Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cuddle Time - Back Soon

I am taking a little break from blogging and will be back in a few days. Happy reading!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Little Bit of Saturday Fun

Julia tagged me for the Page 123 meme, which is always a little fun meme to do.

The rules
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
He stared at me through the flickering blue flames, holding his ground. He would never forgive me for this, I knew it. Anger had made his face pale and drawn.
--from Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake

Melody decided to include me in on the One Word Meme. I thought this would be the perfect time to offer up my responses.

All you have to do is answer the questions with one word, and tag four people.

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Your significant other? Chocolate
3. Your hair? Brown
4. Your mother? Daisies
5. Your father? Soldier
6. Your favorite thing? Books
7. Your dream last night? Dancing
8 Your favorite drink? Water
9. Your dream/goal? Reading
10. The room you’re in? Office
11. Your hobby? Reading
12. Your fear? Loneliness
13. Where do you want to be in 6 year? Home
14. What you’re not? Male
15. Muffins? Depends
16. One of your wish list items? Janeology
17. Where you grew up? U.S.A.
18. The last thing you did? Ate
19. What are you wearing? Soup
20. Favorite gadget? Computer
21. Your pets? Playful
22. Your computer? Awesome
23. Your mood? Sleepy
24. Missing someone? No
25. Your car? Purple
26. Something you’re not wearing? Hat
27. Favorite store? Bookstore
28. Like someone? Possibly
29. Your favorite color? None
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Today

In both cases, I will take the easy way out and refrain from tagging anyone specifically. If you have some time on your hands and want to play along, please do! Just let me know.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Can You Believe It's Friday?

Questions courtesy of Jennifer this week; thanks, Jennifer!

1. Birthdays are a great time to treat yourself right.

2. Autumn is my favorite season because the weather begins to turn cooler and leaves start to change colors. The holidays are still ahead of me and yet they are close enough to touch. The end of the year is in reach. The World Series. There is a certain something in the air that makes me feel cozy and comfy during the fall season.

3. I feel my best when I am well rested, feel confident, and am doing something I enjoy.

4. Barbeque chicken pizza is my favorite food!

5. First impressions are sometimes deceiving.

6. The best piece of advice I ever received was that life shouldn't always be taken so seriously.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to cuddling with my dog and torturing my cat with hugs and nuzzles; tomorrow my plans include spending time with my family and Sunday, I want to feel the sand beneath my toes as I walk along the beach!


What is the weather like today where you live?

Summer is definitely here. Temperatures went from scorching triple digits last week to the mid-9o's this week. For the past couple of mornings, I have been greeted by fog and a gentle mist when I head out for work, which has been a pleasant change. It isn't long before the sun burns right through and claims the day.


On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how career-minded are you?

I probably fall somewhere around an eight.


What type of window coverings do you have in your home? Blinds, curtains, shutters, etc.?

There are blinds in some windows and curtains in others.

Main Course

Name something that instantly cheers you up.

The sight of a book in the mailbox or sitting on th back walkway when I get home from work.


How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning?

Lately I have been pushing it once on those mornings I have to wake up to my alarm.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bookish Observations in the Office

Coworker to me: "Twilight is on your list of books to read soon, right? You have to read it!"

Overheard in the office break room by someone talking on her cell phone: "The Kite Runner. A Thousand Splendid Suns. No, Splendid. S-P-L -E-N-D-I-D. If you can't find them, you can borrow my copies."

Me to my staff as I head off for lunch: "I'll be in Africa for the next half hour with a stopover in Georgia."

Coworker upon seeing me reading during my lunch break: "Shh! Quiet; Wendy's reading again." *chuckles to himself as he walks out the door and I roll my eyes in exasperation*

A coworker interrupts my lunchtime reading to complain about something insignificant, while I'm screaming in my head: "Can I get back to my book, please? I'm not on duty right now. Go away!"

Sitting on table in break room: Dr. Phil Getting Real: Lessons in Life, Marriage and Family by Phil McGraw, Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell, and Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Coworker seen reading while tech works on her computer: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Another Coworker reading at her desk on break: The Bible

Employee caught reading in car: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Coworker overheard saying: "I hate this book! Now I have to wait a year for the next one to come out! Not fair!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found

At this moment, I suddenly want to change everything that is me, the observer part, and move from something else: the living-your-life part. When does that start exactly? And something else. I look into the mirror and someone else says:
What are you doing here? You have no right to live. [pg 145]

Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found
by Marie Brenner

Sarah Crichton Books, 2008
Nonfiction (Memoir); 268 pgs

I was three when my brother entered this world. My mother had to be rushed to the hospital, nearly dropping my brother out right there in the hospital parking lot. My father's parents were visiting, my grandmother watching me while my parents were away. I remember my father coming home with a grin on his face. It's a boy! My brother and I were like most other brother and sister pairs, friends one minute, playing in the dirt together or taking to the high seas on our boats made of furniture in the living room, to mortal enemies the next, struggling over who would sit in the passenger seat of the car. As we got older, we grew closer; while at other times we seemed to grow farther apart, family circumstances bringing us together but also keeping us at arms distance.

I have this image of me as the older sister, the protector and the one who had to set the good example. My brother was the youngest child, the only boy, and the one who got away with more. While early on that bothered me, later it seemed the natural way of things--how it works in families--and my brother deserved a break. His was a battle that seemed uphill more so than mine. Our story is an old and familiar one. Life as it was went on for both of us. Our relationship was one that ebbed and flowed like the tide. In recent years, we have not had much of a relationship at all. We are both to blame. There are reasons, some obvious and others less so, none of which I will go into here.

Marie Brenner is a well respected journalist having accomplished much in her career. Her work on an exposé entitled “The Man Who Knew Too Much” was the basis for the movie The Insider, which took a hard look at tobacco company practices. She has built a life on asking questions and telling stories. Her brother Carl had been a trial attorney at one time who later in life chose to give that up and grow apples and pears much to the surprise of his family.

