Monday, August 31, 2009
I have to say, this has been my least favorite in the series so far. I just didn't find the mystery very interesting. I also wasn't convinced of Aurora's relationship with her new beau, Martin. She seemed to fall in love way too fast and he just doesn't seem like a good fit for her in my mind. However, I'll continue to read the series to see where Aurora's story goes.
I received an ARC of Linwood Barclay's Fear the Worst through Shelf Awareness. I whipped through this book in no time. I had not read anything by Linwood Barclay before. I would compare him to Harlan Coben. This book has a very similar story line and flow to many of Coben's novels.
The novel starts out with a typical exchange between a divorced father (Tim) and his teenage daughter (Sydney). They argue, she leaves the house mad, heading off to work. He, of course, feels awful about their argument and looks forward to her returning home in the evening to work things out. However, she never comes home. None of her friends have seen her. And when he goes to the hotel where she supposedly works, they tell him they do not know who she is and that she's never worked there. Huh? This starts Tim on a chase throughout the rest of the book to find out what happened to his daughter, hoping she's still alive, and saving her from whatever she's gotten herself into. As Tim delves deeper into the mystery of Sydney's disappearance, he slowly becomes a suspect with the police and not only is he chasing Sydney's kidnappers, the police are chasing him.
I enjoyed this suspenseful novel. It was a fast read and it held my interest. There was not much that bothered me about it. I think I enjoy Coben's writing just a bit more, but Barclay definitely deserves a read. I've since picked up No Time For Goodbye from Bookmooch and look forward to getting to it at some point. I'm not sure this book fully falls into the Mystery category, but it's close enough to be included here in Mystery Monday.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I received this book in the mail, I believe I might have requested it from Shelf Awareness, but I didn't remember and it was a fun treat to have it show up in the mailbox. I really should keep better track of which books I request from Shelf Awareness.
Now, I have a huge TBR pile (or shelf really) and I am 9 books backed up in review copies to get read and posted, but I put all of that aside when I received this awesome little book. Freshly removed from the mailing envelope, I flipped through the pages and was immediately taken in by the illustrations! And knew I just had to get to it next. I couldn't wait to finish the book I was reading to grab this one. And in fact, I was completely bored and disengaged from that book (Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore) and tossed it aside to start this one right away.
Flawed Dogs is the somewhat sad and nearly tragic story of Sam, a pure-bred dachshund who finds his way into a young girl's heart. Heidy has been kicked out of an all-girls school and ends up living with her uncle. Sam enjoys his life with her there, until Cassius--another dog resident at the house--creates a devious plot to get rid of Sam from the house so Heidy would then have room in her heart to love him. Because of Cassius' tricks, Sam is cast aside (and thought to be dead) from the house and must learn to survive on his own. He survives losing his hind leg in a hunter's trap, escapes from a university research lab, resides in the National Last-Ditch Dog Depository, and finds his way into the care of the Rough-Handed Man who tries to win money with him in a dog fight. All of this leads Sam to find a poster for the Westminster Dog Show featuring none other than Cassius! Sam begins to plot a revenge plan that requires him to utilize the canine friends he's made throughout his journey. Dog show chaos ensues.
Page 56--Sam and Heidy
Page 109--Cassius comforting Heidy after Sam's departure.
Page 153--Dogs in the National Dog Depository watching Lassie.
Page 189--Sam at the Westminster Dog Show
I was actually just a tiny bit disappointed in the story of the book. It was written quite well, it was just a bit on the dark side and kept getting darker until the very end. Sam had such a good spirit it made me sad that he had to go through all he had to go through. And here I am talking about a character that is a dog! So I guess I have to say Berkeley Breathed did write a good book that could make me feel so much about an animal character! Much of the story is written from Sam's point of view, so his character really comes alive. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Elise Broch's Masterpiece. Not similar in type of story or anything like that, but in how Broch managed to bring the character of a beetle to such life.
