Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: A Year in Review

I love books! I love reading! I want to climb a tree and sing out while swinging from the branches. Okay, so not really. Wouldn't that be quite a sight to see? The sentiment is there, however. It has been a wondrous reading year, full of adventure, eye opening experiences, laughter, tears, and comforting embraces. I traveled the world, stepped back in time, and rode along side some of the most amazing characters, sharing in their pain and sorrows as well as rejoicing in their happy moments. I grew as a person this year, deepened my understanding of the world around me, and had a lot of fun while doing it.

All of you have made this an even more wonderful year, sharing a bit of your life with me and me with you. You have enhanced my reading experience and given me an extra dose of confidence. I am eternally grateful. I look forward to another year of great reading and having you by my side.

These first two books, numbers 9 and 10 were difficult to choose. There were quite a few contenders for these last two spots, and certainly many are deserving. In the end, I decided to pick two mysteries that knocked my socks off this year, both of which have me clamoring for more.

10. Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris ~ A cozy with teeth, what more can I ask for? (4 Stars)

9. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson ~ A perfect start to a good series, not to mention a protagonist after my own heart. (4 Stars)

8. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood ~ A haunting and complex story that captivated me throughout. (4.5 Stars)

7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~ Poignant and powerful; not easy to forget. (4.5 Stars)

6. Atonement by Ian McEwan ~ Beautiful writing that held me entranced, and, oh, how I loved the ending! (4.5 Stars)

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (5 Stars)

4. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (5 Stars)

3. Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala (5 Stars)

2. The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald (5 Stars)

1. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos (5 Stars)

My top five favorites this year touched me in many different ways. With all five of these novels the characters were able to find their way under my skin and their stories carried me deep into the pages, mesmerizing me long after I closed the book. Moloka'i and The Way the Crow Flies reached into my past and reminded me of long ago years. Anna Karenina settles comfortably in its 5th place spot. However, the next three were much harder to settle down. Each of those stories were quite powerful and moving in their own ways, tackling difficult subject matter, bringing up a multitude of emotions in me, and sticking to me even now. In the end, Broken For You resonated the loudest with me: its voice, its beauty, the eccentric characters, the lessons learned, and the story itself. I finished the book with a breathless, "Wow."

Longest Book Read ~ I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (894 pgs)

Shortest Book Read ~ Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala (142 pgs)

Best New Series ~ Karen E. Olson's Annie Seymour, Crime Reporter Series

New To Me Series I Definitely Plan to Continue ~
Elvis Cole Mystery Series by Robert Crais
Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason
Lily Bard, Housecleaner, Mystery Series by Charlaine Harris
Erlendur Sveinsson, detective inspector, Mystery Series by Arnaldur Indridason
Annie Seymour, Crime Reporter Series by Karen E. Olson
Dan Banks, Eastvale detective chief inspector, Mystery Series by Peter Robinson
Theda Krakow, a cat-loving, freelance writer, Mystery Series by Clea Simon

Best Nonfiction Book ~ Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld

Best Fantasy Novel ~ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

New To Me Authors Most Likely to Become Long-Term Favorites ~
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Kate Atkinson
Robert Crais
Kim Edwards
Neil Gaiman
John Harwood
Arnaldur Indridason
Uzodinma Iweala
Stephanie Kallos
Jhumpa Lahiri
Ann-Marie MacDonald
Karen E. Olson
Peter Robinson
Clea Simon
Leo Tolstoy

Place I'd Most Like to Settle ~ Appleton (Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle)

Sobfest Book of the Year ~ When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Most Disappointing Book ~ Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich

2007 Reading Trends ~

Total Books Read ~ 89
Total Authors read ~ 78

Total New To Me Authors Read ~ 59

Books Read by Genre ~
35 Fiction
35 Crime/Suspense/Thrillers/Mysteries
11 Fantasy
7 Nonfiction
1 Science Fiction
1 Novel-in-Verse (also listed under fantasy)

Authors Read by Gender ~
43 Females
35 Males

Books Read by Authors' Gender ~
51 Females
38 Males

Authors by Nationality ~
56 Americans
9 British
2 Canadians
1 Australian
1 Austrian
1 French
1 Icelandic
1 Indian
1 Irish
1 Nigerian
1 Rhodesian
1 Russian
1 Scotish
1 Swedish

Books Read by Rating ~
5 - Outstanding/5 Stars
3 Very Good +/4.5 Stars
36 Very Good/4 Stars
10 Good +/3.5 Stars
31 Good/3 Stars
4 Fair/2 Stars

Total Books I was Unable to Read to Completion ~ 1

Book Size ~
9 Pint Size Books (200 pgs and Under)
51 Intermediate Books (201-350 pgs)
23 Substantial Books (351-500 pgs)
6 Doorstop Books (501+ pgs)

Books Read by Type ~
19 Hardback Books
52 Trade Paperback Books (18 Advanced Reader's Editions, ARE)
18 Mass Paperback Books

Books Read by Year of Publication ~
61 in the 2000's (23 books published in 2007; 4 books set to be published in 2008)
12 in the 1990's
2 in the 1980's
2 in the 1970's
2 in the 1950's
1 each in 1900's, 1910, 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, 1960's
4 in the 1800's

Books Read by Narrative Voice ~
32 1st Person
38 3rd Person
6 Both
3 Nonspecific Voice

Reading Challenges Participated in ~ 18
Reading Challenges Completed ~ 15
Reading Challenges Carrying Over Into New Year ~ 2

That sums up my reading year. It was a great year overall, and I am looking forward to seeing where my books take me in 2008.

Have a very Happy New Year everyone!
Best wishes in the New Year.

