Friday, February 27, 2009

"It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black."

If you read here regularly...and if not, you really need to ask yourself why not for heavens sake! might remember that some weeks ago I wrote a wee post about my trip to the Goodyear dealer to get a repair done on my car. As fascinating as my car repairs are, no doubt, the point of the post was how happy I was, as I sat there waiting, to see my two fellow customers take books out and start to read. Real books too, not a magazine or a newspaper, but actual books. It did my heart good.

Well, time to come down off the mountain. My joy has been squashed. I am in despair.

This week I had to go to get blood work done, a task that always involves a goodly amount of waiting. I have gone very early, I have gone later...I always wait. You arrive and sign in and sit in the waiting area, filled with about 25 other folks. In about 30 minutes they call you to come up and give them your paper work, show 14 kinds of ID, answer a large number of questions and then direct you to sit down again and wait until you are called, to be taken back for the actual blood letting.

So, there I sat with my 25 fellow victims. A perfect occasion to do what, my dear readers? Of course! READ! But as I took a quick glance...and then a long look in disbelief, at all of these people, only I and 2 others were reading. Only three of us sat down and look a nice book out of our bags or pockets or briefcases.
Some were staring at a TV up on the wall, blaring out some Morning Show. Many were just sitting there, doing nothing. Nothing!

Is it an age thing? We at the lab tend to be a little older that the general population, but actually I would think that would make us more likely readers, not less.
Low blood sugar due to fasting? Fear at having a needle stuck in their arm? The bland, sterile waiting area. The appeal of those wonderful morning talk shows. No, I think not. The Goodyear waiting area was no more cozy, the TV there just as annoying, the fear of our car repair bills as overwhelming as a little vile of the red stuff.

No, I fear Goodyear and our 100% reading rate was a fluke. The 10% of LabCorp the truth of the American reading situation. That is the reality; the majority of people would rather stare into nothingness than lose themselves in a nice little book.

And if that is not depressing enough, let me share this idea about blogging, from our friends at, a wonderful source of snarky, sarcastic posters, mugs, shirts, stationary and other useless things, available for purchase. "It began with one man's dream. A dream of the perfectly-realized American company. A company that would create dissatisfied customers in the process of exploiting demoralized employees while selling overpriced and ineffective products to remediate the problems caused by the very process itself."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

a review of "Irreplaceable"

Irreplaceable by Stephen Lovely (Hyperion, IBSN978-1-4013-2282-3)

Once, organ transplants were very rare and extraordinary. But now, although not enough to fill the need, there are more organ donors than there once were, and while still not common, transplants are not the rarity they once were. In fact, it is possible that some of us know someone who has received a transplant. Or perhaps someone who became a donor. Maybe that makes us forget just how remarkable transplants, especially heart transplant really are. Organ transplants are quite different than other medical procedures, in that, except for the cases of live transplants, possible for some organs, when someone receives a transplant and a new chance for life, it happens because someone else has died. What is the cause of celebration for one family, is as the result of a terrible tragedy for another. When someone receives a transplant, it is not the happy ending of the story, but just the beginning for all those involved.

In Irreplaceable, we are presented with a view into both sides of the experience, those who have lost someone they loved, and those who were saved from losing the one they love, someone on the verge of death. Actually, we get a glimpse of a third part of the equation as well, the man who caused the death and set it all in motion.

The book opens with Isabel, out on the open road in rural Iowa, on her bicycle for the first ride after a long winter. The weather is starting to turn for the worse, getting windy, the sky getting gray, a ominous storm rolling in. A truck crests the hill; she, a little too far into the lane, is unseen by the driver...and for those that love her, a nightmare has begun. For others, a life has been saved from certain death.

Isabel's husband, Alex, was with her when she signed the organ donor card, and as she lays in the hospital, brain dead, hooked up to the machines keeping her heart pumping and the organs viable, as angry and upset as he is, he knows that he must follow her wishes. After her organs are taken and transplanted, one recipient, the woman who received her heart, is able to contact him and his mother-in-law, but he wants nothing to do with her. His wife is gone..or is she really, totally gone? Because parts of her live on.
“He feels bitter and aggrieved and spiteful. He feels entitled to feel bitter and aggrieved and spiteful. This bitterness, this spite -is this the evidence? Of Isabel's presence? Is this the proof?”
Isabel's mother, Beatrice, looks at her only daughter, lying there “like some beautiful slaughtered animal” and is broken hearted, but not filled with anger like Alex.
“She always used to suspect that the price for happiness, the price for enjoying the company of a person you loved, was the steadily increasing risk of losing them...Beatrice didn't think she could stand it, didn't think she could go on living in a universe whose laws forced her to submit to such a terrible fear. Now she sees what a small price it is to pay, what staggering joy she received in return. You should be willing to pay that price for as little as a few days or hours with a person you love, she thinks, rubbing her fingertips across a patch of linoleum the years have worn down to a cloudy smear.”
Then we have Janet, the woman who received the heart, her husband David and their two young children. Janet is an art teacher in an inner city Chicago school, her heart ravaged by a virus. Over the last couple of years, she has become weaker and weaker, unable to work, unable to care for her family, finally confined to the hospital for months, surrounded by those like her, who are waiting for someone to die so that they might live. She is one of the lucky one who receives the gift, but is is a gift with a price. The medications, with their side effects, the special diet, her immune system suppressed, the knowledge that her body may reject the heart, and even if it does not, her expected life span is only 5 to 10 years, when the vessels of the new heart with block up. But she is very thankful for her relatively good, newfound health and whatever additional time the heart will give her.
David, her husband, is not so sure...
“The way Janet looks at it, she's been given a reprieve. While David understands this, and feels happy for her, he's filled with dread at the prospect of having to live through the past three years, the worse years of his life, all over again when she declines.”
And finallt there is Jasper, the driver of the truck that hit Isabel. Let's say that he has a rather unique view of his role in all this.

No, the transplant was in no way the end of the story.

