Templeton is the quintessential small town – everyone knows everyone else - except for the tourists - and it does draw a fair number of those to its baseball museum and other sites.

Wilhelmina Sunshine Upton escapes to the hometown she’d thought she left behind for good when an already doomed relationship with her PhD advisor goes sour and she finds herself pregnant and running from a potential attempted murder indictment for trying to run over the professor’s wife with a biplane. Willie gets an earful from her mother, Vi, who seems more sympathetic to Willie’s best friend’s problems than her own daughter’s. As it happens the day Willie returns to Templeton a large ‘monster’ is discovered floating belly-up in the town’s lake. The locals, enthralled, also feel a bit sorry for the monster, who obviously has lived for many centuries unbothered, but also giving truth to the many rumours that have circulated about its existence. Willie also feels the monster’s demise is on an equivalent plane to her own, as she takes her mother’s advice about forgetting the past and focusing on a project - finding out who her father is. Vi will not tell her – having not even informed the oblivious other parent about his daughter’s existence. All Willie knows for certain is that she knows him and he knows her – just not that they’re related.

I had really high hopes for this book but somehow it didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m not sure exactly why. Parts of the book were quite good and I wanted to know what would happen, but other parts were just so-so. It wasn’t the writing that bothered me and I found the premise of the story very interesting. Maybe that had something to do with it. It’s like seeing a trailer to a movie and you find out afterward that you’ve seen all the best parts. I already guessed half way through the book who Willie’s father is. Also the allegory for the monster’s existence wasn’t plain and for me it should have been. As a matter of fact the existence of the monster in the story fell flat for me.

Despite my feelings for the book I would give another novel by this author a chance, but I would wait for the library copy instead of rushing out to buy one.

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received just one book last week:

Undone by Karin Slaughter is also published under the title, Genesis. Karin Slaughter's website says that the two books are exactly the same.

The blurb on the back cover says:

Sara Linton, last seen in Karin Slaughter's sensational bestseller Faithless, has fled to Atalnta seeking refuge from the terrible act that ripped her life apart in rural Grant County, Georgia. But when a tortured young woman becomes a patient in her ER, Sara will find herself ensnared in a case that tears the lid off secrets as dark and complex as they are disturbing. When Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents Will Trent and Faith Mitchell, last seen in Fractured, join forces to probe into the life of the victim, they're drawn into a mystery that will change all of them forever.

It looks really good, but I wish publishers did not publish books under different titles!

Book Gadgetry

When I was in New York at the end of May for the BEA convention, I picked up a couple of items that I use for reading. It made me think of things that come in to play when I read, things that make the experience of reading even more enjoyable than it already is.

Many readers have their own way of reading: they take the dust jackets off hardcovers, they have a favourite chair to sit in, they only read before bedtime, etc. Well mine are reflected by my book gadgets. Here are a few of my favourites - and some I thought I would like but don't so much:

In the above photo there is a 'book peeramid', a book light, a bookmark, two different types of book covers, an ipod, earphones and a tote.

I got the tote when I bought a Taschen book at my local indie bookstore. I was asked if I wanted a bag for the book, said yes and they gave me this nice tote. I was expecting the usual plastic so that was really nice. I have a lot of book totes - a couple I picked up at BEA, another I bought at The Strand, and the rest I got closer to home.

I got the book peeramid while on a visit last year to Niagara Falls. I saw it in a tourist shop and couldn't resist it - even though I thought at the time it would be one of those things I would never use. But that turned out not to be the case - happily I do use it a lot. It's much more comfortable if you're sitting back on a sofa and using it to prop up a book.

I bought the book light at The Strand bookstore in NYC. This is something that I thought would come in handy but it really doesn't. It's awkward and I have to be sitting at a desk to read to use it. Not a great choice for a gadget but it was less than $4 so it was not a big investment.

