Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sorry to say it, but last week wasn't a great reading week for me. Too many other things kept getting in the way. The hubby was at home with a bad cold or a touch of the flu - and you know how that goes. And the weather was really depressing, which shouldn't really have kept me from reading, but somehow I just never could settle down with a book. Also, I spent waaay to much time surfing the 'net, indulging my latest whim (see "Organizers"). But today starts a brand new week, and I hope to get myself back on track. Or at least find the track I wandered away from.
  • Still reading this week:

  • Bad Boy, by Peter Robinson. I'm enjoying this one, and should be able to finish it up in the next couple of days.

  • Up next:

    Several ARCs I really should get to before February gets too far along. Also have a handful of reviews started, and I need to get those finished and posted, so that's my goal for this week. That is, if I don't come down with M's cold.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Yes, organizers. Day planners. Engagement calendars. Agendas.

Do you use them?

I'm specifically thinking about Filofax "systems" and their ilk. I've got this sudden itch to own one, but they're rather pricey and I'm wondering just how useful it would really be.

I've always kept a personal diary or journal, and I'll continue to do that. I'm not thinking that the Filofax would replace that. I also keep a reading journal, just to keep track of what I'm reading and the number of pages I read per day. This year I'm using one of the Reading Woman engagement calendars by Pomegranate.

It's lovely, with nice smooth, heavy pages for writing, and reproductions of thirty-two paintings that show women reading. And it helps keep this woman reading – the days I don't do any reading are left blank, and I really hate seeing those empty spaces.

But I'm thinking the Filofax would come in handy for organizing more than just my reading life. This year is likely to be a big one for me: hubby retiring, selling the condo (I hope!), buying a new home, moving, and exploring a new area. My year will almost certainly be exciting, but also hectic and chaotic: lots of work and planning and travel and appointments to keep. So you can see I really need that little leather notebook with all those cute – I mean useful inserts and accessories.

Of course, I could use my iPad for all that. Or my "smart" cell phone. They've both got calendar and planner capacities. But I guess I have to admit that, for all my fascination with the new technologies, I'm really a pretty confirmed pen-and-paper type. There's just something about a hand-written list on a real sheet of paper – something visceral that electronic devices just don't provide.

Basically, of course, it's just that I've been bitten by the Filofax bug and I've just got to get my hands on one. And I find I'm not alone in my fascination. I had sort of assumed the non-electronic organizer was a thing of the past. Not so. After doing a little googling, I found there are still loads of people devoted to their Filofaxes, Day Runners, Day-Times, or Franklin Coveys. There are "fan" groups on Facebook and Twitter. There are even Flickr groups, with hundreds of members who've uploaded thousands of photos of their beloved (and lovingly customized) planners. (See Philofaxy, Filofax Joy, For the Love of Filofax, Filomaniac, and Filofans.)

So, after much dithering and hair-pulling, I've finally decided to take the plunge. Now, of course, comes all the dithering and hair-pulling while I decide on style, size, color, where to buy, etc. That's going to be a problem because there's a lot to choose from and I don't do well when I have too many options. Looks like I've got a little more googling to do.

Cross-posted at Joysweb.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Themed Reading Challenge 2011

Yes, I know. I thought I was finished signing up for reading challenges for this year. Apparently I thought too soon. What can I say? It's an addiction, but such a fun one!

Originally hosted by Wendy at Caribousmom, the Themed Reading Challenge has been passed on to a new host - Teddy Rose of So Many Precious Books, So Little Time - but the basic guidelines are pretty much the same: "This is a six month challenge designed to help readers clear books from their to-be-read stacks which center around a common theme or themes."

The challenge runs from February 15th to August 15th, and the goal is to read and review at least five books that share a common theme. You choose your own theme, and it can be anything you want: "Themes can be geographic, genre, author, subject matter, or anything in between." You can read more about it on the challenge announcement/sign-up page here.

Last year I chose "Women of a Certain Age" as my theme (that is, books that featured "mature" female characters), and had a lot of fun with it, even though I only read four out of my five books. I thought about using that same theme again this year, but decided to go with something a little broader. And I'm also bumping myself up to the second reading level (read at least five books that share TWO themes). Could be dangerous, but we'll see what happens.

My themes will be mystery novels that feature amateur sleuths, written by female authors. The sleuths don't have to be female - just the authors. Hmmmm. That's actually THREE shared themes, isn't it? Well, anyway, here's my list of the books I'm hoping to read for the challenge (plus a few extras - because you never know):
  1. Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey series). Dorothy L. Sayers
  2. Framed in Lace (Needlecraft Mystery series). Monica Ferris
  3. Grey Mask (Miss Silver series). Patricia Wentworth
  4. Malice in Miniature (Dorothy Martin series). Jeanne M. Dams
  5. Murder on the Prowl (Mrs. Murphy series). Rita Mae Brown
  6. The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin series). M.C. Beaton
  7. Quiet as a Nun (Jemima Shore series). Antonia Fraser
  8. Whisker of Evil (Mrs. Murphy series). Rita Mae Brown
Needless to say (so why am I saying it?), my list is subject to change. And during the course of the challenge, I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog (here).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Heavy

This week, BTT asks some heavy questions: "What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?"

