Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

>> Saturday, August 29, 2009


Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 208
Challenges:
Support Your Local Library Challenge #40


This is a quirky little romance story. It’s a quick read that I thought was enjoyable enough, but I didn’t love it.

Set in Sweden it’s the story of Benny, a 30ish bachelor dairy farmer and Desiree (nicknamed Shrimp) a 30ish widow who works as a librarian. They first meet at a cemetery where Desiree’s husband is buried next to Benny’s parents. Although they have a strong and almost overpowering physical attraction to each other, Benny and Shrimp find that the course of true love definitely does not run smoothly.

Told in alternating chapters by each of the main characters the story often overlaps to show their different perspectives on the same events. While I enjoyed a lot about the book I almost felt like the ending was awkward and almost as if the author struggled to find a way to wrap up the story.

In many ways it’s a very realistic portrayal of the awkwardness of developing a relationship when both parties have already established their individual lives, habits and interests. Benny and Shrimp definitely have very different ways of life – she’s more urban and enjoys reading and the opera. He’s a dairy farmer whose llifestyle has to revolve around the milking schedules and he’d much rather watch a movie like Police Academy.

I thought the struggles they shared in trying to figure out if they really could create a life together was done well with both humor and poignancy. It’s a little bit funny, a little bit sad, a little bit charming and for me a little bit frustrating. I found myself both liking and disliking each of the main characters at different times.

All in all I thought it was a quick and quirky little book, but the ending just left me feeling a bit flat. I think I might have liked it better without the last two chapters.



Rating 3/5

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Audiobook – The Snake, The Crocodile & the Dog by Elizabeth Peters

>> Friday, August 28, 2009


Series: #7 in the Amelia Peabody Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1992
Read by: Barbara Rosenblat

This continues to be one of my very favorite audiobook series. Set in the late 1800’s and primarily in Egypt, the series revolves around ahead of her time feminist Amelia Peabody and her (of course) handsome and brilliant husband Radcliffe Emerson. They work together as Egyptologists and Archaeologists.

This time around Amelia and Emerson are headed back to Egypt for the season and leaving their son Ramses with his aunt and uncle in England. Even separated by such a distance Ramses’ inimitable presence is felt in the story every time he sends a letter. As his mother says, one child like Ramses is quite enough for any woman. Amelia is looking forward to spending the season working alongside her husband as they did when they first met thirteen years earlier. Of course, that wouldn’t make much of a story, would it?

Events unfold that involve amnesia, danger, the possible reappearance of their nemesis The Master Criminal and maybe the discovery of Nefertiti’s tomb.

The story is part adventure, part comedy, part romance and all fun.

Barbara Rosenblat’s brilliant characterization of Amelia adds just the right accents and intonation to convey just the right amount of wit and really make the reader feel like Amelia is reading to you straight out of her journal.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable audiobook series start with the first one in this series and have a great time.



Rating 3/5

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Lost Boy by Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz

>> Thursday, August 27, 2009


Genre: Memoir
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 235
Challenges:
Support Your Local Library Challenge #39


Even before I became a fan of the HBO series Big Love, I had a fascination with and curiosity about polygamous sects and in particular the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) recently led by the now infamous Warren Jeffs. Most books about the subject (both fiction and non-fiction) focus on the women and their experiences. I was intrigued by this book because it’s from the male perspective.

Brent Jeffs is Warren’s nephew and a grandson of the long time “prophet” of the FLDS Rulon Jeffs. As a grandson of Rulon Jeffs, he could have been in a position of privilege in the group, but circumstances led to his uncle Warren’s becoming a powerful and charismatic leader of the group and Brent’s family being ostracized. Brent’s story is interesting because it’s a window into a closed community. He talks about what it’s like to grow up in a family with three Moms who aren’t exactly the happy sister-wives the FLDS would like outsiders to think they are. In addition to the insight into a polygamous lifestyle, the book delves into the more disturbing aspects of this particular group. The stories of underage girls being married to older men have been well publicized. What has not been so public is what happens to the boys who are forced out of the group in order for the other men to have more wives.