The images in addition to short chapters make this a great book for a reluctant reader or a reader transitioning from chapter books to full-length middle-grade novels. And it is definitely worth checking it out just for the illustrations! Berkeley Breathed has also written a picture book called Flawed Dogs: The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton Last Chance Dog Pound as well as Pete & Pickles and Mars Needs Moms among others. He is also the creator of the comic strips Bloom Country and Opus.
The book goes on sale September 17, 2009!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
All that aside, I'm thinking of joining in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IV Challenge. I've never done this before but have seen it in past years and it looks like fun! I plan to read creepy and/or mystery-type books before Halloween anyway, so I might as well have them count for a challenge if they are going to fit in with it anyway, right?
Here's what I was planning on reading in September and October:
--The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein (Cannot wait for this! I LOVED The Crossroads last year)
--Creepers by Joanne Dahme (wanted to read this last winter and decided to wait for Halloween time)
--Coraline by Neil Gaiman (been on my TBR list for awhile, a great time to knock it off the list)
--Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain (won this through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Enjoyed Cain's first two books in the series and looking forward to this one)
I was hoping the second Joy of Spooking book would be out this fall, but I'm not sure when it is supposed to be published (anyone know?!). That would be another fun book to read around Halloween.
If this sounds like a fun challenge to you! Head over to read Carl's post and sign up! And here's a link to the R.I.P. IV Review website as well.
Allison husband, Matt and my husband, Andrew have known each other since third grade. They were in each other's weddings, Matt is our younger daughter's Godfather, we spent several New Year's Eves together. You get the picture. Through all of this, Allison and I have gotten to know each other and realized we have many of the same interests. When Allison quit her job and decided to stay home and then had Lilah, we began emailing all the time. Just random tidbits about our day. She helped me learn how to knit and encouraged me when I got discouraged. We had an online book club with about 8 or 9 members that pretty much ended up with mostly Allison and I talking about the books. It fizzled out and I decided to start a book blog to keep track of what I was reading and asked Allison if she wanted to join along. The rest is history and our book blog has evolved into what it is today. The very sad part of this story is that Allison and I RARELY get to see each other IN PERSON! We email almost everyday, if not everyday. And the last time I saw her was when Lilah was about four months old!
We had such a fun weekend! We got together at the Racine zoo with our families so our kids could get to know each other a bit. And then we ditched the kids and the guys (they had a playdate) and had a very girly lunch at place called The Secret Garden in Kenosha. It was the type of place you would go to have tea, very quaint and flowery. And after navigating tons of construction, we visited a great yarn shop called Fiddlesticks where I indulged in a few skeins of yarn and a pattern and Allison restrained and bought only one skein. ;-)
(I think this photo is hilarious because my Lily is pouting and Lilah is yawning or yelling--not sure which)
Hopefully it won't be over two years before we see each other again!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
In Book 2: Rescuing Seneca Crane, Kari and Lucas travel to Scotland when Kari's mom is assigned to write about a thirteen-year old concert piano prodigy, Seneca Crane. Kari and Lucas are mesmerized by Seneca's abilities and love hearing her play. Kari is both star-struck by Seneca and in awe that she's just a normal teenage girl. The three girls hang out and become fast friends. But Seneca winds up getting kidnapped after a tremendous performance with the Orchestra Pacifica during a Scottish Highland festival. The girls find themselves once again in the middle of a mysterious situation that takes them to a small village and traipsing through the Scottish mist and bramble patches on a secret mission to save Seneca hidden away in an old castle.
