where she lived.
~ First sentence, Chapter 1, The Richest Season (ARC) ~

After more than a dozen moves in 25 years of marriage, Joanna has become a "corporate wife" - an unofficial breed of single parent whose life is devoted to raising her children and watching her husband Paul, climb the corporate ladder. But now that their kids are grown, Paul's latest surprise transfer is finally too much. When the tiny voice inside her head becomes a shout - "Leave!" - Joanna listens. Committed to starting her life over again, she packs her bags and heads for a place she'd fallen in love with years before, Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

This is wonderful debut novel from a new voice in womens' fiction. Right off I'll say that I would read work from this author again. I'm still not able to pinpoint exactly what drew me into the story but it got a hold on me and didn't let go until the final page. I read late into the night wanting to know how Joanna and Paul's story would play out. It's a story about letting go and finding out that you don't have to keep up with Jones'. It's about the quality of the life you choose to lead not the quantity of the material things you own. One of the things that touched me with this book was not only did Joanna, the lead female character, come to realize what was truly important to her but her husband Paul, the lead male character, also plays a major role in the same way as Joanna and I found that refreshing. Instead of making Paul the bad guy he matures into a character with redeeming qualities. I was more drawn to his story than Joanna's as I usually don't see a male lead characterized and grow the way Paul does.

The side stories and secondary characters make a nice backdrop to Joanna and Paul's story. Grace, Joanna's housemate, and her story draw out what is happening in Joanna's life. Sarah and Timmy, the grown children, have a major impact on Paul and how he deals with what is going on around him.

In all the womens' fiction available out there today don't pass this one by.

Tuesday Thingers...Most Popular Book

Marie at The Boston Bibliophile hosts the weekly Tuesday Thingers. This week's question: What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

First off I'm admitting I'm a bit late this week because it took me until yesterday to figure out how to get this fact. I was pretty sure I'd seen this somewhere on Librarything so I went searching when all the time it was right in front of me, literally. So as I guessed any of the Harry Potter books lead my collection. I've decided those shouldn't count as they are such a phenomenon. So moving past the HP books next up would be:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Have I read it/what did I think: Yes but it took a second start to get through it. The first time I read 50 pages and put it down. People kept telling me to stick it out. So I did eventually pick it up a second time. Not only did I finish but I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would.

How many other users have it: 23,352

Most popular book I don't have: Thanks to Marie at The Boston Bibliophile I can now answer this question. The Hobbit is the most popular book I don't have in my library.

How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read? I usually shy away from books that are wildly popular or receiving a lot of attention. On more than one occasion I've found myself very disappointed and wondering what all the fuss is about. I suppose I set some sort of expectations for a book getting an unusual amount of hype and then find once I've started reading wondering why? A couple of recent examples would be: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I struggled and struggled with the abuse story lines and finally said "enough" and didn't finish. I still to this day don't understand the popularity of this particular book but so be it. Another fairly recent one would be The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. It had received critical acclaim and good reviews. I finished it but didn't enjoy it. For me it was a torture to read. That's not to say I don't read popular books I do. My LT library is packed with popular books. I pick a book that appeals to me and settle in for a good read. If over time it becomes popular thats a good thing but I don't let it influence my decision to read or not.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reading Journal ... the week past

Reading picked up speed this week but then summer has finally made an appearance in Boise and I decided to turn off the DVR, take the furbabies outside and read while pretending to keep the children from going over the fence and corralled in the backyard.

I finished Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund in anticipation of receiving Marie-Therese by Susan Nagel from Authors On The Web and posted my thoughts and impressions here.

I also started and finished 2 other books this week: Intuition by Allegra Goodman for my f2f book club and Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten. Thoughts and impressions for Intuition can be found here and Getting Stoned with Savages here.

So I've spent time in France from 1767 to 1793, spent time in a medical research lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a couple semi pleasant years on island time. Of the three island time was my favorite.

My intention was to start Barbara Delinsky's newest, The Secret Between Us, and I'd even downloaded it to the Kindle last night in anticipation of kicking back today and reading, reading, reading. Those good intentions went right out door when my Early Reviewers book, The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden, from Librarything arrived today. I always give ARCs/AREs priority in my reading so the timing couldn't have been better. Speaking of ARCs/AREs I'm totally hooked on Shelf Awareness. This is a wonderful site with book related news and plenty of opportunities to request free books.