Books Read in 2007

(Archive of books read in 2007--updated monthly)

January 2007
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877) - Fiction - 838 pgs - Outstanding
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) - Science Fiction - 179 pgs - Good
3. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (2004) - Fiction - 311 pgs - Very Good
4. Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle (2006) - Fantasy - 337 pgs - Good +
5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1955) - Fiction - 453 pgs - Very Good

February 2007
6. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayer (1923) - Mystery - 212 pgs - Good
7. Emma by Jane Austen (1816) - Fiction - 328 pgs - Very Good
8. Trouble by Jesse Kellerman (2007) - Suspense/Thriller - 352 pgs - Fair
9. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930) - Mystery - 217 pgs - Very Good
10. The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald (2003) - Fiction - 820 pgs -Outstanding
11. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich (2007) - Mystery - 164 pgs - Fair

March 2007
12. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003) - Fiction - 291 pgs - Good
13. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005) - Fiction - 401 pgs - Very Good
14. Dust Covered Dreams by E.A. Graham (2006) - Fiction - 249 pgs - Good
15. Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg (2005) - Fiction - 326 pgs - Good
16. The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan (2007) - Fiction - 432 pgs - Good

April 2007
17. The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern (2005) - Fiction - 404 pgs - 2 Stars
18. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968) - Fantasy - 198 pgs - 3 Stars
19. April Witch by Majgull Axelsson (1997) - Fiction - 408 pgs - 4 Stars
20. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (1998) - Fiction - 894 pgs - 4 Stars
21. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001) - Fantasy - 592 pgs - 4 Stars
22. Dead Birds Don't Sing by Brenda M. Boldin (2005) - Mystery - 226 pgs - 3 Stars
23. As Dead As It Gets by Cady Kalian (2006) - Mystery - 349 pgs- 3.5 Stars

May 2007
24. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984) - Fantasy - 232 pgs - 3 Stars
25. The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason (2007) - Fantasy - 347 pgs - 3 Stars
26. Atonement Ian McEwan (2001) - Fiction - 351 pgs - 4.5 Stars
27. The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer (1999) - Nonfiction - 305 pgs - 4 Stars
28. Field of Fire James O. Born (2007) - Mystery - 340 pgs - 3 Stars

June 2007
29. The Inhabited World by David Long (2006) - Fiction - 277 pgs - 3.5 Stars
30. The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (1995) - Fantasy - 433 pgs - 4 Stars
31. Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War, and an African Farm by Lauren St John (2006) - Nonficion - 269 pgs - 4 Stars
32. Dreaming in Libro: How a Good Dog Tamed a Bad Woman by Louise Bernikow (2007) - Nonfiction - 217 pgs - 3 Stars
33. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006) - Fiction - 453 pgs - 4.5 Stars
34. Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward (2007) - Fiction - 238 pgs - 4 Stars
35. Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld (2003) - Nonfiction - 253 pgs - 4 Stars
36. Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala (2005) - 142 pgs - 5 Stars
37. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich (2007) - Mystery - 310 pgs - 3 Stars
38. Sula by Toni Morrison (1973) - Fiction - 174 pgs - 4 Stars
39. Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris (2005) - Mystery - 214 pgs - 4 Stars
40. The Pumpkin Seed Massacre by Susan Slater (1999) - Mystery - 252 pgs - 3 Stars
41. The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais (1987) - Mystery - 201 pgs - 4 Stars

July 2007
42. Septembers in Shiraz by Dalia Sofer (2007) - Fiction - 338 pgs - 3.5 Stars
43. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1901) - Mystery - 173 pgs - 4 Stars
44. When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin (2006) - Fiction - 336 pgs - 4 Stars
45. Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong (2007) - Suspense/Thriller - 480 pgs - 4 Stars
46. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (2004) - Fiction - 369 pgs - 4.5 Stars
47. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007) - Fantasy - 759 pgs - 4 Stars
48. February Flowers by Fan Wu (2007) - Fiction - 244 pgs - 3 Stars
49. Death's Acre by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson (2003) - Nonfiction - 304 pgs - 3.5 Stars
50. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999) - Fantasy - 250 pgs - 4 Stars
51. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson (2005) - Mystery - 304 pgs - 4 Stars

August 2007
52. A Few Good Murders by Cady Kalian (2007) - Mystery - 287 pgs - 3 Stars
53. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (2003) - Fiction - 389 pgs - 5 Stars
54. The Society by Michael Palmer (2004) - Mystery - 351 pgs - 3 Stars
55. A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley (2006) - Suspense/Thriller - 375 pgs - 4 Stars
56. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996) - Nonfiction - 207 pgs - 3 Stars

September 2007
57. New England White by Stephen L. Carter (2007) - Fiction - 551 pgs - 3.5 Stars
58. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817) - Fiction - 188 pgs - 4 Stars
59. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos (2004) - Fiction - 371 pgs - 5 Stars
60.Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach(2005) - Nonfiction - 311 pgs - 3 Stars
61. Brain Dead by Eileen Dreyer(1997) - Mystery - 406 pgs - 3 Stars
62. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891) - Fiction - 165 pgs - 2 Stars
63. Life Support by Tess Gerritsen (1997) - Suspense/Thriller - 372 pgs - 3 Stars
64. Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (2007) - Supsense/Thriller - 431 pgs - 3.5 Stars
65. The Collection by Gioia Diliberto (2007) - Fiction - 275 pgs - 3 Stars

October 2007
66. An Accidental American by Alex Carr (2007) - Suspense/Thriller - 228 pgs - 4 Stars
67. The Art Thief by Noah Charney (2007) - Mystery - 290 pgs - 3 Stars
68. Secondhand Smoke by Karen E. Olson (2006) - Mystery - 259 pgs - 4 Stars
69. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson (2008) - Mystery - 372 pgs - 4 Stars
70. Day of the Dead by Karen E. Olson (2007) - Mystery - 300 pgs - 4 Stars

November 2007
71. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (2006) - Fiction - 354 pgs - 3 Stars
72. Pursuit by Thomas Perry (2001) - Suspense/Thriller - 370 pgs - 3 Stars
73. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (2007) - Fiction - 291 pgs - 4 Stars
74. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977) - Fiction - 191 pgs - 4 Stars
75. The Keeper by Greg Rucka (1996) - Suspense/Thriller - 332 pgs - 3 Stars
76. Mew is for Murder by Clea Simon (2005) - Mystery - 223 pgs - 4 Stars
77. Jar City by Arnaldur Iridiđason (2000) - Mystery - 275 pgs - 4 Stars
78. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Iridiđason (2002) - Mystery - 280 pgs - 4 Stars
79. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (2008) - Fantasy - 353 pgs - 3 Stars

