CBL's post-12 in 12 reading

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CBL's post-12 in 12 reading

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Redigerat: sep 9, 2012, 3:39pm

I finished the challenge I laid out for myself at the beginning of the year. I plan to stick around for the rest of the year and keep track of my reading on this thread. I'll be focusing on several categories of reading, but I don't have a numerical goal for the rest of the year.

Books for The Europe Endless Challenge - I hope to complete this challenge by the end of November
Books for my 50 States mini-challenge of reading a book for each U.S. territory - I hope to also complete this challenge in November
Books borrowed from friends or the library
Holiday themed books

Books for review

ETA: I omitted a category for NetGalley or Early Reviewer books, which I've now added!

aug 25, 2012, 7:31pm

Congratulations on finishing your challenge, and I'm glad you're staying around for the rest of the year!

aug 25, 2012, 8:01pm

Thanks, Paulina!

aug 25, 2012, 11:23pm

Congrats! & this thread sounds like a good plan.

aug 26, 2012, 5:59am

Wow congrats!

aug 26, 2012, 7:27am

Thanks! I'm looking forward to a few weeks of less-structured reading before starting on the 2013 challenge.

aug 26, 2012, 6:55pm

Audio download from the public library: Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

When a man from Maisie's old neighborhood dies in suspicious circumstances, the costermongers band together to hire Maisie to investigate his death. Eddie Pettit was a simple man who in many ways had never lost a child-like innocence. Everyone, or at least almost everyone, in the neighborhood liked Eddie and felt protective of him and of his single mother, Maud. Maisie's investigation takes her into the newspaper world and into the orbit of a powerful publisher. It also leads to unexpected conflict with James.

This novel captures the atmosphere in England amidst Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Maisie is ambivalent about the future. She sees signs of impending danger, yet she is hopeful that the threat can be averted without another war. Maisie is still adjusting to her newly-acquired wealth. She no longer fits into the world she grew up in, but she isn't comfortable among the wealthy class, either. Her social unease has begun to affect her relationship with James.

Maisie continues to intrigue me. She manages to resolve her cases at a crossroad in her life, leaving readers wondering what direction she might take next. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait for the publication of the next book in the series to find out.

4 stars

aug 26, 2012, 9:30pm

Congrats at finishing!!!! Glad you're sticking around!

aug 27, 2012, 4:18pm

Borrowed from a friend: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

After inheriting property from a beloved aunt, librarian Charlie Harris has moved back to his hometown in Mississippi, where he works part time in the archives and rare books collection of the local college. Charlie is surprised when a former classmate, now a successful thriller writer, shows up in his office. He's even more surprised when he discovers his classmate's dead body in his hotel room later that day. Godfrey Priest seemed to have more enemies than friends, so there are plenty of people with a motive for murder, including jilted girlfriends, jealous husbands, and angry relatives. Charlie tries to straddle the fine line between helpfulness and interference as he attempts to provide just enough useful information to Acting Chief Deputy Kenesha Berry (daughter of his housekeeper, Azalea). Fortunately, Charlie's Maine Coon, Diesel, can usually find a way to ease a tense situation.

The book would have benefited from more careful editing prior to publication. I spotted one or two continuity errors as well as several spelling errors that wouldn't be caught by a word processor's spell check feature. At one point in the story, there's a question of who has keys to Charlie's office in the archives, and Charlie talks in terms of individuals who had a key. Charlie's boss wasn't one of them. That seems odd to me. I think it would be more common for administrators to have a master key (not a “set” of keys) that fit all of the locks in their administrative area. However, minor problems such as these are fairly common in this genre, and this book is an average representation of the genre. Charlie's constant companion, Diesel, is the lure that will attract cat-loving cozy readers to this series.

3 stars

aug 31, 2012, 10:17am

Congratulations, Carrie. I don't know when I am going to finish my challenge, but I am looking forward to a least a few weeks of reading off-challenge books.

sep 2, 2012, 8:46am

For the Europe Endless challenge: Stamping Grounds by Charlie Connelly

If, like me, you like to root for the underdog, you'll enjoy Charlie Connelly's sports/travel narrative about his year following Liechtenstein's national soccer team. Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in Europe with a population of just over 30,000. The team is realistic about their chances against teams from much larger countries with lots of professional players to choose from. However, their goal is to improve the quality of soccer in their country and the skill level of their young players, and playing in the qualifying rounds for the World Cup is a means to achieve that goal. The plan is already working by the time Connelly comes along. The team he follows through the qualification matches for the 2002 World Cup includes a handful of professional and semi-professional players, as well as several amateurs.

I became a Liechtenstein fan in the course of reading the book. I was impressed by the character of the players and by their outlook on life. Even the professional players realized that there's more to life than soccer, and they all had goals for life beyond soccer. They all seemed to be aware of the incredible opportunity that being on the national team gave them to play against some of the best players in Europe. While they might be a little star-struck, they weren't intimidated, and their defensive style of play forced the other teams to work hard for each goal.

Connelly seems to have had a genuine admiration for most of the people he met in his travels to Liechtenstein. His humor is just as often at his own expense as anyone else's. His frequent trips gave him plenty of time to see all the country has to offer, and his book is as much travel narrative as sports journalism. Highly recommended for both sports fans and readers of travel literature.

4 1/2 stars

sep 2, 2012, 2:08pm

I'm not a huge Fan of football but that sounds good and would fit one of my categories in the 2013 challenge, thanks for the great review

sep 2, 2012, 3:05pm

>12 psutto: Like most Americans, I know very little about soccer/football. Some of the play by play went right over my head. (Hat tricks? Caps? What's up with all the references to head gear?) It was a great read for me despite my ignorance of the sport.

Redigerat: sep 2, 2012, 4:40pm

Hat trick is scoring three goals by 1 player & caps is the number of times you've played for the national team, I know tha for caps they used to actually get commemorative headgear, not sure where the term hat trick comes from

ETA seems it comes from cricket.... http://www.answers.com/topic/hat-trick

sep 2, 2012, 5:11pm

Interesting! Thanks for the explanation!

sep 3, 2012, 6:49pm

For this month's Series and Sequels theme: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Here was a community of men who communicated all day, every day. Just not with words. The smallest gesture took on a meaning and significance that would be lost in the hurly-burly of the outside world.

Would be lost on him, Gamache knew, if he wasn't careful. How much had he already missed?

Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvior are called to investigate the murder of a monk in a remote Quebec monastery. The monastic order had been thought extinct until very recently, when the monks became an international sensation following the release of a recording of their chants. Things haven't been the same at the monastery since, and the monks seem to be divided into two factions. Did disagreement among the monks escalate to murder, or was there another, hidden motive that led to the prior's death?

The residents of Three Pines are missing from this installment, as is Agent Lacoste. This is very much Jean-Guy Beauvoir's book, just as Bury Your Dead was Gamache's. Beauvior has never been one of my favorite characters – he's often brash, and he lacks the charisma to get away with it. I've developed a sympathy for him over the course of the last three books in the series, though, and I'd like to see things work out well for him.

I think it would be possible to read this as a stand-alone, but I don't recommend it. While a murder case is solved within each book, there are other plot threads that develop over the course of the series. There's a storm brewing within the Sûreté, and it grew much bigger in the course of this novel. Somehow I'll have to find a way to live with the suspense until the publication of the next book in the series next year.

4 1/2 stars

sep 3, 2012, 7:25pm

Another for September Series and Sequels: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

This is a somewhat typical country house murder with a typical cast of characters – a wealthy invalid with stylish young relatives who live a bit above their means, a beautiful but penniless neighbor, a handsome young doctor, a couple of private duty nurses. There's also a love triangle (or is it a rectangle)? What's atypical for this series is that Poirot isn't called in until a trial is imminent. Since he wasn't at the scene of the crime, he has to rely more than ever on his little gray cells to sort out truth from falsehood as he interviews witnesses.

I don't think this structure suits Poirot very well. There's too much distance between Poirot, the evidence, and the suspects. Since a lot of the evidence is presented in the courtroom, the reader doesn't get the benefit of Poirot's cryptic comments on the significance of some apparently trivial clue or bit of information. He has to save it all for his summing up. While this doesn't rank among Christie's best, in my opinion, it's still better than the best of many other mystery authors. Readers who already have a few Poirot novels under their belts might enjoy the change of pace.

3 1/2 stars

Next up in audio: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

sep 4, 2012, 1:24pm

I'm on the waiting list for the Penny book. Looks like it will be well worth the wait!

sep 4, 2012, 3:06pm

I hope your turn comes up soon! It's definitely worth the wait.

sep 6, 2012, 8:54pm

For the Europe Endless Challenge: Snow Angels by James Thompson (Finland)

In the days leading up to Christmas, the disfigured body of a Somali immigrant actress is discovered in a Finnish field. Inspector Kari Vaara and his team are on the puzzling case. Is it a sex crime, a hate crime, or both? As the evidence is unearthed, it points closer and closer to Vaara's circle of family, friends, and community. Is it possible that person who committed this horrible crime is someone Vaara knows?

The book gets off to a promising start, but it begins to fizzle somewhere near the middle. The author tried to do a bit too much with this first-in-series novel. It seems like he introduced more suspects and clues than he was able to handle. I liked some aspects of the book. It was interesting to read about the dark days of winter when the sun never rises above the Arctic Circle and the psychological effect this has on the people who live there. I also learned about a conservative Lutheran sect I'd never heard of before, the Laestadians. However, the excessive use of coarse language is a turn-off for me, and it's enough to put me off of the rest of the series.

3 stars

sep 6, 2012, 9:02pm

I've been looking forward to listening to the last (for now) Jackson Brodie book, Started Early, Took My Dog. I listened to the audio of When Will There Be Good News? and loved it. So far the audio of Started Early has been disappointing. There's a different reader, and something is missing from his narration. I wouldn't go so far to describe his voice as monotone, but it's certainly lacks the expression to carry it off.

sep 6, 2012, 11:06pm

Good review of Snow Angels. I probably won't read it, but you've provided enough details for us to make up our own minds.

sep 7, 2012, 6:23am

>22 cammykitty: Thanks! It's certainly not the worst book I've read this year, and it seems likely that the series will improve.

sep 7, 2012, 11:20pm

->21 cbl_tn:
It's so important, a good reader. I was thinking of going with the audio for that one too, but I'll stick to paper - I like Brodie too much to be disappointed.

sep 8, 2012, 9:44am

Eva, I think paper is the safest choice for this one. I'm still sticking it out with the audio version, but I may go back later and read the paper edition.

sep 8, 2012, 12:32pm

I, too, prefer my Jackson Brodie unfiltered.

sep 9, 2012, 3:41pm

NetGalley ARC: The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle by Ava Chamberlain

Even if you've never heard of Elizabeth Tuttle, you've probably heard of her famous grandson, Jonathan Edwards. The Edwards family and its progenitors were used by proponents of eugenics to support their theory. When eugenics' critics discovered the skeleton in the family closet, Elizabeth Tuttle, they used her to discredit the theory. The characterization of Elizabeth Tuttle Edwards as a promiscuous, mentally defective woman continues to find acceptance among modern historians and Edwards biographers.

Chamberlain uses the lens of microhistory to examine the life of Elizabeth Tuttle. Her marriage to Richard Edwards began under the cloud of pregnancy and the birth of a child less than seven months after the marriage. Although a court determined that Richard Edwards was the reputed father of the child, he never acknowledged paternity. The marriage ended in divorce some twenty years later. However, none of the documents that have survived record Elizabeth's voice.

The surviving evidence from the two court cases at the beginning and end of the Edwards-Tuttle marriage raise questions about the accepted characterization of Richard Edwards as a long-suffering husband and Elizabeth as his rebellious and promiscuous wife. Richard wasn't a saint; he admitted to premarital sex with Elizabeth while denying he fathered her child, and he had an affair with a younger women before he petitioned for divorce. While Elizabeth had her faults, she probably wasn't the promiscuous woman she is portrayed to have been.

Through Chamberlain's examination of the historical records documenting the lives of Elizabeth's close relations, a whisper emerges from Elizabeth's silence. Chamberlain's research and analysis may serve to restore the reputation of this much-maligned Puritan woman.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 stars

Next up: Sins of a Shaker Summer by Deborah Woodworth

sep 9, 2012, 6:09pm

Elizabeth Tuttle sounds interesting - and sounds like the good ol' double standard again.

You'll have to let me know what you think of Sins of a Shaker Summer I've heard Woodworth is good but have never read her.

sep 9, 2012, 7:06pm

You got me with The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle. Great review!

sep 9, 2012, 7:11pm

Thanks! Yes, it does seem like a double standard was at play. It's an interesting story and it was well worth the time it took to read it.

I've read the first two in the Shaker series and I've liked them both. This one is a little slow to develop, but the story is good.

sep 9, 2012, 10:54pm

Okay, Woodworth goes on the WL. My poor WL!!! It's trying to overshadow the size of my collection at home.

sep 11, 2012, 9:51am

For the Reading Through Time group's September theme (Seasons): Sins of a Shaker Summer by Deborah Woodworth

Something isn't right in the North Homage Shaker community, and it seems to have something to do with the Medicinal Herb Garden and the recently transferred Shakers from a sister community. The new residents in North Homage mainly keep to themselves. What secrets do they harbor? And did one of those secrets eventually lead to death? Sister Rose Callahan's recent appointment as eldress doesn't stop her from pursuing her own investigation, just as she did when she was the community's trustee.

