Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010


The last day of the last month of 2010, a day of reflection.

I spent hours today visiting various blogs and jotting down book titles that appear on "best of" or "top [insert number here]" reads of 2010.  Then I looked at my list, and all in all, felt pretty good about my Year in Reading--the 2010 version.  While I didn't blog on each and every book, I managed to finish 75 books this year, an all-time high number for me.  Of course, reaching that number is far easier when that pesky little thing called a 9-5 job doesn't interfere (probably the only plus of being unemployed).  Lack of that "little thing" allowed me to become much more familiar with my local public library, and that reacquaintance was one of the highlights of the year.  Inter-Library loan rocks!

Favorite reads of the year include The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, The Search by Norah Roberts, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, and How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal.  The biggest surprise of the year was finally reading--and liking!--Naked in Death by J.D. Robb, first in her In Death series.  With 32 waiting in the queue, catching up on this series and the uber-couple, Eve and Roarke, will be fun!

The year in numbers:
Total Books:  75

Category:
13 Non-Fiction
16 Romance
19 Mystery
27 Fiction

Source:
 6  Mt. TBR
32 New
37 Library

Format:
 5  Trade Paperback
 8  Mass Market Paperback
14 Kindle
48 Hardcover

Total Pages:  23,978

Looking ahead to 2011, my library request list already has sixteen books listed including Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, and Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  Heading into the new year, my reading resolution, as always, is to read whatever I want whenever I want with no apologies for my selections.  Added to that this year will be the resolution to spend more time reading and less time writing about what I read.  To that end, I'll post a monthly reading summary here at Owlsfeathers and perhaps a separate post now and then on a book that particularly captures my reading fancy or on an event of note.  (And, of course, any post-worthy pictures of the extended family of dogs and cats.)  My booknotes will also be updated at Shelfari as well as at Goodreads.

Wishing everyone health, happiness, and unending pages of reading joy in 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I've come to the decision that while I want to keep my reading history current here at Owl's Feathers, not every book merits a unique posting.  Going forward, I'll post these cumulative updates and, every now and then, post on a book that has been an especially rewarding reading experience.  So, here's what's been keeping me reading lately...


MAYBE THIS TIME by Jennifer Crusie
3.5/5 (Fiction Scale)
Hero and heroine were vintage Crusie.  Just enough of a woo-woo element to be interesting and not put the book into the fantasy category.  All in all, a good afternoon's read.

PAINTED LADIES by Robert B. Parker
4.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Reading Painted Ladies after a long stretch of no Spenser/Robert B. Parker reminded me how much I love Parker's writing style.  Or, perhaps more specifically, how much I love Parker's writing Spenser and Susan Silverman.  In interviews upon the release of Painted Ladies, Joan Parker indicated that there is still one more Spenser to be published next year.  So we readers get to stay the inevitable last Spenser just a little while longer.

LEGACY by Danielle Steel
3/5 (Fiction Scale)
You know what you are getting when you open a Danielle Steel novel to page 1.  Sometimes, the reading experience is exactly what you need at the time.  This time, however, the details fell in place a little too obviously and tidy.  Not sure why I keep reading her books--maybe just the comfort of the known.

INFAMOUS by Suzanne Brockman
3.5/5 (Romance Scale)
This was the November selection for the local Barnes & Noble Romance Readers group.  Take one legendary U.S Marshal and an historic shootout in a saloon and mix well with a wronged descendant (our hero), a historian (our heroine), then toss in a ghost who knows the story behind the story, read 'til done, and you have Infamous.  Some obvious social opinion preaching from the author; otherwise, a fun read.

THE HEALER by Carol Cassella
3.5/5 (Fiction Scale)
Healer tells the story of Claire and Addison Boehning and their daughter Jory and what happens when their lives fall apart around them--how each of them adjusts to the new financial reality facing them, but better still, how each of them opens up to new opportunities.  A short, quick read that takes you into the core of this family in transition.

BUSY BODY by M.C. Beaton
3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Another visit with Agatha Raisin and her detective crew--a visit much more rewarding than the last (There Goes the Bride).  And, what's this?  Agatha pondering a la Stephanie?  Camp James or Camp Charles?

STILTSVILLE by Susanna Daniel
4/5 (Fiction Scale)
This is a book where nothing happens and everything happens.  It is the simple, complex story of Frances Ellerby and Dennis DuVal, their marriage, their families, their friends, the lives--all set against the vividly written background of Miami, South Florida, and Biscayne Bay.  My favorite passage from the book:  This is what it means to be part of a family.  There are no maps and the territory is continually changing.  We are explorers, traveling in groups.  And how's this for a word picture:  She'd done more packing after getting home: there was a row of three suitcases just inside the room, facing the door like eager dogs waiting for it to open.  Les of Lesley's Book Nook has written a wonderful review of StiltsvilleClick here to enjoy her review.