Marie was the polar opposite of her brother. She was liberal where he was conservative. She preferred city life while Carl felt most at home in the country surrounded by his orchards. Marie was married with a child. Carl was more of a lady’s man. He liked things just so and preferred a quiet life. Marie was constantly on the go, searching out details and looking for meaning. Both were stubborn and set in their ways, believing the other was wrong more often than not. The two may have held different beliefs and ideas and lived very different lives, but they were both very similar as well.

Marie Brenner and her brother Carl have always had a difficult relationship. They spoke just about every week; however, their conversations almost always turned into arguments. The constant bickering and lack of connection between them weighed heavily on Marie, especially after learning that her brother had cancer. Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to connect with him, to understand him and to be there for him. She set out to make that happen, deciding to surprise him with an extended visit. She left her home in New York and headed for Washington. Marie studied up on apples and orchards with the intention of using the information to get close to her brother, but her constant questions and search for knowledge often seemed more like a way to avoid talking about the real issues that lingered between them.

Marie and Carl's story was one that crept up on me. I had trouble settling into it at first. I wasn't sure what to think of Marie, and it took me a while to warm up to her. I connected with Carl much more quickly despite his more curmudgeonly manner. Carl's struggle with cancer, his will to live, along with his resilience and strength, hit close to home for me with my friend's recent battle with cancer. The lack of availability of treatment options despite the fact that they may exist (albeit not in perfect form) must be so frustrating for families in similar situations who only want to exhaust all means before it is too late.

I was most drawn into the Brenner family history, learning about Carl and Marie's father and his relationship with his siblings as well as that of their parents. History was repeating itself. The strain between Milton Brenner and his sister, Anita, was being played out in Marie and Carl's own relationship.

The author’s story unfolds bit by bit, interweaving past and present. Where one began and the other ended was not always clear. The writing is stylish and poetic at times, almost a stream of consciousness. Marie Brenner effectively was able get across her own fear and the control she was trying to maintain as she dealt with her brother's illness, her frustration with both herself and her brother for not having a closer relationship, and her attempts at developing a closer bond with him before it was too late.

So many years went by where sister and brother constantly battled with each other, their own egos and stubbornness getting in the way. It was not until her brother's diagnosis of cancer that the two reached out for each other, already with so many years lost in between. Marie did grow and mature during the course of the book, and by the end, I felt a kinship with her. I could see bits and pieces of my own relationship with my brother in her relationship with Carl. I understood better what she was going through and what she had been trying to achieve with her brother. Both she and Carl made mistakes as we all do in our own relationships. Even when they didn't recognize it, they shared a bond and loved each other as only a brother and sister can.

Apples and Oranges: My Brother an Me, Lost and Found demonstrates the strength and fragility of familial ties. It is a story of love and redemption and of hope and perseverance.

Rating: * (Good +)

Check out the author’s website for more information about Marie Brenner and her writing.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Book Chase
The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Review book provided by Nicole Bruce from Book Report Network.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Those Not so Well Known Books

Today's Question from Marie at The Boston Bibliophile:

Last week I asked what was the most popular book in your library- this week I'm going to ask about the most unpopular books you own. Do you have any unique books in your library- books only you have on LT? How many? Did you find cataloging information on your unique books, or did you hand-enter them? Do they fall into a particular category or categories, or are they a mix of different things? Have you ever looked at the "You and none other" feature on your statistics page, which shows books owned by only you and one other user? Ever made an LT friend by seeing what you share with only one other user?

While I may not pay much attention to the most popular books on Library Thing, I have been known to visit my stats page to check out just how many books I only share with one other person on the site. Some come as a surprise, but others are, well, kind of obvious.

Books I share with only one other LT user:
  1. Dead Birds Don't Sing by Brenda Boldin (my review) - I initially reviewed this book for Front Street Reviews. I thought the premise sounded interesting (and it was!).

  2. Jailbird: Book Two in the Alex Masters Series by Brenda Boldin - I liked the first book in the series so much, I added the second to my collection.

  3. Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian - I will be reading this one soon. It sounded too good to pass up.

  4. 英文版 火車 - All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe - I won this copy in a contest hosted by my blogging friend, Tanabata. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  5. Watches of the Night (Ben Reese Mysteries) by Sally Wright - It's not the first in the series (a series I haven't yet started), but I was offered a chance to review this particular book, and it sounded like it would be worth giving a try. I hope to get to it soon.

  6. Jackfish, The Vanishing Village (Inanna Poetry & Fiction) by Sarah Felix Burns - Another one I want to get to soon. Wendy's review pushed me past temptation and into the must have status.

  7. Overleaf Hong Kong: Stories & Essays of the Chinese, Overseas by Xu Xi - I picked up a copy of this one so that I would meet my "X" obligation in an alphabet challenge, which I ended up not signing up for in the end. I have heard good things about the book and am still looking forward to reading it.

  8. I'm Sorry... Love Anne by Andrea Peters - I found this one on my first trip to the L.A. Times Book Festival. The author had a way about him that made it impossible to say no--plus the book sounded interesting.

  9. Don't You Know It's 40 Below? by Jack Kates - A local author was signing books in town, and I decided to show my support and buy a signed copy of his memoir.

  10. The Thinking Cat's Guide to the Millennium by Anne Richmond Boston - A gift to a pair of cat lovers.

  11. ドラゴンハーフ (2) (Dragon Half Trilogy, Volume Two) by Ryusuke Mita - Manga in the original Japanese, which no one in my house can actually read.

  12. ドラゴンハーフ (3) (Dragon Half Trilogy, Volume Three) by Ryusuke Mita - This one too is in the original Japanese.

