Audiobook - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

>> Friday, January 29, 2010


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Audio)
Genre: Fiction
Series: #1 in the Harry Potter series
Publication Date: 1997
Read by: Jim Dale
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #6, The Harry Potter Reading Challenge #1
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Just as much fun the third or fourth time around (although this is my first time with the audio) as it was the first.

Why I Read It:
Partly because of Galleysmiths Harry Potter Reading challenge, but even before that challenge was announced I'd planned on listening to the entire series back to back once I'd finished reading the final book.

The Book:
Do I really need to talk about the plot? Wizards, Muggles, Dragons, Magic, Platform 9 3/4, Owls, the mirror of Erised, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Quidditch, Fluffy, etc.

My Thoughts:
Having just recently read the final book in the series, it was a lot of fun to start over at the beginning. There are minor mentions early on of characters and events that will become important later in the series, that just pop out when re-reading (or listening) from the beginning.

The story is familiar, but revisiting it makes some of the details more enjoyable even though some of the suspense and surprise is gone.

I love Jim Dale as an audiobook reader. I’ve always heard that his reading of this series is great and for the most part, I agree. I think my only quibble is that his Hermione is much whinier than the one that lives in my head. For a character who is such an overachiever and described as ‘bossy’ the whine in Dale’s characterization of her was disconcerting. I also had a little bit of a hard time getting used to a voice other than Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, because I just adore her in the movies.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to revisit the series and I’m already enjoying the next book.


Rating 5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #17

>> Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stormy Weather
Yachats, Oregon




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Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

>> Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
Genre: Fiction
Series: #5 in the Blossom Street series
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 360
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #5
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A nice comfort type of read in which a group of women friends support each other as they find ways to make changes in their lives based on their lists of twenty wishes.

Why I Read It:
This is one of two series by Debbie Macomber (the other is her Cedar Cove series) that I turn to when I need a nice light enjoyable story that I know will have a mostly happy ending.

The Book:
This series always focuses on one of the shops on Seattle’s Blossom Street. It started with Lydia’s yarn shop and every book has introduced a new core group of characters and brought back some of the familiar friends from the previous books. This time around the primary focus is on Anne Marie Roche who runs Blossom Street Books. When she and a group of friends (all fairly recent widows) gather for a Valentine’s Day get together it leads to them all agreeing to participate in listing twenty wishes that they have for their lives.

The power of writing down what you want to accomplish goes a long way toward making that an achievable goal. That the women list wishes rather than things they should do is a interesting concept. Maybe a little less realistically achievable, but since it’s a Debbie Macomber book, you know that love will win the day and all will work out for the best for all concerned. Along the way will be some fortuitous coincidences, some tears, some laughter, some misunderstandings and you know it will all be OK before it’s over.

My Thoughts:
Since my last book was still hanging around in my brain, Debbie Macomber was just what I needed. Her books are always a pleasant diversion that I enjoy despite and probably because of their predictability and focus on women characters.


3 stars Rating 3/5

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Genesis by Bernard Beckett

>> Monday, January 25, 2010


Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Genre: Science Fiction / Post Apocalyptic / Dystopian Fiction
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 150
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #4
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A post-apocalyptic story that combines philosophy with an interesting dystopian tale and just begs to be discussed with other readers

Why I Read It:
I happened upon a Twitter conversation about this book that sounded so intriguing that I started looking. Within about 10 minutes I’d requested it from the library. Thank you BethFishReads and Galleysmith.

The Book:
After the Last War and a devastating plague, the remnants of civilization secluded themselves on an island refuge. They surrounded themselves with a sea fence and ruthlessly destroyed any potentially plague infected refugees or interlopers. Many years later society continues in this isolated environment. Anaximander is taking her examination to be admitted to the prestigious Academy. Her area of expertise is Adam Forde. He was a rebellious soldier who changed the course of this society’s history..

I’ve purposely been minimalist in this plot summary because there are twists that I don’t want to spoil. Even if you begin to have suspicions partway through (as I did) I believe that it’s unlikely you’ll figure them all out.


