Saturday, August 25, 2007

Going For a Walk. I'll Be Back In a Week.

If I average 8 miles an hour, I can get to Albuquerque by Wednesday.

Just4thehelluvit Challenge

When I joined my first challenge, I never expected to be swept up in a craze that would carry me for the entire year and beyond. I have discovered that I am not as much a mood reader as I thought. I can read books off of lists, given that the lists are ones I have made up of books I want to read. Challenges have been perfect for getting to books that have lingered in my TBR collection for awhile. I still like the spontaneous book now and then, but with as many challenges as I have been involved in, that gets harder and harder to do. Heck, I joined the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge and the Medical Mystery Madness Challenge because I was not getting my fix of mystery reading in. I figured it it was on a challenge list, I would be more likely to read it. Sure enough . . .

Dana of So Many Books, So Little Time has been feeling the same way. As much as we may enjoy making up our challenge lists, we feel we need an excuse to step outside of those lists once in awhile. Of course we know there is nothing stopping us from reading what we want when we want to (and for me, reading challenge books is what I want to do). It's not like any of these challenges are required reading. And yet, once you are bitten by the challenge bug it is hard to break free and Dana has provided the perfect excuse for the challenge-addicted to do just that, while at the same time allowing us to check another challenge off our list as having been successfully completed.

The The Just4thehelluvit Challenge is just as the title suggests. Just for the hell of it. Read any book (not on any challenge list--no crossovers allowed as it defeats the purpose!); it does not matter how few or how many; and whatever you do, do not make a list.

Not making a list is a lot harder than it sounds after eight months of reading mostly from reading lists I have assigned to myself. I am already thinking of what books I might want to read for this challenge, which kind of defeats the purpose of the challenge, doesn't it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Anyone Care for Seconds?

Joy over at Thoughts of Joy is hosting the 2nds Challenge. Have you read one book by an author that you liked enough to want to read a second book by that same author? This is your chance! Running from October through to the end of December, the 2nds Challenge asks participants to read 3 books by authors that you have only read one other book by. It's as simple as that.

My 2nds Challenge List:

Secondhand Smoke by Karen E. Olson(I have read Sacred Cows, rated 4) [read]

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (I read Jacob, Have I Loved as a child) [read]

The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle (I have read Silver Bough, rated: 3) [read]


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (I have read The Kite Runner)

Peony in Love by Lisa See (I have read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan)

I have not yet had a chance to put much thought into my choices for Kathrin's Series Challenge, but I thought I would at least make public my intention of joining that challenge. It is set to begin on December 1st and to carry on for a six month period. The goal is to pick up where I've left off in any number of the series I have already started and get caught up with them. With as many series as I am in the middle of or at least have gotten a start on, I will not even pretend that I will catch up on them all in the set time frame, but I will make a good start of it!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Indoctrination

When growing up did your family share your love of books? If so, did one person get you into reading? And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading? (Family trips to bookstore, reading the same book as a sibling or parent, etc.)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

I like to think that I was born with a book in my hands. I could not tell you how old I was when I first began to read, what the first book I read was, what the first chapter book I read was or anything as specific as that. What I can tell you is that I do not remember a time in my life when books and reading were not a part of it. My story is one that I have shared with many of you before in one form or another.

Both of my parents are avid readers. My father reads about a book a day. My mother reads mostly during the summer months when school is not in session or during the holidays, but she usually has a book going year round.

My father went into the military straight after high school and got his higher education through experience and reading. He amassed a huge library of books, mostly history and military books, westerns, mythology, fantasy, and action/adventure type books; and later when he decided to go to college for an Associates' degree, he started collecting books related to the subjects he was studying. I grew up surrounded by books. I cannot remember a time when we did not have multiple bookshelves full of books lining the walls of our house. One of my dad's favorite responses to a question I might have regarding any particular subject was to go look it up. He'd point to the bookshelves and tell me the answers lay right there.

I do not believe my father had that kind of influence during his own childhood, his father only having time to sleep when he was not working and his mother trying to raise five children of varying ages. My mother's parents, on the other hand, would spend evenings reading, whether it be the Bible or some other sort of book. Even during my own childhood, overnight stays with my maternal grandparents meant quiet evenings with a book in hand after a board or card game. Turning on the television was not something they ever thought to do. With parents like that, is it any wonder my mother turned out to be a reader too? (Side note: Neither of my mother's two brothers are readers--one of which has a slight disdain for books altogether; perhaps over exposure?)

Like with my father, many of my mother's own books lined the shelves of our home library while I was growing up: the classics, education related books, and general fiction. I do not remember my parents ever boxing up books to give away, although I remember going to library sales and such to bring more home.

Both of my parents read to me and I read to them once I was able to. Sometimes I would make up my own stories as I went along.

I remember vividly those Scholastic book catalogs that would peruse with an intensity befitting any true booklover. I circled each book I wanted to buy and then had to pare it down to one or two, which is about all we could afford on our budget.

Visits to the library were frequent during my childhood, especially during the summer months. At the beginning of each summer my brother and I would reluctantly get into the car for the ride to the library, dreading that summer library program. We'd rather be playing kickball with our friends or hanging at home. Of course, once we got there, it was an entirely different story. The library always had guest speakers and fun activities for the children. I remember the man with the snake and the magician, in particular. There was also the reading competition; who would read the most books that summer? Our progress was marked by various themed shapes (frogs, fish, birds, etc) tacked to the wall in the children's section. The children who read the most books at the end of the year would won special awards. I always aimed for that top prize.

I loved to browse the library shelves, pulling out books to read. I remember sitting on the floor trying to figure out which Amelia Bedelia book I should read next. As I got older, I would spend more time at the paperback racks, deciding on which books I would take camping with me. Paperback books weren't marked and we could check out as many of those as we wanted. I would often help my mom pick out books for my dad, who rarely came to the library with us.

