Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Paper or Plastic?

Do you read e-Books?
If so, how? On your computer, or a PDA?
Or are you a paper purist? Why?

While wandering amongst the booths at the L.A. Times Festival of Books last year, a representative with Sony stopped me to ask if I would like to check out the company's latest hand held reading device. It had not yet been released on the market, but the company was getting a head start by sharing the product with passersby in hopes of making future sells. I was not buying that day, but my curiosity was piqued. The gadget was amazingly easy to read, the size of a mass market paperback novel, and the font could be adjusted for the reader's comfort. The screen was backlit for easy viewing as well. The Sony rep explained that the machine could hold 75 books at one time. My first thought was how easy that would make traveling and vacations. I could have 75 books to choose from! No need to stuff my suitcase full or take an extra bag full of paper books making everything more heavy. No more trying to guess at what will interest me later in the week, hoping the limited books I take with me are all worth reading. Ah! But the real test . . . How fast can I move from page to page? Not fast enough. At least not a year ago. I avoided stopping at the booth this year to see what further advances were made. Somehow I doubt the focus would be on the speed the pages can be changed.

Sitting in front of a computer to read a book off the screen holds no interest for me, although occasionally you might catch me reading a short story that way. I'd be more likely to want to print a copy so that I can travel around the house or go on outings with the printed pages. That is perhaps why an e-reader is so much more appealing.

I am not a true paper purist. I can see myself at some time in the future with a hand held reading device like that Sony Reader. However, that time is probably a long way off. I first must work my way through my current TBR collection. Then there is the little problem of selection. Not all of the books I would be interested in reading come in electronic form. Perhaps in twenty years when I am ready to consider getting such a reader, all books will be published in both formats and my TBR stack will be more manageable. I will be older and wanting to travel lighter.

Still, nothing can replace the feel of a book in my hands as I hold it and turn the pages as I read. Nothing compares to the crisp scent of a new book or the musty smell of an old one. And where else will my darling cat rest his paw or use the corner of my book to scratch his ear when I'm reading in bed? He would surely miss swatting at the dangling tassle of my bookmark. I know I would miss those moments too.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Have Fun Surfing the Blogs: Join the Blogroll Game

Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf is hosting the Blogroll Game to encourage bloggers (mostly book related sites, but some non-book related sites too) to visit each other and perhaps make new online friends. For details follow the link below. Take a peek and join in on the fun if interested!

Memorial Day: A Time to Remember

Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.
~Daniel Webster

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Serial Offender: Guilty As Charged, Part Two

When it gets right down to it, life is short. There are days and weeks that may seem endless, but as each year comes to a close, I marvel at just how fast time does pass. My TBR collection is enormous and there are many more books out there I want to read that are either on my wishlist, that I am considering, or that I have no idea about yet. There isn't enough time to get to them all and yet I keep trying.

Series books have been a particular favorite of mine for many years. Below is a list of the series and trilogy books that I have yet to read, but for which I have at least one or two of the books already on my shelves. In some cases, I have all of the books in the series, or close to it (sometimes I get overtaken by an overzealousness I blame on poor impulse control when it comes to collecting books).

For anyone who manages to get through my entire list, I am curious to know your thoughts on the ones you've read or tried. I can't say when I will get to any of these, although the upcoming Summer Mystery Reading Challenge will have me reading at least six new-to-me mystery authors. Some may come straight from this list.

Series I Have Not Yet Started (but have some books on hand to begin)

  • Abercrombie, Joe - First Law Fantasy Series

  • Alt, Madelyn – Bewitching Mystery Series

  • Armentrout, Jennifer - Blood Ties Series

  • Armstrong, Lori G. – Julie Collins Series

  • Arthur, Keri – Guardian Series

  • Balducci, David - The Camel Club, four men investigating political conspiracies, in Washington, DC

  • Barnes, Linda – Charlotte Carlyle (Cab driving ex-cop P.I.) Mysteries

  • Bass, Jefferson – Body Farm Series

  • Berenson, Laurien - Melanie Travis (Amateur Detective) Mystery Series

  • Berry, Steve – Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Black, Cara – Aimee Leduc Investigations

  • Borchardt, Alice – Shapeshifting Series

  • Born, James O. - Bill Tasker, an agent of the Department of Law Enforcement in Florida Mystery Series

  • Braun, Lilian Jackson - The Cat Who Mystery Series (Amateur Detective)

  • Brennan, Marie - Paranormal Series

  • Briggs, Patricia - Mercedes Thompson, VW Mechanic and Shapechanger Paranormal Series

  • Brookmyre, Christopher - Jack Parlabane, a journalist in Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Buchanan, Edna – Britt Montero (Crime Reporter) Mystery Series

  • Buchanan, Edna – Cold Case Squad Mystery Series

  • Burcell, Robin – Kate Gillespie,a homicide inspector in San Francisco, California Mystery Series

  • Burke, Jan - Irene Kelly, a newspaper reporter in southern California Mystery Series

  • Butcher, Jim – Codex Alera Series (Fantasy)

  • Byerrum, Ellen - Lacey Smithsonian, the “Crime of Fashion” columnist, in Washington, DC Mystery Series

  • Caine, Rachel – Weather Warden Series

  • Canavan, Trudi- Age of the Five (Fantasy)

  • Cannell, Stephen J. - Shane Scully, a police sergeant in Los Angeles, California

  • Chandler, Raymond – Phillip Marlowe (P.I.) Mystery Series

  • Child, Lee – Jack Reacher (ex-military policeman) Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Clegg, Douglas - The Vampyricon Trilogy

  • Coben, Harlan – Myron Bolitar Mystery Series

  • Cohen, Mark - Pepper Keane, a former federal prosecutor, now a private investigator, in Colorado

  • Compton, Jodi - Sarah Pribek, a missing persons detective in Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Connelly, Michael – Terry McCaleb Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Connolly, John - Charlie "Bird" Parker, an ex-NYPD detective turned private investigator

  • Coulter, Catherine – FBI Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Crais, Robert – Carol Starkey Bomb Squad Series

  • Crombie, Deborah - Duncan Kincaid, a Scotland Yard superintendent and Gemma James, a sergeant in London, England Mystery Series

  • Damsgaard, Shirley – Ophelia Jensen, Witch and Librarian Series

  • Daniels, Casey - A Pepper Martin Mystery

  • Deaver, Jeffery – Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Dibdin, Michael - Aurelio Zen, Italian police inspector in Rome, Italy

  • Doss, James D. - Charlie Moon, Ute police officer in Grant Creek, Colorado

  • Dreyer, Eileen - Molly Burke, nurse and death investigator in St. Louis, Missouri

  • Dunning, John - Cliff Janeway, cop and rare book expert in Denver, Colorado

  • Elrod, P.N. - The Vampire Files

  • Ephron, G.H. – Dr. Zak Mystery Series

  • Fallon, Jennifer – Second Sons Trilogy

  • Galenorn, Yasmine – Emerald O’Brien Mystery

  • Gardner, Lisa - The ensemble cast of Rainie Conner, a cop; Pierce Quincy, an FBI profiler and/or FBI rookie Kimberly Quincy

  • Gaylin, Alison - Samantha Leiffer, a preschool teacher in New York City Mystery Series

  • George, Anne - Patricia Anne "Mouse" Hollowell, housewife and Mary Alice "Sister" Crane, country-western bar owner in Alabama