December 2007
80. Dervishes by Beth Helms (2008) - Fiction - 314 pgs - 3 Stars
81. Cattery Row by Clea Simon (2006) - Mystery - 227 pgs - 4 Stars
82. Cries and Whiskers by Clea Simon (2007) - Mystery - 251 pgs - 4 Stars
83. Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi (2006) - Fiction - 372 pgs - 3.5 Stars
84. In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes (1947) - Suspense/Thriller - 250 pgs - 3.5 Stars
85. The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (1919) - Mystery - 289 pgs - 4 Stars
86. The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle (2005) - Fantasy - 321 pgs - 3.5 Stars
87. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow (2008) - Fantasy - 311 pgs - 4 Stars
88. The Worst Thing I've Done by Ursula Hegi (2007) - 260 pgs - 3 Stars
89. Finder by Greg Rucka (1998) - 320 pgs - 3 Stars

The Short Story Reading Challenge

It is often said that the best presents come in small packages. For those of us who are fans of bookstore gift cards, you know this to be true. When it comes to reading, I am partial to full length books, I admit. There is more room for an author to introduce the characters and plot, set the stage and move through the paces, time enough for me to settle in for a long ride. Short stories are over so quickly and frequently leave me feeling unsatisfied. However, short stories are good in a pinch, when time is short or as an in between filler when I need a rest between novels. Still, when a short story is done right, it can hold just as much magic and sway as a full length novel.

Despite my leanings toward the longer books, I do collect and read short story collections now and again, although not nearly as often as I might like because, well, my preference for the longer book tends to kick in.

Kate is hosting The Short Story Reading Challenge (with quite an irresistible button), offering participants several different avenues of short story reading for the challenge. For a description of each of the five options, visit the The Short Story Reading Challenge Blog. I thought I would take her up on this challenge, push myself to read more short stories this year and further open the literary door a little wider.

For this particular challenge, I am going to go with Option 5, in which I tailor the challenge to meet my own reading needs. My choices include three anthologies that touch upon the Indian culture and people, both in India and in the United States.

Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Breathless in Bombay by Murzban F. Shroff

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Worst Thing I've Done by Ursula Hegi

The Worst Thing I’ve Done by Ursula Hegi
Touchstone, 2007 (ARE)
Fiction; 260 pgs

Completed: 12/28/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: Tonight, Annie is driving from North Sea to Montauk and back to North Sea as she has every night since Mason killed himself.

Reason for Reading: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book quite unexpectedly. Ursula Hegi wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, and I have enjoyed two others by her as well. I was quite thrilled get the opportunity to read her latest.

Comments: Sometimes even the closest of friendships carry the darkest of secrets. Annie, Mason, and Jake have been friends since childhood, with Annie as the glue that holds the friends together. Mason’s suicide devastates the two remaining friends who struggle with their grief and guilt. Annie and Jake know what finally pushed their friend over the edge, and they both blame themselves for having a part in it.

Mason and Annie were married on the day Annie’s parents died in a car crash, leaving behind a newborn baby, Opal, making the newlyweds an instant family of three. The three friends pull together to get through their grief at the loss of Annie and Opal’s parents and to create a stable and good life for the young Opal.

With Mason’s death eight years later, Annie must go on for Opal’s sake. She works through her grief as she struggles to help her sister through hers. The friendship between the once three best friends is hanging by a thread just barely for the two that remain alive.

Ursula Hegi’s novel takes the reader into the hearts and minds of the three friends and their little charge, Opal. We are also introduced to Aunt Stormy, a close family friend of Annie’s mother who stands by Annie and Opal through the worst of it. The perfect friendship was not so perfect after all, and as the story unfolds, the characters are unmasked through their grief and suffering.

I never came to like Mason or even really sympathize with him as a character. He was selfish and manipulative. He acted out his insecurities his entire life, playing the victim or wounded one to gain sympathy and attention. I never did see exactly why it was that Annie and Jake were so protective of him or why they were drawn to him. They both loved him in their own ways and at the same time despised him.

Setting that aside, the grief and internal struggle of having lost someone to suicide described in the book is very real. The process of working through the grief and anger, coming to terms with the past and grabbing hold of the present, and moving forward is very much alive in Ursula Hegi’s latest novel.

The story itself is convoluted and not overly exciting. There are no surprises, even as the more secretive aspects of the story come to light. Yet Ursula Hegi’s beautiful writing brings to life the essence of the story and carries it from beginning to end. This is not the author's best effort, but I am still glad I took the time to read it.

Favorite Parts: Annie found solace in her art. She so easily got lost in a project, letting it take over and come alive on the canvas. I could tell that she was most at home when she was creating and living through her collages.

Taking out the kayak and floating along the water, seeing the wild life, the birds and jellyfish. Amidst all the turmoil, the moments on the water were the most peaceful and healing. I would not have minded joining along for the ride.

The Year in Reading Challenges: 2007

This was the year I discovered reading challenges. I came out by the skin of my teeth in a few of them, and ended up calling it quits on one. This next year I will not be involved with quite so many, but I am participating in a few. You did not really expect me to go cold turkey did you? Maybe in 2009.

I learned something about myself the more involved with challenges I became. I always considered myself a moody reader, and yet, I really do not think I am. Not completely. I do go through phases and prefer to read one book over another depending on my mood, but following a list was not as difficult as I thought it would be. It helped that all of the challenges allowed for some freedom on selecting which book to read when. In addition, I found it easier to choose the next book I would read. Less pondering over the many options, holding little drawings where my animals or husband were asked for assistance to choose, or whittling away valuable reading time because I could not make up my mind.

My main goal with the challenges was to read books that had been forced to wait their turn long enough. These were all books I wanted to read long before I caught the Challenge Fever. For a couple of the challenges I did have to break my rule of only reading books I already owned, but I reasoned that it was for a good cause. Even in those instances, the books I selected were ones I wanted to read, not because I should read them out of any obligation.

Over a plate of spaghetti with brown butter and mizithra cheese, Anjin and I discussed my reading plans for the new year. Balance is key. The real challenge will be in not overcommitting myself and balancing my reading so that I will be able not only to read my challenge books, but also to continue with my review books and spontaneous selections with little stress or worry that time is running out.