Our camping trips to the Sierra Nevada mountains or wherever else we decided to put up our tent that summer hold the most pleasant reading memories from my childhood. While we did go hiking and on the occasional sightseeing trip, we mostly just settled in our lawn chairs or at the picnic table and read. We'd spend hours at a time, lost in our books. I remember my brother and I racing to my father's lawn chair when he would go into the tent for a nap. He was the only one who had a long lawn chair where you could put your feet up. When it rained, we would retreat to the tent where we would continue reading. Sometimes I would go off by myself and find a rock in a secluded place to read or write.

Life was not all rosy in my home while I was growing up, and reading and writing were my escape and my comfort. I often retreated to my bedroom to find solace in a book. When things were at their worst, I knew I could always lose myself in a book and forget my own troubles for awhile. Or I would create my own world, putting pencil to paper. It was a sort of therapy, some might say.

My parents fostered a love for reading in me that has stayed with me my entire life. I will always be grateful to them for that. I have fallen out of interest with other hobbies over the years, but not yet reading. I cannot ever imagine not wanting to read, not taking pleasure in the written word.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What Are You Reading Meme

This particular book meme is floating around out there, and so I thought I would give it a try. I pulled this off of Bibliolatrist's blog.

What are you reading right now?

I am actually in between books at the moment, having decided to set my current book aside for another time or perhaps not at all. I just cannot get into it. Next up on my schedule to read is Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

I really must get to Stephen L. Carter's New England White, and so that will be up after I finish Mr. Krakauer's book.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now?

I just got a free sample of a facial cream of some sort. I believe it came with a pamphlet.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?

A badly written court report. If you are turning in a legal document that will be put on the record, wouldn't you want to try and make sure it is as perfect as possible?

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?

I am the librarian of my personal library and, so of course, I know my own first name, but that is not what the questioner meant, is it? Alas, I have not set foot in the local public library in over a year and a half. I doubt anyone there would even know what I look like, much less my name.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

My recommendations tend to be individualized based on the types of books a person likes to read. While I may sing high praises of Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I know my friend Stefanie would not find much enjoyment in reading it. I would more likely recommend she try a Harlan Coben novel or perhaps something by Mo Hayder. My mother would definitely enjoy the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I talked my husband into trying Michael Connelly awhile ago, and now he's further into the series than I am. Moloka'i is my latest recommendation to my friends who enjoy historical fiction.

Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re having sex? While you’re driving?

I do read while I eat sometimes, especially during my lunch break at work if the other people in the breakroom leave me alone or are not talking very loud on their cell phones. I've been known to go eat and read in my car for my half hour break just to settle down in a quiet place.

Showers are not conducive to reading, and so no, I do not read while I bathe.

I sometimes will read during commercials when watching a movie or TV, but with the advent of DVR's and DVD's, that happens less frequently than it once did.

More often than not, I do not read with music on in the background, although I can and I have in the past. A lot depends on the volume of the music and what type of music is playing. I love music, and if a song is playing that I am familiar with, I am likely to sing along, which hurts my concentration when trying to read a book.

The only time I read a book when I am on the computer is if the internet is running very slow, or I'm just sitting at my desk reading with an occasional glance at my e-mail. I tend to do one or the other rather than both at the same time.

I do not think my husband would appreciate me reading during sex, not to mention it would ruin the mood. And I definitely do not read while driving, although I have been known to sneak a peek at my book while waiting at a drive-thru.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?

I do not recall being teased about my reading habits by other children. My dad used to say that the only punishment that might work on me was to take away my books, but that never happened.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

Michael Palmer's The Society. I just had to see how it would all play out in the end. I used to be able to pull all nighters when I read a book, but the older I get, the harder it is to stay awake. When I am desperate, I try reading with one eye to let the other rest and then switch eyes, but that does not really work. If my body wants to shut down, no matter how exciting a book may be, I will fall asleep. My husband has had to extricate several books that I've fallen asleep cuddling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Southern Reading Challenge Wrap Up

Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge was one of the challenges I told myself I would not take on. The last thing I needed to do this summer was take on another challenge, but as I was going through the books in my TBR room, I discovered a few that would qualify. Charlaine Harris is one of my favorite authors, and I hadn't yet tried reading her Lily Bard series. This was the perfect excuse. Why not get all caught up with one of my series reads by reading the latest Jack Kerley book? I should probably make some sort of effort to work towards that annual goal of mine. To balance things out, I chose a book recommended by another blogger, something a little outside of my normal reading zone, a novel by Charles Martin. There were certainly more I could have chosen from, and I would not have minded reading those either, but other reading commitments required I stick to the minimum.

Maggie hoped to give readers a taste of the South, and she certainly succeeded in that.

My Southern Selections:
Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley
When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

What was my favorite Southern novel of the three I read?

This is a tough question to answer. Each of these books received a Very Good rating from me.

Charlaine Harris is one of my favorite series authors, and I was quite impressed with the first book in her Lily Bard series. Lily is one tough woman and I really appreciated that there was a strong set of teeth in this cozy.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin was a beautiful story--tragic and hopeful all rolled into one.

Jack Kerley's writing gets better and better with each book. He not only writes an entertaining tale, but he kept me on the edge of my seat almost through the entire book. There's enough twists and turns to keep any suspense enthusiast happy.

What book could I have done without?

I cannot even comtemplate question like this, frankly. Each of these books was well worth reading. I got to spend time in small town Arkansas, in a quiet lake side community in Georgia and in the heart of Mobile, Alabama. It was a lovely summer!

What was the best part of the Southern Reading Challenge?