Kari's mom is yet again conveniently absent from the story which allows the girls to take charge and problem solve on their own. One of the best lines that sums up the book well:
Like I said, this all seemed totally random at the time. But if things hadn't happened just like they did--the changes in Mom's travel plans, the cake in the cemetery, the cell phone on the dresser, what Seneca saw through the opera glasses, even the tarot cards--the story would have happened in a very different way. (page 70)
My thoughts: Honestly, I actually was expecting to like Seneca a little less than Lucretia just because I was being a snob about it being about music instead of art. Not that I don't enjoy classical music as well. ;-) Even though I loved the art historical storyline of Lucretia, I really thought this novel was more cohesive. Instead of Kari and Lucas sort of going all over the place to figure out the mystery, it was very focused. They seemed more mature. They took charge, and even though they were cautious, they thought through all their plans and did what they thought was best for the situation. They problem-solved and were quite smart about everything. There was a bit in the book where Kari's ability to fly fish comes in very handy. I love that a female character is shown to enjoy and excel at fly-fishing, casting, boating and knot-tying; something that is typically seen as a male dominated activity.
I recommend Book 2 in the Kari and Lucas Mystery series just as much as the first! And the good news is that Susan has already written the first draft of Book 3! Make sure you rush right out to purchase a copy of Rescuing Seneca Crane which hits bookstores TODAY, August 20th! And if you haven't read Mystery of the Third Lucretia, grab a copy of that as well!
After reading Lucretia and noticing that Susan Runholt was living in St. Paul, I made the effort to contact her and tell her how much I appreciated reading Mystery of the Third Lucretia. She was so approachable! And I have fully enjoyed our exchanges. (Seriously, if you like the Kari and Lucas series, write an email to let her know!!) She so generously sent me an advanced copy of Rescuing Seneca Crane and she also agreed to answer a few interview questions!
Please read and enjoy her answers below. I was so delighted she agreed to do them and couldn't wait to read through them!
Have you always been a writer?
Probably one way or another. At least I’ve always written, but not always fiction.
I was an English major and took two years of creative writing with the late Minnesota writer Frederick Manfred, author of Lord Grizzly, among other regional classics. I was named Best Creative Writer of my University of South Dakota graduating class.
But really the only writing I did for many years after college took the form of letters, especially during my 18-month residence in Europe: Amsterdam followed by Paris. One of my friends saved the letters for me, and some of them are pretty good!
Most of my reading has always been in the mystery genre, and sometime along the way I decided I could write a mystery as good as much of what I was reading. But it wasn’t until I moved to the Twin Cities in 1988 that I decided to get serious about writing a mystery book. Only took me 20 years before I was able to get a book published!
Your daughter, Annalisa was the inspiration for Third Lucretia and collaborated with you on it. Is she continuing to help you with the follow-up books in the series or are you on your own now that you have the characters established?
She reviewed and made good suggestions for Rescuing Seneca Crane, but didn’t collaborate, largely because she was living out of state. Now she’s back in the Twin Cities, and I’m again looking to her for a bit more help. She’s now reviewing the manuscript of my third book. When she gets it finished she and I are going to sit down and bounce ideas off each other on ways of approaching some of the changes I want to make.
Do you hope to keep writing these books or do you see a finite line for Kari and Lucas?
Right now I’m having so much fun hanging out with Kari, Lucas, Gillian and the rest of the recurring characters that I project writing one of these books a year until I die. Of course, at some point I may tire of them and switch to something else.
I’ve told many people that the two do grow up. But I see perils in this. They have four adventures at age 14, and I think I can manage to get six into the following year. That’s a total of 10 books. I’m not sure I can sustain the voice or the same readership if they turn 16, so that may imply a 10-book limit. I guess I’ll just have to let that play out.
Choosing the Lucretia storyline was such a personal thing (please visit Susan's website to read more of the back story behind Lucretia). How will you choose topics in the future? Your next book, Rescuing Seneca Crane focuses more on music, Scotland and even architecture. How did you choose this topic? And is Rhapsody in Blue one of your favorite pieces? Or Annalisa's perhaps?
I absolutely love Rhapsody in Blue, but the reason I used it was because in the 1990s it was the theme for United Airlines, and I thought my young readers would be able to identify it. Couldn’t think of any other piano concerto that would be immediately familiar. Obviously United abandoned the piece long ago, but I let it remain Seneca’s concert piece.
I love the strong female characters you have created in your books. Fun role models for young girls reading your stories. I also think not enough young people are exposed to culture and the arts today. Did you have a love of art growing up, or was it something you came to enjoy more when you were visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art with your daughter?