A bit of sad news: Up For Grabs melted down last night and imploded. I've resurrected it and put up a couple of polls so we'll go from there. It's a site for independent, non income generating, non commercial book bloggers to link book giveaways and contests. I really need to gage interest in this type of venture.

Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost

Getting Stoned with Savages
J. Maarten Troost
256 pages

I have been called many things in my life, but if there has been but one constant, one barb, one arrow flung my way time after time, it is the accusation that I am, in essence, nothing more than an escapist. ~ First sentence, Chapter One, Getting Stoned with Savages ~

Troost and his wife, Sylvia, move from busy Washington, D.C., to Vanuatu, a nation made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific. As Sylvia works for a regional nonprofit, Troost immerses himself in the islands' culture, an odd mix of the islanders' thousand-year-old "kastoms" along with imperialist British and French influences. This really means that Troost gets to live in a nice house while he gets drunk on kava; dodges "a long inferno of magma and a cascade of lava bombs" at the "world's most accessible volcano"; and checks out the "calcified" leftovers from one of Vanuatu's not-so-ancient traditions, cannibalism. At the end of the book, the couple move to Fiji so that Sylvia will have state-of-the-art medical care when she gives birth to their first baby. While modern-day Fiji provides little fodder for Troost's comic sensibilities, the birth of his son enables him to share some deeper thoughts and decide it is "time to stop looking for paradise."

While not a good as his first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, I still enjoyed Getting Stoned with Savages. I knew what expect of his writing style this time around. While his witty humor comes through it's a bit more difficult when he's living in more civilized places than an atoll in the South Pacific. He took what material Vanuatu and Fiji offered and applied his unique perspective. The chapter battling the foot-long centipede had me laughing out loud and provided one of the highlights of this book. The chapter on cannibalism offers an interesting take on a subject I'm sure most of us don't give daily thought to. He loves adventure and always makes sure to seek out local culture. He is usually willing to give every thing a try at least once and, maybe go back and back and back, if something appeals to him such as kava. I'm glad I went along for the ride and look forward to China his next destination in his quest to escape. I'm thinking China might not be quite the escape he has in mind with 2 children in tow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tuesday Thingers... Thursday thoughts on Friday

Well here I am once again taking my weekly stroll through the Tuesday Thingers posts on Friday. My goal is to do this on Thursdays but life seems to take over on the first day of my weekend. The call center industry work week isn't tailored to a traditional M-F work week. This week's question was about tagging and not as in "tag ... you're it"

Marie at The Boston Bibliophile hosts Tuesdays Thingers. For those who missed the question here it is: do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

So 29 LTers participated this week (yes, I read every comment) and we seem to be all over the board with tagging or not. Some are compulsive taggers and have multiple tags per single book. The compulsive taggers tag for things such as time & place, country of origin, author gender, year read, location in the (physical) library, genre, sub-genre, owned, borrowed, loaned, et cetera. Others of us tag very generally. We usually include just a tag, or maybe, two such as fiction, mystery, YA, fantasy, ER/ARC, TBR, owned, et cetera and call it good. And yet others don't tag or tag when they remember to and then very loosely.

We did seem to reach a consensus when it came to standardized tags: Not particularly interested in those. Most though not everyone liked the idea of individual tags and the freedom to tag as fits our own libraries and styles. If you tag it seems to say a lot, or little, about the books in your library, your reading tastes and, yes, you as an individual. A few thought standardized tags would be nice and could get an individual started with tagging, especially if there was a drop down list to choose from that might contain say, maybe, the 100 most popular tags at Librarything.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Intuition by Allegra Goodman

Allegra Goodman
Dial Press
400 pages

This intimate portrait of life in a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, revolves around a scientific mystery: the groundbreaking, too-good-to-be-true discovery of a virus that fights cancer. Cliff, the rakish, headstrong post-doc responsible for the discovery, is on the verge of dismissal when his tumor-ridden mice exhibit stunning rates of remission; meanwhile, Cliff's co-worker and former girlfriend, spurred by personal and professional jealousy, begins to harbor suspicions about his lab work.

This was fairly enjoyable read overall. The premise of the story and the look inside the world of medical research was interesting though the book did have some downfalls for me. First, I wish the discovery of the flawed data hadn't been tied into the doomed personal relationship between Cliff and Robin. I feel the story would have been better served if another character, without a strong personal relationship, had pursued the flawed data. Secondly the ending. I actually disliked the ending a great deal. For me the story just stopped dead and left me wondering if all the pages of the book were there. I felt like some vital piece of the story had been left out.

