Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cows, Chickens & Bees: Karen E. Olson On Tour

When I began this blog at my husband's urging, I figured I would be lucky if anyone other than my husband would read anything I blogged about. I never expected that anyone would ever really take an interest in what I had to say, and yet here you are. I truly do appreciate you taking the time to stop in and visit, whether you do it regularly, once or twice now and then, or even just this once. I consider you to be a part of my blogging family.

I love to talk about and discuss books. And I most especially like to sing the praises of books and authors I enjoy, sharing them with other readers who might be interested. And so I was ecstatic when author Karen E. Olson first approached me about being a part of her virtual book tour. My first thought was she must be crazy. She couldn't really be asking me, could she? The person who stands behind her husband and encourages him to do all the talking when we come face to face with an author? The woman who stares dumbly and mumbles something unintelligible when asking for an autograph? Really? Once I got over my disbelief, I was thrilled. I walked down the aisles and halls at work grinning from ear to ear.

It was not just because any author asked me to be a part of her tour. It was Karen E. Olson. This is a woman who has impressed me on two levels, both professionally and personally. I thought her first book, Sacred Cows, was terrific and have been tooting its horn ever since. There was no doubt at all in my mind that I accept her invitation.

Karen will be a guest on my blog on November 7th, just a day after the release of her third Annie Seymour, crime reporter, mystery novel, Dead of the Day. I am very much looking forward to this event and hope you will stop in and say hello. I will be posting reviews of both Secondhand Smoke and Dead of the Day that week as well. Karen will be making several other appearances on her virtual tour between November 5th through the 11th. I hope you will join me in visiting her many stops along the way.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson
William Morrow, 2008 (ARE)
Mystery; 372 pgs

Completed: 10/28/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: She might have been staring out to sea, at the blurred line where the gray water meets the gray sky.

Reason for Reading: I requested to preview this book through Harper Collins First Look Program. It sounded like something I would enjoy reading. This is my second selection for the Unread Authors Challenge.

Comments: I love it when I discover an author whose book I am reading makes me want to rush out and buy every single book the author has written. From the very beginning, I was swept up into Robinson’s world, feeling very much like I was in the thick of the investigations into two brutal murders. One being the murder of a paraplegic woman whose throat had been slit and was left to bleed to death out on a cliff overlooking the sea. The second murder involved the vicious rape and murder of a young college student who only that night had been out clubbing with her friends.

Detective Annie Cabbot and her team in Whitby must sift through the past to uncover a motive of why someone would want to kill Karen Drew, a woman confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate. The victim herself is not at first who she appears to be. Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks back in Eastvale, North Yorkshire leads the investigation into the death of nineteen-year-old Hayley Daniels, digging deeper into her life and friendships. The two cases could not be more different, and yet, when another body is discovered not far from where Hayley Daniels had been raped and murdered, there are too many coincidences to ignore.

As the sort of series reader who prefers to read series books in order, I always feel like I am missing a little something by way of back story when I start a series in the middle, or in the case, with the most recent book published (or soon to be as the case may be). That isn’t to say that Peter Robinson did not fill in the blanks—he certainly did do that. I think anyone who starts with this book will feel no sense of loss in that regard, although if you are like me, you will want to go back and dig a little deeper.

I was quite charmed by the character of Alan Banks, and enjoyed reading about him in action. He always seemed to have a handle on the situation even when at loose ends. He was generally calm and obviously intelligent and skilled at his job. His need to relax to music was something I could relate to. More than once I have turned up the radio on my way home after an especially difficult day at work, letting the music wash over me. I quickly related to Annie Cabbot, obviously talented in her field, but also someone that was struggling with personal issues that were a result of her own insecurities and past hurts. I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a big hug on a couple of occasions. There were several other, more minor characters that were easy to like, and who I enjoyed getting to know. I look forward to going back and getting to know them even better in the earlier books of the series.

Friend of a Devil is riveting and suspenseful novel that only becomes more interesting with each turned page. Not only did I feel like I was along for the ride in the investigations, but Mr. Robinson also made me feel right at home both on the seaside in Whitby and in the town of Eastvale. His use of pop culture and ability to step into the psyche of his characters made it all the more alive in my mind. This is a very well written mystery novel, and I am definitely hooked.