These “lost boys” often end up leaving the group with little or no experience with the outside world. They’re alone, overwhelmed and undereducated.

I expected Brent’s story to be primarily about these boys, but in actuality it’s more about his entire family’s ostracism both individually and as a family. It’s also about Warren Jeffs as a sexual predator of young boys as well as underage girls.

Although the book was interesting, I didn’t find it to be very well written. At times it seems to be a series of random recollections with a hard to follow timeline. All in all it was just OK.

Rating: 2/5

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A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

>> Sunday, August 23, 2009


Genre: Mystery / Psychological Suspense
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 339
Challenges: None

When I received an email from the author asking if I’d be interested in reviewing a copy of his first novel, I looked into it a bit and decided that it sounded like something that was right up my alley. I was right. I thought that this was a very good first novel.

The book opens with a brutal murder of a child in a quiet Connecticut town. The police call in FBI agent Leia Bines whose specialty is crimes against children. At the same time local child psychiatrist Peter Gram is treating a seven year old girl who is suffering from nightmares that cause her to be a danger to herself. While searching for the root of little Naya Hastings’ sleep disturbances he finds out that the drawings she makes of what she sees in her dreams have an uncanny resemblance to the scene of the murder Leia Bines is investigating. The connections, coincidences and paranormal elements combine to create a suspenseful story that is hard to put down.

There was a lot that I liked about this book. Despite the brutal murder that opens it, the story doesn’t wallow in gruesomeness. It’s more of a psychological thriller with a bit of a paranormal twist. It’s a fast paced book with short chapters rotating focus on several of the characters. Each one leaves off with just enough of a cliffhanger to make the reader want to know what happens next. i not normally a big fan of paranormal stuff, but the way this story wraps all of that up with some insights into

The author is a child psychiatrist himself so the details of Peter’s treatment of Naya felt realistic. His medical and cultural backgrounds play important parts in the story and are nicely entwined in the plot. The criminal investigation was interesting without becoming a straight police procedural. I liked Peter, but didn’t really get to know Leia quite enough to decide about her. I thought that maybe the FBI agent was a bit too willing to accept Naya’s drawings as ‘evidence’ but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the book and being willing to recommend it to others.

For a first novel, I was quite impressed with Dr. Grandhi’s work and will be watching for more from this talented author.



Rating 4/5

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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 371
Challenges:
Support Your Local Library Challenge #38

Connie Goodwin is a Harvard graduate student ready to begin research for her doctoral dissertation. When her summer plans are interrupted by a request from her mother, she finds herself cleaning out an old family home near Salem, Massachusetts in order to get it ready to sell. But when Connie finds an old key with the name Deliverance Dane tucked inside, she soon has a research project that both applies to and goes beyond her dissertation. Who was Deliverance Dane and why was the key with her name in that bible from the 17th century in Connie’s grandmother’s house?

The book is alternates between time settings. Connie and her research take place in 1991 and the story of Deliverance Dane and her family begins about 10 years before the famous witch trials in Salem.

It’s a little difficult for me to pin down how I feel about this book. Parts of it I enjoyed a lot and other parts bugged a bit. I liked the historic sections partly because I’ve had a little bit of a fascination with Salem and the witch scare for a long time. I thought these sections were interesting and well researched. On the other hand, I found myself a little annoyed at Connie. For a character who was supposedly a scholar of Colonial history, she didn’t catch on to things that anyone who has read a smattering of historical fiction would know right off the bat. I was willing to let that slide as a way for the author to explain things to readers who might not catch on. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading about Connie’s research process and the sometimes tedious work that can result in a remarkable discovery. The mystery part was easy to figure out pretty early on, and the ending by the time it came around was no surprise at all.

