Monday, February 28, 2011

Musing Monday..Let Me Grab My Rose Colored Glasses

I am late on my Musing today.
Jury duty is over...justice has been done,  and it is back to work...and let me tell ya, I had a lot more time to read and muse and blog when I at jury duty!
So late, but here is the question this always from Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asksWhich do you prefer: Adult -or- Young Adult books? Or, both? Why?
To tell you the truth, before I started blogging and reading a lot of book blogs, I was not really aware that there was this whole genre called Young Adult or YA books. Now I have read some, but I wondered if there was some sort of definitive explanation of what makes a YA book and who better to ask than Wikipedia! So what do they say. Well, pretty much that it is a very wide and rather fluid term. It can be science fiction or mysteries or fantasy but a great deal of it falls into a contemporary fiction with a sort of 'coming of age' spin. Usually the protaganist is a young person and very often, especially in the ones of the last couple of decades, "has portrayed teens confronting situations and social issues that have pushed the edge of then-acceptable content."

I know many of my fellow bloggers may disagree with me. I know many read a lot of YA books themselves and like them a great deal, but I can't really say I share the same enthusiasm.  I guess this whole issue of how these edgy topics, this 'acceptable content' is handled  is where I begin to have a bit of a problem with some, maybe a lot, of these YA books. The author of the entry in Wikipedia goes on to list a large number of books in this genre and the issues the books deal, incest, rape, drugs, depression, alcohol, kidnapping, drug trafficking, self-mutilation, suicide, abuse, violence...the list goes on and on. Charming...
I touched on this idea in a YA book I reviewed awhile was a book that most bloggers loved and I surely did not. Yes, I am not naive enough not to know that some of these things, some of these issues, will actually effect some young people. A sad and tragic situation, but really, is it so common, so pervasive that kids have to be exposed to it again and again? Am I naive to think that the world they experience in books might be unlifting and nobel and least sometimes? Is it wrong to think that even kids that are having a hard time in their lives might not find in books an escape, a vision of a better world?

Kids are not fully formed. Their view of life is limited. You know the idea that we are what we consume? Well, we are...we are what we eat, and how we spend our days, and what we watch on TV and the games we play, and the sites we surf on the internet and the books we read. All these things form who we are, how we see the world.  I am afraid that with young people it is even more powerful, they they are even more vulnerable to all these negative, 'edgy' images and they might really draw young people down instead of helping to lift them up.

And I really wonder if most parents even know it is an issue. They might worry about what their kids might see at the movies or experience in a video game, and often with cause. But they see them reading a book from the library and think that is great and never consider that maybe the parents should be checking the books out before their child reads it.

Now, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush. I have read a few YA books that I liked and thought were good and would be happy to see a child reading. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy was, I though, entertaining and explored some important ideas in a pretty positive way. Yes, they were pretty violent in places...but I don't really think they were ever negative. And then take the books of Jacqueline Woodson, several of which I liked a great deal. They are books that, yes, deal with some of those 'edgy' topics. But they do so in such a sensitive, almost quiet way, and are so beautifully written that even while they can be sad, they are still positive and hopeful.

Bottom line, I am not very impressed with a lot of what falls in the YA category...and if I were a parent, I would be carefully checking it out before little Johnny or Susie reads it. Maybe getting them some copies of Anne of Green Gables or Treasure Island or The Yearling...


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sammy Sunday


Smile Sammy...It's Sunday!!
..and you are So-So Cute!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Cooking..The Perfect Cheesesteak?

I am really not a big sandwich eater, but if you read my blog, you might not know that. Several times over the course of my Weekend Cooking posts, it seems that I have written about favorite sandwiches and this week are we going to take a look at what is maybe my very favorite...The Cheesesteak.

The cheesesteak is a Philadelphia classic and every fan has their favorite cheesesteak emporium. Famous is the competition between two Philly shops, Geno's and Pat's, but in my mind, without question, the crown of best cheesesteak belong squarely some 60 miles west, in Atlantic City, at the world famous White House Subs. You have never heard of the White House? Well, let's take care of that!

To my mind there is a Philadelphia style cheesesteak, which is ok, and then there is a perfect cheesesteak, the White House cheesesteak, which is very, very good.
Some things are the same. The meat used is usually very, very thinly rib-eyed steak that is fried on a griddle, usually chopped up with a metal spatula as it cooks. Sometimes it is cooked on a bed of onions, so the meat does not dry out and become overly done. But from the minute that you put it on bread, the differences take over. In Philly, they use a softer, torpedo shaped roll, a soft roll, often the Amoroso brand. Eeek! No, a really good sandwich deserves a really good roll and in the Atlantic City area that means a fine, fine bread like those found at Formica's Bakery, conveniently located just down the street from the White House. A whole sub will use the full, thin, long loaf of bread, a 'half' will be...well, half a loaf, about 12 inches long. Firm, chewy, delicious and able to stand up to the hot, moist ingredients of a cheesesteak without falling apart.

Then there is the cheese. Many places in Philly offer Cheese Whiz or American cheese on their cheesesteaks. Oh, heavens, that is so, so wrong. The cheese must be real provolone cheese. Period. Cheese Whiz is an abomination.

Now, some variations are allowable. Fried peppers, certainly those aforementioned fried onions, may be added. Sometimes tomato sauce is added, making a pizza cheesesteak. Messy, but good. For beef haters (you poor people) there are chicken cheesesteaks, where the chicken is also chopped up as it cooks. For non-meat eaters, at many places you can get a hot veggie sub, where a variety of veggies, like spinach, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions are fried up, topped with cheese on the grill, with the split roll tented over it for a minute to melt the cheese then slid into that lovely Formica roll. Personally, I am a fan of the cheesesteak hoagie, where the cooked meat and cheese, cooked on that White House grill that has seem countless sandwiches ahead of yours, are topped with fresh tomato and lettuce, hot peppers on the side, all wrapped in white paper, and slipped into a brown paper bag for you to take out.

