Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

Another book that captured my attention by the cover and size.  It's a small hardcover--just perfectly fits in your hands, and easily tucked into your purse.

The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace is a enchanting story about Carolina, a young woman in 19th century Italy.  She lives with her parents in a small town, and spends most of her time in a small cottage by the lake her father constructed for her mother.  She's a fanciful girl, and her imagination is endless.

Nearby lives Turri, a young man who is known for being eccentric.  He is always tinkering with inventions, and is obsessed with making wings so he can fly.  The two meet at the lake, and form a friendship that lasts years, from Carolina's childhood to adulthood.  From this friendship, loves blooms.

The only problem is that Carolina is engaged to Pietro, the town "catch", and Turri is married with a young son.  Carolina is also going blind.  She tells her parents and Pietro before they are married, but no one believes her.  Soon after her marriage, she completely loses her sight.  She mourns the loss of freedom and struggles to make her way to the lake, where she finds comfort in the sounds and her cottage.  While she can no longer see, in her dreams she sees everything again, and flies.  Turri is there, too.  He invents a typewriter for Carolina, so she  can communicate with him via letters.  Will they find happiness together?  And who is following Carolina around the house at night?

This is a very lovely tale.  It's fanciful, beautifully written, and very easy to fall into.  It is magical--if you're a fan of Garden Spells, or Alice Hoffman, you will enjoy this  book.

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

You are never too old to enjoy a great picture book.  My manager brought this one to my attention the other day, saying "insert our names in here".  I read it, and immediately fell in love with this wonderful  little book.  Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates is about a dog who loves to read books.  He loves them so much, he decides to open a bookstore.  But, no one comes to his store!

Not knowing what to do, Dog turns to books for comfort.  He gets so involved in his reading, he almost doesn't realize a little girl has come into his store to buy a book!  He not only loves books, but loves to share them, and he does that with the little girl.

This is a great book for  kids and adults.  It reminds you just what it is about books that keeps you coming back for more.  And for those of us who have made a career out of expressing that love for books, it is a priceless addition to our picture book collections.  It perfectly captures that feeling I have about books and reading.  And, the illustrations are very sweet.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Getting Closer...

Tomorrow is my cut off day.  I have another pile of books on my desk--luckily, one of my orders came in before August 1st!  I think this is going to be harder than I expected.  I love chocolate, and I have given that up twice for my version of Lent the past two years.  So I'm thinking, ok, I can do this.  But I think I have ink running through my veins, and that effects my ability to step away from an intriguing book.  How do some people never read?  Really?  You never read?  Is that possible?  How do you pass the time in an airport, at a restaurant, waiting for people, waiting for anything without a book to occupy your time?  Stop that texting and pick up a book and read!

So here's my plan:
My plan is no plan.  Just grab a book off the shelf and read it.   Enjoy it.   Blog about it.  Share it with others.

 D and I have agreed to help keep each other on the straight and narrow when the temptation may be too great and one of us wavers.  It's only a month, right?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Boldly Attempting Something I Haven't Done for Years

I was thinking the other day that a month hasn't gone by where I haven't bought books.  I've managed to go a week without buying a book, but that's my limit.  This usually happens to all of us--when you don't have the money, you see all sorts  of things you want; when you have the money to spend, nothing appeals.  I really want a funky watch to keep track of my running miles, and one way to get it is to not buy books for a period of time.

So I decided that starting August 1st, I am going to stop buying books for one month.  I'd like to see just how much money I have left over without spending it on books.  It may very well kill me.  Seriously--it's probably been 20 years since I haven't faithfully bought books if not every week, then every two weeks.  
This is supposed to stop me from buying books

I have so many books at home to read, it really is ridiculous.  I won't get through them all in one month, but since I have around 50 more books to read this year to reach my 100 goal, I probably have close to that many at home that are quietly waiting (some much longer than others) to be picked up and enjoyed.  

