Thursday, December 28, 2006

1635: The Cannon Law by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis

It is always difficult to pigeon hole the genre of these types of works. Is it fiction, science fiction or an alternate history? Since the opening volume, 1632, I would say the answer to the question is all three. How is that for a definitive answer?

1635: The Cannon Law continues the saga of the Grantsville Americans thrown back in time by the Ring of Fire. For those who are students of history, this series and this book in particular are entertaining reads. Just imagine trying to overlay a modern American value system across Europe during the Spanish Inquisition. As one might assume, there are a variety of conflicts as our 20th/ 21st century heroes try to enact reforms several centuries before their time. While Pope Urban VIII sees value in some of the American's views, the nemesis, Spanish inquisitor, Cardinal Borja views the Pope as weak and unfit in light of Spain's supremacy in the world.

The Cardinal begins to ferment trouble throughout Rome with a number of paid malcontents sent out to create discontent in the Roman populace through a variety of rabble rousing endeavors. Of course the American embassy in Rome is a target of the Cardinal's plots as is the fledgling Committee of Correspondence run by Frank Stone and his Italian wife Giovanna. As the ambassador to Rome from the United States of Europe, Sharon Nichols must make some difficult decisions and play a few political games of her own to try and offset the Cardinal's plans. Her fiance, the strong, humorous and often deadly Castilian Ruy Sanchez supports the entire American entourage in Rome with his political and military savvy.

Ultimately Cardinal Borja attempts the military conquest of Rome, providing considerable concern for his Spanish monarch but endless possibilities for the political realist among the King's men. The work builds to an interesting end and to an intriguing continuation of the series as the "uptime" Americans continue in their efforts to thwart the Spanish Inquisition.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is not a book I expected to enjoy. However, it was the selection for December for the Not So Grown Up Bookclub, and because Neil Gaiman's name pops frequently, I decided to read it.

The premise is this: Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man with a good job and an overbearing, beautiful fiancee, lives in London. One day, on the brink of yet another screw-up with his fiancee, he rescues a girl who appears from nowhere and is hurt. The girl, Door, returns from whence she came, but Richard wakes up the next day to find that he has essentially ceased to exist in London Above. He makes his way unknowingly to London Below, which exists in the subways and sewers of London and is populated by those who have fallen through the cracks of society.

London Below is a land where rats are revered and is filled with murderers, Hunters, and angel, a Beast, people with magical powers, and a various assortment of other characters. The story details Richard's efforts to return in full to London Above and regain his life, and his conclusions when he does get his life back, even better than before.

Unlike other fantasy worlds which are close enough to our own but with no relation to anything that actually exists in the world we know now, Neverwhere exists half in our known world, and half below. There are frequent references to things we're all familiar with: the Thames, the Underground and it's various stations, St. Paul's Cathedral. The references to things known makes references to things unknown infinitely more possible.

The book is at times funny, and at times repulsive (vegetarians beware of the diet of Mr. Vandemar!), but always engaging. I feel the urge to re-read it to get all the allusions more clearly the second time around...and that's always a sign of a worthy read for me. Plus, I'll be looking out when I next ride the London Underground.

NonFiction - Strapped: Why America's 20 and 30 somethings can't get ahead

Strapped by Tamara Draut is a very interesting examination of the financial situation of young adults from their early 20s to their mid 30s. The author has done extensive research in comparing the situations currently faced by young adults with those of the baby boomers. Her research is supported by real life experiences of young adults who have struggled as they have tried to attain the same success in society as past generations. I initially thought that many of the young folks who have struggled to become adults were based largely upon poor decisions, lack of effort, etc. But I was surprised to find that was not the entire case. Draut focuses much of her blame on, rising college costs, student loan debt, unaffordable housing, lack of support of child rearing (including time away from work and child care), credit card debt, and paycheck paralysis. She spends a substantial amount of time on each of these topics making her arguments for each. However, it should be noted that while making her case she does dive into politics (which is probably unavoidable). Whether you agree with her arguments will ultimately depend upon your political point of view. The last two chapters are solutions that she thinks will help the situation. Her ideas are solidly researched and well thought out but call for a less capitalistic approach. Do these solutions have the ability to take root in this country? Maybe, but it will be a difficult sell to the American people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Books for December 2006

A little late this month…due to that fact that I’ve got so many holiday projects going, I completely forgot!! Here are the new books coming in for December so take a break (like I plan to do) and read until the stress melts away…

December 5
The Bolelyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
From the "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Queen's Fool, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess" and "The Other Boleyn Girl" comes a tempestuous Tudor tale about two queens, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr, and the woman who destroys them both.
Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
HE IS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTING CHARACTERS IN ALL OF LITERATURE. AT LAST THE EVOLUTION OF HIS EVIL IS REVEALED. Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck.He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal’s uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle’s beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal’s demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death’s prodigy.

December 12
Mistral’s Kiss
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Time for Meredith Gentry to give up detective work and conceive an heir to the Faerie world's Unseelie Court. Too bad her magic is off, even as dark curses are starting to do their stuff.
True Evil by Greg Iles
"New York Times" bestselling author Greg Iles returns with this smart and atmospheric work. Dr. Chris Shepard, a busy young doctor in Natchez, Mississippi, has never seen his new patient Alex Morse before. But the attractive young woman with the scarred face has come to Dr. Shepard's office on a mission to rip his idyllic life inside out.

December 26
by Iris Johansen
Atlanta-based forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is lured to the Colombian compound of a notorious criminal to identify a skull he has found. Eve has agreed to a devil's bargain to save an innocent family, but also for another reason. The man in the jungle has promised to give Eve the key to unlocking the darkest and most painful mystery of her past in this latest thriller by "New York Times" bestselling author Johansen.
The Ravenscar Dynasty by Barbara Bradford
The first novel in a sweeping new epic series from Barbara Taylor Bradford, set in the early 20th century, features a powerful family whose lives are filled with drama, intrigue, and revenge.
More Twisted by Jeffrey Deaver
Diverse, provocative, eerie, and twisted, this collection of Jeffery Deaver's best stories exhibits amazing range and the signature plot twists that have made him a perennial bestseller.

December 28
The Perfect Fake by Barbara Parker
In "New York Times" bestselling author Barbara Parker's brilliant new stand-alone novel, the forgery of a rare 500-year-old map sparks a thrilling chase from Miami to London and the Italian Alps in a remarkable tale of international intrigue.
Find Me by Carol O’Connell
From one of the most acclaimed crime writers in America comes her most astonishing novel: a story of love, loss, death, and discovery. Kathy Mallory will find herself hunting a killer like none she has ever known, and will undergo a series of revelations not only of stunning intensity, but stunning effect.
Annotations from Baker & Taylor , Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Measure of a Lady

The Measure of a Lady by Deanne Gist was just as great as her first novel. The combination of a clean read, with the same romantic implications as a romance novel, makes it very enjoyable. The story is based on Rachel Van Buren’s trials in a very rowdy San Francisco. The historical part of the story is based on the difficulties in being one of the very few women in an undeveloped gold rush town. Rachel has a younger brother and sister to take care of; beginning with a place to stay, income and the basic necessities. The stress that goes into this is apparent immediately as she finds no proper hotels, and no proper church to ask for assistance. The story of course includes a romantic interest for Rachel, in the form of a gambling hall owner. She struggles with his choice of profession, and her love for him. It all is combined very well in the storytelling, and you really feel for Rachel throughout her struggles and accomplishments. Great, quick, inspirational read!