This is another enjoyable installment in a Depression-era cozy series set in a Kentucky Shaker community. While the mystery is a bit slow to develop, the characters and setting will sustain most readers' interest until the suspense starts to build. The medicinal herb aspect of the plot should appeal to cozy readers with an interest in gardening. While I enjoyed spending time with characters I had come to know through the first two books in the series, there's nothing about the plot that would require reading the previous books first. Recommended for historical cozy fans.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: Town in a Blueberry Jam by B.B. Haywood

sep 11, 2012, 12:00pm

#32 I read the winter one about 15 years ago and was not a fan so I've never read any others.

I read, and liked, the first B.B. Haywood one and need to move on with that series.

Too many series, too little time.

sep 11, 2012, 1:05pm

>33 lindapanzo: Don't I know it! I could spend years just catching up with the series I'm already reading, not to mention all the new ones that keep cropping up.

sep 16, 2012, 8:08pm

Borrowed from a friend: Town in a Blueberry Jam by B.B. Haywood

When Cape Willington's Lothario falls to his death from a cliff on the shore, some locals have their suspicions about the circumstances. Then the new Blueberry Queen and gossip columnist Sapphire Vine is found dead. Blueberry farmer Candy Holliday is distressed when she learns that the town handyman has been taken into custody as a suspect in Sapphire's murder. Ray is a gentle soul, and Candy is convinced he isn't capable of murder. Since the police aren't looking any farther for the killer, Candy undertakes her own investigation with a little help from her father and her best friend, Maggie.

The small-town Maine setting may remind readers of Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove. However, the first book in the series leans a little more toward the Perils of Pauline than toward Murder, She Wrote. (Or maybe, as the characters themselves suggest, toward Lucy and Ethel in I Love Lucy.) I don't like it when characters put themselves in needless danger, when they withhold evidence from the police, or when they rationalize illegal behavior. Candy did all three in the course of her investigation. I did enjoy the setting and the charming cast of characters, so I'll probably make at least one more visit to Cape Willington.

3 stars

sep 16, 2012, 8:41pm

Audio download from the public library: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

“A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.” If you can't buy into that philosophy, the Jackson Brodie novels probably aren't for you. Kate Atkinson is a master at stringing together coincidence after coincidence into a suspenseful narrative. Coincidence usually results in a predictable plot, but the Jackson Brodie novels are anything but predictable. As the coincidences accumulate and seem to point in one direction, the story will take an unexpected turn and go somewhere most readers wouldn't guess. Even though Jackson Brodie goes to some pretty dark places, including within himself, there's quite a bit of humor, and even joy, within the pages of this novel. And a dog and a cute kid. What more can a reader ask for? I think Courtney would give this one two thumbs up. Who is Courtney, you ask? You'll have to read the book to find out!

4 stars

Next up in audio: An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd

sep 16, 2012, 9:11pm

I really hope to fit in some Kate Atkinson next year.

sep 16, 2012, 9:39pm

>37 cammykitty: I hope you can fit in at least one. They're great fun.

sep 23, 2012, 1:42pm

For my 50 states U.S. territories mini-challenge: The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osborne (Midway Islands)

The Wrecker is different from other Robert Louis Stevenson books I've read. For one thing, he wrote the novel with his stepson, Lloyd Osborne. Also, Stevenson and Osborne seemed to be experimenting with form:

We had long been at once attracted and repelled by that very modern form of the police novel or mystery story, which consists in beginning your yarn anywhere but at the beginning, and finishing it anywhere but at the end; attracted by its peculiar interest when done, and the peculiar difficulties that attend its execution; repelled by that appearance of insincerity and shallowness of tone, which seems its inevitable drawback. For the mind of the reader, always bent to pick up clews, receives no impression of reality or life, rather of an airless, elaborate mechanism; and the book remains enthralling, but insignificant, like a game of chess, not a work of human art... After we had invented at some expense of time this method of approaching and fortifying our police novel, it occurred to us it had been invented previously by someone else, and was in fact—however painfully different the results may seem—the method of Charles Dickens in his later work.

At the time Stevenson and Osborne wrote the novel, the mystery genre was still in its early days. In many ways, the novel is more like the sensation novels of the Victorian era than 20th century (or later) mysteries. Of course, it also has a strong element of adventure typical of Stevenson's better-known works. While the premise is interesting, the structure isn't entirely successful. The setting shifts between Scotland, Paris, San Francisco, Midway Islands, and Australia. The mystery isn't introduced until about halfway through the book. The suspense builds once the wreck of the Flying Scud enters the story. Why is the wreck so valuable? What secrets does it hold? Why does its captain behave so strangely? The first-person narrator, Loudon Dodd, is perceptive enough to question many of the circumstances, but not perceptive enough to piece together an explanation without a revelation from another character.

I wouldn't have discovered this book had I not been looking for something with a Midway Islands setting. It was a mildly entertaining read, and I learned a little about some unfamiliar occupations and parts of the world. Since I downloaded it free on the Internet, it didn't cost me anything but time.

3 stars

Next up: Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian

sep 23, 2012, 2:17pm

Interesting quote about writing - it doesn't make me want to read The Wrecker, but it is an interesting observation on novel forms.

sep 23, 2012, 9:25pm

>40 cammykitty: The quote is from the epilogue. I think I might have viewed teh book a little differently if it had been in a prologue or introduction!

sep 23, 2012, 9:26pm

Audio download from the public library: An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd

While nursing in France during World War I, Bess Crawford learns of an extra body in the place where those killed in battle have been gathered. Although the body bears no identification, Bess recognizes him as an officer from her father's former regiment. He appears to have been murdered by someone who may still be in the area. Before she can alert the matron, she falls ill with influenza. Her memory is vague when she recovers. How much is real and how much did she dream in her illness? When more murder victims turn up, Bess realizes that her own life is in danger. The killer isn't leaving any witnesses alive, and Bess may be the only person left who can identify him.

The premise for the murder is similar to Ellis Peters' One Corpse Too Many. However, it's a plot that works well in a war situation. Bess had a good reason for trying to find the killer since her own life was in danger. Most of the way through the book I felt like it was shaping up to be the best book in the series, but the ending was a little disappointing. It relies too much on coincidence.

I'm curious about where Bess's relationship with Sergeant Major Simon Brandon might be going. It's a bit strange. Bess treats him like part of the family, and he seems like an older brother, or even a third parent at times. This book introduces a new potential suitor for Bess who seems more age appropriate. He is clearly jealous of Simon and thinks of him as a rival for Bess's affection. At the rate things are going in this series, we might not find out where Bess's feelings lie until somewhere around book 10!

3 1/2 stars

Next up in audio: Threadbare by Monica Ferris

sep 24, 2012, 2:34pm

Oh man, I wasn't going to read the Bess Crawford books...but then you went and compared this one to One Corpse Too Many...and now I'm intrigued in spite of myself!

sep 24, 2012, 4:58pm

Christina, the only similarity is the initial plot point - a murderer taking advantage of war dead to hide his victim's body. For mysteries with a WWI theme I like the Maisie Dobbs series better, although those books deal with the lingering physical and psychological damage from the war more than with the war itself.

sep 24, 2012, 5:07pm

An Unmarked Grave sounds interesting, but I haven't gotten to Maisie Dobbs yet. Maisie first!

sep 24, 2012, 5:10pm

You have your priorities right, Katie!

sep 24, 2012, 5:13pm

:) Yes!

sep 26, 2012, 11:21pm

Audio download from the public library: Threadbare by Monica Ferris

When the bodies of not one, but two homeless women are discovered in the snow in Excelsior, MN, the local police suspect that the women died from something other than exposure. Coincidentally, both women have relatives in the area who are customers of Betsy Devonshire's needlecraft shop. When both customers fall under suspicion for the murders, Betsy agrees to look into the deaths.

One of the things I enjoy most about this series is spending time with characters who seem like old friends. A new character steals some of the scenes in this installment. In the course of her investigation into women's shelters, Betsy befriends a homeless woman, Annie. Annie turns out to be a helpful ally in Betsy's investigation. The two even go on a rail journey together. I really liked Annie and I hope we'll see her again.

This installment has a little more depth than many of the other books in the series. As she investigates the murders, Betsy (and her readers) learn about the problem of homelessness. Readers new to the series shouldn't be distracted from the plot by references that only make sense if you've read earlier books in the series. The author provides just enough of the back story for the series to make sense to new readers without giving away major spoilers for earlier books.

4 stars

Next up in audio: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

sep 27, 2012, 10:58pm

Hi Carrie, I have Secret Speech on order from the library so I should be starting it next week, I think.

sep 28, 2012, 7:56am

I'll get a good start on it this afternoon when I drive home, but I won't finish it before October. I've only got a 3-3 1/2 hour drive this afternoon so I'll still have well over half of the book left.

sep 28, 2012, 10:03am

That's a pretty long trip. Drive carefully!

sep 28, 2012, 8:20pm

I made it home OK. I'm thankful that I missed out on driving in the rain. I was at an all day meeting at the Nashville Public Library and parked in the public parking garage attached to the library. Since lunch was provided at the meeting and there were no windows in any of the meeting rooms, I had no idea what was going on outside. When I left this afternoon I noticed the streets were wet, and I noticed that my sidewalk was wet when I arrived at home.

I got in about 3 1/2 hours of listening time in The Secret Speech. It's good, but so far I don't like it quite as well as Child 44.

sep 28, 2012, 8:23pm

The Secret Speech is entirely different in tone to Child 44. I liked it as a history lesson, mainly.

sep 28, 2012, 8:25pm

I'm thinking that it was raining in Morristown as late as between 5 and 6. It was late afternoon anyway. The thunder was rumbling even earlier than that, but it only drizzled a bit at first. Then it started coming down, but not like the deluge we got the early part of last week.

sep 29, 2012, 9:53pm

NetGalley ARC: Powers of Arrest by Jon Talton

Cincinnati Detective Will Borders has been on desk duty since he returned to work after having a tumor removed from his spine. When the department is under pressure to solve a high profile case involving a female police officer, Borders is placed in charge of the investigation because of his clearance record during his time in homicide. Meanwhile, nurse Cheryl Beth Wilson, now an adjunct nursing professor at Miami University in Oxford, is pulled into the investigation of a double murder of some coeds. Both victims as well as the prime suspect were in Cheryl Beth's class. When it appears that the Oxford murders and the Cincinnati murder are connected, Cheryl Beth and Will are soon reunited, having met in a previous case. Something had sparked between Will and Cheryl Beth in their earlier meeting, and it doesn't take long for the pair to become more than friends.

I was drawn to this book by the Cincinnati setting. I'm a little familiar with the city since I travel through the area regularly. The book includes plenty of local color with its references to neighborhoods such as Over-the-Rhine and Price Hill and local chains like Skyline Chili and Graeter's. I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the book. Will is a season ticket holder for the symphony, and his investigations bring him into contact with musicians. I have a fairly low tolerance for profanity and explicit sex, and this was the only real downside of the book for me.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 stars

sep 30, 2012, 12:48am

I like a book that is able to capture the local setting.... it makes me feel more connected to the book when it's done right.

sep 30, 2012, 7:31am

>56 lkernagh: Me, too. When it's done right, like this one is, it's impossible to imagine the events in the book taking place anywhere else.

sep 30, 2012, 5:57pm

Belated congratulations on finishing your challenge, Carrie! Lots and lots of great books and reviews; despite my best intentions, I ended up adding to my lists. Among others, I'm definitely interested in the Amelia Earhardt book, even though I'm not in the mood for non-fiction at the moment, and I think you've convinced me that I need to read Kate Atkinson's books.

Your travels this summer sound wonderful!

sep 30, 2012, 10:12pm

Thanks, Ivy! Sorry for adding to your TBR backlog. Do give Kate Atkinson a try. I think you'll like Jackson Brodie. He's very much like the private eye in The Invisible Ones.

sep 30, 2012, 10:14pm

For the Europe Endless Challenge: Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian (Malta)

Treason's Harbour finds the crew of the Surprise in Malta while the ship undergoes repairs. Malta is crawling with spies, keeping Stephen Maturin particularly busy with espionage and counter espionage. Orders send Captain Aubrey and his crew on missions that could be compromised by leaked intelligence. Will the combination of Aubrey's nautical skill and Maturin's sharp mind keep the Surprise and its men from falling into a trap?

I've wanted to try this series for a while because I've heard so many good things about it. Normally I wouldn't start in the middle of a series, but I picked this one up because I needed a book set in Malta. Enough of the series back story is included so that I didn't feel like I was missing information crucial to the plot. I thought the ending was rather abrupt, leaving some major plot threads unresolved. I liked it well enough to want to read more in the series, but I'm torn between continuing from this point in the series so I can find out what happens next or going back to the beginning of the series.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

okt 1, 2012, 2:05pm

>60 cbl_tn: Glad you enjoyed Jack and Stephen, Carrie! I read the whole series, I think it was the year before I joined LT (2006). The first book is by far the slowest and most difficult with all the sailing terminology and description and very little story; the 2nd book is better; and the series really gets good with the 3rd book. On the whole, the series continues to get better, but there are ups and downs along the way.

