Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning was a truly enjoyable way to start off my New Year reading. It grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me interested all the way through to the big reveal at the end. And the end really packed a punch!

The book tells its story on two timelines. We start off in present day with Jody Linder, a 26 year old school teacher who suffered family tragedy as a three year old when her father was murdered and her mother disappeared. The book then shifts back 23 years so we can see what happened leading up to the murder. We gradually come back to present day when the man convicted of her father's murder is released from prison early and returns to the small town of Rose, Kansas.

The book seems to depict small town life accurately and the many characters are interesting from the Linder family to the town drunk convicted of her father's murder and his family. Pickard also weaves in an unlikely love story between Jody and the son of the man convicted of killing her father.

I spent much of the book trying to figure out the mystery of who really killed Jody's father. It seemed the man convicted was too drunk. But who?! It was such a small town and everyone else seemed accounted for. My theory was that her mom killed her dad and ran off. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the twist that Pickard threw in at the end. For once, there wasn't a totally cookie cutter ending to a book!

This is a highly recommended from me! And very close to a five-star rating. It's just a tiny bit too fluffy for me to make it five stars. I usually like to learn something along with having a fantastic story in order to give a five star rating....such as learning about the Japanese internment camps during WWII in The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet or the south during the 1960's in The Help. I need just a tiny bit more substance for a 5-star book. However, this is definitely a 4.75 for me.

Source disclosure: Purchased by me as an e-book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why do I have such a difficult time deciding what e-books to buy?

I have to admit. I'm glad the iPad was a gift to us because it has sat around for the last several days without even being turned on. Don't get me wrong. It's a very cool device. But I'm finding I prefer the NookColor to the iPad as an e-reader. I actually find myself using the iPad to stream tv and movies while I'm working. That feature is AWESOME! But the iPad is a bit bulky to hold for any length of time for reading. The NookColor is perfect for that!

After playing around with the NookColor for a bit now. I'm thoroughly impressed by what it has to offer. I could even be updating this blog from it if I wanted to. The only thing I've discovered it cannot do is stream/play video. I tried to get Netflix Watch Instantly to work through the web. But no go.

I've also discovered I'm cheap. Now, I usually have no problem shopping. However, I'm having a hard time choosing exactly WHICH books to buy as e-books. I received a Barnes and Noble gift card in the mail and I planned to use it to purchase a new e-book. But I kept looking at the Nookbooks available and thinking do I want this as an e-book? What if I like it and wish I had a hard copy of the book for my shelf in the instance that I want to read it again or pass it along to someone? I know some e-books can be borrowed. But very few people I know have e-readers, so that is not practical. I also had a hard time paying $10 for the e-book I was looking at. I'm not sure WHY as I had a gift card. And I will pay more than that for a hardcover of a book.

In the end, I decided to buy The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard. It is my book club book for this month. I wasn't sure what I would think of it and I wouldn't be able to borrow the e-book from the library in time for book club.

The funniest thing about this, I could have just checked out the hardcover from the library and read the book that way. Not spent any money. And had the book in plenty of time for book club. Boy, these e-reader business execs sure know what they're doing, don't they? I just spent $10 (okay, it wasn't MY money, it was a gift card...but still) on a book, when had I not owned an e-reader, I would have just trotted down to the library and checked the book out.

Okay, that was my ramble for the day. :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Picture Book Thursday: Winter Fun

I thought snowy books would be appropriate for this week's Picture Book Thursday. Here in Minnesota, we're having the snowiest winter in 20 years. My kids are loving it, but I'm already hoping for an early spring.

Peter Rabbit: A Winter's Tale is a gorgeous picture book with a shiny sparkly cover, a fun story and an interactive pop-up at the end. Mrs. Rabbit sends Peter out to gather firewood one afternoon. He runs into his cousin Benjamin Bunny and the two run off to gather firewood together. But snowy fun lures them away from their duty. They sled and throw snowballs. While they are out running around the forest, they run into Tommy Brock who seems up to something. After seeing Mrs. Tittlemouse, the two rabbits realize Tommy Brock stole her babies! They are off to try and save them, all the while keeping an eye out for Mr. Tod, the sinister fox.

Throughout the book, your child will find little envelopes filled with a small shiny snowflake. At the end you can prop the book up, unfold the snowy fir tree and your child can hang their snowflakes on the tree. I would recommend this for about four years old. The snowflakes are too small for the younger set, though they can enjoy the story. You could save the interactive part for when they are old enough to handle it. I'm not sure younger than four will have the dexterity to hang the snowflakes by themselves (but you could always help them!).

