Sunday, November 8, 2009

Read-it-First: The Pursuit of Other Interests

Last week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview The Pursuit of Other Interests, by Jim Kokoris. The book jacket describes this book as a reluctant journey of self-discovery by the main character, Charlie Baker, a neurotic workaholic who loses his job.

The preview starts off with a description of Charlie's morning activities. I did not find this interesting – in fact, it left a highly negative impression of Charlie that I could not shake throughout the seventeen pages of the preview. I found the writing to be a bit bland – there were moments where Charlie's stress and anxiety were depicted; however, they did not evoke a response from me. Could this lack of response be blamed on my initial impression of Charlie? Yes, but I have enjoyed other books where I did not like the main character.

The road to self-discovery had yet to be traveled in the preview. The journey may make the book more enjoyable and be worth taking; however, I will not be taking it with Charlie.

Looking forward to the upcoming preview!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Read-it-First: Christmas Miracles

Last week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview Christmas Miracles, by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. A collection of real-life Christmas miracle stories.

The preview starts with a forward by Don Piper. It may be just me but, I don't believe that this introduction was necessary. I would have preferred several more pages from the book as this forward took up one full installment.

This book is filled with stories about people of faith. If you are not a fan of Christian literature, you will probably not enjoy this book; however, for those of you who enjoy hearing anecdotal stories where people truly believe that some type of miracle has occurred then this is a book for you.

Looking forward to the upcoming preview!

Read-it-First: Breaking the Rules

Two weeks ago, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview Breaking the Rules, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. A story about a psychopath determined to destroy the life of a top supermodel.

This is not the usual type of book that I read. That being said, the preview moved along quite well. The prologue will certainly grab one's attention – a botched murder attempt. The first chapter changes direction and the reader is introduced to M, a New York fashion model, and her friend Dax. A comfortable relationship exists between the two and we witness a quiet friendly evening together. There is some obvious inner turmoil that M is suppressing. Suspicions are that this anxiety relates back to the prologue.

The writing was fine and M is a mystery to be solved. I do believe that I will give this book a second look. I will pick it up in the store and make a final decision to read or not to read.

Looking forward to the upcoming preview!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Read-it-First: Gorgeous East

St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed recently us to preview Gorgeous East, by Robert Girardi. A novel about the French Foreign Legion. At first I thought this was going to be an interesting read. An older gentleman, a legionnaire, notices a young woman and instantly deduces that she is suicidal. His deduction is correct and he goes to incredible lengths to save her; however, the aftermath of this event is a bit too unrealistic for me – girl sleeps with man. There is not much more to the preview than this.

I didn't find the characters to be interesting or likable. I felt as though things were being rushed and forced. On a positive note, the descriptions were beautifully written and I did enjoy the sprinkling of phrases written in other languages. Unfortunately, this is not a book that I will be picking up.

Looking forward to the next preview!

Read-it-First: The Christmas Secret

Several weeks ago, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview The Christmas Secret, by Donna VanLiere. A novel where not only the characters but also the reader will experience the true meaning of love, hope, family and sacrifice. In this installment, we are first introduced to Angela Christine as a child. This is done via a flashback to a Christmas from her past, an intriguing introduction. It brought back a lot of childhood memories, although mostly sad ones. The preview also gives us a peak into the adult life of Angela Christine. Presently, it is not a happy one. She is the mother of two children, has a deadbeat ex-husband and is on the verge of losing another job. We are also introduced to Jason, an out of work accountant with a chip on his shoulders – he thinks that he is above working in the family business, a department store. Will the paths of these two individuals cross? I'd say yes, if you want to believe the writeup on the book jacket.

The writing was fine and the characters likable. This is a book that I would like to know more about.

Looking forward to the next preview!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Read-it-Frist: There Goes the Bride

Last week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview There Goes the Bride, the twentieth installment in the Agatha Raisin series, by M.C. Beaton. Agatha has gone from being an amateur to a professional detective in this series. In this installment, Agatha is dreading the upcoming marriage of her ex-husband, James Lacey. Try as she might to move on, she can't seem to stay out of her ex-husband's life. When James' fiance is murdered moments before the wedding, Agatha becomes the prime suspect. Will she be cleared? I have no doubt.

