Friday, April 30, 2010

BOOK: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, 299 pages

review book from Random House Canada; A - Zed Challenge (E title)
Published April 13, 2010

Do you have an author you associate with a particular friend? Jill at the Magic Lasso has always written about how much she enjoys Anna Quindlen's books, so when I saw this book, I decided to take a chance on the author, knowing nothing about the book, trusting Jill's book opinion. That Jill sure is a great recommender!

Whenever I've read a book knowing nothing about the plot, I hesitate to reveal much of anything because I think that my experience was based on that lack of knowledge, and I suppose everyone should have my same experience. So, not much of a plot summary from me today. This was a very emotional read, the kind that had me staying up too late, reading, sobbing in bed, trying not to wake my husband, and waking with red-rimmed eyes. And to be clear, this makes it a great book by me!

I like a book that immerses me into the life of the narrator, in this case, Mary Beth, the mother of three teenagers. She narrates her fortyish life, with a melancholy, a midlife reflecting of what her life is now that her children are growing and her role is changing. I just liked how Mary Beth looked at life, I recognized her feelings and reactions, even while not always liking her or her actions. Quindlen does an amazing job of balancing the emotional aspect with the plot. She didn't spell everything out, but gave just enough to keep things moving.

I tried to describe the setting of this book in my It's Tuesday, Where Are You? meme last week, but the setting isn't a key part of this book - it's a home, with a family, with married parents and teenagers, and it's about a woman's life and how she deals with a terrible event that changes everything she thought she knew. I feel like all the cliches about writing- effortless, readable, identifiable characters, are what I want to use to describe Every Last One. And that is why it was such a great read - it was all those things and made such an emotional connection without being manipulative, (I hate when I feel manipulated into an emotional reaction.)

also reviewed by
Jill at the Magic Lasso
Lesley at lesley's book nook

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GAME: The Bookword Game (sticky post)

Last week, we asked:

What should we call a book that makes you interested enough in its topic that you are inspired to go and do some more research on it?

And after many suggestions, and a poll, the Bybee suggested Firestarter book was the winner. Yah Bybee! Some books do just start a fire under you and send you off to the library for more information.

The next bookword we are looking for is: What do we call a book that you remember everything about the plot, but not the title?

Don't you hate when that happens? Any suggestions? The comments will take suggestions for the next week. Then look at Suey's for the poll.

BOOK: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, 292 pages

Historical Mysteries; 4 Month Challenge: Proper name in title; 30s Mini-Challenge(it's set in 1929, but has the spirit of the 1930s)

I've been slow to jump on the Maisie Dobbs train, and I am of two minds. On the one hand, I've been missing this wonderful character and beautiful writing. On the other hand, there are seven more books in the series to discover, so I have that to look forward to.

Maisie Dobbs, a female private investigator slash psychologist, sets up shop in 1929 London. The mystery was slight in this first novel, as much time was spent on the back story of Maisie as a child, and during her time in World War I in France. But the mystery tied in with the flashbacks, and I was on the edge of my seat at one moment. Maisie had a most unique educational experience, and she is as much a psychologist as an investigator. Just a delightful novel all around.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Taking suggestions for this weeks Bookword Game here in the comments until Wednesday. We need some more players. Feel free to come on by.

This is Sheepy at our house. He's not quite as impressive as this Sheepy, but he's pretty popular nonetheless. Picture by seven year old owner of Sheepy.

In reading, I am starting my own Investigative Agency in 1929 London, not the 1930s as I was mistakenly led to believe by Librarything tags. Looks like we may spend some time remembering World War I in the course of this investigation. (Maisy Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, April 26, 2010

BOOK: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde, 388 pages

Colourful Challenge; It's the End of the World

In a world where your social status is defined by the colour you can see (Chromatacia), Yellows are on top with last names like Primrose, McMustard, and Courtland. The Reds - Russetts, Oxblood, and Ochre are just above the lowly Greys. I loved all the synonyms for colours in this book, among other things.

If this had been my first Fforde, I'm not sure I would have made it. He crams so many allusions and jokes and ideas into every page that it can be hard to read. And setting up a whole new world after the Something that Happened (to our world) is a lot of work. It can be very tough reading in the beginning. But I stuck with it, knowing that Fforde has a sure hand and can write the most amazing new worlds, and then once the book picked up, I flew to the end, anxious to find out what might happen - a little romance, a little adventure, some treachery and enlightenment. And a plethora of spoons, because in a world with a spoon shortage, you know there must be some hidden somewhere.