  13. The Fault of Kaïber by Mathieu Gaborit - It came with a game my husband owns.

  14. For a Special Teenager published by Blue Mountain Arts - Still scratching my head, wondering why I still have this . . .

I own fifteen books that no other LT member has cataloged in his or her library, one of which I entered manually because I could not find it listed in any of the reference sources. Most of the books that fall into the "owned only by me" category are books that are printed by small presses or were self-published. One is a reference book and another is a children's cookbook.
  1. Baked Alaskan by William Scarborough

  2. Beneath a Buried House by Bob Avey

  3. California Juvenile Laws and Rules 2006: Desktop Edition

  4. Discord in Harmony by A.G. Copeland

  5. A Disturbing Presence by Joy Lee Rutter

  6. Dust Covered Dreams by E.A. Graham

  7. I, Tutus: Book One: The Son of Heaven by Don Phillips

  8. Lost to Them by Gaytri Saggar

  9. Media Justice by G.B. Pool

  10. Pariah Stigma by Howard Selden

  11. Say Goodbye by E.J. Rand

  12. Scenes from the Blanket by Ted Torres

  13. Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006 by Cathy Sultan

  14. The Thoughtful Spot by Eric R. Weule

  15. Young Children's Mix and Fix Cook Book

I would not go so far as to classify most of these books as unpopular, meaning they are disliked or out of favor. Rather, they are unique and still relatively unknown. Some I have read and others I have yet to read. A small few I had mixed feelings about while others I quite liked.

What unique books do you have sitting on your shelf?

Monday, June 23, 2008

EW Top 100 New Classics

I was quite thrilled when my issue of Entertainment Weekly arrived in the mail this past week. It's one of my guilty pleasures--a magazine that feeds my pop culture craving. This week's issue is a double issue that offers up the EW staff's top picks of modern classics, movies, TV shows, albums and books that have come out over the last 25 years.

Thom Geier of EW states up front that he expects disagreement with some of their choices. He explains that each of the selections were made with the idea that they have "endured in the public consciousness despite shrugs from academics." They stand out in memory; some pushing the boundaries of what has come before. Regardless of whether we agree or not, it is an interesting list, isn't it? A little bit of everything just about.

Since the EW Top 100 New Classics list (books published between 1983-2008) seems to be making the rounds, I thought I would join in on the fun as well. The titles in bold are ones I have read while those in italics are sitting in my TBR collection waiting to be read.

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

I noticed several authors I have read made the list, however, not the books of them that I have actually read. Among them being Joyce Carol Oates, Jon Krakauer, Gabriel García Márquez, Edwidge Danticat, and Ann Fadiman. And then there are those I would like to try but which books listed are not ones I actually own (I do own others of their books, however): Haruki Murakami, Charles Frazier, Alice Munro, John le Carré, Ruth Rendell, and David Mitchell.

There are obviously a number of titles missing, ones I might argue should be on the list and others I am still scratching my head over in wonder. What about you? Who do you think should have made the list? Any in particular that raised your eyebrows?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Salon: Book Imitates Life

The title of this post is a little misleading. The book I currently am reading, Marie Brenner's Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, is a true story. It is a memoir about the author's relationship with her brother. I began reading it not too long ago, and it would appear that my timing could not have been better. There are certain aspects of my life I am uncomfortable sharing in detail in such a public format, but suffice it to say the title is quite fitting for my own situation. While are stories are different in many respects, I still can relate to her and her brother's story and their struggle to make a connection they've longed to have much of their lives.

I wondered if others have had this experience too. You are reading along in a book, be it fiction or nonfiction, and you realize that your life is mirroring the story unfolding before you. Maybe not directly or in every detail, but enough to make the story familiar and real for you in a personal way. I am not just talking about those books that you connect with, that you can relate to in general. I am referring to books that seem to be imitating your life right then and there in that moment. Have you had this experience?

I am just about half way through Marie Brenner's book as she recounts her family history and talks about her visit to the apple orchards in hopes to be with her brother. I am learning quite a bit about apples in all their varieties. I will have to remind my husband to pick up some apples the next time he is at the grocery store.

After I finish Apples and Oranges, I hope to dive right into a mystery. It has been awhile since I last set foot in Wyoming and visited my friends in Absaroka County. I can almost hear Sheriff Longmire calling out to me already.

It will definitely be a day of reading. The temperature is rising and is expected to settle in at around 106F. I appreciate the air conditioner much more at times like this. I had better encourage the dog to get his outdoor time in while it's still relatively cool . . .

Reviews posted this past week:

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Moving Forward: Taking the Lead in Your Life by Dave Pelzer
Tarnished Beauty by Cecelia Samartin

Happy reading!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fun on a Too Hot Friday

1. A smile is a great way to greet a friend.

2. Cribbage is my favorite board or card game.

3. I would love to have more peace in my life and less chaos.

4. When I think of the Summer Solstice, I think of heat, watermelon and barefeet.

5. I just remembered I need to pull the clothes out of the dryer.

6. One of my favorite song lyrics goes like this:
If you're going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to visiting my friends in blogland and catching up on some reading; tomorrow my plans include going to see Get Smart at the movie theater; and Sunday, I want to stay cool inside!


If you could live on another continent for 1 year, which one would you choose?

I would love the opportunity to live and travel in Australia for a year. Or maybe Europe. I cannot decide.


Which browser do you use to surf the Internet?

I use Firefox.


On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how much do you know about the history of your country?

Sometimes I feel like I know quite a bit about my own country and other times, I seem to know so little at all. So, maybe a 5?

Main Course

Finish this sentence: Love is . . .



Have you ever been in or near a tornado?

