Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome Book Clubbers!

So, last night we had our first neighbourhood book club meeting. It was a blast. When Karen, Susan and I first talked about it a few months back we had no idea how many neighbours would be interested. Even though we come from a very small neighbourhood/community (3 streets, less than 40 households), it turned out that quite a few of them were readers. While a few people had other commitments, there were 13 of us at the meeting! How cool is that?

Rather than all read the same book, we thought we'd try something a little different in that we'd just get together and talk about books. Our favourites and not-so-favourites were all game. No pressure, no staying up until 3am the previous night trying to finish the assigned book.

We ate, drank and talked about books. There were lots of recommendations and I had trouble keeping up with them all. I managed to scribble a few of them down, though. Some people even brought books to share or talk about. That was awesome! Lots of different books with lots of different tastes, although I was secretly pleased that there were at least a few mystery lovers, like me.

Besides telling the group about this blog, I recommended two books:

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Buchanan. To see my review, click on the link. To start reading, there's a link near the bottom of the review that will take you to the HarperCollins Canada website. I also told the group how gracious and approachable Cathy is. She really is wonderful. I can't wait for her next book.

Room by Emma Donoghue. I haven't written my review yet, but this book is unbelievable. To start reading, click on the link. I hope to post my review within a week.

I wish now I had taken a picture of us all so I could have posted it here. Someone remind me for next time!

Well, that's it for now. If you were at the meeting last night, thanks so much for stopping by. I still have most of the books that I've reviewed here, so let me know if you'd like to borrow one or two of them and I can bring them to the next meeting. See you next month!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Silenced by Brett Battles

In The Silenced, Jonathan Quiinn is a professional cleaner. No, not the janitorial type. He job involves removing bodies from crime scenes to make sure they are never found again. He's not a killer, but his hands are not exactly clean either. He's just been hired to remove a body from a building that's scheduled to be demolished. The thing is that the body has been there for 20 years already. When he discovers that he's being watched and his family is threatened, he realizes that this is no ordinary job. He has to get to the bottom of this intricate web to not only save his life, but save the lives of those around him.

Awesome book! It was fast paced and well written with a smart, complex and edgy plot. The story alternated at times between the bad guys and Quinn and his team. I loved this method of storytelling. It added lots of suspense to the story and kept me on the edge of my seat. The plot was filled with twists and turns while the action was non-stop.

Even though the part of the story takes place in numerous international locations (Asia, Europe and the US) I was thrilled to see that one of the locations in the book was a place I'd actually been to, Warroad, Minnesota. I was even more thrilled when my home town, Winnipeg, was mentioned (page 252). Believe me, that doesn't happen very often. Later on, the Lake of the Woods was mentioned, which is where I spent many summers during my teenage years. Who knew that part of an international plot could reach into my own backyard? Very cool.

Jonathon Quinn was a very appealing main character. He's already been in a number of books, so I guess lots of readers like him. Now that list of readers includes me. I loved reading about his job and the way he does it. Even though what he does in on the shady side of the law, he does have his limits. He's an expert at getting himself and his team out of jams. He's a man of mystery with a secretive past. Besides, Quinn, the book has some other interesting characters, namely Orlando and Nate.

Highly recommended. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for the other books featuring Jonathon Quinn.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Brett Battles's website.

Thanks to Dana Kaye from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

The Silenced by Brett Battles, Dell (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780440245674(Mass Market), 401p.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

In State of the Onion, Ollie Paras, the White House's Assistant Chef, hits an intruder with a frying pan. She did what the Secret Service couldn't - stop him in his tracks. There's something unusual about this guy, though, and later when he contacts her to meet up with him, she can't resist. What she doesn't realize is that this one act could jeopardize her relationship with her Secret Service boyfriend and put her in a lot of danger.

