Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: Needing to be warmer!

I am so cold! You'd think that living all of my adult life and most of my childhood in either Indiana or Ohio that I would be okay with the cold winters. Well, I am not! I think as I get older, there's nothing that interests me in being outside during the winter. Nothing that makes me think winter is a good thing. Instead, I am ready to start walking our new neighborhood. I am ready to be outside and meet my new neighbors. And I am ready to stop being so dang cold all the time!!!

Okay, I am done whining. Remind me of this post when I am complaining in August of all the heat. I would love having 80 degrees, sunny, low humidity all year long. Course I'm probably not willing to be as far away from family as I'd have to be to live wherever I'd find that weather.

This week I joined a new book club. The local library has a book club that's been meeting for over 10 years. I was very excited to go and meet my first set of new people. There were about 15 ladies there, ranging in age from mid-40's to 60's. It was a good discussion of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (see my review). We actually discussed the book for two hours. My previous book clubs were not so much 'on task'. LOL I will definitely be staying with the library's book club but will also be looking for one that has some social aspects to it too. The next book for the library's book club is Dearest Friend: A life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey. I am not generally a fan of non-fiction, but in the interest of being a joiner and not a whiner, I am going to attempt to read it. Wish me luck!

The other book I finished this week was Knit Two by Kate Jacobs (review). I am also working on a way to incorporate my other loves - photography and scrapbooking - into this blog. I started with some pictures and a page from our trip to Hawaii last March.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I've got quite a few selections both from the library and review copies. We'll see what strikes my fancy when I go grab a book later today or tomorrow. Hopefully whatever I grab will help me forget the coldness outside!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

When I saw that the sequel to Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs was coming out last fall, I was excited to read it. I remember enjoying reading FNKC and bonding with the characters. Now that I am getting back into reading after the move, I was able to read Knit Two.

The story starts off about five years after the ending of FNKC. Here's the summary: KNIT TWO returns to Walker and Daughter, the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker and her young daughter, Dakota. Dakota is now an eighteen-year-old freshman at NYU, running the little yarn shop part-time with help from the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club.

Drawn together by the sense of family the club has created, the knitters rely on one another as they struggle with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce; for Darwin, the hope for a family; for Lucie, being both a single mom and a caregiver for her elderly mother; and for seventysomething Anita, a proposal of marriage from her sweetheart, Marty, that provokes the objections of her grown children.

As the club’s projects—an afghan, baby booties, a wedding coat—are pieced together, so is their understanding of the patterns underlying the stresses and joys of being mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Because it isn’t the difficulty of the garment that makes you a great knitter: it’s the care and attention you bring to the craft—as well as how you adapt to surprises.

Sounds yummy, right?

For me, it didn't quite do all that was promised in the description. Yes, the story was interesting. Yes, the characters all are fairly real, well-defined, doing normal things. Yes, there is some knitting (not that I am a knitter) and some bonding. Yes, I wanted to know how it all turned out. But it all was kind of meh.

I wasn't drawn into the story emotionally. I didn't feel what the characters were feeling. It was more just facts to me. When I read books like these - what I call women's group fiction - I want to BE a part of the group. I want to end the story all happy or sad. I want to be wishing those were my friends. Or that I have a tight group of 4, 6, 8 or whatever friends that do life together. (Yes, I have friends, good ones, but you know what I mean.)

With Knit Two, none of that happened for me. I don't have any great need to find out what happens next. I ended the book thinking 'So what?'. I was disappointed that I didn't feel it.

When I added this book to my LibraryThing library, I looked up Friday Night Knitting Club. I read it in 2007, pre-blog, so I don't have any thoughts written down. I gave it 4/5 stars, which surprised me. In my memory (which is definitely suspect, as we all know), I thoroughly enjoyed FNKC. I do distinctly remember crying and wanting to learn to knit. But apparently even the first book wasn't a top read for me.

I think I am in the minority of not absolutely loving this book. Here are other reviews: Dar at Peeking Between the Pages, Bookreporter, Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelf, A Circle of Books.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I went to a book club at my new library on Tuesday night. They've been meeting for over ten years! I hadn't quite finished the book but was able to participate in the discussion anyway. I finished the book Wednesday night, understanding even more of the conversation at the book club. I think it even helped me enjoy it more.

The book we read was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I had picked this up a few months ago to read but coudn't get into it. Attending the new book club (and meeting people!) was my motivation to try again. I'm glad I did!