Eddie is the perfect protagonist - a little naive with a sense of fair play. His discovery that his world is not quite what he thought it was, that the Head Office might have an agenda, is slowly revealed by anther new wonderful character, Jane Grey. I look forward to more Eddie and Jane (does Jasper Fforde really have a thing for Jane Eyre or what?) adventures.

There are two more books planned with Brunswick and deMauve: Painting by Numbers and The Gordini Protocols.

also reviewed by:
chris at bookarama
alison at piling on the books

another library book

Sunday, April 25, 2010

BOOK: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, 688 pages

A - Zed Challenge; 20-10 Challenge: set in Africa

Most reviews of this book have readers gushing, raving, and putting this on their 'best read of the year' list. I liked this book, quite a bit, but it won't make my best read of the year. I feel like I have to explain why I didn't love it that much, which makes it seem like I am only mentioning things I didn't like, when in fact, I found it an engrossing, epic novel. It's a solid 4/5 reading experience.

(Nit-picking problems:
I could never get a sense of where the story was going. It was epic, covering the life of the narrator with back stories on his parents, biological and real-life, and most other characters as well. But every time we went back in time, I lost the focus of where this was headed.

The narrator, Marion Stone, seemed too perfect. I would have rather had the story narrated by his twin brother, Shiva, who seemed more of a character. However, he didn't seem to care much about anyone else, so I guess his narration would have been as one-sided. For example, Marion saved himself for the girl he loved, explaining that his love was so true. He was too sensitive to hurt people's feelings, he did everything he was supposed to. Marion couldn't lie to protect the family during a particular crisis - don't worry, Shiva has no such compunction.

The medical details were far too detailed. I don't need to know the sub-clava vein thingy and the minuscule thing attached to it when operating for some obscure rare surgery. Lots of surgery and blood. I was impressed with Dr Verghese knowledge, but it could have been edited. And at least five major characters were surgeons so every character had a surgery described.)

The story, of conjoined twins born of a doctor and a nun, both immigrants to Ethiopia, with a secret love was a great concept. I really liked the Ethiopian setting, and learning about the history and culture of Ethiopia, especially the historical relationship with Ethiopia and Italy. The family relationships - parent/child, siblings, within the Missing Hospital were realistic and moving, especially Ghosh who was a wonderfully loving adoptive father and husband. It's a big book that didn't feel big except in scope.

thanks to RandomHouse Canada for the review copy

also reviewed by:
jackie at farmlanebooks
suzi at suziqoregon
nicola at back to books
chris at bookarama

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GAME: The Bookword Game

Suey challenged us this week to find the name for a book that makes us interested in a new topic. Lots of great suggestions this week!

What should we call a book that makes you interested enough in its topic that you are inspired to go and do some more research on it?

Bybee suggested Firestarter book
Jan von Harz suggested a Probing Prose
Jenni suggested The Gluttenous Read, An Interest-Piquing Book, and Attention Grabber
Jan suggested A Stepping Stone Book, and A Bridge Book

So, now it's your turn. Come on by to vote in the poll. (Hey lurkers! You know you want to vote, and it's anonymous. I'll never know who you are. I dare you.) Results and a new word next week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Bookword Game update for the week: come by and vote this week for this week's word. Results on Wednesday.

I am just leaving Ethiopia with Dr Stone - it's been a great adventure. (Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese)
In reading, I am not exactly sure my location as I am just getting started. I am a part of a family, so could really be any where. (Every Last One, Anna Quindlen)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, April 19, 2010

CHALLENGE: The 1930s

Nymeth thinks if she puts Mini-Challenge in the title it won't seem so imposing. Ha. I still like reading challenges - it's a way for me to decide which book to read next. There are so many books I want to read, and having a list, and deadlines helps me pick the next book. I only use books I want to read anyway, or have on hand.

Here are the 'rules' for the 1930s Mini-Challenge

  • Three months (April 18th – July 18th);
  • You’d only need to read a minimum of one book, though you’re of course be welcome to read more;
  • No need for a sign-up post or a reading list;
  • Just enter your name, read your book(s), and then come back and leave me a link to your post about what you’ve read from, set in, or about the 1930’s.