This is Mr. Lovely's first book and it is a very good one. His ability to capture the emotions of these different characters is skillful. He is able, on the one hand, to educate the reader about the whole issue of organ transplantation, while on the other hand never losing sight of the very personal repercussions these decisions will have for all involved. As medical science becomes able to do more and more, we can never forget the human and emotional cost...because one day it may be someone we love, or ourselves, asked to pay that price.

Now you know I can't let Mr. Lovely off without at least one negative word. I wish I could...and I almost did, but then there was one blip in the plot, one scene near the end of the book that such stuck me as so false....aaagh...well, if I gave those stars or little lighthouses as a rating I would have grabbed one back and stepped on it. Maybe ground it into the dirt. But one false note in an otherwise very good book is not bad.
My only other issue is with the cover. Now my copy is an advanced review copy, and from what I can see, they changed it for the published version. But I can't say which one I like less.
It just screams chick-lit, or sappy love story, which totally misrepresents the book. If I saw it on a table in a bookstore, I would most likely not pick it up, not being a great fan of the chick lit. Which would be a terrible shame, because I think this book is bigger than that and should attract a wider audience. Yes, I know hearts are pink and red, but I think a stronger cover would have really better expressed the strength and excellent emotion of this book. But they don't let me decide these things...

So just ignore the cover and pick up this book and I think you will be happy you did.

For another review, check out...
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
As They Grow Up
Reading With Monie
Just a Mom's Take On Things

Available From Amazon

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let's start Lent off on the right foot

For something a little different, today I am going to join in a meme being hosted by RAnn at This, That and the Other Thing, about Lenten reading. As you may, or may not know, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, which is a period of 40 days leading up Easter and helping to prepare us for the feast, the pinnacle of the Christian year. One is encouraged to fast, give alms, do acts of penance, prayer and spiritual reading.
So let's see what the question is....

What books have you read and/or reviewed in the last year that you would recommend to people looking for Lenten reading? What book/s is/are you reading this Lent?

Unlike RAnn, who also reviews for a Catholic bookseller, my reviews have tended to be of a more secular nature. But what have I read? Well, it is not something that I read this year, but a book that I loved, that I think is a true classic about the spiritual life and would recommend to any reader is The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, his autobiography of his journey from a VERY secular young man to a Trappist monk. I have my issues with Merton in his later life, and not everyone is so positive about this book, but I loved it and really, as i said, think it is a classic.

What am I going to read? Well, I have picked a recent arrival off my TBR pile {{watch out Kitty!!}}, Mother Teresa's Secret Fire by Joseph Langford.
I have not read it yet, but it comes highly recommended from someone whose opinion I respect, so I will quote a bit about the book from the cover description.
"Christians and non-Christians alike long for something larger than our daily routine, something more meaningful and sustaining that anything money, fame, or power can buy.

There is no better example that Mother Teresa. She continues to be a worldwide icon, a symbol of the nobility of the human spirit and every person's capacity to do extraordinary things.

At age 38, Mother Teresa broke out of her safe and reliable routine as a teacher. With only five rupees to her name, she began going daily into the slums of Calcutta. By the time of her death in 1997, her Missionaries of Charity had spread to more than 120 countries and touched millions of lives.

What was it that caused this transformation? How do we account for her universal impact from such extreme, humble conditions? What was it in her that touched so many so deeply?"
I had the privilege once to hear Mother Teresa speak and I will never forget it...and maybe when I review the book by the end of Lent, I will tell you about it.

In the mean time, be sure to go over to RAnn's blog and read her suggestions and maybe join in with you own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's no mystery why I love Tuesday Thinger!

It's Tuesday and Wendi, at Wendi's Book Corner has a cold, so she says she came up with a really easy question. I am not sure how easy it is because it made me think, and thinking early in the morning makes my head ache a bit....
But here is this weeks question....

Today's question: Do you have a specialized blog where you only review a certain genre or type of book? If so, what is your favorite thing about that type of book? If not, what is/are your favorite genre(s)? What makes that genre(s) a favorite?

Specialized, no...but SPECIAL yes! Now, of course, all blogs, particularly book blogs, are special, but mine is just the most special. Well, it is to me...
But no, I review a variety of books. Not a huge variety, because to be quite honest, there are many books I have no interest in reading. They don't interest me, so I would not request them or buy them because not only would I not enjoy reading them (which is still sort of the point of this) but I could not be fair in a review. For example, sorry, but I hate romance novels. Self help...oh, please, NO!

Do I have a favorite genre and why is it my favorite? Why, I am so glad you asked and yes, in fact, I do.

I love mysteries.

I always have. It was certainly the first genre I read in large quantities, very large quantities. I have in my bookcase, that I am looking at as we speak (if you are reading this, we are 'speaking' in a sense) a nice hardcover edition of 'THE Complete Sherlock Holmes' that my mom gave me as a birthday gift when I was a wee Caite. I read it cover to cover. Mr. Holmes was shortly followed by everything Agatha Christie every wrote...Rex Stout, Dick Francis....Oh, I had found my genre. Those were the days that my local library, talked about yesterday, got a workout. I like thrillers, police procedurals, detectives, PI's, cozies, medical mysteries, gothics. They can be mysteries set at race tracks, by the ocean, in the desert, in foreign countries. I like them set in the past, in the present...and within reason, in the future.

Now some of you may say "Oh, mysteries...they are so..." and then insert a negative term. Light, silly, gory, dark. Yes, I am sure some are. But that is the thing about mysteries. There are so many types, something for every taste! The settings travel the world, from Trenton, NJ, (Evanovich) to Iceland (Arnaldur IndriĆ°ason), present day to the 1800's, with Edgar Allen Poe's The Murder in the Rue Morgue, often considered the first modern mystery story.

And see, there is another thing about mysteries. Yes, they can be light, even funny, but also some of the great works of literature are actually, at their heart, mysteries. Look at this list of the 100 Best Mystery Novels of all time from the Mystery Writers of America, or this one from the Crime Writers Association. Poe, Dostoyevsky, Bram Stoker, Graham Greene, Martin Cruz Smith, P.D.James, John le Carre, Dorothy L. Sayers; we mystery lovers claim them all! Some of the greatest works of literature are, at their heart, mysteries.