They do serve other subs and I am sure they are quite good. I know the Italian is excellent, bursting with a variety of cold cuts and cheese and there are also turkey and tuna and a whole board on the wall listing others I have never had..because how can I not get the cheesesteak when I am there??
The White House is an Atlantic City institution, with photos of countless celebrities that have eaten there over the decades lining the walls. And speaking of lines, you will often find one in the summer, winding out the door as people wait to snag one of the booths inside. The pace inside can be frantic and to tell the truth, I often find the people who work there rather intimidating. Best to call in your order ahead when they are busy, and have someone circle the block in the car as someone else runs in to get that fragrant paper bag, full of cheesesteak goodness.
Did I mention perfection?

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Review of "Maisie Dobbs" [13]

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0142004333
May 25, 2004, 320 pages

From the opening paragraphs of Maisie Dobbs we realize we have in this young woman, for whom the book is named, a bit of an enigma. The newspaper vendor, who is observing her as she leaves the tube station of London in 1929, noting her appearance, her bearing, and assume she is from old money. But when she stops to buy a paper and speaks to him, he realizes his assumption is not quite right. From the familiar way she deals with him he know that while, yes, she certainly is a young woman with a certain presence, she is not from old money. As we follow her to the office where she will be setting up her private detective agency, quite the unusual occupation for a woman in the 20's, we can not help but be intrigued about what her story might be. Happily, in this, the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series, we are going to find actually that out.

Maisie is not from a wealthy family, in fact quite the opposite. Just 13 years old when we meet her, her mother dead from an illness that depleted the small savings of her father who sells vegetables from a horse drawn cart, the future her parents saw for her appears gone. Maisie is a smart girl, a very smart girl, and they hoped to be able to save enough money to continue her education. But that dream gone now, she is sent to work as a maid for a very wealthy family in their beautiful London home, a home that contains what is for Maisie something she can not ignore...a wonderful library. The young girl starts rising in the very early hours of the morning so she can spend an hour or two in secret, reading all these wonderful book.

When she is discover by the Lady of the house, she fears she will be fired, but in fact, realizing what an exceptional mind Maisie has, Lady Compton allows her to start a program of study under the tutelage of family friend, Maurice Blanche. Maurice is a man with an extraordinary perceptive nature, his own rather mysterious background and quite the education it will be. This arrangement will continue for years, finally culminating in her admittance to Cambridge. But all will not go quite so smoothly because across the Channel, war, the Great War,  is breaking out and soon Maisie will be in the thick of it as a nurse.

As the book opens, it is a decade after the end of the war, but her very first case, a husband who thinks his wife may be unfaithful, will soon lead to another mystery..then another, and before she knows it Maisie..and the reader...are being drawn back to the battlefields of France. It is an experience that left Maisie, and the countless men who came home wounded in body and in mind, some horribly disfigured, and so many who never came home, changed forever.

I first read about this series in a review by She Is Too Fond Of Books who is taking part in the “I’m Mad for Maisie” Readalong at Book Club Girl’s site. I may be late to the read-a-long but this is certainly a series that I will be continuing in my own time, because this was a very enjoyable book. At the heart of that enjoyment is the character of Maisie. She is very smart, very clever and like her mentor Maurice, very perceptive. Yet she is also still a bit of a mystery, with some questions that will, no doubt, be explored in future books in the series. Honestly, I am not usually a fan of historical novels, but the author is able to make Maisie's experience in the War so personal that the reader can not help but be drawn in and shocked by what we 'see'.
And while this is in part a mystery story, it is also very much an exploration of personalities, and families, and friendship. We see her with her charming and loving father Frankie, her mentor Maurice, her benefactor Lady Compton, her friends at Cambridge and as she starts her business and finally, most tragically, with Simon, loved and 'lost'. Each is a relationship that, no doubt, we will see more of in future books, much to the reader pleasure.

A good story, with an interesting if not too complicated mystery, a fascinating setting, wonderful, unusual characters, great writing..what more can a reader want?
Well, how about six more books with the eighth, A Lesson in Secrets, that will be published by HarperCollins in March 2011.  I have a lot of catching up to do! So many little time....

Borrowed from my local public library.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Will Be Back...

Of course, I got picked. I always do...
But I am happy to do my duty and fulfill my obligation as a citizen.
Well, pretty much.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A review of "Out of the Deep I Cry" [12]

Out of the Deep I Cry (A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312312626
April 26, 2004, 336 pages

In this, the third in the Fergusson-Van Alstyne series, once again we are back in the Adirondack Mountains of NY, in the town of Millers Kill. We will soon be pursuing mysteries of the past and of the present and following the latest development in the relationship of the Reverend Clare Fergusson, ex-military helicopter pilot and present day Episcopal priest of St. Alban's Church and Russ Van Alstyne, himself a retired career military man and now the town sheriff.

When the roof of the historic church springs a very bad leak, threatening to damage the stained glass windows and the beautiful interior and soon bring the roof in on their heads, Clare realizes they will have to come up with a good sum of money and come up with it quickly. So it seems like a godsend when one of the vestry members, Lacey Ketchem Marshall, offers to liquidate a trust fund that was left to her by her deceased mother to pay for the repairs. But Clare is not quite as happy to find that it will mean a loss of some of the funds that go to support the local free clinic, a clinic that was also founded by Mrs. Marshall's mother.

And that woman, Jane Ketchem, is also at the center of one of the mysteries in this book, a mystery that reaches back to the 1920's. She was a woman surrounded by tragedy, with the loss of 4 of her young children to diphtheria and then the loss of her husband, who just appears to have wandered off one evening, leaving not a trace. She was a woman who was a bit feared by some but also an admired woman, for her gifts to the town of the clinic, her gift of paying for the education of the doctor that has worked there for the last 30 years and leaving a trust that has helped support the clinic to the present day. But Clare can not help but wonder how a widow, seemingly a woman of modest means, with no job, was able to pull off that financial trick.

And it is that clinic doctor, Dr. Allan Rouse, whose disappearance is at the heart of the present day mystery. Everyone says he had been upset recently, maybe depressed, so did he kill himself, just wandering off on to the half frozen lake. Or did he make someone so angry that they lost control and did the unthinkable. It does not take the police long to find one very obvious suspect..but what happen to the body?