Books I'd like to read:
from 1930s
Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh (1937)
The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson (1931)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1936)

set in 1930s
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldneko
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
When We Were Orphans by Kazou Ishiguro

Pulitzer Winners from the 1930s
1939 - The Yearling - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1938 - The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
1937 - Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
1936 - Honey in the Horn by Harold Lenoir Davis
1935 - Now in November by Josephine W. Johnson
1934 - Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller
1933 - The Store by Thomas Stribling
1932 - The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
1931 - Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
1930 - Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge

Newbery Winners from the 1930s
1939 Elizabeth Enright, Thimble Summer
1938 Kate Seredy, The White Stag
1937 Ruth Sawyer, Roller Skates
1936 Carol Ryrie Brink, Caddie Woodlawn
1935 Monica Shannon, Dobry
1934 Cornelia Meigs, Invincible Louisa
1933 Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
1932 Laura Adams Armer, Waterless Mountain
1931 Elizabeth Coatsworth, The Cat Who Went to Heaven
1930 Rachel Field, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Books I recommend that fit this challenge:
Clara Callan by Richard B Wright
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
The Green Mile by Stephen King
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (not really reccing, but it fits the time and other readers like it)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelson

The Books I Read:
1. Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear (set in 1929 - close enough!)
2. Vintage Murder - Ngaio Marsh (published in 1937)
3. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie (published in 1934)
4. The Brontes Went to Woolworths - Rachel Ferguson (published in 1931)
5. Caddie Woodlawn - Carol Ryrie Brink (published in 1935)

6. Thimble Summer - Elizabeth Enright (published in 1938 )
7. Invincible Louisa - Cornelia Meigs  (published in 1933 )
8. A Tangled Web - LM Montgomery (published in 1931)
9. Birds of a Feather - Jacqueline Winspear (set in 1930)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

BOOK: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 609 pages

Our Mutual Read; Colourful Challenge

I have been wanting to read a Wilkie Collins book since I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher in the summer of 2008. The Woman in White is considered one of the first of the mystery novel genre. I was surprised to find it was also epistolary, written as diary entries, letters, and extracts from official documents. Collins was a real leader in the types of books I like best. The Woman in White was originally written in serial form, and unfortunately for me, that makes for a bloated, long read.

I liked the book - I must have, I've been reading it on and off since January. Each time I picked it up, I read a good chunk, but it was slow going. As a credit to Collins' writing, I preferred a few of the narrators over others as some of that Victorian writing pains my poor head. Never use 2 words when 25 will do.

Laura Fairlie has to be the epitome of the vapid, delicate woman. Were women really like this? Too delicate to hear any pertinent information? Swooning? Blech. At least her cousin Marion was smart and forceful and cunning. She comes off as a man in the book because of that - there is no consideration of her marrying. She listened to me from beginning to end with a steady, silent attention, which, in a woman of her temperament and disposition, was the strongest proof that could be offered of the serious manner in which my narrative affected her. (page 100)

The best characters were wildly written, especially Uncle Frederick Fairlie, ESQ, who was hilarious and had the best line in the book - Was it at this point that I began to suspect he was going to bore me? I rather think it was. (page 337) I also enjoyed the outlandish Count Fosco and his wife, who played his villain role with relish.

So, while long and at times rambling, I enjoyed the book enough to still want to read Moonstone, another Collins mystery. Sometimes when I read classics that seem a little dated (the Victorian writing for example) I like to think how new and exciting a book like this must have seemed when it was first published. It allows me to enjoy the book on a different level than I might generally have.

about the cover: That is not the cover I had on my book and I cannot find it online anywhere. My camera wouldn't take a picture of it because it was white and kept reflecting back on me. The cover I've shown is a new release from Penguin.

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name 3? Update

Challenge - What's In A Name 3 Challenge

Dates -
January 1 - December 31, 2010
Host - Beth at Beth Fish Reads

Here are the books I've read, with linked reviews, for the categories in What's in a Name? It's a fun challenge to pick books for, and really stretches the imagination. This one goes all year, so there is still time to start and finish this challenge if it is new to you. What a great selection of books I picked!
Favorite book: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Biggest Surprise: Nikolski (it won Canada Reads this year)

A book with a food in the title
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley 01/26
- Short Review: New mystery set in 1950s England with Flavia de Luce, the 11 year old protaganist. I am waiting for the second book in the series.