Why do I love mysteries? Well, they are intellectually challenging, they make you think. Can you rise to the challenge and 'figure it out'? The setting, the characters can be as varied as the writers imagination. But ultimately, even in the most scary or funny mystery, it comes down to a battle of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. Mysteries present a world where, not always easily, not always clearly but fundamentally, logic and order and The Good ultimately come out on top.
And I guess that is how I see least on my better days.

Gee, that didn't seem so

..and now, a picture of Bandit

or two...

Monday, February 23, 2009

I may be about the last person in the blogsphere...

The last to get tagged with this meme, that is.
Seems I was tagged, the blog version of a chain Fleur Fisher for this photo meme
Here are the rules...

“Find your 5th photo file folder, then the 5th photo in that file folder. Then pass the meme to 5 people.”

So first, the picture.

This a picture of Carnegie Hall, a view of the hall from the stage looking back. So if you were performing, this is the view you would have. We were there, just before Christmas, for a performance and because one of the people I was with was in a wheelchair, we got to go in before the general admittance. Actually we were in that huge place all by is very impressive.

I am sorry folks, but I have to do it! I can't break the chain! If you have been subjected..I mean lucky enough... to get this before...well, just post a different picture. A nice picture is always nice. A bad one is even more funny. So I 'tag'...

Joseph, at Peace of Brain

Carol at Carol's Notebook

Bobbi at My Muse and Me

Emily at The World Inside My Head

and last but most certainly not least the Cutest Dog in the World,
Bandit at the world from down here

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Musing Monday...about where I left my library card.

Well, it is the start of a new week, so let's all mosy over to Just One More Page and check out this weeks musing!

"Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about the library…
How often do you visit the library? Do you have a scheduled library day/time, or do you go whenever? Do you go alone, or take people with you?"

Library...the library....I that the place that loans out books for free? I think they have periodicals and maybe videos there too. Is that the place?

Of course, I am joshing.
But in all honesty, I rarely go to the library these day. That being said, I was actually there this week. But that was an aberration.
If you have read on my blog before, no doubt you are familiar with my oft mentioned towering To Be Read pile. The one that is threatening to fall over and crush my
imaginary kitty, Kitty {{meow...meow...good kitty}} In fact, I know for a fact that many of you have a very similar TBR pile somewhere in your own house. So since I have found a number of ways to SCORE FREE BOOKS gratefully receive free review copies, I am not really in need of any additional reading material at the moment.

Why did I go this week? Well, I was reading a particularly gushing review of The School of Essential Ingredients, a book I was not able to get as an ARC, one of those review copies. I was actually considering buying it, but then checked the on-line catalog of my county library, and low and behold, they had it. Not at my branch and out on loan but I put it on hold and they called me in just a few days that it was in. Imagine that!
But here is where the real danger started. It was terrible! Scary!!
Because, when I went to the library, first I had to pass several shelves in the entryway, filled with books they were selling for 10 cents-25 cents. I DON”T NEED MORE BOOKS! But what a bargain.. BUT I DON"T NEED MORE BOOKS!! That is just so, so wrong to have those there, right out in the open. Like laying out a table of drugs for an addict, opening a beer for an alcoholic!
I was strong.

I only bought one.

But then, right next to the checkout desk, were the 'new books' shelves. I glanced, just glanced and saw at least 5 books I have been reading about. But I did not pick one up, not one. Kitty would be so upset if I came home with more books. I was able to sneak the two I had into the house under my coat, but Kitty is very sharp. The librarian might have wondered about my soft sobs , my halting steps, as I exited though.

I love libraries, don't get me wrong. My childhood is filled with happy memories of libraries. In fact, one of my earliest memories is walking to our local branch with my mom, an avid reader, when I was just a very wee Caite, coming home with a big tote bags filled with books. Granted, most were hers... This was before I was old enough to get my own library card, the receiving of which was a happy, memorable day in my life. I was happy to spend as much time as possible, upstairs in the children's section, reading, browsing, as she made her weekly choices downstairs.

And I was a student in the dark, pre-Internet day, when one had to actually go to a library to do research. I grew up in Newark NJ, a city that did not have much good about it except a very nice library system. I can remember as a teenager, going to the main public library building downtown, a lovely building, doing research for papers and reports. Searching the microfiche for magazine and newspaper articles, the old wooden card catalogs with actual cards, searching the stacks. I can remember this room where they had with just big files of images, huge folders. I was doing a paper on the Hudson River school of painting and they had all these prints that I could request and look at....I thought it was wonderful! I spent many a happy, happy day wandering around that library...

What was the question?? Oh, do I go to the library?
I visit about every year or On no particular day then, of course.
Alone or with people? Well, if I went, I would go alone. One needs to concentrate, not idly chatting and such. Unless I bring someone to help carry my loot....that's an idea. Leave my hands free. But no talking.

That is what lunch is for.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

a review of Lethal Legacy

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein
(Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-52399-8)

As you walk past the stately entrance to the NY Public Library, past the twin sentinels of the stone lions, Temperance and Patience, who guard her entrance, you can't help but be impressed by the sheer beauty and historic significance of the building. But when author Linda Fairstein use the history and back scene operation of the library as well as the fascinating building itself as a character in her latest book, Lethal Legacy, I dare say we will gain a new found respect for this landmark of NYC.

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper, as well as her police co-workers and friends Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are back for their 11th appearance and I am sure fans of the series will be thrilled.
Alex, who has a background working with sex crime victims, is called to the scene of what appears to be an apartment invasion and assault of a young woman. But the woman in the apartment will not let police in and even when she finally talks to Alex, she refused to get medical attention or give any information to allow police to investigate the crime. It appears that will be the end of the case, until the woman, who turns out to be a curator of rare books and maps for the library as well as doing private work for several of the library's trustees, disappears. Alex's boss District Attorney Paul Battaglia, one always to have his nose in the prevailing political winds, shows an interest in the case and call Alex in for a discussion with Jill Gibson, third in charge at the library, with talk of thefts and intrigue, Alex is assigned to help in the investiagtion. It seems that many of New York's richest and most powerful families, founders and trustees of the library, are involved with a tale of priceless books and mysterious maps and when a couple of dead bodies turn up...well the mystery is on.