With all of these challenges, the best part is diving into books that I have been wanting to read for ages, but have put off getting to for one reason or the other. For this challenge, I was introduced to a new author who I definitely will revisit in the future, experienced a different genre by a favorite author and enjoyed the company of old friends in the other.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the other participants' blogs, seeing what they were reading and taking down notes of possible books I might someday want to read. I will never lack for something to read, that's for sure!

Maggie did a great job of inspiring a sense of community and camaraderie with the Southern Reading Challenge. I cannot begin to thank her enough for putting this challenge together and allowing me to be a part of it. Thank you, Maggie!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley

A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley
Onyx, 2006
Suspense/Thriller; 375 pgs

Completed: 08/19/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: “Are you sure he ran this way?”

Reason for Reading: I enjoyed Jack Kerley’s earlier books in the Ryder and Nautilus series, and welcomed the chance to I revisit the two detectives. This is my final selection for the Southern Reading Challenge.

Comments: I always enjoy stepping into Jack Kerley’s world for a little while. He offers up a taste of the South, an entertaining and complex story, and characters I cannot help but enjoy spending time with. A Garden of Vipers had its share of excitement, that’s for sure.

In the third novel of the Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus series, the detectives set out to solve a brutal murder of a young reporter. As their investigation unfolds, they uncover a web of dark secrets, conspiracy and vicious crimes—all of it seeming to lead to one of the most wealthiest and powerful families in Mobile, Alabama. Getting too close to the truth puts their lives on the line, and it is just a matter of time before it all comes to a head.

In this particular novel, the politics of bureaucracy do not play a part as it had in the first novel and to a lesser degree in the second, which provided an opportunity for Ryder and Nautilus to work their case unfettered. They really are good at their jobs and getting to the truth; both smart men and on top of their game.

I like Jack Kerley’s writing. His hard-boiled style, sprinkled with wit here and there, makes for good reading. Mr. Kerley captures the police culture and heart of his characters in such a way as to put the reader right there in the pages of the book. He weaves his story together seamlessly, the twists and turns offering a surprise here and there,although all the while leaving a logical trail. Jack Kerley just keeps getting better and better.

Favorite Part: One of my favorite parts came early on in the novel when Nautilus and Logan are racing to the scene of the crime and fighting over who will get the case. Does that really happen?

On a more general note, one of my favorite spots in this and the other two novels in the series is Carson Ryder’s house. It’s right on the water and there's a since of quiet and calm about the place that offers a break from the harried excitement of Ryder's life. When Ryder gets in his kayak to free his mind, I wouldn't mind going along for the ride.

Check out the author's website.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer Mystery Reading Challenge Wrap Up

I have officially completed the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Liz and Bob at Reviewed by Liz. This challenge gave me the excuse to fit in some much needed mystery reading amongst all the other challenges I roped myself into.

Summer Mystery Reading List:

  • Field of Fire by James O. Born
  • The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson
  • The Society by Michael Palmer
  • The Pumpkin Seed Massacre by Susan Slater

  • What was the best mystery you read this summer for the challenge?

    The most enjoyable book by a new-to-me author I read this summer was Karen E. Olson's novel, Sacred Cows, followed close on the heels by The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais. Both were entertaining mysteries with strong and likeable protagonists who I look forward to spending more time with in the future. These two books had me turning the pages as fast as I could to find out what would happen next.

    What book could you have done without?

    I enjoyed each and every mystery that I chose to read for this summer, and I definitely plan to read more by each of the authors. There was not one dud in the bunch.

    What was the best part of the Summer Mystery Challenge?

    The best part of this challenge was getting to know six new authors. Several of my selected books had been sitting on my shelves for quite a while, waiting to be read. Although the books themselves weren't so new to me in that regard, this was the first time I took the opportunity to read anything by the authors. Now I find myself wondering why I waited so long.

    I enjoyed the featured authors' posts quite a bit. My wish list of books and authors to try has grown considerably since the start of this challenge, both from the featured author articles and seeing what everyone else has been reading. Unfortunately this time around, I did not get the chance to read more than one of the featured authors' works as my main reason for participating in most of the reading challenges this year is to focus on trimming down my TBR collection. The one I did get the chance to read was Karen E. Olson's Sacred Cows, which, as you know, I thought was terffic.

    All in all, the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge was an enjoyable experience; one I would definitely be interested in doing again. Many thanks to Liz and Bob for hosting the challenge. You put an amazing about of work into this and it is greatly appreciated.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    I Would Like to Thank the Academy (in more ways than one)

    I have been fortunate to be surrounded by such a great community here in the blogsphere. I never anticipated my little blog would garner any attention at all, much less lead to my making some terrific new friends and getting to know old ones better.

    It was with great surprise that I learned that I have been awarded the Thoughtful Blogger Award by both Stephanie (Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-A-Holic) and Melody (Melody's Reading Corner), both thoughtful women in their own right, who have not only been supportive and friendly, but who have created blogs that are not only entertaining, but also thought provoking and inspiring. Thank you both for this honor.

    I want to pass this award on to everyone whose blogs I visit and enjoy as you all are very deserving of this award ten times over. The same goes for the Nice Matters Award. It's hard to limit a list like this, but today I feel especially inclined to offer the ward to the following:

    - Nancy at Bookfoolery and Babble who, even when hot and miserable, finds humor and kindness to share with the rest of us.

    Karina at Candid Karina whose blog not only offers me food for thought, but because she has such a kind spirit that comes through with each of her blog posts.

    Laura from Musings whose reviews always entice me to add books to my wish list. She's got great taste in books and she loves animals. That says it all.

    Melody also has been kind enough to award me with the Nice Matters Award. If I could, I would turn around and give this award to her as well. Melody is one of the nicest bloggers I know. Thank you, Melody!

    I bestow The Nice Matters Award to

    - Heather from The Library Ladder was one of the first people who made me feel at home in the blogsphere.

