Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Teaser: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

My two 'teaser' sentences are from Brava, Valentina by Adriana Trigiani. I got her latest book last week when I met her. I've read all her others and am so excited to read this one. These sentences are from page 43.

Your grandfather would be so happy, and so proud that his grandchildren joined forces to run his company." Grams voice breaks. Grandpop has loomed over this day like a heavy storm cloud threatening rain.

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- 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.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright

I'm not sure where I got the recommendation to read The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright. I think it might have been the Bookmarks magazine my mother-in-law got for me over Christmas. (BTW - GREAT book magazine!) I read Letters on the plane back and tried not to pretend my tears and stuffiness was only from my cold.

Summary: Their story begins with one letter on their wedding night, a letter from the groom, promising to write his bride every week—for as long they both shall live. Thirty-nine years later, Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other’s arms. And when their grown children return to the family B&B to arrange the funeral, they discover thousands of letters. The letters they read tell of surprising joys and sorrows. They also hint at a shocking family secret—and ultimately force the children to confront a life-changing moment of truth…

This is such a well-written short family drama. You read about the parents dying in each other's arms. You read with the kids as they learn about the letters their dad wrote to their mom every Wednesday. Then as they find out good things and not-so-good things about their parents...cause we all know we are human and make mistakes. All of this among the emotional upheaval of the funeral, a lost 'sheep' of the family, past loves, and internal family drama.

If you are looking for a small, quick read that will tug at your heartstrings, I recommend The Wednesday Letters.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Friday, February 19, 2010

Visiting with Adriana Trigiani!

On Wednesday night, I went to 'An Evening with an Author' at Thurber House here in Columbus, Ohio. Adriana Trigiani was our author and she was so much fun!

Having never been to anything like this before I had no idea what would happen. My sister went with me. Since we were clueless, we got there about an hour ahead in case there was an issue with seating - we wanted to be close to the front. When we got there, about 10 folks were already there. We sat in the third row right in the middle.

Side note: these seats had to be the smallest auditorium/theater seats I have ever sat in. Everyone who came in after us commented on them. Combine that with the fact that neither my sister nor I are the smallest women, a potential full house, and it wasn't all that comfy to sit there, especially the early parts. But enough of that.

Adriana popped out at exactly 7:30 and was funny from the get go. When she was being introduced, she called out comments. She has a deep voice that is quite unique and travels well. She had us laughing before even getting on the stage. When she did get up there, she had stories about her childhood and hometown. Did you know that she grew up in Big Stone Gap? And that since it was her first book, she tended to use names of folks or characters that really existed in the town? Even swapping them up a bit, she and her parents got quite a few phone calls after the book was released about what she did. Most were good but ... if you have read Big Stone Gap, you can imagine.

She commented once that it felt like we could have all been in a living room and just sitting around chatting. And I agree, that's exactly what it felt like. She would start telling a story, digress one or two or three times (just like a normal conversation among friends) and then come back around to finishing her story.

She took questions too and that led to more stories. One of my favorite comments of the evening had nothing to do with her books. A lady was asking a question and said she was there with her entire book club. Adriana asked if they had a name and the lady said no. Adriana then said that if they or anyone else decided to give their book club a name, be sure not to use The Book Bags.

Think on it.... I giggled for quite a while and I still am laughing.

After she was done talking (because she was told to be done, not that she was actually done), we all stood in line to get her to sign our books. The line moved slowly because she talked to every single person. We had a bit of excitement with the long line - one woman got dizzy and the squad was called. But after about 2 hours, we finally got up to meet her, get our books signed and get a photo. I even gave her my blog address!

The photo disappoints me. I made a rookie photographer mistake and that just burns me. I didn't bring 'my' camera because I thought it would be too bulky so just brought the 'little' camera. I had changed the ISO setting during her talk to try to get a picture of her behind the podium (was not happy with those pictures) and forgot to turn it back in line (hello..in 2 hours I could not remember this?). So when I turned the flash back on to take the picture of the three of us, we had way too much light. I tried to fix it, but this is the best I could do.

My sister, Adriana, me

Guess I'll just have to go to another event with her to get a better picture! Oh, darn. LOL

As soon as I finish the book I am reading now, I am going to read Brava, Valentine. The folks there that had already read it loved it and I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I have two confessions to make about this book. The first is that I never would have picked up this book to read due to the potential supernatural content. I tend to avoid books that deal with witches, vampires, werewolves, etc. But, on our trip to Arizona we wanted to do a mini-book club and this was one of the books.