For someone like myself, who is both a book lover and always interested in stories that are set in NYC, the NY Public Library may be the real star of this book. Fairstein has done her homework and give us a fascinating glimpse of the history of the building and some of the famous families involved in it creation and a view into the massive stacks and private collections that make up it's holdings, things few of us will ever get a chance to see. To quote the description on the book,

“(Fairstein) takes readers on a breathtaking ride through the valuable first editions, lost atlases, and secret rooms and tunnels of the great New York Public Library.”

Tunnels! Secret escape hatches into neighboring Bryant Park! Priceless maps! Who knew the library was so exciting? And then we have some very good characters in Alex, Mike and Mercer. They are very likable and their friendship with each other...and do we catch perhaps a bit of sexual tension between Alex and Mike?...seems very believable and a nice addition to the plot,. My only quibble would be with Alex and her job and the endless amount of time she seems able to take out of the office or out of the courtroom, to be in the middle of the investigation. Surely she has a lot of other cases that need more than a phone call or two to keep on track. But I will cut Fairstein some slack on that (I am sure she is because she once actually worked as an ADA in NYC and my total knowledge of the job comes from watching countless, and I mean countess, reruns of Law and Order.

Overall, Lethal Legacy is a pretty good read; a little light on the mystery, a little predicable and a little murky in it's plot...but, for this reader at least, those flaws were overcome by a wealth of book and New York Public Library trivia and a tiny glance, if only fictionally, at some priceless rare books.
Most likely, I will give the series another go and start with the first in the series, Final Jeopardy.

For a few more reviews, check out...
A Reader's Respite
Shhh I'm Reading

Available from Amazon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who...who me...addicted?? No, I can stop any time..really!

At least it wasn't 100%!

82%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Don't be scared. You can skip the ad for the on-line dating...just click for your results down in the right hand bottom.
But if you are addicted as me, you will see

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Thingers on the Tower of TBR

Yes, my dear readers...and you are my dear readers...this week's always interesting question via Wendi's Book Corner...

This week, our question is inspired by all the group threads that are dedicated to finding the next great book to review.
In order review books on your blog - you've got to GET books!

Today's question: How do you get your books for reviewing? (Feel free to participate in the poll below, you can check more than one answer) Do you track them somehow (excel, database, etc), or just put them in a tbr (To Be Read for anyone that doesn't know) pile?

Well, there was once a time, in the not so distant past, when I was totally unaware of ARC's (advanced review copies), book about to be published in the near or not so near future that publishers GIVE to folks to read and review and get folks talking about and such. Yep, I was totally unaware. But then, I joined Library Thing and here is all this talk about their Early Reviewer program...and I join and check off a few books that look interesting...and I win one! Wow..I think i may have mentioned it here, but I was lucky enough to win a book there every month for like 9 months. Until I mentioned it. I have not won a book there since.

Happily, I found a few other sources. Shelf Awareness ads...a few self published (that is another topic..) from Bostick, some successful cold requests, several books won from contests on other blogs, a few offered to me from book publicists, a few requested from publicists after they are offered on Book Blogs...and I am sure a few other places I have forgotten for the moment.

How to I organize my TBR pile? Well, there are two. One, ARC's with a certain publication date. They are stacked, a literal pile, in order of that date, nearest..or most recent past, on top and working down. Little post-it notes with their dates.
Non ARCs, my personal TBR books...are in various places. Some doubled shelved, some in a precarious teetering tower, some on a narrow shelf at the top of the stairs that was not really meant for books, a couple of boxes in the extra bedroom, on the floor next to my get the idea.

So see, here is the thing. Don't get me wrong, I love ARC's! I have gotten books that in all likelihood I would not have read otherwise. It got me out of reading my usual, safe little genre and I have read several books that I just loved and would likely never of heard of otherwise.

But I don't need ARCs to have books to review. The question says In order review books on your blog - you've got to GET books! No, not really. I have at least 100..maybe 200 unread books around here. So, let's say I could read and review 2 books a week or about 100 in a year (which I will not). That means I have at least a year, if not 2 years of books readily on hand. And then there is the rest of my current library. I have read them, but some as far back as high school and college, back in the foggy past when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Very long before blogland. Before the internet. Before cable TV!
So I could re-read and review them. According to Library Thing, I have 1115 books in my house, minus say 200 in the TBR pile...another 9 years right there. Then, there are all the books I have read and no longer have. I am not sure where they went. Given away, loaned out and not returned, but they are not here, which is bad because I miss them but good because other wise I might have to get bracing in the basement to support the weight.
Take Dean Koontz. I like his books (some are very good, some are good, a few are just weird) and I have read over the years, mostly likely every book he has written, which is about 100 books. I don't have most of them anymore, but I could find them somewhere..there is another year right there. Take Agatha Christie, most of which I read while I was in school. Another 80 there, another year.
And countless other authors, countless other books.

And let's not forget the library, that as we speak, is holding a book I requested and is, I understand, a place that gets new ones all the time. Yes, those are free to take home and read too! Imagine that...thousands and thousands of books, lovely, beautiful books, calling my name...""

So my point is, I love the books, but I don't need the books. Well, I NEED books. I just don't need any more. Not the two or three I requested on Shelf Awareness this week, not the three I order used online, not the ones in my cart on Amazon, not the ones I will buy with the Border's gift card I got for Christmas, not the ones I find at lighthouses or ferry terminals or everywhere I go...I think I have book magnetism or something! They are like little puppies that follow me home...cute little fuzzy puppies. Like Bandit! How can I say no?

P.S. I went to the library this morning to pick up the book I had on hold. But before I got inside, there was the ever present shelves of books for sale...hardcovers, just .25! Paperbacks a dime!
I only bought one...but then as I was checking out, I noticed the 'new books' shelves. I will just glance. Oh, look...I have been reading reviews of that one...or...and I saw an add for that one...oh, look, I have wanted to read that one.