Last month there were a couple of tornadoes that touched down not too far from where I work. I was completely unaware of it until I heard it on the news later that night, however. Tornadoes are very rare in California.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

If you are to believe what the viziers say, then Amunhotep killed his brother for the crown of Egypt.
[opening sentence]

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Three Rivers Press, 2007
Fiction (Historical); 466 pgs

In high school, I found my World Civilization class a bore. I was much more interested in U.S. history. I think it was more a case of too much information crammed into a short period of time that turned me off of the more general and ancient history lesson than it was the actual material itself. Adulthood has found me craving periods in history that I once cared so little about.

I first saw mention of Michelle Moran’s novel, Nefertiti, on a blog, which one exactly I cannot recall. The title alone was enough to make me curious. I knew very little about Nefertiti, however, her name is one I associate with a strong female figure in history. Onto my wish list it went. I was thrilled when the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book, which recently was released in paperback.

This is the story of Nefertiti, but more so the story of her younger half sister, Mutnodjmet, with the cat like eyes. It is the story of their family and their rise to power, a climb that proved difficult and harrowing in more ways than one. With the death of the favored son of the Elder Pharaoh, came the crowning of Amunhotep, a prince whose ideas and beliefs struck fear in his family and others in power. Amunhotep was a visionary, a poet and a man who was hungry for power and control. He despised the soldiers and the rule of his father. He worshiped Aten, a minor god representing the sun, and repudiated Amun, the god of his people. Amunhotep wanted to build temples at the risk of forsaking the land his forefathers had fought to gain and protect. He wanted to be loved by the people and known for eternity.

It was the hope of Amunhotep’s mother that by marrying him to the daughter of her brother, she could rein her wayward son in. Nefertiti seemed the perfect person for the job. Her strength would be a force to reckon with and her beauty would sway any prince. As Chief Wife to the Pharaoh, Nefertiti proved to be his match. Her ambition and cunning were an equal match to her husband’s own ambition as well as his passion. Nefertiti had her work cut out for her, holding on to the heart of the Pharaoh and steering him in her direction so that she could maintain her hold on him in hopes of keeping her family in a position of strength and power. The Pharaoh’s first wife had her own plans, meanwhile, and she and her father would do whatever they could to try and turn the Pharaoh’s favor in their direction.

Forever in her sister’s shadow, Mutnodjmet, was a more practical woman. She was known for her honesty and served as an anchor to Nefertiti. Mutny did not seek the crown as did her sister. She was loyal to her family; however, she also sought peace in her own life which did not always coincide with the life of royalty. Whereas Nefertiti sought power and the love of the people, Mutny desired her garden and her own family.

Do you know how some characters reach out to you from a book and grab hold of your heart? Mutny was like that for me. I instantly bonded with her. She was a wise old soul in a young woman’s body. She had a good heart and an intelligence about her that instantly attracted me to her character. I was not so keen on her sister Nefertiti, who at times came across as spoiled and selfish. Yet, Nefertiti was very intelligent and, despite her flaws, was much more than she seemed. There was also a vulnerability to Nefertiti. While she wanted the world to see her as a woman who could accomplish all on her own, she needed the strength of her family, in particular that of her sister. The bond between the two sisters was strong and despite the aggravation that Mutny felt at always having to come to her sister’s side, Mutny loved her sister and was devoted to her family, willing to do what she thought was needed to ensure their well being.

The novel’s characters are what make the story as strong as it is. They are well developed; their stories complex, intricately woven, and yet easily relatable. There were a number of characters in the novel that captured my heart: General Nakhtmin, a strong and kindhearted man who would do anything for the woman he loved; Ipu, the loyal body servant; and the dowager Queen Tiye, who at first seemed harsh but later offered much needed wisdom and earned my respect. I was fascinated by both Nefertiti and Amunhotep as individual characters and also as a couple. I would have liked a closer look inside both or their minds, to know what they were thinking and feeling at the various points in their lives. The story, however, is told from the point of view of Mutny, which is actually a smart move on the author’s part. Mutny strikes me as being a more reliable narrator, a character much easier to relate to and, therefore, the best choice for telling the family’s story.

Michelle Moran brought Egypt to life. In my mind’s eye, I could see the beauty of the Nile and the country, it’s deserts and hills, and the strength of the people. Little is known about the Eighteenth Dynasty, but the author pieces together what she can into a romantic and gripping novel. This is a story about love, loyalty, and family. Nefertiti is well worth reading.

Rating: * (Very Good)
*2nd Chunkster Challenge 2008 Selection

You can learn more about the author and this and her upcoming book, The Heretic Queen, on her website or stop by and visit her blog, History Buff.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Bookgirl's Nightstand
Not Enough Books
S. Krishna's Books
The Written World
The Written Word

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Popularity

Today's Question from Marie at The Boston Bibliophile:

What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you
think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

According to the LibraryThing Zeitgeist, the most popular book in my library is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Evidently my copy is just one of 32,518 listed in LT catalogs.

I read the book several years ago. My cousin had actually loaned me several of the Harry Potter books, but I returned them unread. I am not a big fan of YA fiction and Harry Potter didn't really interest me. As I heard more and more about it though, my curiosity grew, and I decided to give it a try. It turned into one of those instances where I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long to give the book a try. I loved it.

The most popular book listed on the LibraryThing Zeitgeist that I do not have in my library is Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a book 31,281 LT members have listed in their libraries. This is one book that has never really appealed to me despite the numerous attempts by fans of the book to make me give it a try.

Popularity in terms of who has what in their library at LT has nothing to do with my reading choices. I have never really paid close attention to the Zeitgeist page before. There are some interesting statistics listed, but I do not imagine any of those stats would have an impact on my own reading or library content. It is hard not to be impacted, however, by frequent book chatter about a popular book. Whether it is in book groups, through advertisements, displays in the store, on blogs, and other websites, it is a given that the book will come to my attention. Whether I choose to read it or not will depend on if the book catches my fancy. Sometimes blogger reviews or word of mouth recommendations influence my decision. A book's popularity in and of itself is not enough to get me to read a book. I am most interested in what a book is about and whether or not the subject matter interests me. Whether it makes a bestseller's list or wins a popularity contest makes no difference.