The story is narrated by Death. Death is neither good nor evil, it just is. Death normally doesn't pay attention to the living - trying to focus on the souls gathered and the colors they provide. The setting is Germany leading up to and including World War II. Thus, Death is quite busy. But Death has three encounters with Liesel Meminger, the Book Thief, during that time frame.

Liesel lives with her foster family. Her brother dies on the train during the trip to the foster family. At his funeral she picks up a book that falls from the grave digger's pocket. Death witnesses this theft. The thing is, Liesel can't read. Death continues her story of how Liesel learns to read, to love words, to love people, living a very hard life in Nazi Germany. Throw in a Jewish man hiding in the basement, the war, an accordian-playing foster father and it's quite a story.

Author Markus Zusak has written other books that are all categorized as young adult fiction. The Book Thief is also categorized young adult in the United States. While I think teens would definitely enjoy and learn from this story, I think the young adult designation may do the book a bit of a disservice. Some people just discount all young adult books in general - not a good choice, imo, but true nonetheless. And those folks are definitely going to miss out on a very good book by it being classified as young adult.

One warning I have for the book - the beginning is confusing. At least it was for me. I think that's why the first time I picked it up I didn't get very far. It's difficult at first to understand how Death talks, to know what it all means. I'm telling you to push through it. It will get better and you will get to read a unique book that will keep you thinking. And you will definitly enjoy it!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

Waiting on Wednesday is a way to showcase books that are not yet released but I am excited to see they are coming out. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini is the 12th in the Elm Creek Quilter series. The series is wonderfully character driven with many twists and turns over the years. I enjoy it immensely! And I am not a quilter, nor even crafty! It's just good stories!

Here's the description of the new book from Jennifer Chiaverini's website: Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson treasures an antique quilt called by three names—Birds in the Air, after its pattern; The Runaway Quilt, after the woman who sewed it; and The Elm Creek Quilt, after the place to which its maker longed to return. That quilter was Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad to reach safe haven in 1859 at Elm Creek Farm.

Though Joanna’s freedom proved short-lived—she was forcibly returned by slave catchers to Josiah Chester’s plantation in Virginia—she left the Bergstrom family a most precious gift, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom, along with maiden aunt Gerda, raised the boy as their own, and the secret of his identity died with their generation. Now it falls to Sylvia--drawing upon Gerda’s diary and Joanna’s quilt--to connect Joanna’s past to the present of Elm Creek Manor.

Just as Joanna could not have foreseen that, generations later, her quilt would become the subject of so much speculation and wonder, Sylvia and her friends never could have imagined the events Joanna witnessed in her lifetime. Punished for her escape by being sold off to her master's brother in Edisto Island, South Carolina, Joanna grieves the loss of her son and resolves to run again, to reunite with him someday in the free North. Farther from freedom than she has ever been, she nevertheless finds allies, friends, and even love in the slave quarter of Oak Grove, a cotton planation where her skill with needle and thread soon become highly prized.

Through hardship and deprivation, Joanna's dreams of freedom and memories of Elm Creek Farm endure. Determined to remember each landmark on the route north, Joanna pieces a quilt from the cast-off scraps of the household sewing, concealing clues within the meticulous stitches. Later, in service as seamstress to the new bride of a Confederate officer, Joanna moves on to Charleston and to other secrets that will affect the fate of a nation, where Joanna’s abilities and courage enable her to aid the country and the people she loves most.

The knowledge that scraps can be pieced and sewn into simple lines, beautiful both in and of themselves and also for what they represent and what they could accomplish, carries Joanna through dark days. Sustaining herself and her family through ingenuity and art during the Civil War and into Reconstruction, Joanna leaves behind a remarkable artistic legacy that, at last, allows Sylvia to discover the fate of the long-lost quilter.

Scheduled to be released in late March!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Need to warm up - Hawaii memories

I have many things that I do in my life: wife of 14.5 years, mother of two, engineer, avid reader, photographer, scrapbooker to name the top jobs. As I sit in my new house, I am wanting to show more of those things on my blog.

No, I don't plan on starting to share stories of my husband and children. I am not completely comfortable with putting a lot of information on my kids out on the web and I'm not the gushy type so can't talk much about my great hubby.

I want to start incorporating more of my photography and scrapbooking into the blog. I am thinking this will inspire me to do more of both, which only will make me happier overall. The problem is I'm not quite sure how best to bring them in. So I'm just going to try some things over the next week or so and see how they go. If anyone has any ideas or wants me to talk about something specific, I'd love to hear them.