A book with a body of water in the title:
The Swimming Pool - Holly LeCraw 04/9
- Short Review: What at the repercussions of a secret affair? Seven years later, the members of the two families are still connected in their Cape Cod summer.

A book with a title (queen, president) in the title:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson 02/27
-Short Review: Wonderful tale of a later romance, and the expectations we have for family members. Set in England in a small village, I recommend this to everyone.

A book with a plant in the title:

Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 01/17
- Short Review: One family's breakdown in Nigeria during a coup. Not as strong as her Half a Yellow Sun novel, but a good read nonetheless.

A book with a place name (city, country) in the title:

Nikolski - Nicolas Dickner 02/17
- Short Review: Canada Reads Winner 2010. What makes family? How are we connected? Are we connected in large cities? Can a dump be considered an archeological site? Not a usual plot or structure, but a worthwhile read.

A book with a music term in the title:
La's Orchestra Saves the World -
Alexander McCall Smith 03/14
- Short Review: La moves to the country during the second world war. She is at a crossroads in her life, and needs something to do. She forms and leads an orchestra, and gives some small bit of hope to the village. McCall Smith writes a stand-alone book with his usual charm.

BOOK: The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw, 307 pages

review book from Randomhouse Canada

What are the ripple effects of a secret passion? Of a parent's devotion? Of a single, tortured mistake? (from the inside cover)

Expectations going into a book can have an effect on the reading experience. When a book has great hype and raving reviews, reading it can feel like a let-down, if only because it was supposed to be 'that good' as Wendy found that this week. I feel nervous sometimes giving a rave review for a book because I don't want to raise expectations too high. The Swimming Pool was a good book, just not the book I thought I was going to read, based on the plot summary I had read. This is certainly not the author's fault, so I have to consider this when writing my review.

What did the book sound like it would be?
Because there was mention of a murder years before after the end of an affair, I thought the book would be more suspenseful, like a mystery. The unwinding of the mystery was not as much of a focus as the relationships between the characters, and I felt let down. I kept waiting for more suspense, more mystery and it never appeared.

What was the book actually about?
The affair from seven years previous was a pivotal point, but the novel focused on the relationships between the two entwined families - brother/sister, mother/daughter, mother/infants, ex-spouses, and then some new entanglements that really change some other relationships. My feeling after reading the book, was that this felt like the novel to explain what might have happened years after The Bridges of Madison County. (For readers unfamiliar with the book or movie, a stranger has an affair with a married woman, an Italian immigrant, who felt dissatisfied with the way her life had turned out.) The affair in The Swimming Pool wasn't like that, but the Italian wife feeling out of sorts with the way her life turned out was similar.

Most of the book takes place in the present, with some flashbacks. This is a real ensemble book, with no one character really as a main character. Because of this, there are many other issues happening with all the characters, including a post-partum story, new secret affairs, guilt, and discovering about the murder. With all these plots, it is still a quiet sort of story, with the characters doing lots of introspection and navel-gazing. I think it was well written, with interesting characters and room for discussion about some of their questionable actions, but I wish I hadn't expected a dramatic, suspenseful read.

For some decidedly different opinions, also reviewed by:
amy at myfriendamy
rhapsody in books
dawn at sheistoofondofbooks

Thursday, April 15, 2010

FEATURE: Detectives Around the World

Welcome to my latest edition of Detectives Around the World, hosted by Jen's Book Thoughts. Today, we visit Sicily and enjoy a meal.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is fictional, as written by Andrea Camilleri, as are Vigata and Montelusa, two locations that figure prominently in the series. But Sicily has begun to capitalize on the interest of tourists to see the places that Camilleri writes about and where Montalbano lives and works. If you are a fan of the Montalbano books and are planning to visit Sicily, you can arrange a tour of towns like Vigata, and you can visit locations from the books. Let them know which is your favorite book, and they will build a tour around it.

(I live on Prince Edward Island, and and somewhat familiar with this phenomena. There is a very famous red-head orphan from PEI that thousands of tourists come to visit, even though she is very fictional. The author, LM Montgomery, was from here, and there are many real locations associated with Montgomery. But there is also a whole tourist industry built around Anne of Green Gables, and while it sometimes seems tacky to the locals, few tourists are disappointed by their time on Prince Edward Island.)

The Church of Vigàta (Cathedral of San Giorgio - Ragusa Ibla)

Here's a tour description:

You'll follow in the steps of Inspector Montalbano and the other members
of his team: his second-in-charge Mimì Augello, the efficient Fazio, the likable Catarella. We make our way into Vigata in the province of Montelusa and stop in front of the police station (Scicli). Few steps away is the Questura or Commissioner's office of Montelusa. Then, we drive to Ragusa Ibla to see the Church of Vigata (Cathedral of San Giorgio) and other locations featured in "The Shape of the Water", "The Voice of the Violin" "The Snack Thief". Stop for lunch at "Trattoria San Calogero", the restaurant that Montalbano goes to.

When I win the lottery.....

Speaking of lunch, let's look at something that Salvo might have for a meal. It has to be fresh, preferably from the sea, with few ingredients. This looks about right.

Scallops with Parsley and Garlic


  • 16 large sea scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced


Remove muscle from each scallop. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 8 scallops; sauté 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Set aside, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 8 scallops. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel.

Add butter to pan; reduce heat, and cook until butter melts. Stir in parsley and garlic, and cook 15 seconds. Return scallops to pan; toss to coat.

(picture and recipe taken from

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MEME: It's Tuesday, Where are You?

Bookword update: taking suggestions in the comments at Sueys.

Detectives Around the World: check out the schedule of posts for the week, and don't forget to vote for your favorite detective. I was sure it would be Holmes vs Poirot, but the newer fellas beat the old guys, if Phillip Marlowe can be considered a new fella.

Are the readathon readers recovered yet? I didn't officially join, but I did a bunch of reading on the weekend anyway. By not joining, I saved myself the posting time, but it always looks like everyone is having so much fun. Maybe another time...

In reading:
I am in Ethiopia, in the Missing Hospital, with Dr Stone. (Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, April 12, 2010

FEATURE: Detectives Around the World

Welcome to my edition of Detectives Around the World, hosted by Jen's Book Thoughts. Mystery-loving bloggers from around the world are highlighting detectives from settings around the world. I am taking you on a little tour of Sicily, Italy, with Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Today I will have a book review, and on Thursday, I'll have a blog post highlighting Sicily.

The Paper Moon, by Andrea Camilleri, 264 pages
translated by Stephen Sartarelli

This is the ninth in the series. There have been sixteen written in Italian, with fourteen translated into English, three of which will be released in 2010. When reading a Montalbano mystery, you should expect humor, food, politics, slapstick, and a compelling mystery. And then a desire will overtake you to travel to Sicily and have a great Mediterranean meal.

Inspector Montalbano is starting to feel his age, and beginning to wonder about himself, making him more moody than usual. He is called to investigate the point-blank shooting in the face of victim left with his pants down. Two women suspects emerge, leaving Salvo to have meetings and meals with both of them. As he delves further into the case, drugs and gambling and kickbacks complicate things. His investigative methods are generally unorthodox, and often interrupted by meetings with his hated superiors, but he is left to himself a little more this time, much to his relief.

Mimi, Catarella, and Fazio, policemen on his team, are helping to investigate, but in smaller roles, highlighting Salvo's personal issues in this novel as he is more in his head than usual. Livia, Salvo's girlfriend, also never makes a visit to Vigata, but his housekeeper has left him a few great meals, and an old flame, Ingrid, has sent him some salmon and herring from Sweden. My biggest complaint about Montalbano is his relationship with women, as he is not what I would consider loyal to Livia, but he has a code he seems to live by in his head.

The translator, Sartarelli, really makes this series. He provides notes at the back to help provide a context to many of the comments in the book, from Sicilian phrases, to literary allusions, to the political context from Italian history. He also keeps the comedy, the quick comments, and the humorous interactions, the hallmarks of this series.

Inspector Montalbano Series Titles (from Wikipedia)

  1. The Shape of Water - 2002 (La forma dell’acqua - 1994)
  2. The Terracotta Dog - 2002 (Il cane di terracotta - 1996)
  3. The Snack Thief - 2003 (Il ladro di merendine - 1996)
  4. The Voice of the Violin - 2003 (La voce del violino - 1997)
  5. Excursion to Tindari - 2005 (La gita a Tindari - 2000)
  6. The Scent of the Night - 2005 (L’odore della notte - 2001)
  7. Rounding the Mark - 2006 (Il giro di boa - 2003)
  8. The Patience of the Spider - 2007 (La pazienza del ragno - 2004)
  9. The Paper Moon - 2008 (La Luna di Carta - 2005)
  10. August Heat - 2009 (La Vampa d'Agosto - 2006)
  11. The Sphinx's Wings - 2009 (Le Ali della Sfinge - 2006)
  12. The Sand Path - 2010 (La pista di Sabbia - 2007)
  13. The Potter's Field - 2010 (Il campo del vasaio - 2008)
  14. The Age of Doubt - 2010 (L'età del dubbio - 2008)
  15. (Le prime indagini - 2009)
  16. (La danza del gabbiano - 2009)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