The preview had some incidents that I found amusing and some that I found painful (for the lovelorn Agatha). The writing was fine. The pages provided for this cozy mystery brought us to the day before the wedding. No mysteries or puzzles could be found. I love a good mystery; however, I don't believe that I will be reading anymore of this story. Unfortunately, the book, characters and I just did not click. I didn't like Agatha.

Looking forward to this week's preview!

Read-it-First: Ladies of the Lake

Several weeks ago, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview Ladies of the Lake, by Haywood Smith. It is a story about four sisters forced to confront both their past and present relationships with one another. In the preview, we are introduced to the sisters, as children, and get a snapshot of the family dynamic. Two of the sisters are portrayed as natural enemies and are constantly at odds with one another. The preview then jumps to the present - the sisters are now adults and have grown children of their own. Allusions are made that lead me to believe that the aforementioned contentious behavior still exists. Towards the end of the preview, the sisters' grandmother dies. Is this the catalyst to reunite the sisters and send them on their journey to confront the past? I think so.

The preview pages are well written. Ms. Haywood was able to capture my interest from the start. How? There is a promise made to reveal some family secrets to the reader. I want to know what those secrets are. The sisters have quickly become part of my world due to Ms. Haywood's character development. I like them – even the ones that are cantankerous. I have a clear sense of who they are.

Several more previews to review!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read-it-First: The Brutal telling

Last week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview The Brutal Telling, the fifth installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, written by Louise Penny. The mystery takes place in a small village outside of Montreal – Three Pines. It is a quaint, cozy, little village where everyone knows everyone else. You could almost hear someone shout out your name as you walked into the local bistro. But, at the start of the story, the only thing that you hear are hushed whispers and sighs of relief that the murdered man was unknown. How could this be? And, how did he end up in the bistro? These are just a few pieces of the puzzle to solve.

The preview pages are well written. Ms. Penny does a wonderful job with description. I could picture/feel everything – the glowing embers in the fireplace, the log cabin, the terrifying trek through the dark forest, etc.... The descriptions do not feel heavy handed and I believe that they will add to the enjoyment of the story. There was also enough character development, in the small number of pages that we were given, to give me a sense of the characters. I like several and found them to be refreshing. There is some humor and a sense of closeness. I believe that I will be taking several trips to the small village of Three Pines.

Looking forward to this week's preview!

Read-it-First: The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots

During the week of September 6, 2009, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson. The preview started with the beheading of Mary. Neither a shock nor an attention grabber. I continued to trudge on through the week's installments. Sadly, there was nothing offered in the preview that could hold my interest. The writing was choppy at times and I found myself re-reading passages to make sure that I understood it correctly. Not something I particularly enjoy. But, did I read enough to make a decision? Yes. I will not be purchasing this book.

The next week has come and gone. There was another preview which, as always, I looked forward to reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who Loves You Baby Award

Missy from Missy's Book Nook has given me the Who Loves You Baby award! Thanks, Missy!

This award is designed with one purpose in mind: Pass it on to other bloggers who have awarded you in the past.

I would love to pass this award on to:

Suko at Suko's Notebook
Melissa at Scuffed slippers and wormy books...
Sheila at Book Journey
Jemima at The Reading Journey
Natalie at The Book Inn
Jennifer at Just Jennifer Reading

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Read-it-First: You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start In the Morning