This is the first book in the White House Chef Mystery series and the second one I've read from the series. It always amazes me when I pick up one of Julie's books. I've read enough of them now that I know I'm going to like it, but it still surprises me that I love it so much. This book is very well written with a well thought out plot and believable characters. I found it interesting and inviting from the first few pages.

One of my favourite characters is Ollie. She isn't the type of amateur sleuth who ignores her job to go snooping around to solve the mystery. No, she takes her job very seriously and does it exceptionally well. It's just that the mystery and clues to solve it just seems to come to her. Well, sometimes she does a little digging, but not to the point where she does everything but her job.

I like the White House setting very much. Even though it's fictional, it's still interesting to read about the inner workings of it, especially the kitchen and its staff.

I love it when authors include recipes in their books, especially when food figures prominently in the story. Julie has included several in this one. I love that they are simple enough to make in an ordinary home kitchen. My mouth was watering over the discussion on Brussels Sprouts and goat cheese. So much so that I immediately turned to the back of the book to see if that recipe had been included. Darn, no such luck. Nevertheless, I'm going to try a few of the one that were included, like Garlic Mashed Potatoes and maybe the Baklava Stuffed with Almonds, Pecans and Pine Nuts for dessert. Yum.

Julie also writes another series, Manor House Mystery series. It, too, is tons of fun and exceptional as far as cozy mysteries go. So far I've read two books in that series. For reviews, please see the Review By Author page on this blog. I'd recommend them all.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Julie Hyzy's website or her blog.

State of the Onion by Juile Hyzy, The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin), ©2008. ISBN 9780425218693(Mass Market), 325p (includes recipes).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

In The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, Holly, a writer/poet, is up against a wall. Not only is her agent is pressuring her about writing her new book, but she's also being squeezed between an ailing mother and a daughter who's off to college. Did I mention an irritating husband and a fast-approaching fiftieth birthday? Poor woman is near the end of her rope. It's a good thing she has a creative outlet.

I adored this book. Sonya Sones is absolutely hilarious. I'm naturally drawn to books that are a little quirky. This one certainly fits the bill. If someone would have told me that I was going to love a story that was written entirely in verse, I would have told them that they were nuts. I don't even read poetry, never mind enjoy it. However, I'm so glad that I ignored my inner cynic and tried this one. I'm still not sure I'm going to enjoy other books like this, but it certainly has opened my mind in regards to at least giving them a shot.

I loved Holly and could sort of relate to part of her plight. My fiftieth birthday is still a few years off, but I already feel like it's looming over me like a dark cloud. I could definitely connect to her poems about her irritating husband and how he was driving her nuts. The poems were priceless. I commiserated with her about feeling overwhelmed with everything that was going on. I know the feeling.

As for favourite sections, there were a bunch of poems that made me laugh out loud. However, I don't really want to whole poems in my review. Besides, they probably won't be as funny out of context. I did find one line from a poem titled What to Expect When Your Husband Goes Into Therapy that made me smile:
Your self-esteem
will reach such an all-time low
that you'll send yourself emails
and report them as spam.
Highly recommended. I'd love to read more of Sones's work.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollinswebsite.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Sonya Sones's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780062024671(Uncorrected Proof), 416p.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Library - Part One Complete

I have lots of books. Way too many really. When we moved 2.5 years ago all of those books got packed into boxes. Well, some of them were already in boxes because I didn't have enough shelves or even places to put them in the old house. While space was no longer an issue after the move, I still didn't have bookshelves for the books. So the books sat packed away in boxes again. That is, until recently. Our 2 1/2 story house has a wonderful attic area that we turned into a library.

Bear in mind that it's not done yet. We still need to remove the texturing on the ceilings and sloped walls, paint, then put in flooring, baseboards and new lighting. That's going to be a year or two away. Also, right now, the area is only accessible by a pull down ladder in the hallway. Eventually, we want to install a spiral staircase that goes between the master bedroom and the upper library floor.

