Nov 22, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Being thankful

It's so hard to believe that Thanksgiving is this week! Since I was a kid, this has always been one of my favorite holidays, obviously partly because I look forward to our family getting together, which we don't do a lot throughout the year, and partly because of the food! Who doesn't love the food? I love to help prepare the meal and share it with my family. It is so nice to sit around the same table and be thankful we have one another. My family is quite small anymore so it just makes it all the more important to me to spend time with my extended family on Thanksgiving.

Another reason I'm looking forward to this particular holiday weekend is that I'm taking part in my very first Read-A-Thon! As you can see by the badge on the sidebar to the right, I've entered Thankfully Reading Weekend. This is an informal read-a-thon with no rules. It begins Friday, November 27 and runs thru Sunday, the 29th. If you're like me and you don't go anywhere near the stores this weekend, think about joining me and the other participants in this fun event. All the details can be found at Book Blog Social Club. I hope to see you there!

This is going to be a busy week for everyone, so I want to take the opportunity now to wish all of my book friends in the U.S. a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 20, 2009

Friday Finds 11.20.09

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. It's a place where we can share books that we've discovered this week that interest us.

I discovered my find this week while visiting Marce's blog, Tea Time With Marce. The book is THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf. It was released in July and as soon as she mentioned it in the same sentence as Jayne Pupek's TOMATO GIRL, I knew I would probably like this book. Here's a description from Publishers Weekly:

Gudenkauf's tightly plotted debut packs a lot of unsavory doings into a few unfortunate summer days in Willow Creek, Iowa. Seven-year-old Calli Clark hasn't spoken a word in the three years since a particularly nasty run-in with her violent, wife-beating father, Griff. During a bender, Griff suddenly decides to haul his mute daughter into the nearby forest, where they get lost. At the same time, Calli's best friend Petra goes missing, and a manhunt is launched, led by deputy sheriff Loras Louis, who still carries a torch for Calli's mother. Gudenkauf moves the story forward at a fast clip and is adept at building tension. There's a particular darkness to her heartland, rife as it is with predators and the walking wounded, and her unsentimental take on the milieu manages to find some hope without being maudlin.

What books captured your attention this week?

Nov 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Posterity

Today's question was suggested by Barbara
Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

This is a tough one! I'll do my best to answer, however, I don't think I'm the best person to ask as there are many classics (Dickens, for example) that I have not read myself. But here is my opinion on this interesting question.

The first thought that comes to mind is that the world is such a different place than it used to be during the time of Dickens et al. It's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. The number of books published during Bronte's era was minuscule compared to today's world. That said, I'm sure there will be authors from this era who will be remembered with the highest regard, but I don't think that necessarily makes their book(s) a classic.

That brings another question - does a book's popularity constitute its classification as a classic? I think not. There are many books out there written by non-formally trained authors that have soared to the top of the bestseller lists solely based on book sales, not content or literal ability. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that or that they shouldn't have their accolades, but lets not confuse them with a classic author.

On the other hand, I've read books by current authors who have been formally trained and are considered to be great authors of literature, and I couldn't get through the book for one reason or another. I think the labeling of books in our era is a very difficult thing to do. I think a book's classification is relative to the time in which the book was written. By that I mean, there are labels such as a 'new classic' and to me, that's just another way of saying a book is popular. IN MY OPINION. As for the question, Are there any books I would consider to be classics from our era? I would say if there are any, there are very few. I understand people may not agree with that, so let me just say in closing that there are many current authors who have written great books that have made their mark on the world and they do deserve to be remembered, but for me, the classic authors are etched in stone.

I hope I made sense of what I was thinking in my head and answered the question clearly. This is a topic that could go on and on! What's your take on this question? I'm quite sure there are many differing opinions of this one, so be sure to visit Booking Through Thursday to find out what other readers think.

Nov 18, 2009

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse Mystery Book 1) by Charlaine Harris

So many of you have already been reading the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Series, but as usual, it has taken me awhile longer to warm up to the whole vampire-loving themed books that are so popular these days. I've heard so much about these books and I was drawn to this particular series because of the southern influence. I've never seen the television show on HBO, True Blood, which is based on the books and I think I'll wait until I've read more of the books before I watch it. I don't want to spoil the characters images I have formed in my head.

For those who have yet to read these books, let me just quickly give you a rundown. In the first installment, DEAD UNTIL DARK, we meet Sookie Stackhouse, a twenty-something waitress at a bar in Bon Temps, Louisana. Sookie lives with her grandmother and has a pretty close relationship with her brother, Jason, who is a ladies man around town. Sookie isn't your average single white female. She has what she refers to as a 'disability'. She can read peoples thoughts. Sometimes they're clear, other times they can be jumbled up, which makes Sookie crave peace and quiet and is also the reason she has never had a real boyfriend. We also meet Bill Compton, local vampire. He has come back to Bon Temps to live in his family home and try to live peacefully and quietly among humans. This proves to be more difficult when young human waitresses start showing up dead and the locals are quick to accuse the vampires. This also complicates Sookie's life when she starts a relationship with Bill.

