Wordless Wednesday #39

>> Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trium Wines Tasting Room
Talent, Oregon





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Two routes to the TBR list: expressway or the scenic route

>> Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sometimes the route a book takes to my TBR list is like an expressway. At the first sight or review it's added. This usually happens when it's a familiar author or review from a trusted person.

Other times it's more of an adventure through a series of detours and side roads that gets a book added to my TBR list. The book I'm currently reading is this second type.



The three days a week I work downtown always include a morning trip across the street to the Borders store for coffee from the Seattle's Best Cafe. I'm usually there before the bookstore opens so while waiting for my coffee I have just a small portion of the store available for browsing. One of the sections accessible near the cafe is the clearance section.

A few weeks ago a book on the clearance shelf caught my eye. It was Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer. He's been an author I've had a mixed relationship with over the years. I've really enjoyed some of his books and others have been 'meh'. When I see his name on a new book, I'll take a look but not automatically buy.


This one turns out to be a fictionalized account of the story of George Mallory who may or may not have been the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. He was last seen alive near the summit in 1924 and never returned. His body was found 75 years later in 1999, but whether or not he actually reached the summit 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay remains unknown.

You had me at "Everest", but I didn't get the book.


I've been fascinated with stories of Mt. Everest attempts ever since I read Jon Krakauer's account of the disastrous 1996 season in Into Thin Air. I've read a few other mountain climbing books since then and have watched many a Discovery channel show about Everest.

When I had a chance, I looked at the reviews on GoodReads and at my library website for Paths of Glory. I decided that while I may read it someday, what I really wanted to find was a non-fiction book about Mallory or his expedition. And the search was on.

I spent some time browsing the websites for both my libraries as well as Powell's Books.

One of the Library Journal reviews for Paths of Glory led me to a couple of different options. One was a biography of Mallory and the other was Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine. After doing some more checking into the reviews and comments about these books, my urge to read something about Mallory and Everest was satisfied. Although I might eventually read the biography, it was Ghosts of Everest that ended up coming home from the library with me the next day.


I chose this book because not only is it the story of the 1924 expedition which ended with the disappearance of Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine, it's also the story of the 1999 expedition that found Mallory's body so many years after he went missing.

So although I still haven't decided whether or not I'll read Jeffrey Archer's book, I have him to thank (along with an assist from Jon Krakauer) for leading me to this absolutely fascinating book. But then again maybe it's really Jon Krakauer's fault with an assist from Jeffrey Archer?

I'll be posting a review of Ghosts of Everest later this week.

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Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

>> Monday, June 28, 2010


Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Genre: Mystery / Vampire / Romance
Series: #9 in the Sookie Stackhouse series
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 289
Challenges: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge #9
Source: Purchased New


The Short Version:
When the Weres go public it causes a wide range of reactions among the humans who are still dealing with the Vampires going public and becoming part of society and at the same time Sookie finds herself in the middle of a Fairy war.

Why I Read It:
It’s the next in a series that I’m having fun with and I was determined to get through book 9 by the end of June in order to complete the challenge.

The Book
With any series it’s difficult to discuss plot without giving spoilers to the earlier books so if you haven’t read the others yet, skip down to My Thoughts.

When the Weres go public it results in a variety of reactions among the humans who didn’t know of their existence. Some take it in stride because with the Vampires now public, another type of supernatural creature is less of a shock. For others it’s a deep betrayal when they find out that friends and possibly family members have been hiding their true natures for years. Still others see it as yet another species of creatures that humans must destroy.

While Sookie is happy that the true nature of some of her friends is now public, she also has her hands full when Sam’s stepfather isn’t too thrilled to find out his wife is a shapeshifter and shoots her. With Sam out of town dealing with family issues, Sookie is temporarily in charge of the bar and still fending off the feds who seem to be trying to figure out what it is about her that’s different and can they use it?

When the body of a were-panther Sookie knows is found in front of Merlotte’s, the local cops and the feds are on the case, but that doesn’t stop Sookie from asking her own questions.