Despite its flaws, however, I did enjoy the book and thought it was a good light read. Even though the conclusion is pretty obvious fairly early, the path of Connie’s research and the information about Colonial life is fascinating. I liked the extension of the story of the Salem trials that explored the impact on the families of the accused. This is particularly interesting as the author is herself a descendant of two women who were accused of being witches in Salem.



Rating: 4/5

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To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming

>> Friday, August 14, 2009


Series: #4 in the Rev. Clare Fergusson series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 311
Challenges:
TBR 2009 Challenge Alternate #11, Support Your Local Library Challenge #37

I have enjoyed this series. The main characters are Rev. Clare Fergusson (a former military helicopter pilot, now an Episcopal priest) and Chief Russ VanAlstyne (chief of the small town upstate New York police department). That they keep finding themselves working together is complicated by their personal relationship. They are friends with a deepening attraction to each other and this is troubling to both of them because of VanAlstyne’s very married status. Their personal relationship is a reason I recommend that if you’re going to read this series, they should be read in order.

This fourth book in the series is fairly fast paced with a lot going on. It takes place in a single but very eventful day. Rev. Fergusson is awakened at 5:15 am to help a search and rescue team hunt for Millie Van Der Hoeven. She had planned to spend the day getting herself and the church ready for the Bishop’s visit the next day and to attend gala dinner dance commemorating the sale of the Van Der Hoeven estate and its future as a protected natural area. Not everyone in town is pleased with the plans for the land, including the local paper mill owner, the townspeople who have made their living off of logging the land, and perhaps some of the 3 living Van Der Hoeven heirs. By the end of the day murder, assault, kidnapping, and a increasingly complex build up of people trying to cover up their foolish and dangerous acts becomes a potential nightmare for the local police and many of the towns residents.

Although I enjoyed the book a lot, I was bothered a wee bit by the multiple nearly too stupid and delusional to be believable characters who managed to make everything worse not only for themselves, but everyone else. There’s really not just one horrible bad guy, but several sort of bad folks with extremely poor judgment who combine to make a real mess.

I thoroughly enjoy Clare and Russ and many of the recurring characters. Their friendship that may or may not develop into something more is troubling to them both. I think the author does a good job of building the suspense in both the mystery and the ongoing story of her main characters. All in all it was a very good book and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series soon.



Rating: 4/5

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Critters on vacation

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

We saw a variety of critters last week when we were on vacation at the Oregon coast.


So you're looking at this picture and thinking critter? what critter? This is the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, OR. If you look closely below the left end of the main arch you'll see a large bird.

To be more specific, it's this guy. An Osprey. He was just sitting there watching the boats and people go by.

Closer to the house where we stayed, the roof next door is a nesting spot for a pair of seagulls. This year there was only one baby. He was about a month old.

Guess who came to dinner (every night between 5 and 6) and got rather annoyed when we didn't produce dinner?

Partway through the week, the baby from the roof next door ended up on our deck.

It's a big scary world out there when you're a little seagull.




This one started out as a picture of the flower, but the bee decided it was time for a bee portrait.


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Vacation Pictures

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We spent last week over at Yachats on the Oregon coast. We had a great little house right on the ocean for a week of relaxing, reading, and ocean watching.
The weather was pretty good. We had several days that were cloudy and almost stormy in the morning but cleared up in the afternoon. We also had a couple of days that were just clear and sunny too.

I was serious about that 'right on the ocean' stuff. This is the view from the window by my reading couch.

It doesn't matter if it's a little stormy
or if the sun is shining, the view captivates me. It's a place I go to clear my head and just enjoy being.


If the weather cooperates the sunsets on the Pacific can be amazing.


I've got lots of pictures, so there will be more coming soon.

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The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

>> Sunday, August 9, 2009


Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 375
Challenges: none

First of all a great big Thank You goes out to Meghan because
her review at Medieval Bookworm is what prompted me to buy this book. I loved it.