Favorite Part: The author did an excellent job of balancing the main mystery story line with the personal side stories. I got to know many of the characters very well as I read the novel and came to care about them. The crime investigations themselves were fascinating to see unfold. I guessed one major piece of the puzzle about half way through, the final piece, but that did not hurt my enjoyment of the novel at all. It rarely does. How it all comes together is what I am drawn to the most.

Visit the author's website for more information about his books.

Miscellaneous: I hesitated before posting this review now. The book will not be released until after the first of the year, but two reasons compelled me to do so. The main one being that it’s been awhile since I last posted an actual book review and the other simply because I can’t keep mum about this great book. You may not be able to rush out and read this one, but you can perhaps try some of the earlier books in the series.

The cover above is not the same one one my copy. I actually like the cover I have better, but I could not find it online to share with you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Fill In #5

1. The last good thing that came in the mail was books!

2. This week I'm grateful for so much! With the fires raging through the state, I am grateful that not only I, but my family too, have been kept out of harm's way. I am grateful that my friends are safe. I am grateful for all the firefighters, volunteers and rescue workers who have and continue to labor long and hard to fight these fires.

3. White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Cheesecake is the most delicious thing ever.

4. Selflessness inspires me.

5. I'm most happy when I wake up on a Saturday or Sunday, with the entire day ahead of me. I can snuggle under the covers for as long as the animals will let me, wake up early and spend a few quiet moments to myself, and spend the day just about however I want with my husband and my cat and dog by my side.

6. And all the roads we have to walk along are bumpy with potholes, hills, and rocks to stumble upon, but it is that journey across these roads that make us stronger and better people.

7. As for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to kicking up my feet and staying indoors and out of the smoky air, tomorrow my plans include something I have not quite decided on, and Sunday, I want to see a clear blue sky!

Jaimie from Bell Literary Reflections is such a kind soul. I always look forward to her visits to my blog and very much enjoy my visits to her blog. And so I feel honored that she would nominate me for the Community Blogger Award. Her kind words made me blush! Many thanks, Jaimie. It is no wonder you were given this award as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Read With Abandon

Today’s suggestion is from Cereal Box Reader

I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

It is not often I abandon a book. More often than not, if I do, it is with the intention of one day going back to read that book. The books I do abandon with no intention of picking up again are few and far between. In order for a book to be banished from my ever-to-be-read pile, the book likely failed to interest me. I only ever give up on a book when I do not care about the characters or what happens next. I will not even bother to read the end because, frankly, I don't care. These are usually books that I find utterly boring for whatever reason. The writing, the story, the subject matter, or the characters . . . In these instances, I am unable to connect with the story or the characters, and I make the decision not to force the issue.

Sometimes I will start a book that I find boring after awhile, but I know I might like it at a different moment in my life--those are the books that go back on my shelf for a possible reading later. With so many books in my TBR collection, however, I have not had much of a chance to return to those unread books.

I have read books that get off to a slow start or may have boring patches that I do continue reading, and in these cases it's simply because I do care about a character and what might happen next. And for the record, let me clarify that slow and boring do not mean the same thing to me. Boring is something I am uninterested in. Slow just means that it is taking me a little longer to move forward in a book, through the text, than I might prefer. Being slow works well for some books and is a necessary effect. Some of my favorite books were books that required me to slow down, savor and read more carefully. Other books are meant to be inhaled and gulped down quickly.

I have no qualms about giving up on a book if it isn't capturing my attention the way I expect it to. However, I do not so easily give up on a book just because it may not get off to the best start. There have been too many instances where I end up being glad I took a chance and kept reading and hardly any when I have wished I had not wasted my time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Accidental American by Alex Carr

An Accidental American by Alex Carr
Random House, 2007
Suspense/Thriller; 228 pgs

Completed: 10/07/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: Home, Sabri Hanj reminded himself as the jet touched down and the massive engines whined themselves to sleep.

Reason for Reading: The title caught my attention after I found in on the available books to review list for Curled Up With a Good Book, and a brief look at the synopsis of the book settled the matter. This was a book I wanted to read.

Comments: From a farmhouse in the Pyrennes Mountains to the streets of Lisbon, Alex Carr takes readers into a world of intrigue and espionage. After a life of crime and a stint in prison, Nicole Blake has settled into a quiet life in France, wanting nothing more than to remain unnoticed. Her only companion is her beloved dog, Lucifer.

