23 December 2010


There are several reasons why I chose to read this book at this point in my life. First, I had always heard that it was a good book. Second, I had never read it. Third, it was on the monthly shelf for my Pick-a-Shelf group here on Goodreads. Fourth, my sister recommended it as a good read. I have to caveat here, also, and say that I am one adult who really does enjoy young adult fiction. That said, I ended up feeling that this book was a little to young for me. I enjoyed it, but I think that I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read it when I was the appropriate age. 

I found it interesting that this book was originally published in 1962, way before the current craze of books that deal with time travel, magic, and paranormal abilities. In fact, I could see pieces of several currently popular books in this one. It was not hard to see some of the current authors being influenced by this wonderful classic. For, although it did not transport me the way that some of the newer books have, I think it is just a matter of timing. Not only timing as to my age, but also timing as to which book I read first. 

With the above said, I am giving this book a 3 star rating for me, but I would actually give it a 4 to 5 star rating as a book for older elementary school students, and definitely put it on my "highly recommended" list for this age group. I hope it will, and think it should, continue to be a classic for that age group.


I am so far behind in my reviews. I think that I have missed about 5 books. 

This is the third book in a series that I started reading with a bunch of friends in one of my Goodreads book clubs. I liked the first two, thought they were pretty good thrillers, but I have to say, the ending of this one totally blew me away. I think that is why I liked it the best of all of them so far. I really did not see the ending coming, and it left me with a lot of questions. Not sure if they will ever get answered, but I am really anticipating what might happen in the next one. 

As she has in the first two books of this series, the author was able to keep me guessing as to who the villain was. Interestingly, I had picked the villain at one point, but then decided that character was a red herring. Another plus to her writing is that, even if I would have stuck with that character, the motive for the villain's behavior was something that I never would have guessed. Another plus for this type of book. 

As this book is part of a series, there is another criteria that it has to fill for me to keep reading. Do the recurring characters become more interesting as time goes on, do I care about them more with each book, or do the get stagnate. I am happy to say, that the characters in this series are definitely not getting stagnate! In fact, at the end of the first book, I liked the central characters, but thought the story was a lot better than the character development. I can now see why. The author was saving the character development for future books to keep us interested. At this point in the series, there are a few things going on with the central characters that really have me anticipating the next installment in the series, which I will be reading in January. In fact, the character that I liked the least of all in the first book is fast becoming my favorite character. The author has done an excellent job of making the characters multi-faceted and interesting. 

All in all a good thrill ride, and I can't wait for the next one, which I will be reading in January. 

02 December 2010

Gold and Green - Sugarland's Christmas Album

I am so excited.  For many reasons, actually.  It is December, which means it is Christmastime.  My favorite time of the year.  I love everything about this time of year, especially the music.  And as much as I like contemporary country music, when it comes to Christmas music I am a traditionalist.  My favorites are the traditional carols sung by a large choir.  That's why I was not expecting much from Sugarland's Christmas Album. It is half traditional and half new contemporary stuff.  Add to that to the fact that there recently released album The Incredible Machine was a definite dud, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to this album, released in 2009 (somehow I missed it last year).  From the first song, "City of Silver Dreams" to the final notes of "Silent Night" sung by Jennifer Nettles in Spanish, I fell in love with this album.  In fact, there are a number of songs, "Comin Home", "Little Wooden Guitar", and the title cut. "Gold and Green" that I would listen to all year round.  As for the traditionals, I love the blending of Kristian Bush's "Holly Jolly Christmas" with Jennifer Nettles' "Winter Wonderland" and Jennifer's rendition of "I'm Gettin Nuttin for Christmas" is the only version of this song that I have ever liked.  This album contains all of the usual Sugarland melodies and harmonies.  Showcasing Ms. Nettls' voice and even showing off Kristian Bush's voice perfectly.  I only wish it was longer than 10 songs.  Why couldn't they stick to this type of music for their regular album??  Come on guys, don't mess with success.

Definitely a 10!

