Thursday, September 30, 2010

October Reads--I Made a List!

So tomorrow starts my favorite month--October.  It always ends up being a crazy busy month, but I  love to read supernatural books to prep me for Halloween.  So here's a partial list of what I have planned to read during the month of October:

As you can see, it's heavy on the spooky side.  But, I am so looking forward to Love Letters from Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball, and a few teen releases that are coming out.  I am working on Wolf Hall--  I've already gone to the internet to get some quick history refreshers.  I have three weeks to finish it, and plan on having a chunk read by the end of next week.  

I already know this list will grow and have some unexpected additions.  Here's to a fruitful month full of romance, ghosts, and Brach's pumpkin cremes.  Oh, and some good pots of coffee and a warm wrap to keep me cozy!

Another Snarky Book from David Sedaris--Yippee!!

Ever since I read David Sedaris' short story about being an elf at Christmas, I have been hooked on his books.  He is just flat out funny.  The kind of funny that makes me feel like a snickering Beavis and Butthead.  That kind of funny.

Now, another pee  your pants funny book is out.  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a bit different than his usual offerings, but the stories still make you laugh out loud.  The illustrations by Ian Falconer, he of the Olivia series fame, capture the essence of the stories.  Gee, I just typed that with a straight face! Seriously (he he), the illustrations are fantastically spot on.

Each short story is about animals with very human issues.  You will be hard pressed to not find someone you know, or even worse, yourself in at least one of these stories.  Whether you're a chipmunk afraid "jazz" means something sexual, or a duck that says the wrong thing while standing in line, you'll recognize the spotlight Sedaris shines on our typical human foibles.

It's a quick read--won't take you more than a few hours, I promise.  But if you're feeling blue, and want a good belly laugh, pick this up.  If you're feeling angry at humanity, pick this up.  Someone out there gets it--his name is David Sedaris.  We're lucky we've got him to write all the stuff we think about, but are too  darn wimpy to express.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

David Sedaris--Stop The Presses!

David Sedaris has a new  book out:  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.  I am dropping everything to read it RIGHT NOW.  I'll let you know how it is;  so far I've read a few stories and they are vintage Sedaris.  Funny, funny, funny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A New Alice Hoffman Novel: The Red Garden

Alice Hoffman's new novel, The Red Garden isn't out until January, 2010.  I was lucky to get an ARC of it and couldn't wait to dive into another magical offering from one of my favorite authors.  This one didn't disappoint!

The Red Garden is about the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts.  It starts with the first settlers in the area, way back in 1750, with the founder, a young woman named Hallie Brady.  She had come from England, married a ne'er do well, and found herself in the middle of nowhere with a few others families with winter coming on and no shelter.  Hallie never gave up, and found some unusual ways to keep everyone alive until spring.  Hallie herself became a legend, along with a bear that became part of her life.

As the novel progresses, each chapter is about someone who lives in Blackwell.  As the years go by, the people and their lives remain the same, yet the history of the town grows more mysterious.  Time and memories bend facts and superstitions.  The red garden is part of the land where Hallie's original home still stands.  Everything that is planted there turns red--beans, lilacs, lettuce, you name it.  No one knows why, and you kinda forget what's been put there until close to the end, with the story of Louise Partridge in 1986.  I know I totally forgot, and it was like a light bulb blinking on as I read her tale of the red garden.  It brings you full circle.

What I like about this novel was the anchor of the town.  Over the centuries, the people kept struggling with life, love, and the feeling of being unable to leave Blackwell.  Something about this town, and their deep ties to it, keeps the same families there through the years.  Alice Hoffman did something similar with Blackbird House --a story about one house and it's many occupants.  Blackwell is similar in this way, but much bigger.

Bears, red flowers, ghosts of little girls, and the ever present Eel River provide the backbone to this novel.  It's classic Alice Hoffman--magical, poignant, quiet, and filled with a yearning for something that's just out of reach.

This novel will be published in January, 2010 in hardcover and in e-book format.  Loved it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winter Bloom--A Garden in Dublin

I received an ARC of this novel and was eager to read it.  Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey is a novel about a walled garden in Dublin that brings five people together, each of whom has a troubled past.  There's Eva, who has lost her husband and daughter to a car accident, leaving her to raise her small son Liam on her own; Mrs. Prendergast, the owner of the garden, who's cool demeanor covers a soul that's been bruised and battered; Emily, a young woman who has had to make a heart wrenching decision, and Seth and Uri, a son and his father who are finding their way through a rocky patch.

The garden brings them all together, as they set about turning a badly beraggled garden back into the beauty it once was, years ago.  Through the year, the reader learns each character's back story, and how they are moving forward in their lives.  The end is delightful, and just what you would hope for as a reader.

If you're a fan of Emily Giffin, Donna Ball, Kristin Hannah, or Karen White, pick this one up.  The garden lore and facts are always interesting, even if you don't have a gardening background.  This book may very well push you towards planning a garden for next spring.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Great Tween Read: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

I read reviews about this book and it seems a lot of people are confused as to what age this book was meant for:  is it for Cornelia Funke's previous fans, who are middle schoolers, or for teens?  Well, I say it's appropriate for any kid or adult!  Cornelia Funke has turned to an older audience with her latest, Reckless.  I loved it.  It's a little dark, but nothing horrible.  The fairy tales we know don't always turn out the way we've been told.  The humans and the Goyls, which are people made of semi-precious stones from deep within the earth, are at war.  The humans are losing.  In steps a young man, Jacob, who has accessed this other world through a mirror in his father's study.  His father disappeared years ago, presumably through the mirror, leaving Jacob, his younger brother Will, and  his mother alone and with no answers.

Jacob has been going through the mirror for years, and is now a man in his twenties.  I think this is where people get confused as to the target audience; as though kids can't read about a twenty-something going on a quest.  Anyway, Will follows Jacob through the mirror, is attacked by the Goyl, and thanks to a curse of the Dark Fairy (mistress of the king of the Goyls),  is slowly turning into a Jade Goyl. Humans are becoming Goyls and joining the dark forces.   There are legends in the Goyl world about the jade bodyguard, who will keep the King from ever being killed.  Jacob is racing against time and the Goyl Army to save his brother before all of his humanity is gone, and he becomes a Goyl.

This book was really great.  There are sketches throughout the novel, which adds to the fairy tale aspect of the story.  It really is a fairy tale within a fairy tale; Jacob makes a living in this other world by finding and selling magical artifacts:  a piece of Rapunzel's hair, a rose that puts you to sleep and keeps you from aging, and fairies galore.  Cornelia Funke has created an amazing world--I think she's a fabulous writer.

So don't hesitate to read this novel.  Who cares what age it's meant for?  It's a well written, imaginative fairy tale that keeps you turning the pages, until the last sentence.  Can't wait for the next one!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I've Hit #70! 30 More To Go to Hit 100 Books This Year--How About 101?

Ghost of a Chance by Simon Green is my 70th book to read this year.  At least, I think so.  I tried to remember everything I'd read since January, and even by looking at my bookcases, I pieced it together as best I could.  So, I have 30 more books to read before midnight on December 31st.  I'm fairly confident I can do it.  After all, I have no problem reading wherever and whenever I can.  If I had the ability to get by on only 4 hours of sleep like Martha Stewart, I could really enjoy so many more great books! Sadly, my eyes and my brain beg for more than 4 hours of rest each night.  And I hate to think of all the carbs I would be eating because of my lack of sleep.  Jabba  The Hut would look like a Mini Me.

Anyway, I loved this novel.  It's the first in a new series by Simon Green.  Otherworldly  beings, some very ancient, are working in England to destroy mankind.  Only Melody, Happy, and JC can work together to stop the forces at work.  It was a quick read; reminded me of Jim Butcher.  I will certainly read the next in the series!  A perfect book to read on  a cool, dark Fall night, waiting for Ghost Adventures to start on The Travel Channel.

Looking over my list of read books, I'm amazed  at what I've read.  I usually read more non-fiction than what I have this year, so that was a surprise.  Most of the books I've read have definitely been page turners, and even if I haven't reviewed them, I have enjoyed everything I've read.  I never used to read reviews about books before I bought them;  in my quest to spend my money more wisely, I have taken to reading reviews from other readers before I buy something I'm on the fence about.    People have sent me in the right direction and I've appreciated their opinions.

So what's next?  Well, continuing to read my "required" reading by next week.  Also, looking forward to some really great new Teen titles coming out next month.  Wolf Hall is looming; Oct 1st is my starting date.  I'm determined to get through the whole book, and with a short reading time, I won't have time to dilly dally.  I'm reading Time Enough for Love; it is tough going.  I'm about 50 pages in and think I'm turning the corner and getting to the meat of the story.  I've decided I have to read some fun stuff while reading the tough stuff, so I'm going to read a Sherilyn Kenyon novel--always have been curious why she's so darn popular.  I have an ARC of the new Alice Hoffman novel out in January--The Red Garden.  I'm trying to resist diving right in but it's hard!

So, off the computer and onto  the couch.  If I miss a bit of Ghost Adventures I can alway watch it again later.  The books, however, are calling me back.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Juliet by Anne Fortier: A Top Favorite Read of the Year

A Must Read--You'll Love It!

If you haven't heard of Juliet by Anne Fortier, listen up!  This is one of my favorite reads of the year.  Are you looking for adventure, romance, history, and just a great read?  Well, here it is.  Julie Jacobs has always loved the play Romeo and Juliet by Will Shakespeare.  She's got it memorized.  Her twin sister, Janice, has been a pain in her behind most of her life--always the doer, always making trouble for Julie.  Their Aunt Rose dies, leaving Janice all her money and home, and a letter to Julie, with a passport that has her real name:  Giulietta Tolomei.  

Julie finds herself on the way to Siena, Italy, to discover the secrets behind her mother's obsession with the Tolomei-Salembini curse, which has it's origins in the original story of Romeo and Giulietta, who is Julie's ancestress.  The story takes place in 1340 Siena, and in present Siena, where Julie is in a race against unknown enemies to unravel her family history and uncover the secrets that her mother died trying to solve.  Can she finally remove the family curse that has ruled both families for centuries?  Is there really a curse, or is it just a way to explain unhappy endings?

I loved this book!  It is very well written; Julie/Giulietta is a great character.  She's been afraid to live her whole life, and is forced to jump into the unknown to find out who she really is.  Alessandro is the handsome man who clashes with her immediately, yet he's part of the puzzle. Who are her enemies, and who is there to help her?  Who keeps following her, and who breaks into her hotel room?  Can she piece together the puzzle and solve the mystery?

The story of Romeo and Giulietta is fascinating, and heartbreaking at the same time.  Medieval Italy was a cruel place, where women were pawns for power and had little choice in marriage.  The town of Siena is another character in the story; it sounds like a beautiful place--a mixture of medieval buildings and modern conveniences.  I had a hard time putting this book down, and raced to the end--it's exciting right up until the last few pages.  You'll be happy with the ending!

If you are a fan of Dan Brown, or Kate Mosse's Labyrinth, or any books that have historical mysteries and stories retold from the familiar, try this one.  Really, a great read, and oh so romantic, but not cheesy at all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh, September--What to Read Next?!

So after my self-imposed ban on book buying in August,  I have returned with somewhat of a vengeance.  I haven't spent as much as I could have, but I did spend about $50 last week.  Eek!  I've joined a new reading group we're forming at the bookstore called Addled Minds.  We wanted to read some good, meaty stuff--both non-fiction and fiction.  Our first meeting is in October, and we picked a heck of a book for the first time out--Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  The paperback looks much less intimidating than the hardcover, and I do love the Tudors.  I'm taking a deep breath before I open the front cover and start.

To fortify myself, I read Cross Your Heart by Michele Bardsley.  It's part of a series of romance novels about Broken Heart, Oklahoma--home to vampires, witches, and shifters.  I jumped in far from the beginning, but it's easy to follow, has some really--ahem--hot scenes *wink wink* and is funny.  All you could want in a romance.  And, not a Tudor in sight!  I'll probably go back and read the other books in the series, and look forward to the next title.  Brain candy is a wonderful thing!

So this month I'm attempting to still get through some titles I have at home, tackle some assigned reading that has to be done before the end of the month, and looking forward to finally reading Mockingjay.  Can you believe I haven't even taken it out of the box yet?  What the heck?!  I bought a copy of Hunger Games for my niece, and told her to read it, and pass it to my sister.  I talked to both of them on Saturday, and guess  what?  Not impressed.  I think they're nuts.  I told Pam--you are only the second human being I have talked to who wasn't bowled over by this novel--what is wrong with you?!  Maybe because there's not a vampire in the story line.  *Sigh*.  I will keep trying!

So what's on your list this month?  It's getting close to Halloween, and my favorite time of year.  I'll start perusing the bookcases and the computer for some good ghost stories and spooky tales.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oops-I Didn't Make It Til Sept 1st

I blew it.  What can I say?  Faithfully dodging well meaning co-workers, avoiding looking too intently at the stacks of books at work, and diligently spending my money on must have basic living stuff in August, I made it until August 28th.  And then I fell.

I had a great 40% off coupon for Juliet,  by Anne Fortier.  Better than my employee discount.  I read plenty of reviews online, and got a big thumbs up on this novel.  The coupon expired on August 30th.  Dang it.  I caved.  I didn't really feel too bad about it, either.  I made it 28 days--that is probably the longest I've gone without buying a book or magazine for myself in 20 years.  Really.  No kidding.

So what did I learn in the month of August?  Well, I can  go without buying a book.  The sun didn't shine quite as brightly, the birds were sorta quiet, and flowers just didn't look so colorful.  My world was a little dimmer.  But, I did read some great books, and I earmarked a few on my shelves to tackle.  I learned some self-restraint, which was the most important part.  I'll be a bit choosier in my purchases.  But, taking a new book home,  the happiness, anticipation, and down-right giddiness I feel opening a book I've been waiting to read will always keep my coming back and opening my wallet.  Used books?  Heck no.  I like my books new.  I don't like to borrow books, and I don't have a library card.  I am a new book person, and I feel no remorse or guilt for it!  Bring on the new books!  Can you guess I'm not a big fan of antiques, either?  Is this from growing up in a large family, with hand me downs and just making do with cheap stuff?  Maybe.  Or maybe I just like new, unread books without a cracked spine or bent pages.  A book that has that "new car" smell.  That's what I like.

Happy reading!  Woohoo!!!