In reaction to my decision last night, I immediately bought some books.  I have a few books on order, and I hope they get here before August 1st.  I'm not sure what to do about them.  This also includes buying e-books on my NOOK.  If it ain't free, it's not going on the NOOK.  Since the NOOK is fairly new in my life, it doesn't really present much of a temptation for me.  I can contain my book buying impulses, since I just put the NOOK away and don't look at it.  

At home, however, I have bookcases in my living room, in my dining room, and shelves of books above my bed and across from my bed on the wall.  I am literally (he he) surrounded by books when I sleep.  

So wish me luck on curtailing my spending.  I certainly won't be without anything to read!  I'll keep you posted on my journey through August.  

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser

I'm on a food writing book reading kick.  Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser is an enjoyable read about Amanda's relationship with the man she calls Mr. Latte.  Amanda is a food writer for a newspaper, and she spends much of her time trying out new restaurants and flying around the world interviewing people who grow and harvest food, and most especially, cook it.  

The book follows Amanda and Tad's (Mr. Latte) courtship from their first blind date to their wedding day.  Most relationships have their rough spots, as two people who have different lives try to blend them together into one.  Amanda and Tad's is no different, starting with his preference for ordering a latte after dinner.  To Amanda and her friends, this is a big no-no!  Espresso only after dinner.  It seems silly, but is really a battle of wills between the two.  

I really enjoyed this book.  Not only are there recipes included at the end of each chapter, but it shows some insight into the world of foodies and the incredible food markets and shops around New York.  Amanda learns to lighten up, and appreciates all the good qualities of Tad, while Tad is just a great guy who's ability to stay calm and unruffled helps Amanda learn to relax and begin to enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking for family and friends.  

Since this book was written in 2003, I was curious as to what Amanda was up to in 2010.  She has a website, still writes food columns,  is still married to Tad, and has twins- a boy and a girl.  

If you're looking for a fun summer read about food, courtship, friends, and family, try Cooking for Mr. Latte.  It's a treat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Here's a teen read that is based on an actual historical event.  Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper is about  Anne Green, a young servant living in the household of Sir Thomas Reade in 1650 England.  

Anne is a scullery maid, and has begun to spend time with the local blacksmith apprentice, John Taylor.  Anne's perfectly normal life takes a turn for the worst when Sir Thomas' grandson comes to stay on school breaks.  Anne catches his eye, and through persistence on his part, and ignorance on Anne's part, he soon begins an intimate relationship with her, promising Anne he will marry her and make her the mistress of the house.  

Anne doesn't feel too great about this situation, and is very uneasy.  She's had to break it off with John, and realizes he's the man she should have married.  Now, she finds herself pregnant, and too frightened to tell anyone but her mother.  After an unsuccessful attempt at taking some medicine to rid herself of the baby, she discovers that Master Geoffrey (the grandson) is engaged to marry a very wealthy young lady.  She tells him she's pregnant, in which he immediately denies it is his child and calls her a slut.  

With no where to go, and no one to turn to, Anne stays at her job, hiding her pregnancy.  She goes into labor months too early, and delivers her child in a privy by herself.  The baby is born dead.  Anne, in shock, hides the baby, intending to bury it later. 

Anne goes back to the house, is discovered, and the story comes out.  She's immediately accused of infanticide, and taken to jail.  After a trial, she's found guilty and sentenced to hang.  But what happens after she's hung is what this story is about.  Anne doesn't die.  She's in a coma, and awaits dissection from a team of doctors who have gathered to perform it mere hours after her hanging.

But wait--is that her eyelid twitching?  Will she awaken in time?  What happens?  This is a great historical fiction read that is aimed at teens.  It reads very quickly, and the fact that it's based on a true event is fascinating.   The author includes her notes on how she came to write the novel, and has a copy of the actual pamphlet about Anne Green from 1650 in the back of the book, so you can read what everyone read way back when.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oh My Gosh--August is Full of Books!

I love to share what I've read with customers at my bookstore, and that means I am constantly reading.  In the past, I've hosted what I called "Ladies' Night Out" events where I talked about books I'd read over the past year to a group of women, providing treats from our cafe and hopefully generating some sales for our store.  I usually panic and try cram a load of books into a short period of time.  