I ran, screaming from the

Monday, February 16, 2009

Maine and Musing Monday...and Maine

This week's questions, from the pages of Just One More Page... Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book reviews…
Do you read any non-blogging book reviews? If so, where (newspaper, library etc)? Do you have any favourites sources you'd like to share?
Do I read any non-blog reviews. Why, yes I do. From where? Well, I usually read the N.Y. Times reviews. Here is this week's as an example. Lots and lots of reviews, articles, could spend the day here. Which is good, but also bad. Bad because if I spend the day there, I will not spend the day reading and certainly not reviewing my own completed reads.
Then, I also usually at least glance at the reviews at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Being a resident of south Jersey, Philadelphia is our nearest big city and I was once very fond of the Sunday Inquirer, which includes the Book Section. That is until they started fooling with it some months ago, discontinuing some of my favorite sections, moving others to weekdays, in an attempt to 'save money', they say. Well it had the effect of me usually not buying the Sunday paper as I once did and adding the book section to my Goggle Reader. It did save me money, I will say that!
I also read reviews on Publisher Weekly. Fiction, non-fiction, children's; again, lots and lots of reviews. Then, for a little overseas slant, I also glance at the reviews at The Guardian, a British newspaper. Good reviews, many interesting articles, a place to 'waste' a large chunk of time.

New York, Philadelphia and London...that about covers the world, right?
Well, it is enough for me. Or at least all I have time for. And you may notice a trend. All online, all free, all easy. I think that I have said it before, but either I am not the fastest reader in the world or I an really poor user of time, but there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all.

I personally blame my need to work for a living. Those 40+ hours are a big waste, reading wise. I NEED to win the lottery, so that I can retire to the little house I will then buy on the coast of Maine, where I can spend the day reading, visiting lighthouses. Maybe I will take up sailing...or painting watercolors...lobster for dinner, fresh off the boats down in the cloudless summer skies, stormy winter nights, waves crashing against the rocky coast as I sit by the fireplace...

What were we talking about? Reviews?? Yes, something about reviews I think. I got distracted...

courtesy of

Friday, February 13, 2009

A review of Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford
(Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-50533-0)

If you are looking for a very nice book, well written, with some wonderful characters and a fascinating historical background, have I got a book for you.

The story opens in 1986, when Henry, a recently widowed man in his mid-fifties with a college age son, comes across a crowd outside the Panama Hotel in Seattle, his hometown. The hotel had been boarded up and empty since WWII, and when it was bought and renovations began, it was found to hold a forgotten 'treasure', the possessions of dozens of Japanese families who had stored there belonging they could not take with them when they were shipped out of coastal port city to inland relocation' camps. Henry is so deeply effected by the sight and by the remembrance of those things stored there, forgotten, because he knew one of those families, the Okabe's, and in particular, their young daughter Keiko.

As the book changes times, and it does, back and forth throughout the book, it is 1942, and 12 year old Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants, is having a difficult time. Sent by his father to an all 'white' school for the advantages he thinks it will give his son, he is hated by the other Chinese children for being too 'white' and hated by many of the white kids for being Chinese. The only saving grace is his job, part of his “scholarshipping”, working lunchtime in the school cafeteria and the arrival of a new helper, fellow student, Japanese American Keiko. It might be difficult being Chinese at the time, but to be Japanese in a west coast port city after the attack on Pearl Harbor is becoming next to impossible. From the first, they are fast friends, but it is a friendship that must remain secret from his family, especially his father, who is a Chinese nationalist who hates the Japanese, not for their bombing of Pearl Harbor but for their invasion of China. If his father finds out, he will disown Henry, but no matter his sense of duty and loyalty to his family, Henry will not give up his friendship and ultimately his love for Keiko.

Or will he?

While set partially against the often forgotten story of the Japanese relocation..or internment..or as FDR himself called them at times, concentration camps of World War II and partial in the 1980's, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is ultimately not a story about history or politics so much as a story about family and responsibility and love and the decisions we make because of these things. And whether, with the passage of time and changes in circumstances, we can, as Henry's old jazz musician friend Sheldon implores him, ”fix it” and perhaps undo some of the mistakes we make in our lives and repair relationships while there is still time.

It is not a perfect book. First, and to me, most disconcerting, was the age of the characters. The 12 year old Henry thinks and behaves like someone at least several years older. If the characters had been say 15 or 16...but 12 just did not rings true. I actually though at one point that I had misread and missed a jump of a few years in the timeline, but no. On the other hand, the older Henry is just 56 (I say this as someone a few years but he acts like someone much older, like an old man. A minor point overall, but a bit grating.
Second, there is a Japanese phrase that Sheldon teaches his young friend to show off to Keiko. It is oai deki te ureshii desu, translated as 'How are you today beautiful?', a phrase that reoccurs throughout the book and is rather key to the story. The only problem is that it seems that the phrase actually mean something closer to just “hello, I am glad to see you”. If I can google it and get it right, so should the author or an editor.
Ok, maybe I am nitpicking...but things like that bother me a bit
Of course, I also wondered how realistic it was that the Panama Hotel stayed boarded up and unused for decades, with all those belonging unclaimed in the basement. Except that part is actually true!

Overall, it was a very nice read, at times a touching story, a book that I would certainly give a recommendation to. If you do read it, and I hope that you do, watch out for my two favorite characters, the afore mentioned Shelton and the cafeteria lady, Mrs. Beatty. She might not say much, but you can often tell a person's heart and their mettle by their actions and not just what they say.
A point very true to many of the characters of this very enjoyable book.

for a few more opinions, check out....

The Book Lady's Blog
Booking Mama
The Biblio Brat
Medieval Bookworm
Shhh I'm Reading
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Many a Quaint and Curious Volume

Available from Amazon

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Truth About Publishing

From the folks at Boing Boing, a very informative video about the publishing business. "The folks at Macmillan digital in NYC produced this thigh-slapping contrafactual account of the internal workings of book publishing."

Wait...contrafactual...does that mean it isn't actually true? Oh, golly, never mind. I have to see if they will take the typewriter back at the yard sale.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a review of The Kiss Murder

The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Sommer (Penguin, ISBN 978-0143114727)

You might think from the title that you are about to read an ordinary mystery. But I would consider that wrong on two counts. There is nothing ordinary about this book...and I would not actually consider it a mystery, or at least not a typical mystery.