Awhile ago, lorax started a group read and recommended starting with the 3rd book. The group read seems to have died out quite quickly, but I found the thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/111784

The backstory moves slowly, O'Brian tells you what you need to know about it, and each book is a mostly self-contained adventure, so I don't think there would be any problem going forward from Treason's Harbour. On the other hand, you'd miss some good adventures in the earlier books. An alternate approach might be to watch the movie and then begin with book 3 or 4.

okt 2, 2012, 7:41pm

Ivy, the movie seems to be based on book 10, which would be the next book after the one I just read. I think maybe I'll read the next book (10), watch the movie, and then go back to near the beginning of the series.

okt 3, 2012, 12:48pm

>62 cbl_tn: Sounds like a good plan, Carrie. I remember the movie as being more about the early books, but I know it also picks up incidents from later books.

okt 7, 2012, 8:40am

An Early Reviewers book: A Lack of Temperance by Anna Loan-Wilsey

When secretary Hattie Davish arrives in an Arkansas resort town, she is surprised to learn that her new employer, Mrs. Trevelyan, is the president of a national temperance organization. The organization's annual meeting turns violent as some of the women, led by Mrs. Trevelyan, destroy one of the local saloons. Hattie has difficulty locating Mrs. Trevelyan to receive instructions for her work, and when Hattie finally does find her, it's too late. She's been murdered. When the police focus on a single suspect, Hattie realizes that there are several other possible suspects with motives just as strong. With the help of a handsome young doctor and a pair of elderly sisters who take her under their wing, Hattie conducts her own investigation into her employer's death.

I really enjoyed this first in a new series historical mystery. The elections of 1892 anchor the historical setting, with an incumbent Benjamin Harrison, sympathetic to the cause of temperance, running against Grover Cleveland. Temperance issues are also on the local ballot. The book also has a strong sense of place, with the spas, mineral springs, and hotels providing natural locations for the characters to run into each other. The number of credible suspects and red herrings kept me guessing up to the end. However, there were enough clues for me to figure out the identity of the murderer at the same time Hattie figured it out. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series so I can find out where her next secretarial job takes Hattie and what mysteries wait for her there.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

4 stars

Continuing with: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

okt 7, 2012, 2:40pm

Very nice review of A Lack of Temperance. I thought about that one when I saw if posted as an ER and cannot remember if it was not available for Canada or if I had decided that I might not like it. Glad to see it being rated so highly!

okt 8, 2012, 6:12pm

Audio download from the public library: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

Three years after the events of Child 44, former MGB agent Leo Dimidov is working for a homicide unit in Moscow, the only one of its kind. Leo and his wife Raisa are doing their best to provide a good home for their two adopted daughters, who came with psychological and emotional baggage. Khrushchev has succeed Stalin as head of state, and the circulation of a speech he delivered in congress is turning the Soviet Union upside down. In his days with the MGB, Leo had been a willing participant some of Stalin's atrocities, but he had rejected that life before Stalin's death. When one of Leo's victims from his past sets out to exact revenge, Leo's fragile family may pay the price.

I didn't find this book quite as suspenseful as Child 44. It got off to a slow start for me. The plot involved a lot of stage setting in regard to Khrushchev's speech, the gulag system, the vory criminal network, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The pace picked up noticeably somewhere around 2/3 to ¾ of the way through and it became a page-turner. The villainess in the story reminded me of a character you might encounter in an action comic, and it probably wouldn't have surprised me if Superman or Batman had made an appearance. Even without super powers, Leo somehow manages to survive to return again in one more installment in the trilogy. How much more can one man endure? I'll have to read the last book in the trilogy to find out.

3 1/2 stars

Next up in audio: Poe's Detective: The Dupin Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

okt 8, 2012, 10:03pm

NetGalley review book: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Despite its iconic status, I knew very little about Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper before reading Ross King's book. I know a lot more about it now. This isn't a dry analysis of Leonardo's technique. It's an informative and entertaining look at Leonardo da Vinci's life, particularly the years spent in the court of the Duke of Milan. King puts the work into its historical context within Leonardo's career, the Renaissance art world, and the political climate in Milan in the late 15th century.

After reading about Leonardo's trail of unfinished projects leading up to The Last Supper, I think it's a wonder that he completed it. Since Leonardo didn't use the typical fresco technique, he had a wider range of colors available to him. Unfortunately, the painting began to show signs of deterioration even within Leonardo's lifetime. After centuries of well-meaning but disastrous preservation and restoration efforts and near-destruction from a World War II bombing, it's amazing that there's anything left to see. My bucket list now includes a trip to Milan to see what's left of the mural in person. I wish I could have done that about 500 years ago!

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: Given Up for Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island by Bill Sloan and Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

okt 8, 2012, 11:00pm

I liked King's blend of history when I read Brunelleschi's Dome. I may need to keep an eye out for the Da Vinci book when it comes out.

okt 11, 2012, 11:33pm

Ah, I requested A Lack of Temperance too but won something else instead. I'll have to keep my eye's open for it because it sounds like a good one.

okt 12, 2012, 4:59pm

Louise Penny's latest blog post is about the start of filming for the TV version of her first novel, Still Life. http://louisepenny.blogspot.com/2012/10/film.html

I'm pleased with the actor chosen to play Gamache. I'm not familiar with most of the rest of the cast. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2225780/

I'm glad that a U.S. broadcast is in the works. I haven't been this excited about an upcoming TV movie in a long time!

okt 12, 2012, 9:19pm

NetGalley review book: Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope has come a long way since her days as a typist for Winston Churchill. She's been in training with MI5, but she's struggled with the physical aspects of the training. However, it's her mathematical skills that result in her first assignment. There are concerns that the Germans may have plans to harm Princess Elizabeth. Maggie will pose as her math tutor while she tries to identify the enemy who may have infiltrated the king's household.

I didn't have trouble suspending my disbelief regarding the royal characters and the Windsor Castle setting. I ran into problems with the openness of the characters among relative strangers. Maggie doesn't need to be particularly observant since everyone she meets seems to freely share personal information with her. Despite everything she's told, Maggie still manages to miss obvious clues. She isn't a very good spy. She's sometimes suspicious of people she should trust, and she often trusts people she shouldn't. She's overconfident and prone to let her emotions determine her actions. I might have liked the book more if I hadn't read any of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels. Maggie suffers in comparison to Maisie.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

2 1/2 stars

okt 12, 2012, 11:02pm

Thanks for giving me a book to avoid! WWII MI5 - could've been good.

okt 13, 2012, 6:28am

Katie, I seem to be in the minority regarding Princess Elizabeth's Spy so you might want to take a look at what other readers are saying before you write it off.

okt 13, 2012, 10:32pm

I am slowly catching up on threads - congratulations on finishing the challenge!

okt 13, 2012, 11:07pm

>74 VictoriaPL: Thanks! Good luck with yours!

okt 14, 2012, 5:39pm

Audio download from the public library: Poe's Detective: The Dupin Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

This compilation includes Poe's three Auguste Dupin stories rounded off with a non-Dupin story involving a mysterious murder. Even though I'm pretty sure I hadn't previously read any of the stories, I was familiar with the plots of the Dupin stories from adaptations, cultural references, etc.

Once you know the solution of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, it's hard to forget it as you read/listen. Dupin's endless description of his reasoning process is then more tedious than suspenseful. “The Mystery of Marie Roget” is even worse. After listening to an hour's worth of Dupin's inferences about the case, I thought I had missed his solution. I found a copy online to check what I'd missed and discovered I hadn't missed anything. The story (based on a real-life unsolved murder) stops abruptly without reaching a satisfactory conclusion.

“The Purloined Letter” is the most successful of the three Dupin stories. It's certainly the shortest, and thus it doesn't suffer as much from Dupin's long-winded monologues. The plot is both simple and clever. I also enjoyed “Thou Art the Man”, a non-Dupin story about the mysterious disappearance and death of a wealthy man that ends with an interesting twist.

I couldn't help comparing Dupin with Sherlock Holmes since their characters are so similar. I think the Holmes stories work better because of Dr. Watson. Neither Dupin nor Holmes are particularly personable, but Watson provides readers with a sympathetic character.

3 stars

Next up in audio: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

okt 15, 2012, 12:28pm

I read the first Maggie Hope book, Mr. Churchill's Secretary, and I wasn't a big fan of that one, so I'm not planning to read Princess Elizabeth's Spy. Glad to see I'm not the only one who was underwhelmed by the series!

okt 15, 2012, 5:01pm

Christina, I had the audio of the first one on my library wishlist. I removed it after reading this one. I'm glad to know that I won't be missing anything by not listening to it!

okt 15, 2012, 5:17pm

I do like Auguste Dupin, but I'm very much due a reread of those stories. I'm due a reread of lots of stories.... :)

okt 17, 2012, 9:19pm

NetGalley review book: Eleven Pipers Piping by C. C. Benison

As chaplain of the local bagpipe group, vicar Tom Christmas has been invited to say the Selkirk Grace at the group's annual Burns Supper. Unfortunately, only eleven of the pipers are able to make it to the dinner when a heavy snow falls on the village. The even dozen turns into thirteen at dinner when a stranded traveler shows up at the inn where the banquet is taking place. Thirteen proves to be an unlucky number when one of the banqueters goes missing and is eventually discovered dead. With Tom's housekeeper under suspicion for causing the death, Tom is compelled to sort through the confusion to discover what really happened that fateful night.

This second mystery set in a Devon village is even better than the first. Several characters from the first book reappear in this one, and they're already beginning to seem like old friends. Each character contributes to the advancement of the plot in some way. Because of his role as a vicar, Tom keeps getting drawn into the events that follow the death, whether by breaking bad news to the family of the deceased, providing hospitality to strangers, making pastoral visits, or delivering a sermon that addresses what's on everyone's mind. Just when I was sure the plot was headed to one conclusion, it took a surprising turn and went in an unexpected direction. My only major complaint is that the resolution relies too much on coincidence.

It should be obvious that the next book in the series will involve “ten lords a-leaping”. The author laid the groundwork for it in this book. It will involve an activity I'd very much rather watch than participate in myself, and I'm already looking forward to reading about it.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 stars

Next up: Where Death Delights by Bernard Knight, as well as continuing with Given Up for Dead by Bill Sloan

okt 17, 2012, 9:21pm

Eleven Pipers Piping sounds fun... but I'm always the first to run off with the piper in the band. ;)

okt 18, 2012, 1:16pm

"an activity I'd very much rather watch than participate in myself"
I'm intrigued now! :) Was going to go thumb your review, but it isn't there......

okt 18, 2012, 5:48pm

>82 -Eva-: Thanks, Eva! The book won't be released until the end of the month. NetGalley usually asks that reviews not be run until the release date (or within a week of the date). I usually post NetGalley reviews on my thread as I finish reading the books but wait until closer to the release date to add them to my catalog where they'll show up on the book page.

As far as the activity goes, I enjoyed watching the queen do this during the opening ceremony for the Olympics!

okt 19, 2012, 8:25pm

For my U.S. Territories mini-challenge: Given Up for Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island by Bill Sloan

Before reading this book, I was vaguely aware that a World War II battle had taken place on Wake Island at some point during the war. I didn't know that it was the first U.S. Engagement of the war, or that it began just hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It was likened to the Alamo at the time, yet unlike Pearl Harbor, it's rarely mentioned today.

When the war started, the Americans were behind in preparing the island's defenses. Marine and Navy personnel were outnumbered by civilian construction workers. When the Japanese bombing started, undermanned military units recruited civilians to help defend the island. When there weren't enough weapons available to arm all of the civilians, some of them carried ammunition, filled sand bags, and performed other vital support functions. One group of civilians was quickly trained and put to work manning a three-inch gun under the leadership of a Marine. The gun would otherwise have sat unused since there weren't enough Marines to man it.

Based on various histories of the battle and interviews with survivors, Sloan pieces together a day-by-day account of the battle for Wake Island. The skill and determination of the defenders is still as inspirational as it was in 1941. It was heartbreaking to read of the controversial decision to surrender at a point when a U.S. victory still seemed possible. It was even more heartbreaking to read about the treatment the military and civilian personnel received as prisoners of war. These brave men deserve to be remembered for their perseverance and ingenuity in overcoming innumerable disadvantages in the fulfillment of their duty.

5 stars

Next up: Journey to Portugal by Jose Saramago; Where Death Delights by Bernard Knight

okt 19, 2012, 10:36pm

You liked Eleven Pipers Piping better than I did, but then you'd read Twelve Drummers Drumming, and I hadn't.

okt 20, 2012, 11:55am

>70 cbl_tn:: I'm so excited to hear about the TV adaptation of Louise Penny's books! I'm even more thrilled to hear that Nathaniel Parker is going to play Gamache. My husband and I recently watched the entire Inspector Lynley series on DVD and he is a terrific actor. I've also listened to him narrating the Artemis Fowl series on audiobook. Thanks for posting the links. This news has made my day.

okt 21, 2012, 7:58pm

Paulina, I can hardly wait! I didn't realize he's narrated audiobooks. I'll have to keep an eye out for him as a narrator.

okt 21, 2012, 7:59pm

NetGalley review book: Childhood Pleasures: Dutch Children in the Seventeenth Century by Donna Barnes and Peter G. Rose

Since I have ancestors who lived in the Netherlands in the 17th century, I'm interested in books that will help me learn about my ancestors' daily lives. I've always been attracted to Dutch and Flemish art from the 16th and 17th centuries. I was thrilled to find a book that combines both of these interests. Barnes and Rose have selected art works depicting Dutch children's lives in the 17th century. Brief essays accompanying each art work analyze the images of childhood, including food, clothing, toys, games, pets, and holiday activities. Introductory essays on childhood toys and games and on children's food set the context for the art selections. The book includes several recipes for typical food from the era, including some of the foods depicted in the art works.