Moving Forward: Taking The Lead in Your Life by Dave Pelzer

For me, this is the essence of life: Accepting the situation for the reality of what it truly is ad accomplishing what needs to be done to advance oneself for the greater good of all, no matter cost or sacrifice.
[excerpt from the book]

Moving Forward: Taking The Lead in Your Life
by Dave Pelzer
Center Street, June 2008 (ARE)
Nonfiction (Self-Help); 192 pgs

I haven’t a clue how to review a book like this. Self-help books cater to the individual on a very personal level, often times requiring deep thought and inner reflection. The questions we ask ourselves and the thoughts we ponder as we read a book like this are not always easy ones to face—some we may not even come to consider until long after finishing a book, particularly if we decide to apply it to our lives.

There’s also the problem that not everyone will hear the message the author is trying to convey. There could be a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps the person is not ready yet or maybe the message is not one the reader needs to learn. It could be, too, that the author’s method and style do not connect with the person trying to take in the information. That is no one’s fault, of course, just a fact of life.

Quite frankly, I do not often read self-help books. Rarely, actually. I could count on one hand the number of self-help books I have read. I guess it says something that I remember them though, doesn’t it? It is just not a book category that I gravitate towards in general. I do love to read inspirational stories, but usually those come in the form of a novel or memoir.

Whenever I begin a self-help book, my hackles automatically go up. Who is this person and why does he or she think they can tell me something about myself that I don’t already know? I know me best, after all. Eventually, the writer wins me over though and I start to pay closer attention. I may not always learn something I did not know, but I do find validation, inspiration, and sometimes even get a kick in the pants to motivate me to change or do whatever it is I need to do.

When I was offered the chance to read and review Dave Pelzer’s latest book, Moving Forward: Taking the Lead in Your Life, I was a little hesitant. Did I really want to read a self-help book right now? Would I gain anything from the experience or would it be a waste of my time? After careful consideration, I decided to give it a chance. I admit the identity of the author played a huge part in my final decision to give it a try. Dave Pelzer is a man I admire and respect, and I was interested in hearing what he had to say.

I first came across Dave Pelzer years ago when I was encouraged to read his first book, A Child Called It, the author’s account of his abusive childhood. I went on to read two more of this books, The Lost Boy, about the author’s time in the foster care system, and A Man Named Dave, the author’s entry into adulthood and in coming to terms with his past.

A Child Called It and The Lost Boy are staples in my office. The books make the rounds every other year or so, new people encountering them, reveling in the author’s story—not because of the terrible childhood Dave Pelzer had to endure, but more so because of what an inspiration Dave Pelzer became. Despite all odds, he rose above a terrible past to make something of himself and to give back to society. He served in the United Air Force and has worked with at risk youth much of his life. He offers hope to abused and neglected children—and hope to those of us who are trying to work with and help those kids. He doesn’t reach out to just those kids or people who have been abused, however. Dave Pelzer speaks to all of us.

In his book, Moving Forward, Mr. Pelzer makes a point of saying that he is not just the “child-abuse” guy. His life story is not so much about what happened to him as it is about his journey to move forward in life. It is all of our stories, really. We all have made mistakes, been through difficult times, and felt helpless at one point or another. It is what we do in these situations, how we react to the baggage we collect throughout our lives, that either will land us in a rut or help us achieve our goals in life.

Mr. Pelzer’s ideas and philosophies are not too different from my own. I decided long ago not to be a victim. I would not let my past hold me back nor would I let it get the better of me. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been difficult times, times when I wanted the world to go on without me or felt like nothing I could say or do was right. There are times when it is easier to just take things as they come instead of taking the reins and being an active player in my own life.

There were two parts of Mr. Pelzer’s book that spoke to me the loudest. One part was about being a good leader, a mentor and a hero. As a supervisor who doesn’t always feel up to the task, I am striving constantly to be a better leader—to be fair and just. The other had to do with standing up for what you believe, not always falling into people-pleaser mode, something I am guilty of doing all too often.

The author is rather blunt in manner, taking the say-it-is approach, and uses humor as a tool for connecting with his readers. He shares his own life experiences, offering them as examples where he has failed or succeeded at doing the right thing. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes. He learns from them and moves on, a message he repeats throughout his book.

Moving Forward will not appeal to everyone, but it certainly will motivate and inspire many. Much of what the author writes about is common sense. Dave Pelzer encourages readers to take charge of their lives and strive to be the best they can be. He acknowledges that this is not something that can be done overnight; but, with time and effort, it is a goal everyone can strive for with the right mindset. When all is said and done, I am glad I took the time to read Mr. Pelzer's Moving Forward.

Rating: * (Good)

Check out the author’s website for more information about the author and his books.

Read what Nancy had to say about this book:
Bookfoolery and Babble

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tarnished Beauty by Cecelia Samartin

“The world is full of miracles, Mama. All we have to do is find the ones that belong to us.”
[pg 27]

Tarnished Beauty
by Cecelia Samartin

Atria Books, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction; 339 pgs

Jamilet is a naïve and imaginative young woman who carries a burden, an ugly birthmark that stretches from her shoulders, down her back, reaching to the back of her knees. She is ashamed of it and wants nothing more than to be rid of it. All her life, the birthmark has proven to be a curse, earning taunts and stares from her fellow villagers. It is the mark of the devil, some say.

Having reached adulthood and upon the death of her mother, Jamilet leaves behind her small Mexican hometown for the sprawling city of Los Angeles in hopes of finding a doctor who will remove the offending birthmark. She takes up residence with her Aunt Carmen, a woman Jamilet admired as a child. Carmen was a bit of a rebel in her day and one of the only people in Jamilet’s life who rarely gave Jamilet’s birthmark a second thought.