YOU HAD ME AT WOOF: HOW DOGS TAUGHT ME THE SECRETS OF HAPPINESS by Julie Klam
3.5/5 (Non-fiction Scale)
I can't help myself.  As soon as I hear about a new dog or "amazing" animal book, it immediately goes on my library reserve list.  And I know I will have to read it with a box of tissues handy because no matter how upbeat and happy the owner and [insert animal name here] are, there always is that inevitable sadness.  But, as in most animal books, when things are good in You Had Me at Woof, they are very, very good.  If you've been around dogs at all, you'll laugh and giggle your way through Ms. Klam's experiences with her not always well-behaved pack.

THE BLESSINGS OF THE ANIMALS by Katrina Kittle
4/5 (Fiction Scale)
Another family in transition spun into motion by a sad man.  A large Italian family ("the Sopranos without the guns"), a small Indian family, assorted relatives and friends, and best of all a home and barn filled with an ever-changing assortment of animals--each bringing special blessings.  A favorite character for me was Muriel, the goat.

I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU by Fannie Flagg
4/5 (Fiction Scale)
Well, bless her heart.  Maggie Fortenberry has the weight of her world on her shoulders and is contemplating very drastic action to alleviate that weight.  Then there's the pressure of being a former Miss Alabama--the crown and that sash, you know.  Oh, and don't forget the other characters:  Brenda Peoples, Maggie's best friend; Hazel Whisenknott, founder of Red Mountain Realty (who died five years before the story begins); and Ethel Clipp, Red Mountain realty's purple-haired, of-a-certain-age office manager.  Why did I like this book?  Because, like watching It's a Wonderful Life every year, it just felt good.

DAYS OF GOLD by Jude Deveraux
3/5 (Romance Scale)
This was the December selection for the local Barnes & Noble Romance Readers. Days of Gold, Book 2 in Jude Deveraux's Edilean Series, takes us to Scotland 1766 where we meet the ancestors and founders of Edilean, VA, featured in the contemporary romance, Lavender Morning. The story of Angus McTern and Edilean Talbot is told with a humor that easily carries you through the many pages where the lovers at first sight waste so much time saying, "I hate you" countered with "I hate you more."  Convenient and somewhat obvious plot devices lead us to the inevitable happily ever after ending.

I REMEMBER NOTHING by Nora Ephron
3/5 (Non-fiction Scale)
Not as good for me as I Feel Bad About My Neck…maybe because of the "inside baseball" presentation of some of the essays. However, the more general essays hit the mark--especially the closing lists of "What I Won't Miss" and "What I Will Miss" or "Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again" (e.g., 16. Mary Matalin and James Carville are married). This passage sums up my current state of mind: I have been forgetting things for years, but now I forget in a new way. I used to believe I could eventually retrieve whatever was lost and the commit it to memory. Now I know I can't possibly. Whatever's gone is hopelessly gone. And what's new doesn't stick.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pink Martini!

Tonight -  The Orpheum Theater, Boston
You'll find my daughter and me in Row L in the Balcony.

Tuesday, November 16
Release date for new holiday album!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

29: A Novel by Adena Halpern

Did you ever wonder what would happen if a birthday wish really came true?  That is the question answered in 29: A Novel by Adena Halpern.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon.com)
The proverbial search for youth's fountain manifests itself in Ellie Jerome, a 75-year-old woman who has employed every available artifice to remain young. Identifying more with her stylish young granddaughter, Lucy, than with her abrasive middle-aged daughter, Barbara, Ellie's 75th birthday wish is to be 29 again, for just one day. When her wish comes true, hilarious problems arise, as the young Ellie must create a new persona in order to enter and leave her apartment in a neighborhood where everyone knows the old Ellie. Choosing to let Lucy in on her secret, Ellie persuades her to be her guide on a youthful adventure in pursuit of stylish looks and a trendy life. While the dynamic duo romp through Ellie's magical day, Ellie's daughter and her dearest friend, Frida, a 75-year-old worry wart, having decided that Ellie was kidnapped, embark upon their own misguided adventure before the old (now wiser) Ellie returns at the end of her big day. With this rollicking, if familiar, offering, Halpern...sets out to prove that you're only young twice.


Passages
On Gershwin
Whenever I hear Gershwin in my head it means I'm having a good time.  (By the way, if you're too young to be familiar with Gershwin, plese get yourself some CDs.  You'll thank me later.)
 
On that "moment"
A moment comes in everyone's life when they realize they're old.  I'm not talking about the day you see your first gray hair or the day you see the hint of a crow's foot.  What I'm talking about is the day when you realize you've grown out of being able to adapt to something new.
 
On lipstick (Hello, Lancome?  Why did you discontinue Risque?)
I almost had a heart attack when Lancome stopped making my favorite lipstick.  I was on the phone with Lancome for three hours, with four different operators, trying to get to the bottom of why they discontinued my color, when the last person finally said, "No one wears that color anymore, ma'am."  "I do!" I said.
 