The narrator of our story, who remains nameless throughout the book, leads a very interesting life. By day, he is a computer expert, mainly contracting out to work on the Internet security systems of companies. It helps pay the bills and he is very good at his job. But by night, she, as the narrator then thinks of herself, come alive. Dressed in her best imitation of a young Audrey Hepburn, she is off to the nightclub she is part owner of and we start to see a part of Istanbul that I would think most of us never knew existed. We meet an interesting cast of characters, including many of her admirers, ex-lovers, hopeful future lovers, rivals, friends and most importantly her 'girls', the transvestite to transsexual and every stage in between employees who work there, some going home with the virile young men that pursue them for 'love' and some for money.

It is when one of her 'girls', very frightened, come to our narrator with a tale that our 'mystery' begins. It seems Buse (which is Turkish for kiss) once had a serious boyfriend and she is in possession of pictures and letters that document that several year relationship. But her ex-boyfriend is a very rich and very powerful man who would prefer knowledge of his relationship with another man, no matter how pretty he dresses or how well he does his makeup, remains a secret. Others, it would seem, would like nothing better than to get their hands on the material. When Buse turns up murdered the next day and police seem to have little interest in just another dead transvestite, her boss decided to see what he/she can find out. Needless to say, not every one is happy about that and it is lucky that among his/her other talents, our narrator is an expert Thai kickboxer. He might like to dress like Audrey, but he is no helpless waif.

I must say that, at first, the pronouns became a slight bit confused in my mind, especially when you throw in a variety of nicknames and Turkish monikers. But whether he is referring to himself as a him or as a her, our narrator is often quite amusing and smart, and takes us on an interesting jaunt through the traffic jammed and very hot streets of Istanbul. As to the mystery part, well, let's just say that the who and the why take a decidedly second place to our flamboyant, transvestite, club owning, computer expert, kickboxing hero(ine). If you are looking for a traditional mystery, you might be best to look elsewhere but if you are looking for interesting, rather exotic adventure, with a decidedly different leader, this might just be your cup of tea. And if it is, you will be happy to know that is just one in the six book Turkish Delight Series which is, slightly surprisingly, very popular in the author's native Turkey. The first two books, this one, published by Penguin and The Prophet Murders, from British publisher Serpent's Tail, have been translated and are now available and the third, The Gigolo Murder, will be available later this year. According to at least one interview with the author, conducted with Detectives Beyond Borders , we are going to discover a number of other aspects of the life of our hero as more of the series becomes available...I can only imagine what that might be!

Available From Amazon

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I give 5 Stars to Tuesday Thinger!!

My favorite day of the week, the thing that makes Tuesday better than Saturday, the thing you have been waiting all night, sleepless, to read...yes, via Wendi's Book Corner, Tuesday Thinger!!

Today's question: Do you use a rating system on your blog? How do you feel about using the rating system provided on sites like Library Thing and Amazon? When looking up information on a book you are interested in, do you use the ratings provided by these sites (or similar sites) to help you make the decision on purchasing the book?

No, I don't use a rating system on my blog, which you might have noticed if you read my reviews. If you don't, you really should. Read the reviews that is. Because they take a fair amount of time and thought to write. And personally, I think they are pretty good.

I have considered it, a rating system, maybe some cute little lighthouses or something but....well, it is just so definite. See, I am a bit concerned with grade inflation, or in this case review inflation.
To me, the average should be...average. a C, or in the case of stars, 3. So, an A, or 5 stars would be rare, a B or 4 stars not as uncommon, but not common...3, common, and then 2, fairly rare and hopefully 1, more uncommon but not unknown.
If I actually start to put numbers, I am afraid that I will be tempted to up them a grade or a lighthouse, as it may be. If I keep it vaguer, I can be more honest.

But still I reconsider from time to time. To go with the common five levels, they would go sort of like this...

  • 5. good I am considering calling in sick to work to keep reading it, mad at the checkout guy at the supermarket because he is so slow and keeping me from my book, figuring I can do with an hour's less sleep and read just a few more pages and considering stopping people on the street to tell them about this great book I just read. Very sad it is finished.{{sob, sob}} Checking to see if the author wrote anything else and ordering said book at once.

  • 4. Very nice...very nice...all of the above comments but just dialed down to sane levels. Levels not likely to get me fired. Or elicit strange looks from folks.

  • 3. Good. Liked it. Will lend it, with a recommendation, to my sister in law and other borrowers of my books but mentioned it is not a 5..or even a four. They may like it, they may not. Good to kill some extra time but not MAKE time for.

  • 2. Not too great. Real flaws. Shouted at the author several times while reading. Don't really lend it out because this is just so much time in life and so, so many books. Better books.

  • 1. Makes me wish I had a fireplace because then I could throw this book in and the heat it would provide would make cutting down a tree to produce it not totally in vain.

I don't just seems so definite. Shorter, but definite.

That being said, I do use the rating systems on Amazon (don't like it but I use it) and Library Thing (like better). I prefer LT' is so often true...because they allow 1/2 stars. After I spend way to much time thinking about how many stars to give, I need those half stars to get it just right.

Of course, I look back on them months later and wonder what I was thinking. LT also allows me to change my rating. Which would earn them another star. If I was giving out stars. Which I am not.

Do I use the ratings of others to make a purchase? Yes...within reason. It is another piece of the puzzle...the puzzle of whether I can balance one more book on the TBR pile. {{WATCH OUT KITTY. It's about to fall!!}} But I would give more weight to someones recommendation, read or spoken, than to stars on a page. That said, a really high rating, 4+, especially from a large number of people, will get my attention.
{{Be careful Kitty! We have another book arriving.
Even imaginary kitties have to be careful}}

Monday, February 9, 2009

more Musing for a Monday

Monday seems like a good day to muse, so here is this weeks question from Musing Monday at
Just One More Page...