My Thoughts:
This book packs a lot in its short 150 pages. As Anax answers the questions of the examiners, the history of her world is gradually revealed. There are surprises even to Anax herself. For me, it brought back flashbacks to my college philosophy classes, but in the best way possible. It brought back memories of some of the best discussions I ever had about the nature of consciousness, knowledge, humanity and being. It’s a book that just begs to be discussed with others who have read it.

It was a quick read that is still percolating in my brain many days after I have finished it. I had to read something light to follow this up, because I’m still processing this one. As I said above, I had some suspicions about the plot twists, but I didn’t anticipate all of them and there were still surprises at the end. I got it from the library, but I plan to buy a copy. This is one I’d like to revisit.


4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Audiobook - So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

>> Thursday, January 21, 2010


So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams (Audio)
Genre: Science Fiction / Comedy
Series: #4 in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series
Publication Date: 1984
Read by: Martin Freeman
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #3
Source: Library

The Short Version:
The zaniness continues with part of the main cast from the first three books mostly absent, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun with this one being more of a romantic comedy than the others.

Why I Read It:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to this series and I have to finish it. The question should actually be ‘why haven’t I read this already?’

The Book:
After roaming space and time for (what he figures is about 8 years), Arthur Dent finds himself back on Earth. To his great confusion it seems to have not been destroyed by the Vogons after all, although Arthur clearly remembers it’s destruction being the beginning of his adventures. While coming to grips with the apparent fact of the Earth’s existence, Arthur also finds himself suddenly and inexplicably in love with a girl named Fenchurch. What he can’t figure out is whether he’s the one who is confused about the planet being destroyed (or not) or is it everyone else? And what is up with the fishbowl and the missing dolphins?

My Thoughts:
This one actually has a teensy bit more of a linear plotline than the first three books in the series. Zaphod, Trillian and some of the usual gang aren’t in this one much at all. Even Fort Prefect is only around for part of the story. This one focuses on Arthur and his budding romance with Fenchurch. Don’t worry, the wackiness and space/time travel is still very much a part of the story and it somehow remains true to the story already in process from the first three books and is just as lacking in answers and strong on randomness. Mostly it’s just a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyable audio.


4 stars Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #16

>> Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jellyfish
Oregon Coast Aquarium
Newport, Oregon


Jellyfish

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The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 268
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #2
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A 50 year old woman does what is expected by her dystopian society and leaves the reader sad and disturbed because it’s all too frighteningly plausible.

Why I Read It:
I’ve seen a lot of reviews and knew enough about the book to make me curious and wanting to read it for myself.

The Book:
Shortly after she turns 50, Dorrit Weger reports as expected to the Second Reserve Bank Unit for Biological Material. She is ‘dispensable’. She has no partner or children and does not work in what is considered to be an important job. In The Unit, she joins other women over 50 and men over 60. Their responsibilities now are to live in this near country club atmosphere while being available for research and medical reasons as society determines to be necessary

My Thoughts:
I thought this book was excellent, but I cannot say I ‘liked’ it. It’s a story that is extremely good and well written but also disturbing enough to be one that I’ll be thinking about for a while. The world portrayed in this book is just plausible enough to make it frightening and disturbing.

The characters are interesting and likeable for many different reasons. As Dorrit adjusts to her new life in The Unit, her point of view allows the reader to gradually learn the truth of what is going on. Dorrit seems resigned to her duty, but at the same time the reader feels her uncertainty and the way she misses her life outside in the community and particularly her beloved dog who has been her constant companion for years.

Holmqvist does an excellent job of portraying happiness and even hopefulness in the midst of despair in this book, but there is ultimately an overwhelming sadness that permeates The Unit

It’s not an easy book to read, particularly for someone my age, and despite the fact that I won’t say I ‘liked’ the book, I thought it was an excellent and well written story. In my opinion it’s a story that should serve as a warning. The scariest part is that it’s really not that far from the realm of possible future for all of us.


