Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Best wishes in the New Year to all our new book blogging friends. We wish you a safe and happy New Year's Eve and a year full of wonderful books - shared with someone special.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Reading Resolution

We have been seeing lots of posts in our reader this week concerning New Year's Resolutions, which got us to wondering if we should make some of our own. I (Tami) don't usually make resolutions because I've never kept one in my life, except for the resolution to not further burden myself with the guilt of making more resolutions I won't keep. However, we have learned a few lessons in our brief time as part of the blogging world and these lessons led us (mainly Tami, since she's most guilty) to make one promise for the new year. It is so easy to get sucked into the vortex of challenges, memes, contests, lists, special events, reading blogs and reviews, and planning for what we're going to read, that there is no time left to actually read. Therefore, our resolution is simple - to keep it about the books. We're not in this for fame and glory, we're just sharing our enthusiasm for a good book and making some new friends along the way. While you will see us participating in all these fun activities from time to time, we resolve to fight the lure of participating to the exclusion of real reading time. We wish you all a Happy New Year and a year full of wonderful stories.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

I received an advance copy of this fascinating book in an on-line drawing (Thanks Random House!) and loved the bright yellow cover and the line-up of ladies in 50's-style garb, so I chose it as my "Pick a Book by It's Cover" entry in the Take-a-Chance Challenge at the library where I work. Henry House is one of a string of orphaned babies raised in a "practice house" as part of a college home economics program. The fact that these houses actually existed fifty years ago to help teach young ladies the fine art of housekeeping and childrearing adds a whole other level of fascination to an already compelling story.

We follow Henry from his arrival at the house as an infant, through adolescence and into adult-hood as he struggles to form attachments after being raised to believe that people, including mothers, are interchangeable and temporary. Henry also wrestles with choices -after all he was taught to love and treat all his mothers equally; to never pick one thing or person above another.

The pop culture references as the story moves through the 50's and 60's are fun and add depth to the narritive. We even get a glimpse behind the scenes in the world of Disney animation. Unfortunately, the cover art I liked so much will be replaced with this more mundane cover when the hardcover edition is published in March 2010, but the story will still be unique. I recommend you add this one to your TBR stack for the new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old Dogs: Movie Review

Pair up John Travolta and Robin Williams and there can be no result except side-splitting humor. I'm thrilled to see John continue his recent turn to comedies. Although I've enjoyed a lot of his more serious roles, his unique comic style is my favorite. The plot is the standard "guy who doesn't handle kids finds out he has children from a previous relationship" and I'll let you guess at how that turns out. However, this movie has three things that I thought made it special: 1. Big name actors who aren't afraid to admit their age. 2. The interaction between Travolta and Williams. Combining Mork from Ork and Vincent from Pulp Fiction seemed like an incredibly odd pairing, but both actors kept their own personality while still creating a believable friendship. 3. It's just FUNNY! Even if the story has been done a million times, their antics and mishaps are hilarious. We both highly recommend this movie for a fun time that the whole family can see.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Grace

We received this encouraging e-mail from Nancy K. Grace and couldn't wait to share it with all of you. We got to know Nancy as our pastor's wife about 10 years ago. Nancy is a gifted speaker and shares her insights with women's groups and at marriage encounters. We encourage you to visit her web site - - and sign up for her monthly inspirational e-mail. Her words cut right to the center of the holiday rush and stress. We hope you find them as comforting as we did.
Overwhelmed or Overjoyed
The line at the post office wasn't too long, considering it was the first of December. Anytime I step into the post office I wonder how long it will take. Waiting gave me opportunity to read the signs about post office products. One caught my eye.
In large print, the poster read, "Turn Overwhelmed into Overjoyed." I realize the intent is to get you to use the Post Office for shipping this season, but I laughed to think that was what it would take to go from being overwhelmed to overjoyed. Most likely, for many of us, it would take a miracle.
That miracle happened over 2000 years ago, when God broke into our world in a quiet, yet dramatic way. He took the form of a helpless baby in a manger to change the world. Joseph and Mary, overwhelmed with the long trip, the need for housing, and the impending delivery, became overjoyed with the birth of Jesus. Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds were overwhelmed by the angelic proclamation, but became overjoyed when they went to Bethlehem. They moved closer to the manger, glorifying and praising God for what they had heard and seen. (see Luke 2: 19-20)
It is easy for us to become overwhelmed with December demands. The only way to go from being overwhelmed to becoming overjoyed is to look in the manger to see what God has done for your redemption.
"When the time had fully come,
God sent his Son, born of woman,
born under the law,
to redeem those under the law
that we might receive full rights as sons."
(Galatians 4: 4-5)
Reflect on the silent night God broke into history. Move from overwhelmed to overjoyed by coming closer to the manger.
I pray that in the days leading to Christmas, you will become overjoyed by the presence of God.
"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top Ten Reads of 2009

A few years ago, my sister and I began doing our own version of Oprah's Favorites List. We each listed 10 discoveries we had made during the year - could be a product, a recipe, a web site, a tv show... anything that we hadn't tried before but really liked (such as making your own Lime Diet Coke with real limes rather than the tinny tasting stuff in the can - yum-o!).
In 2007, I decided to add my selection for favorite book of the year. The books of Sarah Addison Allen - Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen - have taken the first two prizes. Unfortunately publication of Ms. Allen's third book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, was delayed until March of 2010, so she's not in the running this year.
After reviewing my Goodreads account, I can't come up with a clear winner, so I have decided to list my 10 favorites in no particular order - plus a couple of Honorable Mentions:
1. Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
2. Who killed the Robins Family by Bill Adler
3. True Blue by David Baldacci
4. The Lumby Lines by Gail Frazer
5. Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston
6. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
7. Loitering with Intent by Stuart Woods
8. Pursuit by Karen Robards
9. Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz
10. Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Honorable Mention:
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
Finger Lickin’ 15 by Janet Evanovich
Installments 4, 5 and 6 of the Body Movers series by Stephanie Bond
And two final addendums:
Under the Dome by Stephen King* - If a fraction of a book can win the award - and who's making up the rules here? - the third of this monster that we have completed would be a hands-down winner. With 10 hours of road trip coming up for Christmas, there is a chance that we will finish before the end of the year, so I am including it as the Roger Maris of my list - It's got the record, but with an asterisk.
The Irresistable Henry House by Lisa Grunwald. I am nearly through with this remarkable book and it would surely make the list, but since it will not actually be published till March 2010, it appears here with it's own proviso.

What were your favorite reads of 2009? Share them and maybe they'll make our list for next year.