24 November 2010

KIndred by Octavia E. Butler

One of the things that I like so much about Goodreads in addition to the fact that it has exposed me to books from all over, is that it has also exposed me to people from around the world, both authors and others. These people, then, have turned me on or pointed me toward other books and authors that I, either never would have known about otherwise, or never would have considered. This book falls into the latter category. I am not familiar with the author, and as such, this book was not on my radar. Then I met Cam through one of my Goodreads reading groups. In fact, she was one of the first friends that I made on Goodreads, and she has steered me towards some really good reads. When our group picked Time Travel as the shelf we were going to read from for the month of November 2010, Cam recommended this book as one of her favorites, so I thought I would give it a try. I am so glad that I did. 

Dana is an African American (or as she says "black") woman living in Los Angeles in 1976. At the beginning of the book, Dana and her husband, Kevin, are moving into a new house when Dana suddenly feel dizzy and nauseous. When her vision clears, she is in front of a river watching a child who is drowning. She saves him, only to be set upon, first by his mother, and then by his father. They seem to see Dana as a threat, although she doesn't know why. What Dana doesn't know at this point, is that she has been transported back in time to the Antebellum South to save the life of a white plantation owner's son. 

The book continues through several more "occurrences" where Dana is transported back to the south at different times during the man's life, whenever he is in trouble. As I read, I found myself thinking what an incredibly creative way for the author to write a historical fiction book about slavery in the Antebellum South. That is what this book is mainly. It is a book about slavery, told from the point of view of a "modern" black woman who is immersed in the everyday workings of a Southern plantation without any of the history or beliefs that allow one to survive in that situation. The contrasts between her attitudes and beliefs, those of the black slaves on the plantation, and those of the white slave owners are wonderfully done. This mechanism allows the author to illuminate for us this time of American history, warts and all, without sounding preachy or overdone. As Cam said in her review, I both loved this book and loathed it in turns, but I loved it more than I loathed it. Butler did such a wonderful job of crafting her characters that I really came to care about, not only the slaves, but the white slave owner and his family as well. 

I would say this book is a MUST READ, especially if you liked The Time Traveler's Wife. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Audrey Niffenegger got her idea for that book from this one. Once again, Cam, thanks for the recommendation, and keep 'em coming!

11 November 2010

On Folly Beach by Karen White

I had never read a book by Karen White before, but if they are all like this one, I will be reading more. One of the things that I really like about my on-line book clubs is that I end up meeting people who can introduce me to wonderful new authors. 

Folly Beach, South Carolina is a small island whose main population is summer tourists. In the 1940s, though, in the thick of WWII, it was a place for many soldiers to gather. This book tells two stories of Folly Beach, one current and one from the 1940s. 

Cat, Maggie, and Lulu are permanent residents of Folly Beach in 1941. Cat is the beautiful one, Maggie the practical one, and Lulu is the one who does not miss a thing. As WWII progresses, it has a large impact on their lives and their relationships with each other. 

Sixty-six years later, in 2009 Emmy moves to Folly Beach to get a change of scene after her young husband is killed in Afghanistan. A lover of books, she purchases the book store that used to belong to Maggie in the 1940s, and discovers a Folly Beach mystery that has been hidden for years. 

This book contains the blending of the two stories, the story of Cat, Maggie, and Lulu, and the story of Emmy and her new beginning. Karen White did a wonderful job of blending the two stories. In addition, both stories are wonderful in themselves, not only filled with wonderful characters, but with hope, longing, and love. I especially liked that the stories had wonderful, true to life ending. This book was definitely a hit. 

05 November 2010

The Incredible Machine by Sugarland

OK - so, Sugarland is just about my favorite group right now, so I have been anxiously awaiting the debut of their new album, THE INCREDIBLE MACHINE.  Well, it is out, I have listened, and I am majorly disappointed.    I know that groups need to grow artistically,  and that no one's sound stays the same, but this album contains some drastic changes.  Gone are the beautiful melodies, catchy lyrics, etc. that were on their first and third albums.  In fact, out of 11 songs, there are only two songs, maybe three, that I even like off of this album.  Most of the songs on the album have no lyrics.  There is just one or two lines repeated over and over, or you have Jennifer Nettles just singing nonsensical syllables.  Add that to the addition of more voice time for Kristian Bush, and what you get is flat, monotone, boring, and just plain bad.  If it wasn't for "Find the Beat Again" which is actually quite good, "Every Girl Like Me", and "Stuck Like Glue" which is cute in a Bob Marley kind of way, there would be nothing on this album worth keeping.  I wanted to like "Tonight", but Jennifer Nettle sounds like she is singing with her jaw wired shut, and here again, the lyrics are so repetitive they are almost non-existent.  The Jury is still out on "Little Miss" since it has a bit too much of Kristian's voice and again, repetitive lyrics.  As for the rest --  I will just pass on them.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

