Thursday, November 30, 2006

Arthur and George by Julian Barnes

Well, I won't often post about a book that I didn't finish. But I just couldn't finish this book. It was good and I know that others have really liked it. I just couldn't get past something that kept niggling at me. I thought at first it was that there is a big law court case in the middle and I don't like to read them. They are to stressful and there is always people lying and back stabbing and the person is usually innocent, so you are all stressed out because things go against them. Even if it straightens itself out later, I just can't deal with the stress.

But as I thumbed through to see what else might happen in the book, I realized what was bothering me. All the women were wimps. Arthur's wife is sick, but never complained so she her illness progresses to where she is more or less an invalid. George's mother is complacent to his fathers wishes and the his sisters is an invalid. I'm not saying that women were a bit like that back then, but every woman? Even Arthur's mistress is excepting of everything that happens to her. They are happy with what ever is their lot. I think that it was a mistake reading this after just finishing Virgina Woolf. This is just to much a Mans Man book for me. I can't deal with it. So I'm not saying it was just wasn't for me!

So I'm now reading a strong woman again. Beverly Connors "Skelton Crew" is what I'm reading now. I good archaeology mystery. I'm half way through and it is really look for this post soon...

Thanks Heather!

This surprise package came in today from Canada. Heather is better known as Orange Blossom Goddess. She sent me two mags, soap, two postcards and lovely handstamped card and bookmark.

Your the best, thanks Heather!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Voyage Out by Virgina Woolf

This book took me a bit to get through, mostly because I was sick in between but also because it has a lot to it. I can see that Woolf spent a lot of time with this book, it is said that she rewrote this many times. She includes so many ideas and thoughts in this your head spins a bit. It definitely isn’t a book that you read just for pleasure. You have to concentrate and keep characters straight. There are a lot of characters, but they all are very distinctive. I don’t know how she does that. She writes through the eyes of many of the characters.

It is mostly the story of Rachel, a girl who has been very sheltered by her father and Aunts who raised her. She has no real idea what it is like to be in a relationship. She has never really experienced anyone that is in one, her Aunts being unmarried and her mother dying when she is young. She is taken under the wing reluctantly by Aunt Helen, who is married to her father’s brother. Helen convinces Rachel’s father to let her stay in the house they are staying in, instead of accompanying him on his work trip. During the voyage and the time on the island they become very close.

I find this books split into two different stories almost, the first the voyage and the second the time on the island. During the voyage Helen and Rachel feel each other out. They at first don’t like each other much and once Helen sorts out how na├»ve Rachel is, she decides it is her duty to help her become a woman safely. During the time on the island they are more like friends who really care for each other. The other reason I think the book could have been two, is that during the voyage Rachel has an intimate experience with Mr. Dalloway and there is a bit of a ending there. Then on the island they meet all these different people who expand the view of the novel a lot. I’m still amazed at how much Woolf puts in this book. There are ideas about society, marriage, religion, etc. I will have to read this again sometime. Not right now, but one day when I can really take another look at all she says.

I thought it was interesting that you meet Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway in this book. She wasn’t anything like I expected. I didn’t think of her as a society type person. Of course that is because I haven’t read the book yet, and don’t know anything about it. I only really know Woolf by the story or essay “Room of Ones Own”. So reading her has been very interesting.

I’m reading Arthur and George by Julian Barnes right now. It is a bit disappointing only because I don’t like books were there are court scenes. I find it frustrating because the truth always seems to get twisted and you can never be sure if the person really will get off…in this book I’m sure he doesn’t…though I could be wrong. So I’ll be writing about that once I’ve finished.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Killer cold....

Good title for a book...but not one I've read...I've lived it! I've had a terrible cold now for more then a week. I haven't even felt like reading.....or crafting....which is SOOO unlike me. I'm half way through Woolf's Voyage Out, so I will have a post for it soon. Just didn't want my faithful readers to think that I had stopped posting.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Independent Bookseller of the Year 2006

I've been meaning to tell you all about my favorite bookstore! It isn't one of the big chains with expresso machines (which I don't drink anyway) or too many books about stuff I'll never read! It is however the Independent Bookseller of the year for 2006. Where is this lovely store...well it is in my beloved's hometown of Much Wenlock, right in the heart of beautiful Shropshire and is called (appropriately) Wenlock Books. (With a blog at

I've been visiting this book store for the last six year or so. Over time the owner, Anna Dreda, and I have developed a friendship that I value very much. She is so enthusiastic about books you can't help be comfortable in the shop. It isn't huge, but it is packed with all kinds of goodness. Upstairs they have good quailty used books. I always go right to the small hardback literature classics first and then to the travel (looking for that Dervla Murphy or Josie Dew I need). Then a peek at religion, biography, fiction, mystery and crafts. Then downstairs to see what is new and if lucky a cup of tea while I sit and browse the childrens department. I always find something for presents for friends, stuff for myself...and the cards....she has some of the most beautiful cards! Tired of those stupid cards with bodily function jokes and ugly pictures?? I even found a great card for my nephew that has cool beetles on it!

Much Wenlock itself is worth a visit. I highly recommend the Copper Kettle tea room, there are two wonderful delis, and a coffee room just off the beaten track a bit. You can easily spend a day just walking down the high street shopping at Twenty Twenty (art gallery) or Rainbows End (a gift shop with great clothes and kids stuff). Or you can visit Wenlock Abbey, the remains of the Abbey torn down by Henry VIII.