It's a light, fast read and if you're looking for vacation book this just might fit the bill.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Thingers ... Tags

Marie at The Boston Bibliophile hosts Tuesday Thingers. Today's question is about tags - do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

My tags reflect my reading tastes and are largely general in nature with some breakdown. I tag by the main focus of a book such a General fiction, Non-fiction Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Memoir, et cetera. In some instances I will be break down my tags a bit more individually. My historical reading is tagged with Historical/[Country of origin] or Historical/[focus of the book such religious, royalty], Non-fiction/[book topic such as travelogue, sports, animals].

I like the individualized nature of tags in Librarything. Because of the ability to uniquely tag our libraries we can view other LTers libraries and get an overall sense of their reading tastes at a glance. By quickly scanning tags I can tell if that person's library is of interest to me or not. I believe standardized tags have their uses, especially in libraries and bookstores, where a wide variety of people are searching for a particular book or subject and have expectations that they will find "X" in a given place. Maybe LT could/(does?) offer standardized tags for users who want a simple and effect way to tag that would build consistency into their library while others could bypass such a feature and tag to match their particular tastes and needs. I have noticed there are some libraries in LT that are obsessively tagged right down to the tiniest detail.

The great thing about LT is the versatility and ability to build our libraries to meet our individual needs or expectations.

My top tags are: Suspense (162); Romance (133); DNF (117) - due to using LT as a reading journal; General fiction (100) and Romantic Suspense (92). If I exclude the DNF tag next in line is Legal Thriller (62). I expect some of those will be overtaken in the next year or so as my reading tastes are starting to gravitate more toward travelogues, non-fiction and historical fiction.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Sena Jeter Naslund
Harper Perennial
592 pages

Like everyone, I am born naked.
~ First sentence, An Island In the Rhine River, May 1770, Abundance ~

Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France. Coming of age in the most public of arenas she warmly embraces her adopted nation and it's citizens. She shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in so doing is unable to give what she and the people of France desire most: a child and heir to throne. Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle, and apart from the social life of the court, she allows herself to remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises, even as poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge. The young queen, once beloved by the common folk, becomes a target of scorn, cruelty, and hatred as she, the court's nobles, and the rest of the royal family are caught up in the nightmarish violence of a murderous time called "the Terror."

This book had been languishing in my TBR pile and reading it was motivated by an offer of book about her daughter's life, Marie-Therese by Susan Nagel, that I'm receiving from Authors On The Web. I had read one other book about her life, The Hidden Diary of Maria Antoinette by Carolly Erickson, and a felt a bit of a refresher was needed. Overall, I felt, this book was a bit disappointing. It's written first person, diary-style, and I never really did adapt to the voice the author used for Maria Antoinette. The voice of the child she is when we start the book carries through until the royal family is forced to flee for their lives and the subsequent imprisonment and deaths of the King and Queen. Marie Antoinette never quites achieves adulthood in this book, and the country's troubles and unrest, are glossed over until it is too late. Once the royal family realizes that their days of power are numbered this book picks up speed and becomes an interesting read. You finally start to get a sense of the unrest in France and begin to understand the motivations of the common people to want to bring down the royal family. While I felt for the her children and the citizens of France I never did feel pity for the Queen.

If you're looking for a light overview of the her life and times then this book might appeal to you. If you're wanting somethinga bit more serious and in-depth this might not be your first choice.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tuesday Thingers... Thursday thoughts on Friday

I'm bit late this week taking my tour of the responses to this week's Tuesday Thingers question. For those who missed this week's question here it is: Why LT? Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

This week's responses weren't much of surprise ~ the 29 of us that responded are dedicated addicts of Librarything. The Tuesday Thingers meme, hosted by Maire at The Boston Bibliophile, came about because of a thread started as part of the Early Reviewers Group. We all basically signed up for the same reason which is to catalogue our libraries whether they be physical or virtual and LT is really, really good at their main objective. Over time though it's become a wonderful community of the book obsessed that offers many opportunities to socialize, join groups (book related or not), sign up for ARCs/AREs, browse recommendations, write reviews. I can tell you're getting the idea and you're tempted to check it out and sign up for your own LT account if you don't already have one.