At the same time she finds herself caught up in the middle of a long standing conflict among the fairies that’s close to becoming an all out war.

My Thoughts:
This one felt like a return to the fun I expect from this series after the letdown of the previous book. While From Dead to Worse felt like three or four mixed up short stories, this one just simply has a whole lot going on. Lots of storylines, lots of death and torture, lots of supernatural creatures, lots of vampire, Were, fairy and human political maneuverings. Bon Temps appears to have very few truly human inhabitants.

But Bubba is still around – yay!

I normally don’t read series books this close together and that’s probably affecting my reactions to these past few in the series. They’re still a ton of fun and I don’t plan to abandon the series, but now that I’ve completed the challenge, I’m going to let the series rest a while before picking up the recently released tenth book.


Rating 3/5

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At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey

>> Friday, June 25, 2010




At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey



Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 341
Challenges: none
Source: Purchased used





The Short Version:
Iraq war veteran Jason Palmer and Chicago cop Elena Cruz try to solve the murder of Jason’s brother and keep his young son safe.

Why I Read It:
I thoroughly enjoyed Sakey’s first book (The Blade Itself) as did The Hubster so continuing with his next book was an easy choice.

The Book:
Jason Palmer is home from Iraq via a less than honorable discharge. He’s not really ready to move on with his life but when his community activist brother is murdered, Jason suddenly finds himself responsible for his 8 year old nephew who witnessed the crime and back in the role of soldier trying to keep them both alive.

Elena Cruz is a Chicago cop who is trying to earn her way back into her job and the respect of her fellow officers after making the mistake of letting her personal and professional lives get too mixed up. She knew and respected Michael Palmer and as one of the first responders on the scene is eager to solve his murder.

The Chicago neighborhood is struggling to survive despite becoming more and more of a gang war zone. Jason and Elena struggle to trust each other long enough to find out who is really responsible for Michael’s murder. There are rival gangs as well as corrupt politicians, cops and activists and they’re running out of people to trust besides each other.

Can Jason and Elena keep themselves alive long enough to protect his nephew and find out who is really behind Michael’s murder and why?


My Thoughts:
This one is a little bit of crime fiction, mystery and suspense all rolled into one. Neither Jason nor Elena is fully sympathetic as a hero, but their mutual goal of protecting the innocent child makes it easy for the reader to cheer them on.

The story moves along with plenty of twists, turns and surprise betrayals, and by the time the final third of the book comes along it’s a like a long accelerating downhill on the rollercoaster to the final confrontations.

Jason’s battle with his own demons while caught up in the immediacy of his own and his nephew’s survival makes the gritty Chicago setting feel almost parallel to his flashbacks to his time in Iraq. The difference is that this time it’s his nephew he needs to protect and he’ll do anything to avoid repeating the mistakes of his past.

Elena is also a strong character and while the predictable romantic tension between she and Jason is there, it’s not all that distracting to the overall pace of the story.

While I may have liked The Blade Itself just a tad better, this is still an entertaining and fast paced book. I’ll be passing this one along to The Hubster and have already added Marcus Sakey’s next book to my shopping list.


Rating 3.5/5

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Audiobook Week

>> Thursday, June 24, 2010



Jen at Devourer of Books is celebrating all things audiobooks this week, so be sure to head over to her blog and check out all the posts and links to great discussions and reviews of audiobooks.

One of the things she scheduled for this week is this meme about our audiobooks and listening habits.

Audiobook are you currently reading/you read most recently: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (read by the fabulous Jim Dale)

Impressions?: Love Harry Potter and re-reading the entire series back to back via audio has been wonderful.

How long you’ve been listening to audiobooks: I’ve been listening to audiobooks since early 2004.

First audiobook you ever listened to: The first one I ever listened to was Patty Jane’s House of Curl by Lorna Landvik. Many people in my online book chat group from that time had recommended it and when I decided to try an audiobook it was on the library shelf and seemed like a good one to try. I’ve been hooked ever since for whenever I’m in the car by myself. I hated the radio stations in town – I always seemed to only get commercials and talk radio so I turned off the radio and turned on my audiobooks.

First audiobook I got The Hubster to listen to was One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. We were taking a weekend road trip and talked him into giving road trip books a try. We now make them a regular part of our trips that have us on the road for enough hours to finish a book.

Favorite audiobook title: I can’t name one. Right now I’d say the Harry Potter series.

Favorite narrator: Again, I can’t name one. Jim Dale is fabulous. George Guidall has read me several classics. Lisette Lecat makes the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency a joy to listen to. I could probably listen to Barbara Rosenblat read the phone book, but if you ever have the chance to listen to her reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, do not pass it up.

How do you choose what to listen to versus read? I really tend to stick with light stuff or classics. As I said, all of my audiobook listening is during my driving around town time so it happens most often in 10-15 minute increments. I need books that lend themselves to short bursts like that and I’ve found that light mysteries and books with a touch of humor are most enjoyable for the car. I’ve also managed to listen to several classics via audio. It’s nice to listen and occasionally check sites such as Sparknotes to review chapter summaries.

When do you listen to audiobooks? I’m strictly a drive time listener whenever I’m in the car by myself and when The Hubster and I are on a roadtrip. I rarely listen to books any other time.

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Wordless Wednesday #38

>> Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Adirondack chairs at Edenvale Winery
Medford, Oregon






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Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

>> Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Genre: Memoir
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 362
Challenges: None
Source: Loan from my Sister-in-law

The Short Version:
A sad story of a miserable childhood is told by a man who clearly managed to persevere and even succeed despite his early years.

Why I Read It:
My sister-in-law loaned me her copy because she loved the book and thought I would too.

The Book
Although he was born in Brooklyn, Frank McCourt’s parents returned to Ireland when he was young after the death of his younger sister. Incredibly poor and with an alcoholic father who could rarely keep a job for more than three weeks, the family struggled on the edge of starvation and homelessness.

The family lived in miserable conditions, but as told from the viewpoint of Frank as a child, there are moments of humor, beauty, joy and love interspersed with the sadness, tragedy and poverty.

My Thoughts:
This is a book that is difficult for me to explain my thoughts. I know lots of people love this book, but I’m not one of them

I think this is one of those books that I’ll probably like better the longer it’s been since I read it. I struggled with this one. I have a history of not being much of a memoir fan and this book didn’t do a lot to change my mind. It took me nearly a month to read it because I had to set it aside about halfway through just to get a change of pace. It was never a book that I looked forward to picking up again once I set it down; I finally had to just decide to get through it and push on to the end.

Despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy the actual reading of this book, I also thought it was good. The writing is wonderful and there were countless moments of a phrase, sentence or paragraph that I would just savor. McCourt did a great job of telling the story through his own childhood viewpoint.

I will probably look back on this book and say I liked it, but I also have to admit that I had to make myself finish reading it.


Rating 3/5

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A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

>> Friday, June 18, 2010




A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris



Genre: Short Stories
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 192
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #25
Source: Library





The Short Version:
A handful of Sookie Stackhouse short stories originally published in a variety of places and formats collected into a quick and fun book.

Why I Read It:
I went looking for a particular one of these short stories after I read Definitely Dead (the 6th in the series). At the beginning of that book I felt like I’d missed an important development and found out later that the story of Sookie’s cousin Hadley and her death was in the story “One Word Answer”. I wanted to go back and catch up on that missing piece and the rest of the stories.

The Book:
There are 5 short stories included in the book. Most of them are fairly independent of the novels with the exception of the one mentioned above.

Fairy Dust introduces Caludine the Fairy’s brother Claude and the third of the triplets, Claudette. Claudette is dead and Claudine needs Sookie’s telepathic assistance to find out the truth about her death.

Dracula Night is the story of an annual party at Eric’s bar Fangtasia. It’s a celebration in honor of Count Dracula and it’s fun to see Eric all atwitter about the possibility of a celebrity appearance at his party.