The truth is I do not mind a little pressure. Even when I felt like the deadlines were looming over my head, and I might not make it as far as I wanted to go, I was still having fun along the way. The reading challenges are all for fun. There is no compensation other than my own personal feeling of accomplishment in the end, and if I do not quite make the goal, that is okay too. Even making a little headway is progress because I am farther in my reading than I might have been otherwise.

As I look over the challenges I have completed, I have a definite feeling of confidence. I would be lying if I did not feel a sense of relief as well. I am ready to move on and start fresh with new challenges, continue my literary travels and go in new directions. It has been an extraordinary experience. I learned more about myself, read many great books, tried new authors, made new friends, and joined a community of fellow booklovers whose support and wisdom I greatly appreciate and admire. Of all I gained from my year in reading challenges, I most treasure the camaraderie and fellowship.

My thanks go out to the many brave hosts of this year's challenges, including those I did not participate in.

Completed Challenges 2007

  • Book to Movie Challenge

  • Chunkster Challenge

  • Kathrin's Classics Reading Challenge

  • Medical Mystery Madness Challenge

  • New York Times Notable Book Challenge

  • Nonfiction Five Challenge

  • Once Upon A Time Challenge

  • Reading Through the Decades Challenge

  • Southern Reading Challenge

  • Spring Reading Thing

  • Summer Mystery Reading Challenge

  • 2007 TBR Challenge

  • Winter Classics Challenge

  • 2nds Challenge

  • Valiant Effort 2007

  • Saturday Review of Books Challenge

  • I also took part in a little challenge called Just4thehelluvit Challenge in which challenge-frenzied readers were instructed to read a book, well, just for the hell of it. I ended up reading one book that met this criteria since the start of the challenge. I could have counted a few others because they did not fall into the review book or challenge categories, however, because I planned to read them ahead of time for one reason or another, I did not feel that they qualified.

    Saturday, December 29, 2007

    2007 TBR Challenge Wrap Up

    Take a walk with me. When you enter my house, a long hallway stretches out before you, leading into the living room. If you make a left at the turn in the wall, head straight through to the back hallway and make another left, you will come upon two doors. The door to the right is the door you are looking for. Let me get the door for you. You will be met with a sight that will make your heart skip a beat or two. Remember to breathe. And no, it has nothing to do with the monkey swinging from his stick on the ceiling. If you are not a booklover, I expect you might run screaming from the room and out of the house onto the street and into oncoming traffic. If you are a booklover, however, you are most likely to let out a sigh of pure contentment and make your way further into the room for a closer look. You have entered my TBR room. Books line the shelves, quite a few stacked on top of those, and overflow from boxes and bags laying on the floor. Occasionally you will find me sitting in the middle of the room, breathing in the bookish smells and admiring my collection. Although, there are times I prefer to go in and get out as quickly as possible for fear of being grabbed by one of the more aggressive books. This is not one of those times.

    When I first heard mention of the MizB's 2007 TBR Challenge, I knew I would join in. My very first challenge! And how perfect! A way to clear some shelf space or at least maybe empty a box. Unfortunately it was not quite that simple. As the year progressed, I discovered that even though I was clearing out some of the older books that had been languishing on my shelves, books that had been ever so patient for their turn, newer books were rapidly taking their place. I was recently asked how many books go in for every one that comes out. I dare not say. I really do not want to know. Neither does my husband, thank you very much.

    Still, the 2007 TBR Challenge was a fantastic idea and a much appreciated one. Books I had been longing to read but that had gotten lost in the shuffle were suddenly getting my full attention. I even cleared a spot on my desk here at the computer for the year's challenge books. As the year passed I watched the books shrink as books were read, swell as books were added as a result of new challenges, and shrink again. My cat is relieved to finally have his high space back, let me tell you. He wasn't pleased at all when I first starting adding books to the shelf last January.

    Besides clearing out some of the older books on my shelves, this was the challenge that can be credited with setting free the challenge monster that has been hibernating inside of me. I went from one to three to fifteen challenges by the end of this year. It's wild. It has been a fun experience, albeit stressful on occasion, but overall worthwhile and one I do not at all regret.

    The goal of the challenge was to read one book that had been sitting on the TBR shelf for at least six months at the beginning of the challenge per month. I was able to read all twelve of my choices, along with one alternate.

    TBR Challenge Books:
    Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (04/2005)
    Emma by Jane Austen (07/2005)
    April Witch by Majgull Axelsson (10/2004)
    Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (01/2006)
    Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg (12/2005)
    The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (06/2005)
    In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes(04/2006)
    Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos (10/2005)
    Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi (01/2006)
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (01/2005)
    Sula by Toni Morrison (12/2004)
    The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle (06/2005)

    Pope Joan by Donna W Cross
    The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley [read]
    The Golems of Gotham by Thane Rosenbaum
    Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate

    This was an amazing year of reading. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos and Moloka'i by Alan Brennert were among my favorites. Ian McEwan's Atonement and John Harwood's Ghost Writer following close behind. I have no regrets in my selections for the challenge, finding each one a worthwhile book to read. Myla Goldberg's Wickett's Remedy probably charmed me the least of them all, but even that was enjoyable in its own right.

    For now, My three remaining alternates will return to their place in my TBR room, but there moment will come. It is just a matter of time.

    Thank you, MizB for introducing me to reading challenges and hosting the TBR Challenge. I look forward to another year of great reading.

    Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

    Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
    Harper, 2008 (ARE)
    Fantasy; 311 pgs

    Completed: 12/28/2007
    Rating: * (Very Good)

    First Sentence:
    Let’s sing about the man there
    at the breakfast table
    brown skin, thin features, white T,
    his olive hand making endless circles
    in the classifieds
    “wanted” “wanted” “wanted”
    small jobs little money
    but you have to start somewhere.

    Reason for Reading: After reading a brief synopsis of the book, I was curious about the book and requested to review it through Harper Collins First Look Program.

    From the Publisher: An ancient race of lycanthropes has survived to the present day, and its numbers are growing as the initiated convince L.A.'s down-and-out to join their pack. Paying no heed to moons, full or otherwise, they change from human to canine at will, and vice versa — and they're bent on dominance at any cost.