What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favourite one? I guess I should not admit to turning down the corner of pages? Who knew?
Ok, I have done that on occasion, in fact I did it just the other day and gave consideration that I might in fact have to admit to this terrible habit on a place just like this one and have people 'gasping' at me. But I was reading in bed and there was nothing else around and I just could NOT get up and get a real bookmark. But it is rare. Really...pretty much.

Normally I use bookmarks. But, I will admit, head hung in shame, that in the not too distant past, I used to just use just about anything. A slip of paper, a toothpick, a piece of string...a slice of ham.
Ok, not actually a slice of ham. That was just to see if you were paying attention.
But I did use many things that were never meant to be bookmarks and combine that with my habit of misplacing things and it was a very bad habit. Credit cards, watches and bills are not to be used as bookmarks.

But recently I have been better. I will admit that I am not a very well organized person and admire those that I read who talk about taking a bookmark out of the little container they keep them in. First, I would just misplace the container and then if I did find it, it would be empty because I would forget to put them back in there. So I just try to get a LOT of them and hope to leave them in places where I am likely to need one. Obviously, I need to add my bedside table to that list.

But speaking of bookmarks, I want to make a little sales pitch here. A few months ago I bought some of these Magnetic Bookmarks after I read a recommendation here in teh World Wide Web somewhere and they are swell! There are many, many choices of pictures...personally I went with all lighthouses and sea side pics but you can pick kitties or cars or bugs...and they don't fall out of the book and you can also use them to mark your line. And they were cheap enough that I could buy a pile of them.

And they work much better than a slice of ham.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Very Special Guest Post

Today, my dear readers, we are very privileged to have a guest post from a very talented young fellow, someone who has been mentioned here on my blog before, the Cutest Dog in the Whole World, Bandit. In case you didn't know it (and because my niece will be very upset with me if I don't mention it) you can visit Bandit at his very own blog "the world from down here" .

A week ago, I flew down to Florida to visit my niece and Bandit and while I was there, we all took a road trip, Bandit's first real road trip, to the historic city of St. Augustine and he was so excited that he wanted share some of his experiences there and to show you all some pictures of his trip. Because he really likes pictures of himself. A lot.

Hi! My name is Bandit and it is very nice of my Great Aunt know her as let me tell you about my trip with her and my mom, my grandpop and grandmom and aunt Elly to St. Augustine. Kiki knew there was a lighthouse there, so there was no stopping her. I don't know why, but  she really likes lighthouses. Don't I look so cute in my new blue sweater? I am not sure blue is my color. Do you think it makes my butt look fat?
Come on! Let's all pile in the car and get going!

I had never been on a road trip before. I am only 6 months old. I loved looking out the window and sometimes they opened it a bit so I could stick my nose out and smell all sorts of new things. Are we there yet?

This is the lighthouse at St. Augustine beach. It was very high and I am very short, so I did not climb to the top. Me and grandmom stayed at the bottom while everyone else climbed all those steps. I am sure Kiki...oh, I mean Caite...will tell you more about the lighthouse in the future. I liked the stripes because it looked sort of like a candycane. Gosh, all this sea air is making me hungry. I hope we have lunch soon. I really like pizza.
This is a very old fort in St. Augustine called 'The Castillo de San Marcos'. They say it was finished being built in 1695. Wow, that is really old. I liked all the grass to run on. Can you see the snowflakes and snowman on my sweater?
After that, we went to a street a few blocks away with a lot of pretty old Spanish buildings and a lot of nice stores and a lot of people and musicians and lots of other dogs walking with their people.
This man was sitting very, very still outside a store. He looks sort of green and he didn't jump when I licked him. But I really like his hat.
These little people thought that I was very cute, which I am, and wanted me to stop and play. Hey! Where did my sweather go?? Did you see my sweater little girl? Who took my sweater?

Well, it was a very long day and my legs are very short, so by the time we started to drive home, I was happy to find a nice place to lay down and get some sun. Gosh, my mustache is looking a bit gray!

But I am just a baby!

See, here is a picture of my half one year birthday party on Sunday. There were a lot of people there and a lot of food and there was also some sort of big football game on the TV. But I know they really all came for my birthday and my mom gave me a cupcake and they all sang.
And then they were all starting watching the football game again.

But I got the cupcake!

I hope you enjoyed my post about my trip and remember, you can all come visit me on my blog!

Thanks Kiki!

Friday, February 6, 2009

a review of Eclipse

Eclipse by Richard North Patterson

Oil and it's production around the world is certainly a very timely subject. The lengths that corporations and governments and individuals will go to for that black gold, in a volatile world, with huge amount of money at stake, is at the heart of the story of Eclipse.

Damon Pierce is a very successful lawyer whose marriage is over, he and his wife seeming to have just drifted apart. And at the same time, he seems to be drifting away from his work as a lawyer, having lost a sense of purpose in his work. When into this rather soulless life comes a cry for help from a woman he once, and perhaps still loves, he can't help but respond. Marissa e-mails him to say that her husband, Bobby Okari, has been arrested and charged with murder of three oil company workers in his West African country of Luandia and to ask for Damon's help. Her husband, who she met when he was speaking at colleges in the USA years ago, is the leader of a populist movement that is trying to affect chance in his homeland, but branded a terrorist by the corrupt government of Luandia. Her only hope to save Bobby from almost certain execution, she thinks, is to appeal to someone outside the country that can bring to bear some political and diplomatic influence and bring world attention to her husband's plight.

Luandia is a country in chaos, an environmental nightmare, it's people in appalling poverty, led by a madman, General Savior Karama. People that speak up against the government simply disappear, as we find out, to suffer some truly horrible fates. It is into this world, a terribly dangerous world, that Damon flies, driven both by his affection for Marissa but also because of a great admiration for Bobby and a hope that he can somehow help save both Marissa and her husband. The situation seems hopeless and Damon knows that he may well lose his own life in the attempt.