Her peaceful life is shattered, however, when she finds American Central Intelligence Officer John Valsamis on her doorstep. Reviving buried memories and using veiled threats that her secrets and past will cost her everything, he gives her no choice but to cooperate. Valsamis asks Nicole to help locate and reel in her former lover, Rahim Ali, a suspected terrorist. Nicole is not sure what to believe. Rahim had not held such strong beliefs or ties during their time together, and yet she knows much could change over several years time.

Valsamis tells her he needs her help in luring Rahim out, suggesting that her ex-lover is believed to be planning an event “worse than Nairobi.” He is believed to be in Lisbon, the city where he and Nicole met and had made a life for themselves all those years ago. Nicole sets out for Lisbon, stepping back onto her old stomping grounds and visiting old sources in search of answers. The trail proves to be a dangerous one not only for herself but those she comes in contact with. The stakes are life and death.

Nicole is a tough but wounded woman. She knows how to survive. She wants to trust and wants to believe what she’s been told, however, doubts creep in. Valsamis is determined and carries his own scars from the past. He will not let anyone stand in his way of getting what he wants. Both Nicole and Valsamis are complex characters whose stories are not quite what they may seem at first glance.

Written from different perspectives, one scene fades into the next. The past and present are woven together as Nicole remembers her life with Rahim and her own childhood in Beirut. Valsamis recalls his own history as well; his secrets and regrets. They both come to realize that their pasts, including secrets kept, are a part of their present lives, tied closely together. The past is not something they can ever escape.

The author centers the story around one significant historical event, the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983. Sixty-three people were killed when a van full of explosives was detonated directly outside the embassy. Alex Carr stretches the boundaries surrounding the event, adding her own intrigue to create an intense and thrilling novel of betrayal, cover-up, and self-discovery. And while the events that take place in the novel may be fiction, Alex Carr makes them seem very possible.

An Accidental American is an intricate story that weaves together threads in unexpected ways. The writing is dark but beautiful. The ending is not one that is neatly tied up with a bow, but it is fitting just the same. Alex Carr is an author to watch for. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Wendy Runyon, 2007.

Favorite Part: I most enjoyed the flashbacks to Nicole’s life with Rahim. I would not have minded getting to know Rahim a little more. He seemed a bit elusive at times.

Note about the Author: Alex Carr is a pseudonym for author Jenny Siler. Visit the author's website for more information about her and her books.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stay Safe Southern California

My prayers and thoughts are with friends and family throughout Southern California at this time. Anjin and I are fortunate that the fires are not too close to our own home, but the same cannot be said for others we know. It is impossible to walk outside and not smell and see the smoke and ash in the air. Unfortunately the winds are not helping matters, causing havoc throughout the Southland, including downing power lines and trees.

Many thanks to all of the firefighters, volunteers and other rescue personnel out there who are working long and difficult hours to save lives and property. You too are in my prayers.

(Thank you also to all of you who expressed concern and sent us well wishes.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happiness Meme & Book Nearest You Meme

My friend Chris posted this meme on her site, and I thought it would be fun to play along.

The rules are simple. Post 6 things that recently made you happy. Tag 6 people if you want to, but I'm going to take the easy way out and tag anyone who wants to play along. Everyone needs a little happiness once in awhile.

1. Having my cat and dog cuddled up next to me while I read.
2. My husband's smile, one especially reserved for me.
3. Butterfly Kisses.
4. A beautiful warm fall day.
5. Buttercream frosting lotion.
6. Curling up with a good book.

Take the nearest book next to you and answer the following questions:

Title and Author:

Silence of the Grave
by Arnaldur Indridason

Is the book dedicated to anyone? If so, who?

This particular book is not dedicated to anyone actually.

What is the first sentence?

He knew at once it was a human bone, when he took it from the baby who was sitting on the floor chewing it.

Turn to page 47. Please share the first sentence of the first full paragraph.

He crept into the room.

The 24 Hour Read-A-Thon Is Underway!

Was it any surprise this morning that I was awakened by my furry alarm clock with claws at 5:30 a.m.? I won't tell you where he decided to stick me, but needless to say I was not too pleased with him for a few seconds after that.

It is a beautiful day out so far. Those dastardly Santa Ana winds have not yet made an appearance, and I truly hope they decide to skip over my city altogether. You see, high winds and I do not get along at all. I'm a magnet for static electricity like you wouldn't believe. In those moments, I am afraid to touch just about anything. It is quite comical seeing me close a car door when I am most afraid of being shocked.