After the first of the new year LT launched a cool new feature LT Local (LT down, can't link). LT Local is driven by LTers who enter information on bookstores, author signings, book fairs and all things related in their local city/area. If you're looking for a book related event in your city this is the place to stop by and check out the happenings. If you're traveling on vacation or business and need a book fix enter your destination city and there you go.

As to other book cataloguing or social sites some of us weren't familiar with Shelfari or Goodreads. If LTers did have accounts for these other sites they appeared to have been using them to socialize and meet up with friends. In some cases maintaining other sites have fallen by the wayside. And, for some of us, we couldn't even remember our IDs and passwords.

** To those of you who visit this site thank you. Rest assured I pay visits and read blogs I'm just not very comfortable leaving comments. **

Book Giveaways and Contests ... new site, part #2

Wow! It's been quite an adventurous 24 hours launching Up For Grabs. As with any new venture things don't always go as planned especially when one has a lot of enthusiasm for the project and 2 hours of sleep between actually getting the site together and posting some of the first giveaways and contests. I headed to bed about 1am, tossed and turned until 2am running ideas around in circles. Bagging any notion of sleep I headed downstairs to fire up the trusty laptop, logged on and launched Up For Grabs. By 4am I was sure getting some shut eye wouldn't be an issue. Little did I know! I spent some very non-productive time tossing and turning until 5am thinking about the all the little details I hadn't covered. Finally blessed sleep arrived but not to last. Up at 7am working on those pesky details. Now mind you I have severe sleep apnea and need at least a solid 9 hours. I got exactly 2 hours and here I am again home from work at 1130pm Thursday night blogging away until the wee hours of Friday morning. Yikes it's 1am again only this time it's Friday. It seems I'm destined not to get any sleep tonight either.

For those of you aren't familiar with Up For Grabs here's the back story:

Up For Grabs is a site dedicated to listing book giveaways and contests for the independent, non commercial, non income generating blogger. We created this site as a place for readers to share their passion for reading and books with other like minded individuals. It actually started as an offshoot of the Librarything Early Reviewers group BooksANDBlog web ring.

Please feel free to pop on over and check it out. Let us know what you think. Maybe you'll find a giveaway or contest to enter, maybe you have one to post or, best of all, maybe you'll be inspired to do a giveaway or contest of your own.

And there you have it. It is was it is.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Book Giveaways and Contests ... new site, part #1

Inspired by Tina at Bookshipper who hosts the Librarything Early Reviewers group BooksANDBlogs web ring and Marie at The Boston Bibliophile who hosts Tuesdays Thingers a LT book related meme I started Up For Grabs last night. A site dedicated to listing book giveaways and contests for the independent, non commercial, non income generating blogger. Up For Grabs is a place for readers to share their passion for reading and books with other like minded individuals.

So far I've listed 6 different book giveaways and contests for June. Please stop by and check it out. Stop by often as new giveaways and contests will be posted regularly. Even better subscribe to Up For Grabs through Goggle Reader or any other reader of your choosing.

If you like what you see here please spread the word to your book blogging friends. Add a link on your blog that leads back to Up For Grabs. We love new giveaways and contests!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer
432 pages

"Let's play apocalypse!" was the cry that set us off and running through the orchard of my uncle Lee's house.
~ First sentence, chapter: Child's Play, Escape ~

Seventeen years after being forced into a polygamous marriage, Jessop escaped from the cultlike Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints with her eight children. She recounts the horrid events that led her to break free from the oppressive world she knew and how she has managed to survive since escaping, despite threats and legal battles with her husband and the Church.

This book was rivetting, consuming, gripping and, many times, soul wrenching. It's like watching a really horrific event. You know you should look away but you can't. You're drawn again and again to watch this unbelievably mesmerizing story unfold. It is mind-boggling and the polar opposite of how I was raised. Coming from what is considered a normal upbringing and stable environment in the FLDS community to be given as a wife (she uses the term property) to a man because it has been deemed by the Prophet that he is the one she recounts years and years of untold mental and some physical abuse not only directed towards herself and her children but practiced on a regular basis in this household. Sister wives turning on one another to secure their place in the household. Children turning on children and the other mothers to secure the love of their Father. She reveals the beliefs and practices the of the FLDS religion. You watch as a religion is turned into a cult by a fanatic. Yet through all this comes the hope and knowledge that it is possible to regain your dignity and your self-esteem. To make a life for yourself and family that is good, kind and loving.

If you want a better understanding and first-hand look inside the FLDS religion read this book especially with what is happening in Texas right now.