And then, of course, as with all the books in this series, we have the developing relationship between Clare and Russ. There is the problem that Russ is married, and actually in love with his wife, the wife that Clare actually gets to meet in this installment. But neither Clare nor Russ can deny that what they are feeling is more than friendship. Clare knows that she is playing with fire, and they both try to do the right thing...but doing the right thing is often easier said than done.

This is a series that really should be read in order...which attentive readers may have noticed I am not. Do as I say, not as I do!
But because of that, I know some of the developments in the whole Clare/Russ saga that take place in future books in the series, but worry not, I will spill no beans!
Still, what do they say...the course of true love is never smooth, and I must say that I find their relationship just a little annoying. They are always walking a fine line, with occasional trips over that line. Maybe Clare, the Good Reverend, needs to reread that part in the New Testament about how he..or she...who lusts in the heart commits adultery. I guess I should be happy in a book these days that the issue of being faithful to one's vows is considered important at all but still...
It also drives me nuts that Clare is still driving that totally impractical car in the snowy mountains in this installment. If she has to call AAA or get someone to tow her out of the snow one more time, I am going to

But these small annoyances are far outweighed by a very well written and very engaging story, with a couple of good mysteries for the reader to figure out. The book takes us back and forth in time, from Jane Ketchem's story in the 1920's to the 1950's,  to the present day, and back again, revealing the information we need bit by bit.There are a number of interconnected plot lines, from the past and the present. This could have been confusing, but I think the author pulls it off very well. As in all the books in this series the author also weaves in a few timely issues, in this one foremost is the question of the safety of vaccinations and the storyline presents a conclusion that you may or may not agree with, but which is always interesting. And finally, as always in Fleming-Spenser books, at the heart of the mysteries are the stories of some great characters, well told, stories laced with guilt and heart breaking decisions and very real human emotions.

A very good series...and yes, one best read in order.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Musing Monday...We Are Family...

It Monday, so it's Musing Monday time, as always hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s Musing Mondays post asks…In honor of the Canadian “Family Day” holiday, today, I’m curious… What was the last book (or, what was your favorite book) that dealt with family? What did you like / dislike about it?

When I first read this question, a couple of books that I read recently came to mind, books that clearly had a family at the center.
But when I though about it a bit more, I realized that many, many books, sometimes in a slightly less direct way, have family at the core of the story.
Which only makes sense, because we are all the result of a family of some sort, aren't we, and if a book explore a character, that often involves his family.

Take a book I just finished, but have not reviewed yet, Maisie Dobbs. Yes, in part it is a conventional mystery, since our heroine is a private detective in England of the 1920's. But in reality, a lot of the book is about getting to know Maisie and how she came to this unusual job for a woman of this era. Part of this is, without question, her relationship with her family. Key to Maisie is her relationship with her father, with who she has a wonderful loving relationship, and her deceased mother. But it also about the relationship she develops with the woman she goes to work for as a young girl, who in many ways becomes a second mother and has a huge role in guiding her life. This book speaks about how a strong, loving parent can be so important to a child, even when they must do things that cause themselves heartache in doing so. And I also love the idea that 'family' is not always just determined by blood, which I think this book explores.

A second book that comes to mind, maybe because I loved it so much, is Safe From The Sea. Perhaps this one is a bit more conventionally about family because relationships...rocky, strained, endangered, wished for..are at the center of this book. We have a father and son struggling to reconcile before death separates them and then we see how that son, shaped by his absent father, is still playing those issues out in his own relationship with his wife now. This parent is almost the exact opposite of the father in the first book, but nevertheless, has a huge influence in the man his son became. The son is a good man, who loves his wife and even, in a way, loves his father, as his actions attest, but still can not escape totally from the effect their relationship had on him.
I liked this book so much that even though I read it as a free e-book I had to go buy a hard copy to I need more books....

What would authors...and psychiatrists...have to talk about if it weren't for families?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking- Now This Is a Frying Pan!

I am sure we all have a variety of frying pans in our kitchens and, no doubt, a couple of them may be nonstick pans. Great when they work..not so great when they start not to. I remember when nonstick pans first appeared and they were pretty bad. Very easily scratched, and after a time the nonstick surface would start to peel off. Yes, peel off. Not to worry, the manufacturers said, it is not dangerous. Really?? Oh really??
Now, they have come a long way since those early days, but regardless, even with state of the art new materials, the nonstick surface start to deteriorate from the first time you use it. In fact, according to a manufacturers group, a nonstick surface can only be expected to last a year and a half to two years. So what to do?

Well, my friends at Cook's Illustrated, who love to test and rate kitchen equipment, have a suggestion. Buy a good nonstick pan, but a not too expensive one and realize you will have to trash it after awhile. The pan they have recently recommend is the T-Fal Professional Total Nonstick. I looked around and you can find them in the $25-$40 range depending on size. So 2 years for $40..not too bad I guess.
Of course, there is also the issue of a very hot pan giving off deadly fumes..enough that they can kill a pet bird....but don't worry...probably won't hurt you...probably...
Even though I don't have a bird, I am cheap and hate to spend $40, knowing I will have to replace that pan is a relatively short period of time. I have enough suggestion, one that I have starting using, or actually reusing,since I read that article.

Cast iron.

You see that pan in the picture? It was my mom's. That is one of the pans she used all the time when I was a kid. That pan is at least 50 years old and as good today as it was then. To quote my friends at Cook's Illustrated again....

"Over the past 30 years, nonstick skillets have taken the place of cast iron in most homes. But with disturbing reports about the effects of nonstick coatings on the environment and our health, we decided to take another look at cast iron to see if it's worth bringing back into the kitchen.

Cast iron has always been known to have a few advantages over other types of cookware. Its material and weight give it excellent heat retention for high-heat cooking techniques such as frying and searing. You can use it on the stovetop or bake with it in the oven. Its durability is legendary—many people are still cooking with cast-iron pans handed down for generations. Unlike most consumer products, cast-iron pans actually improve with time and heavy use."

Nothing holds heat like cast iron, nothing sears like cast iron. Nothing last like cast iron. Use it on the stove, or the oven, or a grill...or even an open fire. They are pretty cheap. You can probably get a good size pan...Lodge is the most available brand I think...for about $15-20 bucks. And remember, it will last forever.