    Comments: I actually had no idea Sharp Teeth was a novel-in-verse until it arrived in the mail and I was thumbing through it. Rather than be put off by the unexpected format, I decided to embrace it. While not beautiful in prose, Toby Barlow does have a gift for language. The author takes a more straightforward, at times harsh, approach, which matches the dark and gritty tone of the book. It is quite effective and perfect for the tale the author has to tell, and it flows naturally.

    The story itself is quite entertaining and suspenseful. Anthony is a down and out man who takes a job with animal control when no other options work out. He quickly finds he prefers the dogs to his coworkers. The grisly murder of one of the other dogcatchers draws the attention of the police, in particular Detective Peabody who soon finds himself on an unexpected trail that has attracted the attention of a mysterious caller. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Lark’s pack are trying to make their way as best they know how after being attacked by a new rival gang. It is down to a game of survival. The rising gang of lycanthropes holds quite a few of the cards; they have no bones about leaving carnage in their wake. A young woman is desperate to get revenge for the devastation wreaked on her pack many years before, and a powerful man is determined that the revenge instead will be his. Each of the story threads running through the novel are interconnected, weaved together seamlessly. They all come together for a hair-raising finale that had me gripping the book tight in my hand.

    The characters themselves are what make the story; they are complex and broken, and yet still very powerful by their very nature, even dangerous. Each in their own way they are trying to find a way to survive and come out on top. I was most drawn to the character of Annie, a young surfer girl who had suffered much, and yet she still kept coming back, trying to regain what she once had lost and build anew.

    Sharp Teeth is a remarkable novel. It is daring in style and full of soul. And to think I might not have even requested the book had I known it was a novel-in-verse. I look forward to seeing what else Toby Barlow has to offer in the future.

    Favorite Part: My favorite scene in the novel was when two of the lycanthropes in their dog form stop at a puddle for a drink; one had been chasing the other, and both were exhausted from the chase. This is one of those scenes you best understand if you have read the book, I am afraid.

    Friday, December 28, 2007

    A Dash of the Past and a Splash of the Future

    Becky is hosting a mini challenge to encourage interest in author Jane Austen. Jane Austen is among one of my favorite authors and, as I continue on my journey to read more of her works, I thought this would be a great challenge to join. I had already planned to read Mansfield Park this year for the 2008 TBR Challenge, which I will inevitably follow up with the movie.

    The goal of the Jane Austen Mini Challenge is to read and/or watch at least two Jane Austen novels/movies in 2008. Becky has been kind enough to allow me to read just the one Jane Austen book and follow it up with the movie to meet the requirements of the challenge, and so I will leave my official goal at that. However, if I can fit in another Jane Austen book and movie, I most certainly well.

    Carl V. is the reason I have a science fiction book on my 2008 TBR Challenge list. I did not add it because of the upcoming Sci Fi Experience but because he reminded me that science fiction has a magic all its own and deserves to be read and celebrated. The truth is, I probably will not get to my science fiction selection in time for the event, but it deserves a shout out just the same.

    My husband, Anjin, was the first person who offered me a view into science fiction, beyond what was taught in the classroom. Although I do not often read science fiction, it is a genre I have enjoyed from time to time. Douglas Adams and Robert A. Heinlein won me over. Douglas Adams made science fiction more palatable for someone just starting out. His books are witty and entertaining. Perhaps you know him best as the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Robert A. Heinlein, my husband's favorite author when we first met, charmed me with his writing and enthralling stories.

    Carl V. has made it very clear that this is not a challenge, but an opportunity for readers to share their science fiction reading experiences throughout the next couple of months (January/February). There are no obligations. No set number of books to read. And no sign up list. All Carl asks is that you post a link to your review or thoughts on what you read at The Sci~Fi Experience Blog. Even if you do not join in, I hope you will take time to visit the blog to see what others are reading and perhaps you will find yourself tempted to try something outside of your usual reading realm.

    Are Seconds Ever Enough? (2nds Challenge Wrap Up)

    Often in my literary travels I come across a new author I know I will want to revisit again one day. However, it sometimes seems as if it is a long time in coming with all the other books I stop and visit along the way. Thoughts of Joy had an idea to solve that problem. Why not have a challenge that gives the reader the perfect excuse to take in a new story by a familiar author? The 2nds Challenge was born.

    Participants were to read at least 3 books by authors that they have only read one other book by. I have a long list of authors who fall into this category, but I decided to read the following three:

    Secondhand Smoke by Karen E. Olson - I read Sacred Cows this past summer and immediately was smitten with Karen E. Olson's mystery series. The sassy and intelligent protagonist, Annie Seymour won me over from the beginning. I could not wait to jump back into the series and visit Annie and friends again. Secondhand Smoke did not disappointment. It was a bit softer than the first book, but offered a quite a few more laughs. I found myself laughing out loud and thinking, move over Stephanie Plum. The Annie Seymour series is smart and funny all rolled into one.

    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - As a young girl, I had read Jacob, Have I Loved, a book that sits on my shelf still today. After hearing so much talk about the novel, Bridge to Terabithia, I thought I would give it a try. Bridge to Terabithia is such a real and human novel. It reaches out to the heart and holds on long after the last sentence is read.

    The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle - It was by a lark I read Silver Bough first. I was given the opportunity to review the author's most recent book and, because of a deadline I had to meet, The Mysteries got relegated to the back burner. I did not want to put off reading The Mysteries any longer, however, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. The Mysteries took me into another world, one full of magic and the supernatural. It was an alluring world full of mystery and wonder. I hated to leave.

    While second helpings of food may be more than enough, can there ever be too much of a good author's work? I hope to revisit each of these three authors again in the future.

    Many thanks to Thoughts of Joy for hosting the 2nds Challenge.

    New York Times Notable Book Challenge Wrap Up

    I am not the kind of reader to jump at reading a book just because it makes the New York Times Most Notable book list. I admit that before Wendy (Caribousmom) introduced me to the list, I did not give it much pause for thought. I would glance at the titles, not recognize most of them, and move on. This time around, I decided to dig a little deeper and discovered quite a few on the list that sounded like they would be worth my time. Unfortunately, with all the other challenges I had joined and the other books I wanted to read, I did not get through nearly as many on the list as I had hoped. Still, I was smart enough not to set too high a goal for this particular challenge and, in fact, left it open to whatever I could manage. So, in that way, I count this challenge as a success.