I learned what I hoped I would learn about how my Dutch ancestors lived in the 17th century. The depictions of family life and children's games brought back happy memories of my own childhood. The authors' stated hope is that the book will be enjoyed by families and will provide an occasion for parents and grandparents to share their childhood memories with their children and grandchildren. This is just the sort of book my grandmother would have loved. I always headed for her bookshelves soon after arriving at her house, and I would have been drawn to a book like this. It's a book that can be enjoyed repeatedly, whether by looking at a painting or two or by preparing one of the recipes. It's one I'll be purchasing for my permanent collection. Highly recommended.

This book is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 1/2 stars

okt 24, 2012, 6:56pm

Ebook borrowed from the public library: Where Death Delights by Bernard Knight

It's 1955, and forensic pathologist Richard Pryor has recently returned to his native Wales from Singapore. Angela Bray has decided to leave her job at the Metropolitan Police lab in London after a broken engagement. After meeting at a conference, Richard and Angela decided to go into business for themselves. They've just set up shop in a house Richard inherited from an aunt. An old friend of Richard's serves as a coroner in the area and he starts throwing business their way. Their cases include a contested identity claim that will involve an exhumation and the drowning death of an expert swimmer.

This is one of those books that just doesn't live up to its promise. The plot gets lost in the details. The author was himself a pathologist who got his start in the same era. This seems to be more of a liability than an asset, since he includes a lot of irrelevant details. Instead of focusing on just one case, the author includes calls for Richard's examinations of several corpses that end up being open and shut cases. It was a little like reading about James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small, except the “patients” were human remains rather than living animals. What we're told of Richard and Angela's personal lives seems more adolescent than adult. They're both living in the house where they set up shop. The young lab technician, the widowed housekeeper, and Angela all seem to be interested in Richard to some degree and, consequently, all jealous of each other to some degree. I'll leave them to sort things out on their own. I'm not interested enough in this series to continue with it.

2 stars

Next up: Grave Consequences by Dana Cameron

okt 24, 2012, 11:53pm

Books full of irrelevant details can be annoying to read. Sorry to see your last read didn't live up to its promise.

okt 25, 2012, 7:18am

Are you finding that the books that are only published in ebook form are of a lower quality than more traditionally published books (with both an ebook and paper edition), or are they about the same?

okt 25, 2012, 8:14am

>91 RidgewayGirl: I don't think I've read any books that are published only in ebook form. I'm pretty sure this one is available in print. The ebook was more convenient for me to borrow. I've thought sometimes that the book design of a print book can mask writing flaws. An elegant typeface on a nicely proportioned page has a psychological impact. The story has to stand more on its own merits in ebook format since there's nothing to distinguish it visually from any other book.

okt 25, 2012, 9:29am

I've bought a few ebooks and am checking them out of my local library, but I'm only choosing those books that are on my wishlist of books to eventually read.

okt 28, 2012, 9:45pm

TBR: Grave Consequences by Dana Cameron

Emma Fielding should have sensed something was wrong when her friend, Jane, failed to pick her up at the airport on her arrival in London. Emma has arranged to spend a couple of weeks with her friend and fellow archaeologist while she's in the U.K. for research. Jane is directing an excavation of a ruined abbey, and Emma is looking forward to helping out at the dig without the usual pressures that come with being the project director. It's soon apparent to Emma that things aren't going well. Jane and her project face opposition from some of the local residents, including a local builder/developer and a Wiccan who believes the site has pagan connections. Jane and her husband seem to have hit a rocky patch in their marriage. Emma is disturbed by the lax work standards in comparison with digs in the U.S., particularly evidenced by the unexplained absence of several team members. When the murdered body of a missing team member is discovered, Emma feels compelled to do what she can to clear her friend from suspicion of murder.

This is one of those books that doesn't quite live up to its promise. The archaeological aspect of the plot is under-emphasized. Emma spends much more time away from the site than on it. A couple of suspicious characters drop out of the action without explanation. The plot relies too much on coincidence. Emma doesn't need to deduce anything since other characters helpfully confide their secrets to her. I think it was probably a mistake to move Emma out of her home territory and her usual role of project director in the second book of the series. I liked the first book in the series well enough to give it another chance. If there's no improvement in the next one, I doubt I'll read any more in the series.

2 1/2 stars

okt 28, 2012, 10:06pm

Did I see you put a Charles Goodrum mystery on TIOLI? I think I read all of these back in the 1980s and loved them. Hope you enjoy.

okt 28, 2012, 10:10pm

>95 lindapanzo: Yes, I'm hoping to get to The Best Cellar this month. It's been in my TBR stash for a while. I think I picked it up a couple of years ago at Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore in Minneapolis.

okt 28, 2012, 10:31pm

bummer about Grave Consequences - setting had potential.

okt 29, 2012, 5:15pm

>97 cammykitty:. Thanks! If I didn't have the (hopefully) occasional less than stellar read, maybe I wouldn't appreciate the outstanding books as much. How's that for trying to put a positive spin on a disappointing book?!

okt 30, 2012, 7:08pm

It's true! They telling aspiring writers that you can learn just as much from a bad book as a good book, and that's a nice positive spin too. Now you know what isn't going to work on you, the reader.

okt 31, 2012, 8:23pm

For the Europe Endless Challenge: Passage to Ararat by Michael J. Arlen (Armenia)

Michael J. Arlen's father, Michael Arlen, rarely talked about Armenia or Armenians. By the time young Michael was born, his father had traded his Armenian name for a more English sounding name. Arlen thought of himself as English, then American after the family moved to the U.S. and he became an American citizen. Armenians were something “other”, not a group he felt he belonged to.

Who are the Armenians, and how did they become what they are today? A couple of decades after his father's death, Arlen set out to discover his Armenian roots. He talked to Armenian Americans such as writer William Saroyan. Finally, Arlen and his wife traveled to Soviet Armenia. Arlen spent is days seeing the country with local guide Sarkis and spent his nights reading histories and reference works.
Arlen struggled with his reaction to what he learned about and saw of Armenian history and culture, particularly the Turkish genocide that has shaped Armenian identity since the beginning of the 20th century. His father never spoke of this, so Arlen hadn't internalized this event that shapes a particularly Armenian worldview.

It was difficult to read about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and the suffering of those who survived. It was chilling to realize that the Germans had a presence in Turkey during the First World War, and that the things they witnessed and heard about might have influenced what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe. Arlen's position as an “outsider” allows him to write somewhat dispassionately about the events. The bare facts are overwhelming enough.

My only disappointment with the book is that, although Arlen mentions a number of histories and quotes extensively from some of them, there isn't a bibliography to help interested readers dig deeper into Arlen's source material. Recommended for readers interested in family history, Armenia and Armenians, and memoirs.

4 stars

nov 1, 2012, 10:07am

I have been to Armenia a couple of times with work and I'm interested in the country so adding that to my wishlist

on the e-book front I think the ones that still have the trad gatekeeper relationship with a publihsre are fine but those that are self published sometimes noticably lack proof reading and/or good editing

nov 1, 2012, 1:19pm

>101 psutto: The author's trip to Armenia - at least, the one he writes about in this book - took place in the 1970s. He describes a lot of the places he visited, as well as homes, his hotel, the airport, etc. Several of the people he met were still in the process of acquiring modern conveniences like refrigerators and telephones. It would be interesting to compare his descriptions with how the country looks today.

Redigerat: nov 2, 2012, 11:57am

I've been there in the last few years, probably going again next year so yes would be interesting to contrast

nov 2, 2012, 9:27pm

Borrowed from a friend, also fits November's Reading Through Time them (Asia): A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Tree-ear is an orphan who lives in a 12th century Korean village known for its pottery. He spends his days searching for food for himself and his friend, Crane-man, and he always stops to watch the potter, Min, as he works. Min is the best potter in the village, and Tree-ear dreams of learning to make pottery as fine as Min's. When Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min's works, it provides him with an unexpected opportunity to become Min's assistant in order to work off his debt. Tree-ear is gradually given more responsibilities. When he is called on to make a long journey on Min's behalf, Tree-ear must remember all he has learned from living with Crane-man and from watching Min in his work.

Some years I wonder what the judges were thinking when they selected the Newbery Medal winner. Not this time. Every element of the story works – plot, character, historical detail, and educational value. It could be used as supplemental reading for social studies or art. It will provide opportunities for discussing values such as honesty, patience, courage, kindness, respect, and friendship. Since the book transcends traditional childhood concerns and themes, it can be enjoyed equally by adults and children. Highly recommended.

5 stars

Next up: Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller; still reading What Matters in Jane Austen?

nov 3, 2012, 12:23am

I've had my eye on A Single Shard for years but haven't picked it up. Sounds like I should. And I'll be interested to see what you think of Land of Green Plums. I've had that on my WL for a few years.

nov 4, 2012, 4:22pm

After I read A Single Shard I went through art books to see examples of the pottery.

nov 4, 2012, 7:19pm

>106 mamzel: I immediately went to Google Images to find pictures of the Thousand Cranes Vase that inspired the story. Beautiful!

nov 4, 2012, 7:23pm

I have Land of Green Plums on the list for next year - looking forward to hearing what you think of it.

nov 4, 2012, 8:01pm

NetGalley ARC: What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan

Readers just getting to know Jane Austen's works or those who have been reading and rereading her for years will discover new depths to her work in the essays in this book. While the book includes background information on manners and customs of Austen's day, its primary aim is to analyze how Austen made such details serve a purpose in her work. Each chapter poses a question and answers it with numerous examples from Austen's oeuvre. “How much does age matter?” “Why is it risky to go to the seaside?” “Why is the weather important?” “Which important characters never speak in the novels?” “What do characters say when the heroine is not there?” “What do characters read?”

The essays in this book have given me a deeper appreciation for Austen's skill as a novelist. I've learned new ways to approach her books as a reader. The book is suitable for both academic and general readers. Although each chapter can stand on its own, many readers will want to read the book from cover to cover. Readers who take the latter approach should be aware that there is some repetition between chapters, as some of the same passages are used to illustrate different points in different chapters. Highly recommended for all Austen enthusiasts.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 1/2 stars

Currently reading: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

nov 7, 2012, 5:40pm

Borrowed from the library for my Europe Endless challenge: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller (Romania)

Because we were afraid, Edgar, Kurt, Georg, and I met every day. We sat together at a table, but our fear stayed locked within each of our heads, just as we'd brought it to our meetings. We laughed a lot, to hide it from each other. But fear always finds an out. If you control your face, it slips into your voice. If you manage to keep a grip on your face and your voice, as if they were dead wool, it will slip out through your fingers. It will pass through your skin and lie there. You can see it lying around on objects close by.

The unnamed female narrator paints a picture of life in Romania under a dictatorship. The narrator and three male friends, all college students from provincial villages, come under surveillance for an unspecified reason. The four are aware that they're being watched, and their fear and paranoia increase with the passage of months and years as they await their uncertain future. Their friendship disintegrates as the few freedoms they have are gradually taken away from them.

This wasn't an easy read. The author uses a lot of symbolism, and I'm sure I missed plenty of it. It probably didn't help that I was reading the English translation, my only option since I don't speak German. I suspect that this was a difficult book to translate because of the nature of the book. Language seems to be an important aspect of the book, and the author most likely used words for a specific purpose for which there isn't an exact English equivalent. More experienced readers of this kind of fiction will be able to appreciate this novel more than I did, particularly if they're able to read it in its original German.

3 stars

Next up: Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

Redigerat: nov 7, 2012, 6:53pm

Interesting! I'll be reading The Land of Green Plums in Swedish which is somewhat closer related to German than English is, so I'll pay attention to the translation.

nov 7, 2012, 6:28pm

Hmmmm... Interesting passage from The Land of Green Plums but it sounds a little unrelenting.

nov 7, 2012, 6:51pm

Eva, I'll be curious about your reaction to the book when you get to it.

Katie, it is a bit unrelenting, but bearable because there's no emotion in the narrator's voice. She seems to be in a dissociative state to some degree.

nov 7, 2012, 7:03pm

???? disociative state ???? that makes me curious

nov 7, 2012, 7:49pm

A lot of the dialogue makes it seem like she's watching herself and describing what she sees. She also talks about childhood memories while calling herself "the child".

nov 7, 2012, 9:56pm

Ooo - calling herself "the child" would certainly qualify as "dissociative" That's kind of creepy.

Redigerat: nov 10, 2012, 12:32pm

I think we've just had an earthquake here. I felt the house shake for about 20 seconds. I can't find any news reports yet - I guess it's too soon - but I just called Lori, who lives about an hour away, and she felt it, too. It seems to have been stronger here, though.

ETA: The earthquake was centered in Kentucky about 150 miles away from me and about 130 miles from Lori. It's listed right now as a 4.3.

Redigerat: nov 10, 2012, 2:04pm

I keep awaiting an aftershock. Maybe that will be post-game since it happened right before it?

nov 10, 2012, 2:16pm

I was reading about this an hour ago on Google News. They said it was felt from Cincinnatti to Atlanta and I wondered if anyone in East Tennessee felt it. Apparently the Appalachians damped it out so that we didn't feel anything around here.

nov 10, 2012, 7:00pm

Are earthquakes in your region of the US unusual - a 'why is this happening here' sort of thing? I am guessing yes, as Kentucky doesn't seem to be a region I can ever remember hearing about having earthquakes. I am glad to see you and Lori are okay and that it was a minor/moderate quake.