Yes, it is a bit heavy. I also have a cast iron Dutch oven and it is substantial. You could hit someone with a cast iron pan and most likely kill them..
And yes, cast iron requires a bit of maintenance. You have to keep it from rusting, by keeping it dry and 'seasoned'. But the funny thing is, the more you use it, the better it is and easier to take care of. 
The surface needs to be 'seasoned', but if you use it regularly, and wash it properly, it will be fine. Don't use soap or very hot water when washing it. Once the pan has cooled and is just warm, I wash it with warm water and a scrubby sponge. If the surface seems too dull, re-season every once in awhile by heating it, applying some solid shortening and sticking in a warm oven for 1/2 hour and then wipe it dry or any excess oil. I will probably always keep a small, not too expensive nonstick pan for things like eggs..or crepes, if I even make a crepe. But for 95% of the times I need a frying pan, I will reach for my trusty old cast iron.

And I promise you that you will have a great pan that you can hand on in your will when you are long gone.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, February 18, 2011

E-Readers...My Confession...

If you are a regular reader here, you may have read some of my rants about e-books and e-readers in the past. I have issues with them. Serious issues. With the whole idea of e-books and with the specifics of e-readers in general and, especially with the Evil Kindle, in particular.
I have tried to control myself and not write about the subject recently because I was starting to annoy even myself.

So, this may be a shocking announcement, but the other evening after work, I went to the local Best Buy and plunked down my hard earned moola and bought myself a Nook. Yes, an e-reader Nook!

You may ask..."Why? Have you changed your mind about the negative aspects of e-readers? Don't you still love 'real' books?"
And the answer is no, I still have serious issues with e-books and e-readers. And yes, I do not think the experience of reading a real book, holding a real book, smelling a real book, looking at a real book on your shelves, will ever be replaced with an e-book. It just reached a point where the negatives were starting to be outweighed, or at least balanced out, by the positives.
It is like I made a list, with the pluses on one side and the negatives on the other, and the positive list appears to be a tiny bit longer.

As my tidying up of the house at Christmas reminded me, I am running out of space for books. I took a number of the piles I had scattered about, of books read and, more importantly, books unread, and put them in big plastic tote boxes. 4 big boxes just dented the surface.
So, thought I, maybe I should borrow more books from the library. And then I noticed that I could also borrow e-books from the library with a program called OverDrive. Either way, I do not have a physical book to deal with when I am done. And it is free.
I tried it on my phone. Granted, the number of books available at this point is rather limited...but it is so easy. And so cool, as I read the Fanny Flagg book I recently reviewed on my phone. You might think it would be too small on the phone, but actually, it was fine for me.
Then I read a review of a book, the book I reviewed yesterday, Confessions, and it sounded interesting. But it is only available as an e-book. Yes, I could buy it and read it on my phone or my netbook, but I figured, with the e-reader prices where they are now, so reasonable, maybe I should just take the leap into the 21st century.

I had done some reading about the different readers out there and had pretty much made my mind up as I went to the store to take a look at all the different offerings out there. But the saleswoman at Best Buy, a fan of the Nook, cinched it up for me.
So why a Nook...and not say, an Evil Kindle? Because, first of all, I do not want a reader I will always call in my head Evil. I have a strong objection to Amazon's proprietary software on the Kindle. Yes, if you are a computer genius, there are ways around it. But I am not that smart. I prefer the Nook and it's ability to easily deal with several different formats.

I like that the Nook is compatible with library programs like Overdrive and that again, easily, I can borrow books from my local library with a Nook...and can not with a Kindle.
Also, recently I have downloaded a number of e-books, most advanced review copies, from NetGalley. I have read them on my netbook, an OK experience but not ideal. One that I thought would be better, without question, on a dedicated e-reader. But as those of you who know NetGalley may have noticed, they have had some issues recently with e-books being downloaded to Kindles for the last few months. When I received an e-mail from them saying that maybe in the next few months the Kindle issues would be fully resolved, and which I assume means maybe it will not be resolved in the next few months, it was the last nail for me in the Kindle coffin.

Personal, I like the look and feel of the Nook better. I find navigation with the bottom color touch screen more natural. I like the options on page turning more. I like that you have the option of adding more memory by putting in an micro SDHC memory card. A battery you can replace yourself is a plus. The Nook uses page numbers, which I like. The Nook is clean and neat, with just a few buttons and very easy to use without reading a manual. From what I can see, the books available are just as numerous and about the same price. About the same number of free and 'deal' books on each site. And the basic readers of the Nook and Kindle are about the same price. OK, I decided to get the 3G/wifi Nook for $50 more. And a cover. And a wee light.

So, I did it. I bought a Nook.
And how do I like it? It is nice. It is light and easy to hold. It is nice to know that you can download a bunch of books and always have one on hand. For $6 I bought 100 classics, so I will never run out in a As you know, I read at work at night. Now I can have a few to pick from on hand without having to drag several heavy books in my tote bag. More room for snacks! I like that it marks what page I was on when I come back to read it again. And the books are so neat and tidy, never out of place. I can create shelves, different shelves to put them on.
Yes, I may have a touch of OCD.

But, I still have issues. I was looking at a book this morning. I checked it out on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Both had the e-book available for instant download for $9.99. Or I could buy a 'real' book for $8.99. Or I could buy a used hardcover or paperback for a penny + $3.99 shipping for a total of $4. With the two cheaper version I get something that I actually own and can do with what I want. Give it to my Sil, loan to a friend, give to the library, sell online, trade at BookMooch or PaperBackSwap. With an e-book..I have a file, that those who sold it to me, depending on their deals with the publishers, will tell me what they will allow me to do with it. Now the Nook and the Kindle 'allow' me to 'loan' most books...once, for a period of 14 days. Period. Wow, how nice of them.

And then there is the issue of spending a large sum of money on something that is tied to a business that may not exist a year, or 5 years, from now. Or to a reader that the company that makes it might phase out at some time in the future, requiring me to buy a new 'update' or reader to access my books. Don't think it can happen? Think those books are safe?
Ask owners of the Kobo, tied to Borders, who is about to declare bankruptcy. I got an e-mail from the president of Borders today, telling owners of Kobo, among other things, not to worry, that their books were safe and available on the Borders site. OK, maybe if the worse happens and Borders disappears, you will still have access to yours books... in some way. OK....I am not worried.
Maybe because I do not own a Kobo.