On using your "stuff" 
I walk into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.  I put some water in the kettle, turn on the stove, and grab some tea bags.  I go into the cabinet and take out a cup and saucer.  I use my good bone china every day.  You should, too, if you don't have small children.  It's a lesson I've learned: enjoy the things you have.
 
In her acknowledgements at the end of the book, Ms. Halpern thanks, first and foremost, "...the amazing seventy-something women I interviewed for this book.  Your generosity, honesty, and frankness were more than I could ever have asked for.  I hope I've done you proud in creating a character that captures the best of who you are."  I think the author accompished this.  The dialog between Ellie and Frida as well as incidents in the story are all spot on.
 
Most of the wisdom passed on by Ellie Jerome was obvious, but it never hurts to be reminded again and again about the value of family and friends.
 
20th Century Fox has obtained the movie rights to 29, so let's play the "Who Would You Cast in the Movie" game.  Here are my choices:
  • Ellie Jerome - Florence Henderson
  • Young Ellie Jerome - Cameron Diaz 
  • Lucy Jerome (Ellie's granddaughter) - Anne Hathaway
  • Barbara Sustamorn (Ellie's daughter) - Susan Sarandon
  • Frida Freedberg (Ellie's best friend) - Olympia Dukakis
  • Zachary - Chris O'Donnell 
If you read 29, please come back and let me know your dream cast!
 
Rating:  3.5/5 (Fiction Scale)
Dedication:  This book is lovingly dedicated to my mother, Arlene Rudney Halpern
First Line:  I'm jealous of my granddaughter.
 
Book Extras
Visit the author's website here.
Visit the publisher's page here.
Read a review at Musings of a Bookish Kitty here and another at Book Addiction here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three September Also Reads

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg This was a reread for the September book discussion at On the Porch Swing (Yahoo group). I liked this culinary memoir even more the second time around and have flagged several receipes to try out now that the fall cooking season has arrived. Click here to check out some of Molly Wizenberg's recipes and writings at her blog, Orangette.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Non-fiction Scale)



Most Eagerly Yours by Allison Chase
This was the September selection for the local Barnes and Noble Romance Readers group. Most Eagerly Yours is the first in a new series about four sisters who have the confidence of young Princess Victoria to carry out investigations with the utmost discretion. Nothing in this book tempted me to seek out/eagerly await the next installments.
Rating: 2/5 (Romance Scale)



Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart
After reading the 19th and 20th installment in the Death on Demand series, I thought it was time to go back, start at the beginning, and read forward. It was fun meeting Annie Laurance and Max Darling at the outset of their crime solving capers. Several of the recurring Broward's Rock regulars were introduced here, too. I read Death on Demand on my Kindle and appreciated very much not having to chase around the used bookstores or haunting inter-library loan to get this book. One click and I was good to read!
Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd is the second installment in the Bess Crawford series. Readers first met Bess, a WWI army nurse, in A Duty to the Dead; and if you're a fan of the Masie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, you will probably like Bess as well.

From Publisher's Weekly (via amazon.com)
Starred Review. Set in the summer of 1917, Todd's excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2009's A Duty to the Dead) smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot. When Bess accompanies Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a severe burn victim, from the Continent to England, she's surprised to spot the pilot's supposedly devoted wife, Marjorie, crying on another man's shoulder at a train station. After returning to saving lives under German fire in France, Bess is stunned to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed to death in London. Soon after, the depressed lieutenant commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Unable to resist involving herself in the murder investigation, Bess seeks to identify Marjorie's unknown companion, the possible killer. In addition to supplying a challenging puzzle, Todd (a mother-son writing team) does a superb job of capturing the feel of the battlefield and the emotional toll taken on those waiting back home for a loved one's return.

When reading a mystery, I'm not obsessed with trying to outsmart the author's revelation of events and am content to wait to see the whodunit it play out. I did, however, have some inkings when reading An Impartial Witness; and I was almost right! :) The only thing I really wondered about was all the traveling around that Bess and her cohorts did. Driving up to London and back again and up again and back. To the battlefield in France and back to Portsmouth and back to France and back again. Would petrol have been so easily available for all these trips? Were the trips back and forth to France convenient to the plot or the reality of WWI nurse assignments?

I like my mysteries gentle and readily admit that I avoid any mysteries with the words "chilling," "sinister," or "dark and violent" in plot descriptions. Both the Masie Dobbs and Bess Crawford series fit my comfort zone. I'm looking forward to the third Bess Crawford and also want to check out Charles Todd's other series about Inspector Ian Rutledge.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication: In remembrance...Samantha June 1995 5o September 2007 and Crystal November 1995 to March 2008 who gave so much to those who loved them.
First Line: As my train pulled into London, I looked out at the early summer rain and was glad to see the dreary day had followed me from Hampshire.

Book Extras
Charles Todd is the mother/son writing team of David Todd Watjen and Carolyn L.T. Watjen. Click here to visit the author's website or click here to see a listing of books in both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series.