As a west coast resident, I am reminded constantly that I live in an earthquake zone but it's unnerving when natural events occur in not to be expected areas..... the west coast is not known for thunderstorms but we had a couple of those this year that were unsettling for some friends of mine. As a prairie girl I grew up with thunderstorms - I actually find them rather fascinating - but I can see where a first time experience can be rather scary.

nov 10, 2012, 8:26pm

Yes, earthquakes are rare here, and when we do get them, they're usually not very strong and lots of people don't feel them. Western Kentucky is near the New Madrid fault, but this earthquake was centered in Eastern Kentucky.

Our usual disaster worries are tornadoes and flash floods.

nov 10, 2012, 9:06pm

Flash floods would be a worry for me. The fatalist in me feels that you can't do much about tornadoes or earthquakes - or prep for them beyond stock piling supplies - but a flash flood does elicit the natural instinct to head for higher ground!

nov 10, 2012, 10:14pm

Glad it wasn't much of an earthquake. I was in an earthquake once in Chicago, and when it happened I was in a flimsy dorm room and thought it was Crazy Lisa down the hallway smacking into the walls. - Crazy Lisa was this shy, skinny girl who always wore big fat headphones whether her walkman was on or off. It was to keep people from talking to her, and yes she actually told me that.

nov 11, 2012, 7:47am

I was looking outside for the very large truck I could hear but couldn't see. I was sure it was very close to the house & causing the house to shake.

nov 11, 2012, 9:54am

:) Quiet road construction?

nov 11, 2012, 12:02pm

Not so quiet! I also thought it might be an extremely large farm vehicle heading for the farm at the end of my dead-end road. The rumble was pretty loud.

nov 11, 2012, 5:37pm

I didn't notice anything, but I was in Athens, Ga for the weekend.

cammykitty, I've worn my ipod on public transportation now and again, so I could read without interruption. No one thinks they should feel free to chat with you when you're listening to music, but if you're reading a book, you're fair game.

nov 11, 2012, 10:39pm

Ugh! I know what you mean on public transport. At school, the book seems to work. On public transport, sometimes the headphones aren't enough. You've got to look like you're rapping to yourself.

nov 12, 2012, 6:55am

I would never interrupt anyone reading on public transport, but then again, I'm basically an introvert. I don't feel compelled to chat with everyone I encounter.

When I was younger, I wouldn't have heard anyone speaking to me while I was reading. In elementary school I used to read for the rest of the class period after I finished my assignment. The room would empty around me when class was dismissed and I wouldn't hear anything. I was always surprised to find myself sitting in an empty (or nearly empty) room. I lost this ability sometime in my teen years. My mother never did. It was almost impossible to get her attention when she was reading.

nov 12, 2012, 2:07pm

>124 cbl_tn: I was living in St. Helena (north of Napa) and playing Tetris on my computer when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. I thought our Golden Retriever lying next to my chair was scratching. But he wasn't. I looked up and saw my son (3 at the time) who had just gotten up from his nap, standing in the doorway, his eyes as big as saucers. When it dawned on me it was an earthquake I went and sat in the doorway with him (supposedly a good place to be during an earthquake). No damage where we were but it was unnerving.

nov 13, 2012, 1:01pm

NetGalley ARC: Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

Spring has arrived in Bishops Lacey, along with Easter preparations at the village church. Since the church organist has mysteriously disappeared, Flavia de Luce's oldest sister, Ophelia (“Feely”) will have the honor of playing for the Easter services. Also in the works is the exhumation of St. Tancred, who is buried in the crypt. Naturally, Flavia manages to be at hand at the opening of the saint's tomb and the discovery of something that doesn't belong there. Meanwhile, the de Luce family's financial situation is getting worse. Will Flavia's father figure out a way to hold on to the family estate, or will the family be forced to leave Buckshaw forever?

This entry in the series leans more toward adventure novel, or perhaps treasure hunt, than detective fiction. Flavia is easily distracted from her investigations. However, her exploits and her encounters with various personalities in the village and its surrounding areas are entertaining enough to carry the plot. At this point in the series, my feelings for Flavia are much like Flavia's feelings for Inspector Hewitt's wife, Antigone. It's a privilege just to be in her presence. I'm already eagerly anticipating Flavia's next outing. Maybe I'll even brush up on my high school chemistry to pass the time while I wait for the release of book six!

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

4 stars

Next up: Early Reagan by Anne Edwards

Redigerat: nov 13, 2012, 7:41pm

I'm waiting for my Early Reviewer copy of the new Flavia, so I'm just skimming your review - very much looking forward to it!

ETA: Well, that worked out better than expected - it showed up in today's mail! :)

nov 13, 2012, 5:02pm

The truck delivering my copy must have had a flat somewhere. Hopefully it will be waiting for me when I get home today!

nov 13, 2012, 5:32pm

I'm trying to catch up with the Flavia series so that I can read my ER copy of Speaking from Among the Bones. Right now I'm on A Red Herring Without Mustard, so I still have a ways to go!

nov 13, 2012, 7:08pm

@130 -LOL, always blame the dog

@129 - I've seen that a lot. I call it Reading-related deafness. I had a friend with that condition who got locked into a library overnight once. His mother knew where he must be and somehow got a custodian to rescue him.

& good to see that Flavia didn't disappoint. :) I need to read more of those sometime soon.

nov 14, 2012, 12:44pm

I'm way behind with Flavia, too -- just finishing the 2nd book (probably tonight) and enjoying it a lot. It's nice to know that the series continues to be entertaining; maybe I'll make it a priority to catch up on it in 2013.

nov 14, 2012, 6:28pm

Thanks for dropping by everyone! I think we have the makings of a Flavia fan club. I wouldn't have had the nerve to try most of her expoits, but I enjoy reading about them.

Redigerat: nov 17, 2012, 10:20am

An Early Reviewer book: Early Reagan by Anne Edwards

Although Ronald Reagan had a life-long interest in politics, he was not a career politician. He was in his fifties when he first ran for public office. Anne Edwards' biography covers Reagan's life from his childhood to the beginning of his political career. Since this amounted to over half of Reagan's life, the book stretches to almost 500 pages.

The most interesting part of the book for me covered Reagan's pre-Hollywood years. I was very interested in his family background, his life in small towns in Illinois, his religious background, and his radio years in Des Moines, Iowa. Three of my grandparents were very close in age to Reagan – about the same age as his older brother. Two of the three were raised in small Midwestern towns. Like Reagan, these three grandparents were members of Disciples of Christ churches and were involved in the same kinds of youth activities. These three grandparents attended Disciples colleges at about the same time as Reagan. One of my grandfathers attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where just a few years later Reagan became a popular local radio personality. My other grandparents lived in Iowa after leaving college, where my grandfather was a Disciples minister. It's not inconceivable that they could have crossed paths with Reagan, and they most likely heard him on the radio at some point.

Reagan's early years in Hollywood also made for interesting reading. My interest in the book faded a good bit as the emphasis shifted to Reagan's involvement with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). The significance of the issues addressed by the SAG board is often lost among all the details of the meetings and side-notes about the personalities involved. It also seems like the author lost some of her objectivity in this part of the book. I sensed an undercurrent of disapproval in her description of Reagan's positions and decisions and her account of his activities during his years on the SAG board.

The book shows evidence of thorough research in archival sources and through personal interviews with many of Reagan's relatives, friends, and associates. As another reviewer has mentioned, the 2012 paperback edition includes footnotes that do not apply to this edition, such as the reference to the cover photo of the original hardback and an appendix with excerpts of Reagan's speeches that isn't included in the paperback edition. Since the book's tone is basically neutral, it should appeal to both Reagan's admirers and his critics. It's a good choice for readers interested in Reagan's life before the launch of his political career.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews by Michael Good

ETA: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

nov 17, 2012, 4:41pm

The Reagan book sounds interesting.

nov 17, 2012, 7:50pm

>139 hailelib: Even though it's a fairly hefty book, it reads quickly, and it's full of interesting stories and facts.

nov 18, 2012, 2:59pm

Lithuania book for my Europe Endless challenge: The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews by Michael Good

After examining many survivors' stories, I came to a new realization: that each Holocaust survivor represents a miracle of life and that almost all survivors owe their lives in small or large part to someone else's kindness, bravery, or courage. Thus, for many survivors of the holocaust and their descendants, an examination of the war does not necessarily lead only to the bloody horrors that mankind is capable of: it can also point to the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

Dr. Michael Good's book started out with a family trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, with his parents, wife, and children. Both of Dr. Good's parents were among the few Vilnius Jews who survived the Holocaust. During the trip, Dr. Good's father was reunited with two local families who gave him shelter during the war at great personal risk. When Dr. Good's mother told her story, she attributed her survival and that of her parents to a Nazi officer in the German army who made an effort to protect the Jews in his work camp. Major Plagge is credited with the survival of 250 Jews, almost 25% of those assigned to his work group. Overall, less than 2% of Vilnius’s Jews survived the Holocaust.

Dr. Good became intrigued by this German army officer who was spoken of so highly by his mother, grandfather, and other Holocaust survivors. What happened to this man after the war? Did his descendants know of his actions that resulted in the survival of so many Jews? After returning home, Dr. Good began making e-mail inquiries to archives, genealogical groups, and other organizations that might be able to answer some of his questions. As his e-mails spread to a wider network of colleagues and acquaintances of the original recipients, Dr. Good began to receive offers of assistance. Eventually, an official working group was formed, consisting of both survivors of Major Plagge's work group and Germans with archival skills or specialized knowledge of the German army and the post-war denazification process.

Once I started reading this book, I didn't want to stop. Major Plagge's story is revealed little by little in the same order that the research group made its discoveries. It's both a deeply moving and an inspiring account. By insisting on the humane treatment of the Jews, Poles, and other defenseless prisoners under his care, Major Plagge didn't just save many of them from certain death. He also restrained the Germans serving under him from committing acts of cruelty that would surely have haunted at least some of them for the rest of their lives. Although I pray that we'll never again see anything like the Holocaust, it's impossible to know what the future might hold. Stories like that of Major Plagge are important to remember as an example and an encouragement to choose good and resist evil.

4 1/2 stars

Next up: A Freak of Freedom by J. Theodore Bent

nov 18, 2012, 4:01pm

So what happened to Major Plagge?

nov 18, 2012, 4:28pm

I guess it's not really spoiler to reveal it since it's history. The research group was able to identify the Major and locate the transcript of his denazification trial. There was some publicity in Germany after some of the group's major discoveries, and each time the publicity resulted in contacts from people offering more information. The research group presented documentation to Yad Vashem, which awarded him the status of Righteous Among the Nations in 2004.



nov 18, 2012, 4:57pm

Thanks for the links!

nov 18, 2012, 5:11pm

>141 cbl_tn: This sounds fascinating! I didn't read the (non)spoiler, because I do want to read the book and discover the answer as they did...

nov 18, 2012, 5:26pm

Ivy, it's well worth reading. I'd also try to get hold of the expanded edition. It includes additional information uncovered after the publication of the first edition of the book.

nov 18, 2012, 6:26pm

I'm almost finished with the Endless Europe challenge and my 50 states U.S. territories mini-challenge. While I don't want to tackle the entire world, I decided I'd like to do one more geographical challenge. Starting in 2013, I'm going to challenge myself to read one book set in or about each of the Commonwealth countries. Since these nations are scattered over several continents, it will give me a sampling of each one. If there's enough interest I'll set up a challenge group. Otherwise, I'll probably keep track of my progress on a wiki page.

nov 18, 2012, 11:02pm

A Commonwealth countries challenge sounds like a great idea! I would be up for joining a challenge like that so if you get enough interest to set up a challenge group, please let me know.

nov 18, 2012, 11:04pm

Carrie, I am not doing too well on my 50 States Challenge but I would be interested in a Commonwealth Countries Challenge. I like the global aspect.

nov 19, 2012, 12:56pm

Excellent review of The Search for Major Plagge - sounds fascinating and it's most definitely going on the wishlist.

nov 19, 2012, 9:07pm

Thanks Eva! It's very different than any of the Holocaust stories I've read before since the hero is a Nazi in the German army.

nov 19, 2012, 11:01pm

Nice Quote from The Search - It's true too.

nov 21, 2012, 9:03pm

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! No traveling for me this year. I've been invited to two dinners tomorrow, one at noon and one in the evening. I just made my favorite Jello salad for the first one - black cherry Jello, Bing cherries, pineapple, nuts, cream cheese, & Coke. I'm planning to take sweet potato pudding to the second one. I'll do what little prep work is needed in the morning, then try to make sure I get home from the first dinner in time to mix everything together and put it in the oven. I've been listening to The Good Earth while I work in the kitchen. I'm already past the part about the famine. I don't think I could have listened to that part of the story while cooking.

nov 21, 2012, 10:59pm

Happy Thanksgiving Carrie! I did a double take when I saw your Jello salad ingredients but I can easily say that sweet potato pudding sounds fantastic!

nov 21, 2012, 11:01pm

My mother made that Jello salad for special occasions as far back as I can remember. I love cherries anyway, and the Coke gives it a little bit of a kick. It's really good!

nov 22, 2012, 1:36am

Have a happy Thanksgiving, Carrie.

nov 22, 2012, 12:53pm

My mom made that same salad only she called it Cherry Coke salad. Think I need to make some dinner.

nov 22, 2012, 3:26pm

I thought about using Cherry Coke instead of regular Coke for this, and stuck with the regular Coke this time. My mother's recipe has been around longer than Cherry Coke. I'll have to try the Cherry Coke next time.

nov 22, 2012, 4:57pm

She didn't use cherry coke, she just called it that beacuse of the Cherries and Coke used. I never thought of using Cherry Coke and now that I am I thinking about it, Cherry Coke may be too sweet. I guess I will just have to give it a try.

nov 22, 2012, 9:24pm

For my Endless Europe challenge: Tania: Memories of a Lost World by Tania Alexander

Tania Alexander's memoir is supposed to be about her childhood in Estonia between the world wars. However, Tania's mother, Moura Budberg, somehow dominates the story. Moura came from a wealthy Ukrainian family, and, as the youngest child, was spoiled by both parents. Tania's father was a member of the Baltic aristocracy in Estonia and the heir to a large estate. Although Tania was born in Russia, after the Revolution, she and her older brother went to Estonia with their father, while her mother remained in Russia. Tania's father was murdered not long after their move to Estonia. Tania and her older brother, Paul, continued to live in what had been the summer home on their father's estate with various cousins, aunts, uncles, and household help that included an Irish nanny.

