Hangin' With Howie

>> Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cold? I'm not cold. I'm having fun.


Yes, I know I asked to go out.

Yes, I know you told me it was cold.

But I'm outside and dammit, I'm having fun.

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Weekend Update February 26, 2011

>> Saturday, February 26, 2011



This week:
I feel like I hardly had any reading time this week. It was a totally crazy week at work this week leaving me in that weird place between wanting to read for the escape and relaxation and having my brain too fried to concentrate much on reading. I did manage to finish Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear and start Mark Billingham’s Lazybones (the third book in his Detective Tom Thorne series.


Other than books and reading:
Usually in Portland, we’re past any chance of snow after Valentine’s Day. Not so this year. We got a late February cold snap and enough snow to make an annoyance. Luckily it snowed overnight and was enough to keep the truly terrified off the roads that morning. I had a nice quiet day at the office that day since everyone else in my department opted to work from home that day. I’m not afraid to drive in snow, but ice will make me work from home. Fortunately it dried out after the snow melted and before it got cold overnight and we didn’t get the threatened icy roads yesterday.

This is not what I should see from my office window this late in February.



Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:



Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward – this one just sounds like a crazy bit of fun and mystery all mixed together.


Purchased this week:



So Cold the River by Michael Koryta – I’ve read a few of his Lincon Perry series and both The Hubster and I loved The Cypress House so I picked this one up since I’m sure we’ll both read it.



And finally, the library stack has been reduced by one this week with nothing added.


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Confessions of a Serial Reader – The new ones on the list

>> Friday, February 25, 2011


When I signed up and listed all my series books at FictFact, the count of active series stood at 62 when I was done. There’s not much chance of that number staying steady . I am making an effort to get caught up in some of my series, but it doesn’t keep me from adding more that I want to read to the list.

It’s time to update the list and ‘fess up to the new current active series number.

Images and links are to the first book in the series

Series I’ve added and started:


Kenzie/Gennaro by Dennis Lehane



Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



Gideon Crew by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child



Series I’ve added but not started yet:


Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan



Emma Caldridge by Jamie Freveletti



Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith



Pendergast by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child




Ellie Hatcher by Alafair Burke




What about you? What series have you started recently? After all what I really need is ideas for more series to add to my list, right?

Do you prefer to start a series while it's still fairly new? Does a series with a pre-existing backlist intimidate you or make you hesitate to read it?

I almost forgot - the new number for My Current and Planned Series is



Am I nuts? Probably but I love series books.

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Wordless Wednesday #73

>> Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last Thursday


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Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

>> Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the Gideon Crew series
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 317
Source: eGalley provided by publisher through NetGalley

The Short Version:
Gideon Crew is out to avenge his father’s death and along the way attracts the attention of a mysterious organization who has an interest in utilizing his unique talents

Why I Read It:
I’d heard good things for years about Preston and Child’s Pendergast series but I wanted to catch up on a few of my current series before taking on another one with a pre-existing backlist. When I heard they were starting a new series I decided to check out the first book.

The Book
When Gideon was twelve his father’s death left he and his mother with no support and devastated by the allegations of treason. Years later his mother tells him what really happened and charges him with avenging his father’s death.

After becoming a successful and talented engineer and part time art thief, he turns his talents to revenge. In the process, he attracts the attention of a mysterious organization with dubious ties to the government. When asked to take on an assignment he is unsure whether or not these people can be trusted, but before long the mission is underway.

I’m hesitant to say much more about the plot of this suspenseful action story because I really think it’s best for the reader to learn things along with Gideon as the story plays out.

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed this book. It’s a bit of suspense, a bit of mystery, a bit of spy story, and a little bit of Jack Bauer from 24.

It’s fast paced with plenty of twists and turns. Gideon manages to come up a lie to get him out of pretty much any tough situation. He’s got the sarcasm and quick wit that I like in my action heroes, but without an unbelievable string of luck and coincidences he’d never get out of most of the situations in which he finds himself. There’s plenty of interesting yet fairly unbelievable plot twists, but I don’t read this kind of story expecting completely plausible.