Monday, November 27, 2006

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I love when I come across a series that is new to me and I get to play catch up on all the rest of the books. Our mystery bookclub chose to read Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In a Bleak Midwinter for December. The first in a series, this award-winning novel is set near to the New York Adirondacks in the little town of Miller’s Kill. A “kill” is actually the Dutch word for creek and isn’t it clever to use that as a town name for a setting of a mystery novel. In this small town on a bitter winter night, the newly hired Episcopalian priest, Clare Fergusson finds an abandoned baby at the doorway to her church. Promptly involving the proper authorities, Clare is now committed to the well-being of this infant. Despite the note left with the baby, asking it be given to a couple in the parish, Police chief Russ Van Alstyne is charged with the task of finding the true parents. The need quickly escalates as the body of a young female college freshman and possible mother to the infant is discovered murdered by the river just outside of town. As the leads keep pointing in different members of the community Clare and Russ must work together to find the killer. As they work together, their attraction for one another grows beyond friendship, slightly problematic since Russ is married. The quick pace, the remote setting and the intricate plot compliments each other very well. I only jumped ahead once to make everyone would be okay and it was towards the end of the book (I know, very bad habit of mine but I can’t stand the suspense). I look forward to discussing the novel at our next meeting and reading the rest of the series. Her fifth one in this series, All Mortal Flesh, just came out just this past October.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Vegas: One Cop's Journey by Kim Thomas

The November selection for our Mystery Bookclub was by a local author, Las Vegas Metro police detective Kim Thomas. Vegas: One Cop's Journey is set in current day Vegas with a new recruit, Cam Madden, dealing with the pressures of his job the police department. As Cam advances through the department, he must find the right balance of work and home life. The novel reads almost like a true crime novel as we go through Cam’s daily work life and the addition of his home life, dating paramedic Karrie Mae, seemed to be a bit thin. To me, being a Las Vegas native, I was visualizing almost all the locations (like I do on the television show CSI) and I would find myself thinking “…oh, I know where that street corner is with that panhandler!” Definitely made the novel more fun to read and I thought it was an alright novel and looked forward to listening to his talk.

Let me tell you, I was very impressed by Detective Thomas. He did not go up there and limit his talk to cop stories. He spoke of the writing process and how he came to write this novel. I was even more impressed by the fact that in addition to working a full time job with Metro, he got an MFA in creative writing with UNLV and this novel was his MFA project, which got published! After hearing this, I could forgive the small discrepancies, especially since he knows his own weaker writing aspects. And what a great speaker…sometimes, authors are not the best speakers (they must be saving themselves for the written page) but he spoke for a good hour and fifteen minutes. And we did get a couple of additional cop stories out of it as well! We had to stop him for the book signing portion but I believe he could have gone on. For more info on Detective Thomas and his book, check his website (which includes an interview he did with KNPR) at

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Books for November 2006

November 1
Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende From the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Portrait in Sepia" comes a captivating new novel that chronicles the brave deeds and passionate loves of Ins Surez, a spirited woman who journeys to the New World and helps establish the nation of Chile.
The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman
Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is back in this latest tale of murder and mystery from "New York Times" bestselling author Tony Hillerman. With Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito on their honeymoon, Joe's left on his own to pick up the threads of a crime he thought impossible to solve.

November 6
Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille
From #1 "New York Times" bestselling author Nelson DeMille comes a suspenseful new novel featuring Detective John Corey and an all-too-plausible conspiracy to detonate a nuclear bomb in two major cities.

November 7
Born in Death by J.D. Robb
Lt. Eve Dallas struggles with the end-and the beginning-of life, in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series set in 2060 New York City.
A Christmas Secret by Anne Perry
With this brand-new volume, "New York Times" bestselling author Anne Perry continues what is now her annual tradition--a seasonal stand-alone mystery that reunites readers with Dominic and Clarice Corde, who are charged with solving the brutal murder of the local vicar.
The Gods of Newport by John Jakes
Jakes, "the godfather of the historical novel" ("Los Angeles Times"), leaves the South to travel north for an epic tale of scandalous doings in one of the world's most famous resorts.
The Godfather’s Revenge by Mark Winegardner
The third and final installment in Puzo's epic chronicle of the Corleone crime family achieves a stunning crescendo with a story that imagines the role of the Mafia in the assassination of a young, charismatic president.
The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg In this wonderful novel about love and trust, hope and belief, Berg, the bestselling author of "We Are All Welcome Here" and "The Year of Pleasures," transports readers to Nazareth in biblical times to reimagine the events of the classic Christmas story.
The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara The "New York Times" bestselling author of "Gods and Generals" embarks on his most ambitious undertaking to date with this first novel in a staggering trilogy that portrays the momentous and increasingly dramatic events that pulled America into the vortex of World War II.
The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and bestselling author comes a delightful Christmas story for all ages that will touch the heart and make readers laugh out loud.

November 13
Cross by James Patterson
The bestselling author returns with the pinnacle of all Alex Cross thrillers: the chance at last to capture the psychopath who murdered Alex's wife, Maria. Patterson also goes back in time to answer the questions fans have been asking since the first Alex Cross appearance in "Along Came A Spider."

November 14
The Long Night of Winchell Dear by Robert James Waller The beloved storyteller and author of the international bestseller "The Bridges of Madison County" returns with a classic tale of greed, corruption, and redemption in the American West.
Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark
America's queen of suspense, Mary Higgins Clark, joins forces with her daughter, Carol, bestselling author off the Regan Reilly mysteries, for this fast-paced novel set on a holiday mystery cruise.