    This was one of the challenges in which I broke my challenge rule of sticking to books already in my TBR collection. Although I may not have gotten to all the ones I hoped to, I at least have them handy for when their time comes.

    The books for The New York Times Notable Book Challenge I did manage to read:
    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
    Forgetfulness by Ward Just
    The Inhabited World by David Long

    Of the four books, my favorite by far was Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. The author captured so well the voice of a child soldier, pulling me into the story and taking me along for the journey. It was a sad book and not at all easy in terms of subject matter, however, it was a very powerful novel. One that I will not soon forget.

    I am eager to read more by each of these four authors. Their books truly are notable and it is no wonder someone decided they were worthy of making the final cut of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2006.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this challenge and will no longer so quickly dismiss finding a possible gem among the more professional Best of lists.

    Many thanks to Wendy for hosting the The New York Notable Book Challenge.

    Thursday, December 27, 2007

    The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle

    The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle
    Bantam, 2005
    Fantasy, 321 pgs

    Completed: 12/26/2007
    Rating: * (Good +)

    First Sentence: The strangest memory of my childhood concerns my father’s disappearance.

    Reason for Reading: This is my final selection for the TBR Challenge and the 2nds Challenge.

    From the Publisher: Ever since his father disappeared when he was nine years old, Ian Kennedy has had a penchant for stories about missing people–and a knack for finding them. Now he’s a private investigator with an impressive track record. But when a woman enters his London office and asks him to find her lost daughter, Ian faces a case he fears he cannot solve–and one he knows he must.

    Laura Lensky’s stunning twenty-one-year-old daughter, Peri, has been missing for over two years–a lifetime, under the circumstances. But when Ian learns the details of her disappearance, he discovers eerie parallels to an obscure Celtic myth–and to the haunting case that launched his career, an early success he’s never fully been able to explain. Though Ian suspects Peri may have chosen to vanish, his curiosity leads him to take on the search. Soon he finds himself drawing not only from the mysteries that have preoccupied his adulthood, but from the fables and folklore that pervaded his youth. What follows is a journey that takes Ian and those who care for Peri into the Highlands of Scotland, as the unknowns of the past and present merge in the case–and in their lives.

    Comments: I first came across this book in a publisher’s newsletter two years ago and was intrigued by the premise and so scooped up a copy of the book quickly. But as often happens with my books, it sat on the shelf awhile, until the right moment came to give it a whirl. I actually ended up reading another of the author’s books first, Silver Bough, earlier this year.

    As with Silver Bough, Lisa Tuttle eases the reader into the more fantastical elements of The Mysteries slowly. She weaves Celtic myth into her tale seamlessly, creating an intriguing and eerie story. The Mysteries is a fantasy novel and a mystery all rolled into one. Bit by bit, the author brings the pieces of the puzzle together, never failing to leave the reader in wonder and sometimes even in awe.

    The characterizations seemed somehow murky at times with even the protagonist not being quite fully fleshed out. And yet, it seemed sort of fitting given the story. The fairies and their kin always seemed to lurk just beyond the mist or in the dark, and the author, even in when writing about the “real” world, was able to capture that sort of atmosphere, as if the two were not all that different, and yet still worlds apart.

    I know so little about Celtic folklore, and yet Lisa Tuttle’s novels never fail to entice me and make me wish I knew more. The Mysteries did not captivate me quite as much as Silver Bough did; however, I definitely plan to read more by this author.

    Favorite Parts: I especially enjoyed going back in time with Ian as he remembered his first visit to Scotland and his search for Amy. I took a liking to the character of Fred, and wanted to know more about her.

    My second favorite part of the novel was when Laura and Ian are on their own, searching for Peri. Laura’s bag begins to move and what emerges was unexpected and yet so fitting. Everything that happened in the novel had a reason, even if the reason was not always clear.

    Booking Through Thursday: Highlights

    It’s an old question, but a good one . . . What were your favorite books this year?

    List as many as you like … fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance, science-fiction, business, travel, cookbooks … whatever the category. But, really, we’re all dying to know. What books were the highlight of your reading year in 2007?

    I am not a superstitious person by nature. Well, maybe a little, and therefore, I am not yet ready to offer any highlights into my favorites just yet. While chances are slim that any book I read in the next six days will end up supplanting any of my favorites this year, you never know. It has happened before. Maybe not to me, but to someone out there. Regardless, I would love to know what your favorite book of the year was.

    After getting the nod from my darling husband, I thought it might be fun to have a little contest. Which one book of all the books I read this year will earn my top spot? Of all those who guess correctly, I will enter your name in a drawing to win a copy of your choice of one of my top ten picks of the year.

    The deadline for entering the contest is on December 30th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. There's plenty of time to think it over and cast your vote. The contest is open to everyone inside and outside of U.S. I will be posting my top 10 list on the 31st of December and will announce the winner the first of the New Year. Good luck!

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007

    Saturday Review of Books Wrap Up

    Every Saturday Sherry over at Semicolon provides a forum called the Saturday Review of Books for bloggers to post a link to their book reviews for the week. It is an opportunity for bloggers to see what others have been reading as well as perhaps garner some extra attention to one's own blog.

    Sherry had the great idea of creating a challenge to encourage contributors on her blog to read some of the books that other bloggers had read and reviewed. Participants were to read six books from the year long list of books that had linked reviews on the site. The challenge was aptly called The Saturday Review of Books Challenge.

    I did my best with this one and just could not pull through in the end. I managed to read four of the six books I planned to read.

    My Saturday Review of Books Challenge List
    1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
    2. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
    3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (unread)
    4. Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
    5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (unread)
    6. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

    I enjoyed each of the books I read for this challenge quite a bit, but Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos wins first prize. I loved everything about the book: the writing, the story, the characters, and the setting.

    I still plan to read the two on the list I did not get to, The Road and A Thousand Splendid Suns, but that will be for another day.