  • George, Elizabeth – Thomas Lynley, Scotland Yard Inspector in London, Mystery Series

  • Gerritsen, Tess - Jane Rizzoli, a detective in Boston, Massachusetts

  • Graves, Sarah - Jacobia Triptree, onetime financial advisor to the Mob, now living in Eastport, Maine, is featured in the Home Repair

  • Hamilton, Denise - Eve Diamond, a reporter for the LA Times, in Los Angeles, California

  • Hamilton, Laurell K. – Merry Gentry Fantasy Series

  • Handeland, Lori - Night Creatures Novels

  • Harris, Charlaine - Harper Connelly Series

  • Harrison, Kim – Witch/Vampire Series

  • Harvey, John - Frank Elder an ex-cop from Nottingham, now retired and relocated to Cornwall, England

  • Hayder, Mo - Jack Caffery, a troubled police detective in London, England

  • Hendee Barb & JC – The Black Magician Trilogies

  • Henry, Sue – Jessie Arnold and Sergeant Alex Jensen in Alaska Mystery Series

  • Hillerman, Tony – Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Navajo tribal police officers

  • Hobb, Robin – Farseer Trilogy

  • Hoffman, Jilliane - C.J. Townsend, an Assistant State Attorney in Miami, Florida
  • Hooper, Kay – Shadows Trilogy (Paranormal Thriller)

  • Huff, Tanya - Victoria Neslon, Blood Series

  • James, P.D. – Cordelia Gray (P.I.) Mystery Series

  • Johansen, Iris – Eve Duncan (Forensic Sculptor) Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Kane, Stephanie – Jackie Flowers, Defense Attorney Series

  • Kava, Alex – Nick Morrelli, a sheriff in Platte City, NE and Maggie O’Dell, FBI Profiler

  • Kenyon, Sherrilyn – Dark Hunter Series

  • Kijewski, Karen – Kat Colorado Mystery Series

  • King, Stephen – Dark Tower Fantasy Series

  • Knight, Angela – Mageverse Series

  • Kozak, Harley Jane - Wollie Shelley, a greeting-card artist in Los Angeles, California

  • Krieg, Joyce – Shauna J. Bogart, serious readio talk show host in Sacramento, California

  • Lackey, Mercedes –- Joust Series (Fantasy)

  • Lange, Kelly - Maxi Poole, a reporter for a large television station in Los Angeles, California

  • Lashner, William - Victor Carl, a down-on-his-luck, money-hungry lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Laurie, Victoria - Abby Cooper, a “Psychic Eye”

  • Lehane, Dennis – Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Leon, Donna – Guido Brunetti (Police Commissario) Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Lescroart, John – Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky Mystery Series

  • Levine, Laura - Jaine Austin, a freelance writer in Los Angeles, California

  • Levine, Paul - Squabbling law partners Steve Solomon, a Coconut Beach bum, and Victoria Lord, a Miami blue blood, in Florida

  • Lindskold, Jane – Firekeeper Saga

  • Lutz, John – Night Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Margolin, Phillip - Amanda Jaffe, an attorney in Portland, Oregon

  • Maron, Margaret – Deborah Knott, Distric Judge in North Carolina Mystery Series

  • Martin, Nancy – Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series

  • McBain, Ed – Matthew Hope, Attorney in Florida

  • McGarrity, Michael – Kevin Kerney, ex-chief of detectives in Santa Fe, New Mexico

  • Mina, Denise - Maureen O’Donnell, an unlikely crime solver who is disheveled, mumbling to herself, and drunk by noon, in Glasgow, Scotland

  • Mosley, Walter - Easy Rawlins, a black WWII veteran living in 1940s–1950s Los Angeles, California

  • Muller, Marcia – Sharon McCone Mystery Series

  • O’Shaughnessy, Perri – Nina Reilly (Attorney) Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Parker, Jefferson T. - Merci Rayborn, a sheriff’s deputy in Orange County, California

  • Patterson, James – Women’s Murder Club Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Patterson, James – Frannie and Kit

  • Pearson, Ridley – Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Perry, Anne – Inspector Monk Mystery Series

  • Pratchett, Terry – Discworld Series

  • Rankin, Ian – John Rebus, Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Rawn, Melanie – Dragon Prince Series (Fantasy)

  • Rawn, Melanie – Dragon Star Series (Fantasy)

  • Rawn, Melanie – - Exiles Series (Fantasy)

  • Rawn, Melanie – - Collaboration Series (Fantasy)

  • Reichs, Kathy – Temperance Brennan (forensic anthropologist) Mystery Series

  • Richardson, Kat - Greywalker Fantasy Series

  • Robotham, Michael - Joseph O’Loughlin, a psychologist, and Vincent Ruiz, a detective inspector, in London, England

  • Rollins, James – Earth Science Fiction Series

  • Russe, Savannah - Darkwing Chronicles

  • Sanford, John – Lucas Davenport Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Scoppettone, Sandra – Faye Quick, a PI in 1943 in New York, New York

  • Scoppettone, Sandra - Laurano, a lesbian PI in Manhattan, New York

  • Scottoline, Lisa – Rosato & Associates, an all-women law firm in Philadelphia, PA

  • See, Lisa - Liu Hulan, a Chinese police inspector, and David Stark, an American attorney, combining talents to solve mysteries in China

  • Shelby, Jeff - P.I. Noah Braddock in San Diego Mystery Series

  • Silva, Daniel – Michael Osbourne Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Slaughter, Karin - Dr. Sara Linton, a pediatrician and coroner in Grant County, Georgia

  • Smiley, Patricia - Tucker Sinclair, a 30-something divorcee and financial adviser, in Los Angeles, California Mystery Series

  • Spencer-Fleming, Julia – Clare Fergusson, newly ordained Episcopal Priest and Russ Van Alystyne, Chief of Police, in Millers Kill, New York

  • Stabenow, Dana – Kate Shugak, a native Alaskan ex-DA investigator Mystery Series

  • Strohmeyer, Sarah – Bubbles Yablonsky, a Hairdresser/Journalist in Lehigh, PA

  • Tey, Josephine - Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard Inspector

  • Thurlo, Aimee and David – Ella Clah, a former FBI agent now with Navaho police in NM

  • Thurlo, Aimee and David – Lee Nez, a nightwalker (vampire) police officer

  • Trigiani, Adriana - The Big Gap Series

  • Van Gieson Judith - Claire Reynier, buyer of rare books for the University of New Mexico library in Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Viets, Elaine - Dead End Job mysteries

  • Warren, Christine - Others Series

  • Webb, Betty - Lena Jones of Desert Investigations in Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Whitcomb, Christopher – FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team, Agent Waller Suspense Series

  • White, Stephen – Alan Gregory and Lauren Crowder Suspense/Thriller Series

  • Woods, Stuart – Will Lee, Senator Aide/President Mystery Series

  • Woods, Stuart – Stone Barrington Series

  • Woods, Stuart – Holly Barker Series

  • Woodworth, Stephen – Violet Eyes Science Fiction/Crime Series

  • York, Rebecca – Killing Moon Series (Fantasy)

(updated 12/01/2007)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Serial Offender: Guilty As Charged

I find comfort in reading books that are a part of a series. It can be like visiting old friends, returning to the familiarity of the characters and setting. I enjoy seeing the growth of characters over time, however subtle it may be sometimes. Besides, the series books look nice lined up on a shelf.