My second confession is that for the ENTIRE book, really until almost the last page, I had the title in my head as Psychick and not Physick. Past many, many parts where I should have realized there wasn't anything psychic about the title. And thus my avoidance from my first confession shouldn't have appeared. As I tell my boy regularly (he's a natural speed reader too), I need to "read the word that is written, NOT what I think it should be".

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe was quite an interesting book and I completely enjoyed it. It is told from the point of view of Connie, a grad student at Harvard. She is what I imagine, a typical academic, working on her PhD in colonial history.

Summary: A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history-the Salem witch trials.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past then she could have ever imagined.

I was fascinated with the research piece (maybe I should have been a history major?? nah!) I couldn't believe there were wills and probates and all that way back in the late 17th century. Is that part really true? Anyone?

There were a couple of conclusions that Connie makes in the course of her research that seem to be quite a leap based on the information given in the book. But then there were a few times that I was thinking she should easily have figure it out and didn't. But overall, the plot was good and enjoyable.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday Teaser: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow

My two 'teaser' sentences are from The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow. These sentences are from page 23.

My spirit settles in beside her, arms around my tiny, motherless child. I try with all my strange might to will her to dream of us together, so she can feel how much I love her.

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- 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.

All this snow!

All this snow, the cold, the kids only going to school 2 days in the last two weeks, being cold, hot water heater struggling (can't take a warm 'full' bath), work being busy......oh and being cold. I am behind on everything. How can that be? I haven't left the house in three days. Yet I am. So I am going to have a few 'out of sync' posts....like posting my Tuesday Teaser today...on Wednesday. I'm a rebel like that! LOL You know you still like it though.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Going to see Adriana Trigiani!

I have been in love with Adriana Trigiani and her books ever since our book club read Big Stone Gap YEARS ago. (I had to go check the book club files...it was in spring 2002!) We even chatted with her way back then and got Milk Glass Moon baseball caps from her. Was very fun!

So, needless to say, I've read all of her books. I am on the wait list for Brava, Valentine at the library. It is the second in the series after Very Valentine. However, I think I might have to go buy it. Because I am going with my sister to see her at the Thurber House here in Columbus on Thursday.

It's called An Evening with an Author. The blurb says: All Evenings with Authors events begin at 7:30 p.m. The featured guest reads from his or her most recent work, chats about writing, and then there is a question-and-answer session with the audience. Each event closes with a coffee and cookies reception and an opportunity to buy the author's book(s) and get them signed.

I realize this type of event is not new for most of my blogging friends. But it's new to me! I've chatted with a number of authors on the phone but have never been to a reading/signing. So I am quite excited!

The Boy Reviews: The Borrower's Afield by Mary Norton

My boy is quite the reader. He's reading one of my favorite series from when I was a kid, The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I LOVED that series and am so glad he's reading it. I asked him to write a review of the most recent one he read, The Borrowers Afield. Here are his thoughts:

I love when they find their new home. It was funny when Spinner gives Homily a cricket. My favorite character is Artery. she is just like me, only a borrower. My least favorite character is Mild Eye. The reason I don't like Mild Eye is because he is really evil. I would give this book a 4 star rating out of 5.

and the boy

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My nine-year old son read the entire Percy Jackson series so intensely last year I knew they had to be good. This series by Rick Riordan sparked an interest in Greek Mythology for him that continues to grow almost a year later. He speaks of moving to Greece to study and making Greek mythology his double major in college (with being a vet). Not sure he's completely clued in on the time frame of the gods and goddesses, but I'll leave that for a later time.

In honor of the movie releasing this weekend, I read the first book, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I read it quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, it's a book meant for the youth so it's not as long or in-depth as it could be. But the story was quite amazing, unique and well-written. Percy is an out-of-sorts kid who just about any kid (or adult) can relate to, at least in part.

Here's a summary of this first book:
Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

I give this book at 4 stars out of 5 and look forward to seeing the movie this weekend with my boy. And, when he cleans his room and finds the next book in the series, I'll be reading it as well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Catching up on my favorite series, Part 2

This was supposed to post while I was on vacation...apparently in my blogging hiatus, I forgot how to hit the 'publish' button! Dork!