OK, I'm going to assume "largest, thickest, heaviest" means we're talking length, not weight (either physical or intellectual). And at first it really seemed like this would be an easy topic, but it turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I've always kept lists of the books I've read, but I didn't always include numbers of pages. So I had to rely on GoodReads and Amazon, since I no longer have copies of most of the books. And after much searching and list-making, I found that the biggest (longest, heaviest, whatever) book I've ever read was probably Bleak House by Charles Dickens. It's listed at around a thousand pages (or just over) in most of the paperback editions, although I think the one I read might have been a little shorter. Read it for a college English class in Victorian literature. Didn't realize it was the "heaviest" book I would ever read, but I certainly knew it was the bleakest!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: A Red Herring Without Mustard

Jill at Breaking the Spine, hosts "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event spotlighting those new and future releases that we're looking forward to getting our hands on.

And this week, the book I'm looking forward to is:

A Red Herring Without Mustard
Written by Alan Bradley
Release date: February 8 or March 8, 2011

Description (from GoodReads):
Award-winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. The precocious chemist with a passion for poisons uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey—mysteries involving a missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in Flavia’s own backyard.

Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room.

Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?

As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.

This is Bradley's third novel featuring the wonderful eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. I was a bit skeptical about the first novel in the series - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Precocious children in adult fiction usually turn me off. But the book turned out to be a great read. Haven't read the second book in the series yet (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag), so I better get busy and do that before I get my hands on this new installment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Knight's Castle

This week my teaser lines come from Knight's Castle by Edward Eager. It's one of the books I've been reading for the Young Readers 2011 Reading Challenge. I don't know how I managed to miss reading this book and its sequel, The Time Garden when I was a child - they're exactly the sort of books I've always loved, full of fantasy and magic and history and humor. This snippet comes from page 20 of the paperback edition, and has Roger (one of the four main characters; the others are his sister Ann, and their cousins Eliza and Jack) finally realizing that his ancient lead soldier may be more than just a toy:
The old one reached out his small metal hand and pinched Roger hard. For such a small pinch it hurt quite a lot.
"Ow," said Roger. And then he knew...."Oh Old One," he said...."You are magic."
"Light dawneth," said the Old One.
I know that's a lot more than two lines. Sorry, but I couldn't figure out where to cutteth.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I don't think I did a Monday "reading list" post last week. So this week's post is a little run-down of my last two weeks of reading. And I actually have been getting some reading done. Not exactly the books I planned to read, but that's OK.
  • Recent reads:

    The Anatomy of Ghosts, by Andrew Taylor. Hope to get a short review of this one up today or tomorrow. For now I'll just say I'd definitely give it a thumbs-up.

    Also read several books for the Young Readers Challenge: Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, and two Edward Eager books - Knight's Castle and The Time Garden. These were all great fun - no reviews yet, but I've got a couple underway.

  • Reading this week:

    Bad Boy, by Peter Robinson. An Inspector Banks book; this is my first experience with Robinson and Inspector Banks, and I'm enjoying it so far.

    Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler. Started this one earlier this month and got sidetracked by all those kiddie lit books. Hope to get back to it this week.

  • Next in line:

    Not certain about this yet, but I'm thinking maybe a cozy mystery. Just bought Amanda Lee's The Quick and the Thread, the first book in her Embroidery Mystery series, and it looks like fun. But I've got a few Agatha Christies on tap, too. So we'll see what develops.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Return to Yesteryear

Even though I've always been a pretty devoted bookworm, for some reason I always experience a bit of a reading slump in January. I guess it might be the result of all that frenzied holiday-ing in December, or maybe just midwinter blues or something. Don't know. But I do know that the first of every new year usually means a slowdown in my reading schedule.

This year, though, I think I've found the solution. Children's books! Kiddie lit (and the Young Readers Challenge) seems to have perked me right up. So far, I've read four of these wonderful confections, and I've got another going now. Haven't gotten any reviews up yet, but I hope to do that soon (must remember my resolution about reviews this year).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Periodically

This week's BTT question is about what we read other than books: "What magazines/journals do you read?"

I do read magazines. Nothing terribly intellectual. And I'm not going to claim that I actually read all these from cover to cover every week or month, but here we go.

M and I subscribe to just a few bookish periodicals - mainly The New Yorker and TLS (Times Literary Supplement); I also read the New York Times Book Review every week. I used to love Washington Post's Book World, too; but, alas, it is no more.

Other (non-literary) magazines/journals I read or glance at on a fairly regular basis are Doll Reader (to feed my other addiction), and several home decorating type mags: primarily Dwell and Atomic Ranch. Also Elle Decor, mainly because I received a subscription to it when the publishers did away with Metropolitan Home. I also generally read Alcalde (published by the University of Texas Alumni Association) so I can keep up with what's going on with all my fellow Texas Exes (Hook 'em, Horns!).