Last week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start In the Morning by Celia Rivenbark. This book is a collection of essays about the South and just about anything else that Ms. Rivenbark fancied. The topics range from perfect school attendance to action figure Jesus. I was hooked from the beginning. Was it the topics or the writing? A little of both. The first essay is entitled TB or not TB: Perfect Attendance Nuts Don't Care. As a working parent of three, this essay strongly resonated with me. I cannot count the number of times that my children became sick because some other parent sent their sick child to school. Of course, my kids didn't get sick at the same time – it was one after the other; therefore, I missed work three times more than I should have. My husband and I joking refer to this phenomenon as the army of the 12 monkeys. I found this essay to be quite humorous and had to endure the looks from family as I read (and laughed). Two other essays were presented for the preview. The first of the two is Poseable Jesus Meets Poser Ken. Where would one find a poseable Jesus doll? Walmart, of course. According to Ms. Rivenbark, he will probably be found near the Bratz dolls. And, the second is Let's Go See "Gobbler" Up at the Funeral Home. In this essay, Ms. Rivenbark explores the eccentricities of Southerners and small town living. Ms. Rivenbark did not fail in either of these essay. They were both enjoyable and funny.

The writing had a sarcastic bite which I found refreshing. At times, I felt as though I was listening in on someone's private thoughts. You know, the things that are not meant to be said out load – the things you wish you could say. Overall, I found the preview to be both interesting and entertaining. This is a book I would definitely pick up.

Looking forward to the next preview!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your Blog Rocks Award

Missy from Missy's Book Nook has awarded me with the "Your Blog Rocks Award". Thank you so much Missy!

I want to pass this award on to some other blogs that I think ROCK!

Tutu's Two Cents
Coconut Library
The Magic Lasso

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Zombie Chicken Award

Thanks to Suko at Suko's Notebook for this award.

I bet you are all wondering what is the meaning of this award? See below for the explanation.

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

In order to avoid the wrath of the zombie chickens, I bestow this award on the following bloggers:

Heather at Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Jennifer at (Semi) Intellectual Blathering
Cheli Cheli's Shelves

ABC meme

Natalie of The Book Inn tagged me this ABC meme!

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Share your ABC’s.
3. Tag three people at the end by linking to their blogs.
4. Let the three tagged people know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
5. Do not tag the same person repeatedly but try to tag different people, so there is a big network of bloggers doing this tag.

Available or single? married
Best Friend? my husband
Cake or Pie? mousse cake
Drink of choice? water
Essential item for every day use? glasses
Favorite color? dusty rose
Google? yes
Hometown? canton
Indulgences? books, dvds
January or February? neither
Kids and their names? laura, marissa, benjamin
Life is incomplete without…? my family
Marriage date? occurred
Number of siblings? 1
Oranges or apples? apples
Phobias and fears? snakes, anesthesia
Quote for the day?
"dance as though no one is watching you, love as though you have never been hurt before, sing as though no one can hear you, live as though heaven is on earth" - souza

Reason to smile? my family
Season? spring
Tag 3 people?
Michael @ A Few Minutes With Michael
Cindy @ Cindy's Love of Books
Gwendolyn @ A Sea of Books
And anyone else who would like to play!

Unknown fact about me? wanted to be a lawyer
Vegetable you hate? bok choy
Worst habit? over planning
X-rays you’ve had? back, knee, hips
Your fave food? ???
Zodiac sign? cancer

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Read-it-First: The Concubine's Daughter

Last week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was The Concubine's Daughter, the debut novel, by Pai Kit Fai. Myths, fairy tales and superstition are evident in the first twenty pages that were offered during the preview week. I guess this is par for the course for life in China during the early twentieth century. A time and place where females were considered worthless and treated as property. At the start of the novel, Yik-Munn, a farmer, listens to his concubine scream as she gives birth to an expected son. When a daughter is born instead, there is only one thing he can do – kill the child. Fear of the fox fairy prevents him from doing so. Is the daughter destined to follow in her mother's footsteps or can she escape? This is the saga that unfolds throughout the pages of this novel.

The writing was colorful and descriptive. The pace of the early pages was a little slow but not enough to deter me from finishing the preview. The pages that I read were a bit predictable; however, I have enjoyed reading similar books. Not sure if I will be purchasing this book – need to take a second look.