Here's a couple more books from my favorite authors and series that I've read recently.

I had two books from the Blossom Street series by Debbie Macomber that I was behind on! (Two! That made me realize just how much of a book reading/blogging 'vacation' I had taken. So glad I'm back!) The first one I read was Twenty Wishes. The second was Summer on Blossom Street. I just love this series. It's a great "women's friendship" series. You know, those friends that you always want to have and wish you were? Or maybe some of you are lucky enough to be a part of a great group of friends. I have good friends but these books always leave me longing to be a better friend, to have more joy with my friends and care deeper for them. I don't mean I feel bad about myself, but rather, I want to do and be more.

Each of these books takes a few of the folks who live or work on Blossom Street and tells their story. But it's not just their story, it's the story of those they interact with, who each have their own story. Their lives weave in and out of each other at different times of life. These two books are the fourth and fifth in the series. Check out my review of the second and the third. Each would be great as a stand-alone read but are wonderful to be read as a series. I highly recommend all of these books to you! I gave each of these books 4.5 stars out of 5.

Sue Grafton is one of the authors that got me hooked on the serial 'detective' mystery books. It amazes me how much I enjoy this series and cannot believe this is the 21st in the series! U is for Undertow, unfortunately, is not one of the best in the series. I still enjoyed catching up with Kinsey (she's still back in 1988 - before cell phones...gasp!). Although my 'swiss-cheese memory' makes it difficult to remember who all the old boyfriends are, her family drama, etc, I do love Kinsey and Henry and Rosie and William.

There didn't seem to be much of a mystery to this one. Yes, there was some but it wasn't up to par with the interesting cases (and crisis's) that Kinsey usually finds herself. The tragic fellow wasn't all that tragic and the mystery not all that believable.

Did I still read it and enjoy the story? Yes. Do I want you to start your alphabet journey with this one? No. This is one series you have to start at the beginning. Go through life with Kinsey. Watch her have fun, screw up, learn, mature, figure herself out and help a bunch of folks along the way, figuring out interesting mysteries. Lots of dead guys, car chases and such too. I gave this book 4 stars but probably at least half of one was for sentimental reasons.

What are some of your favorite series? What have I missed that you think I would enjoy?

Contrasting climates

Last Saturday, I was in Phoenix, Arizona with friends just hanging out and enjoying the sunshine. We went to the spa for a day, went on a couple of tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's home, Taliesen West (because we all read Loving Frank last year), and ate outside lots of meals. I can't say it was 'pretty' because it was SO different from what I know. Plus it's still winter and, while not dead, nothing is blooming or vibrant. I think I would really enjoy it and would be able to call it beautiful in a couple of months. But it was warm and very interesting! And good company.

Then I come home. To Ohio. Where, although not as bad as further east, it had snowed 8-10 inches while we were gone (okay, not really sad about it happening while we were gone). But. The very next day...more snow. Two full days of snow. Two full days of no school for my kids. Then another late day after that. Which, with the odd school schedules, only gave me 3 hours home alone. So, while I think the snow is quite lovely, beautiful, etc to look at, I am quite ready for it to all go away.

And to be warm again. Can I move to Phoenix for the winter? Am I old enough to winter somewhere? Because it would be too hot for me in the summer, I think. I think I'm more of Hawaii person. Maybe I'll just move there?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Catching up on my favorite series, Part 1

I finished 2009 catching up on some of my favorite series that had new books released in the last year or so. Rather than detailing them individually, I decided to just summarize them in a few posts. I believe I have written about all of these series in the past, so will also link to a previous blog entry for more information.

As I've said in the past, I am definitely a serial reader - I believe you should read a series from the beginning. Most of these books would be fine to read as a stand-alone but are SO much better as part of the series they belong to. So, if they sound interesting to you, search on the author and find the first one in the series and start there. (Of course, I will not be monitoring your reading so if you do it differently, please just don't let me know.)

I was very excited last year to find new-to-me author Michelle Gagnon. Third in her series, The Gatekeeper, is probably my least favorite. But that doesn't mean it's not to be read. I did enjoy it. I think some of the character's angst within the book made me not want to enjoy the book as much, if that makes sense. Here's the summary from MichelleGagnon.com:
From the moment sixteen-year-old Madison Grant is abducted, an unthinkable terrorist plot is set in motion—pitting Special Agent Kelly Jones against her most powerful adversary yet. The kidnapper's ransom demands aren't monetary...they come at a cost that no American can afford to pay.