    A special thanks to Sherry for hosting The Saturday Review of Books Challenge. I hope you will consider doing it again sometime!

    Tuesday, December 25, 2007

    Reading Through the Decades Challenge Wrap Up

    With so many contemporary books lining my shelves and even more out there that I have yet to get my hands on, there are also older books that have caught my eye, some classics and others not. Stepping back through time and reading at least one book for every decade over the last century was a worthwhile challenge. My walk through the decades proved to be revealing, both historically and socially, not to mention entertaining. Not all of the books I read for this challenge were set in the time period the novel was written, nor even in this world, and yet each still carries the footprints of the era it was written.

    Michelle challenged participants to read a personally set number of books falling in consecutive decades over the course of a year. I chose to begin my journey at the beginning of the 20th century and end at the beginning of the 21st century.

    A Century of Books
    1900's - The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
    1910's - The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (1919)
    1920's - Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayer (1923)
    1930's - The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930)
    1940's - In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes (1947)
    1950's - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
    1960's - A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)
    1970's - Sula by Toni Morrison (1973)
    1980's - Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984)
    1990's - Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)
    2000's - The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005)

    Not one of the books on my list was a disappointment, although I did like some more than others. The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley and Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon were my favorites in the mystery category. Both captured the essence of time and place, touching on issues related to those time periods and yet all the while being timeless in their own right. Toni Morrison's Sula and Kim Edward's The Memory Keeper's Daughter, also favorites, spanned the lifetime of the characters and dealt with difficult issues.

    I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to Michelle for hosting the Reading Through the Decades Challenge and allowing me to go on this journey through time with her and the other participants. It was an adventure that will stay with me for years to come.

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    Two Christmas Memes

    Wishing Everyone A Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays!

    And after much delay, here are my responses to the Christmas Meme for which Melody tagged me.

    1. What is your most enduring Christmas memory? Follow the link for a look into some of my most precious Christmas memories.

    2. Do you have a favorite piece of Christmas music? I love Christmas music in general, and so picking just one favorite is impossible. This year I seem to be partial to Jingle Bell Rock, but some of my other favorites will always be What Child Is This?, Sleigh Ride, Carol of the Bells, and Little Drummer Boy. That is just the tip of the iceberg though.

    3. Do you stick to the old family traditions? Some, but not most. Time has eroded many of the old family traditions. It is hard to hold onto them when Christmases are divided between one family or another and as other family members also go their own way.

    4. What makes your mouth water at Christmas time? Homemade cookies and my mother's pumpkin pie. No one can make pumpkin pie like her.

    5. How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down? It depends. Usually the tree goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter. This year it took a little longer than that even. The tree comes down whenever we feel like taking it down. Sometimes it has stayed up for another month while other times we take it down almost immediately after Christmas.

    This Christmas Meme was borrowed from Carrie K:

    1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I much prefer gift bags because I am such a terrible wrapper. Unfortunately, because I ship off so many of the gifts I send, gift bags are not very practical.

    2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. I have never had a real tree and can't really say I'm eager to try one.

    3. When do you put up the tree? This year we've been a little behind. Hubby put the tree up late, and it's still not decorated. In years past, it's usually the weekend after the American Thanksgiving Holiday.

    4. When do you take the tree down? It depends on when we get tired of having it up. The longest we've kept the tree up was about a month after Christmas.

    5. Do you like eggnog? I do but without the alcohol added in.

    6. Favorite gift received as a child? My pink/white banana seat bicycle. On my first ride out on it, I rode right into someone's mailbox, but I didn't let that stop me from enjoying my prize.

    7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes.

    8. Hardest person to buy for? My father-in-law.

    9. Easiest person to buy for? Me. Oh! I suppose I don't really count do I? It never fails though that when I go holiday shopping, I always end up picking something up for myself too. Haha I suppose my mother would be the easiest if I don't count myself.

    10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A floral-designed ceramic cross wall hanging. It was ugly and not at all something anyone who knows my husband and I well would have gotten us. I know it's terrible of me to be so ungrateful. I hate even admitting it!

    11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, absolutely.

    12. Favorite Christmas movie? I have two. The original Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Clause.

    13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? It varies. Some years I am ahead of the game and start as I'm shopping for the the Christmas before it, while other years I wait until the last minute. Because I mail out most of the gifts I give, last minute to me usually means by the end of November.

    14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. That ceramic cross, for example. I had a friend who fell in love with it at first sight. So, I gave it to her. More often than not, I give away gifts I don't want not so much as gifts, but with full disclosure that I received a gift I don't need or especially want. I hate tossing anything out or leaving it to clutter up my closet (although I do that too sometimes). I might as well find a good home for such items.

    15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Homemade cookies, a real rarity around here, I'm afraid.

    16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I prefer gold tinted lights, but we have always had multicolored lights.

    17. Favorite Christmas song? I have so many! Besides the ones mentioned above

    18. Travel for Christmas or stay home? We are staying home this year.

    19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes as well as the unofficial ones.

    20. Angel on the treetop or a star? Angel. I always had a star on the top of the tree growing up and never thought I would be able to grow used to having an angel in its place. Our angel is my favorite Christmas decoration.

    21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.

    22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The whole Happy Holiday/Season Greetings versus Merry Christmas debate. Likewise the Christmas versus Xmas debate. It's so silly to me and such a small thing. There are many more serious concerns to be bothered by out there than how someone greets someone or what is posted on a sign or in a card. Both sides of the argument are guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill.

    23. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? No.

    24. What do/did you leave for Santa? Growing up, my brother and I would leave cookies and milk or sometimes a soda. We would also leave out a little something for the reindeer as well, usually carrots or celery.

    Sunday, December 23, 2007

    If My Life Were a Soundtrack

    I have been meaning to get to this meme for quite some time. After seeing it on Carrie K's site site, it seemed like too much fun to pass up.

    If your life were a soundtrack, what would the music be?

    Here’s how it works:
    1. open your library (iTunes, winamp, media player, iPod)
    2. put it on shuffle
    3. press play
    4. for every section, type the song that’s playing
    5. next section — press the next button
    6. don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool

    Opening Credits: Things that Never Cross a Man's Mind by Kellie Pickler

    Waking Up: One of Those Nights Tonight by Lorrie Morgan (Planning ahead evidently . . .)