Looking forward to the next preview!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Under This Unbroken Sky

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words but what do you see when the description is presented first? Shandi Mitchell's first novel, Under This Unbroken Sky, tackles this question head on. The novel starts with the description of a 1933, black-and-white photograph of a family. Although there are specifics listed (how each member of the family looks), the reader is free to draw his/her own conclusions about what type of life they have and what brought them to this time/place. Additionally, there is some foreshadowing that states what will become of them. Specifically, that one amongst them will die and two others (not seen) will be murdered. This alone will hook most readers and compel them to take an adventure Under This Unbroken Sky.

The story centers around an immigrant Ukrainian family and chronicles their struggles to survive the harsh Canadian prairie. The land and weather are not the only obstacles that must be faced. At the start of the novel, Teodor Mykolayenko has just finished serving a two year prison sentence and is determined to build a better life for his family. Teo not only supports his family but also supports his sister and her children. He clears his land, builds a house and plants his crops. Just when things start to look hopeful, tragedy – in the form of mother nature – strikes. They are confronted with fire, dust storms and snow. And, each time they survive; however, the real battles occur when Teo's brother-in-law, Stefan, returns. Saying anymore would be giving too much away.

The story was nicely paced and the descriptions were well done. You could clearly picture the environment and feel as though you were witnessing the events first hand. You will come to care for most of the characters and not want to see any of them die. Could you predict who dies? One death may be foreseeable but, for this reader, not the others. This is not a happy go lucky story. It is one of survival. We witness both the broken and the unbroken spirit of a human being trying to survive against all odds – physical and emotional.

I recommend to those interested in discovering a new voice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Read-it-First: Swan for the Money

This week, St. Martin's Read-it-First program allowed us to preview Swan for the Money, the eleventh installment in the Meg Langslow series, by Donna Andrews. The preview starts off with a bang - the deaths of Matilda and Adelaide. Who is responsible for these murders? Well, there were no murders. Matilda and Adelaide are rose bushes. Nonetheless, foul play is suspected. Meg Langslow finds herself embroiled in the middle of this rose mystery. Supporting her eccentric parents new hobby, growing roses and entering them in highly competitive rose shows, Meg is the coordinator for the upcoming local rose show and feels compelled to solve any issue that comes up – including murder. Yes, there is a real murder.

The story is written as a traditional whodunit and doesn't have an overly complicated plot. I found the characters to be warm, funny and just a tad sarcastic. There is a good deal of amusing, playful banter between them. This seems to be a lighthearted series – I am not sure if the books in the series are stand alone or if it is necessary to start at the beginning. I think I may pick up the first in the series and see how it goes.

Looking forward to the next preview!

B-I-N-G-O Award

Thanks to Melissa at Scuffed slippers and wormy books.... for this award.

This award means that this blog is:
    B: Beautiful
    I: Informative
    N: Neighborly
    G: Gorgeous
    O: Outstanding

Five blogs that fit these criteria:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Read-it-First: The Husband Habit

Last week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was The Husband Habit, by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.

Vanessa Duran, the heroine of the novel (I only refer to her as such since that is the word used to describe her in the first paragraph), a chef in New Mexico, has a sad habit of unwittingly falling for married men. At the start of the novel, she is accosted by the wife of her current soul mate. Embarrassed and unsure of herself, she throws herself into her work. This is pure chic lit and from what I previewed, it seems like it would be a light read. The cover of the book references Paul – supposedly her final paramour in the dating game; however, he was not introduced in the pages I read. Will he make the book better?

I must say that I was instantly put off by this book and by the fifth paragraph, I decided that I didn't want to read it; however, I did read the full twenty five page preview – hoping things would improve. They did not. The author has a habit of heavily peppering the story with fragmented and one word sentences. I am sure that this was done intentionally; however, I found it bothersome. Putting this aside, I did not like Vanessa and found the descriptions to be … not sure how to say it – blech – they just rubbed me the wrong way. The following excerpt is an example.