Honestly, I do not plan on buying a lot of e-books. I intend to use it for library books, and free downloads from NetGalley and other places where I might find a great deal. For a few real bargains, like the 99 cent Laura Lippman book, the first in the Tess Monaghan series, that I downloaded from B&N. Little ventured, little lost.

But, I have also found it will take self control to have an e-reader, something I have little of.
Say I am at work, and just finished a great book. I look on the Nook and see the same author has several other books.
Oh, that one looks good.
Hit BUY and I will have it on my Nook in seconds...seconds....just seconds...

Oh, temptation, thy name is Nook!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Review of "Confessions" [11]

Confessions:A Novel by Ryne Douglas Pearson
Schmuck & Underwood
November 2010

Father Michael Jerome is awoken from a restless sleep, dreaming again of when he and his sister were kids, spending the summer at the modest cabin at the lake that their parents own. A bittersweet dream, because his sister is now dead, shot in a grocery store holdup some five years ago. But the phone is ringing and duty calls, his duty as a chaplain of the Chicago Police Department. A policeman has been shot.

The world of cops is not new to Michael. He personally knows the policeman that has been shot but then he knows a lot of cops. His dad is retired from the force and these people, including the injured policeman's dad, were his friends.
Michael arrives at the hospital to find that, happily, the injury to the policeman is not as bad as first thought and that he will be fine. The same can not be said of the criminal who shot him. Taking a bullet to the head, he is not expected to live long and Father Jerome is called to his bedside where the man begs the priest to here his confession and offer him absolution. But when Michael hears what the man says in his ramblings, he is so shocked that he can not respond. It is not the shooting tonight that the man confesses, but the killing of a young woman some five years ago in a grocery store...Father Mike's sister.

It seems it was not a holdup at all, but a "hit".
And in pursuing the truth of what happened that night, what Father Mike's believes he knew about his sister and so much of what he has built his life on, will be shaken to it's very foundation.

This was a good book, a compelling read, but not without some flaws, flaws that seem to bother me more now, some days after I read it, than when I was reading the book. So we will get them out of the way first.
I have written about this before, but sometime small mistakes of an author just jump out and annoy me to no end. I am a Catholic. I assume Mr. Douglas is not..or was just a bit careless in his "priest stuff". A priest 'says' Mass, or celebrates Mass, he does not 'do' Mass. Never heard it said. And then most Catholics, unless they are trying to make some sort of point, capitalize the word is not 'mass'. When a priest exits the church from the altar at the end of Mass, the dismissal, he would be, as the celebrant, always the last in the procession, after the altar server and readers or deacons, not in the front as the author writes it. OK, those mistakes, little mistakes, just drive me nuts. Authors, get an expert to read the book before it is publish and find these things..please.

There is the whole 'seal of the confessional' thing. For those of you who are not familiar with Catholic beliefs, let me explain. What you tell a priest in the sacrament of confession is secret. Big time secret. Go to prison secret, go to your death secret...and there are priests throughout history who have in fact been killed rather than reveal what someone told them in a confession. Yes, it is that serious, that sacred an obligation. Yes, there may be a priest or two who has broken that obligation but it is rare, very rare. But poor Father Mike spills the beans, and to the most unsuitable person IMHO, in his journey to solve the mystery of his sister's death, so quickly, so easily, that my head was spinning.
Really Mike..just like that? And worse, he is not seemingly that upset about it. But then honestly, Father Mike does not seem like a very spiritual man. Maybe he should have been a cop like his dad.

Then there was the ending. The epilogue as it were, not the end to the mystery, which was a shocking surprise. Father Mike's world has been shaken to the core. I get that. But how he handles it is so cliche, so 'easy', that I was disappointed. Ok, enough of my 'issues'. I am sorry. Things like that just drive me nuts.

Now, the good and a great deal of good there is. First of all, Mr. Pearson is a lovely writer. Sometimes his prose is just so beautiful that it really makes this book rise above a common thriller. Very nice.
The characters are all very good, very believable and Father Mike is very easy to identify with as his world starts to crumble. Even when I found him a bit annoying, he is believable.
And the story..the story is very good. So good that I read the book straight through in one day because I just had to know what happened. There is one aspect of the mystery that I guessed but an ending that I did not see coming. Gosh. Very good and, when explained, believable.

As I said, Mr. Douglas is a very good writer and I look forward to checking out some of the other books he has written in the future. In the meantime, Confessions is one I would recommend.

This one is from my own library.
An e-book, something I may have to write about tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...What Can I Say...I Love Disney always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Review of "I Still Dream About You" [10]

I Still Dream About You: A Novel  By Fannie Flagg
Random House, ISBN 978-1-4000-6593-6
November 9, 2010, 336 pages

Maggie Fortenberry seems to have a very comfortable, successful life. At 60, she is still a very attractive woman, a  former Miss Alabama..which is still a bit of a big deal where she lives... and seemingly a quite successful Birmingham real estate woman with a nice life.
But Maggie sees it quite differently. She feels that she has missed so many opportunities in her life, made some very bad decisions and is looking at a future that will only get worse. She misses her dear friend and mentor Hazel a great deal. Hazel was the woman that founded the real estate business Maggie works for, a business that has gone into quite a decline without her leadership since her death five years ago. So Maggie has come up with a long list of reasons while it is now time that she 'disappear'. In fact, she has come up with a very well thought out plan to kill herself.

Happily for us...and ultimately for Maggie...her plan keeps getting interrupted, again and again, forcing Maggie to reschedule. First, it is little things like a concert she has promised to go to with her best friend and fellow real estate agent Brenda or a scheduled hair appointment or an amusing car accident involving some goats and a lot of cheese. Then it is a couple of big things, like a chance to take on the sale of the lovely estate called Crestview, a house she has admired since she was a child, and save it from the wrecking ball. That is the fate her rival, the very, very successful realtor Babs, has in mind for Crestview and she can not be allowed to succeed!  Then there is the fascinating mystery that Maggie discovers surrounding the history of Crestview and those who once lived there ..not to mention a very real skeleton in the closet..a mystery Maggie just must solve.
Even if it means Maggie must put off her plans for just a little longer.