4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks

>> Thursday, January 14, 2010

Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks
Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the Carter Ross series (new series)
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 330
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #1
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Fun new mystery series featuring a wisecracking investigative reporter as the main character that is slightly reminiscent of Harlan Coben meets David Rosenfelt meets Lou Grant.

Why I Read It:
Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts thought it was good. Therefore I needed to read it.

The Book:
Carter Ross is an investigative reporter for Newark, New Jersey’s Eagle-Examiner (cue bird watching jokes). His smart mouth gets him in trouble as often as it gets him results. When four bodies are found in a vacant lot shot execution style, the cops lead the media to think that it’s all related to a previous bar robbery. Carter soon disagrees with that theory. As he starts checking facts and attempting to tell the stories of the victims, he begins questioning this overly convenient but clearly implausible theory. Before it’s all over, Carter and his wonderfully gay Hispanic intern Tommy find their lives in danger as they discover that the true connection between the victims is the drugs they sold.

My Thoughts:
I was impressed with this debut mystery. Set in New Jersey it’s got my favorite parts of Harlan Coben's and David Rosenfelt's books – a smart wisecracking hero and an interesting mystery that keeps me guessing. Parks has a second Carter Ross book scheduled for later this year and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it.

The story is a fast paced mystery with humor tossed in at regular intervals. Although the wisecracks seem a tad forced in places, it’s still a strong debut and if the promise I see in this first book holds up in the second I’ll have yet another series to follow.

I enjoyed that the protagonist is a newspaper reporter. Parks’ own history in the newspaper business allows him to tell a bit of the inside story of that environment as he weaves the main story. His insights into the life of a reporter and the world of the newspaper business are interesting additions as the reader follows Carter in his quest for the story and the truth.

All in all it’s a fun mystery with an interesting (if teensy bit overdone) main character. I’m definitely planning on reading the next in the series after thoroughly enjoying this strong debut.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #15

>> Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Columbia River Gorge
Cascade Locks, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge (Cascade Locks, OR)
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

>> Monday, January 11, 2010


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fiction
Series: #7 in the Harry Potter Series (final book in the series)
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 759
Source: Purchased new

The Short Version:
Excellent ending to an excellent series

Why I Read It:
After reading the first book I was completely committed to the end.

The Book:
Although I’m one of the last few people on the planet to read this, I’m going to try to avoid serious spoilers. The final battle between good and evil that the whole series has led to comes to pass. There are surprises, there are deaths, there is excitement and energy. Everything that the series has been leading to from the first paragraphs of the first books reaches a conclusion in the final book. I really can’t think of any major loose ends left hanging.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and You Know Who remain the focus of the story. The kids (well on their way to adulthood by now) seek to find the final pieces of a puzzle left to them by Dumbledore that will ensure the defeat of Voldemort. At the same time Voldemort seems to be ensuring his ultimate victory and power over the wizarding world and potentially the Muggle world also. The final battle is as exciting and twist filled as expected.

My Thoughts:
I thought this was an excellent conclusion to a series I loved. I was surprised at several points along the way. Some of the epilogue wasn’t a surprise at all, but there were several before the story got to that point.

I was pleased to see so many storylines brought to conclusions and others reintroduced as part of the finale. The deaths saddened me, but I knew some of the familiar characters didn’t survive.. Surprisingly enough I didn’t know ahead of time exactly who did and didn’t make it, so I’m not about to spill the beans in this post just in case I’m really not the last person on the planet to read this.

So now that I’ve finished the series my plan is to re-read the entire seires via the audiobook versions and to count them for Galleysmith’s Harry Potter Reading Challenge. I’ll be starting over with book one just as soon as I finish my current audiobook.


5 stars Rating 5/5

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Looking Ahead at My 2010 Reading Plans

>> Friday, January 8, 2010

As I said in my previous post I limited my reading challenge participation last year and made more room for spontaneity in my reading. It was a huge success and I plan to do more of the same in 2010.