It was fun, it was a character I liked, it was interesting, but it wasn’t something that I’d put on The Hubster’s ‘you need to read this’ list. It was good enough that I’ll be watching for the next book in the series and eventually I will be picking up Preston and Child’s other books.

Rating 3.5/5

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Weekend Update February 19, 2011

>> Saturday, February 19, 2011

This week:
Another busy week at work, but I did manage to get some reading time in. I finished Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry and posted that review yesterday. I also read Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This is the first in a new series for them. I actually haven’t read any of their other series (The Pendergast series) because I’ve been trying to catch up on a few of my current series before diving into another one that comes preloaded with a long backlist. I’ve also started Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear and am enjoying another visit with Maisie Dobbs and 1930’s London.


Other than books and reading:
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d purchased Adobe Photoshop CS4 Classroom in a book. I’ve been playing with taking photos and posting them here for a while now and I’ve been using the very limited edition of Adobe Photoshop that came with my first digital camera several years ago. I’ve also used a couple of different online photo editing sites and available free downloads. It’s something I’ve just pretty much played around with and figured out on my own some very limited photo editing skills.

I decided that this year I’m going to try to learn more and get some real instructions. Rather than go with the latest (and most expensive) CS5 version of the photoshop software, we got a good deal on eBay for the pevious CS4 version. For my purposes that will do just fine for now. I did find an online class available through my local community college, but I think I’m going to start the learning process with the lessons in this book. I’m geekishly excited about learning new stuff.


Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:


The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner. I've only read one book by this author (The Confessions of Catherine de Medici) but loved it. I know this historical fiction spy series is quite different, but I'm hearing good things and looking forward to reading it.



Sons and Princes by James Le Pore - I've read his first two novels and will definitely be reading this one too.



Chasing Smoke and Day One by Bill Cameron – Tyrus Books offered a promotion on Twitter yesterday for free ebooks and Day One by Bill Cameron caught my eye because it takes place in Oregon. I need to hunt down a copy of Chasing Smoke which is the previous book featuring a Portland homicide detective. My library has it but it’ll have to wait until after vacation and some other prior commitments.



Purchased this week:


West of Here by Jonathan Evison – too many book blogging friends whose opinions I trust are recommending this book. That and the fact that it’s set in the Pacific Northwest made it an easy decision to purchase for me.


Good People by Marcus Sakey – It’s been long enough since I’ve read one of Marcus Sakey’s books that I needed to get the next one into the house. Both The Hubster and I have enjoyed his first two books and want to read his others.

And finally, no change in the library stack this week.

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Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

>> Friday, February 18, 2011


Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Publication Date: 2011 (This book will be available next Tuesday February 22, 2011)
Pages: 289
Source: Copy provided by publisher




The Short Version:
While taking a ferry across Lake Champlain, Troy Chance sees what she thinks is a child falling off a ferry going the other direction and without thinking further jumps in after him and her life changes in ways she never expects.

Why I Read It:
I’d been hearing promising things about this debut thriller and when I was offered the chance to receive a copy I didn’t hesitate because I enjoy finding new suspense/thriller authors.

The Book:
When Troy impulsively jumps off the ferry to rescue what she’s not even positive is a child in the water she has no idea what she’s in for. A small boy who only speaks French and who may have been purposely tossed into the lake soon wraps himself around Troy’s free spirited independent heart.

Living in Lake Placid, New York and making her living as a free lance writer, Troy decides to track down the boy’s family. Because she’s not sure whether or not his wealthy father had anything to do with it, she’s cautious at first.

Her attachment to the child leads her into pursuing leads to the mystery both with and without the assistance of the Canadian and American authorities. Troy’s search for the answer to who took the boy from his father and why takes many detours and becomes life threatening before it’s over.

My Thoughts:
I’m hesitant to say more than that because it might give away parts of the story that are better experienced as they are revealed by the author.

I think this was a promising debut and I will be watching for Sara J. Henry’s next book. The suspense built through both predictable and unpredictable events as the story played out. There was a lot to like about the book and only a few minor quibbles.