At the beginning of 2006, I set a goal to catch up on the many series and trilogy books I had begun reading. By this time last year, I knew I was in over my head, and I simplified my goal to catch up with as many as I could. I had hoped to continue with the goal this year, however, with my enthusiasm to participate in the various reading challenges that have popped up, that idea went out the window fairly quickly. Kailana at Kailana's Written World and Marg from Reading Adventures posted lists of the series they are reading, ones they are caught up in as well as those they are still working their way through.

I created two series' lists as a way to help me track my progress in catching up with my series reading, which I update periodically (it's the list lover in me, what can I say?). I decided to go ahead and post the lists to my blog although I can't imagine they will be very interesting to anyone but me.

I keep two lists: one is of the series/trilogies in which I have already started reading; and the second is a list of the series/trilogies I own at least one or two books in (or have on loan from my parents in the case of the Rollins' books) but have yet to begin reading. Some of the series' books can be read as stand alones, however I count them as series because they have continuing characters and often personal story lines that carry over from one book to the other. I have not included the series that I no longer read. I am sure too that there are some I have forgotten to include. I will add them as I discover them. Because the lists are rather long, I will be posting them in two parts.

Series I Have Already Begun (the series listed in purple are ones I am caught up with)

  • Acevedo, Mario- Felix Gomez, Vampire P.I. Mystery Series (up to X-Rated Blood Suckers)

  • Armstrong, Kelley – Women of the Otherworld Series (up to No Humans Involved)

  • Barr, Nevada - Anna Pigeon, a park ranger at various national parks in the USA (up to A Superior Death)

  • Billingham, Mark - Tom Thorne, detective inspector series, London, England (have read Lifeless)

  • Bishop, Anne – Black Jewels Trilogy (fantasy)

  • Boldin, Brenda M – Alex Masters Mystery Series (up to Jailbird)

  • Bradley, Marion Zimmer – Avalon Series (up to The Fall of Atlantis)

  • Brown, Dan – Robert Langdon (Religious Symbolist) Supsense/Thriller Series (up to The Solomon Key)

  • Butcher, Jim – Harry Dresden, the only wizard listed in yellow pages in Chicago, Illinois (up to White Night)

  • Canavan, Trudi – The Black Magician Trilogy

  • Clark, Carol Higgins – Regan Reilly (P.I.) Mystery Series (up to Fleeced)

  • Clemmons, James – Banned and the Banished Fantasy Series (up to Wit'ch Storm)

  • Crais, Robert – Elvis Cole Mystery Series (up to Stalking the Angel)

  • Connelly, Michael – Harry Bosch (LAPD Detective) Suspense/Thriller Series (up to The Concrete Blonde)

  • Davidson, Mary Janice – The Undead Series (up to Undead and Uneasy)

  • Donaldson, Stephen R. – The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (up to The Illearth War)

  • Doyle, Arthur Conan – Sherlock Holmes (read The Hound of the Baskervilles)

  • Dublin, D.H. - Madison Cross, a former star medical student with the Crime Scenes Unit, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (have read Blood Poison)

  • Evanovich, Janet – Stephanie Plum (Bounty Hunter) Mystery Series (up to Book 14)

  • Fairstein, Linda – Alexandra Cooper (Prosecutor) Mystery/Suspense Series (up through Killer Heat)

  • Fforde, Jasper – Thursday Next Mystery Series (up to Lost in a Good Book)

  • Gleason, Colleen – Gardella Vampire Chronicles (up to Rises The Night)

  • Grafton, Sue – Kinsey Milhoune (P.I.) Mystery Series (Up to T is for Trespass)

  • Grippando, James – Jack Swyteck (Miami Defense Attorney) Suspense/Thriller Series (have read Got the Look)

  • Hamilton, Laurell K. – Anita Blake Vampire Slayer Mystery Series (up to The Harlequin)

  • Harris, Charlaine – Southern Vampire Series (up to All Together Dead)

  • Harris, Charlaine – Lily Bard, Housecleaner in Arkansas, Mystery Series (up to Shakespeare's Champion)

  • Holdstock, Robert - Mythago Wood Cycle (up to Lavondyss)

  • Indridason, Arnaldur - Erlendur Sveinsson, a detective inspector, and his colleagues Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg, in Reykjavik, Iceland (up to Voices)

  • Jance, J.A. – J.P. Beaumont (Seattle Homicide Detective) Mystery Series(up to Justice Denied)

  • Jance, J.A. – Joanna Brady (Sheriff) Mystery Series (up to Dead Wrong)

  • James, P.D. – Adam Dalgliesh (Chief Inspector) Mystery Series (up to Unnatural Causes)

  • Kalian, Cady – Maggie Mars, a struggling screenwriter and former investigative journalist, in Los Angeles, California (read up through A Few Good Murders)

  • Karon, Jan – Mitford Series (up to These High, Green Hills)

  • Kellerman, Faye – Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker Mystery Series (up to Milk and Honey

  • Kellerman, Jonathan – Alex Delaware (psychologist) Suspense/Thriller Series (up to Obsession)

  • Kerley, Jack – Detectives Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus in Mobile, Alabama (read through A Garden of Vipers)

  • Kinsella, Sophie - Shopaholic Series (up to Shopaholic and Sister)

  • Lackey, Mercedes – Valdemar Series (Fantasy)

  • Lindsay, Jeff - Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter technician for Miami PD.(up to Dexter in the Dark)

  • LeGuin, Ursula K. - Earthsea Series (up to The Tombs of Atuan)

  • Lippman, Laura - Tess Monaghan, private investigator in Baltimore, Maryland (have read By A Spider's Thread)

  • Martinez, Michele – Melanie Vargas Supsense/Thriller Series (up to Cover-Up)

  • Matturro, Claire – Lillian Belle Rose Cleary, eco-conscious lawyer in Sarasota, Florida (have read Bone Valley)

  • Montanari, Richard – Kevin Byrne, a detective, and his new partner, Jessica Balzano, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (up through Merciless)

  • Olson, Karen E. - Annie Seymour, a police reporter in New Haven, Connecticut (up to Shot Girl)

  • Paolini, Christopher – Inheritance Trilogy (up to Eldest)

  • Paretsky, Sara – V.I. Warshawski (P.I.) Mystery Series (up to Deadlock)

  • Patterson, James – Alex Cross (Homicide Detective) Suspense/Thriller Series (up to Pop Goes the Weasel)

  • Perry, Anne –- Inspector Thomas Pitt and Charlotte Pitt Mystery Series (up to Traitor’s Gate)

  • Preston, Douglas & Lincoln Child – Suspense/Thriller Series (have read Relic, Reliquary, The Cabinet of Curiosities)

  • Rand, E.J. - A Reluctant Sleuth Mystery (up to Perfect Cover)

  • Rees, Matt Beynon - Omar Yussef, schoolteacher in a Palestinian refugee camp, Mystery Series (have read A Grave in Gaza)

  • Rice, Anne – The Vampire Chronicles (up to The Queen of the Damned)

  • Robinson, Peter – Dan Banks, Eastvale detective chief inspector, in Yorkshire, England (read Friend of the Devil)

  • Rose, M.J. – Dr. Snow, a Sex Therapist in the Butterfield Institute in New Your City (up to The Venus Fix)