For today, I am feeling very cold. The sun is out but it's very cold outside. And it's been almost a year since hubby and I went to Hawaii for the first time (not that we've been back but we will be going back at some point). So I was looking through my pictures from our week there and want to share some of my favorites.

Sunset on our first night on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii

This picture of the black sand beach just calms me

The best fun! I highly recommend ATVing to all! That's me in the top picture. We were on the island of Kauai - it's beautiful!

Tuesday Thingers: Keeping track of TBRs

Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner asks today: How do you get your books for reviewing? Do you track them somehow (excel, database, etc), or just put them in a tbr (To Be Read) pile?

I review each and every book I read. And even the ones I start and can't finish. So the easy answer is I get books from all over - the library, recommendations from other bloggers, friends, Amazon, etc. I am not a big book buyer and am a big library fan. Thus most of my books 'come' from there (and hopefully are returned in a timely manner - but not always).

As a blogger I've also received quite a few books from publishers and authors. That's definitely fun. Especially when it turns out to be a very good author and I go back to read their older novels.

All the books I physically have to read next, both from the library and sent to me, are in a basket. The basket is currently homeless at the moment but will find a home in one of the rooms on the main floor soon. So when I'm ready to start a new book, the basket is where I head. I usually end up putting the one's I've read in there too until time to get rid of them. Easy to keep track of it all.

I also have starting keeping track of my tbr books that are recommended by other bloggers and such via my LibraryThing account. I add them to my library and tag them as tbr so I can search through them when needed.

Where do you keep track of the books you have to read?

Check out other answers at Wendi's Book Corner.

Tuesday Teaser: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

My two 'teaser' sentences are from page 26 of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

They'd been expecting a girl and a boy and would be paid a small allowance for having them. Nobody wanted to be the one to tell Rosa Hubermann that the boy didn't survive the trip.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!

Check out other teasers around the blogs.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Salon: Glad to be back

I am loving the feeling of being 'normal'. We are settling into the new house, figuring out where things should go, and setting up the new routine/reality. I have ordered a new hot water heater to make sure I can use the big garden tub, and have less boxes sitting around than I did last weekend. This week I also had the fun of dealing with a kidney stone. Knocked me on my back for two days. So, today's normal has a different meaning.

I was excited to start reading again this week after a few months of not feeling like I had the time. I read and reviewed The Gate House by Nelson DeMille and Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs. I am currently reading The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I can see why I stopped it last year but have moved past that part and am thoroughly enjoying it. Quite interesting and fun. I am reading it for the local library's book club meeting on Tuesday night. It's my first attempt at a social outing here at the new place. Hopefully I will fit in and can find some reading friends.

In opening boxes yesterday, I finally found my TBR pile of books. Yeah! I've got some good ones that I am looking forward to reading, including Sunday at Tiffany's by James Patterson. I also went to the library on Friday to pick up books I've already got on hold. (I LOVE that the new library also has the internet order/hold option - my favorite way to get books!) In the pile from the library is Knit Two by Kate Jacobs and Christine Falls by Benjamin Black. I've got lots of good books in my future!

What are you planning on reading this week?

Friday, February 13, 2009

What kind of reader are you? Quiz

As I'm catching up on my blog reading, I found this quiz through Bookish Ruth.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
Book Snob
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Review: Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs has been one of my favorite authors for many years. I don't remember when I started reading her books, but her first book, Deja Dead, was published in 1997. I am sure it wasn't long after that when I started reading her books. They are great mysteries with a flawed but wonderful main character in Temperance Brennan.

Tempe is a forensic anthropologist who works with two medical examiner's offices - one in Charlotte, North Carolina and one in Montreal, Quebec.

Devil Bones is the 11th in this series of mysteries. In this book, Tempe has to deal with bones found in a cauldron of an abandoned home; a headless boy found next to a river; an extremist councilman creating hate and fear of the unknown; her daughter playing matchmaker; a disgusting yet effective detective; and missing her non-boyfriend. And that's not all! Kathy Reichs does an excellent job of weaving all these together in a believable story that sucks you in and hold tight until the end.

If some of my description sounds familiar but you haven't read any of Kathy Reichs books, it's because the FOX tv show BONES is based on this series of books. I have not ever watched the series (which my mother finds amazing). I've resisted watching for multiple reasons. One is that I already have enough shows that I watch!