BOOK: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 230 pages

Young Adult Challenge; Four Month Challenge: read a book by two authors

How can you spend hours every day trying in small ways to figure out who you are, then have a near-stranger give you a sentence of yourself that says it better than you ever could? p 20

Naomi and Ely are best friends. Ely is gay and Naomi is not, hence they have created the No-Kiss List, people who they aren't allowed to kiss since they both might like him. Ely and Naomi have grown up together in New York City, in the same apartment building and have some shared messy history. They aren't completely likable when they narrate their own chapters and it wasn't until girl-Robyn narrates a chapter (she's a self-proclaimed Velma; get the Scooby-doo reference?) that I was able to see some of the reasons why Naomi is as obnoxious as she is, and was able to like her.

In fact, it took a while to get past the hip, snarky conversations between Naomi and Ely, but eventually, I really liked the book and the lessons learned by our main characters. Greenwich Village teens live a faster, crazier life so expect a little wilder lifestyle than would be found elsewhere. These characters are in college as well, so this is older young adult content.

No. No no no no. It is not easy. Things that matter are not easy . Feeling of happiness are easy. Happiness is not. Flirting is easy. Love is not. Saying you're friends is easy. Being friends is not. p 199

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BOOK: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson, 299 pages

Global Reading Challenge: North America; A - Zed: O author; 20-10 Challenge: bought new in 2010

This is the first book in The Tattoo Shop Mystery series. This type of mystery is somewhat like chick lit for me in the dependable, enjoyable characters, plots, and humour. Olson impressed me with her Annie Seymour series, and this one, with Brett Kavanaugh, the tattoo artist from Las Vegas, is another winner. Fast-paced, lots of action and characters, with the fantastic Las Vegas setting. I am looking forward to Pretty in Ink, the second in the series.

Friday, April 9, 2010

CHALLENGE: Science Book Challenge 2010

The Science Book Challenge 2010 is being hosted here. I've tried to participate every year, and have had various levels of success, in 2008 and 2009. That won't stop me from signing up again, and listing great science books I hope to read. I'm afraid I'm turning into that person that Nick Hornby worries he became: buying books because you'd like to be the person who buys and reads those books, not that those books ever actually get read. After being inspired by Melanie, yet again (she picks the best science books, the ones that send me scurrying to the library looking for her books):

  • Cold: Adventures in the world's frozen places by Bill Streever
  • The Elegant Universe by Brian Green
  • The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

There may be a touch of Literary Feline's approach to book challenges for me on this one. These are the books I'd like to read.

The ones I actually read:
1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
2. The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks
3. We Need to Talk About Kelvin - Marcus Chown

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BOOK: Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff, 177 pages

A - Zed Titles Challenge; Bibliophilic Challenge

Lovely little book for fans of Helene Hanff and her other books, 84, Charing Cross Road, and the Duchess of Bloomsbury. This book wouldn't mean much if you haven't read one or both of the other books, as Hanff chronicles, in her breezy, humorous style, her life before, during and after the writing of her two bookish books. (If you haven't read them, particularly 84, Charing Cross Road, get to it. I haven't met a person who didn't find it absolutely charming.) The Q referenced in the title is, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a British professor and author of books Hanff read while trying to educate herself after dropping out of college during the Depression. He advised simplicity in writing and Hanff took it to heart. Her delightful writing is a testament to Q, a legacy in fact.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

The weather has been crazy, and by crazy I mean amazing, here in PEI. The snow is all gone, the socks have disappeared, the bikes are out. Life is not like this usually until May if we are lucky, and here we are at the beginning of April. Unheard of. And no one is complaining.

Bookword Game: With an impressive list of options, Suey as the poll up at It's All About Books for this week. Still lots of time to vote, and then look for results on Wednesday and a new word at her site for the next week.