I never set reading goals for number of books or pages. I do keep track but that’s just for information and because I’m a total statistics dork. I do love me a spreadsheet. Reading books isn’t a contest. I don’t care how many books I read, I just want to read what I want to read and enjoy most of what I do read. I know not every book will be a winner, but since I don’t pick up a book blindly I tend to have very few duds, a lot of books I like and a few extremely excellent books.


I do expect that in 2010 I will read less total books than I did in 2009. I might read more pages, however. The reason is that I have several very big books that I want to read. I may not read all of these, but the first few are definitely in the plan.

East of Eden (600+ pages) - I've never read it but will be reading for a group discussion.

Re-reading Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (912 pages) - it's been years and I want to read that one again and then read another by him - London (1152 pages)

Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War by Donald McCaig (528 pages)

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (600+ pages)

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (900? pages)

Dawn on a Distant Shore by Sara Donati (642 pages)


I used to read a lot more Chunksters like this, but I’ve discovered that since I started blogging about my reading I tend to keep deferring the big fat books. Part of the reason is that it makes for long breaks between posts about books. I’m working on what I can post about when I’m reading a book that’s taking me more than a few days to read. I don’t like leaving the blog looking abandoned, but I also don’t want to post a stuff just to have a post. I’ll work on it and you’ll have to let me know what works and what doesn’t. I’m not a fan of posting a bunch of weekly memes and having the blog be mostly memes. The only one I do consistently is Wordless Wednesday and I plan to continue that one but not add a bunch of others. It’s just a process of finding what I’m comfortable posting.

I’ve also been working on a new format for my book posts. I don’t really like calling them reviews because what I do is not a formal review. It’s much more casual information about the book and my thoughts. I started using this new format at the end of December and so far I like it. I hope you do too.

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Snow Angels by James Thompson

>> Thursday, January 7, 2010


Snow Angels by James Thompson
Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the Inspector Vaara series (new series)
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 264
Challenges: none
Source: ARC from publisher (G.P. Putnam's Sons)

The Short Version:
First in a planned new series that’s intriguing enough to have me looking forward to the second book already.

Why I Read It:
Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts said it was a good debut which was good enough for me and then she gave Putnam my name (thanks Jen!). When I was offered a review copy I quickly said yes.

The Book:
Kari Vaara is a detective in his small hometown in Lapland. The story opens with the brutal murder of a Somali refugee who had made a name for herself as an actress. It’s just before Christmas north of the Arctic Circle and the unceasing night and brutal cold of winter has maximized the sense of depression for everyone. As Kari investigates the murder he soon finds that the possible suspects include people he knows. It may be a sex crime or a hate crime, but because of the notoriety of the people and his connections to them, Inspector Vaara has the added complications of the media spotlight and the scrutiny of the National Chief of Police. At home, his pregnant American wife is having trouble coping with the arctic winter as much as the people and culture of her husband’s homeland. Is his ultimate goal truth or justice? Can he find both by the end of this story?

My Thoughts:
This book is perfect for reading in the dark and cold of winter. The darkness and cold almost become characters in the story. The effect of the brutal winter impacts almost everyone in the book. The setting in the far north of Finland was a new one for me and I found it interesting. It was a nice change to read a police procedural type of mystery that wasn’t set in a large American city. James Thompson has lived in Finland for many years although he was born in Kentucky. As Inspector Vaara tells the story he’s up front about the depression and often hard drinking that often comes with the season. He sees how his American wife has trouble dealing with it, but frankly he’s preoccupied with a case that becomes more and more personal as the investigation proceeds.

I liked Vaara as a protagonist. He’s got his flaws, but since he’s telling the story I was privy to his thoughts. That’s important because the Finnish people come across as silent and isolationist so a third person narrative wouldn’t get to the inner turmoil that Vaara hides. There are a few over the top coincidences, but the combination of the setting, story and writing made me want to zip through this one without putting it down any longer than necessary.