I liked Troy. She was smart with the usual amateur detective type character’s tendencies to not be smart at just the wrong time, but that’s the nature of this kind of story. The boy’s father was a wonderful blend of charming, attractive and maybe just enough untrustworthy to keep suspicion pointed his direction. I enjoyed the secondary characters, in particular the Canadian detective who both believes and not quite trusts Troy.

I had several theories as to how this one would play out and changed my mind a few times along the way. I enjoy mysteries that make me do that. There were a few points when an aside turned into a little too long or detailed, but despite those the story kept moving and making me wonder what would happen next.

I have to say that one thing that bugged me was the main character’s name. To me Troy Chance sounds like some 1950’s era action movie actor rather than a female writer. That’s my problem and not a problem with the book and I’ll still be keeping an eye out for this author’s next novel.


Rating 3.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #72

>> Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Desperately needed: a dose of summer
(from last July)


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Audiobook – The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

>> Monday, February 14, 2011


The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Series: #3 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Publication Date: 2008
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Evil returns to Three Pines and it’s up to Chief Inspector Gamache to not only solve the murder case, but he must also deal with the events of his past that have returned to haunt himself and his family.

Why I Read It:
I have thoroughly enjoyed the audio versions of the first two in the series and the combination of the author’s excellent stories and the reading of Ralph Cosham will keep me coming back for more.

The Book:
It’s Easter weekend in the village of Three Pines. A group of local residents decide to have a séance at the old Hadley House which has been the site of so much pain and suffering. When one of the attendees dies, the question is was she frightened to death or is something more sinister going on.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is assigned the case in part because of his familiarity with the village and many of its residents. As he assembles his investigation team it is apparent to the reader that someone in the group is trying to sabotage the Chief Inspector. The reasons why, the instigators behind it and whether or not the Chief Inspector realizes what is afoot are all played out as the murder investigation progresses.

My Thoughts:
Returning to Three Pines with the Chief Inspector is a visit with a familiar place and characters at this point. The core groups of village residents from the first two books are back and feel like old friends at this point. Their quirks and ongoing back stories are interesting elements as they are interspersed with the primary storylines of the murder and the troubles within the Surete du Quebec. Gamache is still a deliberate and methodical inspector who at the same time gives much credence to feelings and emotions among both his team and the possible suspects they question.

I enjoy the villagers and their quirkiness. Clara and Peter the artists continue to have their artistic struggles. Ruth the curmudgeonly poet adopts some baby ducks with hilarious yet touching results. The B&B owners make me laugh with their quick banter.

The murder story and the other subplots were intertwined and kept moving without ever really bogging down or letting one get put aside to long in order to move the other along. The story of Gamache and his past troubles within the Surete that have been building in the first two books are finally brought into the open and some resolution is made in the story that has only been hinted at up to now.

I think Ralph Cosham does a wonderful job of reading this series and I feel that his voice is perfect for Gamache.

This is a series that is somewhere between a hard boiled crime fiction story and a ligher fare but not really cozy mystery series. It’s one that plays out at a measured pace that mirrors the measured methods of Chief Inspector Gamache. I’d recommend this series to people who might not like the more bloody or gruesome types of mystery stories.


Rating 4/5

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Weekend Update February 12, 2011

>> Saturday, February 12, 2011

This week:
A busy week at work has left me a bit brain dead in the evenings, but I did have an enjoyable reading week despite not having as much reading time as I would have liked. I finished State of the Onion and posted that review Thursday. It was a fun first in a new series for me. I started reading Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry and I’m liking this debut thriller a lot.

I also finished up my audiobook, The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny and I’m happy to be back in the world of Amelia Peabody with The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters. It’s been over a year since I’ve listened to a book from this series and the mysteries set in Victorian era Egypt are interesting and filled with moments that make me laugh out loud when Amelia (as read by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblat) makes one of her hilarious observations or asides.


Other than books and reading:
In between baby afghan projects I decided to take the yarn I had bought for my knitting class and make a scarf for myself. I love this soft taupe color yarn and making this scarf is good practice.


We’re gradually working through the backlog on the DVR and finally got around to starting the PBS series “Downton Abbey”. I’m so glad I paid attention to my twitter friends the night it started and set the DVR. What a wonderful and entertaining show. Besides, I love Maggie Smith in just about anything.


Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:
Shortcut Man by Preston Sturges a new crime fiction series I heard about via Twitter. It sounds like just my kind of book.



Delirious by Daniel Palmer is another one that came to my attention through Twitter. Jenn at Jenn’s Bookshelves has once again added another book to my list. The author is the son of Michael Palmer who I’m familiar with as a medical mystery writer.


Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks is the second in the Carter Ross series. The Hubster and I both enjoyed the first and have been looking forward to reading the follow up.


This month’s short story available at Steve Hockensmith’s blog is actually his first published crime story "Erie's Last Day"



Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett came to my attention from my library newsletter as one of the staff picks. The fact that it’s from Algonquin books made me take a second look because I have enjoyed many of their books in the past few years. This non-fiction offering from them sounds fascinating to me.


Purchased this week:
I didn’t buy anything this week

And finally, here’s the current library stack. While the number remains at four there are a couple of changes on the bottom two on the stack.

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State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

>> Thursday, February 10, 2011


State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series:  #1 in the White House Chef series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 301
Source: Library

The Short Version:
While vying a rival to be the first female White House Executive Chef, Olivia (Ollie) Paras also ends up the target of both an international assassin and a slimy new Sensitivity Director.

Why I Read It:
There was a lot of talk among my favorite book bloggers recently when the latest in this series was released, but it was Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves who convinced me to try this series because we like so many of the same authors and books.

The Book
Ollie Paras has been working as an assistant chef at the White House for a couple of years. With her boss and mentor getting ready to retire, she is one of the final candidates to take over his job. Her rival for the position is a wonderfully evil and overbearing former co-worker turned television cooking show hostess.

One morning as she arrives for work, Ollie ends up in the middle of a chase as the secret service rounds up an intruder on the White House grounds. While she manages to stop the guy in time for the agents to grab him he tells her before he’s hauled off that he has a message for the President about imminent danger. Despite the objections of her Secret Service agent boyfriend Tom (and his bosses) Ollie can’t help doing some amateur sleuthing.

Ollie has to deal with a despicable new Sensitivity Director making things difficult for the kitchen staff, her awful rival for the promotion, preparations for a state dinner that change constantly, and an international assassin that may be after Ollie herself.

My Thoughts:
What a fun new series for me. I knew I could trust Jenn’s recommendation. This is an enjoyable first in a cozy mystery series. The heroine is likeable despite her tendency to keep getting involved. I enjoyed the unique setting with the complications of political intrigue as well as the protocol and tradition of the workings of the White House staff.

The multiple story lines were all entertaining and kept the story moving. Ollie’s rival for the promotion is hilariously over the top. The Sensitivity Director who shakes up the normal routines of the staff by insinuating himself into things that are working just fine before he ever came along is a great character to dislike. I have to admit that when his new position is first described my mind went straight to C3PO from Star Wars and he became ‘the protocol droid’ in my brain for the rest of the book.

Outside the inner workings of the White House, the stories involving the potential peace between two long antagonistic Middle East countries and the hunt for the assassin were enough of a tension filled plot to balance out the cozy parts of this cozy mystery.

All in all thoroughly enjoyed this and am looking forward to continuing with the series.

Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #71

>> Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Candle Holders


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A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

>> Tuesday, February 8, 2011


A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the traditional canon of Sherlock Holmes
Publisher: The Floating Press
Publication Date: 1887 (this edition 2009)
Pages: 125
Source: Library ebook




The Short Version:
It’s the story of how Dr. Watson first meets Sherlock Holmes and his first experience observing Holmes take on a murder case.

Why I Read It:
Although I’m a long time mystery fan I’ve never read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories or books. I decided that it was time to remedy that and to start at the beginning.

The Book:
After returning from military service in Afghanistan, Dr. Watson finds himself seeking affordable lodgings in London. A friend suggests Sherlock Holmes as a potential roommate. When they first meet Watson is surprised at Holmes knowing he’d been in Afghanistan before being told. This is just the first of many observations and deductions that fascinate and intrigue Watson.