Well, I've done it again.  In early August, we're having a tea for local librarians, and last year my Children's Lead Kirk and I talked about new teen reads for the librarians.  They loved the presentation, and bought quite a bit for their libraries.  Many of these librarians have said they've seen a large growth in teens interested in reading, but they just aren't quite sure what to stock on their shelves.  So, we give them ideas, and let them know what's popular in our store.  So this year, Kirk, Lindsey (the other Children's Lead), and I are each going to talk about teen books.  It's a little less daunting since we each decided to talk about 3-4 books, rather than 10 books each.  I'm working on that now, since it's only a few short weeks away.

I got a call yesterday from a book group that meets at one of the local grocery stores--this particular store has cooking classes and wine tastings frequently, so it's no surprise they have a reading group focused on books about food.   Last year, I did a presentation on  food writing titles that I had read, since this is one subject I love to read about.  They've requested another presentation--in August!  Arrgh!!  I'm happy to do it, but realize I haven't read too many food -themed books lately.  I just made a large purchase of some fun stuff to read, and have about 6 weeks to get as much read as possible.  I should reach my goal of 100 books pretty easily this year, if I read everything I've currently purchased and have waiting at home on the shelves, on the floor, near my bed, on the chair.  Oh my golly!  

I think I will take C-Joy's  clever jar idea and use it to read the ten or so titles for next month.  Luckily, these are all titles I have picked out, and am excited to read, so it won't be a drudge.  Sometimes working in a bookstore gives me too many darn choices!  Once again, is there any way to read  (and not listen to!) a book and run?  Maybe this will spur me to run faster, so I can get home and tuck into a book.  Hey, what a smart idea!  Improve my running time and have time to read more!  Now, if only I could fit in cooking and cleaning!  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Passage-An Epic Summer Read

Ok--this was my gigantor read for the summer.  It was worth it.  I'm not much for zombies, but I do like my vampires.  Of course, the vampires in this novel--also known as smokers or virals, are really pretty ugly.  Think Nosferatu, except they glow in the dark. They're freakishly strong, can run and jump like nothing else, and seem to have some intelligence.   How did they get this way?  Why thank you, US Army!  Medical testing on twelve condemned prisoners leads to a devastating outbreak in Colorado, and the virus spreads across the US, resulting in an apocalypse we could only imagine in our worst nightmares.  And if you read this book, you will have a disturbing dream or two.

So many people are comparing this novel to The Stand by Stephen King; and it does have some similarities.   Both are epic in nature, involving a group of people who travel across the US to fight evil.  Having read both, I have to say I liked The Passage by Justin Cronin better than The Stand,  Why?  Well, Justin introduces us to characters that we care about, but keeps the cultural references to a minimum.  The story is told in two major parts--the beginning of the outbreak, and 93 years later, after the US has been decimated by the virals.  A small group of people, living in California, have created a community that relies on batteries and turbines to run their lights when night falls.  They have no idea how the world was before the virus hit; they live like people did in the 1800's; horses, cross bows--no phones, movies, or TV.  You meet Peter, Alisha, Sara, Maus, and Mike, to name a few.  They struggle day to day to stay alive in a world where the virals are constantly attacking, looking for fresh blood--humans.  The virals  come out at night, and keeping the lights on in the community is vital to their existence.

Then there's Amy.  A six year old girl at the time of the outbreak, she connects both worlds together.  I can't tell you how--it would spoil the story.  Let's just say, she's special, and is the key to saving the world.

This book moves along at a pretty good clip--it really is hard to put down.  Justin Cronin writes very well--you become attached to the characters very easily; this is a credit to his skill as a storyteller.    I would recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction, epic stories, or just wants a story that will keep turning over in their head.   Seriously-- it is one of those stories that will stay with you.  Can this happen in our world?  Probably.  Will it?  Hope not.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The End is Nigh--If the Virals Don't Get Me First!