Jan Bretty's Snowy Treasury contains four of her well-known stories all in one bound copy: Gingerbread Baby, The Mitten, The Hat, and The Three Snow Bears. I'm sure many of you are familiar with at least one of these stories. They are all beautifully illustrated and a delight to read. Set in beautiful landscapes all inspired by Jan Brett's hometown in the Berkshires or on her many travels including Switzerland and Scandinavian countries.

Source disclosure: These books were sent to me by The Penguin Group as review copies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Confession by John Grisham

John Grisham's latest was the first book of 2011 for me. I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I believe The Client was the last book I had read by Grisham other than The Painted House and Skipping Christmas. I just haven't been into his legal thrillers since then. I read The Appeal and was very disappointed by it. I had heard that The Appeal was "old school" Grisham, but I felt it fell far short of his first books.

So I was leery to say the least going into The Confession. And really, the only reason I did read it was because my husband's uncle gave me a copy of the e-book and I wanted to play with my new e-reader.

Turns out the book was pretty good! Now, I'm not sure if that's because I went in with really LOW expectations or if it just intrigued me.

Keith, a Lutheran pastor receives a mysterious visitor in his office. Travis Boyette, a convicted serial rapist, claims that he killed a girl nine years earlier and now the state of Texas is going to execute an innocent man. Boyette has a deadly brain tumor and wants to come clean at the last minute. He wants Keith's help and guidance on how to proceed. Keith struggles with what to do next. Meanwhile, in Texas we meet Donte Drumm, the man who has been on death row for all this time vigilantly holding on to the belief that he his innocent.

The first two thirds of Grisham's book describe a race against the clock to prove Drumm is innocent before they execute the wrong man. All of this kept my attention and I "turned" each page as fast as I could to see if the execution would happen. Now, I'm not going to give away what happens. All I'm going to say is that I wish Grisham would have written a slightly shorter book or pushed off the climactic scene. Having one-third of the book left seemed a bit much and I found myself skimming through the pages. I felt the very end was satisfactory and I'm really glad that Grisham didn't reek more havoc on the pastor's life toward the end of the book.

This would make for a really great vacation or beach read (ah, the beach, doesn't that sound nice right about now?).

Source Disclosure: This e-book was shared with me by a family member.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

YA Weekend - grab bag of series

Some 2010 housekeeping...didn't get these reviews up before year's end :)

The Sisters Grimm - The Inside Story by Michael Buckley: The penultimate book in the series, The Inside Story picks up after the girls have jumped into a book in search of their baby brother. In the acknowledgments, Buckley calls this the most difficult in the series to write, and it shows. Puck adds desperately needed comic relief from the action-packed plot, which hurtles from book to book without advancing the series in a significant way. Still, there are fun moments, as when the characters of Oz panic because Sabrina refuses to play along with the way the story is meant to go. Overall, Sabrina was less likable (and that's saying something!) in this entry in the series. Its main purpose is to set up for the finale, and I believe it does that well. A serviceable entry in a magical series.

Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers: I enjoyed Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos, but found it hard to get into at first. This follow-up was even better. LaFevers seems more surefooted, Theodosia more evenly portrayed, and supporting cast fleshed out nicely. When a veritable army of stolen mummies is discovered at her father's museum, he is suspected of theft, and Theodosia must uncover the mystery of the traveling mummies, contend with a fierce cursed statue in the basement, and once again battle the Serpents of Chaos. This was great fun, very British and with an informative focus on ancient Egypt.

The Diamond of Drury Lane (A Cat Royal Adventure) by Julia Golding: "Cat" Royal was a foundling left at the Theatre Royal, and she haunts the backstage of the theater, whose staff and actors make up her unconventional family. An orphan in 1790 had a dismal life, and Cat isn't exactly pampered. She's more or less self-sufficient, sheltered by the theater and looked after by Mr. Sheridan, its owner. She holds her own (mostly) in the streets of London. When she finds out about a diamond hidden in the theater, Cat must try to protect it. At the same time, she makes friends with Pedro, an African boy and violin prodigy, and crosses swords with one of the nasty street gangs that rule London. Cat is plucky, the story is exciting and intriguing, and if 1790 London doesn't quite seem authentic, well, that's fine. There's plenty of adventure to distract from any oddities.

The 39 Clues: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix: A satisfying end to an uneven, but innovative series! The conclusion was not (at least to me) predictable, which after nine books seemed quite an accomplishment. I don't want to ruin the ending for those who haven't finished the series, so I'll just say that the conclusion was surprisingly complex and kept my attention nicely.