Honestly, when I first started to read this book, I was a little put off by the storyline of Maggie's plan to kill herself, but in a short time I was won over and ended up enjoying this book a great deal.
Fannie Flagg is a very good writer and a writer who always has the ability to make me laugh...which is a great plus for me in a book.
Also, this is a book filled with great, memorable characters. Oddly Maggie, although the central character of the book, is perhaps the least interesting of the crowd in my opinion. But there is her best friend Brenda Peoples, battling her weight and her intrusive family, and determined to be the first black woman elected as mayor of Birmingham. Then there is 80+ year old office manager Ethel, lavender from hair to toe, because someone once told her purple was her color. And even though she is already dead as the book begins, we meet, through Maggie's memories, the wonderful character of Hazel Whisenknott. Hazel never let the fact that she was a midget, a little person, keep her from becoming a very successful businesswoman, a hugely popular public speaker, a beloved wife and a woman who had a great positive effect in the city of Birmingham and in the lives of countless people..including Maggie. Hazel is a great character, someone who will make you smile and feel good, and so nicely created by Ms. Flagg, along with a number of other great characters in this book.

Not least of which is the city of Birmingham itself. As the author Pat Conroy says about this book, "I Still Dream About You is a love letter to the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama, and it captures a South that seems both original and right to me."
Birmingham is a city that, with its history during the Civil Rights movement, might not have the most positive image in the minds of many, but this book will help to dispel that. Flagg loves this city, it's history, it's pride, it's people and is able to make an industrial city, once best known for it's coal mines and steel mills, sound charming and beautiful.

This is a book that is at times very funny, yet also touches on some very serious topics like race and suicide and is ultimately very hopeful and positive, maybe most of all about people being able to effect change and be positive forces. It is very well written, just a very good story, with a nice little mystery thrown in for good measure and has some great characters who you will not soon forget.

My thanks to my local library for the loan of this book

Monday, February 14, 2011

Musing Monday..How Do I Love Thee..

..let me count the ways.
It seems that this week we have a have a Valentine's Day question from the desk of Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing (in honor of St. Valentine‘s Day) asks two questions, but you only need to answer one…

If you read romance novels, answer this question:
Who are your favorite “romance” authors? Why?
If you do NOT read romance novels, answer this question instead:
Do you read love-themed books in honor of Valentine’s Day? Or, Valentine’s Day books, specifically? If so, give us some examples! If not, why not?

There, I made the question all pink. I think that is enough celebration of Valentine's Day!
"Patron of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages
269, Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270."
Poor St. Valentine might not recognize what has happen to his feast day, overrun with chocolate and roses and expensive dinners...and romance novels. All the rest might be good and fine..and another great money maker for Hallmark cards and jewelery stores...but I draw the line at romance novels.

"Hey! Wait! Aren't you the one who said you were happy to see people reading anything last week?"
Yes, but remember my last line about never wanting to be seem with one of those books with the cover showing a shirtless man with long, flowing hair. OK, if you like romance books, that is certainly fine. But really, tell me, what is with those covers? Is it to force you to only read them in the privacy of your home? Obviously the covers work, because they keep using them. Seriously, if women...and I assume it is virtually all women reading them...enjoy them, great.

But no, to answer the question in my usual roundabout way, I am not a romance reader nor a Valentine reader nor I am not a seasonal reader of any sort. No love-themed books for me this week. I don't really read Christmas books, or Thanksgiving books...and nothing with shirtless guys staring at me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Corned Beef Hash

When I grew up, back in the dark ages of the 60's and 70's, many mothers, most mothers, were stay at home moms. And while my mother worked part time in the family business, the vast majority of time, when I got home from school, she would be there, in the kitchen. Very often planning dinner.
Yes folks, there was once a time when the entire family would sit down at the dinner table together and eat an evening meal that mom had made. And my mother was a dinner cooker. A very fine dinner cook.

Now, she was not a breakfast cooker. She was a night owl and would often stay awake into the wee hours of the morning. Reading. So, as I remember it, for breakfast, the Bro and I were on our own a lot of the time. I do remember my mother standing at the stove stirring the occasional bowl of cream of wheat...maybe the book was really bad that night before.

But dinner...oh, she excelled at dinner. All those homey favorites...meatloaf and baked chicken and pork chops and casseroles. Every Friday was mac and cheese, sometimes with fried flounder, sometimes with cold canned tuna. And most Sundays was something roasted or cooked in the big cast iron dutch oven. A chicken, a pork roast, prime rib, leg of lamb, a pot roast, some corned beef. Potatoes and vegetables on the side, all sort of vegetables. And when you cook a big dinner like that, you often have leftovers. One thing my mother did not do was waste leftovers. She had all sorts of plans for those leftovers. Yes, you might make a sandwich, maybe a hot sandwich that would appear on the next night's dinner table. Or you could make hash!

Take that meat and chop it finely. Add some left over potatoes if you have them, also cut up or throw a few in a pot to cook if you don't. Now, get a pan heating, with a bit of oil. Add some onions, maybe a cup, to saute and a clove or two or garlic would be nice. When they are soft, add the cut up potatoes, a couple of cups, and then the finely chopped up meat, again a couple of cups. Corned beef is the classic, but you can make it with roast beef or pork, or ham or chicken...whatever you happen to have. You can also add some veggies if you have them on hand and want to use them up. I added about a cup of sauteed peppers that I had left over, red and yellow, so in the pan they went. Lot of fresh pepper and some salt to taste.
Mix them all together in the pan and them press them down firmly, cover and turn the pan down to medium low and leave it alone! You want it to brown, to form a crust on the bottom. So after maybe 5-10 minutes, lift up part with a spatula and if you see brown, crusty bits, turn it all over in sections. Again, press down, cover and let continue to cook. Since all the ingredients are already cooked, you are just heating and browning.  Browning is important.
Because everyone knows the brown, crusty bit are the best!