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing. I am just rambling. I actually wanted to put in a good word for the first (annual?) 24 Hour Read-A-Thon that Dewey is hosting. I have had the chance to stop by a visit a couple of my blogger friends to check on their progress so far. It looks like so much fun. Twenty-four hours of reading time, what could be a better way to spend a day? Good luck to everyone who took up the challenge! I decided against participating myself, but I will act as an unofficial cheerleader when I can.

Happy reading!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Someone Loves Me & Friday Fill-In #4

Friday Fill-In has a new home! If you get the chance, stop in and say hello to Janet, our wonderful meme hostess.

1. October . . . always feels like such a short ;it goes by so quickly; too quickly really.
2. Dust bunnies . . . don't scare me!
3. Haunted houses . . . hold in secrets that are bursting to get out.
4. My favorite scary movie is . . . not a horror film . . . because . . . more often than not, I find horror movies amusing rather than chilling. Give me a good psychological thriller any day.
5. I hope you will take the time to say hello and leave a comment for . . . me.
6. It was a dark and stormy night . . . and I was snuggled up in bed with my book in hand, animals close by and my husband snoring softly beside me.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to . . . catching up on a couple of TV shows I skipped earlier in the week . . . , tomorrow my plans include . . . sleeping in as long as the cat will let me, . . . and Sunday, I want to . . . stay in my pajamas all day, curl up on the couch with my book, and read to my heart's content. In between loads of laundry, that is!

Melody of Melody's Reading Corner awarded me with the I Love Your Blog Award. Thank you very much, Melody! The feeling is mutual.

It is impossible for me to select just a two or three bloggers who I would honor with this award. Just when I think of one blog, a dozen others come to mind. There are so many blogs I enjoy visiting, each having influenced me in some way. Thank you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Typography

You may or may not have seen my post at Punctuality Rules Tuesday, about a book I recently bought that had the actual TITLE misspelled on the spine of the book. A glaring typographical error that really (really!) should have been caught. So, using that as a springboard, today’s question: What’s the worst typographical error you’ve ever found in (or on) a book?

Most of the time I notice typographical errors, move on and forget about them. I sometimes moan, chuckle or point them out to my husband if he is handy and if the error is particularly egregious. I may not even notice if the book is really good, and I am deeply involved in the story. Whereas, if I am not enjoying a book, the errors get on my nerves more. If I am reading an ARE Advanced Reader's Edition), I especially wave any minor errors off and hope they get corrected for the final printing.

Just this year I encountered an ARE of Fan Wu's book, February Flowers, which was flawed in a major way. By major, I mean that the typographical errors were so bad that it impacted my enjoyment of the book. It was not the author's fault in any way, shape or form as I doubt it was something she had any control over. Because of the font used for the ARE copy, all of the italicized words were missing, which included book titles and Chinese words. Both of which were meant to make many appearances throughout the novel. I did my best to overlook the missing words, but something that blatant is hard to ignore.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Blast From the Past: 10-20-30 Year Meme

I was tagged by Misadventures of the Dynamic Uno to take a trip down memory lane. Care to come with me?

10 years ago - Ten years ago I graduated with my masters degree and embarked on my career path. What was I thinking?! I guess it couldn't have been too bad because I'm still with the same agency, only in a different position. I was young and a bit of an idealist back then. I believed I could make a difference. Although a bit of a cynic now, I still believe I chose the right path to follow career wise. I am proud of the work I do even if some days I wish I had gone into a more lucrative profession that would have allowed for an early retirement.

Although I had not lived in my parents' home full-time since I first entered college, in many ways, 1997 was the year I completely broke away from the nest. I had been paying my own way for awhile and psychologically was more a visitor in my parents' home at that point, but there's something to be said for finally packing up my childhood room, taking that long last look and knowing it would no longer be mine. I was all grown up.

This was also the year my husband and I began really planning our wedding. The ideas were solidified, reservations were beginning to be made. We had been engaged since the end of spring 1995, and so it was about time. We both were working by this time, had settled into our lives outside of school and were ready to take on the world. We got married the following year.