Friday, January 07, 2011

2010 Wrap-Up

It's still January, so I'm not so late on the 2010 State of the Reading report :) Here are the books I read in 2010, with links to reviews (or brief reviewlets if I didn't do a full review). I always get to the end of the year and look at my books by the star rating I gave them in LibraryThing and can't figure out why I'm overgenerous. So these are roughly in order of the best to the...least best...in each category.

The Very, Very Best: Fall Asleep Forgetting, Mr. Chartwell, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
Mystery: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, Stieg Larsson, Louise Penny, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Juvenile: Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum, The Diamond of Drury Lane, The Red Blazer Girls

I still haven't managed to read my September Early Reviewers book, The Paris Wife. It's dreadful. I shall have to slog through so I can get a review up.

Books read by category

Literary Novels

Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard (will get a review up as soon as I can)
Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke (have I not reviewed this??? another great book club pick)
The Clouds Beneath the Sun by Mackenzie Ford

Plain Heathen Mischief by Martin Clark (book club pick, and a good one! disgraced preacher meets slick con man...hilarity and soul-searching ensue)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Everyone else has gushed about them, and yes, they are THAT good)
Louise Penny's The Three Pines mysteries (a new favorite series), The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

Heat Wave and Naked Heat by Richard Castle: Must-reads for fans of the television show. Pretty much just plain fun.
Death at the Alma Mater by G. M. Malliet
The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor
The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell (in which Cornwell actually seems to...gasp!...care about Scarpetta, Marino, and Lucy again!)
Killer Cruise by Laura Levine
Killing Bridezilla by Laura Levine
Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd
Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke
Scone Cold Dead by Kaitlyn Dunnett
murder@maggody.com by Joan Hess
St. Patrick's Day Murder by Leslie Meier

Unearthly Asylum by P. J. Bracegirdle
The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Michael Beil
The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding (review coming this weekend, I promise. Well, I hope, anyway)
The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye and The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer

The 39 Clues: Books 7-10
Grim Hill: The Family Secret by Linda DeMeulemeester

The SIsters Grimm: The Inside Story by Michael Buckley
Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden by J. Torres and J. Bone
Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison

Whip Smart by Melissa Febos

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Year in Review: 2010

According to my LibraryThing account, I read 35 books in 2010, exactly half of what I read in 2009. Although, this number doesn't usually count picture books I've reviewed. So overall, the count is probably a bit higher.

Here is the breakdown by star rating:

I RARELY give five stars. I hold on to that for the special book that I just simply couldn't put down, read while ignoring the children, or was simply just blown away. I usually give this to a book that I really can't find a single fault with.

Four and 1/2 stars is a very good book but maybe there were one or two things that bothered me.

And onward.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

The Wake Trilogy (Wake, Fade & Gone) by Lisa McMann
Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
The Scarlet Stockings by Charlotte Kandel
Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Zeus: King of Gods by George O'Connor
Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
Theodore Boone by John Grisham
Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James
Athena: Grey-eyed Goddess by George O'Connor
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
Holiday Magic by Fern Michaels (clairfication: only read Terri Dulong's Cedar Key novella--rating is for that, not the entire book)

Three 1/2 STARS:
Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
We the Children by Andrew Clements
Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
Caught by Harlen Coben
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Brain Camp by Susan Kim
Stash by David Klein

The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser
ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
ghostgirl: the homecoming by Tonya Hurley
Booth by C.C. Colbert
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard

Year in Review by Genre:
Adult Fiction
Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
Caught by Harlen Coben
Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
The Help by Karen Stockett
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Stash by David Klein
Holiday Magic by Fern Michaels

Adult Mystery
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard

Young Adult
Wake by Lisa McMann
Fade by Lisa McMann
Gone by Lisa McMann
Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley

Theodore Boone by John Grisham
We the Children by Andrew Clements
The Scarlet Stockings by Charlotte Kandel
Savvy by Ingrid Law
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Children's Fiction
Superheroes: A Pop-up Book
How to Raise a Dinosaur by Natasha Wing
This School Year Will be the Best by Kay Winters
How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim
Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library by Vicki Myron
The Earth and I by Frank Asch
Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire by Jane O'Connor
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora
Hot Diggity Dog by Adrienne Sylver
Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman
Red Green Blue by Alison Jay
Sleepover at Gramma's House by Barbara Joose

Graphic Novel
Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
Zeus: King of Gods by George O'Connor
Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
Athena: Grey-eyed Goddess by George O'Connor
Brain Camp by Susan Kim
Booth by C.C. Colbert

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser

Just for my own musings....
Books on this list--
Bought this year: 7
Advanced Copies/From the Publisher: 25
Borrowed from Library/Friend: 11 (Library), 3 (Friend)
E-books read: 2
Books already sitting on my shelf: 0 (boo!)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The gift of an e-reader

Awhile back (Oct 2009 to be precise) I rambled on about e-readers. At the time, I wasn't very convinced I needed one or wanted one. I was worried about the future of printed books.