For more information on An Impartial Witness, visit the publisher's page here.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

Several years ago I tried to read In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. Perhaps being the mother of a single, out-on-her-own daughter colored my reaction, but I just couldn't bring myself to read past the opening sequence of events. So, I stayed away from Jennifer Weiner until I read the description of Fly Away Home. Granted, the pulled from the headlines plotline of the disgraced politician may have made this another pass; however, I put it on my library reserve list and did find the story good enough to keep me reading on a Saturday afternoon despite the less than enthusiastic editorial review from Publishers Weekly.

From Publishers Weekly (via bn.com)
Weiner weaves a forgettable family drama with three weakly connected storylines: mother Sylvie Woodruff long ago sacrificed herself to become the perfect politician's wife, but the revelation of her husband's infidelity sends her off to reconnect with her old self. Her daughters aren't faring any better: recovering addict Lizzie is pursuing an interest in photography, but a childhood incident continues to trouble her; and dutiful older daughter Diana, an ER doctor, is escaping her blandly offensive husband via her own affair. The three women's crises function in parallel, and Weiner is unable to keep the narrative tension going when she hops from one character to another, largely because their issues are so tidily resolved and the women are never in real emotional danger--Sylvie's husband's affair is a "one-day story," Lizzie's narcotic slip is to take a couple of Advil PM (and an apology resolves the unresolved past), and the breakdown of Diana's marriage is dispatched as easily as Diana making a resolution to change her life. The lack of conflict and strong characters, and the heavy dose of brand names and ripped-from-the-headlines references, make this disappointingly disposable.


When all was said and read, it was wrapped a little too nicely. I'm much more intrigued with watching the tensions in The Good Wife. How will Alicia Florrick handle things this year?

Rating: 3/5 (Fiction Scale)
Dedication: For Joanna Pulcini and Greer Hendricks
First Line: Breakfast in five-star hotels was always the same.

Book Extras
Visit the author's website here.
Visit the publisher's page here.

Les at Lesley's Book Nook has written a review of Fly Away Home which pretty much echoes my experience. Please click here to read her review. While you're there, be sure to check out Les's new wheels!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

After reading all of Robyn Carr's Virgin River books, I was looking forward to this stand alone, A Summer in Sonoma

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
Carr (the Virgin River series) brings four high school friends together in a slow-moving but charming story set in beautiful Northern California. Cassie is sick of searching for Mr. Right and ending up with Mr. Very Wrong. Julie wishes she didn't worry about money all the time. Marty misses romance to the point that she's considering cheating on her husband. Stoic Beth quietly struggles with health problems. Cassie tries to understand her feelings for a ponytailed biker, Julie deals with an unexpected pregnancy, Marty attempts to save her marriage, and Beth realizes breast cancer is not something she can hide. Though the leading ladies are not terribly well developed, their stories will strike a chord with readers. Male supporting characters add spark and help propel the plot to a predictable yet satisfying happy ending.


In retrospect, I should have let more time elapse between bidding farewell to Virgin River and welcoming another group of slightly flawed characters looking to find the perfect life.  Don't get me wrong, A Summer in Sonoma was a good story and true to Ms. Carr's form.  I have The House on Olive Street waiting in Mt. TBR, but I think I'll let some time pass before pushing it nearer the peak of the mountain.

Rating:  3/5 (Romance Scale)
First Line:  Cassie and Ken walked out of the bar together at seven-thirty.

Book Extras
Read Frech Fiction's review of A Summer in Sonoma here.
Visit the author's website here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs

On the inside front cover flap, As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs is described as "a rare mix of wit, social satire, and suspense...an irresistible story about a love that just won't give up."  Happily, the book lived up to this description.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
Bestseller Isaacs draws on tony Long Island, gritty New York City, and a tabloid-friendly murder for this smart-alecky whodunit/surprisingly sweet love story. Susan is left alone with her three boys, big suburban house, and nagging questions when plastic surgeon hubby Jonah Gersten turns up dead in a hooker's Upper East Side apartment. Though the police and prosecutors wind up their case against call girl Dorinda Dillon, it's far from settled for Susan. It simply didn't add up, in either my head or my heart, she confesses. And what better sidekick to track down the truth than Susan's rogue granny, Ethel. What follows is an intricate and fascinating dissection of Susan's marriage, family, husband's medical practice and partners, and the unwitting call girl at the center of it all. Isaacs (Past Perfect) brings it all together in this fast and furious ride through wanton greed, fragile relationships, and love worth fighting for.

Ms. Isaacs is the author of twelve novels; however, As Husbands Go was my first experience with reading one of her books, and an excellent one at that.  At first, I was put off by the stylish name dropping and scene setting, thinking, "Oh, here we go.  Another Gucci-Manolo Blanik laden story."  But not so.  Oh, there were style references aplenty written with pointed lifestyle skewering--not snarky, just obvious. 

I'll be looking to catch up on previous titles from Susan Isaacs as well as anticipating her next book.