    First Day At School: Mr. Roboto by Styx

    Falling In Love: What I Cannot Change by Leann Rimes

    Breaking Up: Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone (I actually haven't a clue what this song is about, but I like the sound it. I believe it's in Romanian.)

    Prom: Don't Leave Home by Dido (which I didn't, not having gone to my prom)

    Life’s Okay: Don't Stop Believing by Journey

    Mental Breakdown: Mr. Guder by The Carpenters

    Driving: In My Place by Coldplay

    Flashback: Gavin's Song by Marc Broussard

    Getting Back Together: I Told You So by Keith Urban

    Wedding: So So Long by Dierks Bentley (Ouch!)

    Birth Of Child: Because of You by Kelly Clarkson (An interesting selection for this category considering what the song is about.)

    Final Battle: When the Devil Gets the Best of Me by Big & Rich (Haha)

    Death Scene: You're Not In Kansas Anymore by Jo Dee Messina

    End Credits: I'll Cover You from the Rent Soundtrack

    Jen over at Up Close and Personal with Ladytink tagged me for the Romance Meme that is being played over on Book Binge.The rules are simple:

    "Take the letters of your name and write out a title of a romance novel for it. It's that simple, see if you can actually do it. You can omit the words "A" and "The" from the title to suit your needs if you want."

    I am taking liberties with this meme and adding a different twist. Not being a romance novel enthusiast, I thought it would be more fun for me to search through my TBR stacks and come up with titles of mystery novels that fit each letter of my name. Otherwise, you would be stuck with whatever I could find on

    Walking Money by James O. Born
    Every Move She Makes by Robin Burcell
    A Necessary End by Peter Robinson
    Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
    You Only Die Twice by Edna Buchanan

    The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

    The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
    Grosset & Dunlap, 1919
    Mystery; 289 pgs

    Completed: 12/22/2007
    Rating: * (Very Good)

    First Sentence: If you are ever in Brooklyn, that borough of superb sunsets and magnificent vistas of husband-propelled baby-carriages, it is to be hoped you may chance upon a quiet by-street where there is a very remarkable bookshop.

    Reason for Reading: This book came recommended by a friend several years ago. I have an ancient copy of the book, cover tattered and falling apart, which I found on E-Bay after having no luck finding a new copy online or in the stores.

    This is my 1910’s selection for the Reading Through the Decades Challenge and my 5th Selection for the Unread Authors Challenge.

    Comments: If ever there was a book meant for booklovers, especially one who enjoys a mystery, a touch of romance and eccentric characters, this is it. Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop was a pleasure to read.

    The Haunted Bookshop is actually the sequel to another of Christopher Morley’s novels, one called Parnassus on Wheels. I have yet to lay my hands on a copy of that particular book, sad to say. Having not read the previous book, I had no trouble following along or getting to know the characters. This is very much a stand-alone novel, however.

    Roger Mifflin is an eccentric bookseller who owns and runs Parnassus At Home, otherwise known as the Haunted Bookshop. One day while Roger is running the shop alone, his wife off on an adventure in Boston, an advertising salesman wanders into the store and makes a pitch hoping to land a new account. Aubrey Gilbert is young and eager, but Roger is adamant that he does just fine with the word of mouth advertising his loyal customers provide him. Just the same, the two strike up a friendship.

    The bookseller and his wife Helen had previously agreed to take in a nineteen-year-old girl at the request of her wealthy father. Mr. Chapman fears his daughter has taken in too many frivolous ideas, and he believes she is in need of a serious reality check. He thinks that working and living at the second hand bookshop is just what the young woman needs. Titania is a delightful and lovely young woman who turns many heads and yet is friendly and eager to begin this new enterprise.

    Just before Titania’s arrival, a man comes to the shop looking for a particular book that Roger is sure he once had on his shelf. The book, however, is missing. When the book reappears later on, Roger couldn’t be more puzzled. Thus begins a mystery full of danger and intrigue. Aubrey is determined to uncover whatever nefarious plot there may be, fearing that the beautiful Titania may be at the greatest risk.

    I was most taken in by Roger Mifflin and his obvious love for books as well as his job. While he is a bit of a book snob, it was hard to hold that against a man who understands the hold a book can have on a reader. Although not a prominent character, Helen is definitely a presence in the book. She is down to earth and sensible while Titania is sprightly in her youth. It is really Aubrey who carries the forward motion of the story, however, ever tenacious in his pursuits.

    Christopher Morley has written a charming novel that is full of humor, while at the same time it is quite exciting. Set at the end of World War I, talk of peace and the politics of the war place this book more firmly in history as do the events that unfold with each turned page. I definitely plan to continue in my search for a copy of the prequel to this novel and perhaps venture onto some of the authors other writings. It was a pleasure to spend time with him and his characters.

    Favorite Parts: I loved how Roger put together Bock’s kennel—a booklover’s haven for a dog.

    The term librocubicularist, which refers to a person who is fond of reading in bed (a word completely made up by the author).

    Cringe worthy quote: “He knew his disadvantages in literary conversation, for he had gone to an excellent college where glee clubs and theatricals had left him little time for reading. But still he was a lover of good books, though he knew them chiefly by hearsay.” [pg 16]

    In response to the assumption that working in a bookstore is tranquil: “’Living in a bookshop is like living in a warehouse of explosives. Those shelves are ranked with the most furious combustibles in the world—the brains of men.’” [pg 19]

    “’I tell you, books are the depositories of the human spirit, which is the only thing in the world that endures.’” [pg 50]

    “’Did you ever notice how books track you down and hunt you out? They follow you like the hound in Francis Thompson’s poem. They know their quarry!’” [pg 132]
    “’ It’s one of the uncanniest things I know to watch a real book on its career. It follows you and follows you and drives you into a corner and makes you read it.’” [pg 132]

    Miscellaneous: We went to see The Kite Runner today, which was playing a little closer to home than expected. There are several other movies I am anxious still to see before the year is out. Atonement, Sweeney Todd, Juno, and Charlie Wilson's War are all on our list. I do not know if we will get to them all, but we will put in a good effort.