One Word Answer really should be read before Definitely Dead as it introduces Mr. Cataliades and explains the death of Sookie’s cousin Hadley. It also includes an appearance by Bubba (possibly my favorite recurring character).

Lucky happens after the events in All Together Dead as Sookie and her housemate Amelia discover that perhaps luck is a finite commodity and taking more than your share has consequences.

Gift Wrap takes place after From Dead to Worse as Sookie prepares herself for a lonely Christmas that turns out to be otherwise.


My Thoughts:
These were all fun and entertaining additions to the Sookie Stackhouse novels. The only one that really has storyline implications for the novels is “One Word Answer”. It was good to read that and round out some things I’d clearly missed before reading Definitely Dead.

It’s a quick read and a fun extension to the sometimes heavier elements of the novels. If you’ve stuck with the series I’d recommend taking a look at this collection of related short stories.


Rating 3/5

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Wordless Wednesday #37

>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vineyard at Edenvale Winery
Medford, Oregon





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From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

>> Tuesday, June 15, 2010


From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Genre: Mystery / Vampire / Romance
Series:  #8 in the Sookie Stackhouse series
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 303
Challenges: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge #8
Source: Purchased New

The Short Version:
Sookie once again gets caught up in conflicts among both werewolves and vampires and also redefines her family before it’s all over with.

Why I Read It:
It’s the next in a series that I’m having fun with and trying to finish through book 9 by the end of June for the challenge.

The Book
With any series it’s difficult to discuss plot without giving spoilers to the earlier books so if you haven’t read the others yet, skip down to My Thoughts.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is still a huge part of life in Louisiana. Among the vampires it’s compounded by the aftermath of the disaster at the Vampire Summit. With so many of their leaders dead or injured the political maneuvering is starting even as the wounds are healing.

The Werewolves are also in for some major political maneuvering as they decide whether to reveal their existence to the human population as the Vampires have done. Again, the disaster in New Orleans leads to an attempt at a coup among the local Werewolf packs and of course Sookie gets stuck in the middle of it as does her shapeshifer boss, Sam.

On the home front, her brother Jason’s marriage to a werepanther is in trouble, she hasn’t heard from her boyfriend Quinn, she goes from bartender to instant stand-in bridesmaid at a wedding, meets a relative she never knew she had and gets yet another housemate as her friend Amelia gets help from her mentor because she still hasn’t figured out how to turn Bob the cat back into a human.

My Thoughts:
While I’m still enjoying this series, the one was a letdown from All Together Dead. I liked the political intrigue and thriller pace and this one didn’t have that flow. To me, this felt like there were several storylines that Harris wanted to get on the table, but none of them were enough for the main storyline of a full book and she mashed them all together in one.

I felt like I was reading 3 or 4 shorter stories that got shuffled together without creating any smooth flow between or among them and as a result it just felt a little choppy.

Nevertheless, it was still a ton of fun. I feel like there was some plots tied off a bit if even temporarily and others put into more of a set up for the next book or two. So even though it felt like a less than cohesive installment in the series, it was still a fun read. It clearly set up some plots for future books and kept me interested in continuing the series


Rating 3/5

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Hangin' with Howie

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

He really hates that laptop




because it interferes with this:

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The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens

>> Friday, June 11, 2010




The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens



Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 353
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #24
Source: Library





The Short Version:
When Mary Gooch’s husband of 25 years leaves, she sets out on a journey to find him and ends up finding herself.

Why I Read It:
I thought Lori Lansens previous novel about conjoined twins (“The Girls”) was absolutely wonderful so when I started seeing positive reviews of this one it was a quick addition to my TBR list and a long wait on the library hold list.


The Book:
On the day of their 25th anniversary, Mary Gooch waits for her husband Jimmy to come home from work. By the next morning it’s clear that Jimmy has left. Initially this sends Mary into a tailspin and eventually she sets out in search of Jimmy. That she would even do that is huge because for many years Mary has not ventured much farther than from her bed to the refrigerator. At over 300 pounds, Mary has spent years hiding within herself and her own small world of home, work at the local drugstore, and the few social interactions she could manage if she had clothes that still fit.

Mary, on her own for the first time ever is forced to cope with things others find easy such as figuring out how to work her cell phone and manage her bank account. That she manages to get on a plane to California where Jimmy’s mother lives in an LA suburb is nothing short of astounding. What she discovers there is ultimately a Mary that she didn’t know existed and perhaps has been hiding beneath the layers of flesh and behind the boundaries of her own making.


My Thoughts:
Mary is a character who is both frustrating and sympathetic. Much of her pain is self imposed, but Lansens portrays a woman whose eating habits and obesity are rooted in emotional pain. The book is not about Mary’s weight so much as it is about the Mary beneath that weight.

As she tries to make sense of her husband’s leaving her and to try to figure out what to do, the reader goes along on her journey. Interspersed with Mary’s current story are flashbacks to her childhood, courtship, marriage and life with Jimmy in their small hometown in Canada. I loved that there was a casual mention of the Darlen twins from The Girls which took place in the same small town.

I can get past the occasional remarkable coincidence and encounters with kinder than one would ever expect strangers, because making this physical and emotional journey along with Mary was a very satisfying read.

The story is gently told and even a bit slow in places, but it’s a story that has pain, love, anger and happiness woven through it.


Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #36

>> Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Old Olive Oil Mill
at The Oregon Olive Mill in Dayton, OR




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Audiobook - Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

>> Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich (Audio)

Genre: Mystery/Humor
Series: #12 in the Stephanie Plum series
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Lorelei King
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #23
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Stephanie’s madcap adventures take a bit of a dark turn when a little girl is kidnapped, but there’s still enough craziness for plenty of laugh out loud moments.

Why I Read It:
It was Road Trip to Ashland Weekend. We make a couple of trips a year (for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and winery visits) and at least one trip each year includes listening to the next Stephanie Plum book on our list.

The Book:
It’s the typical Stephanie Plum stuff. She chases down people for her cousin’s bail bond agency. Sometimes this happens more successfully than others and usually with something crazy happening along the way. She continues to go back and forth between Ranger and Morelli with never a resolution to that triangle. She drives her mother crazy and her grandmother to the latest viewing at the Funeral Home.

This time around there is a bit of a dark side to the zaniness. Ranger’s 10 year old daughter has been kidnapped and the police and FBI suspect Ranger. Stephanie helps Ranger and of course ends up in danger herself. Oh and along the way there’s a point where Stephanie, Ranger and Joe are all staying at Stephanie’s apartment.


My Thoughts:
This series makes great road trip books for us. The Hubster enjoys listening to lighter stuff with plenty of humor when he’s driving and the length of the Stephanie Plum books generally work well for the timing of our drive to Ashland and back home. I’ve read the books through #13 so the audios have been re-reads for me and he finds them entertaining. After #13, I’ve stopped reading the books and will just continue with the audio versions because I do enjoy Lorelei King’s reading.

The thing I enjoyed about this one is that some of the ever growing cast of regulars is absent or only briefly mentioned. They’re all fun characters, but they don’t need to all be in every book. A bit of a break from Stephanie’s sister and her family was nice.

Nevertheless, some of the regulars are there and as usual most of the laughs come via Lula and Grandma Mazur.

The series is losing a bit of it’s luster for me and I no longer anticipate and get on the library waiting list for the next release, but it still makes for fun long boring drive listening and is something that keeps me (and The Hubster) entertained.


Rating 3/5

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Recipe for a fun weekend

>> Monday, June 7, 2010

Three Days






Two Plays







Three Wineries











Two Books

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Wordless Wednesday #35

>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Busy Bee


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I'm committing a minor violation of the "Wordless" part to say that it was this shot I took this past Sunday on the Auto setting that made me completely fall in love with my new camera.

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