Occasionally I'll take a look at Smithsonian Magazine - not what it once was, but still a good read. And once or twice a year I'll pick up Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar or Vogue (love the "big" September issues); I don't subscribe to any of those, but they're great for summertime reading at the beach or by the pool.

Oh, and one more. Though I hate to admit it, these days I actually do find myself reading those AARP magazines that come every month. Senior citizen? Who? Me?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Stitch Me Deadly

Jill at Breaking the Spine, hosts "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event spotlighting those new and future releases that we're looking forward to getting our hands on.

And this week, the book I'm looking forward to is:

Stitch Me Deadly
Written by Amanda Lee
Signet Books
Release date: February 1, 2011

Description (from GoodReads):
Marcy Singer owns The Seven Year Stitch, an embroidery specialty shop in the small town of Tallulah Falls, Oregon. Trouble strikes when an elderly woman brings an antique piece of embroidery into the shop-and promptly dies of unnatural causes. Now Marcy has to stitch together clues to catch a crafty killer.

Amanda Lee is a pseudonym of author Gayle Trent, who also writes as Holly Jordan. This is the second in Lee's Embroidery Mystery series; the first was last year's The Quick and the Thread. Haven't read that one yet, but I love Monica Ferris's Needlecraft Mystery series (featuring amateur sleuth and needlework shop owner Betsy Devonshire), so I thought I'd give these a try.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Bad Boy

This week, my teaser lines come from Bad Boy, the latest Inspector Banks novel by Peter Robinson. I'm reading the ARC, although the book was actually released in September of last year (yes, I'm running just a little slow in my ARC-reading, as usual). I haven't gotten this far yet, so I'm not sure exactly what's going on at this point in the book, but I think Winsome is a female police detective. This bit comes from page 250 of the published edition (p. 149 of the ARC):
Winsome was a secret Doctor Who fan. She would never tell her colleagues at work because they were sure to make fun of her...but she had always dreamed of being the doctor's companion, of traveling the universe through space and time, meeting Shakespeare, battling monsters and egomaniacal madmen, arriving back on earth before she had even left.
Yes, I've had that dream, too - although I'm not sure I'd be so enthusiastic about battling monsters and madmen. But I'd definitely love to get my hands on one of those sonic screwdrivers!

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Firsts

Here we go with this week's BTT topic: Do you remember the first book you bought for yourself? Or the first book you checked out of the library? What was it and why did you choose it?

First of all, I have to say thanks for using my questions. Problem is – now I have to come up with an answer!

I honestly don't remember the very first book I checked out of the library. I don't think I went to the library on a regular basis until I was nearly a preteen – I guess mainly because I always had so many books of my own at home. But one of the earliest books I checked out was Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl. I had read Little Women and Little Men when I was eight or nine, and loved both of those. So I was very excited to get my hands on another book by Louisa May. Loved that one, too.

But I'm pretty sure I do remember the first book I bought for myself. Again, I'd never really thought much about buying books because I always had massive numbers of books given to me. And I got Weekly Reader books from the time I was in the first or second grade, so I was able to choose a lot of my books. (Do school kids still get Weekly Reader?) But I believe I was about twelve before I actually went to a store and picked out a book to buy with my own money. The book was The Haunted Looking Glass: Ghost Stories Chosen by Edward Gorey and I bought it in a shop called Ann and Tom Brown's Toys, in San Antonio, Texas – my hometown. They had a section of the store devoted to children's books, and I loved hanging out there. Most of my Nancy Drews came from that same place. And why I chose that particular book is simple – I've always loved ghost stories, and I just couldn't resist all those amazing illustrations.

The Haunted Looking Glass is a wonderful little book containing twelve spooky tales, each one illustrated with a fascinating drawing by Gorey. The stories are all classics of the horror genre, such as Algernon Blackwood's "The Empty House," and "The Dream Woman" by Wilkie Collins. Both the stories and the illustrations gave me goosebumps (not to mention a few nightmares) – and still do, even after all these years. And I still have my original copy of the book, but it's very delicate and crumbly today (sort of like me). I'd love to post more of the illustrations, but I hate to handle it too much. So here's one I've already got scanned – the drawing illustrating "The Body-Snatcher" by Robert Louis Stevenson:

I think the book is still in print, so one of these days I might just treat myself to a new copy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Looking Forward: The Books of 2011

If you've visited my blog before, you probably know that I love making lists. I'm a sucker for a list of books. I love lists of books almost as much as I love books themselves. Yes, it's a neurosis, I know. But a fairly harmless one.

At the beginning of every year, I usually make a list of upcoming books that look interesting to me. Originally, I kept the lists in my reading journals, and in recent years I've started turning them into simple computer databases. Much easier to keep track of, and searchable! But this year I thought, why not just keep my list on my blog? Even more convenient.