Can you tell I love this town?? I want to move back there! Hopefully one day we will.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Email notification...

I've added Feedblitz email notification in the sidebar. If you would like to know when I add a post, this should email you to let you know. Please let me know if there are any problems. I had some with the other notification I had, but fortunatley I hadn't told many there weren't many already logged into it!

Thanks for reading my blog. I really enjoy writing the reviews and letting you all know about books you might not be aware of.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Silence is Golden – Jeanne M. Dams

I’ve been reading Dams work for several years now. When I worked at the Valparaiso Indiana library, she was a local author from South Bend. We had her to the library to give a talk and I had supper with her.

She has two mystery series that are set in totally different places and eras. The first series she wrote was the Dorothy Martin series. These are set in modern times mostly in England. The second series, Hilda Johansson, is set in South Bend in the early 1900s. Hilda is a maid working in the grand house of the Studebaker family, a real historical family that is famous for designing and building cars. Hilda and her family have come from Sweden to make their fortunes. In the first few books it is just her, her brother and two sisters. In this book, Silence is Golden, they have been able to have their mother and younger siblings come over to live with them.

The rest of the books in this series have been wonderful. Dams has done her research and knows what it would have been like for servants and their “betters” to relate to each other. She also covers the differences between the different immigrants that were coming over to the new world. Hilda is being courted by an Irish Catholic fireman, Patrick Cavanaugh, and this is a conflict for her Protestant family. You get a good feel for how difficult it was when America was still trying to find its footing with all the new people coming into the country. This book is good, but I did get irritated a bit with Dams forcing the mystery to work.

This book focuses on Hilda and her younger brother Eric who has just arrived from Sweden. Their mother is over protected and he is finding his new surroundings difficult to deal with. Hilda is understandably worried about him. A circus comes to town and his acrobatic friend Fritz, a German boy, goes to see it without permission. He disappears and is found later sexually abused and badly hurt. For some reason, Hilda gets it in her head that Eric is going to try and figure out who did it. There isn’t any indication in the book that he would or did try to find anything out. She also worries and frets that Eric will try to run away to the circus. With what happened to his friend, that wasn’t likely!

About half way through the book Dams finally sorts things out and we do see Eric run off because he is unhappy at this job. He jumps on a orphan train that came through South Bend and he was found and sent back hom. He then is hired to work with horses, a job that he takes to right away. When Patrick and Hilda decide to treat him to the circus and they run across people they think might have hurt his friend, Dams does it again! Eric runs after the people, gets lost in the crowd and Patrick spends the night and part of the next day looking for him. (This is after finding a young boy dead by one of the Circus wagons.) I just can’t see Eric running up to do…what…to this man that might have hurt his friend. Eric is young in the story and would not be able to do anything really, but get himself into trouble. Especially since he has his sister and her beau there also!

Anyway, the end of the story is good, though I had pretty well figured out who was kidnapping and abusing the boys. Do read Dams. She usually writes very well and her books are nice cozy mysteries.

You can find more information about Dams here.

Her Bibliography is:
Dorthy Martin

Hilda Johansson
Death in Lacquer Red (1999)
Red, White, and Blue Murder (2000)
Green Grow the Victims (2001)
Silence is Golden (2002)
Crimson Snow (2005)

I'm off target with my reading a bit. I've started reading Virgina Woolf's "The Voyage Out" and I am also reading Barnes' "Arthur and George". I read part of "Gardening with Love" by Elizabeth Lawrence. It was full of latin names for plants and telling of the different plants that she swapped with other in the States. I read the bits about the people's letters she recieved but found the rest a bit difficult to get through, since I'm not into plants like that. Do try it if you are a real gardener!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

I was so excited when I heard that Bryson had a new book out. I have to admit, that though I purchased A Short History of Nearly Everything, I’ve not been able to get it read yet….shame, shame on me! This book was so worth waiting for, even though it isn’t his customary travelogue instead he takes us back in time.

He takes us on a journey back to Iowa in the 1950’s when he was a child. The Thunderbolt Kid is his alter ego, which is nicely done. How many of us didn’t think of ourselves as superheroes when we were children? I remember pretending to be Wonder Women a time or to myself. But he doesn’t over do this and make it all about that…no this is a gentle ride through what it was like in the US after World War II. He helps put things into perspective…like the fact that at the same time nuclear bombs were being tested….women were getting their first wringer-less washing machines… That stuck me as so strange the difference in the knowledge and technology being so out of sync with each other.

He also talks about his family life. Both of his parents were journalists working for the local paper, his dad covering sports and his mother home interior. This is where he gets his talent for writing, and he is obviously very proud of them. He is the youngest of three, though he is brought up more as an only child since he siblings are much older. As with most of his work, his humour is gentle and the funny bits are the parts that you can relate too. I found myself reading it all alone in the house and wanting to read parts to someone! I’m from the Midwest, but was a child in the 70s…not much was different when I was growing up…except I don’t remember the circus’s being how he explains it….nor did we do the movies like he did. But the big similarity is the people he talks about. I know those people…had potlucks with lots of Jello….I wore lots of clothes so I could go out in the winter….just so much there that made me smile!

Bryson doesn’t pull any punches though. He talks about the good and the bad, for example racial violence and civil unrest is covered. Bryson though, has a way of making you feel something really strongly, with out being preachy. He has his facts right. As with any era, there are good and bad events and attitudes that he covers. He shows how far we have come, and how far we still need to go.