A large number of my friends recently read this book and they all raved about it.  I was really excited to get my hands on a copy to read (thanks Wendy), especially since I was 267th on the list at the library and they only have 10 copies.  The beginning of the book showed promise, a good thriller premise, but once Annie was with her captor, I found the story kind of dragged for me.   Not sure why, but I really had a hard time getting through the first half of this book.  It must be because the author goes into such detail about the horrible things that happen to Annie while she was held prisoner.  I found myself wondering how so many of my "book twins" could have loved this book so much and I didn't.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book and the story, especially the way that the protagonist told her story through her discussions with her psychiatrist after she returns.  But Annie was so abrasive, she was hard to like, and her captor was a seriously twisted individual.  And it didn't quite make sense to me why he picked Annie to abduct.

Then I got to the second half of the book.  Oh My God.  The book really took off.  As Annie begins to talk more about things that happened to her after she escaped and returned home, I couldn't get enough.  I began to see what all the raving was about and realized that I was probably going to score this book pretty high.  

Then I got to the last few chapters and the end.  OMG. This book met my number one criteria for a thriller, I DID NOT see this ending coming.  WOW.   The ending definitely solidified a 5-star rating for me.  

Chevy Stevens sure know how to tell a story!  Her characters were wonderful.  Annie is wonderfully flawed, as you would be if you had been held captive by a psychopath for a year.  Her relationships with her family, friends, and the RCMP officer working her case were spot on.  In retrospect, I even love her detailed description of Annie's captivity as it gives you the proper perspective for events that happen later in the book.

This is the debut by this author, but I sure hope that she continues to write.  I will certainly be looking forward to her next effort.

02 November 2010

The girl with the dragon tattoo by Steig Larssen

I received this book in hardback the Christmas that it first came out in the US.  Like many of the books I own, it immediately became a shelf orphan, being repeatedly passed over for books that I had checked out from the library.  I mean, they have a definite due date, where the one's I own can be read anytime, right?  Of course the problem with this is that you miss reading some really good books sometimes.  That was definitely the case with this book.  As time passed, more and more people told me how good this book was.  This, of course, scared me.  Would it really live up to the hype.  Well, it does, and I wish that I had read it a lot earlier.  In fact, I read it while I was staying at my sister's house, and I wished that I had the second book so that I could start it immediately.

The one caveat that many of my friends told me was that the first 200 or so pages go through a lot of financial details, as the main character, Mikael Bloomkvist, is a financial reporter.  They were correct, in that there is a lot of financial discussion in the first part, but I found that this did not bother me.  In fact, I have a finance background myself, so I actually found this part of the book interesting.  <

Another comment made was that the Swedish names and words took some time to get used to, but I did not find this to be true.  I think it is because I did not worry about whether I was pronouncing names and places correctly.

What everyone, including me, seems to agree on, is that the characters in the book are many faceted and interesting and that the story line is gripping, included some good twists and turns, and keeps you guessing about the outcome all the way until the end.  I know that Lisbeth and Mikael will appear in the other two books, but I also hope to see some of the other characters, such as the Vangers, <br/>Erika Berger (the editor of Millenium), and Dragan Armansky.  They were all great characters, which I would love to hear more about.

The only downside, and it is really, really small, is the way that Lisbeth reacts to seeing Bloomkvist with Erika Berger at the end of the book.  I think it was childish and not necessary, but I also realize that there are two more books in the series, so we shall see.

28 September 2010

Quotes from American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld:

 "...and being a reader was what had made me most myself; it had given me the gifts of curiosity and sympathy, an awareness of the world as and odd and vibrant and contradictory place, and it had made me unafraid of its oddness and vibrancy and contradictions. "

"...what i wanted most fervently, was for her to understand that hard work paid off; that decency begat decency, that humility was not a raincoat you occasionally pulled on when you thought conditions called for it, but rather a constant way of existing in the world, knowing that good and bad luck touched everyone and none of us was fully responsible for our fortunes or tragedies. "

"Viewing a legacy as a few grand acts seems reductive.  Isn't your legacy not the one or two exceptional gestures of your life but the way you conducted yourself every day, year after year?"