So here's my list of new books to look out for in 2011. These are not, by any means, all the books that will be published in the US in 2011. They're just the ones I think sound interesting. Of course, I'll only be reading a tiny fraction of the titles on this list. But in a perfect world, a world in which I could read a book or two per day, this is what I'd be reading this year.
  • January

    Cecelia Ahern. The Book of Tomorrow (novel)
    Jennie Bentley. Mortar and Murder (cozy mystery)
    Elizabeth Buchan. Separate Beds (novel)
    Barbara D'Amato. Other Eyes (mystery)
    Sharon Fiffer. Backstage Stuff (a Jane Wheel mystery)
    Lee Goldberg. Mr. Monk on the Road (mystery)
    Detlef Hilmer, et al. Postcards of the Wiener Werkstatte (art history)
    Alice Hoffman. The Red Garden (novel)
    Jennifer Homans. Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet (cultural history)
    Erin Kelly. The Poison Tree (novel)
    Michael Koryta. Cypress House (historical novel)
    Don Lattin. The Harvard Psychedelic Club (cultural history)
    Jane McLoughlin. Shadow of a Doubt (mystery)
    Brad Meltzer. The Inner Circle (thriller)
    Fern Michaels. Home Free (novel)
    J.J. Murphy. Murder Your Darlings (historical novel)
    Amy Myers. Murder on the Road (mystery)
    Joyce Carol Oates. Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (short fiction)
    Leonard Pitt. Paris: A Journey Through Time (history, travel; reissue)
    James Rubart. Book of Days (novel)
    Kenneth Slawenski. J.D. Salinger: A Life (biography)
    Andrew Taylor. The Anatomy of Ghosts (historical mystery; read in January)
    Charles Todd. A Lonely Death (historical novel)
    Susan Vreeland. Clara and Mr. Tiffany (historical novel)
    Jill Paton Walsh. The Attenbury Emeralds (historical mystery)
    Jo Walton. Among Others (novel)

  • February

    Mark Alpert. The Omega Theory (thriller)
    Nancy Atherton. Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree (cozy mystery)
    M.C. Beaton. Death of a Chimney Sweep (a Hamish Macbeth mystery)
    Rene Belletto. Coda: A Novel (novel)
    Ben Bova. Leviathans of Jupiter (sci-fi)
    Kevin Brockmeier. The Illumination (novel)
    Joyce Dennys. Henrietta Sees It Through (epistolary novel)
    Theodor Fontane. Irretrievable (novel)
    Julia P. Gelardi. From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847-1928 (history)
    Martha Grimes. Fadeaway Girl (mystery)
    Keigo Higashino. The Devotion of Suspect X (mystery)
    Rebecca Hunt. Mr. Chartwell (historical novel)
    Chris Knopf. Bad Bird (mystery)
    Amanda Lee (aka: Gayle Trent). Stitch Me Deadly (mystery)
    Sandor Marai. Portraits of a Marriage (novel)
    Craig McDonald. One True Sentence (historical mystery)
    Kate Mosse. The Winter Ghosts (historical novel)
    Joyce Carol Oates. A Widow's Story (memoir)
    Michael Palmer. A Heartbeat Away (thriller)
    Darwin Porter, Roy Moseley. Damn You, Scarlett O'Hara: The Private Lives of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier (biography)
    Douglas Preston / Lincoln Child. Gideon's Sword (thriller)
    Jonathan Rabb. The Second Son (historical novel)
    David Rosenfelt. On Borrowed Time (thriller)
    Elena Mauli Shapiro. 13, rue Therese (historical novel)
    Mel Starr. A Trail of Ink (historical mystery)
    Barbara Steffen, ed. Vienna 1900 (art history)
    Elizabeth Stuckey-French. The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady (novel)
    Alexander Theroux. The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (biography; reissue)
    Dan Vyleta. The Quiet Twin (historical novel)

  • March

    Catherine Aird. Past Tense: A Sloan and Crosby Mystery (mystery)
    Kate Atkinson. Started Early, Took My Dog (detective novel)
    Jean M. Auel. The Land of Painted Caves (an Earth's Children novel)
    David Bezmozgis. The Free World (novel)
    C.J. Box. Cold Wind (a Joe Pickett novel)
    Alan Bradley. A Red Herring Without Mustard (historical novel)
    Chelsea Cain. The Night Season (mystery)
    C.S. Challinor. Murder on the Moor (a Rex Graves mystery)
    Jonathan Coe. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (novel)
    Charles Cumming. The Trinity Six (novel)
    Mary Daheim. The Alpine Vengeance (an Emma Lord mystery)
    E.L. Doctorow. All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories (short fiction)
    Carola Dunn. Anthem for Doomed Youth: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (historical mystery)
    Paul Elwork. The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead (novel)
    Linda Fairstein. Silent Mercy (an Alex Cooper mystery)
    Joshua Foer. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (non-fiction; science)
    E.M. Forster. The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster (autobiography, travel)
    Lisa Gardner. Love You More (a D.D. Warren mystery)
    John Harding. Florence and Giles (historical novel)
    Mat Johnson. Pym (historical novel)
    Jonathan Kellerman. Mystery (an Alex Delaware mystery)
    Linda Francis Lee. Emily and Einstein (novel)
    Gail Levin. Lee Krasner: A Biography (biography)
    Elizabeth Loupas. The Second Duchess (historical mystery)
    Paula McLain. The Paris Wife (historical novel)
    Rae Meadows. Mothers and Daughters (novel)
    Ian Morson. Falconer and the Death of Kings (a William Falconer mystery)
    John Julius Norwich. Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (history)
    Tea Obreht. The Tiger's Wife (novel)
    Rohan O'Grady. Let's Kill Uncle (novel)
    S.J. Parris. Prophecy (historical novel)
    Georges Perec. The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise (novel)
    Thomas Pletzinger. Funeral for a Dog (novel)
    Michael Robertson. The Brothers of Baker Street (mystery)
    Luis M. Rocha. The Pope's Assassin (thriller)
    Anne Roiphe. Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason (memoir)
    Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle (cozy mystery)
    Simon Tolkien. The King of Diamonds (historical mystery)
    Laura Wilson. An Empty Death (historical mystery)