OMG!  I am thisclose to finishing The Passage.  I have 30 pages left, and will force myself to stay awake to finish it tonight!  Only a concerted effort at laziness  and an ever so timely major deluge just as I was guilting myself into running got me in the lead with the checkered flag in sight!

Anyway, stay tuned for the review!  WooHoo!!  My brain hurts.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Am Reading, Really I Am!

I am currently reading The Passage by Justin Cronin on my NOOK.    It's a pretty darn big book!   I'm enjoying it quite a bit, but I haven't had a chance to really sit down and inhale a large chunk of it.

So--hang on.  I will have a few reviews posted soon!  My goal is to finish The Passage by the end of the weekend, then read something fun and lighthearted!  After an apocalypse, a girl's got to have some wine and a pink chair to regain her zest for life.

If you've read The Passage, leave a comment and let me know if you liked it or hated it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Breaking Up With A Book

I love to read.  I mean, I really love to read.  It's pretty much my most favorite thing to do, besides eating.  I rarely read just one book at a time.  There are too many that catch my eye, and I gave up trying to read just one after another a long time ago.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this dilemma; knowing there are fellow ravenous readers out there sitting next to piles of unread books is a huge comfort to me!

I start and stop many  books.  I do give books at least 50 to 100 pages before I put them down and move on.  Sometimes I pick them back up again, and finish them weeks or months later.  I break up with other books.  No hurt feelings, they understand.  We all have our own particular type of book, and the saying "It's not you, it's me" applies to my book relationships.  It is me.  I get impatient; I lose interest, I want to read a fantasy novel instead of romance; I want to read something fun and light instead of tense and dark.  It's kinda like speed dating!  Do they meet my list of wants and needs at that moment?  Yes?  Well, sit down and stay awhile.  No?  Leave your number.  I may call sometime.  If not, there are more fish in the sea--there's someone for you.

So, I realize I have put on my "Reading Now" list many books I haven't finished.  Here's a few I've started, and stopped:

  • Laced with Magic by Barbara Bretton
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • Recipes for  a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty
  • The Last Lincolns by Charles Lachman
  • Sins and Shadows by Lyn Benedict
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
I don't consider these a failure; I'm merely taking a different route in my reading.  I may circle 'round and go on a second date with these titles.  We may develop a close relationship, resulting in a shout out (!) to these books so others know they're worth taking the time to read.  We all have our favorite genres and authors, and sometimes going out on a limb and reading something you wouldn't normally pick up can result in an "Aha!" moment.  Sometimes it results in an "Oh, no" moment, too.

So take it from me:  it's ok not to finish a book.  It's ok to move onto something else.  You picked it up for a reason, and that reason may be that you'll finish it when your book genes are good and ready, and not a moment sooner!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware is a perfect summer getaway novel.  There is so much going on in this novel, it will keep your interest to the very end.

Blythe Barton has just fled Los Angeles following a very public divorce and the humiliation of a husband who she caught sleeping with her sister.  To escape the paparazzi, she takes a trip to Cornwall, hoping to find her family connection to Barton Hall.  Blythe meets the owner of the estate, a very handsome man named Luke Teague.

Blythe and Luke quickly hit it off, and one night in Luke's library, Blythe accidentally touches a framed  family tree on the wall.  She's immediately transported to 1793, and witnesses the first Blythe Barton, heavily pregnant, fighting with her husband, Kit Trevelyan.  Is she seeing a past life, or has she stepped into the past to witness what happened 200 years before?  What's the mystery behind 1793 Blythe Barton's disappearance?

Blythe becomes determined to figure out how she's connected to the house and Cornwall.  Of course, she's also fighting her attraction to Luke, and trying to heal the wounds from her recent divorce.  Luke has his own heartbreak, and a small son, Richard, who comes home from boarding school and immediately captures Blythe's heart.

This is a very well thought out novel.  The descriptions of the Cornish coast, the Painter's Cottage Blythe stays in on the estate, and the story line keeps you entertained and as eager as Blythe to solve the mystery.  It's hard to put down.  The past and the present are skillfully blended in this engaging historical novel.

This is available as an e-book; I read it on my NOOK!