I actually began going to museums when I lived abroad after college. They were free in Amsterdam, I was broke, and seeing the art gave me great pleasure. I had also traveled a bit before settling in Amsterdam, and had made it a point to visit a number of the great museums in London and Paris. Then I moved to Paris and was able to make repeat visits to the marvelous museums there. I’m a great traveler—go abroad every chance I get—and virtually everywhere I go, one of my first stops is a museum. One of my true goals as a writer is to introduce young people to culture and the arts in a way that demystifies it, makes it friendly and approachable and, more importantly, interesting, and aesthetically compelling.
So far you have dealt with art history and music/architecture, do you want to give anything away about the third book in the series? ;-)
Book three is set in Kenya and concerns thefts of rock art from an archaeological site.
What is your absolute favorite place you have traveled to and why?
What's next on your to-do list?
Aside from issues of family health and well-being, what I want to do more than anything else in the world is to be able to quit my day job and just write books for a living! Mind you, I love my work as a grantsmaker, but I want to be able to be a full-time author. The day that is possible I’m going to throw the biggest darn party Saint Paul has ever seen!
Friday, August 07, 2009
Each of the sixty-four chapter titles is named for one of the sixty-four possible coin throws by which the I Ching (the Chinese book of changes) is consulted. In less capable hands, this would have been an annoying gimmick, but Hawkins uses the I Ching lessons as steps in Maryanne's spiritual journey, giving her wry observations the weight of age-old wisdom. Maryanne is a likable narrator, an average person seeking meaning in her life and a bit lost in the universe. Her method for finding herself is unorthodox but believable, her reflections on her spiritual development both profound and matter-of-fact, included alongside her recipes for the comfort food she prepares to console everyone around her. Hawkins's clear, lovely prose is a perfect backdrop for the straightforward thoughts of her protagonist, who is never preachy in her spiritual musings. Maryanne is so delightful, and her voice so earnest and witty, that I found myself hoping that she would find what she was looking for.
A YEAR OF CATS AND DOGS is an engaging yet reflective story of a likable woman searching for meaning in her cluttered life, and I highly recommend it.
Available October 1 in hardcover from The Permanent Press. Pre-order from Amazon here.
A Year of Cats and Dogs by Margaret Hawkins
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
39 Clues: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (Holly has read this, too, and is waiting patiently for me to do my part of a joint review)
Seducing The Spirits by Louise Young*
Every Boat Turns South by J. P. White*
Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch*
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper*
Smart Mama's Green Guide by Jennifer Taggart*
If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay by Lara Zibners*
A Free Life by Ha Jin*
Etta by Gerald Kolpan*
The Twilight series
*Not yet read
Monday, August 03, 2009
This is the first in what appears to be a new series from Quartey. The promos for it suggested that if you like The Ladies #1 Detective Agency, you may enjoy this one. I had some mixed feelings on this one.
The story of Darko Dawson, a detective in Accra, Ghana's capital, is like his name, a bit dark. A young woman, Gladys is murdered in a small town outside the capital and Darko is sent to help with the investigation. While trying to solve Gladys' murder, memories come flooding back of visits to his aunt's house as a child (she lives in the region) and of his mother's disappearance 20 years earlier. His mother had gone to visit his aunt for a few days and never returned home. His mother's disappearance and Gladys' murder become entwined and in the end both end up getting solved.
The character of Darko is very well-written. We completely understand him from his troubled childhood (dealing with his mother's disappearance and his brother's accident that leaves him in a wheelchair) to his current life with a loving wife and an ailing son who needs a heart operation. Darko has a violent side that he lets loose every now and then. And he's a very smart and dedicated police detective. I can see where he will be a good series character.
I felt the other characters were not nearly as developed which is fine and may come with time as the series progresses, but my chief complaint is that there seemed to be too many of them! I was having a hard time keeping track of everyone. It wasn't until I was about 2/3rds through that I felt like I finally had everyone down.