Jamilet takes a job working in an asylum, her only task to watch over and take care of the needs of an elderly man from Spain, Señor Peregrino. Her charge is not an easy man to work with. He is demanding and likes things done just so. She had been instructed not to engage Señor Peregrino in conversation; however, he coaxes her into listening to his life story, a story that soon captivates not only Jamilet but the reader as well. His is a story of love, betrayal and regret. A story Jamilet can relate to in her own way.

Señor Peregrino was as confident and steady as Jamilet was shy and unsure. The two form an unlikely bond. Just as Señor Peregrino set out as a young man on a pilgrimage to discover his fate, Jamilet’s journey to the United States was in a similar vein. Both had expectations and hopes that the road would lead them in one direction, when instead it took them in an entirely different one.

Jamilet’s plight is one most people can relate to, the feeling of being singled out, of being different, and wanting nothing more than to be “normal” and to fit in. Jamilet felt alone in her suffering, not believing anyone would understand what she was going through. She carries her birthmark like a secret, the shame of it always near the surface. I was slightly disappointed that the author did not take this particular story thread farther than she did. Still, I think that Jamilet’s story will appeal to many readers. Her story is not so different than our own in some respects, even if we do not wear the birthmark as she does.

Author Cecilia Samartin has written a heartfelt and bittersweet story. Each time I picked up the book, I looked forward to reading more of Señor Peregrino’s story just as Jamilet came to wanting to hear it. Tarnished Beauty seemed a perfect book choice for a warm spring day—gentle in style and thoughtful in nature.

Rating: * (Good +)

Check out the author’s website for more information.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Bookfoolery and Babble
Not Enough Books

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The ARC Challenge

Teddy from So Many Precious Books So Little Time is taking the plunge in hosting her first challenge, The ARC Challenge. She thought it might be helpful for those of us who seem to have growing piles of ARCs we need to read and review.

I know, I know. What about my moratorium on challenges? This one actually fits in quite nicely with what I already am planning on reading. It almost feels like cheating to sign up for it. Still. Why not? I may succeed at this one even if not with the others I have stalled on (for the time being--there's always hope).

The challenge will run from June 21, 2008-September 21, 2008.

The rules:

1. Make a list of all of the ARC’s that you currently have and/or are on their way to you.

2. If you have:

  • 1-3 ARC’s then pick at least one to read and review for this challenge.
  • 4-6 ARC’s then pick at least two to read and review for this challenge.
  • 7-9 ARC’s then pick at least three to read and review for this challenge.
  • 10 or more ARC’s then pick at least 4 to read and review for this challenge.

3. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.

4. List the books that you plan to read for this challenge (you can change it at any time, as long as the books you change are also ARC's). You can read the books on your list in any order.

5. Read the books and review them on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, you can post your review on sites like Amazon. Leave a comment on the post about the challenge with a link to each of your reviews.

I decided against singling out four books for the challenge but will definitely be pulling from the below list. My goal is to actually read more than just the four required books. This time I am confident I will succeed. The books are currently in no specific order.

Now for my embarrassingly long list . . .
Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
The House of Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers
The Island of Eternal Love by Daina Chaviano
The Sister by Poppy Adams
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
Brida by Paulo Coelho
The Likeness by Tana French
The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colin
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
The White Mary by Kira Salak
Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi
Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage
Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan
*Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake [read review]
*The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith

Sunday Salon: Power, Love & Inspiration

This past week turned out to be a good one for self-reflection, falling in love, and standing up for one's self. This describes all of the books I read when it comes right down to it.

Cecilia Samartin's Tarnished Beauty took me into the life of a Mexican woman hoping to rid herself of an ugly birthmark, wanting nothing more than to fit in and lead a normal life. She befriends an elderly man who is struggling to regain his strength, only wanting someone to listen to him.

Dave Pelzer once again pulls from his own life experiences in hopes of inspiring and motivating readers to Move Forward and start really living life to its fullest. Hopefully now I will not be so hard on myself when I am having a bad day; exchange "I'm such an idiot" for "It can only get better from here." Okay, so there's a lot more to it then that, but too much negativity can hold a person back.

Michelle Moran's Nefertiti is an example of what having too much power (and confidence) can lead to. Nefertiti and her sister, Mutnodjmet, could not be more different; both are strong women in their own right, one extremely ambitious and cunning and the other more practical and honest.

I am nearly finished reading Nefertiti, with about 164 pages left to go. It was a good choice for taking along with me for jury duty. I was not sure how long I would be sitting in the jury room waiting my turn to be called. What better way to spend the time than lost in a book?

I am kicking myself because I missed an opportunity to meet the author of Tarnished Beauty. She was a few short miles away at the beginning of the month, and I did not even know it. Hrmphf. I need to pay closer attention to these things. I do hope that when Michelle Moran's new book, The Heretic Queen, comes out in September, she will have a local signing (in the evening or on the weekend so I can attend--hint, hint). As long as the book doesn't come out earlier than scheduled, I should be home from Hawaii by then.

I will be posting my reviews of Tarnished Beauty, Moving Forward, and Nefertiti later this week so stay tuned!

Reviews posted this past week:
Beneath a Buried House by Bob Avey
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

Have a great week and happy reading!