The only disappointing part of the book is the years of semi-adulthood where her recounts Steven Katz’s stealing and drinking. If you have read Bryon’s other books you know about Steven Katz…however, this does go to explain some of Katz’s attitudes in the other books.

Overall, it is another fine book. A must read for his fans, and a good introduction to his style if you haven’t read him before.

I’m currently reading a Jeanne Dames mystery, so that will be my next review. Hopefully that will be ready next week.

I’ve added a new feature on the sidebar. If you don’t subscribe to something like Bloglines where you can be kept abreast of new postings on weblogs, you can subscribe to an email service. You will receive an email each time I post on to this blog. Hopefully that will be helpful for those that like to read my reviews.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Well, it is that time of the year...leaves are falling....chill is in the air...and they mystery writers are releasing their new books! I was looking at the Bookseller today, and I can't believe how many new books are coming out. Of course that is just here, I'm sure they probably have already been out in the excuse me if I'm not telling you anything new....

I won't cover them all....but ones near and dear to me and my Mom's heart I'll mention:

Elizabeth George "What Came Before He Shot Her"
Ruth Rendell "The Water's Lovely"
Lindey Davis "Saturnalia"
Martin Cruz Smith "Stalin's Ghost"
Simon Brett "Death Under the Dryer"
Boris Akunin "Special Asigments"Janet Evanovich "Motor Mouth"
Anne Perry "At Some Disputed Barricade" is going to take me for ever to get caught up at this rate!!! Isn't it great!!!

Next week....Bill Bryson review! I'm almost finished and it is BRILLIANT!!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Not forgotten....

As many of my fellow Americans and others around the world,
I don't need to watch the film...
I don't need to watch endless repetitions of what happened.
I may not have been in NY or Washington...
but I was there...
and I won't forget those that were lost
or their families.

Nothing is ever gained by hatred.....
let us love one another.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fall reading.....

I decided I really need to get to terms with my reading list. So lets see what I will be reading this fall....

Elizabeth Lawrence
Gardening for Love

Jeanne M. Dams
Silence is golden
Barnes, Julian
Arthur and George
Bill Bryson
The Thunderbolt Kid

Beverly connor
Skeleton Crew

Marina Lewycka
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Sarah Lloyd
An Indian Attachment

Martin Curz Smith
Wolves eat dogs

Barbara Pym
An Unsuitable Attacment

Gillian Tindall
The House by the Thames

I'm reading "Gardening for Love" at the moment. It is one of the books I got from "Slighty Foxed". This is a quarterly that is published in London. I've been getting it since it started in 2004. They aim to reintroduce books to the public that aren't covered in the bestsellers lists of today. I've really enjoyed many of the books that they review, but even if I don't read the books I find the reviews themselves really interesting. They do cover new books that they feel aren't going to get the advertising they deserve.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Winds of Change – Martha Grimes

Martha Grimes is a writer that knows her craft. Her characters are fully treated and you get to know how they think and why they act the way they do The main two characters are Richard Jury and Melrose Plant. Richard Jury is with Scotland Yard. His “sidekick” is Wiggins. I say sidekick, because Grimes uses him as a comedic relief to Jury’s seriousness. There is a lot of light and dark in these books. Melrose Plant is a Lord, independently wealthy, who has given up his title and travels around the country helping Jury to solve the crimes. Jury uses him as an “expert” on many different subjects from antique furniture to gardening…usually to very funny effect because he knows nothing about the subjects.

What I want to focus on with Grimes is her use of children. It is amazing how well she writes them. In most mysteries, because of the murder element, children don’t appear at all or are very one dimensional. They are there to add to the story only by being kidnapped, grieving, or just the kids of the adult characters. Grimes doesn’t do that to them. She makes them an integral part of the story. They aren’t always the ones that are in peril…but they do have a way of helping solve the mysteries. Grimes gives them sense and smarts that I’ve seen in children myself. Jury has a very good way with children and they take right too him. Melrose Plant they like to torment because as anyone knows when you get someone that doesn’t like children, children want to bother them. But even then Plant has a way with them, because he treats them as equals. She manages to do the same with pets, but that does happen in other books I read.

The last few of her books have been very dark. This one is about a dead girl and a missing girl. It is suspected that the dead girl has something to do with a house very near where she was killed that might be a house run for pedophiles. The house is owned by the missing girl’s father, who has been divorced by her mother. Could the missing girl be working in this horrible house? Who killed the child? Though this sounds worse then it is, the subject is covered very delicately and I found it a lot better then I thought it would be.

This is the nineteenth of this series all named after pubs…well she has a lot more luck finding pub names then I have. We finally saw an interesting one this weekend called the “Odd Wheel”. Some of these books can be read out of sequence, but if you read them in sequence you get a really good feel for the pub friends of Melrose Plant and Jury, the funniness of Wiggins and the cat Cyril at New Scotland yard, and Jury’s neighbors.

A little aside here….though Grimes is not English and actually lives in Chicago I was interested to see how well she depicted life in England and the English scenery. I must say she does a brilliant job and you can tell that she has visited often and has done her research very well.

She has written other books, Hotel Paradise, springs to mind as another really good book where she uses a girl as the protagonist and does it brilliantly.