    Carrie K from My Middle Name Is Patience who always takes the time to respond to each of my comments and who I secretly envy for her knitting talent.

    - My friend
    Chris who has been my pen pal and friend for many years now and still puts up with me even when I fall unforgiveably behind in my letter writing. Chris is intelligent and a fun person. I am lucky to know her, even if only through letters and the internet.

    On a totally different note, I discovered that spoilers come in unexpected places. Unexpected, at least, for me. I was visiting one of my favorite movie sites, The Internet Movie Database, to research some of the characters from one of my favorite TV shows (The Wire), and made the mistake of looking at the dates some of major characters appear on the show. The end dates can be very revealing, let me tell you. Since I am in the middle of the third season of the show, that can be quite disconcerting.

    That is not what I wanted to post about, however. In my visit to The Internet Movie Database, I discovered that one of the actors (Idris Elba) from The Wire will be in the upcoming movie, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. What role he will be playing, I do not know, although I understand it is not one of the three main roles. Regardless, I look forward to seeing the movie as I am a fan of the popular book series that follows the life and adventures of private detective Precious Ramotswe.

    Evidently the movie originally was going to be filmed in South Africa due costs, but the Botswana government took an interest in the movie as soon as they got wind of it, asking that the movie be filmed in Botswana instead. It makes perfect sense, considering the series is set in the small country. The author, Alexander McCall Smith, could not have been happier with the decision to shoot in the heart of the country he set his novels in. Great pains have been taken to ensure accuracy and authencity of the traditions and culture of Botswana, including employing many of the locals. This movie definitely will be on my must see list when it comes out next year.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    The Society by Michael Palmer

    The Society by Michael Palmer
    Bantam, 2004
    Mystery (Medical); 351 pgs

    Completed: 08/16/2007
    Rating: * (Good)

    First Sentence: 4,013,864.

    Reason for Reading: I came across The Society soon after it was published and added it to my Mystery Guild order back when I still belonged to the club. The novel has set on my shelf for 3 years now (*hanging head down in shame*). It was a perfect fit as my second selection for the Medical Mystery Madness Challenge and my final choice for the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge.

    From the Publisher: At the headquarters of Boston’s Eastern Quality Health, the wealthy and powerful CEO is brutally murdered. She’s not the first to die—nor the last. A vicious serial killer is on the loose and the victims have one thing in common: they are all high-profile executives in the managed care industry. Dr. Will Grant is an overworked and highly dedicated surgeon. He has experienced firsthand the outrages of a system that cares more about the bottom line than about the life-and-death issues of patients. As a member of the Hippocrates Society, Will seeks to reclaim the profession of medicine from the hundreds of companies profiting wildly by controlling the decisions that affect the delivery of care. But the doctor’s determination has attracted a dangerous zealot who will stop at nothing to make Will his ally. Soon Will is both a suspect and a victim, a pawn in a deadly endgame. Then, in one horrible moment, Will’s professional and personal worlds are destroyed and his very life placed in peril.

    Rookie detective Patty Moriarity is in danger of being removed from her first big case—the managed care killings. To save her career, she has no choice but to risk trusting Will, knowing he may well be the killer she is hunting. Together they have little to go on except the knowledge that the assassin is vengeful, cunning, ruthless—and may not be working alone. That—and a cryptic message that grows longer with each murder: a message Grant and Moriarity must decipher if they don’t want to be the next victims.

    Comments: Occasionally I read a book that upon finishing, I immediately think, "Gee, that would make an entertaining movie!" This is one of those times. Admittedly, the books I most often have this thought about tend to include intense action sequences. What can I say? I love a good action flick.

    Michael Palmer has a good reputation as a medical thriller writer, and so I was excited about reading one of his books for the first time. After the first several pages, I began to have doubts, worried that the book would become too preachy about the negatives of managed health care. Regardless of the fact that I agreed with the main character’s concerns regarding the state of the health care system in the United States, I do not care for being lectured when reading a novel. Fortunately, those doubts were soon laid to rest as the story took off at break neck speed. Mr. Palmer sets the political stage quickly and moves on, adding real life anecdotes into the story where appropriate, and returning to the politics only as it suits the story.

    Dr. Will Grant is one of those characters that is almost too good to be true--intelligent, charming, charitable, good at heart, and a good surgeon. Never mind that he has a crazy ex-wife and heavy financial burdens. His counterpart in the novel, Detective Patty Moriarity, balances out his gentleness with her toughness. She is the daughter of a colonel of the state police and knows she has to prove that she is qualified for the job on her own merits. She is another one of those strong female characters who I enjoy reading about, one who does not require a man to save her at the end of the day. There is nothing helpless about Patty.

    Although I figured out at first glance who was behind the murders, The Society still made for an entertaining book to read. Would Will be able to get out from under the scandal that had been thrust on him? Would Patty be kicked off the case? And what exactly is the motive behind the murders? Is it as clear-cut as the police seem to believe? Or is it something more sinister? When the truth does come out and the motive becomes clear, well, it's horrifying.

    Fast placed, intense, and entertaining, The Society had me on the edge of my seat through most of the book. Suspension of disbelief is a must, although the concerns and problems surrounding managed health care today in the U.S. must not be disregarded out of hand.

    Favorite Part: There are several strong female characters in this novel, including Susan Hollister, Grace Peng Davis, Patty Moriarity, and Gloria Davenport. My favorite of the bunch is probably Patty, although Grace Peng Davis comes in at a close second. She had a difficult life and even with her most recent troubles, she remained strong and spirited.

    The “Doctor Laywer” Augie Micelli was also among my favorite characters. When it came down to it, he came through for his clients.

    My favorite scene of the novel is perhaps one of the most unbelievable moments, I’ll be the first to admit. Unfortunately for you, I have to remain mum or else I’d be giving too much away.