  • Rowling, J.K. – Harry Potter Fantasy Series

  • Rucka, Greg - Atticus Kodiak, a bodyguard in New York City (up through Patriot Acts)

  • Rucka, Greg – Queen and Country Series

  • Sansom, Ian – A Mobile Library Mystery (up to Mr. Dixon Disappears)

  • Santlofer, Jonathan – Kate McKinnon, a former NYPD cop who now has a PH.D in Art History (have read Color Blind)

  • Santlofer, Jonathan – Nate Rodriguez, a sketch artist for the NYPD (have read The Murder Notebook)

  • Sayer, Dorothy L. – Lord Peter Wimsey, a pianist, book collector, and criminologist, in London, England (have read Clouds of Witness)

  • Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann – Godmother Fantasy Series (up to The Godmother's Web)

  • Silva, Daniel – Gabriel Allon Suspense/Thriller Series (have read The Messenger)

  • Simon, Clea – Theda Krakow, a cat-loving, freelance writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts Mystery Series (up through Cries and Whiskers)

  • Slater, Susan – Ben Pecos Mystery Series (up to Yellow Lies)

  • Smith, Alexander McCall – Mma Romotswe (P.I.) (up to The Good Husband of Zebra Drive)

  • Tracy, P.J. – Grace MacBride, founder of a game software company in Minneapolis

  • Vaughn, Carrie – Kitty the Werewolf Paranormal Series (up to Kitty Takes a Holiday)

  • Willems, RG - Shelby James, Veterinarian Assistant in Saskatoon, Mystery Series (have read 1st book in series)

  • Wright, Edward - John Ray Horn, a former B-movie cowboy star and ex-con turned debt-collector, in 1940s Los Angeles, California Mystery Series (have read Red Sky Lament)
(updated 05/01/2008)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Parlez Vous?

Julie asks: Do you have any foreign language books and if so can you (still) read them?

My husband has three original Japanese language manga. Does that count? I might be able to make out the story from the artwork.

I may have a Spanish text book hiding somewhere. I took Spanish in high school and college, however, I never mastered the language. I was too afraid to practice orally outside of the class, which I think was my ultimate doom. When it came to the written assignments and conjugating verbs, no problem. I have since tried my hand at tapes and books, but ultimately gave up. Learning another language is not something that comes easily to me.

I often wish that language studies were more important in the United States, and that children would be encouraged to learn at a younger age. I would love to learn another language or two to the point of fluency and I admire those who have these skills.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin
Perennial, 1999
Nonfiction; 305 pgs

Started: 05/20/2007
Completed: 05/21/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: After a while, there were no more onions.

Reason for Reading: This was my first selection for Joy's Nonfiction Five Challenge, and my sixth selection for the Spring Reading Thing.

Comments: It is impossible to put into words the emotions a person may feel when reading a book like this--that nightmares as terrible as those experienced by the Jewish people and other targeted groups in Europe during the Holocaust could be real. The most frightening part is that they are very real. What makes it even more sad is that the world’s people have not learned the lessons taught from that experience. Violence, persecution, oppression and genocide continue to this day. The only things that have changed are the faces and names of the victims.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is a different kind of story from the usual Holocaust Survivor story. Edith never faced the horrors of the concentration camps perhaps, but she faced other hardships and horrors that cannot be discounted. Edith and her family led a good life in Vienna before the Jewish persecution began. She was one exam away from achieving her academic goal and she was in love. Up to that point, the political climate in Vienna had slowly begun to change. During those early years there was an undercurrent of fear of what was to come, but many people doubted it would last and never imagined the horrors that would await them. The war on the horizon would be quickly quashed, surely. But that was not to be.

Piece by piece the Jews were striped of their livelihoods, their property and possessions, and their identities. It was a process of dehumanization. The spreading of fear and hate through propaganda assured the process would succeed. Edith held on for as long as she could to her life in Vienna. She watched as family and friends fled the country. Her own fate would take her to the fields and a factory where she was forced to labor, in every sense a slave. Food was scarce and the conditions unfathomable. Only seeking to survive and in hopes of escape from the Nazi occupied countries, Edith took to hiding, assuming the identity of an Aryan Christian. She eventually married a member of the Nazi Party. She constantly lived in fear that she would be arrested and sent to a concentration camps. She feared that those who helped her escape and helped hide her, including her husband, would be persecuted as well. It wasn’t until later that Edith would learn the truth about what being sent to Poland meant for her friends and family. So many like Edith were cut off from any real and honest news reports. They had no idea of the horrors the Nazis’ chosen enemies faced nor the status of the war.

The author made sure to document the times she was helped along the way, whether it is something as simple as a shared food to those who risked their lives to save hers. She wanted to be sure to acknowledge their sacrifices. In many ways it was moments like these that offered a glimmer of hope, however tiny, during such a tragic time in the world’s history.

Edith Hahn Beer captures life before, during and after the war, documenting the difficulties she and others faced, the ignorance and fear that so many at that time lived in. The Nazi Officer’s Wife is a powerful account of one woman’s survival during a turbulent time in our history.

Miscellaneous: I was finishing up my lunch and packing away my book yesterday afternoon before returning to my desk at work, when a man I didn't recognize heading out at the same time asked, "How is that damsel in distress?" When I looked at him blankly, he quickly went on, "And how are the two men she's trying to decide between?" He said something about a husband and a handsome stranger. I gave a little burst of laughter and explained, "Well, I don't know. I'm reading about an ATF agent who is chasing down a gun runner." I wish I had a more witty comeback, but I'm not very quick on my feet in the spur of the moment and the better responses came to mind much later. (My sincere apologies to Jim for simplifying his book in such a way as that isn't a very accurate description. It was all I could think of to say in the moment.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Ever Important Page 161 & A Book Quiz

I have been tagged! This time it's an easy one. Grab the book that is nearest to you (no cheating), turn to page 161, post the text of the fifth full sentence on the page, post the rules and tag three people. I'm not very good at picking people to tag, and so if you are interested (and this is an easy one, so don't be shy!), please do participate.

Hmmm. Let's see . . . An address book doesn't count, does it? Okay, let's try this one:

Coffee? he asked.
- The Inhabited World by David Long

Here is another fun one that several of you have already taken part in. Lisa Jean's responses at Practicing Stillness finally convinced me to give it a try.

A book that made you cry: A better question would be which books do not make me cry. I am really not an overly emotional person, but books, movies, TV, songs and the occasional commercial can bring tears to my eyes. A book doesn't have to be sad to cause my eyes to tear up either. Happy endings will do the trick too. The last book that made me cry was Atonement by Ian McEwan (which was the last book I completed).

A book that scared you: Darkfall by Dean Koontz

A book that made you laugh: I can always count of the latest Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich to make me laugh.

A book that disgusted you: Although I ended up liking the book in the end, I had a love-hate realtionship with the book, Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. One scene in particular almost had me throwing the book at the wall. This book is the one in which I discovered I do not have to like a main character to enjoy the book.

A book you loved in elementary school: It's a toss between Harry Cat's Pet Puppy by George Selden and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.

A book you loved in junior high: Another tie! The Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green and Farwell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston were two of my favorites.

A book you loved in high school: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I loved most of the assigned reading in school and those books turned out to be the most memorable for me. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was another. The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter was a favorite of mine during my early high school years, one of which I re-read, something I rarely do.