14 September 2010

Molly Marx.

The Late Lamented Molly Marx  by Sally Koslow

I finally finished this one.  It took me a month to get through this book, which is really unusual for me.  Although I liked the very beginning and the very end (the last two chapters) I was disappointed in the rest of the book for several reasons.  Initially, I loved Molly's sarcastic, but funny view of things.  The way she saw herself, her children, and her funeral in the beginning of the book was very entertaining.  From there, though, the book went downhill.  While many of the characters in the book were interesting in their own right, a plethora of interesting characters does not a story make.  There were a couple things about the story line that I did not like.  First was the lack of a plot.  The book was more of a chatty gossip fest, filled with little details about the people in Molly's life and their lives, but there was no storyline, no overall plot.  A friend of mine mentioned that it started out as a character study for a MFA thesis. In that respect, it was good. As a full fledged story, it fell short.

The biggest disappointment, though, was that the book misrepresented itself.  It was purported to be a who-dun-it with a bit of a supernatural twist, in that Molly could follow her former friends and relatives.  Yes, she could hear what people thought, but the book spent so little time on this feat, that it was mostly just a device.  Even worse, most of the things that she heard, while interesting from a character study view, had little or nothing to do with the purported plot of who killed Molly.

*****************SPOILERS BELOW***************

The worst part was that the end of the story was left dangling.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think all endings should be spelled out. But the ending of this book did not even answer the question that was supposed to be the central question of the plot. The whole book built on the premise that "someone" had killed Molly, only to pull out an accidental death at the end.  To make it even worse, the actual person responsible was never revealed, although you might be able to infer the "who" from references Molly made.  Both items together made the ending a let down.   Especially since I just finished Shanghai Girls, which left a lot of unanswered questions at the end, but answered the essential questions.

That said - the last two chapters really sucked me back in.  I liked the chapter where Molly catches up on what happened to a lot of the characters that we met throughout the book.  The last chapter, where Annabel's daughter is christened, actually made me cry. Here again, what was interesting was the wrapping up of the characters studies, which had nothing to do with the purported plot line.  If the whole book would have been like that, and not the who-dun-it that wasn't, I might have liked it more.

08 September 2010

More Books


I fell in love with Lisa See's writing a few years ago when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. As such, I was really looking forward to reading Shanghai Girlswhen it came out. Initially though, people began saying that it did not compare. So it was with trepidation that I began reading this book, afraid that I would be disappointed. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. All I can say is that Lisa See has another hit on her hands with this wonderful story of two sisters who emigrate from Shanghai to America around the time of the cultural revolution in China. From the beginning of the book in Shanghai, through their journey out of China, to their stay on Angel Island, and finally their life in Southern California, I was captivated by Pearl and her sister May. Two sisters could not be more different, but more attached than the two women in this book. 

As usual, See has imbued this story with a wonderful cast of characters who surround the sisters and help tell the story of the bewilderment of the Chinese population after the 1937 invasion by Japan, the assimilation of the Chinese into American society in the 1940s and 50s, and finally, the mistrust, prejudice, and panic in the US towards Chinese Americans after the rise to power in China of Mao Tse Tung. See is such a gifted storyteller, that you feel like you know the characters personally and the pages just fly by. 

My only complaint was that the end of the story left so many loose ends. In a way it was fitting, but at the same time there were many questions left unanswered. I was, therefore, very excited to hear that Lisa See is planning to continue the story of Pearl, May, and Joy in another book.

IMMORAL  by Brian Freeman

One thing I always look forward to in a book, is not being able to anticipate the ending.  Because of that, I have become a real fan of the thriller genre with it fast pace and high amount of plot twists.  In fact, I was beginning to think that no amount twists could be to many, but I have to say, in this book Brian Freeman accomplished it.  There were so many plot twists in this story, that I actually had trouble keeping up with them all.  Not really, but almost.  That is the only thing that I could possibly say bad about this book, though.  All in all, it was a fantastic story.  Every time I felt that we HAD to have gotten to the final twist in the story, the author would throw in another one and keep the story going for a while longer.  The result is a thrill ride from start to finish.  And far from detracting from the story line, each plot twist seemed to enhance the story.