    Note about the Author: American Visit the author's website to learn more about him as well as his books.

    Miscellaneous: My issues of Bookmarks and The New Yorker came in the mail today! Yay! I wonder if I will actually fit reading time in for them. I have a nasty habit of letting magazines pile up . . .

    Oh! And best of all, I learned from Kris over at Not Enough Books that I won a copy of Slipknot by Linda Greenlaw in a recent drawing she held. It's the first in a promising new mystery series. I know, I know. Just what I need, to start another series.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Booking Through Thursday: Monogamy

    One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar?

    (We’re talking recreational reading, here—books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)

    Sometimes I find myself in the middle of several different projects. I will start one, pick up where I left off with another, and jump right into the next one before the first two are completed. My work and to some extent my personal life require a great deal of multi-tasking, and I seem to manage it quite well. However, when it comes to reading, I generally immerse myself in one book and stay with it until that last word is read.

    When a book or story captures my attention, I have no interest in moving on to something else until I finish that one book. I will take that book with me just about everywhere to snatch a reading moment whenever I can. I get so wrapped up in the story that I want to follow it through with as little interruption as possible, and my reading time is limited eough as it is. It is bad enough when I am completely absorbed in a book and I have to put it down because of more pressing priorities, work being at the top of that list (and it isn't it the worst when you have to stop at an intense moment in the novel?). Furthermore, I am not so moody that my reading moods shift frequently as to require me to have more than one type of book going at once. I am perfectly fine and satisfied staying with one book at a time.

    I can and have read more than one book at once. On the rare occasion that I do read multiple books at once, it often includes a nonfiction book and a novel, or perhaps a short story anthology and a novel. I do like to mix the type of books I double up on in instances like that. Usually if I am reading more than one book, it is because one or both is the type of book that is best taken in small doses.

    What about you?

    (I haven't been able to visit all of your wonderful blogs in the last few days. I hope to do that this weekend. You haven't been forgotten!)

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    A Few Good Murders by Cady Kalian

    A Few Good Murders by Cady Kalian
    Forge, August 2007
    Mystery; 287 pgs

    Completed: 08/03/2007
    Rating: * (Good)

    First Sentence: Carpe diem.

    Reason for Reading: I read the first book in the Maggie Mars series and when I saw the second book being offered for review on Curled Up With a Good Book, I decided to give it a go.

    Comments: I eagerly picked up Cady Kalian’s second novel, A Few Good Murders, to read. It would make a just the book to read when I most craved a light, quick and pleasurable mystery. It did not disappoint.

    Following hot on the heels of Dead as It Gets, A Few Good Murders picks up not too long after the first novel ends. The former investigative reporter turned screenplay writer, Maggie Mars’s script for Murder Becomes Her is complete and the filming has commenced. As can be expected in every Hollywood movie endeavor, there is a hitch.

    Allegra Cort, playing the leading role, couldn’t be more perfect except for the fact that she insists on putting her own touch on Maggie’s creation. She demands dialogue changes right and left and wants scenes cut that do not have her as the main focus. Allegra threatens to have Maggie thrown off the film if Maggie continues to refuse to budge on the latest of Allegra’s demands. In an effort to calm the stormy waters, Maggie agrees to meet with Allegra to discuss the matter; only it is a night that Maggie will never forget. The night ends in a heated argument and Maggie storms out of the star’s trailer.

    Allegra Cort is found dead in her trailer the next morning, and Maggie is the prime suspect, having been the last person to see the actress alive. Her fingerprints are all over the weapon used to kill the star. Suddenly Maggie finds herself trying clear her name while at the same time trying to avoid death herself. It seems that someone wants her dead. Or is it just her imagination because of all the stress she is under?

    Maggie Mars always has her own agenda and often disregards her own safety to go after the answers she seeks. She takes chances and sometimes comes across as oblivious. And yet, do not count her out; even when there may not seem to be a place to start, her blitz approach often gets her on the right track and once she is on the trail, there is no way to stop her. While she can be annoying at times, she still is a likeable character.

    The novel is filled with familiar characters: Maggie’s eccentric father, the irresistibly sexy Joe, the flamboyant roommate, and the charming defense attorney. There are also plenty of new characters as well, adding to the colorful cast of characters. There is Kurt, the hockey player with a secret, Mitzi the psychic, the charismatic journalist Sheppard Scott, and the obnoxious assistant Lisa just to name a few.

    With a joke on every page, dialogue that rarely fails to have a punch line, A Few Good Murders is full of humor and wit. The romance is not quite as heat inducing as it is in the first book in the series, but there are plenty of sparks between Maggie and her detective boyfriend. Maggie proves yet again that she cannot stay out of trouble. Cady Kalian’s novel is an easy-going mystery that will keep you turning pages and before you know it, you’ll have reached the end. Originally published on Curled Up With a Good Book © Wendy Runyon

    Favorite Part: The visit to Alamogordo Public Library. Seeing someone put the resources of a library to good use is something I always like to see. I also liked the librarian.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

    Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
    St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003
    Fiction; 389 pgs

    Completed: 08/11/2007
    Rating: * (Outstanding)

    First Sentence: Later, when memory was all she had to sustain her, she would come to cherish it: Old Honolulu as it was then, as it would never be again.

    Reason for Reading: This is my 8th selection for the TBR Challenge. I wish I could remember where I first heard about this book. It had been sitting on my shelf since January of 2006.

    Comments: I lived in Hawai’i for a short time during my childhood. My father had been stationed there. Although my memories are vague and few because of my young age at the time, one of the things that most stands out is the Hawaiian language. I grew up hearing bits and pieces of the Hawaiian language even long after my family left Hawai’i. My mother still signs her Christmas letter with the Hawaiian Christmas and New Year’s greeting (Mele Kalikimaka, Hau'oli Makahiki Hou). Hawai’i will always hold a special place in my heart and in my memory because it was once a place I called home, for however short a period of time in the scheme of my life. Moloka’i gave me the chance to revisit that time in my life.