November 21
John’s Story: The Last Eyewitness by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
The first in a series, John's Story: The Last Eyewitness is a remarkable and thrilling account of the life of the Man who came to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament and to save all of mankind. To bring deeper understanding to the story, each of the four books include the text of the corresponding gospel as an appendix. John's Story illuminates the times of Jesus, His life, and His messages like never before. Using cutting-edge historical and academic research, as well as biblically based themes, they are first and foremost page-turning novels that could come only from the pens of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

November 28
Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
Koontz's beloved hero, who triumphed in two "New York Times" bestsellers, leaves the small desert town of Pico Mundo for the solitude and peace of an isolated monastery as he tries to find a way to live fully again. But Odd Thomas has a knack for finding trouble and must confront an enemy who eclipses any he has yet encountered.
Empire by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card is a master storyteller who has earned millions of fans for his science fiction and fantasy novels. Now he steps a little closer to the present day with this chilling look at a near-future scenario of a new American Civil War.
Next by Michael Crichton
In his brilliant new blockbuster, Michael Crichton takes the reader into the realm of genetics: fast, furious and out of control. Prepare to enter a world where nothing is as it seems and a new set of possibilities is opening up at every turn. NEXT challenges your sense of what is happening, what is true and what is ethical. NEXT will overturn your assumptions of what you thought you knew. Provocative yet playful, dark and disturbing, NEXT is Michael Crichton as you've never seen him before.
Temperatures Rising by Sandra Brown
From the blockbuster "New York Times" bestselling author of "A Whole New Light" comes a sizzling tale of a love that bridges two different worlds.
Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk CusslerA mysterious Mongolian mogul is conducting covert deals for supplying oil to the Chinese while wreaking havoc on global oil markets. The Mongolian harbors a dream of restoring the conquests of his ancestors, and holds a dark secret about Genghis Khan that just might give him the wealth and power to make that dream come true.
Annotations from Baker & Taylor , Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Candles Burning and The Virgin of Small Plains

I read two growing-up-in-a-dysfunctional family books this past summer and as the leaves are falling, am finally getting around to writing about them. The first was the suspense, The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. Imagine a small town in the middle of nothing Kansas where a gruesome body is found by the younger son of the sheriff while out in a blizzard. No one “knows” who she is but of course certain people know. Mitch Newquist, son of the town judge, witnesses the destruction of the frozen body by the doctor and the sheriff putting him in a very precarious situation, one calling for him to leave town and his favorite girl Abby (the aforementioned doctor’s daughter) immediately. Mitch’s sudden departure and the discovery of the dead girl leave’s all in the tiny town to wonder, especially Mitch’s closest friends, Abby and Ray. Much time passes and the prodigal son returns only his return creates all the dust to be stirred and the true past uncovered. Coming from the perspective of living in a big town all my life, life in a small town seems a bit alien to me. The family dynamics and how the families dealt with each other seem so dependent on social status and while the children of the three families are from almost equal footing, there is definite undercurrents of major power struggles. Also, there is a bit of the gothic strange happenings towards the end which seemed a bit contrived but all in all, the plot definitely held my attention.
The second book was a paranormal Southern gothic experience… Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell. Calley Dakin’s comes from an extreme split in the old social status divide. Her mother comes from a prominent wealthy established Alabama family and she never lets anyone forget it. Calley’s father has more humble beginnings and had to scrape and work his way up the automobile industry until he finally made his wealth only to be cut short by his gruesome murder. Calley and her mother end up in Pensacola Beach where Calley explores her second sight and she does all she can to find out who killed her father all those years ago. Now I assumed it was going to be a horror since I saw Tabitha King... wrong. It was more like a becoming of age type novel of Calley’s childhood experiences and her encounters with paranormal happenings. Side note: Tabitha King completed an unfinished manuscript Michael McDowell left after his death in 1999. I hadn’t heard of this author (famous for his gothic horrors) but he has worked on some very noticeable scripts such as Thinner, Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas. Tabitha gives an interview about completing the manuscript on her website

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Quill Awards 2006

The Quill Awards were announced a couple of days ago. It will be televised October 28th on NBC. And the winners are…..

Book of the Year
Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life by Tyler Perry

Debut Author of the Year
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

Audio Book
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

Children’s Illustrated Book
If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Joffe Numerofff

Children’s Chapter Book/Middle Grade
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

Young Adult/Teen
Eldest by Christopher Paolini

General Fiction
A Dirty Job: A Novel by Christopher Moore

Graphic Novel
Naruto, Volume 7 by Masashi Kishimoto

Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
A Breath of Snow and Ashes of Diane Gabaldon

Mama Made the Difference by T.D. Jakes

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the Word’s Worst Dog by Josh Grogan

The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch): Valuable Lessons, Smart Suggestions, and True Stories for Succeeding as the Chick-in-Charge by Caitlin Friedman

Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners by Rachael Ray

Health/Self Improvement
It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider by Jim Henson

History/Current Events/Politics
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life by Tyler Perry

Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game!: A Woman’s Guide to Loving Pro Football by Holly Robinson

For more information on the Quills Awards, take a look at their website

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Book Number Two

"Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire, I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town"-A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson

Henderson Libraries is starting October's book from the Not-So-Grown-Up Book Club. You may pick up a copy of the book at Gibson Library's Reference desk. We will be meeting on November 2nd @ 6:00pm. Here is a brief summary of the book we are currently reading:

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail By Bill Bryson

"Follwing his return to America after twenty years in Britain, Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The AT, as it's affectionately known to thousands of hikers, offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes-and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to test his own powers of ineptitude to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa who accompanies the similarly unfit Bryson on the trail. Katz's modus operandi is a simple one: jettison everything from his backpack and head for the nearest town, where there are cozy restaurants filled with waitresses called Rayette. But eventually Bryson and Katz settle into their stride, and it's not long before they come across the fabulously annoying Mary Ellen, whose disappearance ruins a perfectly good slice of pie; a gang of Ralph Lauren-attired yuppies from whom Katz appropriates a key piece of equipment; and a security guard in Pennsylvania who, for no ascertainable reason, impounds Bryson's car. Mile by arduous mile these latter-day pioneers walk America, along the way surviving the threat of bear attacks, the loss of key provisions, and everything else this awe-inspiring country can throw at them.

But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this fragile and beautiful trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, a lament, and a celebration, A walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature." -BOOK JACKET

To discuss this book, come to the Gibson Library on Thursday November 2nd @ 6:00pm. For more information contact Elizabeth at 564-9261 or Nicole at 564-9287.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Awards given at Bouchercon 2006

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention was this past weekend and with that came the winners of the Anthony, Shamus, Barry and Macavity awards.

Anthony Award Winners

Best Mystery Novel: Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger
Best First Mystery: Tilt-a-Whirl by Christopher Grabenstein
Best Critical/Nonfiction: Heirs of Anthony Boucher by Marv Lachman
Best Paperback Original: The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman
Best Short Story: “Misdirection” by Barbara Seranella in Greatest Hits: Original Stories of Assassins, Hitmen, and Hired Guns

Barry Award Winners given out by Deadly Pleasures magazine

Best Novel: Red Leaves by Thomas Cook
Best First Novel: Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride
Best Thriller: Company Man by Joseph Finder
Best British Mystery Award: The Field of Blood by Denise Mina
Best Paperback Original: The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman
Best Short Story: “There is No Crime on Easter Island” by Nancy Pickard in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Sept/Oct 2005 issue

Shamus Awards given by Private Eye Writers of America

Best Hardcover: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Best First Novel: Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure
Best Paperback Novel: The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman
Best Short Story: “A Death in Ueno” by Michael Wiecek in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Mar 2005 edition

Macavity Awards given by Mystery Readers International

Best Novel: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Best First Novel: Immoral by Brian Freeman
Best Nonfiction: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
Best Short Story: “There is No Crime on Easter Island” by Nancy Pickard in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Sept/Oct 2005 issue
Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stephen King - Master of Horror

The premise of Stephen King’s Cell is pure horror, with a vindictive streak and a great storyline. What comes to be known as the Pulse is broadcast to all cell phones on October 1. Anyone who answers their cell phone, or who is speaking on their cell phone, undergoes a disturbing transformation. The “Phoners”, as they come to be known, attack anyone in their path, often with grisly results. The closest thing they resemble would be zombies. It’s up to the “Normies” to not only survive, but to find their way to a place which has no cell phone reception. No one is sure when it will be safe to answer their telephones. The “Phoners” also start to display flocking symptoms and their pseudo-leader, tagged “Raggedy Man” by the protagonist, is able to control the actions of the “Normies”. Clay Riddell, the protagonist, is desperate to make it home to Maine to find his son. Clay’s son had been begging for a cell phone, typical behavior for any youngster in today’s world. Clay does not know whether he will find his son has turned into a “Phoner”, or if he is even alive.
Stephen King is the epitome of horror; the story ends with a lingering sense of doubt. Is everything going to be okay? Will the “Normies” prevail? Is there anything left to hope for? I admit I do not like reading stories where everything isn’t “solved” or rectified by the novel’s end. I admit that I have never been a horror fan – I scare easily – and the last Stephen King novel I read (It) had me peering in rain gutters for months afterwards. However, Stephen King is one of the best writers of this century and he proves with this novel that he has not slowed down. As for the vindictive streak, who hasn’t been upset with a rude cell phone user? Stephen King does not own a cell phone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Night Journal

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook was packed full of historical stories, facts, and events, while being told from journal entries, and the journal writer’s great granddaughter. Meg is a likable character, who tells her side of the story as someone who is not interested in the history of her family. Her grandmother Bassie on the other hand, is almost obsessed with the past. Bassie published journals written by her mother Hannah, and from this has gained some fame in New Mexico. The story is based off of Meg’s struggle with the difficult Bassie, and there present lives, as well as a strange mystery that is uncovered in their families’ lives. The journal entries all tell a story of their own and are just as enjoyable as the present storyline. Crook did a great job of using history to draw the reader in, while providing incredibly accurate facts. I even went online to check out some events that happened because they were so attention-grabbing. Especially information about the famous hotels in New Mexico, the ruins, and the railroad in Pecos and Las Vegas, NM. And the mystery that culminates through an archeological dig is not only unexpected but also intriguing. Eventually Meg is able to appreciate her family and Bassie while assisting in solving the sudden secrets that come up. The Night Journal was a stirring read that had a little mystery, history and even romance. Definitely one of the best books I have read all year.

Friday, September 15, 2006

In Theaters September!

I’ve got the monthly update of the books made into movies for this month…finally! I can’t believe we’re through the first part of the month… they’ve redone Lassie again for the umpteenth time and I guess I always thought that Lassie was a movie and not based on the book Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (shows you how aware I was as a child).

The ever popular true crime mystery of the hopeful movie starlet Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia, opens in theaters today. The novel of the same name by James Ellsroy is quite popular in our library.

All the King’s Men will be in theaters September 22, the remake of the 1949 movie, is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren. The story of Willie Stark (loosely based on the political rise of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana). If you click on our catalog link, we not only have copies of the book but the Cliff Notes, the ebook so you can read it online (for Henderson residents), the 1949 version and the official website for Robert Penn Warren.

And last but not least, The Last King of Scotland (and no, don’t start thinking of any Highlander scenes like I did), instead think 1970 – Uganda – Idi Amin…based on British author Giles Foden’s novel which won several awards including the Whitbread First Novel award.

I’ll be more on the ball for October’s offerings. There is a ton of movies coming soon and will prove to be an exciting month!! If you can’t wait, check the Pages2Pictures page for a list of titles.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NonFiction - White Savage

White Savage by Fintan O’Toole focuses on the life of William Johnson. Johnson is a native catholic Irishman who adopts Protestantism in order to escape repression and comes to America in the mid 1740s. He is sponsored by his uncle the great Sir Peter Warren (British Naval Admiral) to settle his land on the New York frontier. Johnson quickly establishes himself as a trader with an honorable reputation and fair-mindedness when dealing with the local Iroquois in the region. O’Toole illustrates how his catholic upbringing in Ireland (Ireland was under British rule) forced him to develop skills at compromising, negotiating, and adapting. These skills allowed him to be successful on the frontier. In fact by the mid 1750s Johnson was promoted to Superintendent for Indian Affairs for the colony of New York because of his ability to bridge cultural gaps between the British, colonists, and Iroquois. Johnson was able to court many Iroquois sachems (chiefs) to support the British interests in North America by adopting Iroquois traditions and ways. O’Toole illustrates how none of this is easy even for a charismatic individual such as Johnson. There were always political forces working against his vision, especially during the two French and Indian Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. He only really achieves his power after a successful military campaign in which he was more lucky than good. Overall the book is well researched and historically accurate. O’Toole also does an excellent job of demonstrating the complexities of European social and cultural issues and the role they played throughout William’s life. Couple those with his experiences with the Iroquois people and it is easy to see how intricate life on the American frontier in mid 18th century was. The only criticism I have of this particular book was the writing style of the author. Often O’Toole jumps from one topic to the next instead of telling the story straight through. He does this to give the reader a background for the continuation of the story of William’s life. But I often found myself flipping back to previous chapters in order to refresh my memory about what role a certain person played or how a particular experience shaped his perception, etc.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Augusten Burroughs is a good listen

I have been meaning to pick up Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs ( ever since it was published in 2002. This summer, after seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of this memoir due out this fall, I was motivated to finally read this astonishing book. While I am not sure if listening to an audiobook actually counts as reading, I would say that listening to this particular audiobook, read by its author, was more sublime than mere page turning.

Basically, the book chronicles Augusten’s childhood in New England but don’t be expecting it to be anything like a Louisa May Alcott novel. The story is not for the faint of heart or those who are squeamish about homosexuality (though this is not the focus of the memoir, there are some passages that may be offensive and/or disturbing to some). Essentially, Augusten’s young life takes an interesting turn when his poet mother signs him over to her beyond eccentric shrink. While some memoirists may have chosen to paint this story in maudlin self-pity, Burroughs uses wit, black humor and snarky sarcasm to write his surreal coming of age story. But this isn’t just a true story based on actual events. Burroughs brings to life not only outrageous characters from his past but also the 1970’s and 1980’s.