You can eat for lunch or dinner, but in my neck of the woods, hash, especially corned beef hash, is a breakfast dish, served with a nice egg and some buttered toast maybe.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A review of "Departures"

A film by director Yôjirô Takita
Starring Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki

Movie reviews are not my usual thing here.
Not sure why, since I love to share my opinions on most things.
But I had to share this time because I watched this movie the other day and liked it so much. I think it is so good but fear, because it is a foreign film, and about a slightly touchy subject, that it is a movie that not many of you will ever see.
And you should!

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009, it is a funny, sweet, moving and beautiful movie that, sadly, many Americans may not see...thank goodness for Netflix!
Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist for an orchestra in Toyota that goes bankrupt, decides to return to his hometown with his wife, to live in a house that his mother left him when she died and to start a new life. Looking for a job, he answers an ad in the newspaper for a job in "Departures", and that he assumes has something to do with a travel agency. Well, yes, a sort of travel is involved because his boss is in the business of preparing bodies for their trip into the afterlife. He is an encoffiner, someone who ritually cleans, dresses and grooms bodies, as the family looks on, before they are placed in a coffin to be cremated or buried.

It is a job that Daigo hides from people, even misleading his wife about what he does, because dealing with dead bodies is considered by many Japanese, and many worldwide, to be dirty. And to tell the truth, he is not too thrilled with it at first. It is often a very difficult job. But the pay is very good and in a short time he grows to respect and care for his elderly boss, Ikuei Sasaki, who becomes a father figure for him, since Daigo still suffers from his own father walking out on him and his mother when he was just a child. Most of all, he grows to respect the beautiful, precise and respectful ritual and the closure and peace it brings to so many families. He begins to feel that he is doing something very important and meaningful and something he must continue to do.

Now some of you might say, "Oh, that does not sound like a subject that I want to see in a movie."
And you would be wrong.
Yes, it is about death but it is about much more. It's about families, about love and loss and reconciliation. It's about telling those around you how you feel while you still have the chance and it is about the respect that we should pay to both the living and the dead. It is also beautifully filmed, with some lovely scenes in the Japanese countryside, including that one pictured on the cover of the DVD above, and has a beautiful, cello heavy, musical score. The film is framed by the beautifully filmed opening scene, which I suggest you watch carefully so as not to miss a reaction that will be explained later in the movie, and a touching closing scene.

But what really shines in this movie are the characters. Major and minor, each has a story to tell, as we discover as the movie unfolds. Some are funny...and this is often a quite humorous film...and some are heartbreaking sad. Yes, I will admit it, as much as I hate to, that on more than one occasion I had to reach for a tissue.

A sweet, moving, beautiful little movie that you really should not miss.
If I gave stars, I would give this one 5.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Snow In My Mind

The snow may be gone from the ground here now, but it fondly remains in my mind. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Review of "Breach of Trust" [9]

Breach of Trust by David Ellis
Putnam, ISBN 978-0399157103
February 3, 2011, 432 pages

He didn't know that I had an agenda that differs from the federal government's. They were trying to catch some swindlers. I was trying to solve a murder.
Jason Kolarich was trying to do the right thing for his family. Having left the county attorney's office for a much better paying job at a high power law firm, he was in the middle of a very high profile case involving a state politician. The hours were long and exhausting, but he never suspected that waiting for a phone call from someone he thinks has some information about the case would have had such devastating results for his own personal life. Waiting for that call, a call that could never come, would result in the death of his wife and his infant daughter.

It is a year later and Jason is, to put it kindly, drifting. He never returned to his old job, instead starting up a small, very small, private practice, so he was unaware that the informant he was waiting to hear from night was killed, murdered the same night Jason's own life was destroyed. And he can not help but believe there is some sort of a connection. He holds himself to blame for both incidents and while he knows that he can't bring back his family, he thinks he can find out who killed Ernesto Ramirez and find some sort of justice. Little does he know that he will soon find himself in the middle of an FBI probe of the corrupt Illinois state government, wire taps, secret meeting, kickbacks...and some people who will not stop even at murder to protect their positions.
"I am the son of a con artist. My father didn't teach me much in the way of ethics or set any kind of example for me. But I learned a lot about deception."
It is very lucky for Jason that he has that talent, because he will be called upon to use it, to stay out of jail and  to stay alive.

Let me say, I am not usually a big fan of political and legal thrillers. Often, they seem to get so bogged down in complicated details that I lose sight of the story. And it would certainly be possible in this book. There is a big cast of characters, any number of sub-plots, so many twists and turns, that this book could have been a confusing mess...except that Mr. Ellis is an excellent writer that turns it instead into a compelling, very entertaining book.

First of all, in Jason Kolarich, he creates a very good lead character, someone the reader can really identify with. Jason is not perfect, and he knows it, and the book is better for it. He is a loose cannon who doesn't, in a way, really care what happens to himself, who feels he has nothing left to lose, and that makes for some great, believable action. Then throw in any number of well developed, very interesting minor characters and a nice little personal story for Jason, and the reader is hooked. The plot is complicated, with a lot of people who have a lot of different motivations, but in Ellis's skillful hands it never become confusing. Also, the plot moves along in such a nice, steady pace that it always stays interesting which, for me and my short attention span, is really saying something.

David Ellis knows of what he writes, since he is a lawyer and was, in fact, the Impeachment Prosecutor in the trial of former Illinois Governor Blagojevich. But more than that, is he a quite good writer who is able to take his knowledge and experiences and turn it into a quite good book.
For fans of legal thrillers, a must read, but a book that any reader looking for a well written and entertaining book will enjoy.

My thanks to Library Things Early Reviewers program..and the publisher of course...for giving me a copy of this book.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Musing Monday...You're Reading What??

Let's wander over to Should Be Reading and check out MizB's question for us to muse about this week...

 How do you react to the “book police”? (people who judge what you are reading, and try to make you feel guilty) Do you respond to their judgments? Or, do you keep quiet? Do you let what they say influence your reading, or do you do your own thing, regardless?

I found these statistics online, quoted several places. Now, I am not sure how accurate they are, but if they are even close, I think it is truly depressing.
  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 
Folks, if you are reading this post and you are someone who reads books, understand that you are in a distinct minority. Most people do not read even one book in a year. And I think that is sad because they are missing something that is really good. For them...and for society as a whole.