As I mentioned before, I'm not usually into books about vampires, but I must say that I really enjoyed DEAD UNTIL DARK. I found the characters to be interesting and likable and the story, although not an edge-of-your-seat thriller, was completely entertaining. I had my ideas of who the killer might be and there were times that I'd change my mind, only to change it back again. I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS to see what Sookie is up to next. I plan to continue to read all of the books or until I feel like I've had enough, but honestly, I don't think I'll get tired or bored of this series. It has the right mix of mystery, drama and romance that is needed to keep me entertained. I believe I'll be reading them all. I do have a ways to go since there are nine books in all and another new installment coming in October 2010. I'd better get busy!

Publisher: Ace Books
Published: 2001
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Nov 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: When She Flew

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for another teaser! This fun, weekly event is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and anyone can play along. Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let if fall open to a random page
  • Choose two teaser sentences to share
  • Avoid using spoiler sentences
  • Share the title and page of the book you're choosing your teasers from
This week, my teasers are from Jennie Shortridge's new novel WHEN SHE FLEW:

Somehow this man had maintained his dignity in front of his daughter through all of this. He'd been screamed at, held at gunpoint, threatened, searched, interrogated - things that might make another man feel powerless or broken. ~ page 105

You May Be Interested In This Recent Review:

Nov 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Too Short?

This week's BTT asks . .

"Life is too short to read bad books" I've always heard that. Do you read books all the way through to the end no matter how bad they are out of some sense of obligation? Or will you abandon a book if it just isn't working for you?

My response:

Obviously, no one expects to not finish a book when they begin reading, so it's always disappointing when one just lacks something. I, personally, don't have a definitive answer either way. Although I have abandoned books, I don't do it often. That said, I'm more apt to stop reading a book now more than before, because I'm reading more than ever and there are just so many I want to get my hands on. I really do try to give the book all the benefit possible and I'll go as far as 100 pages in before I finally decide I've had enough and just can't go on. There have been a few that I did finish and then afterwards, just shook my head and say Why did I waste my time? But that just makes me appreciate the next great book even more!

How do you feel about abandoning books? Do you do it or do you keep trudging on? Visit Booking Through Thursday for more responses to this question.

Nov 11, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: 11.11.09

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where we share what yet-to-be-released book(s) we are excited about. It's a great way to keep up with all the newest titles!

I'm especially excited about my pick this week. It's from an author I thoroughly enjoy reading. Here it is:

Author: Nancy Martin
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Genre: Mystery

Nancy Martin is the author of The Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series, a well-crafted mix of mystery, wit and mob-family drama and this is the start of her new series. It's a spin-off of The Blackbird Sisters and features Roxy Abruzzo, the half sister of up and coming Philly mob boss, Mick Abruzzo, the lover of Nora Blackbird from the previous series. I have no doubt that Roxy will be every bit as entertaining as Nora and I am so looking forward to meeting her. Click on the title to learn more about Roxy.

Nov 9, 2009

What Are You Reading This Week?

I had a decent reading week last week and managed to finis two books and get the reviews posted as well. One of the books was an audio version, which I don't normally do, but in this case, I was happy I did.

I finished and reviewed: (click on title for review)
  • TIME OF MY LIFE by Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi - This audiobook was narrated by Patrick himself, which made the experience all the better.
  • LOOT THE MOON by Mark Arsenault - This is an author I only recently discovered and one that I will read more of in the future.
Book(s) I plan to finish this week:
  • DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris - My first foray into the vampire genre and I must say, I'm enjoying this one so far.
Book(s) I plan to start reading this week:
  • WHEN SHE FLEW by Jennie Shortridge - courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers
  • FROZEN TEARS by Mary Ann MacAfee - I've had this on my shelf to read for several months and I'm hoping to at least get started this week.
Visit J.Kaye's Book Blog for more responses to the question 'It's Monday! What Are You Reading?'

Nov 8, 2009

[TSS] Loot The Moon by Mark Arsenault

I had never read any books by Mark Arsenault, so when I received a copy of this book from St. Martins Minotaur unexpectedly, I was curious. I did some research and discovered that LOOT THE MOON is Arsenault's second in a mystery series featuring Billy Povich, a down on his luck ex-investigative journalist now working the night shift writing obituaries for a Providence, Rhode Island newspaper. When he's not there, he can sometimes be found at the local dog track betting money he doesn't have.

The first book in this fast-paced mystery series is GRAVEWRITER, which was released in late 2006. Some early reviews I read about this second installment indicated that LOOT THE MOON could also be considered a stand alone novel. I was glad to hear that as this was my first Arsenault book.

In LOOT THE MOON, Billy Povich is approached by his friend Martin Sommers, a lawyer he used to do some investigative work for. Martin's mentor and a Superior Court Judge has been murdered and though the police have wrapped the case up, Martin feels there is more to the story and asks Povich to see what he can dig up. The man police say killed the judge, a low level thief, was also killed during the murder and it all seems just a little too convenient to Martin. There are facts that come to light that just don't add up. A few weeks before the judge was killed, he sentenced a local mob boss's son to life in prison and a public threat was made against his life. There's also the fact that the judge apparently was living a double life that his wife and son didn't know about. Then there is the judges brother, who is also a judge, but not as successful, who is sick and tired of living in his brother's shadow and is contesting the will. There's too many unanswered questions and Billy agrees to help his friend and soon finds his own life in danger, which tells him he must be getting close to the truth.