Vanessa, mind clear as a drink of water, steps into the bathroom, gets slapped in the forcibly peaceful face by the foul hand of fetidness. Like a woolly mammoth took a dump in here, and died promptly after. Metaphor, dear universe? She takes the symbolism and twists it through her body. Bad things coming. Cement. Excrement. Experiment. Disillusionment. Wonders what is meant. Wonders what she has gotten herself into. Wonders why hope, of all things, has, so far, smelled so rancid. Reminds herself to stop. "Stop." Overthinking. Every. Little. Thing. Jesus. Walks across the curiously wet and rotted tiles of the bathroom floor, hopes the "eau du" dead mammoth will not stick to her shoes like toilet paper.

Looking forward to the next preview!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Await Your Reply

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon … what can I say? It is an unusual novel. It is both a mystery and a psychological study of identity. The novel is divided into three stories with the chapters cycling between them. A common thread – identity and who you are – binds the stories together and is clearly evident. In one story, Miles Chesire, wanting to get on with his life, has received a letter from his twin brother, Hayden, pulling him back into a global game of hide and seek. Another story centers around, Ryan, a college drop out, whose hand has been severed under mysterious circumstances. And in the final story, we have Lucy, a recent high school graduate who leaves town with her high school teacher. Each of these individual is searching for something but what is that something. Is it love, a sense of belonging, closure, etc...? In their search, these individuals will need to come to terms with who and what they are.

While reading, I had a gnawing sense of familiarity and definitely saw strong parallels between two of the stories. Is there a connection between all the stories? This question will keep you reading (and thinking). I found Mr. Chaon to be quite adept at describing the little details – from a neglected motel in an abandoned US town to a hotel in Africa and a quaint little town in Ecuador – you feel as though you are there and witnessing everything. The stories were well paced and the characters well developed. Some may find the interweaving of chapters a bit disconcerting; however, the book is a page turner (I read it in one sitting). Some may not even like the characters as they are dark and strange – I only found one to be likable. Mr. Chaon's characters could be someone you know – they are ordinary people just trying to find themselves; however, some of the means taken to do so are questionable and may leave you wondering how well/if you know someone. I have always felt that you can never really know someone – you can only know what they allow you to see – truth or not.

I highly recommend.

Thank you to Random House for this ARE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday Teaser: Saffron Dreams

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I stopped by a toy store, its shutters down, occupants fast asleep. As I pressed my nose against the window, I marveled at the simple joys of childhood. My breath came in short waves and misted the window, creating tiny smoky bubbles of all sizes and shapes.

-Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah, p 1-2

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Read-it-First: A Crack in the Lens

Last week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was A Crack in the Lens, the fourth book in the series, Holmes on the Range, by Steve Hockensmith. The Amlingmeyer brothers – Otto and Gustav - pay homage to the great Sherlock Holmes. Believing that they themselves are detectives of Holmes' caliber, they set off on yet another case – the murder of Gustav's fiance. Holmes and Watson, they are not; however, one does see elements from that detective team. While Gustav, “Old Red”, takes the lead detective role, Otto, “Big Red”, serves as the Watson of the duo. Otto's narration of the story is both sarcastic and witty. The story is fast paced and laced with an amusing undertone. At times, I found myself quietly laughing out loud and at other times tinged with sadness for Gustav. I anticipated the arrival of each daily installment.

I was intrigued by this excerpt and will be looking into the series – I need to start from the beginning.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Last Dickens

The Last Dickens, the latest novel by Matthew Pearl, focuses on Charles Dickens’s final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With the death of Mr. Dickens, what will become of his final manuscript? Is it really unfinished? If yes, did Dickens leave behind any clues as to how the novel would end? If no, where are the remaining pages? These are a few of the questions that arise at the start of the novel. When James Osgood, Dickens’ American publisher, fails to obtain the first installment of Drood, he travels to London to see if these questions can be answered. This sounds like a simple task; however, I don’t believe that simple is a word in Mr. Pearl’s vocabulary. He creates an air of mystery surrounding these missing pages. Peppered with actual events, thievery, drugs and murder, the novel takes the reader on a journey of speculation – one plausible scenario regarding the fate of Drood – if curious, you must read for yourself. The story was broken down into three distinct story lines. Two of which complimented one another: Dickens’s first American tour and the aftermath of Dickens’s death. The third revolved around the life of Dickens’ son in India. I enjoyed the plot and the writing; however, the obscure connection of this last story line to the rest of the novel, left me wanting.

I recommend to those who have read other works by Matthew Pearl and/or those who enjoy historical fiction, Dickens or the publishing world. I also recommend to those of you who have not read Matthew Pearl.

Other novels by Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club, Poe’s Shadow. My favorite was The Dante Club.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - Mercury In Retrograde

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The elevator came to a stop, the doors opened, and Penelope stepped out into her own personal Fallujah. The noise was almost deafening. It was lunchtime for the 150 reporters and editors and so, in addition to the constant ringing of phones, the screaming for "copy!" and the news blaring from five television sets hanging over the main news edit desk, there was an undercurrent of munching and the cackling of fast-food wrappers.

-Mercury In Retrograde by Paula Froelich, p 38

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Read-it-First: Secret Keepers

This week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was Secret Keepers by Mindy Friddle. I was able to preview the first twenty one pages of this book. From the beginning, it is apparent that this is a story about a dysfunctional family. We are first introduced to Emma Hanley who is seventy two and anticipating the journey of a lifetime, a cruise to Europe. Unfortunately, she has to contend with her husband, Harold, his fickle nature and their schizophrenic son, Bobby. Is Harold a faithful husband? Does he still love Emma? I'm not sure if they're still in love or if they've just become part of each others routine. Foreshadowing at the end of the first chapter leaves us wondering whether or not Emma's dream of traveling will be realized. Additionally, we meet Dora, the born-again Christian daughter, who teaches an exercise class in the middle of a mall! I found this to be quite comical – exercising in a health club is the most exposure I would want. The writing was enjoyable and I felt that I was getting to know each member of the Hanley family. They seemed very realistic and entertaining. I hope the character development continues over the course of the book and that the secrets being kept are just as intriguing and quirky as the characters. At this point in the story, we have no idea what those secrets could be.

I believe a second look is needed.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - Await Your Reply

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Ryan is still aware enough that his father's words come in through the edges, like sunlight on the borders of a window shade. His eyes are shut tight and his body is shaking and he is trying to hold up his left arm, to keep it elevated.

-Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, p 3

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Read-it-First: Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories

Last week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories, a debut by Peter Neofotis. This is a collection of short stories that tells a story. What type of story? Each short takes place in Concord and offers a little piece of history of its inhabitants. Twenty one pages were offered and amongst those pages, there was one complete story and one partial story. In the complete story, The Vultures, we meet a man who accidentally killed his wife. We watch him struggle between nature and keeping a promise to his dead wife. Does he come to terms with things? Can he find meaning in his life after his tragic loss? The story does offer an answer to these questions; however, I am not sure that I agree – it has kept me thinking. In the partial story, The Snake Man, we are introduced to two characters, Sammy and Rachel. Rachel, a reporter for the local paper, wants to interview Sammy, a veteran of the Korean war, about his experiences in order to prepare those going off to Vietnam. Sammy, reluctant to speak of his experiences, goes to great lengths to avoid her. When last we see them, they are swimming in the river while poisonous snakes approach. What will happen next?

I do not read many short story collections; however, this one did intrigue me. I enjoyed the writing style – it was quite descriptive, presenting a clear picture of the surroundings in both stories. The stories were a bit odd but, I would like to read more. Is there more than the locale that ties these stories together? I hope so.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

East of the Sun

East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson, revolves around the lives of three young Englishwomen bound for India. Each is traveling with a different purpose: Viva, the young inexperienced chaperone, projects an air of mystery and hopes to retrieve personal effects belonging to her deceased parents; Rose, naïve and caring, is engaged to marry a man she met only a handful of times; and, Victoria, bridesmaid to Rose, is just running away - she cannot stand her current environment and wants out - she is looking for a husband, a magic panacea for all her woes. They are considered to be part of the fishing fleet – a term used to describe the Englishwomen who come searching for a husband, unsure of what they will find in this distant land. In addition to the two women, Viva has a third charge, Guy – a loose cannon to say the least – who is returning home after being expelled from school.