    But even with the reawakening of that part of my life, the novel itself is set outside of my own experiences. My knowledge of Hawaiian history is small, sad to say. Moloka’i was once feared for its powerful sorcerers and in history would become even more famous for being the home of a leper colony. During the mid-1800’s and into the early to mid-1900’s, people diagnosed with leprosy, what later would be more accurately labeled as Hansen’s Disease, were forced into a sort of exile or quarantine where they would live out the rest of their lives and die. When the first “lepers” were left on the island they were completely on their own. They had to find their own shelter and food. Make do with what nature had to offer them. Alan Brennert’s novel takes place after the island has been settled for some time, aid that was brought to the island by the Catholic Church through the guidance of Father Damien.

    In Alan Brennert’s novel, a six-year-old Rachel is like every young girl her age. She adores her sea faring father and dreams of traveling the world like him someday; she treasures her doll collection, plays with her friends, and engages in occasional sibling rivalry. In a fight with her sister, her mother discovers a blemish on her skin, one that strikes fear in her mother’s heart. Seeking natural and native remedies, Dorothy Kalama does what she can to try and find a cure for her daughter in the hopes her daughter’s illness is not what she suspects it may be. When nothing works, Rachel must hide the signs of illness in fear of being discovered and sent away.

    In a heartbreaking moment when the truth comes out, Rachel is torn from her family and forced into isolation with others suffering from the same illness. When the doctor determines that her illness is neither improving nor likely to improve, seven-year-old Rachel finds herself on a boat headed for Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i. Her only comfort is in knowing that her Uncle Pono, also suffering from leprosy, will be waiting for her.

    Moloka’i is not a happy story. Nor is it a completely sad one. Even in the direst of moments, when grief is at its greatest and things appear that they cannot possibly get any worse, there is always hope. The spirit of the sufferers on the island contributes to that for while depression and anger at their situations ebb and flow like the tide, they still have lives to lead—and that is exactly what they do. They live. They love, marry, dance, sing, worship, work, and play. While for many, life is cut short, for others it is long lived. Those with the disease show the scars and deformations of the disease, but it does not stop them from living their lives as best they can. And yet, Moloka’i, like in other parts of the world, has its share of violence and crime, its share of hate and discrimination. Their faith and the faith of those around them was tested time and time again.

    Sister Catherine who spent a good deal of her life working with the sufferers on Moloka’i stumbles over her belief in God, constantly asking why God would give a child leprosy, much less take them at such a young age. And yet many of the Catholic nuns, including Sister Catherine, and priests gave aid and comfort to so many on the island. For Haleola, a kahuna, her faith in Hawaiian tradition helped her stay strong, as well provided much needed guidance and assurance to those around her, including Rachel. Both Catherine and Haleola play a large part in Rachel’s life as mother figures, each of them offering her support and guidance.

    Rachel’s story and that of the many of the other characters in the book are fictional, however, there is truth in them as well. The author drew from real life accounts and people to create his story, lending it an authenticity that makes it even more heart wrenching. The novel spans several decades, beginning in 1891 and ending in 1970. Throughout that time, Hawai’i went through several changes: the loss of a king, the usurpation of a queen, annexation, the marvel of the moving picture show, automobiles, airplanes, the attack on Pearl Harbor, a deadly Tsunami, and medical advances. These are among the more well known influences that were experienced and shared by the settlers on Moloka’i just as they were around the world. In many ways it was harder for them because they were isolated and cut off from their friends and families.

    Society itself held great contempt for those with leprosy. Families who had loved ones diagnosed with the disease went into hiding or cut old ties and built new lives, sometimes completely denying their sick relative. Some families took great pains to hide the illness when it was discovered that a loved one may suffer from it, going into hiding or sending the family member away hoping they would not be found out. Even after medical advances proved that Hansen’s Disease was not the threat it was once believed to be, people still shied away from and discriminated against those who once had suffered from the illness.

    Alan Brennert has written a heart wrenching and poignant novel. The novel is complex in nature and tackles many issues, including unexpected ones in such a way as to make Rachel’s story even more compelling. Her struggles were many and yet she continued to have hope and demonstrated courage and strength throughout her experiences. Her pain and suffering became my own as I read Moloka’i. I grieved with her, rode the surf with her, and felt her anguish and hope. While the cultural aspects and the setting may have touched me in a personal way, Alan Brennert’s novel touched me in an even deeper way. Moloka’i is an unforgettable story, and one I think everyone should read.

    Favorite Part: I liked how the author weaved in the historical anchors to the story, offering a stronger sense of time and place. The Hawaiian folklore offered a looking into the traditions and beliefs of Hawaiian culture that also held significance in the novel, both for the story itself and the characters. At one point in the novel, Rachel is telling the story of Maui to a group of children, and their eagerness to listen was just as intense as mine whenever a story like that was told throughout the novel.

    One of my favorite scenes from the book in particular was when Rachel treats the doctor examining her at Kalihi to a taste of what she is experiencing. The exam got rather personal and, lashing out, she made sure he felt some of her discomfort.

    Another of my favorite parts of the novel is after the death of someone very dear to Rachel. She is terribly sad and Haleola talks with her about the spirits of their ancestors:

    “’Our ‘aumākua often look after us here on earth. Some take the form of sharks, and if a descendant is drowning in the sea, the shark may offer up its fin to pull them to shore. Other spirits become owls, fish, lizards, whatever permits them to watch over their families.’

    ‘There is an old prayer:
    ‘Aumākua of the night, watch over your offspring, enfold them in the belt of light.’”