20 years ago - The spring of 1987 was church confirmation. I vaguely remember the Sunday school lessons, but I do remember quite vividly our trip to San Francisco to tour some of the more well known churches such as Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and Grace Cathedral. I was blown away by the beauty of Grace Cathedral and quite smitten with the enthusiasm and diverse Glide Memorial Church. It was modern and loud--and inspiring. We also got to talk with a night preacher who shared with us his experiences on the streets of San Francisco with the homeless and young prostitutes. It made quite an impression on me.

That summer my parents, brother and I took a road trip from California to Pennsylvania to visit my father's family. I grew up far away from my cousins, paternal grandparents and the majority of my aunts and uncles, never really knowing them. This was only my second visit to Pennsylvania. While my cousins checked out their not so cool California cousins, I was in awe of their togetherness and confidence. I most remember walking through the small town my grandmother lives in with four of my cousins and my brother. The boys were challenged to a game of basketball by a group of boys at a school where we stopped. My cousins and the boys they were playing nearly got into a fight. I thought that was so cool. Had I been home in the city, I would have been scared to death (as if that would have made a difference--somehow it did for me back then). The atmosphere there was so homey and comfortable. I loved it. We also visited my New York cousins, and I developed the habit of sucking on ice before bed each night, something I would do for a good part of my childhood.

September came, and I entered my freshman year of high school. Because we lived a good distance away from the school, I would ride with my mother to the school where she was teaching and spend the early mornings with her before walking the rest of the way to my own school. At the end of the day, I would walk back to her her school and hang out in her classroom until she was ready to go home. I loved the time I spent in her classroom on those afternoons. School was out, and so it was often just me alone in the classroom. I would sometimes work on my homework, daydream or maybe work on whatever story I was writing at the time. I also helped my mom decorate her classroom, grade papers and worked on other projects she might want me to help with. I admit that sometimes I would get impatient and beg my mother to hurry up so we could go, but overall, I look back with great fondness on that time.

My favorite class my freshman year was math, which may be quite surprising for those who know me well. I had a great teacher who made working with numbers fun.

I have not so fond memories of my English class, I am afraid. Seating arrangements usually involved the alphabetizing of students by their last names and my teacher that year was no different. Alas, that meant being seated right in front of and next to two boys whom I still have less than pleasant thoughts about. They made life difficult for me in middle school and continued to do that our freshman year of high school. If you have ever been a victim of bullying, you probably understand.

30 years ago - My family was living in Hawaii at the time. My father was stationed there, a Marine in the U.S. Military. I have always been a little envious that my brother can claim Hawaii as his birth place. He was born in October, 31 years ago.

Early in 1977, I got drunk for the first and only time in my life. I do not remember any of this, but I've heard the stories over and over. My parents tell me I went around and finished off everyone's cocktail at a party. At least I don't remember the hangover the next morning.

I was in preschool during this time, and I hated nap time. I was always getting in trouble for not staying quiet on my mat. There was a big tree house in the classroom that I love to climb and play inside. I cannot recall if it was a real tree, but it was quite big.

I met my first witch that year. And she didn't have a pointy hat or a wart on her nose like I thought she might. She gave me a beautiful doll who is not quite so beautiful anymore. I went through a hair cutting phase later in my childhood and some of my dolls suffered the consequences.

My parents would tell you I had my first crush about this time in my life (I deny it to this day as we were really only friends, but you know parents. They see two young children playing together, and it must be love). He was a boy named Patrick. He evidently was the first boy I ever kissed. Or so I am told.

There you have a slice of my life all those many years ago. I wish I could have peppered the memories with talk of books, however, no books immediately stand out during those years for me. You can be sure I was reading though.

I am not going to tag anyone in particular for this meme, but if you have yet to travel down memory lane, I would be happy to go with you. Be sure and let me know if you do!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Art Thief by Noah Charney

The Art Thief by Noah Charney
Atria, 2007
Mystery; 290 pgs (ARE)

Completed: 10/15/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: It was almost as if she were waiting, hanging there, in the painted darkness.

Reason for Reading: Of the three Simon & Schuster selections that I recently received in the mail, this one sounded the most interesting to me. I am just about always ready to read a mystery novel.

Comments: Father Amoroso is awakened at 3:15 in the morning and again just after 4 a.m. to what appears to be false alarms at Santa Giuliana church in Italy. When he opens the church at 8 a.m. the next morning, the Caravaggio altarpiece is missing. Meanwhile, Genevieve Delacloche of the Malevich Society in France discovers that a famous Kasimir Malevich painting is missing from the basement vault. Not too long after, two paintings similar to the one stolen in France, disappear in London, one from a museum and the other from a private citizen.

Art investigator Gabriel Coffin is drawn into the investigations of the stolen paintings, his knowledge and skill proving to be invaluable to the authorities assigned the cases. Could these seemingly independent thefts be related? Is the culprit a part of a crime syndicate or instead an art aficionado?

Author Noah Charney's knowledge of art history and art crime is evident throughout the novel. He crams quite a bit of information into the mystery novel and for the most part succeeds at avoiding making it seem like homework, his wit and presentation doing the trick.

The Art Thief is full of colorful characters, each with their own quirks. It takes some mental focus to avoid getting tangled in among the many different story threads and characters. Unfortunately, with so many characters, it was hard to get to know any of them too well. Though perhaps this helped in keeping the reader at a distance from what would come. When the pieces begin to come together and the stories begin to overlap, it is in surprising twists that even I did not completely see coming.

The Art Thief offers suspense, mystery and intrigue, taking readers on a tour of the art world and the crimes therein. It is a fast paced and enjoyable novel that will keep readers entertained and wondering what will happen next.

Favorite Part: Dr. Barrow’s classes in the museum were by far my favorite part. I kept wishing he had been my art history professor in college.

Check out the author's website for more information about his book and other projects.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Fill-In #3

1. Once upon a time . . . I believed that humans could develop hair balls by sucking on their hair.
2. I hate it when someone on the phone is . . . . screaming and . . . only after you are able to squeeze a word in, can you tell the person that she has the wrong number.
3. One of my favorite scented hand lotions is . . . white tea and ginger.
4. Way down . . . at the end of the highway is a fork in the road where you can either turn left or right, depending on where you want to go.
5. Keys . . . lock doors . . . ; locks . . . . keep people out.
6. Have you seen . . . my black heels?. . .They're . . . covered with my dog's teeth marks.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to . . . dinner out at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then a quiet evening at home. . . , tomorrow my plans include . . . meeting with someone to get a estimate on how much she would charge to paint the exterior of my house . . . and Sunday, I want to . . . spend all day reading, but I will probably need to take care of some chores around the house as well!

What a week it has been! I am grateful to see the weekend come at last. Work is work is work. I cannot say much more than that on that topic. It has been crazy at the office, which is not too unusual this time of year. Reading wise, I have been terribly negligent. I hope to remedy that this weekend.

The lowest point of the week was when my husband's grandmother suffered a heart attack on Tuesday. She is doing very well and will be leaving the hospital tomorrow. Grandma is the most amazing woman I know, and so it was a great relief for us all that she is going to be okay.

On the plus side, I won a copy of The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens from Melody in her Buy A Friend a Book Week drawing. I also received a couple of ARC's in the mail, one of which is by one of my favorite authors, and I can hardly wait to dive right in and read it. I am bursting at the seams to tell you about it. But not now. Not yet. I really want to tell you. My husband says no. He says timing is everything.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Live And In Person

I said in August, when we talked about fan mail, that I planned on expanding that to live meetings when the time was right. Well, that time is now!

Have you ever met one of your favorite authors? Gotten their autograph? How about an author you felt only so-so about, but got their autograph anyway? Like, say, at a book-signing a friend dragged you to? How about stumbling across a book signing or reading and being so captivated, you bought the book?

On my drive to work this morning, I prepared a well thought out response to this week's Booking Through Thursday meme only to lose all thought of it once I got to the office and was swept up in the various crises of the day. If only I had a tape recorder handy . . .

Three years ago, I attended my first book festival and had the opportunity to hobnob with several authors. Since then, attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has become a tradition. My husband and I sit in on author panels and browse through the booths, coming into contact with booksellers and authors alike.

That first year I was in such awe of the environment and the people around me. I think the author I spoke the most to that visit was mystery author Laura Levine. I had not read any of her books, but I knew her name from an online reading group I belonged to. I told her as much went I approached her table. She was the nicest woman, gracious and kind. I was ready to buy all her books on the spot, but she suggested I buy just the first one to test the waters. I also spoke with Carol and Mary Higgins Clark who are both wonderful women. Of course, I had them sign a couple of their books for me.