The characters were interesting and likable. Each chapter is dedicated to one character and we slowly learn more and more about them. Transitioning between characters from chapter to chapter was seamless and done well. The format and short chapter lengths were just right. At the end of each chapter, I would look at the length of the next to see if I had time to read another (and another and another and …). I wanted to know what would happen to these characters and had to have things wrapped up before I stopped reading. We see the personal growth of each character. They all reach some pivotal dark turning point in their lives and come out on the other side – the reader must decide for themselves whether or not it was for better or worse.

Overall, I liked the novel and recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and/or romance style novels. This is a long book; however, it is a quick read – which you will enjoy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Heartfelt Award

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journey for this award.

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you’re relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family & friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea ~ or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt award is all about feeling warm inside.

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

I would like to pass this award on to the following blogs:

A Few Minutes with Michael
Rhapsodyinbook's Weblog

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blog Awards

Awarded by Jennifer at Just Jennifer Reading!


Awarded by Natalie at The Book Inn!


Awarded by from Jemima at The Reading Journey


Awarded by Sheila at Book Journey.


Awarded by Melissa at Scuffed slippers and wormy books.....


Awarded by Suko at Suko's Notebook.


Awarded by Missy at Missy's Book Nook.


Read-it-First: The Bird Catcher

The Bird Catcher by Laura Jacobs is the story of a woman dealing with one of life's tragedies. With New York's art world as its background, Margret Snow pursues a strange hobby involving dead birds.

During this past week, I received and read approximately twenty seven pages of this St. Martin's Read-it-First selection. Well, let me amend that previous statement, I glossed over a good portion of these pages on days two and three. At first, I was interested but, the detailed descriptions of the mundane did not hook me - this is odd as I do like descriptive writing. I do believe that it was well written; however, I did not find the characters to be realistic or appealing. In fact, they bored me. Granted, we have only been directly introduced to two characters (Margret - boring and Emily - self-centered) at this point in the novel but, the point of this program is to give one the opportunity to preview a book and then decide whether or not one wants to continue reading. With that in mind, the characters, plot, descriptions, etc... need to hook one pretty early - they did not do this. Also, I could find no evidence of the plot in this excerpt - not sure how far into the book one will need to read to find it.

Unfortunately, I will not be adding this book to my to be read list.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Read-it-First: Last Known Address

The Last Known Address by Theresa Schwegel is the latest selection from the St. Martin's Read-it-First program. This story features Detective Sloane Pearson, recently transferred to the sex crimes unit. Her latest case is to find a serial rapist. Ms. Schwegel introduces us to several characters. Amongst them are the rapist, several cops and Pearson. We get a glimpse into the malevolence of the rapist as we witness an attack and see the contrast between the stereotypical behavior of the male cops and Pearson. Pearson is depicted as a smart, tough and someone who does not care for the bull**** that people spout. She is an interesting character that I could read about. Although the portion of the book that I have read (the first twenty five pages) was well written and easy to read, I don't think that I am up to reading another book about violence towards women at this point in time.

I will keep this book on my to read someday list.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Thanks to The Reading Journey for sending my way the Kreativ Blogger Award. In order to accept it I am supposed to list my seven favorite things and send it on to my seven favorite bloggers.

Favorite Things:

1. my family
2. books
3. La Femme Nikita
4. chocolate mousse
5. tomatoes from my garden
6. a good workout on my LifeCycle
7. dried fruit

Favorite Bloggers (that I don't believe have received this award lately)

1. Find Your Next Book Here
2. Missy's Book Nook
3. The Book Inn
4. Suko's Notebook
5. Kittling: Boooks
6. A Sea of Books
7. Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - Chamomile Mourning

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And then, as if to answer the question in everyone's mind, a fluttering shadow suddenly appeared directly in front of Poe's twenty-foot-high image. A body falling from the balcony!