Rating:  3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication:  To St. Catherine and Bob Morvillo with love.
Epigraph:
   Here, take this gift,
   I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
   One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
   progress and freedom of the race,
   Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
   But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as
      much as to any.
          -Walt Whitman, "To a Certain Cantatrice," Leaves of Grass
First Line:  Who knew?

Book Extras
Visit the author's website here.
Click here to read a review on Bookreporter.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams

It's always fun to discover a new mystery series!  Delicious and Suspicious is the first in the Memphis BBQ Mystery series from Riley Adams.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
In this sassy first in a new series from Adams (the pseudonym of Elizabeth Spann Craig), Lulu Taylor, owner of Aunt Pat's, a Memphis, Tenn., rib eatery, is all aflutter because the Cooking Channel has sent food scout Rebecca Adrian to check out Lulu's down-home specialties for a future show. Too bad Rebecca's searching for dirt as well as the best BBQ in Memphis. She quickly insults a number of people, including Lulu's daughter-in-law, Sara, and Lulu's son, Seb, who happens to be Rebecca's former boyfriend. When Rebecca's poisoned, chaos reigns. Lulu later uncovers the corpse of Mildred Cameron, an elderly bookseller and aspiring romance author/sleuth, who was also offended by the tart-tongued Rebecca. Aiding and abetting Lulu's investigation are the Graces, docents at Graceland, whose devotion to Elvis adds some goofy firepower to this sometimes poky paint-bythe-numbers cozy.

Passages
On dogs' behavior
Sara tore out after Derrick, red curls bouncing on her back.  The screen door slammed again, and the Labs hid their heads under a table.  The dogs' law of physics was "If I can't see you, you can't see me!"

I've been watching Memphis Beat on TNT, and it was nice to have the music from Memphis Beat rolling around in my head as I read Delicious and Suspicious

This is a great first entry, and I look forward to more in this series.  Oh--you may want to read Delicious and Suspicious just to find out if that cause-for-celebration bottle of The Domaine Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Les Preuses ever gets cracked open!

Rating:  3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication:  For my family, with love.
First line:  Memphis, Tennessee, is a little bit of heaver in the springtime.

Book Extras
Visit the author's blog here.
Visit the author on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen here.
Check out Lesa's Book Critique's review here.
Read more about TNT's Memphis Beat here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Carousel
Old Orchard Beach, Maine










Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome, Lucy Begonia


Yes, dear Juliette, we did say that you would never be replaced--and you haven't.  Lucy Begonia is her own girl with her own story.

Lucy was originally adopted from the MSPCA Nevins Farm shelter by friends of our son.  Although just a kitten, she quickly became the companion and comfort for one of Brian's friends--a friend that left this life all too young.   The ensuing changes left Lucy living with two other cats, and she was not happy at all.   Then, I got the call:  "Mom, just go see her.  She's really a nice cat."  So I did, and she is. 

Four-year-old Lucy has been with us just over a week and has found her favorite window, a nice hidey hole when she wants to be alone, and (best of all) she's drawing a bead on our resident mouse.

So, dear Juliette, you haven't been replaced.  We've just opened up a new place in our hearts for Lucy Begonia.  We know you will understand.  Besides, you never really did get that whole "the cat in the house is supposed to catch the mouse" thing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moonlight Road by Robyn Carr

Moonlight Road, the final installment in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series, gives us the story of Erin Foley and Aiden Riordan and the complication of the return of Annalee Riordan, the woman Aiden believed was his ex-wife--emphasis on "ex."

From the publisher (via bn.com)
With her beloved younger siblings settled and happy, Erin Foley has empty nest syndrome. At age thirty-five.  So she's hitting the pause button on her life and holing up in a secluded (but totally upgraded—she's not into roughing it) cabin near Virgin River. Erin is planning on getting to know herself…not the shaggy-haired mountain man she meets.  In fact, beneath his faded fatigues and bushy beard, Aiden Riordan is a doctor, recharging for a summer after leaving the navy. He's intrigued by the pretty, slightly snooty refugee from the rat race—her meditating and journaling are definitely keeping him at arm's length. He'd love to get closer…if his scruffy exterior and crazy ex-wife don't hold him back.  But maybe it's something in the water—unlikely romances seem to take root in Virgin River…helped along by some well-intentioned meddling, of course.

Moonlight Road was the August selection for the Barnes & Noble (Burlington, MA) Romance Readers and has all the usual Virgin River characters--more babies are born, and there's more on the original perfect couple, Jack and Mel.  As readers, we may have dallied too long and will be somewhat happy to see the "Leaving Virgin River" in our rearview mirror.  But, then there's those two last Riordan brothers....

Rating:  3.5/5 (Romance Scale)

Dedication:  For Tonie Crandall, because the world would be a dimmer place without all the love you have in your heart.  Thank you for being even more than a friend--thank you for being a sister.

First Line:  In the two weeks Aiden Riordan had been in Virgin River, he'd hiked over a hundred miles and grown himself a pretty hefty dark red beard.

The Search by Nora Roberts


The Search by Nora Roberts--classic NR romantic suspense.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
The serviceable latest from Roberts centers on Fiona Bristow, a professional canine search-and-rescue trainer, who moved to Orcas Island in Puget Sound eight years earlier, just after barely escaping from a serial killer. The story opens with Simon Doyle, an artisan cabinetmaker who arrives on the island with a puppy in tow. It's the puppy that brings Fiona and Simon together, and the romance gets off to a rocky start; he's grumpy and plainspoken; she doesn't scare easily. Then a serial killer begins operating within striking distance, and all Fiona's hard-won peace and equanimity begins to wobble: the man who almost killed her is in prison, but he's got a disciple on the outside. The serial killer plot is very familiar and without much to distinguish it, but the romance is finely done, with Roberts's trademark banter lighting up the page. Fiona and Simon are the main attraction, but the setting and the supporting characters—with paws and without—provide a vivid backdrop.

Passages
For anyone who loves dogs, there are passages galore that will make you knowingly nod.  This was the first of many for me:
"Peck found him.  He's the one.  He'd be pleased if you shook his hand."
"Oh."  Devin scrubbed at his face, drew in a couple steadying breaths.  "Thank you, Peck.  Thank you."  He crouched, offered his hand.
Peck smiled as dogs do and placed his paw in Devin's hand.

Roberts has been hit or miss for me lately, but The Search was an absolutely perfect reading choice for a few hot, humid summer days.  Looking back at my reading journal, I see that Nora Roberts turns up consistently in the summertime.  One especially favorable entry was about a summer weekend a few years ago when I read the entire Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy (Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea). 

Rating:  4/5 (Romance-Suspense)
Dedication:  To Homer and Pancho, and all who sweetened my life before them.
First Line:  On a chilly morning in February with a misty rain shuttering the windows, Devin and Rosie Cauldwell made low, sleepy love.
Epigraph, Part 1:  Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend. -Corey Ford
Epigraph, Part 2:  The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too. -Samuel Butler
Epigraph, Part 3:  Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? -The Bible

Extras
Click here to visit the author's website.
Click here for information on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington state.
Click here or here for more information on search and rescue dogs.

Other Reviews of The Search
All About Romance
Bookreporter.com

New (to me) Word
The copper would verdigris over time, he thought, and add to its appeal.
verdigris:  [vur-di-grees, -gris]  a green or bluish patina formed on copper, brass, or bronze surfaces exposed to the atmosphere for long periods of time, consisting principally of basic copper sulfate.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

A bench-eye view...
Rose Kennedy Greenway
Boston, MA










Click here to read more about the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank

In Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank we return to Tall Pines Plantation and revisit the Wimbleys and other characters introduced in the 2001 novel Plantation.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
Here's one for the Southern gals as well as Yankees who appreciate Frank's signature mix of sass, sex, and gargantuan personalities. In this long-time-coming sequel to Plantation, opinionated and family-centric Caroline Wimbly Levine has just turned 47, but she's less concerned with advancing middle age than she is with son Eric shacking up with an older single mom. She's also dealing with a drunk and disorderly sister-in-law, Frances Mae; four nieces from hell; grieving brother Trip; a pig-farmer boyfriend with a weak heart; and a serious crush on the local sheriff. Then there's Caroline's dead-but-not-forgotten mother, Miss Lavinia, whose presence both guides and troubles Caroline as she tries to keep her unruly family intact and out of jail. With a sizable cast of minor characters with major attitude, Frank lovingly mixes a brew of personalities who deliver nonstop clashes, mysteries, meltdowns, and commentaries; below the always funny theatrics, however, is a compelling saga of loss and acceptance.

Passages
On a hurricane meal
Orders were taken and eventually we sat down to what could be characterized as a hurricane meal, which would be one prepared with whatever could be found but with no electricity or water, having boiled the pasta in Evian on a charcoal grill or whatever we had on hand, although Trip would have been apoplectic if we had used bottled water to cook.  The cost, you know.

On a new-to-me word (scrying)
"Don't make me go scrying in my bowl this morning, you 'eah me?  What's going on 'round 'eah?" (Millie)
"Scrying?" Rusty said.
"The art of predicting the future by staring into water.  Nostradamus did it all the time.  Very handy for predicting the end of time and all that I [Caroline] said.

On mother's sending children off to wherever
...I turned around one day and saw that he had grown peach fuzz above his lip and on the sides of his face.  On and on it went until he towered over me and melted my heart every time I heard his man voice say, "I love you, Mom."
"I just hate for you to leave, Eric."  I couldn't help pouting.
"Yeah, me, too.  But you know I'll be back as soon as I run out of clean socks."
"All over the world, mothers depend on that."

On another foodie description
For dinner today, Millie had baked a fruited ham and made red rice, deviled eggs, green-bean salad, a zillion biscuits, and brownies that were so rich and chocolaty they made you literally drool for another cold glass of milk.

Revisiting and catching up with the Wimbley family and the goings-on at Tall Pines definitely fell into the category of a good summer read.  Most everyone was still doing what they do best, whether that be Millie's holding everything together or Frances Mae's wreaking havoc.  Add to that the less than genteel or appreciative daughters of said Frances Mae, and you have the makings of a good family-in-turmoil story. 

My only real problem with Lowcountry Summer?  Where was Dr. Jack Taylor?  When last we left Caroline Wimbley Levine in Plantation, she seemed to be in a committed relationship with Jack.  Fast forward to Lowcountry Summer, page 3, and we are introduced to her current beau, "a wonderful guy named Bobby Mack" without so much as a fleeting reference to the fate of Jack.

Rating:  3.5/5 (Fiction scale)
Dedication:  In loving memory of my sweet brother, Billy
First sentence:  It is a generally accepted fact that at some point during your birthday, you will reassess your life.

Extras
Click here to visit the author's website.
For more information on the Ashepoo, Combahee and South Edisto (ACE) Basin--the setting for Lowcountry Summer and Plantation--click here

Other Reviews & Information
Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Publisher's Page

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich


Are you keeping track of this series? We're now at Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich...wherein we learn why Ranger keeps giving cars to Stephanie.
From Booklist (via amazon)
Stephanie Plum, half-Italian, half-Hungarian, a shrewd mixture of smarts and dumb luck, works for her cousin Vinny as a bail bondswoman in Trenton, New Jersey. Vinnie, however, is in deep fecal matter, owing too much money to the very scary guys who have kidnapped him. Stephanie, office manager Connie, and Lula, plus-sized and focused (if not on the job at hand), manage to spring Vinnie (more than once) and find a lot of money to pay what he owes. Along the way, they facilitate a cow stampede and an alligator escape; are assisted by a bunch of Hobbit con-goers; and find their office going up quite thoroughly in flames. Stephanie wrecks the usual car and ping-pongs between the hot and dangerous Ranger and the hot and domestic Morelli. In the first few pages, Evanovich both catches readers up on the hilarious and cockeyed history of the preceding 15 books and gives fans a little more of everything they want, including the return of beloved stoner Mooner. Funny, scary, silly, and sweet.

Passages
On Ranger
Ranger was my mentor when I first went to work for my cousin Vinnie. I suppose he's still my mentor, but now he's also my friend, my propector, from time to time he's been my employer, and on one spectacularly memorable occasion, he was my lover.

On home (Stephanie reflects on her parent's house)
The house hasn't changed much over the years. A new appliance when needed. New curtains. Mostly, it's overcrowded with comfortable nondescript furniture, cooking smells, and good memories.

On Lula's "one of" diet
Minutes after Ranger left, Lula hauled herself up into the Jeep. "The best I could do was blueberry," Lula said. "They didn't have no vegetable doughnuts. And I got a strawberry jelly-filled, and a pumpkin spice, and a banana scone. Wait a minute. Is pumpkin a vegetable? Does that count?"
"You must have eight hundred calories in that bag." (Stephanie)
"Yeah, but the diet says I can have one of anything."
"One doughnut! Not one of each kind." (Stephanie)
"You don't know that for sure," Lula said.

On the kind of Italian restaurant we all know (even if we don't live in the Burg)
Pino's serves Italian food Burg-style. Greasy pizza you have to fold to eat, meatball subs, sausage sandwiches, spaghetti with red sauce, worthless uninteresting salad with iceberg lettuce and pale tomatoes, Bud on tap, and red table wine. It has a dark, carved, mahogany bar and a side room with tables for families and couples who don't want to watch hockey on the television hanging over the liquor collection.

On relationships
...I was in a state because I had two men in my life, and I had no clue what to do with them. I loved them each in different ways, and I was too traditional and Catholic to just enjoy them. How sick is that? I wasn't a practicing Catholic, but I had guilt. And I was stuck with all these rules about relationships. And then there was my mother, who I suspect was mortally afraid I'd end up with Ranger. And my grandmother, who probably thought I was an idiot to to be sleeping with both of them. And my father, who didn't think there was a man alive who was worthy of me.

Team Joe vs. Team Ranger heats up. Lula's wardrobe gets more outrageous. Vinnie's in BIG trouble. Rex just keeps that wheel movin'. And then there's that lucky bottle inherited from Uncle Pip....

Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication: Thanks to Laura A. Koppe for suggesting the title for this book.
First Line: My Uncle Pip died and left me his lucky bottle.

Extras
Click here to link to author's website.

Other Reviews
I'd So Rather Be Reading  (I do disagree with reviewer's saying this is appropriate for younger audiences!)
Bookreporter.com

Friday, July 16, 2010

Library Riches

Amazing thing, that inter-library loan.  Just go on line, login to your library account, enter a book title, click once, and it's added to your reserve list.  Then you sit and wait, and wait, and wait some more.  And then the email alerts hit your Inbox.  First just one.  So you go to pick up that book, and there are two other books waiting for you.  (Plus I just couldn't pass up the Judi Dench biography.)  Then two more email alerts.  Again, you go to the library to pick these up only to find that, yes, the books ready for pickup have multiplied in the time between logging off your computer and driving the 2.3 miles to the library.

Here's Wednesday's books

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Darling Judi by John Miller
A Little Bit Wicked by Kristen Chenoweth
Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank

And today...

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Dead Head by Rosemary Harris
The Search by Nora Roberts
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber

Fortunately, the forecast for the weekend is hazy, hot, and humid--perfect for planting myself in my favorite chair with an ice cold beverage at hand, putting the AC on medium high, and enjoying the riches given to me from the library.

July 31 Update:  Finished Lowcountry Summer and The Search.  Bookmarks still working their way through Darling Judi and A Little Bit Wicked (both were renewed).  Did the 100-page test on Backseat Saints and couldn't really get into it.  Weed That Strings... got almost halfway through; put on my list to check out again when it goes of the 14-day list; same for Dead Head.  Wasn't in the mood for either The Mountain Between Us or Hannah's List, although The Mountain Between Us does deserve a second try.  And when I went to return these yesterday, The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert and This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia (a local author) were waiting for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bookticipation




Release Date:  August 10, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bookticipation

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman.


This novel seeped into me slowly, but ultimately, I was as utterly absorbed in it as it was in me.  Goodman skillfully mingles high-tech IPOs, motherless daughters, tree-sitting environmentalists, mystical Judaism, foodie sensuousness, and three distinct love stories--and all with none of the usual head-spinning associated with that list.  I was rapt, and truly delighted.
--Becky Dayton, The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, VT


Release Date:  July 6, 2010

July 13 Update:  The Cookbook Collector is sitting on my reading table.  I've fondled it, read some random pages, and my bookmark is now making its way through the pages.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank

Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank has been on the "gotta get to this book" list for some time. Now that a follow-up book, Lowcountry Summer, has just come out, I figured it was time to get to Plantation which I had downloaded to my Kindle last year.

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
...this colorful contemporary romance effortlessly evokes the lush beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry while exploring the complexities of family relationships. When Caroline Wimbley Levine learns that her mother, Miss Lavinia, has supposedly gone mad, she leaves the big city bustle of Manhattan and returns to Tall Pines Plantation. Caroline originally left Tall Pines to escape her feisty, eccentric mother and her drunken brother, Trip, but when Miss Lavinia dies, Caroline is forced to come to terms with her family's troubled history as well her failing relationship with her husband. As Caroline reminisces about her past rebelliousness and her childhood, she realizes that her father's sudden and tragic death many years before served as a catalyst for the family's disintegration. Caroline and Trip also learn that their seemingly selfish and self-assured mother was not so uncaring after all. While most of the story is told from Caroline's point of view, journal entries written by Miss Lavinia open several of the chapters, providing the narrative with additional texture and warmth. Although the novel is short on plot, readers will enjoy immersing themselves in the lives of these deftly drawn, heartfelt characters.

Passages
On bookshelves
Turning out lights, I looked around at what Richard and I had built in the last thirteen years. We had six rooms of travel memorabilia from our wanderings. Our bookshelves were crammed with learned opinions on every area of psychology and psychiatrics in and out of print. Those were Richard's. They were his library and his weapons. My books were on textiles from around the world, Japanese gardens, obscure religions such as the cargo cultures of West Africa. Sometimes it seemed that he focused on the mind of man whereas I studied the spirit and what man held sacred. Our bookshelves were as good a starting place as any to see the differences between us.

On a doctor's office
His walls were covered with diplomas and citations and photographs of what appeared to be open-air-market people in Istanbul and Greece. He apparently liked to travel and to read. In addition to bookshelves of reference materials on various skin diseases, he had a small collection of leather-bound old books--classics--probably first editions. He treasured books. He couldn't be all bad.

On appreciation and simplicity
But when the red ball of the sun slipped under the Edisto River that evening, I was pretty sure that life didn't get much better than being in the place you loved most, surrounded by the people closest to your heart.

Plantation was a story of a family finding its true self again after years of misinterpretations and misunderstandings. I enjoyed seeing Caroline Wimbley Levine find her heart and home, although it seemed at times that she certainly was taking a lot of needless side trips along the way.  I have put Lowcountry Summer on my library reserve list; however, I see from many reviews that this follow-up to Plantation is getting some of the same bad reviews as did Return to Sullivan's Island. Sometimes, unless it is clear that the author set out to write a series, characters may be best served by our remembering them as we last knew them in print or as we, the readers, chose to imagine what happened next.


Rating: 3.5/5 (Fiction Scale)

Dedication: For Peter

First Sentence (from Prologue): This story I have to tell you has to be true because even I couldn't make up this whopper.

Personal note: Lavinia Boswell Wimbley took a fancy to the poetry of Rod McKuen.