One of the things I liked about LOOT THE MOON is that it didn't matter that I hadn't read the first book in the series. The characters were easy to get to know and there weren't so many that it was hard to keep up with. I find that some mysteries have so many characters I get lost trying to keep them straight. That didn't happen here. Another reason I liked it is Mark Arsenault gets right into the meat of the story and you're off! It was fast-paced, kept my attention and was not unrealistic. The writing was smart and even had me chuckling at times at the wit. There's a personal story happening in Billy's life at the same time he's trying to figure out the mystery, and that balances out the book nicely.

The story is told from a few character's perspectives, which helps to get to know them, but is mostly told through Billy's eyes. The plot was very well thought out and kept me guessing until the end. All in all, I found this to be a very satisfying and entertaining mystery that I look forward to continiuing.

I will definitely be reading GRAVEWRITER very soon and I will be keeping up with this series. I like that the mystery was wrapped up in the end, but still allows Billy's story to continue. I think there will be many more interesting stories for Billy Povich to write.

Visit Mark Arsenault's website to learn more about his books and to read the first chapter of LOOT THE MOON.

Author: Mark Arsenault
Publisher: St. Martins Minotaur
Published: October 2009
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Nov 5, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: It's All About Me

This week's BTT question is . . .

Which do you prefer - Biographies written about someone? Or autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

This is an easy one for me. Autobiographies. Here's why: When I read about a real person's life, I want accuracy, not speculation. Although I'm not discrediting them, biographies are not first-hand accounts. In fact, some biographers don't even have the subjects permission to write their story. That is a big deciding factor for me when considering to read a biography. This may sound a bit harsh, but some biographies, especially the celebrity or even political type are a step above tabloid gossip in my opinion.

That said, historical biographies are a different matter. Obviously, if the person is deceased and the book is written after their death, it is impossible to have an autobiography. In that case, I simply keep in mind that not everything written may be factual.

As a rule, if I choose to read about a person's life, I always opt for the autobiography. If one is not available, I look to see if the person gave permission or contributed in some way to the biography.

Visit Booking Through Thursday for more responses on this subject or to participate.


Recent Reviews:

Nov 3, 2009

The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi (Audiobook)

In 1984 I watched a movie called Red Dawn starring Patrick Swayze and I developed an instant crush. Three years later came Dirty Dancing and my crush turned to full on LUST! Patrick Swayze was the sexiest man alive as far as I was concerned. I've lost count as to how many times I've seen that movie, not to mention how many times I wished I could be Jennifer Grey for five minutes! When I heard about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I was heartbroken. Having lost a friend to this brutal form of cancer very quickly, I understood immediately how bad this was.

I knew he and wife, Lisa Niemi were in the process of writing a book about his life and I decided when I discovered Patrick himself would be narrating the audio version, that's what I wanted. I'm not a big audiobook user, but in this case, for me, it was the only way to experience this book. And I'm so glad I did. Having Patrick narrate this book makes it a more intimate and personal experience because you feel like he's talking directly to you. Obviously, you lose the benefit of any photos in the book, but that isn't a big deal for me. Even during some really bad days while recording this book, his voice is even, strong and sexy as ever.

The start of The Time of My Life is Patrick explaining how he came to realize something was not right with his health and how it changed his life. Then, it's Lisa's turn to explain how that realization effected her. I believe, in the printed version, that is the prologue.

Patrick then starts telling his story from 1970 when he was a high school athlete, dancer and gymnast. He chronicles his career and personal accomplishments he and Lisa shared along with some really tough times in his personal life. It becomes obvious pretty early on how fierce his competitive nature was and how much he loved striving to be the best at whatever he put his mind to. But it was also clear that dancing was his first love. With a mother like Patsy Swayze, a very respected dancer, choreographer and teacher, it was inevitable he become an accomplished dancer in his own rite.

Although I've read a few reviews that felt the book is more of a rundown of his movie career than the story of his life, I feel differently. It's quite clear that for Patrick and Lisa, their movies and dancing were their life. They worked hard as a team on every endeavor they attempted and they gave each project 110 percent. This book shows that Patrick lived an extremely full life doing exactly the things he loved to do. He did have passions other than acting and dancing as well. He also loved horses and flying airplanes and therefore became an accomplished rider and pilot.

If there is one message that I will take away from this book, it is to live life to the fullest each and every day. That's what Patrick did. He wasn't afraid to tackle anything. He had incredible drive and it's that drive that enabled him to fight pancreatic cancer as hard as he did.

This book was very inspirational and interesting and I recommend it for fans of Patrick Swayze. In fact, if you get the chance to listen to the audio book, it will be even better, hearing Patrick in his own words and voice.

Author: Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: September 29, 2009
Discs: 5
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars