Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Seeing It Through

This week my teaser lines come from Henrietta Sees It Through: More News from the Home Front 1942-1945, by Joyce Dennys which, although it sounds like nonfiction, is actually a novel first published in 1986 and recently reissued by Bloomsbury USA. I've just started this one, but I can already tell it's going to be a quick read. Told in the form of letters to a childhood friend, the novel is narrated by Henrietta, a character Dennys developed in her writings for Sketch magazine during World War II.

In this excerpt, Henrietta is describing her reaction to signs she's seen that say "Give a Good Book in Aid of the Red Cross":
I was pleased when I saw them, for I thought it must mean that books of a religious nature were needed, and as I haven't got any it absolved me from all responsibility....To part with even one of the tattered and incongruous volumes which form what I am pleased to call my library is, for me, worse than losing a front tooth. Sometimes I wake in the night and writhe to think of the books I have lent to people and never seen again. (pp.142-143)
Yes, I know how she feels. I have the same problem when it comes to parting with books. Except for library books and books lent by friends, if a book finds its way into my eager little hands, it's generally mine for life. Fortunately, I have a husband who is much, much better at clearing out, donating, and throwing away.

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, February 21, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I think this is the first one of these Monday reading lists I've done this month. Must admit, February hasn't really been a great reading month for me. So far, I've only finished one book and haven't managed to get any reviews posted. I do have several of those in the works, though, and should get at least a couple up this week. Mostly what I've done this month is play with my new Filofax organizer - I'll probably have a post about that coming up, too. (I know you just can't wait!) So, anyway here's how things are shaping up now that the month's more than half gone:
  • Finished last week:

    Bad Boy, by Peter Robinson. Don't know why it took me so long to finish this one, since it was really very enjoyable.

  • Reading this week:

    Henrietta Sees It Through, by Joyce Dennys. This is an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing, so I've dropped everything else to get it read asap. It's a short book so it really shouldn't take a whole week to read, but with the way my reading has been going lately, I wouldn't make any bets.

  • Next up:

    I still need to finish up The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler. After that, I'm not sure; but I've got a pile of ARCs that I really should wade through before the year gets too much farther along. Gotta get myself out of the winter doldrums and back on track.

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.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Romantic

This week Booking Through Thursday asks questions all about romance - a good topic for the week right after Valentine's Day:
What’s the most romantic book you’ve ever read?....(Mind you, I don’t mean the hard-core stuff you hide in plain wrappers under your mattress. I mean True Love, Romance, deeply emotional, heart-tugging, and all that stuff.)

And, secondly, did you like it? Is it your usual kind of reading, or did it take you by surprise?
I had to give this one a lot of thought. These days, I don't read many novels that could really be called "romantic." In the past I used to read quite a bit of "gothic" romance, by the likes of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. But I'm not sure I'd call many of those extremely romantic, even though they certainly have all the qualities of a romance novel - they were more suspenseful than romantic.

So after much mulling over, I'd have to say Wuthering Heights is probably the most romantic book I've ever read. Emily Bronte's tale of obsessive passion that transcends death is the very definition of romantic fiction. Catherine is beautiful, proud and impossible to tame; Heathcliff is rebellious, passionate and mysterious - the perfect romantic heroine/hero pair.

Did I like it? Reader, I adored it! I first read the book when I was about fourteen, and it absolutely astounded me. I've read it several times since then, at various times in my life, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

And here, just for the heck of it, are some of my other nominees for "most romantic book I've ever read":
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Love Story by Erich Segal
I would include Jane Eyre on the list, except for the fact that I've only read bits of it. Never have been able to stick with it long enough to finish the whole thing. So I suppose I could make up another list of the most romantic novels I've almost read!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: King of Diamonds

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:

The King of Diamonds
Written by Simon Tolkien
Minotaur Books
Expected Release Date: March 15, 2011

Description from GoodReads:
A sophisticated mystery layered with dark secrets from the past, and slow-burning suspense.

It’s 1960, and David Swain is two years into his life sentence for murdering the lover of his ex-girlfriend, Katya Osman. In the dead of night, David escapes from prison, and that same night Katya is found murdered in her uncle’s home, Blackwater Hall.

Inspector Trave of the Oxford Police, last seen in
The Inheritance, heads the manhunt for David, whom he first brought to justice two years earlier. But Trave’s suspicions lead him to Katya’s uncle Titus Osman, a rich diamond dealer, and his sinister brother-in-law, Franz Claes, who has gone to great lengths to hide his former ties with the Nazis. However, Trave’s motives are suspect - Osman is having an affair with Trave’s estranged wife, Vanessa, and a newcomer to the Oxford Police, Inspector Macrae, is eager to exploit Trave's weaknesses to further his own ambition. Caught up in his superiors’ rivalry, Trave's young assistant, Adam Clayton, finds himself uncertain who is right and which side to choose. Once David is captured and put on trial for his life, Trave is willing to risk everything that is dear to him—professionally and personally—to pursue his obsessive belief in Osman’s guilt.
I read Tolkien's first Inspector Trave novel (The Inheritance) last year and thought at the time that it would make a terrific series. So I'm glad to know that the author must have been thinking along those lines, too! I'm eagerly awaiting this new installment, but I do wish they'd come up with a better cover.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Radioactive Lady

This week, my teaser lines come from Elizabeth Stuckey-French's novel, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. I've just started this one and don't really know anything about the book or its author; I confess I chose it just because of the wonderful title. This bit comes from page 151:
Vic...enjoyed his afternoon paper route because he loved studying other people's neat little homes; smelling the dryer lint from their laundry rooms; imagining the quiet, mundane lives that were lived within. He bet nobody in those houses accidentally fried eggs in a frying pan lined with motor oil as his mother once did after his father had used the pan to catch oil draining from the station wagon.
Oops! Oh, well, at least that should keep 'em all running smoothly until their next tune-up!

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, February 10, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Ground Floor

This week's BTT topic is all about discovering new authors, and I really had to think about this one a while:
There’s something wonderful about getting in on the ground floor of an author’s career–about being one of the first people to read and admire them, before they became famous best-sellers....Which authors have you been lucky enough to discover at the very beginning of their careers....And, if you’ve never had that chance, which author do you WISH you’d been able to discover at the very beginning?

Well, I'm not sure how "wonderful" I think it is to be there at the beginning of an author's career. Generally I've found that first writings are usually not an author's best work, which is why I usually shy away from debut novels. I suppose if he/she were a personal friend, I'd feel differently, of course.

Even so, I have read many first-time authors over the years; but only a few I've actually stuck with and continued reading after that initial effort. One who immediately springs to mind is Larry Woiwode - I read his first novel, What I'm Going to Do, I Think, back in 1970 right after it first came out. Loved it so much I went on to read his second novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall and many of his short stories over the years. He writes gorgeous stuff, and should be better known. Another writer from the '60s that I discovered early and kept up with is Tom Wolfe. I read his first two collections, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test soon after they were published in the late '60s, and I've read more of his work since then. I was a huge fan of the "new journalism." And I love his white suits.

A more recent discovery is English author Hazel Holt. I read the first of her Mrs. Malory mysteries, Mrs. Malory Investigates, as soon as it was available in the U.S. and since then I've read almost the entire series of nineteen novels. Still have a few to read, though - they're right there on my TBR list, along with the fifteen million other titles.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Brothers of Baker Street

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:

The Brothers of Baker Street
Written by Michael Robertson
Minotaur Books
Release date: March 1, 2011

Description (from GoodReads):
The second in a highly original and absolutely marvelous series about two brother lawyers who lease offices on London's Baker Street--and begin receiving mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes. When brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath choose 221B Baker Street as the location for their law office, they don’t expect that their new office space would come with one huge stipulation, answering the letters sent to Sherlock Holmes, the most famous resident of that address.

Reggie is distressed because the love of his life, actress Laura Rankin (whom Nigel also adores), is gallivanting around with media mogul Lord Buxton. And while Reggie is working on a new case involving one of London’s Black Cab drivers who is accused of murdering two American tourists, the letters to Sherlock Holmes are piling up. There's even one from someone who claims to be the descendant of Professor James Moriarty.

With a case that would have puzzled even Sherlock himself and a pair of brother sleuths more different than night and day,
The Brothers of Baker Street is sure to please mystery fans whatever their address.

I haven't read the first book in the series yet (The Baker Street Letters), and as I recall it didn't get terrific reviews. But this one sounds like it's definitely worth a try.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Flavia's Second Case

This week my teaser lines come from a book I haven't actually started reading yet (it was just delivered to my door yesterday). The book is The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley's second Flavia de Luce novel. Flavia, an eleven-year-old amateur sleuth in early 1950s England, made her debut in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, published in 2008. I read that one last year and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd take a look at the second novel in the series in preparation for the third installment which is due out later this year. This bit comes from pp. 30-31 of the paperback edition, and is being related by Flavia herself:
It was after all Cynthia, with her rodent features, who had once caught me teetering tiptoe on the altar of St. Tancred's, using one of Father's straight razors to scrape a sample of blue zafre from a medieval stained-glass window....Cynthia had seized me, upended me, and spanked me on the spot, making what I thought to be unfair use of a nearby copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern (Standard Edition).
I'm not exactly sure who Cynthia is or what she has to do with the story, but I do know that if she tried that spanking routine today, she'd probably find herself being put away for a long, long time.

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.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Making 2011 a Little More Challenging

OK, forget what I said about cutting back on reading challenges in 2011. What could I have been thinking? There are just too many wonderful book bloggers out there working overtime at coming up with great ideas for challenges, and I'm weak (weak, I tell you!), WEAK! So, now that we're a month into the new year, I've come up with a few more that are just too interesting to pass up.

Battle of the Prizes Challenge - British Version

1 February 2011 - 31 January 2012
Host: Rose City Reader
Read books that have received the Man Booker Prize and/or the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
For guidelines and book lists, see the announcement/sign-up page here.

✹ For the last couple of years, I've signed up for the American version of this challenge; but this year I thought I'd give the Brits a try. I haven't decided what I'll read yet, but since I haven't read any of the "double-dippers," I'll most likely be going with Option One and read three books.

Book Awards V

1 February - 1 December 2011
Host: 3M (Michelle) @ 1 More Chapter
See the announcement/sign-up page here.
Read five books from five different awards.

✹ I participated in the second edition of this challenge a couple years back and it was one of my favorites. Don't know why I didn't sign up for any of the follow-ups, but I'm going to remedy that now. A preliminary list isn't required, but there are loads of book award lists to choose from, so I'm going to have fun doing my research for this one.

2011 Pub Challenge

1 January - 31 December 2011
Host: 3M (Michelle) @ 1 More Chapter
Read a minimum of eleven books first published in 2011, at least six of which must be fiction.
See the announcement/sign-up page here.

✹ When I first looked at this one, I thought "no way" could I read that many books published this year. But then I checked my reading list from last year and discovered that at least twenty of them were published in 2010. So I'm assuming that I can get at least eleven new books read this year, too.

So, that's it for now. During the year, I'll be updating my progress with all these on my challenge blog here. Now will ya'll please just stop coming up with so many tempting challenge ideas!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Prophecy

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:

Written by S.J. Parris
Expected Release Date: May 3, 2011

Description (from GoodReads):
S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

I read the first of Parris's Giordano Bruno novels, Heresy, last year and really enjoyed it. So I'm very much looking forward to this next adventure.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Booked To Die

Didn't get much reading done last week, so I've still got the same books going. And since I've already teased from those, this week I'm taking my teaser lines from one of the books I enjoyed several years ago, John Dunning's Booked To Die. It's the first in his series of mystery novels centering around former homicide-detective turned rare book dealer, Cliff Janeway. In this snippet we have Janeway talking about his fellow "bookscouts":
Book dealers are like everyone else: they come in all sizes and shapes and have the same hangups that you see in a squad room or on an assembly line.... They are usually a cut or two smarter than the average Joe.... Some of them, though, are definitely crazy. (p.40, paperback)
Well now, I suppose the same could be said of book bloggers, couldn't it?

Original hard cover

Mass market paperback edition

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.