But more because I was afraid that it wouldn't be as good as the books are for me. You know when you have created this whole set of people in your head, there's just no way someone else can imagine it as well. (Thus also why I tend to not see books-to-movies.) However, at the end of Devil Bones, there's a Q&A with author Kathy Reichs, including questions about BONES. She described the show as occuring before the book series starts. That this younger Tempe is not yet working with the dual offices and has not yet met the future non-boyfriend. Her comments have got me re-thinking my avoidance of the show and I may start watching it. I'd love to know if there are folks out there that enjoy both the books and the tv show.

I highly recommend this series and this latest book, Devil Bones. If you are a mystery series lover and haven't read any Kathy Reichs, I suggest you start with Deja Dead and go forward. All are great and work wonderful together. If you just want to read a good mystery, pick up any of the books in the series. They are all written, in my opinion, with minimal need for the previous books. Obviously there will be some character references that are missing if you haven't read the earlier books, but the mystery will not be diminished by them.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

I received The Gate House by Nelson DeMille from Miriam at Hachette Books near the end of 2008. In all the moving and such, I didn't get a chance to read it until now.

This was my first Nelson DeMille book. Here's the description from the author's website: When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.

This book is a sequel to The Gold Coast but I didn't know that until I was far into the book. There were plenty of flashbacks and information included about the back story that I did not need to have read the first book. In fact, I wonder if I had read it, would it have been too much 'remembering'.

I thought the story was very slow starting. Probably the entire first half of the book could have been edited into about a third of what was written. It wasn't bad enough that I wanted to put it down, but definitely dragged. However, once the action started, it moved well, was interesting and kept me completely hooked.

It's not your typical 'who-dun-it' mystery - there's never any question about what happened. But it's more of a question on what will be the consequences.

One other thing about the book - I didn't quite like the main character, John Sutter. He was quite arrogant, snobby and just plain rude. More so than would be necessary for the book, in my opinion. Course, I'm sure there are guys out there just like him.

I am giving the book a 3.5/5 stars rating. If you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Teaser: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

My two 'teaser' (actually a few more today for fun) sentences are from page 36 of The Gate House by Nelson DeMille.

He replied without hesitation, "I took over my father's company. Bell Enterprises. We do moving and storage, trash carting, limo service, security that.
"And who took over your father's other businesses?"
"There was no other businesses, Mr. Sutter."

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!

Check out other teasers around the blogs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Salon: Jumping back in to blogging....FINALLY!

Good morning Saloners! We've been in our new house for exactly a week. I won't bore you with the drama that included the packing, closing, etc. Suffice it say we won't be recommending our lender and especially our actual fellow to anyone.

The kid's bedrooms were the first to be 'done', the living room and family room are mostly put together. The kitchen is done - except I don't have enough cabinets and no pantry! So furniture shopping I go this week to try to find a hutch/pantry type thing.

The picture was taken late this week after the snow started to melt. It's wierd to see the house this morning with grass all around instead of snow. I can even see the pond where supposedly I have a couple of fish 'hibernating' in the frozen pond. That's even more odd to me, but what do I know. LOL I'll be learning all sorts of new things with this house, I'm sure.

The kids started their new schools on Tuesday. Started off slow for my girl as the class was a bit too quiet (and probably too respectful - 6th grader) for her liking. But she's warming up to them and slowly making friends. My boy has had no troubles having fun with his classmates in third grade. He's already sharing stories of his class and the fellows in it.

The best part of being in the house for a week now is that I am finally reading my first book of 2009! It is amazing to me that it's already over a month into the year and I haven't read any books! My goal of 100 books again this year is already in jeopardy.

I have started reading The Gate House by Nelson DeMille. I am almost halfway through it - not sure yet my thoughts. It's definitely different for a mystery - if that's what it is supposed to be.

My LOLAs met last week for the first time without me. They had read and discussed Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt. According to my reports - most read it, thought I wouldn't have made it through the book (me and non-fiction - not friends), it was interesting, most comments were about traffic issues the members had dealt with/personal pet peeves. Sounds like I missed a fun discussion.

One of my first goals here is to find some sort of book club. The local library has one that I am going to try out on the 17th. The book they are reading and discussing for February is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I started that book last year but didn't get very far. So this is incentive to get through it.

Thanks for hanging out with me while I packed, moved and got settled in the new house. I plan on being here regularly again, sharing my love of books and becoming active again in the book blogging community.