There were a couple of other authors whom I chatted with and bought autographed books from. I had never heard of either of them nor was I particularly interested in their books. Then why did I bother, you ask? There was no line to see them, they were as friendly as can be, and I thought it would be the nice thing to do. I learned my lesson after that, however, and for the past two years that I have attended the festival, I have tried to be more picky about how I spend my money.

One year at the festival I got the chance to meet Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down (a book I loved; who would have thought?). Oh, how I would have loved to ask him a bunch of questions, but I was so star struck that I barely said anything at all to him. I did at least manage to ask him to autograph one of his books for me.

This past spring I met authors Joanne Fluke (who makes to die for chocolate chip cookies!) and Christopher Moore among others. I am afraid it was not much of a meeting because I was so tongue-tied. Perhaps some of you may recall my blog entry about this year's book festival in which I disclosed just how star struck I can be.

I have enjoyed hearing quite a few authors speak at the book festival these past three years, some of whom are among my favorites and also many I had either not heard of before or knew very little about. I did not have the chance to meet most of them, however, my wish list of books to read grew regardless.

My experience in meeting authors is not solely isolated to the book festival, however. Usually it's by sheer accident that I will walk into the local bookstore to discover the featured author signing books. Sometimes I will stop and check out the author's book and other times I will pass by with a nod and a smile.

Unfortunately, with Los Angeles being so close, most of the authors I would like to meet prefer to skip my town for the City of Angels. I would love to visit The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles and meet with a favorite mystery writer or two. I am terrible about checking their schedule though to see who might be appearing when. And often times when I do remember to check, the author I want to meet will be at the store on a week night, an impossible time for me to make the drive into Los Angeles and home again with the work day behind me and an early work day ahead.

I am afraid this is not nearly as captivating a post as the one I envisioned writing this morning, but it will have to do. I wish you could have read it. It was quite insightful and witty.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

106 Books Most Often Unread by LibraryThing Users

It has been awhile since I participated in a meme like this. I pulled this from 3M at 1MoreChapter.

The below listed books are the top 106 books most often tagged as being unread by LibraryThing users (as of October 3rd).

The instructions are simple: Bold what you have read, and italicize books you have started but couldn’t finish. Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once. Underline those on your TBR list (in my case this means I own them, but have yet to read them). The ones marked in red are books I am considering reading one day but do not have on hand.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice*
Jane Eyre*
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife

The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales (I read assigned tales of this book for school many moons ago and never read beyond that)
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake: A Novel
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood

White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Looking over the list, 34 of the books listed I have read, 20 are sitting on my shelves unread, and 9 are books I would like to read but do not have on hand. That isn't too bad. (updated to add totals)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Fill-In #2 & The TBR Books Go To . . .

1. If I were a tree I would be . . . a weeping willow. . . because . . . according to the birthday chart, that's the tree I fell from (as it turns out, it just happens to be my favorite type of tree anyway).
2. If I were a bird I would fly over . . . the Sierra Nevada Mountains (rugged and beautiful).
3. If I were a book I hope I would be . . . a well loved and often read novel.
4. If I were a car . . . Mini Cooper.
5. If I could get rid of one piece of technology it would definitely be . . . commercials. . . because . . . I have no use for them.
6. If I could get rid of one bad habit at a snap of the fingers it would be . . . pushing the snooze button one too many times in the morning.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to . . . settling in with my book and going to bed early . . . , tomorrow my plans include . . . taking in a movie and spending the day any which way I want . . . and Sunday, I want to. . . rewind to Saturday!

The time has come to announce the winners of my duplicate TBR books drawings! If I could, I would go out and buy each of you a copy of the book(s) you put your name in for, but when I suggested it to my husband, he gave me one of those looks. You know the one. I guess I do need to make my car payment this month . . .

The winner of

The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte


Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf!

The winner of

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult


Gautami Tripathy at My Own Little Reading Room!

Congratulations! All I need now are the winners mailing addresses, and I will put your books in the mail as soon as I am able. You can send your address via e-mail to literaryfelineATgmailDOTcom.

Thank you to all who participated!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Decorum

Do you have “issues” with too much profanity or overly explicit (ahem) “romantic” scenes in books? Or do you take them in stride? Have issues like these ever caused you to close a book? Or do you go looking for more exactly like them? (grin)

I think like with almost anything, it would depend on the book and the author--and ultimately the reader. Each of us has different tastes and tolerance levels after all. I have read books that include profanity or explicit sex scenes that do not bother me at all. If the words and actions of the characters fit the story, the time period, and the characters, I doubt I would give such things a second thought. It is all a part of the world the author has created--a part of that world I have stepped into for a brief moment in time.

I cannot say I have ever read a book that I thought had too much profanity, or, at least, more than I can tolerate. I imagine that if I did, I may find it distracting. If the cursing seemed forced or out of place, I might take notice.

As for sex in books . . . My tastes are such that I do not often gravitate towards the types of novels that include overly explicit sex scenes. That said, there are exceptions. There was a time in my life when I would skim over the sex scenes. It was not so much because I found them embarassing, rather I found them boring. Today I only skim over the ones that read too much like how to books. I have come to appreciate a well written sex scene. I generally do not care for gratuitous sex in books. I prefer such scenes to have meaning and play some part in moving the narrative along or in developing the characters.

I do not seek out books that use or do not use profanity. Neither do I completely avoid books that have sex scenes nor race out to read one that is full of them. I cannot really say I give it much thought at all when I am picking out my next book to read.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Collection by Gioia Diliberto

The Collection by Gioia Diliberto
Scribner, 2007
Fiction (Historical); 275 pgs

Started: 09/30/2007
Completed: 09/30/2007
Rating: * (Good)

Reason for Reading: One advantage to reviewing books for a publisher like Simon and Schuster is that I do not always know what books I may be getting in the mail next. There have been a couple of books that I glanced at and knew would not hold my interest and others that I could not wait to dive into. This particular one is not one I would have picked up on my own, but when I found it in my mailbox, it sounded interesting enough to try.

Comments: Gioia Diliberto's The Collection takes readers into the world of Parisian high fashion in the early 1900's. The competition was fierce and the working conditions exhausting. Weaving history with fiction, the author has written an entertaining novel that offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the glamour and beauty of the fashion industry.

Learning to sew at her grandmother's hand saved Isabelle Varlet from a bout of consumption that nearly cost Isabelle her life. Raised by her grandmother and three aunts in a small French town, the young Isabelle dreams of Paris and being a couturier. When she is old enough, she is sent to Agen to be the apprentice of Madame Duval, a dressmaker who had once worked with the famous Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, a woman whose talent and skill Isabelle comes to admire just as ferociously as her mentor once did.

When a childhood friend returns to Agen to run the family patisserie, Isabelle and Jacques are drawn to one another much to Madame Duval's chagrin. Isabelle and Jacques, however, could not be happier. A war, a terrible accident, and an influenza epidemic bring unexpected tragedy to the small French town. With encouragement and a letter of reference from Madame Duval, Isabelle sets out for Paris, seeking work at the House of Chanel.

Her own talent earns her a place with Mademoiselle Chanel, but the working conditions are difficult and the competition is brutal. Isabelle must find a way to shine if she is to succeed and yet to shine too brightly would not put her in favor with Mademoiselle.

The Collection is full of colorful characters, both real and imagined. The great designers of the era, Patou, Chanel and Vionnet all make an appearance. Mademoiselle Chanel is demanding and extremely critical of those around her. Her arrogance is matched by Monsieur Patou with whom she shares a mutual professional hatred. And yet there is a generous side to Mademoiselle, one that is rarely experienced, and one she prefers to keep secret. The fictional Fabrice, a designer on his way out, holds so tightly to hope that he will one day be among the greats again. Despite his flaws, it is hard not to feel sorry for him.

Isabelle is a charming and talented seamstress. She is extremely likeable, but at times seems too good to be true. The characters of Jacques and Daniel seemed such promising characters and yet the reader is left without the opportunity to really get to know either one of them. The dresses and fashions were described at great length and brought to life by the author's descriptions, however, the characters themselves remained somewhat superficial.

While the characterization may have left something to be desired, the story itself was intriguing. The author captured the tension and fever of the times. The threats of copyists, sabotage and thievery were very real both in the novel and in real life during that period of time. The Collection was enjoyable and the historical aspect interesting. I was offered a look into a world I otherwise might never have known.

Favorite Part: I loved the story of 10-year-old Isabelle making the shirt for Daniel and having nine-year-old Jacques wear it to church in order to try and get it to Daniel without it being so obvious.

Miscellaneous: Just a quick reminder that I will be holding a drawing for two duplicate books I discovered in my TBR collection on the 5th of this month. There is still time to submit your entry.