A book you hated in high school: I know this won't be a popular answer, but I was really turned off by Shakespeare during high school and have never developed a taste for his work.

A book you loved in college: Crime and Punishment by Fyoder M. Dostoevsky (and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, which was a re-read for me in college).

A book that challenged your identity: I have not yet read a book that has challenged my identity. I have read many books that have given me pause for thought and made me re-evaluate my way of thinking, but nothing that outright made me question who I was. A book that shaped my career choice was One Child by Torey Hayden, but it was more like a reinforcement of a direction I was already headed than a challenge against what I believed or wanted to be.

A series that you love: I am a series fanatic. I am in the middle of so many and there are many more that I have yet to start to I want to try. At the moment, my favorite would have to be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher although Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhoune series comes in at a close second. Oh! And I can't leave out J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Comfort books: Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire books are great comfort reads. The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is another.

Your favorite horror book: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Your favorite science fiction book: Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein (Heinlein is one of my husband's favorite authors and it was through him I spread my wings and began reading science fiction).

Your favorite fantasy book: Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Your favorite mystery book: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie comes to mind immediately, but I am a huge mystery fan and have to say that Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, J.A. Jance, P.D. James, and Anne Perry are among my all-time favorite mystery writers.

Your favorite graphic novel: Alias by Brian Michael Bendis. And no, not the Sidney Bristow Alias. This graphic novel is about a fallen superhero who is working as a private eye.

Your favorite biography: This is a tough one for me because I do not read biographies very often. The occasional memior, yes, but I don't consider those biographies. The last biography I read was for a school paper many years ago and was about Nancy Reagan. I couldn't for the life of me tell you who wrote it or what it was called.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Your favorite classic: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Your favorite romance book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Favorite kids’ books: The Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish

Favorite cookbook: Do take out menus count? My favorite cookbook is whichever one my husband might be using at the time.

Your favorite books not on this list: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Anchor Books, 2001
Fiction; 351 pgs

Started: 05/07/2007
Completed: 05/19/2007
Rating: * (Very Good +)

First Sentence: The play—for which Briony had designed the posters, programs, and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.

Reason for Reading: A couple of years ago, a reading buddy of mine (Christine) recommended I read Atonement. When the TBR Challenge came around, I knew that this was my chance to get to at least twelve of the books that I have been eager to read, however, have not managed to do so. Atonement is my 5th TBR Challenge selection and my 5th selection for the Spring Reading Thing.

Comments: As I first began reading Atonement, I got lost in the author’s prose. Ian McEwan has a way with words. I commented to my husband at one point that the writing was “pretty”, not in any way meant to be an insult, but simply because each sentence flowed through me and had a melodious quality. The author’s writing was not overly indulgent and fit the story well. Not every writer can carry it off. Ian McEwan did.

Although I felt myself pulled into the story by the writing style in the beginning, I soon found myself wishing the story would move a little faster during the first 50 or so pages. The author takes his time introducing the characters and setting the stage, which I later came to appreciate and by the end felt was done exactly right.

It was impossible not to be swept up in the story and the lives of the characters the more I read. I felt the guilt and frustration of so many of the characters as they suffered and survived through the consequences set in motion by the accusation of a 13 year old girl in the summer of 1935. In innocence and misunderstanding, people’s lives are irrevocably changed by the assumptions made.

Set in the English countryside with the threat of war in the air, the characters come to life: Emily and Jack, the parents, distant from one another and from their children, Jack taking advantage of a physical distance that his job allows for and Emily distancing herself with her illness, deluding herself that she is there when her children need her. There is Cecilia, the older sister who is still working out what it is she wants to do in life, wanting to be free of the motherly role she has been cast in and yet afraid still of going out on her own. She is conflicted by her feelings in love and life. Robbie is much more confident, knowing what it is he wants. He is in love, tormented and yet thrilled. He has high hopes for the future and the support of Jack Tallis who has taken him under his wing. Then there is Briony who at 13 still has a child’s innocence and yet is beginning to feel the pull of the adult world that will one day be her own. She often loses herself to her imagination, weaving stories of her own both in writing and in thought.

The cousins, Lola, Jackson and Pierrot, are sent to the Tallis’ home during a tumultuous time in their lives when their parents’ marriage dissolved. They are confused, angry and hurt. Lola, at 15, wants nothing more than to be a part of the grown-up world. The younger twins hate their circumstances and rebel as much as they try to fit in in their own way.

The Tallis brother, Leon, and his friend Marshall enter the scene for a visit. Leon had struck out on his own path, and his presence is highly anticipated by his sisters, who adore him.

As the story unravels, the die is cast. The author takes the reader into France during the Second World War as British troops flee for the coast in hopes of surviving the German invasion. The horrors of war, the desperation and the will to survive are ever present. This was my favorite part of the story with its detail and raw emotion. It is Robbie’s story. As he leads his fellow soldiers to the coast, he recalls the past, the direction his life has taken, and where he will go from there.

Back in England, Briony, now grown, has set out on her own, and in many ways, she is following the path of her estranged sister. She struggles with the weight of the untold truth, now fully understanding the mistakes she has made. Can she atone for her actions? Will there be forgiveness?

With tears filling my eyes, I closed the cover of the novel having reached the end. The characters had become a part of my life for a short while, their suffering and experiences my own. My first experience with Ian McEwan has been a great success. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Favorite Part: I like the way the story ended. It had an irony to it that was quite fitting to the tale from the perspective the story was told. It had symmetry to it, you could say. Do not worry, no spoilers offered here.

For some reason, I was most pulled into the war scenes, the time Robbie spent in France, traveling toward the coast than any other part of the book. It was a time for reflection on Robbie’s part and through that, an unfolding of several events that took place since that fateful night five years before. I could not help but see the contrast in the writing at this point as well. As beautiful a writer as Ian McEwan proved to be in this novel, he still captured the horrors of the war and all that Robbie saw and experienced with great clarity.

Take a look at the the author’s website to learn more about the author and his writings.

Read what Melody has to say:
Melody's Reading Corner

Friday, May 18, 2007

Too Much Information: Eight Things About Me

Chris from Book-A-Rama, Gentle Reader from Shelf Life and Niki from Keep This on the DL tagged for for the Eight Things About Me meme. I considered sticking to book related topics, but then I would not have any material to save for the Booking Through Thursday questions.

Taking a peek into the life of Literary Feline: Eight Things About Me

Cleaning House - House cleaning can be fun, especially if I turn up the stereo and do a little dance while dusting or doing other chores. I highly recommend it.

Singing - Perhaps it was my mother's influence or my innate love for music. I love to sing. I may not be very good at it, but that doesn't stop me. I began my singing career when I was a wee child, singing in a variety of choirs from the school choir, the Camp Fire Girls and Boys choir, to the church choir. In between my public performances, I belted out the tunes in my bedroom or around the house, sometimes adding a little choreography. While I no longer sing with a choir, I still find joy in singing around the house, in the car, and sometimes, when I am feeling really brave, in front of my coworkers.

Handcuffs - Anjin and I were voted the couple most likely to be married for 50 years our senior year of college. The award came in the form of plastic handcuffs. We were married three years later. I was lucky enough to marry my best friend and we are still madly in love all these years later.