A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

I tracked this book down out of curiosity over a Christmas story written by the mind that created The Wizard of Oz. What I found was a gem of a story with a current moral, even though the story originally appeared in a magazine in 1904. It was first published in book form in an anthology of Christmas tales in 1915.
The Demons of Selfishness, Envy, Hatred and Malice live in the mountains surrounding Laughing Valley, home of Santa Claus. Naturally, they dislike Santa for his example of happiness and generosity, so they vist St. Nick one by one, attempting to lure the kindly man into their habits.
When this plan fails, they conspire to kidnap Santa on Christmas Eve so that he can not spread cheer, thus leading the world's children into the cave's of the Demons. Santa's helpers - fairies, ryls and knooks in this version - work together to deliver the Christmas gifts even without Santa to guide them, then set out to rescue their leader.
Before they can complete their mission, the Demon of Repentance begins to feel shame for his part in the crime and arranges Santa's escape. Even after being reunited with Santa, the rescue team wants to continue their hunt for the Demons to mete out their vengence. Santa intercedes and warns them, "It is useless to pursue the Demons. They have their place in the world and can never be destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless."
The message of how our sins compound - selfishness leads to envy, envy leads to hatred, and hatred leads to malice - as well as Santa's illustration of contentment and happiness in the face of deliberate attack, is a great one for all ages.
The language of the book may be a little advanced for younger readers - demon spelled daemon, for example - and few kids today are familiar with ryls and knooks. The edition I was able to borrow was published in 1969 and the illustrations are not very good (my apologies to the illustrator) - pencil drawings done in black, white and red. If I were to purchase this book for my grandkids, I would look for an updated version with more attractive pictures, but I still recommend it for all children.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry, Merry Ghost by Carolyn Hart

Christmas is a time for family and giving, and a wealthy woman in Adelaide, Oklahoma, is about to embrace both. Discovering that she has a young grandson, the dowager decides to change her will to leave the bulk of her fortune to the young boy—an alteration that stuns the rest of her family. But a scrooge of a determined heir makes sure she never signs the new document. When she is found dead, it's up to that irrepressible spirit Bailey Ruth, on assignment from Wiggins and Heaven's Department of Good Intentions, to protect a little boy, foil a murderer, and save Christmas. (synopsis from Barnes & Noble)
The second installment in the Bailey Ruth series by Caroyln Hart is a joy. Dearly departed Bailey Ruth returns to Earth to solve another mystery and spread a little Christmas cheer.
The cast of potential heirs/murderers is a quirky bunch - each with their own fears and secrets that keep you guessing till the end. Bailey Ruth is a change of pace from the usual cozy mystery character and her other-worldly powers get her into some comical situations that make for a unique story.
I've been a fan of Ms. Hart's Death on Demand series for years and her new sleuth is just as well-written and entertaining.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Take Another Chance Challenge

Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here is giving us the opportunity to "Take Another Chance". Her original Take-A-Chance Challenge really grabbed my attention and I adapted it to use here at the library. It has been a huge success, so when we saw that she was creating a second round, we jumped right in. Since we're joining as a team we are going to enter at the Moderate level - or 6 books in 12 months. We're looking forward to a fun challenge.

Fantasy Football

This post has nothing at all to do with books, but yesterday I stumbled across this post on The Bumbles Blog and I laughed so hard at Molly's fantasy football antics, that I just had to share my own. College son wanted to start a fantasy football league and invited his dad and several other guys from work (Son works for Hubby when not in school, but that's neither here nor there). They were one team short of a league (which I've been saying for years) so he finally broke down and asked Mom to participate. He said "I hate to ask you to join cause you are going to pick your players by who's cutest or who has the prettiest uniforms or the neatest name, and then you'll beat us all." After that warm welcome there was no doubt that I had to do just that. My original team name, Team Tampon, was vetoed by the league commissioner (son) so I went with Team Chupa (which is Spanish for suck, cause I figured I would). I even designed lovely pink helmets with lavender lettering and face guards and my team has become lovingly (?) referred to as The Pink, as in "I lost to The Pink again!" Football is my favorite sport, but I can't really say I know much about the game beyond the basics - but......wait for know what's coming.......I won the league! And, no, I didn't pick my players by their uniform color - although those pewter-colored pants that the Bucaneers wear are striking - I actually had an intricate, complex and detailed system which I would be glad to share with all of you (just don't tell Hubby or Son). 1. Use as many players from the Broncos as possible. 2. Use as many former K-State players as possible. 3. NEVER pick a player who attended, played for, lived near, or has heard of the University of Nebraska. (To any Husker fans who may read this: I grew up just a few miles south of the Neb/Ks line so the rivalry has been there since birth - then Hubby and I moved to Nebraska for 12 years where we struggled to show our Purple Pride in the midst of the Osborne glory years. Nothing personal, it's just in ingrained thing for me. Well, it is actually personal with a few of you.)
4. Never pick a player from the Chiefs. 5. In all other situations, trust the guy in charge of making the predictions on ESPN's website - He is a trained professional! To celebrate my success in the regular season, Hubby and one of his colleagues are now working in office's adorned with stylish pink helmets declaring their win/loss record against The Pink (0-3 and 0-2-1 respectively).
So ladies, if you haven't tried fantasy football, give it a shot next year. It's been a lot of fun. I'll keep you posted on the playoffs and you are all invited to my Super Bowl Victory Party.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Virtual Advent Tour

Merry Christmas and welcome to our blog! We're happy to share with you a piece of our Christmas. In our family, December brings Grandma's Sugar Cookies. This tradition is now into it's 5th generation. Beginning with my Great-Grandmother, Carrie, baking and decorating sugar cookies has become an established part of our Christmas celebration. As young housewives around the turn of the last century, Carrie and her neighbor began collecting cookie cutters - passing the collection back and forth between the two households during the holiday season. My grandmother, Rosa, helped with the baking and garnishing, and eventually taught her daughters to do the same.

I remember many cold, winter days gathered around Grandma's table, shaking colored sprinkles onto all shapes of cookies, licking my fingers (and, yes, then touching all the cookies), and arguing with my sisters over who used up all the red sugar. When Grandma and Grandpa retired and were frequently traveling at Christmas, Mom took over the baking duties. Naturally, as time passed we all moved away and began our own families and in time grandchildren visited to help out.

Last year, Mom decided that since 7 of her 8 grandkids were 16 or older, the cookie tradition was on hiatus until the next generation was ready to take over. The uproar from the kids was so loud that she drug the cookie cutters back out this year and continued the custom. Seems high school and college students still like to gather at Grandma's.

Dave and I now have two grandsons who live in Albuquerque (a seven hour drive from us) and schedules don't usually allow for two visits in December, so we have yet to share this experience with them, but our empty-nest years are just around the corner and I'm sure we will continue the fun with them and the many other grandchildren (granddaughters?) we're hoping to have.