Tania didn't see her mother again until 1921. From that point on, Moura made twice yearly visits to Estonia to see her children and family, but she continued to live apart from the family, first in Russia and then Italy as the secretary and mistress of Maxim Gorky, then in England as the mistress of H.G. Wells. Tania's childhood memories include a visit to Italy to visit her mother and Gorky and H.G. Wells' visit to Estonia with her mother.

Alexander and her mother didn't appear to have a strong mother-daughter bond. Alexander refers to her mother as Moura throughout the book, never as “mother” in any of its various forms. It's clear from Alexander's description of her mother that she had a difficult personality. Moura always needed to be the center of attention, and she seems to have been a pathological liar. I think it's to Alexander's credit that this book is not, like so many memoirs of children of celebrities, the story of how her mother's behavior ruined her life. Alexander seems to have accepted her mother as she was, and she writes of her with affection.

Alexander addresses the widespread claim that her mother was a spy. She explains why she doesn't believe these claims are true, and she offers evidence to contradict some of the stories told about her mother. Alexander acknowledges that her mother's propensity to lie and to make up stories about her past had fueled the rumors that circulated about her.

Although Alexander spent her formative years in Estonia, she seems to have had little contact with Estonians. Her Baltic uncles had all married Russian women, and it was the women who had the most influence in the household. Tania thought of herself as Russian. A surprisingly small percentage of the book is actually about Estonia. Alexander writes as much, if not more, about her mother's time in Russia and Italy and their years together in England after Tania finished school. While Moura certainly led and interesting life, I would have preferred more about Estonia and less about her.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: The Best Cellar by Charles A. Goodrum; still working on A Freak of Freedom by J. Theodore Bent

nov 23, 2012, 3:59am

Makes you wonder why she named the book Tania.

nov 23, 2012, 8:34am

nov 23, 2012, 5:09pm

From my TBR stash: The Best Cellar by Charles A. Goodrum

For Crighton Jones, PR officer at the (fictional) Werner-Bok library in Washington, D.C., a good deed turns into a nightmare. When a visiting researcher is unable to find lodging, Crighton offers her a place to stay for a few days until something opens up. Crighton becomes concerned when the woman doesn't show up one evening. After she receives a threatening phone call meant for the woman, she becomes even more concerned. The woman had hinted that she was close to an explosive discovery. Could her research have put her in danger? The woman's life might depend on Crighton's ability to figure out the details of her research to locate and warn the woman of impending danger. Who better to help her solve the puzzle than her archaeologist friend Steve Carson and her mentor, retired librarian Edward George?

I loved many elements of the mystery, particularly the historical puzzle involving the Library of Congress, the War of 1812, and the Virginia aristocracy. However, the plot has some problems. There were well over 24 hours in one of the days described in the book. The chronology of events just doesn't fit within the time frame specified in the book. The periodic discourses on the state of librarianship in the mid-1980s will be an unnecessary distraction to readers without a strong interest in the library profession. Librarians whose professional experience goes back to the 1980s may enjoy the nostalgic experience. I'll pick up the other books in this series if I run across them, but I won't go to a lot of effort to locate them.

2 1/2 stars

Next up: Black Flower by Young-ha Kim

nov 23, 2012, 10:19pm

Happy Thanksgiving to you too!! I stayed away from cooking completely (I was on baking-duty), so my day was very relaxing! :)

nov 24, 2012, 12:21am

oooo Too bad about The Best Cellar. It has some interesting elements in it, but it sounds like it was put together sloppily. And that title!!! What a groaner of a pun.

nov 24, 2012, 7:17am

Even though the plot was weak it was still a fun read for a librarian. Believe it or not, I hadn't noticed the pun in the title until you pointed it out. There really is a cellar with an important function in the plot!

nov 24, 2012, 8:40am

I hear we had another earthquake this morning. Although I'm quite a bit closer to the epicenter than I was to the last one, it was a weaker quake. I slept right through it.

nov 24, 2012, 5:16pm

Another book for the Endless Europe challenge: A Freak of Freedom by J. Theodore Bent (San Marino)

If you're curious about the history of the Republic of San Marino, a tiny country in the middle of Italy, this is one of the few English language options you'll find. Fortunately, it's fairly readable and, thanks to Google's digitization of works in the public domain, it's easy to access. The author repeatedly refers to documents in San Marino's archives, and it appears that these documents were the author's main source of information, supplemented by secondary histories in various languages referenced in footnotes scattered throughout the text. The book is more than a century out of date, so if you want to know what effect the wars of the 20th century had on this tiny nation you'll need to look elsewhere. The OCR software didn't seem to handle the typeface well, so if you read the Google version, you'll need to be prepared to see “Eimini” for Rimini and “Eomagna” for Romagna, etc. I finally figured out that the abstract illustrations that appear on many pages were the left-hand fingers of the person holding the book in place as it was scanned. Since San Marino has such an unusual history and form of government, the book might be of interest to political science students, as well as to travelers headed for northern Italy.

3 stars

Still reading: Black Flower by Young-ha Kim

nov 26, 2012, 9:57pm

For a change I'm watching TV this evening instead of reading. The Extreme Makeover special showing this evening was filmed in Knoxville. I'm acquainted with the family who received the new home, and I know a few of the local people who were involved with the project. It's fun to see familiar faces and places on the show!

nov 27, 2012, 11:28am

Audio book downloaded from the public library: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (also fits this month's Reading Through Time theme)

Pearl Buck is one of those authors I've been meaning to read for years. I finally did, and I'm glad I started with The Good Earth. The story seems both familiar and strange. The book addresses universal themes of family conflict, poverty and wealth, wisdom and folly, love and hate, but its setting in provincial China in the early 20th century is very different. It was jarring for the female sex to be referred to as “slaves”, yet that's how the women were treated even in wealthy households.

One of the most curious passages in the book is Wang Lung's encounter with Christian missionaries in the city. They provide much-needed assistance for the poor when conditions are bad, but seem to abandon them to their fate when conditions are at their worst. They distribute literature that the uneducated Wang Lung can't understand. He can't read the letters, and the pictures don't make any sense to him. The family puts the papers to good use, but not in the way the missionaries intended. Knowing that Pearl Buck was the daughter of missionaries, I can't help but see this as a commentary on the futility of the work of Western missionaries.

The story is well-suited for audio, and Anthony Heald's reading is delightful. I'm not sure I would have liked the book quite as well if I had read it rather than listened to it. Warmly recommended.

4 stars

nov 27, 2012, 1:48pm

Extreme is such a great show, isn't it! My best friend worked as a producer on it for many years and I got to help out on a few projects - really great concept, involving a lot of great people!

nov 27, 2012, 2:38pm

>171 -Eva-: Yes, it is. I hate to see it end. The local ABC affiliate did a follow-up story for the late news last night. They visited with the family at home and went on a tour of the house. The kids still enjoy their rooms, and everything looks very much the same as it did in January (or 10 minutes earlier in TV time!)

nov 27, 2012, 2:51pm

"January (or 10 minutes earlier in TV time!)"

Haha!!! Very true.

nov 27, 2012, 3:17pm

Since I remember all the hoopla surrounding the show in late January, it seemed very odd to me to see the events described on the show as if it all took place last week - from the "Thanksgiving parade" in Knoxville (which has a Christmas parade, but not a Thanksgiving parade) to the Christmas trees in Sears. They must have pulled a few decorations out of storage for the filming.

They did really have a "Thanksgiving parade" in January that everyone in the area was invited to attend, but it was staged just for the show.

nov 27, 2012, 4:13pm

LOL! Yes, I know they are called "reality shows," but that isn't entirely correct. :) The one thing that I now people always asked me was if it was true that the houses actually went up in a week, but it isn't - it's actually less, more like 5 days, so you can "cheat" the other way too. Any reason to have a parade is good, right?! :)

dec 2, 2012, 7:47pm

NetGalley ARC: Black Flower by Young-ha Kim

I've read a lot of non-fiction books that seem like novels. This may be my first novel that seems like non-fiction. It tells the story of the thousand-odd Koreans who left Korea during the Russo-Japanese War. They were headed for Mexico's Yucatán in the belief that it offered better opportunities than Japanese-occupied Korea. When they arrived, they discovered that they had been tricked into signing contracts for indentured servitude on henequen plantations. The novel follows several of the Korean immigrants from Korea to the plantations and through the Mexican Revolution.

There would have been little to hold my interest had the book been set in a different location. I would have preferred to read a non-fiction historical work on this topic, but apparently documentary sources are scarce. The novel included content I usually avoid in fiction, including supernatural elements such as demon possession as well as a few brief but graphic descriptions of sex. The novel also reminds me a bit of the few magical realism works I've read, but I don't think that element is strong enough to appeal to fans of that genre. I think this book will appeal most strongly to readers interested in Korean, Asian, Mexican, and/or Central American history.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

3 stars

Next up: The Race to the New World by Douglas Hunter

dec 8, 2012, 12:18pm

Early Reviewer book: The Race to the New World by Douglas Hunter

The Race to the New World alternates between the story of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Caribbean Islands and John Cabot's lesser-documented voyages across the northern Atlantic to Labrador and Newfoundland. Hunter takes a fresh look at primary documents (or in some cases, new translations of primary documents) and offers some new interpretations of the documentary evidence.

Readers familiar with this era will likely react differently to Hunter's work than I did. Before I read this book, my knowledge of this topic was limited to little more than the rhyme my 8th grade social studies teacher insisted we memorize: “In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Needless to say, I learned a lot from this book. It's as much a story of Renaissance politics and finance as it is of exploration. Hunter's explanation of the circumstances surrounding the Columbus and Cabot voyages extends to the pretender Perkin Warbeck's challenge to Henry VII's reign in England and, more familiar to me, the Italian Wars pitting Charles VIII of France against the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and the League of Venice.

Although Hunter includes detailed notes on his sources and a fairly lengthy bibliography, the absence of footnotes/endnotes indicates that the book is targeted to a popular rather than a scholarly audience. Nevertheless, both the source notes and the text include enough details for interested researchers to follow his bibliographic trail. Recommended for all readers with an interest in the Renaissance era and/or the Age of Discovery.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

4 stars

Next up: Guantanamo: An American History by Jonathan M. Hansen

dec 8, 2012, 3:14pm

Christmas book: A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Even if you've never been to Wales, this book will evoke feelings of nostalgia for the happy, carefree Christmases of childhood. The illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman draw you into Dylan Thomas's childhood world. They're worth lingering over. My favorite picture is the Useful Presents. It's priceless. The story leaves me feeling a little melancholy, straining to catch “the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep.” Highly recommended.

5 stars

dec 8, 2012, 4:57pm

Glad to see you enjoyed the Thomas book. I think you read a different edition than I did because the edition I had was "sparsely illustrated" according to my comments.

dec 9, 2012, 12:34am

Good review of Black Flower. Even though you didn't love it, you're reasons are pretty clear so people can make up their own minds. I think I'll keep my eye on it. It sounds interesting, but I'd like to see a few more ratings from other people. I've found that most of the times I agree with the rating averages on LT when there have been enough readers. Does that mean I'm an average reader???

& love Dylan Thomas!

dec 9, 2012, 7:51am

I've found that most of the times I agree with the rating averages on LT when there have been enough readers.

I've discovered the same thing! The LT ratings are usually a pretty good indicator for me.

dec 9, 2012, 4:22pm

I am definitely going to put A Child's Christmas in Wales on my seasonal list. I love books that take you back, I am currently just starting The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read and it's giving me that sense of Christmas past, that I so enjoy.

dec 9, 2012, 5:16pm

Judy, I think this is one that could be enjoyed with your grandchildren. One of the reviews mentions that it would be appreciated more by adults than by children, I suppose because of the sense of nostalgia that permeates the story. However, I think children would relate to the illustrations in the edition I read.

dec 9, 2012, 5:18pm

I should also add that No Holly for Miss Quinn was my first Miss Read novel and it's still my favorite of the ones I've read. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas one year when I was too young to appreciate it. I'm glad I kept it all these years and finally picked it up several years ago.

dec 9, 2012, 6:24pm

Audio book downloaded from the public library: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

It's impossible to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks without thinking about the issues surrounding medical research, human subjects and informed consent, medical ethics, and the doctor/patient relationship. In one way, Henrietta Lacks probably wasn't any different than hundreds of other patients at the time. It seems clear that doctors had been taking tissue samples from patients and attempting to grow them for quite some time. Henrietta's were different because they didn't die, but continued to grow.