Magical Trunk - It was in the 5th grade that I discovered my love for writing. My teacher (who was often secretly believed by most of the class to be a wicked witch because of her pointed nose and frosty demeanor) brought a big rather plain old trunk into the classroom. She gave us each the task of selecting an item from the trunk, and using that item, we were to come up with some sort of art project. We could draw or paint a picture, sculpt something out of clay, write a poem or a story, or make a paper mache. My object was an old lady's hat. I could not for the life of me tell you what it looked like today. What I do remember is that I came up with a fanciful story about the hat's adventures as it flew from one person to the next on the back of the wind. And I remember losing myself in the story as I wrote out each word and being so proud when I finished it. Although I did not fully understand the significance of discovering a new and productive outlet for my overactive imagination at the time, it is a moment in my life I will always treasure. Note: Mrs. Huser was one of my favorite teachers after that, no matter the names the other children called her.

First Marriage Proposal - I began pen palling during my middle school years, mostly writing to people in countries other than my own. Eventually I discovered a world of letter writers in the U.S. too, but that's another story. My first marriage proposal came when I was in high school, made by a Sri Lankan living in Saudi Arabia. He and I had been writing for a year or two. His letters were always formal and polite. In one letter he expressed his desire to marry me and asked if I would be his girlfriend. I politely declined. Anyhow, he then sent a letter asking me if he could call my brother to ask for his permission for my hand in marriage. To a very American teenage girl whose brother is three years younger than her, this was a hilarious idea of the knee slapping kind. I do not know if his intentions were legitimate or if he was looking for a ticket to the U.S. (which is more likely), but, regardless, that was the end of our correspondence.

Academics - One day during my stint in high school, a letter arrived announcing that I was being given an award by the Black Students' Union because I had made the honor roll. Hmm. The letter instructed me to check in with one of the adult representatives if I was interested in receiving the award. Of course I was! Evidently my maiden name was a common one for African Americans in the community, and so whoever was going through the list to determine who would be getting an award assumed I must be black. I am not. I was told in the kindest of ways that I would still get my certificate, but that I did not have to attend the BSU ceremony dinner where the awards would be handed out.

Early Bird - I am not an early bird. I thought I could be when I volunteered to work the early shift at my office, but so far no luck. I find that I still wake up at the last possible minute that I can with just enough time to throw myself together and get out the door and into work on time. I have trouble going to bed at a decent hour. The problem is, I prefer working the early shift because I get off work earlier and feel like I have more of the day ahead of me afterward. If only I wasn't the kind of person who was at her best with 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Instead I am lucky if I get 6.

Home - I am a U.S. Marine Corps brat. My father, now retired, was a career military man. He retired from that life while I was still young enough to have developed a taste for the nomadic lifestyle and before I was old enough to learn to resent it. I do not know if it is related, but every time I visit a new town or city, my first thought is often of whether or not I would want to live and work there. Every now and then I feel a tiny tug to move on from where I am now, the city in which I have lived for the last 10 years with my husband. I won't. Not for a long while anyway, but the desire is there as if flowing through my veins.

The Rules:
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. Although I'm supposed to tag 8 people, I am going to open the floor to anyone who might be interested in participating to do so. I am enjoying reading the answers of those who have already participated and I hope the rest of you will take time to share a little more about yourself with me as well.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Bookless

It happens even to the best readers from time to time . . . You close the cover on the book you’re reading and discover, to your horror, that there’s nothing else to read. Either there’s nothing in the house, or nothing you’re in the mood for. Just, nothing that “clicks.” What do you do?? How do you get the reading wheels turning again?

In the moments I have no books to choose from, you can be sure I am not at home. If my dog knew what a library was, he would tell you I practically live in one with all the books around here. I usually carry a book with me, and so it's rare I am without something to read; but every once in awhile I may go out without a book. And oh! It's awful! I read signs, posters, anything! This happens when Anjin decides to stop at the gas station on the way out to dinner and forgets to tell me ahead of time. Of course, that is also when I decide not to put my book back in my purse because I won't possibly have time to read while we are out.

Every once in awhile I come across a book that moves me in such a way that it's essence lingers despite the fact that I have read the final line, closed it, jotted down my thoughts, and set the book aside. Then there are the occasions when I have difficulty choosing which one of the many TBR books I have on hand to read next because so many sound good. Or perhaps I just haven't quite been able to figure out what kind of reading mood I am in. What to do? The age old question for every obsessive reader.

It is in these moments I step away from the books and finally get around to answering those letters that have been sitting on my desk for weeks on end, watch that Netflix movie I have had for over two weeks, catch up on my magazine reading, or maybe get around to cleaning out those drawers and closets that I've been meaning to get to but never seem to make time for. I use the in-between book time to focus on some of my other interests that may be neglected because I HAD to read just one more chapter straight to the end.

While I may feel some frustration the moment I realize I do not know what to read next, it rarely lasts because I am soon busy doing something else. I always go back to reading eventually and by then, I know just what I want to read (or else I make Anjin or one of the animals pick for me--I always have a back-up plan).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Ask Not Where, But Where Not?

So, judging by last week’s answers, apparently the question I should have been asking was:

Where DON’T you read?

  • When I was growing up, dinner was family time and bringing books to the table was a big no no. That did not mean I didn't try on occasion. You could often find me reading up to the point I sat down at the table and had to be told to set the book aside. With just my husband and I, we aren't quite so formal; however, if we have company or are eating out together, it's just polite not to pull out that book and read (Anjin and I have done it once or twice when it's just us--always with each other's permission so as not to offend the other--and that's usually because one or both of us is at a really good place in a book and just have to finish that chapter or section).
  • The shower is not a very practical place to read. And as often as I try, I haven't been able to master reading while styling my hair or putting my make-up on.
  • I do not read in a dark theater while enjoying a movie. My eye sight just isn't that good, frankly.
  • I do not do much reading anymore when watching a television program I want to see. I used to try and fit in reading during the commericals, but I find that nowadays, I too often either cannot really appreciate the book because I am waiting for the commericials to end or I become so engrossed in the book I forget to pay attention to the television when my show comes back on. Besides, with the invention of TiVo and DVR's, the fast forward bottom on the remote comes in handy.
  • Work . . . Well, I have to qualify this response by saying that I do no leisure reading while at work outside of my rarely taken breaks and my half hour lunch period. I actually do a lot of reading during work hours. Much of my job involves reading the reports of my employees. Trust me, it's not reading for pleasure.
  • Other than signs, I do not read while driving (I do read sometimes if I'm stopped).
  • I do not read in bookstores other than to browse through titles, maybe read the blurb on the back of the book, and a paragraph from the book to see if it's something I might like. You won't find me camping out in a lounge chair at Barnes and Nobles or stretched out on the floor at Borders or in the cafe of either store reading. There is no particular reason why not; it just never occurs to me to do any of those things.
  • I do not read while shopping in general, other than tags and labels.
  • I cannot read while I am sleeping. I have yet to figure out how to read my book when I am fast asleep. There have been plenty of times I end up cuddling with my book like it was a teddy bear because I can no longer stay awake. Anjin is very adept at sliding the book to safety when he comes to bed.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just One More . . . The Summer Mystery Reading Challenge

All mystery readers need to check out Summer Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Liz and Bob at Reviewed by Liz. The rules are very simple: participants read 6 books by new-to-you mystery authors between June 1st and August 31st. What could be simpler than that? Okay, so maybe not so simple if you are like me and are already participating in more challenges than a reasonable person would take on. Still . . . There's that Karen E. Olson mystery Sacred Cows I would really like to read, and what about Paul Levine's Solomon vs. Lord, that caught my eye one day when I was browsing through the mystery section? Oh! And I have been meaning to try a book by Betty Webb whose mystery series has been highly recommended. I dare not tell you how many books by new-to-me authors I own but have yet to read, and quite a few fall into the mystery category in one way or another. I do not lack choices for this challenge, let me tell you! As it is, I'm already slated to read three new-to-me mystery authors for the Medical Mystery Challenge. And wouldn't that be perfect if I get in a time crunch?