    That night as Rachel is trying to sleep, she hears and sees an owl outside, which brings her great comfort:

    “Rachel smiled, somehow no longer afraid, and went back to bed: surrounded by darkness yet enfolded in light.”

    I had other favorite moments, mostly happy ones which unfortunately would offer too much of a spoiler to disclose here.

    Most Heartbreaking Scene: As I read the novel, my heart broke in several places. It seemed that just as a little light would shine down on Rachel and those around her, it would be blighted out by a darker event. It wasn’t always like that, but most of the way through the book, it was.

    I had to stop reading when I reached the part of the book about mothers on the island having to be separated from their children at birth. While the child could remain on the island for a year and parents could visit the infant, it was behind a glass window, no touching allowed. Imagine hearing your baby crying and seeing the child in obvious discomfort and not being able to hold the child, comfort the child. After a year, the infants were sent to live with healthy relatives off the island or adopted out. It was common for healthy family members to refuse the child out of fear for their own health and because of stigma in society they fought to avoid. For those of you who have read the book, you can probably guess which part of the book I mean.

    Miscellaneous: Anjin and I watched Stardust and Bourne Ultimatum this weekend. We enjoyed both. Stardust varied from the book, sometimes in major ways, although the story was basically the same. Taking the movie for itself, it was a very entertaining movie, well worth seeing. Of course the book is better, if you must compare. Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings captured my thoughts precisely on his blog and he does a much better job of expressing himself than I ever could.

    I have been a fan of the Bourne movies since the first one came out and Bourne Ultimatum did not disappoint. It was action packed and went so fast that it was over before I knew it. I love watching Matt Damon in action and those car chase scenes were exciting and cringe worthy. This third movie overlaps with the second one in a couple of places. making me glad my husband and I watched the first two movies again earlier in the week.

    I found the third season of The Wire on sale Friday, and so I am sure Anjin and I will be watching that soon. I can hardly wait!

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    Book to Movie Challenge

    Callista over at SMS Book Reviews is hosting the Book to Movie Challenge in which participants are asked to read three books that have been translated into movies. The challenge runs from September 1st to December 1st. I will be picking books I have yet to read (and movies I have not yet seen). If I can time it right, I'll try and watch the movies soon after I read the books.

    My Book to Movie Challenge List:

    Persuasion by Jane Austen [read]
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde[read]
    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson [read]

    *For those of you are thinking, "I can't believe she's joining another one," all of these books are already on my calendar to read in the next few months.

    And just because: those of you who enjoyed The Kite Runner should check out the movie trailer. I have already warned my husband that I am going with or without him. This weekend we hope to see Bourne Ultimatum and Stardust. I wish it were Saturday so I could go today! Oh, why couldn't my husband take the day off? Hrmphf.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Booking Through Thursday: Multiples

    Do you have multiple copies of any of your books? If so, why? Absent-mindedness? You love them that much? First Editions for the shelf, but paperbacks to read?

    If not, why not? Not enough space? Not enough money? Too sensible to do something so foolish?

    I grew up surrounded by books. My parents' house has always been full of bookcases and books. It was only natural that I would follow suit. I was fortunate to marry a man who also treasures his books and does not mind that our house is overflowing with books. Well, okay. So maybe he wishes more of those books were books I had read instead of ones I am planning to read.

    When my To Be Read (TBR) stacks, piles, boxes and shelves began overflowing,it became necessary to make a list of all the books I had yet to read. Excel was the perfect program for the job. No book enters my house without being added onto the spreadsheet. The list serves multiple purposes, avoiding duplication being the most important. Several months ago, I joined LibraryThing, which gave me the opportunity to catalog my entire home library (or close to it, anyway). I also use LibraryThing as a way to document my TBR books. It has proven to be an invaluable resource. I still use my Excel spreadsheet out of habit more than anything.

    Mistakes do happen. My bookstore shopping in recent years is mostly conducted with a list in hand. I do browse some, but I usually go into the store looking for specific titles. On the very rare occasion I happen to come home with a book I already own, it is usually because I do not have my list handy or stray from the list and have a slight memory lapse. Currently, I have one duplicate I picked up by mistake which I was too lazy to return.

    When my husband and I got married, we joined togther our book collections, and as a result, we had a duplicate here or there. I believe we both still have our copies of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

    The other duplicates you will find on my shelves are there on purpose. All of the books fitting into this category have been read by either my husband or me or by both. In two cases, the duplicates include Advanced Reader Editions (ARE) and the final products (Greg Rucka's Queen and Country novel series). In at least three instances, we have a hardback and a paperback copy. Generally the hardbacks are our collector's copies while the paperback books are the ones that were read. Admittingly, all of these are my husband's books that came with him when we married. In the case of Elizabeth Kostova's Historian, I bought a copy of the hardback when it first came out, but by the time I got around to reading it, the trade paperback was on sale. I decided to go ahead and get the paperback copy because it would be easier to carry around. Fortunately, I enjoyed the book enough not to regret having forked over money for two copies.

    For the most part, one copy of a book is plenty enough for me. I am not a serious book collector, however, I do collect books to read and I hang onto most of the books I have read to save for a rainy day when the urge to reread an old favorite comes along.

    Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    I Won the Sense of Place Contest!

    I am so excited! I won the Sense of Place Contest for the Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge. My entry is included with my review of Charles Martin's When Crickets Cry. It truly was a book that evoked a sense of place. Someday perhaps I will be able to visit Lake Burton. I'm certainly ready right now, if only my boss could spare me.

    My prize, you ask? An autographed copy of Plain Heathen Mishief by Martin Clark. It sounds like it will be quite a fun adventure! I look forward to reading it.

    I think most of all though I enjoyed visiting the other participants' blogs. There were so many great entries. If you get the chance visit Maggie's blog and click on the links of the various participants.