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Friday Fun

1. Reading all of the books in my TBR room is high up on my bucket list.
2. My favorite quote is "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures"; it's from Jessamyn West.
3. My husband not only encouraged but also inspired me to start blogging.
4. Strawberries are best in a smoothie.
5. I scaled down the side of Florinda's blog, waving to her as I went by in the last dream I remember having. It looked like a giant computer tower.
6. The most enjoyable time to go for a walk is in the early evening when the temperature is cooler and the sun has yet to set.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to going to bed early; tomorrow my plans include finishing Michelle Moran's novel, Nefertiti, if I haven't already by then; and Sunday, I want to be completely over this cold! I actually am suffering from laryngitis at the moment too, which is kind of fun. I like talking like a frog. My husband is getting tired of me testing my voice to see if I am still hoarse. Let's not talk about my embarrassing moment when I had a coughing fit during jury selection yesterday. Hopefully today will go better (when I'm squawking out answers to attorney's questions).


Do you consider yourself to be an optimist or a pessimist?

I am a realist with optimistic leanings.


What is your favorite color of ink to write with?

I can't say I have a favorite color of ink. In one of my previous positions, a couple of my staff often joked that the reports I returned to them for corrections were dripping in alien blood. I tend to be more traditional these days, sticking with black or blue ink. Whatever is handy and people can read easily.


How often do you get a manicure or pedicure? Do you do them yourself or go to a salon and pay for them?

It has been years since I got a manicure or a pedicure. I am a minimalist when it comes to my nails these days. I trim them when necessary and do little else with them.

Main Course

Have you ever won anything online? If so, what was it?

Books seem to be about the only thing I ever win in a contest, online or otherwise. If you believe the e-mails I receive sometimes in my spam folder, I have won the U.K. Lottery a number of times. I haven't seen a dime.


In which room in your house do you keep your home computer?

You would think that because I now have a laptop, I would take it with me all over the house. Not so much. I haven't gotten used to the fact that my computer is mobile yet. It pretty much stays in my husband's and my home office, otherwise known as the computer room.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Clubbing

A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove:

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

Over the years, I have belonged to a handful of online book clubs that host book discussions of selected books. In each case, members of the group are asked to nominate books they would like to see read by the group. Some groups have set monthly themes, and the nominations must fit within that certain theme. Other groups have a more open process, where readers can nominate any book they choose. Sometimes there are restrictions such as only being able to nominate a book that is easy to find and those which are in paperback so as to save those who buy a little money. Once all the nominations are gathered, a poll is set up, and readers vote for which book they would like to read as a group. The book with the most votes wins.

In a couple of the groups, the moderators takes turns leading the book discussions; while in others, the person nominating the winning book takes charge. In some instances, the discussion is left open without prompts--it's a free for all. Regardless of how it is done, a book club discussion is only as good as the participants make it.

I have read a few books that I might not have read otherwise thanks to these book clubs and, as a result, have been introduced to new-to-me-authors. If anything, reading a book with a group adds to my appreciation of a book. Being able to talk about the book, what we liked and did not like, and exploring different aspects of the book in ways we would not have thought to do if we had been reading by ourselves made the experience all the more richer.

I have not been able to join a face to face book club but have taken full advantage of the various online book clubs out there. One advantage to an online group is being able to participate in a discussion at any time of day or night. If I can't get to the group one day, I can catch up later in the week. This type of discussion works best for me.

These days, I tend to prefer the open dialog a few online book clubs offer. Some have monthly book selections where reading the chosen book and participating in the discussion is optional. I can participate in a group discussion if I want to, but there's no obligation to do so nor is there any guilt for being unable to join in.

I would love to be a part of a face to face book group someday. Perhaps one day, it will be feasible.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

First things first, stay calm.
[pg 10]

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Canongate, 2007
Fiction; 428 pgs

From Amazon: The Raw Shark Texts, called “clever, playful . . . sharp and clear” by the Los Angeles Times and “a horror-dystopic-philosophical mash-up” by the New York Times Magazine, is a novel unlike any other. Eric Sanderson wakes up in a house one day with no idea who or where he is. Instructed by a mysterious note to visit a Dr. Randle, Eric learns that the agony of losing the love of his life in a scuba-diving accident three years before has destroyed his memory. But there may be more to the story, or it may be a different story altogether. As Eric begins to examine letters and papers left in the house by “the first Eric Sanderson,” a staggeringly different explanation for what is happening to Eric emerges, and he and the reader embark on a quest to recover the truth and escape the remorseless predatory forces that threatens to devour him. The Raw Shark Texts is a kaleidoscopic novel about the magnitude of love and the devastating effect of losing that love.

My Thoughts: I was asked to read this book by one of my coworkers who was not sure whether or not she liked it. As I got a little further into the book, I could understand why. It is not one of those books a person can adequately describe to someone who has not yet experienced it—and that’s exactly what this book is, an experience.

The title for Steven Hall’s novel is a play on the well known Rorschach Tests, more often referred to as the inkblot tests. It is a test that is believed to help reveal conceptual ideas, thought disorders and possible psychosis. Quite a few times throughout the book, I found myself wondering if Eric Sanderson was on a deep descent into mental illness. Or was it all real, his battle with the conceptual enemy that is eating away at his memories and the mental illness label just his therapist’s explanation for something she knew nothing about? Is Scout, his guide into the un-space, real or imagined? She seems real enough as does Doctor Fidorous. Both hold the knowledge of Eric’s past and can possibly lead him to salvation—or so Eric believes. But what of the Ludovician, the paper tunnel, the secret codes and constant paranoia? Is it real or Eric’s psychosis? It is up to the reader to decide, something the author encourages and, for the most part, expects.

One of my favorite parts about this book is Ian, the cat. Not just the cat himself, but about how he goes along with Eric on Eric’s search for the truth, Ian not always appreciating being dragged around from place to place or being put into dangerous situations. Ian is just an ordinary cat—he has no special powers or abilities. He is just there. He was an anchor to known reality in many respects, especially when events took a more surreal turn.