The bookmark, called xmarkit, is really fun. I got that at the BEA convention. I was given a demo on how to use it but really didn't need one, it's so easy. You just place the 'X' with the circle pointing at the spot where you just left off reading and when you pick up your book again the book naturally falls to the page where the mark is and you know where you left off.

The last two items are the book covers. One type is for hardcovers and the other is for paperbacks. I'm a bit particular about my books - I prefer that they stay in good condition if possible so I cover them. Not all of them, but many of my hardcovers are covered with Brodart jacket covers which are usually seen in libraries and the homes of wanna-be librarians such as myself. The photos show a dust jacket being covered.

The paperback covers are re-usable. They have a sticky part which can be un-peeled and re-stuck if I decide I no longer want to protect a particular book. All you have to do is fit the book's front cover into one side of the clear plastic protector, separate the plastic along the seam, fit the back cover into the separated section and press the sticky part down onto your book. The book itself isn't touched by glue or tape. It's great!

I use the iPod and earphones for talking books. The iPod was a gift from my husband and I picked up the bright orange earphones at a booth at BEA. I have downloaded a couple of novels to my iPod and have listened to them at work (I can do that with my job).

There are plenty of gadgets missing in my list (the most obvious perhaps is an e-reader?) but these are just some of the book gadgets that I use. Right now I can't think of anything I'd like to have and don't own. What kind of book gadgets do you use?

The Heartfelt Award

Michael at A Few Minutes With Michael" won the Heartfelt Award and has passed it on to me. Thanks, Michael!

The general premise for this award:

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you’re relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family & friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea ~ or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt award is all about – feeling warm inside.

To accept the Heartfelt Award, here are the rules:

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

There is a nice feeling about the image of curling up with a cup of tea and book in hand. The same can be said with sitting at your computer with tea and going through your favourite blogs. The blogs that bring that to mind belong to:

I'll have to think about five more though and make sure they haven't already been awarded this one!


In 1991, Connie Goodwin is a grad student about to take her qualifying orals for her PhD candidature. She passes the orals and while searching for her thesis topic she stumbles on a reference to a hundred years old ‘physicks’ book. Connie is encouraged by her mentor and thesis advisor, Professor Chilton, to look for the book and its connection to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. At the same time, Connie’s mother asks her to close down and sell her grandmother’s neglected house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Connie begins to feel pressure from both Chilton and her mother, and finds herself caught between two worlds as she gradually realizes that the house and the trials may be connected.

There are two aspects of this book that stand out - the story and the writing. One I enjoyed and the other I did not. The story had action, romance, history and some paranormal activity. These are all things I enjoy in a novel and so the plot had all the essential ingredients of a very fun read.

The writing was something else entirely. It’s possible that the book was intended for a younger audience, and therefore what I think of it the writing doesn’t apply, but I’m not completely convinced. I thought it comparable to the Da Vinci Code (ok, maybe not quite that bad) and found it difficult to ignore the writing and stay involved in the story. There were (for my taste) too many adjectives used to describe actions when simple words would’ve sufficed. From page 37 (keep in mind this review is from an advance reading copy):

”Connie!” Liz puffed. “I think that we might have found the house!”
“Yeah! Arlo spotted the gate,” she grunted, hauling aside another armful of undergrowth.”

They grunted, puffed, spotted and hauled in only two lines and managed to exclaim three times as well. My disappointment with the writing was probably more acute because I had been looking forward to reading this book.

That said, the story was enjoyable enough for me to give Katherine Howe’s next novel (will there be one?) a shot. Perhaps her writing will mature; I hope so – I hate it when a great story is brought down by bad writing.

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received one book last week:

I think South of Broad by Pat Conroy has been showing up in a lot of mailboxes. The blurb on the back cover says:

"Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a respected Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of ten, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X-and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades, from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s."

The ARC has 512 pages and the tentative on-sale date is September 15, 2009. It looks really good!