This is her website:

The Jury Books are in order:

The Man With A Load Of Mischief
The Old Fox Deceiv'd
The Anodyne Necklace
The Dirty Duck
Jerusalem Inn
Deer Leap
Help The Poor Struggler
I Am The Only Running Footman
The Five Bells and Bladebone
The Old Silent
The Old Contemptibles
The Case Has Altered
The Horse You Came In On
Rainbow's End
The Stargazey
The Lamorna Wink
The Blue Last
The Grave Maurice
The Winds of Change
NEW The Old Wine Shades

I’m continuing on with my reading list. I snuck in another Muriel Spark, because I had to get it through Interlibrary Loan. It was The Comforters, which was good but not great. I wouldn’t suggest it as a book to read unless you want to see what Spark is about. You can see her toying with a couple different effects in this novel and she doesn’t really pull them off. I’m reading Gillian Tindall - The House by the Thames at the moment and must get back on track. I just looked and I actually have 4 books still on my list that I’ve seemed to have forgotten about! Oh well. I’ll work on my list and post it for Autumn reading.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Farmers' Market"

Found an interesting article in Bookseller about a cool new thing, a Farmers' Market set up for independent booksellers. Unfortunately, it is September 1 & 2nd in Manchester, UK in St Ann's Square. I wish I could drop everything and go, but I've already spent a ton of money this month and must be good! It is an interesting premise though. It reminds me of the new markets that are happening in the States for Indie crafts! Read more about it here...

I think I might write and see if I can get some publicity material or something. It would be good to know how to contact some of these publishers.

I already support one independent bookseller, Persephone Books. They republish books, ususally written by women but not all, that they feel should be out there for people to read. I love getting their free quartely newsletter and finding out what new titles they have. They put out about two every few months. I recently purchased a book by Virgina Woolf called "Flush". Check out the titles and more about the publisher:

I've been to the store front also, which was just what you would imagine. It was an old building in a old part of London. There were packages to be sent and paperwork here and there, but they had made the front part very comfortable with chairs. They were happy to let you browse away.

One more bit of information I've picked up today...two of my favorite writers have come out with new books. Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, is releasing some of his diaries. The book is called "Diaries 1969-1979: the Python Years". The topic is self-explained I believe.

The other writer is my most favorite non-fiction/travel writer Bill Bryson. He is coming out with a Fiction book this time. It will be interesting to see how this goes. "The Life and Time of the Thunderbolt Kid" has gone on my wish list!

Happy Reading...I promise to post a review soon. I've finished a Martha Grimes book and I need to get the time to do a review for it. I'm reading another Muriel Sparks at the moment "The Comforters". I have to get it done, because I had to interlibrary loan it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Email trouble (cross posted)

I'm having trouble with my yahoo email account. If you get an email from DON'T open it. I cannot get Yahoo to help me at all! I can't get into the account and I'm trying to get them to cancel it, but they don't seem to be able to. If you have IM and get a messaging saying that your account has been used for unauthorized purposes and you need to click on an URL to clear up the problem DON'T do it! That is what happen to me.

I am hoping to get a new address soon, maybe gmail...we will see. If you want to write me, please write dlao_1967 at yahoo dot com dot uk.....


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Guilty pleasure......

I have to admit that during very down times in my life I like to read....don't tell anyone....Miss Read. Who, I hear you ask, is Miss Read? Well, she was the name used by Dora Saint for her English country novels. She has written too many to recount here, it would take the whole page. I did find a really good website for them though:

I would call these 1950's chicklit. Or maybe farmgirl-lit..... They recall an innocent time, when communities knew everything about everybody. She wrote two series, one set in Fairacre and the other in the neightboring Thrush Green. Fairacre centers around the Miss Read character who is a teacher in a two room school house. You learn all about the lives of the children she teaches. It is all roses either, there is a grumpy cleaner and evidence of child abuse. But it is done in such a way that you understand that this is what real life is like! Thrush Green covers all of the people that live there and doesn't settle on any one person or household.

So why are these guilty pleasures? Well, when I was married to my first husband and we were having problems,I would close myself off into my bedroom and read of a distant place. A place where a woman, Miss Read, often talked about how glad she was she wasn't married. A place where everyone knew the other and supported them in times of trouble, and celebrated in times of triumph. I spent many a happy hour reading each and everyone of Miss Read's books, becoming one of the neighbors. Living in a place I didn't even think I would visit, the Cotswolds. I enjoy them as much fact when I was so worried about my nephew, who was having breathing difficulties after birth, I got back out one I haven't read in ages, and it helped me to unwind.

So what are your guilty pleasures? What book is it that you unearth whenever you need a lift of the spirit?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Ride in the Neon Sun – Josie Dew

I love reading travel writing. I especially like those where the writer actually interacts with the people of the country on a very personal level. Josie Dew is one who puts caution to the wind and just goes out and sees what happens. If you like Bill Bryson you will like Josie Dew, she has the same sense of the absurd and sees the characters around her. She writes very well and keeps you interested. Sometimes travel books have a down time, when the person has been on the road so long they are getting a bit tired of it. Josie never gets to that point. She seems to have boundless energy.

In this book she is traveling by bicycle in Japan...accidentally. She was heading to New Zealand and ended up in Japan. She doesn't know any Japanese and she is planning on tent camping...though she isn't sure if this is allowed. She makes her way through the south before she is called back home. She is deluged with gifts from everyone, including children. She travels through typhoons and the rainy season, staying with families or sweating the night away in her tent.

She starts in Tokyo, travels down around the Okinawa islands and then back. Her biggest obstacles where the tunnels, because some of them were very long, very dark, and didn’t have any extra room for bikes. Also, the many habu, which is a deadly poisonous snake…well actually she mostly sees them dead laying on the road. She stays with many families and describes what modern Japanese households are like, a mixture of the modern and traditional in one.

Probably the funniest time was one night when she wanted to find somewhere to camp. She stopped at a house to see if the person knew of a place she could put her tent. She was invited in and allowed to bath and was fed by a lovely couple. They were disappointed when she insists on camping. The man rides with her to a local park where he leaves her to set up the tent. As she is getting settled for the night she hears sounds outside the tent that worried her, it turned out to be three men. The men were sent by the couple to check on her, let her know that it is supposed to rain and they all had gifts. Then the couple show up with supper. The rain starts very late in the night and she is visited again by one of the men from early trying to get her to come to his family home so that she doesn’t have to get so wet. She refuses as kindly has she can. In the morning she is awaken again by someone with her breakfast. Her description of this one night is so funny; you can’t help but laugh out loud.

She includes some history, but not too much. She also has a really nice glossary in the back, a very small index, and a complete list of the equipment that she took with her. She also includes a chronology of Japanese history to help you place time periods she talks about. The illustrator does a good job with the maps which carry on the fun theme; the drawings are very funny interpretations of what happens to her.

This is Dews third book. In her first, The Wind in My Wheels, she writes a compilation of different trips she took on her bike, with or without other people. In her second, Travels in a Strange State she visited the United States, though she writes mostly about Hawaii. She also has three other books since, in the next Sun in My Eyes she returns to Japan. She has a very good website where you can get a better sense of the places she has visited in her books, She also has a forum where you can post messages, which I think is a nice touch. She does reply if you post a question.

Titles of all her books in order of publication:

Wind in My Wheels

Travels in a Strange State

Ride in the Neon Sun

Sun in My Eyes

Slow Coast Home

Saddled at Sea

I’m now going to read a mystery by Martha Grimes, The Winds of Change. I’ve been holding off on this a bit, only because I can tell it is going to be a bit dark and I’ve not really wanted to read anything very dark. But I’m going to give it a go now. I’m also reading Proust’s Swann’s Way at work, and will be starting a mystery by Beverly Connor Dressed to Die which fits very well in my purse.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

“A Taint in the Blood” by Dana Stabenow

Stabenow is one author I am never disappointed with. Her books are set in Alaska, she has a great way of writing characters, and there is a real mystery in each book. Some series become just about the characters, but her books are true mysteries that happen to be a series. She doesn’t just write one series though; she has two along with lots of different editing jobs and short stories. Her website is where she has a blog and information about her writing and Alaska.

Her longest running series is about Kate Shugak who is an Aleut. She lives in a national park where she grew up. Her grandmother is a very important Aleut leader, which causes her some problems. Her grandmother is always after her to take up the reigns of leadership and Kate doesn’t want to. Kate went to college and worked as an investigator for the Anchorage D.A. She was investigating child abuse cases. We find out in the first book that she quit and moved back to the park when she was hurt badly during an investigation. Confronting a child abuser she ended up with her neck slashed. She ends up with both a scar on the outside, a rough voice and a bigger scar on her emotions. She hides out at her homestead and is brought back out by her lover who knows her skills are too important for her not to use them. She then goes on to investigate many crimes in the park and outside of it, but always in Alaska. The series characters are all wonderful. They are all believable with both good and bad characteristics. You learn about the modern native way of live and also the history and politics of Alaska.

This book takes Kate out of the park and into Anchorage. Charlotte Muravieff asks her to investigate a murder that happened 31 years before. Her mother was convicted of setting fire to the family home, killing one of her sons while the other escaped with a leg injury. Charlotte has found out her mother is dying and wants her to be released. She is convinced that her mother did not do the crime, even though her mother has confessed. Why did she confess and why doesn’t she want to talk to Kate about it? What is it about Kate investigating that has upset this powerful family? We get an interesting look into what the past of Alaska might have been, and also a look into the politics there.
Stabenow is one author I am never disappointed with. Her books are set in Alaska, she has a great way of writing characters, and there is a real mystery in each book. Some series become just about the characters, but her books are true mysteries that happen to be a series. She doesn’t just write one series

The series in order of publication:

A Cold Day for Murder
A Fatal Thaw
Dead in the Water
A Cold-Blooded Business
Play with Fire
Blood Will Tell
Killing Grounds
Hunter’s Moon
Midnight Come Again
The Singing of the Dead
A Fine and Bitter Snow
A Grave Denied
A Taint in the Blood
A Deeper Sleep

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

This book totally surprised me! I have never seen the movie or read any of Sparks work. Something intrigued me when a few people had this book on their Summer Challenge reading list.

I pulled it of the shelf at work, and it wasn’t very big and it was paperback…so I thought it might make a good vacation read. I was right, but I had no idea that I wouldn’t read it once but twice…in a row! I’ve never, ever done that. Even if I had to write on a book in college, I never read the whole thing again. But I had to this one. It wasn’t just that it was a good read. Spark has an interesting way of writing. I’ve not decided if she tried to write this in the way a child would have written it, or this is just how she writes. (I’ll have to read more of her books to sort that out.) She goes back and forth between the present and the future. I knew when I finished I had to reread to catch the little pieces that I missed the first time to put the whole puzzle together. I still haven’t totally. I actually went and looked at criticism book just to get someone else’s opinion.