I admired Henrietta's daughter, Deborah's, persistence in trying to find out what happened to her mother's cells and what this meant for her family. I also sympathized with some of the medical professionals who, it seems, with good intentions tried to provide an explanation. Deborah and many of her relatives lacked the formal education that would have provided the foundation for that understanding, and most of the scientists couldn't seem to explain cell biology in lay terms. (I have less sympathy for those who were too impatient or arrogant to try to communicate with the family.) Deborah's life-long effort to educate herself about her mother's cells is inspirational.

Rebecca Skloot alternates between first and third person in telling Henrietta's story and placing it within the context of medical research and ethics. Her use of first person made me uncomfortable. I felt like the author was inserting herself into Henrietta's story. It has the appearance of one more person exploiting the family for personal gain. There is so much of Deborah's voice in the story that I would have liked to have seen her credited as a co-author.

Although the book caused me to reflect on the issues it raised, it didn't change my opinion about the issues involved. I tend to side with medical research. I want medical science to advance so that future generations may benefit from cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, and other diseases that impact so many families. If tissue samples taken during medically necessary procedures can help to advance medical science, I want my tissue to be used for that purpose. Current protocols seem adequate for preventing experimentation on human subjects without their consent, either by introducing pathogens or withholding treatment. Given the difficulties of convincing third-party insurers to pay for medically necessary procedures, it would be extremely difficult to convince them to pay for an unnecessary medical procedure for the purpose of extracting tissue or organs for research. Since medical advances often raise unanticipated ethical questions, it's important that we continue to examine and re-examine issues affecting patient rights. It's books like Skloot's that keep this important conversation going.

3 1/2 stars

Next up in audio: A Christmas Secret by Anne Perry

dec 9, 2012, 7:03pm

Great review of the Henrietta Lacks book, Carrie! I keep promising to pick this one up and one of these days, I will get around to doing so!

dec 10, 2012, 11:47pm

I was looking to have at least one seasonal read this year and A Child's Christmas in Wales looks like the perfect candidate.

dec 11, 2012, 3:09pm

John Cabot sailed from Bristol and there's a famous statue of him on the docks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bristol_cabot_statue.jpg

There's also a replica of the Matthew (which we used as a pirate boat for the Bristol festival of literature) and a tower was built to commemorate his voyage

I'm planning to read About Columbus's voyages as part of the 2013 challenge

So perhaps I should read the race for the new world?

dec 11, 2012, 4:04pm

Thanks for the link! Bristol is one of the places I never managed to visit in the 4 years I lived in England.

I'd definitely recommend this book for your 2013 challenge, particularly if you've got a whole category on this topic!

dec 11, 2012, 5:21pm

It definitely fits...

dec 12, 2012, 8:43pm

My new toy tool arrived this morning - an iPad mini - and it's been keeping me busy for a good part of the day. I'll be traveling to Mexico for Christmas again this year and I'll be taking the iPad instead of the net book I took last year. It's even smaller and saves on limited packing space. I don't know what Christmas gifts I'll have to fit in to bring back home with me.

I've already determined that I'll continue to do most of my e-reading on my Sony Pocket Reader because it's smaller and lighter. The iPad Mini is surprisingly heavy. Must be the battery. My shoulders started to ache after I'd been holding it a while. I've never had that happen with the Sony reader.

dec 13, 2012, 10:35am

Curious - does it get warm? I'm amazed that these devices (like my Kindle) don't heat up at all.

dec 13, 2012, 1:48pm

The iPad Mini gets slightly warm, but not hot. My Sony Pocket Reader doesn't heat at all.

dec 15, 2012, 7:19am

My first seasonal read was an audiobook: A Christmas Secret by Anne Perry

Anne Perry's A Christmas Secret is currently my favorite of the ones I've read in this series. It features two characters introduced in her Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series. Dominic Corde and his wife arrive in a village just before Christmas. The vicar has been called away suddenly and the bishop has appointed Dominic to fill in during the vicar's absence. The couple begins to suspect that something isn't right with the vicar's absence, and their suspicions are soon confirmed. Their discoveries raise questions concerning sin, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. These theological reflections are the other reason I liked this book so well. They are fitting subjects to contemplate during the Christmas season. Potential readers should be aware that the book includes spoilers for Brunswick Gardens.

4 stars

Next up in audio: The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell

dec 15, 2012, 10:16am

I'm pretty sure I read that one before my LibraryThing days -- the year it came out. We still have it at Carson-Newman so I'm pretty sure that I would have checked it out then! (I probably was the first in the library to read it.)

dec 15, 2012, 11:05am

Another short Christmas story: Cathedral Windows by Clare O'Donohue

Nell Fitzgerald doesn't believe it when Archer's Rest's new third grade teacher, a recently returned veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is accused of arson just days before Christmas. Her sheriff boyfriend doesn't want to believe it, either, but all the evidence points to Charlie's guilt. Can Nell figure out who was really responsible for the fire in time to save Charlie's Christmas. With help from her grandmother, Eleanor, and her quilting customers, she just might pull off a Christmas everyone will remember.

This is a heartwarming Christmas story that focuses on community and belonging. Although a mystery is at the heart of the story, it's not a murder mystery. A death would have diminished some of the book's holiday charm. While many of the characters are regulars in the Someday Quilts series, it's not necessary to have read any of the series books before reading this novella. It can be enjoyed equally by series fans, quilters, and readers looking for an uplifting seasonal story.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter; also continuing with Guantanamo: An American History by Jonathan M. Hansen

dec 15, 2012, 1:34pm

>194 cbl_tn: A Christmas Secret was my favorite of the 3 Anne Perry novellas I read last December. I've read another 3 this year; they're good stories and I like the positive messages in them.

dec 15, 2012, 3:35pm

I'm going to Mexico again for Christmas and I want to get most of my packing done this weekend even though I don't leave until the middle of the week. Since I'll be wearing summer clothes there and winter clothes here I should be able to get mostly packed. My challenge is finding and fitting in Christmas gifts for my sister-in-law's large family. I take family gifts rather than individual gifts, but she has 8 brothers and sisters, plus her father and step-mother. I'm running out of ideas that are small enough to fit in my luggage allowance. I finally decided to go with Christmas CDs. I bought an assortment and I'll let my sister-in-law help me decide who gets what. Her father will celebrate his 80th birthday on the 23rd so I need a birthday gift for him as well as a Christmas gift. A woodworking friend makes pen and pencil sets to sell so I'm taking one of those for his birthday.

I've been working on the suitcase for a while so I think I'm going to take a reading break. As soon as I put in a load of laundry.

dec 15, 2012, 6:52pm

Have a great time in Mexico!

dec 16, 2012, 3:26am

Jealous!!! Have a great trip!

dec 16, 2012, 7:40pm

Have fun on your trip! I'm having visitors from Sweden and they have expressed a wish to go to Mexico, so I too might visit. Well, it won't be a "proper" visit, but I'll take them further than Tijuana at least!! :)

dec 16, 2012, 8:33pm

Thanks for all the good wishes. I enjoy Mexico, particularly since I get it differently than most tourists. My sister-in-law's family has adopted me as part of the family. I enjoy taking part in all of their Christmas traditions. I love mariachi music, and I'll be surprised if there isn't a band at the birthday party.

dec 17, 2012, 1:40am

!!! & I love the mariachi clothes !!! Shiny! Have a blast!

dec 17, 2012, 7:24am

Borrowed from the public library: Guantánamo: An American History by Jonathan M. Hansen

I completed this year's literary tour of U.S. territories with Guantánamo: An American History. I hadn't heard of the U.S. base there until it became a detention center for enemy combatants and suspected terrorists after 9/11. However, that's only the latest news in the bay's long history.

Starting with Columbus, Hansen tells of the discovery of the bay and how it changed hands through its history, ending up with its permanent lease to the U.S. for use as a military base. Cuba is strategically located at the meeting point of the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Guantánamo Bay is near the southeastern point of the island, a part of the island that was historically underpopulated, making it vulnerable to invasion. It became a destination for groups fleeing other island nations in the region, particularly African slaves and French Haitians.

The U.S. acquired its base at Guantánamo following the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century. Hansen then follows its history as a base, from the prohibition era, where military personnel could enjoy the alcohol that was unavailable to them in the U.S., to the rise of Castro, when access was cut off to the rest of Cuba.

I found the first two thirds of the book much more interesting than the last third of the book. The last two chapters cover the period in which the base was used to house and process Haitian refugees in the late 1980s/early 1990s and its current use as a detention center for enemy combatants and suspected terrorists in the War on Terror. The book lost its focus on Guantánamo at this point and became a political commentary. The author's bias is evident in this section of the book. He explains one side of the controversy very well. Readers wanting to delve into both sides of these complex issues will need to look elsewhere for a balanced approach.

3 stars

Next up: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter

dec 18, 2012, 6:34pm

A Christmas-themed short story collection: Holmes for the Holidays edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Carol-Lynn Waugh

I like Christmas stories and I like Sherlock Holmes so this seemed like a collection I would enjoy. My instinct was right. As with all collections, some stories were better than others, but all were good. My favorite story in the collection is probably “The Adventure of the Canine Ventriloquist” by Jon L. Breen. It's a story about a young man who had everything going for him the previous Christmas but whose fortune had steadily declined during the year as he experienced some unexplained phenomena that raised questions about his mental state. I also liked “A Scandal in Winter”, narrated by a young girl who was the only witness to a murder that had taken place a year earlier at the same hotel. The only mystery with a predictable solution was the first one in the collection, written by Anne Perry. I like to read mystery short story collections occasionally to discover new authors whose books I might enjoy. This collection has added a few more names to my list of authors to try.

4 stars

dec 19, 2012, 12:15pm

Your trip to Mexico sounds great! Merry Christmas!

dec 19, 2012, 12:28pm

Thanks Ivy! I'm nearly packed and ready to leave later today. I have a layover tonight (conveniently in my brother's city) and we'll travel on to Mexico tomorrow. I'll be in a Mayan region. Maybe I should buy a new calendar as a souvenir. ;)

dec 19, 2012, 1:23pm

Have a good trip!

dec 19, 2012, 6:01pm

I'll have wifi at the hotel in Mexico so I'll probably check in a couple of times while I'm there. I usually have time to kill in the morning while I wait for everyone else to get up (and I'm not a morning person!) Just in case I don't, I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas!

dec 19, 2012, 6:10pm

Marry Christmas, Carrie. Have a great trip.

dec 20, 2012, 12:32pm

Merry Christmas! Hope your trip is safe and awesome!

dec 20, 2012, 6:32pm

I made it as far as Cancun. I've never seen anything like it in the customs hall. The line was so long that it filled the entire baggage claim area, and more planes kept coming in. We finally made it through and were able to spend a couple of hours with some of my SIL's family while we wait for the bus to Chetumal. I finished an audiobook on the plane last night and I might finish the book I'm reading on the bus tonight. I think we have a 5 or 6 hour trip, mostly in the dark so I won't feel guilty for not gazing at the scenery.

dec 20, 2012, 7:23pm

LOL! Traveling over the holidays is always mad! Hope you have a great time!

dec 20, 2012, 10:15pm

Glad to see you are almost at your holiday destination. Like Eva said, traveling over the holidays is always mad.... which is why I prefer to hibernate locally, much to the chagrin of my family, who all reside out of province from me!

Have fun on your vacation!

dec 21, 2012, 12:36pm

We arrived at our hotel late last night (or rather, early this morning) and I was up with the sun. My SIL and her siblings have gone to order a cake and find a mariachi band for their father's 80th birthday on Sunday. I opted to stay at the hotel and read (and maybe nap). I'm still learning how to navigate the iPad. I took a photo from my window this morning and added it to my picture gallery. I think I might go sit by the pool and read for a while.

dec 22, 2012, 10:07am

I'm pleased to note that the world didn't end yesterday. It didn't seem to be on anyone's mind here. Today's agenda includes a trip to Bacalar with several members of my SIL's family. There's a fort nearby that my SIL wants to see. We might also visit some Mayan ruins. I think they found a mariachi band last night so all the arrangements are set for tomorrow's birthday party.

dec 23, 2012, 2:07pm

My son has been wearing his "I survived Dec. 22, 2012" t-shirt for months. It cracked me up every time I saw it.

dec 23, 2012, 2:30pm

We didn't make it to the Mayan ruins yesterday, but we did see the Fort, the Bacalar lagoon, and a cenote. We went to church this morning and I was able to follow the Spanish language service fairly well. We're leaving soon for the birthday party. I'll have some reading time this evening after I get my presents wrapped.

dec 25, 2012, 3:42pm

It's Christmas and almost time to go home. The weather is so nice here that it's hard to imagine the winter storms at home. The US weather will seem much more real tomorrow. I hope I don't have any major delays tomorrow, but it sounds like I could have problems. At least I've still got plenty of reading material.

dec 25, 2012, 10:38pm

My SIL insisted that I couldn't leave Chetumal without having a machacado, a frozen drink found only in this part of Mexico. I'm glad she insisted. The drink is made with fresh fruit, shaved ice, and either water or something like sweetened condensed milk. They're wonderfully messy, delicious, and refreshing. I had coconut and also got to sample my bother's banana one. I could try to replicate it at home but I don't think I could match the ice or the freshness of the topical fruit.

dec 26, 2012, 12:12pm

A machacado sounds delicious!

dec 27, 2012, 9:15am

I found a video that shows how machacados are made: http://youtu.be/p6SbHllAtGk. It was really good!

dec 27, 2012, 9:41am

My flight out of DFW left almost 2 hours late last night so I reached home about 2 a.m. instead of around midnight. My inconvenience was minor compared to what a lot of my fellow travelers had experienced. I overheard one man, who was trying to get to Springfield, MO with two young boys, say that he had been waiting 50 hours for a flight. I was planning to read either a paperback or a book on my Sony e-reader on the flight but my overhead light was broken. I ended up sleeping most of the way.

dec 27, 2012, 5:42pm

Seasonal read as well as audio download from the public library: The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell

On Christmas Eve in Santa Fe, undercover spy Paul Kagan is on the run from members of a Russian Mafia gang he's infiltrated. He's trying to save the life of a baby the mafia is trying to kidnap. Kagan is able to elude his pursuers long enough to seek refuge in a home of a battered woman and her twelve-year-old son. They're on their own if Kagan's pursuers find them since the home is cut off from all access to the outside world.

The story alternates between the events of the present Christmas Eve and Kagan's back story (and to an extent the back story of the family who live in the house where Kagan finds shelter). I've listened to other audiobooks that jump back and forth in time without any problem, but this one was difficult to follow. It didn't help matters that the reader's delivery is rather uninspired. A reimagining of the Christmas story from the perspective of the wise men is at the heart of the story. The story might work for readers who don't accept the miraculous events in the biblical accounts of the Nativity. Readers at the evangelical/conservative end of the Christian spectrum will probably find it as difficult as I did to suspend their beliefs in order to accept the premise at the heart of the plot.

2 stars

dec 27, 2012, 6:00pm

Seasonal read downloaded from the public library: A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer

I came across this collection of Rumpole Christmas stories while browsing my public library's ebook collection. I read and enjoyed the author's Summer's Lease a few years ago but I had never tried the Rumpole series for which he is most famous. This collection is a great appetizer for the series. It gave me a taste for characters and situations that appear to feature regularly in this series, such as Rumpole's wife, known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, his legal colleagues the Erskine-Browns, private eye F.I.G. Newton, and the Timson family who live on the wrong side of the law. There isn't a bad story in the bunch. I particularly enjoyed the hat tip to P.G. Wodehouse with the identity of the victim in one of the stories: Honoria Glossop. I look forward to spending more time with Rumpole and his clients and associates.

4 stars

dec 27, 2012, 6:48pm

Seasonal read borrowed from a friend: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter

Although author John Baxter was born in Australia, it's France that he calls home. He moved to France in the late 1980s to live with the woman who is now his wife. Cooking is his avocation, and somehow he ended up as the official cook for his wife's family's Christmas dinners. This short memoir intersperses his plans for the current year's Christmas menu with reminiscences about earlier events in his life, including his first Christmas dinner with his wife's family. He's a good storyteller and finds humor in many of his experiences. The main downside of the book for me is that he sometimes shares more than I care to know about the very personal details of his life. Recommended with reservations for readers who enjoy literary travel or food.

3 1/2 stars

dec 27, 2012, 7:55pm

Ebook downloaded from the public library: Moon Over Water by Debbie Macomber

I don't usually read romance novels, but I downloaded this one on a whim before a trip to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula since I like to read books set where I travel. I should have known better. The book could have been a lot shorter if the characters didn't intentionally lie to each other. For their own good, of course.

I have to wonder if the author has ever traveled in this part of Mexico. I've been to Mérida a couple of times and it doesn't look anything like the author's description. (My first visit was 8 to 9 years after the book's time setting, but I don't think it could have changed so drastically between 1998 or 1999 and 2007.)

With billowing exhaust and much grinding of gears, the bus finally pulled into the station. Jason had been right to warn her about its likely condition. The rattletrap of a vehicle looked as if it'd been on the road since the Second World War. Its color was no longer distinguishable and half the windows were missing...

The bus was one thing, her fellow travelers another. The minute the bus rolled into the yard, people appeared from every direction. Adults and children and caged chickens. One man was hefting a pig under his arm.

I've ridden both city buses and intercity buses in Mérida and none of them looked anything like the author describes, nor does the bus station look like the dilapidated structure Macomber describes. Mérida is a modern and attractive city.

Lorraine, the book's protagonist, needs a new map. Her map “showed that El Mirador was about seventy-five miles north of Mérida”. I spent last Christmas near Progreso, almost exactly 23 miles due north of Mérida. Go any farther north and you'll be in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

Fans of Christian fiction might be interested to learn that this book is dedicated to Liz Curtis Higgs, a popular Christian speaker and author of Christian fiction. This might lead some readers to infer that this is a Christian romance novel. It isn't. Although the main character does attend church, the book includes sexual content that would not be found in Christian fiction.

1 1/2 stars

dec 27, 2012, 8:20pm

A seasonal TBR: The Alto Wore Tweed by Mark Schweizer

Hayden Konig is the police chief in the small town of St. Germaine, North Carolina, somewhere near Boone. He's also the part-time organist and choir director at the Episcopal church. He also an aspiring hard-boiled crime novelist. He does his best to undermine the interim priest, a feminist activist. Konig's professional worlds collide when a body is discovered in the church's organ loft. The resulting mayhem is highly entertaining.

Readers with a slightly warped sense of humor who aren't offended by politically incorrect humor will enjoy this fun mystery. Here's a taste:

Being the staff member in charge of the worship service, I thought I had acted in the best interest of everyone concerned when, during Herself's inaugural Sunday, she decided that she'd like the congregation to sing Kum-Baya as the post-communion hymn.

After considerable back and forth:

I'll tell you what, I said, looking around in my most Grouchovian conspiratorial fashion. “I'll give you a chord and you start the song. Then I'll pick up my banjo and the choir and I will join in on the chorus. We'll just follow you.” I was mugging about so much that with a cigar in my mouth and a comb under my nose, this performance would be worth of A Night at the Opera.

I thought surely she would see I was being wholly sarcastic. Certainly the other two committee members knew it. She just smiled smugly and ticked the task off her to-do list. No. 3—Emasculate the choirmaster. Check.

“That will be great,” she said, grinning at me like the possum that just ate the nightingale. “Everyone will love it.”

“Yes, you keep saying that,” I added as the committee's collective eyeball size went from ping-pong ball to saucer.

What I forgot to tell her was that I don't play the banjo. At least not in church.

What she forgot to tell me was that she was not a singer by any stretch of the definition.

And the Bishop missed the whole thing.

The mystery was weak and I was disappointed in its resolution. However, the book was so much fun that I didn't care. Best of all, it's the first book in a series. If the rest are as funny as this one, I have a lot to look forward to!

3 1/2 stars

dec 27, 2012, 8:48pm

Borrowed from a friend: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

Although Last Night at the Lobster is set a few days before Christmas, it isn't a feel-good Christmas story. It's the story of an ending – of the closure of a Red Lobster in suburban New England, of the last day its employees will spend together, and of the final chapter in the aftermath of an affair between the manager and one of the servers. The tone feels like a melancholy New Year's Eve. It's also a story of labor vs. management, and its main character, “Manny”, could be viewed as an Everyman. Although Manny is the restaurant's manager and could be viewed as middle management, he feels closer to the laborers he spends his days with than to the faceless corporate bureaucrats in a remote location. This behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant industry left me wanting to be a more generous tipper (and I'm not particularly stingy in that respect). It also reminded me of all the reasons I like to support locally-owned businesses.

3 1/2 stars

dec 28, 2012, 12:26am

->222 cbl_tn:
Oh, is that what they're called?! I've had them (and they are indeed yummy), but I never picked up the name.

dec 28, 2012, 3:08am

Interesting mix of seasonal reading, Carrie. Sorry to see The Spy Who Came for Christmas was a dud.... that one kind of caught my eye as I was starting to read your review.

dec 28, 2012, 7:41am

Lori, the average rating for The Spy Who Came for Christmas is much higher than I rated it. I might have liked it a little better if I had read it rather than listened to it. The audio production was sort of cheesy.

dec 28, 2012, 8:35am

I've always questioned why Debbie Macomber is sometimes labeled as a Christian author when the sexual content of her novels are not in line with conservative Christian morals. I think Macomber's best works are those set in Cedar Cove.

dec 28, 2012, 5:50pm

Holiday book/NetGalley ARC: A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry

After a prisoner escapes from prison, killing a guard in the process and then causing an ambush that killed several soldiers, an investigation rules out all suspects but one. Young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is ordered to defend the man, mainly because Narraway is a new arrival to the post. Narraway is not haunted by memories of the recent siege and its atrocities, and he can't later be accused of bias in his conduct during the trial. Although it's obvious to everyone that the accused man must have committed the murder, it's also important that he be seen to receive a fair trial. Narraway's superior insists that Narraway provide some reason for the crime at the trial. He has less than 48 hours to come up with a defense since the trial must be over before Christmas. What possible explanation can there be that makes any sense?

War and massacres of innocent civilians may seem like an odd topic for a Christmas novel. Perry forces readers, through her characters, to consider theological questions regarding God's existence, good and evil, mercy and justice. Narraway (and Perry) look into the darkest aspects of humanity and see a glimpse of hope revealed in the meaning of Christmas and its celebration. As always with her Christmas novellas, it's possible to enjoy this one without reading any of the previous books in this series or in the Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series in which Narraway is a minor character.

This review is based on an electronic advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

3 1/2 stars

Next up: White Eagles Over Serbia by Lawrence Durrell

Redigerat: dec 28, 2012, 7:45pm

Nice review Carrie! Adding A Christmas Garland as a candidate for the year long Anne Perry reading in 2013!

dec 29, 2012, 10:11pm

Library book for my Europe Endless Challenge: White Eagles Over Serbia by Lawrence Durrell

Although he's supposed to be on vacation, Methuen agrees to a reconnaissance mission in Serbian territory in Yugoslavia. One agent has already died trying to discover the meaning behind recent activities in the area. Unlike the dead agent, Methuen speaks the language well enough to pass for a native. Will he be able to find out what's going on and get back to the safety of the British Embassy? Even more important, will he be able to indulge in some fly fishing in the rivers he remembers so well from his earlier visits?

The story leans more toward adventure/survival than espionage. The plot is fairly simple, yet it leaves some weighty questions unresolved. At the time the story takes place, Tito had not yet broken ranks with Stalin. Would the British government side with the resistance movement or with Tito's Communist government? The book would make an entertaining evening escape for readers who enjoy spy or adventure novels, as well as anglers.

4 stars

Next up: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

dec 30, 2012, 4:29pm

Seasonal read borrowed from a friend: Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke & Leslie Meier

When Hannah Swensen finds her neighbor dead in his condo, she has a perfect excuse for snooping into the police investigation. Mike, her sometimes beau as well as a police officer, asks her to prepare snacks for the crime scene investigators. She goes all out and fixes an entire meal, figuring she can eavesdrop while they eat. All of the evidence is circumstantial, and when the police believe they have enough to make an arrest, Hannah is convinced they've got the wrong person. With the help of her other boyfriend, Norman, will Hannah be able to find the true murderer?

In another novella, part-time journalist Lucy Stone is upset when a cute 4-year-old boy is kidnapped right before Christmas. She has a soft spot for little Nemo. When she finds little Nemo's father's body in his car, with evidence that Nemo had been with him, she becomes very alarmed. Is Nemo still alive, and if he is, can she find him before Christmas?

The Hannah Swensen mystery isn't bad if you ignore the fact that Hannah and her sister tamper with police evidence, as is their habit. It's a wonder that Mike and Hannah's brother-in-law, Bill, still have jobs with the police department. They'd be in a heap of trouble in real life. The Lucy Stone mystery wasn't as well plotted as others I've read in this series. However, I really like Lucy and her family and I like to check in on them occasionally. I'm quite upset with her son, Toby, and his in-laws. What kind of son plans to take his parents' only grandchild on a Christmas cruise for the first Christmas he's old enough to appreciate? The families live close enough that, if the in-laws had stayed home, they could have all seen little Patrick on Christmas day. And to wait until just days before Christmas to tell your mother you won't be home? Well, that's just thoughtless.

I decided not to read the third novella in this collection. I haven't cared for the other Jaine Austen mysteries I've read. Why make myself read something I probably won't enjoy? Usually I'd feel compelled to read it anyway. This time I was able to talk myself out of it.

3 stars

jan 1, 2013, 6:22pm

One last 2013 book, an ARC from the Early Reviewers program: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

Anna Rosenthal reluctantly responds to her grandmother's request to drive her from New York to San Francisco. Although Anna hasn't forgiven her grandmother for the horrible things she said about Anna's choice to marry her husband, Ford (now deceased), Anna is persuaded to go when her grandmother explains that she wants to return a set of Japanese prints to its rightful owner. Anna loves the prints. She remembers happier times when she and her grandmother built a fantasy world around the prints. The prints are partly responsible for Anna's career as a graphic artist. Will the road trip be the beginning of healing for Anna and Goldie's relationship, or will it drive them even farther apart?

I wanted to like this book, but it was difficult when I didn't like either of the main characters. The book suffers from too much telling and not enough showing. I didn't have to wonder about the motives behind the characters' actions since I was told in great detail why they behaved the way they did. One thing I didn't understand was why Anna and her grandmother have to share hotel rooms on their trip. Goldie is very wealthy. They're driving a Rolls Royce across country. They spend all day together in the car and they're not getting along very well. Surely she can afford two rooms so that they can have some personal space at night? The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet deals with many of the same themes with better effect.

This review is based on an advanced reading copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

2 1/2 stars

That's it for 2012! My 2013 category challenge thread is here.

jan 1, 2013, 7:31pm

Congrats on finishing!!! See you over at 2013!

jan 1, 2013, 8:45pm