As Kelly's fiancĂ©, Jake Riley, races to find Madison, Kelly is assigned to another disturbing case: the murder and dismemberment of a senator. At first the two cases don't appear to be related. But as Kelly navigates her way through the darkest communities of America—from skinheads to biker gangs to border militias—she discovers a horrible truth. A shadowy figure who calls himself The Gatekeeper is uniting hate groups, opening the door to the worst homegrown attack in American history.

I rated The Gatekeeper 4 out of 5 stars. (Start with The Tunnels.)

You know you've heard of author Kathy Reichs and her Temperance Brennan series. It's the one that is the basis for the tv show "Bones". It's also based on her life as a forensic anthropologist. She does the kind of things in the books and on the show. Gotta love that! This latest book is quite good, reminding me why I love this series. Summary:
There are 206 bones in the human body. Forensic anthropologists know them intimately, can read in them stories of brief or long lives and use them to reconstruct every kind of violent end. 206 Bones opens with Tempe regaining consciousness and discovering that she is in some kind of very small, very dark, very cold enclosed space. She is bound, hands to feet. Who wants Tempe dead, or at least out of the way, and why? Tempe begins slowly to reconstruct...

Tempe and Lieutenant Ryan had accompanied the recently discovered remains of a missing heiress from Montreal to the Chicago morgue. Suddenly, Tempe was accused of mishandling the autopsy -- and the case. Someone made an incriminating phone call. Within hours, the one man with information about the call was dead. Back in Montreal, the corpse of a second elderly woman was found in the woods, and then a third.

Seamlessly weaving between Tempe's present-tense terror as she's held captive and her memory of the cases of these murdered women, Reichs conveys the incredible devastation that would occur if a forensic colleague sabotaged work in the lab. The chemistry between Tempe and Ryan intensifies as this complex, riveting tale unfolds. Reichs is writing at the top of her game.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Michael Connelly is such a great writer. I absolutely love Harry Bosch, the main character in 9 Dragons. He has been through the wringer in previous books and this one is no different. However he shows his humanity much more here and I fell in love with him even more. A quick summary from MichaelConnelly.com: From the streets of L.A. to the shimmering skyline of Hong Kong, Harry Bosch must find his missing daughter. The most personal Bosch novel yet.

I gave this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I will have more of my favorites in a few days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Teaser: The Psychik book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

My two 'teaser' sentences are from The Psychik book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. These sentences are from page 37.

Connie turned her face toward the spot in the dense thornbushes where the dog was gazing and gasped. To her astonishment, under the tightly wound bramble branches was the outline of a rotted iron gate.

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- 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.

Best of 2009

2009 was a slow reading year for me, as you all know. I only read 45 books in 2009, compared to 101 in 2008 (top reads) and 95 in 2007 (top reads). And the ones that I did read were mostly in my favorite genre, mystery thriller, trying to kick-start my reading for the year. But these are all definitely my favorite authors and I recommend you read anything by them.

All of these books got the 5 star rating on my librarything list. Links are to the few that I did review on here.

  • Kindred in Death (Eve Dalla)- JD Robb
  • A Plague of Secrets (Dismas Hardy) - John Lescroart
  • Undone (Grant County) - Karin Slaughter
  • The entire series of Heartsick, Sweetheart and Evil at Heart - Chelsea Cain
  • Finger-lickin Fifteen - Janet Evanovich (much lighter than others in this group - back to her original laugh-out-loud books)
  • Judas Kiss - J.T. Ellison
  • Boneyard - Michelle Gagnon
  • Revenge of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz (similar to Janet Evanovich)
Other Fiction
  • Greetings from Somewhere Else - Monica McInerney (LOVE all her books!)
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett
All of these I highly recommend. You won't be disappointed.

Catching up!

It's February so it's time for a "best of" post, right? LOL I know, I am WAY behind. I have made it a goal for 2010 to be more purposeful about my days and my time. I have worked on the non-computer portions and that includes this blog.

So! I've updated the header. I have a number of posts written and ready to go over the next few days along with a plan for more after that. I also plan on getting back to reading other book blogs so I can get more ideas on what to read. I've missed all of you and am wanting to reconnect.

So, in a groundhog-like fashion, I am back.