Yes, like most of you I am a reader and I think reading is a very good thing. It is educational, it opens a world of experiences to us, it engages our mind in a way things like TV never can. And heck, it is fun!

So when I see someone reading in public, or someone tells me about a book they are reading, I am a happy camper...whatever the book might be. Sure, especially if it is in public, I am curious, but regardless, it always makes me happy to see a fellow reader. And sure, we all have certain types of books we most enjoy, certain genres that are our first choice and we might even be willing to argue, in a good natured way, why those books are the "best". Maybe we love non-fiction, maybe fiction. Maybe we love nothing more than to curl up with a steamy romance...or a giant tome about the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (Yes, Bro, I mean you!) But you know what? It's all good!

I can't say that I have ever run into the "book police" (do they have badges?) If you read MizB's post, I think her experience say more about these people's belief system than it does about any book or type of books. I am sure there are many, many books they would not approve of, but personally, I think more knowledge is always a good thing. I don't know if there is any book that someone might not find fault with.
But not me. Read whatever does it for you...makes you happy, makes you think, creates an escape, makes your toes curl.

Ok, I would not be seen in public reading one of those romance novels with the bare chested guy with the long, flowing hair on the cover..but otherwise... ;-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Cooking- In Honor of the Sputnik

When considering what to write about this weekend, I was moved by current events in making my decision.

First of all, if you listened to the recent State of the Union speech, you may have notice several references to the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth some 50 years ago. Then, there is the fact that most of the USA has been dealing with some very severe winter weather these past weeks. Record snows, blizzard conditions, dangerous ice storms...what to do?

Well, I am here to offer a suggestion.
Oh, you could take the traditional route and make some warming soup or a nice stew. Maybe some hot chocolate. But let us look to a culture that is famed, throughout history, for dealing with some very, very severe winter weather...the Russians! Hey, remember that scene from Dr. Zhivago, with the house with everything coated in ice?
But, you may be asking yourself, didn't we talk about borscht last week? Yes, we did, so it will not be a borscht recipe. Besides, I haven't found those beets yet, so lets go in a slightly different direction.

We don't have any true, authentic Russian restaurants, at least none I know of, here in south Jersey. But there is a restaurant at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, just a short drive away from CaiteLand, that serves some excellent Russian inspired dishes, like beef stroganoff, and Chicken Kiev and caviar and blinis, a restaurant named the Red Square. And the Red Square...named after a Russian place...has a lovely drink made with that oh so Russian beverage... vodka...and named after that first Russian satellite...The Sputnik!

You will need just a few ingredients.

  • Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka
  • Triple Sec
  • Lime Juice
  • A single raspberry
  • Ice
  • A shaker

Put some ice in the shaker.
Add 3 parts Raspberry Vodka. Now the Bro and Sil have done a study, trying several different brands and say to get the correct flavor, you must use Smirnoff brand.
Add 2 parts Triple Sec
Add 1 part lime juice. Again, after some testing, the Bro uses Rose's Lime Juice, a common drink ingredient. And you may not always have a fresh lime on hand!
Put on the shaker top, give a few good shakes, and pour into a chilled martini glass. Add one raspberry (hint...the bro keeps them in the freezer, so you always have them on hand too)...
The floating raspberry, of course, represents the Sputnik!

If you enjoy a cocktail from time to time, this a really delicious one.
Now how much alcohol is in this drink depends on how large that "part" is, what you use to measure with. All I know is, after drinking one, I just want to grab a pillow and my blankie and lay on the couch for a short nap.

There are worse ways to spend a cold snowy Sunday afternoon....

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Review of "The Devotion of Suspect X " [8]

The Devotion of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312375065
February 1, 2011, 304 pages

Recently on a Bloggiesta post at Rhapsody in Books' blog, she posted about the various subcategories of mystery and suspense books. But I forgot one it seems and this book, The Devotion of Suspect X, falls in that category. It is the "will they get away with it" category. We know who committed the crime, we how why, we sympathize with them, we may even want them to get away with it and the question taken on by the book is will they.

The murdered man, Togashi, is a nasty piece of work. When he comes to the apartment of his ex-wife Yasuko Hanaoka and his step-daughter, trying to extort money from them and physically threatening the girl, we are not terribly shocked when they end up, at least in part in self-defense, killing him. A bit more surprising is when their neighbor, a mild mannered math teacher named Tetsuya Ishigami, suspects what has just happened and offers to help them. He has a crush on the woman and decides, in an instant, to do whatever he must do to protect her from being arrested for the murder, and uses his considerable intelligence to concoct a plan.

We follow along as the police, as well as a professor named Yukawa, who is acquainted with both the lead detective as well as the math teacher, follow the clues, interview the suspects and try to figure what happened. We know what happened, right?
Well, it seems we may not know nearly as much as we think.

This is not a bad book, but I will tell you quite honestly, that I did not like it nearly as much as I thought I would, for a number of reasons.

First, I thought the translation was often quite awkward. This is not a story with much of a plot. The murder happens and then the majority of the book is taken up by conversations..the police talks to the teacher..the police talk to the ex-wife, the ex-wife talks to the teacher, the professor talks to the police detective...and the dialogue often seems stilted. Which is a major problem since it is a major part of the book and I suspect the translation is at least in part to blame.
Also, we never really get to know any of the characters, what they think, what they feel. In part, we see why that is at the end of the book, when we find out a rather major deception that we have been led to believe, but it does really leave us with a character to identify with. Oddly, as I only discovered after I had finished the book, this is part of a series in Japan, starring Professor Yukawa. Yet we don't even seem to get to know much about him or feel able to identify with him, which I suspect we should if he is at the center of a series. Also, the book is set in a Japanese city, which I thought would be really interesting. But I never really got a sense of the place the book is set in, which is a real shame.

I mentioned the ending...and a very good, surprising ending it was. A sort of double twist, which I would have appreciated a lot more if the journey there had been a bit more interesting. A good beginning, a great ending, but not quite enough to save this book for me.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to review. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Snowy Marsh always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.