Tuesday Teasers

This is my first Tuesday Teasers post which is hosted by Should Be Reading. I'm going to follow Avis's modified rules which are as follows:

Grab your current read and choose two or three “teaser” sentences more or less at random from the book, anywhere on the page. Share the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. People can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My Teaser from The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe:

Despite her best efforts to feel at ease in Granna's house, Connie often discovered herself to be confined-hiding almost-in the kitchen. Her sharply circumscribed orbit could be blamed on the antique icebox, with its tempting, liftable lid, the only source of cool air in the dense heat of midsummer. (page 198).

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received two books last week:

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant is one I'm really looking forward to. The blurb on the back cover says:

" engrossing new novel set in a convent in Renaissance Italy where a defiant sixteen-year-old girl has just been confined against her will-for life."


"A rich captivating, multifaceted love story, Sacred Hearts is a novel about power, creativity, passion-both secular and spiritual-and the indomitable spirit of women in an age when religious, political, and social forces were all stacked against them."

The Rapture by Liz Jensen is described on the back cover as:

"Girl, Interrupted meets The Dead Zone in this utterly compelling drama about a paranoia that starts inside one murderously insane teenage girl's head and then grows to encompass the whole world."

I don't think that description quite captures what The Rapture is about though. I believe it has some spiritual overtones and the effects of global warning come into play. I'm basing my supposition about the topic on a few passages so if anyone has read this book please let me know if I'm way off base.

Review: TRY FEAR by James Scott Bell

Thanks to Miriam from Hachette for sending me this book!

It’s not often that I come across a new to me series that I really like. Frequently I try something and think it’s alright, but not enough to run out and see if my local used bookshop has any other titles in the series. Well, Try Fear is part of a series I checked my local store for before I even finished reading it.

Ty Buchanan is a lawyer who takes on the case of a man accused of killing his brother. His sidekick is a nun who assists him in his inquiries and is generally more accepted by potential witnesses. The main plot deals with Ty’s defense of Carl and his dealings with the principals involved with the case. A sub-plot deals with Sister Mary. She is receiving threatening and vulgar emails from an anonymous sender and Ty uses his connections to try to find the culprit.

The writing is snappy and funny. From page 2:

And then I got a call from Father Bob.
"There's a fellow in jail in Hollywood," he said. "He needs a lawyer."
"Anyone in jail in Hollywood needs a lawyer," I said.
"I mean it. His mother called me, very upset."
"What's he in for?"
"He told his mother he sort of got arrested for drunk driving and telling the police he was Santa Claus."
I cleared my throat. "My dear Father, it is illegal to drive drunk, but not to say you are Santa Claus."
"He was dressed in a Santa hat and, I guess, a G-string. That's what he told his mother, anyway."
I put the Dialogues down on the table. "Are you sure it's a lawyer he needs?"
"His mother says he's been under a lot of strain lately."
"Does he have money to pay a lawyer?"
"His mother does."
"I'm reading Plato."
"She was in tears."
"I would be, too, if my son got busted in a G-string."
"Ty, will you go?"
"To see Santa Claus," I said. "By golly, who wouldn't?"

Chapters are short and allow for a quick read. The plot may not be so believable at times but it did have plenty of twists and was so entertaining that I really didn’t care about believability. Dialogue was fun to read and sometimes the author threw in one of those expressions that are meant to be life lessons but are witty at the same time. From page 16:

If an illusion gets you through the day, big deal. If it puts an ice pack on the groin kicks of life, why not?

As a matter of fact I’m impressed with anyone who can come up with so many witty comebacks in dialogue as this author did.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you like legal thrillers with a lot of wit this one is for you.

Review: PERFECTION by Julie Metz

This review does not contain any information that is not available in the description on the back cover of the book.

On the back cover of this memoir, the blurb states, ‘Every wife’s worst nightmare’ and they aren’t kidding. It begins with the author’s husband, Henry, dying of an embolism. Julie is suddenly, unexpectedly left alone with her 6 year old daughter to care for. She thankfully has many friends and her brother to rely on and she does. Six months into her widowhood, she is just beginning to get used to her new life without Henry when one of her friends reveals a shocking secret about him. Julie realizes that most of her close friends found out about this secret as they were going through his office the day after Henry died and while Julie was incapacitated with grief. The friends make a pact not to reveal the secret to her until she is better able to cope with it. When she does find out, the shock is great and sends her back down an emotional hole that she has trouble pulling herself out of.

A memoir like this one is not easy for women to read. It presents a tale that could happen to anyone – you think you know your life partner, you take it for granted that what he presents to you is what he is. But what if he isn’t? How would you know? There might be small telltale signs as the author admits there were for her. Well, hindsight and all that. Those small signs are often easy to explain away and many women who have years invested in a relationship would not be eager to read the signs pointing to a terrible truth. It’s easier to deal with denial.

Julie Metz’s story is compelling. I wanted everything to work out for her and her daughter. I was willing it. The story of her marriage was not one where a woman is abused and seemingly self-destructive and one wonders why on earth she doesn’t leave her husband. It’s much more complex than that.

There were just a couple of small things that jarred with this book. The author’s writing style seemed to me a bit stilted for the first few chapters but then started flowing nicely – but perhaps I just became used to her style and there really was nothing wrong with it. The other thing that bothered me was the couple of times she described in one or two sentences an intimate act that left me thinking, ewww, too much information! However, that wouldn’t have bothered me if the story had been fiction so again maybe it’s just me.

I give this a high recommendation for both women and men.

What's on Your Desk Wednesday?

Avis tagged me for this fun meme!

Sassy Brit at hosts the weekly meme, What's on Your Desk Wednesday.

Here are the rules:

You can do one of two things or both!

Take a photo of your desk or anywhere you stack your books/TBR pile. And no tidying! Add this photo to your blog.Tag at least 5 people! Come back here and leave a link back to your photo in the Mr. Linky.

List at least 5 BOOKISH things on your desk (your TBR pile or books you haven’t shelved.) List at least 5 NON-BOOKISH things (some of some of the more unusual items on your desk/table). Tag at least 5 people to do the same. Come back here and leave your link, so we can come and visit your blog. Or add your answers in the comments if you don’t have a blog.

Well I don't have much on my desk - just two computers, a book mark, a calculator, a scribble pad and a pen (aside from the other computer peripherals). But near the computer desk is a couple of book stacks that are waiting patiently to be dealt with.

Again, I'll have to think about who to tag - who doesn't already take part in this meme? Perhaps A Few Minutes with Michael...

The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

I've never joined a reading challenge before but this one sounds like too much fun to pass up. It is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and the mission is to read the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. The rules are as follows:

Between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, catch up on Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series. No matter if you're starting with book 1 or book 8, you have a year to read all about Sookie. Read Sookie in print, listen to the audio, read an eBook -- format is not an issue. You can join any time during the course of the challenge.

The books are:

Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone

The Kreative Blogger Award!!

Cindy has given me the Kreative Blogger Award! For this award one is supposed to make a list of seven favourite things and nominate seven other bloggers. I'll try to come up with a list of seven bloggers but Cindy herself would have been one (not surprised she was awarded it) and so would Avis and Tina but they got one from Cindy too. So I'll give it to Kathy for sure, but I'll have to think about the others. So for now I'll list seven favourite things...hmm that can't be too difficult, right??

1. My family.
2. Books.
2.1 I can't list books seven times I suppose???
3. Monthly blogger meet-ups.
4. Reading. No, I guess that goes with no. 2.
4.1 My pets.
5. Movie night with friends.
6. Jigsaw puzzles (getting desperate).
7. Walks with my husband on breezy summer days. (Does this go with no. 1?)
7.1 My job. (No, wait, I have to come up with something else).
7.2 Lunch with Cindy!

Well, it's true, all of the above are favourite people, activities and things (yep, even my job) and they're not listed in any particular order. This was a lot of fun. Thank you, Cindy!

Mailbox Monday

Marcia at The Printed Page hosts this weekly meme. Head over to her site to see her mailbox Monday and to comment on yours. This is what I received the past week:

I received Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey from Hachette. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay came in the mail from Random House and looks really good.

My monthly meet-up took place yesterday and I received these 3 books: Swimsuit by James Patterson was from Cindy, Stardust by Joseph Kanon was from Tina and The Professors' Wives Club by Joanne Rendell was from Avis. Cindy has posted photos of the tea shop where we meet. Thank you for all the books, ladies!

Cindy is also hosting a weekly books bought meme. Head over Cindy's Love of Books to see what she bought the past week. I went to Clio's, a local indie, and purchased:

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris, Telling Tales by Anne Cleeves and Noble House by James Clavell.

By the way, I love the brand new books bought logo, Cindy!


How Shall I Tell the Dog and other final musings by Miles Kington

The title just about says it all for this little book. It’s humourous and to the point. I knew that the author had been diagnosed with terminal cancer before reading it and I knew that the book would be funny. What I didn’t know was how graceful and courageously presented it would be.

How Shall I Tell the Dog is comprised of fictitious letters written to the author’s agent, Gill. These letters consist of ideas for another last book, which ironically (or intentionally) this book turned out to be. Every chapter is filled with funny and sometimes subtle observations about life and death and how people deal with both. From the chapter entitled The Way You Look:

“Dear Gill,

Has anyone ever written a book called something like ‘The Way You Think You Look, and The Way You Really Look’?

It might be subtitled something like ‘How things got that way, and what you can do about it’.”

How Shall I Tell the Dog is filled with sly wit and humourous characterizations.
The bit of research I did on the author told me that was his usual style. He was a writer for the now defunct Punch magazine and then went on to work at the British newspaper Independent for many years. It was while there that he learned of his cancer and where his daily column was still published right up until the day he died. Despite that, this is not a sad book by any means. For all that it deals with a serious topic, this book is a nice, funny and uplifting read.

Wating on Wednesday: Burn This Book

Jill at Breaking the Spine runs a weekly meme called Waiting on Wednesday about upcoming books that she'd like to read. This is mine.

Burn This Book is a collection of essays written by some of the most pre-eminent writers alive today and is published by Harper Studio and PEN American Center. Edited by Toni Morrison, the essays examine why writers write and the effects of censorship and its toll on writers and the general reading public. Some of the contributors are Russell Banks, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie. In Freedom to Write, which, along with a few others is available for download on the Harper Studio website, Orhan Pamuk writes:

“I have personally known writers who have chosen to raise forbidden topics purely because they were forbidden. I think I am no different. Because when another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free. This, indeed, is the spirit that informs the solidarity felt by PEN, by writers all over the world.

Sometimes my friends rightly tell me or someone else, "You shouldn't have put it quite like that; if only you had worded it like this, in a way that no one would find offensive, you wouldn't be in so much trouble now." But to change one's words and package them in a way that will be acceptable to everyone in a repressed culture, and to become skilled in this arena, is a bit like smuggling forbidden goods through customs, and as such, it is shaming and degrading.”

There’s not much I can add to the censorship debate without descending into the hectoring platitudes that circulate everywhere (especially, it seems, the internet) except of course to say, I’m against it. The Harper Studio website has several common examples of censorship. All too often, the censorship of a book is instigated by a parent whose child attends the school where the ‘offensive’ book resides, but it sometimes doesn’t stop there and goes on to infect entire school districts.

I believe in choice. If a parent doesn’t want their child to read a certain book – well that’s up to that parent to enforce it and it’s also their right to set limits for their children. But I do not agree with the parent going into schools or libraries and complaining about the book being available there. You may decide what your own child can or cannot read, but it is stepping over the line to have your values decide what other people are exposed to.

For more information about this book visit the Burn This Book website.

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