I know that some people doing the challenge quit reading the book because they found the writing aggravating. I think that with all writing pre-WWII you have to keep in mind what was going on in history. Especially when it comes to the way women lived. Jean Brodie is one of the many thousands of women who lost their men in the WWI. Jean lost her true love she was sure she would have married. Since most of the men were either killed in the war, or where horribly traumatized and hurt, there weren’t enough men to go around to all the women of marriageable age. This lead too many women living the life of spinsters, so what were they suppose to do with their time? They had no husband or children to take care of, no household to maintain. Muriel Spark, unfortunately I think, waits until the middle of the book to explain what life was like for them. The start of chapter three she explains:

It is not to be supposed that Miss Brodie was unique at this point of her prime; or that (since such things are relative) she was in any way off her head, She was alone, merely, in the she taught in a school like Marcia Blain’s. There were legions of her kind during the nineteen-thirties, women from the age of thirty and upward, who crowded their war-bereaved spinsterhood with voyages of discovery into new ideas and energetic practices in art or social welfare, education or religion... she was not out of place amongst her own kind, the vigorous daughters of dead or enfeebled merchants, or ministers of religion, University professors, doctors, big warehouse owners of the past, or the owners of fisheries who had endowed these daughters with shrewd wits, high-coloured cheeks, constitutions like horses, logical educations, hearty spirits and private means. (42)

So what is it that Brodie gets up to at this school that is different then the other spinsters of her age? Well she tries to manipulate the lives of a few select girls in her class. These girls become the “Brodie Set” and are given lots of extra attention by Miss Brodie. As the book plays out, in the end the one girl that she had the most effect on betrays her. The head of the school had for years tried to get rid of Brodie. She had been trying on moral grounds, but one of the girls steers her in another direction. A direction that leads to Brodie’s downfall (historically this brought about the downfall of many of the aristocracy of that time). I leave you to find out what this was, and which girl finally brings an end to Brodie’s meddling in the lives of her students.

I’m still left with one question…and if you figure it out please write me! Why does the character Sandy become a Nun? I know the explanation that is given in book, but it doesn’t quite sit right. Especially, when it is said that she was not calm and controlled like other nuns when people come to visit, she hasn’t totally found peace. She also writes a book about psychology. I would love to have been given a glimpse at some of the contents, because I’m a bit confused by the title that is given. I’m sure that if I understood that better I would be able to puzzle more together!

Muriel Spark has been very prolific in her writing. I include a list of the novels she has written. If you go to you will be connected to her archive in Scotland. They have a full bibliography listing and also some information of the archive they have of her writing and letters. I guess she kept all of her papers at some point in her career and they have been given to the National Library of Scotland.

1957 The Comforters

1958 Robinson

1959 Memento Mori

1960 The Ballad of Peckham Rye

The Bachelors

1961 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

1963 The Girls of Slender Means

1965 The Mandelbaum Gate

1968 The Public Image

1970 The Driver's Seat

1971 Not to Disturb

1973 The Hothouse by the East River

1974 The Abbess of Crewe

1976 The Takeover

1979 Territorial Rights

1981 Loitering with Intent

1984 The Only Problem

1988 A Far Cry from Kensington

1990 Symposium

1996 Reality and Dreams

2000 Aiding and Abetting

2004 The Finishing School

Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. London: Penguin Books (2000).

I'm now reading Josie Dews book about traveling in Japan. I will be posting next week about Dana Stabenow though. I finished one of her books over my vacation, but I just had to write this review first.

Happy Reading

Added July 20th. My husband and I watched the movie "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" this weekend. It was very good and I can see why Maggie Smith one an Oscar. There is only area I was really disappointed. I knew it would be different to the book and it was. There was one area I thought they could have done and that was the hats. In the book there are 6 girls and each wears her hat in a different way. They are all suppose to wear them the perscribed way that the school set, but Spark makes a point of saying that these girls each wore theirs different. This was to show that even though they were wearing uniforms they were set aside from the rest of the girls. Unfortuantley, even though there were only 4 of the girls, they didn't each have their hat a different way, most even had them like the rest of the school girls.

I wasn't surprise that the end was different, though I did think it was interesting that they have a confrontation between Brodie and the girl that betrays. It made a powerful ending a suppose, but I thought the whole idea of Sandy becoming a Nun was an important fact in the book...where this wasn't touched at all. Anyway, it was a good movie and I did enjoy it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Vacation pics part 2

This is a really cool bird we saw the day we went birding. I've been wanting to see for all the years we've been here and we saw tons this time!

Enjoying the windy day!
We decided that I should live in this town since I enjoy sleeping so much! That is our car also..I'm in there but you can't see me very well.
This is a juvenile Morhen. It got really excited and came running towards us when we first came up to the lake. I couldn't believe it would eat out of my hand.

These are the lovely beach huts along the coast. They are really expensive (more then a car) and they are only a glorified sheds! They do brighten up the coast line though!

Well there are your pictures, enjoy!

Vacation pics

We aren't very good about taking pictures...but I thought I would show you a few things we saw on our vacation! Firs is the Shire horse we saw ... there are several different breeds and this place has them all. It was really cool to see them. This was Rich's chose of places to go for his birthday!
This horse is the biggest of all the Shire horses. He was funny because the whole time he was in his pen he stood with his back to everyone peeking in!
Here is Rich smartly in the middle of the boat on our way to see the seals!
As you can see I got soaked!!!!

Sorry this is all the pictures that will fit at the moment....