In addition to a great story, this book was also filled with a lot of great characters.  I found Jonathan Stride's character to be just the right mix of male characteristics, and his relationship with Maggie was really fun to see.  In addition, Serena and Cordy were a good match for each other.  Obviously Jonathan continues through the series, but I certainly hope that Serena, Maggie, and Cordy also continue to be players in the future stories.  Along with the major characters, the characters that the murder plot revolved around were varied and interesting.

All in all, I am glad for three things:

I am glad that I have such good GR friends to recommend books.  Thanks for this one goes to both Wendy C and Marilyn

I am glad that I was looking for a book that took place in Minnesota for a monthly challenge.  See, there is a definite benefit to reading for challenges.

Mostly, I am glad that I read this book.

26 August 2010

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner

I think I have always been a Historical Fiction fan. Something about reading about other cultures and times just fascinates me. My first favorite books were The Little House on The Prairie series, and I can still remember picking up my first James Michner. Over the years I have read quite a few HF novels, but the ones about the 14th - 16th century kings and queens are near and dear to my heart. So imagine my joy when I found a new author to devour. That author is C.W. Gortner and the book that introduced me to him is The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.

This book enchanted and enthralled me. From the beginning, when Catherine said, "I was ten years old when I discovered I might be a witch." I was hooked. I have to admit, I was not as familiar with Catherine and the French Court as I am with the English Court, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was that they could hold their own when it came to intrigue, politics, backstabbing, romantic liasons, in short, everything that makes the royal courts so much fun to read about. The excellent story telling in the book brought Catherine and the French Court alive for me.

Being a Tudor aficionado, there were a couple of things that really peaked my interest in the book. Although it did not play a major role, it was quite interesting to see the view of Henry VIII and his court from another perspective. I was also reminded that religious persecution and upheaval was not simply an English phenomena, but in fact was prevalent throughout Europe during that time. In France it was the Catholics vs. the Huguenot followers of Calvin. In that respect, here was one character who I found particularly interesting. Although he was a minor character in actual history, Mr. Gortner gave Gaspard de Coligny a major role in his book. Some may be dismayed at this as it is not historically accurate, but I thought that using a single character was a great way to consolidate all the issues raised by the Huguenots without confusing the reader with a multitude of names. To that end, I am willing yield to Mr. Gorner's creative license in this respect.

In the end, I will just say that, as good Historical Fiction should, Confessions made me want to read more about Catherine and her children, especially Margot and Henri. Mr. Gortner is a great storyteller, and I am looking forward to reading his other book, and eagerly await his new books. I am glad to have another favorite author in this genre.

19 August 2010

In The Beginning

I have had this burning desire to start a blog for a while, so here is my first attempt.  I will be posting about my books, projects, cooking, photos, and just life in general.  Hope you enjoy.

Today is a book day.  The first review is below:

The Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Being an aficionado of classic mysteries, you might wonder why it has taken me so long to read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  After reading this compilation, I wonder that myself.  After all, I have read pretty much every Agatha Christie mystery written.  In defense, I can only say, I don't know why.  I ordered this book from the library after Rick (one of my GR buddies) and some others in one of my groups were talking about how much they liked them.  "Wow," I thought, "I wonder why I haven't read them."

I began by reading the introduction written by the editor of the compilation and ended up learning a lot about Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, and Doyle's relationship with Holmes that fascinated me and only wanted to make me read the stories all the more.  As I began, I could tell early on that they were the type of mystery stories that I really enjoy.  I found myself devouring them.  I was really enjoying the interplay between Watson and Holmes.  In fact, I found Watson to be a totally different character than I expected, and enjoyed his character much more than I thought I would.  He really isn't a bumbling fool, but more of an endearing friend.  In addition, I began to look forward to whatever quirky encounter they were going to be embroiled in next as none of their cases seemed at all straightforward, but were populated with interestingly unusual characters and quirky plots.

In the end, I enjoyed these stories so much, that I bought a two volume set of the the complete Sherlock Holmes, all 4 novels and all 54 of the stories, and decided to begin at the first one.  Three reasons for this decision:

1. Watson kept alluding to other capers in the stories I read that weren't included in that compilation, and I got the distinct feeling that I was missing something.
2.  I wanted to get the full effect of the development of the relationship between Holmes and Watson
3.  I was enjoying them so much, I didn't want them to end.

What I am hoping to do now, is start over at the beginning and read a story or two a week until I have read them all.