So I said no more challenges. A woman can change her mind. The advantages to this latest challenge are that I do not have to chose the six books I plan to read ahead of time and there is no set time limit to have each book read by as long as the books are read between June 1st and August 31st.

Any excuse to read a mystery . . .

Speaking of mysteries, I could not help but share this story. I subscribe to a fantastic magazine called Mystery Scene. One of the letters in the letter's section caught my attention. Reader Roy Pursey wrote in to inquire about a book called Spy he had seen listed on the Fantastic Fiction website that he hoped to find a copy of. The author Justin Scott (aka Paul Garrison) responded by saying that the novel has yet to be published, much less written. Evidently a reviewer saw mention of his book in a catalog and published a review in several magazines. To top it off, another dishonest reviewer passed the review off as his own. According to the author, "All the reviews were very encouraging and doubtless would have helped sales if only I had written the book." [Mystery Scene, Number 99, 2007, pg 6]

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
ORB, 1984
Fantasy; 332 pgs.

Started: 04/29/2007
Completed: 05/04/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: Edward - You must come back to the Lodge.

Reason for Reading: This author came recommended to me by a Finnish friend. I decided the Once Upon a Time Challenge would be the perfect time to pull it off my shelf and give it a read. This is also one of my picks for the Reading Through the Decades Challenge.

From the Publisher: The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain's last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley's entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation.

For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, "mythagos" that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams and may drive you insane.

Comments: This novel was not quite what I expected. I thought it would be more along the lines of traditional fantasy. Set in the early 1940’s in Britain, the novel has a very realistic feel to it. Steven is a war veteran who had settled in France after his release; the novel begins with his returning home after the death of his father, only to find his brother, Christian, is not quite who he once was. The woods near their life long home are not what they appear and their father’s life long obsession at what lay inside quickly lays claim to the two brothers.

I was reminded of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to some extent. In the one novel, the belief in the gods—or lack their of—playing a large part in how they materialized and came to America, whereas in Mythago Wood, the mythagos were very much a creation of man’s belief, shaping and creating the very real life forms. Both very different and yet, somehow, very similar in their evolution.

Admittingly, I felt a bit lost in the beginning of the book as Steven begins to unravel the mysteries that fascinated his father and later his brother so much. I soon became comfortable with it, recognizing that I was on the same learning curve as the narrator and main character, Steven.

Mythago Wood held a certain intensity within each page, an underlying suspense that never let up. Robert Holdstock is an author whose work I hope to read more of in the future.

Favorite Part: Although I enjoyed the entire book, I most enjoyed my time spent in the woods in search of Christian, Steven’s brother and Guiwenneth. So much of the story was revealed during that time in the novel and the people Steven and his friend met along the way were fascinating.

Sorthalan intrigued me. There was mystery and magic about him like no other character, and I would have loved to explore more of his character. Guiwenneth’s origin story was also one that enchanted me. She was an interesting character—innocent and tough rolled into one.

Note about the Author: Visit the author's website.

As Dead As it Gets by Cady Kalian

As Dead as It Gets by Cady Kalian
Forge, 2006
Mystery; 349 pgs

Started: 04/22/2007
Completed: 04/29/2007
Rating: * (Good +)

First two Sentences: What in the world was the Executive Director of the Creative Artists Union doing in a garter belt and a bra?

But there he was.

Reason for Reading: Sticking with my mood for light and funny mysteries, I decided As Dead As It Gets would be the ideal reading selection. This is one I selected to review for Curled Up With a Good Book.

Comments: Mysteries come in all sizes and flavors, from the comedic to grave or the cozy to the hardboiled. The novel, As Dead as It Gets, definitely falls into the more comedic category. Irma Kalish, whom you might remember as a writer for the hit television shows The Facts of Life and Good Times, and Naomi Gurian team up to write this entertaining, laugh out loud mystery about a investigative journalist turned screenwriter living and working in Hollywood, California.

Maggie Mars has an unquenchable curiosity and a nose for finding trouble, often landing in it knee deep. When the Executive Director of the Creative Artists Union does not show up for an important meeting regarding a new contract, speculation as to his absence fly. Roger Urban is known as a womanizer, but he takes his work seriously and never would have willingly missed the meeting. Maggie, a board member for the union, joins in the search for her mentor and friend. She cannot help but do a little snooping in the process, trying to learn as much as she can about the man. It is a shock to everyone when Roger's body is found in a bathtub of a mansion wearing only a garter belt and a bra.

Asked to join the search committee to help find Roger's replacement, Maggie agrees despite her other weighty obligations, including working on her latest screenplay: the story of a reporter who is determined to investigate the alleged suicide of a friend who she believed was murdered. What better opportunity to make some extra money on the side than to put on her investigative journalist hat again and look into the murder of her colleague, a man she soon learns she knew very little about. She soon finds herself digging for information in the cross-dressing community, the possible rivals for Roger’s job, a long lost relative, and the women he may have spurned. The more she digs, the more anxious someone else becomes, and Maggie soon finds herself a possible target for the killer.

As if that is not enough, Maggie finds her heart torn in two with the re-entry of her ex-boyfriend, Joe Camanetti, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, into her life. She was quite happy with her criminal defense attorney love, Henrik Hudson, after all. Or was she? It is a love triangle to envy, if ever there was one.

Between relationship problems, a looming deadline for a screenplay she is struggling to write, the unwritten articles for her editor in New York, and trying to stay alive, Maggie has a lot to contend with. Her charm and wit may get her through some tough situations, but whether that will be enough is the leading question.

As Dead As It Gets is filled with a cast of colorful and interesting characters from the rich and wealthy to the struggling artists, an eccentric father and a roommate with the latest gossip. Maggie is a sassy and independent woman who knows her mind and is not afraid to take a risk to get the answers she seeks. The authors do a great job of setting up the story and carrying the reader along for the adventure. It is a fast paced novel that will keep the reader guessing right up to the very end . . . And hoping the authors will bring us more of Maggie Mars’ adventures. Originally published on Curled Up With a Good Book © Wendy Runyon, 2007

Favorite Part: The narrative was quite witty and this was a fun book to read. Joe was my favorite of her two love interests (I must have a thing for Italian cops in these mystery books), although Henrick is no slouch.

It is hard to pick a favorite part in this book—there were so many entertaining bits. I especially loved the part where Maggie is mistaken for a hooker. I also liked the way her visit to the abandoned house towards the end of the book played out.

I think that fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series might enjoy this book. It’s much along the same lines and yet different enough not to appear to be a rip off.