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow by Tim Brookes

I was a bit surprised by this book. As with most funny titles, I really should know better then to think that it means the book will be funny too…. The book has it’s moments, instead there is a real sense of what America is like. Not just the fast food, over eating, fake side that most books written by non-American’s talk about. Brookes finds the adventurous, proud, kind side that I remember and miss!

I picked up the book at my favorite new/used book store. I was feeling very homesick for the US at the time, so I was happy to pick up this book about hitchhiking around the country. Tim is commissioned by National Geographic to travel around the States in 1998 like he had when he was 20 in 1973. A photographer also traveled around by car, sometimes with Brookes and sometimes on his own, taking pictures for the magazine article. This is not a picture book, however there are a few pages in the middle.

What struck me most about this book was his discussion toward the end about letting go of control. Many people we know need to have complete control of all situations. They don’t like to be alone, or try new things without someone being with them. I have found in my life that these are the moments when I learn the greatest things about myself and my fellow human beings. Brookes talks to the photographer, Tomasz, about this:

I couldn’t shake a very strong sense that giving up control exerts some kind of attraction that is, in the language of quantum physics, “non-local”: It affects people and even objects in ways and at distances that it shouldn’t. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the conscious mind; in fact, our conscious mind seems mostly to get in the way, by second-guessing and worrying too much. Every time I’ve stated worrying about whether I’ll get a ride, I told him, it has done me no good… (238-239)

If you never like to do new things where you aren’t in control of the situation…you never learn that you don’t NEED to be in control. Things will work out on their own, if you let them. When I flew on my own for the first time I found it so exhilarating and very scarey! But I found that no matter what problems might creep up, I learned that I could handle the issue with an inner strength that I didn’t know I had. I use this often now when I need to travel on my own. If you don’t have a car to control you have to allow others to get you from A to B. All you can do is plan the route to your best ability and then trust that if for some reason something happens that doesn’t go to your plan, you can still work through what you need to do to get there.

Brookes also talks about strangers:

Many of the people who bring about the greatest changes in our lives are strangers, and, by the same token, many of the most important events seem to arise by sheer coincidence (239).

I’ve been amazed at how people react to you if you are traveling on your own. I’ve had such friendly interesting conversation with people that I wouldn’t have had if I was with someone. Sometimes these are the times when you get not only an insight into yourself, but also to what people are really like. Recently I’ve started doing crafts again. I never stopped really, but I haven’t been going at it with such ferver as before. I’ve let some strangers into my life that have changed me. People have challenged my view of arts and crafts, who have made me learn new skills. Sometimes you just have to be open to it, or stagnate and become someone who is unhappy because life can’t be controlled. Things are going to happen. I have faith that a positive outlook on life and my ability to face trails will actually not let terrible things happen. If I hadn’t married Rich and moved clear across the globe, would I be as happy…no…but I trusted him and me and felt that we could make it. Four years on, we are still happy and thriving in our life. This books really made me see that more then I had before. Sometimes books just do that!

So I’ve rattled on, I would suggest you read this book if you are interested in travel books. He meets very interesting people and learns a bit about himself and society along the way. He has a positive experience and sees America as the many parts it is, instead of one society. Many people I deal with here in the UK don’t get that. They think we are all the same, Brookes reveals that we aren’t.

Now that I've been such a bore with my review...I thought I would offer the book to anyone who is interested. If I get more then one reply I'll have a drawing for the book! I've been thinking about this and feel that I really want to make sure these books get recycled to others that might enjoy them! It is a hardback copy in really good condition. Drawing will happen on July 15th......

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One book down!

I finished the Tim Brookes book... Hell of a place to lose a cow. It was very good and I've prepared a good review of it for when I get home. I can't take to much time here at the library because they only give you an hour and I've got other things to do. But I did finish it.

Other literature news, I went to the chapel of the first women known to have written a book. She was St. Juliane (sp) and I bought her book and also a bio of her. So I'll have to post how that goes. Again when I have more time.

Plus, I picked up two autographed copies of Josi Dew books (travel writer) at a new books store.

And the best part...walked by a used book store and just walked in to see what they had and I got not only a first edition copy of a Dervla Murphy book....but a autographed copy of one of Miss Read's last books. I was thrilled ! They are so hard to come by! (Both actually.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I will be on vacation from June 17th through July 2nd. I plan on still posting, but it might be once or twice a week. I hope to be able to write up lots of reviews when I'm vacation though...taking the laptop! I want to get through several of the books on my list over the two weeks! Ahhh....two weeks of bliss!

Anyway, I will probably post a bit about my vacation and how it is going will have to follow though.....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An interesting Challenge

I like to go to the website 52 Projects for ideas to enhance my creativity. Today's project is a good one for readers and might be something you might want to try. The idea is to contact a few authors that you really like, find out how to contact them, and write them a letter about how their work makes you feel. He continues on saying you could ask if you could interview them for your book blog either in person, by phone, or through email. That part I might not do...but the rest really sounds like a good idea. I have contacted authors from their websites before and been pleasantly surprised when they respond back with a REAL reply...not just something from a assistant!

Website is:

Let me know how you get on if you do this!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Wanted to say thanks to everyone who has written such nice comments and added me to their list of blogs to read! I really have missed writing reviews and feel a bit rusty...but you have all given me much confidence!

Summer Reading Challenge

Here are the books I'm trying to read this summer....