In reading, I am in between books again, although I have decided to go back and investigate again that woman in white wandering around the English countryside. Eventually I'll get that mystery solved. (The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins)
I expect to take a trip to Vegas pretty soon, where another mystery has occurred. I might even get a tattoo. (The Missing Ink, Karen E Olsen)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

BOOK: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green, 305 pages

Young Adult Challenge

If ever there was a contemporary book that should be studied in high school, Paper Towns would be it. Students on the verge of graduating high school, wondering about their future, about their friends, about truly knowing anyone in the cliquish world of high school would find lots to contemplate. Add in the fact that the characters in the book end up analyzing a Walt Whitman poem for clues to a missing friend, and English teachers in the world will be rejoicing. The hilarious, laugh out-loud road trip at the end is purely a bonus.

John Green writes young adult books that I have enjoyed. I am starting to recognize some characteristics of his books however. Paper Towns seems to be an amalgam of his two other books: Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. Katherines had the road trip and snarky friends, and Alaska had the 'boy-loving-the-girl-who-is-a-free-spirit' narrator and revenge against the cool kids pranks. All Green's books are rife with literary references, and unstereotypical, outsider teenagers. Plus the humour.

The book was issued with two different covers, representing the different views people have of Margo, the girl who goes missing. Here's a neat discussion John Green has with his former grade eleven self about the cover. A lot of Paper Towns is about perception of people and what we see or need to see. There is also a great use of wikipedia, which is called Omnidictionary, in the book and, in this meta world, exists in real life to discuss the book. Green makes great use of social media and you can find him interacting all over the internet via his blog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

BOOK: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, 214 pages

"a dark little gothic tale"

I've always love Jackson's short story, "The Lottery" and have wanted to read more of her books. A great review at Whimpulsive this week tweaked my interest just enough to check the school library and then borrow this slim novel for the weekend. This would be a great book for the Read-a-thon, especially if you like creepy books.

As I searched around for who else had reviews up, I found lots! And I realized that apparently, I don't read too carefully reviews of books that I haven't read yet. I've read these reviews in the last six months, and I added the book to my mental list of books I want to read, but I remembered nothing about the book. I much prefer reading reviews of books that I've already read, and seeing what fellow readers thought of the book. Did they have some insight I missed? Did they like the same parts or characters that I did? For reviews of books I haven't read, I skim a review and get a sense of whether the reviewer liked the book (I appreciate ratings!) but I don't often read the plot summary. I don't want to know much, just the overall impression.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a delightful, creepy book. The slow, meting out of details made it a delicious read, as parts and scenes came together gradually, and characters revealed themselves more. I started suspecting that Merricat Blackwood was an unreliable narrator, and that makes a book terrific for me. I also liked how there was nothing disgusting or descriptive in the horror, just your own imagination which is worse than anything else, like the Workman's Compensation commercial with the nail. The best part of reading this book is knowing that I still have Jackson's Haunting of Hill House left to read.

Librarything has a recommendation of The Wasp Factory by Iain M Banks for fans of Merricat, although it is more grsily and detailed.

also reviewed: suziqoregon at Whimpulsive
jenny at jennysbooks
joann at lakesidemusings
chris at bookarama
stephanie at Confessions of a bookaholic

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MEME: Crime Fiction Alphabet

Mysteries in Paradise hosts a weekly meme on mystery authors and books, highlighting a different letter each week. Beginning March 29, 2010, posts with the letter X, for author first or last name or book title are being collected here.

X is for Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton.

The first of 11 in the Lara McClintoch mystery series. In this book, Lara travels to Mexico from Canada to help an old friend who sends her a cryptic message. By the time she gets to the hotel owned by her old friends, Don Hernan has gone missing. Lara is picking her life up after a sudden divorce, and she throws herself into finding Don Hernan and what it was he wanted her help for.

First novels in a series can be tough because the author has to set up a whole back story to sustain further novels, introduce supporting characters, plus be a compelling mystery on its own. The mystery was good; Lara jumped right in to situations that I thought were a little daring, but she seemed nonplussed about breaking into a museum, or sneaking out of the hotel while under house arrest. There was a touch more historical information than I would have required but it was a fascinating look at the history of the Maya and Mexico that I knew nothing about.

Summary: cute little cosy mystery, but I won't be running out to get another in the series. Recommended for archaeological fans and people interested in Mexico and its history or for readers wanting a book beginning with the letter X.

(originally posted to my blog November 2008)