The cutters my mom uses are the original collection, with some additions of her own. I wish now that I could ask Grandma about the beginning of this piece of my heritage. Some of the cutters look hand-made - who made them? What did they use for decorations in her youth? Were candy Jimmies and Sprinkles available in the early part of the 20th century? Did she have friends or cousins who took part? Family legend has it that the collection began with a few cutters that were brought from Germany by my great-great grandparents, is that true? As with many things, it didn't seem important when I had the opportunity to ask and, now that I realize how precious this tradition is, Grandma's no longer here to answer my questions, but the memories we made in her kitchen will last for generations.

Below is Grandma's sugar cookie recipe. It's probably not much different than the one in your recipe box, with the exception of the "sour milk". To make sour milk, stir 1 T. vinegar into 1 cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Whatever recipe you use, we wish you a Merry Christmas and lot's of holiday memories.

Rosa's Sugar Cookies:
2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening (I prefer butter-flavored Crisco)
2 eggs - beat lightly and fill to 1 cup with sour milk
1 t. baking soda
5 c. flour
Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, then dry ingredients. Chill in refrigerator, roll out and cut. Bake at 375 for 11 minutes.
Join the Virtual Advent Tour at

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham

Home in Time for Christmas is a charming story of time-travel, star-crossed romances and family. I love Heather Graham's books for her ability to put a supernatural twist on a standard story and transform it into something special. I must admit, I had some concern about overlapping the occult and Christmas, but this time the twist is more magical than spectral.
Jake, a Revolutionary War hero, is transported through time just as the British hangman's noose is tightening around his neck. Unluckily, he arrives in 2009 on a slippery road, in front of Melody Tarleton's car. Or maybe it's not so unlucky - Melody takes him into her home, family and heart.
Melody's attempts to discover Jake's identity and teach him about 200 years of American history naturally bring them closer and, even though their romance may be the obvious next step, it's well-written and sweet. Melody's off-beat parents add a quirkiness to the story that is fun. The family relationships, both in 1776 and 2009, are realistic and add an extra heart-warming element to the story.
The only character I would change is Mark, Melody's ex-boyfriend. He's understandably unlikeable through most of the story so that we root for Melody to be with Jake instead, but I needed a little more insight into him to accept his conversion later in the story.
This tale of magic potions and time travel is told with a credible "suspension of disbelief" right up to the end, then I think it runs off the rails just a bit. There is a limit to how long the reader can put aside rationality and believe in magic. I think Ms. Graham drug her story just past that limit - and unnecessarily so. One less "bewitching" moment and a little more drama surrounding the necessary ones would have been a better ending for me. Even so, I recommend this book for a fun, entertaining holiday break.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

True Blue by David Baldacci

Mace Perry is just out of a two-year prison stint for a crime she didn't commit. She immediately embarks on a scheme to clear her name and be reinstated on the police force. I had a tough time empathizing with her at first - her obsession was running full blast within an hour of being released. It seemed strange that she didn't pause even long enough to say thank you to her sister for arranging her early release or to enjoy her freedom. But then, I've never been falsely imprisoned (or rightly imprisoned, for that matter), so what do I know? Mace's plan is to solve a major crime on her own, thus proving to the powers-that-be that she deserves another chance as a police officer, so she jumps into a murder investigaion and naturally runs afoul of the federal and local authorities, including her sister, the D.C. Chief of Police. Her quest leads her into a relationship with Roy, the attorney who discovered the body and is representing the homeless veteran accused of the killing. By mid-way through the story, the various agents from the FBI, CIA, NSA and other sundry initialed groups began to run together - lots of characters to keep track of - and some of the events toward the end stretch the boundries of credibility, but over-all it's a first-rate thriller with all the right ingredients: gripping plot, fast pacing, engrossing characters, interesting relationships and an exciting ending. There are enough questions left unanswered to leave room for imagination (or a sequel?) while still resolving all the major plot points. I hate to admit that this was my first Baldacci book, but it definitely won't be my last. Thanks again to Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy and hooking me on a new author.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Novella Wrap-up

We did it! We finished our first challenge...and with a few days to spare. The November Novella Challenge was sponsored by J.T. at . We signed up for Level II, which was to read four novellas during the month of November. We each selected two and read them together. Our four selections were The Mist by Stephen King, Animal Farm by Orson Wells, Murder at Wayne Manor by Duane Swierczynski, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickins. You can find our reviews by clicking on November Novella Challenge in the labels list.
This was really our first experience with intentionally selecting reading material from this genre, but we found that there are a lot of good ones out there. Miriam-Webster defines a novella as "a story with a compact and pointed plot". Being a fan of "a little less talk and a lot more action" (to quote Elvis), I enjoyed that aspect of these books.
Thanks to J.T. for sponsoring this fun, quick challenge. To see what everyone was reading, visit
her blog and read the many reviews.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Lessons

With the Thanksgiving weekend winding down - son back at college, leftovers eaten or frozen, and Christmas movies dominating the t.v. schedule - I took a moment to reflect on the holiday and the lessons learned:
1. It doesn't matter if you accidentally leave the sugar out of the pumpkin pie. Teenagers will pile so much Cool Whip on it they won't even notice.
2. If you forget to buy the pre-seasoned bread cubes for the stuffing and the only grocery store in town isn't open, emergency stuffing can be prepared from a week-old loaf of french bread and creative use of available seasonings.
3. Alzheimer's is a despicable, heartbreaking disease! But small, loving acts can bring a smile amid the confusion and leave you with a warm satisfaction.
4. The best moments in life can't be planned - they just happen.
5. The best laid plans of mice and men....(and readers). I didn't spend nearly as much time with my feet up and a good book open as I had planned, but enjoyed the time with extended family, church family, and kids who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in their own homes way too soon.
Now, Hubby and daughter are snoozing, so I'm headed to the recliner to spend the last few hours of this Thankfully Reading Weekend with a Carolyn Hart mystery.