They agree to share a flat and before long Watson is going along for the ride when Holmes is called in by detectives to consult on the case of a body found in an abandoned house. Much of the first part of this short book is taken up with introducing Holmes’ methods and interactions as observed by Watson.

There is a sudden shift of time and place at the halfway point in the book that seems at first to be a totally separate story set in the American West 30 some years earlier. Eventually everything connects and the scene shifts back to London and the conclusion of the mystery.

My Thoughts:
This was a very enjoyable short quick read. I was a bit thrown by the time and place shift in the middle, but once I verified that it wasn’t some weird error in my ebook I went with the flow and continued. The mystery itself was interesting and I enjoyed seeing Holmes work through Dr. Watson’s eyes.

What surprised me a bit was the American side of the story and the introduction of the Mormon emigrants to Utah. I wasn’t expecting that and was certainly not expecting the anti-Mormon sentiment to the story. However, considering that this was written in the 1880’s this may have been based on popular perception.

Either way, the story was fun and interesting to read and I’m so glad I finally ventured into the world of Sherlock Holmes. I’m putting this on The Hubster’s reading list and I’m hoping he’ll continue with the rest of the Holmes stories and books along with me. I enjoyed both the serious side of the mystery and was surprised at the parts that made me laugh. I wasn’t expecting the humor in Watson’s observations.


Rating 4/5

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Baby Afghan for Tracy S's Baby Boy

>> Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Baby shower was yesterday and in addition to this the Mom-to-be also got a quilt and two baby sweaters made by friends at the party. Lots of handmade love for this little guy already.


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This time around I let the recipient pick out the color. I sent her a link to three different brands of yarn so she could see the colors available. I totally knew she'd pick this color before I even sent her the email.

I added the antique white to the border because I thought that looked better than a stark white.

Crochet
Yarn - Lion Brand Baby Soft
Color - Pistachio

By the way - that maple rocker was the first thing my parents bought for the nursery after they found out Mom was pregnant with my older brother.



This one shows a little bit of detail as well as the washing instructions I always attach to baby afghans. I started doing that after I found out that one Mom was afraid to use the afghan I'd made because she didn't know it was machine washable.

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Weekend Update February 5, 2011

>> Saturday, February 5, 2011

This week:
It’s been a busy week at work and I’ve been using most of my spare time at home to crochet so there hasn’t been a lot of reading time. I did read the first of the Sherlock Holmes books – A Study in Scarlet. I definitely enjoyed it and will be putting it on The Hubster’s to be read list. I think that as a huge mystery fan it’s a bit heretical that I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes stories and now that I’ve finally read the first I’m looking forward to more. I started reading State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy and it’s a very enjoyable first in a cozy mystery series. Jenn at Jennsbookshelves convinced me to give it a try and I’m glad I listened.

Meet Chip – yes, Wilbur has a buddy. We’re now a two nook family. Wilbur is mine and The Hubster has named his Chip.



I buy books (and borrow them from the library) in so many formats including hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook that it just made sense to be able to share a book with The Hubster no matter what format I bought or borrowed. We read a lot of the same books so sharing an ebook library as well as all our other books became necessary.

Other than books and reading:
The baby afghan is done!! The Baby shower is today, so I’ll be posting a picture of the afghan tomorrow. Speaking of baby showers, it shows how much I love this friend that I’m willing to attend one. Definitely not one of my favorite activities, but for this particular Mom-to-be I’ll be there.

Looks like the afghan I’m crocheting for myself is going to remain on the projects I’ll get back to someday pile. Another friend is having a baby in July and just found out this week that it’s a girl, so I’ll be picking out a baby afghan pattern and looking for some girly yarn. I’m planning on knitting this one so I can practice my new found knitting skills. I’m thinking of using some bookish inspiration and making the blanket that the characters in Debbie Macomber’s The Shop on Blossom Street made.


Added to my TBR List (To Be Read) this week:
You Believers by Jane Bradley

The cover is so intriguing and I’m hearing good things about this one

Purchased this week:
The Simple Truth by David Baldacci

I’ve only read the first couple of Baldacci’s books and enjoyed them so it’s time to get around to reading another one soon.


And, no change in the library stack.

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