  • April

    Chris Adrian. The Great Night (novel)
    David Albahari. Leeches (novel)
    Ella Barcelo. The Goldsmith's Secret (historical novel)
    Louis Bayard. The School of Night (historical novel)
    William Boyd. Nat Tate: An American Artist: 1928-1960 (fictional biography)
    Rita Mae Brown. Hiss of Death (Mrs Murphy mystery #19)
    Cassandra Clark. The Law of Angels (historical novel)
    Stuart Clark. The Sky's Dark Labyrinth (historical novel)
    Anna Dean. A Gentleman of Fortune. Or, the Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent (historical novel)
    P.C. Doherty. Nightshade (historical novel)
    Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain. Murder, She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice (mystery)
    Mary Gordon. The Love of My Youth (novel)
    James Hamiliton. Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration (art history; biography)
    Donna Leon. Drawing Conclusions (a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery)
    David Lodge. A Man of Parts (historical novel)
    Debbie Macomber. A Turn in the Road (a Blossom Street novel)
    Wendy McClure. The Wilder Life (nonfiction)
    Chris Paling. Nimrod's Shadow (historical novel)
    Anne Perry. Treason at Lisson Grove (a Charlotte & Thomas Pitt mystery)
    Arthur Phillips. The Tragedy of Arthur (novel)
    Rebecca Rasmussen. The Bird Sisters (historical novel)
    Alexandra Styron. Reading My Father (memoir)
    Frank Tallis. Vienna Twilight (historical novel)
    Carol Wallace. Leaving Van Gogh (historical novel)
    Katherine Webb. The Unseen (historical novel)
    Meg Wolitzer. The Uncoupling (novel)

  • May

    Jeffrey Archer. Only Time Will Tell (historical novel)
    John Boyne. Noah Barleywater Runs Away (for young readers)
    Martin Davies. The Year After (historical novel)
    Essie Fox. The Somnambulist (historical novel)
    Tessa Hadley. The London Train (novel)
    Jane Harris. Gillespie and I (historical novel)
    Ursula Hegi. Children and Fire (historical novel)
    Dany LaFerriere. I Am a Japanese Writer (novel)
    Jo Nesbo. The Snowman (a Harry Hole mystery)
    Stefanie Pintoff. Secret of the White Rose (historical mystery)
    John Sandford. Buried Prey (a Lucas Davenport mystery)
    Lisa See. Dreams of Joy (novel)
    Lynn Sheene. The Last Time I Saw Paris (historical novel)
    Enrique Vila-Matas. Never Any End to Paris (novel)
    Katie Ward. Girl Reading (historical novel)
    Betty White. If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) (memoirs)

  • June

    S.J. Bolton. Now You See Me (mystery)
    Kate Christensen. The Astral (novel)
    Clive Cussler, Grant Blackwood. The Kingdom (a Fargo adventure novel)
    Elizabeth Aston Edmondson. Stone and Shadows (historical novel)
    David Kaiser. How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (nonfiction)
    Felix J. Palma. The Map of Time (novel)
    Ann Patchett. State of Wonder (novel)
    James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge. Now You See Her (thriller)
    Marcus Sakey. The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes (mystery novel)
    Earl Swift. The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (nonfiction)
    S.J. Watson. Before I Go to Sleep (novel)

  • July

    Catherine Coulter. Split Second (FBI series) (thriller)
    Barbara Delinsky. Escape (suspense novel)
    Barbara Erskine. Whispers in the Sand (historical novel)
    Cristina Garcia. Dreams of Significant Girls (YA novel)
    Tess Gerritsen. The Silent Girl (suspense novel)
    John Hart. Iron House (thriller)
    Gregory Murphy. Incognito (historical novel)
    Janet Reitman. Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion (nonfiction)
    Anne Rivers Siddons. Burnt Mountain (novel)
    Elizabeth Speller. The Return of Captain John Emmett (historical novel)
    Chevy Stevens. Never Knowing (suspense novel)
    Alexander Theroux. Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery (nonfiction)
    Nicola Upson. Two for Sorrow (historical novel)
    John Verdon. Shut Your Eyes Tight (thriller)
    Richard Zimler. The Warsaw Anagrams (historical novel)

  • August

    C.J. Box. Back of Beyond (thriller)
    Robert Olen Butler. A Small Hotel (novel)
    Edmund deWaal. The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (nonfiction)
    Tess Gerritsen. Call After Midnight (suspense novel)
    Lev Grossman. The Magician King (novel)
    Michael Kazin. American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (nonfiction)
    Christobel Kent. A Murder in Tuscany (mystery novel)
    Louise Penny. A Trick of the Light (mystery novel; Chief Inspector Gamash series)
    Marisha Pessl. Night Film (novel)
    Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Cold Vengeance (thriller; Pendergast series #11)
    Helen Schulman. This Beautiful Life (novel)

  • September

    Haruki Murakami. 1Q84 (novel)

  • October

    Anne Enright. The Forgotten Waltz (novel)

  • November

    Joan Didion. Blue Nights (memoir)
    James Garner. The Garner Files (memoir)
    Michel Houellebecq. The Map and the Territory (novel)
    Diane Keaton. Then Again (memoir)

  • December

Book Browse
Bookmarks Magazine
Conversational Reading
The Cozy Mystery List
Historical Novel Society
Library Journal (U.S.)
The 2011 Book Preview
Murder, Mystery and Mayhem: A Resource for Readers
New York Times Book Reviews
The Penguin Publishing Group Online Catalogs
Shelf Awareness

"Waiting On" Wednesday: One True Sentence

Jill at Breaking the Spine, hosts "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event spotlighting those new and future releases that we're looking forward to getting our hands on.

And this week, the book I'm looking forward to is:

One True Sentence
Written by Craig McDonald
Minotaur Books
Release date: February 15, 2011

Description (from GoodReads):
A Movable Feast meets The Dante Club, this crime novel by Edgar-nominated Craig McDonald begins when a literary magazine editor’s body lands in the Seine.

Paris, 1924. Hector Lassiter, crime novelist and best friend of Ernest Hemingway, is passing the Pont Neuf when he sees a body fall into the Seine, the first in a string of brutal murders that befall literary magazine editors on both banks of the City of Lights. Eager to solve the mystery, Gertrude Stein gathers the most prominent crime and mystery writers in the city, including Hector and the dark and intriguing mystery novelist Brinke Devlin. Soon, Hector and Brinke are tangled not only under the sheets but in a web of murders, each more grisly than the next, and Hemingway, Hector, and Brinke have to scramble to find the killer before they become the next victims.

Paris in the 1920s and a few grisly murders! And Gertrude Stein running the show? How could I pass that up?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Codex

Since I'm still reading the same books I was reading last Tuesday, for today's teaser I'm using lines from a book I read several years ago. I've been looking back through some of my reading journals and this is one passage that jumped out at me. It's a little longer than two lines, but it seems so relevant to the current debate about paper vs. electronic books, I thought I'd include the whole thing (sorry - I'll make up for it next week). In Lev Grossman's novel Codex from 2004, Edward Wozny, a young banker, is asked to help one of his firm's most important clients organize a library of rare books. In this bit, Edward has just encountered the library for the first time:
He was treating these books like they were holy relics...there was something magnetic about them, something that compelled respect, even the silly ones, like the Enlightenment treatise about how lightning was caused by bees. They were information, data, but not in the form he was used to dealing with it. They were non-digital, nonelectrical chunks of memory, not stamped out of silicon but laboriously crafted out of wood pulp and ink, leather and glue. Somebody had cared enough to write these things; somebody else had cared enough to buy them, possibly even read them, at the very least keep them safe for 150 years, sometimes longer, when they could have vanished at the touch of a spark. That made them worth something, didn't it, just by itself? [Chapter 4, p. 57]
Well, I'd certainly go along with those sentiments. But then, I have the soul of a librarian.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in a comment here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reading Challenge Addict - That's Me!

Cheryl @ CMash Loves To Read, and Gina @ Hott Books are co-hosting the Reading Challenge Addict Challenge 2011, and they must have read my mind because I was thinking that I really, really need something like this. Yes, I am a reading challenge addict, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But I do need something to help me keep up to date on my progress during the year, and this should be just the ticket.

You can read all about the challenge here, and sign up here. The four levels of participation are:
  1. Easy as Pie: 1-5 Challenges (Entered & Completed)
  2. On the Roof: 6-10 Challenges (Entered & Completed)
  3. In Flight: 11-15 Challenges (Entered & Completed)
  4. Out of This World: 16+ Challenges (Entered & Completed)
And I'm definitely in the "Out of This World" category. I'm currently signed up for nineteen challenges: fifteen new ones just for 2011; three ongoing, perpetual or long-term challenges; and one personal challenge (also ongoing). They're all listed on my challenge blog, where I can keep track of my reading and reviews. Not making any firm promises at this early date, but I think I'll probably try to do a regular update post about the challenge, maybe once a month or so.

Now if I could just find a challenge that would keep me from signing up for more challenges, I'd be on the road to recovery!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I did actually get some reading done last week, although I didn't finish any books. I spent way too much time checking out all the new reading challenges and playing with my challenge blog. But this week things should be getting back to normal. (Normal?) Anyway, here's how I'm doing at the moment:
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Reading Report: The Weird Sisters

Written by Eleanor Brown
Amy Einhorn Books/G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2011; 336 pages

(The review refers to an uncorrected proof of the novel.)

Description from the publisher:
The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there....But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from - one another, their small hometown, and themselves - might offer more than they ever expected.

Eleanor Brown's new novel, The Weird Sisters, is well written and tells an interesting story, and I think a lot of readers will enjoy it. I very much wanted to love it, but it just wasn't my cuppa I guess. The description was so attractive; but I really had to give myself a stern talking-to to keep reading beyond the first couple of chapters.

First of all, I think Brown should be given high marks for creating a family of readers. The Andreas sisters (Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia - "Rose," "Bean," and "Cordy") and their parents are literate and bookish people, who love reading. They hang out in bookstores and libraries - they think a library card solves nearly all problems. They don't watch TV. They take books along to read in waiting rooms and queues. They read during good times and bad. As a bookworm, I found that wonderfully refreshing.

And I thought the story of the mother's illness and the family's reaction to it was very credible and moving. So true to life, in fact, that it was hard to read at times. The girls' mother was an interesting character, and I think I'd have enjoyed the book a little more if she'd been more of a presence.

But I found it very difficult to identify with or sympathize with any of the sisters. Now that wouldn't necessarily be a problem - I've enjoyed many books in which the characters aren't to my liking. But I think the fact that I found the girls so off-putting was the main reason I didn't enjoy this book as much as I should have.

There were other reasons. One thing that bothered me was that the sisters' personalities and group dynamic were so pat - Rose as the older sister was, of course, the brainy one and the mother hen who tried to control the lives of everyone around her; Bean, the middle child, was the one bent on getting out of the nest and succeeding at a high-powered career in the big city; and Cordy, the baby and everybody's pet, was the over-indulged, irresponsible free-spirit. The girls' Shakespeare-quoting father was another irritation - I would have divorced (or strangled) him long before I'd had time to have three children with him.

And the whole idea of a group (or plural) narrator bothered me a bit, too. The novel is written in first person plural, narrated from the collective perspective of the three sisters. That was intriguing at first, but I found it more and more disorienting as the narrative became more involved. After a while, it felt a little like communicating with the Borg.

Maybe it's just that I'm not a sibling, or that I'm from the wrong generation. Or maybe it's because I've read several other books recently that feature grown-up sisters living (or returning to live) with their parents. I don't know. Early in the novel, Brown has the sisters explain that when they call themselves "weird," they're thinking of the original "wyrd" and the way in which Shakespeare used it - "supernatural strangeness" or "fated." But the three young women in The Weird Sisters didn't seem particularly weird or wyrd to me - just a little annoying.

Note: This review refers to an uncorrected proof of the novel provided free of charge by the publisher, through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was offered or provided, and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading Report: The Thirty-Nine Steps

Written by John Buchan
First published 1915, by William Blackwood & Sons

Description from GoodReads:
Richard Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.
That's a very abbreviated synopsis of the story. But rather than try to describe the plot in more detail, I'll just suggest you take a look at the very nicely done Wikipedia article on the novel (here). It even has a little rundown of all the various film and radio versions that have been done over the years (most of them very different from the original book).

The Thirty-Nine Steps has been on my must-read list for decades now, and I have the 2010 Decades Reading Challenge (and the free e-book offer from Amazon) to thank for finally moving me beyond the "someday" promise. Overall, I enjoyed it very much - even though the "ripping yarn" type of adventure novel isn't usually something I take to. Buchan was a talented writer and he keeps the action moving right along at a pleasant pace. He maintains a good balance of dialogue and descriptive passages, and includes touches of humor here and there. All in all, this was a good, fast read and an entertaining, if somewhat far-fetched tale.

Reading Report: Juliet

Written by Anne Fortier
Random House/Ballantine Books, 2010; 447 pages

Julie Jacobs, the heroine of Anne Fortier's novel Juliet, has spent most of her twenty-five years living in the shadow of her more vivacious twin sister Janice. Janice seems to do everything right, win all the friends and appropriate all the goodies for herself while the unkempt and less talented Julie drags behind. But Julie's life gets a lot more interesting after the girls' Aunt Rose dies. Rose has raised the twins after the deaths of their parents and they've always thought of her as more of a mother than an aunt. But when Rose's will is made public, it turns out that she's left everything to Janice; the only legacy Julie receives is an airplane ticket to Italy where the girls' parents met and married - and died when Julie and Janice were toddlers - and a key to a safety-deposit box that is supposed to lead to an old family treasure.

And with that, she's off to Italy on a convoluted and dangerous adventure involving her ancestor, Giulietta, whose real-life love for a young man named Romeo was supposedly the basis for the tale told by Shakespeare and other authors down through the ages. Julie (today's Giulietta, of course) meets the descendants of the families of the two lovers, and tries to track down the treasure while at the same time avoiding the curse that's supposedly still at work on the families. Naturally, she falls for the modern-day version of Romeo - his descendant Alessandro, who works for the Italian police. And she's stalked by a mysterious and seemingly malevolent leather-clad motorcyclist who shadows her every move.

I really wanted to love this book. I think the idea is a good one, and there were parts that were very well done. The scholarship was impressive (although in her Author's Note, Fortier gives her mother credit for the research), and the setting in Siena was nicely drawn. Unfortunately, the story just didn't live up to its promise. Julie is such a sad case, wallowing in jealousy and self-pity for most of the novel, that I frequently just wanted to shake her and tell her to shape up and get a life. Move. On.

Also, this is one of those books that include a lot of shifting back and forth between time periods. And, as usual, just as I would get interested in the modern-day part of the story, I'd turn a page and find myself back in the 14th Century. Actually, I think Fortier's imagining of the "real" Romeo and Juliet is a very engaging tale, and would have made a decent novel all on its own without the silliness of the modern-day adventure-romance thrown in. But that would have meant losing the "evil" twin, Janice, who was really one of the bright spots in the book.

As I said, I didn't love the book. But I didn't hate it, either. Overall, it's not a bad read if you can stick it out to the end (at over 400 pages, it takes a bit of commitment to make it through). Fortier is definitely a talented writer, but Juliet is probably not her best work.

[Note: I received the advance reading copy of this novel free of charge from the publisher. No other form of compensation was offered or accepted, and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.]

Booking Through Thursday: Resolutions

Well, here we are in a brand new year - time for taking stock and making plans. So I guess it's only natural that the first Booking Through Thursday of the new year should ask the timely question: Any New Year’s reading resolutions?

And my answer is: not many. And I wouldn't really call them resolutions (that sounds so much like laying down the law). I prefer to think of them as goals that I'm going to try to achieve throughout the year. Something to shoot for, and if I don't make it all the way, at least I can give myself a pat on the back for making the effort. Right?

My one major reading goal for 2011 is the same one I had for 2010 and 2009 - read more books than I did last year. In 2010 I didn't quite make it - I read exactly the same number of books as I read in 2009. But at least I didn't read fewer books. And having that goal in mind helped keep me reading all year.

I also want to try to be more faithful about reviewing the books I read. This year, I'm really going to try to say at least a few words about each book as I finish it - even if it's only a thumbs-up/thumbs-down type of report. I started "book-blogging" in the first place so that I'd have a record of what I read and my reactions to it, and I think I've been getting away from that purpose lately. Must do better.

This year I've also promised myself that I'll be a little more discriminating when it comes to reading challenges. In 2010 I had more than two dozen going all at once; it was fun but also hectic. And it took away a lot of the spontaneity I enjoy - I had to stick to a pretty tight reading schedule if I was going to finish all those challenges. This year, I haven't signed up for quite that many and I'm looking for challenges that allow me a lot of "wiggle" room in choosing what to read and when to read it. I still think challenges are fun and a really good way to keep me focused on reading, so I'm not giving them up entirely. I'm way too addicted for that.

And that's about it. I have a few more minor goals: things like keeping up with my accounts at Good Reads, Library Thing, and Shelfari; and not requesting quite so many ARCs. But the main thing I want to do is have fun with my reading in 2011. And I hope all of you have fun with your reading, too.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Just One More: The Aussie Author Challenge

I really did think I was finished with my challenge sign-ups for the new year. But apparently I was wrong about that. Don't know how I missed this one. I love Australian cinema and koala bears, so I'll probably love Australian literature too, don't you think? And anyway, who could resist that adorable platypus on the button?

The Aussie Author Challenge 2011

Dates: 1 January - 31 December 2011
Host: Joanne of Booklover Book Reviews
Two Reading Levels: "Tourist" - Read and review three books by three different Australian authors; or "True Blue" - Read and review twelve books by at least nine different authors.
See the announcement/sign-up page here.

I'll be signing up at the "Tourist" level, so I'll be reading three books. I've wanted to read My Brilliant Career (by Miles Franklin) for decades now, and this might be just the nudge I need. I'm also interested in works by Christina Stead, Elizabeth Jolley, Shirley Hazzard, and Peter Carey. So there's lots to choose from. I'll have my list of possible choices posted on my challenge blog shortly, and I'll be updating my progress there, through the year.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Anatomy of Ghosts

This week my teaser lines come from the new book by Andrew Taylor (due out later this month), The Anatomy of Ghosts. It's a historical suspense novel about ghosts and books and Cambridge University in the eighteenth century. I've only read about seventy pages, but so far I'm definitely enjoying it.

This bit comes from page 10 of the ARC - the final paragraph of Chapter 1 - so please remember that the published version may differ slightly. And once again it's more than two lines, but just a little:
He did not know that he was screaming....But long before he discovered what he was holding, he knew that there was nothing living in whatever curled around his fingers. He knew that what he touched was dead.
Well, it is a ghost story, after all.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in a comment here.