I really enjoy reading books set in Africa. I like reading about the culture and the enviornment and this one is no exception. Though, I'm not sure I would compare it to Alexander McCall Smith's series very much, except in setting perhaps. It was interesting to read the contrasting cultures of Accra (the big city) to Bedome (the rural community).
I may pick up the next one in the series whenever it comes out, but I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it to be published. Wife of the Gods came out July 14th so you can find it at your local bookstore now!
I won Linda Fairstein's Lethal Legacy in a contest back at the beginning of the year.
This is the newest book in the Alexander Cooper mystery series. I had not read any other books in this series, but I deviated from my general "start at the beginning of a series and work forward" rule. Part of this novel is set in the New York Public Library which is what drew me to it.
A young woman is murdered while clutching a valuable rare book. A.D.A. Cooper and her police counterpart Mike Chapman work together to uncover the crime and its connection to the rare book world.
I have to say I give this one 3 stars. There were things I really liked about it. And then things that just plain bugged me. So first the good, I love the Special Collections and rare books aspect of the book. I even found all the details about old maps to be interesting. However, the characters didn't really draw me in (maybe because this is just one book in a series and a later one at that--maybe the character has already been developed in previous books). And the pace of the book was VERY slow. It took me forever to read this book because there was not much gripping me to keep me from putting it down. I really love the cultural aspects of this series. But, it's lacking the excitement and thrill I hope to find in reading a more "serious" mystery.
I was looking for a quick cozy book to read and the second book in Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden series fit the bill nicely. One of Aurora's cohorts from the Real Murders Club--Jane has passed away and inexplicably left her estate (house, jewelry, and savings) to Aurora. This both baffles and excites the librarian as she sorts through what Jane left behind.
Aurora spends time at Jane's house sorting through this and that, meeting the neighbors, pondering what to do with her windfall, all the while trying to figure out A) why the neighbors on the street have all had their houses broken into, and B) why Jane had a skull hidden in her window seat.
Even though the "mystery" of this one was not particularly deep or involved, I really enjoyed it. I like Aurora as a character and enjoyed her exasperation with having her ex-boyfriend (whose newly married and expecting a baby) living across the street from her. I think Harris does a terrific job of writing Aurora's character very real. All of her thoughts, reactions, and emotions are very genuine. I'm looking forward to continuing this series.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
I tend to be also be a bit leery about books that have too much hype (ie: The Book Thief and Twilight) because I tend to have high expectations and they fall short for me. I decided to finally jump into the Hunger Games last weekend and boy, I wasn't the least bit sorry!!!
For those who have completely ignored the hype of this book, Katniss and her sister and mother live in District 12 of a country called Panem (it is explained that Panem used to be America and District 12 is located where coal country or Appalachia used to exist). Every year the Capitol pulls two names (one boy, one girl) from each district to participate in The Hunger Games. They release these 24 individuals into an arena filled with whatever environment the officials choose for that year and they must fight each other to the death until one is standing at the end, the victor. The catch is that the Games are televised reality show style all across Panem. And the officials can introduce anything they want into the Arena to move the Games along. Katniss ends up representing District 12 in the Games and since we know the series continues, the ending is fairly predictable.
But however predictable the ending is, getting there is quite interesting. One thing I really liked about Hunger Games is that the main character is a very empowered young woman. She has had to work hard her whole life to survive and even though she does not have much, she makes the most of it. She's very intelligent and cunning, as well as athletic and logical. And really Collins wrote many of the female characters to be smart, athletic, interesting characters (Foxface and Rue). Some of the male characters in contrast seemed of somewhat inferior intelligence and some of them were just big oafs!
I believe Collins could have ended the Hunger Games with the winner returning home wrapping this up into one nice novel. I'll be curious to see how the next two books play out in the aftermath of what happens at the Games. And I'm wondering if they'll be able to keep up the excitement or if the story will drag along. We'll see! Early reviews of Book 2, Catching Fire are all very good and promising.