And, again, despite the fact that Augusten’s early life was fraught with abuse (from drug to sexual abuse and lots in between), the memoir never loses its humorous tone. One offbeat anecdote details the doctor’s family’s practice of “Bible dipping”, which basically entails asking the Bible a question a la’ Magic 8 Ball and then turning to a random page, pointing to a word and trying to interpret the word as some kind of answer. Even more bizarre was the doctor’s reading of bowel movements in the same manner. The house where Augusten lived with the doctor and his family was in constant chaos. Augusten and the doctor’s youngest daughter one day decided that the kitchen needed more light so they made their own skylight by breaking through the ceiling and the roof. Rather than being enraged as most homeowner fathers would be, the doctor merely responded that the renovation let in much needed light. Obviously when it comes to this memoir, the old adage is accurate. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Once I finished the audiobook, I literally could not get enough. Lucky for me, Henderson Libraries holds Burroughs’ follow-up memoirs Dry (2003) and Possible Side Effects (2006) on audiobook, again read by the author. I am currently reading Magical Thinking (2004) and let me say that it is just not the same as listening, though I have noticed that my interior reading voice does tend to resemble Augusten’s, which is just a little unsettling.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Fiction for September

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and my wonderful excuse is that I and my fellow colleagues have been ordering books like crazy! Here are some of the September releases that should be on the shelves soon…

September 1
The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger
Accepting an artist residency from a wealthy Beverly Hills family, a famous performance artist and political activist becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of his hosts and reveals the artistic subculture that shaped his Beijing past. A first novel.

September 5
Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
An ambitious young woman, Alice Verney risks everything for pride and status as she deals with the political intrigues, private passions, shifting alliances, and social machinations of the Restoration court of King Charles II. By the author of Through a Glass Darkly.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer
When Ron Boyle, the supposed victim of an assassination, is spotted alive and well in Asia eight years after his purported death, former presidential aide Wes Holloway, permanently disfigured in the same attack, stumbles into the heart of a baffling conspiracy involving Masonic history, an enigmatic code invented by Thomas Jefferson, and the Book of Fate, a repository for disturbing secrets.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Newly retired George Hall becomes convinced his rash is cancer. His home life is going crazy with his wife having an affair and his daughter getting married for the second time. George’s son Jamie’s life becomes traumatic when his sister fails to invite his lover to the wedding. All this is to much for George, as he goes insane, in a dignified and polite manner, of course.

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
The Interpretation of Murder leads readers from the salons of Gramercy Park, through secret passages, to Chinatown --- even far below the currents of the East River where laborers are building the Manhattan Bridge. As Freud fends off a mysterious conspiracy to destroy him, Younger is drawn into an equally thrilling adventure that takes him deep into the subterfuges of the human mind.

The Devil in the Junior League by Linda Francis Lee
A member of the exclusive Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas, Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware's perfect life begins to unravel when her husband betrays her, steals her money, and vanishes, and the only way she can keep from becoming fodder in the JLWC gossip mill is to get the tacky wife of wealthy but tasteless lawyer Howard Grout into the elite society.

Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan
Despite the dangers to his lifemate Raven and their daughter Savannah, Mikhail Dubrinsky, Prince of the Carpathians, risks everything to protect his people from the extinction of their species, as Carpathians gather from around the world to take on their adversaries in an ultimate showdown.

September 12
Under Orders by Dick Francis
Sid Halley, former jockey-turned-detective, returns. Death at the races is not uncommon, but three in one day--including a winning horse and champion jockey--are more than enough to raise Halley's suspicions.

The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
On Christmas Eve, Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles is summoned to the scene of a brutal killing and teams up with Detective Jane Rizzoli to investigate the victim's ties to Joyce O'Donnell, a cantankerous psychologist, and to a sinister cabal called the Mephisto Club, a group devoted to a study of evil in all its malevolent forms.

September 18
Paint it Black by Janet Fitch
From the bestselling author of "White Oleander" comes a powerful story of passion, first love, and a young woman's search for a true world in the aftermath of loss.

September 19

The Mission Song by John le Carré
Working as an interpreter for British Intelligence translating intercepted phone calls, wiretaps, and voice mails, Bruno Salvador, the abandoned son of an Irish father and Congolese mother, is sent to a mysterious island to interpret a secret conference among Central African warlords, only to find himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy.

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris
Harris reimagines a lost biography of Cicero actually written by Cicero's secretary, Tiro.

Fear of the Dark by Walter Mosley
Fearless Jones and Paris Minton return in a fast-paced thriller about family and revenge.

Brothers by Da Chen
Follows the divergent lives of two brothers, sons of a powerful general and born at the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution--Tan, born the son of the general's wife into luxury and comfort, and Shento, the child of the general's mistress, raised by an old healer and his wife after his mother's suicide--as their fates collide when they unwittingly fall for the same woman.

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton
After being left brain damaged, with the mind of a seven year old, following a bicycle accident, Madeline, Aaron Maciver's beautiful young wife, is cared for by Aaron and his second wife along with two children of their own, in an insightful novel, narrated by Aaron's son Mac, that follows the Maciver family through four decades.

Moral Disorder: Stories by Margaret Atwood
A new collection of short fiction presents ten stories that capture important moments in the course of a life and in the lives intertwined with it, in a volume that ranges from the 1930s to the 1980s, is set in a variety of locales, and includes such works as "The Bad News,” "The Art of Cooking and Serving,” "My Last Duchess,” "The Boys at the Lab,” and the title tale.

Magic Time by Doug Marlette
Carter Ransom, a son of Mississippi, had the great fortune and terrible luck of falling in love in '64 with a New York-born civil rights worker who was killed. Carter's father presided over the first trial of the murders, but now the question, among many others, is whether the good judge was knowingly involved in a cover-up.

September 26

She Ain’t the One by Carl Weber and Mary B. Morrison
In this exciting collaboration, "New York Times" bestselling author Weber and "Essence" bestselling author Morrison bring their powerful talents together to deliver a gripping novel about the ultimate player who has finally run into the wrong woman.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom mesmerized readers around the world with his number one New York Times bestsellers, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie. Now he returns with a beautiful, haunting novel about the family we love and the chances we miss. For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

Selected titles from Publishers Weekly and Baker & Taylor. Annotations from Baker & Taylor , Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Martian Chronicles

In honor of Ray Bradbury's birthday August 22, 1920:

The Martian Chronicles is made up of a collection of short stories written by Ray Bradbury during the 1940s along with "filler" vignettes to tie these stories together. The "novel", published in 1950, tells the future of space travel to Mars starting in 1999. The vignettes follow multiple expeditions to Mars, starting with the first expeditions to later mass colonization.
This is science fiction, speculative fiction, at its best; even if you are not a fan of science fiction, this is a very accesible book with plenty of philosophical themes thrown in.
Perhaps my favorite vignette is the one on the automatic house. This house cleans itself, prepares breakfast for the human inhabitants, and recites poetry. What the house can not realize is that the owners have been annihilated in a nuclear blast, and all that remains of them are their shadows on the outside wall.
Another favorite features Walter Gripp. Walter Gripp lived on the outskirts of a major settlement on Mars. He comes back to town to refurnish his supplies, only to find that everyone has left to return to Earth rather hastily. The streets are empty, the cash registers are full of money, and he has the whole town to himself. He's lonely as the last man on Mars, until the phone rings one day.
The short story format makes this an easy read, and a definite recommendation from me. Enjoy!

2006 Quill Book Awards nominees

Okay, get your quills ready, hahahaha!! Just joking, the Quill Book Awards nominees were just named and you, yes…you, can vote on the winners. The awards ceremony is to take place October 10 and it is to be televised but vote now! You can run down to any Borders or just go Quills page gives a list of the categories

Monday, August 21, 2006

NonFiction - Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick takes an in-depth look into the history of the Pilgrims and their beginnings in the New England area. He picks up with the pilgrims in the early 1600s while they are still in England and the Netherlands and concludes with the end of the King Philips War in 1676. Unlike most history books this is easy to read and is written so that the reader is drawn into the everyday lives of both Native Americans and Pilgrims. Unlike the history of the Pilgrims we all probably learned about in school Nathaniel gives a historical accurate account of those first few decades in America. During the first 50 years or so we see the Pilgrims and Native Americans live in a fairly peaceful coexistence. However, as we move from one generation to the next we see the peace fall apart and distrust cultivate as the colony grows and the founding Pilgrims pass away. This distrust culminates with King Phillips War in 1675. As the author moves through the book he attempts to tell the true story of those years by acknowledging both short falls and successes of the Native Americans and Pilgrims. For example, Captain Miles Standish is portrayed as someone who did not trust Native Americans and even delighted in their suffering. We also come to see Benjamin Church (the great Indian fighter) as someone who reluctantly fought and treated his “enemies” with compassion. We also see Benjamin as a progressive thinker who had more humane ways of settling conflict. On the Native American side we see how the many tribes of the New England area were played off against each other and that perhaps Phillip (the instigator of King Phillips war) was not the sole responsibility for the war and was not as powerful and courageous as we have been told. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about how America truly got its beginning in the early to mid 17th Century.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Tale of the Holly How by Susan Wittig Albert

The Tale of the Holly How is the second cozy in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a sweet little mystery series combining the life of Beatrix Potter with the lives of the little animals in the sleepy little village of Sawrey. Well, maybe not too sleepy as the story opens up the Beatrix discovering the suspicious death of an old crotchety shepherd, Ben Hornby. His ill favored year started out with cows dying, a barn burning and finally his death. But as one member of the community departs, another is introduced. A new little girl has come to town. An orphan from New Zealand come to live with her cold haughty grandmother is plagued by rumors that she is an unruly child. To Beatrix, she is reminded of her own silent rigidly proper upbringing and is compelled to reach out to help only to find nefarious dealings going on in Tidmarsh Manor.
As Beatrix puzzles out the clues left at the scene, the animals are dealing with problems of their own. A badger family has disappeared and the word in the pasture is a badger baiting contest is soon to be held. The illegal human sport known as badger baiting (similar to illegal dog fighting) was outlawed in 1835 but still goes on. The woodland and domestic creatures find out and do their bit to fight back against the cruel members of the human race.
Wittig takes the bit of fantasy with animals and incorporates more into this second go around. More with the wilder creatures out in the field are described as she introduces Bosworth Badger XVII and his Brockery, a small hostel for other traveling creatures. It was definitely a cute quick read. BTW “how” is actually another name for “hill.”

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Book Club!

Henderson Libraries will be starting a new book club in September. The Not-So-Grown-Up Book Club will try and encourage reading for busy college and career patrons who just want something quick to read. The first book will be handed out September 7th at 3:00 p.m. at the Gibson Library. After the first meeting, the book club will meet the first Thursday of each month at Gibson. Here’s a brief summary of the first book we will be reading:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
"Case One: Olivia Land, youngest and most beloved of the Land girls, goes missing in the night and is never seen again. More than thirty years later, two of her surviving sisters, each achingly lonely in her own way, reunite when their cruel and distant father dies. There, among the clutter of their childhood home, they unearth a shocking clue to Olivia's disappearance." "Case Two: All of Theo's happiness is tied to his devoted daughter Laura. He delights in her wit, her effortless beauty, and selfless love, and in the fact that she's taken a position at his prestigious law firm. But on her first day on the job, a maniac storms into the office and turns Theo's world upside down." "Case Three: Michelle looks around one day and finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making. A very needy baby and a very demanding husband make her every waking moment a reminder that somewhere, somehow, shed made a grave mistake and would spend the rest of her life paying for it - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape." "As Private Detective Jackson Brodie investigates all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge. Jackson finds himself inextricably caught up in his clients' lives; their grief, their job, their desire, and their unshakable need for resolution are very much like his own."--BOOK JACKET.

To discuss this book, come to Gibson October 5th , 3:00 p.m. Contact Elizabeth at 564-9261 or Nicole at 564-9287 for more information.

Category: Mystery

The Ruins: A Novel by Scott Smith

Get out your survival handbooks for a trip into the South American jungles!!! Scott Smith’s The Ruins is a taut creepy horrific foray displaying human survival skills and reactions of the desperate at its best…and worst. Four friends, Jeff, Amy, Eric and Stacey, on a break from the college life head down to the beautiful Cancún beaches for fun in the sun. A popular tourist spot, they end up meeting new friends from Greece and Germany. Matthias, the German, is worried about his brother. Henrich left with a girl to an archaeological dig in the jungles of South America and has not returned. Jeff, excited about a different type of day trip convinces everyone to go. The four friends, Matthias, and one of their new Greek acquaintances, Pablo, take a bus then a taxi to the ruins. The taxi driver warns them against visiting the ruins, the Mayan village members try and prevent them from going into the area. But the second the small party steps onto the hill heading up to the dig, the Mayan’s prevent them from leaving the area, trapping them with the threat of spears and guns. Now, faced with the prospect of surviving with dwindling supplies, the group must deal with their situation. Without giving too much away, let’s just use that clichéd old phrase and say things start to go terribly wrong.

Scott Smith’s first book, A Simple Plan (1993), was a blockbuster thriller which eventually turned into an Oscar nominated screenplay. The Ruins is heavier on the horror especially as the book nears its end. I found it interesting to view the various ways each individual coped with having to survive and how their worst traits came out. Interacting with each other seemed to get harder and harder for this group. Instead of trying to work together, the group started fragmenting. It also pointed out to me how woefully inadequate I would be trying to survive for even one day, especially first aid skills (not that I’m planning on getting lost in wild areas!). Anyway, The Ruins is a good solid summer horror read, perfect for when you are lying in the beach in Cancún!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Wheel of Time Series - Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan is the only fantasy writer I’ve ever read, except Tolkien and CS Lewis. Somehow I’m always drawn back to this story, and this time I’m determined to make it through the entire series by reading one book a month. I’m currently on a re-read of Book 4, Shadow Rising.

The series features the shepherd Rand al’Thor, who discovers he can channel, meaning that he has magical powers. Unfortunately, gosh darn, these powers are tainted for all men, and he will eventually go mad and perhaps destroy the ones he loves, and quite possibly the world as he knows it. He is also a reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, The Dragon, who fought The Dark One in another Age. Rand, The Dragon Reborn, must fight the Dark One again in The Last Battle, because The Dark One and his Forsaken have escaped from their prison once more.

As we come to find out, Rand is from a very powerful, though isolated, little village, The Two Rivers. His friends have special powers of their own. Mat, the Trickster, has inherited memories of battle strategy, therefore, he can and will be a great general. He is also very lucky in games of chance. Perrin, my personal favorite, is a quiet, broad-shouldered blacksmith, who can talk to wolves. He may or may not be able to keep himself from turning more animal than man.

Egwene, who Rand thought he would marry, can also channel. Women who channel are not in danger, once they learn, although channelling on their own kills one in every 4 women. Egwene is very powerful in her own right. Nynaeve, another favorite of mine, was the Village Wisdom, and is a few years older than the rest. She is a Wilder, one who taught herself to channel on her own, though she didn’t know it. She is the most powerful Aes Sedai (the name for women who can channel) in the series, but as of Book Four, she can only channel when angry. But really, don’t make her angry. She can also be extremely stubborn, to put it mildly.

The World of the Wheel of Time Series is filled with the fierce, desert-dwelling Aiel, the cryptic, manipulative Aes Sedai, their bound, powerful Warders, the elegant, vastly cruel Seanchan, the exotic, sea-faring Atha’an Miere, the gentle Ogier (but, really, don’t make them angry, either), and the honor-bound Shienarans, to name a few. It is fascinating to see these people struggle through the growth of their powers while they’re wrestling with the reasons they have the powers in the first place. Believe me, only a few of them are happy they can wield Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit, or have inherited memories they can’t explain.

Beneath all the magic and the epic battle between good and evil lies a coming of age story, and a story of trust. All characters have some struggle between what they want to do, and what it is their duty to do. As the Shienarans say, “Death is lighter than a feather, and duty is heavier than a mountain.”

Jordan has completed and published Book 11 of the series. Supposedly he has promised that if Book 12 has to be 2000 pages, it will be the last in the series. We’ll see what happens. Until then, I will continue on. Perrin has just returned to The Two Rivers, with a price on his head by the Whitecloaks. Rand, Mat and Egwene are in the desert with the Aiel, and Nynaeve is hunting the Black Ajah. Where will duty take them next?

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Country Affair by Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca Shaw starts a new light-hearted series of a veterinary clinic’s staff and patients of Barleybridge a village in the Yorkshire hills. Kate gets a job as an accountant/receptionist at the clinic but had secretly harbored a wish to become a vet herself. Just barely missing getting into vet school by a low chemistry score, Kate figures the next best thing is to get any kind of work she can get but her over-qualifications cause strife among the front office staff. But that is not Kate’s biggest problem. She also has Adam, an ex-boyfriend, stalking her, creating major trouble as she becomes closer to the sexy Scott, the Australian vet. Joy, the office manager, is in love with the head vet Mungo which shines clear as day, much to the consternation of Joy’s husband Duncan. Weaving around all the office shenanigans are the more memorable patients, Miss Chillingsworth and her cat, Phil the farmer and his bull as well as the weekly fight in the waiting room between Mungo’s dog Perkins and patient dog Adolph.

If you’re looking for high drama, this is not it. More towards the casual feel good read. It actually is a bit of a ramble through the town of Barleybridge and seeing its inhabitants in action (almost like if you were watching BBC’s Ballykissangel series). In fact, I can totally see this as a PBS/BBC special.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

P. D. James

P.D. James, one of the most famous British mystery authors celebrates her 86th birthday today! Winner of several prestigious book awards, all of her novels featuring her most well known character, Scotland Yard’s Adam Dalgliesh, has been made into television series first with actor Roy Marsdon and more recently a BBC version with actor Martin Shaw. Random House publishers has created a very flashy webpage with some fun info about P.D. James including writing tips . The British Council, Arts division page also includes a critical perspective in addition to her back ground information .

If you have missed her latest Inspector Dalgliesh novel from 2005, The Lighthouse, be ready for an Agatha Christie-esque plot when Dalgliesh must uncover a murderer on a remote island off the Cornish coast. NPR interviewed James when it came out last December speaking of her new book and how mysteries have changed over the years.

Or if you’re in the mood to watch her latest movie adaptation endeavor, The Children of Men, a futuristic story of London in 2027, is out in theaters at the end of September 2006.

Monday, July 31, 2006

NonFiction - Game of Shadows

When I first picked up Game of Shadows I thought the focus was solely on Barry Bonds and his relationship with BALCO. The two authors (San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams) not only take you into the history of BALCO, its owners and Barry Bonds but also deep into the world of Olympic athletes and coaches/trainers who aid athletes in obtaining steroids. The book itself is very easy to read as it follows a chronological timeline and reads like a true crime story. The authors do an excellent job of presenting evidence and documents of steroid abuse and illustrate how the science of steroid use has evolved beyond the ability to detect is so that athletes who take it can and do pass doping tests. The evidence also clearly points out that Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, and other baseball, football, and track & field stars certainly did take forms of illegal steroids. The upsetting part to me is that fans and athletes put so much pressure on themselves to win and make money that they feel the need to cheat. Or, they cheat because everybody else around them is. I found it very startling when a track & field sprinter said that it was likely that in the 100m and 200m dash 9 out of the 10 competitors were likely doping and getting away with it. In the end I felt disappointed at what in my view where light sentences for athletes, coaches, trainers and BALCO executives. I also think that from now on when somebody breaks an athletic record I will wonder in the back of my mind if they used an illegal performance enhancing drug. I appreciate the work that these two reporters did to bring the world of sports doping to light. I only wish governing sports bodies would do more to prevent cheaters (especially MLB).

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

In honor of Beatrix Potter’s birthday today, the famed author and illustrator of the popular Peter Rabbit books, I finished reading The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert. The first in a cozy mystery series featuring Beatrix Potter on her trip to visit the small farm she had just purchased to escape from her domineering parents. The death of Miss Tolliver has the residents of the small village of Near Sawrey speculating as to the cause. First taken as a natural death, more sinister implications are discussed as odd things keep occurring in the village. The parish register has gone missing, the school roof fund disappears and lastly, Beatrix notices that a very valuable painting has disappeared from Miss Tolliver’s empty house. As the residents of the town try to figure out what is going on, the town animals do their best as well. Incorporating the animals thinking and conversing to themselves are just another delightful aspect to the series.

This is definitely a very gentle cozy mystery and more on the cozy part than on the mystery. Not too much investigating goes on but lots of gossip amongst the townspeople. Beatrix, trying to get away from her parents and recover from the death of her fiancé, does not get the peaceful life she had expected. I wasn’t too sure about the animals but it fit very well with the storyline. Beatrix brought her two rabbits, hedgehog and mouse with her from London and they do have a small outing into the wilderness but the stars of the book are the village pets. Rascal, a Jack Russell terrier and the cats, Tabitha Twitchit, Crumpet, and Miss Felicia Frummety do their part in solving the mysteries around town. It was a cute story and definitely for those days when you want something low key to read. If you want to get some coloring pages from Beatrix Potter’s books, visit or to visit Susan Wittig Albert’s site for more on The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter or her other series, China Bayles Herbal Mysteries (the character China Bayles just started her own herbal based blog).

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I recently went to Greenbrier, Arkansas where there is of all things, an elephant sanctuary. One of the elephants that found a home at Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary is Amy. Come to find out, there is a sweet, light-hearted book about her early life in captivity. The Cowboy and His Elephant by Malcolm MacPherson gives a refreshing look at a cowboy and the special pet he raises. Bob Norris, a former Marlboro Man, takes in Amy when he realizes she is unhealthy away from her mother, and could use some individual care. Amy does more than survive, but thrives and even later becomes a part of the Big Apple Circus. The story is very quick, and has some interesting facts about elephants and their life in captivity. This story focuses too much on the connection Bob feels for Amy, and also has some parts that don’t seem too factual. Otherwise, this book was just a very simple look into the life of Amy and her movement through Bob’s ranch, to the circus, and the hope of being sent to the wild. The funny stories about Amy, her pet goat, and the trouble she got into were the best. A Cowboy and His Elephant doesn’t finish Amy’s story so I will tell you what I know. Amy did not go back to Africa; she ended up at the elephant sanctuary. A couple of months ago, the sanctuary found out she was pregnant, and should have a baby in the Fall of 2008. This is a picture of her when I saw her in May.
Category: Non-Fiction

Movie news...continued

Whoops, I spoke too soon. They stopped the shoot for Brick Lane (based on Monica Ali's novel, see previous post) and are looking for alternate places. See BBC online article.

Movie news...

Latest news on the books-into-movies front… BBC news reports that the filming of Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane is causing troubles in primarily Bangladeshi community of Shoreditch, London’s east end where the real Brick Lane is located. Monica Ali’s debut novel shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize (in addition to winning more, ie. Orange Prize for Fiction, British Books Awards, NY Times Editors Choice among others) much to the consternation of the community leaders with objections to the unrealistic views of the community and people the book portrayed. Brick Lane’s basic plot is of a Bangladeshi girl sent to London for an arranged marriage and having to learn and adapt in her new environment. I wonder if the production company picked the book just for the controversial attention it would get, free advertising you know. But it looks like the production company is going to go ahead with the filming regardless of the complaints. See the BBC article for more info.

Category : Pages to Pictures

Borrowed Time by Robert Goddard

Robin Timariot, walking a hiker’s trail meets a lovely woman one summer’s eve. After chatting briefly, they part ways, Robin to finish his trail and the woman, to her murder. Causing a national scandal, the woman, Louise Paxton, wife to a royal physician, was found dead along with the body of a semi-famous artist Oscar Bantock and the man convicted of killing her might be wrongfully imprisoned. As one of the last people to see her alive, Robin finds himself reluctantly dragged into a hotbed of intrigue. The story line does move slowly and not quite a thriller in the sense that action takes place not within days but moves over the course of several years. Robin helplessly watches as the Paxton family, father Keith and daughters, Sarah and Rowena, slowly deteriorates until a tragic event blows the family apart. British crime author Robert Goddard creates a taut suspense and those readers patient enough to take the journey with Robin will be well rewarded.

This is the eighth Robert Goddard novel but only the second one I’ve read and in comparison, Borrowed Time was paced much slower than Sight Unseen…actually it is super slow and you don’t get that thrilling rush as the character rushes one fraught danger to another. I’ll think I’ll try one more just to see what the norm is…fast or slow?

Category : Crime Fiction

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman

Sally Beauman gives us the haunting tragic gothic story of the Mortland sisters, Julia, Finn and little Maisie in The Sisters Mortland. Told in three different perspectives, Beauman’s adept story telling first draws us into thirteen year old Maisie’s world at the ramshackle medieval Wyken Abbey in the country fields of Suffolk. Living life with her loving frail grandfather, scatterbrained mother and much older sisters, the vainglorious Julia and intelligent Finn, odd little Maisie has ghostly nuns as friends and makes lists upon lists of topics including the saints and martyrs and horticulture. Although seemingly highly intelligent, she still worries her family and friends. Lucas, an aspiring artist from Julia’s university, is commissioned to paint the sisters and is there through childhood friend and neighbor Dan, a Roma gypsy boy who eschews his family gifts and strives to be something more. Twenty years later, Dan, suffering a breakdown from the high stress life of an extremely successful advertising career, looks back on the life at Wyken Abbey and the tragic accident that occurred at the end of the summer of 1967, filling in the gaps left by Maisie’s account. The final account by Julia, although short, brings the tale into the present day. Beauman is a master of timing as she gradually reveals all that happened. Compelling and addictive, The Sisters Mortland is a tale of the many forms of passion, love, and grief.
Personal notes: Okay, I think that after the “formal” review, I’ll just add some thoughts about the book. Beauman did a spectacular job of raising the suspense and after I got through reading Maisie’s account and then Dan’s account started with little references to “the accident,” I felt almost like I was eavesdropping (I know, bad habit) and dying to find out what exactly happened. Beauman also did a great job with the characters, especially with Julia. I hated her in the beginning but actually ended up sympathizing (or at least understanding her) by the end. I almost didn’t read this book because a couple of years ago I started Beauman’s Rebecca’s Tale, a companion book of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and I don’t even think I finished the first chapter which is an almost unheard of event…I am nothing if not an obssesive reader.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All in One Piece by Cecelia Tishy

Cecelia Tishy’s All in One Piece, second in a mystery series featuring Reggie Cutler, Boston’s middle aged medium extraordinaire, again brings suspense to the streets of Boston and beyond. Reggie is just trying to recover from her bad day when blood dripping from her ceiling brings even more bad news. Stephen Damelin, her tenant has been found nail gunned to the floor and a threat marked in blood posted on her front door. As Reggie, one not to sit back and wait for fate takes to investigating his family background. Stephen’s poverty stricken background in the industrial town of Lawrence, MA and his rise to a more privileged life through the good will of his best friend’s parents is only the start to the strange and possibly crooked dealings of Stephen and the powerful Boston Vogler family. As escalating problems occur, Reggie relies on her R. K. Stark, co-owner of her dog Biscuit, for protection. Not too many medium sessions this time around, just small premonitions to prevent her from harm. Reggie’s amateur detective style requires a little bit of suspension of belief as she flits in and out of danger but this is an improvement from Tishy’s first novel, Now You See Her.

Category : Crime Fiction

Monday, July 24, 2006

NonFiction - Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth

This particular book by Tim Flannery is one of many books about Climate Change. However, unlike many other books in this area Tim does an excellent job of engaging the reader to think critically about this topic while at the same time allowing the reader to form his/her own conclusions. In other words this book is not one full of blame, anger, and who did what. Instead Tim (a paleontologist by trade) takes the hard science and explains it in a way that the average reader can understand. He spends about the 3/4 of the book discussing the impact of human activity (both good and bad) and explains what substantial changes have occurred over a very short period of time. He does an excellent job of illustrating how our frame of reference regarding time must be reevaluated in order to understand the full impact of climate change. Most of the impact to climate has occurred since the 1850s with many of the negative affects already beginning to take form now and continuing during the next 100 years or so. That is a time frame of about 250 years, which seems long to us but within the context of earth's age is extremely fast. In the latter half of the book Tim presents compelling solutions that can be done by individual people and government's world wide that are realistic and attainable without very much sacrifice.