50 Things to Do With a Book by Bruce McCall

Bruce McCall laments the technology age and the corresponding downfall of the printed page. "Librarians recently thrown out of work are forced to take jobs assembling Kindles in basement facilities where books were formerly stored." Book warehouses are now storing and shipping video games, Barnes & Noble stores are being converted to mini-storage units... McCall's tongue-in-cheek picture of our journey toward being a "paperless society" will get a grin and maybe even a giggle from those relics that still insist on turning pages by hand.
The introduction - a short essay on the extinction of books - is by far the highlight of the book. What follows are fifty one-paragraph ideas on alternative uses for your book collection now that you're not reading them. Books as substitutes for clay pigeons in skeet shooting, as game pieces in a round of "book bombing", or as coasters, snack trays and end tables were some of my favorites.
This is a cute, under-an-hour read that I recommend for a laugh, and maybe even a moment of introspection on the plight of our printed companions. However, with only 100 pages, nearly half of them illustrations, and hardly a dozen lines each on the printed ones, the $16.99 price tag seems awfully steep. And, since it's unlikely that many libraries will stock this small volume, you may want to enjoy it while standing in the aisle of your favorite bookstore.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankfully Reading Weekend is Here

The turkey is a memory, the last few slices of pie no longer look appetizing, the relatives have gone home, the Christmas tree is twinkling, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is playing softly. We had a wonderful day with the in-laws - ate a lot, played games, watched football (Go Broncos!) and laughed!--- especially when we squeezed Dave, I and both kids (ages 17 and 19) into my little kitchen, which is perfect for one person, to do the dishes. Lots of bumping and pushing, but we managed to get everything done - I literally laughed till I cried. What a blessing!
Now that everything has quieted down, it's time to break out the books for Thankfully Reading Weekend. The gals at are sponsoring this fun, no pressure reading event. There's still time to join in if you haven't yet.
So far I've been able to finish up True Blue by David Baldacci and read 50 Things to Do with a Book, a quick read by Bruce McCall. I began Merry Merry Ghost by Caroline Hart this afternoon between putting up the tree and catching a snooze on the couch. I'm hoping for one more evening of card games and giggles before son returns to college tomorrow, so I probably won't make much progress on the reading list, but I wouldn't trade these moments for an entire library.
Hope each one of you had a Thanksgiving full of love and laughter, and God bless you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I had a couple of friends recommend that I read Animal Farm, although they didn't give me any description at all. When I saw it on a list of novellas, I thought it would make a good choice for the November Novella Challenge. However, I still had no idea what it was about. I don't know what I expected, but I was surprised - in a good way.
Animal Farm was written by George Orwell in 1946, a year after World War II and during the period that Communism was getting a secure hold on Eastern Europe. Orwell was a vocal Socialist, but saw huge differenes between Socialism and Communism.
The animals on the Manor Farm become enlightened and decide that the human owners and employees of the farm are mistreating them. The oldest and wisest of the animals gets them all together and convinces them that all animals everywhere would be better off without humans. The animals conspire to chase the humans off the farm and re-name it Animal Farm. All goes well until the pigs, the smartest of the animals, become tyrants and eventually are indistinguishable from humans.
This book is a satirical look at the flaws of communism. It also seems like a good lesson for any society, especially one which allows its leaders too much control. In the end, the animals were in a much worse situation than they had ever been, but they didn't even realize it because the PR machine of the pigs worked constantly to convince them of how good things were and they believed it, too far-removed and beaten down to question their lies.
The premise of this story can carry over to any government entity that becomes obsessed with its own power and uses it in unhealthy ways, whether it be a school board, county administration or the Federal goveernment. I believe Animal Farm should be required reading for every young adult - maybe it would help a few of them keep their eyes and minds open.
- Reviewed by Dave

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens' classic is our fourth and final installment in the November Novella challenge. (Yes,we still owe you a review of "Animal Farm".) I won't subject you, once again, to my fountain of memories and emotion for this story. (If you really want to know, check out our posts about the movie version or the "Re-reading the Classics" challenge from Read-a-thon.) It's sufficient to say that I've read/listened to this book countless times and enjoy it every time - outdated, confusing language and all. The story and it's moral have been re-told a thousand times, so naturally Dave was familiar with the plot, but had never read the original. Truth be told, I don't think he was all that enthusiastic, but still it was fun to share this timeless book. I will continue to make A Christmas Carol part of my holiday celebration each year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marple-Poirot-Holmes Challenge

This challenge is right up my (Tami's) alley. I have been a Christie fan since high school but haven't read any recently, so when I ran across this challenge on I saw it as the perfect incentive to get back to the classic mysteries. I'm not as familiar with the Holmes stories - I've only read a few, but look forward to exploring them, also. Thanks to Kals for sponsoring this challenge.

Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor by Duane Swierczynski

When a construction crew at Wayne Manor discovers a long-buried corpse, all the evidence points to Bruce Wayne's late father, Thomas, as the murderer. Torn between the need to protect his father's honor and his thirst for dispensing justice, Batman sets out to solve this coldest of cases, using police reports, his fathers private journal, maps of Wayne Manor, news clippings, forensic samples and photographs from family albums - all included as removable facsimiles. (Synopsis from Barnes and Noble)
This book was a fun diversion on a recent car trip. The removable "clues" were fun to pass around, study and try to decipher. The story itself was understandably superficial - there just wasn't enough length to include character development, background, etc, but the concept was entertaining. Think of this book as "Encyclopedia Brown" for the whole family (actually, our whole family used to get a kick out of reading the original Encyclopedia Brown together). An enjoyable adventure for readers from upper elementary grades to adult.
This book was part of our November Novella Challenge. (

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gift by Cecilia Ahern

The Gift is written with Cecelia Ahern's customary magic. A cautionary tale with just a touch of the fanciful.

Lou Suffern is an extremely unlikeable man. He is self-absorbed, ruthless, arrogant and just plain nasty - to the point that, for most of the novel, I was hoping something heavy would fall on him. He treats his wife as a possession, his children as pesky flies, and his co-workers as stepping stones. Money and power are his singular goal. He schemes and connives to attain that goal at the expense of anything or anyone who steps in his path.

Then Lou meets Gabe, a homeless man begging outside Lou's office building. Lou is unexplainably drawn to show a small amount of compassion and Gabe becomes twisted into the strands of a life that Lou is desperately trying to keep from unraveling. Soon Lou sees Gabe as just one more hurdle, one more person interferring with his path to the top.

At this point, I knew that Gabe was going to be Lou's "Clarence" (the angel from "It's a Wonderful Life"). "You see, [Lou] you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a waste it would be to just throw it away?" But, unlike George Bailey, Lou was such an unsympathetic character that I couldn't imagine how he could be redeemed or why anyone would care to try.

This is where the magic of Cecilia's writing comes in. The scene at Lou's father's birthday party, when Lou attempts to make amends with his family, is painful. Watching Lou as he grasps how deep the cuts of his selfishness are actually made me ache, but also made me - surprise! - sympathetic.