    On a side note, today I received a pin for being with my agency for 10 years (my actual anniversary was back in June). One of my coworkers was in stitches, laughing so hard despite trying to keep a straight face and show her admiration for the pin. She thinks I deserve a big bonus. I think I deserve an all expense paid trip to Lake Burton. At least in 20 years, I will get to choose a gift from a catalog. Maybe a pen or a mug?

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    Unread Authors Challenge

    Ariel from Sycorax Pine is hosting the Unread Authors Challenge. The challenge will extend from September to February and will involve the reading of six books, each by an author the reader has yet to read, a set of books by an author the participant has yet to read or a combination of the two. For the rules and details, please refer to Ariel's Unread Authors Challenge post on her blog.

    Ariel writes, ". . . almost all of us have authors who we have long meant to read, but somehow never gotten around to. Perhaps you have always been intrigued but intimidated by their work. Perhaps "required reading" and your favorite authors have taken up most of your time. Perhaps they have been sitting on your shelves for years, continually trumped by new fascinations. Well, now is their time."

    This was an especially difficult challenge for which to choose books. There are an unbelievable amount of books in my TBR collection by authors I have yet to read.

    My Unread Authors Challenge List:
    In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes [read]
    Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos [read]
    The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley [read]
    Pursuit by Thomas Perry[read]
    Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson[read]
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a Scandal) by Zoe Heller
    The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
    The Road by Cormac McCarty
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
    Digging to America by Anne Tyler
    Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
    Night Watch by Sarah Waters
    In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    The Meme of Four

    Melanie over at The Indextrious Reader tagged me for this gem of a meme. It's a great way to get to know each other a little better.

    Four jobs I have had or currently have in my life:

    1. I worked in a printing plant on the factory floor. I stapled, collated, shrink wrapped, and boxed manuals and the like. I learned to hate Paula Abdul's Rush, Rush and Stevie Wonder's Jungle Fever because I heard it three or four times every day during the time I worked at the plant.

    2. I was a maid for a short while for a housecleaning service and would be assigned to clean houses and offices.

    3. I was a recreational aide for the city's after school and summer program. In other words, a glorified babysitter. I held this job during the summers of my college years. I was assigned to the kindergarten aged children (about 7 to 15 children depending on the day) and would come up with arts and crafts, sports and other activities to keep the children occupied all day.

    4. During my college years, I also worked as a circulation desk assistant at the university library and later was a circulation desk supervisor.

    Four countries I have been to:

    I'm afraid I can't list four as I've only been to two outside of my own country. I have been to several different states within the United States, however and so am not completely homebound.

    1. Canada

    2. Mexico

    Four places I’d rather be right now:

    Being as I'm home at this moment, I cannot list that one . . .

    1. A mountain cabin overlooking a lake.

    2. Sitting on the porch at a beach house overlooking the ocean.

    3. At a baseball game.

    4. At the movie theater watching the latest Bourne movie.

    Four foods I like to eat:

    1. Barbecue Chicken Pizza

    2. Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream

    3. Cheese Enchiladas

    4. Bananas

    If you haven't done this one already, consider yourself tagged!

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Booking Through Thursday: Letters! We Get Letters

    Have you ever written an author a fan letter? Did you get an answer? Did it spark a conversation? A meeting? (And, sure, I suppose that e-mails DO count . . . but I’d say no to something like a message board on which the author happens to participate.)

    Once upon a time, I wrote a letter to author Don Pendleton. I was in high school at the time and something in his books inspired me to write. Or perhaps it was because there was a contact address listed in the book and I thought, why not? It's been so long that I do not remember. I do know that I enjoyed his Ashton Ford series very much. The protagonist was a private detective who had psychic abilities. I never did read his Mack Bolan series, the series for which he is most known and gave him the title of "father of the modern action/adventure." I wrote him a rather long letter, if I remember correctly, telling him how much I liked his books and telling him a little about myself. His response is one of my most treasured letters. I still have it to this day.

    I often think of writing to authors. After I finish a good book, I sometimes compose letters in my head to the author, telling him or her what I got out of the book and just how much I liked it. When it comes to actually sitting down and taking the time to show my appreciation, I rarely do. Besides the fact that I often draw a blank when it comes time to putting words on a paper or into an e-mail, suddenly what I wanted to say sounds terrible. To me anyway. And would the author really care what I have to say? I have heard so much about people writing touching and soul revealing letters to authors, explaining how a particular book has impacted their lives, even changed them. My letter would pale in comparison. My letter would seem superficial and, well,dull.

    Ultimately I know that is silly thinking. If I were an author and I received a letter from a fan, no matter the length or context, I would appreciate it regardless. Who wouldn't like to get a letter or an e-mail telling you how much your book was enjoyed? I imagine each letter brings a smile to the author's face. I wouldn't be so appreciative of hate mail, but that's another subject altogether.

    In actuality, I have written other authors besides Don Pendleton. On the spur of the moment while visiting the authors' websites, I e-mailed Anne Perry and J.A. Jance, both of whom write mystery series I enjoy. They both wrote back, which thrilled me no end. I sent a short note to both T. Jefferson Parker and Kelley Armstrong by snail mail, although I am not sure these count because I was seeking autographed nameplates.

    Although in my own mind my correspondence with these authors sparked further conversation, those one-sided conversations stayed in my head. And although I did get the chance to hear Anne Perry and J.A. Jance speak in person, I never did talk with them directly (I also heard T. Jefferson Parker speak, but that was before I'd read anything by him). I had not realized that Don Pendleton passed away in 1995 until I was visiting his website today. I might have liked to write him one more time to tell him just how much his letter has meant to me over the years.

    Every now and then I come across a review on a blog that is written in the form of a letter to the author. I think it is a neat idea.

    Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!