The Story
T.S. Spivet is a genius mapmaker. He doesn’t just make the typical atlas kind of maps. He makes maps of people doing things, of places and activities. He makes detailed drawings of animals and birds. He does all of this from his home on a remote ranch near the Continental Divide in Montana. When T.S. gets a call from the Smithsonian Museum to tell him that he’s won a prestigious award, he is stunned. First of all, he didn’t know his work had been submitted and secondly he’s only twelve years old. The folks at the Smithsonian clearly think they’re giving this award to an adult.

For a lot of reasons T.S. decides to make the trip to Washington, DC to accept the award and give a speech. He doesn’t tell the Museum representative his true age, only that he’ll be there. How he gets there is the story. T.S decides to go the hobo way and hop a freight train. He doesn’t tell his parents, but leaves them a note in the cookie jar.

His journey is not just the physical travel, but also a journey of discovery about himself, his world and of his family and what they really mean to him.


The Book
The format of this book is one of the most unique I’ve experienced. Not only is it an oversized hardcover, but the story in the pages oozes beyond the formatted paragraphs on the page. The margins are filled with drawings, maps, diagrams, pictures asides and notes. These expand on the story in the narrative and are very much a part of the narrative as told by T.S.


The Good
I loved this book! I kept reading snippets that made me laugh to The Hubster. I can’t wait for him to read it. I think he’ll enjoy it a lot. I liked T.S (which stands for Tecumseh Sparrow) Spivet a lot. He’s a genius, but still very much a twelve year old kid. At times he is incredibly naïve, and at others brilliant in his observations about people and places around him. This book made me laugh, scared me a bit in places, made me angry, and made me sad.

Not ‘the bad’ but things I think you’d want to know.
There’s really nothing nightmare inducing, but there’s some weirdness and scary stuff that happens along the way (particularly considering it’s a twelve year old kid). The book itself is not a typical both in physical dimensions and how it is presented on the page. I purposely saved this book for vacation when I knew I’d have a couple of days sitting on a couch while watching the ocean to read it. It is not a book that works for my typical reading style – in and out of my backpack and reading while waiting for and sitting on the train to and from work. I wanted to sit and curl up with this in my lap and have space to turn and tilt the book as needed to read the margin notes.

There are a couple of plotlines that are left hanging a bit, but after all, T.S is only twelve. He’s got lots of time to continue to find out the truths. Nevertheless, the story was an entertaining and unique one that does have a well done conclusion.

I highly recommend this book, but don’t expect something typical at all. See more information at
the website for T.S. Spivet.


Rating 4.5/5

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Lost City by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos

>> Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Genre: Adventure
Series: #5 in the Kurt Austin series
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 515
Challenges:
TBR 2009 Challenge Alternate #10

This was a perfect vacation book. This series is just fun escapist adventure. Lots of action, improbable plots, heroic good guys, malevolent bad guys all wrapped up in a story that reads like a Saturday afternoon adventure movie.

In 1914 a one man plane crashes after a dogfight with unnamed foes. Jules Fauchard was apparently on some sort of personal mission that could have potentially saved millions of people.

In present day Scotland, a TV crew is brutally attacked by strange creatures. In Greece, a scientist is on the run from his former employers, who may be trying to kill him. Another group of scientists studying a glacier in the French Alps discovers a man frozen in the ice of the glacier. Kurt Austin and his National Underwater Marine Agency team are exploring a nearby lake. Another NUMA team is trying to find a way to prevent a noxious fast reproducing weed from choking the world’s oceans.

Oh yeah, it’s all connected and since it’s Clive Cussler you know that there’s some crazed megalomaniac behind it all with plans to rule the world. You also know that there will be chases in and out of the water, narrow escapes, sarcastic comments from our heroes and don’t forget the beautiful girl.

I’m beginning to enjoy this series even more than Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series.



Rating 3.5

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