Even though this is billed as a Christmas story, it could take place at any time of year and be nearly as effective. The conclusion avoids the trap of holiday triteness while still delivering it's message. It left me listening for a bell to ring and Jimmy Stewart to whisper "Atta boy, [Gabe]".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankfully Reading Weekend

Jenn at and friends are cooking up an idea for Thanksgiving weekend - READING! It's a no-pressure, fun way to get caught up on your TBR list before the Christmas season gets too hectic. Check out Jenn's blog for the details or watch for a post on to sign up. We are having the family to our house for the big meal, so I'm sure when they've all gone home, we'll be ready to put our feet up, munch on a turkey sandwich, and slip into a book.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Christmas Clock by Kat Martin

A little Christmas, a little romance, a little tear-jerker...this is a difficult book to categorize. "And that's...ok", to quote SNL's Stuart Smalley. Books don't have to fit into a specific box. Unfortunately, this particular box was overflowing.

First, the tear-jerker portion - we have the grandmother and grandson struggling with Alzheimers and the fear of the future. This is a topic close to my heart, as we are dealing with this horrid disease in our family, so I was interested in the way the characters would handle it. However, at 145 pages, the story just isn't long enough to delve deeply into a subject that heavy and the disease had to progress unrealistically quickly and be dealt with superficially.

Still, I was thinking "that's ok" because the point is really the grandson who is saving his money to buy his grandmother the clock she has admired in the store window - a clock that reminds her of her youth - for Christmas, thus bringing in the Christmas portion. But, as you'll see, that storyline never quite makes it to daylight either.

The second facet - the romance - focuses on Sylvia and Joe, high-school sweethearts separated because of tragic circumstances. Both have returned to their hometown and are looking for a second chance at their relationship. I liked their story, even if it was a little predictable.

There is a minor sub-plot involving Floyd and Doris Culver and their attempt to revive a tired marriage, but again there just isn't time to really flesh out this story.

Then we come to the point where all the characters meet and their stories combine and it's a pleasing ending; a nice "happy ever after" moment that was - dare I say it again - predictable. No problem, I was still "ok" with it. Just because you can see it coming, doesn't mean it's not a good ending.

But wait, what about the clock? You know, the one in the title? It gets relegated to afterthought status and doesn't have the impact it could have, which is sad because the idea had the potential to be a touching conclusion and to shine a little hope into life with Alzheimers.

It's probably hard to believe by now, but I actually liked this story, or at least the possibilities of this story. I was disappointed that so many good ideas got squeezed into such a small box and none of them had the chance to develop.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Christmas Carol - The Movie

Dave and I drove 110 miles round-trip, not to mention paying an exorbitant amount for popcorn and drinks, to see this movie over the weekend. It will be in our local theater over Thanksgiving weekend, but I was afraid with son home from college and in-laws visiting, I wouldn't be able to schedule a movie. But now that I've seen it, I will definitely make time to go a second time. The original Dickins story has been one of my favorites since childhood (see "Re-reading the Classics" post from read-a-thon). Since this version stars Jim Carrey, Dave was wishin' and hopin' for a comic version, but he was disappointed - it was nearly word-for-word true to the original. At least one of us was happy. The downside to the authenticity is that it may be difficult for young children to understand classic lines such as "There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are." The flip side of that is, with animation this gorgeous, kids will still be enthralled. There just aren't words to describe the detail and realism. I was blown away by "Polar Express" a couple years ago, and there have evidently been advances to the technology since then. I will be in line the day this comes out on DVD and add it to my list of perennial Christmas movies to watch.

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin' is a cross between the movie A Christmas Story and the classic children's book by Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. *
Felix Funicello (cousin to Mousketeer Annette) narrates the story of his life as a 5th grader in a Connecticut parochial school in the winter of 1964. At one point I paused to ask myself "What is the point of this story?" I didn't have an answer, but I didn't care. Even without an underlying plot theme (like the quest for the Red Rider BB gun in A Christmas Story), the daily happenings are endearing and engrossing enough that I finished the book in one day.
Although I didn't attend Catholic school, the descriptions of the class room settings and happenings are so true to my grade-school memories that I felt right at home. The innocence of 10-year-olds of that era was charming and comical - confessing to "french kissing" a poster of a pin-up girl, re-telling dirty jokes they don't understand. There is a whole level of niavete', deportment and respect for authority that are missing in the schools my children attended, but that was so much a part of my upbringing that it made me feel both sentimental and sad.
Pop-culture references make the book even more nostalgic for baby-boomers. The Russian girl who joins their classroom mid-semester brings in the theme of the Cold War and the prevelant fear of Communism. References to the Beatles and early TV shows brought back more memories (although I really was a bit too young for Beatle-mania - I was more of the Donny Osmond generation). The Christmas pageant which is the climax of the story was reminiscent of many school and church programs from my youth. The Herdman-esque* string of catastrophes will bring a smile.
Even without a mystery to solve or a problem to resolve, this glimpse into 1964 life is a recommended read. It will alternately make you smile and want to call your mom.
* The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson - The story of the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie and steal and smoke cigars (even the girls). They talk dirty, hit little kids, cuss their teachers...and take the name of the Lord in vain. So no one is prepared when the Hermans invade church one Sunday and decide to take over the annual Christmas pageant. (Synopsis from Barnes and Noble)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Opposites Attract

Jen's Book Talk is sponsoring an Opposites Attract Challenge for 2010. The rules are simple: read as many pairs of books with opposite words in the title as you possibly can. Books can not overlap between pairs, but can count for more than one challenge if you are participating in multiples.

Ice by Linda Howard

Don't be fooled by the pretty cover on this one. This is not a sweet and light Christmas story. As Barnes and Noble describes it: ’Tis the season for mistletoe and holly, Santa . . . and suspense... [a] breathless tale of a man, a woman, and a battle for survival against an unforgiving winter–and an unrelenting killer. Oh what fun it is to read. And it is fun to read. The story jumps off a cliff from page one and the ride is non-stop as Gabriel and Lolly battle the extreme Maine weather, two meth-crazed killers, and their awkward, high school memories of each other.
Ms. Howard creates a pleasing blend of action and insight. We get enough background info to understand the relationship between the characters - their animosity and secret crushes as teens, the loss of Gabriel's wife and his difficulty raising his son alone, Lolly's changing family and the loss of connection to her home town - but in snippets between action scenes so the pace never slows.
I don't know Ms. Howard's history, but the authenticity of the storm scenes makes me assume she has lived in a climate that can produce debilitating ice storms. Living in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, I've been through a few and her depiction was spot on. It happened to be near 70 degrees on the plains yesterday while I was reading, but I could feel the aching cold and the pinpricks of ice pellets against skin, and hear the wind beating against the windows.
If there were any points off in this book, it would be that the ending was slightly anti-climactic, but it wrapped up all the story threads nicely and gave me a chance to catch my breath between the action and the end. Highly recommended reading for a cold winter night with a roaring fire and a cup of hot chocolate.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You by Anita Renfroe

If you've never read, heard or seen Anita Renfroe's comedy, you are truly missing out. A former pastor's wife, mother of three and creator of the hit youtube video "Momsense", Anita is a total hoot! She shares her opinions and experiences about parenting, mid-life, marriage and friendship. Our daughter even did an excerpt on mothers and daughters from one of Anita's books for high school forensics competition last year, so her humor translates well to all ages. - although I suspect the daughter and I each thought we were poking fun at the other.

"Don't Say I Didn't Warn You" is, I believe, Anita's 7th book (including wonderful titles like "If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother" and "The Purse-Driven Life") and they just continue to get funnier.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Mist by Stephen King

November Novella Challenge is underway and we finished our first selection, Stephen King's The Mist, while traveling over the weekend. We had mixed reactions.

A bazaar and unearthly fog moves across a small town in Maine, bringing with it a circus of prehistoric and fantastical creatures which spring out of the mist to devour whatever gets in their road. A group of locals and vacationers are trapped in a supermarket, devising various escape and survival plans.

Like all Stephen King stories, the pace was fast. Only once did we feel him "rabbit trailing" and then only for a couple pages. The background info on the main character, David Drayton, and his feelings of inadequacy as an artist when compared to his famous father may have been pertinent and useful in a full length novel, but in this formula there wasn't time to develop the character that far, so only served to slow things down.

The various cliques that developed among the refugees trapped in the market were an intriguing microcosm of society: the "flat-earthers" who chose to deny that anything was happening, the blood sacrifice group which was willing to sacrifice someone to appease the evil - as long as it wasn't one of them, those who just sat back and allowed others to make all the decisions...

Of course the gore level was too much for me (Tami) but I had to concede that point somewhat on the grounds of "What did you expect from Stephen King? If you don't want gore, don't open the book." However, even the gore was freakishly fascinating in it's originality. No two people were decapitated, dismembered or disemboweled in quite the same manner. Definitely no points off for predictability.

Our biggest complaint was the ending - or lack thereof. King has a tendency to let his readers form their own ideas of what happened to the creatures he creates, and that approach is great - in theory. But we had a serious desire to call Mr. King and ask, "But what about....???"

Starting with a scale of 5 stars for the perfect book, I took off a point for gore and a point for frustrating ending - but then had to give back a half-point because it wasn't like I wasn't warned in advance that there would be blood (I read every King book I could get my hands on in the 70's). So I rated this novella as 3 1/2 stars. Dave - who uses King's Gunslinger series as the gold standard for the 5-star book - only gave it 3 stars. "The measure of a good book is you can't stand to put it down and can't wait to pick it back up. I couldn't wait to get home from work to get to the next chapter of the Gunslinger books, but I didn't have that feeling with this one."

On to the next novella on our challenge list: Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Travers

"A riveting courtroom drama of rape and premeditated murder. Pits a humble small-town lawyer against a hard-headed big-city prosecutor. Emotions flare as a jealous army lieutenant pleads innocent to murdering the rapist of his seductive, beautiful wife. Packed with drama, passion and intrigue." Sounds like something John Grisham wrote, doesn't it? But this bestseller was from 1958 and was penned by Robert Travers, which is actually the pseudonym for Michigan attorney, prosecutor and judge John D. Voelker. The story is based on an actual murder case in which Voelker served as the defense attorney. We read this book together to fulfill Dave's "Random Author" selection in the Take-a-Chance Challenge. For the most part, we agreed with the description above. The contrast between the small-town lawyer and the big-city prosecutor constantly reminded us of "A Time to Kill", right down to the older, hard-drinking, retired lawyer co-conspirator. Unfortunately, Mr. Travers could take a lesson from Grisham in brevity and pacing. This story tended to get bogged down in legalese and unnecessary detail, the "red herrings" tended to be more pointless distractions than intriguing false leads, and there were a couple of points that were never clearly explained. Surprisingly the story is still timely for today, including the conflict between the military and civilian factions of the town. We had fun with the outdated idioms and the changes in moral standards - the army officer's wife was accused of being promiscuous because she took off her shoes in public. We also were fascinated with the discussion of psychiatry as a new and, perhaps, unreliable branch of medicine. There was an unexpected amount of humor in the story which kept us from skimming over the wordy, rambling sections for fear of missing a great one-liner. The ending had enough surprise to make it satisfying and an over-all enjoyable read. We would give it 3 stars - point off for endless blabbering and point off for predictability. This evening's plan is to watch the movie version starring Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott and Lee Remick. We'll let you know how the two compare.
Update: Once again, the book is better than the movie - and it honestly surprised us this time. Since we weren't overwhelmed with the book, and the movie featured an all-star lineup, we really thought there was a chance for the movie to outdo the book. We also hoped it might even clarify a couple of points we didn't follow in the book, but those points must have confused the script writers too, because they either left them out or changed the story. The story was mostly in tact, but it lacked the complexity and detail of the book. Had we watched the movie first we probably would have enjoyed it more but, as usually happens, once you've read the book the movie just doesn't measure up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

If you happened to read my review of The Christmas Secret, I know you're wondering "Why is she doing this again? I tell you, it's an addiction. Put a book with a pretty Christmas picture in front of me and I'm powerless to resist. I listened to this one on audio, mostly in 3 minute increments during my 4 block commute or trips to the grocery store. And it's probably a good thing or I would have gone into diabetic shock from the sweetness. A woman pays out $30,000 to a matchmaker to find her "perfect husband" so she can have the perfect wedding, perfect children, perfect life and, most important, the perfect Christmas. We all know where this is heading, so for those of you battling your own addiction, I won't ruin the end. Well, maybe I will - just a little. This one doesn't have any surprise twists or comedy of errors to save it. It's just dripping in sugary, syrupy, gooey sweetness. But at least the only time you'll cry is when she writes out that ridiculous check. So have I finally learned my lesson? Will I avoid the rest of the beautiful holiday covers and sentimental claptrap? Of course not!

The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere

I'm such a sucker for anything related to Christmas - music, decorations, movies and, of course, books! The covers are so pretty, the titles entice me, and after a 10-month drought of holiday paraphanalia, I just can't resist. You would think I would learn that the majority turn out to be three-tissue-box, heart-string-tugging cryfests. And since I don't normally care for that type of story, a reasonable person would also think that I would stop reading them. But I don't. So I began the read-a-thon with this gorgeous little book. Also happens that my random word for the Take-a-Chance challenge is "secret" so this book had a double attraction. (see By the end of chapter one I was having vague, wisps of memory about why I shouldn't read these books. Our heroine is a single mom, struggling with the bills, about to be evicted, dead-beat dad threatening the custody of the children, boss threatening to fire her from her dead-end job and, worst of all, babysitter issues. Joy to the world! But, since this was a challenge book, I plugged along. Wasn't this the point of the challenge? To read something outside my usual box? Besides, this is a Christmas book. It has to have a happy ending. Poor Christina just continued to sink lower and lower till I knew the only thing that would save her was the obligatory Christmas miracle. But I got more than I expected. Ms. VanLiere managed to throw a couple of curveballs into the tired mix. Now don't be dismayed, naturally everything worked out. The bills get paid, the mean landlord comes to his senses, dead-beat dad beats it out of town, dead-end job turns into a promising business venture and, best of all, she finds a couple of wonderful babysitters. The almost slap-stick near-miss encounters between the characters kept the story from becoming totally depressing, but what really kept this from being just another Christmas tear-jerker are the twists, and I never saw them coming. So, alls well that ends well - even when you knew it would. And look at all the other pretty Christmas books on the shelf!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Read-a-Thon Wrap-up

Our first attempt at Dewey's Read-a-thon was a success - at least we think so. We made it through most of the 24 hours - with breaks for a couple naps and the KSU football game. We read some good books, learned a few things and, best of all, did it together! Here are some random lessons learned from read-a-thon and ideas for next time:
1. We are too old to pull all-nighters! Our plan for next time is to pick a 12-18 hour span and allow ourselves a full night's sleep.
2. Blogging and participating in challenges can easily consume all your reading time. Next time around we will limit our challenges to those we can do in just a couple minutes.
3. Speaking of challenges, we are brainstorming a "read together" mini challenge for April. So start now to convince your significant other to join you.
4. We didn't get nearly as much reading done as we had imagined. Between distractions (children, people at the door, phone, food...) and time spent on challenges and blogs, we frequently lost focus on the books. Our goal for April is to actually read for 50 minutes of each hour - with 10 minute limit for challenges, snacks and potty breaks.
5. I noticed lots of participants making advance food plans in the days leading up to the read-a-thon, but didn't really pay attention. Now I understand the advance prep. Cooking and/or prowling the pantry looking for munchies consumes a lot of time. (At least it did for me. Dave's snack needs are much simpler - see Eat to Read challenge for details.)
6. I will limit myself to short books/novellas or at least easy reading - trying to absorb anything deep became impossible after the first few hours.
7. Cheerleaders are wonderful people!
8. The biggest lesson learned: The joy of Dewey's Read-a-Thon is not in the number of pages read or winning prizes, but in the people met and the shared love of reading. Our blog is only a month old and this was a great way for us to break into the book blogging universe. It will take me quite awhile, even once my brain returns to full function, but I intend to visit the blogs of every participant and send thank-you messages to those who commented on ours. Welcome new friends and fellow bloggers - it's great to meet you.

Read-a-Thon: The Wee Hours

It's 3:25 a.m. We may have dozed there for a minute (or 3 hours?) but we're awake now - mostly. The read-a-thon is in it's last few hours and we've had lots of fun with the challenges. Perhaps we haven't gotten as many books read as we had imagined, but who's counting. Now, back to the books.
4:32 a.m.- Another hour of joint reading on our courtroom drama "Anatomy of a Murder". We're down to the last few chapters, but pretty complicated stuff to digest at this hour.
5:23 a.m. - Only 35 minutes to go. We made it through one more chapter of our joint read and spent a little time cleaning up the kitchen from our snacking - just to get up and keep the blood flowing. We will fill the last few minutes with our individual books and call it a successful read-a-thon. Dave finished "Blood Covenant" and is beginning "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Give Me Five Challenge - Read-a-thon

The Challenge: post a list of your five favorite children's books. That's an easy one!
1. Green Eggs and Ham
2. Blitz, Story of a Horse (Dave's fav)
3. Harriet, the Spy (Tami's fav)
4. Where the Sidewalk Ends - favorite of our daughter
5. Junie B. Jones series - favorite to read aloud
Sponsored by

Wisdom of the Ages Challenge - Read-a-thon

The challenge is to think of books featuring "older" protagonists or authors.
My all-time favorite reads are “The Cat Who…” series, written by Lilian Jackson Braun. I have read and re-read them many times. Ms. Braun is now well into her 90’s and, unfortunately, her age has shown in the last couple installments, and apparently the series has come to an end. Great loss for cozy mystery fans.
Sponsored by

Make Something Challenge - Read-a-thon

The challenge here is to find something that the characters in the books we are reading "made" - whether literally or figuratively.

In my first book today, "The Christmas Secret" by Donna VanLier, Christine's mother and children made Christmas cookies and candy.

In my second pick, "A Cadger's Curse", the heroine just made unlawful entry into the home of the man she is investigating.

Michael Franzese, the author of "Blood Covenant", Dave's current read was a "made man" in the Mob.

Sponsored by

Read-a-Thon: Part 2

Starting the second book calls for starting a new post. I'm trying to keep my selections to short books so I feel that I'm making more progress. Selecting #2 was a difficult decision, but I have settled on "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". This has been in my TBR stack for quite some time and I'm excited to finally get to it.
When Dave wakes up from his post-football nap, we will also continue reading "The Anatomy of a Murder".
8:13 p.m.: Spent the last couple hours on our joint book - taking turns reading aloud. Nearing the end of this one (about 70 pages left). I have problems with Restless Leg Syndrome and they are beginning to become a hazard to sitting and reading. If anyone else out there shares this problem, you'll surely be able to picture me reading while pacing :)
9:03 p.m.: Had to put the Guernsey ladies aside for awhile. Lots of fellow read-a-thoners recommended it, but it seemed to require more concentration than I have right now. So I have moved on to "A Cadger's Curse" by Diane Gilbert Madsen. We've already got a dead body on page 22, so it's off to a good start.
10:14 p.m.: A Cadeger's Curse is progressing nicely - an easy and fun read. Dave is nearing the end of "Blood Covenant" and we're headed into another session of joint reading. But first - it's getting late and I'm getting restless so I'm breaking out the big guns: Mountain Dew and Hot Wings! Happy reading!
11:16 p.m.: If you ever decide to read "Anatomy of a Murder" be aware that chapter 23 is incredibly long-winded and boring. :) Mr. Travers could take a few lessons from John Grisham in the writing of court-room drama, but we are so near the end that the occasional bad chapter will not daunt us in our assigned task. The restless legs are going to force me to read from the bed for a little bit - and this may lead in inadvertant napping, I'm afraid. I will do my best to return in an hour.

Re-Reading the Classics Challenge - Read-a-thon

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite classic. It began in my childhood when my parents bought a record album (anyone else remember those?) of a dramatization of the book. I would lay in front of the great big family stereo (In a cabinet about 5′ long and 3′ high – similar to the console televisions of that day) and listen to it over and over.