Tuesday Thingers...

Marie at The Boston Biblipohile hosts Tuesday Thingers. Today's Tuesday Thingers question is: Why LT? Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

This dovetails nicely with last week's questions about our LT catalogue. I joined Librarything in March of 2007. I don't remember how I came across the site but I knew from the short tour I took that it was something that would make an impact in my life. I choose to open an LT account to use it as a reading journal more than anything else. After touring last week's answers it appears that I'm in the minority in this sense. Most who answered last week are purists and only catalogue the books they own. If that was the case for me I wouldn't have an LT account. I don't have a physical library in my house. I don't keep my books as I rarely re-read. I choose to either pass them along or return them to library.

I was keeping an excel spreadsheet to track what I'd read. I'd been doing it for about 5+ years. It was simply a way to keep me from buying books that I'd already read. I wasn't tracking any other information. By the time I joined LT that spreadsheet was up to about 10 pages and I had to print an updated copy every time I'd go book shopping ~ not very convenient. Now I can check my library, when browsing a brick & mortar bookstore, using my cell phone.

I love LT. Not only do I catalogue the books I've read it's inspired me to start a reading blog, join the ER group, track reading stats (books read each month, # of pages per month, et cetera) and probably other things I can't think of right now.

I have not used another cataloguing site. I was a member for a very short time of social networking site but elected to leave as it's too much work and was taking away from other areas of my life, introvert traits making themselves known again. I've heard of the other sites such as Shelfair and Goodreads but haven't taken the time to investigate them. I'm not really into networking on a large scale on the Internet.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tagged with the 6 Random Things About Me meme

Allison at Allison's Attic tagged me with the 6 Random Things About Me meme. Allison's answers can be found here here.

Rules of the game - Link to the person that tagged you, post the rules somewhere in your meme, write the six random things, tag six people in your post, let the tagees know they’ve been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog, let the tagger know your entry is posted.

Here we go!

1. I'm a humble servant to the feline lords and ladies of the Larsen manor. My spouse and I live merely to serve their every need or so they think. Some of them can be viewed here at Larsen feline family.

2. I work for a major satellite entertainment provide. 'Nough said.

3. I've been married 16+ years. Longer than several friends and co-workers thought I'd be as my spouse had very cold feet. Some have been married, divorced, and married again in the time I've been married. I laugh when I think of all those losing bets.

4. I was a Senate Page during my sophomore year in high school.

5. I'm addicted to my DVR. We usually have upwards of 25 season passes. We have two DVRs in the house and have been known to set both to record when on vacation. We have the ability to record 4 TV shows at one time! We usually don't watch "live" TV anymore. We record just about everything and blow through the commericals.

6. I moved to Idaho 12 years ago after being a life long resident of Washington State.

7. I'm tagging these lucky bloggers:

1. Ohnosecond


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Murder is Binding
Lorna Barrett
288 pages

"I'll tell you, Trish, we're all victims."
~ First sentence, Murder is Binding ~

When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.

This was a very entertaining book. I instantly liked the main character, Tricia Miles, as she's living out my dream ~ owning a book store in small town, sharing her life with good friends and a wonderful cat. Tricia has been accused of murdering Doris by the town sheriff who isn't interested investigating any other suspects as she has her own motives for wanting Tricia behind bars. While Tricia is busy spending her time proving she didn't commit the murder she also helps out a woman who is sure to become a good friend in later books and forms a better relationship with her older, somewhat self-involved sister. There are also side stories along the way that provide clever ways to hide clues. I'm not one to try and figure out whodunit. I purely read cozy mysteries for the fun of it though I did manage to get this one. The mystery of the pamphlets being left in books throughout Stoneham was funny and how they got even more so. I should have seen it but didn't. This is very good start to a new series and I'd happily spend time in Stoneham Village again.

Reading Journal ... Book Binging in May

Here's my Book Binge list for May. I did better than I thought I would. Yeah for me!

1. Takeover by Lisa Black
2. Southern Fried by Cathy Pickens
3. The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan/f2f BC
4. Some Like It Hot Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen
5. The Sex Lives of Cannibals (Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific) by J. Maarten Troost
6. Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly
7. The Whole Truth by David Baldacci
8. The Dark Lantern: A Novel by Gerri Brightwell
9. Legerdemain by James J. Heaphey
10. Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

10 books & 3,487 pages

I didn't finish:
Apples & Oranges: My Brother & Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner