Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich
St. Martin’s Press, 2007
Mystery; 164 pgs

Started: 02/27/2007
Completed: 02/27/2007
Rating: * (Fair)

First Sentence: Men are like shoes.

Where Book Came From: TBR room (since January 2007)

Reason for Reading: I wanted to read something light, funny, and quick after reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s The Way the Crow Flies.

From the Publisher: Mysterious men have a way of showing up in Stephanie Plum's apartment. When the shadowy Diesel appears, he has a task for Stephanie -- and he's not taking no for an answer. Annie Hart is a "relationship expert" who is wanted for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Stephanie needs to find her, fast. Diesel knows where she is. So they make a deal: He'll help her get Annie if Stephanie plays matchmaker to several of Annie's most difficult clients. But someone wants to find Annie even more than Diesel and Stephanie. Someone with a nasty temper. And someone with "unmentionable" skills. Does Diesel know more that he's saying about Annie Hart? With Stephanie Plum in over her head, things are sure to get a little dicey and a little explosive, Jersey style!

Comments: When I need something light and funny, I can count on a Stephanie Plum novel to offer me a laugh. I admit that I was not all that impressed with her previous in between book, Visions of Sugar Plums, but for the most part, I enjoy the series immensely. Janet Evanovich is one of those authors who I am willing to spend hardback prices for. Fortunately with her most recent novel, Plum Lovin’, a filler for the Valentine’s Day season, before Lean Mean Thirteen comes out this June, I had a coupon in addition to my discount card. I spent less than I would have for the paperback version when it came right down to it. And I have to say, it was worth the price I paid. There were no out right laugh out loud moments, only a little chuckle here or there. It was nice to visit with my old friends, including the eccentric and adorable Grandma Mazur and the ever-flamboyant Lulu.

Favorite Part: My favorite scene in the book was when Grandma Mazur shows up at Jeanine’s apartment while Jeanine and Stephanie are watching the video. My second favorite scene is when Jeanine greets Stephanie at the door, expecting to find her date. Those were the closest I cam to little giggle out loud moments.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Perennial, 2003
Fiction; 820 pgs

Started: 02/18/2007
Completed: 02/27/2007
Rating: * (Outstanding)

First Sentence: The birds saw the murder.

Where Book Came From: I first heard about this book through PAGES magazine. I pulled it off my TBR shelf where it has been sitting patiently since October 2004.

Reason for Reading: This is the second book read for the Chunkster Challenge. A review by a fellow book lover (Lesley over at Lesley's Book Nook) prodded me to read this one sooner than later.

From the Publisher: For Madeleine McCarthy, high-spirited and eight years old, her family's posting to a quiet air force base near the Canadian-American border is at first welcome, secure as she is in the love of her family and unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets. The early sixties, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of a child as Madeleine draws us into her world.

But the base is host to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a very local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As the tension in the McCarthys' household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality — a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.

Comments: As I sit here trying to decide where to start, I find my eyes welling up with tears. Again. On many levels, I anticipated that, having read other readers thoughts about this book over the last three years and all the glowing reviews and recommendations from fellow booklovers. I just had no idea how much this book would get under my skin, how much of my own life I would see flitting across the pages. Or echoes of it at least. My life was not—and has not been—nearly as dramatic, of course. No war criminals or murders to worry about.

It was more so the little things that I found myself connecting with: the long car rides with my brother and I sitting in the back seat, playing games, sometimes arguing, stopping along the way at various historical landmarks; the packing up and moving again and again, something most military families grow accustomed to no matter the country; making new friends and learning where to fit in; and the security and community of living on a military base; the crush on the teenage heart throb, and the duck and cover drills. Even the search for the missing girl brought back memories of the community at Camp Pendleton coming together to search for a missing child one summer day, the concern and fear clear on everyone’s faces. Fortunately in my reality, the child was found safe and sound, having just wandered off. The novel is also full of pop culture phrases and references that, although some are a bit before my time, are well known enough to be very familiar.

All of this sets the stage for an intriguing and complex story about a family whose secrets begin to erode away their relationships with each other and themselves. Ann-Marie MacDonald painted a vivid and thought provoking novel, in which the reader can empathize with the anger, frustration and guilt that several of the characters struggle with. There is Jack who faces an ethical dilemma that spills over onto his family; Mimi who wants to be a good wife and protect her family as she sees the family unit begin to show signs of cracking; and Madeleine who falls victim to one of the worst kind of predators imaginable.

The Cold War served as the perfect backdrop for the telling of The Way the Crow Flies. It was a time when hopes and patriotism are high after the end of World War II and the focus from the Nazis onto the Soviet Communists shifted. It was peacetime and yet the governments of the Western World stood on eggshells, afraid of what their enemies might do. And while the West raced to be the first to the moon and overcome the East with technology, morality became a little blurrier. Ann-Marie MacDonald weaves the history of the times into her story seamlessly, adding depth and complexity to the characters and each of their stories.

My mind is swimming with thoughts about this powerful novel, and yet, I do not dare lead you down that path for fear of spoiling the story any more for you than I already have.

Favorite Part: What was not to like about this book? Among my favorite bits were the trips it took me down memory lane, Jack and Mimi’s relationship, Mike and Colleen as characters, and the eccentricities of the Froehlich family. I especially liked how well drawn the characters were. Ms. MacDonald did an excellent job of creating a story and character with whom I felt right at home.

If your father is in the air force, people ask you where you are from and it’s difficult to answer. The answer becomes longer the older you get, because you move every few years. “Where are you from?” “I’m from the Royal Canadian Air Force.” The RCAF. Like a country whose bits are scattered around the globe. [pg 12]

Canada was one-third of the great North Atlantic Triangle poised between Britain and the United States. This triangle worked in cunning ways. Under the Lend-Lease plan, many of the airplanes were built in the U.S.—“the arsenal of democracy”—but until the Americans entered the war the planes could not be flown into Canada without violating the United States Neutrality Act. So pilots would fly the new aircraft to Montana or North Dakota and land just shy of the border. Only feet away, a team of horses waited on the Canadian side. The airplane was hitched up and hualed into Canada, then flown to the RCAF stations to supply the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. [pg 29]

Afterwards, in bed with a book, the spell of television feels remote compared to the journey into the page. To be in a book. To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight. That is a journey no one can end with the change of a channel. Enduring magic. [pg 123]

In pop culture and folk tales, ghosts haunt creepy houses at night, appear in old photographs of church picnics, are glimpsed in the rain-lashed beam of a headlight on a country road amid endless fields of corn. In life, they arrive when you are emptying the dryer at ten a.m.

The shadow is the same. It chooses mundane moments. Like most ghosts, it does not wish to scare you off. It needs to be seen. That’s why it has come. Imagine the sheer exhaustion of making the journey up from the shades time and again, only to have your long lost one shriek and run away. That’s why it learns to approach in the open, when you are engaged in familiar tasks, guard down. Doing the dishes. Driving. It doesn’t necessarily want you to crash, but it does want your attention.
[pg 661]

Note About The Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald was inspired to write this novel because of the story of Steven Truscott, then 14, who was tried and convicted of murdering a 12 year old girl, and who to this day maintains his innocence. At my reading of the novel, the Ontario Court of Appeal is reconsidering the matter.

Miscellaneous: This weekend we saw Music & Lyrics (pretty good, cute) and El Laberinto del Fauno (aka Pan's Labyrinth--fantastic! ).

I am the unlucky recepient of a stomach virus and a cold all wrapped in one. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New York Times Notable Book Challenge

As February comes to an end, it has become clear to me that I need to revise my reading goals for the year. My intention to continue with my series reading has fallen by the wayside as I seem to be straying away from those particular books in order to read others in my TBR collection. That does not mean I will not return to my favorite series, just that my focus in reading material lies elsewhere at the moment. Currently my reading choices seem to be dictated by the challenges I have agreed to participate in, all of which have been worthwhile experiences so far.

I did not have any intention of joining in on another challenge. I do not want to limit all of my reading this year to books on lists. I also have been striving to only choose books to read for the challenges that are already on my TBR shelves. And so, when I first heard about Caribousmom's New York Times (NYT) Most Notable Fiction Challenge, I immediately discounted the notion of joining in. I mean, I only recently came into possession of two of the books on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2006, and one other I have read.

Caribousmom was relentless (okay, so not really. I just want to throw the blame on someone other than myself) in her endorsement of the challenge, and when I tried to squirm out of it by asking if there was a minimum requirement (what if I only wanted to read 2 books on the list?), she immediately made it clear that it was up to me. She told me that I "can read as many or as little" as I want and that I do not have to chose the titles ahead of time. The point of the challenge is not to read as many of the books on the list as possible or even a set number, but to provide an opportunity for the challengers to discuss our experiences with the books we do read. A forum was set up for that very purpose, in fact.

My firm resolve to not get tangled up in any more challenges faltered and collapsed. Are you really surprised? As a consolation, I am going to allow myself a lot of freedom with the NYT Challenge. I will not be setting a number of books to read from the list. I have jotted down a few titles that appeal to me, and my choices will come from that list (subject to change based on other books that catch my fancy or recommendations by others).

Without further ado . . .

Forgetfulness by Ward Just (read 12/2006)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
The Inhabited World by David Long (read 06/2007)
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Absurditan by Gary Shteyngart
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Writing in Books

It is that time again: Booking Through Thursday. I almost decided to skip this one but decided to go ahead and take a stab at it.

A couple weeks ago, we asked about how you take care of your books, with one of the questions asking whether you write in your books. Well, what about books that are meant to be written in? Like, say, a journal or diary? Do you keep one? Obviously, if you're answering this, you have a blog--do you just let your blog be your journal? Or do you also keep one for private stuff also?

First let me say that I love journals. There are quite a variety out there, many of them that catch my eye and make me wish I could take them home with me. Alas, I am not a very faithful journaler, and I prefer to type my thoughts rather than hand write them if truth be told. That makes those pretty little journals not so useful to me, I'm afraid.

When I was a child, I kept a diary which I would begin faithfully, hoping to write in it every day. As time would go on, I would write in it less and less frequently. I always liked the idea of keeping a journal or diary, but never got into a regular habit of doing so. A few years ago, my mother discovered one of my childhood diaries in a box and returned it to me. It was fun to read through it, returning to the thoughts of the 12 year old girl that I once was. A common theme I discovered was how often my parents got upset with me "for no reason." Of course, I was always the most perfect child who could do no wrong. Weren't we all? At least we thought so anyway.

Early on I discovered a love for writing. And in my middle school days, I entered the world of pen palling. Oh, how I loved to write letters! I had pen pals from all over the world and when I realized that I could have pen pals from all over my own country, I suddenly had many of those kind too. I still enjoy writing letters, although I am not as prolific as I once was. In some respects I suppose my letter writing was my way of journaling, making a record of my life and my thoughts, whether it be something going on in my life or that of my pen friend. I did not hold onto those letters, mailing them out to my friends across the country or seas, but the act of putting my thoughts into words has often proven to help me through some of the rough spots in life and to celebrate the joys in life.

As for actual journals, I do keep a travel journal, which only gets used when Anjin and I travel or have some sort of big event (like our wedding). It comes in handy for remembering all the little details so I can return to the memories again later in life. As soon as I get home from the trip, my notes go into the computer in a more organized fashion.

I do keep an annual journal file on my computer where I record events in my life (sometimes small and sometimes big), memories I want to hold onto, sometimes thoughts I want to put down, but it's nothing formal and I often neglect it.

There is also my reading journal. I started it a few years ago as a way record my thoughts about the various books I read. My reading journal is simply a Word document in my computer. I do have an actual reading journal in book format, which I use to jot down notes as I read a book. It comes in especially handy for books I am reading to review formally or discuss with a reading group.

My blog is an extension of my reading journal in most respects. I am a rather private person, and so the amount of personal information I share is limited. Although, I imagine you could figure out a lot about me by reading my thoughts on the books I read or even by my reading choices.

What about you? Do you keep a journal?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice." - from The Maltese Falcon

I've been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of. –Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Vintage, 1930
Mystery; 217 pgs

Started: 02/18/2007
Completed: 02/18/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.

Where Book Came From: The book is actually one of my husband's collection.

Reason for Reading: I wanted to read something fun and light for my final book in the Winter Classics Challenge.

Comments: While some may want to argue my choice of considering The Maltese Falcon a classic, I would argue that it is a novel that has stood the test of time and has influenced other authors and works within the same and similar genres. Dashiell Hammett is considered one of the forefather’s of the hardboiled detective novel, The Maltese Falcon being the most well known of his novels. Dashiell Hammett’s name often comes up as a favorite and influencer to many of my favorite mystery writers. It seemed appropriate that I should eventually find my way to one of his books.

Perhaps the most famous medium of the story The Maltese Falcon was the 1941 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, which the Library of Congress classified as being “culturally significant.” The movie is a classic all its own.

What better setting for a mystery involving a jeweled bird, a beautiful woman, hired gunmen, and greedy thieves than the city by the bay, San Francisco? In Dashiell Hammett’s classic hardboiled mystery, private detective Samuel Spade pulls out all the stops. When the lovely Miss Wonderly walks into his office one day offering up two hundred dollars on the spot, both Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, agree to take the case to follow a man in hopes of locating her sister. With the deaths of Spade’s partner and the man who allegedly had run off with Miss Wonderly’s sister, it becomes clear that Miss Wonderly is not who she says she is, and the story she fed the private detectives was far from the truth. The cynical and confident Spade is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how tight lipped his client may be or how much danger he will face.

Sam Spade is the quintessential hardboiled private investigator. He has a talent for getting at the truth and smooth talking his way out of trouble. It’s no wonder he steals the hearts of women. Although I had seen the movie before and knew the story, there is nothing like reading it in print. Dashiell Hammett proved to be a talented writer, taking readers back into the late 1920’s and putting them right into the story. It is no wonder so many mystery authors of today look to Dashiell Hammett as their inspiration.

Favorite Part: I loved reading about Sam Spade in action. He is quite the smooth talker! His confrontations with Lieutenant Dundy were quite amusing. My favorite character, however, would have to be his secretary, Effie Perine, who always came through in a pinch.

For the dish on the author, check out:

Read what Pussreboots had to say about The Maltese Falcon.

Miscellaneous: It is a terrfic feeling to have completed the Winter Classics Challenge. Many thanks to Booklogged at A Reader's Journal for hosting the challenge. She motivated me to crack open a handful of classics that I had been meaning to get to for a long while now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Romance

This week's topic for Booking Through Thursday is romance.

And so, in honor of Valentine's Day . . .

1. Love stories? Yes or No? I do enjoy a love story now and then. The book I am reading now has a little romance in it--although it is more like the fatal attraction kind.

2. If yes, "romances" as a genre? Or just, well, stories that have love stories? (Nobody's going to call "Pride & Prejudice" a "romance," right?) If a novel is classified as a strict romance, I am less likely to pick it up and read it, but occasionally one finds its way into my personal library and on my reading list that I enjoy. Generally, however, I prefer that the romance to be mixed in with another genre--more of a side story than the main focus.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief. - from Emma

I begin already to weigh my words & sentences more than I did, & am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration, or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my Ideas flow as fast as the rain in the Storecloset it would be charming. – Letter to her sister Cassandra, 1809

Emma by Jane Austen
Dover, 1999 (originally published in 1816)
Fiction; 328 pgs

Started: 02/03/2007
Completed: 02/11/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

Where Book Came From: TBR Shelves (where it has sat since 07/2005, when I went through a “must buy and eventually read” all of Jane Austen’s novels).

Reason for Reading: I had been meaning to read another Jane Austen novel for quite some time. Emma is my 4th selection for the Winter Classics Challenge and my 2nd for the 2007 TBR Challenge.

From the Publisher: Emma is the story of the eponymous Miss Woodhouse who, having lost her close companion Anne Taylor to marriage, sets out on an ill-fated career of match-making in the town of Highbury. Taking as her subject the pretty but dreary Harriet Smith, she manages to cause misunderstandings with every new tactic she employs. Though precious and spoilt, Emma is charming to all around her and so it takes her some time to learn her lesson and profit from spending less time worrying about how other people should live their lives.

Comments: What a delightful read! As much as I protested in the beginning over Emma’s character, her conceit and meddlesome nature, I was quite aware that this was exactly as she was supposed to be and would be what gave the novel it’s purpose. And while I never grew to love Emma, I did eventually find myself liking her as the novel went on. Her zest for life, her kind heart, however misguided at times, and her devotion to her family were what eventually won me over. There were a number of other wonderful characters who stole my heart even more so: the older and gentlemanly Mr. Knightley, the reserved but good natured Jane Fairfax, the chatty Miss Bates, and, of course, Mr. Woodhouse with all his grumbling and concerns about health, just to name a few.

Once I settled myself down to spend quality time with Emma, I was immediately swept away by Jane Austen’s novel. I like her style of writing, a product in part of her times no doubt. Like with Pride and Prejudice, I was transported back to England in the early 1800’s. The culture, atmosphere and the characters all brought to life amongst the pages.

Emma is a comedy of sorts and very much a love story. A perfect novel to read in time for Valentine’s Day, I must say. Upon completion of the novel, I found myself smiling with a little tear at the corner of my eye. Jane Austen is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

Favorite Part: I admit to being immediately smitten with Mr. Knightley. The arguments between Mr. Knightley and Emma were quite entertaining.

Mr. Woodhouse could have been annoying with his complaints and concerns, however, I found him charming. His sympathy towards the former family governess and his daughter Isabella over their marriages brought to mind my own father’s tradition of sending sympathy cards instead of wedding cards to newly married couples.

Miscellaneous: I have a copy of the movie Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow already to watch now that I have finished the novel. I am tempted to run out in this glorious rain to find a copy of Clueless so that I can watch that too. Although I have seen both movies before, it has been a number of years and my memory of them is faltering. I admit that as I read Emma, Alicia Silverstone and Gwyneth Paltrow’s faces popped up in my mind repeatedly.

My lovable dog is doing better. He has regained his full energy even though all his wounds have yet to heal. Thanks to all who expressed their concerns and good wishes!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: TLC

During my visits in the blogsphere, I discovered a fun meme site called Booking Through Thursday. I thought I would try my hand at this week's meme, which poses the question:
What kind of care do you take of your books?

1. Are you careful with the spines? Or do you crack your books open to make them lay flat?
I start off with every intention of being careful with my books, protecting the spines and trying to avoid cracks and creases. On many occasions, my attempts become futile. Eventually, the spines crack or little creases can be felt along the spine of my paperbacks. With hardbacks, they sometimes end up lying flat on my desk as I read.

2. Do you use bookmarks? Or do you dog-ear the corners? If you do use bookmarks, do you use those fashionable metal ones? Or paper?
I use bookmarks. Failing the presence of a bookmark (maybe my cat ran off with it or it fell between the pillows), I will use a scrap of paper, receipt, or some dry, clean and flat object that can stand in temporarily. I only dog-ear when I'm absolutely desperate. As to the type of bookmarks, I have a nice little collection. I'm especially fond of the paper ones with tassels, but I do like my metal ones too. I don't use the metal clip bookmarks--I haven't found any that don't crease the pages in unacceptable ways.

3. Do you write in your books? Ever? If you do, do you make small marks, or write in as much blank space as you can find? Pen or pencil? Highlighter? Your name on the front page?
I rarely write in my books. Occasionally I will mark a passage or quote with minimal pencil marks. If I am loaning a book out, sometimes I will write my name on the inside cover in pencil so that the person doesn't forget who to return it to. I'm more likely to use a sticky note though for both purposes.

On very special occasions, I will write a little something in a book I am giving as a gift. That is usually only to people I know who like that sort of thing. It's a big no-no where my husband is concerned.

4. Do you toss your books on the floor? Into bookbags? Or do you treat them tenderly, with respect?
I am always respectful in the treatment of my books, even as I ease them in my purse (trying to avoid turning up the corners or snagging on something). I have tossed gently a book on the floor. I make it a generak rule not to throw books across the room--not even one I didn't like.

5. Do you ever lay your book face-down, to save your place?
Can I take the 5th on this one?

6. Um--water? Do you bathe with your books? Hold them with wet hands? Read out in the rain? Anything of that sort?
I find that taking a shower isn't conducive to reading. I try not to hold books with wet hands or read in the rain, but sometimes it happens unintentionally.

7. Are your books lined up on a bookshelf? Or crammed in any which way? Stacked on the floor?
All three. Most are lined up on the bookshelves as neatly as I can get them, but I do have several crammed on top of those neat rows. Our guest bed in my TBR room is covered with books right now, and there's a few stacked in a pile on the floor. I also have a box and a couple of bags full.

8. Do you make a distinction--as regards book care--between hardcovers and paperbacks?
I suppose I am a little rougher with paperbacks, but I cannot say that is my intention. I find that I am a lot more careful with newer books than I am with used books that I obtain that already show wear and tear.

9. And, to recap? Naturally, you love all of your books, but how, exactly? Are your books loved in the battered way of a well-loved teddy bear, or like a cherished photo album or item of clothing that's used, appreciated, but carefully cared for?
I think my books fall in an inbetween category. Over the years I have noticed that I went from being the kind of person who preserved my books as if they were museum pieces to sliding into being more of the type of person who doesn't mind the well-loved teddy bear approach. I still aim to be careful and keep my books neat and clean, but I do not get upset or worry too much when a favorite novel begins to show signs of love because of frequent contact.

10. Any additional comments? I am especially gentle with books that are loaned to me--they aren't mine, and I want to give them back in the condition they came in. One of my pet peeves is receiving back a book I loaned to someone in very tattered and worn shape when that is not how it looked when I first handed it to him or her.

Don't forget to leave a link to your actual response in the comments--or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Joy's Nonfiction Five Challenge

Joy from Thoughts of Joy is hosting the Nonfiction Five Challenge, which will span the months of May through September. The idea of this challenge is to read five nonfiction books in five months. Although occasionally I am drawn to a nonfiction book, my reading tastes run more in the direction of fiction. Just looking at my TBR shelves or the books I read, would be proof enough of that. Since this seems to be the year for reading challenges and clearing out some of those TBR books that have long been collecting dust on the shelves, I decided to give the challenge a go. I have forty-two nonfiction books in my TBR collection that always seem to get passed over for the more appealing fiction novel. Joy's challenge is the perfect opportunity to put a tiny dent in that nonfiction stack of mine.

It is proving to be difficult to select the final five. I have whittled my choices for the challenge down to seventeen (I'm not very good at this whittling down thing) books so far. What makes it especially hard is the fact that I want to read each of these books. Eventually. Anyone care to offer their recommendations from the below list? Or perhaps you hated something so much you want to warn me away?

A History of God by Karen Armstrong
Death's Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson
The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers by Michael Connelly
Marching Home by Kevin Coyne
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell
Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Bilbioholism by Tom Raabe
Out of America by Keith Richburg
Spook: Sceince Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
Dominion by Matthew Scully
Lucky by Alice Sebold
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Headline Story: Body Discovered In Bathtub

Books...are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development. - Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1928 (although this quote didn't come from Whose Body?, I couldn't resist posting it here.)

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Harper Mystery, 1923
Mystery; 212 pgs

Started: 01/29/2007
Completed: 02/02/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: “Oh damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Reason for Reading: The monthly reading challenge in the Yahoo book group Mostly Books was to read a book by Dorothy L. Sayers. Why several others chose to read Gaudy Nights, I couldn’t in good conscience begin a series in the middle, and so I decided on the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel.