Martin Davies - The Conjuror's bird - Finished June 11th VERY GOOD READ!
Tim Brookes - A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow - Finished... good
Dana Stabenow - A Taint in the Blood - Finished...VERY VERY GOOD
Jasper Fforde - The Eyre Affair
Josie Dew - A Ride in the Neon Sun
Martha Grimes - The Winds of Change
Barbara Pym - An Unsuitable attachment
Gillian Tindall - The House by the Thames
Jeanne M. Dams - Silence is Golden
Julian Barnes - Arthur and George

If you are familiar with these books at all you might see a pattern. I have to admit that I have to force myself to be a bit more rounded. I love non-fiction (even science stuff!), but if I had my way I would read nothing my mysteries. That would get tedious and boring. I like to read books in some kind of order anyway. I've not figured out why I can be so regimented, when most of my life I want to be free to do what I want. I suppose we all need a bit of order every now and again.

So have you spotted the pattern? Mystery, Fiction and then Non-Fiction. I usually have other books hidden here and there I'm reading....but this is kind of my hour before bed reading!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies

Wow, finished with my first book of the Summer Challenge! This was an excellent book. It had a mystery element without being a murder mystery, and had a really interesting historical backdrop to it.

It looks like this was Martin Davies first book. I'm impressed! He had done his homework about the historical elements and talks about them at the back of the book. The chapters go back and forth between the modern times story of Fitz and the historical times of Joseph Banks.

Modern times story line:

Fitz is a tutor and leading expert in the field of extinct birds. He is contacted by a long lost love, Gabreilla, to help an important backer of her work, find the stuffed Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. This bird was found on one of Cook's exploration trips and when returned to England was given to the famous explorer Joseph Banks. Then it disappeared. The man that wants to find it, Karl Anderson, thinks that since Fitz has studied these extinct birds he might know something about it....but Fitz is clueless but his interest has now been raised. With the help of Katya, the girl that rents a room in his house, he sets off to find the bird. What Fitz can't understand is why the man is willing to pay for finding a bird that if it existed still would likely be in tatters and not worth much? Who and why has his house been burglarized, since he doesn't know anything special about the bird? What is the relationship between Fitz and Gabriella?

Historical story line:
The second half of the story follows the lives of Joseph Banks and a mysterious young girl who he meets in the woods near his childhood home. Joseph is set to leave on his first exhibition with Cook and finds his young girl who can draw and paint beautiful pictures of nature, which is his passion. She isn't from a respectable family, her father has always been an outcast, hence the reason we aren't given her name, and he is slowly dying. I won't give much away about this, because Davies does a good job of each chapter building on the story line from past to present. So the least said the better.

I found this book really enjoyable. I was never able to come up with an answer for the mystery, and I liked that. I also liked how one chapter built on the other. Many times I wanted to skip the modern chapter to go on to the next historical and vice versa when I had finished the other! But you would miss so much out of the story if you did that!

Next Book:
Anyway....happy reading! Tonight I'll start reading Tim Brookes "A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow", which is a travel book about traveling around rural USA. I bought the book because I was really homesick at that moment standing in a bookstore in Much Wenlock, my hubby's place of birth and hoped it would be a really good, funny travel read about my home country!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lauren Henderson

I just finished reading Strawberry Tattoo by Lauren Henderson. I’ve read most of her books, see titles below, and have enjoyed them. (You might actually now Lauren for her recently book about Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating.) Most of them are set in London, England. The lead character Sam Jones is an artist who makes large metal mobiles. She is definitely NOT the normal cosy amateur detective. She is part of the Tart Noir movement (don’t know if that is actually what it should be called..but anyway….) which is a good website if you want to check it out. There are other authors that are part of this website that I have read and might talk about later. Sparkle Hayter is one of them…but she hasn’t had anything new out recently…which is too bad because I loved her books.

A bit of a caution here….if recreational drug taking and drink to access will bother you then you might not want to read these books. I was a bit taken back myself. Now I’m not a total prude, but I have to admit that most drugs in books are seen as BAD, but in these books they are just part of her life. It makes it interesting, but I can’t say I am totally comfortable with. But the mysteries are good.

In this book, Sam has gone to New York to have her mobiles part of a Young British Art exhibition at a gallery. She goes over early because she knows someone whose house she can stay in. When she gets there it isn’t to long for her to find herself in the middle of a mess at the gallery. First, one of the girls that worked at the gallery turns up dead. Secondly, the same night someone uses a key and code to get into the gallery and throw red paint all over the current exhibition. These paintings are works from a lady who has made her enemies. There are a lot of different people that could be the perpetrator. Could it be the other British artist that just happens to be early to New York without telling anyone? Or, the lover of the deceased gallery worker? The long lost friend of Sam’s who turns out to be the estranged daughter of the painter’s husband? Is it an inside job? Sam will keep on picking at the problem until she solves it!

Her books do have reoccurring characters, but since this is set in New York and not London you can read this out of order if you want.

The other books by Lauren Henderson in order of publication oldest first:

Dead White Female

Too Many Blondes

Black Rubber Dress

Freeze My Margarita

Strawberry Tattoo


Pretty Boy

Here I am....

I've been thinking about this for awhile and I decided that since I'm doing the Summer Reading Challenge it was time to go ahead. There are several different blogs I read, so I'll talk about those. I also am a big series mystery reader and I will talk about that a bit and include some of the research I've done over the years regarding them and other books. I tend to be a bit anal and I read things in order that they were written. I think that gives me a good idea how the author grew and since I like series it makes since to see how the characters grow over time.

Anyway, will post again in a bit...just wanted to get this in the works so that if anyone comes by from the Summer Reading Challenge there was something here!