I have already listened to one audio version of it this year and have selected it for our joint read as part of the November Novella challenge.

Eat to Read Challenge - Read-a-thon

Hubby and I have very different ideas of the perfect food for reading. We'll just let you guess which is which.

Who Keeps You Company Challenge - Read-a-Thon

My husband, Dave, keeps me company while I read - but I think at the moment his eyes are really on the KSU/CU football game. :)

Read-a-thon mini challenge: Book Title Sentence

This is our creation for the Read-a-thon mini challenge to make a sentence using the titles of books.
"Alice Cooper, Golf Monster, kidnapped the invisible man, alive and screaming."
Thanks for hosting.


We're off and running on Dewey's Read-a-Thon. We'll be checking in here about once an hour to update what we're reading and our progress.
Post 1: Started the morning with coffee and "The Christmas Secret" by Donna VanLiere. This book is part of the Take-A-Chance Challenge we're doing at the library where I work. ( Teenage daughter and her friend chatted to me so much that I didn't actually get much read this past hour - but lots of giggles. :)
Dave is reading "Blood Covenant" by Michael Franzese.
Post 2: Another hour gone and not much progress I'm afraid. Fortunately teenage daughter will be out of the house for the weekend shortly (Going to visit her brother at college - I may spend more time worrying than reading :) . Thanks for all of the "Reader of the Hour" love. Enjoyed all the encouragement.
Post 3: We spent the last hour-and-a-half reading our "joint" book - "Anatomy of a Murder" by Robert Travers. This is one of Dave's picks for the Take-A-Chance Challenge at our local library. A courtroom drama from 1958, it's full of interesting detail and we have a good time trying to predict where the case is headed. We'll be reviewing it here when we finish.
The K-State/Colorado game starts in 5 minutes, so Dave will be taking a short (3 hour??) reading break while he cheers for the Cats. I'll be supporting them from the couch with my books.
Post 4: Another hour gone and I'm not making much progress on my Christmas book. Too much time answering the phone, entering challenges and finding snacks??? Back to the book!
Post 5: Nearing the end of my first book. Having fun with the newest challenges. May have to break for some lunch - and maybe shower and get dressed at some point?
Post 6: (3:10 p.m.) Under 20 pages to go on "The Christmas Secret". Can't decide what to start next. Bacon cheeseburger refueled me, so back to the pages.
Post 7: (4:35 p.m.) Uh-oh. Took a little snooze there. Finished read the Christmas Secret and just couldn't hold me eyes open any longer. Time to hit the shower to refresh and pick out book #2.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hothouse Orchid, by Stuart Woods

There really is no way to review this book without giving away some plot lines - at least I couldn't come up with a way - so be aware. (Spoiler Alert) Familiar characters, good plot, fast-paced action.... The sixth installment of the Holly Barker series is off to a good start. But then it just fizzles. The crime is apparently solved with nearly 100 pages to go...or is it? Surely Woods wouldn't reveal the solution this early, so I kept waiting for the big twist at the end. But it never came! Sure enough, the supposed killer turns out to be the actual killer. But wait, we still have the evil villain from previous novels lurking in the background. Surely he will provide the surprise element. The last time he and Holly met, shots were fired - the CIA is after this man! But he, too, turns out rather lukewarm, as does Holly's attitude toward him. If I had stars to give, this would still probably receive 4, with a one point deduction for the lack of an ending.

Monday, October 19, 2009

November Novella Selections

We have pinned down three of the four novellas we plan to read for the November Novella Challenge. Dave selected "Animal Farm" by George Orwell and "Mist" by Stephen King. I was originally considering a couple of the new holiday books just in at the library, but since this is a joint effort, decided to spare Dave the holiday sap. My first choice is Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" - one of my favs that I've read many times - and.....something else. I'm having a little difficulty with that final decision. Many of Agatha Christies stories fit into the novella category, so they made the short list, but I also have a couple "interactive" mysteries sitting on the shelf that I've never gotten around to reading and they would be great fun to do together. You know the type - whenever the detective discovers a clue it is contained in the book - an actual letter, newspaper clipping, stamp, etc. Fortunately I still have two weeks left to make the final list. If you haven't signed up for the novella challenge, hop over to and get the details. Then find someone you love and share your love of reading.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Challenge

We are joining the November Novella Challenge sponsored by We have chosen to participate at Level II (4 novellas). Novellas are an overlooked reading option, so selecting the four we want to read is a challenge in itself. Our plan is to each pick two and then read them together. Dave is leaning towards "Animal Farm" by George Orwell and something written by Arthur Conan Doyle. I am eyeing some newer Christmas themed books. We'll put up the final list as soon as we make a decision - or four decisions, as the case may be.
This is a great place to start reading as a couple. You only need to commit to reading one novella to join the challenge - there are prizes! - and meet your goal in one evening. Good date night activity idea.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who Killed the Robins Family?

Eight chapters + eight family members + eight murders + zero solutions = great fun! Throw in a few references to classic mystery stories and you've got a hit. This book was my (Tami's) selection for the Random Bestseller portion of the Take-a-Chance Challenge. A bestseller in 1983 - this book was originally published without a solution and a $10,000 prize was offered for the reader who submitted the most nearly correct response to who, what, when, where, why and how for each of the 8 murders. The paperback version, published in 1984, contained the answers. Dave and I read this together and had some great discussions trying to decipher the who-dun-its. M*A*S*H fans who remember "The Rooster Crowed at Midnight" will have a comical, but accurate, vision of our analysis - "It couldn't have been the butler. At the time of the murder he was locked in the closet with Mrs. White." I can't say we would have won the $10,000, but we were surprisingly close on a lot of the details. An entertaining read for fans of Agatha Christie (like Tami) or conspiracy theories (like Dave). This book may be the basis for a future contest/reading program at the library - stay tuned.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Professional by Robert B. Parker

Robert Parker's books are my kind of stories - fast plot, mostly dialog and minimalist descriptions. Maybe it's because Spenser and his crew are such familiar characters that I no longer need all the extras. Whatever the reason, it works and I never feel cheated by not knowing the details of someone's outfit, apartment or view. The plot is also minimalist. Rather than elaborate crimes with clues to be discovered, the story is more a day-in-the-life (or in this case, nearly-a-year-in-the life) of Spenser. It's a visit with old friends - Susan, Hawk, Pearl - and sort of a "catching up" on their lives. The main characters are all sure of themselves and content with who they are, which makes them fun to visit. No angst or drama, just the interaction of good friends. The story line was intriguing - enough mystery to keep me turning pages, minimal gore and/or violance (a big hang-up of mine, you may have noticed), and a satisfying conclusion. Parker's books are fun, familiar and diverting. - Tami