-Chamomile Mourning by Laura Childs, p 22-23

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Read-it-First: There's Something About St. Tropez

There's Something About St. Tropez by Elizabeth Adler was last week's St. Martin's Read-it-First selection. This book is one in a series that follows the adventures of PI Mac Reilly, the star of TV's Mac Reilly's Malibu Mysteries, and his fiancée, Sunny Alvarez. Sunny and Mac are looking forward to an extended vacation in a rented villa in ST. Tropez. Of course, the best laid plans .... They along with several others have been scammed - no fancy villa for them. At the end of the twenty one page installment, Sunny is last seen running from the villa after being scared by a man with a sword raised over his head. The scam seems to be the beginning of this international iceberg.

I believe that this will be a light, entertaining read. Most likely, I will purchase it. I like the occasional light read.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Woman in White

The Woman in White is a Victorian mystery that is considered to be one of the best mysteries ever written. Written in 1859, it takes the form of an early detective novel with an amateur sleuth. The plot (man marries woman and schemes to get her money), albeit predictable by today's standards, is plausible, entertaining and, at times, slightly suspenseful. I attribute this slightness to the Victorian language itself. I'm not a fan of that style of speaking and found myself frustrated at times and thinking just get on with it all ready, stop dragging things out. The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters – much like a legal deposition where each character relates what he/she knows about certain events.

The characters were interesting and memorable; however, I was disappointed in the characterization/treatment of women – weak and inferior. Was this an accurate portrayal for the times? I don't know. I have read other Victorian novels and didn't come away with the same feeling. Because of his portrayal of women, Mr. Collins didn't do justice to Marion Halcombe, one of the more memorable characters in the novel. A greater role would have been appreciated more by today's society but, in 1859, who knows. Creating a lead woman character who 'out thinks' a man may have been taboo. The other memorable character was Count Fosco, the mastermind behind everything evil in the world. I am being a bit facetious; however, the character was so full of himself that I couldn't help but inflate his imaginary ego a little more. His character was fully developed – I didn't like him and found him frustrating – once again this could be attributed to the Victorian language.

Overall, I did like the novel; however, the above issues prevent me from giving it more than three stars. I recommend to those who enjoy Victorian literature and those who would like to read one of the first mystery novels. This is a long book and not a quick read – you will be in it for the long haul – which you will enjoy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Humane Award

I received the Humane Award from Natalie at The Book Inn! Thank you so much!!

"The Humane Award is in order to honor certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world.”

I nominate the following blogs:

Books and Such
Find Your Next Book Here
Julie's Jewels
Just Jennifer Reading
Missy's Book Nook
One Literature Nut
The Reading Journey
Tender Graces
Scuffed slippers and wormy books
Starting Fresh

Read-it-First: Strange Nervous Laughter

This week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was Strange Nervous Laughter by up-and-coming novelist Bridget McNulty. This is a novel about what love does to us. Told by the all-knowing narrator, it contains moments of magical realism - not something that I usually read; however, the few instances that surfaced in the first fifteen pages were OK. There are also touches of black humor.

The story follows six individuals during the summer months in Durban, a large city in South Africa. They are total strangers who are brought together during a grocery store robbery. At first, we are treated to a cursory glance of all six characters during the robbery. The next two chapters start to delve into the characters of Beth and Pravesh. Ms. McNulty is able to vividly convey the human nature of these individuals. We know what they are thinking. Better still, we are given explanations as to why they think the way they do and why they behave in a certain way - allowing the reader to catch a glimpse of himself/herself or someone they know.

I was intrigued by this book. Possibly more by the characters than by the plot. I will pick it up in the store and see where it goes from there.

Looking forward to next week's preview!