From the Publisher: A naked body is found lying in the tub, a gold pince-nez perched before the sightless eyes. Telltale signs indicate that the face was shaved after death. Despite evidence to the contrary, the police are certain that the victim was a prominent financier. Lord Peter Wimsey knows better, but can he prove it? First published in 1923, Whose Body? established the disarmingly debonair, and somewhat foppish, Wimsey as one of the most enduring characters in English literature. It remains one of the most significant — and most charming — of the Golden Age mysteries.

Comments: I am always up for a good mystery, one that catches me in its hook and reels me in. While I enjoyed Dorothy L. Sayer’s mystery novel, Whose Body?, it did not pull me in as much as I would have liked. The story itself was sound, however, several of the characters seemed underdeveloped. Fortunately, however, the author wastes no time in setting out the puzzle pieces and then unraveling the mystery, which was quite compelling. She often used dialogue to imply action throughout the novel, which is not something I come across very often.

Of the characters, Lord Peter Wimsey is a charming character, his eccentricities, wit and intelligence making him even more so. His mother is quite an entertaining woman herself. I would like to have known more about Parker. Perhaps his character is more ferreted out in later books. My favorite character, however, is Bunter, Lord Peter’s valet. He is sort of the Watson to Lord Peter’s Sherlock Holmes.

Whose Body? made for an enjoyable light and witty mystery overall, but I have no plans to rush out and read more by this author any time soon.

Favorite Part: My favorite part was probably the flashback scene. It shed unexpected light on the characters of Lord Peter and Bunter and their relationship.

Another scene that caught my fancy and had me chuckling out loud is when Lord Peter speaks with the Appledores. To give away much more than that would be a sure spoiler, and so you will have to read the novel for yourself to see what I mean.

Note about the Author: Dorothy L. Sayers said of her character Lord Peter once that he was a mixture of Bertie Wooster and Fred Astaire.

Miscellaneous: This past weekend Anjin and I went to see A View From The Bridge, a play by Arthur Miller, put on by our city’s local theater group. My cousin had extra tickets and invited us along for an evening of entertainment and culture. I had never read or seen the play before—much less heard of it, sad to say. It was an interesting and tragic story and the performances were very well done.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Favorites

Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings captured the essecense of the Art of Seduction in his blog on Tuesday. (Can you hear Anjin moaning in the background at the sight of my wish list growing even longer?)

Bybee's stroll down memory lane to Mrs. Lemmon's classroom brought to mind my favorite librarian, who would read to us each day from a variety of books. Although my brother would tell you we named our family dog in a shortened form of Happy Puppy, it was really after my favorite dog in Harry Cat's Pet Puppy by George Selden. I used to day dream about getting locked in the library after night much like the girls in Eth Clifford's novel Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library. Just a couple of the favorites she read to us.

How could I pass up the opportunity to dive into some of those nonfiction books that have been collecting dust in my TBR room? Joy offers the perfect opportunity to do just that through the Non-Fiction Five Challenge which will take place this year between the months of May through September. Now to decide which of my many nonfiction books to read . . .

During my regular blog browsing, two books in particular caught my attention this week and were quickly added to my wish list (I am sure there were more, but my memory is not what it used to be): The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, reviewed by Book Diva at Book Diva's Reviews and News and Candide by Voltaire, reviewed by Orange Blossom Goddess at The Library Ladder.

For those who expressed their concern and well wishes to my dog, thank you! We made a run for the vet (a new one that came highly recommended by a friend--I'm dumping the old one as I've been very unhappy with him for awhile now) this morning because he'd completely removed the hair from part of his arm and a big giant gash was right there for the world to see. It's now wrapped up and he's gotten his first dose of antibiotics. The doctor considered stitches but wisely guessed that my four legged friend wouldn't tolerate them long. The bite marks on his poor little ear were starting to swell. Why the first vet didn't think to put him on antibiotics initially, I do not know, but I am glad we seem to have caught it in time. (photo of my boy, 2005)

I am going to curl up on the couch and read a little of Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers now, I think.

Happy Reading!