Taking a look beyond the bizarre, this book picks up on familiar themes. It is about a man who is in search of himself, trying to find out who he is and what his role in the world is. He is trying to understand the past while at the same time doing what he can to stay afoot in the present. His heart was dealt a horrific blow with the loss of his girlfriend and he is struggling still, even as he recalls nothing at all, to deal with a grief he can’t quite get his mind around. This is a story about trust, forgiveness and love.

Overall, The Raw Shark Texts is a fascinating novel. I admit there were a couple of more technical bits that I skimmed over. In those moments when I wondered, like my coworker, if I actually was enjoying the book, I only had to stop and consider how difficult it was to tear myself away from it and how easy it was to pick up and dive right back in again. Steven Hall definitely has created an unusual tale, unlike any other I have ever read. And the more I think about it, the more I like it.

Rating: * (Good +)

Check out the author’s website for more information about Steven Hall and his book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Banned Books & Tuesday Thingers: Playing Tag

Today's question is about tags- do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

I do tag. I am not very organized about it, although I try to be. Said by the woman who uses several different versions of the same tag because she can't make up her mind. I think part of my problem is that I am not quite sure yet how I want to go about it. You would think by now I would be. I have been cataloging my books on LibraryThing since December of 2006 and blogging for nearly 2 years now (2 years next month, in fact). These things take time. At least, that is what I tell myself.

My purpose in tagging is to make it easier to organize or search for particular books (LibraryThing) or posts (my blog)--more so for myself than for my readers or viewers. I admit that when I first started tagging, it wasn't for anyone but me. Who would want to read my blog, after all? Who would want to look through my library? So, with that in mind, I decided to keep it simple. In regards to my books both in my library and those I review on my blog, I tag them by book type or genre (by my own definitions--we all know that book classifications can be controversial). My most commonly used tags for LibraryThing include TBR, ARE, Fantasy, Fiction, and Crime Fiction. As for my blog tags (talk about being all over the place), the most common blog tag you will find is "Review".

I do occasionally look to see how other people are using tags and think I might try their style on for size. Truth be told though, I probably will continue to do my own thing.

Someday I will get the hang of this tagging thing. I really just need to settle down in front of my computer and take the time to get more organized. For now though, you are more likely to find me reading or blog hopping. And there's a little something called work that always manages to get in the way . . .

Andi over at Tripping Toward Lucidity and Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies posted a Banned Books list, sharing with readers which books from the list they have read. Like Michelle, I think it would have been an even more interesting list had some of the reasons for banning had been listed. As many of us know, however, the reasons tend to be quite varied, often times making no sense at all. At least not to me. I am the kind of person that if you tell me I should not read something "for my own good", I'll want to read it to see why you'd think that in the first place.

The titles in bold are the books I have read, and the titles in red are ones that I have on my shelves waiting to be read. It is kind of embarrassing how little of these titles I have read, much less own. This is just a small sampling of the books that have been banned over the years, however. Think of all those that did not make this particular list. The Harry Potter books, for example.

#1 The Bible (I actually own several different versions of the Bible and have attempted to read it on two occasions. Not sure I will try again.)
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (I have read bits and pieces of this one.)
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (One of these days, I'll get around to finishing this one!)
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (I tried but couldn't get through this one--maybe someday.)
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (Another one I tried but did not make it through.)
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Émile by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Émile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Monday, June 09, 2008

Beneath a Buried House by Bob Avey

People go missing. Llewellyn knew that as well as anyone but when a whole family fell victim to such a fate, that tended to get his attention. [pg 7]

Beneath a Buried House
by Bob Avey
Deadly Niche Press, 2008
Crime Fiction (M); 226 pgs

Bob Avey’s mystery novel, Beneath a Buried House, was the perfect choice for a lazy Sunday--murder, blackmail, a touch of romance and enough twists and turns to keep this reader on her toes. This is the second book in the author’s series featuring Tulsa, Oklahoma Homicide Detective Kenny Elliot.

Detective Elliot lands a case after the body of an unidentified man is discovered in an apartment. If appearances are to be believed, the death is most likely a drug overdose; however, Detective Elliot believes otherwise. The scene is a little too perfect and the victim seems out of place with his surroundings. The carvings in the wooden table, an observant neighbor, and a mysterious man leaving the building when the police arrive offer promising leads.

The stakes are raised, however, when the body of a prostitute is discovered that looks like the woman last seen with the murder victim. A search of her home provides a possible motive for her murder, but how does it tie in to the other murder or is it completely unconnected? With only days left to solve the crimes before his captain puts him on another case, Detective Elliot must work quickly.

To complicate matters, Detective Elliot finds himself distracted during his investigation by a rather beautiful and mesmerizing woman. The intensity of their attraction to each other from the first moment is a bit too strong to be believable. Perhaps such a powerful reaction had more to do with the fact that it reminded him of a painful part of his past, involving lost love and regret.

Kenny Elliot is both intelligent and a gentleman, but he is not without his own vulnerabilities. He knows how to hold his ground when he or someone he loves is threatened. He is a man with good instincts when it comes to the job. He listens to his hunches, which at times almost seem to be like premonitions, and is often right on the mark. This earns him a bit of hazing from his superior and colleagues who repeatedly remind him that evidence and facts are needed to solve an investigation. That does not stop the detective from tracking down leads and collecting the evidence to back up his gut feelings.

Bob Avey takes on the subject of faith, touching on aspects of paganism as well as its relationship to Christianity in this novel. He does not fall into the trap of stigmatizing paganism, but rather makes a point of suggesting that it is the individual’s interpretation and twisting of the beliefs that can take faith, regardless of type, into a dark place.

I was immediately drawn into the story, finding it well written and compelling. The author takes the reader into some rather dark places without being overly graphic. Beneath a Buried House is one of those novels that keeps the reader turning the pages right up to the very end. If his first novel is as suspenseful and intriguing as this one, I definitely will be seeking it out. Originally published at Front Street Reviews.

Rating: * (Good)

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