Anyway, here are some before and after photos. The angles of the shots are different so it'll be a little hard to see that they are the same areas:

There are three more bookcases tucked into the storage area on the left hand side above.   There's another storage area on the right hand side, but it doesn't contain any books.  There's one more area that's not pictured above.  It will eventually have the spiral staircase coming up into it and possibly a window seat/reading bench.  

Like I said, we still have work to do, but at least the books can breathe and I can see them.  Hopefully, at some time I'll have time to review the bookcases we purchased and assembled.  

I think I have some weeding to do.  Book weeding, that is.   As much work as this was, getting rid of them is going to be harder.   I'll let you know how that goes, too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes

In A Hard Death, Edward Jenner moves to Florida and works as a medical examiner after having his medical license suspended in New York, where a terrible incident has left his career and life in tatters. He needs a break but he's not about to find it here. First, he finds the bodies of his boss and the man's wife in a car, then a phone call leads to more bodies in the swamp. This forensic pathologist, turned medical examiner, must navigate new ground in order to solve these murders.

This was such a good book. Great in fact. It was fast paced, edgy, exciting and all round fantastic thriller. I had a hard time putting the book down. I loved all of the forensic details that Hayes includes. Being a veteran forensic pathologist, he doesn't shy away from the details about the bodies and the deaths. I don't think it was overdone or too much, but other readers might feel differently. I loved it!

I don't know a lot about Florida or about the immigrants who work in the fields there. The information that Hayes provides is interesting as well as troubling. It's hard to believe that the workers could be treated so badly. I'm sure this isn't typical (or at least I hope it's not), but their lives in general can't be easy.

I liked Jenner. I liked him despite the fact that he wasn't a fun-loving, easy-to-like type of guy. He seemed a little rough around the edges and a tad broken by his experience in New York. As for the other characters, there seemed to be a lot of them. That's my one complaint about the book. I had a bit of trouble keeping them all straight. After awhile I started making a list of the new ones I encountered. That helped a lot.

I love short chapters and was thrilled to see them in this book. However, the storyline and writing style didn't exactly fit with them as much as I would have liked. That is, they didn't add as much suspense as they could have. Having said that, I still appreciated them and enjoyed the book.

New words:
allée (page 82): promenade, French
etiolated (page 167): feeble and spiritless
guayabera (page 210): light shirt
clerestory (page 238): top of a wall with windows
vulpine (page 349): fox like

Highly recommended. I can't wait to read more of Hayes's work. I'm definitely going see if I can find a copy of the first book featuring Edward Jenner, Precious Blood.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and his other work, please visit Jonathan Hayes's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780061691768(Uncorrected Proof), 409p.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - On Wednesday

It's time again for another instalment of Needlework Tuesday, hosted by Heather at Books and Quilts . Yes, I realize it's Wednesday, but I figure it's better late than never. Right?

Heather was kind and generous enough to send me a couple of knitting/crochet books. I already have my eye on a project (or several projects) in the knitting book, however, I'm going to have to brush up on my crocheting before attempting anything out of the other book. It should be fun. Thanks a lot Heather. You inspire me.

The next set of projects comes from the "vault". Because I'm still moving/unpacking boxes from our move 2.5 years ago, I'm finding "new" stuff all the time. Just the other day, I found a small box labelled Hardanger.

I fell in love with this craft the first time I saw it. It's amazing. Here are two of the projects I've completed. There are a few more, but they must be in another box somewhere. I hope by the time I move again, I'll have unpacked all of the boxes from the last move. *sigh*


Small pillow

Close up of the detailed section.

I still have some of the supplies and a couple of books. However, it's been many, many years since I've attempted this stitching. I really hope to pick it up again one day.

That's it for now. Don't forget to pop over to Heather's website Books and Quilts to see her finished boxer shorts. How cute! Also, Lit and Laundry is working on a beautiful autumn needlepoint.

Wordless Wednesday - Leapin' Lizards - Another creature because of the flood