According to what I have read, the story is based in no small part on the actual history of Nigeria and a very disturbing story it is. The book starts off very well and, for example, an early scene of a massacre in a village where Bobby had just spoken, while horrifying, is extreme well written and moving. The description of the destruction of the delta and the destruction of the lifestyle of the tribal people living there is vivid. But sadly, the rest of the book is not as compelling. Once Bobby is arrested and Damon starts his investigation, the book seems to lapse into a series of clandestine meetings and a lot of rather pompous, preachy speeches with stilted dialogue. Also none of the characters are ever really fully developed enough to really make the reader care about them. As I have said before, for me, the appeal of fiction ultimately comes down to, in no small part, compelling characters.

The book bills itself as a thriller, a piece of fictional entertainment, even if it is based on true events and is trying to present a certain message. I don't mind a book with a message nor am I saying that I disagree with the message, but I am saying that I don't want to be hit over the head with it and be well aware that I am being hit over the head with it. If I am, I think the author has failed his primary task, which is to present us with a compelling story and with characters we care about.

A few wonderful, gripping scenes in what I found was ultimately a rather disappointing book.

Available From Amazon

for another opinion, check out...
Presenting Lenore

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Let me introduce you to Sam!

Here is a picture of my new TOY purchase. It is a netbook, a wee computer, in this case a Samsung NC10. I must say that I love it. I bought it mostly for travel, in anticipation of a cruise I am taking in the spring, and gave it a test drive on my weekend trip to Florida this weekend.

I admit it...I am a bit addicted to my computer. But having internet access is just so very useful when you are on the road. And add a flash drive with a bunch of books (free e-books from various internet sources) loaded on it and a bunch of games on Sam (as I have decided to call the new TOY tool) and WiFi access at more and more places like the hotel and the airport and coffee shops and Micky D...well, I love to travel with a computer.
But as compared to my laptop that I have traveled with before and was a bit of a pain to carry around, the wee Sam is a joy. He is diminutive (that is a trade paperback in the picture and he easily fits in a medium size handbag) and light (about 2 1/2 lbs) with a 6-8 hour battery life, a very readable 10.2 inch screen, almost full size keyboard, Bluetooth, memory card reader, Ethernet, webcam, three USB ports and a bunch of other stuff...well, you get the idea. On the down side, there is no optical drive, which is a bit of an issue, but the price you pay for the small size and easily worked around I find.

Did I mention I love it?

Come here Sam...let me polish your keys...oh, you are such a pretty little netbook, yes, you are... :-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Thinger, looking for the cheap and easy.

Once again it is Tuesday, and in spite of the fact that I worked last night after just flying back home from a wee weekend vacation in the Sunshine State and am very, very tired...but now, you don't want to hear my issues, do you? But you will hear about the trip soon anyhoo, because there was a LIGHTHOUSE and the World's Cutest Dog involved. But until then, this weeks Tuesday Thinger from Wendi's Book Corner.

Today's question: Do you post links to your reviews? Here on Library Thing, or anywhere else? How else do you like to promote your site?

I post my reviews here, of course, and usually a shorter version on Library Thing and usually, but not always, that shorter version on Amazon as well. No where else.

Do I post links to my reviews? Well, sometimes. I used to be very good about it and post links on a couple of Library Thing threads, like Penny for Your Thoughts. But more recently I have not, for no reason except that I am a wee bit lazy at times. I mean, there is the whole thing of having to first read the book, and then writing the review and posting the review with hyperlinks and downloading a cover image...josh, golly gee, I am tired already!

Of course, I guess that part of the point of writing reviews, beside my own amusement, and I am easily amused, is too get others to read and comment on what I write. Enjoy it, get an idea, share some thing I liked, whatever. But to do that, they do have to find the blog, right?
BTW...let me just take a moment to say I LIVE FOR YOUR COMMENTS! PLEASE COMMENT! (hmmm...does guilt work? let's see!) So if you read my wee blog from time to time, please take a moment to say something, preferably something really clever, but I will take what I can get. PLEASE!)

So back to my point. I know a degree of self promotion is important to get someone to read what you post. But I guess I just hope that readers will somehow be attracted by the quality of my posts and forced by curiosity to come back often. Since that is not always successful, I guess that I should work on the promotion more. But there in lies the problem. It is work! And takes a lot of time! And I have a bit of an issue with the whole book giveaway thing, as I have commented on before. And only so many hours in the day.

So I will be interested to read other's answers, hoping maybe to find some good (easy, quick, cheap) ideas. That's me...easy and cheap! :-)

Monday, February 2, 2009

I think I will muse this Monday.

Well, I have seen the Musing Monday meme around, so I thought this week I would join it. So, this week's question...
How do you choose what do buy from your local bookstore? Do you have a list, or just browse? What is the selection in your book store like? Do you find what you're looking for? Do you feel pressured to buy the kind of books the store makes prominent?

Well, the first problem is that I don't really have a local bookstore. Not an independent bookstore, so the two nearest bookstores are chain stores. One, a smaller local chain and then one of the BIG chains. The smaller chain store is someplace I might drop into if I was nearby, but not make a trip to. They carry a lot of discounted remainder books and sometimes you can find a bargain and then they always have the bestsellers. Beyond that forget it. Pretty hit and miss.

And then you have the BIG chain store of which I have spoken before. A nice place to waste some time, have a cuppa tea and a cookie, glance at the magazines, listen to some music...oh, and yes, they do have some books. It seems fewer and fewer books all the time, since they seem to need to make room for greeting cards and stationary and gifts and CDs and all sorts of non book items. Which is their prerogative...but if I am looking for a specific book, I have found from experience they may well not have it. A bestseller, yes; a big classic, most likely, but often a cheap edition and beyond that, don't get your hopes up. If I am looking for a specific book or a specific edition, most likely I will end up getting it from Amazon.

Do I have a list? No....I can't even remember the list for the supermarket, let alone for books. I tend to find books that I want online, from other's reviews and such and just go and search for it online right then. A list of wanted books is too organized and I hate the delayed gratification.

I never feel pressured to buy what they have on display. Just as I don't feel pressured to buy what Oprah is pushing or what 'everyone' is reading. I often find that the books 'everyone' loves are not really my cup of tea. So I tend to pass those tables see what might be hidden off in a corner.

Of course, I shouldn't really be buying any books, since I have enough for quite awhile right