Miscellaneous: My luggage arrived on my doorstep at 6:15 a.m. yesterday morning just as I was about to walk out the door. What a relief!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason
Signet Eclipse, 2007
Fantasy; 347 pgs

Started: 05/05/2007
Completed: 05/06/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: His footsteps were soundless, but Victoria felt him moving.

Reason for Reading: I first saw mention of this book in the blogsphere and became curious about it. After reading an interview with the author on Carl V’s Stainless Steel Droppings decided reading it was a must. The Spring Reading Thing gave me the perfect excuse to finally get around to reading it, something I’d intended to back at the beginning of the year.

From the Publisher: In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy of vampire slaying, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget. And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.

Comments: The growth of this particular genre, specifically paranormal romance novels involving vampires, appears to have taken the industry by storm. Audiences are eating them up at an alarming rate. To a small extent, I too have jumped on the bandwagon. I have my favorites, I admit, and stick pretty close to them. I venture out occasionally but not always with success. And so, although I was eager to try the first of Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles, a tiny part of me was worried. And yet, you wonder, with so many positive reviews by respected bloggers,how could I go wrong? In this case, I lucked out.

The Rest Falls Away is the first in what has started out as a promising series set in Regency London about a vampire slayer. Victoria Gardella Grantworth is one of the chosen, a Venator, destined to hunt vampires and ward off the evil they bring. While the idea is not a new one, Victoria herself is a charming leading lady whose adventures are bound to attract fans of the genre. She is independent, stubborn and a quick study. The men in her life are no less intriguing, each of them seductive in their own way.

As a reader who prefers more action to romance, I was relieved to see that the author found a balance between the two. Although the love story was a major component in the novel, it did not overwhelm the story.

Overall, The Rest Falls Away was an entertaining reading experience. I look forward to watching the characters in the series evolve and seeing where Colleen Gleason takes us in the next installment.

Favorite Part: I’m not much of a fashion-oriented person, but I have to say that I was quite taken with the creative ways in which Verbena made up Victoria’s hair to hid the stacks and in her design for Victoria’s fighting dress. Verbena reminded me a lot of Charlotte Pitt’s maid from one of Anne Perry’s mystery series, who is always ready to assist her mistress when there is a mystery to be solved.

Of the characters, I am most curious about Max. I normally do not care for brooding macho men, but there’s something about Max that draws me in.

A Must See: Colleen Gleason's blog

Miscellaneous: I am home at last and back in front of my computer. I am happy to say that I did not got into withdrawals at not having access to a computer for a the last few days. Still, it is good to be back. Now to catch up!

The conference in San Francisco was good. I came away satisfied and have some great ideas to share with my colleagues. The downside of the trip (there always is one when it comes to trips I take), is that my luggage, along with that of about half of the passengers on the plane, got left in San Francisco. Evidently a conveyor belt of some sort broke and no one noticed. The airline has said that our luggage will be delivered tonight right to our doorstep. Let’s hope so!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: RIP

Booking Through Thursday

No, not THAT kind of R.I.P.

Reading. In. Public. Do you do it? Why or why not?

The shuttle van will be arriving in another few hours to take me to the airport where I intend to stick my nose in a book while I wait until boarding time. Once on the plane, my book will again be in hand and I will spend the flight in Mythago Wood. You see, reading is one of my favorite ways to pass the time, especially when waiting. I sometimes read while waiting in line or at the doctor's office, for example. I most likely will be reading while dining the next couple of nights since I will be alone, eating in a hotel (or one near it) restuarant, which is another time you can find me reading in public.

I have no qualms about reading in public and do it frequently. I never mind being asked what I am reading, although I have discovered that reactions vary. I think some people ask just to be kind. These seem to be people who really do not care but think they should ask out of politeness. Or perhaps the bored look on their face is just because they have no interest in the type of book I am reading. I most enjoy the light that comes into another reader's eyes when they find out I am reading something they are interested in or have read. Such encounters can lead to good conversation. (Note: there are times I do not like to be interrupted while reading, of course; specifically when I am eating lunch in the breakroom while reading and a certain someone decides to tell me about her most recent health problems).

I am the person who is always craning her neck to see what you are reading. I may not approach you, but I will be checking out the cover to see the title or author's name. I love to see people reading in public. I feel a sort of connection with that person, no matter what book he or she may be holding in his or her hand.

I recently acquired a couple of bookcovers to help protect my books from bends and curls while stored in my purse or bag. It was a very pratical purchase, not to mention I love my bookcover with handles! Still, I feel somewhat guilty about covering up such beautiful covers. I mean, what if there is someone out there like me who wants to know what I am reading?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Bantam Books, 2007
Fiction; 432 pgs

Started: 03/18/2007
Completed: 03/25/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: I’m never sure what people want to know when they ask me: “Where are you from?”

Reason for Reading: I entered a publisher’s contest not too long ago and was selected to preview this one.

Comments: Three very different Indian women from very different cultures formed an instant friendship upon their arrival in the United States, pulling together to support each other and hold onto their roots while fitting into their new lives. Kiran, Preity and Rani became friends by default as their mothers’ friendship grew over the years. The girls jokingly came to call their mothers’ the Hindi-Bindi Club. The daughters are now all grown up and settling into their own lives.

Kiran Deshpande is headstrong and independent. She fled from her family years ago after a disagreement and has now decided to return in hopes of mending the fences and to ask advice. Her mother, Meenal who has changed considerably over the past year, wants nothing more than to have her daughter back in her life, but can she be the bridge between her husband and her daughter?

Saroj Chawla appears to have everything. She is a successful businesswoman with a supportive husband and children who are just as successful and content. Or so she thought until her typically doting daughter Preity confronts her about an incident from the past, one that touches upon a painful history that will forever haunt Saroj.

Uma Basu McGuiness learned long ago that she would have to step outside of the prescribed cultural traditions and beliefs, both to lead her own life, but also in raising her daughter, Rani, a free spirit with her own dark demons.

With Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake fresh in my mind, having read it not too long ago, I could not help but find myself comparing it to Monica Pradhan’s novel. Both touch upon the subject of first generation immigrants from India and their American born children, the struggle to find balance between the two cultures, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Likened to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club in blurbs describing the novel, The Hindi-Bindi Club is a story about the friendship, relationships between mother and daughter and finding one’s own way in the world. Although each story in Monica Pradhan’s novel is unique, the stories are interwoven with similar themes and in the friendships between the characters as they too grow and change.

The author ends each chapter with a recipe or two for the characters favorite Indian dishes. It adds a nice touch and will definitely attract recipe lovers out there who enjoy a good book with tasty treats recommendations.

The Hindi-Bindi Club was an entertaining and moving novel. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the characters, being in their lives for the time the author allowed. Each character‘s struggle became my own. I definitely will keep an eye out for this author in the future.

Favorite Part: I was most drawn into the story of Meenal, Kiran and her father, perhaps because there are echoes of their story in my own life. And yet, Uma and Rani’s story also intrigued me. Uma, of all the characters, is perhaps the one I most admire.

Another aspect of the novel that captivated me was the history presented in Saroj and Preity’s story. In recent years, my interest in literature featuring Indian characters and culture regardless of setting has grown, however, I still know very little about the history and various cultures. Saroj’s story is tied into the Partition of India in 1947.

Least Favorite Part: Saroj’s story seemed incomplete to me in the end. I cannot be more specific without giving away spoilers, and so I will leave it at that.