However, a little over a year later, I may be singing a different song. I have to admit that I really had no desire for a Kindle or even a Nook (the original, e-ink version). A friend of mine let me borrow her Nook to try it out, and while it was a fun experience, it didn't really convince me I needed to take the plunge yet. THEN, the iPad came out and then NookColor. I really wanted an iPad. But I learned from both the iPod and the iPhone. I was going to wait until at least the 2nd generation iPad came out before convincing my husband we needed this gadget. After seeing and playing with the NookColor at Barnes and Noble one day, I was very impressed. I LOVE the idea of an e-reader that is multi-functional. One that you can listen to music on, or check your email or whatever. Our public library also recently jumped on the e-book bandwagon and now you can borrow e-books to your e-reader. A real plus in my book.

Borrowing library e-books would make an e-reader a little more useful to me. I do not buy many of the books I read, so I wasn't sure I was going to like purchasing e-books. I also knew I would never want a Kindle, because I didn't want to be married to one particular e-bookstore. The NookColor was appealing to me as well because of the Nook Kids aspect. E-picture books that could be read TO my kids. That is a pretty cool thing for travel.

So Christmas rolls around and I didn't ask for either an iPad or a NookColor because my husband bought me a new studio light for the photography business. I wasn't expecting to have anything fun to open on Christmas Eve day (when we open at our house). But, lo and behold, I had a fun package wrapped up for me. He'd actually been listening to me bather on throughout the last couple months about how cool the NookColor looked and he got me one! Oh goody goody goody! I could enter the e-book world and discover what it was all about. THEN, Christmas morning rolled around and we open our stockings. I didn't have a thing in my stocking this year, not a lick. But I had medium-sized box sitting on the mantle above my stocking. I opened it up and it was a new iPad. Holy s*#t! I couldn't believe it. Now, the iPad was really my husband's company Christmas gift. So, I'm not truly THAT spoiled. However, I felt extremely guilty having both.

I have played around with them and I actually like both of them ALOT. And think I might keep the NookColor too, even though it seems so excessive to me. I mean, really, how many gadgets does a girl need? My husband did point out to me that the iPad is technically his. So I shouldn't feel guilty that the NookColor is mine. It's just that the NookColor is so much smaller and can fit in a purse or the diaper bag for easier e-reading-on-the-go.

In the past week, I have discovered many things with both devices. I think maybe I'll share in some form of a weekly/monthly post. We'll see how my New Year's Resolution of better book blogging holds up. :-)

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all you faithful blog readers out there!!

Resolution #1: Be a better book blogger in 2011.

2010 kind of got away from me. With a new baby in January, obviously, much of my free time disappeared. Then, my photography business really took off the last five months of the year (not a negative overall, just a negative for free reading time). So my stack of review books has grown. I promised to stay up on Picture Book Thursday and that fell short by a mile.

I've thought a lot about the book blog in the last couple weeks. I thought about throwing in the towel overall because I felt like I couldn't commit to it like I used to. Because it is something I don't get paid for, it has fallen by the wayside as a priority. After thinking about it for awhile, I decided I would miss its existence. I would miss the fact that I could just jump on here to blab about something book related if I felt like it. I have missed being an active part of the book blogging world this year. I couldn't believe BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) passed me by this year and I didn't realize it until about two months later because my Google Reader had 1000+ posts waiting for me. I didn't get to participate in Carl's R.I.P. challenge this fall....did it even happen? I have no idea. I failed my goal at the Graphic Novel Challenge....actually, I read at least 6 graphic novels and therefore made the goal, but I only got three of them reviewed. I am three books behind on LibraryThing Early Reviewer books and have been since about July.

BUT, 2011 is a new year. I am going to try and participate in the book blogging world once again. Start reading blog posts again and commenting. I'm going to participate in BBAW and RIP VI in the fall. I'm going to get caught up on reviews and at least post a Picture Book Thursday post once a month. I'm going to move the book blog up the list a bit on priorities.

I can't speak for Allison, but I hope she joins me in getting this book blog back on track and make it something fun to read again on a more frequent basis!