It’s a dark story in a dark setting. It’s brutally violent and not for the faint of heart. I got to know Inspector Vaara enough that I know I want to hear more from him.


Please check out Jen's Book Thoughts' wonderful interview with James Thompson.


4 stars Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #14

>> Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Killer Wrapping Paper never expects the Dive Under Attack




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Looking Back at My 2009 Reading (Part 2)

>> Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So I’ll finish up this review of 2009 with a few statistics about my reading (just because I’m that kind of dork)

Books Read: 102 (16 of those were audiobooks)
Pages Read: 29,469
Audiobooks: 150 hours of listening

That’s a few more books and a few less pages than last year so I’m pleased with that. I don’t set goals for number of books or pages. My goals are just to read what I enjoy and enjoy what I read. The numbers are just for curiosity’s sake.

Library books: 71 (all my audiobooks are from the library)
Books I own: 31




I love both of my county library systems and feel fortunate to have them and use them extensively. This doesn’t keep me from buying books by any means. I seek out and read very few ARCs so I’m out there supporting my local bookstores all year long.


Series books
57 of the books I read were part of a series (I seem to have a series addiction – there’s a topic for a future post, huh?).



I read at least one book from 44 different series, 12 of those were the first book in a new series for me. Special thanks to Bookfool for getting me started on the Tomorrow series by John Marsden.


Best books of the year? These are the books I rated 5 stars in 2009 and looking back over the year, they're still my Top 9.

In the Woods by Tana French
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Eli the Good by Silas House
Hate List by Jennifer Brown

I heartily recommend all of these. I rarely pick up a book I don't already expect to like, so ratings below 3 are rare, but do happen occasionally. Any of the books I’ve tagged with 4, 4.5 or 5 stars are what I consider better than average so if you search for the categories over there on the right you’ll be able to browse my other highly rated books.

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Looking Back at My 2009 Reading (Part 1)

>> Monday, January 4, 2010

I was busy watching football all weekend so this had to wait until today.

A look back at my 2009 books and reading.



I went into 2009 with a mission for my reading. I wanted to be less structured and more spontaneous. That meant drastically reducing the number of challenges in which I participated. It did not mean throwing out my “to be read” list completely, but I intended to make it easier to go with the flow and pick up a book I just heard about if it sounded interesting.

Mission Accomplished.


I only joined a handful of challenges this year and it was just what I needed to do. I have a few favorite challenges and I joined a couple that came along that I couldn’t resist, but I left myself plenty of room for those whimpulsive reads.


My second major goal for 2009 was to make some progress in the many different series I am reading.

Again: Mission Accomplished.


Over half of the books I read this year were part of a series. Most of those were from series I’d already started, and a few were from new series. More details are in the statistics in a follow up post.


So, this more whimpulsive approach to reading worked well for me. I was able to enjoy a lot of books that I’d wanted to read but had set aside in order to meet challenge goals. I was also able to take advantage of book recommendations from other folks right away instead of putting most of them off until I finished challenge book lists. I fully intend to do the same in the future by limiting my reading challenge commitments to just a few that I really want to do.

One of my best sources of book recommendations has been fellow book bloggers and this year that expanded into the realm of Twitter. I tentatively explored the world of Twitter earlier this year and have been able to connect with a large group of long familiar as well as new to me book bloggers there. I have developed some new blogging connections and expanded my long list of TBR enablers.

Finally, my reading this year pushed some limits in the area of Young Adult books. I hadn’t read much YA before, but that changed in the latter part of 2009. It started with The Hunger Games because after reading so many positive reviews I just had to read (and love) it. After that I began paying more attention to recommendations for YA and Dystopian fiction. I can say I was pleasantly surprised at how many YA books I read and enjoyed this year. Thanks to all who contributed to push me in this direction (I'm looking at you in particular, Galleysmith).

All in all I had a good reading year. Most importantly, my reading this past year felt less like work or obligations and more enjoyable and fun.

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